Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmastime in the Big City

Happy holiday season from (the) Philadelphia (area)! We have really been enjoying our holiday time together here. So thankful that we're more or less settled in--certainly enough to be comfortable in our home now--and beginning to move beyond our little home and exploring our new town/city. Its been a very different Christmas for us, though. Usually we try to fit in visits to both families, taking turns as to whose parents we visit for the actual Christmas Day, but this year we stayed in our own home and didn't travel at all--I realized that I haven't done that since I was 17 year old and in high school.

A few days before Christmas, we decided it was high time to venture into the big city. We hopped on the SEPTA and took the girls to see Santa Claus at Macy's. It was crazy busy at Macy's, but clearly they are used to the crowds because the enormous line moved very quickly. It helped that Santa seemed to have cloned himself in order to meet the high demand of child visitors (I think there were about 4-5 Santa booths?). Honey Bee was just in heaven. When we walked into the little booth where Santa #3 was sitting, she hopped up and down yelling "Santa! Santa! Santa!" and it just felt so magical. What fun to witness the joy of a little girl who truly believes in Santa Claus. Mouse, however, found it slightly less than magical. The instant we tried to put her on jolly old St. Nick's lap, she freaked out. We were fortunate to get a picture of us all in between wails, but she is still eyeing him up with a great deal of wariness.

Our day in downtown Philly was a little chilly, but just gorgeous. Here are some highlights from the day: 

Christmas Village. That's city hall in the background on the left.

Checking out the ships and watching the skaters at Penn's Landing.

Had our first taste of Philly cheesesteaks at Campo's. I thought I'd find them gimmicky and overhyped, but they were actually very yummy. Turns out melted cheese, beef, and bread all taste pretty great together. 


Christmas Eve, we made Santa's favorite ginger cookies--coincidentally, also my favorite cookies to make around the holidays!--and laid out some carrots for the reindeer. I can't get over how grown up Honey Bee looks in this photo. Who is that little lady?!?!?!

Honey Bee has been talking for weeks about asking Santa for a dollhouse for Christmas. We wrote him a letter, told him at Macy's, and she's mentioned it to anyone who would listen to her since we've moved here just to cover all her bases. She was really wanting a particular dollhouse "with a frog and a dog" that we saw at Target, but I had a feeling that Santa could do better. Luckily for all, Santa subcontracted the work out to a very nice man from Craigslist, and this is what Honey Bee woke up to on Christmas morning: 

That face is just to die for. 

Mouse's favorite part of Christmas morning was the chocolate chip pancake brunch.

Dog loves opening presents too. 

And just in case you are thinking our holiday has been all sunshine and roses, I'm including a bit of "reality" too:

Both children crying at Costco. (Mouse looks like she's not, but there's definitely crying/whining going on in this picture. Not pictured: fellow shoppers who looked like they were judging me for laughing and snapping this picture instead of comforting my precious children.)

Crying at grocery store whilst shopping for Christmas dinner.

We hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season and that 2015 is a year full of health and happiness for you all!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Long Overdue Update

Obviously this is way overdue, and so many times I thought "I should be blogging about this," but haven't been able to find the time to sit down and write. Even now, I'm typing this as we watch Season 5 of The Wire on HBO On Demand (YEAH. THAT'S A THING!), surrounded by piles of laundry that need putting away.

But. We moved to Philly in early December. Crossing the border went without a hitch, and although the drive felt long with Huz in the U-Haul and me following behind with all the girlies in our van, we powered through and were so, so happy to arrive at our new home.

We arrived at our new place at around 9 PM, and we already had a very long to do list for the following day (going in person to get hydro hooked up, picking up internet stuff, groceries, etc.), so Huz and I unloaded the U-Haul the night we arrived. This photo is of Honey Bee and Mouse in the playpen, watching the iPad, and eating McDonald's while we unloaded the U-Haul. Rock star parenting.

Since arriving, our days have mainly consisted of unpacking, getting furniture, driving around to meet up with Craigslist sellers of various items, making phone calls and googling stuff to try and figure out the minutiae of moving to another country, and occasionally, doing something fun like taking Dog for a walk or the girls to a playground. (The day we went to IKEA also counted as "something fun," since Honey Bee is now big enough to play in "Smaland" and the ice creams are $1). 

