29 April 2010

Our fantastic Easter

Easter came right at the beginning of April this year. We had the most fantabulous weather you could imagine, all weekend long. The previous Wednesday evening, 31 March, the kids and I were down by the pond in shorts and shirt-sleeves, with nary a speck of snow on the ground (other than the pile in one corner by the next-door parking lot), and I’m pinching myself, thinking “Can this really be March 31st? MARCH??!!?” (Just two years ago, we still had about 2m of snow on that date!!!)

Good Friday we reached a high of about 25 degrees and sunny; Saturday hit 27 and sunny. Sunday was a tad cooler – a “mere” 20 or so with a few clouds (let’s see now, average highs for this time of year are about 5 above!), and Monday the low 20s.

It was so beautiful the kids biked while I scootered to the Good Friday service at the neighbourhood church close to their school. After the service, and a scooter ride home, we had a quick lunch and then headed off to the off-leash dog park with Lovely for a romp. The kids had been there before with Nanny, but it was my first visit. It’s quite pleasant – some wide gravelled trails, some dirt paths through the woods, some flat areas and some hilly spots. It was very fun to watch Lovely playing with the other dogs. They are all quite well behaved, and if two or three dogs “hit it off” they’ll race around playing tag and just romping for the thrill of it.

We went back there on Saturday, and again on Monday. Saturday afternoon we also played in the forest and coloured some more edible Easter eggs, to take to the special Easter breakfast at church on Sunday. The kids also were a big help, peeling potatoes, chopping bread and onions, and peeling and cutting carrots for Sunday dinner, as I’d decided to go all out and have a bunch of company over for roast turkey.

Frist thing Sunday morning we had a little Easter egg hunt. I’d hidden about 60 small chocolate eggs outside on our property. The kids had a blast running around finding them. They found all but two, and when I went around to look I couldn’t find those two either, so I just hope some neighbourhood dog doesn’t get them. I’d also picked up a large chocolate bunny for each child. (They had fancy chocolate puppies and kitties in the store that the kids would have loved, but they were about ten bucks a pop. I just got the cheap $1.99 bunnies…) We then set the table for 10 so that job would be done.

After that we headed off to church. Easter breakfast is always a treat – we had paska and spread, boiled eggs, fruit and cheese. After eating, we sang Easter hymns for about an hour, then it was time to clear the tables and chairs away, do dishes, and get ready for the service. During the service the children’s hour featured a special craft – making a little Easter basket – followed by an Easter egg hunt. They announced it was kids aged 2 to “8ish” so – given that it was to be fun – Mustang and her friend wanted to join in. I asked if a 9 and almost-10 year old could join and the leaders said sure. Since the older age group was so large, we split it into two and I took one group, helped them with their Easter baskets – not that they needed much help – and then shepherded them through the egg hunt. This egg hunt was for plastic coloured eggs filled with candy. The older kids were told to leave the really obvious ones for the little kids to find, and to look for ones that weren’t so easy to spot.

We then headed home to get dinner on. With the pressure cooker the potatoes were done in no time, and the carrots cooked quickly on the stove top. I hauled the turkey out of the oven, carved it up and made gravy. Along with the salad and dessert our friends brought, we had a feast! Everyone set to and did good work demolishing the food. Some turkey, potatoes, and gravy were left over but not much else. Between dinner and dessert we all took a walk through the forest, as it was another lovely day.

As our guests headed home, I offered to drive home the two teenagers who’d joined us while their Mom rode her bike home. My kids of course wanted to ride too, so we made a deal – the Mom would ride with them to their house while I drove the teens, then my kids would ride back home while I drove alongside them slowly down the back streets. It worked find – other than my needing to backtrack a couple of times for want of knowing which back streets offered the best connection from their place to ours. We passed by a playground on the way, so had to stop and play there for a while. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at home and reading stories.

Easter Monday was a bit of a work day. We started off with a jaunt to the dog park – I do like that place! Then the chores began: clean piggy’s cage, tidy the house some, and so on. Actually, it wasn’t bad, and there was even time to play in the field and forest.

All in all it was a most delectable weekend, especially with the gorgeous weather. As my camera was still misplaced I wasn't able to take any pictures, unfortunately.

27 April 2010

Holiday #4 (2009) - another weekend camping trip

On Thursday 20 August (2009), when the puppies were two weeks old, we took off for another 4-day camping weekend – leaving Lovely & puppies at home under the excellent care of friend Chuckles. This trip took us to a campground about 1.5 hours east of the city, close to the provincial border. This was a large campground and the campsite I had selected on the web-based reservation site turned out to be a good 30-minute walk from the beach. It had a bit of a pond behind it – the main reason I chose it, thinking it would be fun for frog-catching and the like. But we decided we wanted to be closer to the main area, so after the first night Laoye went to the office and we got a different site very close to the beach, which was much nicer. Again, most of the time we spent swimming, walking, playing at the playground, catching frogs and other critters, eating ice cream, and roasting marshmallows or hotdogs. We also had decent daytime weather with rain at night – the pattern that’s been pretty constant this summer.

