February 9, 2010
Rideau Canal

Skating with a stroller is pretty great.  You can bring all kinds of stuff with you (your boots! baby supplies! snacks!) without having to carry them.  If you are feeling a bit off balance, having something to hold onto is helpful too.


Being outside with small child in a giant snowsuit is not fun if said child decides she has to pee.  The bathrooms on the Rideau Canal are actually pretty well-designed in that you don't have to take your skates off to use them, but child-still-in-diapers-friendly they are not. I have NO idea what other parents do in this situation, but Elizabeth and I went skating by ourselves an hour before dusk the other day and after charging into the washroom I was nonplussed to discover that the bathroom had no change table nor did it have any kind of surface upon which one could place snowsuits, diaper bag or other necessary things.  The sink had no counter of any kind and the floor was rather slushy, so neither of those would do.


Precariously balancing Elizabeth's snowsuit on the back of the toilet tank, I gamely took off her diaper and placed it on top of the snowsuit.  Of course it didn't stay there, but fell directly into the toilet with a sickening splash.  I fished it out with a little shriek, threw it into the sink (since it was now sopping wet with toilet water) and sat Elizabeth down.  The toilet promptly began to flush.  And flush.  And flush.  It was equipped with an autoflusher which was obviously not designed for a small child sitting on the toilet while mom hovered nearby trying not to fall over on her skates.  Elizabeth craned her next all around trying to see what was going on before deciding that this particular toilet was too weird and scary to use. 


Then I had to figure out how to get her dressed again.  I had her stand on the toilet seat for me while I put on a new diaper, but the snowsuit really needs her to be lying down for me to get her into it without help.  So out into subzero temperatures we went teetering on my skates down the ramp with now-screaming and shivering child under one arm and snowsuit under the other.  Although I didn't notice the hand rail and was terrified of falling we did manage to make it to a bench which I promptly commandeered to use to put the snowsuit back on.  Popping cheerios into Elizabeth every few skate strides improved her mood considerably and we headed off the ice to our waiting chariot (with heated seats!) which had arrived with Daddy to rescue us after a phone call home to relate my tale of woe.

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February 8, 2010
Valentine's Desk

"To lack an education in the arts is to be profoundly disconnected from our history, from beauty, from other cultures, and from other forms of expression" (Larson, 1997)

"A painter takes the sun and makes it into a yellow spot.

An artist takes a yellow spot and makes it into a sun. (Pablo Picasso)

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." (Albert Einstein)

"You can't depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus." (Mark Twain)


(All quotes are from my sister's art textbook "Arts as meaning makers", which she is using as part of her studies to become a teacher.)


Someone once told me that the best way to foster a love of art was to start early, so that's my excuse for letting Elizabeth chew a variety of art supplies.  That and the recommended approach of allowing Elizabeth to create artwork with her cake doesn't need any encouragement...


We tried a Valentine's day colouring sheet this week.  Actually, Elizabeth loves to "colour" with pencil crayons and I'm fascinated watching her figure out what mom is trying to show her.  She's starting to understand that the crayons make marks, but frequently tries to use the wrong end.  She also spent a lot of time trying to pick the colour that I had put on for her off the sheet, before giving up and deciding to eat the paper.  At the end of our art play time there was very little crayon on the sheet but she was having so much fun making music with the pencil crayons that mom let her keep them for a few minutes while she talked on the phone.


This may have been a mistake as Elizabeth finally figured out how to draw quite a beautiful line... on the underside of my desk.  Daddy wasn't impressed, but I'm keeping it forever.

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February 7, 2010
Winterlude 2010 Crystal Gardens

I was a little bummed out that we were unable to go to the Winterlude opening ceremonies.  Free Museum of Civilization admission! Extra crafts! Mythical stilt walking creatures! A guy playing water-based instruments in a bathtub with water, ice and steam! Musical fireworks!  And my favourite percussionist Jesse Stewart (this is the guy who we saw play the canoe paddles in the summertime)!  Trouble was the action started way too late for Elizabeth (7pm).


So we didn't go on Friday.  Instead we decided we'd go to see the ice sculptures at the Crystal Gardens in Confederation Park on Sunday after church since it's an easy walk.  Once I realized that both the bathtub guy and Jesse Stewart were doing a repeat performance at the Crystal Gardens that afternoon, I was pretty excited.


