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Busy Lad - Handyman Dad

September 25th, 2005  · stk

If I haven't been writing much lately, it's because I've been up to my eyeballs in work. Not that that's a bad thing, but I must say ... I've got more than I can chew, right now.

How did this all start?

Last spring, we realized that if I were to work at something, we would be eligible for a Provincial child care subsidy. How? With Rachel in University and with me a stay-at-home Dad, our income is ZILCH. If I earned a buck, we'd make roughly $400 a month "extra" to help keep Alex socially adjusted, entertained and up to her eyeballs in more germs than you can shake a stick at. (I'm all for "free" money if/when you can get it, mostly because I've been putting INTO the system for years, it's nice to take a bit OUT.) ;)

In March, I started doing web design stuff (thanks to Whoo for getting me started) and although I enjoy it, there hasn't exactly been a herd of folks knocking down the door. When summertime came, our landlord, who is starting a landscaping business asked if I wouldn't mind helping out on a job or two. So, before we left for extended holidays and again, upon our return, I did a small bit of manual labor. It was fun to earn a bit of money and I thought, "I ought to strap on my tool belt and do more handyman work, like I used to do."

Well, one eave fascia job led to a faucet replacement job, then a range hood exhaust fan job, to a complete bathroom renovation job, to a porch painting job and two or three MORE jobs, all waiting in the wings. No advertising, just word of mouth. Not bad, but it's now got me working evenings and weekends, in addition to regular hours. The mad rush, perhaps, till the big winter chill.

One woman, who is selling her house next spring, REALLY wanted me to come by and begin painting their porch this weekend. (Before it gets too cold to paint). Wouldn't you know ... Sunday was supposed to be a beautiful day. Last night, I called around, trying to find a babysitter for Alex, but couldn't - everyone was busy. Rachel couldn't do it because she's got a 5-page paper due for one of her nursing classes and was counting on ME to look after Alex.

So I called the lady, a mother of two boys, one Alex's age and the other a couple of years older. I made a proposal, "I'd really like to help you out and start painting the porch. If you could look after Alex, then - yes - I can come by and get started tomorrow." She said yes.

So that's how I was able to finagle someone into paying me to baby-sit Alex! Pretty sly, eh? I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer!

What did Alex think of the arrangement? She loved it! She had WAY more fun playing with these two boys than she would have had playing at home. And what an odd coincidence. The youngest boy is almost EXACTLY the same age as Alex. And an odder coincidence, the older boy's name is ALEX too! (Alexander)

So for the better part of the morning, Alexandra was called "little Alex" and Alexander was called "big Alex". They watched a movie (Finding Nemo) in the basement, had a snack, went across the street to play in the park and ate lunch. They all had a great time, while "handyman Dad" scraped, puttied, caulked and painted ... turning a coin and getting free day-care, twice over!

That Dad, what a busy lad!

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Alexandra

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!

Read full story...

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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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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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Our Life

Book Tagged

July 1st, 2005  · stk

Why not "Music Tagged" instead?

I was "Book Tagged" by Don, on June 20th.

OKAY ... nevermind that it's now July and I'm just now getting around to responding. What's happened since June 20th? Well, Rachel and I have suffered from food poisoning (which was NOT fun). Alex was spared, thank God. Rachel has completed her first year of nursing studies at the University of Alberta, here in Edmonton. She had a final exam on the 25th, which meant that I had to watch the Oop, while she studied. Alex finished up day-care on the 28th. The dryer went out and one day, Rachel had to pull the clothes in off the line 3 times (as it changed from a sunny day to a dark, cloudy and rainy day). We use the line a lot, but understand how convenient a clothes dryer is on cloudy days! And now, we're getting ready to embark on a month-long summer holiday.

Modern life with a 1.8 year-old just seems to happen at warp speed.

Why couldn't I be music tagged instead? (I'm in the midst of ripping all our CD's onto the computer, for play throughout the house on our home network). I'd MUCH rather talk about that!

I haven't worked since 1999 and one of the things that I swore I was going to do when I wasn't working ... READ.

Hmmm. So what happened?

Alex happened, for one. Nothing puts the skids on reading more than an infant! (But thankfully, I've gotten into blogging, otherwise my admitted read would have to be, "Potty Training for Dummies"!)

It doesn't help that I'm a voracious reader. I'm not like Rachel, who can read for 20 minutes, put the book down for a day and then read another 20 minutes sometime later. Nope. I start ... I read ... I finish. Even if it means staying up till 3 o'clock in the morning. (Just more evidence that I'm an obsessive-compulsive person). Such a reading style isn't conducive to a happy marriage, or kids, for that matter.

Last Thing I Read

No real excitement here, since I got going with b2evolution and our own Internet hosting service in January ... I've been involved in all things "computing". My last read: "The Zen of CSS Design" by David Shea and Molly Holzschlag. (Not your normal 'who-dunnit'!)

Total Books We Own

Funny time for this question, as Don has caught us after a move to Canada from the United States, a hike from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail and ... well ... a grand total of SIX moves since 2000 - over one a year. Anybody that has moved knows how HEAVY books are!

I used to want a library ... now I just want to walk erect when I'm 75 years old! We own 1/10th the number of books we owned in 1999, maybe 120 volumes in total. It was tough giving away my University geology books (and I must admit that I ended up going back to retrieve a few). Still ... our new policy: If we haven't handled it in a year's time ... off to donation. GOD that hurts!

Last Book I Bought

EASY. Also the last one I read.

Books that Mean a Lot to Me

"Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin.

"Along the Pacific Crest Trail" Text by Karen Berger & Daniel R. Smith, Awesome Photography by Bart Smith.

"Endurance (Shackleton's Incredible Voyage)" by Alfred Lansing. -or- "The Endurance (Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition)" by Caroline Alexander. -or- "An Epic Polar Adventure - Endurance" by F.A. Worsley (Captain of HMS Endurance).

"How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne.

"Mountain Light" by Galen Rowell.

"Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes" by Stephen Jay Gould.

And a bunch more ....

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Updated: 16-Feb-2007
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