Since we missed going out with Elizabeth on Friday, she got to pick an Ottawa restaurant. She opted to go out for lunch instead of supper with the idea that we could have triple chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Her choice was the Works and it was great because it wasn't too busy and Michael wasn't too squirrelly. Elizabeth did end up taking him for an "airplane ride" around the restaurant so everyone else could eat in peace and in the end we resorted to Johnny Papa videos, but it WAS an improvement. Michael didn't eat too much but he drank more than half of my chocolate milk shake so this was hardly surprising. Elizabeth has hit a milestone and is now theoretically too old for the kid's menu. Luckily she seems to enjoy ordering "as an adult".
I wasn't organized enough to start making Elizabeth's special cake until FAR TOO LATE at which point I realized I had meant (and failed) to save some eggs. Brendan and I had wanted to get some additional supplies anyway so Elizabeth and Matthew and I did a big shop. The kids brought money along in order to buy something; they ended up getting candy. Matthew bought two kinder eggs and gave Elizabeth one, and Elizabeth shared her candy too.
By the time we got home and the cake was chilling and food was on the table it was 7:30pm and clear that the younger three couldn't wait bedtime for the cake. Luckily Elizabeth didn't mind my proposal to have leftover cupcakes from Friday breakfast as dessert and then to have a bonus cake singing tomorrow instead. Something about getting to skip giving up dessert for lent an extra day...
Being at the top of her age bracket and being on the light end of the sparring divisions Elizabeth actually has a pretty good shot at making the Canadian national karate team and getting to go to the world championships in spain this year. Given this and the accelerated schedule due to the Worlds being in August instead of November this year we decided that she really ought to compete in the only Ontario tournament before the provincial qualifiers to see what sort of competition she's likely to be up against. The only problem was that this was on the 29th in Burlington which would mean she would need to travel on her birthday. Now that's another post...
Anyway having gotten to Burlington we realized that there was a secondary flaw in our preparation which was that being February (which is always insanely busy around our household what with birthday's and winterlude and other general craziness) Elizabeth had missed a number of training sessions and had done very little practicing at home. So of course upon arrival she had a complete fit of nerves. Luckily her division was tiny (just her, Remy and one other girl she's seen a few times before).
After being told that no she could not opt out after daddy having driven many hundreds of kilometers to get her there she did pull it together enough to compete. It was however not her finest performance and she got the bronze in kata. She then went to change for sparring but forgot that her sparring gi was in the suit bag and had to come back to get it and thus was rather slow in appearing for her match. Now we don't know if this worked in her favour or if it was just luck but they decided to start with the other two and Remy won that match leaving Remy and Elizabeth to battle for gold and silver. Remy beat Elizabeth for the gold, leaving Elizabeth with the silver. So despite coming away with a silver and a bronze it was definitely not Elizabeth's best showing, but she got over the nerves enough to compete and that's a big win. She then had a blast cheering on her teammates and cousin.
Erika has improved a fair bit in kata but is still doing a green belt kata so had little hope against 17 other kids. Her sparring however was the big wow of the day with her scoring points in her match against the eventual gold medalist. She clearly learned a lot in Montreal.
The girls then had a grand old time in the back of the van for many hours on the way home.
Meanwhile, back in the wilds of Ottawa...
Elizabeth's birthday was another strike day in Ottawa, so Grandma J came and picked up Matthew and Amelia and took them snowshoeing along with Maria.
After lunch the kids played outside for a long time. Michael was thrilled to have siblings and cousin to play with. Then Grandma took Maria home again.
Matthew got it into his head that he needed to make a water gun out of recycling. So he hauled out the glue gun. I told him he could plug it in to get it heating up but he needed to wait for me before using it. "Just wait a few minutes", I said. "I just need to finish helping Amelia with her piano". Predictably he felt that he could manage and about two minutes later he came downstairs with a second degree burn on his finger. He'd apparently managed to squirt a big glob of glue onto his finger, panicked and tore it off along with a good chunk of skin. Then he refused to do anything except hold an ice pack to the burn. I texted various experts to make sure that I wasn't being negligent in not rushing him off for immediate care, and Auntie Janice video called. She was able to talk him into actually putting his hand into cold water instead of the ice. Then she came over and spent the evening with us, which was super helpful because it distracted Matthew from the pain plus she had burn bandages.
