Summer of Selfies

This past summer our family didn’t go an any big road trips, hop on any planes; or cruise on any ships. What we did do was have a wonderful adventure in our beautiful city and province. Spearheaded by my wife, Allison, we spent our two weeks of vacation traveling around Edmonton, visiting many city parks, playgrounds, and splash parks. We took some side trips to places like Drumheller and Hinton, but for the most part we were staycationing it up in good ol’ YEG. As a way of documenting our days, we took a family selfie for each day. Some were easy, some needed a little (read: a lot) of coaxing, but in the end, we created a unique visual record of our summer. There were some days that were non-stop activities, while others were a simple picnic in a park, but either way we had a vacation filled with fun, beautiful weather, and lots of love.

As any Edmontonian will tell you, it’s easy to get down on ourselves; as easy as a Canadian saying, “sorry.” I was one of those people, too, but more and more I am finding pride in our city. We have wonderful playgrounds, many of them erected through the hard work and dedication of our wonderful community leagues. We have great green spaces and free or low-cost programmes provided by the City, and even if you decide to go outside the city, there are many spectacular places that are a day’s drive away. Thanks to my wife and family for a great summer, and thanks to my city for continuing to reach for greatness while remaining grounded to the community.

Day 1
Day 1 – International Street Performers Festival, Churchill Square, Edmonton
Day 2
Day 2 – Kids’ DIY Project, Skyview Home Depot, Edmonton
Day 3
Day 3 – Picnic, Borden Park, Edmonton
Day 4
Day 4 – New blue doors, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 5
Day 5 – Picnic, Kinsmen Park, Edmonton
Day 6
Day 6 – Dinosaurs! Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
Day 7
Day 7 – Nap, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 8
Day 8 – Auntie Gordine’s House, Hinton
Day 9
Day 9 – Famdamily selfie, Wild Mountain Music Festival, Hinton
Day 10
Day 10 – Dancing to Delhi to Dublin, Wild Mountain Music Festival, Hinton
Day 11
Day 11 – Hanging out with Jasper the Bear (the smaller one), Jasper
Day 12
Day 12 – Spray park, Jackie Parker Park, Edmonton
Day 13
Day 13 – Poolside, Fred Broadstock Pool, Edmonton
Day 14
Day 14 – Spray park, Sherbrooke Park, Edmonton
Day 15
Day 15 – Rainy day, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 16
Day 16 – In the boot, Wedgewood, Edmonton
Day 17
Day 17 – Going out in style, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 17b
Day 17b – Party’s over, Chinery House, Edmonton
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The Ungood Ukulele Player – My Heart

For Mother’s Day I am posting a song that I named in honour of my wife, Allison.

It is for all that she does for me and our family. It is for her patience and love. It is for being there through the good times and the not so good times (though the good greatly outnumber the not so good). It is for the mere fact that it’s the only song I’ve come up with so far that she’s told me she likes.

Happy Mother’s Day, my heart.

All your Space LEGO base are belong to us, or, Memories of sparkly legs and being baked by the space heater

This past Christmas I received a very unique and wonderful gift from my younger sister, Carmen. My sister gave me LEGO, but not just any LEGO; this was LEGO from my past. When I was growing up we had several different LEGO sets from the basic red blue and yellow sets to fancy castles. As a young boy I would spend hours in the front porch of my parent’s home building with LEGO. I would build and rebuild the specific sets, but I found myself spending most of my LEGO time exercising my imagination and creating my own structures and landscapes. As I grew older, I spent less and less time playing with LEGO. However, a tradition had come about in our house, quite organically, that occurred at Christmas time. It was at Christmas that myself, and my two sisters as well, would pull out the LEGO and rebuild the sets.

IMG_3965
My Christmas present.

As I have said, we had several different sets, but my favourite sets were the space ones. I loved building those sets, but I also loved creating my own ships and bases using the pieces from the sets. The best pieces were the base pieces which were grey and had mounds and craters on them, and the scaffolding-like pillars that could be used as building supports or tail pieces for ships. Over the years pieces became lost, as LEGO is wont to do, and I would  scavenge from other sets to compensate. When I left home, the LEGO stayed at my parents’ house. As the years passed I began to think about LEGO only in passing.

