Christmas Letter 2003

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2003, word for word.

Hello and Merry Christmas!

This year I decided to try a different strategy – get all my shopping done (almost), the Christmas tree cut -put up- and decorated, all my baking done (except the cherry cheesecake on Christmas Eve) and the parcels mailed to B.C. BEFORE I wrote my annual Christmas letter. So here are the highlights of this past year….

After my last year’s letter, I DID get the baking done and the parcels mailed to B.C. before everyone began to get sick.  On Christmas day, we ended up in the Emergency department of the Kemptville Hospital with Melvin who ended up in the Childrens’ Hospital in Ottawa for 5 days in January.  At one point, both he and Marty had pneumonia; Doctors thought Melvin had leukemia (he didn’t – just double pneumonia and whooping cough); then the next week they thought Marty had a tumor (the lesion on his lung was the size of a quarter and was a scar from Histoplasmosis, which we never knew he had years ago!).  So that’s how our new year began!!  By the end of January they were all back at school!!!!!!

Nellie turned 11 in January – she’s almost as tall as me now with beautiful long hair. She’s now in grade 6 at the same school in the little town of Kars that all her siblings attended. Darin turned 26 in January and he and Amanda still live in Ottawa.  Of course, you’ve probably heard of their new daughter, Kalia Emily, who was born November 15th.  She’s the cutest baby in the world – honest, I’m not biased just because I’m her Gramma!

Taylor turned 23 in February and he still lives in Vancouver – we are hoping that someday soon he’ll come home to visit.  He still works at the same restaurant/bar, ‘Avantes’.  Marty is now 17 and towers over me!  A few months ago he picked up a guitar and hasn’t stopped since!  He’s a natural!!  He’s in grade 11 and doing very well.
Kristi is 21 now and in her third year at Carleton University.  She still works in the ER at the Ottawa General Hospital and also for Foreign Affairs Canada on her days ‘off’.  Her and Mike are still engaged and hoping to get married in 2005.

Robin (now 28) and Natasha (29) still live in Victoria, B.C. where Robin is still in school pursuing a Masters degree.  I will never forget his first day of kindergarten – he refused to go and get on the schoolbus: he actually grabbed onto the fence and clung for dear life – honestly, I couldn’t unhook his little fingers, until the bus left!!  Now we can’t get him out of school!  Ha! Ha!  We are very proud of him – actually of all of our children.

Our little Melvin turns 9 tomorrow!  He’s in grade 4 at the little school in North Gower where all the kids have gone for the past 22 years.  guess I’m the most veteran parent in that school.

During the winter, we still enjoy hockey games with our friends on Saturday nights in our garage/party room and skating on our backyard rink on the river.  Spring, summer, and fall find us working in the yard.  The pond is nearing completion with the stream/waterfall which we accomplished this year.  Chris built a little arched bridge over the stream and several arbors/trellises for around the yard.  I’m forever planting and dividing/moving plants.  Our vegetable garden is being taken over with more perennial flowers which I’m trying to start from seed or find in a heap.

Well, I sure hope that you will come and see us sometime. If not, just write and keep in touch. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New year.

Christmas Letter 2002

 

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2002, word for word.

 
Merry Christmas!!
It’s been so long since I wrote a Christmas letter, I thought I’d better do one since my daughter began the tradition last year and put me to shame! What can I say – we’re all getting older and only some of us are getting better! Ha! Ha!

To start off the new year, we celebrated with our good friends and neighbours by hosting a New Year’s Eve Party in our ‘party room’ a.k.a. garage. A few years ago, Chris and Taylor put up drywall, some cupboards, added a woodstove for heat, and finished it with wall-to-wall indoor/outdoor carpeting. We use this space now for ‘overflow’, heating it whenever we have a gang for parties, Xmas, etc. but not usually for the poor Van.

Nellie turned 10 years old in January while Darin turned 25. Darin is the equipment manage of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team and traveled to Japan, Europe, and finally the Salt Lake City Olympics. I got to take the train to see my sisters, Faye and Betty, in Hamilton this month!!! Yeah – better than Europe to me!

