Auntie Mary came to visit with my cousin Andrea! We picked them up at the train station, drove past the parliament hill lights (a bit underwhelming this year to be honest) and then on a whim decided to check out our local community centre's "snowflake special" which I'd heard was going to have music and food and wagon rides.
It hadn't really started by the time we got there but the horse was waiting for us so everyone climbed on. I had a great deal of difficulty getting up and by the time Mary helped me on the horse actually started off without her! That was kind of a bummer since by the time we got the driver to understand that he'd left someone behind she had given up chasing us! We had a nice little ride around and then when we got back we got a second ride; this time with Mary as well.
Then home to change before Brendan and I headed out on a hot date at one of our client's annual Christmas parties while Janice, Mary, Andrea and Margaret wrangled the kids into bed.
Sunday morning we skipped church to go watch Elizabeth in her ballet recital - this time a production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that was written and choreographed by one of the grade twelve students last year. Elizabeth's class did a lullaby to put Lucy to sleep at Mr Tumnus's house. I thought they did it very well. Elizabeth's friend Olivia had auditioned for a bigger role as one of the beavers, so it was quite fun to watch her in more of the dances.
Stir Up Sunday was actually a couple of weeks ago but I hadn't had time to make the pudding. Mary and Andrea's visit was the perfect excuse to get myself together. We all put in a charm and stirred. Mary was a little concerned about the choking hazard especially after I told her that someone ate the boots last year but I convinced her we'd be more careful this year!
We had been hoping to celebrate Karen's 40th birthday but unfortunately Dave and crew were ill so the celebrations had to be postponed. I put Mary and Andrea to work making me some gingerbread dough for next weekend's party instead!
On Monday we took the kids out of school early as we thought we'd check out the Canada 150 Parliament Hill ice rink. The rink is somewhat controversial as it cost more than $5 million dollars. Originally it was going to be at the Hill for the month of December only and then dismantled and re-used somewhere else permanently, but now it's going to stay until the end of Winterlude. Mary and I weren't skating so we didn't bother with tickets for ourselves. This turned out to be a mistake, because for some reason the powers that be have decided that skaters and non-skaters must be kept strictly segregated.
We were there on a fairly cold afternoon and it turned out there is nowhere to warm up. In fact, although there appeared to be some kind of sheltered tent we were told very firmly that it was not to be used and there was actually no shelter of any kind. So that was a disappointment.
The guidelines suggested one should arrive an hour in advance of your time slot. The way it works is that you have forty minutes to skate and then 20 minutes for the Zamboni. We parked at the World Exchange Plaza and walked in and arrived well before our time. Since it wasn't busy our crew was allowed to go on for the earlier time and I gather that was quite enjoyable. Then it was time for the Zamboni. It doesn't take 20 minutes for the average rink to be flooded, so we got to watch the clock for a good fifteen minutes for no apparent reason. While they bent the rules on letting people on in a previous session, it was clear they weren't about to bend the rules on letting people skate early. So of course with all the standing around the kids got cold.
There were a couple of camera men taking videos from the spectator side of the rink, including through the open doors of the rink. No one batted an eyelash.
Finally the clock ticked to the right time and they let everyone back on the ice. Matthew skated a few times around but it was clear to me that he was absolutely frozen and we were about 10 minutes away from a complete "I'm too cold" meltdown. Did I mention that there was nowhere to warm up? I estimated that we had about a 5 or 10 minute walk to get anywhere remotely warm so tried to get Brendan's attention. After all, as a non-skating parent I was ideally suited to dealing with a frozen kid; there was no reason for any of the others to get off the ice after waiting 20 minutes for their timeslot!
Security did not see it that way, telling me that I was "not allowed" to talk to my husband, that it was not their job to worry about the health and safety of participants but rather to enforce security (!) and that there was no way that anyone could even take him a message. Since there was a perfectly good door on the side of the arena right where I was standing (the one that the camera men had been using earlier), I took matters into my own hands and opened it. Immediately about fifteen RCMP guys showed up looking quite grumpy. "If we let YOU open that door, then everyone will want to and we can't have that!". Since the number of RCMP and security completely outnumbered the number of skaters on the ice and spectators combined, I have NO idea what on earth their problem was, especially since both doors on the spectator side had been open for an extended period not half an hour before by the camera guys. It really felt like a bunch of people were a little too invested in enforcing the (poorly thought out and badly implemented) rules while completely ignoring common sense. I honestly don't know how they would handle a medical emergency; badly unless it was really obvious I suspect.
In any case, I ignored them, got Brendan's attention and got him to get Matthew off the ice. Luckily we sorted ourselves out quickly enough that no one arrested me or anything dramatic but it was a bit tense for a few minutes. One of the staff on the skating side helped Matthew come around to the spectator side (because of course the skaters weren't "allowed" to do that) and I took him off to get warmed up. Turns out he had soaked his socks at school so his feet were extremely cold. I was still mad for hours afterwards despite taking the time to write a scathing complaint.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Enough snow had fallen to make it feasible to pull out the sled on the way to the bus stop (great excitement). Andrea came to see the kids off and not too long afterwards we delivered Mary and Andrea back to the train station for their trip home.