October 3, 2014
Happy Hearts!
Auntie Janice here.

In case you missed the backstory to Happy Hearts:
Our lovely next door neighbour Noëmie loves having fashion shows with her friends. Then they decided they would do one as a fundraiser for CHEO research, and they invited all their parents and neighbours. They raised 22$, and Noemie's mom asked around and arranged a meeting where she could drop off her proceeds herself. The researchers accepted the donation with a huge thank you, and a tour of the facilities to show Noemie all the ways her money was helping other children. "I'd like to do another fashion show" she proclaimed as the tour ended...

She went around to many children's clothing stores, asking for their help in donating clothes. Almost every single one agreed. Then other stores agreed to donate silent auction items. Catherine (Noemie's mom) quickly did some hasty math of how many outfits had been donated, and thus how many parents would be coming for sure. Hmm... Not going to fit in the backyard. Thankfully the Canada Aviation and Space Museum stepped up and donated their huge rental space. Many other sponsors helped with everything from tablecloths and snacks to the very important stage, DJ, and photographer!

When I arrived at the museum, there was a huge number of wonderful volunteers taking tickets, directing me to the seats, and pointing out the silent auction items. I happily signed up for quite a few, and was later delighted when I won at least four of them. Elizabeth had been there since much earlier, practicing for her debut modelling career (link to previous post). There was just enough time to check the tables, and then to sit down before the main event.

The show itself was delightful. Each store was announced, and then the outfits were modelled two by two down the catwalk. Some of the models were clearly more comfortable with the crowd- but all were adorable! The sass and spunk of one set of models was occasionally followed by the very shy little models who couldn't quite figure out where they were supposed to be going. Elizabeth hit somewhere in the middle. She didn't look nervous, but didn't smile, and despite all our best efforts to catch her attention... We barely had time to get a picture! Turns out she was distracted by her partner who wasn't doing something quite right, but anyways it looked fabulous nonetheless. The last few outfit "poses" were very exciting- a number of models decided to show off their gymnastics skills, with all the audience holding their breath. It was quite a thrill, but thankfully none of the kids needed the services of the myriad of CHEO specialists that were sitting in the audience.

Then there was the silent auction completion, a final dance party as they tallied the results... And by the next morning we had heard the final numbers: over $13000 in funds raised for CHEO.

HURRAH! Happy Hearts was a resounding success, and while Noemie's parents would prefer she run a lemonade stand next year... I can't help but think of the Ryan's Well foundation and the power that children in our communities have to change the world. I for one look forward to attending the next Happy Hearts Fundraiser! ... or the lemonade stand, for that matter. Who doesn't love lemonade?

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October 2, 2014
Daddy's birthday

Birthdays aren't birthdays without cake and candles, so we had lots of them for Daddy to blow out, including at breakfast! The kids helped blow them out. I cheated by buying a gluten-free store bought chocolate cake, partly because Loblaws only just started carrying such a thing and the concept was so exciting that we had to find out if they are any good (verdict? yes)

Before bed we helped Elizabeth prep for her big day tomorrow - it's the fashion show! She wanted Jamberry nails and curly hair. Matthew was fascinated by the straw curls and insisted on having some in his hair too but I took them out well before they had any lasting effect because he couldn't sleep with them in. Daddy was relieved, but I kind of wish we had the pictures for Matthew's wedding day...

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September 29, 2014
The end of September

A series of random photos - mostly on the way to or from the bus stop.

Notable: Elizabeth decorated her own banana and picked out clothes for Matthew (he's starting to veto some choices though, so they both go to the other room and then we hear "what about this one?" "no" "this one has your favourite bear..." "no" "You have to pick ONE of them Matthew" "no". But eventually they figure it out...)

Matthew has inherited Elizabeth's old backpack and insists on wearing it. He copies her at every opportunity.

The rock Elizabeth is holding is a piece of pumice she traded some bugs for at the museum of Nature. She LOVES that she can hold a piece of volcano.

Fall has begun - Elizabeth and Matthew are bringing leaves to the bus stop with them so they can play.

Elizabeth is enjoying school more now, though she still is happier on weekends. She's "used" to her teachers now. Frequent play dates with her friend have helped a lot.

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September 25, 2014

We planted tomatoes, carrots, onions, beans (pole, green and yellow bush, green dwarf bush and lima), watermelon, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes and CORN this year in the garden.

I had basil, sage, rosemary, mint and jalapeņo peppers. There were gooseberries and red currants. Black currants and rhubarb.

So it is fair to say we were rather ambitious this year.

I waged a royal battle with the squirrels and chipmunks over the corn seed, but covering the entire thing in netting allowed the corn to grow tall enough for them to lose interest in digging it up. I think the racoons ate the last few tiny cobs that didn't ripen as some disappeared, but we did get about 10 cobs(!) They were poorly pollinated, a bit starchy to eat and a few were affected by smut (lol - that disease name still cracks me up). But I was not necessarily expecting actual corn as I know it is hard to grow in small quantities. The corn was so interesting to watch grow and we felt so triumphant about pulling them off our very own stalks that we considered this a roaring success. I may well try corn another time.