So far, we really love our new house. There are a few fiddly things to sort out, like any new place you move into, but already it feels like we are "home". And even more, we really love our neighbourhood. We actually don't live in Philly itself, but are in an area called the Main Line, which is a group of suburbs west of the city. Its a really beautiful area and it seems like it will be a great place for the girls. Although not nearly as much as in Vancouver, there's still a fair bit of stuff within walking distance of our home, so although we're out in the suburbs, it doesn't feel too suburbany. 

Here are a few shots of the new home:

Setting up our tree. I really don't care for fake trees--since moving to Vancouver we've always had beautiful, real trees--but Huz pointed out that Mouse is particularly mischevious right now, and pulling the tree down is not outside the realm of the possible, and so suggested we go the artificial route, just this once. So we picked this little guy up at the thrift shop. The decorations are spending more time off the tree than on, but its still fun to have a tree, and without the risk of a 1 year old dumping a bunch of tree water on the hardwood floors.

Our living room, including new couch, purchased from Bob's Discount Furniture. 'Cause we're fancy like that. Note the puny little tree with the decorations all on the bottom two feet of the tree (and many on the floor beside. . .). 

Our kitchen. This was the night our couch was delivered, and we decided to celebrate by having a family movie night. We made popcorn with our awesome new popcorn maker--our housewarming gift from Mom and Dad, whose popcorn maker we used quite a bit to celebrate movie night while living in Ottawa). Popcorn and movies are two of Honey Bee's favourite things, and so she is pretty jazzed here. 

Of all of us, Dog seems to have had the hardest time adjusting. Honey Bee loves "our new house," Mouse seems mainly indifferent to the change, but Dog spent the better part of the first week feeling restless and ill. She's no longer sick, but she still seems a little lost at times. It probably doesn't help that her oversized pillow seems to get moved every time we acquire a new piece of furniture (tonight, she was displaced by our new kitchen table). 

A week after we arrived in Philly, I left Huz alone with the girls to fly back to Vancouver (!!!) for a very good friend's wedding. I was too busy crying my eyes out during her ceremony to take a decent picture, but it was an incredible wedding. The bride--and later, the groom--was part of our Wednesday Night Potluck group. This group of friends has been getting together for the past 7 years, just about every Wednesday night, to share an amazing meal, catch up on our lives, and bear witness to all of our major life events. So it was so beautiful for us all to share in our friends' wedding day, and as we often do, we celebrated this momentous occasion with much joy (and a fair bit of wine).

The night before the wedding, I also went out for a Girls' Night with the fantastic women from my book club. I could go on and on (and on and on and on) about the incredible book club I belonged to while we lived in Vancouver and the even more incredible women who belong to it, but for now, all I'll say is that I feel so blessed to have been a part of this wonderful group of kindred spirits, who have touched my life in innumerable ways.

“True friends are always together in spirit. (Anne Shirley)”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

Huz did an incredible job while I was away, searching out fun places to take the girls, going to the dog park, grocery shopping, assembling furniture, cooking, etc. I came home to a very tidy house, two happy little girls, and a rather exhausted husband. But I was so grateful for the opportunity to go to Vancouver. I treasured my time with our dear friends and the opportunity to remind myself that even though we no longer live there, Vancouver and our friends there will always be with us, in one way or another. 

One last highlight to report is that Mouse has started walking! She was taking the odd step or two at Mom and Dad's house, but in the last two weeks, she's upped her game and can now make it most of the way across a room before doing a bum drop. She's a squirrelly little baby, getting into everything and making sure we've done a good job of babyproofing the new place, but we enjoy watching her mischevious antics and her adorable little smirk.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mission Accomplished. . .?

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(Oh my God, you guys. Do you know how long it took me to figure out how to paste a meme on here???????????? I embarrass myself.)


WE GOT OUR VISAS!!!!!! Wha?!?! We totally weren't expecting them to come this soon--we were thinking early to mid December, based on the last communication we got from employer--but on our first day in Philadelphia, Huz got an email saying they were ready! So we drove on down and picked that shiz up in person!! So, The Rules are that you can't move down more than 30 days before the "program start date", which is in early January, so now we can move anytime after early December.

