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Edmonton (Circa 1800-1920)

September 7th, 2005  · stk

Fort Edmonton Alberta


The Province of Alberta is celebrating its Centennial this year and the big party in town was on September 1st. We didn't participate in any of the venues, but from what we heard (the sound of fireworks), it must've been a rousing time. We did, however, celebrate on September 5th, when Edmonton offered free admission to a number of city attractions. What better way to celebrate a 100-year birthday, than by visiting old Fort Edmonton, the 1800's trading post that predates this Provincial Capital?

Fort Edmonton Park is a living history museum that shows the growth of Edmonton through four historical periods - The old Fort, 1885, 1905 and 1920. Horse-drawn wagons, a steam train and electric trolleys provide transportation to their period-appropriate locations. In addition to the old trading post and fort, the other eras each have their own street, filled with historical buildings, costumed actors, operating shops (which includes the 30-room Selkirk Hotel) and a variety of amusements.

Learn about Fort Edmonton Park and our family visit ... Onward Ho!

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The Oop on Water

August 10th, 2005  · stk

As proud parents, we think our precious baby girl walks on water, but in reality, she sinks like a stone. She will however (quite effectively and far too often) pass water!

Alex has had a love-hate relationship with water her whole life.

The H2O History

Before she was born, Alex floated in water (amniotic fluid) and was happy. Toward the end, however, "floating" was a poor description, as she had, in a sense, outgrown her pool, and was kicking to be let out.

After emerging, she had her very first bath, in the delivery ward, and it was not pleasant. She howled her pink head off and had she been given the option, she'd probably have crawled back to the safety of the womb.

During her first few months of life, her good nature began to show, as she cooed and smiled during some of her baths. Still, if she became cold, or the water was too hot, or she got water in her eyes, or if you looked at her funny ... she'd cry. But when you're tiny and you're bathing in a small stainless steel sink, how much fun can it be?

Her first pool experience came at about 6 months. We took her to the local natatorium in Vancouver and she did what she always does when faced with a new and uncertain situation ... she balled up her fists, held them close to her chest and put on a brave face. (She's always made these little fists when she's ill-at-ease. We used to say, "She's making those fists again." So that's what we call them ... "fistagains".)

By the time we moved to Edmonton, Alex had grown and was bathing in a full-size tub. Her experience continued to be a mixed bag. Some times she'd happily play with toys and it was like pulling teeth to get her out. She'd be giggling and splashing, dunking her face in the water, tossing yellow rubber duckies or "cleaning" the edge of the tub. Other times, getting her into the bath was like pulling teeth and from the volume of screaming and crying, you'd think she thought she was going to melt if she touched water. What was the deal?

Alex did get to experience a week of summer, where it was warm enough that we set up an inflatable toddler pool in the backyard. She happily splashed about, sinking plastic ships and chasing golf balls, till she turned blue and her teeth chattered.

When winter came, we continued taking her to an indoor pool and the one here has a heated toddler pool, one that's shallow enough that Alex can stand up. Our goal wasn't to teach her to swim, as much as let her get comfortable in the water. She'd walk around, playing with some of the pool toys - little watering cans, balls and floating tubes. We'd dunk her face or send her down the little slide. "Ker-plunk!!" she'd go, into Dad's waiting arms and underwater for a brief spell, only to come up sputtering and laughing.

She was comfortable enough in the pool to walk around on her own and we'd sit back and watch her, and the other kids and parents in the toddlers 15-foot square area portion of the pool. On one visit, she was near the middle and lost her footing. Down she went, neither blowing bubbles or moving at all. Unfortunately, Dad thought Mom was watching and visa-versa. It only took a second, but Rachel spotted our underwater baby first, rushed over and plucked her from imminent danger. Our hearts raced. How quickly (and silently) disaster could strike!

The incident didn't seem to dampen Alex's enthusiasm and joy for visiting the pool, but it shook Mom and Dad up pretty good. When it comes to water, we now keep a much closer eye on her, because we know just how quickly she sinks.

A Week in California

When we visited my folks in July, California was having a heat-wave and there wasn't a day under 100°F. In fact, when we left, it was 113°F in the shade. For us Edmontonians, outside was like an oven and we felt like day old lettuce. Ugh. We stayed indoors, much like we do during the Edmontonian winter, but for the opposite reason.

