Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to Reality

It is time for me and the kids to head to Scotland to join my husband.  I am sad to leave Edmonton and my family and I will really miss my parents and grandma - I have enjoyed spending all of this time with them.  It has gone by so fast.  On the other hand, I am excited about our new life in Scotland and the kids need to get back onto a normal schedule.

After a 2-hour online check-in debacle this morning (I hate code-sharing flights!), I am less than enthusiastic about our flights.  I have tried to formulate strategies and plans for keeping our wild baby under control.  I imagine that none of them will work, but I will update you once I have arrived in Aberdeen.

Cross your fingers and toes for me that both kids sleep the whole way!

Grandparenting

One thing that has become apparent during my time here in Edmonton is that my children need to be parented by me and my husband, not predominately grandparented.   To me "grandparenting" is a lot different than parenting.  My parents have paid their dues with child-rearing, they have been through all of the ages and stages with me and my sister. It is time for them to enjoy my children.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a less disciplined lifestyle than the children are used to. 

To a certain extent, the children thrive in this child-centered environment, where their ideas are taken as paramount and their needs and wants are not ever ignored or set aside for later.  On the other hand, if the child is too much the centre of everything, they will become spoiled.  But it is the grandparent's prerogative to spoil, right?  In any event, the rules in our new home in Scotland will reflect the normal rules of our little family and will be stricter than those enforced this summer.  But, we can't wait to see the grandparents again for a relaxation of the rules!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Home Resolutions

I like setting up a new house (OK, I like it in theory, but ask me about how much I like it in a week or two...) and I am excited to form new routines in Aberdeen.  It feels a little bit like the new school year in University - fall was always a time for new beginnings.  As always, I have a bunch of resolutions, kind of like New Year's resolutions, about all of the things I will do better in our new home in Aberdeen.

Here is a list of my resolutions so far:
  • I will not buy packaged foods, so that there are none in our cupboard;
  • I will cook healthy dinners;
  • I will keep the house immaculate;
  • I will be more patient and kind when dealing with my children;
  • I will be more patient and kind when dealing with everyone else too (if this works out, the general population of Aberdeen should be thankful!);
  • I will create and follow a perfect system for household accounting and paperwork;
  • I will exercise more;
  • I will eat no junk food;
  • I will take part in activities that are meaningful to me;
  • I will take much better care of my teeth.  This is a funny one because I already brush my teeth a lot - way more than most people.  But, I just learned that teeth plaque is the same as artery plaque (can I really have been the only person who did not know that???) and I am even more driven to keep clean teeth;
  • I will spend less money;
  • I will not get lost in books;
  • I will treasure and keep in touch with friends and family;
  • All of my cupboards and drawers will be clean and organized;
  • I will take time to smell the roses while accomplishing way more than I ever have;
  • I will walk more;
 - you get the picture...basically I will need a personality transplant.

My resolutions are like a lot of New Year's resolutions - totally unrealistic.  Let's see how long they last!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Packing...ughhhhh

We did a lot of fun things today, but we also started packing to leave Edmonton.  I hate packing, I know other people get a sense of accomplishment from fitting everything into their suitcase and choosing the most efficient was to include items, but I don't.  I don't like deciding what to put into which bag; I don't like worrying about whether my suitcase is overweight; I don't like checking the baggage restrictions; I don't like doing last-minute laundry to pack; and I don't like worrying about liquids opening in my suitcase.

Unfortunately, because we are moving, packing is a big job.  I have to make sure that my paperwork is all in order and that all of my valuables (such as they are) are packed appropriately.  More importantly, I have to organize my kid and baby supplies for the plane - it would not do to run out of diapers before arrival!  This adds an extra layer of bother and annoyance.

I am an "early packer" so I can be sure that I will have enough time.  Nothing ruins the end of a trip more than running around in the last few hours packing and panicking.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paddleboats

My mom came home last night after being away for about 5 days.  We all missed her – the energy in the house is definitely different when she is home.  We did a lot of errands today and we “accomplished” things, which is always easier when my mother is here.  My older son and my father did fun stuff like ride bikes and fly kites while we did our errands.

After our productive day, we decided to have a fun evening.  First we went to a membership drive party at the local community league.  There was a petting zoo, a bouncy castle and face painting.  Later this evening there was an outdoor movie scheduled, but it was too late for my kids. 

The petting zoo was the saddest one I have seen in a while.  It had the usual array of travelling tiny animals, but the attendant looked as though his heart was not in his job.  Unfortunately, the zoo attendant was far more enthusiastic about his employment than the bouncy castle operator.  I think bouncy castles can be incredibly dangerous for little kids, and their safety is protected by discipline, which should be provided by the operator.  The bouncy castle operator tonight could not have cared less what happened in the castle.  Big kids were bouncing against the walls to try and tip the castle and it was incredible dangerous for young kids.

