Big Milestone Memory: House Construction

Big Milestone Memory: House Construction

This morning I had a fun memory show up in my Facebook reminders. Time goes by so quickly it doesn’t seem like it was six years ago that this was taking place.

This was a pretty huge milestone in our lives. When I was young and into my teenage years I’m not sure I would have believed you if you told me some day I’d be able to have our own house built.

Childhood Excitement

Childhood Excitement

Last night I had a bit of a strange dream. In it, I was a young child again, probably about Noah’s age 9-10, and I randomly ran into and was able to meet Fred VanVleet. For those of you who don’t know Fred VanVleet is a basketball player for the Toronto Raptors, and someone I enjoyed watching this season. This article tells more about him and shows why he has gained a lot of respect. What I remember from the dream most though is that feeling of pure childhood excitement I had when meeting him.

For many years I haven’t followed sports, but I did when I was younger. It was mostly hockey and baseball, but there was also wrestling, as in the WWE, or WWF at the time. Watching my favourite team win the Stanley Cup, or the World Series or favourite wrestler win the championship belt, would give me some of that excitement. Back then it was more about feeling part of something; I could join in with my friends at school and talk about the win, or call family from any who had taken me to see the Blue Jays play in real life when they won the World Series.

It’s different now though, I enjoy watching basketball, but I only started watching again because of Noah. His interest is growing, and he asks me all the time if there are any basketball games we can watch. Maybe it’s not so different after all. It’s still being part of something, but this time it’s a father and son bonding. It could be because the Raptors didn’t win, but the excitement I get now isn’t from watching them play, but from watching his enthusiasm while playing or watching.

The excitement of the kids is part of the reason we’ve tried to change things like Christmas and our vacations. Instead of buying things we try to make experiences that will bring out that excitement in the kids. Then I can drink it in and have it myself, and we will then share those memories for the rest of our lives. Our vacation this year is going to be the best one yet. While we have a lot of things we’re going to do and see, the big part is finally taking the whole family to Disney!

Fourteen Years

Fourteen Years

To my best friend Jen,

There isn’t a day which goes by where I don’t want to spend it with you. For the past fourteen years you’ve stuck with me through many ups and downs. The whole time you’ve been my rock that I lean on, encouraging me to take risks, and holding me up when times get low.

You are one of the smartest, most courageous, hardworking, and kindest people I know.

A tiny list of the things we’ve been through together:

  • 8 moves
  • 9 vehicles
  • 12 of my jobs
  • 4 years of University
  • 4 children
  • Some immense heartache
  • Near death experience
  • Awesome vacations
  • Countless memories

Topping that list however is the endless love and happiness we share. I’m so thankful that we’ve had this time together, getting to know you better and better, and watching our family grow. It makes me extremely proud to tell people you are my wife and I’m looking forward to creating many more memories together for the rest of our lives.

 

Epic Road Trip 2017

Epic Road Trip 2017

Monday evening we wearily rolled into our yard for the first time in a month. It was early morning July 7 when we piled into our SUV and started out on our cross country road trip covering 5 Canadian Provinces and 15 US States.

What wonderful experiences and memories we made. Spending so much time in tight quarters during the long drives, staying in hotel rooms, and a small AirBnB, I was afraid there would be fighting and us getting tired of each other. Thankfully it was the opposite, I believe we are closer as a family now. On the last night of our trip we stopped at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire for an evening walk on our favourite beach and gave some serious consideration to spontaneously extending our trip.

This type of trip just wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Jen and I both working for Automattic. While we did each take two weeks off of work throughout the month, that left two weeks while we worked from the road.

Originally we were only going to have a three week trip out to Alberta to visit my sister, her husband, and my new nephew. When Jen, Caile, and Ella, received tickets to the NKOTB concert in Boston the weekend before we were going to leave, and with Jen starting the new job, we changed plans and booked an extra week at an AirBnB in Philadelphia. During this week Jen and I both got up extra early and worked, then spent the afternoons exploring the area with the kids, to come home and do a bit more work at night.

Jen took the next week off and did all the driving so I could work from the passengers seat while we made our way our Alberta. Jen then did the same type of schedule from my sisters house working early and late, and I started two weeks vacation. For the first time since I started at Automattic I removed my email and slack from my phone and completely disconnected from work, I didn’t even blog about the adventures as we went.

Thought I’d take the time now to highlight some of the fun adventures we had, I also kept a map showing the rough path we took and some of the main places we visited.

Hampton Beach, NH

We both started and finished our trip at this amazing beach. On day 2 we spent the early afternoon there and on our way home on day 31 we went for an evening walk before coming home.

NKOTB Concert – Fenway Park, Boston

Jen, Caile and Ella went on the night of day 2 to Fenway park and in the rain watched Boyz II Men, Paula Abdul, and the New Kids On The Block.

The Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA

On day 4 we explored some of the downtown Philadelphia area. We went through Spruce Street Harbor Park, walked up to the Liberty Bell, and then took the kids to The Franklin Institute.

