Sunday, January 30, 2011

Joshua wanted to buy me flowers yesterday.  He said, "I want to give you flowers because you're nice!"  My heart melted.  Random, yes, but something I want to remember.  I told him we didn't have money to buy flowers but that I loved that he wanted to do that.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Cost of Eating: Canada vs USA {groceries}

My parents and I decided to make a "fake" grocery list of (mostly) basic food items that everyone has in their pantry and write down the total cost for the items at our respective grocery stores- theirs in Ontario and mine in Pennsylvania.

The idea started when John and I went grocery shopping in Ontario, before heading for my parent's house in December.  I wanted to pick up a few things that I knew my parents wouldn't have.  We maxed our weekly grocery budget in short order and I was shocked at the prices.  It was the first time I had ever really paid attention to the cost of food in Canada...because this time I was paying.

I spend $80 a week on groceries in the states, and try very hard not to go over-budget.  I rarely do, though there are weeks I have to wonder how I managed to pull it off.  I am currently looking into coupon stacking which will potentially lower my weekly costs by even more, but for now, I browse the flyers and plan my menu by sales.  I have NEVER paid more than $1.99/lb for meat.  It's all about stockpiling and buying enough to last until the next sale.

Anyway, when I expressed my surprise to my parents, we thought it would be fun to see how much of a difference there REALLY is by making the aforementioned "fake" list and writing down the prices to find the total.  It took a while to get around to doing this, but on Thursday, we finally wrote a list, and the results are in.


We agreed to buy the cheapest brand in each category, rather than worry about labels and name brands.  I shopped at Shoprite and Produce Junction.  My parents shopped at Zehrs.  If the item was on sale, we noted the sale price, NOT the regular price.  


1 liter 2% milk
1 dozen eggs
16oz block cheddar cheese
16 slices processed cheese
1 carton cream cheese
16 oz sour cream
large container of vanilla yogurt
1 lb butter
1 qt vanilla ice cream
1 liter orange juice
1 tin coffee
3 lbs chicken breast
1 lb ground beef
3 lb roast beef (cheapest cut)
3 lbs green pepper
5 lbs apples
4 lbs bananas
1 head romaine lettuce
1 head broccoli
10 lbs potatoes
3 lemons
1 avocado
5 lbs white flour
5 lbs white sugar
spaghetti pasta
28 oz can diced tomatoes
28 oz can tomato sauce
small can tomato paste
1 loaf wheat bread
Oreo cookies
16oz peanut butter
1 can tuna fish
2 cans baked beans
1 pkg long-grain rice
ketchup (average squeeze-bottle size)
1 bottle salad dressing
'medium' box of Cheerios
laundry detergent (small bottle)


The GRAND TOTAL was....

$153.89 in Canada


$70.22 in the USA

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life is Beautiful

One of the things were were planning to do yesterday, following our second Armenian Christmas dinner, was visit Aunt Roxie.  She is in a nursing home about an hour from here and we wrapped a bunch of leftover food for her.  Of course, big gatherings like this aren't wrapped up as quickly as the leftovers (nor would I want them to!) and by the time we could actually leave the house, it was too late.  Everyone was tired, still had to drive home, and... it just wasn't going to happen.

John had today off, so we decided to take the leftovers to Aunt Roxie and visit her.  She's a dear, sweet lady whom I have met twice before: once at my wedding and later when we went to visit her with baby Joshua, only a year old at the time.  She lived in an assisted living home at the time, but has since injured herself and been transfered to a nursing home indefinitely.  

