Monday, November 29, 2010

Scott Takes it to the Hoop

Here's some footage from Scott's "Little Athletes" sports class that he took this fall. He got the chance to try basketball, soccer, badminton, hockey and a few others. Most important of all, he got the chance to get out in a large open space and run as fast as possible.

Basketball Day:

This first time, the class climbed up on the mats to score easily. The next time, they took the mats away and the class had to shoot it several feet up. I cannot attend, but R reports that Scott was not only good at shooting it in, he was not at all concerned about the prospect of missing -- equally important.

Soccer Day:

Scott and I love to play soccer in the basement with beach balls. Usually, I am the goalie and Scott has to kick it between the couch and the TV to score. I have been surprised how adept he is at finding the open side of the net, no matter where I take up position. I was also surprised when I laid down across the whole goal line that he simply raised it over me. He's pretty anxious to play in real games with a team sometime soon. He thinks that sounds like heaven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ten Years

Ten years ago today:

Two kids set off to start a life together.
They really had no idea about the world -- had very little experience -- and they didn't know where life might lead them.
But they loved each other madly and nothing else seemed to matter much.

Ten years later.
They have moved across the continent and back again. They have spent a lot of time together. They have produced plays and movies. They have broken world records. They have travelled across oceans and driven through deserts. They have bought and sold houses, cars, moving trucks, and even furniture -- although they still have the same hand-me-down couches they've always had. Ten years of evenings they have spent relaxing on those couches, enjoying each other's company.

More than six years it was just the two of them. After a few years, they felt the panic that the children might never come. They spent many hours consulting with doctors -- spent many more hours consulting with each other about how their expectations and plans might have to change. Then something happened. The two of them became three. And then the three became four. Oh how things changed.

Ten years later.
Now they are parents and they are so busy and so tired and so much different than they were ten years ago today. These children are their whole world. Their world seems smaller than it did before. Little hugs and kisses. Little snuggles. Little scrapes and tears. Little sniffles. A smaller world, but somehow they feel bigger than they did a decade ago.

Ten years ago today,
Two kids set off to start a life together. Now they know a little more about the world, and they've build themselves a little nest for four.
And they still love each other madly...

..and nothing else seems to matter much.
Happy 10th Anniversary!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hawaii Anniversary Day Three: Beach Tour by Scooter

Scooter Rental
I was most excited about this particular day of our trip. We had originally planned on renting a convertible Mini Cooper to cruise the island a bit, but with the rental agency exhibiting no vital signs in the weeks leading up to our trip, I switched over to a scooter-strategy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that top-rated 'Hawaiian Style Rentals' was located just out the back door of our hotel, and I arranged to rent their 'Classic 2-Seater'.

Honolulu Tabernacle

Our maiden voyage was about 4 km up the hill for church. We only had an address and start time, so we were pleasantly suprised to pull up in front of the grand, historic (1920s) Honolulu Tabernacle, complete with a reflecting pool in the front, a tile mosaic on the wall and a beautiful courtyard. Of course, we couldn't leave before we took a large number of photos, enlisting the help of the other attendees/tourists. I just loved this place.

Diamond Head

After doffing ties and skirts in favour of shorts and t-shirts, we set off down the coast highway towards the Diamond Head crater. The view of the ocean just got better as we climbed upward, but I have to admit that the brown and dusty interior of the crater did not capture my attention for very long. We could have paid a fee to park our bike and hike up the side, but that sounded like a lot of thirsty work, so off we went down the highway again.

The Coast Highway

I kept both hands safely on the handlebars, so there are no action shots from the highway ride, but I can assure you that it was AMAZING. The craggy shoreline and perfectly-smooth pavement provided an endless of supply of corners that invited you to lean upon entry and rewarded you with a breathtaking view upon exit. Dusty-brown ridges on the left, vibrant-blue waves crashing on the right, and my wife holding me tight.

The Beach Where We Didn't Swim

When we got to the end of the south shore and headed north, we could see some nasty clouds threatening ahead, so we decided to pull off to the nearby beach, which was nestled into a cove complete with lighthouse high on the hill. As we began our descent down the long path from the parking lot to the beach, we heard the lifeguard come on the loudspeaker: "This is not a good beach for swimming. The waves are very large here. There are plenty of nice beaches down the road if you want to swim." The enormous waves teaming with boogie-boarders seemed to reinforce his warning, and although he couldn't have seen us coming down the path, we took his advice and headed back the way we came.

The Beach Where We Did Swim

That lifeguard wasn't wrong. There was a wonderful stretch of warm, sandy beach just down the road; however, the waves were still pretty intense (especially compared to the stuff at Waikiki). After getting tossed around for a few minutes, R retired to the relaxing safety of her beach towel for a nap, while I did some body-surfing and took some additional pounding.

The beach was near the well-known Halona blowhole, and I managed to get a half-decent shot of it in action.

Places We Stopped

Since we didn't have any particular schedule or destination in mind, we stopped whenever we saw something interesting, which included two bays popular for snorkeling and a side trip into a swank neighbourhood on a hill outside of Honululu.

