Thursday, September 17, 2009

Potty Train

As a reward for his first successful use of the toilet, Scott received this Toby the Tram toy train this morning. The pun isn't intentional, which makes it all that much better.


lynne said...
Way to go, Scotty ! (Pun intended)

Helen Melchin said...
Loved the picture and the pun.

Grandma Walters said...
I have to repeat: "Way to go, Scotty! I had intended to say that even before I read the other comment. Love, Grandma W

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Swing and a Miss

After last Sunday's adventure aboard the freight train, I swore to be more prepared for photo opportunities (speaking of trains, just now I heard the --o- signal off in the distance -- cool). Only four days later I had already fallen short in my new commitment.

Just before bedtime one evening I saw a fire engine from my kitchen window, no sirens, no flashing lights. Two firefighters (minus big coats, boots, helmets, etc) climbed out and went up to a neighbour's house. Scotty normally doesn't need any convincing to go outside, and the promise of a fire truck got him moving double-quick.

We stood on a nearby driveway and admired the truck until the firefighters came back out, carrying a barbeque. Very strange. The barbeque didn't have the propane tank on it. Can't figure that one out. But the barbeque isn't he point of the story -- the point is that they offered to let Scotty sit in the driver's seat and he declined.


I think the problem is that the firefighter made the offer and stooped to lift Scotty into the truck all at the same time, so stranger anxiety kicked in. I tried to intercede by picking up Scotty and telling him that I would come along, but he was having none of it. Even when I was standing on the running board with one hand on the steering wheel he wouldn't release his grip on my collar bone -- he just whimpered and said that he wanted to go home.

Of course, as soon as I set him back on the safety of the grass and told him to say goodbye, he flashed an immediate smile and waved "bye-bye". They got a good chuckle out of his sudden turnaround. They flashed the lights as they drove off, and Scott thought that was pretty sweet -- maybe as good as sitting up front.

As for me, it was like deja vu -- it was like the visit to Cardel Place for Family Day when he locked up on the mini firetruck:

I guess it doesn't matter that I forgot to bring the camera out. I've already got a shot of Scott crying with a firetruck, and a picture of two firefighters carrying a barbeque would be of marginal value, really.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Bike Race

My company participates in an annual sports competition called the Calgary Corporate Challenge, with a number of events held throughout the month of September. I was on the mountain-biking team in what was my first bike race ever. It is hard to say who was more excited about it, Scott or I.

I did a really fast race, and probably would have won except that I was in first place after climbing the first hill and made a wrong turn and went right back down the hill. It was hard to recover after that, but I did manage to get back into first place about 2/3 of the way through by abandoning braking on all the downhill sections. Unfortunately, I ran out of gas near the end and was passed by a girl who clearly knows a lot more about cycling than I do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cutie in the Crib

He's not going to be that bed much longer. Big boy bed is coming soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Balancing the Nucleus of Our Postmodern Family

Yesterday we had the 19-week ultrasound, famous as the point at which you can learn the gender of your child. I had guessed that it would be a girl.

I guessed right!!

Of course, I had a 50-50 chance of getting it right, so I can't really pat myself on the back too much for that prediction. But why did I predict that we would have a girl? Psychological reasons.

I feel very qualified when it comes to dealing with boys. I grew up sandwiched between two brothers, but my one sister was off to university and out of the house when I was still pretty young. She managed to instill in each of us a grudging admiration for musical theatre and period dramas before she left, so I was not completely bereft of sensitivity. Since the close of my teenage heyday of contact sports and motorcycles I have spent most of my volunteer time serving as a leader to groups of young men at church -- essentially a scout leader (aka aspiring mountain man). What I am trying to say is that I really don't have much first-hand experience with little girl stuff. I've seen lots of pictures of my neices throwing princess parties and my mind just reels. Theirs is a unknown world, and I have feared the unknown.

For months I've told myself that this baby would be girl, perhaps as a way to get my mind ready for the change from a predominantly blue world to something with pinker hues.