Normally, the inherent danger of the bouncy castle would not have been a problem because my son usually lasts about 15 seconds before wanting to get out of a bouncy castle.  He has a bunch of reasons:  he’s scared; he’s bored; somebody pushed him; he wants to put his shoes back on; and once – really - somebody looked at him.  But tonight, during the most dangerous bouncy castle experience of his life, he grew brave and decided to bounce for a long time.  Sigh…such is life with a contrary 4-year old.

My son did not want to get his face painted so we drove on to Hawrelak Park for a paddle boat ride.  The paddle boats are $5.50 per adult for 20 minutes, with 1 passenger less than 50 pounds free on each boat.  Our party consisted of 3 adults and 2 kids.  Babies are not a great idea on the paddleboats, so I sat it out while my parents took my older son.  To be completely honest, I really hate boats so I was not sad to sit this activity out.  (If you are interested, I hate the rocking motion that boats make.  I used to get seasick on the ferries in Vancouver when I lived there – yuck!).

I thought my parents and son would paddle the boat around the two islands at Hawrelak Park.  I sat and watched them for a while and I could not figure out why they were not circling the islands.  Then I walked away from the boat launch and noticed that there were buoys and ropes preventing the boats from travelling outside a fairly small area surrounding the boat dock.  It was quite disappointing that the area was so small. 

The ride operator let my parents and son stay in the boat for more than 20 minutes – that was kind because they were having fun.  When they came ashore my son was excited because they had seen a nest with eggs and some ducks (which were not related to the eggs).  They seemed to have fun on the ride and I had fun wandering around in the park listening to an outdoor reggae concert.  The park was crowded with picnickers and concert-goers and the atmosphere was festive.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shrek - Stompin' in the Swamp at Millwoods Town Centre

Today we saw the show "Shrek - Stompin' in the Swamp" live at Millwoods Town Centre.  We were at the show with our friends from down south, and our party consisted of 3 adults and 4 children.  

The show is a live singing/dancing show in the centre of the mall, near the playground.  The show started at 1:00 pm, and at noon, some mothers (not us) started to claim spots.  We sat down to hold spots at 12:35 and there were plenty of people waiting already.  As you might expect, the crowd was antsy, even though it would be a relatively long wait until the show.  My incredibly aggressive baby crawled over to a girl of about 8 and tried to steal her ice cream - he got her so upset she changed spots!

The show consisted of costumed characters dancing and acting on stage.  While the costumes were not incredibly sophisticated, the show struck a chord with the children (especially my 4 year old), and they had fun dancing and singing along with the songs.  My son has not seen the Shrek movies, but he still enjoyed the show.

As a side note:  our friends who have been visiting for a few days left this evening.  We had great fun with them:  we visited Jackie Parker Park; we played in the yard; we walked around Rainbow Valley and the University; and we played at Michaels' Park.   The kids had a blast and were, for the most part, well behaved.  I will miss our friends when we are in Aberdeen, I hope we can visit again soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Boston Pizza

This week I took the kids downtown for lunch at Boston Pizza on 105th and Jasper Avenue.  We met two other adults, and our party consisted of 3 adults and 2 kids. 

I was early for lunch, so I took the kids to play in Beaver Hill House Park.  This used to be a park to avoid, due to unsavoury activities happening right out in the open in the tiny park.  It has been cleaned up a bit, but was still not a great choice for the children.  There is an art installation that looks like bicycles that are made from recycled materials and my older son thought it was really cool.  He climbed onto the statue and “rode” the bicycles.

After our side trip to Beaver Hill House Park, we headed into the restaurant.  It was a busy lunch time but they sat us quickly.  Our friends came after us and we ordered quite promptly.  Unlike our recent experience at Swiss Chalet, the children were very well behaved.  The baby ate his food greedily as soon as we sat down and then played in his high chair through most of the lunch.  My older son was good until he got hungry and whiny.

The waitress took a long time to bring our food after we ordered, but when it came it was worth the wait.  Our pizza was delicious.

The kids got on well in the restaurant and the staff was considerate of their needs.  My son liked his food and I enjoyed both my pizza and the company.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jackie Parker Park, Whitemud Amusement Park and Whitemud Crossing Library

Another busy evening in Edmonton tonight!  We headed out to Jackie Parker Park to splash around in the water park and then when it got too chilly we drove to Whitemud Amusement Park.  We drive by Whitemud Amusement Park pretty much daily and my older son has been asking to watch the go karts.  This seemed like a good reason to wander around the park tonight.

Whitemud Amusement Park is close to my parent’s house and was built when I was a kid.  I went there a couple of times, but I have driven by either hundreds or thousands of times.  It does not very large much when you drive by, but I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in.  There is a lovely mini-golf course and a batting cage, bumper boats and the go karts that my son wanted to watch.  There is also a children’s area.  Although we just went to watch tonight, we may go back to the children’s area in the future.

