32 gifts

Early winter kicks me in the shins every year. I can’t help feeling glum as the merriness of Christmas fades and I look ahead to three cold, hard, vacationless months. Plus, I’m pretty sad and anxious for the world right now.

I temporarily banished the doldrums this morning, with what’s become a January tradition: listing some of the highlights of the year gone by — one bullet for every year of my life.

In 2016 I…

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

  • Performed in a band
  • Skated the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Celebrated my amazing grandfather, Dinis Rebelo
  • Had pancakes at the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest Festival
  • Replaced the ugly mudroom ceiling with handsome beadboard
  • Hugged Odie on his one-year anniversary with us
  • Had my first Thai massage
  • Travelled to the top of 30 Rock to watch the sunset
  • Checked out a California beach
Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

  • Learned to throw an axe
  • Got awesome false eyelashes
  • Bought my first king-sized bed
  • Came second in the five family nerd tournament
  • Joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds
  • Attended my 10th Festival du Loup
  • Hosted an epic garage sale on my birthday
  • Started the world’s longest bathroom renovation
  • Went to the ballet
  • Spent time with my avo
Hanging with avo usually looks like this - except add food

Hanging with avo usually looks like this – except add food

  • Attended my first night time santa claus parade
  • Danced with mom, Yève and Elise on international women’s day
  • Got to level 23 in Pokémon Go
  • Powered through a few injuries and illnesses (concussion, poison ivy, an epic battle with a nettle tree)
  • Partied with the Lefaives at JoAnne and Dan’s 40th anniversary party
  • Bought a new mommy mobile – Linda the Forester
  • Greeted many friends’ adorable new babies
  • Drank margaritas the size of my head in Mexico
Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

  • Started focusing on our little family — quitting several volunteer roles
  • Helped good friends move into their first home

Somehow I forgot to post my list from 2015, but here are those from 2014 and 2013.

As usual, counting my blessings makes me feel a heck of a lot better. 2016 may have been a shit year for the human race, but it was a great one for me. Thanks to everyone who played a part.

xo

Lumpdate : Week 22

Pregnant woman standing bike with sunset in background

The belly in San Diego – Joël and I went to visit Violet last week

I’m barfing a lot less

It’s almost Christmas – my favourite time of year – and I’m feeling more hopeful, more pregnant and (finally) less barfy. I’m down from two hurling sessions a day to your basic weekly morning vomit. Winning!

Lumpy is growing

At 22 weeks in the womb, Lumpy is about the size of a coconut and growing well (code for: none of my pants fit). We found out he’s a little boy. Judging by his movements in my belly, he is also a future jiu jitsu master.

JF is rocking the dad-to-be thing

JF continues to be marvellously supportive and lovely. I still find mornings hard, so he walks Odie, clears the driveway, and brushes off my car while I barely scrape together the energy to eat a bagel and make him coffee. He only grumbles a tiny bit on very cold mornings.

We can’t pick a name

We want a perfectly bilingual name (français/anglais) we both love. Our faith in that name’s existence wanes with every passing week. Partly because cousins and friends already named their baby boys all the cool names – curse you all! Just kidding, we love you. Mostly.

We’re feeling more ready

Between us, we’ve read 10 baby books, downloaded 10 baby apps and joined a dozen online groups. I’m in prenatal yoga. We see our doctor regularly. We’ve sketched out a birth plan. We’re doing two prep courses this winter, plus a tour of the birthing unit at RVH.

Stack of baby books on a bed

Some of the books on our nightstands right now

Except the nursery

There’s a toilet in the middle of Lumpy’s room. Also some tools, wood debris, and cement board – the bits and pieces that come with a bathroom reno. We’re making slow and steady progress, thanks to a kind local contractor. But our house is 113 years old, so the finish line is still several weeks away and I’m not picking out paint colours just yet.

Friends, family and colleagues have been awesome

We’re feeling very supported lately. Amazing people are organizing two baby showers. My superwoman boss has been extra flexible with my prenatal appointments. Mom friends are offering used gear and freaking hilarious advice (shout out to Eliana). Even Odie – he’s family too! – has been extra snuggly lately.

A man holding a giant black dog

JF, practising his baby holding with Odie

Christmas is almost here!

And then there’s Christmas! We’ve got a happy little tree, some cedar boughs on the porch, and a whole weekend of cookie baking with family ahead of us. This season always make me happy, but we’re both pretty excited about Noël 2017 – with the Lumpster.

christmas tree, decorated

Our tree this year – fa la la la la!

