Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wading Pool

We live down the street from a wading pool.

There are only a handful of days during a Calgary summer where a wading pool is truly refreshing. We found such a day, and we made the best of it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Last Day of Kindergarten

Kindergarten is over ALREADY?

The final week of school was essentially canceled because of the flooding. A week after the floods hit, all the students in Scott's school went in for the morning to have an assembly, collect their report cards and gather up a year's worth of journals and other treasures.

Comments from Scott's teacher on his report card:

"Scott continued to frequently add ideas to our large-group discussions. His contribution to our classroom 'Important Book', that clothes were important 'because without them we would not have many friends', was funny insightful, and well-received by his peers."

"Scott's real area of strength was math, and daily he searched for ways to make connections between his strong number sense and our inquiry learning. When learning that our caterpillars' bodies had 13 segments and each segment had 2 legs, Scott's hand shot up in the air and he excitedly announced to his friends that each caterpillar would have 26 legs. When asked how he came up with that answer, he eloquently replied, 'I add 2 tens together because that is easy, then just add 3+3. I see that in my brain."

Coins for Calgary - Scott donated some of his larger coins to the flood relief effort. This sacrifice was probably easier for him because he just received word that he had won a $50 prize from Lego Club Jr.

We just had to snap a photo with Scott's two best friends. These boys are all in the same Sunday School class at church too. That means 6 days a week together, plus a pretty substantial lobbying effort for ongoing playdates.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Outdoor Soccer 2013 - Final Game

Hayden got a lot of shots on goal that narrowly missed. Scott managed to squeak one past the goalie. From the video you would assume that the Silver Chariots won the game, but I have conveniently edited out all the goals scored by the other team.

Scott in Action

Coach Luke

Hayden in Action

After Scott's goal

3 Cheers

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Calgary Flood: Cleaning Up Montgomery

The flooding is now considered the worst natural disaster in the history of Alberta and one of the most expensive natural disasters in the history of Canada. The horror stories I hear about the flooding in High River make it sound like wide swaths of the city will essentially be bulldozed.

We have been volunteering for a few hours every day this week to help clear out basements in affected neighbourhoods. The stake is sending out an army of volunteers tomorrow with about 40 wheelbarrows to help shovel all the mud that accumulated everywhere. The clean-up effort will take a very long time. They think they can re-open a lot of things within the next few weeks though. However, the area around the City Hall also got flooded enough to knock out power for much of the area. Even the city transit control center had to be moved to a temporary location, while the ctrain to the SE was out because the rail bed got washed away. Then to top it off, a rail bridge in the SE started sinking into the river this morning with several freight cars of gasoline on it, causing an evacuation of the area and a shut-down of Deerfoot Trail. I heard it took over 2 hours to drive just a few miles in that part of town.

R and her sister J went out to volunteer one evening. J had always wanted to go out and wear the yellow bib and help people in need. They came away feeling like they could have contributed more if they'd had the opportunity, but there were just SOOO many volunteers there. That's a nice problem to have in the midst of a disaster recovery effort -- having a surplus of volunteer manpower available.

It's a mess. However, the people here are determined to put on a good show this summer. The mayor has done a great job of bringing people together rather than pointing fingers. Quite an experience.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Calgary Flood: Surveying the Damage

I had no idea the flooding was so severe until I went down to Elbow Park to help out. I was shocked at the destruction. That evening we took the kids out to Crescent Heights to look at the flooding from a higher vantage point. Several news outlets had their broadcast teams set up on the ridge as well, and lots of people walking around.

Down below in Sunnyside the damp streets were loaded with cars -- likely from the people who had come to the neighbourhood to help muck out basements and carry refuse to the curb. Even the house that were well back from the river had been affected, as ground water and/or an overwhelmed sewer system had filled their basements with water as well.

Further along, there was a large section missing from the river pathway along Memorial Drive and a backhoe was furiously heaving loads of big rocks to help secure the riverbank. Out in the middle of the river, a large proportion of Prince's Island was still submerged, with the trees and bushes listing dramatically downstream.

The extent of the damage was somewhat lost on the kids, but Scott was impressed by the scale of the cleanup effort and the presence of so much heavy machinery. He has seen footage from the news about the flood so he understands that there was a lot of destruction. However, he quickly identifies a silver lining for him -- there is considerable opportunity to through driftwood branches off the Center Street Bridge into the water below... and climb on rocks.

