The light doesn’t always cooperate. Neither does the weather. Or your subject. Or the dozens of freshly hatched mosquitoes swarming above your head as you’re trying to snap a photo.
In other words we’re calling today an exercise in what can be accomplished with less than five seconds of planning at the end of a shortened walk. We’d wandered over to the green-space beside the highway hoping to get a nice wide angle shot with some visual interest along the horizon and a storm cloudy sky above.
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The dog came along because, well, she’s a dog… she didn’t have a choice. The kid came along because, well, she’s a kid… she also didn’t have a choice. Both were impatient, restless, and borderline uncooperative because, well, they are a kid and a dog being dragged along on an evening photo adventure in mosquito country.
We snapped about a dozen pics and dashed home. This was the best of the lot.
I had the day off. It was a Friday. That happens.
By mid-afternoon the dog was pining for some attention because in opinions other than hers, the day had been relatively productive. After all, we finished the last little bit of work in Karin’s office, getting the new furniture assembled and mounted. We took away a bunch of the recyclables. And I washed and gassed the car, followed by changing out the headlights (so I can actually see while I’m driving.) But apparently (if you are a dog) these things are meaningless.
So, we went for a walk.
But, what is moderately cool for me is chilly for a whippet with little fur.
We walked the perimeter of the park, she was dressed in her coat and I was toting a camera, and by the time we’d got two-thirds of the way around she was doing that little skittled-jumping-pulling-I-wanna-go-home-thing and I was speed walking to comply.
She was also very uncooperative about having her photo taken. Maybe the camera looks like treats.
Sparkle has cabin fever. The poor dog has just about enough fur to protect her from a cool summer breeze, and so in the deepest, coldest days of winter –as we’ve been experiencing here for the last week– she goes outside long enough to pee and that’s about it.
Add to the mix that I’m sick and I’ve only left the house three times in as many days and, well, you’ll get why she stands there looking at me with this look. The Look. The “why are you not letting me go for a walk” look.
I tried explaining that the temperature out the front door, at the park, and everywhere within any sort of reasonable distance is pretty much exactly the same as it is in the backyard… where she does her business numerous times per day and from whose wintery clutches she bounds into the house like her bum is on fire… but with ice and cold and snow clinging to her paws.
She needs a walk. And as every walk-less moment passes she won’t let me forget it.
In fact I’m getting the look as I’m sitting here on the couch writing this post. Right now. A glare of such pitiful puppy magnitude that I almost want to stuff her into a sweater, wrap her boney little paws up in the mittens she hates so much and walk her to the mailbox and back… because that’s about how far she’d make it before she was hopping down the street in a feigned “oh my poor paws” limp that she’s figured out gets her picked up and carried back to the house.
Instead, we’ll just camp here on the warm couch. I’ll nurse my lingering cough and she can cure her cabin fever with a few extra cuddles.
It’ll warm up soon, pup, I promise.
Believe it or not, spring has arrived. For now. We’ll see if it lasts, and I won’t hold my breath on not seeing snow again before we officially call it summer, but for now…spring! …ish!
It was calling.
It was busy.
It was nearly-underwater.
Claire and I had a bit of a plan: we had the dog (of course) and I had brought the (fully-charged) video camera along, and we had been chatting about maybe, perhaps, if the conditions allowed, possibly hunting down a geocache or two. The park is awesome for that with lots of hidden treasures stuffed into the various nooks and crannies of well-trailed, natural setting.
But did I mention the park was nearly-underwater?
Okay, so not exactly flooded, but the spring melt of a long-winter’s worth of snow had left an abundance of puddles sitting atop the usually-grassy field, snaking river-like twists of deep water courses across the park.
Hundreds of people and their dogs were wandering through the watery maze, sploshing and splashing through the wet grass and stepping in all manner of hidden water-traps, submerging their feets in great abundance into the icy melt. Me, too, of course. Five minutes into our planned adventure my shoes were soaked up with the cold wet.
And she would have been more than content to spend a half an hour splish-splash-sploshing around before dodging the waterworks back to the car and abandoning our afternoon plans.
