Milestones

I have officially declared that we no longer need to store the small cereal bowls in a drawer at toddler level, as Little Miss Sunshine is now perfectly capable of hopping up on the counter to get one from an upper cabinet. The dishes and I have been enjoying their reunion.

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Over the holidays, I left the oldest (age 12 3/4) in charge of the youngest (8 1/2) twice, for an hour or two during the day. It was a success, in that we all survived, although after the first time I did have this conversation with the Captain upon returning home:

Me: How did it go?

Captain: Good.

Me: Great! How’s Little Miss Sunshine?

Captain: I don’t know…okay I guess.

Me: Well, where is she?

Captain: I don’t know.

Me: What did she do while I was out?

Captain: I don’t know.

Me: What did YOU do?

Captain: Played video games.

Me: HUH.

Then we had a discussion entitled, What It Means To Be A Babysitter. The second time went much better.

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All three kids stayed up until midnight for New Year’s Eve for the first time ever. Sir Monkeypants stayed up with them, watching a movie, while I had a two hour nap on the couch, waking up just in time for the ball drop. Our youngest was pretty disappointed that the “ball drop” did not, in fact, involve dropping a crystal-ball style orb and having it smash all over, but rather a large Christmas ornament making an unexcitingly slow drift downwards while mostly obscured by a giant TOSHIBA sign. Whatevs.

We were worried about the consequences but everyone seems to be at about the normal level of cranky in the two days since, so either that means that we have extremely cranky children with a high baseline, or they have reached an age where the occasional blown bedtime doesn’t mean several days of hysterics and parental payback. It’s the dawn of a new age.

Happy new year!

Fever Dreams

We have been stricken down in this house by an odd bug where the older two kids and myself have randomly spiking fevers and headaches, and that’s about it. I guess it’s the flu, but I’ve had the flu before and been sure my death was imminent, and this thing is more of an annoyance than anything else. Every so often you get suddenly chilled and you lie down on the couch for a while with a hot bag and a Christmas movie until you feel like getting up again and making more cookies, that’s all.

The weirdest thing, though, is that the randomly cycling fevers have caused the older two to have very vivid and vibrant night terrors, the like of which we haven’t seen since they were preschoolers. The past two nights both have gotten up multiple times in the night, shrieking in literal horror, requiring a half hour of heart-pounding soothing to calm them down. Last night around 10:30 the Captain suddenly arrived in our bedroom yelling, “YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM THE BOMB,” and then he went on to accuse Sir Monkeypants of buying said bomb “LAST YEAR,” and demanding that “WE HAVE TO BLOW IT UP.” Usually at moments like this Sir Monkeypants and I work as a team to soothe and calm but for some reason I totally got the giggles so while Sir Monkeypants was swearing up and down to the Captain that he was TOTALLY BLOWING IT UP, I lay on the floor laughing. It wasn’t my finest parenting moment. In my defense I did much better a half hour later when confronted with a hysterical Gal Smiley, who was insisting we were “SNOWED IN! SNOWED IN! JUST LIKE MINECRAFT!” Yes, yes, dear. It’s okay.

Later I told Sir Monkeypants I figured it was the fevers causing the nightmares, and then suddenly I remembered the phrase “fever dream,” and LO, the English language made sense for once. It was a Christmas miracle.

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In other news, I have become addicted to Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. Oh, how I used to smugly laugh at those with a Starbucks addiction. Every time I read one of those online articles about how you could save THOUSANDS per year just by giving up your daily coffee habit, I’d chuckle and count the thousands I’d already saved like Ebenezer Scrooge. I was perfectly happy with discount home-brewed swill, thank you very much! Then a friend of mine gave me a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you for some website help and I blew it on Peppermint Mochas and now, it’s DONE. Every time I go out I have to get one and I usually drink it in about 30 seconds and then start thinking about how I’m going to get my hands on another one. Damn you, Starbucks, and your holiday-neutral festive red cups. DAMN YOU.

I’ll be happy when we’re on to Valentine’s season as I find cinnamon heart flavour much easier to resist.

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In other-other news, it has been a brutal month around here for the allergy kids. As an Allergy Mom you get very attached to certain name brands that are your go-to foods. It becomes second nature to just reach for the same products on the same shelves every time you go to the store. This year not one, not two, but THREE of our big staples have suddenly disappeared, and when that kind of thing happens, it is an allergy CRISIS.