And, even more good news: WE GOT AN AMAZING NEW PLACE!! Thanks to our wonderful realtor, we saw 11 properties in one day--not counting the broken door place the day before--and really liked four of them. But our top choice really stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they quite liked us as well (I guess?). Its a three bedroom, 1.5 bath (man, that extra 0.5 is really going to make a big difference for us. . .) duplex with a small fenced in yard and an unfinished but pristine and thus totally useable as a playroom basement. Its going to seem positively palatial to us! Its in a beautiful part of town, and our lease starts on December 1. 

SO, unless I am mistaken (which has happened before about this kind of stuff), all we need to do in order to move is wait until 30 days before the "program start date" and figure out our health insurance (no small feat) and then we are good to go! We'll probably move sometime around Dec 3-5ish, and when we get to Philadelphia, we have a beautiful little home waiting for us. We are so excited to know that we'll be "home" and settled by Christmas. 

Phew. What a difference a week makes!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy birthday, little Mouse xo

This past weekend we celebrated Mouse's 1st birthday! Its already one year ago that the sweetest, happiest little baby arrived at our home and graced our lives with her never-ending joy. It has been a whirlwind of a year, but Mouse has been such a blessing to us all - her constancy of temperament and adoration has been a port in a storm for us and a daily reminder to cherish the everyday joys and small moments of life with a little one. I read a very timely piece last week called Can you Really Love Your Second Child as Much as Your First? by Darcy R. Shapiro, and it just beautifully summed up how we feel about our little Mouse. We love her for all the ways she is uniquely herself, and our family is more complete, more joyful, and more blessed because she has joined us.

We were also blessed to be able to celebrate Mouse's birthday with a huge birthday shindig at my Aunt's house. It was Mouse themed--of course!--and so many members of our amazing extended family  came out to celebrate with us. Honey Bee and I spent Thursday making tray after tray of baked pasta, pasta being Mouse's favourite food to eat--which I promptly served cold on the day of, but we had a fantastic custom cake made by one of our family members, which was incredible (which I won't post here, beautiful as it is, because Mouse's real name is on it - sorry), and some fantastic hors d'oeuvres made by our gourmet host.
Her first taste of cupcake

Honey Bee loves a good party!

"For she's a jolly good fellow!"

Party van on the way home. Even Dog had a ball.

Happy birthday sweet Mouse! You make us all so happy!

Mouse's little dress is The Hopscotch Dress from Peekaboo Pattern Shop. I have purchased patterns from this shop before and/or followed tutorials from her blog, always with great results. The patterns are simple, PDF documents, and the tutorials all have colour photos and are super easy to follow and always make me feel like a pro while I'm sewing! I had started Mouse's bday dress from a different pattern from a different shop, and with a week left to go, Huz informed me that the dress would make Mouse look like she was Amish, which it did. Although I measured her properly, the dress was far too long and far too wide. So thankfully The Hopscotch was great in a pinch, and I was able to finish it in a week without too much ado. I bought a new sewing machine in Ottawa that does buttonholes, which I was super pumped about. Before, I would take my projects to the sewing lounge in Vancouver to do buttonholes on their fancy digital machines. The machine I bought isn't digital, but it has a buttonhole function/foot, but I found it rather difficult to do. Hopefully as I practice a bit more, I'll get the hang of it better, but for some reason the machine mutinied and wouldn't do one of the four buttonholes properly (but did the other three fine?! whu?!), so I had to do it by hand. And I'm a terrible hand sewer. But the button covers it, so who cares!

We are actually in Philadelphia right now. Tomorrow we have an apartment bonanza planned with a realtor, which is such a novelty. I am used to apartment hunting in Vancouver, where you need to stalk the Craigslist listings every day and as soon as you see a good one, you pounce on it, and when you go to see it, there are 8 other people/couples who are also interested in the apartment. I was approaching our apartment search here with a similar intensity, and our wonderful, patient realtor basically told me "Try to approach this apartment search with as little stress as possible. I actually think you will find that you will have the opposite problem than the one you are anticipating, and will have to decide between several great properties." In other words: calm the hell down, lady. We are REALLY excited about our day o' listings tomorrow, though, and feel really lucky to have someone from here helping us along in the process. 

