Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy (almost) Canada Day

Lukey is sooo into baskets. The girls put him in all our various laundry baskets and then push/pull/drag/catapult him out and around the house. Who needs a doll when you have Lukey?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

E-To Gibraltar and back

Our good friend Joey Vickery is in town for his yearly visit between basketball seasons. He has played in Austria for the last 3 years and will likely go back next year as well. Neither age (40), marriage, parenthood (he only has 1 kid, so why would it) or a highly questionable dietary regime (ie. only chicken nuggets, snickers and pizza) have slowed Joey down. With a shooting release like he has, Joey could play for another 10 years if he had team-mates who wanted to get him the ball.

Joey was a big part of the reason Les and I were able to smoothly transition to life in Europe. He played with me in Paris (Poissy Chatou) in 1997-98 and has been one of our best friends ever since. I say "our" because Joey was a great friend to both Les and me right from the beginning. Joey was a 30 year old star in the league, single, confident and enjoying life in Paris. I was a 22 year old rookie who had to work his butt off every day in practice just to fit in, I had my girlfriend with me and knew nothing of being a professional athlete. These differences meant nothing to Joey. This introduction to living in Europe made a big impact on our subsequent experiences.

In that first year we played, partied, studied (Joey and Kory Hallas made a mockery of Les' Canadians in Paris book club)and travelled together. We went West to Brest (where Kory and I somehow ended up drunk enough to dance in a cage at the club), East for a weekend skiing and partying in the Alps, North to Amsterdam to see the liberal side of Europe and South to Spain.

At the end of the season, Joey, Les and I decided we wanted to put some miles on the team car so we drove all the way from Paris to Gibraltar and back. By the end of that trip we were either going to slit each other's throats or know that we would always be friends. Luckily everybody survived, as did our friendship. Apart from the daily battle between Joey wanting to go to McDonalds and Les wanting to find a quaint Spanish cafe, we formed a great travelling team. The highlight of the trip was definitely the day we spent at the festival of El Rocio where a million people from all over Spain congregate in one tiny village to commemorate (by eating and drinking to excess) the sighting of the virgin Rocio. (I'll save that story for another Retro-blog. Below are a couple of pictures of the festival.)

The best of all our trips together however, has to be a couple of years later when we were team mates again in Austria.
The time Joey headed up with just me in a tiny plane and we flew for a couple of hours over the Hungarian country-side (where navigation is really dangerous with every village looking the same and air traffic control incomprehensible) was a highlight in bravery but not fun. No, the best trip we ever took was when we flew to Kenya in November of 2001. The team made the mistake of telling us we had 7 days off in the middle of season and we took full advantage. We left a sub-zero Vienna airport, flew all night and arrived in a tropical paradise just outside Mombasa. Although the team threatened to cut us for taking the trip, I think the physical and mental break we got on this trip was one of the biggest reasons we won a championship that year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Before you criticize...'s like I said before: I am out making memories and that takes time. Awhile ago (10 days, in fact), I declared the blogging gloves off. My dad asked me this evening if in fact the gloves weren't still very much on...and possibly impeding my typing? Hmm. Fair enough.

HOWEVER, Eric is basically retro-blogging. What is that, you ask? Choosing random past events and writing about them. Interesting? Maybe. Easy? Definitely. Cheating? Arguably, yes.

So, in the interests of timeliness, I will blog about today (Eric, take note). The kids and I dropped Eric off for his OFA exam (see post below) and then proceeded to Ikea. The corporate geniuses at Ikea headquarters have concocted a devious plan of luring mothers into their stores with free childminding, ice cream ,stickers, hot dogs, refills and devilishly good macaroni and cheese. Oh, and they or something? We spent almost three hours there. We didn't buy any furniture. We did however buy lots of other little things I had no idea I needed. Damn you corporate, Swedish Pied Pipers!

