Wednesday, August 29, 2007

E- Static electricity

I finally finished the roof today and it looks not too bad. I don't want to know what my hourly rate would have been on the job, but that wasn't the point.
The point was that I learned something and am kind of excited about tackling another project. The girls enjoyed the afternoon in the garden and on the trampoline. With the temperature in the high 20's and no wind, I was happy to be able to put the last nail in the roof and head off to the McKnight's for a quick swim before driving in to work the night shift.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Home for a Rest

Today was a funny day. I pick up some writing work here and there. Pen for hire...freelance scribe...blah, blah, blah. Articulate for a writer, aren't I? Anyway...

I took a little job writing web content for a local company. I got the name of the company CEO from the website designer and I have had an unbelievably tough time tracking this guy down. The CEO of the World apparently has nothing on the daily "to-do" list of this guy because this dude is apparently incapable of returning persistent phone messages or emails. Not the highest paying gig in the world, so I'm not that thrilled to be wasting a bunch of time just dialing the phone. Over and over. And over. Again.

So, today I finally got this guy on the phone. Live. In person. It's only been two weeks. So, at this point, two interesting things happen:

1. You might assume someone as busy as the CEO of this company would be doing something unreal, like saving the rainforest, or feeding orphans or something. No. I found out today that this "brass" company I needed to write the content for is not just making brass. Nope. They make brass...stripper poles. Cue: Jaw dropping.

2. The moment I actually get to talk to the actual Stripper Pole Guy is the same moment that Lucas decides to experiment with the finer points of gravity by taking a dive off three stairs. Cue: Hysterical wailing (fair enough, really).

So, there I am. Talking on the phone with an illusive strip pole CEO, cradling a screaming kid, but unwilling to hang up on a guy that is harder to reach than Mars. To cap off the image of weirdness that this conjures up: I have a Froot Loop necklace around my neck.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am the only person in the entire universe that this strange little sequence of events has occurred to. Ahhhh, working motherhood.

Or is that, motherhood not really working?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

E- Hey Molly, I'll give you the drill if you give me the saw!

It's been a good week for multi-tasking and a sub-par one for sleep. By doing all night shifts, I have been able to work 72 hours this week and pretty much re-do a roof on our cottage. Bryan has been a great help to me.
However neither of us really know what we are doing, so there is a lot of guessing and consulting before we finally take the plunge on any one course of action. This has meant many hours on the job. Thankfully the kids are great at entertaining themselves. Les has taken them to the Point Roberts library, the park and the beach a few times. However, for the most part, the girls just entertain themselves. Here is a picture I found on the camera of Finny, playing one of her many games while I was working away on the roof.

This other picture is actually staged- as much freedom as we give the kids, we draw the line at playing with power tools. We are a bit old fashioned that way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

E-Entschuldigung. Ich habe nicht verstanden.

I went to the German Embassy today to get a form signed that I need in order to get my pension contributions returned to Canada. It's amazing how strong a feeling buildings can give off because something about that office totally felt like a a different country. I think it's the combination of design and furniture, smell, colour schemes and decorating that seems so familiar from the countless hours we spent registering for different things in offices throughout Germany. It was such a treat not to be forced to struggle through the process using my halting German. Dealing with this bureaucracy in another language is not something I will miss but the experience makes living here seem so easy and transparent. I laugh when I remember how difficult and confusing it seemed at the time, to have to deal with the Registrar's Office at UBC.

Afterwards, I had a quick workout and then joined Mike Hill, Steve Hall and Andrew Rennison for a round of golf at Eaglequest. It was a gorgeous afternoon and a fun team competition that Steve and I lost on the last hole when Andrew sunk a nice putt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

E- A picture is worth a thousand words

Living in Europe for as long as we did, Les and I talked quite a bit about our home province to friends we met. It is hard to adequately describe how beautiful and remote parts of BC are to people who have never lived more than 15 minutes from the nearest train station. I put this map of our recent camping trip (see blogs from the end of July and early August) to show our friends this part of the world that I hope some of them will come and visit one day soon.