In early February we held our annual skating party on the Rideau River in our backyard. As usual, we had a great time. On February 19th, Taylor turned 22 – he’s been living in Vancouver for a year and a half now and loves it. We REALLY miss him!

March began with a blast – Chris had a mini stroke which he’s mostly recovered from other than headaches which he never had, some memory loss, and slight loss of some small motor skills. However during the follow-up to find out what caused it, Dr.s discovered a hole in his heart! And he said he didn’t have a heart!! Not to be alarmed, though, since he’s probably had it his whole life and they’re just going to leave it for now. Poor guy – last year, after an ear infection (the only one he ever remembers having) he started to go deaf in his right ear. He’s mostly deaf in it now with some hearing loss in the other ear – he’s supposed to have an MRI, hopefully in 2003 (who knows with our health care system!).

We were distraught in April by the death of Grampa Bob Mellway. We will truly miss this wonderful Grampa, Dad, and friend. 😦

In May, I turned 49! – weeeeee…. headed for the big 50! Of course, the country held a national holiday for me and some babe named ‘Victoria’, so we celebrated with a bonfire and fireworks! Melvin resumed his summer schedule of wasp venom injections to build up his immunity to stings since he has a life threatening allergy. He even carries an Epipen in a waist-pouch where ever he goes.

We opened the pool and added the solar cover to boost the heat – I even went in during the heat wave!! I was briefly in the hospital for a heart scare. Chris turned 42 – I told him that once you turn 40 you are over the hill and start to fall apart! Everyone passed and was glad school was over. Darin graduated from Carleton University with a degree in Computer Science. Marty got a job at a local store and still works there on weekends.

The summer was hot and dry again. Marty went to summer school to boost his Math mark for a couple weeks. And Faye came up again this year for a week at the end of July. We always have a great time mostly just relaxing.

Kristi turned 20 in August, Robin turned 27, his wife Natasha turned 28, and Marty turned 16 years old! Whew! We traveled to Hamilton to Faye and Joey and Betty’s at the end of August. We took Faye and went to Niagara Falls and had a great time on the Maid of the Mist and the Caves Beneath the Falls – a must for any Falls tourist!

The kids resumed school in September: Melvin in grade 3 – his favourite subject is Math. He just loves to figure things out. He also loves to draw and is an avid outdoors player. Nellie is in grade 5 at the same school. Her favourite subject is Art. She is a social ‘butterfly’ and has many friends, her most special being Alyssa ( the one year old neighbour I babysat last winter). Nellie is almost as tall as me now! Marty is in grade 10 now and presently loves playing Playstation2. He wants to attend University of Victoria to study Marine Biology when he’s done high school.

Kristi lives in Ottawa and is in her second year at Carleton University – she maintains an A average, receiving a scholarship every year. She also works at the Ottawa General Hospital as a bilingual ER intake clerk, in her ‘spare’ time! The love of her life is Mike, whom she’s known since high school and now a student at Carleton University too.

Taylor works as a bartender in Vancouver and also does DJing, ‘spinning’ records at clubs whenever he gets a gig. His girlfriend’s name is Mary. Robin and Natasha live in Victoria, B.C. where Rob goes to U Vic and Natasha works. They say they love it out there, but it’s VERY far away……

Darin and Amanda got married this October 6th in a beautiful outdoor wedding. The day was absolutely perfect and they were so awesome – they honeymooned in Hawaii. At the end of October, Amanda celebrated her quarter-of-a-century birthday.

Faye and Joey came up for Thanksgiving this year and as usual we had a real nice time. The biggest surprise of the month was that Kristi and Mike got engaged!! They plan on waiting a few years while they finish University before getting married. Mike’s a really nice guy and the two of them are just like two peas in a pod – except Kristi does most of the talking!!

Well, November’s been an interesting month – Chris had a possible gall bladder attack (Stones? = ultrasound in December) and during the bloodwork they turned up some abnormal results, so they’ve run some further tests. He’s feeling better now, but still has constant vague discomfort. This weekend we are going to have a Canadian Football League Grey Cup party to watch the championship game – well, we don’t stare at the TV, it’s just an excuse to get together for a pot luck supper and good discussion while the football game is on!

