Tag Archives: cheerleading

Adventures of A Reluctant Cheer Mom…

Here’s another post from the archives which was originally published April 27, 2010.  Anna and Hope were on their school teams this year (Hope probably won’t do it again next year), but Brianna didn’t do cheer this year.  This post is one of a series of three…the complete series can be read here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/adventures-of-a-reluctant-cheer-mom/ .  Enjoy!

[A warning to Anna and Brianna – I’m giving my opinions here, which you are both well aware of]

A little background: I have always hated the stereotypical cheerleader image – most of the cheerleaders at my high school in the late ’70’s had no significant thoughts in their heads other than their clothes, their hair, or their boyfriends.  They jumped around, shook their “pompoms,” and yelled a lot, but being a strong feminist, I was unconvinced that they were doing anything to help our cause!

A High School Team from 1977-1978...

Fast forward to 2005 – Anna (who was eleven at the time) wanted to join the cheerleading program at our local community center.  Other than occasional summer art camps, she wasn’t participating in any other extracurricular activities – I reluctantly gave my permission.  Because she’d never been in it before, Anna was placed in the “Mini” group – she was the tallest girl there.  Practices were Saturday mornings from 9 to 11.  Since the centre was about four blocks from our house, Anna could walk there on her own.  More than once, she came back because practice had been cancelled, and the teenage coaches hadn’t bothered to call us.  The lack of organization irked me.

Sign Often on the Community Centre Door...

I remember the first time I went to a competition.  At that time, it was customary for all the girls to wear “hairpieces” (or a “dead animal”, as I used to call it).  This mass of fake ringlets was the same colour as their hair, and was pinned to the back of each kid’s head, so that they’d all look alike (it came in a vinyl case, which resided safely in my kitchen drawer).  It cost $35, which was a lot of money for me (did I mention the $90 sneakers?)!  I took the bus to one of the local high schools, arriving just before 1 p.m., when the competition was slated to start.  Being a big invitational tournament, all the seats in the bleachers were taken.  I ended up standing for a while, and finally sitting on an extremely uncomfortable chair as the pulsing “music” and screams of hundreds of kids assaulted my senses.  I sat for 3 hours enduring endless routines (watching teenage girls do moves I’d only seen in Britney Spears videos made me nauseous), before finally giving in to the demands of my bladder…the ladies’ room had two stalls (and no toilet paper – thankfully, I had Kleenex in my purse).  There was a line…I was gone for twenty minutes, just long enough to miss the performance of my daughter’s squad!  I nearly cried!  I attended three or four more competitions (being careful to get there early to get a seat), but was thankful when Anna gave it up after a  couple of years.

The Detested Hairpiece...

When Jim and I got together in the spring of 2008, his daughter, Brianna, was also involved in cheerleading at her middle school (she was 12).  Anna and I started going to some of her competitions with Jim.  Things had changed for the better in three years…hairpieces were out of style, and the sexy dancing had been replaced by more age-appropriate movements.  No one used pom-poms any more.  More emphasis was being placed on the athletic part of the sport.  Brianna’s team had three practices a week from September to May, and more near competition time.  She rejoined the team for the 2008-2009 school year – they won the provincial middle school championship – all that practicing paid off!  Hope’s and Anna’s schools didn’t have cheerleading teams that year.

Brianna and her Proud Dad...

When the new school year rolled around, Hope joined the cheerleading team at her new middle school, Anna’s high school had decided to have a cheerleading team, and Brianna was still doing hers…our practice schedule included seven practices a week at three different schools!  Since I don’t have my driver’s licence, Jim used to get off work early on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that he could rush home, pick up Hope and her friend, and have them to school for practice at 5:00!  (Devin also had tech crew at least two nights a week – poor Jim was running every night!).

Kids Stunting in the Back Yard...

At Christmas time, Hope’s school decided to discontinue cheerleading – there was some fundraising issue around uniforms – Hope was angry, because they had put a lot of hours in practicing.  I was upset for her, but relieved to have two practices off our schedule!

The older girls continued on their teams…competition season started a few weeks ago.  This past weekend, we had Anna’s on Saturday and Brianna’s on Sunday.

We spent Friday evening looking for Anna’s “spankies,” the little Spandex shorts they wear under their skirts – these cost between $15 and $25 each depending on the style.  She wanted me to run out and buy her another pair, but my natural stubbornness kicked in…I kept looking until we discovered them in a pile of unfolded laundry.

The Errant Spankies Looked Like These...

Anna’s competition went by quickly because only six teams were there…thank goodness…my arthritic hips can’t tolerate those hard bleachers for very long!  The high school mascot (a bee) kept the crowd entertained between performances with enthusiastic dancing and interaction with the squads.  A couple of girls had ice packs on various parts of their bodies – several had knee or ankle braces.  I saw one crying girl being led away by her mother after she’d been injured.  Anna’s team was not among those called back by the judges…one of her teammates looked away from her flier, and cost them 20 points – Anna was not a happy camper!

Anna and Her Friend Faby with Faby's All-Star Award

Brianna’s competition was held at another high school – the gym floor had been covered with a foam puzzle mat, which didn’t look very thick.  Seven teams competed, but it was a long afternoon – the judges were deliberating carefully after every performance, and there was no mascot to keep the crowd enthused.  I was sitting sideways, trying to keep my knees from poking into the people in front of me…they didn’t have similar consideration for my comfort…I lost count of how many times the teenage girl reached into her back pocket for her cell phone, and collided with one of my body parts!  Her mother actually reached into her purse and inserted some sort of dental appliances into her mouth – ewww!  The father was oblivious to the fact that he was half blocking the “steps” for the bleachers, forcing people to maneuver around him as they gingerly made their way down.

Foam Mat Pieces...