As an aside, while eating FREE frozen yogurt today, Molly ate about a third of a brown (I called it whole wheat) napkin. I noticed, but then hesitated to tell her because she can be a little sensitive (too bad for her that I am her mother...haha!). Kudos to that little girl. I pointed to her cone and informed Little Miss Eager Bite that she had consumed a hefty dose of serviette. She looked down and laughed, then said, "It's like I'm a goat!" Ha. We've read a couple of goat stories where wash gets eaten off the line and tires are washed down with gasoline. She embraced her inner goat-dom and showed her mother that I should not underestimate her ability to laugh at herself.

Since the girls were so good (having been drugged by those tiny little Ikea meatballs into some sort of hypnotic state of goodness), I promised them a trip to Science World. Off we went for a FULL day of science. It's a great place for the kids. Contained. Educational. Warm. Plus, I could watch the honey bees for hours. By myself. The girls are good for about forty-five seconds of bees.

Nearly a perfect day. We are all tuckered out...and don't worry, Lukey made it to a real bed!

E-Testing season

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, packing 4 tests into an already hectic schedule. The first 2 tests were of a physical nature and were required as part of the Richmond firefighting application. Although the tests cost $425 and my prospects of getting hired are slim, I had to try my luck with the department given that no other applications are currently open to me. Among other things, the harder of the tests measured push-ups, sit-ups, flexibility, dummy drag/obstacle course, and a 1.5 mile run. I was proud to get a score in the top 10% and was pretty surprised to be able to improve on my results from November 2005.

Right after finishing these tests (and all the preparation/training to get ready), I had to switch my focus to my first aid qualifications. I passed my MFR (Medical First Responder) exam pretty easily after completing a 40 hour preparation course. However, my OFA level 3 needs to be re-certified every 2 years and the deadline is fast approaching. The normal course of action is to take a $900, 2 week, 80 hour course to prepare for the exam. I decided to combine the experience from the MFR course with some practice and review sessions so that I could challenge the exam. The good news is that I would only have to pay a $100 exam fee. The bad news is that if I failed (and the failure rate is pretty high for this exam) I would lose my license and therefore my job until another test date became available.

The exam was 8 hours of sometimes stressful, sometimes tedious scenarios in addition to a 100 question multiple choice test. It's not the most fun way to spend a day but I was pretty ecstatic to walk out with scores of 97% on the written and 100% on the practical. If only I could have an interview panel judge me so kindly I wouldn't have to go around jumping through all these hoops.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

E- Birthday overload

Finny is now 3 years old! It will be hard for her to forget her change of status after 3 days of celebration this week. The main reason for this deluge of partying is the proximity of Granddad Bryan's and third cousin Sally's birthdays. The bottom line however is that a lot of cake and fun were to be had. We picked Joey Vickery up at the airport on Wednesday and headed straight for Point Roberts. We spent some time driving around the Point and throwing a football on Maple Beach before we went for dinner at the McKnight's. We had steaks, Caesar salads, and ice cream cake as the warm evening sun set over the Strait of Georgia. The last rays hit our balcony around 9:15. On Thursday we spent most of the day hoping the rain would stop, and preparing regardless, for Finny's birthday beach barbecue. Apparently luck was on our side as the sun came out just in time for the party to start. Finny was pretty happy to be surrounded with friends, playing in the sand and eating hot dogs, chips and cake. It was a nice evening but I was disappointed to see our tax dollars wasted by 3 Vancouver Police cruising up and down the beach on ATVs. Our cooler full of cold beer managed to stay concealed but I couldn't help but think how stupid it is for anyone to harass responsible adults enjoying our beaches while areas of our town are crime ridden, drug infested wastelands.

Immediately after the party, Les had a bout of vertigo come on with a vengeance. Luckily for me, Rich Anderson had come back with us and was able to help me bring in all the goods from the party and help put the kids to bed. Fresh off a week of playing Kindergarten Cop, Rich had no problem getting the girls attention as he read them a bed time story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

E- Beers at Jaegers

It's kind of funny how life and circumstances change. Not so long ago we saw each other 7 days a week, took about 20 flights a year, worked out, studied, showered, partied and roomed together. Now, we have to make a big effort to drink a beer together once every couple of years.

