Monday, November 30, 2015

Deck the Halls and Other Sad Songs

After Scott's rousing basketball victory at midday (where he scored his season-high 8 points), we spent the rest of Saturday decking the halls. First, Scott and I took the stepladder out to hang lights around the edge of the garage door, which is mainly a process of Scott climbing up and down the ladder and fastening zip ties to various hooks that I put in place in a previous year. There were no incidents, as he is a pretty careful ladder-climber and I hovered at his elbow at all times. He retreated to the house, citing the chills. I think it was because he was wearing thin warm-up pants over his basketball shorts and the pants are about 1 year too short for him now.

Katie came bouncing out the door with a big smile and her jacket unzipped to pick up where Scott left off. Katie was a wonderful assistant and we made rapid pace along the front gutter to the front door where Scott slid the window open a crack to play Christmas carols on the piano for our entertainment. All was well through very polished renditions of Jingle Bells and Rudolph, where Katie and I managed to wrap the lights around the railing and one of the trees out front, but then we hit a snag at Deck the Halls. Scott was struggling with the song and eventually R must have tried to give him a hint about the note that he was missing and he broke down in tears.

Later on it was my turn to break down, as we discovered that the new white lights that I had purchased at Canadian Tire for the Christmas tree were actually the wrong colour of white. I had purchased "cool white", while the pine & holly garland that we got for the railing had "warm white" lights in it -- even though types of lights were made by the same company. We had to strip the cool white tree of its lights and replace them with the old multi-coloured lights, since the stores had all closed for the evening and no one really wanted to put off the rest of the hall-decking.

Fa-la-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Kids on Bikes, Dad on Foot Downtown

[Sep 26 2015]

Fall has been absolutely beautiful this year. The weather has been reasonably warm and we haven't had one of those big windstorms yet that pulls all the leaves off the trees so the colours have lingered longer than usual. We tried to take advantage of the weather to ride bikes downtown. It was an interesting adventure.

We loaded the bikes on the car and headed downtown, planning to ride for a bit before grabbing dinner and having a grand time at Dad's office. As we unloading the car, I realized that Katie's helmet was still lying on the floor near the garage door at our house, protecting no heads. I faced a moment of indecision. To return home would be nearly an hour round trip, effectively using up our allocated riding time. However, I had already learned my lesson years ago about putting Katie on bikes without a helmet. I considered whether there was a bike shop close enough to buy one. As my mind raced from one idea to the next, Scott stood nearby making his own observations:

"You can't let a kid ride without a helmet. That is against the law."

That's right. Kids under 18 have to ride with a helmet, but adults have the option of riding without a helmet. Wait, that is the solution! My helmet has an internal head-band type adjustment that I cranked all the way down to Katie-size, and then adjusted the straps to fit. It wasn't perfect, but it was a helmet, and we were back in business.

After just a few minutes of riding, I realized I had a flat tire on my bike. we came back to the car where I filled it again. A moment later it was flat again, and the valve seemed to be broken. So I took the wheel off the bike and jammed in the back of the car and I ran behind the kids as they rode. Man, at the beginning of the summer, that was an easy task, but both of these kids have gotten a lot faster this year! It was all I could do to keep up, trying to shout directions to them as I gasped for air.

After riding by the drop-in center and the old Cecil Hotel, we loaded up the bikes again and drove to the nearest McDonald's for some happy meals. However this McDonald's is half-way down the block on the pedestrian avenue and doesn't have a drive through, so we had to walk in. Since my fairly expensive bike was dangling on the back of the car, I decided to bring it with us into the restaurant. We navigated between various tables and [ahem] less refined characters to a spot by the corner window where the kids could hold onto my bike and still see any incidents that might happen along the avenue. I have been in the McDonald's a few times late at night and I have witnessed some interesting things, including the time that a man had to shoo away someone who was trying to pick through his meal while it was still sitting on the order counter. No incidents to report this time, but we did end up having a discussion about what responsibility we have to help less fortunate people to get back on their feet and find meaningful employment in the world.

After that we went back to the office to get some work done. Then I remembered that they were planning to shut the power off in the building in just a few minutes, so if we didn't get out soon, we would be taking the stairs down 38 floors in the dark. We high-tailed it out of there.

Things are never dull with Dad.