Calgary Flood: Helping in Elbow Park

The big flood hit Calgary late on Thursday, June 20. The only real indication I had about the flood's possible severity was that somebody left early on Thursday to go sandbag his house against possible flooding. The next day we were asked to work from home, since access to the downtown core was affected. On Monday we were told to work from home again. Shortly afterwards, I got an email about working from a colleague's home -- in his soggy basement, more specifically.

Clark's house is a few blocks from a bend in the Elbow River called Elbow Park. The flood waters decided to skip the meandering course of the Elbow and make a shortcut through Clark's back yard. His basement was filled to the ceiling with muddy water which wrecked EVERYTHING down there -- the furnace, the water heater, the electrical panel, the washer and dryer... you get the idea. Once he managed to pump the basement out, we all came over to clear out all the furniture and other items. I saw his and his wife's university degrees sitting side by side on the porch, caked with mud and wrinkled beyond repair. After that, we tore out all the walls, the ceiling and the subfloor. We filled several refuse bins in just a few hours, and I heard they did another two bins the next day.

The whole neighbourhood was like a warzone -- a mud-sodden maze of chaos. The influx of helpers, service vehicles and garbage bins rendered the streets almost unnavigable. Parked my truck just off the highway ramp and rode my bike to his place, bypassing much of the worst of it. Riding back to my car later I passed a pedestrian bridge across the Elbow River that had been severly damaged by the surging water and accompanying debris.

It is going to take a long time to fix these neighbourhoods.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Baby Wrap

Katie and I decided to go for a Sunday afternoon walk. I suggested that she bring her baby, and that we could wrap it up like mommy carried her babies. She is small enough that we were able to use R's winter scarf as the wrap and it worked almost perfectly. She felt so grown up. I thought she looked adorable with her little baby on board.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SOGO Challenge

I have registered for the Timpanogos Marathon (or Sogonapmit Challenge)

The main race is the downhill Timp Half Marathon that starts way up American Fork Canyon at 6am so that it can be clear of a certain highway ramp by 7:30am. About 1,000 people run that race. The SOGO Marathon is just a side-line that started up two years ago and only had 69 people last year (capped at 100 people for 2013). You start at 3:30am at the finish line for the half marathon (American Fork High School) with a headlamp and a reflective vest and a 2-1/2 hour head start on the half-marathoners. The "challenge" is to get up the canyon and back down before the fastest half-marathoners can catch you.

The first half is steady uphill, with a 1,740 foot gain over 21.1km (13.1 miles), which is a far cry steeper than either of my first two half-marathon races (one of them was completely flat).

Morning Commute to Downtown

In addition to frequent runs of 5-15km, I have done morning training runs from my house to downtown Calgary that were 22km, 25km and 30km. I live at the top of the river valley, so it is all downhill from my house to the city center. One evening I finally did the homeward route. The elevation gain was pretty steady and came to 1,215 feet over a distance of 19.5km. Had I gone 21.1km at the same average grade, it would have only been 1,315km, which is obviously well short of the SOGO 1,740 ft. I averaged 12km/h for the run, which wasn't bad, given that it was in the middle of the night in brand-new shoes with nothing to eat or drink with me (I was working late and had planned to catch a train to the end of the line and run 6km, but there were no trains for another 20 minutes, so I just took off running).

When I finally registered for the race, I looked at the results from 2012 and was surprised to see that only 69 people ran it last year (compared to 1,000 who ran the downhill half). I found a guy who runs about as fast as me. His time in the SOGO was 3h26m. However, I found his results from another 2012 marathon (which probably had less incline) and he did it in 3h12m. So, apparently, this race adds another ~1 min per mile more than a flat race. Tricky. It makes it harder to pin down a target time. I think anything under 4 hours is going to be pretty good.

The fastest half-marathoner ran the downhill race in 1h10m in 2012, so to stay ahead of him you would have to run the marathon in 3h40m. So that will be my goal. Failing that, my secondary goal will be to finish my first marathon in under 4 hours. I think I can do that.

Bring it Timp.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pshew! Pshew! -- Liberating the Basement

Scott has several superhero costumes that he has accumulated over the past few years of Halloweens and Christmas presents. As it turns out, his old Spiderman costume is just about the right size for Katie. She was thrilled to try it on and immediately seized a sword to be like him in his Power Ranger Samurai costume. Scott would have none of that and quickly righted this grevious wrong, explaining to her that "Spiderman does not carry a sword -- instead, he shoots webs by pointing his fingers like this."

Katie could not imitate the complicated gesture. Scott said, "just use your pointer finger then. And make a web sound like this -- pshew!" She happily complied.

