Sunday, July 31, 2011


Patchwork quilts of farmer's fields.
Golden yellow canola against a brilliant blue sky.
Un-ending  prairie skyline.
This is what home is like.

Creamy white baby skin.
Rolls and creases and satiny soft.
Giggles and smiles and snuggles times two.
This is what home is like.

Catching up and catching on.
Stories and laughter - but first a hug.
Exposition with tears trickling down.
This is what home is like.

A new fence gate.
Skillfully constructed between us.
Once strangers and now friends.
This is what home is like.

Nervous tummies.
It's been awhile since they were together.
Hugs and conversation and it's just like it used to be.
This is what home is like.

Little girl.
Alone at camp for the very first time.
She falls in love with a place and the people just like her mom.
This is what home is like.

Aromas and smells.
Fresh buns and apple perishke.
Always more where that came from.
This is what home is like.

Kisses abound.
Cousins are adored.
Hands are held.
This is what home is like.

Can I squeeze it all in?
Will everyone fit?
Not enough time.
This is what home is like.

Knowing glance.
I get it.  She gets it.
No need to explain.
This is what home is like.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Last summer we did the Fair at the Pacific National Exibition (it was the PNE's 100th anniversary) and made the wise decision not to do any rides, promising the girls that we would do rides another time.  Almost a year later, we finally made it back to Playland for the rides.

We got a bit of a later start than we wanted, arriving well over an hour past the 10 AM gate opening.  We decided to drive since we figured the bus would probably cost almost as much as parking.  As we pulled up to the parking lot we saw that parking was $10 - better than I expected.  But the streets were lined with enterprising local residents selling spots for $7.  Being the Mennonite I am, I could hardly pass up a great deal like that.  So we cracked open our window at the first parking spot hawker and the lady says, "down that alley, 2nd house on the left - just follow that lady" and there goes a Chinese lady sprinting down the street, frantically waving and coaxing us on.  It was rather comical.  Karla was a bit apprehensive, but we got a sweet spot in a garage and saved 3 bucks to boot.  A good start to the day as far as I was concerned.

Unfortunately, I forgot the camera at home, so the only pictures available were the ones they take with automatic cameras set up to catch you during the scariest part of the ride, and then charge you an arm and a leg for a 4x6 print.

But we'll get to that later.

We started on the basic swing ride - the Wave Swinger - which just goes around, and around, and around.  I don't do spinning.  Makes my stomach hurt.  I'm more of a rollercoaster guy.  And Karla doesn't do rides in general.  So the girls were on their own for this one.

We did manage to convince Karla to go on the kiddie roller coaster - Kettle Creek Mine Coaster.  It's in the "Kids Playce" area - so it's for little kids.  Definitely not scary.  All I could hear during the ridiculously tame ride, coming from the car behind me, was a high-pitched "I don't like this!  I don't like this!  I don't like this!"  I believe that was the last ride Karla did.

A couple of summers ago, we were at MarineLand in Niagara Falls, and they have this ride - the Sky Screamer - that shoots you up really fast, like a rocket and then sits at the top for a bit and then drops like a rock.  Very scary, but fun.  And the view of Niagara Falls at the top is incredible, because the ride is built on the top of a large hill, so you can see for miles and miles around. 

  Hannah was a bit too little to try it with me then, but Playland has a very similar ride.  A touch smaller and slower, but still crazy.  And Hannah was all over it.  It's called the Hellevator.  It shoots you up at speeds reaching 75 km/hr until you're over 200 ft in the air, and then free falls.  Love the G's.  Sorry, no pics, but here's a video from YouTube (not my video).  Skip to 0:25 to get to the launch.

Playland has a new ride this year called Atmosfear.  It's the same deal as the basic swing ride, except it's way faster and it way, way higher.  It's their tallest ride at 218 ft.  70 hm/hr at 218 ft!  Yeah.  And the girls did it twice.  Now, like I said, I don't like spinning rides, but Sasha would only do it if I went with her.  So, being the good Daddy I am, I did it - for her.  Twice.

I love roller coasters, and Playland has a couple of doozies.  The Corkscrew goes upside down, as the name implies.  Ellie and Sasha have hardly done rollercoasters before, never mind coasters that go upside down.  But I explained the physics of centrifugal force, and this convinced them that they wouldn't feel like they're going to fall out when they're upside down.  Bwah ha ha ha ha!!  Suckers!  It's still scary!!

