Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Strange Sensation

Molly is now four and a half years old. That means that I have had her pretty much constantly with me for almost half a decade. A fairly long time.

However, she is rapidly approaching a time when I will have to share her with the rest of the world. Kindergarten is coming quickly. Molly as a separate individual, on her own. Out there.

I have enrolled the girls in a program where they do art for an hour and then get taken to a half hour swim lesson. This "combo program" is catchily called Splish Splash Arts and Crafts (although, I would argue that it should actually be Arts and Crafts Splish Splash given the order of activities...). There is zero parent participation. The kids even put their bathing suits on under their clothes so as to minimize the need for one-on-one attention. I dropped Molly and Finny off and went to get coffee with Lukey. At the end of the first hour, I went to a spot where I could see the kids through glass as they made their way into the pool. It was weird.

Of the seven kids in the class, two were genetically connected to me...actually came into existence through my body. But for a bizarre moment, they were just kids. Anonymous and nameless. Just two more kids in a clump of kids I don't know. Just two more little, demanding faces that poor Nikki (the instructor) had to keep track of because she is paid to do so. My all important (to me) off spring were only two more names on a clipboard to Nikki. Out they venture...away from the world they have inside our home, where they are well-known, well-loved and (moderately) well-tended. Out to a place where they have to prove themselves, establish themselves and assert themselves.

So strange. Just two more kids in a cluster that I would completely ignore if they weren't there. Out there...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

E-Doris Gertrude Hamblin

My Mom's Mom, Grandma Hamblin passed away yesterday. Being 95 and living in Ontario meant that we didn't have a lot of contact with her, but she will be missed nonetheless. Grandma Hamblin was one of my only real contact's with the roots of our country. To me, she was the classic Canadian matriarch. Polite, trustworthy, respectful, and quiet. When she had a job to do, she would do it well and without a fuss. Whether it was raising her own family, running a well tended household, or entertaining a grandson visiting Toronto for a week, Doris was always polite and unassuming- a classic Canadian role model. Because of her reserved stoic, nature, it was difficult for me to really know what excited or displeased her. She was just too damn polite to say anything! The only exception I can think of was her passion for the Maple Leafs. She was no rabid fan painting her face Blue and White- she was much too subtle for that. However, I couldn't help but notice how she would time meals to end just before the game started. I have a pretty strong recollection of heading down to the basement and catching a few minutes of Jeopardy before getting to watch to Buds lose another game. Now that pastime takes some real stoicism!

With the passing of my self described "Classic Canadian Matriarchal Grandmother", it got me thinking about how much the country has changed in her life time, and under what different circumstances we are raising our children. Doris grew up on a farm in Ontario with 6 older and 2 younger siblings. She had none of the conveniences that we have today and yet lived a life rich in family, friends and nature. It sometimes seems to me that all of our so-called time saving devices and "improvements" of modern living actually move us further from these ideals. However, I also see how lucky I am to grow up in a time and place where every one's uniqueness is valued and cultivated, instead of stifled. I would have really liked to know more about Doris' passions, quirks and eccentricities that lay buried under the surface.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tangled Hair Apples don't fall far from the tree...

Those of you who know me know that I have notoriously tangled hair. This sight of Finny greeted me yesterday morning. Apparently there is a tangles gene. She got it. Bad.

