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Summer Holiday Intermission

August 6th, 2005  · stk

It's been one month since we posted. I can laugh at myself, because I had every intention of making entries, while we were away on summer holidays, but it didn't happen.

It's a bit like taking books home on Christmas holidays. You think that you'll study, but you soon find yourself back at University in January and not one book has been opened ... even though you've lugged them back and forth!

The month-long hiatus involved mostly visits with friends and family. The itinerary:

• 13-hour night drive from Edmonton to Vancouver.

• 2-day visit with grandparents (maternal).

• 3-hour drive to Seattle.

• Overnight visit with the Easthouse family.

• Overnight visit with Dave & Karen (also in Seattle).

• 10-hour night drive to California (Red Bluff).

• 2-day visit with grandparents (paternal)

• 4-hour drive to Santa Rosa.

• Overnight visit with PCT friends Tom & Sheila.

• 4-hour drive back to Red Bluff.

• 5-day visit with grandparents & an overnight family reunion with the Krezek family.

• 10-hour night drive to Seattle.

• Daytime visit with the Easthouse family.

• 3-hour drive to Vancouver.

• 5-day visit with grandparents & a wedding ceremony (Michelle & Bruce), where Rachel was the maid of honour.

• Leave Alex with Gran & Grandpa (first time away from mom & dad) and take the ferry to Vancouver Island to scout out real estate.

• Back to Vancouver and then a 13-hour night drive, back to Edmonton,

Whew ... that's a lot of driving!

Alex had lots of fun and did a bunch of new things. (We'll post about it, as time permits.)

To everyone we visited we say, "Thanks for your hospitality! It was great to see you."

We were crazy to visit California in the summertime, though (they were having a heat wave and temperatures were above 100°F every day. The day we left, it was 113°F. Edmonton, in comparison, was in the 80's during most of this time).

We're now back home for a couple of weeks, but off again on the 14th, before the University Fall Term begins (and winter comes)! The plan: a self-supported cycle-touring adventure around Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

Stay tuned!

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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,

me

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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Costa Rica Trip

February 15th, 2005  · stk

Scott's parents have recently returned from a 3-week trip to Guatamala and Costa Rica. They had a very busy time and Marilyn commented, "We were so active, that I need a vacation from my vacation!"

They traveled in a group of about 15 people, which they said, "was a good size."

I did my Master's Thesis research in Costa Rica, during the early eighties. I spent just over two months there, traveling extensively over the Nicoya Penninsula and around the Gulf of Nicoya. I was very eager to hear of my parent's impressions and amazed at how much they did, while they were there.

In Guatamala, they saw volcanos erupting, visited a remote village where they speak a Mayan dialect (one of 60 dialects in the Country), sampled unusual fruits (zapota), saw giant carrots over a foot long & measuring 4-5 inches across, and visited the ruins of the ancient Mayan capital "Tikal".

They traveled more in Costa Rica than I ever did, touring San Jose (the capital), visiting the lush rain forests along the Caribbean coast (where they spotted the lethargic three-toed sloth & went white-water rafting down a class-III river, recently swollen from flooding). They spotted colorful poison frogs, howler monkeys, toucans, & white egrets. At the hotel, they drank and ate with a "Tony" Toucan, who helped himself to fruit off their plates! They visited a school and were treated to lunch at a student's home, helping to prepare their meal and sampling authentic, local fare. En route to Lago de Arenal, they got to squeeze sugar cane using an old iron press, sampling the juice & drinking "guardo" (the National drink). They saw tons of howler and capuchin monkeys and witnesses "Jesus Christ" lizards.

What's a "Jesus Christ" lizard? "You know, the ones that walk on water and when you see one, you say, 'Jesus Christ! Look at that lizard!'," Dad explained. Ha ha.

Witnessing more volcanic eruptions, snorkeling, mud baths, horse-back riding, a ride on a 75-foot catamaran, seeing 12-foot-long crocodiles, hiking in the steamy jungle ... Good God! No wonder they need a rest!

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Scott's Parents Visit

November 14th, 2004  · stk

Scott's folks came up from California in mid-October. They stayed with us a week and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know their precious granddaughter all over again. (The last saw her in late April, when we made the drive down to their ranch. That was nearly six months ago, which, in Alex-time is a half-life!) Their timing is such when they see Alex, she is on the verge of another physical breakthrough. The first was crawling. We took a helpless blob down to California and returned with a little girl who could roll over, sit up & was on the cusp of crawling. This time, of course, Alex was showing signs that she was ready to walk - launching herself from the coffee table to the couch, for example, rather than drop, crawl two steps and get up again.

We didn't really get out too much with the grandparents, as Rachel was embroiled in school (midterms & a term paper looming large on the horizon). We did get some good weather and we packed a portable BBQ and went to a nearby park for a picnic lunch of hamburgers, salad & chips. We strolled around the park in the sunshine, but mostly watched Alex play and interact. They were up for Canadian Thanksgiving, so we baked a big turkey with all the fixings. Alex loved having all of the extra attention and (as usual) was more than a handful after they left, having to adjust all over again to just having two care-givers, rather than four.

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