Thursday, June 27, 2013

First day/last day: can you spot the difference?

(Mallory's class had a beach day on their last day of school... she does not normally go to school dressed like this, thank goodness!)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer 2013 science experiment

I have been wanting to plant a vegetable garden for a long time now, and this year, instead of just talking about it, I finally got around to it. Last summer I bought a raised bed kit (that never got taken out of the box) and this year we assembled it, located it in the back corner of the yard, filled it with soil (er... half-filled it; the soil has compacted down and absolutely needs to be topped up for next year) and then built a trellis from some copper pipe and some garden netting to support some vines. We picked out some seeds and a few seedlings, and got to work.

Right now, the garden is really flourishing, which makes me happy because the whole thing is just one huge experiment. We are square foot gardening so we have a lot crammed into a small space, and we are taking a 'one of everything' approach - partly to enjoy the variety, and partly to suss out what works and what doesn't. Next year we'll better know where to concentrate our energies.

I am pleased to report that we have more winners than losers. First up: this is a tomato that we are actually growing in a pot. It must have at least twenty green tomatoes on it. I was sort of picturing a steady supply of fresh tomatoes all summer but now I realize that we are going to have to eat tomatoes morning, noon and night for a week in August, and then they will probably all be done. See... we're learning lots.
In the garden itself - it's turning into a jungle! Clockwise from top left it's broccoli (which was Mallory's idea to plant), cherry tomatoes, and green beans - with a few marigolds in there to ward off the bugs (so far, so good.)
Other side of the bed: a pumpkin up top, peas to the left, romaine lettuce to the right, and carrots on the bottom, which we sowed three rows of a couple of weeks apart to give us a steady supply of carrots. And more marigolds.
The peas are on a trellis. We got our garden going in early May and I heard (after the fact) that you're supposed to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day - they will shrivel up in the heat of the summer. So I guess we're lucky that it's been a cool spring, after all. The peas are just starting to flower and will hopefully develop pods before the heat fries them. It would be disappointing to lose them now. We have two successive sowings of peas, too, to help spread out the harvest.
Here are our two under-performers. In the foreground is our cucumber, which got hit by frost in late May (despite me covering everything with towels on multiple occasions) and had to be re-sown. It has been slow getting going but we are finally getting a few more leaves. In the background (top left-ish) is a watermelon - it did not get hit by frost but has only really started growing leaves this week. It's got a lot of ground to make up.
I admire our vegetable garden as much for its looks as the bounty we hope it will yield - it's a good-looking mix of plants. We are not saving any money at all by growing our own food, because if I add up the cost of the garden kit, the soil, the trellis components, the seeds and seedlings... yikes. That could have bought a lot of tomatoes. But the kids are loving the process - they loved the planting, they fight over whose turn it is to water, and they love to run to the corner of the yard where our garden sits each day and report back on what's new: what seedlings have emerged, which plants are blossoming, and soon (hopefully) - which ones have edibles on them. And if it gets Mallory to eat just one more vegetable than she otherwise would have, it will be a resounding success.
The rest of the garden is doing well, too. I love June - everything is so lush and not yet fried by the summer sun and me forgetting to water it. These planters are on the pool deck - new this year - stuffed with an assortment of colourful stuff.
In the front yard I go with the same formula each year, more or less. Red geraniums, blue lobelia, white bacopa. I think last year I had yellow zinnias in there too and I wish I'd thought of that again this year. Instead I put in some purple sweet potato vine but it's not doing very well and it's hard to even see it.