On Friday Ken Morris, my team-mate for 3 seasons at UBC, came into town. John and Trixie, Gerald and Shelly and I met up with Ken for a couple of beers downtown. Ken may be losing some of his hair, but he's not losing his ability to talk. I have never met someone who can carry a conversation like Ken can. He has an amazing knack at being able to create an interesting conversation about any thing at any time. There's never an awkward silence when Ken's in the room. Considering he is one of the most competitive people I have ever met (he is still bitter about Mike Oord riding him like a bus in practice) and has a steel trap memory, I imagine he is a pretty intimidating lawyer. Here's a picture of Ken, Gerald and me about 75 pounds and 10 years ago.

E-Ode to Sakinaw

For 11 years our group of friends have invaded the Halls cabin for "The Sakinaw Bash"; a weekend of drinking, games, urinating in Jaquie's garden, bonfires, watching The Bulge streak (which took five minutes and involved too much hand shaking this year) and of course playing in the water. In fact, we have been going to Sakinaw regularly for 20 years, since the Halls originally piled almost a dozen 13 year old boys in the back of their big red van to spend a weekend in their one room cabin featuring no running water or electricity.

During those 20 years I have never stopped admiring and learning from the generosity shown by the Halls. There have been so many moments that would have driven most people to say "enough is enough" or "we can't take the risk" or "that's the last time I am having my flowers killed". And yet I have never even sensed irritation over our presence, let alone feeling unwelcome.

And the best part of the culture that the Halls have created at their cabin is that it is contagious. It didn't happen right away, or without having to use a chore-board for many years, but eventually everybody who came learned to pick up a broom, beer can or a dishtowel and pitch in to do their bit.

As a result, there have been many moments at Sakinaw Woods that just wouldn't have happened anywhere else. Here are some of my favorites:

Ted finally hooking up with a girl- and then marrying her
Holly and Les spanking on the hammock
Steve demonstrating his skills on his codpiece during the team cheer
Mardis Gras-there were too many moments to name
Mark avoiding a spinal injury while drunkenly stumbling off the bluff
Pete waking up and greeting my sister with "I love Mandy" Jiffy-Marked to his face
Mike's skill running the best ever Alazumba game
Mike's worry over losing all 10 chest hairs after he was dethroned in Alazumba

Monday, June 18, 2007

We took the weekend off...

Sorry for those of you just warming up to Eric's and my big battle. We were temporarily pulled away from our computer. We went to the 11th annual Sakinaw Bash. The Bash is a (formerly) huge party hosted by our good friend Steve up at his cabin on the Sunshine Coast. The best description of the festivities is that it's an alcohol fueled elementary school sports day.

Eric has attended all 11 bashes. I am 9 for 11. I missed last year because I was quite pregnant and I missed 2004 because Finny was four days old. Every year has a theme and this year our theme was The Future. Sadly, it appears that there are fewer people in the future, or at least fewer Bash participants. It was a low numbers year: only 16. Down from the all-time high in 1998 of 74.

But the good news is that in the future...I am a winner! As team captain, I led my loyal followers to victory for the first time ever.

Some of our more responsible readers may be asking, where were your kids? An excellent question, since the Bash is no place for kids...or at least MOST kids. Lukey came with us, while the girls were well-taken care of by Eric's mother. Lucas had fun, but I had to tell him at the end of the weekend that it would be his last Bash for a, 20 years.

Here are a couple of pictures from our Mardi Gras Bash a few years ago:

Friday, June 15, 2007

E-The best vacation deal ever!