This was a very nice campground, despite the distances, and I’d recommend it to others wanting something close to home but with lots of nature and activities.

Unfortunately, it seems like I took no pictures this weekend, for some strange reason. (Maybe out of camera battery juice?)

22 April 2010

Holiday #3 (2009) - the River

In late July 2009 I took a Friday off and we headed to a campground about an hour south of the city for a long weekend. Once again, it was cool and a bit rainy, though we had mostly sun and decent temps during the days and rain only at night. This was a fairly small campground with not too much to do, but we borrowed kid-sized fishing equipment from the campground office and the kids were happy just standing on the dock and fishing.

With bucket full of river water to the side, they spent hours just standing there catching sunfish after sunfish. On Saturday afternoon at one point they had 72 sunfish in the bucket. We kept five of the biggest ones and cooked them up just so we could say we’d caught supper – they were rather bony, not the most tasty things, but who cares.

Other than fishing, we spent some time walking along the river trail (not very far), playing in the little playground, catching frogs (what else!), swimming at the dog-friendly beach, and reading.

Came home Sunday aft as it was again starting to rain. A nice weekend, and close enough to the city we could easily go there for a day. (April 2010: Mustang has already asked if we could go back this summer; she wants to fish some more.)

20 April 2010

March 2010

The beginning of the month we welcomed Laolao & Laoye back from Costa Rica and other parts in Central America. They brought colourful t-shirts for the kids and some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts for all. By the time they arrived on March 2nd we had virtually no snow left in town. There was still enough on the ski slopes for the final skiing lesson on Saturday March 6th, and it wasn’t even too bad for walking. A friend came along and the kids spent the afternoon skiing with her. It was even nice enough to eat lunch outside on the ski chalet’s deck.

On Sunday 14 March we celebrated Mustang’s fifth Family Day – the time has flown! – with a turkey dinner with friends at home. The following day was the beginning of March break. Laolao and Laoye took the kids out on a walk through a woodland-march area east of the city, and to McDonald’s for a treat. The next day, Tuesday morning, we took Laolao & Laoye to the airport for their flight home. They’ll be back in May for a month or so.

During March break the kids enjoyed daily outings with Nanny. They went to the Farm, on a hike in the wilderness park across the river, a long bike ride, to the local playground, skating (at an indoor rink), swimming at the wave pool, and did a fun craft every day. Evenings I would take them for a forest walk or down by the pond. On Friday we made a birthday cake for friend L and took it to her place for dessert & tea.

Since skiing ended, I’ve been taking some time for cooking and sewing “lessons” with the kids on Saturday mornings (or other times). They each made a small patchwork quilt for one of their stuffies and I’d like to get them started on some other projects for presents for next Christmas. As for cooking, we’ve done chilli, scrambled eggs, and spaghetti sauce. These aren’t really formal lessons, but I hope they’re picking up some knowledge and practical skills!

This is the only time in recorded history that the city has had no snowfall in March. We’ve had rain, but no snow – and by the end of the month the only snow to be found was in piles where it had built up from shovelling/plowing.

March 31st we hit a high of about 20 degrees, and in the evening we were down by the pond in shorts & t-shirts. As I watch the kids run around I’m thinking “Is this really March 31st? Incredible!”

Unfortunately, I have no pictures for March. Early in the month my camera disappeared. The last I remembered seeing it was on top of the microwave - its normal home when not in use - and Button asking if he could take pictures. I was convined he'd misplaced it somewhere after taking a few pix, though he insisted he returned it to me. But just a few days ago, when I was trying to put a CD book into the pocket opening under the dashboard of my car, I put in my hand to remove something blocking it and - voila! my camera!!! I likely put it there on the last ski lesson day, as I also remember having it there - it just seemed like my memory of it on the microwave was more recent. I was very very VERY happy to have found it. I could have gone back to using my film camera, but after becoming accustomed to the digital one that would have been hard.

So there will be pix in April! (At least for the latter half of the month.)

Sorry, Button, for not believing you...

17 April 2010

February 2010

Okay folks, we’re getting closer to real time now!

February of this year was a pretty ordinary month. Busy with skiing, various lessons, walking Mo around the fields & forest, school and work. The most exciting things were:
  • celebrating Chinese New Year at a friend’s house one Sunday afternoon (it’s the Year of the Tiger – that’s me!!);
  • enjoying (for the kids) a 4-day weekend in the middle of the month, what with one PD day and the provincial holiday (Nanny takes them on special outings);
  • attending another concert on a Saturday afternoon after skiing; and
  • watching the Olympics and cheering for our Canadian athletes.

We also celebrated Lovely’s second birthday (and Valentine’s day) at a pampered pet store-cum-tea shop. Her birthday presents included a nice soft doggy bed – a bit on the small size, but she still enjoys sleeping in it! – a light doggy t-shirt, and a monkey pull toy – all pink and heart-covered. After all, she is a Lovely doggie, born on Valentine’s day!!

