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April Showers bring May Flowers

June 12th, 2005  · stk

In Edmonton, it's more like "April snow - June show"! It seems that only a short while ago, I was shoveling mounds of snow and the whole yard was blanketed (NO ... smothered) in a covering of white. Fortunately, the show-shovel broke at the appropriate time and we're now enjoying a bountiful summer.

However the saying goes ... the time to be in Edmonton is NOW. Flowers are blooming all over the place and it's completely amazing. (Of course, Alex is bent on destruction and thinks that each bloom is something for "pick and play", rather than "show and tell". Our irises have taken quite a beating, recently. And so have a number of our other plants! The only exception, of course, is the dandelion. Although Alex does love the yellow blooms, she often passes them by, in favor of the more rare, exotic and alluring flowers. You know ... the ones we want to keep!)

It's difficult to believe that the summer solstice is still a week or so away. We go to bed now at 10:30 PM and it's still light out. Wake up at 4:30 AM ... it's still light out!! (Where was all this light in the winter, when we REALLY needed it?) Our neighbor, Paul, across the lane (who loves a good joke) ... was eager to point out to Scott that, "Soon will come the soltice and 2 weeks after -- the first frost." YIKES!! Scott's nether regions puckered up as he thought of the prospect. ANOTHER winter ... OMG!

Southern Alberta has been innundated with rain these past few weeks. Not here. In fact, up till the day-before-yesterday, Scott was hand-watering the back yard and dancing a jig, just hoping that 1/8th indian blood would result in SOMETHING "aqua". (Of course, if we were REALLY desperate, we could have expended the energy and actually WASHED the car ... which is 10X better than any native American dance, as far as producing rain.) We were too lazy, I quess. The rain dance was as much as we could muster and fortunately, it's paid off ... because, during the past two days, Edmonton has looked more like Vancouver.

Well ... the summer plans are laid and we'll be embarking on a trip in less than a month's time. Nothing like the PCT Hike we did in 2002. More of a 'family visit' thing ... Vancouver, Red Bluff, Seattle and a few points in between (okay ... mostly pit stops at the local 7-11, where Scott can test the water depth ... ;) ). Hey! It's tought to time your pit-stops with your pee stops. Ask my grandpa (God rest his soul) ... who wrote a letter to the oil companies, complaining of his peeStop-pitStop dilemma. "You go gramps!")

Back to the flowers. They're not ALL from our backyard, but they ARE from backyards ... three of them ... all in our immediate vicinity. (1) Anna, who lives next door. She's a single lady that emmigrated from Ghana, Africa and runs a couple physical therapy practices. (2) Paul, (the Oop's buddy) from across the lane. He's an ex-firefighter who lost his wife a number of years ago to breast cancer. (3) Our very own yard (at least, whatever the Oop hasn't eaten, mutilated or spindled)!

Funny, but because the weather has turned, we're getting to know folks again. (Everyone was shuttered in for the bulk of the winter months, just like us). BBQ parties, go-carts up and down the alley, kids staying up and playing into the night ... are among the new sounds that we hear, well into the twilight.

Lawn-mowing has resumed again (with a fevor), as rain only makes the grasses grow. Dandelions (the second-batch ... "the reinforcements") are coming up as thick as thieves. The spot that the cat peed in all winter-long? THE BEST and THICKEST grass around! (Nice to see that our expenditure in cat food paid off! Now ... if we can only get him to 'spread it around'!)

I hope that you've enjoyed the flower show. Some of these things, like the 'bleeding heart', I never really noticed (or saw) until I migrated north. Yes ... I definitely miss the Yuccas, the palms, citrus and other plants of the desert. I especially miss the smell of the desert after a rain storm, when the wetting of sage and creosote yields an especially wonderful aroma ... or the early spring scent of orange trees in bloom. Those who live in the American south-west know what I'm talking about. (Before I die, I want to find a way to bottle that smell and sell it, because it is so fresh and so pure.) :)

The lesson here, I think, is to enjoy where you are, in the moment, as you never know when that smell, that sunset, that feeling, will be the last.


Did'ja notice? This is our first post using the hot-off-the-presses "Photo/Caption Zoom" version two!

