Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Wild Chickadees of Big Hill Creek

[Apr 19 2014]

Easter weekend we had nothing planned for Saturday, so we went down to Cochrane for a walk. We thought about going out to Big Hill Springs, but it seemed a bit far and probably pretty mucky. We had no idea what we might find in Cochrane, except that the maps showed some sort of pathway following a creek near the Bow River.

It turns out that creek is Big Hill Creek, flowing from Big Hill Springs down to Cochrane to join the Bow River. We started at the Bow and walked upstream, stopping to drop sticks off every one of the many bridges we encountered along the way. Everyone drops a stick on the upstream side of the bridge and then you rush over to the downstream side to see whose stick floats by first. I first learned about this game from reading "Winnie the Pooh" as young boy. The game was called "Pooh-sticks", which is pretty hilarious to a kid.

Each student in Scott's grade one class has been assigned an animal to learn more about. Scott got the chickadee. I knew nothing about the chickadee. Scott, on the other hand, knows what they look like and what they sound like, and he spotted one along the creek. We got some good pictures of chickadees and a video for him to share with his class.

I really liked walking outside with my family. I really, really liked it. It is so fun to have your kids buzzing around nature, laughing and squealing. I may not know bird calls, but I know what kids sound like when they are having fun and it is one of the best sounds in the world.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Good Friday, Hold the Cheese

[Apr 18 2014]

We hosted all the cousins at our house on Good Friday for pizza, watermelon and colouring eggs. I ordered the pizza with a smartphone app, which was pretty cool, especially because we could get a gluten-free pizza for R as well. The app was so sophisticated, I could pick what toppings I wanted on each side of the pizza. I created a nice half/half meatlovers/deluxe pizza, but I somehow managed to delete cheese as one of the toppings. Oops.

Days like this are the reason we moved back to Calgary from Ottawa. It's so fantastic to have so many family members so close.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Running for L'Arche in March

[Mar 22 2014]

On March 22 I ran my 4th Half-Marathon. It was the annual Run for L'Arche, along the Bow River from downtown Calgary to Bowness and back. Even though I ran a respectable 1h37min (compared to 1h40min in this same race last year), it was the first time I ran a race where I didn't get faster, which was a bit depressing. It was also pretty cold and windy outside, which was a bit freezing.

I went out of the gates at the pace I raced my previous Half, figuring that I might as well go for broke, even though it was only the first race of the season. I maintained the pace for the outbound leg to Bowness, but then I turned around and realized I'd had a pretty stiff wind at my back all the way, and there was no way I was going to keep it together for another 40+ minutes. Each km was a little slower than the last, except the final 500m, where I managed a pretty impressive sprint to the finish. My fans were snuggled up warm at home, but they called me on my headset at about the 14km mark and cheered me on, which was very nice. There were some people dressed as superheroes who also cheered me along the way. Or maybe they were real superheroes. Now I'm not sure.

My friend Troy was in the race, so I shivered and shook at the finish line until he came through. He and I are going to face off in a triathlon in June, and it appears I have a leg up for the running, but his history as an Australian life guard means that I will have my work cut out for me.

My sister-in-law Karla ran her first-ever Half Marathon. She had a great race. About 2 seconds after she crossed the finish line I chattered out, "Hey, how about we go inside and eat some pancakes?" There was a free pancake breakfast provided, which I think is one of the best things about this race. She said she wasn't too hungry for pancakes, but once she got a minute to collect herself, she couldn't resist.

If you don't have any Saturday breakfast plans next March, you should consider running this race. I can't promise sunny skies, but I can promise scrambled eggs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Bunny + Tooth Fairy + Birthday Week

Scott's other front tooth has been a little loose lately, but not so much that it was dangling. Yesterday he ate an apple and I asked him if it was making his tooth more loose. He said yes.

Today I got an email from home with this photo.

I called Scott to get the gory details and he said that he tried some floss but in the end he pulled it out with his fingers. He said it hurt a bit and there was some blood, but he was okay. R said that he was very brave, and that he was quite excited to cash in.

Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Birthday, all in the span of 6 days? This is quite the week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Last Ski Day of the Season

Since it is snowing here currently, I thought I would post some pictures of us skiing. It seemed appropriate.

The final week that C.O.P. was open, we went up with Grandpa to get a few last runs in. Things were a lot different than the previous time we had been up with Grandpa. Obviously there was the brown, slushy condition of the snow and there was the complete absence of any other skiers on the hill. More significantly, the first time we skied together, we were restricted to the magic carpets in the beginner area. This time, we rode the blue chair up to the top together. The kids have come a long way.

Scott was pretty tentative at the beginning, probably because his final wipe-out at Whitefish was fresh in his memory. He was pretty grumpy on the chair heading up. However, we joined up with some church friends after a while (including a girl a year younger than him), and he was back to his old tricks, showing off his speed and agility.

We initiated Grandpa in our tradition of eating fries on the patio, which seems to be the key to get Katie going on the hill. She always does her best skiing after we have a fry snack. Katie is a great skier, but she is much less aggressive than Scott. He can't stand being held back from the chairlifts and jumps, while she is more than content to just do laps in the beginner area.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Blue & White Motel with Dad

A weekend trip with Dad is sort of a win-win-win. Dad gets to go out and do stuff that he likes to do, the kids get to go on an adventure, and Mom gets to have a few moments to herself. Such excursions are within a reasonable driving distance, and usually take place in the summer. Last weekend, we packed up our skis and headed down to Kalispell/Whitefish to ski and see cousins.

The trip was on a smaller scale than our January ski vacation, so we didn't rent a spot on the ski hill. Instead, I stumbled into the deal of the century -- a "theme" motel room for only $50, with pool and breakfast included. Whoa! I will admit, there were some negative reviews of the "Blue & White Motel" on the main drag in Kalispell, but few/none of the reviews said the place was dirty... mostly just noisy. A common complaint was that the motorcycle groups that frequently stopped there in the summer months were pretty loud and the BBQ patio in the public area was often loud into the night as well. March seemed a bit early in the season for motorbikes and BBQs, so I figured we were good there. The other online complaint was that some of the people who stayed/lived at the motel were a bit sketchy. But how sketchy? Other places to stay cost twice as much or more, which is a pretty hefty non-sketchy-premium. Plus, this motel had a Wendy's AND a Taco Bell next door. I decided to just go for it.

Did I mention Theme Rooms? Yeah, there were theme rooms. We got the one with the school-room theme. Apples, ABCs, 123s. It had it all... including a few cigarette burns in the covers (wasn't this a non-smoking room?), and a sink that would only turn off if you closed the water supply valve under the basin. Still, it had a TV of sorts where we could get our March Madness updates and beds for us to sleep in.

Breakfast was included. Perched atop a short bookcase in a dark corner of the motel office, the breakfast spread was not fine dining, but it wasn't much different than I would have gotten, left to my own devices. They had some fruit and whatever happened to be on sale in the bakery section of the grocery store the previous day. One morning, that meant donuts and mini-danishes. Another morning, that meant devils food cake, pre-sliced into a choco-debris-pile, with the "Manager's Special" sticker clearly visible on the plastic casing. They also had a loaf of bread and some English muffins next to the toaster, and a big tub of margarine with a knife jutting out. Lots of crumbs, too. We avoided the devil and the margarine, but the fruit and donuts were great.

Enough about the motel, how about the ice cream? We met up with cousins on Thursday night to play at the indoor Playplace and then cooled off with some 25-cent cones at the grocery store (Cam has all the deals figured out). Scott saw Connor buy a big bottle of flavoured water with his allotment, so he copied him at the next opportunity. I picked up some of those mini-cans of pop that we kept in our mini-fridge at the motel and Katie LOVED to make a big production of going to the fridge, opening it up, taking a sip of her pop, putting it back, and closing the door again. She would narrate the whole process and add comments like, "I love to drink my pop!" You would think that she guzzled huge quantities of pop, but don't worry mom, she barely got through 250mL over a few days. Flat pop -- mmmmm.