But her father –yours truly– was feeling a little bit creative. And, not to mention, he –um, I– had brought along a fully-charged video camera and a little bendy waterproof tripod.
So… y’know. Time to make a video, right?
I propped up the camera beside a puddle where Claire was playing, wading, probing the icy, watery depths of the park, and for a moment she just danced in the dirty swamp and made faces in the direction of the lens.
But… yeah, I did it. “Run towards the camera.” I shouted.
And she did.
You’ve done this once, in your younger days, and you understand what happens when you run through ankle-deep cold, muddy water, right?
A few seconds after this series of photos was snapped, I was comforting a kid who was soaked to her knickers in icy, winter melt… and we were dodging puddles as we made our way back to the car. So much for the afternoon walk, huh?
This is another post from my “Daddy Daze” series, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
Karin went to Calgary for the week for a work orientation for her new position, so Claire and I are having a daddy-week… alone… in Edmonton…
We’re doing good, and the last thing I want to imply is that we’re lost without the mom around, but there have been a few little quirks that have emerged between the standard school-shuttling, homework-howls, and piano-impatience kind of fun that normally echoes through our house.
A Date For Dinner
Claire got it in her head because mom was out of town, that she and dad were going to dinner.
Claire and dad were going to Swiss Chalet for chicken fingers
And why not? It’s been a few weeks since the non-stop dining-out of Disney World, and mom was on a little mini-vacation (from her daughter’s perspective, at least) down in cow-town. So, Claire and dad were going to Swiss Chalet for chicken fingers.
It’s been cold. The temperature had dropped into the minus twenty Cs and the wind is making the wind-chill show numbers that are more akin to what you’d find at one of the poles. We bustled over to the restaurant, and hurried inside, dashing from car to doors to avoid as much cold as possible.
Now, you’re probably reading this wondering what the punch line is going to be: what went wrong? What did she break? Who did my precious little girl make cry?
But, that’s not the joke. The quirk was that this usually-wiggly, ants-in-her-pants, normally-impatient little girl had it in her head that this was our early Valentine’s dinner (yeah, almost two weeks early) and she was perfectly behaved: she made conversation, she ordered her own food, and she ate everything that was put in front of her.
Her mom was a little green when I told her later.
On the other end of the dad’s little angel spectrum was the Tuesday night “my hair NEEEEEEDS to be in a bun, DAD!” dance hair fiasco.
See, Tuesday is dance night. And since Karin has been dancing most her life and it was her determination that her daughter at least have a go at following in those footsteps, this dad usually takes a few steps back and let’s the dance thing be a girls thing.
I watch. I listen. I participate where applicable.
The dance thing has been a mommy-daughter activity for the last few years, and that’s a good thing… at least until mom is away on a dance practice night and the particularities of attending dance class become abundantly clear in certain minor details such as the fact every little girl in the class is required to wear their hair in a bun to be a ballerina. And this dad can barely manage getting his daughter’s hat on straight, let alone a clean pony tail or anything even close to resembling a bun.
We got an elastic to (at least) stay in the hair long enough for the teacher to fix it when we got to the studio, but it looks like I’ll be taking some lessons in little-girl-hair-styling in the near future.
Forgotten Snow Pants
Did I mention it’s cold? Yeah: Still cold.
Usually this means that they don’t make the kids go outside at school, instead letting them have access to the gym or some other spaces to burn off some enegry.
So, Claire forgetting her snow pants on the back stairs this morning — despite me specifically asking her five times to remember them — and then not realizing she forgot to bring them until we were AT school HANGING UP an invisible and non-existent pair of those same snow pants on the coat rack… well, normally this would not be a huge deal on a super-cold day.
February 5th is Alberta Winter Walk day
But guess what… February 5th is Alberta Winter Walk day. What is Winter Walk Day, you ask?
“Winter Walk Day is a province-wide initiative to get Albertans up and moving during the winter months. Winter Walk Day celebrates our Alberta winter while promoting the year-round health benefits of walking.”
