Sunday, December 27, 2009

Our Christmas 2009 Picture Book.

Christmas Day 2009 seen through the lens of my Canon PowerShot pocket sized camera that doesn't seem to want to focus properly any more. (It probably has a dirty lens) My new Canon Rebel is set for delivery on Monday the 28th - too late for Christmas but appropriately on my birthday, since it is my birthday present.

The Christmas season officially begins in our house when Mary, Jesus and the others take their appropriate positions.

This year we added a baby-friendly version of Jesus which usually had the camel or Jesus perched on the roof singing "Silent Night" when their heads got pressed.

Jed gave up waiting for his mother to decorate the exterior of the house and chose the coldest (-31) day of the year to hang his own mishmash of Christmassy glitz.

This year's wrap theme was black and silver with splashes of red. Everything must be in a nicely shaped box and nothing has names on it. That way no one knows who gets what and there is less shaking and squeezing, and no "Why does Ken get the largest gift again this year?" and "Xander has twice as many as everyone else combined." I leave these details to be discovered on Christmas day. And only I have the secret code which determine whose is whose.

There is another pile on the other side of the room for the mismatched and oddly shaped gifts.

Xander spends Christmas Eve with Granny and Uncle Jed while the adults have a games night at his house.

Disappointed that Xander would have Christmas breakfast at his own house, Uncle Jed decided to whip up a blueberry pancake breakfast for Christmas Eve bed snack before Xander went home.

Mmmmm. Yummy Uncle Jed.

Oops! Granny accidentally squeezed a giant blueberry. I don't know what scared him more, the shot in the face or Granny laughing hysterically.

Nana's annual Christmas crackers help to set the festive table.

The men get comfy with a rousing round of Wii golf before the hubbub begins.

A half sheet of plywood makes a handy table extension.

It never fails. The turkey takes down a half dozen full grown men in one fell swoop.

Everyone must amuse Granny by participating in whatever gift-opening game she dreams up each year. There will be no diving in and attacking presents. There will be no more than one gift opening at a time. You shall ooooooh and aaaaaah over every present. You shall participate. And you shall have fun, dammit!

Even the Cross family has learned that participation is in their best interest.

Yay! A bagel slicer. Just what I always wanted. oooooh. aaaaaah.

Yay! A Christmas sweater (a very cute one too) from Uncle Kore and Aunty Brandi. Let's try it on, even though it's 200 degrees in here.

And the game goes on.... and on... and on....

Occasionally Granny screws up and someone opens someone else's present.

Some things just have to be tried out right away.

A new soccer ball from PaPa! Yippee!

Xander gets into indoor soccer position.

And when he's older, Granny will get after him for kicking a ball around in the house.

Chillaxin' with PaPa and Grampy ... how much better can it get.

It was a big day filled with family, fun and food.
Thank you Jesus for being born.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Skimmin' the details of the life of A&L in '09

Wherever we are at in life, it seems no matter how good our intentions are, we need a season like Christmas to help us to refocus, review, re-evaluate and reconnect. And so once again the annual review of the Albert and Liana Ziemer family assaults your inbox in an attempt to reconnect relationships and reminisce 2009.

January and February were spent shovelling enormous amounts of snow and shopping for our as yet unborn grandchild whose sex we did not know. We simply referred to the child as "Baby X". (Well, one of us shopped and one of us shovelled - we work well as a team.)

It's hard to believe that just one year ago the adorable bundle of love we now know as Xander was just a belly with a wooshing heartbeat. His arrival on March 3rd changed our lives. And change is good.

Albert has always been "Pa" to our children so it only made sense that he become "PaPa" to Xander. With numerous "Grandma Ziemers" in our family I decided I would be "Granny". Jed is proud of his role as Uncle and is very gentle and loving towards Xander, and Xander loves him. To see Xander's eyes light up with joy when he sees Uncle Jed is one of those little things that as a mother/grandmother I "treasure up in my heart" as Mary did when the shepherds came to bless her son Jesus. (Luke 2:19)

During the winter and spring I had undergone numerous tests, ultrasounds and MRIs on my ovaries and uterus which had fibrous tumours, 3 large cysts and, in April, developed lesions. With my history of breast cancer and my maternal grandmother's terminal battle with cancer at age 50, it was my gynecologist's "reasonable recommendation" that I have a full hysterectomy. As a person with poor circulation who is always freezing, the appeal of being subjected to hot flashes got me on board.