Basketball in the Big Gym

[Sep 3 2015]

To be sorted into a team in the appropriate division, Scott had two evaluation sessions, including one at the University of Calgary massive main gym. He had to write #99 on his leg and do a lot of drills. You know, aside from the parking lot of an LDS chapel or a screening of Napoleon Dynamite, basketball evaluations is one of the most likely places to encounter LDS people. I saw pretty much everyone I know there.

The second evaluation session was held at an elementary school. Kids were told what time slot to show up for, with the understanding that they might be asked to stick around for subsequent sessions. Scott was kept there for several sessions, which turned out to be quite a long time, so we hit Menchie's on the way home for a frozen treat.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Letter from Gramma W

I got this great letter from my Gramma Gloy and I wanted to post it here so that I don't lose it. She is such a wonderful lady and so funny. I love the line at the end: "Forgive all mistakes. I am old and feeble."

Harvest Half Marathon 2015

[Oct 3 2015]

When Troy and Gareth said they were going to run this half marathon I HAD to be a part of it. Even though we got soaked in a slushy rain the whole time. I didn't train that much this year, so I didn't have any misguided hopes about a personal best, but I beat Troy and that's all that really matters. Official time was 1 hour 37 minutes, which was good enough for 24th place out of 730 people and my 2nd best time to date.

Trick Riding in Bowness Park

[Oct 2 2015]

We met up with the Jones and Staples at Bowness Park for a picnic dinner. We knew that the forecast called for rain that evening, so we tried to hurry. Things were pretty good at first, and the kids had fun roasting hotdogs and doing bike tricks for while, until suddenly a wall of black clouds rolled in and blew every leaf off the trees, sending us all scrambling for cover. When we got home we had a thick layer of leaves in the bottom of our cooler, and several stuck in our clothing. Summer is officially over, people.

Sunday Afternoon Cycling

[Sep 20, 2015]

Now that R has a new bike AND a new helmet, it was only fitting that we go for a few family rides. There is a new pathway along the north end of town. It isn't totally finished, so we had to go off-road for a short section, through a spot that looked like someone's informal campground in the bushes. We have raised Katie's seat to help her get more leverage on the hills, and it has helped her quite a bit (although she was a bit uncertain about not being able to plant both feet flat on the ground while mounted).

High School 20th Reunion

[Sep 12 2015]

R and I both went to the same high school, but somehow we had never made it a high school reunion. We both disappeared from Calgary for most of a decade after high school, and we had lost track of most people from high school. We weren't sure what to expect, but it seemed like we shouldn't miss this chance to see everyone again.

I rushed back from our overnight camping trip at Barrier Lake to meet R at a Wendy's near Bowness Park, so we could grab a picnic lunch and so I could try to wash the smell of campfire off of me and change clothes. It was fun to catch up again. Many people had no idea that the two of us had gotten married. One of our classmates said hi to me and tried to introduce herself to R, and then felt silly when she found out that R had also gone to our school. I don't think it's fair though -- I look essentially identical to high school, but R has gone to great lengths to disguise her identity. In school he had long, straight blond hair and no glasses, but now she has curly reddish hair and wears glasses. Sometimes I don't even recognize her.

R went to school all the way from kindergarten to grade 12 with a group of a few really close friends, and most of them were there at the park and again at the evening pub event. She was right at home with all her good friends. I realized that I hardly have any friends in the whole world, and I spent most of my time chatting with people that I may not have ever had a conversation with in high school.

Trail Hunting at Twilight

Scott and I hurried outside for a bike ride before the sun could go down. In anticipation of our bike camp this weekend, he wanted to find a trail where he could try his off-road skills a bit. We ended up going 8km in 46 minutes. We rode down a muddy trail into the ravine, pushed our bikes back up another muddy trail, tried a washed out gravel trail along the ridge, but his favourite part was coasting down the grassy hill near his school. There was some complaining, but Scott didn't let it bother him too much.

Harvesting Crabapples

[Sep 8 2015]

Our Crabapple tree is weird.

One year, it will nearly collapse under the weight of the fruit, and then next year it won't have any at all. Is there a crabapple cycle that I don't know about? Or was there some nasty frost last year that killed the buds? Who knows? One thing is clear: we had a bumper crop of crabapples this year.

I strapped the kids' school bags on backwards and we set up some ladders to pick the fruit. It took us two evenings to harvest it all, and we filled several large Amazon shipping boxes with the crop. Scott loved to climb the step ladder, but he laughed his head off when he stayed at ground level and I threw apples into his bag from the top of the ladder. As always, Katie was a good-natured little worker, telling everyone what a good job they were doing and how much fun she was having. She gets a bit sad sometimes when Scott gets first turn at the ladder, but she doesn't let that sour her apples for long.