Then we went to the Edmonton Public Library at Whitemud Crossing.  This is an amazing library!  It is modern and clean with witty art (such as side tables that look like stacks of books).  The children’s area has a play area with appropriate toys along with shelves accessible to children but still comfortable for adults to use.  This library was busy but not hectic (the Millwoods Towne Centre branch is often overrun with patrons). 


Alberta Legislature Building and Bridge Cycling

We had a busy night last night.  We took a picnic dinner to the Legislature Building (the "Leg" (pronounced: "ledge") if you are from Edmonton) and ate near to the splash pools.  After eating we splashed a bit in the cold water.  The splash pools at the Leg are incredibly dangerous.  They are multilevel cement pools with really sharp edges and lots of tripping hazards.  Good thing no-one in our group got hurt.

After splashing around we went for a walk around the Leg and through the Lois Hole Memorial Garden.  The garden is a beautiful, peaceful spot and was installed after I moved away from Edmonton, so it is new to me.  Then we picked up our vehicle and parked it at the Royal Glenora Club (the "Glenora" to Edmontonians).  We walked from the Glenora over the LRT bridge, through the river valley pathways up to the High Level Bridge, across the High Level Bridge and back to the Glenora.  My older son rode his bike the whole way, excluding stairs.  This was quite a walk for me because (a) I am out of shape and (b) I was carrying the baby (21.5 pounds) in the Baby Bjorn.  The hills were brutal!

The walk was beautiful and the night was perfect.  On the top of the hill over the Glenora, we saw a man fasten a rope between two trees and then start to practice tightrope walking between the trees.  He was very good, he did not fall and he could simultaneously twirl a baton.  A passer-by was acting like a donkey and tweaked the tightrope as he was on it, but the man recovered from the tweak and did not even fall!

Then we drove to Hawrelak Park (used to be and still is called "Mayfair Park" by many Edmontonians) and drove around the pond to check out the hours for the paddle boats.  They were closed for the day, but now we know when they operate, so we can go back another day.  When we were at Hawrelak Park, there was a bagpipe marching band practicing.  We watched them for a while, probably good acclimatization for our move to Aberdeen.  Then, as we were exiting the park, we saw more men walking on a tightrope.  I have never seen this in a park before and today we saw it twice!

We wrapped our busy evening up with an ice cream snack.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Swiss Chalet

Last night we went out to dinner at Swiss Chalet.  Our party was huge – 10 people, including 2 babies in high chairs.  We decided to eat early with our large group.   I had called ahead with a reservation, but the restaurant did not have our reservation or our table prepared when we arrived.  It did not matter because the restaurant was not busy, so they grouped some tables for us. 

One thing I really hate is dining out with children.  We have done it a lot with our relocation but I still feel nervous and uncomfortable for the entire meal.  This was no exception.  My 4 year old was good, but he got whiny from sitting so long in the restaurant.  The worst thing he did was pop under the table repeatedly to retrieve crayons that I am sure he was dropping on purpose.  My 8 month old was a disaster.  I have a set of rules for dining out with a baby:
1.        Never put the child into the high chair until the food has arrived.  That way they won’t get bored sitting there.
2.       Once the child is in the high chair, never let them out.  If you do, the battle is lost.
3.       Never let the child run/crawl around the restaurant.
4.       Make sure all of the things on the table are outside of grabbing range of the child.
5.       Make sure to bring things for your child to eat and play with.
6.       Don’t get too upset when everything goes wrong.
I followed my own rules, but it did not go well.  We kept the baby out of his chair until our food came.  Then we put him in and I started to feed him.  I had brought baby food in a squeeze pack (a new invention since my first son).  I wanted to ask for a bowl, but the waitress had her hands full, so I decided to use a plate.  I squeezed some baby food onto the plate and started spooning it to my son.  Unfortunately he was seated right beside me and the angle was all wrong.  I ended up totally covered in baby food and so did he.

I nibbled at my dinner while shoving food into the baby’s mouth.  I was happy that he ate the whole package of baby food, but he ate it in fits and starts, so it took a really long time.  He also ate half of my roll.  After he finished eating the baby spent the rest of the meal grabbing toys and cereal off of the table and generally acting rowdy.  Wonderful.

Swiss Chalet is somewhat of a tradition for our family.  It is a chain restaurant that I believe is only in Canada, and the chicken comes with a tasty sauce (“Chalet Sauce”) that is a big hit.  It is a family restaurant, so our party tonight was not completely inappropriate, but it was still a bit embarrassing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Castrol Raceway

Last night we went to watch car racing at the Castrol Raceway.  Tickets are $15 for adults and our kids were all free (because they are all under 5).  Our party consisted of 4 adults and 3 children.  We watched the Extreme Cup races.