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Alexandra

Effalumps & Tiggers

May 21st, 2005  · stk

The Edmonton Valley Zoo

If one looks at the World through children's eyes, then all we saw at the Zoo yesterday were ... other kids. (That's not entirely true, but we did notice that Alex spent more time looking at the kids around her, than at the assortment of beasts from the 'Wild Kingdom'). We'd try to point out an animal, high in a tree (napping, no doubt, and so well camouflaged that you had to strain to see it) and all Alex could ogle at was the little girl standing beside her. Alex is a people person and the Zoo was a wonderful outing, although she would have been just as happy going to the mall. Mom and Dad were more impressed with the assemblage of animals at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, home to more than 100 exotic and endangered species, than Alex was.

Our first stop was the petting area, where Alex wasn't too sure about meeting goats, sheep and rabbits close up. We did coax her near a very friendly goat, though she was loath to reach out and actually touch it. The goat seemed very content to be near us and lounged happily. Alex twitched her nose appropriately at a rabbit, but only had eyes for the other, older kids that came to pet it. We thought for sure that Alex would like the baby lamb, but she was too worried about appearances, looking about to see if anyone noticed her wearing dapper sunglasses and a trendy hat.

The otters were swimming and playing in their small enclosure, doing back flips at the water's edge. So graceful are they in water and so comical on dry land, lumbering about. Alex spied a child's plastic toy in one part of the pen, which she thought would be fun to play with, while Mom and Dad spotted a tennis shoe. At first, we thought these were cast into the open enclosure by rowdy visitors, but we quickly realized that they were "toys", placed there for the raucous inhabitants. (There aren't too many otter-toys at PetSmart, so the zoo keepers must utilize the overflow from the 'lost and never found' box).

The highlight of the day (for both Mom and Alex, I think) was the Merry-go-Round. Alex had a hoot, laughing and smiling while she went up and down, around and around. MUCH more fun than watching animals sleep, regardless of how big, colorful or strange they look!

Apparently, Alex knows all about the different kinds of animals, because she wasn't enthusiastic about any animal in particular. Many were sleeping and perhaps that's the reason. "What's the big deal Dad, these animals are just like Tuxedo ... they sleep all the time," she might have been thinking.

Never before, has Alex seen so many different creatures: Dromidary camels, Guanaco llamas, Sezuan takin, emu, Goeldi's monkeys, snow leopards, a wolf, zebras, otter, big horn sheep ... the list went on and on. Her interest peaked, when we came to two Siberian tigers. She peered through the chain link fence and knowingly looked at these two large and ferocious carnivores. She spoke for the first time, as she had been quiet most of the morning.

"Meow," she said, thinking the two cats looked pretty much like large Tuxedos.

The Zoo was more fun for Mom and Dad, than it was for Alex (with the exception of the merry-go-round, perhaps). She did run up and down the grassy, open hills, ate graham crackers, stared at all the kids and by the time we left, was pretty knackered. Rachel has a final looming next week, but having recently completed a mid-term and a term-paper, she felt that she could take a breath and enjoy the long weekend. What better way to kick things off than a trip to the Zoo? It was a gloriously sunny afternoon. The sky contained a number of puffy white clouds, the kind your imagination can turn into frogs, planes and other mysterious shapes. It was the perfect day for a family outing.

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Our Life

Dandelion Days

May 14th, 2005  · stk

When we rented this house and moved in last summer, we inherited a large backyard, which we thought would be a great playground for the Oop. It had a swing set (which she seems to be using much sooner than we thought) and plenty of green grass. Unfortunately, the green grass was being crowded out by a growing field of yellow dandelions, as to which this early photo will attest. After we moved in, I began a crusade to eradicate these pretty, pesky vermin. By the time we had moved in and tended to all the chores associated with making a new house a home, there was precious little summertime left to mount an assault. Still, armed with a flat-bladed screwdriver and a glass of wine, I would, in the fading light of evening, content myself in the task of plucking dandelions - by the bucket.

Of course, there are many ways to rid oneself of these broad leaf creatures. One can hire a team of lawn professionals, armed with the latest technological, geneological and other logical, solutions. But that costs something that we haven't much of - money. Another solution would be to spread broadleaf-killing herbecide, which isn't quick, but is effective. We weren't too keen on plastering chemicals across the very lawn that our barefoot daughter would be playing in. Besides, where is the sport in that? It's like catching fish with a net. No, I insisted on plucking out each and every creature, armed only with the screwdriver (and a glass of wine).

War raged and it appeared that I quickly gained the upper hand. It was as if the enemy had grown complacent, sure of their ultimate victory. By autumn, I had rid the front yard, and most of the back, from dandelions. Only the area under the swingset, beside the house, and in the alley, remained. Winter came, blanketing the yard with white and the war was put off until another day.