In the middle of the month we enjoyed the visit of three young ladies: two from Germany and one from Peru. They were here as part of a conference of International Visitor Exchange participants, a program operated by our church. The conference was hosted by our congregation this year. They spent four night with us and we enjoyed breakfasts together, playtime, and conversation.

The last Sunday of the month we took Lovely out for some playtime in the afternoon, accompanied by our friend Chuckles, and played in the fields near home and on the snow mountains (created by clearing the nearby office parking lot).

The last week of February we had some lovely warm weather, well above freezing, and a lot of snow melted. The days are also getting noticeably longer – a welcome break from winter’s dark. We have had hardly any snow at all since Laolao and Laoye left at the end of December. I’ve shovelled once, and it was only a couple of centimetres. Spring is just around the corner…

15 April 2010

Holiday #2b (2009) - Silver Lake Camp

Here is the next instalment of the holiday 2009 posts.

After leaving Sibbald Point and spending the night at the dog-friendly B&B, we drive on northwest towards Owen Sound. About a half hour out of the city (and after stopping for a bite of lunch at a restaurant near the beach) we arrive at a summer camp that has the reputation among several generations of teens at our church as being the best summer camp in the world. I also have fond memories of going to summer camp as a child myself, though not this one. I’d like my kids to have a similar good experiences, I’ve booked them here for a 4-day camping experience. I chose the short camp in part because Button is still pretty young and in part because Mustang still is a bit reluctant to be away from home. That’s also the reason I’m volunteering, so that I’ll be close at hand and the kids will see me from time to time.

We sign in, find the kids’ cabins, unload their gear and are introduced to their counsellors. I then find my (& Lovely’s) cabin and move our stuff in, before heading off to the kitchen to get introduced to the crew and get a sense of what my duties will be. That first evening is a campfire barbecue. The weather so far this spring (summer?) has been cool, and today is no exception, but by evening it’s not too bad (and the next four days prove to be quite nice, too, thank goodness).

My duties aren’t too onerous. We start in the kitchen around 6am to prepare breakfast. The head cook is very organized (you’d have to be!) and while some people are doing breakfast, others are getting head-start on lunch and supper. At 8:00 we break to eat and take a rest while the cabins do the dishes, then by 9 are hard at it again for lunch/supper. The menus for the week are yummy and nutritious, and there is always a vegetarian option for veggie kids/counsellors, plus some other “special orders” for kids with specific dietary needs. At noon we stop for lunch, then have the afternoon off. Around 4:30 or 5:00 we need to be back in the kitchen for the final supper prep, then evenings free. Every evening around 7:00 there’s a campfire with singing and devotions. The “devotions” at this camp seems pretty light; at the camp I went to as a child it was pretty evangelical by comparison. I don’t mind this approach; these kids are still quite young.

I walk Lovely in the mornings and then while I’m working I leave her tied to a tree close to the kitchens. There’s another dog that belongs to the camp director on site and he’s left free to wander, but I don’t want to let Lovely loose just to be safe. She’s got shade and I leave a water dish close by, and kids passing by will give her a pat or two, so she seems happy enough. In the afternoons we go for a longer wander around the camp, and she joins me and the kids by the evening campfire. At night, since we don’t have her crate, she either sleeps on a blanket on the floor or sometimes curled up by me.

Some days I bake buns, other days help chop veggies for salad or soup, cook chili or what have you. The first day I’m pretty wiped, but after that I make sure to use a stool while working and that saves my joints. The food is really good here!

On Friday I drive into town to get a haircut as my hair’s been driving me crazy. After noticing a movie theatre across from the stylist’s, checking out the movies playing and schedule, and realizing it’s not a bad drive in from camp, I decide to come back that evening for a movie. I take off right after supper, and while I’m a bit late for the show I had most wanted to see, another fun one is just starting so I catch “The Proposal” which is a lot of laughs and much better than I had anticipated.

Saturday the camp is over, and after breakfast we pack up and take to the roads. We’ve arranged to meet Laolao and Laoye near a campground just east of the big city, which will take us a few hours to get to. Actually, it takes longer than I thought, and by 5 the kids are hungry so we stop off for a bite at a Timmy’s in one of the towns we’re passing through and I call Laolao on my cell to say we’ll be late.

Finally we get to the rendez-vous point around 7pm and we all stretch our legs. Laolao takes over the car and the kids and I climb into the bus for another hour or two travel – but more comfortable this way. We stop for the night in a big parking lot off the highway (where the truckers stay), Sunday is the final leg home. It’s been fun!

Unfortunately my camera ran out of juice before we got to camp, and I don’t have a spare battery, so I have no photos of our time there.

12 April 2010

January 2010

Fri 1 Jan: Happy New Year! (Yeah, okay, I’m 3 ½ months late…)

Hard to believe that it’s been ten years since the whole world was scared the millennium computer bug was going to bring the world to a screeching halt – or at least cause some major glitches.