The great bathroom caper

Thanks to a much-needed influx of funds from the wedding (thanks guys!) we are finally able to renovate our upstairs bathroom.

That little patch of linoleum hell has been on our list for three long years. Only two of the lightbulbs in the main fixture worked. The tub had a ring of rust, calcium and mysterious red mould even hours of CLR couldn’t beat. The artfully swirled ceiling has an enormous crack running through it. I could go on.

I’m delighted to report that we’ve almost finished the demo. Just like the rest of the house the previous owners left the bones in good shape – an excellent base to build dreams on.

Next step? Putting in a wooden frame for a bigger, better drop-in tub. Sometimes I fall asleep with visions of hexagonal tiles, brass fixtures, beadboard, and antique wall sconces dancing in my head. Far better than sugarplums, if you ask me.

 

Brittle joy

I’m feeling philosophical this rainy evening. My giant, smelly dog is snuggled next to me on the couch. I’m drinking black tea with milk (a habit I picked up from dad) and pondering a pretty big concept: happiness.

I think I have a wellbeing spectrum. I can be mopey one week, incandescently happy the next. Some things (JF, Odie, family, friends) boost me up the scale, others (bills, illness, work stress) shove me down.

I’m fortunate to have spent more time in joy than in sadness. I think it’s because my mom trained me to find pleasure in little things like watching old movies, picking blackberries, and reading good books.

I work at seeing and recognizing those happiness-boosters every day, because they tip the balance in joy’s favour. And sometimes it is work – important work that prevents the bad stuff from swallowing me up. Joy can be brittle.

Today, I don’t have to work at anything. I’m feeling glad and grateful for so many reasons. Here are my top 10:

  • New stained glass window: For two years, we’ve lived with a broken windowpane over our front door. Now, thanks to local artist Renee Havers, our hallway is lit by a beautiful, coloured work of art.
  • Visits with good friends: I have a lot of kind, funny and smart people in my life. Lately, I’ve spent time with many of them over food or tea.
Mireille and I watched the Jays' game and coloured. It was pretty great.

Mireille and I (intently) watched the Jays’ game and coloured. It was pretty great.

  • Fall walks with Odie: I adore fall. And the colours this autumn have been spectacular, so I’ve been sporting my blundstones and sweaters on local trails, with my giant pup.
This is the route we take most mornings. It's been really beautiful lately

This is the route we take most mornings. It’s been really beautiful lately

  • Magic Mike and Mary: Turns out we needed a handywoman, not a handyman! Mary has already connected the two back decks. And Mike, a family friend, came by to install a back porch light. Thank you both.
Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

  • My wedding dress is in: I’m trying so hard to be practical about this whole wedding business, but I was pretty excited to pick up my dress – a generous gift from my mom.
  • Lists of love: Some of my most prized possessions are handwritten lists of reasons I’m loved. I keep them in my wallet for those days when I’m feeling glum. Two friends recently created new lists that were truly soul-nurturing.
Toot toot!

Toot toot! Thanks Lainers.

  • New bras: Wearing these, I feel like a new woman. If you haven’t gone for a fitting, I highly recommend Secrets from Your Sister. They cost a pretty penny, but bras that fit are like shoes that fit – they just makes sense. 
  • Time with avo: My grandma makes me laugh and offers me valuable pieces of wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of her lately. She also made me these awesome, elven slippers. Thanks, avo!
Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

  • Thanksgiving: A holiday for food and family – two of my favourite things. This past long weekend, I saw many beloved cousins and my old roomie Steph. I also checked out the Elmvale Fall Fair and ate until I had to undo my pants.
  • A clean home: We spent a full day giving the house a good clean, and it felt great. For those hard-to-reach nooks, we found a local cleaning lady who charges $25 an hour (cue Enya).

But as lucky as I’ve been lately, I’ll never take joy for granted. Because sometimes life can be tough as pushups after months of slothfulness, or as harsh as hail in May.

 

Garden progress

My mother’s garden is beautiful – a layered work of art. My mémère’s garden had a spectacular assortment of roses and lilacs, perfectly pruned. My avo’s garden is full of robust vegetables, and blooms that smell like her islands. They all putter in big hats.

Yet, their skill continues to elude me – like their cooking genes. I’ve got a black thumb and it sucks. BUT, like Charlie Brown with his football, I keep trying anyway. And lately, I’ve actually made some progress.

