Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Packing for Mars

Last night, Kelly and I went to one of the local libraries and listened to an author.

It was the first time Kelly had ever been to a 'grown up' author event. The school often brings in authors of children's books, but this was a bona-fide NY Times bestselling author.

Mary Roach.

I had devoured her first book, Stiff, when it came out. I think it was recommended to me by one of you guys. As a matter of fact, I *know* it was, and you've got a pair of socks from me (though not because of the book recommendation) if I don't miss my guess.

Anyways, her newest book is called "Packing for Mars". I've read the little preview bits on amazon, and they're a hoot.

I thought Kelly might like to listen in on her warped and slightly irreverent take on all things sciency. So off we went.

Of course, I was a world class idiot, and left my camera at home. Good thing every electronic device being made these days comes with a built-in camera. Boo on the fact that it takes hideous low-light shots.

It was a great talk, and there were only a few inappropriate-for-children moments, but I think they sailed pretty easily over Kelly's head.

And at the end, when it came time for her to sign some books, they set up the book signing table RIGHT by where we were sitting, so we were 3rd in line. I made Kelly line up (the line formed really quickly, and people were jostling pretty hard. WHO is going to jostle a 10 year old girl out of line, though? Heh, I am a mercenary.

Mary: So, are you going to go into space?

Kelly: Um... maybe. Maybe not.

Me: She's the animals-on-earth lover. Her brother's the rocket scientist.

Mary: Well, where is HE?

Me: Oh, doing something computer-ish at home. He would've just mocked his sister here, anyways. This isn't 'girl stuff', for him.

Mary: Oh really? Well, what's his name? because this book is for YOU, honey, and NOT for him. Heh. ... oh.... Or does that sound too mean? I'm just joking...

Me; Oh, that would be priceless.

Mary: We'll show him that girls can go into space just as easily as boys.

And so that's how Kelly got her personalized book from Mary Roach. And bonus points to Ms. Roach, who didn't ask her how to spell her 'real' name.

(yeah, yeah. You all know that I use pseudonyms. Here's the real dealio)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Travelogue part 6. More Victoria

Sheesh, this travelogue is taking longer to write than it did to experience it.

So here's Tuesday afternoon in a nutshell.

We went to Fort Rodd Hill. It's a place where Ken and his brothers spent MANY carefree weekend afternoons and summer days when they were kids. Not much has changed.

Our boys loved it.

And it was virtually free. OK, it was $17 for all of us to get in, but that was pretty cheap, all things considered.

There were battlements to defend!

There were hills to climb and conquer.

There were little birds to watch.

And old fortress walls to scale.

Nothing seemed to be 'out of bounds', except for a few patches that were being re-seeded after having a noxious weed eliminated, or an obviously crumbling-and-dangerous wall. Otherwise, it was Open Season on Exploring.

The boys loved it.

And we even got in a few good games of Wiggle (sort of like hide-and-seek meets tag)

Ken's mom just looked so pleased, and you could tell that she was remembering days gone by, when Ken was a quarter of his current age. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and very relaxing.

Then we took Ken's mom out for supper to a Thai place that she used to go to a lot with Dad. None of her friends really like 'exotic' food, so she goes to more mainstream places when she goes out with them, and the only time she gets to go to this great Thai place (she doesn't go out to eat alone) is when we come and take her out. It didn't disappoint, although we ran out of food before I was really done eating. Oh well. Mom got enough, and that's all that really counts.

Then, after supper, with it being a nice Canadian Summer Evening, there was still a lot of sun, so we dropped Mom back at home, and took the kids to Cadboro Bay. There are some great concrete animals that Ken and his brothers climbed on when they were kids, and we've been bringing our kids there from Day One. Somewhere, in my vast un-sorted archives of actually-printed photographs (you know, back before the Digital Age), I've got photos of Skip through the years, as he progressed in his conquering of the big cement creatures.

Ahem... Ken may have mentioned that when Uncle Fred was a kid, he was the only one of the boys that could make it to the top of the octopus' head...