Sun 3 Jan: We have a tea party after church to celebrate:

  • Button’s second Family Day
  • Mustang’s “half-life” – as of the 5th she will have lived in Canada for exactly half her life!
  • my birthday, and
  • Lovely’s 22 ½ monthiversary (the kids insisted we had to include a reason to celebrate her, too).

Much of the baking over the past week has been to prepare treats for this occasion. There are plenty of desserts and some nice hors-d’oeuvres, too. We play card games, chat, and munch.

Mon 4 Jan: Back to school for the kids, back to work for me. In the evening, Button desperately does not want to go to music. I let him skip this one class, but tell him he has to go without complaining next week, and keep going until his birthday. (The classes end right after his birthday, but I’m not telling him that! Let him think he gets to stop early…) He agrees.

Tue 5 Jan: Twelfth Night. We bake a Twelfth Night-cum-birthday cake, with coins in it. Whoever gets the coin has to host next year’s Twelfth Night party. Since there’s only us, it’s not hard to guess where the party will be!

Wed 6 Jan: Epiphany. Mustang starts another round of art lessons.

Thu 7 Jan: My birthday & Ethiopian New Year! Ask Nanny to cook some Ethiopian-style food for our supper, and I buy some injera. Friend Chuckles joins us for a lovely evening. We finish off the cake.

Sat 9 Jan: First skiing lesson of the season. I walk Lovely around the ski hill. At noon, friend with the acreage home joins us and skis with the kids while I read and Lovely naps in the car. Was a bit worried that Lovely might find it cold sitting in the car so we’d brought blankets and heated some bean bags to try to keep it warm. But it’s a fairly sunny day and not too cold, so the sun through the windows actually keeps the car a relatively pleasant temperature. After skiing we drive to friend’s home on the lake and enjoy a pleasant supper and some playtime there. My birthday present to myself is a weekend away from home, being a little bit pampered.

Sun 10 Jan: Spend the day in the country, playing outside, enjoying games and colouring inside, getting some reading done. Had meant to head home in mid-aft, but some other friends from church are coming for supper, so we stay and enjoy conversation and games with them. By then it’s dark and I don’t like driving in the dark. Friend says no problem to stay an extra night, so we do, with plans to get up early to drive back in time for school.

Mon 11 Jan: Get up and going in pretty good time, but it’s still about 8:30 or so by the time we reach the school. Then I take Lovely home & unload a few things from the car before heading to work. In the evening Button goes to music without complaining. Good for him!

Sat 16 Jan: Friend Chuckles’ birthday. We invite her over for dinner and games.

Sat 23 Jan: After skiing we attend an afternoon family concert with a sports theme. Senator Nancy Greene pays a visit, some Olympic athletes are there, and a team of rhythmic gymnastics dancers is also part of the performance.

Not too much else to report. Homework, skiing, art, music, walking dog… Life’s pretty ordinary.

09 April 2010

December 2009

Tue 1 Dec: Kids start their Advent calendar. Every morning they open one of the little pockets to find a clue telling them where to look for their surprise, or a coupon for a special activity that day. They will be doing lots of activities – like going to see Christmas lights, taking a moonlight walk, getting a Christmas tree or shopping for Mommy’s present – as well as lots of baking & cooking – making shortbread cookies, rocky road bars, lemon tarts, mini quiches, layered jello desserts, etc – to make this more about fun and less about gimme.

Fri 4 Dec: Another PD Day. I go in for my surgery. There by 9, in the OR by about 10:30. Done by 11:20. Home by about 1pm. Because they’ve frozen my optic nerve I can’t see a thing. Once home, rest in the story chair while kids wait on me. (Nice!!) Gradually vision returns as the freezing wears off. But everything is veeeeery blurry (and will stay so for some time, I am told to expect.) In the evening, I try reading a few pages of my book. With three pairs of my strongest reading glasses, one on top of the other, I can manage to puzzle out the words, but it’s very slow going. After 5 minutes and about ¼ page, I give up.

Sat 5 Dec: Laolao and I take the kids shopping to buy each others’ and my Christmas present (or did we do this next Saturday? Not quite sure.) Of course, they want to give it to me right away, but we say it has to wait until last Advent, at least. At bedtime I try to read again. Slightly improved, but not much.

Sun 6 Dec: Second Advent. This year I’m giving the kids each books and a little something else for each Advent Sunday. All my gifts will be given by the time Christmas day rolls around (except for the little goodies from Santa); they get enough stuff from Laolao & Laoye and a few friends to have plenty on Christmas Day. By spreading out the gifts (from me at least), there is not such a huge pile of stuff on the Day, which can get so overwhelming that things get lost (or inadvertently thrown in the trash, as happened a few years ago to us). And I like to think that it helps to keep some of the focus on Christ, not just on “what am I getting?”

7-16 Dec: While the kids are at school (and I’m off work ‘cause I can’t read worth beans), I spend my time organizing. Put some order in the toy shelf. Put some order in the sewing room. Put some order in my office. Basement. Kids’ rooms. Loft – go through my bookshelves and pull out at least half the books to take to the second-hand store. Move some of the kids; books upstairs.