The certainty of the kids having zero outside time in this cold weather was not exactly a certainty this morning.
My commute got about twenty-five minutes longer as I drove back to the house to get the snow pants and deliver them to Claire.
And… there’s still enough time that there may be a second part to this article…
In 8 Pics: A blog-type series dedicated to narrating the odd collections of photos I gather as I roll through the adventures of my life. Click to enlarge. Or visit the full gallery and respective album for more.
I haven’t written much here lately and this is a little odd. Not because I don’t take the occasional break from the pitter-patter of little fingers on my keyboard, but traditionally –in my multiple years of writing– August and September have both been months when I’ve done a lot of blogging.
But August was thin, and a third of the way into this month, it’s looking even more sparse.
Claire wanted to go for a bike ride this evening. She was brimming with bubbling-over enthusiasm, and so I grabbed the camera, set her up on her bike, and tailed behind her to the park.
She did loops.
I sat on a bench and wandered around a little bit snapping photos.
She bustled with glee at the glorious evening.
I turned on the grungy-like filter on the camera and took artsy-fartsy pics of the trees.
She biked five full loops of the park and in the middle even left her bike with me and ran –yes, ran– a full lap of the park.
I sat on the bench and talked about the weather to an old lady who was walking her dog.
It’s not sadness. Nor depression. Nor anything deep or broken. So, maybe melancholy isn’t exactly the right word. But after a summer of epic accomplishment, after months of training and build up to that one stupid race, the sudden crunch back into half-assed running and fatherly commitments to school and lessons and whatever else is swirling through our lives and –even if it doesn’t splash in my face directly swirls our lives in rigidly defined directions, that crunch is just taking a few extra days of getting used to than I thought it might. It’s a heaviness.
A weight, as if after putting myself through this ridiculous and monumental task, a task that is tied with credible anchor points to all sorts of societal expectations, after achieving that singular goal, that there is something heavier inside my brain that I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with.
I mean, I’ll get over it. I’m pretty sure. I’ll deal. I’m not looking for pity or some kind of fix.
But it does mean the blogs are a little more sparse.
The walks are a little more meandering.
The words are a little more weighty.
And this particular September continues to flit by in a breeze of uncertain expectations and unbalance.
I was actually doing a bit of reading on the topic last week and, as it turns out, post-race slumps are not uncommon. If for no other reason than just having an epic goal that is so complete and final –as if a switch was thrown– the moment you cross the finish line. After all, we did four months of hard training and it all built up to one run on one day and ultimately one step across a single arbitrary line in a parking lot. And bam! Over.
I have other races. I have other goals.
(And I have a brilliant little girl to keep me grounded, too.)
But at the end of the day all I can say is that I made some kind of trade with the race course: I left a little bit of me behind there that day and collected a few new fresh knick-knacks for whatever metaphorical dusty shelves are lining my brain. It changes you, I think. And it’s difficult to explain beyond that.
Either way, September is still fresh and a little melancholy for the trade… but I’m okay with that. Though, if I’m still moping around in October you have my permission to kick me in the butt.
Sometimes you just need a few days off. Summer hit, and with our schedules being what they were, we just never got around to booking any out-of-town trips for our week off. And then we realized: we live in an awesome city, have an awesome yard, and really just needed some time to relax. This is what we did.
Thursday July 18
Our morning got moving a little quicker this time. On day six of our stay-cation we opted to drive the dog over to her daycare (getting her out of the scorching house for a few hours and) letting us go on an adventure for the better part of the day.
Attack of the Robot Dinosaurs
Just a few minutes drive north of the city, and just outside the small town of Gibbons, someone has converted a small patch of swampy forested farmland into a science-based education preserve. The Jurassic Forest has only been around for a couple years (I think) but in that time has become something of a secretly-whispered-about destination by parents throughout the city. “Have you been?”
We made the drive for the first time, wending about the ring road and navigating up Highway 28 playing games of “Eye Spy” to distract the backseat cargo who didn’t have the patience for anything, it seems.