We drove down from Ottawa yesterday, which took quite a long time because it was either snowing or raining for most of the drive. Today was busy with various appointments, and we were all absolutely wiped. We decided to squeeze in one quick apartment showing this evening, but on our drive there, both girls fell asleep in the car. When we arrived and had to wake them up, they were unsurprisingly nonplussed. Honey Bee, in particular, was in bits. She pretty much cried the entire time we were in the townhome, and did not make a very good first impression on the would-be landlord. At one point, as he was showing us around, she noticed that the previous tenant had done damage to the front door frame. She pointed to the door, in tears, and said "Why is this broken?" We explained that someone broke it, but it was going to be fixed, but apparently this did little to allay her concern. She started crying out, as if someone had just died, "WHY IS THE DOOR BROKEN?!?!?!?"(To those in the Wednesday Night Potluck group, her reaction was akin to the "DON'T CUT MY CAKE!!!!" incident. For those of you not in the Wednesday Night Potluck group, you really should ask me about this story sometime, because it was hilarious). As we left, I said "So, we'll call you tomorrow once we've made our decision" (again, so weird to say this. In Vancouver, its the landlord who says things like that. . .), and Huz says "But, if we decide to move in, you're really going to have to do something about that door, since apparently it really upsets Honey Bee." We had a good laugh on the drive back to the hotel. 

In an effort to have a better, less tear-filled apartment blitz day tomorrow, we are trying to get the girls to go to bed early tonight. This is very difficult in a hotel room if you yourselves do not want to go to bed early. So Huz and I are currently sitting in the bathroom with the fan on, drinking beer and eating chips, and watching Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia on the iPad. Ahh, parenthood! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween in Ontario

Oh, what a lovely Halloween we had! It was a chilly, chilly day, but it made me feel nostalgic for the days of my youth, when I spent more than one Halloween with a winter coat/snowpants over/under my costume. In Vancouver, Halloween wasn't exactly warm, and we did on occasion have to tote the umbrella around, but it was definitely much warmer than here. You know it must be cold, when the 3 year old decides to pack it in when her goodie bag is only half full because "I COLD!"

Soon after Honey Bee was born, I decided to take an adult education Beginner Sewing class through the Vancouver School Board, mainly so that I could learn how to sew costumes for Halloween. As a child, I remember having a few costumes that were very memorable (I'm remembering in particular, an incredible Queen of Hearts costume that my mom's friend made that was so epically amazing that I actually FELT like I was the actual Queen of Hearts. And an E.T. costume that I first came upon hanging on a nail in our unfinished basement at a fairly young age and being so terrified of the costume that I don't even remember putting it on - there is certainly no photographic proof of that particular Halloween costume), but others were very meh (like when I dyed my hair black and wore a rosary to be Madonna, or when I bought a soother and wore pajamas to be a baby. . .). And I really wanted to create for the girls that magical feeling that a child has when they dress up in a truly remarkable costume.

I found my canary yellow graduation gown in a closet at my parents house, and Honey Bee LOVES princesses, so I decided to make a Snow White costume. (It was either Snow White or Belle, but difficulty-wise, it was a no brainer for me!) And I thought that with her great big blue eyes and the fact that she doesn't speak, Mouse would be the most adorable Dopey ever. And I was right.

Look at how happy she is to be Snow White! It makes my heart sing. I made this dress by modifying the Allana Ruffled Peasant Dress pattern by Blissful Sewing, which I had used previously to make Honey Bee's 3rd birthday dress. I lengthened the bodice and didn't include the ruffles or sash, and the dressed turned out really well. Its a great, easy-to-follow pattern, and great for early sewists like myself. I also found this amazing tutorial from Craftiness is not Optional on how to do the sleeves. It totally made the dress, although if you scrutinize mine, you'd find lots of boo boos around the neckline and cuffs from where I put the elastic/casings, but like an impressionist painting, the dress looks so much better if you take a few steps back.

