My view

This is what takes my breath away each and every day, whether I am driving, looking out our balcony window or going for a walk.

These pictures were taken three weeks ago when the sky was clear. I took the kids for a walk to the open space (affectionately known as the field) behind our townhouse. By simply facing south and west, I was greeted by a spectacular view of the mountains. I can not grow weary of seeing them. The novelty remains and will continue to fascinate me. My monkey boy has even picked up on my awe and will often proclaim "I can see the Rocky Mountains, Momma, their beautiful!" If you look carefully, you can see Canada Olympic Park from our position in Calgary.

I am slightly saddened that fall is quickly coming to a close. Halloween always marks the change for me. I love Halloween. Not the scary stuff mind you but the dressing up, the pretending, the excitement, the darkness and the mystery. Yet Halloween seems to herald winter into our lives. Don't get me wrong, on the whole I like winter. I love the first snowfall. I adore watching large flakes float down from the sky. I even like to shovel (though last winter wore me out). I like skating, making snow butterflies (monkey boy's one time term for snow angels), drinking hot chocolate, bundling up under blankets and feeling the peace that muffles the noises of the city. I just grow weary of the continual cold weather, the slogging through snow and ice to appointments, and the gray days. I hate gray days.

I am looking forward to seeing how winter changes the hills and mountains around us. I delight in the idea of enduring a chinook wind (as long as I am safely off bridges) in order to receive a treat of warmer weather and clearer roads. I hope I can revel in an Alberta winter and have my children understand that sometimes you can actually see the ground for most of the winter months.

Toddler temper

My lil bug is fun, energetic and smart but her temper is almost too much to bear sometimes. Her frustration over not getting her way results in these fantastic emotional meltdowns. I will admit I am not as diligent or creative as I should be in handling these tantrums. Generally I keep her well-fed, well-rested, and active but my diversion techniques seem to always fall short. I attempt to let her exercise her independence by providing choice between limited options. Yet lil bug's verbal ability combined with her willpower means that she likes to refuse my choices and present another undesirable option. Sometimes I don't re-direct fast enough as I am occupied with her brother. Sometimes I do everything in my power and still a tantrum ensues. And boy do the meltdowns last long. For instance, supper last night meant having lil bug scream for 25 minutes and then she only ate five bites of rice before being excused from the table. I'm slowly learning that I need to let the temper episode take its course before I help her label her feelings and attempt to coerce her into appropriate behavior. Yet it is hard to remain patient and calm during the screaming and crying. I have resorted to removing her from the room just so I could regain my composure (though sometimes she thinks she wins as she doesn't have do to what I ask). I have even yelled at her and told her she was a bad girl. Lately I find that my sanity remains if I can just laugh at the absurdity of it all or capture it on camera. The camera is a wonderful tool that allows me to be just the observer and not a direct participant in the ordeal. Hopefully with time and consistency I can learn to work with these tantrums. Until then, who will "reign supreme" in the battle of wills? Stay tuned for the final verdict...someday in the very distant future.

Parent Volunteer

I did it. I volunteered in monkey boy's preschool class today. Curiosity was getting the better of me and overrode my hesitations about volunteering. It went really well. Monkey boy was glad to have me there. It was interesting to see how he is doing in this new situation, how he interacts with other children and what type of things they do with the children. The teacher is nice and well-educated. She genuinely cares for the students and attempts to provide learning opportunities based on their class themes. The assistants provide good role models, kindness and instruction/direction. I'm glad I went even if I was worried about interfering and had insisted on downplaying the value of this type of educational instruction (silly of me to feel this way but those feelings were there).

The best part was my son sharing his favourite toy with the class. Each child's family takes a few turns in the year to provide snacks. On a child's snack day they become the special helper. They get to flick lights, lead groups to different rooms, and share with the class something special. Monkey boy shared his monkey with his class. This monkey is a stuffed pluffie toy by TY named Baby Clarence. I bought it for him when he was 6 months old and we were desperately working on his sleep habits (since he only slept in 45 minutes to 1.5 hours blocks and constantly needed the touch of his parents to return to sleep). He continues to sleep with Baby Clarence and uses him in lots of imaginative play. BTW I have 3 Baby Clarences in our house, though only one is in circulation and currently my son favours the original. I was very proud of my kid presenting a very personal and important toy in his life. He did not fear being teased or questioned for his choice of toy. He was so excited to share. The children asked some good questions and he answered in a very direct sweet way. This sharing moment made me realize he is going to be okay. He will grow to be a confident child and adult. He will not be ashamed of being affectionate. He will be willing to defend his choice. He loves his momma. And I love him.