The rose bushes are also flourishing, though one of them is being chewed by caterpillars. I tried spraying but it's done no good, so I have resorted to hand-picking the buggers each day. They gross me out but I think the population is declining so hopefully the worst is behind us.
More to come when we pick our first vegetables!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Not ready to go

Poor Mallory. She has had a rough go of things lately. Yesterday afternoon was her end-of-year family picnic at school. I was talking to her teacher and she told me that she had a rough time with her yesterday morning.
She went on to say she has noticed a change in Mallory over the past few weeks - Mallory has been disconnected in general, and hasn't been acting like herself.
I totally know where this is coming from. Mallory does not want to be done kindergarten. A few weeks ago I was joking with her about being in Grade 1 next year and she started to cry and came right out and said it - "I don't want to be done kindergarten!!"
She loves her teacher, her classmates, her classroom, her cubby, the bulletin board in the hall where her work is displayed, the option to walk with a friend down the hall to take the attendance to the office, the playground that is sequestered from the other kids, the theme days, the flip charts and surveys, the science table, the reading nook... she loves it all. She has had two wonderful years of it and she does not want to let it go.
She is a kid who never wants to do anything new, try a new food, go someplace different - and then we force her to do it and in the end, she loves it. I think she will be that way with Grade 1. I think she will love it just as much as she loves kindergarten. She just has to give it a chance.
I picture what back-to-school day will look like in September though, and unfortunately, it looks a lot like last year in my mind: Mallory crying and clinging onto my leg, the principal coming along and scooping her up and carrying her through the doors. I hope not to see a repeat of that, but I just don't know. And I don't think that Mallory trusts that good things lie ahead.

Wish us luck - we will be having a lot of pep talks this summer.
(In other news, we finally have pool weather - yay!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One week ago

Last Sunday at this time, we were just returning home from what's become an annual tradition for us: the Tomatoman triathlon in Leamington. This year, knowing he would be there anyway, Chad decided to sign up for it too, and he competed in the duathlon.
Because it's such a great race, and fairly close to home too, there was a large contingent of people I knew there, including a big turnout from TriCK - the triathlon club that started up here a few months ago. 
Unfortunately, the race itself was not a great one. My swim was a little faster than last year, but I finished 3 minutes slower overall - a little slower on the bike, a lot slower on the run, and having lost time in transition as well. Last year I rode this course on my old bike and I definitely had expected to improve with my road bike. I suppose it makes sense to have lost time in transition though, since now I have to change shoes twice instead of just once. In an ideal world, the time saved on the bike would more than make up for that. I am not sure where I am going wrong.
So the elusive goal of a sub 1:30 sprint distance race remains just that - elusive. That 1:30:05 I clocked in Leamington last year may well be the closest I come!!
Oh well - I was thankful just to finish. A couple of days later I pinched a nerve in my neck or some such crazy thing and had a couple of days where I couldn't move my shoulder/arm without some serious pain. I am feeling back to normal now and am going to test it out; meeting up with some TriCK'ers at the lake this afternoon to get some more open water practice in. Hoping the water is a lot warmer than it was last time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day, 2013 style

On Sunday we were back in Erieau - not for beach time, but for lunch at Bayside Brewery. The food was excellent, every bit as good as we'd heard it would be. I had the perch sandwich because naturally, when you're sitting beside Lake Erie, you eat perch.
Afterwards we went out to the trailer, where the kids had spent the night. We had to drop something off and it turned out for the best because Liam was really sad to leave the trailer on Sunday. I think he has a ball out there, running around and looking for frogs and snakes and building campfires and otherwise doing good old fashioned outdoorsy boy stuff. I would rather have him do that than play video games so it makes me happy to see how happy it makes him.
As it turns out, it was a great time to go out to the trailer. The next door neighbours discovered a baby turtle and they weren't kidding when they said it was a baby - that's it in the palm of Liam's hand. It was a hit with the kids.
Here they are letting it go back into the wild... with the whole family in on it. Maybe this just means we are easily amused?! 
Back at home, it's time to give Chad some Father's Day love. He gets lots of crafty items from the kids. (Mostly framed photos of themselves - that is always a popular gift!)
We also give him a bouquet, but we figure flowers aren't really his thing, so we give him a candy bar bouquet instead. The kids loved this idea - you should have seen Liam with the shopping basket trolling the candy aisle for the chocolate bars. Like a kid in a candy store, I tell ya! And the fact that it's something Chad can share with them is just the icing on the cake.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