Matthew had a birthday party with his friend Nico at Flying Squirrel and at first he wasn't sure he was going to be able to go but he had a good sleep and a little tylenol and he had a blast!
Then Amelia burned herself on a pot at supper (thankfully just a first degree burn, but turned out it left a mark). Not quite sure what was up with all the burning ourselves but hopefully we're done doing that for a long long time.
At 11, Elizabeth continues to be extremely athletic. Still highly focused on karate, she is working diligently towards getting her adult black belt. She's been taking private lessons with sensei Cody as she ramps up towards this year's world championships. She's working on more technique and especially confidence in her sparring, as well as fine-tuning her kata at a level that just can't be done in group lessons. She loves these sessions!
Elizabeth is very flexible and strong and seems to spend about half of her life upside down or in some kind of weird stretch. It's perhaps not surprising that her contortion class is giving karate some competition in the "favourite extracurricular activity" division.
This year she took up cross country and downhill skiing, and likes both. She is a very cautious downhill skier, as one might predict.
She's always been talkative but this year marks a definite increase in her desire to chat with her friends. Matthew calls the karate change room the "black hole of talking" because Elizabeth and Erika take so long to get out of there. Elizabeth frequently doesn't even need to change but always goes in anyway to gab with her friends and maybe do a handstand or two. Luckily kids these days don't seem to talk on the phone, but Elizabeth does like to text and send the odd email. Mostly she only has access to text with family. We can always tell if she's texting from a parental phone by the copious use of emojis. Now that she has her own device to text from she likes to send Mommy photos with drawings or funny selfies to emphasize a point. Her sense of humour is highly appreciated around here.
Eleven can be dramatic and sometimes snarky. Usually she has a pretty good attitude compared to many other tweens her age, especially if she isn't short on sleep. If she's very grumpy, sending her to practice piano still is highly effective therapy as it always improves her mood and that of those listening. Sending her to practice the violin is sadly the opposite story - she finds it very, very frustrating. It's actually improved a lot, but she doesn't think so. Still, she doesn't want to quit doing the class because she likes her teacher so much.
Elizabeth is still pretty organized, though she does tend to strew clothing all over her room. She makes lists and figures out her plans (just like mom). She's pretty self sufficient actually.
She's pretty patient with Michael, who adores her. She enjoys playing with him and is a great helper with him especially. She helps with her other siblings as well but often prefers to do big girl things on her own.
Elizabeth likes to invent stories and spends much of her free time writing them down in various notebooks or drawing pictures.
Her friend group is still the same core group of friends, but she had an easier time selecting only a few for her birthday. She seems to finally understand the concept that one can't do all the things with all the people. She likes this as little as I do. She says she has four best friends this year - Bianca, Olivia, Maddie and Samia.
Overall 11 is a fun age as she's still willing to be a kid but old enough to have some independence. It's neat watching her grow up and start getting glimpses of the lovely young woman she will be some day!
Elizabeth had initially been unsure about whether she wanted to do a karate tournament on her birthday weekend but it's the last chance to compete against Ontario kids before provincials so ultimately she agreed it would be a good idea.
We started her birthday out normally at home with our birthday breakfast feast, although I did allow birthday cupcakes for breakfast since we weren't going to have cake later (!) Actually the birthday breakfast was slightly more elaborate than might otherwise have been allowed since it wasn't a school day and since I wasn't going to see my baby for the rest of her birthday! (sniff, sniff)
Although Elizabeth does like road trips, I thought it would be fun to make this one extra special. It worked out well that Erika and Yukiko were coming along for the ride.