The motel staff were very nice. It was an adventure. Will we stay there again? Probably not. But that depends whether the James Dean theme room is already booked.

Monday, April 07, 2014


Katie doesn't have a middle name. She is a bit jealous of Scott, since he has three names and she only has two.

For generations, that's the way it's been in both my family and R's family, where the maiden name usually becomes the middle name after marriage. We didn't come up with the idea.

Since she was born, we have often called her "Katie-Baby". There was even a song that we used to sing. But now she is not a baby anymore, and she isn't sure that she likes being type-cast in the role of baby.

On our recent ski trip to Montana, we were on the ski lift with her cousins and she said that she didn't like to be called Katie-Baby. We came up with an alternate nickname for her -- Katie Cutie. From there, we had to have a nickname for everyone on the lift:
Katie Cutie
Bailey Beauty
Daddy Tootie

A few days after we got back from the trip she suddenly decided to make a change. She announced, "My middle name is Snow White."

She's never even seen the movie Snow White before, but we got a really nice Snow White dress last year in a 2nd-hand purchase. She ended up choosing it for her Halloween costume. This week she wore it several days in a row, along with a matching Snow White crown, shoes and sceptre. While washing her hands in the bathroom one evening she explained to me that she looks a lot like Snow White, except that Snow White has black hair and Katie has blond hair. But when she wore a black toque for Halloween and a red ribbon on it, then she matched Snow White.

Later in the week, Katie didn't want to go to her music class. She said she just wanted to stay in her dress. During negotiations she asked if she could go to class in her dress. R said yes, but warned her that it would attract a lot of attention if she did, so she should be ready for that. She went to the class and was a bit flushed when people in the front entrance were already commenting on her dress. She handled the notoriety better than we would have expected.

Her music teacher accidentally called her Cinderella, but the rest of the little girls straightened her out immediately.

Katie wore her dress one more place on the way home and was somewhat disappointed when nobody made any comments. When they got back to the car she told R, "Nobody even said anything about my dress!"

Well, now she has four names and Scott only has three. Although, do you hyphenate Snow-White when you use it as a middle name? If so, does it count as one or two names? I'm not sure.

Friday, April 04, 2014

March Madness Sadness

Occasionally throughout the year Scott would say, "I can't wait for March." The first few times I had to stop and think what he could be so excited about, since his birthday is in April. He was talking about March Madness.

Even though he plays more soccer than anything else, this boy LOVES basketball, so it makes sense that he gets excited. However, the thing he likes most about March is filling out his bracket and keeping track of all the results. We watched lots of live coverage, but mostly he was interested in the final few minutes of games, to find out the winner. Some nights he would have to go to bed before all the games were over, so he asked me to write out a list of the final outcomes and leave it out in the kitchen, so that he could update his bracket first thing in the morning before everyone else woke up. He knew my bracket better than I did, and he could essentially recite it back to me, along with detailed analysis of who in the family should be cheering for whom. He's got great potential for a career as a bookie.

He and Katie both picked Wichita State to win it all this year, based on the sound logic that Wichita State hadn't lost a game all year, so their fortunes should continue. The logic favoured Wichita State, but Scott still loves Duke and Louisville, based on his experience last year. He was all primed for Duke's 1st game, wearing his homemade shirt and watching the game live on R's phone while tagging along to Katie's music class. He was sad to see Duke eliminated in the first round. I thought he would be totally heartbroken, as he was with some of his other first-round losses. However, he took it all in stride when he saw that everyone else in the family had also favoured Duke, so he was not disadvantaged by the outcome.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Swimming Lessons With Cousins

Katie is lucky to have 2 cousins born the same year as her who live close enough that they can all take swimming lessons together. There are four spots in their Otter class, so I imagine that 4th kid in the class feels a little left out. On this particular day, #4 was missing, so the three Otter cousins latched onto their instructor for a few loops through the lazy river. Too cute.