It's harder than it looks. Slick concrete, with a shiny-smooth paint job, and no climbing aids nearby. Skip NEARLY did it, but he's cautious enough that he doesn't want to risk a trip to the ER. I like that about him. Maybe next year.

Nate made it up into the salmon's mouth this year. A first for him.

And Skip may have gotten a bit wedged.

A few young couples had come to the park for a picnic, and had strung a tight-rope between two trees, and were alternating between eating, and walking the rope. They asked the boys if they'd like to give it a try. Skip was a bit skittish, but Nate was all in.

And then Cole made Skip walk the plank, and we went home.

Goodbye for another year, Cadborosaurus.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Travelogue part 5. Boys in Trees

Thank you all for your kind words. Life goes on, and my mom has a really upbeat, positive attitude about this, and her doctors are very confident that this was found early, and is treatable.

My potential for basic memory-loss, however, is still great, and I don't know if there's a treatment for 'never getting around to writing about what you meant to write about two months ago', so I'd better buckle down with the Travelogue.

Tuesday morning we got up early. The concert the previous night had been rather soporific, so we were all working with plenty of sleep. Kelly had done this fantastic high ropes course when she had visited Grandma in June, and she'd gabbed about it so much, that the boys were raring to go.

In order to do the "big" course, you had to be able to ready 180 cm. I think the big boys have that under control.

No, Skip is NOT that tall. I think he's standing in front, and maybe, just maybe, he's up on his tippy-toes. But I'm betting that he'll be that tall before I know it. It's only a matter of (very short) time.

Nate was not so lucky. He didn't quite make the reach, so he had to go on the "Junior Course", which is the one that Kelly went on back in June. It wasn't so bad.

But first everyone has to go through the 'training camp'.

Nate is a natural.

And then it was on to the main course.

Nate did the Kid Course by himself. Grandma and Dad took turns watching him.

And Skip and Cole went to the adult course.

I spent my time looking up and trying not to throw up at the thought of how high they were in the trees.

But in the end, they totally got their money's worth, finally making it back to earth, completely exhausted, and giddy. It was a great way to spend a morning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten True Things

Ten things.

1. Today is our 21st anniversary.

2. Last year at this time, it was our 20th anniversary. Many people mark such milestones with grand celebrations. We marked it by registering Nate and Kelly for elementary school, as the day happened to fall on the night-before-school-starts registration night at our school. Where, I might add, I was manning the Library Volunteer table by myself. Ken came to sit with me for a bit. It was very romantic. But I was tired, because I'd spent the majority of the day driving back from Canada by myself, seeing as Ken and Skip had to fly back to California so he could start high school before Kelly was finished with her Canada camp. It was a pretty chaotic summer, as I recall.

3. Ken accidentally let his Boardgame Geek group schedule their game night for tonight. At our house. In his defense, the talk and planning emails were all "Thursday the 25th" business, which made him think he was good to go, our anniversary being on the twenty-SIXTH. So the big brown table is surrounded by aging nerdlings counting off die rolls, and speaking of the ramifications of 'failing to take the Blue One, or the Orange Two". Oh! The drama!

4. As a result, we will be once again, "taking a Mulligan". Ken has reservations at a local steak house for tomorrow night.

5. My mom just called. I thought she was calling to wish us a Happy Anniversary. Well, she was, but she also wanted to apologize for telling me that she just found out that... she has cancer.

6. My mom has cancer.

7. My mom has cancer.

8. My mom has cancer.

9. My mom has cancer.

10. My mom has cancer.

Last Fling

Yesterday was the first day of school.

The day before was Freshman Orientation for our middle school. But it was in the afternoon. It was going to be a hot day. I thought about what I might like to do as a Last Fling of Summer.

So I had Kelly's BFF come for a sleepover, and at the crack of dawn, I took them over to the coast.