They wanted me to be the bad guy but I really wasn't in the mood. I recalled a tradition we had in our house growing up where my older brother C would take up arms to "liberate the basement", clearing the cellar of hostile forces in close urban combat. I told them to go downstairs and fight the bad guys down there.

Scott said, "There are no bad guys down there." I told him, "But what if all the dolls and stuffies were bad guys?" His eyes immediately lit up at this possibility. "Come on Katie," he said. "Let's go down and fight all the animals and dolls that are downstairs."

And that is how liberty and justice was finally extended to the far reaches of our basement level.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lego Club Jr

Here is Scott's latest entry to the Lego Club Jr photo contest. He needed to make a track for his Chima racers. I don't know if you can make out all the details, but he has a start line, a finish line and a podium featuring trophies. It was hard to capture everything in one photo, so if you require additional details, you can address your queries to the builder himself.

If he wins, he gets a $50 Lego gift card. I think he is realistic about his chances, but still hopeful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

OBX Day 7: Part 1 - Roanoke Island & Bodie Island Lighthouse

Our last full day in OBX was packed with activities. First, we drove out to Roanoke Island, famous as the site of the "Lost Colony." English colonists settled here in 1587, and soon after Viriginia Dare was the first English child born in America. Worried about hostile native tribes nearby (which had probably wiped out 107 men left there 2 years previously), the colonists persuaded their Governor John White (Virginia's grandfather) to return to England to ask for help. The war with Spain delayed White's return until the summer of 1590 (Virginia's 3rd birthday), but the settlers were gone. There was no sign of a battle or hurried departure, and the only clue was "Croatoan" carved into a nearby tree. The colonists were never found, and there are many theories about their fate, as well as one particularly popular outdoor pageant which has been performed every year since 1937.

We did not see the outdoor pageant, as it shows nightly at 8pm and that is bedtime for bongos. However, we did get tickets for the morning performance of UNC Greensboro's "Broadway for Kids", which probably will not challenge the lost colony's 76-year longevity record. The kids loved it all the same, especially the guy who jumped around on a ladder in cargo shorts and a tuxedo shirt and sang a Tarzan song. I think Tay's favourite was the guy in the unbuttoned waistcoast who sang an Aladdin song.

Roanake Island has a great aquarium that showcases marine life native to North Carolina. Probably the most interesting display was the shark tank, where one of the staff fielded the audience's questions from inside the tank, while another staff member stood guard with a barber pole. She noted that sharks in the wild eat once per week, but these captive sharks eat three times per week, so they aren't that interested in eating anyone who swims with them in the tank. I could buy that explanation. Then she said that most shark attacks are simple misunderstandings where sharks mistake people for someone else. That line of reasoning didn't make me feel any better, since people I have never met often say that I look like someone they know.

There was a great display where you were able to touch various types of rays. Scott was a bit too tentative at first to really get close to one, but I think he touched one in the end. I was told not to stand on the bench to get a photograph, as there is a chance I could fall right in. I suppose they only say that because it has probably already happened before.

If I liked the sharks best, and Scott liked the rays best, then Katie loved the turtle rescue best. There was a section where you could put on a lab coat and take care of a distressed, life-size plastic sea turtle. Each turtle had a little chip in it that you could scan at a diagnostic machine, then the machine would give you instructions on how to treat it. You would then take your turtle over to the treatment center and dress its wounds, give it injections, or even an enema (what?!) before you took it to the recovery tank to swim some laps. Katie rescued at least 3 or 4 turtles, and would still be there today if we hadn't pulled her away to go search for lunch.

We dined in historic downtown Manteo, in a restaurant overlooking the waterfront. It was delightful because they served good food with lots of gluten-free options. Perhaps it was a bit pricey for regular menu items, like grilled cheese or macaroni, but it sure beats eating Wendy's for every meal (which is what we usually do when eating on the run at home).

After some icecream and some souvenir clothing (seriously, you can't leave this place without an OBX shirt or hoodie -- they have so many stores selling the stuff it would just seem wrong to do so), we left Roanoke Island to visit Bodie Island (pronounced "body") to see the lighthouse. This was one of the things on my list because it was not far to drive and they actually let you climb the stairs to the top. Sadly, you need to be part of a paid tour do do the climb there was limited space and a long wait. Instead, we just took some pictures.

Katie looked up at the lighthouse for a few moments and then came running back to us, shouting, "it's falling down on me!" The high angle of the structure and the clouds moving behind it had given her a distinct impression that the 141-year-old lighthouse had suddenly decided to topple over and snuff us out.