I saw more near-misses at that competition than I’ve ever seen…in one routine, I saw the same flier nearly get dropped twice, and then she almost got knocked over by a bigger girl (fliers average about 80 lbs.).  Every mother in the audience caught her breath in horror when another flier came within a foot of hitting that thin mat with her head before her quad caught her!  My heart was in my mouth!  Thank goodness my girls aren’t fliers (Anna is a back, Brianna is a base).  Neither of them has had any serious injuries, but I worry about it all the time – Anna inherited my klutziness (one of her teammates suffered a black eye recently).  Brianna has jammed her finger, and been scratched when her face came in contact with a falling flier’s braces.

The Scary Part for Parents...

Brianna’s team won Sunday’s competition, and their stunt teams placed first and third in the quads.  Jim shot almost 600 photos!

Brianna and Her Friends...

We have another back-to-back weekend with an “away” competition in two weeks – provincial middle school championships are in St. Stephen this year, an hour-and-a-half drive – not sure if I’ll go or not.

I’ve offered to teach them to crochet instead, but nobody’s taken me up on it!

Crocheting...A Much Safer Activity...

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Day of Whine and Noses…

Warning to my regular readers…this is not my typical “everything is wonderful” post…

Anna and I are home sick today…she has the flu, and Hope was generous enough to give me a cold…since I’ve been awake since 3:30 a.m., I decided that I should probably stay home from the bookstore. 

AWOL Bloggers

There seems to be a rash of good bloggers lately who are “taking a break” or quitting blogging completely.  Your public misses you…please come back (you know who you are)! 

Pothole Piss-off

Thursday night, we blew another tire on the Mazda 6 when we hit one of the 30,000 potholes lurking on our local streets…it was the second tire we’ve had to replace in two months!  Seriously…it’s spring…the snow is long gone!  Fix the damn holes!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I think it’s rained every day of May so far…they’re predicting a sunny day for Kaylee’s birthday on the 22nd…I won’t hold my breath!  Luckily, our landlord was able to get our garden plot plowed for us on Saturday morning…he kindly extended it another 6 feet so that we’d have more space.  If it would stop raining for a while, I might be able to get some seeds planted, and my seedlings put outside…they’re definitely not very happy in my back kitchen:

Lackadaisical plants in the back kitchen..."We need sun, Mom!"

Cheers and Tears

Saturday morning was Anna’s provincial cheerleading championships.  The Harbour View High team performed very well…they were enthusiastic and tight, and there weren’t any major mistakes.  I was sure they’d be called back…I was wrong…again!  Congratulations to the repeat champions, Harrison Trimble High, whose performance was flawless, as usual!  Special kudos to the team from Carleton North High, who I also thought should have been called back…they have improved a lot since the beginning of the year!   I would like to give a shoutout to Fredericton High, who kept the crowd entertained all season in between performances with their infectious dancing!  They were the embodiment of “spirit” even though they were never called back!

Harbour View High team after Provincials...Anna is crouching down in the middle of the back row (photo by Brianna)

   

Network Numbnuts  

I watch very little network TV, so I was upset on the weekend to learn that ABC had cancelled three of my shows in one go:  Off the Map, Mr. Sunshine, and Better With You!  

Off the Map was the only drama I watched.  It was created by the same folks as Grey’s Anatomy (which I used to watch until about four years ago when I started working an evening job).  The acting was good, the plot twists surprising, and it starred one of the sexiest New Zealanders (not Australian…thanks, Lynley for the correction!) I’ve ever seen, Martin Henderson.  I hope you get a new gig soon, Martin!

When I first watched Mr. Sunshine, I wasn’t expecting great things.  I was pleasantly surprised though: Alison Janney‘s narcissistic character was hilarious, and Nate Torrence as her son was adorable…that guy just had to smile, and it made you feel good!  Matthew Perry‘s character wasn’t far removed from his Friends persona…the wise-cracker who just wanted people to like him.  I will miss this show!

Nate Torrence and his irresistable smile...photo from hitfix.com

Better with You was the “bridge” between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights.  It explored three related couples in various stages of their relationships.  An excellent ensemble cast made the show a lot of fun…notable members were Jake Lacy, whose combination of goofiness, facial expressions and comic timing was funny every time, and Debra Jo Rupp, whose character always said what people are thinking but are afraid to say.  This was one of the only sitcoms I’ve ever seen that portrayed couples in a fairly realistic way (The Middle is another one).

I’m happy to see that CBS has renewed The Amazing Race and Big Bang Theory, as well as Two and a Half Men.  However, word that Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen on Men sounds like a death knell for that show…the last couple of seasons haven’t been great anyway.  Ashton was fine on That 70’s Show as the brainless Kelso, but I don’t think he has the “parts” to pull this off…

Canine Cacophony

Jake is driving me nuts!  He barks whenever he sees a squirrel or chipmunk on the back deck, or hears the slightest little noise…I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow!

"What are you barking at, Stupid?" (photo by Anna)

Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better by the time I post again…thanks for letting me vent!

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Cruciferous Vegetables, Cheer Competitions, Cakes, and Canada…

Jim and I were happy to survive another busy weekend…back-to-back cheer competitions for Anna and Hope Saturday and Sunday!

Jim dropped Anna off at Simonds High School for her competition for 9 a.m. on Saturday…on the way home, he and Brianna and Hope stopped at Costco for some essentials (and not-so-essentials)…I got my mango juice, and Anna got her fix of Veggie Sticks.  We’re also stocked back up on acetominophen and allergy meds.  While they were gone, I got up and checked my e-mail, and watered my plants.  The cruciferous vegetables are taking off nicely…I have broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and purple Brussels sprouts (will post photos later this week)!  So far, Jake hasn’t made an effort to jump up on the table and destroy them!