First, I found out that Allan’s candy has been bought out by Hershey, and one of the first things Hershey did was shut down their candy cane business, which, by the way, was like 50% of the candy cane business in Canada. Allan’s were the only brand we could have as all other brands contain sunflower, and may contain milk and eggs, and Gal Smiley actually CRIED when I told her she may never have another candy cane, or make peppermint bark, again. In a Wonderful Life style happy ending, it turns out that Allan’s had a production partner – Spangler candy of Ohio – and Spangler still makes glorious, glorious sunflower/egg/milk/nut-free candy canes in the Statues. Then my glorious, glorious friend RheostaticsFan did me the huge, huge favour of ordering some via Amazon Prime for next-day delivery to her American mailbox, then drove down to the States to pick them up, and now for the bargain price of just $8 a box I have glorious, glorious allergen-free candy canes. It is sad, but I will likely be getting my own American P.O. Box purely for candy cane deliveries, but if you’d seen poor Gal Smiley’s face you’d do the same.

THEN, the brand of rice protein powder which goes in the Captain’s daily smoothies suddenly became totally unavailable at our local health food store, and I just about cried myself because WHO KNEW what the hell he was going to eat now. But I found some online (FitShop.ca, SHOUT OUT) and ordered it for next day delivery at $10 per jar cheaper than I was paying locally. So happy ending, assuming the company hasn’t actually gone out of business – in which case, I am ABSOLUTELY GIVING UP and feeding the kid a diet of exclusively bananas from now on.

And NOW, just today, I find out that Blue Diamond peanut-free almonds, another protein-staple for my kid who cannot eat milk or eggs or chicken or legumes, has suddenly vanished from the shelves of the Superstore and Walmart, where I used to just throw some in my cart from time to time in the carefree days of my youth. O Blue Diamond, where art thou? Why hast you forsaken me? Allergy gods, you are clearly against me this week.

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Luckily, I just made two pies (apple and chocolate mocha), and there’s carrots and potatoes and meat pies for Christmas Eve dinner, and everything is going to be okay. Happy holidays, everyone!

Weepy

Christmas is coming, which is weird, because it’s like 8 degrees outside and the kids went to school today in fall jackets and running shoes. Everyone keeps saying that it doesn’t feel like Christmas, as we’re very used to lots of white stuff on the ground by now, but at the same time, no one is complaining. I’m personally pretending I’m Christmasing in Florida and it’s like this every year. Let’s put lights on the palm trees and grab a mimosa, Doris!

I’m in good shape for the holidays, with cards sent and shopping done (after a last minute run to the mall last week because my middle daughter finally decided what she wants for Christmas – “A bow tie, so I can straighten it before I walk into a room.”). This is the time of December when I usually stop working and just focus on baking, wrapping, and watching Christmas movies. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

This year though, there’s been a lot of crying. A LOT. Not that there’s anything wrong, don’t worry – I’m just getting so terribly, terribly sentimental about EVERYTHING that I’m almost constantly in tears. Being a weeper runs in my family, with my grandfather and uncle being legendary criers at every opportunity, and looks like I’ve inherited the gene. Here’s a very partial list of what I have cried over so far this season:

  • The ending of It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Every other minute of Love Actually
  • Every 10 minutes during The Polar Express
  • When Rudolph gets made fun of on Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
  • The toys on the Island of Misfit Toys
  • When the new toys on the Toy Story Christmas special understand that being played with is the greatest love of all
  • The ending of The Nutcracker that we took the girls to see on the weekend
  • Photos of arriving refugees on Facebook
  • Someone letting me have a parking spot after circling for 10 minutes

The kids keep asking why are you crying Mommy? It isn’t sad! and then I just sniff into my tissue and say But it’s just so BEAUTIFUL and I may as WELL move to Florida because apparently I am 80 years old.

I’ll be baking this morning with White Christmas on in the background so there will probably be tears when it finally starts snowing at the end. I’ll try not to get them in the shortbread.

Lost and Losing

Enter The Captain.

Him: Hi mom.

Me: Where is your saxophone?

Him: Oh. Uh oh.

Me: Did you forget it at school?

Him: Yes, but I DID remember it, when I was at my locker after school, but then I realized I’d left my coat in the yard outside at recess, so I had to go get THAT, and then that made me forget my saxophone.

