March 9, 2015
Farewell to Lorianne

Lorianne headed home for the summer today. Elizabeth was so distraught to hear Lorianne was leaving during the school day that she forgot where she was, leapt off the piano bench and landed in the box of legos. It was very difficult to keep a straight face. Luckily the only injury was rather slight.

We are happy to report that Lorianne will be back in the fall. Elizabeth wanted me to count how many days until September. Now that the canal has closed she's eager to race her plasma car with Matthew ("and I can ride my bike, Mommy!") but she is wondering whether we can't shorten summer because it is going to be SOOOOO long.

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March 8, 2015

When Chris first announced he was marrying Yukiko, there was a lot of confusion about where the wedding would take place. She was working in China. He was working in Switzerland (and travelling a lot!). Her family was in Japan. We are here in Canada. They couldn't quite decide where the ceremony (or ceremonies) would be. But the one thing they knew from the start was that when their kids were between the ages of 8 and 12, they wanted to go and live in Japan for a while.

So we've had quite some time to get used to the idea that Uncle Chris, Auntie Yukiko and cousins Erika and Maria would be living much farther away "someday" and that having them within walking distance was a temporary perk that we should not squander.

It turns out that "someday" has almost arrived as Uncle Chris has a fancy new job in Tokyo and is leaving at the end of March. The girls will follow in July. They have much packing and downsizing to do before then.

It's going to be a grand adventure but we will surely miss them a great deal. We don't think Elizabeth has quite grasped the implications yet. In the meantime we're partying together as much as we can.

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March 7, 2015
Skating season is over
Last skating class of the season always seems to come very early. We all skated together for the family skate at the end - well - for some value of together (Elizabeth is much, much faster than the rest of us, particularly Matthew as one might imagine). Matthew was just happy to finally be allowed into the part of the rink where his sister was. Elizabeth was happy to show off how long she could skate on one skate. We noticed that her skates are completely dull. Next year we'll have to get them sharpened a bit more often, obviously!
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March 6, 2015
End of the canal

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...

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March 4, 2015

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.

Main tank

-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

Hospital tank

-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)

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