Now, before I tell you about the races, I need to tell you about a big mistake I made.  We were planning to go to the races, so I "googled" the words "Edmonton" and "car racing" and located the Edmonton International Raceway website.  On the site events for last night were advertised and I saw an advertisement that said you could get cheaper tickets if you bought them online.  So, I bought 4 $10 tickets for Edmonton International Raceway.  Before I paid, I checked the directions to the raceway quickly and confirmed that it was the one south of Edmonton.  Well, there are 2 race tracks south of Edmonton and I bought tickets for the wrong one!  The only good thing is that they are general admission tickets and can be used for any race this year at the Edmonton International Raceway, so we will use them. 

We arrived at the race track shortly after 6:00 and the cars were preparing to race qualifying rounds.   We watched the sprint cars race to qualify and then the late model cars.  The races were exciting and loud (the kids had to wear ear protection) and the track was muddy.  We sat in a box because the boxes were not reserved for the event.  My older son liked watching the racing and it is fun to watch a sport with an immediate winner in each round (at 4 years old my son is quite obsessed with who will win any sport or game that he plays or watches).

A few members of our party had to leave to get a baby to bed and the rest of us stayed behind to lose the 50/50 draw and then watch the rest of the races.  We watched the finals round of the late model cars and then the sprint car finals started.  They re-wetted the track but the race took ages to set up because it was 20 cars racing 30 laps.  After the race started it was stopped so frequently by wrecks that in the first hour the cars had only logged 4 complete laps.  We had to leave at 11:00 pm, but I'm sure the race went on until at least midnight.

It was a really fun evening.  There were not too many mosquitos (at least in the box) and it was a pleasant temperature.  We all had fun watching the cars and there was a beautiful moonrise behind the track.  Besides the questionable outfit on the beer girl it was good clean family fun. 


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jackie Parker Park Family Picnic

Last night we had a picnic at Jackie Parker Park to celebrate my parents' 38th wedding anniversary.  We cooked smokies on the fire pit and the kids played in the playground.  The party was fun and the food was delicious - picnic food - smokie dogs, chips, fruit tray, cake and goodies.

I was disappointed by a couple of things about the park.  First, there was no drinking water on site.  Now that I know this I will make sure to bring my own, but it seems strange to have no potable water in a facility with indoor plumbing.  Also, I reserved the picnic site, but when we got there it was not marked as reserved.  I am wondering what I paid the reservation fee for.

On the positive side, we had really good smokies.  They were chicken and turkey smoked sausages from Costco in plain and Texas BBQ flavours.  Yum.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Redwood Meadows

This week we were fortunate enough to spend a few days in the lovely community of Redwood Meadows.  We stayed with friends who are good hosts - the food and hospitality were both second to none.  It was a wonderful mini-break.  Redwood Meadows is a community is a golf course community located on the Tsuu T'ina Nation 145 Indian Reserve.  The population of Redwood Meadows is about 1,200.

Our friends have 2 kids and my older son plays well with their children.  The community feels very much like the safe suburbs of my childhood.  Kids (including ours) ride their bikes on the front streets and everyone seems to know everyone else.  My son had a blast playing on the community playground and having a picnic.  The kids also had fun just playing around the outside of the house. 

Redwood Meadows has lots of kids and the weather was perfect for being outside (except for one rainy day).  It was nice to see that many of the kids in the community were outside playing and that neighbours seemed to know each other.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

IHOP

A few days ago I went with my mum, grandma and 2 kids to IHOP in Edmonton on Calgary Trail.  This was the first time that any of us had been to that IHOP although some of us had been in the States.  My mum loves pancakes and my older son loves breakfast foods so we decided to give it a go.

IHOP was pretty empty when we arrived so we were seated right away.  While we were there, more people arrived but it was never crowded during our visit.  They had a colouring page for my older son and a highchair for my younger son - we were in business!

After we deliberated on the menu, my mom and grandma ordered from the seniors menu, my son from the kids menu and me from the regular.  Due to these special menu orders, our bill was only $32. 

I had scrambled egg whites, pancakes and turkey bacon and it was delicious.  You get exactly what you ordered, without garnish or fussiness on the plate.  There are 4 kinds of syrup, I tried them all but only liked the flavour called "Old Fashioned."

Everyone else seemed happy with their food, especially my 4-year old, who wolfed down 5 pancakes, 2 eggs and 2 bacon slices along with orange juice.  He loves breakfast!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

KinderArt Camp

Last week my older son attended KinderArt Camp, a day camp at the City Arts Centre.  The camp was 3 hours each afternoon and it cost $125.  There were 20 children in his class and they were divided into two groups of 10.  Each day they did 1.5 hours of dance/movement and 1.5 hours of art.  My son attended this camp with his "cousin" (really a second cousin, but we call them "cousins").

This was a strange camp.  Every day my son and his cousin were very happy and excited at the end of camp.  They seemed to like what they were doing and they were excited to go back the next day.  What makes it strange is that I really don’t know what they were doing.  My son brought home a few pieces of artwork, but not nearly what he would have created in 7.5 hours.  He talked about the dance portion, but there are no discernable new skills.