Me: (shakes head until head falls off)

Adopt a Family

Historically for the advent calendar I’ve tried to do some sort of charity event. In the early days, I sat down with the kids and our annual donation budget and had them pick a charity they’d like to give it to. That didn’t work out so well as they always wanted to give it all to the World Wildlife Foundation because when you donate there, you get a free stuffed animal. WIN-WIN, from the kids’ point of view, but I wanted to do something more local and something that felt more like GIVING and less like SHOPPING.

So eventually I gave them a list of local charities, like the snowsuit fund and the food bank, and let them choose from there, but they were not very enthusiastic, and I really felt like just clicking some buttons on the computer to donate money was such an ethereal thing for them, and not really anything with meaning.

The last couple of years I’ve just done the cash donating myself, and instead taken the kids to the Food Bank’s Fill the Bus event (which is on this Saturday, December 5). We’d make a special trip to the grocery store and get a “most needed” list and do our best to get everything on it, plus a few items the kids especially loved and wanted to give. They actually really enjoyed it, and it felt more real, and I was happy with that.

(Also wanted to mention that there’s an “Unload the Bus” event around dinnertime for volunteers who are willing to help unload, sort, and repack the stuff from the buses, and it’s a bit of a party and fun time for the whole family.)

This year I was out and about and I saw a sign advertising the Kanata Food Cupboard’s “Adopt a Family” program, and I thought, BINGO. This is what I want – for my kids to be thinking about a real family, close to our home, that is a lot like us, that needs a little help. So we signed up to take on a family of 5 – a mom, dad, and three kids, just like us.

And so far, it’s been amazing.

When you sign up to adopt a family, you are obligated to provide all that’s required for a proper Christmas dinner – a frozen turkey, stuffing, vegetables, and sweets for dessert. You’ll also get a wish list from the family of their most needed items for a happy holiday – for us, this was clothes for the mom and dad, and winter boots and toys for the kids. The food bank also recommends adding things like wrapping paper and toiletries.

There’s a lot to do to get ready and so much the kids can do to help, too. First we had a big brainstorming session where we talked about the family and what we would like to give them, both food and gifts. Then came the Big Budget talk – we had a budget for this event that was actually already higher than what we’d normally donate at Christmastime across all charities, but even that was hard to stretch. We would have loved to have given them ALL THE THINGS but we had to rein it in and decide what was really, really important. It’s tough – is it better to buy them something really treaty, like say, very nice coffee, or to spend that money on something they probably need, like shampoo? Is it better to buy them toys or school supplies? Is it better to buy them socks or cookies? These are the things that this family is thinking about EVERY DAY. It was pretty eye opening.

Then came the shopping flurry, and unlike my own Christmas shopping, which involves going to the mall and just getting everything on my list without really looking at prices, this time we were actively trying to stretch our dollars as far as possible. The kids were on flyer duty, looking for deals on anything on our Food List, and the Little Miss was invaluable at the mall on Black Friday scoring half-price deals at the Old Navy and The Gap. I took the kids to the toy store one day, and each of mine got matched up with one of them and, given a budget, picked out what they thought was best. It was great to see them really think about what they’d want, and how much money they had, and how to get the most for their buck (hint: look at the sale items!).

The food list was the biggest deal for me. We wanted to add a lot to it – all the fixings for a big pancake breakfast as well as all the treats we could fit in there – and I was worried about how much it was all going to cost so I took the kids to the grocery store to price it all out in advance. I have to admit, when I do the grocery shopping I just throw stuff we need in the cart and don’t actually pay any attention to the prices at all – I know our average weekly bill and it’s always around there and so, done. So I was shocked to discover that bacon is like, $7 a package, and a pound of butter is almost $6. EEP. Coffee was another killer – add cream and you’re looking at $11 at least, for a small container. But I really wanted these things, so we had to make some hard choices to be able to fit them in. It really made me wonder what would happen in our own house if I had to spend so much time every week thinking about this, and really putting things together on a tight budget.

We’re still pulling our list together but I wanted to blog about this in case there were any other interested families out there. I’m not sure if the other food banks in town have a similar program but I know the Kanata Food Cupboard still has families of all sizes available. You can sign up for just a single person, or a family of 3, or a family of 8 – however big or small you can handle. You can provide everything yourself, or get your office or Parent Council to all chip in and go together. The Food Cupboard says that you should expect to spend about $300 on a family of four, but really we are finding it’s higher than that – budget at least $100 per person in the family you take on. Important tip: keep the things you buy for the family on separate receipts, if possible, and keep them all together as you can ask for a tax receipt for your donation when you bring it in.