We got to the cheer competition fairly early, and Hope and I went in and grabbed seats in the bleachers while Jim parked the car. We brought our pillows again…there were 10 teams competing, and we knew we were in for a long afternoon! Luckily, the gym at Simonds is fairly large…

Anna’s team looked tired during their performance…all those extra hours of practice seemed to take their toll. Anna is covered with bruises from people falling on her (she’s a “back” and catches people). I was surprised when they made callbacks again, along with three other teams!  Five out of ten teams dropped their flyer at least once (no one hit the floor, thank goodness, but there were far too many “close ones” for my liking).  A toddler about Elise’s age who was sitting behind us cried for most of the afternoon…taking little kids to a three-hour event is not a brilliant idea!

The Harbour View High girls nailed their second outing! They were enthusiastic, and tight…I thought surely they’d place in the Top Three this time…I was wrong! Foiled again…their Provincial Championship is two weeks from now. Maybe the third time will be the charm?

Anna also performed with a quad or stunt group at this competition.  She had a different flyer than her usual one during the team events.

Anna (top left) with her quad in their final pose...photo by Jim

We stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home for a snack, and also at Canadian Tire for some rope…Hope had asked Jim to make her a tire swing in the back yard.

When we got home, we discovered that Jake had been having fun with Jim’s lunch bag in our absence…another Rubbermaid lunch container was now history, and a new lunchbag would also need to be purchased.

We were pretty exhausted Saturday night…I didn’t do any laundry, and no swing was installed out back.

Sunday morning, Jim got up early to drive Hope to her Middle School Provincial Cheerleading Championships…the girls had to be there by 8 a.m…luckily, the venue was Devin and Brianna’s high school (and Jim’s alma mater), Kennebecassis Valley High, so it was only a 15 minute drive from our house.  Before they left, Jim took some photos of Hope before her very last cheer competition (she doesn’t want to cheer next year).

Hope before provincials...photo by Jim

There was a huge lineup when we got to the school…we grabbed the first seats we could find!  Jim took his camera and roamed around, looking for the best photo ops.  After a long competition (12 teams – boy, did I regret forgetting the pillows to sit on!), Quispamsis Middle School wasn’t called back, but had improved significantly since their last outing.  It was fun to see some “different” creative stunts that some of the teams performed (and it was another accident-free competition…hooray!).  I appreciated that the DJ at this competition remembered there were some members of the crowd born before 1995, and played some 80’s music instead of the constant current pop drivel that normally dominates these events.  Anna was suitably horrified when I started bobbing my head when they played “Footloose” (my work here is done!).

Since it was Hope’s last competition, Anna decided we should celebrate by eating supper at Vito’s (somehow, I missed the part where she offered to pay for it!).  We had a fairly relaxed meal.  At one point, Hope commented, “Hey Anna…I can sit with my legs apart because I have spankies on!”  We all laughed (we weren’t nearly as amused when Hope started blowing her straw all over the table).  My Creamy Pesto Chicken Club sandwich wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but the fries were great.  Jim polished off his Chicken Parmigiana in record time, and Anna finished her Gnocchi au Gratin with some difficulty (we also had a lively argument about how to pronouce “gnocchi” – I was right).  Hope had the last half of her pizza packed up to take home…she took it for her lunch today.

When we got home, Hope was happy to see that Grandad was hanging up the tire swing…she helped by holding the ladder steady.  I started four loads of laundry while Jim refilled the bird smorgasbord…he reported seeing another pigeon out there…luckily, we don’t get many of those!  Anna and Hope went out to try out the new swing.

Later, the girls and I watched Cake Challenge on the Food Network: The contestants were asked to make a cake to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Dora the Explorer.  One young woman’s design included a 4-foot Dora figure with a 2-foot wide head…huge mistake!  As one of her competitors commented after Dora lost her head, “That was cake carnage!” I have to say that I was impressed that the baker and her husband/assistant took the “epic fail” a lot better than most people would have…very classy!

Dora, before she became The Headless Toddler...photo from blog.oakleafcakes.com

We watched Amazing Race before going to bed…let’s just say “whiners can’t be winners”!  I also don’t think I’d want Gary and Mallory or Zev and Justin rescuing me if I were ever buried during an avalanche!

Today is an important day in Canada…we are voting in a new federal government. We have been in “election mode” for about six weeks here, and will finally get the chance to cast our very important ballots. Jim and I will be stopping on the way home from work to exercise our right (and indeed our responsibility as Canadians!) to vote. If you are eligible to vote today, please do so…together we can decide the future of our great country!

Google Canada's election graphic

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Reluctant Cheer Mom Tears Up, and Other Random Events…

Here’s what’s been going on around Hammond River the last little while (this stuff is true…not like my recent Mark Twain post!).

1. Regular readers of this blog know that even though three of our four daughters are or have been cheerleaders, I’m not a fan.  Anna’s first competition of the year was Sunday, and her team was so amazing, I actually stopped thinking about how much my butt hurt from sitting on the hard bleachers, and teared up a little!  Here’s Hope and Jake before we left:

Hope and Jake before competition (photo by Jim)...apparently you can tie Jake's ears in a bow...

Anna’s team made callbacks for the first time in five years! I guess those ten hours of practice the week before competition paid off! Here’s the team during the routine:

Harbour View High Cheer team...Anna is the one under the middle red banner (photo by Jim)...

The girls were even better in the callbacks, but ended up fourth (several spectators around us were as shocked as we were…we thought they’d won!). We’ll get them next week!

2.  Jim’s been buying camera equipment on Kijiji to keep up with the girls’ competitions…we met a guy in the Wendy’s parking lot on Monday night to buy a flash meter (Anna’s comment: “That wasn’t sketchy at all!”), and then drove to another guy’s house to pick up a lens.