It's that time of year that we are thinking a lot about vacations and this brings back memories of the trip Les and I took in June 2000. We set the "fantastic deal" bar so incredibly high that I really doubt that we can top it. At the end of every season in Europe, Les and I would try to go on a trip before heading home to Canada. We managed to see a lot of Europe this way. However, because we would be in the playoffs, we never knew exactly when the season would end and our vacation could begin. This made planning a bit difficult. This particular year my team, the Kapfenberg Bears, lost in the finals. The next day we met with the management and negotiated a deal to stay for the next season. We had 2 weeks to kill before Les flew home from Heathrow and I flew out of Vienna. At 10am the following day, we went to the basement of our building (we lived above a mall and train station)to ask the travel agent if there were any good deals. We were told that there was a 4 star, 2 week, parking and transfers included, all-inclusive roulette (meaning they won't tell you which resort you are actually booked at)leaving at 1:30 pm from Graz for the Turkish coast. However, we barely had time to make the flight (Graz was an hour away)and Les wouldn't make it back in time for her flight to London. We were so disappointed! Then the travel agent informed us that our charter plane would actually be flying home from Turkey to London the day before and it could work perfectly for Les. We were sold. After ten minutes and a couple of T-shirts and shorts were thrown in a bag, we were zooming down the Austrian back roads in our Green Hyundai Atos.

The only disappointment of the trip came early as it seemed like everyone on the plane but us was smoking. From then on we were blown away. We hopped off the plane onto a brand new Mercedes bus. We then drove down to just outside Bodrum where the bus stopped at the famous Austrian resort chain "Magic Life". Still expecting to be dropped off at some shady motel with 4 stars hanging from a dilapidated sign, we were ecstatic when we were whisked away for fruity coctails while our bags were taken to our room. We were told the ground rules before being sent out to explore. "There are 5 restaurants to chose from, a bakery/cafe, 2 night bars and a wine cellar/cave. Alcohol is only served until 2 am. Everything is free, including hair cuts, and no tipping is permitted. There are fishing trips, sailboats, kayak, windsurfing (I thought Les was going to get blown out to Lesbos one day) and water-skiing.

There are 5 pools to use during the day, a waterslide, Turkish sauna and theatre performances each night". We were in heaven. We routinely double fisted our drinks while we played Schnapzen beside the pool. For 2 straight weeks we lounged, read books, played games, swam and had the time of our lives. We only left the compound once, to visit Bodrum and a big water slide park. All of this cost us, including taxes, 6,000 Austrian Shilling (just under $600 Canadian) each.

Les flew back to London and I flew back to Graz with 18 hours to kill before going home to Canada. The team decided at this point they would change the agreed upon deal- I said no- so they said see ya! I had half a day to gather everything we had left in our apartment with the assumption we would be returning. Les was having a blissfully ignorant flight home while I packed, cleaned and threw out as much as I could, as quickly as I could. Really it was an event typical of our time in Europe- the best of times and the worst of times- but always very memorable.

The fight is on (and the gloves are off...)

So here is my question...what kind of a jerk takes photographs of his wife's 100 year old grandfather (that I specifically emailed my brother to get) and publishes them on his own post? I mean, c'mon. First come first served? Geez. Want to hear the worst part? He scooped those pictures out of our email inbox while I was out with the kids. And he knew it. Low, huh?

So, how do I trump him? Get pictures of granddad on his actual 100th birthday. None of this "on his 90th birthday" garbage. How relevant is that? (Answer: not very...although the motorcycle picture basically rocks!)

Check it out:

Plus, how great does that 100 year old guy look? We should all be so lucky!

Also, a quick story from today. The girls were playing outside with some of the older kids in the co-op. They took out a snack but came back distressed when their crackers were eaten up by other girls. I gave them more and not 5 minutes later, they came running home with a tale of daring and bravery. They had defended their second batch of crackers through teamwork and a quick sprint. They were very pleased with themselves and declared Team Butler Girls were unbeatable. They were so chuffed, I had to take a picture:

E-first come first serve!

Here are a couple of pictures of Les' Grandad. The first is from the 1930's with John looking like a bad-ass biker in his leather gear.

This next picture is from 1997, on John's 90th birthday, with his late wife Sue. They seemed like such a great couple, which makes it all that much more amazing that John continues to have such a strong will to live in her absence.