Well, now that the snow has melted, it seems that we've gone from winter to summer in three short weeks. There have been a few very warm 26°C (78°F) days where we've needed to wear shorts. (OMG! When I converted Celcius to Farenheit, I had to laugh ... nothing like what "warm" would be considered in Bakersfield, California! Ha ha.)

Dandilions are making a ferocious sprintime appearance and the war is on once again. This time, they're prepared and have called in the reinforcements. The pesky troops are popping up all over the back yard! Battle lines are drawn and this time, I have a secret weapon - the Oop. Of course, the only problem is that I'm not sure if she's MY secret weapon, or the dandelion's! I appreciate that she wants to help, but in some ways, she's not helping at all.

Rescuing the bucket: I measure success by this device, which is the portable recepticle for the dandelion carnage. It's not unusual to collect two, three, maybe even four, driving-range-size buckets of beheaded dandelions every day. The bucket sits at my side, willing ... no EAGER ... to accept new offerings. That is, until the self-appointed "bucket monitor" (the Oop), stealthly usurps it, taking it to the far corner of the yard, often dumping the contents (either deliberately or inadvertantly) on the ground. Some help! Half my time is spent chasing down the bucket.

Oop pulls her weight: These dandelions are now sending their offspring into battle. The only way I can identify the juvenile warriors is by their yellow flower, a forewarning of the soon-to-come, dangerous seed pod. (One seed pod can scatter 250 or more new recruits - I shudder at the thought). In order to eradicate these youngsters, I must extract them, root & all. And now, here comes "my assistant", who is beguiled by the flower. She knows I'm hunting. Wanting to help, she PICKS the flower, hiding the location of the enemy.

Perfect little angel or the devil in disguise? As helpful as the Oop is trying to be, I'm not certain that she's increased my kill record. She's a cute helper, there is no denying, but helpful? Only if I can keep her away from the bucket and the tempting yellow flowers.

So, the war rages. Armed with a srewdriver, wine and the Oop ... I am slowly winning the battle. The number of dandelions with thumb-sized taproots is dwindling, though I am amazed that some of the lesser creatures have roots that are nearly a foot in length. (It's SOOO satisfying to get the whole root!) Most of the ones with trunks for root are too difficult to extract intact and instead, are broken off. This means that I will have to return, because one unbroken root, can yield a dozen clones, all clustered together.

Counting buckets is how I've been measuring the days. If I collect four buckets, my hands are ragged and dirty from the battlefield. If the Oop dumps four buckets, I consider myself lucky! Still, the dandelions spring forth from the ground, wave upon wave of seemingly endless recruits. Ultimately (and perhaps, despite my "assistant", I shall prevail ... or become a wino in the process).

Ah yes, I almost forgot. There was a recent event, which happened only a few days ago, that highlights the capabilities of my assistant. As the Oop is drawn to yellow dandelion flowers, she is also drawn to Tuxedo, our cat (who is also thankful that winter is over and can go potty in more places than the one boothole off of the shoveled walkway - which is now a large area of dead grass, by the way). Anyway ... the Oop is so enamored by our furry feline that she often pesters him so much that he leaves the back yard. He's been forced to hang out on the front porch, which isn't too distasteful, because it catches the warm afternoon sun and Alex can't (yet) climb over the short fence across the driveway (that doesn't mean she doesn't try, though).

Putting a long spin on a short story, we had a bit of an emergency when Alex tried to follow the cat through a large gap between the house and the fence (not the one I built, but the pre-existing one on the OTHER side of the house). Alex tried to squeeze herself through, but only managed to put her head into the front yard, the rest of her was still stuck in the backyard. I looked up (from my dandilion digging) when I heard the loud wail, to see poor Oop, stuck between the fence and a hard place. "Should I call the fire department or whip out the butter tub?" I wondered, as I ran to assist. It took a minute to dislodge our poor tot, as her head and ears were jammed firmly between the 4x4 post and the rough stucco. All turned out well, though I'm sure that Alex would tell a different story if she could talk. No blood, but there were big gulping sobs and alligator tears that spilled forth as she clung to me, her momentary hero. She eventually calmed down, but decided that a nap was needed to put all the trauma behind her. My poor dandelion assistant.

Sorry to say, but as distraught as our little girl was after "the sticking" (as it's become known), I'm afraid that once may not have been enough to deter her from trying it again. After all, it took two or three handfuls of dirt, last summer, before Alex realized that the Earth wasn't very delectible.