I was very proud of Ellie, our cautious one, for being brave enough to do it.  And Sasha, cause she's our youngest, and barely tall enough to meet the minimum height requirement of 48 inches.  And Hannah too - because she just loves it.

Actually, I think the scariest roller coasters are NOT the highest or fastest ones, or the ones with the most loops or the craziest corkscrews.  No!  The scariest coasters are the rickety, old, wooden ones, where the bar is all loose and you feel like you're going to be thrown from the car.  And Playland has one of the best.  Simply called the "Wooden Roller Coaster", and built in 1958, it truly is historic.  And rickety.

Either Ellie agrees with me, or she might have been a bit shell-shocked from the Corkscrew, because she decided to sit this one out.  But Hannah and Sasha were game.  The weather was beautiful and it was mid-afternoon peak time, so the line was really, really long.  Karla was gracious enough to stand in line for us while we sat at a picnic table and snacked on cookies in the shade.

 That was probably the scariest roller coaster I've ever been on.  And we bought the pictures from the photo booth because they are absolutely classic.  Especially Sasha's.  We laughed our asses off when we first saw it at the booth, and I just knew I had to buy them, no matter the cost.  So I spent $18 on these two pictures, so you'd better enjoy them . . .

I still laugh when I look at Sasha's face in that picture!

We had done the classic log ride - the Flume - early in the day, and the girls loved it so much that they wanted to do it again.  And since Ellie didn't get a picture of her yet, I had to shell out another $9 for another 4x6.  But I think it was worth it . . .

A fantastic day, full of thrills.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The struggle, the arched back, the cries.  I see it and hear it all from my vantage point across the playground.   A mom with a messy pony-tail is using all her arsenal to maneuver her unwilling baby into the stroller.  She picks her baby up and heaves a sigh.  I see her chest rise and fall and her downward glance.  She's giving up, I think.  Someone save her.

Just then another mom from the mess of blankets, diaper bags, strollers, food wrappers, sippy cups and frenzy that she is surrounded with, stands up.  She speaks to The Weary One -  hands her a blanket.  They share a knowing glance.  A blanket is passed.  "What can I do to help?"  I imagine her friend to say.

Soon the tired baby is laid down in the stroller.  The Weary One covers the stroller with a blanket.  She points to her other two children who are playing on the grass.  Nodding of heads.  Gesturing hands.  She walks off, pushing the stroller on rough terrain, expecting the hills and valleys of the park to lull her little one to sleep.  Oh how that baby needs to sleep, I think.  Oh how that woman needs some rest.

She is in the trenches, The Weary One.

My trench looks different now.  There are no sippy cups and strollers - no nap time to contend with or diaper bags to lug around.

I sit on a bench with a cool breeze and rustling leaves surrounding me.  My book is cracked open in my hands while my three girls play on the play structure below.  I can hear them and see them, but they don't need me.

They don't need me to follow their footsteps and hold their hands as they navigate their way.  They did once - so long ago it seems.  Somedays it feels like it were yesterday.

"Yesterday" was hard.  Watching a five year old explore a play structure while  a chubby two year old held my hand and cautiously climbed ladders and steps.  All this while holding an infant in my arms.  My arms were so full.

Those arms worked hard.  There was much to do.   Amazing what women can do - what I did.  Creating adventure for a five year old while creating experience for a two year old while creating nourishment for the tiny baby nursing at the very same time.   I can't do this, I'd say quietly to myself somedays.  Louder on others.  The worst was when I couldn't say it at all.

Yes, my trench looks different now.

I am reading my book at the park.  My girls are together.  They are laughing and playing.  I glance up to watch them.  Soaking in the beauty that their lives weave together.  "Watch me, Mom".  "Look at me."  This is the refrain I hear.  And so I do.  I watch and I look.  I clap and I "ooooh and aahhhh".  They are amazing - these girls with the strong legs, sun-freckled skin and wind-swept hair.

The Weary One comes back.  It is hard to concentrate on the book I am reading.  I see her push her stroller back to her tribe on the grass.  Her baby is sleeping.  She settles down onto the ground and her arms soon become full with another - one of her young sons.  He rests on her as she shares a laugh with her comrades in the trench with her.   How lonely it would be if she were alone, I think.

I see you.  I want to say.

I see you there in your trench.  You think no one does, but I do.  I see your full arms and your tired, weary face.  I hear their cries and their objections to sleep.      I see you.  I see you.

My trench does look different now.  It's my mind that is now full.
I want to save them,
               help them,
               train them,
               teach them,
               connect with them,
               understand them, 
               know them....
               love them.