There's an "Early Bird Special" at one of the ranches, and it gives you a 2 hour beach ride for the cost of the measly one hour trail ride. But you have to be there when the ranch opens.

We were there when the ranch opened. And Kelly and her BFF were surprised and delighted.

Nate, not so much. But I took him to play on the beach, and we had a special Starbucks breakfast, just him and me, so it was all OK in the end.

I'm supposed to be doing a dozen other things, but I just got to editing this photo, and wanted to pop it up for view.

This is Kelly's "Farewell to Summer"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just like Claudia

Warehouse 13 is a big staple of our entertainment, here at the Parker House.

We started watching it when the pilot came out, and we just love the blend of science and poppycock.

Our kids are pretty hooked, too.

Especially Kelly.

She has developed some of the mannerisms of her favourite character, Claudia. She models her language after her, and I'm thrilled that Claudia is a computer hacker/science nerd. The cute little colored stripe in her hair is pretty fun, too.

When we were doing our back-to-school shopping, we ended up in a Claire's store. And they were having their 10-for-10-dollar sale. I'm a sucker for a sale, so I soon had a little basket full of jewelry-trinkets at bargain basement prices. But look over here, against the wall... there are little clips with fake hair on them. Fake locks of funky-colored hair.

And I realized that THAT is how Claudia changes her hair color every episode.

And then I realized that I could have a whole lot of fun, and Kelly could have a whole lot of entertainment, with a three dollar hair piece.

So we bought a stripe.

Kelly tested it out when we got home, and I cut it, so it was the right length for hiding in her hair, and not hanging out down below her hairline. And when she asked if she could wear her 'new hair' to church on Sunday, of course I said Yes.

On the way to church, Ken texted me, asking if it was possible for me to pick up a coffee for him. He was rehearsing with the band, and hadn't had time to make coffee before he left the house. So we made a pit stop at Starbucks, me with my coupons, and Kelly with her new pink hair stripe.

Kelly ordered a kid's cocoa, hot, and I ordered a tea.

Mere moments later, the barrista was calling out "Kids cocoa for Claudia?"

Kelly's ears perked up. What are the odds? But this "Claudia" was an older woman with long dark hair. "Oh!" she said, "Is this an extra hot? I was hoping to get a cocoa extra hot"

"No problem" said the barrista. "I can toss this, and start again."

I interrupted. "We're expecting a kid's cocoa, and we could take this one, and you could have ours, and have it custom made, if you like. My daughter certainly doesn't mind having someone else's name on her cup." Kelly was wiggly with glee. She would never have thought she'd be walking out of Starbucks with a pink Claudia-esque hair stripe, AND a Starbucks cup with Claudia's name on it.

I think cocoa has never tasted as sweet to her, as that one drink did, that she sipped out of her "Claudia" cup.

It almost makes me want to look into letting her get an ACTUAL pink (or blue, or purple) stripe put into her hair, just underneath the regular stuff, hidden from view (mostly). Maybe when the chaos of back to school is over...

And look... and entry without a photo (taken by me). Better get back to writing the travelogue episodes before I forget that I ever had a summer vacation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Travelogue part 4. To Victoria

Hey, remember that time I went on a vacation, and was going to write all about it?

Yeah, I'm starting to not remember it, too! But when I'm in the Nursing Home, I'll want to look back on this summer, and remember the good bits. Because by golly, I'm sure all the bad bits are going to get remembered without any help.

So, to recap.

We've driven up to Canada with my friend and her kids. We've arrived at my parents' house, and have spent a nice amount of time at the beach. And in our last episode, we dropped the girls off at Pirate Camp. (It's actually Bible Camp, but that doesn't make you want to form a hook with your index finger and shout "Arrrrrr")


The next morning, we headed off to Vancouver Island. Ken's mom was expecting us, and she was VERY excited that we not miss a concert that was happening in Victoria on Monday evening. She was certain that the boys would be particularly interested in it.