And here is sweet little Dopey! Forgive the less-than-awesome picture. Its incredibly difficult to take a fully body shot of a crawling baby, as many of you know. Inspired by Jeni Ro Designs, I used the Bimaa Sweater Pattern by LouBeeClothing, which was just perfect. It was a super easy sew, super cute pattern (which I will certainly use again for non-Halloween purposes), and it was really warm and cozy during our very chilly Halloween outings. The fleece I used was really thick, which was great for warmth, but made the cowl look a bit like a green neck brace, but I still think it looked so cute.

Snow White and Dopey together. (Look at how dirty Honey Bee's socks are!!!!!). We stopped by my grandparents' house for a visit and so they could see the little ones all dressed up.

We also spent part of our day with my cousin and his family at Hugli's Blueberry Ranch in Pembroke. It was awesome! There were some great play areas, lots of (mostly) friendly animals to feed, a corn maze, and a HUGE slide made out of corrugated plastic tubing, among other fun activities.

Huz shooting out the bottom of the slide. Its not just for kids!

Some rather menacing geese. They didn't like the look of Honey Bee and pecked at her (and so begins a lifelong fear of water fowl. . .), so we left their little area. But later, these three goons found us and stalked us down, but we made a narrow escape into the corn maze.

Quintessential Ontario Halloween shot of trick-or-treating with ski jacket over costume. Brr.

Dopey-turned-Sleepy in the car on the drive home. It was a wonderful day!

We received some news on the moving front. Huz finally got his start date! . . .in early JANUARY. Wah wah. A little disappointing to hear (some of us may have spent an entire day wallowing), but perhaps not surprising with all that has to happen when you move to a new country. So we have to trespass on Mom and Dad's hospitality a little longer, and we will likely now be able to make another trip down to Philly later on in November/December to look for an apartment. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Philadelphia Sneak Peek!

This week we went down to Philadelphia for a couple of days to take care of a wee bit of business and also for me to get a better idea of some of the places where we might live and work. It was about an 8 hour car ride from here, but the girls did amazing--they are such great little travelers--and we enjoyed the fall colours along the way.

It was great to look at neighbourhoods and get a sense of where we might be living, and it was fun to picture ourselves there, living our new lives in Philadelphia. One thing I wasn't expecting was just how verdant these areas--which I guess are technically suburbs, but are relatively close to the city, about a 15-20 min drive out--are, and it was also surprising to realize just how old the city and some of the buildings are. After a long afternoon of driving around parts of the city (while both girls napped in the van = amazing luck!), we stopped at a playground and let the girlies stretch their legs and play.

After our grownup day of driving around, we decided to have a kids day of hanging out at the Please Touch Museum. This is an incredible children's museum, which is in this huge, amazingly beautiful building located in Fairmount Park. Everything is interactive, colourful, and laid out to capture the imaginations of all ages. We overheard one mother refer to it as the "Test Your Immunity Museum," but we just Purelled liberally, and had a wonderful time. 

One of Honey Bee's favourite parts of the day was this stunning carousel, located inside one of the wings of the museum.

Building a robot.

Another highlight was the section dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. Here we are, celebrating our unbirthdays with a tea party with the Mad Hatter and March Hare. Honey Bee is even dressed up as Alice!

Painting the roses red.

We easily spent 45 minutes in this section of the museum while Honey Bee shot little rockets in the air using this "space station."

We were at the museum ALL DAY, and by the time we left, both girls were completely knackered. Five minutes into the car ride back they both fell asleep (the car nap gods were with us on this trip, for sure!), so we decided to plug "Trader Joe's" into the GPS and go and visit this magical place we had heard so much about. I have to say, we were a little disappointed. Perhaps this particular Trader Joe's was a smaller one than those our friends have visited and boasted about, but it was pretty tiny and not a whole lot of stuff there. And I was dismayed not only to find that there was no cheap--but delicious--wine to purchase, but also to learn that in the state of Pennsylvania, you can't buy wine and beer in the same place. Being able to buy wine/beer at the grocery store was a big selling point for me.

The only part of the trip that was not amazing was staying in a hotel with a baby and a toddler. Holy hell. Our girls are usually pretty good sleepers, but it was such a gong show getting one or the other to sleep each night! And I had to try very hard to NOT imagine what manner of things happened on the carpets, under the beds (!), with those decorative pillows, etc, etc, while both girls crawled and wiggled around and touched every single crevice in that room, put things in their mouths, and ate directly off the furniture.

