This is a post from the seventh edition of my (mostly irregular) Week of Lists where I bring you seven list-type posts, one per day starting on Saturday, October 25th and ending on Halloween, leaping from the darkest corners of your internetz and scaring you into mild confusion. Stay tuned!
For most every other day of the year we stick our kids into little bubbles of protection, preaching a little too much on the stranger-danger angle, and stick them in front of glowing screens to keep them occupied as we shuttle them from one extracurricular activity to the next.
But neighborhoods are not just the places we build our houses, and neighbors are not just the people who we call bylaw enforcement about when they park their cars in front of our houses for a few hours longer than appropriate. On Halloween, neighborhoods bustle with wonder and creepy awesomeness… and if you’re brave enough to trick-or-treat on the local streets rather than hiding from the chaos in a shopping mall, there is a lot to be learned, especially if you are a kid…
4 Great Things Kids Learn from Trick-or-Treating
1. Someone lives there.
…because it is easy to forget that we live in communities. Yeah, we see the hundreds of other houses scattered around, complain about traffic, tell them to look both ways, and encounter random neighbours in the park. But there is something about going door-to-door, meeting the kindly lady with the yappy dog, or that couple who never opens their blinds, or peeking into the house of that family with seven cars parked in their driveway… something that makes a neighbourhood full of more than just lots of houses, but instead full of people and lives and all of it mashed together.
2. Even when it’s all about the costume, no one really cares what you’re wearing.
…because you’re gonna get candy, either way. It doesn’t matter that your costume is amazing or something you cobbled together using scraps from the recycling bin, you’ll still get candy. It doesn’t matter if your princess dress is layered between warm up pants and a winter jacket, you’ll still get candy. The only one judging is that face looking back in the mirror. Kids will figure out pretty quick that even though their costume is (maybe) not the epic dress-up they imagined, most grownups will still smile, and hand them a mitt-full of candy.
3. Effort (sometimes) equates to a reward…
…because if you’re willing to run a little faster, get up to doors a little quicker, or act a little cuter, you’re gonna fill your bag with treats. Not everything in life works out that way, but on Halloween kicking up the effort a notch or two can be the difference between a good haul and an epic haul.
4. Neighborhoods are still generally cool, welcoming places…
…because after dark there still seems to be a lot of lights on and a lot of pumpkins on doorsteps. We may not live in the most friendly of generations, but on Halloween everyone is expected. Neighbours are mostly neighbours, and people answer the door when you knock, ring or shout out the innocent threat of “trick or treat” at the top of your hoarse and quickly degrading lungs.
A (re)clicks post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. The bits tend to be events lacking in either (a) too many details or (b) otherwise interesting depth; Or, I’m just lacking in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
Sometimes it rains. click Sometimes it snows. Again. Spring started (if you follow the sometimes-controversial logic that seasonal equinox marks the start of a season and not the mid-point, as some would assert) last week with snow. More snow. And despite the fact that we could easily be due for at least two more months of not-unexpected snowfall, the depth and intensity of this winter’s cold and seemingly-ceaseless onslaught of snow, cold, ice, and (yes) plain old hard winter, we had kinda wished we were somehow (if not deserving of) due for an early thaw. We’re not, which of course meant that click this weekend’s runs were chilly and slippery and moderately unpleasant… not counting the company, of course.
I ran a pair of solid ten klick jaunts, one alone and one with the half’rs, and felt every step: tired I guess.
Or it may have been the click beers with the same group on Friday night. A text from Mary late in the afternoon had me wandering in the direction of Brewster’s Pub where the girls (who’d spent the previous hour at an all-ladies zumba class next door) invited a few of us guys out for beers. I needed that. Not the beer, per se, though I’m happy to indulge in a craft brew on a Friday night as much as the next bloke. More the company. Friday was a suck of a day: mentally, emotionally. I’m also not one to routinely advocate the well-worn practice of drowning one’s sorrows at the bottom of a pint, but a helluva day like Friday was deserves a social pick-me-up when available. While respecting the privacy of those involved, let’s just say that a click couple of emails and phone call brought me into a circle of old friends and for whom the brevity of life and the extreme unthinkable trials and fears of parenthood were made very real of the past couple days. It makes you want to go home and hug your own kid. Hug them. Hold them. Never let them out of your sight, and wallow in the sludge of emotional guilt derived from the clash of perspective due to the relative smallness of one’s own little day-to-day problems.
