The canal has been open for a record-breaking number of consecutive days this year, but after a great start our outings sort of petered out because we were constantly sick and there were what seemed like endless extreme cold weather warnings.
With the weather finally warming up we did get a chance to lace up our skates and the whole lot of us skated our farewell to the canal for the season. Turns out that Elizabeth and Matthew can pretty much eat a whole beavertail each now. Daddy reckons it's time to start buying his own again next year, which he's looking forward too very much since he likes the lemon cinnamon ones and the kids prefer chocolate hazelnut!
I'm a little sad we never skated the full length with Elizabeth this year - I'm sure she can do it! Next year...
We obtained a free 108 gallon aquarium from a co-worker more than a decade ago and it's been sitting empty waiting for a proper basement in order to set it up. We were nervous about setting it up anywhere other than the basement because it weighs 1600 pounds (give or take) when full needing extra thought about structural support. Also, it needed a perfectly level surface on which to rest in order to avoid stress cracks and catastrophic failure at an inopportune time.
Anyway, the time came and we built it into a wall, took a deep breath and started filling it with water, crossing our fingers for no leaks. I've had a few aquariums in my day and we figured we knew more or less what we were getting into, though the technology has changed an incredible amount in the last fifteen years (who knew?) and we decided we wanted to try a planted aquarium (cue ominous music).
Brendan and I had a lot of fun researching what kind of equipment we needed. It didn't take long before we realized that our tank size put us into unknown territory, but at least there was a lot of conflicting advice to read on the internet. I was primarily anxious to get some fish!
I was a little worried that my water tests weren't working properly at first - they had not been stored in the best conditions ever. Turns out that the city of Ottawa has massively changed the pH of the water in the last decade as well. Supposedly this is to reduce pipe corrosion which is strangely important when your city is full of aging century old piping... Also turns out we have softer water now.
My Uncle Carl and Aunt Judy's amazing neighbour gave us a whole pile of starter plants at Christmas time which we duly planted. We acquired a few assorted tetras and hoped for the best. This did not come to pass. Instead we realized our water cycle wasn't working due to insufficient ammonia and that we were battling an algal bloom. We'd opted not to buy a CO2 system because it sounded expensive and complicated. Turns out that it's really a necessary component for the kind of heavily planted tank we want to cultivate. My cupboards started rapidly filling with fertilizer, CO2 tanks, and pH monitors. It was about here that it became clear that the fish wall was going to be completely fish related. Fond hopes about extra storage withered, but despite a leaky CO2 check valve and a lot of trial and error eventually the plants started to recover.
We started compulsively testing the water for all kinds of stuff - I don't think I've done this much chemistry since grade 11. I also bought a couple of large snails and some algae eaters (two different kinds of corys) for good measure. I wasn't sure about the snails, but it turns out that they are really mesmerizing to watch. I think they might be my favourite aquarium creatures.
Then, disaster. We bought a bunch of new fish for Matthew's birthday and it turned out they had tail and fin rot. Sadly, I didn't watch the fish long enough at the store (something to do with two over-excited children pulling me around the store while Brendan was chatting about plants and skimmer systems with one of the employees). They looked more or less normal while I was releasing them into the tank, but there were two with slightly ragged fins. I would have quarantined those fish, but we had decided that a quarantine tank was not a priority so into the main tank they went. By the next morning, the ragged fin fish had no tails and all of the other new fish of that kind were raggedy and covered in spots. We spent the next two hours chasing fish.
The store did give us a refund on their diseased fish but when some of the other fish started developing spots we panicked and decided to treat the whole tank. Turns out that antibiotics for fish are very expensive for a 108 gallon tank, especially if you can't wait for the cheap online drugs. Of course they have cheaper online drugs for fish. We now have a quarantine tank. And special filter inserts to remove the antibiotic coloration from the water. And a very elaborate water change mechanism. Turns out 25% of 108 gallons by bucket also takes about two hours to complete and Brendan was going to do that exactly once. Of course he spent at least a couple of hours at Home Depot engineering his solution but I'm told that was great fun. Two fish died, but the others that were looking a little raggedy started to look healthy again and thankfully none of "Elizabeth's" fish were affected.
Then some of my peppered corys started gasping at the surface. The antibiotic destroyed any bacteria. Our ammonia levels were up a bit and this plus maybe some variant of the tail rot was too much. Three more fish died. It was very depressing, especially since the kids were on antibiotics at the same time - thankfully with a less lethal ailment...
Quite a few weeks and water changes later, things appear to be back to normal. The fish and the plants seem happy. I guess it is time to try acquiring some new fish...
Equipment list for the curious.