May was a devastating month for us when our daughter-in-law, Jade, got news within a two week period that both her sister Angela and her cousin SavoryAnne had commited suicide. Both of these beautiful young women had been in her wedding party just 10 months earlier. She amazed us with her strength and character as she dealt with these devasting blows just two and a half months after giving birth. We are proud of both Ken and Jade for the leading roles they play in the family.

In July it was an honour to attend a Cutting family reunion in Kamloops and be able to get a 5 generation picture with Xander, Ken, Liana, Jean and Harv. The picture even made the local paper.

July also saw our household increase when Jason came to live with us. He had previously worked on a casual basis with Jed and starting in October he began working as an official employee of Jed's Choices Society. We feel blessed to have him working with Jed as Jed responds well to him and he helps Jed in numerous social situations that We Care just couldn't provide for him.

I was originally informed I would be booked for surgery the first week in August so I went on sick leave from work July 31st - just in time to attend a fun camping/reunion weekend with the Ziemer family and friends at Vivian Lake. My surgery was delayed but I chose not to return to work for the time being.

In September we managed to get away for a little motorcycle trip to Kamloops amid our latest renovation project. Albert built an addition on the back of our house which is a garage for my car on the ground level and an amazing gi-normous deck on top. And I anticipate many a bbq during the summer months which I expect to see each and every one of you attend.

I didn't end up getting into surgery until October 29th. Surgery went smooth and recovery was relatively straightforward, aided I’m sure by the great support system I have. The pathology reports all came back clear, as did my one year mammogram results. So I have officially begun my 2nd year of living cancer free. Yay God!

After four and a half months off work, I was quite accustomed to retirement, but alas my first Christmas as Granny has dictated that I return to work, which I did on December 17th.

While we are excited for this first Christmas with Xander we are disappointed, yet understanding, that Brandi and Kore will not be joining us this year. They are doing well in Kamloops and in October Brandi started to work for the same company as Kore, which they plan to take over in the next year or two.

God is good and as we reminisce this past year we see His hand at work. We are thankful for His unfailing love and provision. We look forward to 2010 with anticipation, glad we don't know the future, and trusting in His strength to sustain us whatever comes our way.

May you cherish peace and goodwill, and be plenteous in mercy in 2010.

Merry Christmas!

Love Albert & Liana

Friday, December 18, 2009

I do Windows. I don't do Mondays.

Ten years ago we (my husband and I) were considered to be somewhat techno-geeks. I, the software guru and he the one to do the physical installs and upgrades. It was hard to keep up with all the advances in the computer market, but we did our best and rarely had a computer long enough to pay off the 12-month-no-interest payroll loans that his employer provided as an incentive to have employees educate themselves in the high tech world.

We had pirated versions of most software and every available version of Windows. I knew DOS, I learned HTML, I could format a computer in my sleep. I loved learning and I spent many a day and night acquiring a free education just by researching online (with dial-up and the screamin' fast 56k modem) and trial-and-error messin' around with stuff. My guru friend Greg used to harass me because I knew enough that I wasn't afraid to mess around with stuff but didn't know enough to fix every mess I got into.

I remember thinking I would never be able to fill the massive 1.2GB hard drive on the computer I purchased in 1997. That sucker had 64MB of RAM ... it was a screamin' machine, the envy of all. But I knew it would be outdated before I got it home from the store and I couldn't live without a new upgrade within a year.

At that time I could never have imagined owning a computer for 6 years. But January 2010 this trusty little XP machine on my desk will celebrate it's 6th birthday. Unthinkable. The monitor is going and it's slowing down and becoming frustrating these last couple of months. Probably a good formatting and dust blowing would fix 'er up like new. Part of the reason I haven't replaced it before now is that Window's Vista doesn't particularly impress me. But I've been a bit intrigued by the new Windows7 that has recently hit the shelves. So, suddenly this machine just doesn't cut it anymore.