Meanwhile, Laolao is putting up the border in the kids’ rooms and rearranging furniture. In October I’d moved back into the master bedroom, but left the double bed upstairs as it’s too big for me to handle. Now Laolao & Laoye move it upstairs, move the upper bunkbed into Button’s new room, put the single bed from downstairs under the upper bunk, rearrange Mustang’s bed & bookcase.

Sat 12 Dec: Dress rehearsal for the pageant. At church from 9:00 to noon. In the afternoon we join good friends P, M & A (D is down south at university, believe it or not!) to get our Christmas tree at a local cut-your-own place. Take Lovely as we’ve seen dogs there before and friends have in the past taken their dog (and do so again), but when we get there we are told “no dogs” so Lovely has to stay in the car. Guess we’re not likely to go there again. Post-tree, go to friends’ house for Christmas fellowship and exchange gifts.

Sun 13 Dec: Third Advent. Some beading supplies for Mustang, some wooden puzzles for Button, and a homemade calendar for each. Pageant show in the evening. Kids all excited. Goes well.

Sat 19 Dec: Take Mustang to see a matinee performance of A Christmas Carol. It’s a very sombre, darkly lit staging, very effective. Mustang loves it – not too scary; helps that she knows the story. Laoye drops us off and we catch the bus home.

Sun 20 Dec: Fourth Advent. Kids get their big prezzies from me – not that huge, some scrapbooking supplies for Mustang and some K’Nex for Button, as well as a computer game for each. Along with the obligatory book.

Mon 21 Dec: Start of school break. With tons of time off, and not much homework, I get the kids to start working hard on their knitting. Gotta get those scarves done! Or at least significantly advanced. For every row they knit, I knit one too.

Wed 23 Dec: Advent treat of the day is a skiing trip with Nanny (she comes early). They spend the day on the hill where they take lessons. Not many runs are open, but enough to make it a fun day! By now my vision is much improved. I can read quite well and driving shouldn’t be an issue either. But I’m booked off for one more week. Seeing as it’s Christmas, I’ll take it; any other time I might head back and save on sick leave.

Thu 24 Dec: Christmas Eve!!! Evening service at church, followed by fellowship around the fireplace at home. Neighbours come over with gifts for the kids, we invite them to join us for some snacking & games. After kids are to bed, Santa arrives and fills the stockings – even brings treats for Lovely & our guinea pig (who each have their own stocking). In our house, Santa has very strict guidelines: he has to put into each stocking (a) something to eat, (b) something to wear, and (c) something to do.

Fri 25 Dec: Christmas!!!! Kids are eager to get up (though actually manage to sleep until 6 or so) to look in stockings. Santa has brought Mustang a book all about dog breeds, which is one of the things she was asking for. Button got a doggie cookbook (as in making treats for your dog, not cooking the dog!) and I got a book about training your dog to do tricks. That fills the “something to do” category. Also chocolate and socks all around (eat, wear). After a late breakfast of hash brown casserole (the traditional Christmas breakfast meal), we open the remaining presents. Kids each get a bunch of Lego from Laolao & Laoye, and LL/LY admire their scarves that the kids have almost finished knitting. We just didn’t quite have the energy to get them done, but they’ve done yeoman’s work this past week, adding bout 50cm to the length. It’s almost long enough – another 3 bands of colour (20 rows each) and that should do it.

In the early afternoon our friends arrive for Christmas dinner: a refugee couple from Colombia with their 6-month-old son (the grown 20-year-old son has other things going on so he doesn’t come); a couple from church; a friend who lives on a small acreage north of the city; and our good friends L&W, who were going to bring two teenage Sudanese boys but the latter learned of a Sudanese gathering and preferred to go there. We chat and play until dinner is served around 4pm – Laolao has prepared us a turkey feast, with all the trimmings! After supper there is more chatting, some games, and finally the guests go home. All in all, a fine day.

Sat 26 Dec: Kids start their “Twelve Days of Christmas” calendar. Much like the Advent calendar, but this one has little bags with treats or clues in them. I initiated it to provide a “ramping down” of the Christmas celebrations rather than an abrupt post-Christmas blah, and also – primarily – as a way to keep the festivities going until (a) Ethiopian Christmas and (b) my birthday, both on January 7.

Mon 28 Dec: Go out to our favourite Ethiopian restaurant for supper, to celebrate Button’s second Family Day.

Tue 29 Dec: Say goodbye to Laolao & Laoye, who are flying out to parts south. Starting in Cancun, then working their way down through Central America. Wish I could go too.

Thu 31 Dec: Twelve Days calendar treat is a treasure hunt to party snacks and new movie, which we enjoy in the evening. Kids stay up until about 10:30, then zonk out.

Bye-bye, 2009!

07 April 2010

Holiday #2a (2009) - Warsaw Caves & Sibbald Point

(Seeing as I had been blogging about our last year's summer holidays, before I was rudely interrputed in September [by life, the universe & everything], I'll pick that up again, too. Not that anybody cares but me, but it's a nice record to jog memories down the road...)

