Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks,... Canadian style

I'm loving this Canadian Thanksgiving - It gets the Holiday Season set in full swing. No waiting for the end of October to start being festive! And we get to eat Thanksgiving dinner twice in one year without making up some silly reason to do so.

The only weird thing is the decorating. It's Thanksgiving, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving again, then Christmas. Not that I'm a big decorator, but at least the grape vine wreath on the door will be sporting leaves, spiders, leaves and then some sort of green and red thing - hopefully in the correct order.

I'm usually a healthy eater - even with five athletic kids to feed who seem to only need calories, calories, calories. Case in point? I made 10 cinnamon rolls and 2 lbs of bacon yesterday. I didn't eat a bite of any of it. Only because I was the slowest to the table.

Thanksgiving is another story. We are hosting 20 people at the homestead and this is the time for comfort food, people!

The menu: (so I can remember for American Thanksgiving in another monthe:)



Mashed potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Gingered carrots

Roasted brocolli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts

Spinach salad with oranges, almonds feta and basalmic vinagrette

Cornbread stuffing

Fig and walnut spread (because it's easy and I love figs.)

Sweet Potato Casserole (Never mind it has over 100% of your daily allotment of sugar. Zoiks! I cut out the butter and halved the sugar, still tastes great)

Onion Poppy Seed Bread (but I broke my jar of poppy seeds, so I used sesame seeds...)

Rice Krispie Treats

Fudgy Brownies

Someone is bringing a homemade pumpkin pie - cooked down from a real live pumpkin -

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 28, 2012

See?! Dairy Cows ARE Extinct

As reported by MSN Moneyblog in Canada - I'm not the only one smuggling stuff across the border. It looks like Canadians are smuggling cheese!

Funny, because I am thinking of smuggling cheese curds to my displaced Michigan family who is now residing in Washington.

Watch out for the mozarella mafia!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Burned By My Babies

I’ve been getting a lot of grief – intentional and unintentional – from my kids lately.

The latest run started about a couple weeks ago when I was dropping my kindergartner off at school. I’m new here to Canada, so even though the sun was shining and it’s a balmy 18 degrees (Celsius), I’m usually wearing a couple of long sleeve layers.

I decided to be brave this time and shed my comfort clothes. All the way down to a tank top. To which my four year old exclaimed, “Wow Mom! You have big muscles!”

Which is pretty cool.

Then she added, “You look just like daddy.”

Not quite so cool.

Not the look I’m going for, Fifi.

The next one I remember was in the car. I have an older model BMW – which I honestly wish someone would steal so my hubby would buy me a new one. Like me, the car is a bit grumpy and has a few quirks. The old grey mare just ain’t what she used to be, if you know what I mean.

I was holding the visor up because the stupid screws holding the visor smack up against the ceiling had popped out while I was driving the kids. My 10 year old couldn’t believe I wasn’t able to just screw the screws right back in while driving. I told him I wasn’t that skilled. Fifi the feisty four-year-old wanted to make me feel better since I can’t really accomplish much of anything. So she told me, “But mommy, you are good at putting batteries in things.”

Well, thanks Fifi. I’m so glad my mad skills have not gone unnoticed.

The most recent one lately happened as my kids were getting ready for the Terry Fox Run during the Terry Fox National School Run Day here in Canada. Terry Fox was an amazing athlete who lost a leg to cancer but decided to begin something called a Marathon of Hope in 1980 to raise money for cancer research. The man ran an entire marathon every single day, running across Canada. He only stopped when his cancer spread to his lungs and he couldn’t go anymore.

Gosh, I think about this and how hard it is for me to motivate myself to even work out for 30 minutes every day and I feel very ashamed.

Anyway, the Foundation that puts on this run has so much cool teaching stuff – my kids learned so much about humanitarianism, science and research and diseases like cancer.

We had to color pictures of flowers to place in a ‘Garden of Hope’ on the school wall as one of the activities. I was helping Fifi write the names of people she knows who have been touched by cancer. We wrote Grandma Richardson’s name. Grandpa Richardson’s name, and Uncle Thad. I talked to them about my brave friend Susie. I thought of my friend from work, Ben Brown, who lost his battle.
It was touching to see the kids make the connection between this esoteric man they never knew and people they love – having the same kind of disease.

So Fifi asks who else had cancer. I say me.

