Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A very fun weekend: part 2

This was the weekend we were planning to go snow tubing at Boler Mountain... except that, this winter being what it is, there was no snow. On Wednesday I got an email back from the staff there saying they "planned" to be open on the weekend, but by Friday night the website was broadcasting that the hill was closed.
Since this was one weekend day this winter when Liam didn't have hockey - and those are few and far between - we didn't want to let it pass without taking advantage. So with another six weeks or so to go before our Detroit Zoo membership expires, we decided to make another trip.
We knew the temperature would be hovering right around freezing, but we were not anticipating snow... after all, wasn't that the very problem with going tubing? Check out the kids' footwear, which grows increasingly inappropriate as the day goes by. (Here come the first few flakes!)

We had the place virtually to ourselves. It was amazing. Thinking back to our trip last March when it was wall-to-wall people (throngs of school groups to boot)... it was an entirely different experience. Not every exhibit was open, but the ones that were open made up for the lack of numbers. We had never been inside the giraffe barn, for example. We'd only ever seen the giraffes from a great distance in their outdoor enclosure. Here, we came face to face with them. Or face to knees, as the case may be.
The Arctic Ring of Life (my favourite exhibit - or at least it was, until we got into that giraffe barn!) seemed much more realistic with the snow coming down.
Watch out, Liam, you're going to get eaten!
(Mallory finally tires out and cops a ride...)
The polar bears were much more active than they are when we go to see them in 90-plus degree summer heat - go figure, right? They were playing a game with each other - throwing their food dish into the water, jumping in after it, and trying to wrestle it away from each other. It was pretty cool to watch.

The only disappointment of the trip for me was that the lions were not out. In a real life turn of events that I couldn't have made up if I'd tried, two of the Detroit Zoo's five lions were actually rescued from a residential neighbourhood where they were kept to guard a crack house. The Detroit Zoo is so stately and beautiful that it's hard to believe it's in the same city.
After almost 4 hours, it was time to go... but not without first having a snowball fight. At the front gate. Which was utterly deserted.
We'd already achieved our goal of getting outside for some exercise and fresh air. This was just the icing on the cake.
And it led to a great family picture (camera propped up on a garbage can). Maybe my project will expand to become Four People Twenty-Four Times, because this one is a keeper. In the full-size shot below you can actually tell that three of the four of us have hucked a snowball at the camera (not too precisely, of course). Only one person has chosen to hold on to hers. In about thirty seconds she is going to try to stuff it down her daddy's back.
Goodbye for now, Detroit Zoo. I have a sneaking suspicion we will be renewing our membership for another year.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A very fun weekend: part 1

We had a very fun weekend - in fact the most fun weekend in a long time. (Or maybe not. Certainly that time off at the beginning of the year was lovely, but it seems like for-ev-er ago right now!) This was in spite of the fact that I came home from work on Friday night feeling lousy; we are all fighting scratchy throats and coughs right now. We had plans to go out Friday night, which almost never happens, and I thought about bowing out. But two Tylenol and a 20-minute power nap later we were out the door.Chad and I signed up for the Pub Brrrrrun hosted by Chatham's new running store, Up & Running. (The store opens the first week of March.) And so it was that we met downtown in an empty parking lot after dark on Friday night to do some jello shots and then go for a group run.

(Disclaimer: I stole the rest of these pictures from the event's Facebook page.) The run took us to 5 local bars over the course of almost 7 km (well, that included the run back to the car - it had been billed as a 5 km-but-not-officially-sanctioned event). Each stop was long enough for a drink and some sort of game/activity. I won two prizes - some gloves and a stick pony (don't ask). Chad made out better with a technical shirt. At least Mallory was briefly entertained by the stick pony...
I like to run but am pretty much a running hermit - I've never gone out with a group before. This night made me wonder why not. It was actually a lot of fun, even if I only knew a handful of the people there. And hey, after 20 years of living in Chatham, I *finally* made it inside the Montreal House!!

(So THAT's what all the fuss is about?? Yikes.)There's talk of another Pub Run but this one being maybe in July - when the weather is warmer. I may well sign up for it, too. It turns out that I kind of like this type of event. Maybe we'll even put a group together to do it. Don't be surprised if I come to recruit you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liam's take on things

Last night at dinner, I asked Liam what he thought about Tim Thomas refusing to go to the White House. (I wouldn't even know who Tim Thomas is, if it weren't for this conversation with Liam from last May.) Obviously he didn't get why I was asking, but that made it all the funnier this morning when he burst into the bathroom while we were getting ready for work to let us know that, while watching Sports Center (his daily ritual while getting dressed, and MAN, does he love it!), he saw the Bruins giving a jersey to a new Bruins player, named Obama, who must have been called up from the farm team.