And finally, last week John made it to his 100th birthday, cracking jokes and talking to guests for 4 hours. At the end he hopped out of his chair and walked back to his room, looking as spry as many of the guests 60 years younger.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

So far, we're tied

So, as has been noted by my father and his inflammatory emails, since our blustery words a couple of days ago, there haven't been all that many postings. In our defense (that's right, I am defending King Blog too), we were in Point Roberts. And contrary to some slanderous jotting, it didn't take me the better part of a century to stain a fence. And for the record, King Blog (let's just call him KB from now on) DID NOT complete even close to 80% of the steps he hyped up in his posting. Puh-lease.

We have also had another distraction around here. Celebrating the monumentally fantastic 100th birthday of my grandfather. My dad's dad is now a centenarian. Now if those aren't some great genes, I don't know what. And not only is he 100, he doesn't seem a day over 85 (not very often that's a compliment...). He is truly an inspiration in my life, reminding me that positivity, optimism and a sense of humour are the secret to good living. He has it down to a science.

We had a big tea reception to celebrate, a family reunion BBQ at my parents', a dinner on the actual evening and there was even a champagne toast yesterday. He did it up in style. Which is fitting because he is a stylish guy. Not to mention, he endured each event with aplomb and spunk. He even managed to heckle my dad through his entire birthday speech. Now there's a guy after my own heart. Cheers Grandad. See you in the morning's milk.

E- Oscar, Sophie, Flower and Rex

How do you argue with someone who says America's Next Top Model is fantastic, but that she is not sitting around watching it? Is this person merely going on the review on Perez-Hilton? Having said this, my point was not that my wife spends all of her time watching trashy TV, but that she is currently spending none of her time blogging. I guess she proved me wrong by immediately posting her first entry in over a month (no Lesley, I do not count putting up a picture of you and Ruslana as an entry).

I will give my wife credit however, for the great job staining our fence in Point Roberts. In slightly less time that it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, my wife managed to get 80% of our fence stained. She did do a nice job! Meanwhile, I re-covered our stairs and collected a couple of tons of Maple. I guess I am a bit like a hunter however, who enjoys bringing in the prey but really doesn't want to deal with it afterwards. I now have about 5 seasons worth of fire wood on our property and very little of it is split or stacked.

The girls are great at entertaining themselves now and devise very elaborate games, which usually require our participation to some extent. Mostly, we are told our new names and positions in the game and then expected to stay in character. "Daddy, your name is Oscar and you're the grandpa. I am Sophie and this (pointing at Finny) is my daughter Flower and (pointing at Lucas)my dog Rex." The games tend to work pretty well though, because the girls stay entertained, and as long as I stay in character and answer to Oscar, there is no objection to me continuing to do my work. I guess it's just another example of the multi-tasking that seems so important to parenting.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I cannot believe my husband would dare to write the post below. Single blogger my ass. A couple of measly, ill-begotten comments and he fancies himself Blog King.


I admit my posts have been a touch spotty lately. And for that I apologize. But hand over the creative reigns of this blog...I will not. As for his contention that I am sitting around watching ANTM (a FANTASTIC show, by the way), FALSE! If I am not recording these "meaningful moments"...might it be because I am out HAVING THEM? Then, after creating these "touching events", I am tired.

Plus, "blogging team together"? Please! Johnny-Come-Lately-Butler scribbles a few lines and now this is a group effort? Look through the posts, I beg you. Count them and see. Numbers don't lie.

And so now, husband-oh-mine...I throw down the gauntlet. Get out your speed typing mister. The challenge is set. In the next three weeks, lets just see who reigns supreme. It ain't gonna be pretty.

E-Single Blogger

So, I figure it's now about officially official. My wife has left this blogging team and I am now resigned to being a "Single Blogger". I kept up hope for a while that we could keep the blogging team together- but all that has faded now. I guess life just got to be too much for her to continue with an activity as trivial as..... leaving a record of the most meaningful moments and touching events in her family's life. It may sound important, but let's be honest...can any one's life really be as significant as which model Tyra is going to kick off the show this week? Obviously not! My apologies to any people who read this blog expecting to see Les' witty banter or insightful analysis of child rearing. You are now condemned to follow my more direct, play-by-play style reporting of the facts of our lives.

