Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday Decorating

The lights are up. I got the boxes of decorations, ornaments, and lights out of the garage on Sunday, but I never did get around to putting up more than just a few of them. I put the box in the corner of the dining room and hoped that the twins would not get into it. Thankfully they didn't, but the elder 3 M's have been campaigning with their mother to get the lights on the wall.

Each night since, I managed to avoid looking at the box in the corner, until tonight when Cheryl (very casually) mentioned the kids wanting to know when the lights were going to be up.

So I have been up on the step stool most of this evening with a roll of masking tape, putting up our two strings of lights near the ceiling. This has been my practice for the last 5 years because it's best to minimize the opportunities for small hands to have at the lights. We've probably got another few years before the allure of all the little light-bulbs wears off for the M's. For that reason alone this will probably turn into a tradition which we will all forget the origins of.

After I had the lights up I still had all of our tree ornaments to put up. You've already seen our tree, so you'll understand why that was not an option.

It was more a random thought (and in truth, desperation) than any inspiration that led me to start hanging the ornaments from the lights, but once I got started, the more natural a solution it seemed to be. As Kipling would have said, "And if you think about it, you know it must be so."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Look what Cheryl found!

.. when she went in to use the bathroom! None of the bathroom lights were on except the nightlight and the door to the bathroom was shut.

Maribeth loves all things Dora, so it's not all that surprising she had Madeleine's electric Dora the Explorer toothbrush. It's not every day though that you find your youngest child sitting in the sink with her big sister's toothbrush!

Cheryl notes that Maribeth is quite the climber since there were no step-stools or chairs in the bathroom for her to boost herself up to access the sink.


That's right - the first snow of the year!! It was already above freezing and starting to melt on contact when the kids woke me up this morning. But there was a bit still on the ground, so we bundled up and headed outside before breakfast!

Christmas landed next door

Our Neighbour's house
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Our neighbour really gets into decorating for the holidays. He was out most of Sunday getting his Christmas decorations up. Our kids are begging us to decorate our house like that.

That is NOT happening here! We don't need an electric bill like he's going to have! They will just have to make do with enjoying the decorations outdoors. Michael and Melissa can both see them from their tops bunks anyway.

On a related note:

Winter is Here! There was frost this morning when Allan left for work - 1st time scraping the van!

Then after a cold and windy day - it started to snow this evening. Here it is still just flurries and nothing is sticking as it's only about freezing still. But on the way back from orchestra rehearsal in Abbotsford - it was snowing so hard that it looked like the van was going through hyperspace and it WAS sticking. There is a possibilty that we may wake up tomorrow morning to the first snow!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Draw a Pig

Draw a Pig Personality test.

I'll put my results in a comment. Don't read it until after you take it!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Raising Readers, Part II

My parents spent a LOT of time reading to the twins. Megan has really, really latched onto books. Overheard today as Megan sat with a book "reading" to Maribeth "The Man and his Dump truck" where the man picks up a bunch of animals. That's one of the books my Dad read to them a lot when he was out here!

"Mar-bef - I read you book" Megan opens book and starts "reading" while turning pages. Maribeth sits next to her and listens intently.

"a truck...a going...animals"
"a pig Oink! many pigs? Oink"
"a dog woof woof"
"a duck QUACK"

Maribeth says "book!" and tries to take it away from Megan.

"NO! No! I READING!" says Megan and grabs the book back.

"A cat meow"
"animals going truck"
"WEEEEEEEEE" (as the animals slide down the dump truck)
"A bye bye" (as the animals get off)
she repeated all the animals sounds!

So cute! Megan is amazing me with her language - they will be 22 months next week. Maribeth is not talking much BUT she's getting "read to" a LOT.

Missing Mission...

Sunset at Hayward Lake
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Yes - eventually one or both of us will blog about our day. But let me just say for now, our Sabbath adventure really reminded both of us how much we REALLY want move away from the city!

Just driving over the Mission bridge, I could feel the tension dissipating. The (ultimately ill-fated) drive up to Harrison Hot Springs was so replenishing!

I really, really miss living in Mission. I spent one very pivotal year in Mission, communting to school via bicycle. Every day I went down the hill, over the bridge, and into Abbotsford. I would bicycle around in back of Mission to work off stress. City (sub-urban) living (not to mention urban bicycling!) is so stressful, so busy, so many people!

Even where we now live is way more urban than either of us prefer. Give us trees, lakes, mountains, quiet, and clean air over the hustle-and-bustle of a city any day! When we move again, it will most likely be to somewhere farther east of Vancouver.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Aventure en Novembre

It goes without saying that outdoor adventure in British Columbia in the winter months is cold and wet. But for the prepared and committed (resigned, if you're still learning to love this province), it has its rewards.

