Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree is one of my favorite symbols of Christmas.  To me it represents a gathering place, the focal point of Christmas celebrations.  I love our annual trek to the tree lot (that makes it sound more romantic than it is...it's actually a bunch of trees laying in the parking lot of a local bait and tackle shop).  We select the best Fraser Fir we can find.  Once home, it's usually a struggle to get the tree into the stand and then I have a brief moment of disappointment because there is usually a bare spot or some branches out of place (imperfections don't matter once it's decorated).   Once upstairs, it's placed in front of our living room window and I begin the process of decorating it.

I'm kind of a snob when it comes to my trees. Even though I have a "rustic" tree with a real mix of decorations, I'm pretty particular with what gets placed on my tree.  Dustin and Emma each have their own tree so they can hang some of their homemade and "character" (like Dora and Mickey Mouse) decorations.  That in itself has become a fun tradition with the kids.

I love pulling out every decoration and placing it on the tree.  Every ornament has a story, a memory.  Maybe it was a gift, maybe it was something hand made especially for me, maybe it was store bought - but they all have a story.

In the last 7 years or so, I've made it a point to buy a Christmas ornament every time I travel somewhere.  Here is the Santa Claus I picked up during a trip to Baie St. Paul, Quebec this past Fall.

I also have many memories of our Christmas Tree growing up.  My father always gave my mother a dated Hallmark Ornament - many we would take off the tree and play with.   Much to the demise of my husband (I mean how hard is it to go to Hallmark and pick out an ornament) I had him start the same tradition with me.  My mom also gives Emma and Dustin a Hallmark ornament every year.  By far, one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  Here is my ornament from 2014: 

This year our family suffered two significant loses in the month of December.  Our paternal Grandmother and maternal Grandfather.  And I have many memories of them on my tree.

This ornament was given to me by Gram when I was fairly young.  At the time, I would have never appreciated the gift.  Now I hang it with special memories of the amazing women Gram was.


This ornament was made by Grampie and now hangs on Dustin's tree.  Grampie loved wood working.  What a wonderful remembrance of him. 

And because Gram and Grampie both left us in December what better way to remember them than with an ornament on the tree.  This ornament with the beautiful, heartfelt note was given to me by my loving aunt when Gram passed away. 


I knew I wanted to remember Grampie in some way so I found a train ornament.  Grampie worked for Canadian National Railways for many years and carried that love for trains throughout his whole life.

As I write this I'm still enjoying our Christmas Tree.  And while this month has brought us much grief, I can't help but look at our tree and be reminded of the wonderful life my Grandparents had - what special memories I have of them around the holidays, especially at Christmas.  In a few days I'll wrap up all these special ornaments.  They'll be packed away until next year, when I'll carefully unwrap them and relive all those wonderful memories again.

~ Elizabeth

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Will Remember

Remembrance Day is always an emotional day for me.  This year was no exception.  I think I was feeling what most of the country was feeling with such recent tragic events here at home. 

Growing up, usually on the Sunday before Remembrance Day, our church would host a special service.  We would gather outside at the small cenotaph in front of the church.  It was usually a rainy, cold day.   The church over looks the winding river that runs through the community.   That time of year everything was always so grey looking.   There would be readings of the veterans names and laying of the wreaths.  My grandmother, a veteran herself, would lay one of those wreaths. There was always bag pipes.  We would gather in the church later, to be warmed by fellowship and hearty soup.

In the 13 years I've been away from NS I have only been able to go back home and attend the service once. That year I laid the wreath.  This tradition has always been so special to my family, who have a proud history of serving for their country.  

This year, as my co-workers and I live streamed the Remembrance Day service from Ottawa, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I thought of Gram. Knowing she would have laid a wreath at the Remembrance Day service in NS.  Next year she will be 90!  My sister and I have made a decision that if Gram promises to be there next year, we will as well, to lay that wreath with her.

I call her every Remembrance Day.  I want her to know that I think of her often but especially on this day.  She told me that at today's service a little girl came up to her.  She saw that Gram was wearing her service medals.  She gave Gram a card, a thank you card, filled with drawings of beautiful red poppies. I can just imagine that card, being proudly displayed in Gram's room.  I could not agree with that little girl anymore. Thank you Gram.  Thank you for all the sacrifices you and your family made.  We will always remember.

 ~ Elizabeth

Friday, October 17, 2014

Our Summer Story

We are well into Fall - most notably marked by the fact my husband just left this morning for his annual moose hunting trip.

