Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things you Learn while Watching your Girls Climb a Wall

One of the days we spent in Tofino, the weather was dismal.  
Cold.  Wet.  Windy.

So we made the best of it and went to an indoor wall-climbing place called The Alternative.  We were greeted at the door by Johnny - a climber/surfer/bartender who owned the place.  We were the only ones climbing, so we got his undivided attention.

Being the adventurous mom that I am (with a permanently bent elbow that I fear will never be straight again) I sat and observed, cheered, took pictures, and offered un-solicited advice.  I also learned a bit about my girls...

In regular life, Ellie is our crazy, silly, loud and seemingly adventurous daughter.
She talks a good game.

When faced with something she's never done before, Ellie is cautious.
She timidly began her trek up the wall - looking for Mike's support and help as she went.
She needed reassurance and time.
She didn't want to be rushed and had to think each step out before she took it.

Before long, it was too much, and down she came.....

In real life, Hannah is quiet, reserved and shy.
She would rather read a book than nearly anything else.
She is also an emotional firecracker ... I wonder where she gets that from?

When given the challenge of climbing - she jumped into action.
She strategized and planned her attack carefully - but she also took risks and pushed herself until she completed what she set out to do.
When she finished the beginner climb, she begged for a more difficult challenge.

She didn't stop until she touched the wood on top.

In real life, Sasha is peaceful to be around.
She is easy-going and rolls with the punches.  She has to, after all, she is the little sister.
She often flies under the radar and does her thing without pomp and ceremony.

When given the challenge to climb, she jumped at it.
She moved quickly at first - setting goals and going after them.
She liked to hear Mike's voice and would follow his instructions of help.
She was calm and relaxed, just like her daddy.

Hannah ended the day with a really challenging climb.  Sometimes her drive amazes me.  For someone who appears so quiet and timid, she knows how to push herself beyond her limits.

It also helped that Johnny was close by...  He wanted to see her do it.
.... and she was off.

Here are some other things I learned....

When you can't do something that you think you should be able to do - it's hard to watch your sisters do it with ease and get applauded for it.

Sometimes things that look easy - aren't.

Most things that are worth doing take a lot of muscle power.  Physical and mental.

It's not that much fun to be on the sidelines.

Sometimes you can do things that you didn't think you could.  When that happens, it feels really good.

It's a delicate dance to praise one kid while the other wallows on the sidelines feeling like they're not good enough.

Wall-Climbing is fun.  It's a test of character - and that's good - especially when it's really hard.
We think we'll do it again.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Sometimes you are a witness to it.
A shared belly laugh between them.
Hands on tummies and shoulders rubbing -
Giggles continuing as they walk down the road.
Something only they would find funny.

Moments like that erase the
      "don't touch me"
   and the
       "stop looking at me"
    and the oft heard

You are sisters.
The audience, the directors, the critics, the fans, and the partners in each other's lives.
Oh how I hope that I will hear the belly laughs
Until I am grey.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sports Day

Last week was Sports Day at the girl's school - you know the day.  The one where you pray for sunshine,  get split into teams and run races?  We've all done it and we all do it.  When I was young I liked Sports Day until I hit grade five.  Then I tried to hide when it was my turn to humiliate myself in front of my peers as I attempted to clear the bar for the high jump.  

But, I digress.  Sports Day for the girls was a lot of fun.  All the kids in the school are divided into four teams, each with their own color.  You come decked out in your team's color and pimp up your ride accordingly to show team spirit.   The girls worked hard on their scooters.  They were going to be on display at the wheel parade at the end of the day.  Sasha and Hannah were on the green team ....

.... and Ellie was on Team Blue!

For the Opening Ceremonies, Hannah got to be part of the cheer leading team for the Greens.  They practiced a lot and came up with great choreography to Lady Gaga's Born this Way.  That's right, Lady Gaga.  We're not at Linden Christian School anymore, Dorothy.

After all was said and done, it was time for the team wheel parade.  
Do they make extra tall scooters for growing girls?  
If they do, be sure to let Hannah know.

This is Ellie and our neighbor and Sasha's school-mate Zoe.  
We think she and Ellie look like sisters.  She's Italian.  
Ellie looks like she should be.

And the moral of the story is - if you're green, blue, red or yellow, we're all the same.
We learned that at Sports Day.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Today was Father's Day.  

The girls had been planning and thinking about this day for a few weeks now.  Back in January, we gave Mike a gift he's wanted since he was a little boy - a remote controlled Helicopter.  You should see him when he flies that thing!  The girls thought it would be fun to incorporate his helicopter into the gift giving this morning....    

It all started in the morning while we were all still in our jammies.  The girls each made one landing pad for Mike, under which lay a gift and card.  Once he landed on the target, he could open that gift, and then fly on to the next target.

Here they are at the starting point....

The first landing pad was Sasha's.  
Notice Mike's intense concentration and the distance the rest of us keep from those propellers!

Upon landing, Mike was able to open Sasha's two gifts and her card.

This winter we've had a bit of a Star Wars obsession going on here.  You might be able to detect that from the first few gifts and cards.  Here is Sasha's card... we all laughed our faces off at her depiction of Darth Vader.  We think he looks like Darth Elmo.

Sasha saw these books at Costco a few months ago.  She immediately wanted to get them for Mike for Father's Day so they could read them together.  I'm pretty sure they'll be well read over the next many years.

Sasha's other gift was a hand-painted tile she made in her Kindergarten Class.