3.  Monday night, I learned that not having a plunger in each bathroom is a mistake…Hope flushed the toilet in the “kids’ bathroom” and it started overflowing.  I panicked, and it took several minutes for me to turn the shutoff valve off.  By the time I found the “good plunger”, Jim had already used the crappy one to unclog the toilet!  Then I got to wash the mats and the dirty clothes which had been on the floor during the mini-flood.  Note to self…do not put clothing in the dryer with rubber-backed bathmats…little balls of rubber will come off, and permanently attach themselves to very expensive hoodies…

4.  Speaking of sewage, we found out this morning that the lot next to our place has been sold (bad news).  This means that the landlord is redoing the septic field (good news!), but that our yard will be torn up (it will be flatter when it’s finished…good news), and we will lose the lilac trees by our back deck that the birds like to hang out in (bad news).  On the upside, they will be redoing the driveway so that it actually drains instead of a 20-foot puddle forming in front of our garage every spring…the bad news is that the neighbours’ new driveway will be through our front lawn.

5.  Hope made cinnamon muffins, but neglected to read the mixing instructions under the ingredients in the recipe.  They tasted okay, but were rather lumpy and heavy.  She redeemed herself last night with some delicious chocolate chip cookies, which she proclaimed were better than mine!  I actually agree with her this time!

6.  Anna baked chocolate chip muffins, and almost forgot to put in the chocolate chips…she ended up poking them into the individual muffins just before putting them in the oven!

7.  Jim and I went to see the movie Source Code last night while Anna went to a school dance…I’m not usually a sci-fi fan, but I made an exception for the chance to drool over Jake Gyllenhaal.  It was quite good, and had us on the edge of our seats a lot of the time.  While we watched, I ate a couple of Lowney Cherry Marshmallow Creme Eggs…almost as yummy as Jake G.!

Jake with his "Source Code" co-star Michelle Monaghan...photo from tom-samp-journal.blogspot.com

8.  Anna found out this week that a design she submitted for the Drama Fest at her school had been the one chosen for use on posters, brochures and T-shirts!  Her teacher wanted her to submit a short bio to be included in the brochure…I wrote it for her.  We’re very proud of her!

9.  We’re hosting Easter dinner for the family at our house this year…Jim’s parents are serving Easter Breakfast at their church, and his mom says she’ll be too tired to cook.  We’re still on the hunt for a turkey (Kaylee can’t eat ham)…will try to find one tonight.  We also need to clean up our house for company!  I’m looking forward to seeing everybody, especially my “Puddin’ Pop”!

"Oh, dear...how did that get there?" Elise tries fingerpainting for the first time...

10.  I got a Facebook friend request from musician Thom Swift a couple of days ago…I “Liked” his fan page…maybe he read this piece I wrote about his concert last summer…

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Things I Learned This Weekend…

Here are a few of the things I learned this past weekend:

1. That we have a new bird hanging around our back deck.  Anna called me on Saturday to let me know that we had a brown-headed cowbird.

Brown-headed cowbird (photo from allaboutbirds.org - couldn't find Anna's photo!)

  

2. That the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has neat stuff.  We went on Saturday morning.  In addition to every building material known to man, there were used books (nothing I wanted for the store though), brand new 1″ binders, used furniture and appliances, and even scented candles!  We were looking for lumber to extend our fence posts higher.  We got two bundles of nine 2″x 2″‘s, 8 feet long for $10 each.  We will string twine between them and put streamers and ribbons on the twine to hopefully prevent the deer from trying to jump the fence.  As the teenage boy loaded the wood into the back of the van, I drew a blank on how to thank him:  He was only about 17, so he wasn’t really a “Sir”.  I didn’t want to call him “Son”, because he wasn’t my son, and I didn’t want to sound ancient.  So I said, “Thank you…dear!” which is what Saint Johners call people that they’re not on a first-name basis with.  I don’t think he heard me… 

3. That Kaylee makes better homemade pizza than her mother (yes, I said that).  We had supper at her house on Saturday, and she made three awesome pizzas using essentially the same dough recipe that I do!  I need to get some pizza stones…

4. That 19-month-old toddlers are great imitators.  Scott set his ice cream bowl down on the floor for the cat to lick, and a couple minutes later, Elise bent from the waist, stuck her tongue out and her bum in the air, and tried to lick the bowl too!  We all wished we’d had a video camera going at the time.

Elise getting fit with mommy's weights...

5. That our van registration expired over a month ago.  As we drove home from Kaylee’s, there were four Rothesay Police vehicles setting up a roadblock…they waved us through.  Jim asked me to check the van registration in the glove compartment just in case…it’s a really good thing they didn’t stop us…it would have been a $185 fine! 

6. That even the deer don’t like Rebecca Black’s song.  When we came home from Kaylee’s house, there were about 5 deer grazing in the side yard.  They stood and looked at us as we got out of the van.  Then Hope had an idea:  she did a perfect rendition of Rebecca Black singing “Friday”, complete with nasal congestion.  All the deer took off running immediately! 

7. That people running extra-curricular programs in our schools expect way too much from the kids (and their parents).  Hope had a two-hour cheerleading practice on Saturday, followed by 8 hours of competition and another 2 hours of practice on Sunday.  Devin spent more than 24 hours at his school on Saturday and Sunday doing backstage stuff in preparation for the upcoming musical.  He’ll be at school every night this week until about 11.  Anna has two 5-hour+ cheer practices this week to get ready for their first competition on Saturday (about 7 hours).  At least, Jim enjoys driving… 

8. That I’m too old to stay up until midnight three nights in a row.  Late nights Thursday, Friday and Saturday led to a Sunday migraine.  I missed Hope’s cheer competition and my sister-in-law’s birthday party (Happy Birthday, Tracy)!  On the plus side, Hope’s team didn’t get any deductions this time (but she managed to leave her track pants and jacket at the host school – we hope to get them back tomorrow!).

Hope in her sparkly eye makeup from the cheer competition…

9. That Anna will do laundry if I’m sick.  She even came up and asked if we had any darks in our hamper she could do for us!  It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time.  Now, if I can get her to pick up her dirty dishes off the family room floor…

10. That the price of lactose-free milk can jump by 25 cents a litre in one go.  We now pay $5.19 for 2 litres (a litre is a little bigger than a quart) of Lacteeze (three people in the family are lactose-intolerant).  We go through about 3 litres of Lacteeze a week, in addition to 4 litres of regular milk.  Thank goodness gas prices only go up 2 to 3 cents a litre at a time!