Fall really is my favorite time of year.  I love everything about it - colored leaves, apples, cool days, warm sweaters.  But in reality, I can't believe Fall is here.  Summer went by so fast.  So fast that much of the bucket list will be carried over into Fall and/or Winter or even next Summer!  Here's an update:

1. Catch up on movies: The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks and Frozen are all on the PVR Playlist.  - This one I did achieve! I rarely watch movies and I couldn't believe how hard it was to wind down and unplug, just relax and watch the movie.  These movies were worth the wait. Loved them all.  

2. Finish my deck makeover and eat meals outside.  - This is the reason a lot of other things didn't get done on the bucket list.  My deck make over took soooo long.  The weather made it almost impossible to get done but I'm really happy with the results.  And we had many meals outside.

3. Take the kids for a bike ride on the paved trails along our Waterfront.  - Emma got to do this with her Auntie which was actually better because I don't ride a bike! 

4. Fly a kite.  That one was easy!

5.  Catch up on a back log of books I want to read.  Goal: Read at least two by end of August.  - Didn't do so good at this one.  I read Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy and that was laugh out loud funny!  I just finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club - I've actually been reading that since we went camping in August! 

6. Go to our local water park. (This is actually one of the things Emma has specifically requested this Summer).  - We spent two great days there and the kids really enjoyed it.

7. Go camping.  - Probably the highlight of the summer.  Emma has already been asking to go next year.  I loved being away from home and just being with my kids. 

8. Have bonfires and eat s'mores...lots of s'mores.  In fact, try new s'more recipes.  - Didn't have as many campfires as we wanted to. Weather wasn't really conducive to bonfires this Summer.  

9. Check out a local beach we haven't been to before. - Did plenty of this.  Probably one of the best days of the Summer for me.  Emma, Dustin and I went to a beach on a Sunday afternoon and had so much fun floating in the waves.  Was a last minute day trip and those are often the best.  Also had a wonderful trip into a nearby Provincial Park with a great group of friends.  The kids had so much fun.  My favorite memories as a child are the many day trips our parents would take us on to a local lake or nearby beach.  I spent many hours in the water as a child and hope my kids can do the same.

10. Hike a local trail.  - Can I carry that over to a Fall bucket list? 

11.  Pick berries of all kinds and make jam.  - We did get strawberry picking but that was it.  We also benefited from my mother-in-law's bumper crop of raspeberries - the kids enjoyed bowl fulls of those. And I mean bowl fulls.  And we benefited from the raspberry jam and jelly she made.

12.  Get my kayak in the water.  - Yes!!!!! This finally happened.  A couple times.

13.  Visit local watering holes such as the Shanty House and Brew Pub by the boys at Whitewater Brewing (I suppose that is not a very kid friendly activity).  - Maybe this Winter?

14.  Go geo-caching.  - Another great day.  Even Dean enjoyed this activity with us!  Our fearless leader and good friend SD showed the kids how to read the GPS and find the caches.  You have no idea how much fun this was for Emma.  Our whole house is a geo-cache - tiny little treasures she's collected and hidden away.  She loves tiny things.

15.  Plan a mother-daughter getaway, just locally, but spend some one-on-one time with Emma. - This was the one I was most disappointed didn't happen.  There just never seemed to be a weekend to get away.  Again, maybe another activity that I can carry over into the Winter.  The kids and I did have a great weekend away at a cottage visiting with friends.  One thing I learned this Summer is how hard it is for me to relax and just play or spend time with my kids when I'm home.  I'm too focused on the next meal, the next load of laundry or the floors that need to be mopped.  That's why I love planning little getaways for us.

So that was the story of our Summer.  And as with any well laid out plan with good intentions it's easier to focus on the things we didn't do than it is to just enjoy everything we did accomplish.  I think we had a pretty good Summer. I can't wait to see what the rest of Fall brings and what story we can write.

~ Elizabeth

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Letter To My Daughter

To Emma On Your First Day Of Senior Kindergarten:

Well I suppose I have started a tradition.

This week you boarded the bus for your first day of Senior Kindergarten (SK).  Traveling to school with no idea where your classroom was or who your teacher would be. You were filled with anxiety.

The night before, after reading our bedtime books, we talked a lot about your first day of school.  You told me you didn't want to go to high school!  That made me smile.  Let's get through another year of Kindergarten first.  Oh sometimes I wish I could bottle up all your worries and anxieties and take them on myself.  I just explained that high school would be a long way away and that you had a few more years at your current school.  And then you said "When I go to high school I'll be awesome."  You're awesome in our eyes already dear Emma.