I think we’ve definitely found our newest Christmas tradition.

Going With the Flow

I find that part of getting older is that all my qualities, good and bad, are getting stronger and more pronounced. It gets harder and harder to change; I suppose that’s the source of the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I am, apparently, an old dog.

One thing that’s causing me some trouble lately is my need to have everything planned. That was definitely a good thing when I was young and in school and trying to juggle three projects and two term papers at once. It’s still a useful quality when dealing with three kids with multiple activities and 25 people on the Christmas shopping list and you just volunteered to organize the Scouts silent auction. Planning, it’s what’s for dinner.

But trouble arrives when I get too attached to plans, when I’ve decided things well in advance and put it to bed in my mind – “That’s all taken care of, finally I can relax!” – and then things change at the last minute. I’ll often have work deadlines or assignments change, or find out about a birthday party last minute that we have to squeeze into the schedule, or someone will get sick and my plan for the day is out the window. This can cause me to be unreasonably cranky, and trust me when I say, UNREASONABLE. I am not very good at going with the flow.

This fall I am trying hard to chill out a bit, to take things as they come. I’m trying not to work so far in advance – leaving things until the deadline makes me very nervous, but a little nervous is better than a lot pissy when things change and I take it out on the people who live in my house. I’m trying to build a little extra time into my daily schedule so I can deal with sudden problems without feeling so much pressure. I’m trying to take a deep breath when something new happens and just take a moment to force myself to refocus, to pause before reacting.

It’s going better, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s hard, but becoming more flexible is one new trick I think this old dog really has to learn.

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And that concludes NaBloPoMo! I was going to make a big post about it but really all I want to say is that I really, really enjoyed it. I’ve missed you blogging. See you again soon, but not too soon, because I’m busy making gingerbread houses and playing Christmas hide-and-seek and WHAT WAS I THINKING WITH THIS ADVENT CALENDAR? Happy holidays, everyone :).

Ticket To Ride

Time for another board game review! You know what would be awesome? If I started up a YouTube channel with board game overviews and it was hilariously wooden and bad like “Fun with Flags” from The Big Bang Theory, and just for the record, I would TOTALLY WATCH “Fun with Flags” because I am THAT MUCH of a flag geek. I am half thinking of doing it – episodes would come out once every five weeks immediately after I have touched up my hair roots. Who wants to be my co-host?

Anyway, today we are discussing Ticket to Ride, which if you are into board games, you probably already own. It’s a top-seller – I saw it at Mrs. Tiggy Winkles the other day and the box had a “3 million copies sold worldwide” sticker on it, and I think it’s very close to making the transition from a specialty-store-only type item to a Walmart-carries-it kind of item.

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If you are interested in board games but aren’t sure if your family is ready for something more advanced than Sorry or Monopoly, than this game is absolutely, 100% the place to start. It makes the top 10 list of many gaming review sites, it’s fun and fairly easy to learn, and if you like it, you’ll know you’re a strategy gamer.

Who It’s For

First let me mention, there’s several variations on the game you can buy. Ticket to Ride is a map-based game, and there are a bunch of different editions featuring maps of different parts of the world. The original one is a map of the United States; we own the Europe version which is the map you’ll see in my pictures here. Each version is played basically the same but there are subtle variations on the rules, and that often means there’s different combinations of players. The original and Europe version are for 2 to 5 players, but other versions are played in pairs, or with larger groups of people.

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The box recommends ages 8 and up and that always surprises me, as I find it to be a challenging game and when we play with our youngest (who is 8) I always assume she is not going to be able to plot out her own strategy. But actually she plays just fine, so I guess that’s my own baggage. So we’ll say ages 8 and up with the caveat that those under 10 might need some strategy advice.

How to Play

The idea behind Ticket to Ride is that you’ll be building train lines that connect different cities on the map. First, you draw for yourself a secret set of “tickets,” which are like jobs you need to fulfill – two cities that you need to connect with your trains. The tickets are worth different amounts – cities that are far apart and tough to connect are a higher-point-value ticket. You can have, and should have, several tickets on the go at once – the ideal is to have a few tickets that overlap or share a city, so you can work on them in concert (this is the part I find my youngest has trouble with – she usually works on just one ticket at a time.)