Honestly, this was my first time in a nursing home.  Before that, all my elderly relatives were in assisted living homes or hospitals or in their own home.  This was a whole new experience; one that you hear about and don't fully understand until you get there.  The first thing that struck me was the smell.  It turned my stomach.  And then my eyes took over.  The hallways were lined with people in wheelchairs.  Some of them were living bodies whose souls appeared to have died long ago.  Others just sat and stared into oblivion because they were doing the same thing this afternoon that they did every day all week long, and for weeks before that, too.  And then there were the people who looked up and saw Joshua.  They reached out their hands, beckoning for him to come.  They waved.  One man winked.  The sight of a fresh young face seemed to cheer some, and for others it seemed to cause a lonely ache.  There's plenty of germs in a place like that, and I found out a virus has gone though recently, so I kept Joshua close to me.  It kind of hurt to do so.  A little boy, toddling along in his fluffy winter coat, carrying a toy train in his hand and flashing shy smiles as he walked by seemed to them a ray of sunshine and I felt like the cloud, keeping him pulled close to my side.  I smiled too, and some smiled back, but really there was nothing better than Joshua.

Aunt Roxie- I didn't even recognize her.  She was in a wheel chair with her eyes half shut, looking so dull and sleepy.  It wasn't until we were close and she looked up that I saw her bright face.  She didn't recognize us at first and thought we were asking for money.  I don't think she ever recognized us, actually, but she did eventually realize that we were 'friends' just coming by to say hi.  She talked to Joshua, her face lighting up every time he looked at her.  He showed her his train and told her we didn't bring flowers.  We couldn't find a florist shop and Joshua was disappointed because he wanted to give them to her.  We gave her the food and though she loves the taste of her heritage, I don't think she quite understood that it was for her.  John gave the food to the nurse at the desk.  Who knows if she'll ever get it.

It all got me to thinking about how precious life is.  I walked out of that place with tears in my eyes.  They were once children, running through the grass barefoot and carefree.  Then young parents with babies, working, cooking, cleaning, having fun.  People with a past and a story, and who worked hard for what they had.  People that we could respect, admire and learn from.  And it all ended in a nursing home.  Where the hallways smell of urine and echo with the sounds of pain, while those in less pain sit, just staring at the floor, waiting for a nurse to come by and take them to bed, so that in the morning it can start all over again.

What we work for and what we put our time and efforts into, they really matter.  If we work for riches and fame and we achieve the greatest success, it still ends, one way or another.  Everything ends.  The only things that last are the things we take to Heaven.  

If I am to be perfectly honest, I don't want to get old.  Not like that.  I want to live in my own home, and when I can no longer do that, I don't want to be around.  I'd much rather go hang out in Heaven.  Forever.  But if I do end up in some nursing home where my family visits as much as they can, but not nearly enough to kill the long hours, and there's nothing I can do but sit and stare and stare and sit, I hope I can think back (if I CAN think at the point in my life) and know that I invested my life in the best way I knew how, to last into an eternity with Christ.  Nothing else will matter.

I know there are other people who can express these thoughts much more eloquently than I just did.  I'm not even sure that I've done a good job, here, but do know that today changed my life.  It reaffirmed what I already know and often forget: life is PRECIOUS.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  It is full of MEANING and PURPOSE if we choose to find it.  We should LOVE and LAUGH as often and as much as we can.  We should SERVE God.  We should take CARE of our bodies.  And maybe we should even spend a little bit of time lending some sunshine to the lives of those who will be spending the last weeks and months of their lives staring at the bleak tile floors of a nursing home.  Sharing with them the love of JESUS so that when they die, they can LIVE again.  Forever.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Joshua's Story- "Butterfly and Me."

Joshua makes up creative stories every day while he plays with his trains.  Sometimes, when we are driving in the van, he asks us to tell him stories, and other times, he'll tell one to us.  Tonight I asked him to tell me another one so I could write it down.  He didn't understand what I was doing at first.  He made up a "title" and I wrote it down.  I read it out loud, pointing to the words, and his face lit up with excitement.  He got it.  Here's his story, word for word:


Butterfly and Joshua were playing football game outside.  And a big car outside and it drive fast and it drived slow first.  And it CRASHED!  And it said, "Oh no, Joshua!" said butterfly.  And then it come back up and it got fixed.  It got some tape.  

And it come back and crashed.  And then Daddy said, "OH NO!"  

"We need some measuring tape Daddy," said Joshua.  "We need, I need to come back up again Daddy."