We were at home for Canada Day. Last summer (i.e. in 2008) we spent it in the small town of Tofino, at the north end of Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They had a nice celebration at the town park, and we enjoyed a day of playing and watching a skateboard competition, but overall it was small potatoes compared to what we have in our home city. So this year Button experienced his first Canada Day here at home.

Actually, we didn’t head out to the festivities until the late afternoon, but we spent a couple of hours at the big park, watching a really neat performance with a variety of singers and dancers, including a lot of native-themed ones. Then we had our requisite summer fun ice cream, and headed home. After supper, as it was starting to edge towards darkness (about 8:30 or so), the kids and I headed out to our favourite fireworks viewing site, with Lovely in tow. We set up our lawn chairs, hauled out the munchies, drank tea – because it was pretty cool for a July 1st – and watched the sunset. At 10:00 on the nose, the first showers of light and sound went up and we watched, enthralled. At this location, which is at the edge of an island in the river, you can see not only the fireworks but their reflection in the river, and there are no buildings in the way to obstruct the view. Plus, being right on the edge of the water – and surprisingly the crowds there are not too huge – you generally don’t have to contend with heads blocking the view. The show lasted a good 20 minutes and then we piled into the car and headed home.

The next day, bright and early (meaning about 10 o’clock or so!) we climbed into the car to head out on our second holiday of the season. The drive out to the bus took a couple of hours, and the kids were getting a bit antsy in the cramped car (complete with dog at their feet/on their laps), but we finally got there and piled out for a coffee break. An hour later, we were again on our way, this time with the kids and me in the bus while Laoye drove, and Laolao following behind in the car.

Another couple hours later we reached our destination: Warsaw Caves campground. The campsite I’d reserved wasn’t that great, so we found a different one that was available for the two nights we would be there and settled in. It was a cool, rainy day but with jackets and trousers we were fine. The website had noted there were caves that could be explored within the conservation area. After supper, we drove over to check them out. Unfortunately, they were the kind of cave that requires equipment and technical experience, so we just meandered through the forest past the entrances and watched the wildlife (birds, squirrels, chipmunks).

The next morning, we drove in the car about 40km to Petroglyph Provincial Park, which was the main reason for coming this way. Near to the parking lot was a visitor centre, with many displays about the local Native culture and how the people’s lives changed with the seasons. We (or at least the grownups) enjoyed the displays before heading out to see the site.

The day was bright and sunny – most unlike the preceding couple of days – and we walked along the short trail to the Petroglyph site. These are carvings in stone on a sloping, flat limestone shelf. They are of sacred significance to the local First Nations people, and several of the interpreters on site were First Nation. The glyphs have been deemed to be of national historic significance, and seeing as they were beginning to degrade (and to keep them safe from vandalism), a large climate-controlled building has been built overtop the site, with a viewing platform all around, from which you can see the glyphs quite close up and get a good look. Several interpretive panels describe the glyphs and what they represent, and visitors are encouraged to respect the sacredness of the site with a quiet attitude.

On the way back to the visitor centre, the kids caught sight of a small turtle, no more than about 5cm in diameter, on the gravel pathway. We watched it for some time, first as it just sat there, then as it trundled off into the grasses by the side of the path. Later we saw another, larger turtle. So nice to see!

After viewing the site, we ate a nice picnic lunch outside in the sun, then headed down a short hiking trail for a bit of a leg-stretch and to enjoy the scenery. As usual, the kids had their nets out and chased after whatever they could: butterflies, dragonflies, frogs… By now it was close to 4pm, when the park closes, so we didn’t go far down the trail.

After a quick trip back to the campground, we had a nice supper, built a fire, roasted marshmallows, and – not forgetting evening storytime! – headed off to bed.

The next morning, Saturday July 4th, we packed up and drove a couple of hours west to Sibbald Point Provincial Park, on Lake Simcoe, where we were to spend the next two nights. This is a very large, very well-appointed park that has a long history of use, particularly as it lies within about a two-hour drive (depending on traffic) of the economic engine of Canada. I had booked our site at the last minute as my cousin, who lives near said engine, wanted to come spend a day with us. While sunny, it was also a very windy day and the level of the lake was high, owing to the significant rains that have not stopped falling since the beginning of May. The kids, dog, Laoye and I explored the beachfront – nowhere as nice Sandbanks, but acceptable!

This park has a good interpretive program. After supper we headed up to the amphitheatre and enjoyed a presentation on the park’s history, complete with ghosts and talking creatures. It was well done – the kids quite enjoyed it. Then the requisite campfire and bed.

My cousin drove out the next morning, Sunday, and spent the day with us. It’s hard to believe she is already 40 years old! She was always my “little” cousin, 6 years younger than me. (Now you know how old I am!) She is single and working in a job in the insurance industry. She has a much younger sister who is also adopted from China – adopted long after she’d left home, so she doesn’t really know her that well. We had a good time together and she enjoyed meeting my kids and playing with them. She left us in the late afternoon, to get back home and ready for work the next day.

