Friday, December 21, 2007

We're solstice people...

Both Finny and I are solstice connected...she is born on the longest day of the year and I appeared on the shortest. Tonight we participated in the Solstice Lantern Festival at Granville Island. The Secret Lantern Society artistic director lives in our co-op, so we had our own lantern making party earlier in the week. The lowliest of juice containers were magically transformed into glowing light boxes with the aid of a push pin and some adult supervision (alright, let's face it...Eric and I pretty much made them). This evening, the kids and I braved the elements to bear witness to Morrismen and fire dancers in a tribute to the pagan rituals of the ancient solstice. That's was a Tetra Pak tribute. And to top off the awkward mix of celebration, we capped the evening off with sushi. So, while Finny's long day is spent every year at the beach with shorts, sunscreen and frozen drink boxes to keep the cooler items chilled, my short day is ushered in with some fleece, freezing rain and drink box tea light's the difference of six months and twenty degrees. Good on you, my little solstice buddy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

E-Winter. Will that be credit, cash or debit?

Apparently Grouse Mountain's "Peak of Christmas" marketing campaign worked on us. Somehow they managed to convince us to spend a couple of hours finding boots, hats, gloves, jackets, pants, and across town....wrestle all this stuff on to the kids.....line up for a tram to take us from the pleasant +8 degree afternoon to the -2 degree Alpine air and to spend $70 for the privilege. The "why are we doing this?" point of the day happened in the parking lot. Firstly, Molly, who we dressed first, sat on the ground while she was waiting for us. She was so puffy in all her layers that she couldn't stand up. When we did finally get going, Finny almost lost it on the 500 meter walk to the tram. Apparently our kids aren't used to walking up steep hills with heavy boots and multiple layers of clothing.

Things quickly got better however, as the excitement of the tram ride and the snowy hill side captivated their attention. Upon reaching the peak, the sun was out and there was about 15 centimeters of fresh snow on the ground. The rest of the afternoon pretty much followed the script of the ads....we went on the sled ride, hung out with reindeer, saw Santa at his workshop, skated on the pond, went sledding down a hill, saw Charlie Brown's Christmas in the theater and had fries and hot chocolate while watching a pretty spectacular sunset in the cafeteria.

Despite the early moments of doubt, the trip was definitely worth the effort. Finny and Lucas slept soundly the whole drive home. Molly, the ever polite girl (sometimes too much- she has been known to apologize for apologizing too much), said "Thank you guys for taking us. I loved going up the mountain."

E- To read a boring story

To read Les' story from the Courier on December 14th, 2007, click on the following links:Page 1 Page 2

or go to

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My co-worker Colin is a film maker, and a good one at that. He has two movies that have been accepted into the Sundance film festival coming up in January. As a Christmas gift, he put together a couple of shots of our work-site for the Costa Ricans to show their families the project and the city.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

See me dance

Click on the title to be terrified

Lovely Days

Anyone who knows me knows I love baking.

That was a trick intro. Anyone who knows me knows that I was gifted from my mother an aversion to baking. Ask my father and brother...mum isn't bad at baking, but she really doesn't do it. One of the few things that my mum doesn't make from scratch is baked goods; we have always enjoyed Safeway's hermit cookies (usually with homemade applesauce, so I am not complaining). Nevertheless, the holiday season rolls around and those with baking soda in their veins (not me) get the gingerbread itch. Hmmm, that actually sounds like a real condition...there is something about gingerbread that sounds itchy...but I digress.

The trick around the holidays is to hook up with people who love to bake. Then you use their bakey-ness for your own gain (and by this I mean both pleasure gain and weight gain). Observe our schedule:

Friday: sugar cookie and gingerbread house decoration at Mandy's
Saturday: Shortbread and gingerbread men crafting at Andrea's
Sunday: Gingerbread house decoration at Gord and Margo's

The beauty of this is that these wonderful people did all the preparation. My kids are stuffed full of homemade goodness. Just not made in MY home.

What else have we done other than consume other people's hard work?