The End.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Canada & the USA

People often ask if living in the USA is any different than living in Canada.  For the most part, the answer is "not really."  But there are some things, so I thought I'd dedicate a blog post to them.  NOTE: When I refer to the USA, I am mainly referring to Philly and area, because I know each state is different, much like the provinces are in Canada.

Here they are, in no particular order.  I'll start with the obvious.

The accents.

Canadian's say "eh," and American's say, "huh."

Spelling: check/cheque, center/centre, favorite/favourite, etc. 

Canada: washrooms USA: restrooms

There are more lakes, rivers and ponds in Canada.  

American's don't remove their shoes before entering someone's home, even if they just walked through a mud puddle.  In Canada, you could have fifty people in your home and every one of those people will, without thinking twice about it, remove their shoes at the door.  In fact, I used to get in trouble if I forgot to take my shoes off!

American's L-O-V-E their football.  In Canada, it's hockey all the way.  (For the record, I married a man whose partial to hockey; he fits in well with my family).

Gas is more expensive in Canada.  About 40 cents a gallon more expensive, though gas is sold in litres (not litERs) in Canada.

Groceries are more expensive in Canada, too.  Our grocery bill in the USA is half of what it would be in Canada.

Miles-Kilometers.  States-Provinces.  

I could get in trouble for this one...Canadians in general are friendlier--no offense to any of my wonderful American friends who are reading this ^-^)  There are definitely many friendly people in America.  I'm just making generalizations.  

Between Ontario and Pennsylvania, the winter weather is by far colder in Ontario in the winter; and not so much hotter in PA during the summer, but more humid and more lastingly humid; the humidity in Ontario fades with the sun and it can actually be quite cool in the mornings some days.  But contrary to popular belief, being Canadian does not mean I am used to the cold!

Medical (not dental) health coverage is SO expensive and complicated in the states.  In Canada it's simple and free.  For now.  On the flip side, it takes only days to get an appointment for an MRI in the states, but can seem to take weeks in Canada.

And then there's the food....

Butter Tarts (similar to a pecan pie without the pecans) and poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy), and nanaimo bars (a favourite Christmas treat) are unheard of in the states.  They are the only two foods I can think of offhand.  On the other hand, cheesesteaks are a Philadelphia-thing.

American's love their soft pretzels.

There is no Rolo ice cream here!!!  And Pralines and Cream ice cream is hard, if not impossible, to find.

Dill Pickle, Ketchup and All-Dressed potato chips are not commonly found on the grocery store shelves in the US.

Pizza toppings are more diverse in Canada.  It's pretty basic here in the states.  

Chinese food is different: fresher in Canada, more 'candied' in the USA.  And I haven't been able to find a Chinese restaurant in the USA that sells chicken balls.

In the US, there are restaurants everywhere, both franchises and little independently owned places.  In Canada, there are plenty of places to eat, but the restaurants don't seem to populate the cities quite as densely.  

One final thing.  I've noticed quite a significant difference in take-out sizes and finally remembered to save a cup and take a picture for comparison.  Behold- on the left is a LARGE coffee cup from Wawa (USA).  In the middle, a LARGE from Tim Hortons (a Canadian franchise).  And on the far right, a LARGE from a Tim Horton's located in the USA.

Oh, and very important--Tim Horton ice caps taste like they're missing an ingredient in the states.  Nowhere near as good.

That's all I can think of.  Consider yourself more educated. ;-)

Renos Pt 1

We have been saving for some time to refinish the floors throughout our entire house.  John ripped the carpet up two years ago because we didn't want Joshua crawling around on old, dusty carpet.  We ended up with even older, splintery hardwood splattered with paint.  A giant remnant of chocolate brown carpet solved the splinter problem in the living room, and aside from a few splinters, we mostly avoid problems in the dining room.  Unfortunately, not always.

We received money for Christmas this year and we finally had enough to do a really cheap laminate floor or refinish job on the downstairs only.  Carpet would be a lot cheaper than wood or laminate, but oil heat is dirty and we get a lot of dust.  Plus, wood is just nicer.