Humans like balance and symmetry. If you already have a boy, you can't help but expect a girl, even though it's illogical, since your chances of a girl are the same whether you have no kids or you already have 11 boys at home. Nonetheless, the mind must automatically gravitate towards that stereotypical nuclear family that is so represented by stick figures with alternating hair length and clothing choices.

I have to admit that I thought that "nuclear family" referred to the archetypal family of four depicted above, but I when I looked it up I was surprised to see that it refers to a family of two parents and their offspring, whatever the number. I learned from Wikipedia that the nucleus has been split so many ways that the preferred terminology now is "postmodern family".

I hope to provide our postmodern family with a healthy balance of tiaras, grass-stains, hiking boots and films rich with ballet dream sequences.

Most of all, I hope my baby girl will like to nap on my chest. She's going to have to get used to getting cuddled, because I am going to be relentless.


lynne said...
She is a lucky little girl to be coming to your family. I think you will make the "pink hue" adjustment very well. We are so thrilled for you and Rachelle and Scotty and for us.

Linz said...
I have the same fears about raising a boy if we have one, for the same reasons, but opposite! I'm so excited for you guys!

David and Cheryl said...
Living with girls isn't too bad. The only time it becomes difficult is when you are trying to pick a movie. Clothing, food, houses, it's all been pretty easy. Growing up pretty much as the one boy, with four sisters and a mother made for the greatest trial being how many times in a day do you have to watch "A Walk in the Clouds" with Keanu due to the popular majority vote.

Kage said...

Lisa said...
It's so good.

Anonymous said...
Omg!!! That's so cool!! Congratulations! Do you know what you'll name her? I'm so excited!!!
~Ariadna :)

margo said...
What a very lucky girl she will be to have so much love..especially from her dad. I'm thrilled for you guys. D I LOVE your writing. I could read it all day...well at least a good share of it.

Helen said...
I'm glad that I got on your blog or I wouldn't have seen the ultrasound. It really makes it seem more real. You've got lots of ideas of what to expect from several nieces.

Grandma Walters said...
I've been late getting to your blog, so I just found out we will have another great-granddaughter! And before she gets here we will have another great-grandson. So we are trying to even it out. You can love the second child as much as the first, you just don't think you can!! Lucky girl!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

All the Bells and Whistles

(An alternate title for this post might be "4-4-0 Goes --o-")

With the advent of digital cameras, people probably take a lot more pictures than they used to. With the demise of film and photo-devloping, it doesn't really cost you a penny to bring along a camera wherever you go and take snapshots of anything that is remotely interesting. I recently went on a 5-day cycling trip and took nearly 600 photographs. If you figure that there are 16 waking hours in the day, that's one photo every 8 minutes. That's not enough for a flip-book, but it's closer than you think.

With digital cameras built into most mobile phones, there's really no excuse for missing a "Kodak Moment" (there's a term that will likely fade into antiquity). Nonetheless, two days ago I found myself woefully unequipped in a situation where one should ALWAYS have a camera:

An impromptu ride aboard the engine of a freight train.

Sunday morning was R's day to sleep in past Scott's normal 7 am wakeup call, so I thought I would get him out of the house to cut down on noise and let her sleep more peacefully. On a whim, I turned to him and said, "let's go find a train!" We grabbed our hoodies and launched our Jeep towards the river valley.

In the NW part of Calgary, the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline runs along the north side of the Bow River, and there is a stretch just across from Bowness Park (link) where you can typically find a string of cars waiting patiently on sidings for their turn to be added to a train and pulled away to a fate beyond the mountains of BC or the plains of Manitoba. We have driven past this spot before to peek out at the cars, but today we parked next to the tracks and got out for a closer look.

There seemed to be an abnormally large number of cars present, with trains on at least 6 of the sidings -- several headed by teams of 3 engines. When we exited the Jeep, I noticed that the engines on one of the trains were idling, and there was the intermittent crack of air pressure valves releasing their excess. Scott was quite excited by the enormous red engines -- red appears to be his favourite colour.