Our trip was a big circle which started in Vancouver and headed North-West, with some of our stops represented by the blue balloons.

E- "It's not opposites day today, okay Daddy?"

We've had rain overnight for a couple of days in a row but the tarp seems to hold off the water better than the old roof anyways. I have now managed to get all the old plywood off and am sitting with a clean slate. Unfortunately doubt has gripped me as to whether replacing the previous system with an identical new one is a very wise decision. Using a roll on felt and roofing paper is the cheapest and easiest but in the long run will probably fail. Like building an overpass in Quebec or bridge in Minnesota, I will be better off down the road if I do it right from the beginning.

After work on Saturday I played hockey at the Arbutus Club for the first time in 5 months. I don't have a ton of skating skills to lose but I was rusty regardless. I didn't get back to Point Roberts until after midnight and everybody had crashed. Late on Sunday, after an afternoon of working on the roof and an evening of crab feasting at the McKnight's (I still haven't given in to the peer pressure of eating seafood but I can feel it mounting with the 20 or so crabs that crawl into their trap every day), Les took Lucas back to Vancouver to finish an online editing project. I spent the night and most of the next day with the girls down at the Point. It's fun to be alone with them and not have other responsibilities because I get a better glimpse into their world. We played fort (which involved me wedging 12 blankets between different pieces of furniture around our place), Polly pockets (hopefully without the "life threatening" magnets), had "opposites day", had a big wrestling/ball throwing game on the beds, we read books and ate ice cream cones for lunch. The two of them are so close and have such rich imaginations that there is seldom a dull moment regardless of whether there are any toys or games around.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

E- The Point of no return

We make hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day. Most of these are fairly inconsequential and generally reversible, so they are easy to make. Others are not however, and it's pretty easy to agonize over them. One such decision that has being weighing on my mind is whether or not to try and fix my roof in Point Roberts by myself. It is very difficult to find a handyman to do the work down there and I am kind of looking forward to tackling the project myself anyways. Kind of looking forward to it, kind of dreading it. We have had a small leak in the roof of our house's addition. It is not catastrophic but isn't helping the integrity of the building in the long run either.

Unfortunately I have neither the experience to do it quickly nor the time to devote endless days puttering around and figuring things out. However, I reached the point of no return yesterday when I rounded up Les' Dad to help me rip off the existing roof. There's no going back now! The fact that there were slugs climbing around in the insulation was a pretty good indication that the roof needed to go= good decision. The fact that rain is forecasted for the next 3 days= bad decision. So far I'm batting 500 which isn't bad in baseball but sucks in the home building trade.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My little farmers market their wares...

On the weekend, the East Side Farmer's Market at Trout Lake hosted a special kids' market day. My friend Shannon and I decided to give the kids a lesson in commercial sales by operating a market stall. We bought flower pots, stickers, dirt and seeds. Then opened our instant "Create Your Own Fall Garden" stand. Kids were invited to decorate their pots, plant their seeds (pea or pumpkin) and then watch their plants grow. Or, in our case...bring the pot home and watch it dehydrate and die. I am known around here as a black thumb. In other words, our little townhouse is where plants go to die.

The event went well. The kids had fun and we broke even on our venture, with enough profits leftover for each of the four kids to buy a cookie. Hey, free cookie.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lucas on the move

Milestones. All mothers should record them, right? Or at least notice?

With three kids around here, they are lucky if I remember to feed and water them, let alone make special observations about their growth and development. It is a stereotype, but there is truth in every generalization: the third child is less monitored. There. That's the bitter reality.

The first child's every moment is chronicled and celebrated. The tiniest achievement is heralded as the most recent sign that THIS CHILD, THIS CHILD is destined for a greatness never before witnessed on this planet. Number three can be a self-taught concert pianist at eight months and I wouldn't even know he had ten fingers FOR SURE.