I close my book and call my girls.  We're going home.  I expect I'll be in the trenches for awhile.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dance Recital : "Shipwrecked"

At the end of June, Hannah and Ellie's dance studio, Douglas Ballet Academy, held their dance recitals.  

Apparently these recitals are a big deal here.  I would know this because I waited for 3 hours in a line-up outside the studio on a Saturday morning to buy tickets to the shows.  This in itself is not that exceptional.  What is exceptional is that there were some moms who were camped out in lawn chairs waiting in the same line-up since 6 am that same morning - 3 hours before the tickets went on sale!  Can anyone say "Toddlers and Tiaras"?

Hannah has continued with ballet this year.  She has done for many years now and has been very dedicated to becoming a disciplined dancer.   We have never pursued dance exams - it just hasn't been something we've wanted to do.  In Winnipeg that hasn't been a big deal - but here, it seems everyone does the exams.   The majority of the time in Hannah's weekly dance classes this year has focused on preparation for exams.    Hannah found this a bit cumbersome and disappointing, and so she's made the decision to switch to a different discipline of dance next year.  She's excited about the creative outlet that taking Contemporary dance will bring her.  

This was Ellie's first year taking Jazz.  We signed up for dance a wee bit late so some studios and  many classes were already full.  The Jazz class at this studio that still had room was one with girls in grades 5 and 6 who had been taking Jazz for several years.  I knew Ellie was very flexible and eager so we gave it a shot...  She's done so well.  Imagine being 4 years younger than most of the girls in your class and to top it off, never taken a Jazz class before!  I was so proud of her maturity and her attitude.  She marched right in and made friends the first class.  Her teacher was amazed at her flexibility.  Mike and I are both stumped as to where she got it from.

Because the girls are part of a large dance studio, they had the recitals split into 2.  This meant that both girls were in their own shows.  This also meant that we would be sitting through 6 hours of dance on a Sunday afternoon and evening with an hour break in the middle.  That's a lot of dance.  That's a lot of sitting.  Just ask my hip flexors which went into extreme stress mode the day after and put my back into some of the worst spasms I've ever had.  

The studio takes their recitals seriously and puts on a full-length show that tells a story.  There is amazing  lighting, costumes, props, and a lot of preparation that goes into it.  This year's show was called "Shipwrecked" and it took place at the Michael J. Fox Theatre here in Burnaby.  It told a "Gilligan's Island" type story beginning on a cruise ship. 

Ellie danced in the first show.  That meant she was able to get ready at home and have a lot of pictures taken.  From the amount of pictures taken of Ellie and the scant few of Hannah from this day, you'd think we were compensating for Ellie being the second born and having half the baby pictures of her we had of Hannah.  The dancers in Ellie's group were grooms and brides - with Ellie being a handsome groom!

The money shot.  For reals.  

How can you do Jazz without doing Jazz Hands?

These are from the show itself.  
See if you can spot Ellie with her lovely bride.

There were some other amazing performances...

After Ellie's show was over, we had a quick picnic supper on the lawn of the Theatre.  Now it was Hannah's turn!  She wasn't afforded the luxury of getting ready at home... she used the van and the bathroom at the theatre as her dressing room to transform herself into a Hawaiian hula dancer from the Island the ship ends up on.  Let's just say Hannah wasn't too thrilled with being cast as a hula dancer.  Ballerinas want to wear the tulle, the poof, the sequins, the taffeta - the whole nine yards!  But a hula dancer she was, and we thought she was a fabulous one.  

Here are some photos from her piece...
Try to pick her out.

Yes, that's Hannah leaping through the air!

Tired and happy at home after the performance...

It was a super long day filled with make-up and hairspray and jittery nerves, excitement, flowers and applause.  We were proud of them.  Putting your body on display in a vulnerable way through dance is not easy.  It takes courage and hard work.  It's also a lot of fun.  The recital was a great reward for all the hard work over the course of the year.  

Homeward Bound on the Ferry!

After a memorable week or sun, rain, sand, surf, wind and whales we were homeward bound.  We caught the ferry at the Nanaimo terminal.  The weather was perfect for a ferry ride - much different than the rain and gale-force winds we experienced on the way to the Island.  We spent a lot of time up on the deck enjoying the view.... well - most of us did.  Hannah spent most of the time in the gift shop doing what Hannah does best -  reading a complete novel.  