In the end we decided to hold out a little longer because doing a cheap laminate floor might not pay off in the end, especially if we sell.  If we're going to do this, we're going to do it right.  So today we have a guy coming in to give us an estimate; but yesterday while driving home, we got a flat and ended up having to replace two tires.  Our van is now wearing our floors.  Such is life.

We have more projects that need doing in this house than I can count.  I am a project person and this makes me happy.  I guess me and my house were a good match.  Anyway, we decided that while we are waiting for the possibility of floors, we will start taking off trim around the bottom of the walls and repainting it with some leftover paint from the basement.  And while we're at it--

Under several layers of paint in our dining room, there is wallpaper.  We ripped all the old wallpaper down from the living room, stair well and upstairs hall when we moved in, but decided to paint over the already-painted-over wallpaper in the dining room and deal with it later.  The time has come.  John pulled down the crown moulding this morning and now the task lies before us.  Of course, this will destroy my cheerful avocado green paint, and I love change too much to pass up a chance for it, so let's just say that the green will not be reappearing.  :-)

And because Walmart has very cheap paint, we've decided to pull all our bedroom furniture to the middle of the room, camp out in Joshua's bedroom for a while, and as we're able, paint the trim, doors and walls.  That room hasn't seen a paintbrush for years- if ever.  It lacks any sort of warmth or comfort and is definitely not the nicest place to go at the end of the day.  I might have a picture somewhere.

Ah, here it is.  This is the room when we moved in.  All we did was rip up the carpet and wash the walls...though John has since plastered some of the cracks in the walls.

This is our room now- we were in the middle of moving back in after my parents left at Christmas (they sleep in our room and we move in with Joshua- which he loves....for now), and it's messy, but it's real life.  Things just get messy sometimes.  If you're wondering why I took a picture at that particular time, I can't answer that.  I just do random things.

I love comparing before and after pics so I'll have to get a better one before we get started.  So there you have it- some of the latest happenings in our home.  If you ever wonder what I'm doing, picture me peeling little bits of stubborn wallpaper from our dining room for like, the next ten years. :-P

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Infamous Chicken

Today I taught Joshua how to tell a joke.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side.”  I laughed appropiately as I walked him through the two crucial steps of telling a joke: question and answer.

A small smile flickered across his face when he realized that he had ‘made me laugh.'  He told it again.  I laughed and his smile got bigger.  Then he got creative.

“Why did the kitty cat cross the road?”

“Why did the lion cross the road?”

“Why did the cow cross the road?”


I was starting to wonder if this was such a good idea.  Fake laughing is hard work.  Not that it wasn't funny or cute, but definitely not a ten-star kinda funny.

John came back to the van and I got a break.  Joshua tried his joke out on Daddy.  John laughed, of course, and Joshua was quiet for a minute while we thanked God for the food and distributed it.  And proceeded to tell the joke again.  Then, in a confident-take-charge kind of voice, “Okay.  Why did the kitty cat cross the road?”  The ‘okay’ did us in.  We laughed so hard.

He’s been telling the joke all day.  He had to phone Grandma; then tell Papa Jim; my grandparents called and he had to tell them.  He tried for Uncle Derek, but he wasn’t home.  He called John at work.  We went through quite a lengthy session ourselves, here at home.  

While we were coloring at the table after dinner this evening, he drew a chicken crossing the road.  I drew one, too, and when I finished, he said “I want you to draw another funny joke.”  While I continued to add details to my picture, he asked me a question to which I absently replied, “Yesireebob!”  (Side note: Can you believe that word just made it past my spell checker?!- Okay, never mind, it just took a minute.)  Joshua put his serious face on and said, “Bob, I’m just drawing something right now.”  For the rest of the night, he called me Bob.  “Bob, what color are you doing?”  “Is that for me, Bob?”  “Bob, I just have to draw a funny joke.”  He even drew a picture of “Bob.”  was a brown circle. 

My brain is running out of juice and John just got home from work early- I didn't get his email, so it's a both a pleasant surprise and the perfect reason to end this blog post without a real ending.