Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From one leap year to the next

Last February 29th, my life was almost about as different as it gets. I was in my very first year of teaching, and Hubby and I were living in our very first house. We were months away from even thinking about starting a family. Dual income, no kids. My day would have consisted of packing a lunch, carpooling with my friend Sarah, heading to school, teaching my two grade 9 classes and my one grade 12 class, doing some marking/photocopying/prep, heading home, making dinner and who knows what I even did in the evening. Probably watched TV or knit. Oh, and we had a pickup truck and an Elantra.

Me and my friend Ads, hanging out at my old house in 2008. I had blond hair and Hubby (not pictured) still had glasses, not yet having had laser eye surgery. This is from the oldest photo folder I have on my computer, which I got in 2008.

Here we are in 2012. I haven't taught (in a formal, paid capacity) since September 2009, and while I miss the paycheque and my colleagues, I'm pretty happy with my new career. We've gone down to one income, and by God's grace, it's enough to support us, especially since we moved further out in the suburbs. I love our home and our neighbours. And the biggest change of all was becoming parents to our two precious daughters.

So what was my day like today? I woke up cuddling my four-month old, had a shower while Hubby changed the girls' diapers and got them dressed, went to W2W where I got to fellowship and learn about God's word along with about a hundred other women, drove home in our minivan (we still have the Elantra), had lunch, put my daughters down for naps, tidied up and decluttered the main level of the house a bit, made dinner, baked banana muffins with my eldest daughter, put away the girls' clean laundry, put the baby to bed, snuggled the toddler at her bedtime, cleaned the kitchen with Hubby, enjoyed a cup of tea and two muffins, watched a few minutes of TV (digital free-to-air, on a flat screen we were given) before the baby woke up, gave her another feed, and now I'm blogging.

My days are more challenging in some ways, but they feel more full, in a good way. When I was going out to work, that consumed so much of my day that I really only had a couple of hours in the evening to do anything. This is one of the things I love about staying home: we have time to do things. We can have lazy days at home, and we can have outings to the library, the museum, the park (well, not yet, but soon). We can bake, read, play, clean, learn. It's tough being on-call 24 hours a day, that's for sure. And it's hard to cope with a busy toddler and a fussy baby. Thank goodness for a supportive extended family, and my wonderful Hubby! Still, there's a lot to love about this season of life where quantity time is quality time.

I wonder where we'll be next leap year, 2016. (D will be 6 and M will be 4!!) Maybe I'll be back at work outside the home, maybe I'll be homeschooling, maybe we'll be done having kids, maybe we'll be in a different place. Wherever we are and whatever our family looks like, I hope that we're faithfully following God and loving each other.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

You know it's a good meal when... eat it twice in as many days. Exhibit A: hard-boiled eggs, and cut veggies with hummus. It turns out I like hummus; who knew? It's been my go-to lunch the past couple of days. One of the nicest things about: once you start the egg-boiling process, you usually have to wait about 20 minutes to eat, but this gives you something to do. Peel and chop the veggies, dip them in hummus and munch away until the timer goes.

Exhibit B: Shepherd's pie. This was another surprise. I always hated it growing up and until I got this recipe from my friend Erin, I had never made it before. Something about dry ground beef topped with mashed potatoes never appealed to me. Erin adds corn and BBQ sauce to the beef, and it makes such a difference! My mom told me that I would come to love shepherd's pie because it's easy, fast and hearty fare. I first made it the weeks my in-laws arrived (they are gone now, and we miss them terribly), and then again last night. Hubby and I ate it all up by lunchtime today.

[Not a meal, not even a shepherd, but very cute]

Make your own: it's highly adaptable, although (sorry) short on instructions!

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup corn, cooked
4 potatoes or so

Preheat oven to 375
Brown the ground beef, add onions and soften.
Stir in BBQ sauce and cooked corn. Pour mixture into casserole dish.
Boil potatoes for about 20 minutes; drain, mash, and add milk and butter to desired consistency. Spread potatoes on top of beef mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes or so.

This freezes very well, but if you go this route be prepared for a longer cooking time: about 2 hours.

Post-script to my last entry: we rounded out the day by contracting a nasty stomach flu bug that made its way through all five adults in the house, although the girls were spared. Not the best end to the in-laws' visit. However, we're very grateful that they were there to help with the girls when we were too weak to get out of bed. Also not my favourite way to lose the remaining baby weight, but then neither was cutting out lactose.

[Hey, look who's almost 4 months old!]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A most Canadian day

Today has been the most stereotypically Canadian day ever, for me. It started with breakfast at Tim Horton's, a quick drive around Mont Tremblant, dog sledding at Montebello, taking a ferry across an iced-over lake, and pushing the car uphill when it got stuck on the icy incline (to be fair, that was my father-in-law and uncle). At our Timmy's stop in the morning, I translated our order from English to French. At the restaurant we stopped at on the way home from the cottage, I translated the entire lunch menu from French to English. I spoke both French and English with our dog sled driver.

(Yes, my mittens are polar bears. They keep me warm and they entertain D.)

The dog sledding was the coolest thing ever, and we picked the best day for it. Yesterday, Hubby had the chance to go with his mum, and they had an amazing time! It was more expensive than our excursion today, because it involved harnessing the dogs, doing some of the actual driving, going a further distance than we went, getting professional photos taken, and stopping for hot chocolate and cookies midway. This was up at Tremblant. Our version was just the ride in the sled over about 4 km, which took maybe 20 minutes or so. Uncle Paul, D and I were in the sled, and there were 9 dogs pulling us (the names I can remember: R&B, Disco, Astro, Sienna/Ciana, Jazz). D and I chatted about vitamins, where dogs pee as opposed to big girls and boys, and the differences between cats and dogs (chiefly, that dogs will pull you in a sled whereas cats will not). She was mesmerized by the experience. After I mentioned that the dogs were very good listeners, she gave them a thumbs-up and said "Good job, dogs!"

Crossing an icy lake on the ferry was pretty neat as well. The ice is broken up to make a path for the ferry, and not too far away we could see dozens of ice fishing huts. (It didn't seem especially wise to me, but then I'm not an ice fisher.)