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Adventures of a Reluctant Cheer Mom…Wendy Does Zumba…

Note: This is a continuation of a series I started last year during cheer competition season.  Read the first two installments here and here.

Last night, I was dragged  went to a Zumba fundraiser for Hope’s cheerleading team at her school.  Everyone I know who’s tried Zumba raves about it: “It’s so much fun!”  We were told to arrive early, because there’d be a line (there wasn’t).  We paid our five dollars, and got a small piece of paper to write our names on to win a free Zumba class.  Hope wasted no time telling me that she wasn’t going to stand beside me.  “I don’t know you,” she declared.  Apparently, my old blue T-shirt and navy yoga pants (slightly wrinkled) weren’t up to her standards (she should be thankful I didn’t opt for shorts – I haven’t shaved my legs in a few months)!  I did drag out my brand new white Dr. Scholl’s (“I’m gellin'”) sneakers for the occasion!  Nobody else had those!

 I used to work out three times a week…those days are long gone.  Let’s just say I’m no “Skinny Minnie”…the only exercise I get now is walking between the computer and the refrigerator, and chewing.  I love to dance, but I make it up as I go along, much to my children’s horror (I tried to learn the tango once…it was a disaster)!  Looking around the room, I was happy not to be the oldest one there (I was 37 when I had Hope)…some of the cheerleaders had brought their grandmas along.  There was even one cheer dad, whose belly hung far over the waist of his shorts…I really hoped he didn’t have a heart attack during the class!

 As the cheer moms and girls milled about, sizing up the competition waiting for the class to start, we were approached by one of the Zumba instructors…she was about my age and carried a clipboard.  Attached to the clipboard, there was a waiver releasing the Zumba people, the event organizers, the cheerleading team, the school, the school board, and God, from any liability should anyone incur an injury.  This should have raised warning bells for me, but I quickly signed the paper with both mine and Hope’s names (I even remembered to give the pen back!).

At this point, I noticed that both Zumba instructors had little streamers attached to their pants at various points…I wondered why, but kept my curiosity to myself.  The woman who had the clipboard also had something around her hips that I’d seen belly dancers wear:

She wore something like this (photo from Henry G Dance Accessories)...

Finally, it was time for the class.  The older instructor gave us a bit of a rundown about Zumba, and stressed that it takes three or four classes to get comfortable doing it (I beg to differ).  The younger instructor, a tall blonde about nineteen, told us to line up…adults on one side, and kids on the other.  I made sure there was lots of space around me.  Then the hell music started.  Remember the eighties, when aerobics were all the rage?  I used to imitate the aerobics instructors, and my kids would laugh themselves silly!  Picture aerobics, with dance music (salsa instead of disco)…that’s what we were trying to do doing.

Just when I’d just about have the routine figured out (usually halfway through the song), it would change!  I refrained from jumping, as I didn’t want to put an eye out damage my bad knees.  I was clapping at the wrong time, going left instead of right, and flailing my arms helplessly.  My hips refused to move the way the young nymph instructor’s did…if a priest had seen the way she was throwing her booty around, he would have performed an exorcism on the spot (when I was relating this to Jim, he regretted his decision to stay home)!  Those streamers on her pants were horizontal!  When she told us to “shimmy,” I didn’t even try! 

Three songs in, I was breathless, and in desperate need of oxygen water.  Filling my water bottle up beforehand would have been an excellent idea (I had about a quarter bottle left from work).  I waited until the end of the fourth song before hauling my butt across the floor getting my water from my purse (which I’d conveniently left in the far corner of the gym).  I downed it in one gulp!

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one having difficulty…several of the other moms were looking a little winded and bewildered (although the seventy-year-old behind me was whooping it up)!  I hoped that most of them were concentrating hard enough on watching the instructors that they wouldn’t notice how badly I was doing!  Hope, however, could see everything from across the room…if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be alive to write this!

The event was scheduled to end at 7:30, but the drill sergeants instructors kept on going.  At 7:40, I dragged Hope out the door…Anna had to be at her school for a dance in 20 minutes!  For once, I was thankful for extracurricular activities!  In the van, Hope told Jim and Anna about how badly I’d embarrassed her.  Kaylee called on my cellphone to confirm that I was still alive. 

I really hope we didn’t win the free class…I know some of you guys think Zumba is “fun”, but I’ll stick to walking and riding my bike!      

 

 

 

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Fondant Stars, Chicken Hearts, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and Prawn Skips…

I haven’t done a rambling, random post with lots of food in it for a while, so here’s one for you:

1. Anna convinced me to buy her some pre-made fondant at Bulk Barn a couple of weeks ago so she could do some cake decorating…last summer, she and Brianna had made fondant from scratch for a cake for Jim’s birthday, but it was apparently a sticky nightmare to work with.  So Mom forked over $16.00 for 4 lbs. of fondant.  Anna made yellow cake, which looked like this when she finished decorating it:

Anna's Star Cake...she cut out the stars freehand with a knife...

2. Kaylee and Scott came over for supper on Sunday…I made gingerbread for dessert (sorry, no photo…it’s gone!).  Lucky Scott found the “bonus hair” in his!  I apologized profusely, but he seemed okay with it (of course, he might have been scared to make a big deal…would you yang at your mother-in-law about her cooking?).  Apparently, Kaylee’s hair is all over their house, and hers is a lot longer than mine!

3. Speaking of hair, I finally got to the hairdresser this week after four months (I normally go every 6-8 weeks).  My grey is gone again (Anna says I look like a “ginger”) and Heather cut about 4″ off the bottom.  I now have a somewhat sexy bob (which unfortunately accentuates my fat cheeks!).  I’m waiting for the last of the snow to melt so I can get out my bike and get rid of the extra inches around my middle!