Having said that, I had guilt pangs a moment ago that I haven't even mentioned some of Lukey's recent milestones (aside from his most recent...he is currently wailing like a banshee at my feet...pretty good lungs...).

For instance:
-the child crawls...well, it's really more of a shimmy. Gets him where he needs to go.
-he sings all the time
-he is easily the smiley-est baby I have ever met. Seriously. The kids smiles A LOT.
-he climbs stairs...found that out the hard way, he was on the third step when I discovered him...see note above regarding intermittent feeding and watering--I don't have to watch out for their safety as well, do I?
-he is eating solids. I feed him baby food but he also scavenges scraps from under the table. I think Finny indirectly feeds him as much as I do. I suspect he has a healthy dose of "hunter-scavenger" in him. He seems to relish found food more than spoon-fed.

Well, there you go. Lucas in a nutshell (aaah, I'm in a did I get in here? How is there a nutshell this big!!!).

Guilt pang assuaged.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't call me crabby!

I don't know about you, but I have a list (mostly in my head) of all the things I want to accomplish/experience/enjoy before I kick it. The list grows and grows, but I don't get that many opportunities to cross a life experience off. I was thrilled to draw a line through one while we were away: catching a crab and eating it all in one go. Success (except that witnessing the entire episode has most likely pushed Molly into the arms of vegetarianism...)!

Arthur, one of the multi-talented people working at Nascall Bay, helped me bait a crab trap with salmon and chicken. I tossed it out and waited a couple of hours, during which time Arthur gave me a quick lesson in the crab sexes. FYI, gobble up the guys 'cause Arthur explained they are fairly useless. Ha!

I pulled the traps and lo', there were four crabs lured into my tasty cage. It was like tossing a rope overboard and pulling up a fifty dollar bill. I checked the sexes of the crabs and discovered two girls, two boys (yum). I gentled pulled out the girls and stroked their sweet, little reproductive shells before tossing them back.

As I was tossing one of the females back, she grabbed my wrist. I freaked and this is the picture Eric got:

I don't know if she just really wanted to hang out a little longer...? The two guys were going in my pot. There is a single burner set up outside for the crabs, so I fired 'er up and got ready to be the reaper.

While we were waiting for the water to boil, I had a LONG conversation with Molly about meat eating. I guess it was a little too clear for her. I reassured her that she doesn't have to eat meat if she doesn't want. She finally decided she is a vegetarian who eats sausage. Fair enough, I guess. Not so much with Finny "me like crabs..." Butler.

Back to the business at hand. I sent my lovely girl inside to shield her from the sight of twitching limbs (by the way, I asked Arthur why that happens and he just looked at me and asked if I didn't think I would twitch in a vat of boiling water myself? Good point, I thought. Didn't really have a response for that one...).

I cooked those two guys and ate a whole one right away. The bigger one. Mmmmmm.

Interestingly, one was huge. The other was a good size, but he was missing both claws and two of his other legs. I figure I was just putting that guy out of his misery. Looks like someone was eating him piece by piece. I went one better and ate him in one go.

Wow. I sound barbaric. And I guess I was.

Reunion weekend cont'd

What felt like our 15 year high school re-union continued on Saturday night with Jay Bailey's Vancouver version of his wedding reception. It was a good excuse to get a lot of people out and to consume way too much alcohol.

On Sunday, after a slow morning, Les and I took the kids to Kevin Schultz' parents home for a party in the back yard. Coincidentally, given that it was a totally different crowd, we saw another 5 people from our grad class who we hadn't seen for many years. We spent 4 hours catching up with Kevin and Aneta, Mike and Robin, Jeremy Laker and Will Norton.