The 10 year old pipes up – “Yours doesn’t count, it was just head cancer!”

Well, true. It wasn’t breast or colon or liver or gall bladder cancer. Mine was the wanna be cancer – skin cancer.

I hope I always seem so invincible to them.

I’m off to find my cape and put more batteries in things.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Edmonton: A Primer for Displaced Californians

Every area you move to will have its own local quirks.  This is why I love to travel.
When you travel to the Pacific Northwest, be sure to ask for a geoduck at the market. You won’t be disappointed. Southern California? Being dressed up means putting on a clean Hawaiian shirt or sequined flip flops.

Journeying to a foreign locale just intensifies the feeling of everything being not quite as you expect it. I always have that same feeling you get when waking up from a deep nap in the middle of the afternoon – not quite with it and everything just seems a bit,.. not right.

Egypt? Don’t wander around with wet hair if you are a woman, for fear that you will be judged as having a loose character. Indonesia? Only always offer your right hand to people. Singapore? Offer both.

While Edmonton, Alberta feels so familiar, there are just a few words people say, or activities they do, that make you remember you aren’t in Kansas anymore.  Here’s a couple of helpful hints for any other Californians getting the great idea to escape 100 degree weather and dive into 40 below.

Learn Celsius already. Because everyone else knows it. You can only ask Siri so many times to convert the daily temperature before she starts to get agitated with you. And Fahrenheit really isn’t very easy to understand, honestly. This point came out when I was chatting with my hair dresser. She was explaining to me the ease of Celsius and how confusing Fahrenheit was. “Zero is the point of freezing,” she explained. To which I acknowledged, “Yes, 32 degrees,..”
Once I said it, it sounded ridiculous. How arbitrary. Zero for freezing does sound so much more logical. Try and forget Fahrenheit. Because, really, once you get to about twenty below, they both converge and it’s called “yes, hell has frozen over.”

A runner is not an unpaid intern in the legislature. It’s a tennis shoe, a sneaker. And you’ll need lots of them, which brings me to the next point

Take your shoes off! Everyone takes off their shoes before entering into a private space For schools you will have to invest in new shoes for both inside AND outside.
I had no idea how rude I was stomping around friends’ houses. Which brings me to my next point –

Canadians are really, really nice. I’m just not used to it. Let’s take last week, for example. The girls had ice skating lessons. Since I consider myself from SoCal now. (I've lived there for so long - the longest I've lived any place, any where actiually - that I have taken up citizenship), I had really no idea how to dress them. I had them in jeans. I forgot Fifi’s gloves. I did bring them coats. After 30 very long minutes of terrified girls freezing their butts off on the ice (yes, screaming, crying and nashing of teeth), the instructor came over to chat.

She acknowledged how hard it is to figure all this stuff out and gave me pointers. She didn’t sneer and correct me like the lady in Idaho when I said ‘BoiZZZZeeee’ instead of ‘Boise.’ She didn’t roll her eyes and turn away like the mommy I asked for directions to the nearest bathroom in the local California school. She didn’t sigh loudly and stomp her feet when I was on line in a Washington store, and had to talk to my credit card company on the phone during check out because someone was purchasing fancy dinners and jewelry in France, while I was  buying a pair of school uniform pants on sale at Kohls.

She didn’t make me feel like an idiot for not knowing anything.  And for that Canada, I would give you a big, huge kiss. Because I don’t know much, and I always let people in on that secret.  Thanks for being so kind.

Loonie is not how you feel when you can’t remember for the life of you where you decided to store all your tank tops when you unpacked them. It’s a one dollar coin. And a toonie is a two dollar coin. How cute is that?

So, when the back to school sale circulars came out, their tag line ‘Only loose a few loonies’ they were referring to the money I’d save, and not the fact that my kids would be gone for a majority of my day.

It’s a washroom. Not a rest room. I’ve left plenty of store employees scratching their heads trying to figure out why I want to take a nap in the bathroom. Gross American,….

And it’s not soda, it’s pop. I don’t care what argument you have with anyone over this, pop rules up north. And for heaven’s sake, if you are from Georgia, don’t call it Coke. If anything, refer to it as Canada Dry.

Beer is expensive.  A twelve pack of Corona? More than 30 dollars. So, either drink your fill while south of the border, or take advantage of the allowable quantity of high quality, cheap beer beverages you can bring through customs.  I may break out my carboy,…

Dairy cows are extinct. Because dairy products will cost you a pretty penny as well.               