The bathtub presentation by H2O Orchestra was very strange but extremely cool.  People kept walking by and then doing a double-take. Why are there girls in bikinis sitting in a steaming bathtub?  They really wanted to know!  Answer: they were playing a water organ that can only be played from underwater - I think it was an Idratmosphone, which is a type of hydraulophone.  I think. There was definitely a hydraulophone being played, an ice xylophone called a pagophone (water sound instead of wood sound) as well as a flute that used fluid instead of air.  In any case, the members of the orchestra were playing various water-based instruments, using a theme of the ancient elements of Earth, Water and Fire.  As the inventor of the instruments (Professor Steve Mann) explained, earth is defined as anything you can stand on, so ice would be considered "Earth".  "Water" is really liquid and "fire" is really anything in a gaseous state.  We enjoyed the orchestra very much, especially their last piece when the mythical stilt walkers made an appearance, dancing gracefully around among the crowd while various Winterlude volunteers nervously shooed people out of the way.  We actually ran out of space on our memory card (I know!) so sadly we didn't end up getting a video of them for you, but they were beautiful.  Afterwards I took close-up pictures of the instruments with Steve Mann standing only a few feet away, but between being excited about the upcoming Jesse Stewart concert and the stilt walkers I didn't really look at him.  This is a shame, because if I had I might have noticed his eyecam and realized that he was THAT Steve Mann - Canada's first cyborg.  I am completely kicking myself for missing the opportunity to talk to a really interesting man that I have been reading about for YEARS.  Brendan's comment afterwards was that he knew the name was familiar but he didn't figure it out either until the moment had passed. Full disclosure: I might never have realized the connection without Brendan.  My inner geek is so, so sad.


The sharp-eyed among you will notice that some of the sculptures don't look very icy.  That's because some of the sculptures were made out of recycled plastic as part of an art project by students across Canada and from around the world.  During the H2O concert, Elizabeth and I hung out by the enviro-pledge table for a while, keeping warm in the sun.  We didn't make a pledge to help the environment during the next week because I didn't really want to take home a plastic bracelet which I'd then have to dispose of...  I thought that kind of defeated the purpose, to be honest.  I was very amused by one lady who really wanted to make a pledge but "couldn't think of a single thing [she] could do to help the environment that [she] wasn't already doing".  The rather enthusiastic student told her she could pledge to continue doing what she was doing so that the lady could take home her bracelet.  I think the lady just wanted to boast about her environmental ways because she spent a good five minutes talking about all the things that she did to help the environment.  Meanwhile, I'm listening to her say that she recycles and composts (basically) and my inner voice is thinking - really?  Not even one single thing?


We ended up not hearing the entire Jesse Stewart concert because a certain long-suffering husband was in danger of losing his toes.  Elizabeth was starting to get pretty fussy too, which was not surprising since she hadn't napped or eaten.  So I tore myself away and we headed home for a long overdue lunch.

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February 6, 2010
The Very Hungry Elizabeth

With apologies to Eric Carle.


In the light of the chandelier a little girl played with her food.


On Monday and Tuesday her mommy and daddy wondered if she was eating enough.  So they started to write it all down.


On Wednesday she ate nine tablespoons of fruit, cereal, rice and bread. But she was still hungry and mommy had to feed her six times.


On Thursday she ate fourteen tablespoons of fruit, cereal, rice, cheese, chicken and vegetables. But she was still hungry and mommy had to feed her eight times.


On Friday she ate fifteen tablespoons of fruit, cereal, rice, cheese, lemon and a cookie. But she was still hungry and mommy had to feed her nine times.


On Saturday she ate 3 peach slices, 1 piece of cauliflower, 2 pieces of broccoli, 2 slices of cheese, 2 handfuls of cheerios, 3/4 cup of rice pasta and tomato sauce, a handful of blue berries, a tiny bit of vegetable root soup, 40 mL of blueberry, carrot and blackberry juice (diluted with water) and a small piece of cherry chocolate cake.  Altogether that was twenty-three tablespoons worth!


That night she gave mommy a break.

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February 5, 2010
Cooking with Mama

My niece Erika loves our "Cooking with Mama" wii game, so we helped her "crack" eggs, "stir" pots and "make" hamburger patties for an hour or so this afternoon.  Then I got hungry and we went and made some real food for supper.  Video game cooking with a nearly four year old is much tidier (we had a little accident with the sugar), but I'm impressed by how careful she is and a little frightened to realize that 'her' apron actually fits her now.   Erika was able to make Grandpa J some Rice Krispie squares almost all by herself.  She even stirred the pot on the stove all by herself though you can be sure I kept a close eye on her.


Elizabeth spent the afternoon alternating walking and push-crawling her push mower, which is suddenly a very popular toy.  Her steering abilities are not very good (our poor paint!), but with some parental guidance the collision rate dropped dramatically.  Erika was quite impressed to see her "walking" and even more impressed when Elizabeth accidentally tipped over backwards.  Elizabeth's daddy swooped in just in time and caught Elizabeth before she cracked her head.  "Uncle Brendan SAVED her!" she told me in an awed tone of voice.

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