That kind of feeling somehow, justifiably, always accompanies such tragedy, and click you find yourself sitting on the couch on Saturday afternoon, wallowing, and playing video games with your daughter, aching with guilt that you’re only playing video games and not out exploring the vast world and creating epic memories proved with a thousand photographs and hours of video footage of it all. Just in case. No. Instead, you play video games. Have a cuddle-nap on the couch for a bit, then drag your sorry butts out to the store to buy birthday gifts for her friends so that she doesn’t go empty-handed to the party the next day. click It was in front of the Canadian Tire, laying in a skiff of snow in the parking lot just waiting to be run over by the next car, where Claire found an iPhone. It was fully-charged, password-locked, and completely devoid of ownership identification. And while I tried to crack in to find some ID –even using the (unregistered) code on the case to (fail to) track down the owner– ultimately we left it at the lost-and-found and went on our merry way, to dinner, to home, to bed, to wallow a bit more on the couch hoping that Sunday would be a better day.
Which it was. click Swimming club try-outs, lunch down-town, and some musical theatre –has anyone heard of a little play called Mary Poppins— rounded out a family-fun-afternoon and we capped that off with click the aforementioned birthday party, grown-ups included, and a pleasant evening with neighbors and friends, old a new. All the while we tried to forget that it was still bitter-cold not-quite-spring outside, and the reality of the universe that awaited us on Monday morning. But then that’s just life, isn’t it?
Once more it is June. Again. And again I embark upon that epic effort of daily blogging, take three, wherein I call upon myself for a kind of rambling focus, picking from a list of daily topics, and with neither planning nor advance writing, strive to pepper this blog with the free-thought, free-writing wonder that is another one of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 8th // Something You Have Fixed
While some folks might suggest that in putting a hole in a perfectly good fence you are –in fact– doing the exact opposite of “fixing it” I would contest that in this particular case understanding our reasoning for doing just that most definitely factors into the consideration.
It’s been about a month since I tacked up a few extra bits of lumber to the fence, pulled out a saw, and cut an eighteen inch square portal in the fence adjoining our yard with that of our next door neighbors.
We had a problem that needed fixing, see. The problem: the kids played together all the time, Claire with the two kids next door and also the two more kids two doors down. (That’s not the problem.) The problem was that to get next door one or all of those kids needed to route around the front of the house, around to the far side and then into the other back yards.
It’s not that I’m paranoid about kid safety or particularly concerned with convience for a group of little kids. Quite the opposite: kids should be boht independent and challenged. But it was more that I was forever opening gates, throwing balls over the fence, answering frantically ringing doorbells, replying to pointless requests for permission, and debating the merits of “just go over there and play” with a kid who had to “walk all the way over there” and couldn’t be bothered.
Fix: a new hole in the fence. Now everyone just hops back and forth, through and back. And life in our backyards just got a little more fun.
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth; Or lacking in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
Summer arrived in a flash. Remember how I was complaining that winter was hanging on just a wee-tiny-little-bit too long? Yeah. Well, it disappeared overnight one day about a week and a half ago and summer arrived in a burst of oh-my-gosh I-need-to-change-my-snow-tires-before-they-melt-in-this-heat kind-of panic.
The New Purple Bike
Luckily Claire was prepared. A couple weeks ago we found our way over to United Cycle and she became the proud owner of a brand new bike.
We’ve never been particularly cheap about bikes, but the last bike we bought her was a Sears special and it was never really intended to last her more than a couple seasons. She learned to ride on that little princess-adorned hunk-o-junk though, and we put it through the ringer in terms of modifications, crashes, and generally poor maintenance. And it became very apparent that, well, the cool winter weather must have shrunk it or something because Claire just didn’t fit on it anymore.
The new bike is something more of an investment. She’s just-barely-big-enough to fit it with lots of room to grow. And it’s something of a punch-in-the-dad-face of growing-kid-ness to see such a big-kid bike sitting in our house and knowing that it belongs to my — *sniff* — little baby girl.
