October 18, 2011
Frosty Blades

If you've read my blog over the last couple of winters, you may have noticed that we skate on the canal rather a lot. While I didn't learn to skate until highschool we figure canal time might be more enjoyable if Elizabeth learns skate sooner rather than later. She's theoretically old enough for skating lessons, so I figured - why not? It's great core exercise, she'd be interacting with kids her own age and the City of Ottawa lessons are only ~$40 for nine sessions. Mind you, the equipment was more than the cost of the lessons, but we're hoping that the helmet will fit for a while.


How to size toddler skates

Take out the skate insert and place it on child's foot. You can then see for yourself whether the skate fits or not, without having to rely on child's assessment of whether it feels "right". It's important for skates to be the correct fit to avoid ankle problems, not to mention that it's much easier to skate if your skates fit! Elizabeth wears the smallest skates sold by Canadian Tire (a 6/7), but she originally told us that the 8/9's were more comfortable and that the right size was too tight. She's since gotten over that!


The smallest helmet available on the market

We discovered that Elizabeth has a small head. It was looking like we were going to have to wait for her head to expand, but with a little combing through websites and comparing manufacturer head circumferance ranges we found something that works with a bunch of extra padding. It's a Bauer Lil' Sport, and it even comes in pink. Elizabeth loves it so much that she insisted on brushing her teeth with the faceguard down the first night.


The best way to help your learn to child skate

They should be standing with feet slightly apart (not too far apart) and arms out like an airplane. You should hold their hands (not under the armpits) and try to keep your back straight.


The first lesson consisted of lying down on the ice, swimming like a fish flopping on the ice and then standing up again. (Controlled falling and learning to get up)  Elizabeth is good at the falling and flopping parts. She can get up half way but they want her to use her hands to push against her knee to help with getting up and that's NOT at all the way she gets up normally. So she keeps trying to get up and the skates go "whoom underneath" as she puts it.  Then they gave her a toy to kick around the ice (to practice taking small "steps").


It's amazing how quickly she is learning.  The first week she wasn't even able to stand by herself on the rubber mat on the way to the ice. By the second week she was able to walk around on the mat unassisted and balance on the ice without holding onto Mommy. This already exceeds my expectations for the class so I'm pretty happy.

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October 16, 2011
A rather unusual play-by-play

Uncle Dave tells the best Xander stories (really we should be taping some of these for the wedding montage thirty years from now...), but the most entertainment we've had in a while was a play-by-play announcement of a Xander diaper change.


I'll spare you the details, but I think the facial expressions tell the story well enough.


In other news, Elizabeth got to hold Xander "by self". "I think I'm big enough now", she said.

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October 15, 2011
Swimming lessons

Did I mention that Elizabeth is taking swimming lessons again this fall? We took them once before at Brewer and the first lesson was great. Then the regular instructor returned and the rest of the class was just okay.


It didn't help that they kept dropping the temperature of the pool significantly for various high level swim meets (the temperature went down so much that one week they posted warning notices outside the pool. Chilly doesn't begin to describe it!)


Elizabeth enjoyed her class, but it was basically circle time in the water with a group leader who was clearly not hired for her singing ability. There was only one other child Elizabeth's age, who was moving to Texas three days after the end of the last class. The rest of the class were babies aged 6-12 months.  In fact, many of the swimming programs at the City of Ottawa register by age, but they often group 6 months to 3 years of age in the same class. Not that they explicitly let you know at time of registration! I gather that most pools wouldn't have enough kids to run a program otherwise, since most parents do the swimming lesson thing with their babies when they are on parental leave.


Since I am a strong swimmer and quite capable of doing my own (free!) circle time in the water, we opted to skip swimming lessons for a season. But I found it difficult to get Elizabeth to the pool without the regularly scheduled incentive in the form of lessons that we paid good money for, so when I saw that St Laurent was offering lessons for Elizabeth's age group AND that the babies were scheduled for a completely different time we decided to give it another try.


I'm glad we did. The City of Ottawa has just switched from lessons based on the Lifesaving society curriculum to the Red Cross curriculum, which makes Elizabeth a "sea turtle".  I'm not sure if it's the change of pool, instructor, curriculum or a combination of all three, but I am very impressed with the lessons so far.