According to the meteorologists, today's temps were to hover between 0c and 5c. And depending on where you lived in the valley, the POP would be minimal or guaranteed.

When we got up, old Sol was well into the sky. The bright yellow light was so welcome after well over a week of fog so thick it put me in mind of Mordor. We couldn't pass up this opportunity to get out with the kids. It has been literally weeks since we've all been out together.

So we hotted up a thermos of chocolate and a thermos of Cheryl's patented vegetable soup, grabbed our copy of 109 Walks in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, bundled up the kids nice and warm, and piled everyone into the van.

Cheryl found a short walk up near Harrison Lake that starts near the hotsprings hotel there and goes out to Whipporwill Point. We're working our way through all 109 walks with the kids, so this seemed like a good opportunity to do a walk we had not done yet.

Our spirits were dampened a little by some rain that started to fall as we came over the crest of Mount Lehman coming into Abbotsford. But they picked up again when we came out from under the shower just past Clearbrook Road. On impulse, I decided to take the Sumas exit and headed north to Mission.

The kids were somewhat incredulous as we explained to them that Mommy used to ride her bike from Mission to Abbotsford and back each day to go to school. The province is widening the highway now, but for years it's been a very busy two-lane artery with shoulders in name only. The extra lanes in each direction and 3 foot, almost 4 foot shoulders are very welcome. In fact, this is where Cheryl and I switched seats and she took the wheel for the rest of our drive up to Harrison Lake.

The reason I took us north is that one of the most scenic drives in the Lower Mainland exists between Mission and Agassiz on the Lougheed Highway - Number 7. Sure it's got more twists, turns, ups, and downs than the Trans-Canada, Highway 1. But it more than makes up for that by giving you lots to look at and ponder as the miles spin away under your wheels.

Every year I see cycle tourists riding along the Trans-Canada (which they can, east of Abbotsford) or maybe on the side roads of Sumas Prairie, and I wonder why they pound the pedals for so little reward (except maybe in April when the tulips are out)? Especially when they could be riding on the Number 7.

From Mission, Number 7 meanders east through fields of corn between the Fraser River on its right and the Coast Range on its left. Along the way you pass through little villages like Hatzic, Lake Errock, Harrison Mills, and Kilby.

You can turn off by the Sasquatch Inn and go up to the Hemlock ski resort or the Morris Valley road further into the Chehalis back-country. It's been years, but I went up there once on a canoe trip down one of the fish-streams that fed into the Harrison River and down to the beach at Kilby.

It was about half-way between Mission and Lake Errock that the weather turned sour on us. If I recall, it was as we were passing a road-side stand that was selling both free-range eggs and boxes of Christmas oranges. Because the sleet was falling half-heartedly, we decided to press on. Because the good weather was following along behind us, I figured there might be a chance of some sunshine by the time we pulled into Harrison Village.

We crossed the bridge at Harrison Mills, which is down to one lane these days because they're either repairing it or widening it. I couldn't quite tell from the signs. On the other side, the sleet let up and we had some hail instead. We were afraid at the time of asking if things could get any goofier weatherwise.

Thinking back now, the hail made sense as the area between Kilby and Agassiz is known for it's consistent winds. I remember bicycling with Richard through there one summer afternoon and passing some folks who were packing up their hang-gliders. Luckily, when you head east, the prevailing winds are with you and not agin ye.

There's a small mountain you have to climb between Kilby and Agassiz. I don't know what it's called, but at various points the road winds around some shoulders and the trees clear away so you can see some fantastic views of the Fraser River and valley below. I'm pretty sure the area on the other side of the river that you can see is called Rosedale. It's the furthest east part of Chilliwack before the southern side of the valley squeezes in close to the Fraser.

I mention the mountain because what goes up, must come down, and in this case, it goes down in precipitous fashion. I remember finding this downhill pretty intimidating on a loaded touring bike. It's only marginally better in an enclosed vehicle.

Perhaps I am making it out to be worse than it really is, because I did manage to pedal all the way up on the way back with an only-slightly-less loaded bike. I guess you'll have to ride or drive it yourself and make up your own mind.

The clock is telling me that I'm making this way too long, so I'll cut to the chase. We got to Harrison Lake. The long drive precipitated a dash to a public facility. The meteorological precipitate also soaked the people dashing to the public facility, which postponed the walk to Whipporwill Point indefinitely.

We piled everyone back into the van and decided to head back west.

We turned off the Lougheed just past the Ruskin Dam and headed to Stave Lake. We never made it there because your humble navigator sent Cheryl down the hill instead of up it, and we ended up at Hayward Lake instead.