(I think is my new all-time favourite piece of Liam's artwork, because holy heck, it is just SO him. He started it at the after school program and finished it at home, keeping it a secret until it was done, and I'll bet that there weren't too many team logos he couldn't draw from memory. And I know it's upside down, but pretty much every piece of art I scan and post shows up upside down, even though it scans right side up. I don't quite get it.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Out of hiding

Yeah, I've been away for a bit.
Long enough for the seasons to have changed, really.
Just busy with the usual... lots of hours logged at the arena...Birthday parties and play dates... and more work than I would like to admit. But that's what happens in the gas industry in January.

Back into the swing of things from now on!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Four people twelve times

Last year I started a project. The original project was called Six People Twelve Times, and I modified it for myself, to make it Four People Twelve Times. It boils down to this: one family picture each month, no matter what. I started this in July, so for 2011 my project was actually Four People Six Times. Here are the results, which have probably been posted here before in one form or another, though not collectively.

I started the project off with a bang and actually got two family shots in July. One on Canada Day......and one when we were all dressed up for Jonah's baptism:In August we got a bunch of shots at Disney World, taking advantage of the park's Photopass photographers to get them for us. I am not in love with any of them; Mallory is generally not looking in any of them.By contrast, I LOVE this shot of us at the end of September, when I was still a hot mess with pneumonia and we made an impromptu trip to Point Pelee. That's the funny thing about this project. You can get all dressed up or have a great backdrop for a picture, and not get what you want. Or you can snap a quickie and be pleasantly surprised by how it turns out.In October we took our Christmas card shots. The Christmas card wound up being a picture of just the kids, but we did take a couple of family snaps too. I'm sure it won't surprise anyone that Mallory posed this shot herself.In November we went to the zoo and set up a self-timer on a bench before we left. Check out the 'stache on Chad. Can you believe we lived with that thing for a month??In December, we took a quick shot on Christmas Eve, figuring we'd probably be too busy to do it the following day. We were right.And that brings us to January. This is a project I would very much like to keep up, because I've loved having this particular subset album of family pictures. In some of them we are impeccably groomed and in others our hair isn't brushed and we're not wearing makeup, but they reflect our family, the seasons, and the things we do. I really like that about them. For this year I can foresee another ritzy shot at a family baptism, a street shot in Pittsburgh on a road trip, and one of us roughing it with ponytails and stubble on the rim of the Grand Canyon. With birthday cakes in April and poolside in July. Collectively they will tell our story. It's one I am excited to have unfold.

To kick it off, we took the January installment this morning after some sledding fun.Here's to making the most of the self-timer feature on the camera. Back in February with the next installment.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


We've had a very active week with a lot of traveling about, trying to make the most of another glorious week of holidays before it is back to work and school on Monday. (Poor Chad was back at work this week, so the kids and I were trying not to gloat about our fun too much, lest he feel left out.)
One of the things we crossed off the to-do list was a trip to Listowel to see my grandmother, who has recently moved into a retirement home. Because it's a three-hour drive each way, we don't get up to see her all that often, but with some time on our hands we made the trip.
Luckily, Stratford is en route, so we made an overnight stop there to break up the drive. Liam and grandpa enjoyed polishing off a crossword puzzle together.
As a fun reward for their good behaviour for long hours spent in the car, we decided to go to a place that is not far outside of Stratford - the River Side snow tubing complex. Last year Mallory was too small, but they accept kids 4 and up so this was our year. They had half of the resort open (4 of 8 slides) and were frantically making snow on the other half of the hill, though given that it was 8 degrees C yesterday, I think that was in vain. Anyway, conditions were good on half of the hill and the lines were not too awful given that the school break was still on.