So that's life, here in Edmonton, in springtime, at our house. Dandelion days and blogging nights.

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Knee Knocker

April 14th, 2005  · stk

Finally, spring has sprung! It's raining today (sleeting, actually), but the past 5 or so days have just been beautiful. Glorious sunshine, warm(ish) temperatures and a snow-free ground to walk upon. We are happy. :D

It's been a great relief, to take Alex out-of-doors. She knows what 'going outside' means. She toddles down the steps (crawling backwards down them still) and into the mud room. She makes a valiant attempt to don her jacket or sweater and now knows to put on her 'sun hat'). Once outside, she heads down to the swing set, hoping that we get the hint and give her a push or two. Maybe a ride down the plastic slide, which has rapidly become one of her favorite 'thrills'! She'll climb on the glider and can even manage to get it rocking by herself. When she's not swinging, she's exploring. The problem with this is that she has no fear of anything and is more willing to expand her horizons than Mom & Dad are comfortable with. Combine this curiosity with a backyard that isn't fenced, too many cars going by, driven by people that are 5 minutes late for their very important date and you have the makings of a disaster.

So, Scott built a knee-high knocker fence that spans the width of the driveway. It's short enough for adults to step over, but tall enough to keep Alex confined to the backyard. Because we're in a rental home, we weren't too keen on dumping a pile of cash into the solution, so we ended up stealing :oops: liberating some wood pallets (though I mock, they were, indeed, destined for the trash). Busted apart and with the nails removed, the pallets provided the raw materials. Scott designed it with a pull-out section, so we can get the lawn mower and other large objects through.

Thus, the very first spring project: "The Oop Containment Field", has been completed.

That's where we've been for the past few days ... outside, enjoying the sunshine and the warmth. We've thatched the back yard (getting 10-12 large trash-bags full of dead grass ... amazing). Built the fence (and painted it white). Pushed Alex about a million times on the swing and sent her down the slide, screaming with glee. Scott even managed to fly the $1 plastic helicopter a few times, before (idiot pilot that he is) crashed the thing into an electrical wire, breaking off a rotor. Until that time, Alex had great fun watching it fly and retrieving it. (Repairs have been attempted, but it is doubtful the thing will fly right again). We've raked up the garden, dusted off the deck chairs, had two BBQ dinners and gulped plenty of fresh air.

Ah... FINALLY, one of the mildest winters in Edmonton (but still the worst winter either of us have EVER experienced) is over! "You hear that snow? Stay AWAY!" we say.

Rachel even managed to avoid massive amounts of studying and joined in the family fun. This is her last week of classes and final exams are just around the corner. She's already bemoaning the effort that will be required over the next couple of weeks and the fact that she'll have only 5 days off before the madness begins again.

Unfortunately, during the building of the containment field, Scott (the old bugger that he is) managed to hurt his right knee. Probably nothing that time won't heal, but he's hobbling about, downing ibuprofen like candy and constantly complaining of pain. (Rachel can't wait for his knee to get better, as she is tired of him using it as an excuse to get out of tasks that involve kneeling - like diapering the Oop, bathing the Oop, putting the Oop's toys away.) Scott's worried that this acute knee pain just might become a chronic problem. ;) ha ha

ENGINEERING SNAFU: Rachel pointed out a design flaw in the containment field, yesterday. She noticed that IF I hadn't placed the 4x4 post in the CENTER of the driveway, but instead, had placed it closer to the existing fence and made the whole middle section removable, we could get the Honda Accord (which is being stored) out of the garage. As it is now, we'll have to dismantle the fence when we move from here. (Of course, fixing it now would mean dismantling the fence, obtaining more lumber and rebuilding the majority of the fence). Hmmmm. The fence stays, but Scott is kicking himself for not thinking of this earlier! ;) "D'oh!"

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Our Life

BC Nursing Crisis

April 2nd, 2005  · stk

The Vancouver Sun newspaper ran a special article on Saturday, March 19th entitled "B.C. Heading for a Nursing Crisis". The upside, of course, is that Rachel will be graduating with a 4-year Nursing degree in little over a year. Job prospects in B.C. (and elsewhere) look good.

The article isn't available online, so I can't put up a link (I guess the Vancouver Sun wants you to actually PAY to read their paper ... go figure!). Some of the salient points are highlighted, below.

Read full story...

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