We noticed a white pickup truck pull in behind our vehicle and I was briefly concerned when three railway workers emerged -- I wondered if this might be trespassing -- but they simply waved at us and went to work on the trains. We continued to admire the trains, and Scotty found a large threaded bolt (probably 1.5 inches thick and 5 inches long on the ground near a pile of discarded railway ties -- likely the remant of a recent track replacement on the main line. He was very excited when I told him it was from the trains. For the next hour he clasp it tightly to his chest (a two-handed effort) and frequently told me "this is from the train."

As we made our way back to our car, Scott still exulting in his discovery, the railway workers waved us over. One of them indicated to the waiting engines and said, "We're going to shuttle this train up the track to connect two of these trains together. Would you like to come for a ride?"

I was ecstatic. I looked to Scott to show his enthusiasm and asked, "Do you want to ride on the big train, Scotty?" He drew his prized new bolt back protectively and said, "No." Objection overruled -- I quickly told the CP men that we would be happy to go. I suppose this is one of many instances where I will ignore what Scott tells me he wants. In this case I was completely right to do so.

We literally had to climb aboard the enormous machine. There was a ladder up to the top of the front end, where you could walk across to the entry door to the cab. Inside there were three swivel chairs mounted on the floor, one them in front of the engineer's console. In between radio communications with those involved in the operation, the engineer explained the various details of what he was doing. When the time came for him to ring the bells and start forward, I was surprised how easily and smoothly the train started forward. I half-expected the engines to have to tug and strain at the load. I guess with three 2,000-horsepower engines at the head (type EMD GP38-2), you have plenty of pulling power.

Alas, no camera -- but I found a photo of the same type of engine

With two toots of the horn, we were on our way. The engineer offered to let Scotty pull the lever that controls the horn, but he was too chicken. He liked to watch everything from a safe distance. However, he was happy to accept the CPR-brand water bottle that we were offered from the fridge. I noticed a hot-plate as well -- these trains appeared to have all the literal as well as figurative bells and whistles.

We were on board for about 40 minutes, pulling our 75-car load forward about a mile before we backed onto a different track to couple up with another train of about 25 cars. Scott got to watch out the front and poke his head out out the side window. It was fantastic.

After the fact, I wondered why we had both bells AND whistles going when we started forward on our run. I also wondered if there are specific patterns that the whistles/horns follow when they approach a crossing or it's arbitrary. After poking around in Wikipedia, I found out that North American trains usually employ bells to signal a train in motion (mounted on the train and installed at crossings), as opposed to the UK, where tracks are all fenced in so they only put bells on streetcars (ie: "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley...").

A train can convey a host of meanings through its whistle/horn, of which we heard at least two ('-' is long blast, 'o' is short blast):
-- Proceeding. Releasing Air brakes
--o- Approaching highway crossing

From our house 7 km away, we can sometimes hear the distant whistle of the train. Regardless whether its a '--' or a '--o-' or even a 'ooo' (backing up), I'll let it be a reminder to always carry a camera, because you never know when a locomotive engineer is going to invite you to ride the rails.


Eric said...
Oh my lucky!

margo said...
Oh my double lucky!!

lynne said...
Grandpa Anderson would have loved to have come with you. He was a real train lover as well. I can just imagine Scotty sitting there taking it all in--those big eyes of his even bigger at all that was going on around him. What a great dad/son memory !

Grandma Walters said...
Well, that was better than a couple of "hobos" riding the rails!!! Times have changed! Scotty is so lucky to have a dad who likes to always see what is going on!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Does Grotto Creek Trail Sound Easy to You?

For Labour Day we decided to take on the outdoors. We would do a simple hike on our way to Canmore, where we could enjoy a meal at our new favourite mountain eatery: The Flatbread Company. It seemed like an idyllic way to spend the day.

I searched online and found a trail that was described as short and easy. It seemed just right for a band of kids aged 2-5, so off we went to hike the Grotto Creek Trail, not too far from Exshaw (you know, near that huge ugly gravel plant on the shore of Lac des Arcs that is slowly eating that mountain).