Fortunately, the neighbors had an outdoor pool and graciously invited us to make use of their watery oasis.

My parents didn't want to impose, but when cousins and their families came up for an impromptu family reunion, it took little time before we were all splashing around. For the remaining days of our visit, during the hottest part of the afternoon, we plunked the Oop and ourselves, into the welcoming water.

It was interesting to see Alex's progression, as she was very frightened and skeptical on her initial swim. She even cried and said, "No?" when we put her in the water the first time. (She has this really cute way of saying "no" almost like a question, as if saying, "I'd really prefer not to" ... which is way different than saying "NO!" and petulantly putting her foot down.)

Again, the neighbors came to the rescue, as they had an inflatable toddler "whale", that she could comfortably sit in, high out of the water. Soon her trepidation eased and she began to have fun.

By day two, she felt comfortable with the pool and her "whale". Enough so that we took her out and held her up, tossing her back and forth and splashing up and down. It was all so much FUN and she laughed, giggled and delighted in the water, even if she did swallow a good portion and came up sputtering a few times.

By day three, she was EAGER to get into the pool and we had purchased a set of inexpensive, inflatable "water-wings" that we could put onto her arms. They kept her upright in the pool, though she sat low enough to swallow water, if the pool became choppy. She loved the water wings, gulping and giggling at the water, as she was gently pushed from one adult to another, and towed across the pool. She splashed at the water and lounged on a raft. We took her out of the water only because she was turning into a prune.

As the visit neared an end, we bemoaned the fact that we had to go, as it was evident that her confidence and abilities were improving with each day. Though we encouraged her to "kick", she still remained motionless in the water, stiff as a board. It would have been nice to see her moving, trying to tread water, rather than just gripping the water wings and keeping her feet straight. We wonder how fast she would have advanced, had we stayed another week.

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Leaving the Oop

July 31st, 2005  · stk

For the first time, at the ripe age of 21 months, we left Alex in the care of others, while we went an overnight trip to Vancouver Island. It had to happen sometime and who better to look after our precious little girl than her adoring Gran and Grandpa Pilley?

As it turned out, they also had a house-guest, Eileen, visiting from the U.K. Alex liked Eileen and so she had THREE adoring people to "play with" while we were away.

While we were away, we wondered how everyone was coping. Was Alex missing us? Were Gran and Grandpa overwhelmed by the activity, demands and exhuberance of a toddler? Was Alex 'pushing Eileen around'? (Before we left, Alex was putting a book in Eileen's hand and pushing her to a chair, so she could read a story)

We needn't have worried. Alex was having a wonderful time and wasn't bothered by our absence.

Upon our return, we interrupted her dinner. Her face lit up when she finally saw us. She gave us BIG hugs and kisses, but then went immediately back to her meal. Later, she presented us with her "diary" (which her grandparents helped her write):

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Well, I'm not sure what you're up to on Vancouver Island, but I'm having fun. I went on a bus, which goes 'ding-ding' and lots of ladies got on and off. Then I got to go on a boat, where I saw lots of other boats (and some were very big). My Gran is lots of fun. She knows just what big kids like me like to do and what I like to eat (i-beam :D)! I had pasta and meat sauce for lunch at this big market.

After ... I had great fun in this room filled with colored balls. (It was for three-year olds, but I told them I was three ... even though I'm really just almost two).

Guess what? We came home on another boat and then another bus. What fun! Lot's of old men laughed with me because I had so much fun smiling at them.

When we got back, I was pretty tired. I just fell into my crib and napped for 2 and a half hours.

I can't imagine what you are doing, but I played with grandpa after dinner, while Eileen and gran went skunk hunting.

I slept like an angel, but I guess you were having a night on the tiles, because you didn't come home!

Wednesday I had a HUGE breakfast. I ate eggs and bacon (2 rashes), a whole waffle (with maple syrup ... YUM) and then a whole kiwi.

Then we went on an adventure tour to Whistler. I played in the river at Shannon Falls, played in a hollow tree with lots of other kids. At Whistler, I went on this 'bumpety bumpety' thing that FLEW over the tree tops to the top of the mountain. At the top, I played with dusty rocks and got pretty dirty. Oops. :( It was fun though.