The cynical-at-heart might have told you that the destination was little more than a nature walk populated by robotic dinosaurs. But we knew better. Our adventure led use through a winding maze of wooden sidewalks, spanning a modern bit of marshland and rolling away on occasion to offer a view of animated thunder-lizards growling and hooting with recorded sounds that were enough to startle a nearly-six-year-old and leave her asking for assurances on the position of “they’re just pretend, right daddy?”
We spent a good hour and a half there, before bailing back to Gibbons for an awesome pizza lunch at a hole-in-the-wall gastronomic wonder called Sal’s Famous… I wonder if they’d deliver to South Edmonton?
strong>Another Grand Water Fight
Back at home the pool was still waiting –significantly warmed by the sun over the past day and a half– as were the hoards of neighbour kids who had probably spent an impatient morning glaring into our backyard and wondering when we’d be home so they could come over and play.
By shortly after two, the water fight had begun.
From out of no where suddenly everyone had a water pistol of some kind, and a couple of the kids were even wielding water assault rifles –no such thing as old fashioned, these days.
By three, the mother of the two kids, two-doors-down had climbed through the hole-in-the-fence with their third, and three parents were barking orders at who and what was acceptable targets –definitely not the adults– and playing treaty-negotiators in the final climax of the battle.
By four, the water was covered in a layer of grass and clouded by a haze of sunscreen and dirt, and by five I was getting ready to pull the drain on it.
Of course, the evening wouldn’t be an Thursday evening without the standing obligation of leading my marathon clinic in a Tempo run.
I wandered casually over to the recreation centre –almost too casually as I was nearly late– and welcomed our guest speaker who was chatting to the group about goals and motivation, and just being an all-round engaged runner.
And then, with the threat of a dark cloud and possible rain on the western horizon looming, we laced up and trotted our standard route southward to run a tempo run.
Tempo runs are hard to explain: you want to run fast, but not too fast. You want to be tired, but not too tired. You want to train against a specific heart-rate range, but not rely on that as the only factor. See, tempo running is meant to push your body into coping with lactic acid build-up in your muscles. You train your muscles to be better disposers of waste products by pushing it hard, not giving it any breaks, and thus increasing your stamina by a few notches with each attempt.
We run hard for incrementally more time each week. This weeK: thirty-two minutes. And then home for some food, tv and sleep.
This is another post from my “Daddy Daze” series, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
Spring arrived. Sort of. And with it a scheduling clash that left Claire off school for a full day and myself off work for my every-other-weekly compressed schedule day off. With it the girl — who normally would require an industrial strength wake-up-call on your standard, run-of-the-mill Friday morning — was chipper and actively prowling the house shortly after six this morning. Parenting-by-iPad ensued, and I caught another hour of sleep on a rare I-don’t-need-to-be-anywhere weekday morning.
But eventually I relented, crawled out of bed, showered, and kicked yet another edition of Daddy Day into full gear.
Back when Claire was younger we had this thing. I had a fairly regular day off while she was between the ages of one and three-ish, and of course she had no obligation to be anywhere. It was just a day away from the dayhome — which was bonus-plus-one in my retroactive opinion. Our routine was to prowl the city and get a few chores done, yeah, but we’d frequently kick start our morning with an el-cheap-o breakfast at Ikea.
Ikea food is nothing worth writing about. There is a reason the breakfast costs 99 cents. But then, hey, it’s a breakfast for 99 cents. And we’d kill an hour on a weekday morning eating some reconstituted eggs and some this-probably-isn’t-real-meat sausages, while I chilled out at the parent’s bar overlooking the kids area.
Ikea was our thing for a while. And even two years after that was a regular thing, Claire still seems to hold onto it as a daddy day thing.
Little wonder we found ourselves standing in line at the doors of the big blue box store a few minutes before it opened, securing our place amongst the mixed hoards — other parents, seniors, university students, and us — all partaking in the grand tradition of exploiting a mega-corporation’s loss-leader promotional breakfast: dining for cheap and not actually spending any money at the store.