It was gratifying to see people checking out the scooter when we parked it places. It was so much better than those ugly Honda scooters that we saw most of the time.

Another Fine Sunset

We originally planned to get back into town in time to ride up the hill by the university to see the sunset from a different vantage point; however, we were getting a bit tired of being in the saddle, so we just pulled into a spot down the road from the hotel and enjoyed it from a bench on the beach. The sun was playing to a full house, and it felt like we were at a drive-in movie.

Duke's For Dinner

Duke's Beach Restaurant and Canoe Club was on the a list of gluten-free-friendly restaurant that we found when researching our trip. It deserves a spot on EVERY list of restaurants because the beachfront location was stunning, the service was the best I've ever had, the seared Ahi was outstanding and the dessert (Hula Pie) was absolutely moutainous.

Popping Wheelies

We only had a few blocks to ride back to the hotel, and we paused to get a last photo of the scooter on the boulevard. A passing tourist offered to take the photo for us, and then pulled out his own fancy camera to snap a picture because he thought it was a fun shot. As we pulled I away I forfeited whatever cool point we had won because I dropped it down a gear with the throttle open and popped a wheelie. Fortunately, R was already holding tight, so the injuries were limited to my ego.

Welcome Home

We arrived in Calgary a few minutes before the blizzard. Hopefully, we don't have to wait another 10 years to go back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hawaii Anniversary Day Two: The PCC

Sunrise Over the Canal
Originally, the idea (R's idea) was to go somewhere warm and just relax on beaches, since we have typically taken our trips to places like Manhattan, Quebec City, London and Caen, where you mainly walk around looking at stuff and wearing yourself out (my idea). Well, old habits die hard, and dawn found us up, fed, and waking down to the canal to take sunrise photos.

The photos turned out really nice, and in the end I submitted one to the Alaska Airlines photo contest, in the off chance that they might award me a free pair of flight tickets. Even if it doesn't make it into the magazine, the photo is my new screen-saver at work.

PCC bus ride
Taking the bus to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie was our first venture beyond Waikiki in the daylight. The views were pretty spectacular as we crossed the center of the island. I have a fairly nice collection of blurry landscape shots out the window of a moving vehicle. I was a bit discerning in my choices, and added a few beauties to the collection.

Temple open house
When we picked Oahu over places like Bermuda, part of the reasoning was that we would like to visit the LDS temple in Laie. We were a bit sad when we learned that the temple was closed for renovations; however, we were thrilled to find out at the PCC that we arrived on the last day of the public open house. So first off, we headed out there for a tour and a healthy dose of photos. We held the camera for a young Polynesian couple that were engaged to be married once the temple reopened. The temple grounds were absolutely stunning. Heaven on earth.

Canoe pageant
We gained some notoriety during our visit to the PCC, and the Canoe Pageant is where it all began. The MC for the pageant asked the crowd lined along the canal to cheer when she called out the place they were visiting from. Cheers went up when she called out the states of California, Washington, Arizona and Utah. When she called out Canada, I let out a whoop that was louder than them all, and I could see the whole crowd looking around for the source (the elderly lady sitting next to me nearly fell off her chair).

Tahitian Village
Each of the ‘villages’ along the canal represents a different Polynesian group, and we visited several; however, at the Tahitian Village I was pulled out of the crowd to help demonstrate the hula dance. I was taken backstage with another guy and a girl and given a lava-lava to wear and a short briefing on what to do: “do the steps they just showed you.” “What do I do with my hands?” “Just do whatever comes naturally.” I volunteered the other guy to go out first, and he was clearly uneasy. My turn was next, and I was introduced as being from Canada (perhaps people wondered if I was ‘that guy’), and the music started. I did my best hula step and did some arm movements that I’d seen at the Tongan Village drum show, while a hula girl danced circles around me. Apparently, the crowd loved it, because they voted me the overwhelming winner by applause and I got a nice hat with a pink flower as a prize. A treasured video, for sure.

The Luau
Strangely enough, at the Luau we ended up sitting right next to the girl who had danced third in the Tahitian Village dance-off a few minutes earlier. We weren’t seated for long before the lady running the entertainment asked anyone celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary to come and dance at the front.

She went down the line with the microphone and asked each couple where they were visiting from and how many years they had been married. She guessed that we were newlyweds, and was shocked when we said it was our 10-year anniversary. Then a cheer went up from the crowd when we said we were from Canada (‘hey, it’s that guy again!’).

Walking around later than evening I had a few people compliment me on my hula performance, letting us know we officially achieved celebrity status. The food at the luau was good, but it was strangely gluten-laden. They had an allergen chart in the back, but it said that even the rice had wheat in it. What? Still the supervisor was really good about getting us a few alternate items for R.

Live Show ‘Ha: The Breath of Life’
I so thoroughly enjoyed the live show that I really don’t know what to say about it. The energy level for the performance was absolutely incredible all the way through. It even carried over to the intermission, where the servers were sprinting down the steep stairs in the aisles to bring trays laden with fruity ice-cream treats down to the crowd. The show had fire, fighting, dancing, romancing… and high-speed ice-cream. What else could you ask for?