Yesterday I spent with Lucas, browsing up and down Main Street. It was delightful and he was a fantastic companion, even sharing a bowl of minestrone with me at Liberty bakery. While I strolling and shopping, the girls were getting their culture on with Omi, hitting Super Sunday at the Art Gallery. Here is some of their Georgia O'Keefe inspired work (I told you they were cultured...again, just not by ME):

Today we went out to UBC, where the kids periodically participate in studies. Today, Lucas was supposed to observe some weird spectacle that involved severing plasticine ducks (don't ask, I really don't know...). He was disturbed. And disturbing. The serrated knife wigged him out. The woman who was assisting in the study pulled me aside as I carried out unhappy Lou. She indicated that she wasn't sure why the coordinator chose to use those particular kidding! Apparently a few other infants have objected to the mutilation of play-dough poultry. Here he is shell-shocked after the experience:

Monday, December 17, 2007

E-Broke on through to the other side

Today we broke through to Robson station, our second to last major hurdle. From here on the boring is relatively straight forward. It was pretty cool to experience the cutting head break through. I was expecting a much more gentle crumbling of the earth than the explosive display I witnessed. In fact, there was so much force that much of the rock, concrete, sludge and water sprayed 100 feet right towards us. I was standing about 150 feet back and got a little spray on my helmut.

It was also kind of interesting to see the emotional response. Being in a line of work where drifting off course by 6 inches can be a multi million dollar mistake, there is a lot of stress that builds up. However, as you can imagine, tunneling is a pretty macho, play your cards close to your chest, world. Don't show stress...don't show fear...or doubt...just act like you know everything will be fine.

How do I know it's acting? It became crystal clear when the head came out in exactly the right spot. There was a collective sigh of relief and an almost giddy applause.....followed by a lot of man-hugging. Guys I hadn't seen crack a smile in two months were running around like they had just won the lottery. Then the crew on the boring machine were given a standing (there were no seats to be had) ovation as they climbed down the cutting head and over the rubble. This was followed by more hugs and handshakes.

Out of the hundred people there, I might have been one of 3 Canadians. The company did manage to honour Canada however as they provided Tim Hortons donuts for everyone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

E- Scary stuff

I can see why people without kids can be intimidated by the thought of procreating....well, not the act itself but the end result anyways. You hear stories of parents just happy to get a rare moment to themselves... a moment of quiet that is so easy to get before children come along. However, as a parent about to write about such a moment, I feel it's important to disclose that, while these moments are fairly rare and definitely enjoyed, they are not any better or more appreciated than those times that the house is full of kids and laughter and noise. They are just different.....and because they are rare, they are especially appreciated.

My Mom had the girls over night and Lucas spent a couple of hours at the McKnight's, freeing us up to go to the Christmas party at my work. When that plan fell through, we had a night to ourselves. Nobody to look after! We went for a soak in the Arbutus Club whirlpool for half an hour and then watched the Canucks game, had a couple of beers and ate dinner in the lounge. A night out together like this was common place for us in Europe and is now a special event that needs to be coordinated ahead of time. That might sound scary to non-parents....but I can honestly say I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A big congratulations to Les, who received a nice cheque and had her story published in today's Vancouver Courier. The only stipulation for the contest, for which she won first place, was that the story contain 2,500 words and the sentences "From Kerrisdale to Cedar Cottage, Shirley's name was on everyone's lips. She had even been featured in the Courier's 100th Anniversary addition." Les'story, about a fictional character, took place amongst the real life setting and politics of my work site on the tunnel boring operation. (If you work for Seli Canada, disregard this previous sentence.) In a very short space Les was able to construct an entertaining story about a pretty implausible event.

In the hard copy of the paper, there is a short bio on Les. They say she is a former engineering student. Anyone who was in Grade 11 math with Les would probably find this less plausible than the story itself.

To see Les' story, get the Vancouver Courier from December 14th or click here THIS LINK SEEMS TO BE MISSING AND I CAN NO LONGER FIND THE ARTICLE ONLINE. I WILL PUT UP A NEW LINK WHEN I FIND IT

So how does a working mother celebrate? By decorating cookies with young kids of course. What could be more fun than hanging out with kids hyped up on icing and sprinkles?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reading through the previous blog I realized I had written about my fire fighter applications and should probably follow up on that. So far the process with the District of North Vancouver has brought the numbers down from many (hundreds?) fully qualified 78 people at the 47 at the skills and ability 17 interviewees. As one of those 17 people I felt lucky to still have a shot at the job, but realistic about my chances. I believe there is only 1 position available at this time. I feel like my interview this morning went well...but...I have felt that before.

I got the results of my test with Vancouver Fire and Rescue as well today. My studying paid off and I placed 5th out of the 172 people who wrote the exam. Unfortunately this does not help me get the job.....but does mean I will get an interview with the department.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

E-"Can't we do something fun?"