Hmmm. It's 100 middle-aged men from the South, dressed in tuxedos and singing songs from last century. My mom would have loved it, her Gaither fandom being legendary, but I was hoping we could get to my mother in law's house, drop off the boys, and just take her as an 'adult evening'.

Oh well. Let's see what happened...

We drove down to the Ferry, uneventfully, and had a very breezy trip across the Strait.

When we got to Vancouver Island, we made a bee-line for downtown Victoria, so we could do a bit of touristy stuff. We were kind of under the gun with the schedule, having to be back in the Okanagan on Friday morning to get the girls from camp, so we only had 2 nights in Victoria, a tight-scheduling that bothered Ken's mom. I know that she wanted to spend more time with us, but I didn't want to impose with our friends tagging along, as well as the fact that Toni and her son Cole had mentioned that they would like to 'see as much of BC as possible' in the 5 days that the girls were at camp.

So Downtown Victoria it was.

Ah, Cole. Having a great time? Good. Enjoy the Empress Hotel. We'll take a look inside, too.

But first, let's look at the parliament buildings.

And the totem poles!

We also poked around in the tourist district of downtown, and I managed to score some great boxes of Murchie's Tea. I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy a few cool other things in the store, but we were, as I may have mentioned, under the gun, time-wise. We hit downtown at 4pm, and had to be AT THE SUPPER TABLE at mom's no later than 530. We made it. With 5 minutes to spare... and that includes a stop at a local florist for Toni to grab a lovely flowering plant as her 'Thank You" arrival gift.

Dinner was good, but the boys were looking a little tired. They hadn't slept the night before, even though I'd gone down to where they were staying at my folks' place, on several occasions to tell them to tone it down and sleep (I blame Cole. Because I can.)

Alas, mother was not to be swayed, and she INSISTED over supper that the concert would be JUST what the boys would enjoy.

Double alas, she was wrong.

Skip nearly immediately fell asleep. To his credit, he didn't snore. And to Cole's credit, he managed to keep Nate entertained quietly, so that nobody around us was disturbed.

I enjoyed the music. I think Ken's mother did, too. I think Ken would have liked to poke out his ears, but that's just my impression.

We packed it in early, slipping out before the concert was even really finished. It had been a long day, and the morning was promising to be full of adventures to come.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More Horse Camp

Ah, horses and the beach. Is there anything finer in Kelly's mind?

She was in Horse Heaven!

The first few days were foggy and grey, and the temperatures never got out of the 50s, but that didn't put a damper on her fun.

Oh, Mr. Ed, the humiliation!

The first day, she rode the Big Guy. Someone else was riding her favourite little pony, Eddie. I think it's good for her to ride as many of the horses as she can. It expands her experience, and makes her have to pay more attention.

She wasn't completely impressed, though.

(or it might have been the fact that I didn't pack her a lunch, and her tummy was already grumbling before they'd even set out on their 2-hour ride... Whoopsie. Good parenting, there, mom)

Yup. That's the angry stare of a hungry camper...

Good thing I'd gone to get groceries while they were on their ride. And then she was happy again.

Blood sugar. It's a good thing.

I also may have bought a 10 pound bag of carrots. Eddie, he's a carrot blood-hound. He KNEW that Kelly had a carrot when she came into the pasture at the end of the day, and he was bound and determined to make it his.

Eventually, he had to share the carrots with Smokey and Cassie.

The big news of the week was that the ranch got in two new horses. And Kelly got to name one of them.

Hello, Caspian (the one with the wide blaze) Will you usurp Eddie's place of prominence in Kelly's heart?

The last 2 days of camp were stellar. The sun came out! I think it's been foggy and overcast for nearly the whole summer, except for that very first week that the girls did camp. Cold. And the fog is so thick that you think it's raining. I was worried that it would be murder on my camera, and had to keep it hidden under my sweater when I was out there, otherwise, it'd acquire a thick coating of tiny wet dots.

But the last two days! Heavenly!

And a special treat, when I went to the beach to photograph the girls on the horses...