We got an apple corer this year and we prepped the apples to be steamed in our big stock pot and then stuck the steamed fruit in the blender to make applesauce and kept the juice that dripped down into the bottom to try to make jelly. The jelly seemed more like syrup, so decided to just keep the juice on subsequent batches. Now I have a fridge full of various jars of juice that no one is particularly excited about drinking. The applesauce was really good, but we ate all that for Sunday dinner one night. Now we will have to wait until 2017 to have some more.

Singing for Grandma M

[Sep 6 2015]

R's Grandma M loves nothing in the world more than music. After Sunday dinner, the grandkids (and even some great grandkids) gathered around the piano to sing for her and Grandpa. They are 94 years old this year, and their health has been particularly delicate, so it was a great experience to share something that makes her so happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Labour Day at the Science Center

[Sep 7 2015]

Canada Day: "I Can't Be In Canmore"

[July 1, 2015]

We went to the Canada Day parade in Canmore this year with most of the Calgary family. The sidewalks were packed by the time we got there, but I found us a empty spot with curb access by crossing over to the other side of the street. We spread a blanket out in front of the curb for the kids and settled in for a great community parade against a beautiful rocky-mountain backdrop.

We soon figured out that the spot was still available because there was no shade on that side of the street and it was scorching hot. Fortunately, the firetruck went by and they sprayed everyone, and several floats were throwing freezies instead of candy. The parade lasted about an hour and as we were walking back across the street I looked at Scott asked R why his lips seemed so white. She said it must be from a candy he ate. Then Scott started to panic and tell me, "I can't see anything!" I could see he was about to black out so I grabbed him helped him sit down in the shade of the boardwalk. He was delirious: "I can't be here anymore! I can't be in Canmore anymore. I need to leave here." We got him a cold drink and gave him a chance to recover before loading him into Elijah's baby stroller and wheeling him back to the car.

The group then hiked up the creek to Quarry Lake for our picnic lunch. We took a detour to see a waterfall and Alli slipped on a rock on the other side of rapids and hurt her foot, so I put her on my back and climbed back across. Quite an eventful morning.

There were no medical emergencies to report at Quarry Lake. There was one incident of majestic mountain grandeur, but there were no injuries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fancy Anniversary Dinner

We had already taken a trip to Mexico to celebrate our 15th anniversary a week early, so we didn't have big plans for the actual day. R started out thinking we might just spruce up the evening meal with some tropical drinks and a table cloth, but then Katie took over as event planner and took things up a notch. By the time I got home from work Katie had created a menu to go with her waitress apron, had clipped a pen to the strap, and had enlisted Scott as waiter #2 to help take our orders.

We had Corn Chowder, which is also known as "Katie's Favourite Soup", with choice of bread, bun or gluten free bun on the side. Available spreads were butter (margarine) or gluten-free butter (margarine from a smaller tub with no crumbs allowed in it). The waiters carefully carried the soup and the breads to the table without any spills. Drink options included Pinadas and water. Everyone selected the pinadas, served in fancy crystal goblets.

Afterwards, I told the kids to watch while I gave Mom a kiss. They said that was kind of gross. Katie asked why we would do that. I think she was asking why I would tell them to watch, but I told her "Because we are in love. Didn't you know that?" She said, "Of course. That's why you got MARRIED." She is right about that.

...but it's not gross. She's wrong about that part.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Katie Calling Back

Today Katie called me and said that she would like to go swimming on Friday or on Saturday. That was her first sentence. She didn't say "hello." She said that she would like to go to the other pool, not the Cardel Pool where she has her lessons. She would like to go to the pool in Cochrane. She was pretty close in how she pronounced Cochrane, but I could tell by the way she hesitated before saying "Cochrane" that she wasn't quite sure. She said that she would like to go there and swim without a life jacket, so that she could show me how much she has learned at swimming lessons. She said that I haven't seen her swim in a long time and she would like to go swimming there with me. I told her these all sounded like great ideas, and that we should definitely go. She was very pleased. she said good-bye and I told her to have a good day at school.

During the call I wondered if Mommy was aware of her plans or not. By the end of the call I was pretty certain that she was not. Katie makes her own plans, apparently.