On the complete disaster front: I forgot to rotate my pumpkin crop (well, actually I didn't have room for it where I was planning to put it because the corn took up more space than expected.) and pumpkins got the blight. I wasn't too worried since we had the same problem last year, but it turns out that if your vines are affected by blight too early, all the baby pumpkins rot and fall off. Sob! The watermelon struggled next to the pumpkin too, but the real problem was that the chipmunks ate the baby watermelons as soon as they appeared. So no pumpkins or watermelons for us!

The carrots suffered from my decision not to thin them. Being lazy worked out for us last year, but I guess more plants grew this year so we had rather interesting shapes. They taste okay though. The variety we tried isn't quite as nice as last year's exquisite crop though. We're going to wait and see whether a frost will help.

The tomatoes were disappointing too. Too much rain and too cold meant they were pretty unhappy and didn't bear much fruit. It didn't help that Matthew was very keen to pick all the flowers and green tomatoes that he could reach. Luckily I still have a year's supply of canned tomatoes in the cupboard from last year.

We had an extremely prolific crop of beans though. The lima beans were amazing and even if you forgot to pick some and they dried on the vine it's not a big deal because then they are just dried lima beans that need extra soaking. I may have nearly destroyed my pot when I forgot one batch on the stove and turned them into charcoal pellets but the ones I didn't burn were lovely.

The potatoes were great as well, though I'm not sure if we'll get any sweet potatoes - an afterthought planted very late, they didn't get enough sun while their potato friends with a big head start were towering over them.

The rest of the garden pretty much behaved as expected. The kids very much enjoyed digging in the dirt and triumphantly bringing "their" spoils to show Daddy. Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to plant next year!

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September 21, 2014
Cousin sleepover

Uncle Dave and Auntie Karen celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary (woah - already?) so Elizabeth and Matthew got to have another cousinly sleepover. Isabelle and Xander are not quite as self sufficient as Erika and Maria, so they only stayed four nights instead of eleven! We are definitely making pretty good use of our new van...

Elizabeth was a good influence on Xander, whom we gather usually wakes up much too early. When he woke up before the sun, she told him to go back to bed until finally he did! It was nonetheless a learning experience to have so many small children all wanting to get up very early in the morning... I think the biggest difference between two and four (at least this particular four!) was the volume! Elizabeth and Xander invented a racing truck game that was deafening. Matthew didn't help by chasing everyone around pretending to be a scary bear that wanted to gobble you up! Apparently Karen noticed a distinct difference in Isabelle's playtime after the weekend - she said her pretend play became much more elaborate!

I was a little worried about getting all four kids to the bus stop on time all by myself (Brendan has a breakfast meeting Friday mornings). Luckily our tenant Mahnaz was available to help wrangle the babies. The bigger problem turned out to be picking Elizabeth up after school; I underestimated how much time it would take us to get to the stop and the kids would NOT be hurried when the bus pulled up to the curb half a block away. I thought that surely the driver saw me and would wait, but he wasn't looking for a mom with three other kids. I was absolutely horrified when the bus then left without dropping Elizabeth off. Cue total panic as we tried to figure out what to do, but luckily the driver just went around the block again in order to give us more time to show up!

While Xander was at preschool Friday morning the babies and I went to Isabelle's house. She was SO happy to see all her toys!

On Saturday I took the kids to the Dinosaur museum. We became a bit of an exhibit in our own right when two separate lots of tourists begged to take a photo of the "big kids" pushing the babies. While we were there, the museum opened up some dinosaur field jackets that were collected many decades ago. Elizabeth and Xander were lucky enough to get to help separate plaster from bone! Xander didn't quite understand the point of the safety equipment... Elizabeth would have spent a lot more time helping, but Matthew and Isabelle were restless enough that we had to head outside to let off some steam. The kids reminded me of puppies, wrestling with each other and rolling all over the grass.

Sunday Auntie Janice came home from Africa! Matthew was very excited to see Auntie Janice, and not just because it meant he got to help with loads of laundry... Isabelle and Matthew spent a lot of time in her suitcase "helping" unpack. Elizabeth would have been excited except that she had grievously wounded herself about three minutes prior to her arrival by face-planting on her truck and was all wrapped up with ice and watching a consolation movie with Xander. Sigh...

On Monday I took the little kids to French class, where there was much playing with sand, garbage trucks and some very cool dinosaur books. Back home, we built couch cushion forts and did the milk/food colouring/soap science experiment. Then Mommy and Daddy showed up again to have supper and take away the cousins. We talked them into trying out the fancy new washing machines. Have I mentioned Matthew is obsessed with doing laundry these days? It goes around and around and around... Matthew was very happy to get his room back, which surprised us since he barely spends any time in his own bed!

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