The cool craters.
The cool craters.
The cool supports.
The cool supports.

Now that I have two children of my own, LEGO is back in the house. My daughter, Abigail, was quick to pick up LEGO very early on and I am constantly amazed at what she is able to create at only six years of age. My son, Graeme, who is three, is beginning to discover LEGO as well; and I find now that I am rediscovering LEGO myself. In addition, one of the programmes we offer at the Children’s Library I work at is a weekly LEGO club, and I have had the pleasure of hosting this club several times since starting there a year and a half ago. With the reintroduction of LEGO into my life, imagine my delight as I opened my gift from Carmen and discovered all three of the space sets, the original sets, completely reconstructed. It seems my sister had picked up the sets from my parents, went through the instructions, which we still had, and by way of online sellers, purchased all the missing pieces for each set. It was a Christmas miracle!

6930.
6930.
918.
918.
6970.
6970.

A couple of days later, I set to work building my Space LEGO. I made it a point to include Abigail in the process, as she has clearly shown an interest and it was a perfect opportunity to share some quality time with her. As we worked on the sets I told my daughter about how I played with these very same LEGO when I was young. At the same time I was reminiscing to myself about the times I spent in my parents front porch. One specific memory that came back very strongly involved the space heater we used to have. My parent’s front porch, although enclosed, was quite drafty in the winter and so we had an electric space heater. I had the habit of sitting right up against that heater as I built with the LEGO on the floor. I would get so hot from the heater that my skin would get itchy and I would have to pull away periodically to cool my skin down. Then I would snuggle back up to the heater and continue building. I would spend so much time cross-legged on the floor that the circulation in my legs would get cut off. This meant that if I did have to change position, usually to get away from the heater, I would have to endure the pins and needles as circulation was suddenly restored to my limbs. Leaving a building session was usually painful and awkward as all hell as I would stumble around on legs that were completely numb, then sparkly, then filled with an agonising throb that would force me to freeze on the spot; even the slightest movement would cause a shock to go through my body as I waited for the flow of blood to normalise throughout my legs. These are the things that were going through my head as I was building LEGO with my daughter. Neat, huh? As we moved onto the space ship set (918) I came across a wing piece that had been chewed; this was most likely done by our first dog, Buddy. Buddy was an English Cocker Spaniel, and as I worked to fit this damaged piece into my ship I realised that this LEGO had once again brought me memories of my youth. I was unable to get the wing piece to fit properly; there had been too much damage; but as I looked at my ship I knew that I would always be able to find a particular joy in this busted piece of LEGO.

Construction.
Construction.
6930.
6930.
6970.
6970.
918.
918.
Base of operations.
Base of operations.
Flight check.
Flight check.
The chewed wing.
“Sir. I believe one of the wings has been… well… chewed.”

It didn’t take long at all for Abigail and I to complete all three sets. Funny, I seem to remember it taking longer when I was a kid. Even though it didn’t take long, it was a special moment to share with her, and I want to thank Carmen for helping to create that moment.

A few days ago my daughter and I were building LEGO together. I was, of course, sitting cross-legged. As my wife called from upstairs to let us know that supper was ready, I knew as soon as I started to move that it would be a perilous journey up the stairs.

Keeping the “Christmas” in Christmas

I had already started this post a couple of times, and each time I ended up getting bogged down with excessive wordage and tangents that trailed off and died slow painful deaths concurrently. I have also blogged about this in the past, but it’s once again on my mind so I’m going to try to keep this short and semi-sweet.