December 19th, Melvin turns 8. But before that, I have to get my B.C. parcels ready to mail – which means making the usual Christmas cookies, squares, candy, and special surprises in early December. Oh yes, I still have to finish my Christmas shopping/decorating/creating – with 7 children, 2 daughters-in-law, and one almost son-in-law (let me see 7+2+1= that’s 10!) plus Chris, other family and friends, I’d better close this letter and get busy!!! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year. And if you find yourself in our neck of the woods, we’d love to see you!

Merry Christmas!
Linda, Chris, Melvin, Nellie and Marty

Growing Up in the 1950s

 

I’m living in my 7th decade of life: the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and now 2010s. I was born in the early 1950s and I’d like to share what it was like living in each of these decades.

 
The 1950s were an amazing time to be born – they call us ‘baby boomers’ now. Children born in the decade following World War ll were born into a world which was changing at a dizzying rate. Before this World War, my parents lived through the Great Depression which was a time of depravity and challenge. Then after WWll, life seemed less of a struggle and even richer for my parent’s generation. Many of our parents wanted to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up:  a decent home, a family car, a job, and enough food. My parents chose to move from their small home town on the east coast to the big city in Ontario after my oldest sister Faye was born. I was born in the city of Hamilton in 1953. Soon afterwards, we moved to our first home on Eaton Place where all my memories begin…. My very first memory is of someone taking a picture of me when I was two years old and the sun was shining in my face.

1.1955LindaWM

First Picture Grammom 1955

 

Ahhh, the 50’s. The very thought brings a feeling of joy, simplicity, peace, and ….. ROCK ‘N ROLL! After a generation of waltzes during the 1930s and 40s, MY generation was ready to shake things up! My memories only take me back to the late 1950s – Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll; Buddy Holly’s “Great Balls of Fire”; Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” ; Chuck Berry (who performed at our high school in 1971 ~ I’ll never forget how we all roared when he sang “My Ding-a-ling”!). Back in the 50s, music was recorded on vinyl records in speeds (RPM = rotations per minute) of 45 and 33 (78s were old school from the ‘olden days’ of our parents). 45s were the small, 7″ singles with one song per side and 33s were the record albums. Cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3 hadn’t even been thought of back then! We collected LOTS of records and albums over the years.

2.EatonPl1955

First house – Eaton Place 1955

 

Our parents were great! Every year we went on vacation somewhere – Timmins to see the gold mine and my Auntie Marlene and Uncle Jim; Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings and camp in Gatineau Park; local camping at Lambert Park; Santa’s Village in Bracebridge; and my favourite place of all, New Carlisle, Quebec lovingly known as down home where most of my relatives lived. It took us 3 days to drive the 1000 miles (1650 kms) on two lane highways in our ’50s Ford sedan, packed to the hilt with everything from baskets of fruit to bathroom sink/toilet and always a neighbour along for the holiday! We always stayed at my grandparents farm. We went in July, just in time for haying too. In the 1950s, my grandparents didn’t own any machinery to help with the farming, just Queen and Gyp, huge draft horses. They did the haying all by hand, pitching it up onto horse-drawn wooden wagons where us kids would ‘help’ by sitting on the top of the pile as we went around the field. Then back at the barn, the loose hay would be pitched up into the hay loft. We spent many fun days playing in that hayloft, hiding in the hay or just daydreaming. Other days were spent at the beach on Chaleur Bay on the Atlantic Ocean playing with our cousins in the freezing cold salt water.

3.U.Lloyd,Queen,GypEarly50sWM

Uncle Lloyd farming 1950s

 

When we were at home, we’d spend the summer outdoors all the time. Our neighbourhood was void of backyard fences so we had a huge yard where we’d play baseball, football, tag, kick-the-can, or hide and seek. One street over was an undeveloped area where we’d explore and play using our imaginations (called “the Field” and “the Creek”). My favourite was to pretend I was riding a horse, either on my bike or running while slapping my leg to make the sound of galloping. I’d even tie up my pretend horse at the back porch when I came in for lunch. In the 1950s, there were no video games – heck many folks didn’t even have televisions! Us kids PLAYED! We used our IMAGINATION! TV shows I DID watch included Hockey Night in Canada (we were staunch Toronto Maple Leaf fans) on Saturday nights (I laid on my mother’s lap until I fell asleep), Roy Rogers Show and Lassie on Saturday morning. We got 6 channels, mostly from the U.S. During the summer, all the neighbours flocked to our front porch after supper. The adults would sit on the cement steps and talk while the kids played until dark.