Misery loves company. To help you get over the price of beer and Greek yogurt, work it out at your community league or rec center. These are the bomb. Each neighborhood has a community association, and for a small fee, you can take part in amazing activities for free, like skiing, swimming and skating. Most communities – ours included – have an outdoor ice rink that is maintained by a community rink keeper who basically goes out with a garden hose and makes ice on the rink after the first freeze. Booyah!  

The rec centers are scattered all over the city and offer ice rinks, pools, work out rooms and drop in classes, indoor playgrounds. Check out free sessions for the public to skate. Everywhere, every week. So go buy some used skates and get out there.

So, yes, it’s time to pack up the flip flops and break out the Sorrels. You’ll find me in the -30 coat rack, weeping. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to run Edmonton

Okay, so I feel like a shill because I think I’ve actually gone running only 3.5 times in Alberta (and one of those times was actually in British Columbia), but in those few times I have some observations:

1. Skeeters. Mosquitoes are a pest. But running gives you at least a little respite from the horrible little bugs because they can’t fly as fast as I can run (finally! I’m not the slowest creature on the street!) or if they land on you, they drowned instantly in a pool of sweat.

2. Edmonton is nice and flat. Such a nice change from Yucaipa, California – my recent home - which I think was Native American for ‘uphill both ways.’

3. I can run whenever I want. No more hurrying out the door before 7am or waiting until after 5pm for fear of my thighs rubbing together and creating a spark that bursts my body into flames in the intense of heat of the southern California sun. I can argue with myself for hours before I finally suck it up and head out the door with my iPod.

4. Using “unpacking” as my excuse will only work for so long. And while there are calories to be burned in schlepping 24,000 lbs of personal belongings up and down stairs, it’s an effort that gets old quick. Even quicker than running.

5. The running season – outdoors anyway – is awfully short. Unless I buy crampons for my Nikes. Perhaps I’ll take up cross country skiing. Maybe this is why I rescued a Husky – I knew deep down inside that someday I would need a sled dog to commute to the grocery store.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where are you from?

This is a question I’ve never been able to answer. I remember hanging out with friends in my school’s library when I was a teenager and feeling like I had to pick somewhere. In some visceral manner, being from somewhere is important.

At the time I was living in Monrovia, Liberia. My family was moving to Olympia, Washington in a few months. This place was where I would complete high school. I had lived there before when I attended kindergarten and first grade. I was returning somewhere, something I’d never done before. I was always going: Alaska, Michigan, Virginia, Saudi Arabia, Tennessee, and Liberia. Returning was something new. I thought this must be what it feels like to go home.

As an adult I’ve put a few more miles underneath my feet. Like my parents did with me, I too have packed up my belongings and guided my family to various locales. California, Egypt, the Philippines, Washington, Idaho, Indonesia, and now Canada. And my answer to where I’m from has changed.

Southern California is where I’ve actually lived the longest. Seven whole years in small little Yucaipa, nestled in the foothills of the dessert. I had a commercial break during that time, - moving to Indonesia so my husband could work for an NGO (Catholic Relief Services) -  but that year spent in Indonesia was always something I knew would be temporary; our entire household was packed in a local storage facility. We had to come home simply to get our stuff.

You plant roots through your children. And with five children who have attended seven different schools in Yucaipa and are very active in sports, we’ve planted some very solid roots.

Besides my college friends (Hi Super Pod!), the friends I have here in Yucaipa I have known for a longest. The wonderful thing about traveling means that you have friends spread throughout the world. But these friends in Yucaipa I have worked with, dined with, commiserated over babies with, and feel like they are the ones I go to when I need help.

And these friends I met through my workplace, in some form or fashion. I think it’s kind of Freudian that I have a yearning to call a location my home, and I work at a company that specializes in geography.

My work is a giant tether to this sunny place. I’ve been at this company for 20 years. I love what I do and the incredible independence I have. I don’t take it for granted. It took me about five resumes before someone picked up a phone and called me. Then, a whole lot of persuading until I was actually hired.

The company is a proving ground to find your inner guts. You need to find the perfect balance of collaboration and Survivor Island techniques to stay afloat and relevant. I think all high tech companies have a little bit of that in them – they are full of bright people trying to think of the next big thing. It’s an environment I relish. My favorite joke is that every time I step on campus, the collective I.Q. level goes down.

