Monday, May 26, 2014

While Mom Went Away - Part 1

[April 30, 2014]

R went on a 5-day road trip all the way down to Utah with her sister J to attend Women's Conference on BYU campus. They stayed with her Grandma W and hung out with her brother B and his wife K as well.

Aside from 30+ hours of driving and getting very little sleep, it seems that enjoyed herself. The weather was fabulous (especially compared to the weather in Calgary) and the campus was beautiful. She also managed to connect with my fam at the mall in Provo, just before Spencer ran a race and Livvy played a soccer game. How fun.

While she was gone I took a few day off of work and went on some adventures with the kids (actually, I ended up working at night and adventuring during the day - exhausting). One day 1, Katie and I had a picnic lunch at a park in West Hillhurst, kiddie-corner to Queen Elizabeth Jr/Sr High School -- the legendary place that featured prominently in my the pseudo-academic exploits of my eldest brother J (my sister A denies any association with the school whatsoever).

We ended up touring by 2 more playgrounds as the afternoon progressed, including one in Capitol Hill that had a dinosaur theme and some bouncy balls to play with. We nearly had to make an emergency pitstop behind some foliage, but then we found the door unlocked to the community center and a man doing renovations inside let us use the facilities. Whew.

On Day 2 we diagnosed Scott with some form of horrible disease the forced him to come play with us for the day instead of going to school. I asked the kids what things they wanted to do. Katie said, "I want to hike on a mountain!" Scott said, "I want to go to a park!" I should mention that Scott was not at all supportive of the mountain idea. I figured out a compromise, where we could go to a park AND do a hike.

First we went to a park in Varsity that I found on a website list for best playgrounds in Calgary. It was pretty good, but I don't know if it was great. While there, I overheard two first-time moms with little babies lamenting how people at work had shared links with pictures of their precious little babies, exposing them to online exposure without their baby-consent. They were outraged that such a thing had happened. It was this conversation that leads me to believe that they were first-time parents.

We left to get pizza and head on our hike, but then I realized that I left the kids' hoodies on a bench at the previous park because I am an idiot, so we had to go back. Ugh. Finally, we had a pizza picnic in the back of the truck before embarking on our hike. I had read on a website somewhere that there was a cool waterfall hike not far from where we live, so that was our goal for the afternoon.

The hike was very simple, and had the benefit of a boardwalk all the way down the ravine, keeping hikers elevated above the various waterflows that converged along the descent. It was somewhat puzzling where the water was coming from. There was none at the top and then there was a pretty good stream by the time we reached the bottom.

At the very bottom, just before reaching the Bow River, there was a cute little waterfall spilling over the rocks and creating an interesting mineral formation tinged with mossy green. There was also an emergency pitstop that had to take place, as usual. We managed to steer clear of pathways and waterways, however.

On the way back up we saw a snake in the creek, which is a bit of a rare thing in the city. It was small and pretty sleepy so it was hard to spot, but the kids were much less intimidated by the snake than the large dog which had been the first to spot the snake.

Although the grassy hills were still brown everywhere, Katie found some beautiful purple wildflowers on the hillsides. She was sad how fragile the flower turned out to be, but she loved it all the same. We capped off the day with a visit to the bottle depot to supplement Scotty's birthday money so he could buy the Lego Ninjago Temple of Light, which he says is the thing he wanted most in the whole world. Katie used her recycling proceeds to buy Ariel & Eric wedding figurines from the Disney Princess collection. This naturally required that I play the part of Eric for the next few days.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Patrons of the Arts

We like to support the performing arts. But we like it even more if we can do it on the cheap.

A typical orchestra-level seat for a production by Theatre Calgary costs about $90. However, one time I noticed that they had a few $25 seats available. Rather than being way in the back or up on the balcony, these seats were on the front row. We jumped all over those tickets, and we've never looked back. We sat about 12 feet from the Man in the Chair (Dean Paul Gibson) for "The Drowsy Chaperone". It was amazing. Tickets in the first 2 rows are cheap like that but if you move back one more row, suddenly it goes way up to $90. And I bet that $90-guy in the 3rd row is still sitting within the "splash zone" (Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby had more range than most).

Last year we snagged some $25 tickets for Pride & Prejudice and invited along a couple that we often go out with. They were a bit shocked at how fun it all was (he had NEVER seen Pride & Prejudice!), and then they were hooked. I got a letter offering me a season subscription for those same seats and they went in on it with us. For only a few dollars more than we had been paying, we could get guaranteed 2nd-row seats for opening Friday for every show, and if we couldn't make it that particular day, they would exchange the tickets for us for a different night without a fee. This year we saw:

- Kim's Convenience (hilarious)
- The Great Gatsby (perfectly cast)
- Major Barbara (Dean Paul Gibson is king of the world!)
- The Mountaintop (Great acting, but language was a bit excessive)
- Mary Poppins (Aaaaaah! This was AMAZING!)

Opening Friday is supposed to be extra fun because they have a gala afterwards with a drink and a snack and you get to meet the cast. We actually never made it to the opening Friday until we went to Mary Poppins, and then the show went so late that we had to quickly snag a cake pop and rush back to our babysitters. Still, there is something strangely satisfying about being a subscriber -- even a cheapo subscriber. It makes you feel sort of classy. Like you are a patron of the arts.

Our kids also love live theatre. For some strange reason, Scott sort of hates going to movies. The only way you can get him to go is to promise him popcorn and pop. He isn't that excited about the movie itself (except for the Lego Movie -- he would give up anything to go see that again, it seems). Katie appears absolutely terrified of all movies. Maybe she was too traumatized by watching "Brave" when she was just tiny. If she sees a character who is marginally "bad" she wants to hide. Same thing if the music takes a dramatic turn. We watched "Muppets Most Wanted" with our Kalispell cousins and she was scared of Konstantine, which was just Kermit the Frog with a mole on his cheek.

The typical progression for Katie at any movie or show is to slowly tense up and curl into a smaller ball as the plot thickens. And then when the good guys finally get the upper hand on things, she suddenly releases in peals of laughter and the cutest giggles for everyone in the theatre to hear. We went to "Flat Stanley" at the community-run StoryBook Theatre last month and it was the same thing. When that girl gets into a production, it's like there is no one else in the room. She just lets go.

That's the kind of audience that you want to have in the front two rows.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Adventures in FHE

Mom was away at a school meeting so we took FHE on the road.
The kids pointed their bikes in the direction of a park and off we went, taking a short detour through the temple parking lot for a photo-op.

Our route also took us past Grandma's front door. Scott was running point on our convoy and he decided we should stop off at Grandma's trampoline. We ended up spending the whole evening in the back yard with Grandma & Grandpa, bouncing on the tramp, helping set up their patio swing, and enjoying delicious popsicles.

On the way there, Katie had stopped to get a copy of the free Metro newspaper from the green box near the bus stop. She had me carry it for her, since her hands were full operating the tricycle. I accidentally forgot the newspaper at Grandma's house, so she decided she needed to get another one. However, the green box was empty on the return trip. Even though we were totally running late, she took off on foot down the pathway to another bus stop. I thought she looked so adorable, trotting away on her little legs, her pink bike helmet bobbing along. She said, "I got this newspaper for mama." This was also adorable.

I think Katie felt very grown-up, out on her own little bike, picking up the newspaper.