4.EatonPlaceGang

Eaton Place families on our front porch

 

In the winter, my Dad made us a skating rink beside the house and a sliding hill out back on our slightly inclining backyard hill. The whole neighbourhood came over to skate and slide after school and on weekends! It was the best childhood a kid could dream of.

Winter Fun

Winter fun

 

We didn’t use plastics for everything like today. I recall that our first refrigerator was an ice box – the ice man came around the neighbourhood with blocks of ice to sell to people. The ‘bread man’ came around weekdays to deliver bread and other goods right to your door – all our mother had to do was pick out what she wanted. And the milkman came daily with glass quart jars of milk – mothers simply left the washed empties out on the porch and the milkman would exchange them for full bottles of milk, leaving them outside, unrefrigerated. Nobody ever got sick either. All these businessmen (yes it was always men) were paid by their customers once a week – the honour system was alive and well in the 1950s.

6.1957 L&Ricky PloemWM

Grammom 4 yrs old with friend Ricky, 1957

 

In the 1950s, 99.9% of Mothers stayed home to raise the children and the Dads worked outside the home, sometimes two or three jobs like my Dad. That’s just the way it was. Many women were expected to quit their jobs when they married, anticipating a family would soon follow. When I was around ten years old, my mother got a job with some other neighbourhood ladies, cleaning offices for Ernie. My oldest sister Faye, babysat us for the few hours in the evening. I will always cherish my mother’s presence during the day in the summertime, during lunchtime, and before/after school. Moms back then cooked all the meals and did all the laundry. There were no ‘fast food’ places in the 1950s that I can recall ~ we did go to Stoney Creek Dairy for ice cream cones a couple of times in the summer. But I don’t EVER remember going out to eat hamburgers at a restaurant.

7.1959SantasVillageWM

Santa’s Village 1959

 

My first school was Parkdale Public School where I went from Kindergarten to grade 5. We walked to school with all the neighbourhood kids in those days, skipping, talking, and singing along the way. At lunchtime, we walked back home where our mothers had lunch waiting for us. Then back to school. I vividly recall kindergarten – fingerpainting, playing instruments, and afternoon napping. We went to Kindergarten either in the morning OR the afternoon. Not all day like today. There was no Junior Kindergarten either. When we turned 5 years old, we were eligible for kindergarten.

8.1958LindaWM

Grammom 5 years old 1958

 

When I was very young, I remember hearing that our Prime Minister was John Diefenbaker and I couldn’t help but wonder why a baker would be a Prime Minister…… ? I pictured this person all dressed in white wearing a baker’s hat! Oh the innocence of youth!

I have to say, life was simpler back in the 1950s – at least to a young kid like me.

Sleepover

 

I’m a lucky Grammom. This weekend my granddaughters came for a sleepover. My grandson had been here for a sleepover a few times this summer as well. School starts in just a few days and I wanted to have them over one more time before their hectic scholastic schedule begins. All summer they’ve been busy with many activities like playing with friends; a camping holiday with their parents (my son Darin and daughter-in-law Amanda) to Lake Placid, New York; pedicures; Ultimate Frisbee; reading; sewing (each of them used their great-grandmother’s sewing machine to make something); swimming; visiting; more camping for each of them individually with their Daddy – Thirty-one Mile Lake in Quebec for Livi and the Inrig Homestead (my daughter Kristina and son-in-law Mike’s 45 acre place) for Kalia, where the fishing is the best.
Kalia phoned me the morning that they were coming because I had asked her if there was anything special she wanted while at Gramma’s – she remembered, Chocolate Milk. So I went into town and bought Chocolate Milk.
When the girls arrived, they came inside lugging suitcases full of stuffed animals and a change of clothes. You’d think they were coming for a week! lol They HAD to have their best stuff animals with them at night as they got to sleep in Melvin’s room, now that he’s moved away to go to college. They were VERY excited to be in Melvin’s room because all his stuffed animals are still up on his shelf over his bed. They get to pull down their favourites like the 6′ dragon and the 5′ snakes and line them up in the middle of the double bed.