Perhaps her fears were justified -- these islands have a reputation for being hostile towards 3-year-old girls from foreign lands.

OBX Day 7: Part 2 - Faceplants & Fireworks

Coming back from Bodie Island, we stopped in at Jockey's Ridge to see the dunes again and pose for our only group photo of the trip. Scott had been begging to go back ever since he faceplanted there on our Day #3 visit. Only, this time it wasn't Scott who wiped out.

We saw some other people running down one of the steep dunes and Tay decided that he and I should have a race. As we climbed up the hill, I confessed that I had reservations about running down that hill at top speed. Tay got the drop on me from the starting line and built his lead as we went. Down below, the girls let the video camera roll and we came flying down at them. The slopes ends quite abruptly, and when Tay hit the level ground at the bottom his knees buckled and he hammered his face into the ground, plowing his glasses deep into the sand. The glasses managed to plow a few rows in his forehead on their way down -- but they didn't break.

If you watch the video in slow motion (which we did many times), then you can see that he got his hands out in front of him to break his fall, but he was going so fast that he quickly left them behind and his face was all on its own. He noted that his forearm was fairly sore: "Almost like a break" -- and he has broken his arm enough times to know what that feels like.

He was bloodied, sore and coated with sand, but there was nothing broken. Bystanders broke into spontaneous applause. Not only that, we ended up making money on the event. No, the spectators didn't make charity donations. Instead, the day after I uploaded the video to YouTube, I received an offer from a YouTube channel operator to license the video for use in their weekly compilation of "fail" videos for a 3-figure fee. I asked my sister-in-law if she was in favour of accepting the offer. She heartily agreed, although Tay had his reservations. We netted the amount off the total bill for our vacation rental. Thanks Tay!

We dined on delicious burgers and slushies from Kill Devil's Frozen Custard & Beach Fries and headed back home. We promised the kids that if they had their baths quickly and got right into their jammies then we could have fireworks.

We capped off this very successful final day with a few rounds of Dominion, where I finally snatched victory and etched my name in the box-top. All that was left was to clean up, pack our things and plan one final pancake breakfast. Good-bye North Carolina! We love your pancakes!

When we were on the plane trip home Scott sighed and said, "I miss Ava already." For the next week afterwards Katie kept saying, "I want to go back to Ava's house." Katie also began calling her young cousin Adalia by Ava for several days. How fun that we got to spend so much time together.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

OBX Day 6: Hot, Hot, Hot

During our trip my sister-in-law Jamie noted that my brother Tay is very good about golfing early in the morning on weekends so that it doesn't get in the way of other plans. Tay and I got up at the crack of dawn to golf a round at the Carolina Club.

Jamie further noted that he is often so wiped out from early golf that he needs to take a nap. This was the case at the children's museum.

Most days in OBX were an ideal temperature, but this particular day was a bit of a scorcher. Since the girls only wade in shallow holes of sludge, we didn't think that a trip to the beach would provide much relief from the sun and heat. Instead, we headed to the children's museum, which was deliciously cool and comfortable.

The interactive exhibits covered many aspects of life, including shopping, doctors, tools and exercise; however, it also had some unique North Carolina features. There was a large "Carolina Flare" style fishing boat that kids could climb in and around, which was complete with fishing gear.

The kids really enjoyed themselves. I was also inspired by some of the things I saw there and decided we should incorporate some things into our basement. I have big plans.

In the afternoon we drove north to the town of Duck, which has a really neat boardwalk and a reputation for good donuts. Unfortunately, the donut shop was already closed and Ava tripped on the boardwalk and smacked her sore tooth again. This meant that the New York half of our party spent a while relaxing in the cool interior of the vehicle, while the Canadian half explored the boardwalk. Normally, I wouldn't be a fan of so much wind, but I can see how the constant breeze is what makes the heat quite manageable.

We polished off the evening with stop at Kill Devil's Frozen Custard & Beach Fries for some of their custard. It was delicious, and quite soothing for sore teeth.

Later that evening a massive thunderstorm rolled in. We stood on the deck of the top story and watched it roll across the land towards the ocean. The interplay between the two weather fronts was very obvious, and I wish I had taken a photo of the very distinct line that it created in the low-hanging clouds. This was the only rain we got the whole trip, and it was kind enough to come late at night when the kids were already in bed and we were enjoying the NBA finals and a friendly game of Dominion.