To be fair

Liam is not the only kid in town with a year-end field trip. Last week I accompanied the kindergarten class on their end of year trip, too. Their destination was Point Pelee.
The difference between the pictures from Liam's trip and the pictures from Mallory's trip strikes me as funny.  On Liam's trip, everyone is wearing shorts and t shirts, as is befitting a June event. A few days prior to that, people were bundled up in winter coats, and we were still freezing out there on the beach. So much for spring and at this rate, summer is not looking good, either.
Mallory was not bothered by the cold weather. She proclaimed her field trip to be the 'best day ever'. She was happy to wander on the beach and search out shells, which found their way into MY coat pockets for the trip home. I had to wash my coat when we got back because quite a few were pulverized along the way.
Mallory is an A day student and the B day kids had their trip the day prior. The teacher remarked on how different the shape of the point was between the days. We also got hit by a lot of bugs, which they managed to avoid.
Mallory started out as a reluctant model, but eventually she wanted me to take her picture everywhere, including this sign marking the 42nd parallel - as far south as Rome and Barcelona, as the sign said.
Another class photo. I think everyone was there that day. Funny how nobody gets sick on field trip day!
After we went out to the point, we strolled the boardwalk marsh trail.
Well, the adults strolled. The kids took off.
No complaints though, because the bus driver had to be back at school to do the high school pick-up at 2:15. So the fact that the kids were out and back in record time served her well.

And with that... another vacation day bit the dust! I'm sure the day will soon come when the kids don't want me along on their trips, though. Until that day comes, I will try my best to be there.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I don't think general stores really sold Angry Birds wallets in 1871, but whatever

It's that time of year again - kids everywhere are setting off on their year-end field trips. Our school may have cancelled the Grandparents' Tea and the kindergarten graduation photos and who knows how many other 'extras' this year, but I was glad to see the field trips did not get the axe. 
For Liam and his friends, this meant a trip to Fanshawe Pioneer Village. I'd never been before and Liam wanted me to sign up to chaperone, so I made the trip with him. It turned out to be a very fun day.
I think it was fun for Liam, though I am sure he wondered what he had gotten himself into when we first arrived. The first order of the day was a trip to the local dance hall where the kids were taught how to dance like pioneers. All the bowing to the girls business earned a lot of snickering. After that the kids went outside and had to wash a load of tea towels by hand - another "You must be joking!" moment.
There was eventually some fun to be had, like when the class played tug of war... boys against girls. Unfortunately, the girls won. Probably due to the fact that our group consisted of the boys from one classroom, and two classrooms' worth of girls. The numbers weren't exactly fair.
Then again, life's not exactly fair. Another good lesson learned!
The kids went to school in an old one-room schoolhouse with a very strict schoolmaster. Here Liam is during hygiene inspection. He was ordrered to go wash his hands. That wasn't too bad; some of the kids had to stand in the corner.
Everyone had to sit straight up, hands folded, feet flat on the floor. You could only raise your right hand to get the teacher's attention. He led the class in singing the national anthem and the kids were bewildered when he launched into a rendition of "God Save the Queen". This was 1871, after all.
Penmanship and arithmetic lessons on a slate. No iPad or Smartboard in sight. Not even a sheet of foolscap!
Liam and his buddies on their lunch break.
Back to work... grinding corn into chicken feed, and then feeding the animals. This was a big hit. Those boys still love chickens!
The biggest hit of the day was saved for last: a trip to the general store. There's nothing like turning a huge group of little kids loose in a gift shop! Man, that was madness. Liam chose a giant lollipop and a piece of fudge to take home for the rest of the family. Ever the thoughtful little lad. The general store was mostly stocked with gifts appropriate to the era, like cast iron skillets and slingshots (many boys chose these... ugh... sorry, parents!)... plus a weird selection of Angry Birds themed wallets. Not sure how those got into the mix.