But, so it doesn’t seem like a complete extravagance, I should note that our visit to Ikea was tucked in there nice and neat among a short list of actual, useful morning chores.
We paid a visit to the bottle depot, returning fourteen bucks worth of empty containers (mostly milk jugs and beer bottles as we don’t go in for soda lately). Claire was the real winner there. I offered her the payola on condition of her helping me load and unload the car, honestly not thinking the refund would top ten bucks. Boy, was I wrong. I paid for breakfast AND she got my bottle money. How does that work?
Later, the poor girl had to sit through my haircut.
This was exactly the third time that she’s come along to the hairdressers with me. And I’ll never understand the fascination. I mean, I suppose there is something curious and captivating about watching your parent — I don’t know what — groom? Do normal human things? Receive a mundane service like a haircut?
She stood to the side, took in every second of the process, and made sure to giggle, point, and provide a running commentary on every intermediate stage of my new doo.
The last chore on our morning list was to wash the car. Usually I’d be really lazy and run it through one of those automated, drive through washes. I mean, the thing is — and despite my rigorous upbringing to the contrary — I wash my car as little as possible. Keeping the thing shiny and gleaming is neither (a) in my nature or (b) aligned with how I feel about using all those resources to do just that. But whatever: the whole thing is a kind of balancing point, of maintaining the car in a state of function, upkeep and safe operation while not going overkill on the detailing. But over the last couple weeks it had reached a point where it needed a wash. Needed.
Claire assisted. I won’t say she helped, though there was an attempt made at doing so.
Having cajoled me out of fourteen bucks, and needing to go to the toy store anyhow to pick up a gift for yet-another-friends-birthday-party tomorrow morning, I found myself standing in line at Toys R Us later that morning, a stack of Lego products in my hand.
Claire spent some of her “hard earned” cash on a little kit of her own — and conservatively so, I might add: she only spent part of it and “dad, I want to save some for another toy another day.” So, I guess that means she got some DNA from her mother after all.
I, on the other hand, splurged a little bit and bought a kit for a red dinosaur and — since I’d been looking for one — a big, square, flat surface piece because we didn’t have one of those.
By the time we got home and had lunch we were both itching to build some Legos, so I watched from the side as Claire built her little Lego Friends kit and then a little later we built the dinosaur together and made sure that the — perfect-to-scale, I might add — T-Rex made his lunch out of some of the Lego Friends.
Of course, this is very much a light and passing summary as — evidenced by the photos — we had a good and thorough play of Legos after lunch, and made some good work of our imaginations. And while the plan was originally to play Legos, clean the dog run, and then hit up the swimming pool for some splash-time… plans change, and we opted to take the dog and do some…
It’s been a late spring. Oh, man has it been a late spring.
To make it worse, winter arrived early last year, so calling this cold season we’ve just passed through a tough, long, epic slog is something of an understatement.
I needed some fresh air. Claire needed some fresh air. The poor dog practically clawed her way through the window when she realized we were taking her to the off-leash park five minutes into our drive.
Now… I don’t want to call my daughter a wimp when it comes to nature. But I’ll be the first to tell you that in summers past she’s tended to balance out on the side of, well, being a bit of a princess about the outdoors. Walks were too long. Mud was too dirty. Trees were too pokey. And… well, you get the idea.
Today something switched. I don’t know what. I don’t know how. But she was the one taking the roads less traveled, the same roads that led us through a muddy and wet exploration to find the old hollowed out tree that she remembered from last year, that had us hot in pursuit of clues to locate a beaver lodge in a small water basin after tracking a progression of his gnawed tree stumps, and the same trails that found us bushwhacking through some scrubby hills trying to locate a Geocache I had thought to pull up on my phone.
That’s right, Claire did her first Geocache today and she loved it… wouldn’t stop talking about it all the way home and all the way to piano class a half hour later… and is planning our next “treasure hunt.”
But after that little adventure through the muddy park, my car needs another wash… just on the inside this time. Though, maybe after I recover from one epic and awesome daddy day, and get some sleep, too.