After hanging out at the site for a few weeks, I finally took the plunge and ordered up a new XPS9000 last week. I think the final push I needed was when they advertised a 19" Ultrasharp monitor that wasn't widescreen. It's nearly impossible to find non-widescreen monitors anymore.  And while I was at it, I figured what the heck, lets through in a Canon Rebel SLR camera with zoom lens.

After my order was confirmed I was informed that the computer would not ship until the first week in January. I was okay with that. The camera would ship on Dec 18 - yay! It will be here before Christmas.

Today, being December 18, I checked my order status when I got home from work to verify that it was on it's way. NOT! For some reason all my orders- computer, monitor and camera have been cancelled.

You can rest assured that you did not want to be Rajinder or Nirmal who are sitting in India answering off-hour phone calls from customers in Canada who have been told they have to call this 1-800 number in three days, on Monday, to find out what's up with their computer order.

"Breathe, just breathe," I tell myself. "It's not a big deal, you've had the computer for SIX YEARS ... three more days won't hurt."

So yeah, I await Monday at 4am (7 eastern) to find out if I have actually bought a new computer and camera or not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Are you forkin' serious?

We ate at the Olive Garden two out of the three nights we were in Edmonton. And of course you fill up on their fabulous bread sticks and salad, but that's okay, it just means there will be lots left of your meal to take back to the hotel room for midnight snacking. The room with a mini kitchen including a fridge and microwave. The room with no dishes or cutlery.

The first night we ate at OG we went directly to Greg and April's house for a visit afterward. While we were chatting I said to her, "Do you remember five years ago on my 40th birthday when we were heading to Edmonton to go out for dinner, and you were moving to Edmonton at that time and we travelled together. And remember getting part way and you stopping and "borrowing" my Dire Straits cd with no intention of ever giving it back?"

"Oh my goodness! I'm so embarassed. Let me run get it for you," she says as she jumps up.

"No, no. It's okay I don't want it. I just wanna "borrow" 2 forks. I have no intention of returning them."

We laughed and she found me a couple of mismatched forks.

Two days later I was just going to leave them in the hotel room when we left. But then I remembered a day back when Jed was in high school...

April used to work at the school (I don't recall if this was volunteer or a paid position) Jed loved her being there and often ate his lunch with her - he almost always took food to nuke, not a sandwich. One day I opened his lunch container to wash it and his fork was folded in half to fit inside. I started to rant at him but he interupted me saying, "Aunty April told me to do that so I don't lose the fork." It's kinda been a joke around here ever since.

I brought the forks home and folded them in half and placed them in a bubble envelope along with a Christmas card and took them to the post office last night to mail them off.

The young man tried to fit the envelope through the slot to determine if it can go as a "letter" or if it must be classified as "parcel". It was a few millimeters too thick. Parcel rate was going to be $9.56, had it qualified for letter rate it would be "somewhere around a dollar thirty."

"Here, let me squish it." I said.

I tried and Jed tried but we couldn't get the forks to flatten enough inside the bubble wrap to fit. It was worth over 8 bucks in savings to make it fit. And 9 dollars and 50 cents was too much to spend on a joke. So we ripped the envelope open and removed the forks to try to squish them individually.

OMG, I wish I had a camera to capture the look on the guy's face as I removed the deadly looking bent forks from the package. And Jed launched into his ranting story of Aunty April and the bent forks while I tried to flatten them on the Canada Post counter.

I couldn't get them flat enough so I told the guy I'd take them home and use a hammer or something and come back tomorrow. I see by the look in his eye, he just wanted us to leave before he felt the need to call security.

And off we headed for an hour or so of wandering aimlessly through the mall. When we went to leave, I could not find my car keys. Well this sent me slightly into panic mode, I managed to remain calm. Jed not so much. As I mentally retraced my steps through the mall I told Jed I probably set them down on the Canada Post counter. He got all excited and immediately morphed into Fort George Highway Rescue mode. He instructed me to remain with the car while he returned to the post office.

Under normal circumstances I would not have complied. But there was no way I, the psycho woman with the bent forks, was going back to face the postal guy and admit that, yes indeed I am in fact a lunatic. I remained at the car in -30 degrees in the dark at 9pm.

I can only imagine the scene that unfolded as Rescue Jed (with his Santa hat on) retrieved my keys from the post office.