-108 gallon 1/2" glass aquarium 60"x18"x24"
-Seachem flourite substrate (42kg)
-Eheim G160 canister filter
-Tom's aquatics surface skimmer
-Marineland 48" aquatic plant LED light
-JBJ True Temp temperature controller
-Hydor 300 watt inline heater
-10 lbs CO2 canister (x2)
-American Marine CO2 regulator
-American Marine PH controller
-UpAqua inline CO2 atomizer
-Custom lid made out of plexiglass, aluminium channel and real glass
-Frosted (pinhead) glass insert in two pieces
-1/2" PVC valves and fittings mixed with brass fittings to make suction and pressure side control valves with input and output connections for a hose which can be attached to the sink faucet or reach to the tub for water changes
-5 gallon Fluval Spec V
-Hydor Theo 25 watt heater
-Random bits of PVC pipe for fish to hide in (but still easy to clean)
At six Elizabeth weighs 42.5 lbs and is 45.5" tall. She looks MUCH older than last year (check out the pictures with the bear!) Mommy is not sure about the lack of bangs but does give her major points for persevering. They are almost long enough to stay put behind her ears!
She is very independent - picks out her own clothes, takes a shower (including washing her hair) by herself and can get up in the morning and get dressed. She's still a good helper and especially enjoys learning how to do things she thinks are for "grownups". She's made dinner for us a couple of times from start to finish except that we don't allow her to drain pots full of boiling water or take things out of the oven yet. She can do laundry, though her folding skills aren't quite up to standard.
Six is a little mouthy. She likes to try out things grownups say to her... on grownups. Often at rather inappropriate times and sadly for her without the expected or desired results! Obviously still trying to understand the boundaries. She's definitely a rule follower and wants to understand how the world works. What are the rules? Can she make the rules? It drives her crazy when "rules" appear not to apply. (WHY!??)
Six can play well by herself and has been caught reading books to herself (early readers!). Still loves to draw, still loves crafts, still loves playing with dolls. Making forts and racing cars are also extremely popular.
She isn't a picky eater anymore, but her table manners are often atrocious. We're working on it.
Elizabeth is almost done the grade one math curriculum we've been working through. In the right mood she finds math fun, but sometimes she gets impatient and is incapable of a simple sum she normally can do almost without thinking. No idea where she gets that from (!) This doesn't just apply to math - it's hard to know what reading level she's at because sometimes she'll read what's written easily and fluently (even words that we didn't know she knew). And then she'll read something like "all" and despite having read it correctly in the previous sentence she'll spend a minute sounding it out agonizingly slowly - maybe throwing a few extra sounds in for good measure - and get very frustrated. Usually this is when she's convinced that the story she is reading says one thing and what she's actually reading says another. So she tries to make the words match up the story she's trying to read and gets increasingly agitated when they don't. Sometimes she goes as far as rewriting the story "properly" on a piece of paper, though I don't usually give her that satisfaction.
She also very much likes to be first to do things, the only one to do things, the one that does the most of something or the one that does the best. Slightly competitive, shall we say... Sometimes this comes out as wanting to be right, so even though she obviously knows that she's made a mistake she will absolutely not admit to it. We've learned not to get caught up in this.
Six likes to ask unanswerable questions (or with answers that she finds less than satisfactory). She cannot for the life of her understand why Mars One can't figure out a return trip. There's gotta be a gas station somewhere in space, and if not, they should just build one. She's particularly fixated on death and heaven.
Still very chatty and friendly, still a social butterfly that appears to make friends easily - and more impressive - she is able to maintain those relationships. She would have been happy to invite most of her school to her birthday party (and the teachers too!), not to mention many of kids she happens to know. We restricted her to ten and were quite interested by her choices. Only four from her class. One from church. A couple of friends that we go camping with. The rest: kids from her class two summers ago (and that she only ever gets to connect with at recess!) and of course Adi - that goes without saying!
A guest post by Elizabeth! She had a special adventure with her "brest friend" and asked me if I could tell everyone about it "on the blog".
"I went to Disney on Ice because my friend Adi brought me for my birthday present! It was at the hockey place and there was people yelling 'Who wants popcorn! Who wants hats!'
There was a magic wall and the people in the show could go through it without breaking. I think it was a curtain. There were two handles and a snappy thing attached to the ceilings and they were really cool. The princesses used them to pretend they could fly.
There was steam and there were lights and sometimes it was light and sometimes it was dark and sometimes there was fire (but it wasn't real). Everyone was on skates. They were all persons (Ariel had feet). There was even a crab and a fish and green frogs. There was Rosetta and Belle and Ariel. Some of them even did cartwheels on their skates and could skate on one leg. If I practice maybe I can skate like that when I'm eight.
Adi's grandma got me a tulip hat and a cup that had blue, yellow and green food in it. Wasn't that nice? I think they were little ice blocks with food colour in it. It was very sweet. Adi got a green one with three eyes on it. I got a pink Ariel. Adi and Tristan got cars hats. And we had cotton candy. It was fluffy and green at the bottom and pink at the top. It was yummy but I didn't finish it because it tasted weird and it was my first time.
Adi's brother Tristan came too. His favourite part was the cars. (Daddy asked if he was well behaved - answer: 'well he's three now so yes - three year olds are always well behaved. He looks like a two year old to me but Adi's grandma told me how old he was'). Mommy Michelle and Adi's grandma liked the cars too and Mommy Lise-Anne liked Tinker Bell. I think Adi's favourite part was Ariel on the ice just like me."