As I expected, Liam loved every minute of it - pulling his tube around, riding the lift to the top of the hill, attempting to race Mallory and I (on the lift) while he climbed the entire hill on foot, and most of all, the high-speed ride down the hill. I had forgotten just how fast you get moving on these tubes, not having been here in ten years. It was pretty darn fast.
Also as I expected... Mallory. She was excited to arrive at the resort, excited to see the hill, excited to ride the lift up the hill, excited to get ready to launch... and then hated the trip down. At the bottom of the hill she said she hated tubing, wanted to go home, and was not going to go down the hill again.
Because I had just bought a two-hour lift ticket for all three of us, and was not about to let my six-year-old have run of the place on his own while I spent the morning sitting in the chalet with Mallory, I told her that like it or not, she was going to keep tubing. People behind us in line commented on her mopey face and asked her if she was having fun, to which she emphatically replied NO. I'm sure they wondered why I was forcing the issue.
And I will tell you why I did: it's because I know my daughter pretty well. By her fourth trip down the hill, she was shrieking with glee, and by the time the two hours were up she was sad that we had to leave.
And that's the way it is with Mallory in general. She hates everything until she gives it a try, and I think we do her the most disservice when we listen to her original pleas to quit something without pushing her a little bit to continue. In the back of my mind while all of this was going on, I was thinking about the trip we have planned for later this year. It's the kind of trip that Chad and I enjoy most, and the first time we are planning to bring the kids along on the ride. It will involve some activities we have done before without kids (river rafting) and some that are new to all of us (rock climbing/canyoneering), and I fully expect that Mallory will insist at some point along the way that she is not having any fun. I also fully expect that she will come around if we just stick with our original plan and encourage her. Having recently booked the trip, knowing full well how she can be, it was nice to see that I was right in thinking she would eventually grow to love snow tubing. Let's just hope the other activities grow on her, too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas 2011 Round-Up

Biggest hit gift: the Leappads we got the kids. They have hardly been set down since they were unwrapped, which of course presents a whole new set of arguments, er, challenges. I didn't mind this glazed-over look on Christmas day, but I don't want to see it every day:Gift most likely to begin a family feud, a la Capulets/Montagues: Liam's hockey jerseys. First, he got an early Christmas present from Grampa Ralph and Gramma Lainey, a Red Wings jersey that he wore to the game back in early December. Then on Christmas day, he got another jersey, this time from Grampa Bruce and Gramma Dee... a Leafs jersey. And to complete the jersey trifecta, he then received a Penguins jersey from Auntie Steph and family. He loves all three and has worn them all repeatedly... I don't think he is siding with any one team just yet!Biggest disappointment of the 2011 holiday season: that it was a green Christmas. Really, this shouldn't surprise me, since we usually don't have snow for Christmas; but the past two years have been lovely white Christmases that have included lots of snow and outdoor ice skating. To have balmy temperatures and rain on Christmas just feels wrong.Most inappropriate gift: Mallory gave me a black lace thong with silver snowflakes on it. For real. To hear her tell the story, it's all very innocent; she liked them because they are glittery and winter-y. Still.... wowza.Best DIY moment: that wreath hanging on my door? I made it myself, with a million Christmas balls and about ten sticks of hot glue. When I was halfway done with it, I was convinced that it was going to wind up in the garbage, it looked so bad, but now that it is finished I simply love it. Just hoping that we can keep it intact until next year, because the balls are not shatterproof.Most memorable moment, and not in a good way, though I do wish I had thought to grab the camera a little earlier in the process: when the Pyrex casserole pan of potatoes exploded in the kitchen as we were making Christmas dinner, and the glass was everywhere. Everywhere. We had to pick the shards out of the wood floor by hand and were still finding them a couple of days later. The potatoes had to be tossed, as did the gravy and leftover cinnamon bread that was on the counter nearby and caught some of the shrapnel. But, everyone still has their eyes!Gifts most inciting wistfulness: Chad gave me a Garmin Forerunner and some new running clothes, and with my niggling back, I have yet to use them. One day soon.Gifts most reminiscent of "Groundhog Day": I gave Chad a watch. Chad gave me a watch. I also gave him a watch for his birthday this year, and he also gave me a watch for our anniversary this year. Now that we both have new sports watches and dress watches, I think we are finally, officially, all watched out.Corporations it feels like we single-handedly sponsored this holiday season: this is a toss-up between the NHL (two hockey sticks, three jerseys, several packs of stickers, two books, a puck, and an NHL-themed Kinder Egg) and Mattel (Barbie Puppy Water Park, Barbie Princess Charm School movie, two dolls from said movie, a Barbie dollhouse set, Barbie Glam Auto, an equestrian Barbie and horse, and a mermaid Barbie for the bathtub). We ought to buy stock.Gift for the kids that mom has totally horned in on: this would have to be the Disneyland Xbox game. It is just like being in the park, minus the smell of the cotton candy and sweltering Florida humidity.Record for fastest-ever assembly of a gift composed of 1,097 pieces: Liam and the Lego Pirates of the Caribbean ship. He had it done within 24 hours.Best sanity-saving moment: getting up (not too early) on the morning of January 1st, taking down the tree, removing the stockings and garland and lights from the mantel, doing a good vacuum and putting the furniture back in place. Onward with the new year.