4. Devin got his learner’s permit last week…Jim is looking forward to passing the torch to Devin as “family chauffeur” once he gets his license!  Anna and I are next!

Elise and Uncle Devin checking out "Dwarf Fortress"...photo by Jim

5. Hope, Dad and I enjoyed a feast of Chinese Chicken Hearts early this week (no one else in the house will eat them, although Kaylee converted Scott and his friend!).  I sauté them, and then add soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger, and brown sugar…yummy!  I made rice pilaf with chicken for the non-heart eaters.

Sautéed Chinese Chicken Hearts...don't they look delicious?

6. I was excited to pick up my seeds for the garden last week!  I can’t wait to start planting the indoor stuff.  I’m going to try leeks, kale, arugula, spaghetti squash, a yellow tomato called “banana legs”, and a black cherry tomato for the first time this year.  I was dismayed to discover that I only have three bags of green beans left in the freezer…will be rationing those from now on!

7. I was supposed to donate blood today, but found out that the clinic was cancelled…I’ve been drinking (water) like crazy all week, to avoid the problem I had last time.  I read somewhere that drinking a couple of glasses of water a half hour before one eats is a good weight loss tool…it makes your stomach think it’s full sooner, so that you don’t eat as much.  I tried that yesterday with my Chinese food at lunch…my stomach told me it was full, but I pretended it was one of the kids and ignored it!  Today I’m paying for that beef and broccoli…the day I stop eating red meat all together is looming!

8.  The Pillsbury Dough Boy is 50 years old today…how ironic that a big-bunned girl like me was born the same year as a guy known for his rolls!

"Wow...you made me a cake?" Photo of Pillsbury Dough Boy from about-recipes.com

9. Jim decided to make banana bread at 10:00 at night on Tuesday night…the two loaves are nearly gone three days later!  Kaylee sent me a recipe for soft pretzels, but it only makes 10, which would disappear in about five minutes at our house!

10. Hope came home from cheerleading with an injury on Wednesday…she had gotten hit in the face while trying to catch their flyer.  Her glasses dug into her nose, and her nose was dented and bruised.  Anna messed up her knee at her cheerleading practice on Thursday.  She used a bag of frozen corn as an ice pack last night.   Competititions start in a couple of weeks…I hope they’re better by then!

11. I got some awesome new cookie sheets last night…ours are getting really decrepit.  The ones I got are heavy Pyrex brand, non-stick ones for only $6 each…I bought two.  They even have the spots for cookies marked on them…how cool is that?

Pyrex cookie sheet...see the markings for those of us who have trouble making straight rows? Photo from productreview.com.au

12. Elise is getting some experience tasting international foods.  Kaylee has a cyber-friend in Ireland named Clodagh (they’ve been friends about ten years), who sent her a book recently.  Knowing Kaylee’s penchant for UK foods, Clo thoughtfully included some Prawn Cocktail Skips (shrimp-flavoured chips), Jaffa Cakes (chocolate covered cookies with jelly in the middle), and Barratt Nougat (chewy candy) in the package.  Here’s a video of Elise trying the Prawn Skips (Scott is not a fan!): 

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A Wilde and Snowy Weekend…

I apologize for the four-day gap between posts…even though it was not a holiday weekend here in Canada, it was a busy time!

1. Sinking to New Depths.  On Wednesday afternoon, Jim looked out the window and saw a septic tank cleaning truck stuck up to its axles in the mud in our front field…very bad idea on the part of our landlord’s brother, who owns the lots next to our house and is trying to sell them!  Needless to say, no sewage was sucked that day (although I imagine the truck driver was probably throwing the S-word around pretty freely)!

2. Lost Subscriber.  I think it was sometime on Thursday that I discovered that someone had cancelled his subscription to my blog…being obsessed with stats as I am, I was upset and hurt.  Had I said something to offend him?  Was my blog quality slipping?  After second guessing his motives for a few minutes  hours days, I decided to get over it…he “just wasn’t that into me.” 

3. Parent-Teacher Conference.  While my American friends and family were eating turkey on Thursday, I was on the Stairmaster meeting with Hope’s teachers at Quispamsis Middle School.  I met with six of her teachers in five different classrooms on two different floors.  Suffice to say, whoever made up our schedule must have known I need to lose a few pounds…the first meeting was on the second floor, second meeting on the first floor…you get the gist of where this is going!  I was up and down more than the Canadian dollar!  All of Hope’s teachers were very nice, and told me what a pleasure she was to have in their classes (I’m pretty sure they were actually talking about my kid).  I was relieved because I had been dreading the encounter with some of them.  I made sure Hope was thoroughly embarrassed by giving a lot of them my bookstore business card.  I also ran into one of Kaylee’s former high school teachers (he has a child attending QMS).  To Hope’s horror, I whipped out the photo album with Elise’s pictures to show him what Kaylee’s daughter looked like!

4. Alice’s Adventures.  One of the things that came up at the Parent-Teacher conference is that Hope needs to spend more time reading.  When we got home, I took down our copy of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and asked Hope if she wanted me to read it to her.  She was unsure at first, but trudged upstairs with me anyway.  That book is quite enjoyable to read aloud, and Hope laughed in all the right places (I decided that the Mouse would have a Manchester accent).  We read two chapters Thursday night, and two more last night.

5.  Back to Work Friday.  The kids had the day off Friday because of Parent-Teacher conferences, but it was Jim’s first day back to work after his surgery.  He arranged with his boss to leave a couple of hours early in the afternoon…wanted to ease into the routine.  Hope came to town with me to hang out with her friend, Gabrielle, and go shopping.  Here’s what Hope bought for Jake at the Dollar Store:

Hope and Jake (photo by Jim)...this will be Hope's Christmas card this year...