This year was a bit different - I didn't watch you get on the bus but left work early so I could surprise you and get you off the bus.  Nana said when that bus pulled up you were so excited it was the same driver as last year and off you went all smiles.

You knew you had an important job ahead of you.  You were in SK now.  A lot of your friends were starting Junior Kindergarten (JK).  I told you to watch for them.  To help them.  And you did.  As I got you off the bus you were filled with excitement because you were in a class with all your friends. In fact, we are worried for your teacher - don't you guys be giving her any trouble! 

It's hard to believe your second year of school has arrived.  So many things learned in JK and that was only the tip of the iceberg.  This year will bring even more new things and no doubt some challenges as well.  Some days you are 4 going on 14 but most days you are still our little Emma growing up before our eyes.   Our hope for you is that you will make more new friends and be a good friend, that you will gain confidence and discover even more things you love to do, that you'll continue to embrace life and learning, and stay our sweet little Emma.

Love Mommy and Daddy

Emma Graham
First Day of Senior Kindergarten
Favorite Color: Pink
Favorite Food: Ham. Bologna, & Cheese Sub
Favorite Thing To Do: Play With My Best Friend Zoey
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up:Someone Who Helps Doctors (Nurse)

 I think someone missed his sister! 

~ Elizabeth

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Bucket List

Here we are, end of July and I'm sharing my summer bucket list.  Gives me just over a month to accomplish everything. 

1. Catch up on movies on a rainy day.  The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks, and Frozen are all on the PVR Playlist.  

2. Finish my deck makeover and eat meals outside.  

3. Take the kids for a bike ride on the paved trails along our Waterfront.  

4. Fly a kite.  

5.  Also catch up on a back log of books I want to read.  Goal: Read at least two by end of August. 

6. Go to our local water park. (This is actually one of the things Emma has specifically requested this summer). 

7. Go camping.  

8. Have bonfires and eat s'mores...lots of s'mores.  In fact, try new s'more recipes.   

9. Check out a local beach we haven't been to before. 

10. Hike a local trail.  

11.  Pick berries of all kinds and make jam.  

12.  Get my kayak in the water.  

13.  Visit local watering holes such as the Shanty House and Brew Pub by the boys at Whitewater Brewing (I suppose that is not a very kid friendly activity).

14.  Go geo-caching.

15.  Plan a mother-daughter getaway, just locally, but spend some one-on-one time with Emma.

Luckily I've already checked a few of these off the list (more on those later).  But some seem unachievable...like the deck makeover.  That has been a work in progress since June and it's a tedious task that has been impeded by time and weather.

Hoping August brings more sun, less rain, and lots of time for making memories and writing our story.  


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday Dustin!

So Dustin turned 2...in May.  I'm so ridiculously behind in writing posts.

For Dustin's birthday I vowed not to do an elaborate party because only a month before we hosted our first annual Easter Egg Hunt. But I needed to do something and because Dustin is so into backhoes and other heavy equipment that was the theme.

I made the invitations myself (borrowed a verse from Pinterest). Lift, Haul, Move, Dig.  Our birthday boy is getting big. 

Snacks served in a dump truck.

His adorable t-shirt I had made at a local screen printing place.
There were no shortage of gifts related to machinery.
My sorry attempt at icing a cake. 
Smiles with Daddy.
And no party is complete without treat bags (even one for the birthday boy!).  I did sand buckets with summer related items (A water toy, ice pop, glow stick, and candy.)
It's hard to believe Dustin is 2.  He is talking so much and keeps us laughing all the time. He loves being outside and I can't get him out of his rubber boots.  It's gonna be a fun summer with those two.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Easter Tradition

I love traditions especially the ones that occur around holidays. So this Easter I started a new tradition for my Ontario family and friends...The Graham Family Easter Egg Hunt, based on the Easter Egg Hunt held each year in Nova Scotia by my mom's family.   

Eggs were scattered around 12 "stations".   Mostly filled with Easter treats but I had a few non-junk food items such as erasers, pencils, and some festive drinking cups. 

The minion eggs I made...these were my fave!
The kids all received name tags for their baskets.

I can't throw a party without decorations.
We had a potluck supper with yummy festive desserts.  Was a great way to end the day. I loved this new tradition and have already got all the eggs sorted and bagged ready for filling again next year!