All in all, it was a great day. This was the grade 3 class trip, which Liam made it into because he's in the 2/3 split. However, I hear there is no 3/4 split, i.e. Liam will likely be a straight grade 3 next year. Which might mean another trip back to Pioneer Village next June. While it was a fun day, I hope for his sake that they get to go somewhere else.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Great Lake swimmer

On the weekend I met some friends at Erieau for an open water swim. I need all the practice I can get and am too chicken to swim on my own so when the suggestion was made, I jumped at the chance.

I sold this to the family as an equal-opportunity event. Chad could ride his bike to the beach, I would drive with the bike rack and meet him there, the kids would bring their swimsuits and sand toys and we'd all go for ice cream when we were done.

The first hitch came with blustery winds straight out of the south. Chad's pace for his ride was relatively dismal. It was supposed to be an enjoyable ride but I think it turned into a chore.

(Here we are passing Chad on our way out to the beach - Mallory begged me to pull up behind him and honk - then we passed and pulled over to let him catch up to us again. Photo not taken while driving!)

Then it was my turn to struggle - the lake was freezing. FREEZING. We were all wet-suited up but the water was painfully cold for the first few minutes. After that I think I just went numb. It was originally going to be closer to an hour-long swim, but we threw in the towel after half an hour. I had to take a long hot shower back at home. Of course, the kids didn't get in the water due to the temperature, either.
And then, to top things off, the Erieau ice cream shop was closed. I've heard that they are struggling out there with the cold weather so far this year... the tourists are not flocking in as they usually do. I get that it's cold, but still - a weekend afternoon, and the ice cream shop is closed? Come ON. We drove back to town and went to our local joint instead.

So... not a resounding success. We will try it again in a few weeks - at least, I hope to. I would like to swim at the beach regularly this summer and I'm hoping the rest of the family is game for another try. This might become an enjoyable way to spend a few hours every few weeks... if only the weather will cooperate.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Proving that Disney is not the racket it's rumoured to be

 Earlier tonight, we went to the fair.
We'd planned to do this last night, but Liam came home from school not feeling well; which didn't really come as a surprise, since Mallory was sick for several days earlier in the week. So we stayed home last night instead, and Liam fell asleep on the couch at a ridiculously early hour. He'd wanted to watch the Penguins game but couldn't muster the strength to stay awake.
Today he had a mid-afternoon rest and then felt much better; well enough to eat a normal dinner and so we headed out to the Kinsmen Fair which comes to town each year at the end of May/start of June.
We don't go every year and this year was a good reminder why. It's kind of a depressing affair. The crowds of shady looking people, the even shadier carnival workers (I am pretty sure the woman who sold us Mallory's sno-cone was on meth), the rusty and faded old facilities and the exorbitant price tag for the privilege of being there at all.
The kids loved it, of course. Liam rode several rides and loved them all. Mallory only went on one ride, but she was thrilled to run into a friend and took the task of deciding on a fair treat very seriously. Cotton candy? Sno cone? Caramel corn? Decisions, decisions.
It cost us $16 to get in and then most of the rides were 4 tickets. A ticket cost $1.25. You got a slight discount for buying tickets in multiples of 20, but not much. So the rides were all in the vicinity of $4-$5 for three minutes of fun.
An hour later we were nearly $70 poorer, with sicker bellies from all the spinning, congested lungs from all of the smokers and full of sugar from the fair food.
Disney World raised its prices this week, which has been headline news, but it is still the far better value in my book. The sophistication of its attractions, the cleanliness, the lack of smoke, the lack of garbage and even the piped-in smells to evoke a particular reaction in a particular location... I love it all. Sorry, Kinsmen Fair. Your proximity may make us suckers every now and then, but you will never really compare.