6. The Importance of Being Earnest.  Jim and I went to see an ultra-modern version of Oscar Wilde’s excellent satire on Friday evening at the Imperial Theatre (there were references to Facebook and e-mail, and characters were checking their PDA’s).  The Saint John Theatre Company did a bang-up job as usual, delivering Wilde’s lines with the biting sarcasm we’ve come to expect from Oscar.  My favourite is Lady Bracknell’s response when Jack declares that he’s an orphan: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

7. Santa and Snow Come to Town.  Saturday morning was bright and sunny when we woke up…surely the weatherman was mistaken about snow later in the day…Anna had to be on the West Side at noon for the Lancaster Santa Claus Parade.  After an emergency stop at the mall for black sweatpants, she arrived just in time to make it into the team photos being taken before the parade.  By then, it was snowing like crazy!  We watched the parade from the car (Hope got out…she collected the candy given out during the parade, but didn’t share with us!).

Anna...self-portrait after the parade...

After a nap for Jim, and a quick supper, we were back on the road enroute to the Kennebecassis Valley Santa Claus Parade, which Hope’s cheerleading team was marching in.  The coach had told the girls to be there by 5:30…we were a little late due to a stop at Co-Op for a can of tomato paste.  The parade was forming at the high school, and by the time we got near it, the road was blocked off.  Traffic was crazy!  Jim drove us to his parents’ house, and we all walked to the high school from there (about a mile, I think).  Hope got there just in time to join up with her team.  Anna and I watched the parade, while Jim followed Hope’s team in the parade, snapping photos like a paparazzi.

Hope and her cheerleading team in the parade...photo by Jim

After the parade, Anna and I met Jim back at Jim’s parents’ house…Jim’s mom made Anna hot chocolate, and some tea for me.  I was exhausted, but not as tired as Hope, who had walked another half an hour longer than I had!  She went to bed as soon as we got home!

8. Little Wendy Homemaker.  Sunday morning, I got up early…in addition to four loads of laundry, I had plans to make homemade spaghetti sauce with tomatoes from our garden.  Kaylee, Scott and Elise were coming over for supper.  Jim suggested I make chocolate macaroons for dessert…we call them “doodoo drops” at our house:

"DooDoo Drops"

 

I took precautions and put up the baby gate in front of the dining room door, to prevent a repeat of the unfortunate molasses brown bread incident.

9.  Ridiculous Gifts.  In between loads of laundry and cooking, I had a little time to peruse some of the many catalogues which have made their way into my mailbox.  Here are a couple of examples of what people are supposedly plunking down their credit cards for: 

Cast Iron Giraffe Toilet Paper Holder - $27.95...what kind of self-respecting jungle animal wears Charmin as an accessory? I could make him a scarf...

The Hot Seat Swivel Stool...$395...I can't have one of these because they only deliver to the continental U.S....darn!

10. That’s What She Said.  When Kaylee and Scott arrived (early, as is their custom), Elise happened to find the TV remote, and turn it on.  The big-screen TV also acts as Jim’s computer monitor, and he had been looking at his photos onscreen.  Anna and I took the opportunity to show our guests some shots from our PEI trip this summer.  Jim had several shots of some very tame foxes.  Kaylee looked at one and announced confidently, “That one’s definitely a girl!”  Anna asked, “Are you sure?”  After taking another look, Kaylee said, “Oh…I thought that was a hole…”(the poor girl inherited my eyesight!). 

One of the fox photos...not the one that fooled Kaylee!

We had fun with Elise…it had been a couple of weeks since we’d seen her.  She has added the word “flower” to her vocabulary…she had flowers on her very cute little coat that she got for her birthday.

Kaylee, Elise, Hope, and the fuzzy flower coat at Elise's 1st birthday party...

11. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.  After simmering for a little over five hours, the spaghetti sauce was finally the right consistency.  To save a major mess, I decided to serve it with penne rigate instead of spaghetti, since we don’t have a high chair for Elise yet.  She rejected the old dishtowel I tied around her neck as a bib (it was clean, and only had a couple of holes in it!).  I also offered utensils, but she preferred to use both hands to feed the pasta and carrots into her mouth.

12. Nick Needs to Go!  Amazing Race is down to the last four teams…last night, Nick showed himself to be the whining dickhead that he truly is once again (sorry for the potty mouth, but Nick is a waste of skin).  Poor Vicki was struggling to run in the heat with her asthma, and he was telling her to “suck it up”!  She spent the episode throwing up after a food challenge, but didn’t want to quit.  When faced with finding a certain fishing boat in the dark, Nick gave up, and said he was going to go to sleep, leaving Vicki holding the ball again (she is the only one who has any, apparently).  They ended up at the pit stop without completing the task, and now have a six-hour penalty and a speed bump…it was a non-elimination round.  Please, Vicki…stop wasting your time with this buffoon…he keeps saying he’s changed, but he lies!

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The Sweet Smell of Success, Sort of…

Yesterday, I took advantage of having a relatively slow day (only two loads of laundry, two cheerleading practices, a cheer parents’ meeting, and a dinner invitation at Jim’s parents) to make molasses brown bread.  I had mentioned making bread on Saturday to Jim on Friday night, and he’d requested brown bread made with molasses.  Since we went to a movie and out for supper on Saturday, I didn’t get to the bread until Sunday.

Never having made Molasses Brown Bread before, my first step was to find a recipe…I went to my well-stocked cookbook shelves (I probably have only about 200), and selected a cookbook from a local church.

Brown Bread

2 T. quick-rise yeast

1 T. sugar

3 T. shortening

1 cup raisins

1 egg, beaten

1 cup warm water

1 cup oatmeal

2 cups boiling water

3/4 cup molasses

1 T. salt

6-7 cups flour or enough to knead

First, I put the oatmeal and raisins into a bowl, and poured the boiling water over them.

Oatmeal and Raisins Covered in Boiling Water...

After the oatmeal/raisin mix was cool, I put 5 cups of the flour, the yeast, the sugar, and the salt into a large mixing bowl, and stirred to mix them around.  I put the warm water and the shortening into a measuring cup.  Then I got out the molasses…problem!