I really liked the really tall wooden bear. Grandpa says that it's eight feet tall. I dunno, but it was really big, but it didn't growl. How come? I liked it so much that I stayed there while lots of Japanese tourists took my photo.

I had strawberry "i-beam" and then we went back down the mountain in the "bumpety-bump" thing again.

I was really good in the car on the ride back, even though it was really hot, but I did doze for a while.

What are you guys doing? I hope you're not lost, but don't worry, I'm having lots of fun. (I think we should make this an annual event ... at least, that's what gran and grandpa think).

They are talking about taking me to see fishes tomorrow at a place they call the 'akwairium'? Sounds like fun.

Right now I'm eating some good grub (rice with stew) for dinner. It has lots of carrots (I like carrots). Oh ... for lunch I ate whatever you put in the fridge for me.

Gran says tomorrow we can go shopping for more good food.

Oh ... you're back! It's GREAT to see you.

Love and hugs and slobbery kisses,


Oop Translations:

1) "I-Beam" = Ice Cream (On her 2nd half birthday, Alex didn't like ice cream because it was cold on her fingers. Now that she knows how to use a spoon better, she's decided that ice cream is really good. If asked, "Do you like ice cream?" she emphatically nods her head up and down.

2) The "bumpety-bump" thing was a gondola at Whistler, which vibrates when it passes over the roller wheels at each stanchion.

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Traveling with the Oop

July 6th, 2005  · stk

You know that you're a parent when the 'strategy' for a 13-hour drive from Edmonton to Vancouver becomes a topic of discussion. In pre-Oop days, we would have simply hopped into the car and driven, with an eye toward an appropriate Vancouver arrival time. Not now.

Driving for 13 hours straight, with a wide-awake, active 21-month-old toddler is not advisable. We needed a plan. Something that would minimize the impact of traveling on our toddler, but also keep parents from going insane and still allow for an appropriate Vancouver arrival time.

We thought about an extremely early morning departure, waking at 2 AM and dropping a still-sleeping Alex into the car seat. Or driving all night, leaving when Alex was due to go to bed (8 PM), with the idea that she would sleep nearly the whole way. Ultimately, it was the latter idea that won. Parental sleep would be sacrificed (been there, done that), to keep things easy on the Oop. This plan also provided for minimal disturbance on excited Vancouver grandparents, first on our list of holiday visitors, with a rush-hour arrival time.

There is only one thing wrong with the plan - an itchy accelerator foot.

We were all packed and ready to go by 3 PM. Yard care had been taken delegated. Lamps had been set on timers. House plants had been rounded up and watered. Tuxedo, our cat, had a benefactor named Paul, that would visit daily, letting him out of the house "to do his thing" (which is fertilizing the garden and napping in the cool shade of bushes for several hours) letting him back in later, to eat food and drink water (to make more fertilizer) and nap in one of several favorite places. Bags were packed and nearly all of the large plastic items deemed necessary for the survival of a modern-day toddler, were stowed in the family sports car (a mini van).

We were ready to go.

Even Alex was ready (she put on her sandals and announced "car ride", standing at the Oop containment field, eyeing the open door of the sports car).

So ... in the end, the strategized plans were tossed out the window, arrival-time etiquette discarded and we left for Vancouver at 3:30 PM, with a wide-awake toddler, several hours before her normal bedtime.

Another factor that contributed to the decision - Alex had a cold. She had a fever (less than yesterday, but it still required attention). This meant drugs and she seemed quite content to suck on the south end of a syringe filled with "Kids Cold & Flu" medicine ... stuff that lowers her fever and puts her to sleep, allowing her to get the rest that she needs.

So ... we got double-duty out of her medication. We weren't just helping her tiny immune system in fighting a cold, we were also buying ourselves the equivalent of driving bliss.

The trip began on a warm, sunny Alberta day. Outside temperatures were a warmish 28°C (83°F), enough to justify turning on the A/C in the sports car (remember ... we're in Canada ;) ). The Oop was busy looking out the window, sitting in her forward-facing car seat, enjoying the sight of passing traffic and identifying vehicles she could see. "Truck," she would say, then a little later, "truck." Soon, she would spot another truck and then another. (For some reason, she didn't see many cars).