It’s Christmas time, and as it is Christmas time I will be wishing my family, friends, and people I meet, Merry Christmas; because it’s Christmas. I am not a Christian; I am not religious; I don’t believe in gods, messiahs, or poorly engineered censuses within Roman provinces in the ancient Near East. Yet, I wish you a Merry Christmas all the same, because it’s Christmas; and every other PC, accommodating, watered-down term seems, well, lame. I also realise that there are other faith traditions that celebrate this time of year, but other than using something broad like “Happy Holidays,” I will continue on with, Merry Christmas. For me, Christmas is about family and tradition. It’s about memories from the past and new ones in the making. It’s about decorating trees, opening gifts, and sharing meals. It’s about cookies and milk for Santa, and hay under the table and garlic under the table-cloth to ward of evil spirits. Christmas is about singing carols, working out which key to start off in. It’s about that feeling on Christmas morning that I experienced as a child, and now get to experience through the eyes of my own children.

I will be spending Christmas celebrating with my family as we carry on old traditions and create new ones. Others will be spending their Christmas celebrating in their own special way; some will even be celebrating the birth of Jesus. However you wish to celebrate, have yourself a merry little Christmas. I invite my fellow atheists to wish each other Merry Christmas as well. After all, we can wish each other a happy Thursday without getting all bent out of shape over Norse religion, can we not? Of course, the choice is entirely yours; but as for me, I will be keeping the “Christmas” in Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

The long and winding road, in which my iPhone becomes an ad hoc dashboard cam

I love the mountains. I love visiting them; I love walking by them; I love driving through them.

This year for our vacation the family hopped in the van and drove from Edmonton to Calgary, Alberta to visit my sister and then on to Kelowna, British Columbia. After a four days in Kelowna, we headed up to Hinton, Alberta to visit more family and then back home to Edmonton. A lot of driving was done, including a 15 hour marathon drive through the Canadian Rocky Mountains along the Icefields Parkway (not recommended). As we initially approached the Rockies on our way to Kelowna, I decided to take a couple of photos of the mountains ahead of us. I’m not sure what made me decide to continue, but what follows is a driver’s eye view of our journey.

What is not included are the delightful sounds of the two young children in the back.

Happy Father’s Day Dads (including me)

Just a quick post to wish all the fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day.

Special mention goes out, of course, to my father, John. Thanks for all the sacrifices you made in order to raise three independent, unique children who, even though have chosen different paths in life, nevertheless carry on your trademark wit and wisdom, if not your lack of skill with tools of any sort. From you I have learned that even though we must often become one with the masses, it does not mean we stop being individuals. You have taught me that it’s not how much you talk, but rather what you say that people will respect. Yours is a quiet strength that I carry inside.  Thank you, as well, to my father-in-law, Robert, who, 12 years ago, gave his daughter’s hand to mine so that we could wed. She has your strength, perseverance, and above all, a love and devotion to family that continues to influence myself and our children.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife and my two children, without whom I would not be a father. Thank you, Allison, for being my friend, my rock, for being the one person upon whom I can rely on time and time again. You are the one who keeps our family together. You are the one that makes me want to be a better man. Thank you, Abigail, for being Daddy’s darling girl. Before you came I had no idea if I was ready to be a father and now I’m certain I wouldn’t want to be anything else. You continue to surprise us, delight us, and make us proud. Your passion for knowledge assures me that there is little beyond you reach.  Thank you, Graeme, for being Daddy’s little guy. You have presented us with some challenging moments, to be sure, but none can match your delightful smile and the determination you possess. In a world of multitasking, you show us the serene power of focus and dedication. Your independence will be your strength, and you will achieve that which you have placed in your sights.

In my life I have made many mistakes; I have failed at many tasks and given up. Yet when I think of my children, no matter how many mistakes I make and no matter how many times I fail, I will never give up on being a father.

Good morning, Mr. Chinery. This is your 2 AM wake-up call.

Kids are funny. Sometimes they’re ha-ha funny, like when they laugh uncontrollably, or when they delightfully skew a request for Corn Pops so that it becomes “Porn Cops.” Sometimes they’re ha-ha funny. Sometimes they’re not ha-ha funny. Sometimes they’re why-are-you-doing-this-to-me funny; they’re what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you-and-why-can’t-I-figure-you-out funny; you know, that kind of funny.

I had already had problems getting my son to bed; well, more like problems getting him to stay in bed. He actually went to bed fine, round 7:00 PM. However, by 11:00 PM he was awake and unhappy, and the game of 20 thousand questions began:

“Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s bed?”