(I’ve shown the tickets face-up here in my photos just so you can see them, but in the real game they’d be in your hand or face down as they are meant to be a secret from the other players.)

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Once you have tickets in hand, and a potential route that connects all your cities in mind, you need to start “claiming” the train routes in chunks. Each chunk has a number of slots and a colour, and you need to collect cards of that colour set to claim that chunk. On your turn, you’ll be able to take up to two colour cards from the set on the board, or, if you have collected a complete set, you can claim a segment of the map instead.

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For example, if I want to connect Pamploma to Marseille on the Europe map, I’ll need to collect a set of four red cards. I can then play my four red cards and grab that section of the map by putting my trains on that segment. Then I can slowly grab more and more segments until my entire chain is complete, and I’ve fulfilled my tickets.

If I still have trains left, I can then take additional tickets and make some new routes. Play continues until someone is out of trains to place on the board.

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A key part of the game is that if a segment you were counting on taking is taken by someone else, then you’re in trouble. You need to find a way around instead, and change your train route strategy on the fly.

The winner is the player with the most points when the game ends. You get points for each completed ticket; incomplete tickets are subtracted off. Each segment on the board you take earns you points, too. There’s also bonus points for the player with the longest train (in some editions). You keep track of your points from segments during the game using the numbers around the edge of the board; you add in your ticket points at the end of the game.

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Why We Love It

As I’ve said above, Ticket To Ride is like a gateway drug to gaming – it’s easy enough to learn that you can pick it up quickly; once you know it, you can play a game in 45 minutes or so, so it’s easy to get out after dinner. It’s complex enough for the adults to enjoy and there’s a bit of a competitive angle too – trying to grab train segments before others do.

I love the strategy, and I also love way this game is very visual – something that is easy for kids to see and understand. Plus, side bonus: my kids now know the names of several cities in Europe. It’s educational!

Some Bad Stuff

It can be frustrating at times when someone takes the segment you really, really needed, but the good news is that a) there’s almost always a way to work around it, and b) it’s never personal – they are just trying to achieve their own secret tickets. So it’s still pretty fun, and there have been times I’ve been hopelessly losing but still had a good time.

Although it’s usually pretty clear cut who is winning, because the tickets are a secret there are sometimes surprises at the end so hope is never completely lost. Plus, the game is quick enough that if you do lose, there’s usually time for a best-two-out-of-three scenario.

One thing I will say about Ticket To Ride is that it has a kick-ass app version, and it has almost spoiled the board game version for us. Playing it on an app means the setup and cleanup is non-existent – no more little trains going flying when the board gets bumped – and with the computer keeping score, you never have to worry about whether or not you marked the points for that last segment you claimed or not. If you get the app you can network with other players, both locally and online, so we can each grab an iPod or iPad and set up a digital game inside the house on our own local network and all join.

For a while the Captain, Sir Monkeypants, and I were obsessed with playing against each other on the app this way and I think we’ve only played the actual board version once since we got the app. But that’s too bad, because the board itself is gorgeous, and it’s so much more interactive to play together at a table instead of each of us on our own couches with our faces in a screen.

So I do recommend the app, but maybe just so you can play on your own and brush up on your skills – for the family, bring out the actual board.

Side tip: while waiting for your turn, see how many little trains you can pile in a single stack!

Recommended For

Any family, with kids of any age, or even adults who are interested in doing a gaming thing but aren’t sure where to start, should pick up this game. THIS IS WHERE TO START. If you’re already into games and don’t have a copy of Ticket To Ride yet, your collection really isn’t complete. If you’d like to get a copy for Christmas, you can buy it locally at any of the specialty toy stores (Tagalong Toys, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, Mastermind) or any of the comic book shops or Toys On Fire. Have fun!

Advent Calendar 2015

December starts next week, and that means the start of our annual Daily Family Activity advent calendar. Once again I was really conflicted – should I bother? would the kids enjoy it? would the extra work be fun and festive, or make me feel like ramming an icicle through my head?

(Jury still out on that last one.)

I saw the Lego and Playmobil advent calendars in the stores this fall and the kids were interested in them, and so I did consider buying my way out of the activities calendar. But to my surprise, when I made the offer of daily toys versus daily activities, the kids, for the most part, chose the traditional activity calendar. Know who was most in favour of the old way of doing things? Captain Jelly Belly, who a) wants to own ALL THE LEGO, and b) just two short years ago was declaring that the activity calendar was LAME and he was going to boycott it, and c) is now, at age almost-13, aged out of most of the stuff on it anyway. AND YET. There is a huge, terrible power when it comes to Sacred Christmas Traditions. If only we could harness it.