A little bit short of molasses...needed 3/4 cup!

I didn’t have quite enough molasses, so topped the cup up with honey…it’s all liquid sugar, right?  Then I added the warm water mixture to the bowl with the flour in it, and stirred it in.  Next, I added the egg, and finally the molasses and the bowl with the oatmeal and raisins.  I added two more cups of flour (used the full 7 cups), and kneaded the dough until it was smooth.  Then I oiled the dough, covered it with plastic wrap and left it to rise.

Dough before first rise...

About 45 minutes later, it looked like this:

Dough after first rise...

 I punched it down, covered it, and let it rise again, until it looked like this:

Dough after second rise...

I greased a 9 x 14 cake pan, and then punched the dough down again.  Then I formed the loaves, and put them in the pan:

Newly-formed loaves in pan...

I left the loaves to rise again, until they looked like this:

Loaves after third rise...ready to bake!

I turned the oven on to 375 degrees, and put the bread in for fifteen minutes.  Then I reduced the heat to 325 degrees, and baked for another 25 minutes (our oven is hot – others may find it works better with 400 degrees for the first part, and 350 for the second).  After the allotted amount of time, I took the bread out of the oven, and out of the pan.  I had a minor issue with one loaf sticking to the bottom of the pan, and slightly squishing another on the top.  This is the finished product (cracks and all):

Finished loaves of Molasses Brown Bread...

I sliced one piece each off one of the loaves for Jim and I to sample…we wanted to take a loaf to Jim’s parents, and had to make sure it was okay.  It was delicious!

I had left the loaves on the dining room table to cool, and realized after we got to Shirley and Gordon’s that I’d forgotten to bring them some.  I promised to leave one for them to get this afternoon when they drop off Bri after her orthodontist’s appointment.  We had a lovely dinner: chicken, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, rolls, apple pie, and blueberry pie.

We had to leave Jim’s parents’ at 7:15 because there was a meeting for cheerleading parents at Hope’s school after her practice. 

We got home about 8:30, narrowly missing a skunk which had just ambled across our driveway!  I went into the dining room to put the bread into plastic bags, and was horrified to see what Jake had been up to while we were gone!  He had eaten almost half the bread (the only loaf he hadn’t touched was the one I’d cut to sample).  I salvaged what I could (I might have said a bad word or two, too!)…six hours of work was ruined!  I guess there’s no point crying over chewed-up brown bread…

"But they smelled so good, Mom!"

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“Rain, Rain, Go Away” and Other Random Utterings…

Here is a random collection of things I’ve heard people say this week:

1. “Rain, Rain, Go Away!”  That was me.  I didn’t really say it…I thought it.  It’s been raining since Thursday, and isn’t supposed to stop until next Thursday.  I didn’t go to Book Club on Friday night because of it…driving on the highway at night in heavy rain is dangerous!  As of Sunday morning, we’ve already had about 100 mm, with at least 50 more predicted today.  At least the man with the cows down the road kept them in this weekend to prevent a repeat of this:

Jim took this photo of the cows, and one horse, in October of 2009 after more than 90 mm of rain fell overnight...

2. “Freezer.”  I was sitting at the bookstore on Thursday afternoon, when I heard the front door open, and someone come in.  He walked into the room where my desk is (the bookstore has four rooms), and said, “Freezer,”  just like that.  Freezer??!!  You do know you’re in a bookstore, don’t you, buddy?  It was after I looked out the window and saw his truck that I put two and two together…it had the name of a local used appliance company on the side.  Coming in that morning, we’d noticed a mini-fridge box that our landlord had put out for the garbage…I guessed these guys had come for the old one, and directed them upstairs.

3. “I got my licence!”  That’s what Hope said when we picked her up at school after completing the last week of her Red Cross Babysitting training on Thursday.  She got right to work when we got home making up business cards and flyers, and put an ad on Kijiji. 

4. “I stuck a straw up my nose!”  That was Anna.  She was coming into the bookstore after school on Friday, after waiting for the bus for 20 minutes in the pelting rain.  She tripped coming up the store steps, and managed to stick the straw from her Booster Juice smoothie up her nose…at least she didn’t fall!

5. “I got my report card!”  This was Brianna, as she proudly held the paper out for me to see.   “Geez, only 100% in French?”  I teased.  Bri said she was “basically the teacher’s pet.”  Works for me.

6. “I got the job, I think.”  That was Hope after coming back from an interview with a neighbouring family with a five-year-old autistic boy.  Jim dropped her off, and she called us 20 minutes later to tell us she was finished.  Pretty grown up to have your first job interview at twelve.  The family was looking for someone to babysit the little guy for occasional evenings out, and Professional Development days at school.  Hope is to go over for training next week.  She thought it was neat that both she and the little boy are lactose-intolerant.

7. “I’m on the team!”  Brianna announced this in the car when we picked her and Devin up on Saturday at their mom’s house.  Three girls, three cheerleading teams at three different schools…seven practices a week on four different days.  Bonus: Devin’s on the Tech Crew at his school, which is at least another couple of nights a week.  We may have to install a coffeemaker in the van…

8. “Oh, my giant blue head!”  Will Ferrell as Megamind.  We took the kids to see the movie in 3-D on Saturday afternoon.  We all loved it!  The soundtrack was awesome.   Tina Fey was great as the voice of Roxanne Ritchie.  Nice twist ending too…I like it when a movie isn’t predictable!

Megamind poster...

9. “Does anybody know where the extra meatballs are?”  One of the waitresses at Vito’s said this, as we were eating our meal after the movie.  My first thought was, “Shouldn’t she be looking for them in the kitchen?”  Then it dawned on me that she was standing in front of the computerized cash register.  “Ohhh…she’s trying to find it on the screen,” I thought.

10. “I found your wine!”  Another waitress at Vito’s.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t heading for my table (how do you lose a glass of wine, anyway?).

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