The Jersey Shore

Jen found us an amazing beach at Strathmere, it was huge, beautiful, free, and not busy at all. We spent hours there and ate a picnic on the beach. We then on our way home I surprised Jen by mapping her to Atlantic City where we could walk the board walk and explore.

Fairmount Park – Philadelphia, PA

We spent a few days visiting the Delaware Museum of Natural History, Legoland Philadelphia, and the Academy of Natural Science.

Then on day 9 we explored Fairmount Park. We started out by going to to a community pool but it was crowded and the water was pretty cold. Instead we found Wheel Fun Rentals and rented a bike which fit us all and peddled around the park that way some.

Letchworth State Park, NY

As we started our driving again we stopped at the amazing Letchworth State at the advice of my friend and co-worker Chrissie! We met up with her, her husband, her mother in law, and our other co-worker Sam for some visit and a pizza lunch picnic. I’d never heard of the park before but it’s called the Grand Canyon of the East. It had some amazing views and beautiful water falls.

Niagara Falls, ON

Before we headed to our hotel for the night we stopped to check out Niagara Falls. We had been here when the kids were little but before Noah was born. It was like a water falls day for us, first at Letchworth then these powerful falls.

Marineland – Niagara Falls, ON

We met up with Tiffany and her family, and our friends from New Brunswick on day 11 to go to Marineland! Our plan was to explore the sea life, but the kids ended up having the most fun on all the rides.

African Lion Safari – Cambridge, ON

One of our favourite things last time we were in this area was the African Lion Safari. So on day 12 we got together with Tiffany and her family again and took everyone here. Driving through so close to these animals is really neat. Monkeys climb all over cars, giraffes cross the road right in front of you, rhinos graze on the grass right beside you. This was one of the main highlights of the whole trip.

Air Zoo Aerospace Museum – Portage, MI

Day 13 was a mainly driving day but we stopped to break at the Air Zoo Aerospace Museum. We didn’t get to spend much time here but there were many different old aircraft on display and lots of interactive exhibits to explore. Caile and Ella took a ride in a flight simulator and ended upside down for most of their flight 🙂

Mall of America – Minneapolis, MN

What vacation wouldn’t be complete without some shopping. This I could have passed on but we did get to play some mini golf and had a good time doing that.

Worlds Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, ND

A quick stop on our driving day. I get a kick out of these Worlds Largest type roadside attractions. All I can picture is a town council meeting with a bunch of people sitting around. “What can we do to bring people to our town? I know”, one would exclaim, “let’s build the Worlds Largest Buffalo!”

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Sikome Lake – Calgary, AB

On our first full day with my sister Melissa and her family we headed to the lake in a part near their home. It was a warm day and was nice to get to spend some time in the water and just hang out with everyone.

Prince’s Island Park – Calgary, AB

By accident we ended up finding this park right downtown Calgary. We were going to head into the mountains this day but we ran behind and saw there was bad traffic on our way there which wouldn’t give us much time so we changed plans last minute looking for something to do closer. We made our way here and also walked around downtown for a bit to find a bit of an ice cream treat.

Telus Spark Science Center – Calgary, AB

On our way home we stopped in for a quick trip to this Science Center. It was close to closing time so we spent most of our time playing on a pretty impressive outdoor playground they had built.

Calgary Zoo – Calgary, AB

With Melissa and my nephew we spent the day at the zoo. So many cool animals to see. Zoo’s are one of our kids favourite things and counting the African Lion Safari this was our second of three zoos on the trip. The gorillas and penguins ended up being most everyones top pick from here.

Rotary Park – Whitecourt, AB

For day 20 and 21 we drove up north so we could meet with Jen’s Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin, along with her family. My mother in law had been visiting her brother in British Columbia and they drove over here to meet us. We spent a couple days in this park visiting with them with the kids playing on the playground and splash pad. This was the end of my mother in laws trip so we brought her back to Calgary with us and got her to the airport for her flight home.

Heritage Park – Calgary, AB

I had never heard of this place before this trip and Melissa and her family had never been. We could have spent a lot more time here as there was lots to see. It is like an old town with shops, a train, a farm, and even carnival rides which the kids loved. Our next visit out here this will be on the list for sure.

Parks – Calgary, AB

The last couple days we took it pretty easy. We did explore a couple parks, one huge off leash dog park where we could let my fur nephew run and cool off in the river. The other is the same park which had Sikome Lake in it which we went to early on in our visit. But this time we sent it walking along the river.

Worlds Largest Booming Prairie Chicken – Rothsay MN

We had some long drive days making our way back east and didn’t take much in the way of breaks. I had found this place on the map on the way to Alberta but we missed the exit, so we decided to indulge me and on day 26 we stopped here for a quick break to stretch our legs.

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Chicago White Sox – Chicago, IL

Noah has badly wanted to see a baseball game for some time. I started looking for our time in Ontario to see if I could find a Blue Jays game we could attend there. Tickets were pretty expensive and nothing really worked time wise. I tried a few other cities we were in along the way as well. As luck would have it though the Blue Jays were playing the White Sox on our first day in Chicago and we were able to get there!