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So! The calendar is up on the wall and the little slips of paper are inside and it’s ready to go. I pulled out my list of advent activity ideas, and I’ve kept everything on there over the years, and I got a little sentimental about it. It used to involve things like singing a Christmas song for a treat, or going to visit Santa (SNIFF) or everyone taking a big bubble bath in the tub together (SNIFF SNIFF).

Now that they’re older I’m both looking for shorter events, as we often have sports and clubs and stuff on in the evenings, and more grown-up stuff, although some perennial favourites persist. Here’s this year’s list:

1 – Decorate a gingerbread house (still might flake on this one, as it involves me actually BAKING the house, then comically trying to get it to stick together with egg-free icing, WHEE)
2 – Play Singalong Live to win a prize (game stolen from the TV show Best Time Ever, where I play a song and they have to complete the lyric; prizes are funny picture books, which were a big hit as prizes last year)
3 – Read all the Christmas books in the house with Mom (tradition!)
4 – Get out the Thomas trains and build a track (still popular with the Captain)
5 – Games night: Roll For It!
6 – Go see The Good Dinosaur
7 – Make chocolate dipped marshmallows
8 – Jammies dance party
9 – Paper ornament craft (this one here)
10 – Hide and seek with Santa and Rudolph (in which we take turns hiding two stuffies around the house, and the others have to find them – all the fun of hiding AND seeking, at once!)
11 – Games night: Telestrations!
12 – The Nutcracker at Centrepointe
13 – Skiing, if there’s snow, or Museum of Nature if not
14 – Ice cream sundae night
15 – Make peppermint bark
16 – Teddy Bear picnic (in which we eat dinner on the floor on a blanket with stuffies invited)
17 – Games night: Forbidden Island!
18 – Games night: Parade!
19 – Go see Star Wars (I. AM. PUMPED.)
20 – Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village
21 – xTreme trampoline park
22 – Drive out to Taffy Lane to see the lights (may flake on this and just watch White Christmas at home, we’ll see)
23 – Games night: Rummoli!
24 – Fancy candlelight dinner
25 – Tell us one thing you like about the holidays over brunch

I am tired just typing that stuff out. What was I thinking, again? SHEESH.

Cold

After an unusually warm fall, it’s finally turned cold here. The wind smells like winter. When you go outside, the air bites at your face and your toes involuntarily curl up, seeking shelter in a crowd.

There’s still no snow on the ground – a light dusting on Tuesday is melted away now, despite the temperature hovering around zero. I wish it would snow, actually, a big dumping so I’d have a clear cut excuse to get out the big Frankenboots and my sleeping-bag-coat and the giant ski mitts, and be done with it. As it is, with green on the ground I feel obligated to stick with my shorter padded jacket and my cute little ankle boots and sleek grey gloves, all of which makes me feel like I’m in a video shoot for some pop princess’ Christmas song, but leave me shivering.

It’s supposed to get up to nine degrees today, and 12 tomorrow, which is crazy for this time of year, and I really do appreciate it, this last chance to feel warmth and wear the cute boots. But I know the real cold is coming, the kind that seeps into my bones and leaves me huddled under a blanket with a hot water bottle every night, which I suppose is its own kind of pleasure.

I always think something is wrong with me at this time of year, as the cold isn’t really all that cold, and yet I feel it so acutely. Am I dying of some dreaded disease? Have I completely lost the ability to handle a Canadian winter, and must become a snowbird, leaving my children to fend for themselves until I return from Florida, gloriously tanned, in April? Will I actually, literally freeze to death in January when days of -20 are common, when I can’t even handle going outside on these measly -1 degree days?

Then I meet someone in the grocery store, or the mall, and we make chit chat, saying how it’s cold out there, and ugh, winter is coming, and how these grey November days of cold rain and icy skies somehow get right to your heart and make you feel like you’ll never be warm again.

And just the act of sharing the misery with someone else is a bit of a comfort, and there’s always a peppermint mocha at Starbucks if you really, desperately need something to warm you up, and memories of sunny February days on the ski hill come back, and it seems maybe survivable. It’s always the transition that’s the really hard part, not the living with it. I’ve been here before, and come out the other side, and that’s what I’ll cling to for now.