I did manage to squash the forks flatter at home. I returned to the post office first thing in the morning because, I reasoned, the guy who was working the late evening shift surely wouldn't be on for the first shift the next morning.  I was wrong.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Going Places with Suzy.

Here I am! I'm alive and well and preparing to go back to work next week.

That fact that I am alive and well is almost certainly due to my husband's extreme driving skills and Suzy's impeccable direction-giving ability. Yes, we decided before our trip to Edmonton that from here on we'd be Going Places with Suzy. We got a GPS before we left. It's a Garmin not a TomTom, so Jed insisted her name be Suzy. (I'm think there was a TV commercial about that a couple of years ago.)

Oh my goodness - that's capital Oh Em Gee! Suzy has changed my life.

We told her before we left home where the hotel was and she took us directly there. (As a side note: We did not stay at the cheap little Algonquin Motel near the Mayfield Centre that we have been frequenting every few years for a couple of decades. Each time we stay there, we comment  how we can't believe it's still operational - the land has to have way more value than the motel itself. Anyway we heard it's now a crack shack and we didn't doubt this so it was time to expand our horizons. The Wingate has become our new West Ed home. But I digress....)  Never again will I need to read a map or be responsible for directing drivers the wrong way down a one way street. I can now close my eyes as the vehicle pulls out of my driveway and awaken when we arrive at our said destination.

Before we left home I Googled all the fantastic children's stores, Ikea, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Greg and  April's house. Every destination I thought we might want was entered into Suzy's little brain and voila! you tap favourites and she takes you where you wanna go from any starting point.

While her voice can be marginally irritating, like Kate from Monk-e-mail, she does refrain from calling Albert "dumb-ass" when he makes a wrong turn. She simply, and immediately, recalculates his next move. Occasionally she keeps us on our toes by saying things like, "In 300 meters, turn left on Winnotoo Avenue." It takes a second to realize it's 102 Avenue.

Apparently you can download other voices, and even enter your own somehow, but I've become accustomed to her and have fallen in love with her so she'll probably remain unchanged.

We only travel in the winter about once every five years because it takes me that long to forget just how much I hate winter travel. For the most part the only bad stretch of highway was, as fully expected, the hour or so of driving between Purden Lake and McBride. On the way east it was solid compact snow that had been driven on for a few days then run over with a grader's jagged-edged blade creating a slot car effect that sort of pulls your vehicle in whatever wiggly pattern the grader operator chose to drag his blade. There was not a single grain of sand anywhere on the shiny smooth slot car track.

The truck has good tires and the world's best driver, but still I found it a bit stressful. I think Suzy intensified my stress a little. On her screen the icon of the vehicle is always pointing straight up, except while you are in the midst of turning a corner when it briefly tilts the icon until the road maps all turn to adjust to your new direction. This of course makes the little vehicle icon look like it's back end is sliding off the edge of the road momentarily and invariably would cause my heart to lurch as a jolt of adrenalin surged through my veins. I tried not to look at her but she just draws your eye. Of course we did not need her input for this particular stretch of highway but being that she was a new toy we had to leave her powered up.

It snowed the morning we left Edmonton but the roads weren't too bad. I glanced at Suzy at one point and she showed a speed of 123km/h. In the least naggy voice I could muster, I asked if we needed to drive that fast. My husband is very accommodating and immediately slowed down, but I think I'll do some research to figure out how to train Suzy to suggest that you are passing every other vehicle on the road in the blink of an eye, perhaps your speed is marginally higher that it should be. 

Of course it was snowing and blowy between McBride and Purden just like my mind had been anticipating and blowing out of proportion for the 5 hours before that. Suzy was powered down after her successful few days in Edmonton so I didn't have to witness the sliding icon, but still I felt the need to tell my husband that the next time I suggest we travel in the winter I want him to remind me how much I hate it. But he won't. He'll just happily oblige my whims as always. He slowed the truck to a speed I could maintain a manageable breathing level but I know he found it hard to keep this pace, which was well under his driving ability, but he said nothing. And I love him for it.

...but I won't be traveling in the winter again anytime soon.


Consider Yourself Reminded.

Ten years. It's been 10 years today since I was branded with that title that no-one ever wants to wear. That is until you receive it. ...