On Monday, the kids and dog and I parted ways with Laolao and Laoye. We headed west, to the shores of Lake Huron, where the kids were signed up for a 5-day camping experience (while I volunteered in the kitchen), while Laolao and Laoye took the bus south to visit relatives. Rather than driving all the way over in one day, we stopped at a dog-friendly B&B about halfway there, where we enjoyed playing with Lovely, watching movies on the television in the room (I let them watch two!!!) and generally relaxing.

06 April 2010

November 2009

Sun 1 Nov: Kids & I attend the first of the season’s kids’ concerts. This series is targeted at young kids, ages 4-8, but Mustang (9 ½) still enjoys them.

Wed 4 Nov: Get a call from a fellow in the next province over; do we still have Diamond available? YES!!! He seems like a serious and very interested buyer. Call back, send over my questionnaire for prospective purchasers. Another visit to ophthalmologist; surgery booked for Dec 4th.

Fri 6 Nov: Review the completed questionnaire, call back & talk to the fellow. He’s actually buying as a gift for his girlfriend; yes she knows (or will) and wants a dog; she’s had her heart set on a Labradoodle but could only find breeders way out west. He came across my website from the ALAA links page and was very excited to see a breeder so close by (well, a four-hour drive, but that’s better than a five-hour flight!) with a puppy available. Can he come tomorrow to pick Diamond up? YES!!!

Volunteer at Villages in the evening. Laolao & Laoye and kids have been there since after school, preparing for the evening volunteer supper and helping out with whatever needs doing. It’s a bit too bad that Chuckles isn’t a coordinator anymore, in the sense that she had a good way of getting the young kids involved – she’d always find little jobs for them to do. This year, rather than cash I’m working at the Living Gifts table (where I can sit). The kids sometimes sit with me and work on their Christmas gifts for Laolao and Laoye. They’re knitting scarves (I can say this because Christmas is long past!!!), and it’s been going pretty slowly. Last fall we spent an hour or two every Saturday morning on our Christmas gift craft project, but this year there’s art on Saturday mornings so that doesn’t work. Other times just don’t seem to suit. So I’m hoping they can make some progress here at Villages sales. As they find the progress slow I get them to do four rows, then I do four (or six). That way they can see it growing faster and they each get a break. (After all, fingers can get sore.)

Sat 7 Nov: Head over to Villages after art to do some shopping and enjoy a borscht lunch. (Since we’re not working today we have to buy our lunch. That’s find; all tea room proceeds go to the Food Bank or another local charity.) In the afternoon we say goodbye to Diamond. It’s sad, but also a bit of a relief. Now just Garnet is left with us, and she has a home arranged with our friends, though she’ll be with us another few weeks.

Sun 8 Nov: I’m starting to work with the SS kids on the Christmas pageant. For the past few years I’ve been the assistant rather than director/organizer, which suits me fine. For this year, the director has chosen to do the sequel to the play we put on last year, which makes it easy. Generally I work on the script & staging with the kids while she rehearses the songs and does the overall coordination. Roles that suit us both.

Wed 11 Nov: Remembrance Day. I get the day off (so Nanny does too) but the kids have to go to school. Poor things. Laolao, Laoye & I go to the school for the morning assembly. Then home. Can’t remember what I spent the day doing.

Sat 14 Nov: Villages in the aft.

Fri 20 Nov: Villages in the evening.

Sun 22 Nov: Attend a dramatic reading of Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang. I had expected a staged reading, but it was just a lady sitting in a chair reading. Well, not “just.” She had all the voices, drama and suspense. Very nicely done.

Wed 25 Nov: Say goodbye to Garnet at suppertime. The family’s birthdays are approaching so they come to pick her up, with son in tow. He is surprised, appears pleased. We are happy and sad at the same time. No more puppies. Wah. (No more pee and poop. Yay!) Garnet is close enough, we’ll be able to visit her from time to time.

Sat 28 Nov: Villages in the aft, and stay for pack-up. Then set up for a supper catered by WH – a fancy alternative to the pizza chow-down we have most years, or the restaurant visit or days gone by. Very yummy, very nice to sit & chat about the success of this year’s sales and the upcoming Christmas season. Kids & I leave early so’s to get to bed not too late. We miss the awards ceremony, at which they get an award for the youngest volunteers (or something like that).

Sun 29 Nov: First Advent (already!). Kids are keen to decorate; we haul out the boxes of Christmas supplies and go to town. No tree yet, but all the other trimmings.

04 April 2010

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

– Matthew 28.5–6

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

– words by Charles Wesley, 1739
(I’ve included only 5 of the original 10 verses…)

03 April 2010

October 2009

Thu 1st Oct: Take Diamond to vet’s for snip-snip. Opal’s purchasers have arranged to do neutering at a later date (I’m only allowing it because she used to work in a vet clinic so isn’t likely to be non-compliant). And Garnet & Peridot both breeding prospects. So Diamond it is. Take him in first thing in the morning, pick up at the end of the day. His voice has gone all squeaky! (Not from the snip-snip, just because of the tube down the throat.)