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October 13, 2011
How my garden grew

I've been meaning to show off the improvements to my garden since daffodils started poking their heads through the dirt.  Those of you who've been here will know that the back garden is quite literally a mud pit as we've been remodelling in the hopes of preventing another ice-box next spring.


Before my mom left for Angola last year, she planted a whole bunch of plants from her garden. My favourite was the totally cool Jack-in-the-pulpit. I'm really hoping it comes back next year and brings friends.


Those of you remembering me complaining about the naughty carpenter ants might be thinking: "hey, those aren't carpenter ants". You are right... That's a picture of the OTHER ant infestation we discovered this summer. Hopefully they've all moved out now.


I've got a little vegetable garden (beans! tomatoes! cucumbers! potatoes!) and Elizabeth helped me plant, weed and water faithfully all summer.


Then Auntie Heather helped me take back the neglected-while-we-renovated-inside front gardens. When my mom visited this year I got her to help me finish the job, planting another couple hundred daffodil and tulip bulbs. The squirrels are very happy, but hopefully they've left a couple of them in the ground. I'm also hoping that some of the mini roses Grandma and Elizabeth planted overwinter successfully.


I don't know what that ugly bug is (do you?) but there were numerous moltings all over Ottawa late summer. Elizabeth and Erika liked them so much they kept one in the playhouse as a "pet". Which they pretended to feed. I had a moment of feeling sorry for my mother who had to put up with my pet worms and slugs (and Brendan's mom who had to deal with indoor caterpillar races), before figuring at least the bug wasn't a) alive or b) indoors!

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October 11, 2011
The Big Clock

Auntie Janice reporting. Today Mary and Brendan were busy downtown for the morning, so I decided to take Elizabeth for a walk up to Parliament Hill. Of course, the weather did not cooperate at all for us... and in the rush of getting us all ready we forgot the stro-stro... so it ended up being quite the adventure indeed.


We set out from Gloucester and Metcalfe, briefly stopped in at the main library branch to warm up... and then continued our trek. For those of you who haven't walked downtown Ottawa recently, it's about a 6 block walk uphill right in the middle of a lot of traffic, noise, construction, and past an awful lot of very tempting chip stands. With a two and a half year old in tow, we stood out quite brightly amongst the business casuals and the tourists. It did take a little while, but thankfully the parliament buildings are in sight all the way up metcalfe so that's always encouraging to point out when Munchkin is wondering if we're "dere et?"


I've been to Parliament many times before, and rightly suspected that Elizabeth would be fascinated by the large clock at the top of the peace tower. So in we went, got ourselves screened through security, and happily discovered that you don't necessarily have to go on the tour to go up the tower. They even offered a guide to take us up the first elevator so that tired feet (mostly mine) didn't have to walk up to the third floor. We even got lucky in our timing so that we were first in line waiting for the tower's elevator, although Elizabeth was quite taken aback by the realistic lion statues... and the very real tour guides waiting to let us into the elevator. I finally relented and decided that carrying her in the elevator would not kill me completely, and the other passengers were nice enough to let us stand by the window so we could see the bells as we went up. These bells ring every quarter, so we'd heard them from the Centennial Flame outside- and I've been up and down that elevator quite a lot so I knew when to direct her attention to be able to see them.


Once upstairs, I discovered that the Carillon was about to happen just after noon, so we took a moment to look outside. "Where'd the clock go?" Elizabeth wondered, and was very impressed to see that we were right underneath it. We heard the big bells chime the hour first, and then the Carillon began. When I was in the Central Children's Choir, we came and visited the bells especially to learn what a real bell sounded like. We also had the chance to meet Gordon Slater, the Carillonneur at the time. He showed us the organ-like instrument that gets played every day from within the peace tower at noon, and sometimes for a special concert around 2:15 in the summer. It's harder than the organ, because you have to hit the handles with your hand in a fist in order to make the bell sound properly. Elizabeth was very impressed to hear all the little bells playing music, although she had trouble understanding that the bells were underneath us.


By the time the Carillon was over, it was definitely time for some lunch. Thankfully my back was doing well enough to carry my niece, because by this point Elizabeth was so tired she could hardly stand upright. We stopped on the way home for some pizza in the World Exchange Plaza, and Elizabeth was so hungry she ate almost 3/4 of a huge piece. I was glad I'd ordered my own piece, too!


And then I dropped Elizabeth back with her parents, and I went rushing off to my appointment. She slept for hours and hours later, so mission accomplished!

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