In the morning I decorated the van using birthday window clings and balloons. It was sort of a last minute idea but I was pleased with the way it turned out. Elizabeth brought along a hoard of stuffed elephants which I thought helped complete the decorations nicely.
Matthew and I acquired a number of small gifts the night before (eg. t-shirts, some dresses, some pants, leftover Halloween candy and tic tacs). Brendan and I also had planned to give Elizabeth a watch, which is something that she's been wanting since her last one self-destructed. I wrapped each of the eleven gifts into eleven different packages and then set eleven timers on her iPod approximately every half hour with a break for lunch. We let her go to a restaurant for lunch instead of packing food - and she got to pick the restaurant (Tim Horton's). Each timer had a memory or something that we liked about 11 year old Elizabeth and it was pretty amusing to write.
Anyway I had fun doing it and apparently it went over well so it was worth it.
After arriving in Toronto Lauren, Donna and kids showed up and Muriel's place and we all hung around and chatted. Daddy spent a fair amount of time suddenly wondering who was watching Michael and why was he being so quiet before realizing that Michael was not with him... The big kids played games and chatted and the adults enjoyed not being in a rush to make supper. When Lindsey had to leave for a birthday party the rest of us headed off to Swiss Chalet for supper and enjoyed a lovely meal. Then it was back home to Muriel's place through a super heavy snow storm. Luckily we we only going a few blocks as it was really coming down hard. Elizabeth and Erika then played a little more Abalone while daddy placed chocolates on their pillows (part of the compromise for not going to a hotel) and then it was off to bed for everyone in anticipation of the early morning the next day.
We were all set to go to Vorlage with the biggest ski club yet and three carloads in lieu of an impeding strike... and then a snowstorm rolled in cancelling strike and busses.
I decided that we would take the snow day and ski anyway. Then I looked out the window. The snowflakes were HUGE. Bigger than my palm huge. It was pouring the wettest flakes you can imagine. A flurry of texts later and despite the disappointed kid pleas to go anyway we decided it just wasn't safe. I was worried about the drive home from the ski hill, and thought that while the first hour or two would probably be fun, the rest would be soaking wet and miserable. This was not my idea of fun, nor did it seem like a particularly good day to introduce Matthew to downhill skiing.
So… we went tobogganing at Landsdowne instead. Amelia liked this plan, because she got to come along. I kidnapped Bianca and Nico. Lise-Anne brought her kids Adi and Tristan, along with twins Harry and Shaughnessy. There was sledding and not entirely sanctioned climbing (we declared a height limit). There was fort building and giant snowman creating (and destroying). Great fun was had by all.
After the sledding adventure of the morning and a quick lunch at home, I took Bianca, Nico, Elizabeth, Matthew, Amelia and Michael to the science and tech museum.
Bianca needed to stop for lunch at the cafeteria, so the older girls went to the cafeteria and I took the rest of the kids to the tinker lab. Matthew probably could have stayed there the entire visit. They had materials for building and balloons and elastic propellers as an engine. The idea was to build a vehicle and see how far you could make it move. Unfortunately there was a shortage of intact balloons which limited our ability to succeed but we had a good time trying.
There were magformer blocks too for the littler kids. Michael was very interested in the balloon pumps, but his favourite part was probably the laser cutter that was busily chopping up cardboard for a program. "Fire!" he said. The 3D printers were pretty neat as well.
We visited the Zooom room with its climbing wall and bike racing stuff. They even checked out the baby area with Michael (we practically had the museum to ourselves, so I let them ignore the age limit signs). Then we went on to the crazy kitchen. Michael thought it was hilarious.
On our way to visit the trains (CHOO-CHOO Mommy CHOO-CHOO) we discovered the loudest part of the museum. An exhibit all about sound which ironically includes a "quiet room". I will warn you that the quiet room practically begs children to make as much noise as they can. It was really fun, but strangely I encouraged the kids to move on after only a few minutes.
All too soon it was time to head home.
"Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return."
We made the 7am Ash Wednesday service by the skin of our teeth, but we made it! Next year we need to leave more time to find parking!