“No.”

Do you want to sleep on the couch?”

“No.”

“Would you like something to drink?”

“Ye-ah.”

“Do you want some milk?”

“No.”

“Do you want some water?”

“Ye-ah.”

“Okay. Here’s your water. Now it’s time for bed.”

“No!”

“Do you want to sleep on the couch?”

“No.”

“Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s bed?”

“No.”

“Do you want to sleep in your bed?”

“No!”

“Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s bed?”

“Ye-ah.”

[Sometimes you have to offer something once, have him refuse it, offer something that is less desirable, have him refuse it, and then go back to the previous selection to have him accept it.]

Graeme’s now sleeping in our [Mommy’s] bed while I’m on the couch finishing up the Carrie/Carrie 2 double bill. It’s now 12:00 AM and it should be safe to move Graeme back into his bed without him waking up and putting us through this production again. Time for Daddy to get to bed.

2:00 AM. Graeme’s awake and crying. Shit.

I open his door and find him standing in the middle of his room, crying. I do a quick check of his diaper and find it to be on the verge of bursting, as usual. This presents a further problem as changing out of a wet diaper is high on Graeme’s least favourite things to do.

“Can we change you?”

“No!”

“I think we should change you.”

“No!”

“Do you want to go on the couch?”

“No.”

“Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s bed?”

“No.”

“Do you want a drink?” I ask with a marked tone of self-defeat as this is exactly how we came about to the 20 pound diaper which I have yet to resolve.

“Ye-ah.”

Of course. We move into the kitchen and I get a small drink of water whilst planning my next move.

“Here, Graeme. Let’s just change you like this,” as I move to perform the diapering-of-a-standing-child maneuver; it never really works.

“No!”

Too late, my boy, I’ve already got your bottoms down; let’s just get this over with. Graeme suddenly seems resigned to his fate, if such a term can be used to describe the exchange of a soppingly soiled diaper for a fresh, clean one. Alright, clean diaper: check. Something to drink: check. Something to drink for Daddy: negative, but tempting.

“Time for bed, Graeme?”

“No.”

“Do you want to sleep on the couch?”

“No. A bowl?”

“You want something to eat?”

“Ye-ah.”

“Fine.”

I get a little bit of Cheerios in a bowl for Graeme with him chanting all the while, “A-molk, a-molk, a-molk.”

“Yes, Graeme. I’ll put some milk in it.”

We move into the living room, “Would you like to sit on the couch?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll just put the bowl here,” as I set down on the coffee table, right before I drop onto the couch myself, massaging my temples as a massive headache is forming. Graeme in response just stands there.

“Go ahead; eat.”

“No.”

“Are you done?” (This sometimes works to prompt him to either start or continue eating)

“No,” he responds, and yet makes no move to eat. What the hell?

“Look, Graeme. Just eat your cereal so we can get back to bed.”

“No!”

“Fine! Whatever! I’m going to sleep!” I lie down on the couch as my head continues to throb.

Predictably, this sets him off and he starts to cry. Perfect. All I need is for him to wake his sister and my early morning will be complete. My head is killing me, I’m tired, and I’ve reached a seeming impasse with a two-and-half-year-old who is keeping me hostage in the wee hours of the morning. This isn’t working, obviously. I sit down on the floor and bring Graeme into my lap. Not only does he allow this, he snuggles into me. This is different; my son does not snuggle. I take the moment for all it is and rock back and forth as Graeme settles down. My head is still hurting, but I don’t dare give in, not when I’m so close.

It only takes a couple of minutes for Graeme to settle right down, and so I carry him off to his bed. As soon as I lay him down, he starts rolling his head from side to side; this is his signature move to signal that he’s ready to fall asleep. At 3:00 AM, after and hour of lunacy, I finally take some Tylenol and climb back into bed. At least I can salvage some sleep time before I have to get up to take the kids to their day home.  At 4:15 AM, the dog is scratching at the bedroom door to be let out.

Fuck you, Regal; you’re not funny.

[Note: I was planning to post this yesterday evening, but was, predictably, interrupted by my son waking up]