The Christmas season is in full swing. I have done some of my online Christmas shopping , while at work tonight....spending money while I am making money.....I think I am about even for the shift so far. We have had a couple of events already, with plenty more to come. This picture is from Les' work party at Echo Memoirs, where the kids met Santa and I feasted on Nanaimo bars. Last night the kids ran into Santa again, this time on "Winter Pond", an ice rink decorated to look like a quaint pond that could be found in a natural state pretty much anywhere else in Canada. However, here in Lotus land the atmosphere is faked..... but the cookies and hot chocolate were real. So was Finny's terror at having 50 other people on the least a half dozen of whom were young, out of control boys hyped up on sugar and bravado. She longed for quiet, well lit ice that she has grown accustomed to skating on.

This weekend we have 2 Christmas cookie baking parties and my work party. Next week we have a couple of more events. Also, Molly has a school party where more gifts are exchanged and more treats consumed. It can be fun and great excuse to see people but it can also be a bit too much of a good thing. As I picked Molly up from school today she said "what are we doing today Daddy?". When I told her we were just going home she gave me a puzzled look. "Yeah, but what fun thing are we going to do? Aren't we going to a party or to someone's house or something fun?"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Milestones (not the restaurant)

Lucas, my wee babe in arms, my last little sprog, my tiny boy, IS ONE.

That means that I almost don't really have any babies left. He stands on his own, he dances, he claps and sings a bit...that doesn't sound like a baby, does it? I mean, anything under one is a true baby. Older than one...well, it's just family life.

Say goodbye to the great excuses that go along with babies, too. It is easy to say, I have a baby, therefore I am:
-carrying baby fat

Don't get me wrong, I will not be abandoning any of the above excuses. Especially the top two. Lukey is a mess-maker and his favourite thing to do is rub his face, which is always covered in whatever food he is pretending to eat, all over my shoulder. Instant disgustingness. And late...well, I was late before kids. I actually think I might be better than I was, but there are times that the sheer volume of kids makes me drastically underestimate the amount of time it takes to get out the door. So, you may all continue to add 12 minutes to my ETA.

Lukey celebrated in style on his birthday, with a breakfast of pancakes and eggs benedict in the morning and dinner at Swiss Chalet in the evening. They even sang him a birthday song, which he adored.

Happy Birthday Lucas. You are a the guy we were waiting for...your sweet and loving nature and fun-seeking spirit are a joy to have around. And thanks for the great impetus to start blogging (and thanks to Darren for the birth gift of a domain name that has kept on giving!!!).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

E-17 is colder than I remember

There's been a lot of talk the last 10 years about how much easier and more efficient technology is making our lives. Although I no longer get photos developed and rarely buy stamps anymore, I have often found that the time needed to learn and adapt to the new technologies has pretty much cancelled out the so-called "efficiency gains". Over the past few years it has been great not having to drive down to a travel agent to see what the best deal was to fly to Toronto, but it took hours to figure out where to look on-line and how to actually book things. Then of course there was the fear that, in the absence of actual contact with a real human being, somehow, something would go wrong. Perhaps my ticket wouldn't be processed properly....or my credit card stolen..or.....

I am not saying none of these fears or possibilities still exist. However, I do think that in the last year, at least for me personally, the tipping point has shifted pretty dramatically in favour of on-line commerce. Certainly having a home in the US, where I don't have to worry about customs, is a big factor for me. Equally important though, is that I feel comfortable with shopping on-line, fairly safe from fraud, and know that I can complete a purchase, along with a decent amount of research about the service or product, in far less time and effort than it takes to head out to the store. Instead of letting a slick selling salesman provide me with all the product information (how the heck are we supposed to evaluate their claims about Superior quality, resolution, connectivity, bits per second, etc?), I can now get thousands of customer reviews from users just like me. More and more I am finding these reviews playing an important part in my shopping decisions.

My Dad and I had to make a quick trip to Toronto last week. We got great deals on our hotel, rental car and flight ( is working well for me right now) without having to talk to any people. Because I checked into the flight from home the night before and we only brought carry-on bags, we were able to arrive at the airport 40 minutes before our flight and still have plenty of time to spare. Our experience with the hotel and car went equally smoothly.