  1. I put a lot of tasty plants in pots. They help me with mojitos, pizza and salad.
Herby pots

Herby pots. Mmmmmm.

2. With help from Helena, Fina, Andy and Owen, I added a new garden bed. Don’t ask me to identify plants.

Plants donated by my mother and my aunt, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

Plants donated by my family, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

3. I expanded my herb garden. Problem is, I already had all the “normal” herbs. So if you ever need sweet woodruff or russian sage give me a call.

Herb garden

Plus some ferns and a bush from Heather and Jerry that I can’t seem to identify. Anyone know what it is?

4. We have beautiful old trees and little sunlight. That means a lot of hostas.

I've added some trumpet vines and bee balm to this garden bed

I’ve added some trumpet vines and bee balm to the hostas

5. I added forsythia and creeping jenny to this garden bed. David is looking solemn and beautiful as ever.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas

6. I created a shade garden last year. No flower will ever bloom in this dark corner, but it’s starting to look green and happy.

Hostas, hostas all around

Hostas, hostas all around

7. This is my hopeless cause. The hostas, ferns and hydrangeas are filling in nicely. So is this creeping evil plant that is temporarily pretty but then just swallows up everything else.

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

There are tons of other problem spots (a weedy stone path, those damn dandelions, illogical decks) but I feel like I’ve made some progress. I’m celebrating the small wins.

It’s not my mom’s garden, but it’s something.

The Paint Fairy returns

I hate to say it, but I think I might be a (rather unhappy but) slightly better person when JF is away. I watch less television, sleep more, eat better, and get more done.

While he was in the Yukon, I:

  • put up some floating shelves
  • hired a new handy man
  • cleaned the house top to bottom
  • practiced my piano scales
  • exercised
  • re-organized my filing system
  • volunteered a lot
  • re-mulched the front garden

He’s only been back for four hours and I can already feel my brain descending into happy slothfulness.

In any case, my greatest accomplishment – while JF was slurping on Bonanza Browns by the Klondike – was painting the attic.

JF's man attic - desperately needs a coat of paint

JF’s man attic, pre-paint. And covered in spackle because it was once a studio.

Months ago, my aunt JoAnne (a.k.a. the Paint Fairy) offered to come by and help me finish the sucker. The rest of our home was painted last fall, but somehow the pocked-marked upstairs nook was intimidating. So many unusual angles and corners.

The Paint Fairy’s kind proposal — and my aunt Denise’s paint donation — finally gave me the kicks in the arse I needed.

The job took two coats and a whole day to complete. I couldn’t have asked for better company. We painted, paused for toasted tomato sandwiches, painted more, puttered in my garden, painted again, and then celebrated our success with wine and roasted potatoes.

Here’s the room in stages:

Merci, mes tantes pour vos beaux cadeaux. Our house feels more finished for them.

Home Sick

This morning, I woke up with a runny nose and a big lump in my throat. After about ten minutes of trying to remember what day it was, I realized I couldn’t face a full day of using my brain. So I called in sick. And then I did what I’m sure every 29-year-old woman does on a sick day; I called my mom.

At this moment, my mother is making what she calls and “immune-boosting” soup with kale and about a dozen onions. I am sitting in front of her fireplace, curled up on her comfiest chair. I look like shit and there’s a big pile of used Kleenex next to me, but it sure beats sitting at home.

A view of the fireplace

Sitting comfortably at my mom’s

Why would I rather be here? Well aside from the obvious nice company, toasty fire and great food, being at my mom’s means not doing housework.

Sitting on my own couch, I can’t help constantly contemplating what task most needs doing in our clunker of a home. There’s the everyday stuff like laundry, raking leaves and cooking. But it’s the once-in-awhile jobs that get me – stuff like sharpening my garden shears and repainting trim. Together, they make my to do list gargantuan.

I have a theory that the constant housework (and stressing about housework yet to be done) has made me ill. I’m literally home sick.

I really don’t know how grownups do the whole homeownership thing and still find time to exercise, go on dates, or call friends. Either they are better, faster and stronger human beings, or I am way more anal than I thought I was. It might be the latter, since JF has actually said the words “you have to lower your standards.”

Perhaps this illness is my body’s way of saying: “slow down – I am going to implode!” or maybe “you should eat better and exercise more!” or even “your house will never look like Elle Décor anyway!” Or maybe it’s just that the flu is going around. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some of my mom’s soup.

See caption

My mom’s immune-boosting soup