There will be more volunteer work in my future when it comes to my kids. I want to be a part of their ever-changing lives and to have them know I care and want to understand their world. I will try to worry less about my perception of things and just go with the flow (or so I hope).

We spent most of the weekend at the farm. It was cold outside and very low key but it was a warm cozy weekend for me. I managed to find a few spare moments for myself. I worked a little on some knitting and whole lot on relaxing. The kids had different toys and people to entertain them. I had the luxury of making play dough without trying to do ten other things. I was even able to help out in the kitchen without children underfoot. My mom-in-law prepared terrific meals and had way too many goodies on hand (brownies and cinnamon buns found their way past my lips one too many times).

We even squeezed in some family time with my side on Monday. I am having so much fun just watching my sister's and my kids spending time together. Jo and I were privileged enough to grow up knowing and enjoying the company of two very special cousins. The enchantment and nostalgia I feel towards my grandad's farm is intrinsically tied to the memories we created with M and G. It is nice to see our own children finding some unique special cousin moments themselves. My mom put on a wonderful meal (even if I had to tease her that it was all leftovers...she had cooked a ham on Saturday for her and dad and then put on a low key turkey dinner on Sunday for Jo and her family).

Thanksgiving is such a great time to remember your blessings and treasures. I am truly thankful for family. I am thankful for this time we have together. I am thankful to be fully present in these moments.

Calgary weather tip #1

Avoid windstorms.

I'm not sure if I can stress this enough but, at all costs, I highly recommend staying inside when a windstorm blows through cowtown. Even if this means missing a child's naptime, dealing with irritable children and hanging out at Eau Claire Market (which has become a superb example of a city's failure to create a humming marketplace). If you fail to heed this warning, the following true story may be your own.

On October 7th 2008, I woke to a beautiful day. The weather report predicted a warm, sunny fall day and indicated that cool weather and rain was due to arrive by the following morn. I decided we needed to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while we could. So I threw the kids into the vehicle and off we went to Prince's Island. The playground was busy with a couple of daycare groups but the kids enjoyed themselves nonetheless. We meandered past a couple of art sculptures and dawdled by the lagoon watching the fountain and ducks.

Monkey boy thought we should eat out for lunch. As I neglected to pack a lunch and the cupboard was bare at home, I acquiesced to monkey boy's request. We trudged over to Eau Claire Market discovered a neat indoor playground and found a meager and slightly unsatisfying lunch. The time on the parking meter was ticking down so we finally hustled out the door to make our way across the island and suspension bridge to the parking lot. When we entered the building the day was beautiful and we had all shed our coats, but when we left there was this huge dark cloud looming in the northwest sky. Monkey boy commented that a storm must be coming. I agreed but mentally "knew" it was most likely just a small rain storm passing through the city for the bad weather wasn't due to arrive until the next day...right?! Plus the weather report mustn't have changed as there were packs of people running, rollerblading or walking on their lunch break.

We quickly made our way across the small island and were about to step on the bridge when the air temperature dropped. I told monkey boy to put on his fleecy coat while I donned mine. Lil bug was strapped into a cozy stroller and being in a typical 2 year old mode refused to put on a coat. I didn't have the patience to insist, so I jammed her coat and monkey's extra coat onto the top of the stroller. The kids wanted to throw the leaves we had collected earlier over the bridge edge but by now the wind had picked up and we had 5 minutes left on the meter. I insisted we hustle across the bridge along with the throng of runners. One third of the way across, the storm hit. You literally could see it hit us. The wind gusted and felt like a wall had hit us. The sky grew gray and dismal. Fellow bridge users were running at a funny angle and two roller bladers were clinging to the edge.

Fear entered my soul. I had one hand clamped to the stroller and the other hand became a vice grip on monkey boy's wrist. In my calmest voice I told him we needed to run so we wouldn't get wet. Really all I cared about was getting the hell off the bridge. (Have I told you that I have a fear of falling into water, wild water like a river or ocean...this fear has gripped me in the past (walking a trail in Scotland and hiking parts of the West Coast Trail) but has never come to anything).