Our time in Toronto was pretty limited....but with windchill bringing the temperature down to 17 below, I wasn't too disappointed. It was nice to get the time with my Dad and to hear some stories of what life was like for him immigrating to Toronto as a young man coming from Northern England. We figured that it was the first time we had been on a plane together since I was an toddler. We finished the business we needed to, had some good conversations and good meals I'd say it was a pretty successful trip. I also got to see Ken Morris for an evening at a Toronto Raptors-Phoenix Suns game. With Ken being a good friend who I haven't seen much of in the last 10 years, and those being my favorite two teams to watch, I had a great night out.

Before leaving for Toronto we celebrated Lucas' birthday with a pancake breakfast in the morning and Swiss Chalet in the evening. I even managed to squeeze in time to play in the Men's League finals (we won by about 15) before catching the red-eye flight.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sometimes I feel like my inner dialogue is a broken record as I try to compose my thoughts when I sit down to write. It usually begins with "it's been a really busy week". There gets to be a point however, where it can't be considered a so-called "busy week" if it is the exact same as the week before and the week before that. I guess this is life. It is such a contrast to how we lived in Europe for almost a decade, when we had so few demands on our time. It's not that I mind the pace of life now but just that it really feels like a lot of juggling needs to be done to get everybody to where they need to be.

Les is doing a great job, managing the kids, Kindergarten, gymnastics, meals.....not to mention all the work she has taken on lately. With Lucas' first birthday coming tomorrow, Les' maternity leave is now done and she has started to take on work. And it just keeps coming. She literally has enough projects to keep her busy full time, and she hasn't even started back with her employer. Although this is a good problem to have, Les' desire to make it work for everyone means that we need to do a lot of juggling around our house. It's not that easy to sit down at the computer, let alone compose a decent piece of work, with a very active one year old at your feet (trying to unplug the computer)...and on your lap (trying to type)...and on the table (trying to spill your coffee)...and on and on. In fact, Luc is such a hand-full (almost always in a great, lovable way, except when you are trying to type), that when he is gone or asleep, Les feels totally unencumbered and able to work...despite the fact that there is still a 5 and 3 year old in the room with her!

My mom has been a big help with the kids, and managed to get Les time to catch up on some of these projects, even while I have been working lots. This past weekend she took all three kids to playtime at the gym and then for a swim, before taking the girls for a sleep over. Apparently they went out for a night of Christmas carols and hot chocolate and then sledding in park the next day. I sure hope I have that type of energy when I am 65.

I have been going through fire fighter application processes with Vancouver and North/West Vancouver for the last month. Over the last weekend I had a physical test with one department and a 5 hour written test with the other. Because I need a score in the mid 90 percent range to get an interview, I have spent more time reading text books than blogging lately. I will see if that pays off on December 14th.

I played a couple of basketball games last week. One against a top high school team and another in Men's league playoffs. It was interesting to play against a good, young team that had more depth, was better conditioned and better organized than the group I was playing with. The interesting part was that, despite all these advantages, we were still able to easily win. I think it just comes down to the experience of knowing what is and what isn't important, how to take little short cuts and get little advantages. I never understood how this worked when I was the old, out of shape guys would come into the gym and dominate us. Now I am that guy. With about 1/4 the effort spent, I probably score 4 or 5 times more now than I did as a university player in peak condition. The game (sometimes, not always) comes so easily that it makes me wonder why I had to work so hard every day as a professional. Maybe I didn't? Anyways, the bottom line is that my increased offensive output is matched by an almost equal decline in defensive and rebounding I guess it all just evens out in the end.

On Saturday night, with Molly and Fin sleeping at my mom's, Les, Luc and I joined the McKnights for a celebration dinner at Earls. PJ showed remarkable poise dealing with the pressure of passing his CA exam while working at KPMG. Congratulations, I know you'll do really well with this. After dinner we hit the Hoop Dreams basketball party where Les showed off her guitar skills on rock star. She was pretty good, even after a couple of beers. I'll be really impressed if she can get her guitar back from Val Gilbert and do the same thing when there is a little more to it than hitting one of 5 buttons.

Below are a couple of pictures of what happens when the kids are with me while Les goes off to write. Firstly, the is some unsupervised play where 5 year olds tow 11 month olds around in wagons. Secondly, we all sat down together and watched Ratatouille and ate popcorn after school. It's a nice way to spend a winter's day but may come back to bite. I just gave my kids a serious love for rats in the same week that I had set some precautionary rat-traps down in Point Roberts. I can already envision myself being mentally convicted of murder by the impressionable minds of my Disney educated children. Oh well, I don't really give a rats ass anyways.