It was a really nice afternoon and made me feel that maybe, some people actually are having kids in this city. I also thought that, while it can't be too easy to get home when you are living Australia, at least you are guaranteed to bring out a crowd when you do get back.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

E- Another one bites the dust

As is typical of a fire fighting job application process, it has taken me 6 months to get to the end of this one. After starting out with 300 applicants, Richmond had a series of elimination stages (2 physical, 2 mental/aptitude) to get to an interview list of 38 people. Although I had to miss work, spent $400 cash on this process and many extra hours in the gym to be in top shape, I felt lucky to have a chance at this job that many others didn't. The extra $190 that I spent on an interview coach was money well spent as I felt particularly well prepared this time round. Most of the interview was focused on interpersonal skills such as working in teams, conflict resolution and ability to adjust to new environments. I thought my interview went really well. I felt that I was able to clearly articulate most things that make me a strong candidate and demonstrate how my past experience is relevant to the job I am applying for. The fact that I lived for 8 years in a country where I didn't speak the native language and am currently responding to emergencies at work for people who speak not a word of English, were particularly strong examples for me to draw on in a city like Richmond.

The bottom line however is that I got a letter yesterday saying No. I pretty much already knew this because some candidates were phoned the day after their interview, while the process was still ongoing, to inform them of a job offer. My interview coach, who also helped 6 other candidates, was able to tell me lots about the type of person they did hire. Let's just say my problem wasn't being under qualified. Several of the candidates had practically no experience and some apparently don't even have the minimum qualifications. These official hiring guidelines from Richmond clearly show that racism and sexism are perfectly acceptable in our society today as long as they discriminates against the right people. Yes I am frustrated and angry that I have no power to do anything about it. However, I also know that there were some positions available for white males and I didn't get one. Why?

There was a good distraction for me after work however, with a bunch of high school friends all coming into town at the same time. Jay and Paula are back in town for a Vancouver celebration of their Australian wedding. I saw Mark Wallbridge for the second time in a decade when he, Steve, Jay and I took advantage of the city strike to get a free round of pitch and putt on a fairly rough Queen Elizabeth course. The next night everybody was out again with a notable appearance by Drew MacKay and Kevin Flannagan, neither of whom I had seen in 15 years. Looking at the picture I would say we are all doing pretty well, at least in the hair department. I wonder whether the fate of my hair line is determined by genetics or by how many more of these hiring processes I need to go through?

Friday, August 10, 2007

E- Sometimes ignorance is bliss

We made it home, barely. The hill in Bridal Falls was steep enough to get us started so we were feeling pretty good despite the first overcast day of our trip. However, the van mysteriously stalled a couple of minutes later. After this our jump-starting technique no longer worked either. Time to call the autoclub. We managed to start up after a boast only to die 400 metres down the road, thankfully, just before gettting on the highway. I managed to run back and get the tow truck driver before he left. It turns out that we do need minimal power to run our van in order to keep our solenoid valves open. Having never heard of solenoid valves I can honestly say that it was only through our ignorance that we had the odacity to drive 600 kilometres with no alternator belt.

It all worked out though. Les took the kids to Dino Town while I had the van towed into Chilliwack. After Canadian Tire gave the battery a free charge, I picked up the rest of the family and drove home. We left the van running while we unloaded the kids and 10 days worth of camping gear and then dropped the vehicle off at a nearby shop. It wasn't the ideal end to a great trip but it could have been far worse and a lot less memorable.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

E- Are we lucky or not?

I am not sure if keeping my fingers crossed helped or not. I guess it depends whether I see the glass as half empty or half full. We had to call a tow truck today but didn’t end up using it.

As luck would have it, we ended up camping beside a family from Roberts Creek that had been in the towing business for 30 years. Don helped me fully charge my battery and gave me further confidence that I should be able to make it home with the van running as is. I removed the broken belt, disconnected as much electrical equipment as possible (day time running lights, radio etc) and said a prayer to the van gods.

We decided to spend one day in Williams Lake before hitting the road. It was really hot and we were on foot, confining us to a pretty small radius of Williams Lake. Luckily we were right in the centre and it’s a small town, so we weren’t in bad shape. We walked to a water park where Molly, Fin and I played in the cold water while Les and Luc sat in the shade. We then got a Slurpee and played on the swings. Taking the long way home to see the centre of town seemed like a good idea at the time, but everybody was pretty tired by the time we got back to our tent. Being the second night at the same camp ground, the girls already had a posse of friends who were glad to seem them back. We ended up serving hot chocolate with marshmallows around the camp fire to 6 kids.