And while this company has employees all over the world, and has allowed me to work in some pretty interesting places, it is headquartered here in Southern California. You basically roll down the hill from Yucaipa and you’re there.

So, this is home. This is where I’m from.

I don’t know why it matters so much to me right now. The need to be able to answer the question “Where are you from?” It could be the fact that at work we are working on a big campaign and this was one of the questions we asked the people being interviewed. We had a long discussion on which answer was most appropriate to ask – where are from, where do you live, or where do you work? We decided that ‘where are you from?’ was the question with the most meaning. And I’d have to agree.

So, it is with some serious sadness that I dust off this blog and say good bye – for a while – to the place that I’m from. And I want to thank the people who helped us out in the transition. The hubster was gone for the most part from April until we met again in Canada at the end of July. Let me tell you, there is no natural act that would have gotten my five kids and me to Canada without some serious intervention. It takes a big village, people.

So, enormous thank you to:

My amazing friends.

Especially Wendy for driving my boys to and from summer camp early – with 2 year old twins in tow. And housing us for a week.

Gab for hosting my girls so they wouldn’t mistakenly get packed in a big box.

Beth for driving an hour round trip from work just to deliver a six pack of beer to keep me sane.

Amazing teachers and coaches.

To Coach Price at Yucaipa High School for mentoring my 15 year old and taking the time to let us and him know what a great kid he is, and for creating one of the BEST football progams in Southern California. Not that I'm biased.

All the teachers at Ridgeview who expressed their sadness at losing our family

To Mrs. Geusen for the Barnes and Noble gift card – what teacher gives a parent a thank you present?

Awesome colleagues at work.

Especially my boss Robin and my team lead Emily for not judging me as I cried like a baby when I explained I was moving and felt terrified I might lose something that had defined me for two decades.

And of course, the owners of my company,Jack and Laura for trusting me once again, as I trek to a new location.

And a HUGE thank you to family who hosted hormonal me, five kids and two large dogs for a month. Whether you liked it (or knew it) or not!

So,.. here is to the next journey – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I guess I still have children and will travel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Welcome to the Sports Center,.. Proceed with Caution

There are all sorts of news stories and public service announcements talking about getting outside and playing with your children. With childhood obesity on the rise –the CDC reports that since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled – it is important to make moving and exercising fun. But I am here to provide an important PSA directed specifically toward you: you are no longer the spring chicken you think you are.

I am all for putting down that electronic device you are addicted to (and you know you are) and playing with your kids. But let me offer you the 10 rules for playing with your children:

10. If your child is the quarterback of his football team and he asks you to play catch; don’t. The work lost by jamming all your fingers as you attempt to grab that little rocket is too expensive at your age. You need all those productive work days in order to pay for that little cherub’s college.

9. When playing Twister, if the move to put your ‘left hand on yellow’ requires you to contort in such a way that you can’t tell your hands from your feet, gracefully bow out. Believe me, between all the vegetables and ground sirloin in your freezer, you don’t have room for those big ice packs your physical therapist is going to require you to use at home in between sessions.

8. Monkey bars? This is a perfect opportunity for ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ unless you want to have double jointed shoulders for the remainder of your adult life.

7. If you think that ‘double under’ refers to your chin and not a jump rope; please don’t attempt any rope jumping at home alone. You will require a spotter.

6. If your youngster is calling you a ‘wuss’ for not trying to balance on a floatable board on a swell of water on anything other than your belly, smile politely and sit your butt right back down on that towel.

5. Same thing goes for boards that move on concrete. Do I need to say concrete one more time?

4. Do you know when a diamond is not a girl’s best friend? When the girl is pushing forty, they are black and they come in multiples. This is a time when more is not necessarily better.

3. Trying to return any sort of ball with your head is not encouraged. Children’s brains do not fully develop until they are well out of their teens. I think this began with the prevalence of soccer.

2. If the last time you went roller skating it was referred to as er,.. roller skating and you needed a key, take it slow.

1. Proceed with caution when taking your high schooler to the gym. Exercises don’t always match their names. For example, cutely named ‘jumpies’ and ‘burpies’ aren’t quite so cute after you’ve survived 50 of them. However, other exercises, like ‘suicides’ are exactly as they sound.

Other than that, tie up those shoes, put on those knee pads, pop some Advil and have fun!