Fences, Gates, and Green Paint
The kids have been bugging me for over a year now. And when I write kids — plural — I mean my single child plus her co-conspirators next door. We lucked out on our street in the last couple years. The two families who moved in (a) right next door and (b) two doors down are all lovely people with kids just right around Claire’s own age. They play together, hang out together, and…
Well, the problem with how we built the fence a couple years ago was two-fold: (1) our gate was designed to keep everything out and has not aged well, becoming almost impossible for me to open unless the stars are aligned and the humidity is just right, and (2) the original neighbors did not build a gate, so to get to their backyard one needs to walk all the way around the front of the house.
None of them let me forget that I offered.
The kids hatched a plan: build a set of stairs and a slide over the fence so they could go visit. I hatched a slightly more modest and realistic plan: cut a hold in the fence so they could climb through… and of course, none of them let me forget that I offered.
So, one Saturday morning about a week ago I got out the tools, got out the paint, and (first) disassembled and then rebuilt the gate so that it works properly and (second) used the extra lumber from the gate to cut, trim, and build a kind of portal in the fence between the two yards. And since the two houses next door never actually built a fence between them, voila! Three yards — and three sets of kids — are suddenly interconnected for the summer.
Of course as soon as spring-slash-summer hit soccer started. So I’ve been playing the dutiful soccer dad, attending every practice and capturing priceless moments of my not-exactly-competitive daughter — um — participating in a team sport. I think she got her athletic ability and interest from her dad, if you know what I’m saying.
Double Running Man
Well, at least her dad-as-a-kid. My athletic interest has me running epic runs these days. I’ve run a couple of races, one for each of the last weekends:
First… a pretty little bedroom community just a gnat’s breath to the North of Edmonton, the City of St. Albert played host to the RunWild race series on May 5. I had found myself registered in the half-marathon, and had been actively maintaining my training for that race over the last few months.
Then summer happened. No, really. All in one day. It’s as if on Friday morning we were thinking about how great is was going to be when the snow finally disappeared and spring arrived. On Saturday we were in shorts, doing yard work. And on Sunday — race day — we were full-on in Summer, having skipped Spring altogether.
The consequence was multi-fold. The race course, which was meant to be a relatively flat run through the river-creek trail system that bisects the City, was flooded. Really flooded. So much flooded in fact that I was surprised to have seen a map of a creek on Google Maps when I loaded it up to find out the name of the lake we had run beside that morning. It was not a lake, obviously. And because of the flooding they had diverted the route up and into the neighbourhoods adding a multitude of more hills than I was expecting.
It was also hot… the hottest weather we’d run in for six months, in fact. It was even warmer than my December run through the streets of Las Vegas.
I ended up with a modest time of 2:08, a very nice finisher medal, and a goodly case of heat-stroke to boot.
Less than a week later I found myself at the start line of yet another race. After running a half marathon the weekend before, it might seem like a step down to have been prepping to run an 8 km run. But if you are thinking that then it may be because you’ve never tried trail running.
I’ve tried to explain this to many runners at some point, the differences between running mostly on level asphalt versus bushwacking through a trail run. So, this time I took a video, strapping a sports cam to my head and filming my race. It follows:
You may notice that while some of the race is in the open and clear, much of it is through winding, hilly scambles, along dirt paths that occasionally leave you shakey and uncertain, wondering if you are more than a few seconds away from a tumble over a cliff into the river or a mis-step away from some kind of doom.
Which apparently I was… at about 3 and a half kilometers in — you can hear me wince in the video — I caught my foot on some uneven ground, or a root, or something, and rolled my ankle. Adrenaline and lack of proximity to a course marshall meant by the time I hobbled myself to a point where I could throw in the towel, I was feeling well enough to finish. So I ran the last four and a half clicks on a sprained ankle… and of course, regretted it the next day.
Fifty-two minutes was my final time, but I might be out of training for a week or two. *sigh*
An extra challenge this year.
Let the Yard Work Begin
Of course, with a hobbled ankle, yard work and getting the garden planted is going to be an extra challenge this year. It will get done. It’s already started, but turning all that soil is looking a little (ok… a LOT) more daunting than normal.
And the Winner is…
And on one final note… drum roll! Karin won an award at work: a Presidents League prize for general dedication and hard work. A gift basket, some general honours and a bit of a bonus. Pretty cool. She works hard and deserves it… but then I’m probably biased.