Watching Movies
As soon as they arrived in the afternoon, we began to plan our ‘moviefest’. We always love to watch old Disney movies and any new movies that have been released. Last time they came, Kalia discovered the older movie ‘Matilda’ and we watched it a couple of times – it became her new favourite movie at the time. The girls usually do some baking with Aunt Nellie – cookies or cupcakes or a cake. This weekend, the weather was hot, humid, and rainy so it was a good inside-day. We watched ‘Monsters University’, taking a break for a spaghetti supper and frozen yogurt for dessert. Then as it got dark, we watched ‘Road to El Dorado’ followed by ‘The Swan Princess’. The girls must have been pretty tired because Livi even sat through the movies, pausing only once to go downstairs for a new ‘dress-up’ outfit.

 

I don’t think I ever packed up the toys after my kids got older because my youngest child Melvin was only 8 years old when his niece Kalia was born. We have 4 boxes of ‘toys’ downstairs which I must ‘clean out’ some day soon. There’s a box of dress-up clothes that I will likely never get rid of – Livi has always loved to dress-up at Gramma’s house. In fact, I think it’s the first thing she does every time she comes! There are an assortment of costumes, some of which we’ve had for decades: a ‘Sailor Moon’ costume that Nellie used to love wearing when she was little; Esmeralda’s dress from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame; two Harry Potter Gryffindor Robes from the halloween that Nellie and Melvin dressed up as Harry Potter characters; a red velvet cape; a flowered silky, fringed shawl which transforms Livi into the ‘poor little match girl’ or a sophisticated lady; and, among other outfits, an old, hand-me-down shiny pink dress with a black sparkly bodice that my oldest daughter Kristi used to love wearing, then Nellie, and now Livi – she’s even slept in this dress on occasion!

We have a box of little steel vehicles and tiny characters that are great to set up and be a ‘Godzilla’ to walk over. Then we have a container full of action figures, Scooby-doo characters, etc. plus another with odds’n ends. I’ve already packed away the bags of wooden blocks, the vintage ‘Sesame Street’ house and all the ‘Little People’ and their furniture, and several containers of Star Wars toys. And I’ve sent the ‘ball tent’ to Kristi’s house for her younger children.

Dress-up
On some other occasions, we’ve gone to the park down the road to play on the play-structure, fed my pond fish, done puzzles, gone fishing or thrown stones in the water down at our beach, taken our old dog Yukon for a walk or gone for a hike on ‘Private Prop’. But today we’re just veggin because it’s wet outside.
This morning, the girls were up pretty early (7 a.m.) considering they were awake until almost 11 p.m. with various excuses like Livi’s leg ache, Kalia taking all the covers (but Livi didn’t want her own covers with exactly the same Star Wars pattern!), Kalia wouldn’t share the book that Livi wanted to read at that exact moment, well, you know…… Bedtime was a bit late at 9 p.m. but after all, this IS Gramma’s!
We’ve just finished ‘special ordered’ lunch: Kalia had peanut butter and jam on whole wheat bread with orange juice to drink (the Chocolate milk was all gone), Livi had her favourite ‘Gramma’s house’ food – whole wheat toast with peanut butter and sprinkled with freshly ground flax seed and orange juice to drink, and Nellie had a toasted peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat of course. Oh ya, I forgot to make myself lunch…..
It’s always a joy to have my grandchildren stay for a sleepover.

 

The Last Day

Writing this post today is bittersweet.  Today the dog and I walked my youngest child Melvin, who’s  17 years old,  up to the schoolbus stop at 6:50 a.m. for the last time……….he’s finished high school today.  I’ve been putting my 7 children on the school bus for 32 consecutive years now (except for the home schooling years).   WOW have the years flown by!  I could never have fathomed on that very first day in 1980 that I would EVER get to this very last day.  That first day began abit rocky :  when the big yellow schoolbus arrived, my 5 year old decided that there was no way was he going on that thing with all those strange kids.  So he clung to the nearest chain link fence as if his life depended on it and no amount of coaxing, bribing, or cajoling was going to convince him to let go.  I couldn’t pry  those little fingers off so I just told the bus driver to go ahead and we drove him.  He came to like the little world in the school bus.  Year one was only a five minute bus ride to school.