I asked my son what he did and my cousin asked his son the same question, and they both gave vague little-kid answers (mostly involving dinosaurs) which gave us no information whatsoever.  This seems strange because each day after Farm Friends camp he’d prattle on about what they did.  The instructors of KinderArt were not particularly friendly or chatty so I was not able to learn a lot from them.  Also, sometimes I find the artsy descriptions a bit vague, for example the dance instructor told one parent “we will be exploring movement and appreciating music, but don’t worry, [your child] will learn some actual steps.”  What does that mean?

Anyways, for the art, he seemed to make some clay figures, a bunch of drawings and paintings using different mediums and a piece of abstract sculpture with a Styrofoam ball. 

The camp was in the afternoon, so we went without a nap all week.  This was interesting.  My son did well until about Thursday and then a combination of no nap and a late summer bedtime started to catch up with him.  We pulled through, but when he starts school in the fall I will need to make sure he keeps his strict early bedtime or has a short nap after school.

I am pleased that my son had fun and I am happy he spent time with his cousin.  They became fast friends in the class and hung around each other the whole time.  That being said, I’m not sure this camp was a good value, but I’ll never know for sure because I simply don’t have the information to evaluate it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Private Function at Fort Edmonton Park

Last night we went to a private  children's party at Fort Edmonton Park (yes, we have been doing a lot in that area).  There were 1500 guests and the tickets were $5 each.  Our party consisted of 6 adults and 3 children.

We had to line up to get into the party and while in line volunteers handed out some “swag” – drawstring backpacks and train whistles.  The train whistles were a big hit with my train-obsessed son.  Everyone in line seemed to appreciate the backpacks because they did not add to the load in their arms.  They also handed out water bottles, cookbooks and sunscreen “pens” which look pretty cool.

Once we were in the party we headed to a giant white tent where supper was served.  Supper was in a tin bucket and consisted of cold fried chicken, potato salad, a veggie cup, juice, a bacon and cheese biscuit, ice cream, popcorn and all of the fixin’s you could think of.  The buckets were very cute – modeled after old-time lunch buckets and we got to keep them.  Each bucket was covered by a colourful handkerchief.

After we ate until we were stuffed, we took the streetcar to the midway portion of the park.  We played the fishing game and everybody won (it’s always good to have a game that everyone wins).  Then the kids went in a petting zoo.  Next everyone rode the carousel and then the kids went on a spinney-swing ride that made my stomach lurch just watching.  We went on the ferris wheel and then left the midway after a couple more games.

We rode the train to the fort and wandered around in the fort a bit.  There was a shooting demonstration and a fiddler.  Then we walked back to the park gate down the main street, stopping for mini donuts on the way.  The park closed and the party was over, so we went home.

It was an exhausting but fun evening.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Today we went for a walk and crossed over the new(ish) Fort Edmonton Footbridge.  It is a pedestrian and bicycle suspension bridge that crosses the North Saskatchewan River.  One side of the bridge is along the fence of Fort Edmonton Park.

The bridge is beautiful!  It has two piers into the river and at each pier is a stadium-style seating area with a cover for shade.  These are nice places to stop and watch the river and also take in Edmonton's beautiful river valley scenery.  The bridge is wide and it has rails for safety that are pleasant to look at but also allow for a full view of the river.

The weather today was perfect for a constitutional in the river valley. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vaccination

Today I will change my tune significantly from yesterday.  Yesterday I was bursting with pride at the accomplishments of my children.  Well, they say "pride cometh before the fall."  Today we had our "fall."
I took the kids (with the help of my mum and grandma) to the vaccination clinic today to do catch up vaccinations.  The vaccination system is different in UAE from Canada, so there are some vaccinations that we had missed.
The appointment started out well enough.  The receptionist grouchily weighted my 4-year old and then we waited for our turn.  We went into a small room with the nurse and talked about health concerns with the nurse.  Then she started to draw the needles, and things remained calm.
When it was time for my 4-year old to get his needle, he threw the biggest tantrum that he has ever had.  He is really strong, so I could not get near enough to him to pick him up - he could push me away with his arms.  He is normally a pleasant kid, but he was kicking, pushing and crying/screaming as loud as he could.  It was pretty horrible.
The nurse had to show me how to hold him while she gave him the needle.  This was even more horrible.  After his needles he left the room, still snivelling a little.  What drama.
Then the baby got his shots and merely whimpered.  His legs bled a bit afterward and he did not complain at all.
Vaccinations have now become a "daddy" chore.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Learning

This has been a big week for my sons, they have each acquired a new skill.  My increasingly mobile 8-month old can now pull himself to a semi-stand if he is balancing on something.  My 4-year old learned to ride a bike without training wheels.  They grow up so fast! 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

High Level Bridge Street Car

This afternoon after the kids had naps (OK, maybe I did too) we went on the High Level Bridge Street Car, which is run by the Edmonton Radial Rail Society.  This society is made up of volunteers, some of which donate their time to operate a “living museum” street car.