This is a terrible picture, but a funny one. This is our first night in the hotel. Honey Bee didn't sleep a wink on the entire trip down until about five minutes before we reached the hotel. So upon arrival, she woke up in a state of rage- and fatigue-induced delirium. Luckily, this meant that the minute we put her in the bed, she fell back asleep (that is her little brown head on the right). Mouse, on the other hand, slept for a good portion of the drive down, so while we all climbed into our beds exhausted, she crawled and babbled and jumped around her playpen, wide awake (you can see her standing up in the playpen a little bit) for quite awhile.

Hotel room fine dining. We definitely left a tip for the housekeeper.

Having had such a wonderful time on our little minibreak to Philly, it is a little bit harder to sit tight and be patient while we wait for our visas to come through. But it is also reassuring to know that when that time finally comes, we have a beautiful new city awaiting us. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! It is really special to be here and able to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mom and Dad, and to enjoy the beautiful Ontario fall. We're having a quieter Thanksgiving feast tonight at Mom and Dad's, and then a larger family dinner tomorrow night at my aunt's house. Because we'll have traditional turkey at my aunt's house tomorrow, and because my Dad especially isn't a huge fan of turkey, we're having prime rib and roasted chicken tonight. All in all, its going to be an amazing weekend.

The word on the move is that it looks like we'll probably have awhile to wait on our visas/paperwork (like, definitely into November). Discouraging as that was to hear, we have moved into acceptance, and are making the most of our time in Ontario. There are lots of things to do here that are novelties for our little city slicker, and she is loving running with Dog in the yard, riding her new bike, and jumping in piles of leaves, among other things.

Pony ride at the Carp fair

Riding the lawnmower with Daddy

Lovely fall visit to my aunt and uncle's home in Quebec

Jumping in leaves was a big hit

Rainy day apple picking 

When I say "rainy," I mean "REALLY RAINY"! (But still very fun. We were, literally, the only ones there. We are hardcore apple pickers.)

Mouse checking out our haul. The Empire apples were especially delicious!

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving weekend and hope that this holiday finds you happy, with friends and family, and enjoying this beautiful fall season. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We've Arrived in Ottawa!

We all arrived safely in Ottawa a few days ago. Apparently, it takes more than a couple of days to decompress from what has been a very stressful and busy year but especially this past month. We're all quite tired and a little on edge, but we are grateful to have made it here, and are looking forward to relaxing a bit before taking on our next challenge of moving to Philadelphia.

The girls and I flew first to Calgary to spend a few days with two of my very close girlfriends and their 4 children. The house we all stayed in together was noisy and busy to say the least, but we had a fabulous time catching up, watching our children play together, and supporting one another--as we so often do--through good times and not-so-good times. Looking forward to this mini vacation was so helpful to me in coping with saying goodbyes in Vancouver, and we were all so busy with our little ones while we were together that it helped me to shake off my sadness of the move and be in the moment.
 Mouse and her new friend

Story time with 4 kids is easy!

A very sweet moment, snuggling with the littlest member of our group at the Calgary Zoo.

The Whole Gang! (Some members of said gang are hard to see due to being covered in Ergos.)

Mouse fell asleep during landing on our flight from Calgary to Ottawa after wriggling in my arms for the previous 4 hours. But wriggling is very tiring work.

The boys (and Dog) drove in a U-Haul truck from Vancouver to Ottawa in less than 5 days. Some days they drove as many as 18 hours in a day, all with Dog sitting in the jumpseat of the three person cab. The original plan was to drive in the relative luxury of our van while pulling a trailer behind. But Dad felt that they would meet certain death on the Coquihalla with this plan, so they opted to rent the truck and haul the van behind. Although their journey was long and uncomfortable, it was mercifully uneventful.

Huz and Dog on the TransCanada

So now we're going to wait here awhile while we wait for all of our paperwork to be in order. We're hoping to see some progress this week so that we'll have an idea of when Huz at least can head down to Philadelphia and find us a new (likely temporary) home.