1986 Boys First Day of School

In 1981, we moved to our present location in the country.  There’s actually an old school house, now a converted home, about a few kilometers (a mile) away that children in the area walked to, about 70 years ago.    At our new home, the schoolbus took an hour to finally arrive at the childrens’ school – a 6 minute drive by car straight up the road to the village.  The bus picked up our kids first, in the morning,  and always dropped them off last, at the end of the day, making it a very long ride.  They picked up children going to 3 different schools and dropped off the kids at the other two schools first.  After school, they began at my childrens’ school.  Over the years, I developed a great rapport with the staff at that small elementary school – when my youngest graduated from it in grade 5, I was the parent with the most ‘seniority’ (25 years)!  Two years later, my granddaughter started school there and soon after,  I was going on school trips and attending concerts there again.

Many bus drivers are farmers who supplement their incomes by driving the schoolbus.  .  They know the area and all the backroads and often have some time in between milking a herd of cows or haying, to drive the bus (don’t ask me how!).  Some are Moms who take their little ones to work with them as they drive the schoolbus while other drivers are ‘semi-retired’, like Glen, Joy, and Bronwin (who also owns the local Christmas tree farm).  I remember once in the mid-80s when the schoolbus got stuck in some snow on a back road, after a big storm.  The driver, Mr. Graham (an elderly farmer up the road), told all the bigger boys, in grades 7 and 8, to get out and push!  They got the bus rolling.  But that would NEVER happen these days.  Bus drivers have to maneuver a big long bus, watch the road, watch for other drivers who may decide to pass illegally, ‘mother’ little ones nervously just starting school, keep an eye on the back of the bus where the senior kids sit, break up fights, and most importantly, get the kids to school safely on time.  A couple of years ago, there was a bully on the bus, picking on a smaller kid in my son’s high school.  So being a peaceful person – and 5’11” tall –  my son Melvin just moved up beside his bullied friend and ‘negotiated’ a truce with a firm hand on the bully’s shoulder and told him to SIT DOWN and behave!  These days, school bus drivers are instructed to pull over and radio for assistance if anything out of the ordinary occurs.

First Day 1987

At one time, my children attended five different schools in various areas in the same year:  the little elementary school in our nearby town (grades JK-5), the middle school in another nearby town (grades 6-8), a high school in a further town, another high school of the fine arts in the city, and Carleton University in Ottawa.  Just imagine Me trying to attend all  the school concerts, interviews, and activities!  My daughter Kristi, was accepted to Canterbury High School for Literary Arts in the city of Ottawa, the only school for the arts (literary, dance, drama) in Eastern Ontario.  My husband would drive her up to the nearest village at 6:45 every morning and pick her up again at 5 p.m every night.  HER school bus ride was an hour and a half each way!  She was definitely committed to the program to endure THAT long bus ride.

Schools have changed over the years too.  At one time, there was only one computer in the entire school for the students to use.  Now there are computers in every classroom, even the Junior Kindergarten.  I’ve seen the school population, in our local elementary school, bloom so they had to bring in ‘portable’ classrooms for a few years.

In the last few years, after the school bus left in the morning, the dog and I would walk along the flower gardens out front, picking out weeds or just checking on things.  I’d come inside and make myself a tea and abit later have breakfast.

Does it mean that my kids are all grown up now?  That my job is ‘done’?   Well at least the job of walking to the school bus, since the job of Mother is for life.

I’ve spent my entire adult life raising my 7 children, from the time I was 22 years old to the present (@ 59 years young).  After today, I’ll have to let a new flow to come into my life.  I’m not quite sure what that will be yet, so I think I’ll just let it happen……

Farewell Schoolbus

http://www.123rf.com/photo_346561_school-bus-back-view.html

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