Our party was made up of 3 adults and 2 kids and the fare was $4 per adult.  We boarded the train in Old Strathcona behind the Farmer’s Market; we were on the last round trip of the day from this location.

The street car had benches along the sides and was open down the middle with handles hanging from the ceiling for standing passengers.  We were quite late in boarding the train so we had standing room spots.  I had the baby in the Baby Bjorn and a man offered me his seat.  I declined because it is incredibly difficult to sit with a Baby Bjorn on….it’s a good thing I declined, but I’ll tell you why later. 

The train was painted institutional blue/green inside and had Japanese writing everywhere.  I could not understand the writing until I saw a small informational placard in one of the advertisement spots at the top of the train.  The placard explained that the street car we were riding on had been acquired from a Japanese rail line….then the writing made sense.

We travelled along and came to quite a few crossroads.  At almost every crossing we surprised a car.   A couple cars had to skid to a stop!  A couple of other drivers looked annoyed.  The street car travelled through a tunnel that was completely coated with graffiti.  The street car operator told us that every second night they clean the aerosol paint cans out of the tunnel.  That is really sad. 

Before we went onto the High Level Bridge, the street car stopped and the operator told us some facts and history about the street car.  The most interesting fact (to me at least) was that this street car is the highest one in the world.  Meaning that the distance between the street car on the High Level Bridge and the North Saskatchewan River is the greatest distance on earth.  The operator also described how the tracks were once shared with CP rail; track sharing would have made the ride a lot more interesting!

The street car pulled onto the High Level Bridge and as we were crossing the man who had earlier offered me his seat proposed to his girlfriend!  She said “yes” and became his fiancĂ©e.  I believe their names are Michael and Susan.  The street car stopped in the middle of the bridge so that they could savour the moment.  We all clapped and cheered for them.  It was very romantic.  Congratulations to them!

We got moving again and then quickly stopped at the Alberta Legislature.  Some people got off and the rest of us rode the short distance to the end of the line.  There the street car reversed direction and we rode back to Old Strathcona.  On the ride back, we had to stop many times so that the operator could close gates protecting the rails.

The complete trip took about 40 minutes. 

Overall this was a great outing.  The kids love it, it was inexpensive and the length of the ride was just right.  The weather was not great today and this was a perfect way to avoid the mosquitos and still enjoy the outdoors.

Team Canada Training Camp Exhibition Game

Tonight we went to the Team Canada Summer Development Camp: Red vs. White Game at Rexall Place in Edmonton.  This was an exhibition hockey game played between two teams consisting of Team Canada hopefuls and NHL draft picks, team Red and team White.  Before the game, the members of our party each decided whether to cheer for team White or Red and we tried to dress accordingly.  I decided to cheer for team White, mostly because I do not look good in red.

Our party consisted of 6 adults and 2 kids and tickets were $14 each.  We had to buy 7 tickets, the baby was free.  We drove up to the Coliseum (oops….Rexall Place) and parked in a free spot which was a very short walk from the entrance.  (Where is this parking?  I’ll never tell…). We had wanted to take the LRT, but the station was closed for repairs.  The game was general admission, so once we were in Rexall Place we walked for a bit and then decided on seats in section 115 about  ½ way down, which was near a corner close to the goalie’s net.  This was a great place to see the action at the net in front of us, but, of course, it was difficult to see what was going on at the other end of the ice.  The crowd consisted of a lot of children (given the price of the tickets) and the stands were pleasantly full.  The lower bowl filled up and limited upper level seating was open.

We watched the players warm up and the Zambonis clear the ice, which was super-exciting for my 4-year old.  The game was surprisingly exciting.  I don’t know a lot about hockey, but what I do know is that I often get bored watching games.  This was an exception.  The players were clearly very skilled and the teams were evenly matched.  Team White was down by 3 goals until close to the end of the game and then they pulled out a win in an exciting last 5 minutes of the game. 

The kids were good during the game.  Our baby slept for most of the game and my 4-year old followed the game for a while, then snacked on popcorn, then followed the game some more.  He was cheering for team Red and was very excited whenever they were ahead (which was most of the game).  He was not happy when team Red lost, but after the game there was a shootout that team Red won, which made him happy.

I’m glad we took the kids to the game.  The baby was excited by the crowds and the colours on the players’ uniforms, but obviously did not understand anything from the game.  Our 4-year old understood some of the game and sat fairly well throughout the entire game.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Gorgeous Day in Edmonton

This is truly a beautiful city when the weather co-operates.  We met friends at Jackie Parker Park and had a blast in the sun!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cars 2

Last night my father took my older son to see Cars 2.  This is a popular movie with both kids and adults, although the reviews have not been stellar.  Reviews are not really important to a 4-year old, so I was not concerned. 