On Monday morning we started the 500 kilometre trip home in beautiful weather. The kids were all great in the car, but Lucas was amazing. It’s the second 7 hour driving day he has put in without a complaint. He just sleeps or happily watches his sisters.

Near the end of our day, just outside of Boston Bar, we decided it was time to refuel. I figured I had covered the possibility of a totally dead battery when I asked the gas station attendant if she had jumper cables. When she said yes, I shut down the van and filled up. Put in the key- turn it to start- NOTHING! Not even an attempt to turn over. Get the jumper cables- hook up- NOTHING! I called the auto club and was told that someone would be along in 2-3 hours. Not having to wait with 3 kids in 30 degree heat was motivating enough to kick up our problem solving skills to another level. After a few practice runs Les and I managed to push the van to a decent speed, where I jumped behind the wheel, put it in 3rd gear and engaged the clutch enough to get our old diesel engine running. Apart from the big, black smoke cloud in Les’ face, we were pretty happy to hear our engine going again. We drove into Bridal falls and got the pimp daddy campground with a heated pool, wireless Internet and workout facility. We even managed to park on a hill!

E- Typing with my fingers crossed

On Saturday morning, after 3 days of great eating, soaking in hot springs, soaking up unspoiled nature and getting as close to total relaxation as is possible with 3 kids under 5, we were ready but sad to leave. We left Nascall at 10 am and drove pretty much straight through the day. The Chilcotin is big yet very scarcely populated country that seems like it is from another century. At 6pm we left the only highway (which has no lines and only about half of which is paved) and headed off on some back roads to find a campsite.

With the long weekend upon us, no cell phone coverage and not having seen a car for 15km, Murphy’s law dictated that it was time for our alternator belt to break. We kept surprisingly calm about our potentially troubling situation and worked as a team to figure out our next step. Through piecing together my elementary knowledge of cars with the owner’s manual, we figured that we weren’t likely to do any further damage to the van by driving out of our predicament. We were proven right (I am keeping my fingers crossed as I write this 500 kilometres from home) and ended up making it to a campground in William’s Lake just as the sun was setting.

E-It's a bit scary getting in the lake!

On Friday morning Frank took me up to Nascall lake which ends a couple of hundred feet back from and higher than the ocean, resulting in a waterfall powerful enough to kill anything going down it. The lake is over 11 km long and filled with waterfalls and rivers emptying from a totally unpolluted watershed. I didn’t try it but apparently fresh water fishing here is also fantastic.

Friday, August 3, 2007

E- From slow to glacial

The ferry left at 9:30am on Wednesday but we needed to be there a couple of hours earlier. We were so early in fact, that we were directed towards the boat to Prince Rupert by mistake and we were on the ramp down onto the ship before a diligent worker happened to catch the error. Given that the ferry takes 24 hours and would have landed us over one thousand kilometers from our destination, we were pretty relieved. The rest of the ride was great. We took over an area at the front of the ship by plunking down our air mattresses, sleeping bags, toys, and food basket and settled in for the long ride. The ship moved incredibly slowly but it just made the beautiful scenery last that much longer. We saw island after island blanketed in green. We also had a pod of Humpback whales follow the ship for a while. There were two movies for the kids to watch. Les and I took turns reading on the sunny deck. Before we knew it the sun had gone down and the whole family fell fast asleep. The next thing we knew it was 6:30am and we were in Bella Coola.

Having had a quick driving tour of the town before ditching our car in Bella Coola, we met Frank Tracey and put our stuff aboard Nascall One. The boat ride out of Bella Coola takes about 1 ½ hours during which time we only saw one building. The scenery is beautiful but incredibly stark. There are no beaches and few if any protected harbours that might support human habitation. The harshness of this environment makes the oasis of Nascall Bay all that much more special.