Monday, June 4, 2007

E-The Waiting Game

We, those who chose to chase the firefighting jobs, live in a weird sort of limbo that few people can understand. We are all driven by a strong desire to get hired as a fire fighter and are willing to put up with a lot of stuff to make that happen. However, the many hours (and dollars) spent training, studying, testing, working-out, volunteering and filling out applications are the easy part. You figure out pretty quickly what is required to have a realistic shot at getting the job, and then you do it. The hard part, at least for those of us trying to do this at an older age when you have more commitments, is to deal with the uncertainty that is inherent in this process. It starts with the application process itself. When will departments start accepting applications? Will you make it through the first stage? Second, third stages? Will you get an interview? Great, you made it down from 400 applicants to the final 30 who are getting interviews. The problem, and hence the uncertainty, is that probably only 6 will get jobs. Waiting for the phone call. Still waiting. Lots of time to mentally review all the things you didn't say or could have said better. It seems like forever because you really want to get the call promising you a job. On the other hand, you are dreading the call because a "no" feels like a slap in the face and reopens the long void until the next process begins. Maybe next week you will be set on the path to a dream job, that is stable, has great benefits and gives you lots of time with the family. On the other hand, next week you may be heading off to another interim job (hopefully not driving a recycling truck) wondering how many months it will be before you get the privilege of beginning the whole process over again.

UPDATE: The waiting game is over. I got the phone call from Coquitlam. "Hi Eric. I've called to tell you that you did well on your interview, but others scored higher than you and therefore we will not be offering you a job. Please apply again next year." That's it. No feed back or advice on how to improve. Certainly no justification for the decision. I'd like to say that I have learned from each interview experience I have been through but I can honestly say I know less now than ever about what a hiring board is looking for.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Arnold comes to town

jumpcut movie:Arnold meet The Eric

E- Conan the Environmentalist

Wow, it's been a really busy couple of weeks and Les and I are feeling like blogging flunkies for our lack publishing. In fairness to us though, one of the weeks was spent down in Point Roberts where our connection to the world consists of hoping the wind blows in the right direction (south) for our cell phone to pick up some sort of signal. We had a great time down there and gloated about the fact that the weather was quite a bit sunnier than in Vancouver. We built a 60 foot fence (long not high) across the front of our property and put a trampoline in the back yard. As my friend Joey would say, it's looking pretty "festy" with the huge trampoline, hammock, swing set and sandbox. We have our eyes on a gazebo next, to house some comfortable lawn furniture.

Since coming back, I have either been working or doing my first aid course. This leaves Les with 3 kids, which is less than an ideal blogging circumstance. Work is pretty much the same every day for me- the tunnel gets built and I take care of any injuries that may or may not occur. However today was pretty different. Our premier Gordon Campbell and Govenator Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to use our work-site for a meeting/photo opportunity because it is a good example of a public/private greenhouse gas reducing project. There was a lot of excitement around the place as a couple of hundred press and hangers-on inundated our suddenly unproductive place of work. They each spoke for a few minutes and I was surprisingly impressed by Arny and his ability to concisely and poignantly answer questions. Us workers (by that I mean the guys doing the work building the tunnel, and me) got to meet Gordon and Arnold and pose for a few pictures. I even managed to throw Arnold for a loop when I greeted him with "Gruss Gott". It took him a second (probably because my accent is sooooo bad) but he eventually replied with "Gruss Gott,
Wie geht's". Not much of a conversation, but I didn't do much better at the local grocery store in Austria either.

The scene turned even more surreal as the press decended on us after the "stars" had left and peppered (I alone had 6 interviews)with the most juvenial questions. "What was it like to shake Schwarzenegger's hand? Was he the same in person as you thought he'd be?" Although I definitely answered the questions concisely, I can't say I displayed any of the poignancy that I had just witnessed and admired.