Things came to a head a couple of hours out of Edmonton. We were traveling on a nice 4-lane, divided highway called "The Yellowhead", just making our way out of Edson, on our way to Hinton, the gateway to Jasper National Park. Alex had been enjoying the company of one of her favorite books "Polly Pelican" (who says 'snip, snap' a lot). Integrated with the thick cardboard cover is a movable, plastic purple pelican head that can make a "snapping" sound.

After an near endless number of "SNAPS", we heard the book fall to the floor and seconds later, Alex said, "book" ... followed a moment later with a more pleading tone ... "boook!" We picked up the book and handed it back to her, thinking she had inadvertently dropped it. Moments later, "plop" goes the book on the floor and Alex began the whole, "book" routine again. Parents aren't the brightest creatures and it took us a several "lost book" episodes, before we realized that we had become a toddler plaything.

A battle of wills began.

As parent's, we have several tools that insures a victory in this battle. First, our sense of time is less fleeting than that of our relatively new toddler. What might seem "ages" to Alex, is less than 10 actual minutes to us longer-lived, long-in-the-tooth parents. Second, we have a very strong desire to squelch this whole "if I don't get what I want, I'm gonna cry and make your life miserable" toddler antic. You can cry Alex and for 10 minutes, you can make our teeth chatter and our eyeballs roll backwards with all that screeching noise, but you can rest assured that such activity will NOT get you what you want, because we do NOT want this to become part of our everyday lives.

Though the battle of wills was waged on three closely-separated occasions (once with the "Polly Pelican" book, once with her sippy cup and once with her "nappy" - a soft sleeping blanket) ... we're happy to report that each battle was short-lived. It was also the prelude to sleep, as we could tell that she was getting tired.

So, we pulled over in Hinton, just prior to entering Jasper National Park, stopping at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Nothing quiets a fussy, feverish toddler quite like batter-fried chicken and greasy french fried potatoes! Alex contentedly munched on her greasy food, smearing much of it across the smooth complexion of her rosy cheeks, gulping intermittently at the apple juice in her sippy cup. She was busy, out of the car and eating ketchup dipped french fries ... smiling at all the other people in the greasy spoon. She was happy.

Back into the car and with a quick dose of Children's Tylenol Cold & Flu and soon she was sucking her thumb and staring at the insides of her eyelids. It was 7:30 PM, Alberta time and our sick little girl was fast asleep in her car seat, getting the rest she needed so badly and in turn, giving her parents the rest THEY needed too.

The weather turned as we headed west. We were driving into a low pressure system and cloudy skies soon began to sprinkle rain onto the windshield. Not enough to clear the bugs, but enough that wipers were needed every few minutes ... smearing dead bug parts across the window.

Alex missed the beautiful drive through Jasper National Park and (on the British Columbia side) Mount Robson Provincial Park and the upper reaches of the North Thompson river valley. Mom and Dad didn't, however, and both enjoyed spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies.

Each time we make this drive, we do two things. First, we lament that we're just buzzing through and that we should take the time to explore the Rockies on foot (backpacking). Second, we keep a tally of the wild animals we see. On this trip, we saw two black bears, a timber wolf, a number of deer and a moose.

We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. The North American West provides stunning views, wilderness, an abundance of wildlife and recreational opportunities.

We alternated drivers, while Alex slept and we drove through the night, past Jasper, Blue River, Kamloops, Merritt and Hope ... on our way through (now driving rain) to Vancouver. We arrived safely just before 4:00 AM Alberta time (3:00 AM British Columbia Time). We awakened an eager set of grandparents, with hello's and hugs all around, before promptly falling into a long-awaited bed.

The Oop-driving strategy worked. With the single exception of the Polly Pelican episode, Alex was a wonderful traveler.

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Happy Father's Day to Me

June 18th, 2005  · stk
Alex wears too many bras

Life is good when you have a cute baby girl and, I suspect, Alex is about as cute as they come. She greeted me with a hug and kiss this morning, then promptly wanted to be put in her high-chair, because she wanted 'toas'(Oop-speak for TOAST). It's Father's Day, but for the Oop, it's just another gloriously sunny day in Edmonton and she's ready for whatever new adventure might come her way (though she thought she might prod things along by asking to go in the 'cor' - CAR).