The trail stared out pretty easy: a pleasant path through the woods.

Things opened up to a major washout area where the grotto dumps water when it rains hard. It was hard to tell if this was the work of nature or a team of backhoes.

Where Alli went, the boys were sure to follow.

Does this look like the sort of person that would damage Indian pictographs? I doubt it.

The trail was tougher than we expected -- not particularly steep or anything -- just really uneven. The rocky creekbed at the bottom of the grotto made for uncertain footing for toddlers. We had to help them along half of the time.

...and the other half of the time we had to pull them away from all the rocks and sticks they wanted to carry along.

Finally, we made it to the waterfall at the end of the trail. It was hard to relax much, though, because most of the surfaces were quite steep.

Trying to set up for a family picture got pretty tricky. This was the closest they got until we hiked back down to the "easy" part of the path.

Grotto Creek Trail: harder than it sounds, but you can find every-so-many fabulous rocks on the ground. Just don't touch the Indian pictographs.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


He was so scared of this mask when Alli was wearing it, but he doesn't seem to mind putting it on himself. The pearl necklace is also a nice touch.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Midwifery: The Hallmark of Civilization

Due to its importance it is assumed that midwifery has existed as long as human civilization.
-"Midwifery", Wikipedia

A classic "chicken and egg" story: Which came first, civilized humans or the midwives who caught them? If you give the the Wikipedia article a quick scan, you might notice that most Western nations have only just begun to reembrace midwifery after several centuries of marginalization. For example, "midwifery was reintroduced as a regulated profession in Canada in the 1990s." The article even suggests that witch hunting was largely an effort to increase birth rates by suppressing midwives.

Wait, if one of the first developments in human civilization is the appearance of midwives, could we say that the disappearance of midwives marks a civilization's collapse into anarchy? Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Well, either way, you can call us extra-civilized, because we have a midwife. In fact, we have a whole team of them. Four very nice ladies are available 24 hours each day to assist in the weeks leading up to the birth and for a period afterwards.

For the less-civilized among you, let us explain how we arrived at the decision to engage the services of a midwife. There are several factors:
1. R's sister has been borderline fanatical about it for years
2. R's experience for birth #1 was not the best
3. The word "midwifery" is oh so fun to say out loud

Public health care funding for midwifery is brand-new in Alberta. In fact, it's so new that there are hardly enough certified midwives to meet the sudden explosion of demand. Most of the midwives here have had to travel away to Australia -- that bastion of civilization -- to get training that was not available here. Because the supply is so tight, you basically have to get on a waiting list within hours of conception to have a fighting chance of getting a midwife. Lucky for us, a church connection helped us get in with the midwife team of our choice just 5 minutes from our house. R has had a few appointments already, but I have only been to one. Let me tell you how it differed from our typical OB appointment:

There was an enormous tree in the waiting room styled after the Winnie the Pooh series. Kids could go inside the tree and sit at table or play with a stuffed Piglet doll. Our previous OB had a very nice office but the waiting room had little more than several issues of Chatelaine and a sign that said "turn off your cell phone."

The exam room had a big bed in it. Not an exam table -- a bed. Complete with a knitted bedspread, pillow, etc. A far cry from the typical vinyl topped exam table with a roll of newsprint paper. There was big cabinet filled with toys for Scott. He cried when it came time to leave. In the OB's office you could probably find a few interesting toys like cotton swabs or the sharps disposal bin. Then you child would cry for a different reason.

I don't want to give the impression that we disliked our OB in Ottawa. Quite the contrary. He was a fabulous guy and we felt very confident with him. However, he was one man and he probably had hundreds of patients so we only got a sliver of his time. When we went to the hospital, he was asleep in another room while we were attended to by a nurse and a resident that we'd never met because they didn't want to wake our doctor. Conversely, this team of 4 midwives had a 1-hour introductory appointment with us and have given us similar attention since then.

Our whole midwifery experience so far has seemed very ... what's the word ... civilized.