Monday, March 19, 2007

E- A trot in the fresh air

Work for 12 hours, drive 25 kilometers, run 1.65 miles in the pouring rain with very phlegmy lungs while recovering from the flu, do 40 push-ups, 3 minutes of lying straight-legged on my back holding my feet 14 inches off the ground, standing long-jump, obstacle course, grip strength test and then a number of balancing coordination drills- all this and be home in time for lunch. No, I didn't join the army. I had yet another opportunity to be one of many firefighters applying for an opening with a local department. Believe it or not, I am one of the lucky ones- a couple of hundred fully qualified applicants were eliminated before the process even began. It's a different world out there running in the rain at 7 oclock in the morning, than the one you read about in newspaper headlines "BC desperate for workers". Every one of those guys on the track have been working, volunteering, paying for additional courses, training physically, networking and preparing for interviews in the hopes they can get a little edge on their competition. It's a tough job market to enter. When telling people I am working towards a job as a firefighter, I often hear about how cushy a job it is and how easy firefighters have it. People don't see the other side of the equation- the amount of hard work and dedication required in the time before and immediately after a candidate gets hired. Some professions, like being an athlete or a firefighter, mean a lot of work up front before you'll ever get hired- but they are pretty good jobs once you do. Others, like driving a recycling truck, are pretty easy to get into but you pay the price that the job demands forever after. I think I am naturally drawn to the former type of job, and can happily trot around the track in the fresh morning air knowing I much prefer paying a little now than a lot later.

As a father of two young girls, I really hope that they will not be unnecessarily discriminated against on the basis of their gender or race. I would like to teach them that, merit, and not sex or skin colour, is what's important. Unfortunately, in their attempt to correct past issues, one local fire department seems to be hiring based on sexist/racist criteria. They recently announced that they would only hire white males for their fire department if they could not fill all of their vacancies with women or minorities. Although I understand the desire to have a civil work force more reflective of the population, it's hard to believe that this is the best approach to making changes. At the most recent firefighting test that I was at (with a different department), I did not see one candidate that wasn't a white male. Not one. Of the six hundred or so candidates that routinely apply to local departments, I would venture to guess that there are less than 50 that aren't white males. In response to this, this department stated that they would be willing to pay for the training of non-white male candidates if need be. While there are hundreds of applicants, who have spent thousands of dollars of their own money and a countless amount of time and energy to position themselves for the job, it appears they are the wrong race/gender. That is a questionable message in any profession, but particularly so in firefighting. Although firefighting can be a cushy job at times, it is one of the few professions where society asks people to take a calculated risk with their life in order to save other people. Firefighters have 2 important tools at their disposal to keep them safe. Firstly, they use top of the line personal protective equipment to keep them safe from a harsh environment. Secondly, they have a crew who they depend on with their lives should anything go wrong. If there is any job in the world that should be based on merit, it is firefighting. Fire doesn't care what colour or gender you are. When something goes wrong at a fire, being strong and fit, intelligent and skilled are all that matter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A good read

I love this old picture of Molly. Looks like she found a good read!

Yesterday I went to the inaugural meeting of the new non-fiction book club that my friend Sam has started. At my prompting, we all read the hilarious AJ Jacobs book, "The -Know-It-All: One man's quest to become the smartest man in the world".

The most interesting part of the discussion that ensued had to do with the nature of intelligence. What makes us smart? Is it retention of fact? The ability to synthesize information into well-informed opinion? Being able to read people and situations well? These were all forwarded as possible sources of intelligence, but as a group we had a hard time pinpointing the true essence of intelligence. I found this pretty interesting.

Another interesting discovery: we all named someone we found to be incredibly intelligent, and out of seven of us, not one of us came up with a woman. Seven women gathered and not until we had all chosen did one of us realize that our list was entirely composed of men. Hmmm. For the record, my candidate for Mr. El-Supremo-Smart-Pants was Tony Blair. Not exactly inspired, but if you listen to him speak during Question Time in the British Parliament, boy...can that guy talk! And not blabby, useless chatter like me. Smart talk.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Eric's take on yoga

It's funny (if you can consider pain, limited range of motion and total lack of ability to be funny) how easily our perceptions of reality can change by putting ourselves in a new environment. For all of my years playing basketball, I considered myself to have adequate strength and flexibility- at least good enough to play at a competitive level of sport. Although never the very strongest or most pliable, I could always compare myself favorably to at least half the guys on any given team. I continually pushed my limits with lots of work on the court, in the weight room, around the track and doing plyometrics and agility drills. I would even oblige my body with a cursory stretch after training. With all of this work, I felt strong and healthy- reality number 1. However, after recently taking on a 30 day Yoga challenge, where I try to attend a class every day for a month, a new reality has set in. Although I may still have strength and flexibility in my comfort zone, as soon as I step out of this area I am extremely weak and limited. Something as simple as sitting cross-legged on the floor can be challenging and painful. As the rest of the class advances in the pose, to fold their chests down to their crossed feet, I am left to contemplate how long I will be able to endure the discomfort I am feeling just sitting upright. My chest is only 2 and a half feet from the floor, but it seems like a mile to me today! The good news, however, is that I am slowly making progress, getting increased range of motion and feeling better in the process. I doubt I will ever be sticking my toes in my mouth, but why would I want to.