We're now in the midst of that language explosion we've been predicting, but unfortunately, her vocabulary exceeds her ability to enunciate and (even for us parents) it's tough to know WHAT she's saying. The words we've been able to fathom so far, include: egg, car, truck, book, chocolate (a favorite), cookie, yogurt, bib, juice, nap, bread, banana (she's started saying 'banana', rather than 'mahtma', much to our mixed emotions), PJs, toast, socks, booby and please. She even said her first complete sentence, "No, mommy eat it," as she shoved some food that she didn't want, toward Rachel.

She's mimicking our speech quite regularly now, as her little mouth is beginning to get a handle on the various sounds that the English language uses. We're having to be extra careful, because we just know that she's gonna pipe up with, "God Dammit" at a very inopportune time (maybe Michelle's wedding?) ha ha. Still, for as many words as she now knows (and they're being added to on a daily basis), UNDERSTANDING her remains difficult. She was brought nearly to tears this morning, as she repeated the word 'brid' to me, several times (while putting on shoes to go outside). FINALLY, I had her SHOW me what in the World she was talking about and she led me into the kitchen and pointed in the general direction of the microwave oven (on top of which, we keep the BREAD). The time of morning and the activity (going outside) was completely out of context for eating, which was why I was having such a hard time understanding. It must be so frustrating to KNOW the word, but still not be understood.

Soon, however, she was contentedly munching on a piece of bread and drinking milk out of her sippy cup, sitting in her high-chair. Then, she asked for 'chokate' (chocolate) and because we're trying to teach her to append "please" onto the end, I asked her if she could ask, "chocolate, please?" She did and I realized that I'd just been conned into giving her chocolate as a reward to reinforce the whole "please" concept. She's no dummy, our Alex! She sat there, grinning at me, with blue lips and a chocolate smudge on her chin, busily chomping on her little M&Ms.

Ever since Alex began attending day-care, nearly a month ago, she's been constantly ill. She vomited a couple of days ago. (This is much more traumatic for the adults, then it is for Alex, as she doesn't seem to be bothered much by the activity. The cleanup isn't fun and I find my stomach is on the verge of releasing its contents, which only shows what a wimp dad can be.) She's been running a low-grade fever and her nose is constantly runny. She has a rattling cough that wakes her up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4:30AM, but it generally seems to abate during the day. She's sleeping longer at night, generally and goes down hard for a nap, which is now generally only once a day, instead of twice. We keep telling ourselves that she's building up her immunity, from exposure to so many other kids and germs. She's going to get sick now or when she starts kindergarten. Either way, she's going to have to go through this. If she could only keep her fingers out of her nose, eyes, mouth or ears!

Each day is filled with wonder and exploration. She loves day care and often isn't even aware of our leaving, after dropping her off in the morning. In fact, she's unaffected by our absence and will often wander away, without regard to where we are, when were out at the supermarket, in a department store, or at the park. On one hand, we're glad that she's so sure of herself and her environment, but on the other, we'd prefer is she were a bit more aware. We just can't have it both ways.

She's very fond of shoes and she has a couple (with velcro closures) that she can actually put on and take off. She must repeat this activity several dozen times a day, as she can't quite seem to make up her mind if tennis shoes are needed, or if sandals would be a more appropriate choice. She's learned what PJs are (pajamas) and she calls her favorite crocheted blanket her 'nap' (though we're coaxing her toward 'nappy', to distinguish it from an actual lie-down "nap"). We know that she has a fondness for her crib, because if she's been overly stressed or experiences a hurt, she'll ask for 'pjs' or 'nap', wanting to be put into her "safe spot", so she can re-center herself.

She's an absolute delight to take out, as she rarely cries in public, is cute as a button and flirts with anyone that will look in her direction. Last night we went out for dinner (a rare event, but not as rare as it was during the winter months) and she interacted with another child near her age, as we were leaving. She hugged him! (I was slightly concerned they might start playing "doctor" right there, but a clingy hug was what she wanted most and she wasn't going to take "no" for an answer ... heck, she didn't even bother asking. Just boom, hug!

She's growing up quickly and was even caught on video 'trying on' mom's bras, which is very cute. We're looking forward to our summer vacation, where we can show off our little girl to her adoring grand parents and other friends and relatives. (Those childless friends are already stressing over the thought of a toddler in their midst, but those who have children are eager to make her acquaintance). Look out everyone, here comes 'the Oop'!

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