The rain held off until we climbed back onto our charter buses with the same group of passengers we had arrived with. Those same couples that had been silent for the morning trip greeted us warmly. One lady said that she had applauded very loudly for me. It’s nice to be famous.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hawaii Anniversary Day One: Just Relaxing

We went to Hawaii for our 10th anniversary. Typically, we try to get away for the weekend for our anniversary, but we've struggled to find good things to do, since November is stuck between seasons. The weather is poor but not outright winter, so there isn't much to do outside, and most theatre companies are taking the month off, so we can't take in a show. After previous years of rain in New York, sleet in Niagara and freezing in Banff, we decided a tropical destination was the answer.

The first day was long and tiring, with 10 hours of flights and airports, followed by an eternal journey aboard the airport shuttle. We thought we would save a few bucks by taking the shuttle to the hotel. I will never do that again. I swear we stopped at every hotel in town before getting to ours, and that was after making several long stops in the airport itself.

Because of the time difference, we found ourselves waking up at dawn. We took advantage of the hotel breakfast buffet and brought our food back upstairs to eat on the balcony, watching the waves and people milling around on the beachfront.

We spent the morning walking along the beachfront, checking into swimwear stores for the possibility of a new swimsuit for R. That never really panned out, but we did find a food court where I got a double burger loaded with fried eggs and gravy. The eggs were a nice idea, but the gravy (plus the runny yolks) just made everything a sloppy mess. R ate some gluten-free Chinese food -- we were always on the look-out for good gluten-free dining alternatives.

As noted in a previous post about Movember, I had been growing my moustache for charity for the 12 days since the beginning of the month. I knew the moustache probably wouldn't (and shouldn't) survive the trip, so I planned to take at least a few pics in front of some palm trees before shaving it off. Mission accomplished. The moustache came off shortly after lunch when we returned to the hotel.

The afternoon was spent blissfully swimming and sleeping on the Waikiki beach and poolside at our hotel. Heavenly.

After considerable searching for a restaurant that combined a sunset view with a gluten-free-friendly menu, we elected to get some take-away roast chicken to eat at a public patio table with a view of the sunset.

It was fun to see how activity along the beach paused for several minutes as everyone watched the sun go down, with a bit of applause reserved for the moment the last arc of sun dropped below the horizon. I, of course, did my duty as a tourist and documented the event thoroughly.

With darkness coming on, we walked over to the Waikiki Shell outdoor performance venue to see if we could catch a distant glimpse of the hula-dancing exhibition that was on that night. Unfortunately, the builders of the Shell had foreseen this moment and left us with only the tiniest sliver of a view onto the stage. It still a worthy venture, until I led us through a really marshy spot in the grass. Then it was time to give up, buy some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from an ABC store and go to bed -- we decided to try to stay in sync with our home time zone, which actually matched up quite closely with the rising and setting of the sun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First Moustache

Until November 2010 I had never, ever, grown a moustache. In grade 9 my older brother C pointed out to me that I was developing a peach-fuzz 'stache and showed me how to shave it off, and I have been moustache-free ever since (peach-fuzz doesn't count, by the way). Since that day in 1991 I have paid it forward and helped many others realize that it is time to learn to shave -- something of a public service, I suppose.

In November 2010 I agreed to participate in the worldwide fundraiser called Movember, where you grow a moustache for the whole month and people are inspired to donate money to "men's health" research in your name. I have to admit, my curiousity about my unknown moustache motivated me more than the cause itself.

In the end, I only grew my moustache for 2 weeks because it was interrupted by our 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii (and the correlated desire to look less creepy), but I was still quite fascinated with the results. It looked significantly thicker than the grade 9 fuzz-stache, except for a weak spot on the left side. Also, I was surprised to see so many different colours in there: dark brown, light brown, red (what?!), and gray (no surprise there - I've even pulled a long, gray hair out of my eyebrow before).

We snapped a few pics of the 'stache in Hawaii before we bid it farewell. Perhaps next year?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween: Year of the Spider

"Ten more sleeps."
"Three more sleeps."
"One more sleep until Halloween!"

Then the big day finally came. About 6:45 am we heard small feet go past our bedroom door." I got up and came into the living room. I found Scott sitting silently on the couch, staring through the dim silence of dawn at his Spiderman costume that hung from a chair opposite."

His eyes remained fixed: "Can I put my costume on and go to grandma's now?"

Counting down sleeps works better for Christmas than Halloween, since the Christmas festivities start immediately. When he woke up, Scott still had an eternity to wait (4:00 pm). But finally he got his chance to fight evil, accompanied by Sister Spider, Web Lady and Peter Parker.

Spider Family

Cute little Spider Baby

Peter Parker unmasks Spiderman to reveal... another Peter Parker?

There's that adorable Spider Baby again

Family photo. Notice the skeleton fetus. Ingenious.

Trunk or Treat with the Web Lady

Cousin Afton suddenly appeared at our trunk or treat... from Montana.

More Montana cousins!

Even more Montana cousins -- some of them were armed.

Baby Spider takes a break from dancing in her jammies to snuggle Web Lady