Lucas seems to enjoy this activity, but I'll stick to a hockey game, followed by a beer and of course a good long stretch.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Going Fishy

Yesterday the Butler McKnights hit the Vancouver Aquarium. The girls haven't been to the Aquarium since before Lukey was born, so they were really looking forward to seeing it again. Plus, Molly has expressed some major concerns about the workmanship of her purple sea otter cup that we got last time...oh the horror, the sea otter decal came off a little bit after 123,876 cycles through the dishwasher. She asked me to have a word with the store people. And darn it all, she forgot and so did I (more or less...actually, less me forgetting and more totally her...I was NOT going to ream out some poor store clerk for faulty otter decals...).

Eric was volunteering yesterday so we went with my mom and dad. So, there we are: three adults and three kids in a crazy, busy space. Now, who do you think was the hardest to keep track of? The four year old? Good guess. Molly was entranced by the fish and her curiosity did pull her in a few errant directions. Overall though, she was very responsible. Second guess has to be the two year old, right? Finny has a pretty short attention span, but she listens pretty well at the moment and stuck close to me. Now you are scratching your head...who else could be trouble? Lukey was in the Baby Bjorn attached to my chest, so no wandering off for him. Well, who does that leave? If you know my family, this isn't a tough one at dad.

Dad's the one you check over your shoulder for. One minute, he's harassing us for loitering too long in front of the seahorses. The next, he won't budge from the piranhas. We headed outside for the dolphin show, but after waiting about three minutes for it to start, Dad gets restless. The two and four year olds are waiting patiently. Dad starts to get twitchy. The kids are still glued to the railing. Dad's eye starts to wander. With approximately 45 seconds to go before the show starts, Dad declares that he is heading over to see the belugas. I almost gave him a three count (just kidding, Dad...although I might try it if I thought it had a prayer of working...).

We had a great time. The kids enjoyed the trip, especially with their Gram and Granddad. We went back to my parents' place for dinner, which ironically was fish. Kind of a tough sell for Molly after a day spent celebrating the majesty She ate her beans and potatoes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A tough week...

The service for Alli on Saturday was beautiful. The speakers paid such loving tribute to Alli and Eric's slide show was perfect (though hard to watch). The kids were all very well behaved, no doubt sensing the importance of the situation. Molly and Finny were called up at the end of the service by the minister and asked to choose one flower each from the arrangements at the front. He cut the flowers and put them in little bags for the girls to take home. It was a lovely thing to do and the girls were both very happy to be included.

We also spend a couple of hours after the church back at Alli's house. There was lots to eat and good conversation and company, but the house just didn't feel the same without Alli in it. Leaving was hard.

We spend a nice, quiet weekend with family. We went down to Point Roberts on Saturday night and Eric's family came down on Sunday for the day. We didn't come back until Monday.

Yesterday was Eric's birthday. We didn't do too much but we did have a nice day.

And so, back to real life. The chores that were neglected have to be attended to and meals have to be made. Lots of laundry to do and clutter to tidy. But all over the house are flowers. And heartbreaking questions from little girls who don't quite understand. A reminder that our family has changed.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A memorial for Alli is being held this Saturday (March 3rd) at 2 pm in Ladner. It will take place at the Ladner United Church, 4960 48th Avenue, Delta. We will be gathering in the room attached to the church after the service to further celebrate Alli's life. Anyone is welcome to join us for either of these events.

While this has been a difficult and sad time, our family has been doing well and we appreciate the support of our family and friends.