1st week of October: Music, gymnastics, art, soccer continue.

Fri 8 Oct: PD Day; Nanny comes early. In the evening we take Opal to the airport to send him off to new owners. Still looking for purchasers for Garnet & Diamond. Had a few serious prospects but nothing firm yet.

Mon 12 Oct: Thanksgiving! We take puppies and Lovely for a romp in the woods. Take a rake, pile up leaves and jump in. Toss puppies in. Bury kids & puppies. Puppies jump in. Tons of fun. Supper at a friend's house. Yum!

Wed 14 Oct: Kids were to have started skating lessons today, but I cancelled. Lots of other lessons on the go and there’s homework, too. Start Mustang on a computer math program to try to get her to internalize her basic math facts. Very systematic and repetitive, which is what she needs.

Sat 17 Oct: Take Peridot to airport to ship her to breeder out west. She is such a little sweetie, I wish we could keep her. Think I’ve got someone to take Garnet, but they don’t want her until late November. I can make that work. Now just Diamond boy.

Sat 24 Oct: Go to ski show/swap. Find equipment for kids – mostly second-hand but have to buy new boots for Mustang as they don’t have any 2nd-hand in her size. Figure it will be worth it rather than renting, as then if we want to ski besides lesson days we’ll save a bundle on rent, and they will probably be able to use the skis/poles for a couple of years, if not the boots, and when Mustang outgrows her skis they might suit Button. Also go to Value Village to buy Hallowe’en costumes. (About time, says Mustang.)

Sun 25 Oct: Youth serve chilli lunch after church, then we stay to set up shelving for Ten Thousand Villages sales.

Tue 27 Oct: Go for gymnastics but building is closed & locked. Nothing on door to say why. Check phone at home but no messages. Mysterious.

Wed 28 Oct: Laolao & Laoye fly in. They’ll be here for Villages season and through Christmas. Visit the ophthalmologist – I’ve been having high pressure in my eye that’s not responding to drops, so he’s booked me with the specialist (as in, high-pressure specialist; he’s just a cornea specialist…). This guy takes a quick look and recommends a surgical procedure to create new drainage channels. Had a similar, but slightly less invasive, procedure 18 months ago but it appears to no longer be working. We all head to church after school/work to help unload the Villages delivery truck, which is quite late. Enjoy pizza after it’s all unloaded.

Thu 29 Oct: Laolao immediately sets about cooking up borscht for the Saturday unpacking session and the first Villages weekend. They’re coordinating the volunteer suppers on Friday.

Sat 31 Oct: After art class, we spend the morning unpacking at Villages. Afternoon free time. Finally it’s Hallowe’en night! Mustang is a devil; Button a fluffy cat (not black).

1-31 Oct: Still hunting for puppy purchaser. By now Diamond is 12 weeks old. Fun having him, but getting tired of puppy pee & poop in house. Starting to enforce “no puppy house-roaming” rules more strictly.

01 April 2010

About that wedding...

(This post is specifically addressed to GH - the elder and the younger…)

You may have wondered why we didn’t accept the wedding invitation last fall. Well, it all comes down to a busy mom with a leaky memory.

On that fateful September morning, as we headed off to art and soccer lessons with pups in tow, I reminded the kids that we would be attending G’s wedding after the lessons. Mustang was all keen, as she’s not attended a wedding before and wanted to see what it was all about (and admire the fancy dresses!). After the ceremony and the receiving line, the kids both asked me why we couldn’t stay for the reception.

“Because we didn’t get an invitation,” I responded (wondering why that might have been, as I had done for the past couple of weeks).

“Yes we did, Mommy!” they exclaimed. “Don’t you remember?”

And suddenly it clicked. Yes, we had! It had been in our church mailbox back in early September (or was it late August?), and I’d opened it at home and commented to the kids, “Good, we’ve received an invitation to G’s wedding; we have to be sure to respond to it.” And set it aside. But had I responded to it or not?!?!?

As everyone was chatting in the foyer, the kids and I went into fellowship hall to see the pretty tables. I noticed a seating plan/list. I surreptitiously rifled through it – maybe I had responded to the invitation and had just forgotten I’d done so… But, alas, our names were not listed, so I resigned myself to not staying for the festivities, much as we would all have loved to. (Well, maybe not the puppies. They would have gotten tired of being stuck in their crate.)

Back at home, I searched through all the likely places for the invitation – the church bag, the fridge (outside on the door, not inside!), the corner of the kitchen counter where things “to be dealt with” are placed.


It must have gotten tossed in the recycle bin by some inattentive soul. (Surely not me?!?) And forgotten.

Sorry about that. And no, it’s not because we don’t love you guys. (Did I mention that it had been a busy summer/fall and I’d had a lot on my mind?) Usually I’m good at keeping track of things, but every once in a while there’s just not enough head-space to go around. Even for me. (I was too embarrassed to tell you before. About forgetting, not about not having enough head-space.)

(I can hear SH laughing. Quiet, you!)

At least we made it to the shower…