We were like two ships passing in the night.... literally.

While Hannah was crouched in a corner of the gift shop reading War and Peace, the rest of us were up top.  Mike and I were gazing out at sea and Ellie and Sasha were getting exuberant running around the top of the ferry, an announcement came on the loudspeaker reminding all children that running is not allowed on deck.  I guess they were talking to someone else's kids.

Ellie and Sasha switched gears to a dance-off instead.

When is the last time you were able to shake what your momma gave you on the upper deck of a ferry?

Before we knew it, we were in our van waiting to drive off towards home.  
Holidays are always over too quickly, aren't they? 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pit Stop in Parksville

 If you're following our blog at all, you may have gathered how far behind we are with wrapping up the telling of our tales of our trip to Vancouver Island.  So far, you've travelled with us to Victoria and Tofino.... next stop on our holiday was Parksville!

As we were driving to Parksville, we had the best bonus on the way.  Along the side of the highway we saw a black bear foraging for food.  We stopped for awhile and watched it.  We think it must have been one hungry bear,  because it payed absolutely no attention to us.

Parksville is a small family-oriented city a short drive from Nanaimo.  If you tell anyone you're going to Parksville, you are guaranteed to have them say, "you have to go for Ice-Cream in Coombs at Goats on the Roof".  Ice-Cream?  Goats on a Roof?  We were so in!   On our way into Parksville we stopped for the most gigantic ice-cream cones and even managed to gaze at the goats grazing on the roof.  Coombs is really tiny - the Goats on the Roof market, and a few other touristy attractions are the only shows in town - but it was well worth the stop!

After checking into our hotel, we drove the short trek down to the community beach, which is smack-dab in the center of the city.  It is a beautiful beach with an amazing view.  

When we were in Tofino, we saw a lot of Bull Kelp on the shore.  Here, we saw a different kind of seaweed.  We're not sure what the official name for it is, but we called it "Brains".

 The community beach also had a humongous collection of play-structures which they've just kept adding to create a huge playground.  The girls loved it there, and we had our memories jogged as the play-structures they've got up act as a sort of time-capsule.  There were a bunch of old-school monkey bars and spinny-things which the girls thought were awesome.

The one funny glitch in our hotel suite was that there was only a King-sized bed and then a Queen sized bed in the separate bedroom.  Usually we'd just get a cot for one of the girls, but they didn't have any.  We decided to try having all three girls sleep in the King-sized bed together.   I had to get a picture of them all clean and freshly showered, looking angelic and cozy tucked into bed side-by-side ..... because I KNEW that about 30 seconds after we'd turn out the light there would be kicking, complaining, and tornado-esque maneuvers which would not be crying out for a picture.  I was right.  But, after the turbulence was settled, they fell asleep and did just fine all snuggled in together.

On our second day in Parksville, we woke up to grey skies and rainy weather.  We anticipated this, so we had a plan in our back pockets.... we went back to Coombs to check out Butterfly World.  Butterfly World is a really kitschy attraction that is perfect for an hour or so on a rainy day.  There were hundreds of different species of butterflies flying around us.  Most of us thought they were beautiful.

Sasha was not in the "most of us" category.  She was terrified when the butterflies would fly near her head or fly right in front of her face.  She looked like this for most of our morning.  It didn't help that the rest of us thought this was ridiculously hilarious.

In addition to the butterflies, there were gardens of orchids... 

... and the most amazing turtle named Samson.

This turtle mesmerized all of us.  He was busy munching away on greens when he started working like mad to bust out of his enclosure.  He was the most tenacious turtle we'd ever seen!  We couldn't keep our eyes off of him.  At one point, he was standing straight up ready to climb out of his wooden fence...

On our last day in Parksville (and the last day of our holiday) we were greeted with sun and cloud and the promise of a good-weather day.  We got started with flying Mike's beloved stunt kite at the community beach.  The conditions were perfect.  Mike has had this kite since he parents gave it to him as a gift as a kid.  It can usually be found in the back of our van ready and waiting for good flying conditions.  It's provided hours of entertainment over the years.

After we finished up at the beach in the city, we thought we'd make one last stop before we were to head to Nanaimo to catch our ferry home.  We made our final stop at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.  This is  a beautiful place to skim board, beachcomb or go for a walk on the beach or the trails.  There are amazing shells and sand dollars to be discovered here, and tonnes of driftwood for climbing and exploring.

It was a great way to spend our last day of holidays on the Island.
All that's left is the ferry ride home!