Even there, we were stymied, sort of. B.C. Hydro shut down the Hayward Lake trail for the season, so we did Harry's Trail, which goes around the beaver pond next to the lake instead. The kids thought this just fine and a good time was had all around.

We consumed our lukewarm chocolate and soup in the gazebo near the parking lot and considered ourselves well adventured for the day.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Gift

I was leaving the office on Friday and came out to see an evening sky that moved me beyond words.

After a tough week of driving to work in the dark, long days in my air-conditioned cave office, and then driving home in the dark and fog, it felt like I was being released from prison.

The computer fairy

Playing on the computer
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Finally caught on camera - the one who gets on your computer and does all sorts of mysterious things when you aren't looking:

.. Missing files?
.. Hey where did that come from?
.. How did my settings get all messed up?

Well now you know. It's the computer fairy.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Our tree is up!

Up out of reach of the twins that is. We think. We hope. We wish.

Addendum: For you people with the lovely themed trees, ours does indeed have a theme. It's doomed.

Raising Readers

Overheard today - Melissa to Maddy as Melissa was trying to teach Maddy sounds of letters.

"Maddy - at first you won't like to try and learn to read. You might even hate it. But then you will learn more and more and then you will LOVE it and then you will want to read all the time. Like me - I didn't like to learn to read either and now I LOVE to read...."

She's doing really really well with her reading right now and has taken a big cognitive leap. Yesterday - it was quiet so I went to see what was up and Melissa had the other 4 kids on the couch listening to her read easy reader books. Michael is also really starting to be able to read some of the easier easy reader books as well!

The "NO TV during the day until you both learn how to read" rule that we put in place last month is working!!!

We locked the TV up so they can't get up before me and turn on the TV or turn it on when I am not looking. We do still have family movie nights and I usually put on a 30 min video - Mr. Rogers, Baby Einstein or the like so I can make supper but lately Melissa and Michael are reading books, drawing pictures, writing notes/stories ect while the video is going!

Melissa wrote me a note yesterday "I want to clene the bathroom". Actually she wanted ME to clean the bathroom and but she did help - she was right - the bathroom needed cleaning desparately!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Walking in a cloud

Walking in a cloud
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Thick thick fog today - extermely limited visibility and cold.

The perfect day for a foggy day adventure! The M's were SO hyper this afternoon that we packed up for a walk in the fog. It turned into an almost 3 hour adventure. The kids LOVED it:

"Everything looks different in this fog" and "This is the best adventure EVER!"

We saw a lot of construction equipment, a small rushing stream; we bought a few groceries, a small Christmas tree, a long sleeved shirt for me; Maribeth lost her Robeez bootie, we re-traced much of our steps looking for it, gave up and went to the consignment store to use our store credit on a pair of shoes for her to wear home (2 sizes big so they can grow into them). Then we actually found the booties on our way back home!!!

We walked home in complete foggy darkness - well - I should say RAN! Being that there are precious few sidewalks - we all ran for our lives for driveways when we saw car lights approaching in the fog! I think we need to get some reflective vests or something!

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Cheryl is a hottie"

Site statistics show 134 hits as of last Saturday night / Sunday after posting pictures of Cheryl. That is 4x our usual volume over the last month or so. So there you go. Cheryl is officially a "hottie".

Our previous highwater mark was 99 hits total for the day back on September 19, a 3 post day:

The Curse of Mediocrity,
Maddy's 'new' toy kitchen, and
Remember this book?

Wow - a Couple Photo!

Hey a photo of both of us dressed up together!
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl - from a photo by Duncan Stickings.

We are both dressed up too - I don't know when the last time was that someone took a photo of both of us dressed up but it's been a LONG time!

Duncan was going around taking photos of everyone at the company year-end party on Saturday night. He got a couple of photos with Allan and I. Thanks Duncan!

For those who don't know - Duncan is Allan's immediate boss and has a digital SLR to die for. He takes some incredible photographs. Check out his photos here.

Maddy's 4th Birthday redux

Happy belated birthday Maddy!
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Today Maddy got to open her birthday presents from Auntie Ally and Auntie Beth! She was thrilled to have another 4th birthday!

The Dora the Explorer figurine and Dora the Explorer story book from Auntie Beth where great hits with Maddy AND the twins. Melissa read much of the book to the M's on the couch while I cleaned up after breakfast.

Auntie Ally sent a new computer game "Blue's Clues Kindergarten". I set it up for Madeleine right away and set up the other kids computer with Michael's "Blue's Clues Birthday Adventure" computer game.

This kept all 5 M's occupied for almost 2 hours!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Twins at Play

Megan and Maribeth
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Megan and Maribeth are starting to play WITH each other - not just beside each other. It's so cute to watch.

Twins play with Dora