The cold, sheer walls of the Dean channel open up to the gentle estuary of the Nascall river. On the bank of the river sits a floating restaurant with a neon “OPEN” sign inviting us in. We arrived to a cup of freshly brewed coffee and our choice of home-made peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies. Within half an hour of our arrival, a native family on a crab trapping trip stopped by to say hello. Their little boy Alexander joined Molly and Finny for a dip in the natural hot springs. The water comes out of the ground at 106 degrees and without any of the usual sulphur smell. Orcas in Nascall Bay

I can’t say enough about how amazing the property is. Just about everything you could ever need is provided for by the land and water here. Hungry- just dump a crab trap off the dock, cast out a line or pick from an abundance of wild berries growing nearby. Cold- jump in the hot springs. Thirsty- get water from the spring running down the untouched mountain side. Need shelter- use the over-abundant forest for wood. Need power- harness the water pouring out of Nascall lake into the ocean 200 feet below. The guys working the property have done just this- used nature’s gifts to create a little sanctuary for people to enjoy in this vast, harsh, unforgiving land. There are 3 cabins for guests, the restaurant and a building housing the hot springs. As beautiful as it currently is, it is easy to imagine what this will look like when it is finished. It will no doubt be one of the most spectacular resorts in Canada.

E-Life is slower up here

Day 3 into the trip and it already feels like we have been away for much longer. It’s probably a result of life being a bit slower up here. We are in Port Hardy and there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to do anything. Even the ferry takes 2 hours to load. Given the size of the ferry, which is more like an oversized sail boat, 2 hours seems a bit excessive.

We started the trip on Saturday morning, July 28th, by missing a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. Having rushed home from my night shift and packed up all our gear and the family in plenty of time to make the 7:30am sailing, we were disappointed to find the boat full. However, arriving on the Sunshine coast later in the morning meant we saw the Gibson’s Sea Cavalcade Parade. The girls got a ton of candy and we were moderately entertained. (I have to admit to being a reluctant parade-goer. With the exception of Furstenfeld, where by-standers can climb on the floats and buy shots, beer and wine, I find parades to be fairly lame.)

Mike Fabri and Kristina Hall were married at Sakinaw in a ceremony on a boardwalk along the lake. The cabin was pretty unrecognizable to the one room building that I had first visited 20 years. Now there is hot and cold running water, a shower, two huge decks, 5 bedrooms and some terraced stairs and garden. The place looked great and everything went remarkably smoothly.

After a quick plunge in the lake with the Pledgers, we headed off to my cousin Karin Osberg’s wedding to Rob Ratchinsky at the Ruby lake resort. The wedding took over the whole resort for the weekend and looked like they were having a blast. It was the first time I had seen Karin and Rob together but they seem perfectly suited for each other- they both like to laugh and enjoy life.

A couple of hours later we were at Mike and Kristina’s reception which took place at the Rockwater resort. They really went all out to put on a good party. The setting was gorgeous, the food was really good and other than he/she who had to pay the alcohol bill, I can’t imagine anyone having any complaints about the evening.

The next morning we went for a swim in the lake before taking off for the first of two ferries. We arrived at Miracle Beach on Vancouver Island with about an hour of sunlight left to set up our campsite. As we erected the tent the girls were very excited to see their new home. They laughed and played but were a little concerned that their new home didn’t have a potty.

On Monday we stayed at the beach until 3pm. The sunny weather and low tide on a beautiful beach made for a fun afternoon. We built sandcastles and buried the girls in some warm tidal pools while Lucas ate more than his share of sand. After going for to a park ranger presentation on wilderness survival, we drove 3 hours up to Port Hardy. The town seemed pretty deserted so it was easy to pick out the best restaurant in town. Captain Hardy’s served huge portions of good food at a reasonable price, a combination I can really appreciate.

More to come.