They went to the early show at 5:15 p.m. and by all accounts they enjoyed it.  There was a story line that was understandable to children and a spy movie story line for the adults.  What surprised me is that there were only 8 people at the movie theatre.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

History/Herstory



About 18 years ago I was a volunteer costumed interpreter at Fort Edmonton Park.  I dressed up in historical garb and acted out the role of one of the Rutherford daughters.  The costumed volunteers received training through evening group education sessions. 

At the first training session, the instructors had us go around the room and state our names and asked us to share what “history” meant to us.  This was an icebreaking exercise.  The room was full of bland answers like “bringing the past alive,” “remembering the past” and “honouring the past.”  One woman in the room started her answer by explaining that in her interpretation there is a difference between “history” and “her-story.”  This feminist went on somewhat of a rant about how traditional views of history do not take into account the feminist perspective.  There was a collective, silent, groan as the woman baited the instructor into a discussion on feminist perspectives for about 20 minutes.

This type of volunteer program attracts many different types of people, but to my mind they fall into a few categories – students and others attempting to rack up volunteer hours because they need them for their resume; actors trying to load up their resume with experience in a living “period” piece; people who are truly interested in the park; and people with an agenda who want to share in a collective intellectual experience.  I fell squarely into the first category and had a toe in the third category, and the feminist fell squarely into the latter category.  You could tell that she was trying to bring all of the trainees into a discussion of feminism and history, and I believe that she truly wanted to enrich our lives.   She was planning to take her agenda and express it through her volunteer role.

I could not have been less interested in what the feminist had to say.  It was the wrong forum.  We were there to learn where to change our costumes, how to assist park visitors while in character and how to deal with anachronisms (by far the greatest sin of the costumed interpreter).

I remember at the time I checked into the etymology of the word “history” to confirm that the word was not built from conjoining "his" and "story."  Indeed it is not; “history” is derived from “histoire” or “estoire” in French.  I then dismissed the woman at the training session as an annoying feminist time-waster who wanted to inject the wrong type of learning into the session and who wasted a bunch of my time.  Although my view of feminism has mellowed a good deal, I still think I was right about the rest.

Anyways, I have recently become aware of the "herstory" movement in feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, in which historical events are explored from a feminine perspective.  (I hope I can be forgiven for my ignorance of this movement due to my age).  I think that this is a very interesting and important historical perspective, and here in Canada there were a lot of strong women who built our country.   It seems to me that there is a lot of readily available information about the daily life of pioneer women here in Canada.  There are fiction and non-fiction books about the plight and daily life of Canadian women, from the Anne of Green Gables to Louise McKinney.  As a Canadian female, I feel that I have learned about history through both the male and female perspective – and it was in an organic manner.  Feminist perspectives were not unnaturally wedged into a male-focused curriculum; women are simply recognized in their important roles in our history.

Perhaps this is easy in Canada because our history is "new" compared with a lot of other places in the world.  Perhaps women had greater roles in Canada history.  Perhaps there was a preponderance of women in important roles in Canada.  Or perhaps because I was educated in the 1980s feminism had seeped into the curriculum.  Feminist perspectives are strong in Canadian history - at least what I was exposed to at school.  No matter what the reason, I think Canadians can be proud of the women in our past and I am pleased that we remember them and learn about them.

While I may have matured to appreciate “herstory” as a concept, I still do not appreciate the woman hi-jacking an icebreaking exercise at the volunteer training session to express her views.  She chose the wrong forum, which is often typical of people pushing a social or political agenda.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

St. Albert, Alberta

This afternoon we went to St. Albert, a city to the northwest of Edmonton for a play date and dinner.  We had a great time!  Dinner was lovely and so was the company.

St. Albert is a really nice town.  It is clean and tidy, with a clock tower and a quirky city hall (think lots of circles).  It seems to have a small town feel with the amenities of a bigger community.  The house we were visiting is on the Sturgeon River, a beautiful small river that snakes and bends through the prairie.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mannville, Alberta

Today we went for a drive to Mannville, Alberta.  For those of you who have not heard of this megalopolis (ha ha), it is a village with a population of just over 750 in eastern Alberta.  It is also the town nearest our “family farm.”   I wanted to take the kids, specifically my older son, to see the town that my mother and various other family members came from. 

We drove on highway 16 east of Edmonton and stopped in Vegreville to see the world’s largest pysanka.  The Vegreville “Easter egg” is actually a wind vane and today it was so windy that we saw it rotating.  There is a lovely park surrounding the pysanka that is maintained by the Lions Club and we stopped there for a fruit snack and some family photos.

We drove on toward Mannville and the highway was pretty empty except for Saskatch-a-speeders racing home after the long weekend.  The drive was beautiful – it was a sunny day with a slight wind.  We could see for miles and the rolling fields had many different crops – some healthy, some not.