Before Mike could get into his new books, it was time to land at stop number 2.  
This was Ellie's, and she made it very challenging!
Note the concerned looks on the girl's faces.

Ellie's card and gift also follow the Star Wars theme.  
Her card features one of her favorite characters, Jar Jar Binx.

With new t-shirt in hand, Mike was ready to attempt his third landing.  
He had to fly into the kitchen for this one.

Sweet Victory!

The last stop was Hannah's gift.  She's been laughing about this since Thursday when she brought it home from school.  In Art class, she used clay to sculpt a jar.  After it was fired she painted it.  No one told her that this project would serve as the Father's Day gift.  She painted the jar pink.  She thought this was hilarious.

Apparently Mike did too.

So thankful my girls have such a great dad to love and celebrate.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Once Upon a Riot

The hockey season is over and the rioting has ceased.

The day after.  On Thursday I walked the girls to school and congregated with the community on the playground.  People looked weary and worn.  The same conversations were taking place in little pods of two or three in front of every classroom door. 

As soon as we approached the Kindergarten class, our friend Marc rushed up to me with a look of concern and sadness on his face.  "I'm so sorry" he said - as though apologizing to the newbies for the transgressions of the destructive few.  Marc has always been that to us - a bit of a welcoming committee to Vancouver from the very start.  He loves his adopted city - having moved here from Ontario many moons ago.  He came here for business, fell in love, and never wanted to leave.  His love affair with Vancouver continues on through thick or thin.

As I watched the news footage during the riot on Wednesday night I was overwhelmed.  I've loved downtown Vancouver from the first week I visited - when me and the girls explored and perused the streets without fear - all on our own.  It's a downtown like I've never experienced before - especially not in Winnipeg.  Vancouver's downtown is clean, pristine and beautifully adorned.  It's vibrant and alive with life and people  during the day and the night.  It never seems to really shut down at 6pm on weeknights like so many  city's downtowns do.   It even smells good - with cherry blossoms and hydrangeas, palm trees and manicured flower gardens.

On Wednesday night, it looked different.  So dark and danger-filled, dirty and desperate.

No one knows exactly why the riot transpired on Wednesday night.  This is what I know...  It had nothing to do with a hockey score and everything to do with a society which breeds violence, entitlement, over-consumption and consumerism into a generation of (mostly) young men and a handful of women.  If there were anarchists who began the riot, surely it was perpetuated by throngs of middle-class kids from the suburbs masquerading around as tyrants, inflated from the power surge they received from the thrill of it all.

We let our girls stay up late on Wednesday night.  They watched the over-turned police cars burn and young men drunkenly inflict violence on each other.  We didn't press the mute button or censor the images.  Real life doesn't have a mute button, does it? 

I still love downtown Vancouver and the people who bring life to its streets.  Maybe more today than before the riot.  The marker-scripted messages on plywood boards tell a different story than the one played out for a nation with accelerant and smoke.  The rubber-gloved hands who picked up shards of glass and swept up debris are the ones I'm choosing to remember from this week. 

This is a beautiful city. 
It'll take more than a riot to change that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More from Tofino - Whale Watching in Clayoquot Sound

For today's post we head back to Tofino.

One of the things we were most excited about doing in Tofino was going on a Whale Watching tour.  We were lucky enough to notice a Groupon offer way back in the winter for a half-off tour from Jamie's Whaling Station.  We snapped it up and could hardly wait for our trip out to sea to spot some whales.

As we started out, the Captain let us know that the swells were quite big out on the open water and that it would be a bit of a bumpy ride.  

As we headed out to the open water, our family was sitting on the side of the boat that endured the biggest splashes and most wind.  We all got some mouth-fulls of salt water.  Our only consolation was that we'd be on the "dry" side coming back.

Here is a picture of me and Sasha before we both turned green from the boat ride!

We all agree that we have never ever seen so many eagles as we did in Tofino.  There were a tonne of eagles out at sea, and we were able to see several nests as well.

The thing about whale watching is, you've got to be patient.  Well, not only patient.  You've also got to have an iron stomach that can handle the ups and downs of the swells for long periods of time.  About the point when we got out far enough that we were in whale territory, Sasha looked at me - her skin a nice shade of green - and said, "Mommy, my tummy feels so funny".  I knew just how she was feeling.  One of the employees on the boat could see Sasha was turning greener by the minute and came by with a hard mint candy for her to suck on and some advice.  "Keep looking out at the water and take long deep breaths".   This seemed to help a little.   We kept our eyes out on the sea and were determined to see some whales!

A few minutes later we were rewarded by some great sights.  You know you're going to see a whale come up and dive down when you see the spray of water coming up from their blow hole...  We were able to see 2 whales coming up and going down - not Orcas (apparently those are few and far between on these tours) but Grey Whales.  We even got to smell whale breath.   Really.   It's worse than you might imagine it to be.    Let's just say it doesn't help with the nausea.

After spotting some whales we carried on to a big rock where a huge group of Sea-lions make their home.  They were yelping and barking and lazing around in the sun.

Meanwhile, on deck, Sasha was curled up in my lap in the fetal position.  I was looking out to sea, taking DEEP breaths through my nose.  Sasha was given anti-nausea wrist-bands to wear by one of the Jamie's staff.  Soon after, she fell asleep on my lap.  I was so relieved for her.  I didn't know how much more that poor kid could take!

2 1/2 hours after we departed, we were all relieved to see Tofino come into focus.

I woke Sasha up as we docked and carried her off the boat.

She said she didn't want to go on a boat ride again for a long long time.

I didn't try to convince her otherwise.