And even...

A *baby* porpoise! He was swimming with his mother in the middle of the pack. I was wishing that I'd rented the 200-500mm lens, because this shot is at 125mm. Just think how much closer I could have gotten!

But I'm not at the beach to see the aquatic mammals. I want to see the equestrian ones!

Got a little vintage-photo action going on here. Love it. May blow this one up and frame it, actually.

By the way... Mom? This was the best week EVER!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Extra Horse Camp

Kelly's last *official* week of Horse camp was August 2-6. This was a summer FULL of horses. I'm surprised she's not walking with bowed legs, and singing "Git along, little dogies"...

I mean really, what's not to love about spending a week with the ponies?

Too bad she hated every minute of it...

I've gotten to know the teacher/leader over the weeks, and we were shooting the breeze towards the end of camp, when she looked at me and said "I don't want to stir any pots, but I think Kelly's been bullied a bit this summer..."

And this comment really put me on guard, and I started watching.

And sure enough, I saw a bunch of stuff that I was uncomfortable with. Nothing big, or major that you can put a finger on, but just that little buzz in the back of your brain that says 'things could be better'.

And then I took Kelly aside just before we went away to Palm Desert, and I asked her if we could 'speak in confidence', where you talk about things that you don't want other people to know, but it's not gossip, it's just making sure that the truth is coming out, and nobody's in trouble, and nobody's to blame, but let's just clear the air here. And I asked her if she had any ideas why the teacher would ask me if I felt she was being bullied.

It started as a little bit of a trickle, but soon enough, the flood gates opened, and all the injustices over the last year or two were gushing out. And it turns out that because one of the other campers is older, she's been keeping Kelly a bit under her thumb at camp. "Oh, you'll have to wait and let ME do this (presumably fun) thing first, seeing as *I* am the better horsewoman, because I've been riding longer than you", and the thing that just galled me the most? Turns out she has been introducing Kelly to the new people at camp as "Oh, this is my idiot friend..."

Um, yeah.

Let's put the kibosh on that right away.

Oh wait... that means I have to have a VERY awkward conversation with her mother, who is a dear friend.

But in the mean time, I listened to Kelly's horse camp instructor when she said "It really would be good if Kelly could have had a week where she was at horse camp alone, without having to stand in the shadow of some of these older girls."

And I said "You know what? I think I can make that happen."

And that's how Kelly ended up with ONE MORE WEEK OF HORSE CAMP.

We didn't have a full week before the end of the summer, so I went to the camp manager, and asked if Kelly could have another week of camp, but if she could have it split over two weeks. Three days last week, and two days this week. There was some resistance, but eventually they let me have my way.

I was really glad that the weather FINALLY got nice this week on Monday and Tuesday. For most of the summer, the coast has been shrouded in fog, and the temperatures haven't gotten out of the 50s. But on Monday afternoon, the sun came out.

And look! She's galloping!

There's the smiling girl that I knew was out there:

Did she get taller this week? Or older? She suddenly looks older.

There is a confidence, and an ease about her that I didn't see in the earlier weeks of camp.

And I am really glad that we scrounged the cash together for this last week.

The girls have talked, and said some good things that I think will have lasting fruit. Her friend has apologized to Kelly for putting her down in public, and they've worked out a way that Kelly can let her know when she crosses the line of bossy/manipulative, without embarrassing either one of them.

This year, they will be at the same school, for the first time in their lives, and I am glad that I was able to step in, and let Kelly know that she had to stand up for herself, and not just let her 'friends' put her down, and call it a joke. I don't know if they'll have much interaction at school (It's a big school, and they are in different grades), but I know that I've set the groundwork for her interacting with other girls, who may be lovely to her now, but who knows what's going to happen when the hormones start surging in the next little while. And I've laid a good foundation with this 'talk' with her, that she now comes to me and says "Let's have a 'talk in confidence' time, ok?" and lets me in on all sorts of things that are going on in her life.

I hope she never stops.