In Mannville we toured around some favourite haunts and had a picnic lunch on a country road.  My dad insisted on berry picking (I loathe berry picking) and my son had a great time. 

The school in Mannville has a revitalized playground and it is huge!  We relaxed there for a while and then drove through town.  The town looked neat and tidy, but many of the businesses on main street are closed down.  It is a lovely little place, but definitely not the next big tourist attraction

Alberta Prairie Railway

Today we drove to Stettler and rode the Alberta Prairie Railway.  The name of our excursion was "Country Dinner to Big Valley."  Basically you catch the train in Stettler and have supper in Big Valley and then ride the train back to Stettler.  The excursion started at 2:30 p.m. and was about 5 hours long.  Stettler is about 2 hours away from Edmonton, so we left at around 11:00 a.m. to give ourselves plenty of time for the drive because it is road construction season here in Alberta.  The excursion was expensive - $90 per adult and $35 per child (the baby was free).  Our party consisted of 3 adults, 1 child and 1 baby and we made reservations in advance.  We have been meaning to get out to Stettler to ride this railway for ages and this was a real treat.  Here is a link to the homepage if you are interested:  http://www.absteamtrain.com/index.html

The first part of our adventure was the drive to Stettler.  It was a beautiful day and the drive was gorgeous, highlighting the best of Alberta prairie scenery.  We drove through New Norway and Edberg (to provide a context for our route).  We saw rolling prairies with bluffs of trees, vistas over ponds and colourful crops.  The road was mostly clear and the driving was good.  We even convinced my older son to take a nap!  (The baby slept the whole way).  We made 2 short stops on the way and arrived 2 hours after we left.

We got to Stettler about an hour before we needed to report to the train station so we ate a picnic lunch and wandered around the train area.  The steam train was parked in front of the station and was being prepared for our trip – fascinating for a 4-year old and a 64-year old (my dad).  After lunch we met some friends and boarded the train.  The seats on the train were assigned and our coach had red velvet seats with wooden trim.  Our friends were in a nicer coach with dividers between the seat pairs.  Our tickets were punched, safety procedures were reviewed and the train pulled out of the station. 

We travelled through the prairie and watched the scenery outside the window for a while.  Then we started to explore the train.  At the front end there was a bar with live entertainment.  Children are not permitted in the bar, so it was not a popular hangout for our party.  Then there were a series of private rooms which were locked and blocked from view.  The next coach held our friends and our 2 parties visited back and forth during the trip.  Toward the end of the train there were many other coaches, including:  some passenger coaches; a coach with a small play area for kids (containing mostly blocks – so don’t count on it to keep your kids amused); concession coaches and an open air coach.  We spent most of the trip to Big Valley looking around the train, enjoying the scenery and visiting with our friends.

Right before Big Valley some train robbers approached the train on horseback and started firing shots into the air.  The train stopped and the robbers boarded the train and robbed the passengers (for a good cause – the Children’s Hospital).  One of the train attendants was brave and fought the robbers, ultimately saving the passengers.  This drama was well-done and fast-paced.  Unfortunately our older son was scared.

After we were “robbed” the train started rolling toward Big Valley and there was an unscripted surprise – a bunch of local residents mooned the train!  One of the passengers sitting near us got a good picture.

We rolled into Big Valley and disembarked from the train.  Big Valley is very small and we explored the town quickly.  First we went into a building with a display of antique cars – very interesting to my dad.  Then we wandered around the boardwalk shopping area for a bit before heading to dinner.  Dinner was a roast buffet served inside an outdoor tent.  It was really hot today so it was unpleasant both inside and outside the tent, but dinner was tasty.  We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots (or, just peas if you are me and hate cooked carrots), salad, rolls and pie.  The food was basic but well cooked.  I enjoyed it.

After dinner my father and my older son rode on a speeder car (a motorized vehicle that travels very quickly on train tracks to move maintenance crews to wherever they are needed).  After their ride we rode the train back to Stettler.  There was live entertainment on the train for the entire trip, and I saw two different entertainers on the return trip from Big Valley to Stettler.  Both were lone singers accompanying themselves on guitars and singing comedic but ironic country songs.

During the ride back we wandered and visited some more and we were grateful for the sunny day (although it was a bit hot).

When we got back to Stettler, we started out for home and the “weather” started.  It began with a light rain and then it rained so hard that it was difficult to see the road.  The sky turned black and there was lightening ahead of us.  We drove through a dramatic rainstorm but we arrived home safely, no worse for the wear.  Our trip home was only minutes longer than the drive to Stettler this morning.

Overall I really enjoyed the Prairie Railway excursion.  It was pricey and required a fair commitment in terms of the drive and the length of the outing, but for our family it was well worth it.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a train enthusiast or is interested in Alberta’s history.  Even if you do not fall into one of those categories, it was simply a pleasant day and almost anyone would enjoy that.