We were about halfway across the part of the bridge spanning the river when monkey boy's coat flew off the stroller. My little worry wart son yelled that we had to get his coat. I stepped on it and bent down to retrieve it. It was then, I lost my grip on the stroller. It slammed into the guard rail. Thankfully this act only flung and pinned my daughter's coat into the fence. My panic level was escalating, my mind was racing about what to do. My son wanted to grap his sister's coat worrying that it was going to go into the water. My daughter started crying and wanted me to carry her. I couldn't take her out of the stroller and risk her flying out of my arms or not having a hand free for my son. I did not want to let go of my children. My hands were holding onto the lives of the two things most dear to me in the world. My body was being buffeted by the wind, my eyes only saw the river turning and rushing below.

Strangers stepped into my little scene. A gentleman and lady shouted above the wind saying they had the boy's coat, monkey boy grabbed his sister's coat (fearing nothing but losing a coat), they helped me straighten the stroller and gave me the confidence to not only jam the jackets further into the stroller but to move from that spot. Another man asked if I was going his way and could he help me push the stroller. Unfortunately, I was racing the opposite way. We faced the wind together, bent ourselves forward and waded through the gusts to the end of the bridge. Away from the river, the wind was more manageable. We rushed to the vehicle just as the onslaught of rain arrived. I held my sobbing daughter in my arms before buckling her safely into her carseat. I hugged my son and told him he was brave and a very good helper. I sat behind the wheel of my car, a little shaky.

We made it home. Later I found out the wind surprised almost everyone. The wind blew from 70 to 100 km/hr. It made the headlines for the day.

You may think I am being melodramatic. Perhaps. Yet the fear was real. The events were surreal and shocking to me. I have experienced the power of Alberta winds in the past. I grew up in this delightful province. I have seen many chinook winds chase winter away from Calgary and surrounding areas. I even lived in the windy city of Alberta, Lethbridge, for close to a year and walked home fom the University of Lethbridge in a 100km wind gusts (I shaved 15 minutes off my walk that day). Yet I have never experienced a fright like this. I am glad to be a mother because it has put a different spin on life for me. I am no longer the reckless crusader seeking self-gratification but a protector of her young. I'm a mother bear who will now avoid dark looming clouds and will deal with the inconvenience of restless, tired children for the sake of avoiding another storm.

Mountain escape

Fine weather once again prodded us into exploring our new/home province. We donned our tourist hats, buckled the wee people into the vehicle and headed west to the mountains. The breath-taking, majestic rocky mountains. Our destination were the hot springs in Banff National Park. I was inspired to see the Cave and Basin National Historic Site while watching an episode of "This is Emily Yeung" where she went to the hot springs. Now this may be a strange source for learning about tourist destinations but remember my days are filled with entertaining a 4.5 year old and almost 2 year old. This means that most of the dvds I sit down to watch are found in the children's section of our public library. I'm just thankful I am not looking for a way to visit Elmo on Sesame Street.

We made our way to Banff Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain, bypassing the busy town of Banff and all the tourons shopping (a touron is a cross between a tourist and a moron, this term was created by some fellow exhibit interpreters when I worked at Heritage Park many moons ago). The kids were thrilled to be going swimming in a warm pool. Monkey boy's enthusiasm was infectious as he darted and charged his way up the short hill to the facility. We paid the admission price, wiggled into our swimsuits and headed for the pool. Initially I was a little disappointed by the small size of the pool and its upkeep (there were some parts in decay, poorly patched and blocked off) but that feeling floated away with steam. The air was cool and the mineral water temperature was 39 degrees celsius. It created a wonderful atmosphere of steamy air (even if it had a slight sulphur smell to it). It must be spectacular sitting in the hot springs pool while big snowflakes float down from the sky (hmm, maybe J and I could escape some weekend to Radium Hot Springs for some couple time this winter).

Monkey boy fell in love with being in the warm water and having a sense of independence in the shallow areas. Lil bug clung to me without relent for about 15 minutes (personally, I loved ever minute of needing her momma). Eventually she relaxed, enjoyed splashing me and watching her legs float. After about 45 minutes of sitting and floating, we departed the luxury of the pool and left subdued, sporting lobster legs and aura of the fully relaxed (although for some reason my lil bug was strangely energized and very animated for the next couple of hours).

