in Saskatoon is approaching with alarming speed, and while I haven’t spent quite as many hours in easy tears as last December, this is the hardest time of the year to be away from home, family and friends. I managed to bake a Christmas cake this year, which was too much effort last year, and have spent less time looking mournfully at my Christmas tree and remembering the decorations I had left behind. That feeling of familiarity that carried us through Halloween has wrapped itself around Christmas too, and that helps to smooth the sharp edges of a Christmas away from home. There are inflatable Santas that are taller than the houses, massive light displays set to music, and huge red bows studding all the trees along a section of Spadina Crescent. We will be experiencing another very, very white Christmas, unsurprisingly, and ice-skating will probably figure large during the holiday season. Some of the Irish contingent are heading home for Christmas; a Facebook photo of Jay’s arrival at Dublin Airport this morning caused a severe pang of longing for me, and others are making the long journey this week (praying that they don’t have Jay’s bad luck with cancelled flights). We spent an evening watching the Late Late Toy Show, which was brilliant, even though Ryan Tubridy nearly sent me over the edge when he welcomed all those watching from abroad. Toys were decided on, and then, in the worst “writing letters to Santa Claus” episode yet, two of the children did a complete u-turn, sending Michael and I into a tailspin of panic. One matter has yet to be resolved, but tomorrow should tell a tale there. Children are just so bloody fickle. The Saskatchewan Roughriders won the Grey Cup, by the way; the province partied and Rebecca donned her Riders bling.
Winter swept in, guns blazing, last week, and the temperatures plummeted to the minus forties. I’d forgotten how miserable it is to go outside in that kind of wind chill. We made a run from the car park into the Mall last week, noses crackling inside and chasing each breath; I sent Benjamin off then to get a trolley to dump all our snow gear into before we melted in the heat of the shopping centre. I had to wear gloves driving home because the steering-wheel was too painfully cold to touch, and all the doors kept freezing shut on the car. Ice formed on the inside of the windows in the house, and the kids were corralled in school all day, with all outdoor recesses cancelled. It snowed for a few days towards the end of the week, and the temperature today rose to a sweltering minus 1. Benjamin decided that snow pants were superfluous to requirements this morning, which resulted in his teacher tracking me down in the pre-school earlier to tell me that Benjamin had “wet himself” and needed dry tracksuit bottoms. I was momentarily gobsmacked, until he clarified that Benjamin had been playing “snow soccer” at recess, and was sitting around in a very soggy tracksuit. I marched him home with me at 11.30am to get changed, and issued the usual weary lecture re Canadian winters, blah blah blah.
Ice hockey practices, games and tournaments have featured large over the last few weeks, with Christopher winning two “Hustler of the Game” awards (free pennants and pizza!) and hours spent on the outdoor rinks in the park beside us. A couple of the lads on the team have ice-rinks in their back yards, so now that’s the next item on the boys’ wish list. One of the hockey dads suggested that we could flood our basement, and I’m not quite sure whether he was joking or not. It would be worth mentioning to the landlord, though, just to see his face. Ballet, swimming, Beaver and Science have finished up until January, and Isabel is bowling with the Girl Guides tomorrow night for their Christmas party. Michael has a whole two days off this Christmas, after working St. Stephen’s Day last year; none of that “work in the morning” dread on Christmas night, thank God.
Nicholas finished all his Sacrament of Reconciliation classes in the church, and made his First Confession a couple of weeks ago. Father Lawrence sat on a chair on the altar, with another chair beside him, and a queue of penitent and not-so-penitent sinners formed a line of delicious terror. Nicholas was all gung-ho, laughing and chatting with the girls beside him, and then was rendered mute as soon as he sat down on the altar. Michael and I watched his head drooping ever lower, with Father Lawrence murmuring beside him, and thought “Just PICK A SIN! any sin will do!” He eventually managed to dredge up some misdemeanor or other, and galloped down off the altar with glee, while we sighed with relief that he hadn’t made a disgrace of himself (or us).
My journey as the tenth Beautiful You continues apace; I’m now 35lbs lighter and a redhead with long, thick eyelashes. I have a mouth full of metal braces and I haven’t been able to frown since my Botox injections last week. It’s an utterly bizarre feeling to attempt to frown and watch your forehead remain unyieldingly smooth. I asked Sharon, one of the nurses at the clinic, how long it took her to get used to the feeling. She’s in her sixties, incredibly beautiful and unfailingly warm and chatty. “My dear Barb”, she cooed, “I haven’t frowned since 1989”. I love her. I’ve had three photo shoots recently – I shoehorned myself into spanx (torture), a short LBD, and hooker heels for one of them, with full-on glamour make-up and an up-do. I barely recognised myself. The second shoot was for shoes, and so I posed in gold snakeskin boots, heroically managing not to fall off them and break a limb. Merle Norman Cosmetics was the scene of the third shoot, and so I donned another gorgeous outfit, sucked in my tummy, and kept smiling/grimacing for the camera. Jeff, the photographer, sends me photos after each shoot; there’s usually one decent photo among four dreadful ones, as he managed to catch me at every inopportune moment possible. Rebecca has developed a serious crush on him (helped along nicely by the fact that she gets to pose endlessly for him and then see herself on the Star Phoenix website). She came along to a manicure recently, and while Renea worked her magic, Bailey provided Rebecca with a brush, sponge and some loose foundation powder. She embraced her new role as make-up artist with intense enthusiasm, and painted my face in haphazard layers. Paulette eyed me doubtfully at the end of it all. “Are you going to your next appointment like that?” “Of course!” I said. “I’m going to tell all the girls at Belle Sante that this is your new look for Spring.”
The Expats Blog website is hosting its annual contest, with the topic centering on Lists; I submitted the 10 Essential Facts about Saskatoon/Saskatchewan, and would love it if some of you could read and comment on the entry. The link is below; thanks in advance 🙂