We worked our way back around the mountain to the Cave and Basin Historic Site. We ate a small packed lunch supplemented with chips and a sandwich from the cafe kiosk before checking out the site. We ventured into the cave first. It was not a very far jaunt nor was it mysterious but it allowed us to smell the sulphur and see the original space that was discovered so long ago (and which initiated the start of our national park system). Monkey boy's attention span was limited. He just wanted to check out each place and then quickly move onto the next. This meant we didn't dawdle or check out every exhibit. However, we managed to enjoy seeing the place and foster his wonder in life. The basin is now a protected site for the Banff Springs snail. This snail only exists here. After carefully looking we managed to see a few snails. They are very small. So small that we were on our hands and knees peering over the boardwalk edge all the while trying not to touch or disturb the water. I think I was a little overzealous in my precaution and desire to follow the rules that I ended up becoming a bit tense during this section of our visit (despite my hot springs relaxation therapy) and was often halting the children's progress in leaning over the water.

The water in the basin was amazing. The aqua colour was beautiful and even the algae growing in it had a sense of beauty to it. You could see right to the bottom and watch the bubbles burst from the earth and travel up to the top. It was absolutely fascinating seeing the earth fart. (BTW if you don't know already know, I think "farts" are hilarious. It is the one form of bathroom humour that still brings out the giggles).

We ended our trip with a walk on the discovery trail. This boardwalk took us a short way up the mountain to see the top of the cave as well as the natural springs and waterflow around the area. It was such a pretty walk. The air was crisp and clear (though slightly sulphur-tinged), the colours were spectacular, and the place was quiet.

We returned to the vehicle, tired but sated. After tanking up with coffee for J and a chai latte (my beverage weakness), we travelled home through the glorious mountains while the wee people slept. Our next adventure...unknown but perhaps "This is Emily Yeung" will inspire me again (or maybe I can look up something on the internet).

Keeping busy with the little things

I had a fabulous weekend at my sister's house. It is so nice to spend time with another mom, especially one who totally gets all my quirks and history (and likes me still). It was also nice to compare parenting notes. We both have two children, a girl and a boy, who have distinct personalities and we both find that keeping positive and energized isn't always easy or possible. I'm fortunate to have a sister who is so honest, funny and just plain loving. Thanks Jo for being you! Sharing time with Jo and her family means I am getting to know my niece and nephew more. It is taking me outside of my little narrow sphere of parenting and own children's interests and teaching me to be an aunt who is open to differences and new things. I'm learning a lot about superheroes but I think I have a long ways to go. We didn't manage to go far afield, just the backyard and the nearby parks (which btw are awesome) but we did squeeze in a girlie movie.

After the weekend, I returned to my regular routine with the kids and J, i.e. wake-up, eat, go to preschool or a park, eat, put lil bug down for a nap, entertain monkey boy, snack, prepare supper, play outside, eat supper, go for walk and go to bed. As you may have noticed we need to eat...lots. Thankfully, J helps with the suppers (especially with the meal planning and grocery shopping) so that isn't so much a chore. The snacks and lunches are becoming a challenge. It is hard to be creative and healthy at the same time. Although, the wee people are traditionalists and seem to thrive on repetition, I'm getting bored. I grabbed a book from the library titled Lunch box : creative recipes for everyday lunches. I have yet to properly look through it and mark potentials. I hope it isn't just geared for adults or non-fussy eaters.

The weather has been great here this week. This means getting outside and trying new parks is high on the list. I dragged the wee people to Prince's Island near downtown Calgary. It is a nice oasis with groomed lawns, lots of trees, an art walk, lagoon with fountain and quiet places. It also has a kickin' playground with Calgary themes interspersed into the structure. There is the Eau Claire Express train (three structures linked with slides and climbing areas and train facade), Fort Calgary (filled with climbing and slides), and Shakespeare in the Park kiosk to name a few. The kidlets loved it and wore themselves out. They also loved the suspension style bridge over the river and traffic lanes. It made me a little nervous seeing how willing they were to go near the edge to see the water flow. I try so hard to suppress my fears and not transmit them onto the kids but OMG we were on a bridge with water flowing under it. Pretty sight yes, but it filled me with a slight terror and angst alongside a non-stop visual of all the horrible what if scenarios I dreamed up. I didn't truly relax until we were safely going down the ramp on the other side of the bridge. It probably would have been less stressful if I hadn't encouraged a sense of wonder with throwing leaves into the water and watching them float down the river.

Well another day awaits and I am not sure what to do with it. Hopefully inspiration will hit in the morning before I hear the 8:30am chant "what are we going to do today?" You know, I really shouldn't have used my weekly library visit on Tuesday night.