Navy Pier – Chicago, IL

On day 28 we went down to Navy Pier and started out our day with an Architectural River Boat Tour of the city. It was a really great way to see a bit of it and learn some of the history in a very relaxed way. Once we were done with the tour we went to get a different view from the Centennial Wheel. From almost 200 feet in the air you do get a pretty good view!

For dinner we tried some Chicago Style pizza, and this was certainly some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. It certainly beats NYC style pizza with no contest in my books.

Brookfield Zoo – Chicago, IL

One last zoo visit for our trip. It was a pretty chilly day and some of the family even wore jackets and sweaters for the first time since we left home. It was pretty nice though as the animals were fairly active. The kids also all decided to have caricatures of themselves drawn as a souvenir.

Huntington Beach – Bay Village, OH

Making our way back home we broke up our drive on day 30 by stopping at a beach just outside Cleveland. Unfortunately the water was off limits the day we were there, but we still had fun walking the beach and seeing the Cleveland skyline in the background.

This was an amazing trip and I only touched on some of the main things we did or places we saw. The only part that I wish I could maybe skip was the drive days through Saskatchewan and some of North Dakota. The running joke was about all the hay bales which were about the only things we could see.

Honestly the best part of it for me was getting to spend so much time without the everyday things getting in the way. There was no dance class, basketball practice, or any of the other things which breaks us up in a regular week. We spent time together. We spent time with family. We spent time with friends. We made many memories and so I just wanted to document some of it here to help job my memory if I ever start to forget.

Picking Raspberries

Last night we went out to pick some raspberries as a family. If you didn’t know I have a thing for raspberries. It isn’t even that they are my favourite, but they are delicious and the memories are great. This was even better as two of my Aunts were down visiting my Mom and they call came with us.

We only picked a few pints each and it didn’t take very long. It would have taken even less time if I hadn’t been doing the whole one for the basket, one for me trick. It wasn’t quite that bad, but I certainly taste tested some. It was my first time picking at Reimer Gardens but I think I’ll be back. They had a great setup and they do u-pick blueberries as well!

 

Old Photos and Memories

This morning I was given back a stack of old pictures that I thought were long lost and had honestly forgotten about. Going through them brought back a bunch of great memories. They are from just a short time period so it doesn’t cover all the good times we had.

It was when I realized I was going to be moving away soon so I got a camera and probably drove everybody nuts taking their pictures. In fact I know I drove at least a few of them crazy looking back at the pictures some had really annoyed looks on their faces, if their hands weren’t up in front trying to block the camera.

Many of the pictures are not fit for public view. These were not digital so none were cut it was just what was on the roll of film. It really makes me glad actually that social media and digital cameras were not like they are now when I was a teenager. Very grateful that most of the stupid things I did will just be forgotten without the digital record keeping.

Here’s one that isn’t bad just to show what a goof I was. Someone must have been paying me back for taking there picture so much.

Teenage Sandy

Good Christmas Gift Idea

In my Boxing Day Reflection post I mentioned that I wanted to get more gifts that instead of being physical things would be things that build memories and experiences. It’s not like we don’t do any of this now I just want to do more of it in the future.

For the past few nights we’ve been playing board games. These were gifts that we bought and had been given. These always make for fun family evenings. Sitting around the living room floor and watching the competitiveness come out in the kids 🙂 They love beating Mom and Dad at games.

Another tradition we started a few years back was to stop buying gifts between our family and my sisters family. We have four kids and she has three, with another on the way, so it adds up pretty quick both in cost and the number of gifts under the tree when we were buying things.

For the past few years instead we plan out an event fun for our families to get together and do. This year we were going to separate the boys and the girls which I wasn’t really fond over. The girls were all going to go do a jewelry making party at a local shop. Us boys were still unsure what we were going to do. Last minute though the shop had to cancel the party so we were looking for something else fun to do.

The kids love the Madagascar movies and The Penguins of Madagascar was playing at the theatre so we all went to see that instead. It was a pretty fun movie. I love how they throw silly things there for us adults to laugh at as well. One common bit of humour throughout was the shouting puns of celebrity names. Things like Nicholas, cage them, and Drew Barry, more power.

Even though you don’t get a chance to talk to everyone at the movies it is still a fun way to spend an afternoon, taking it easy after the busy holidays and building up that memory with family. I like these types of gifts.

Remembering Melba Green

Much of my childhood was spent growing up in a trailer park in rural Nova Scotia. It was very much it’s own little community with all kinds of interesting characters, my family included.

One of our neighbors was Melba Green. In many ways she was a stereotypical stay off my lawn kind of seniors. At least I think she was a senior, I don’t think I ever really knew how old she was. For as long as I knew her she never worked and I assume it was old age pension that she lived on, but it very easily could have been a disability benefit.

She was single and I don’t believe she was ever married, she had a brother and sister in law who lived about an hour and a half away but visits between them were seldom.

She was quite overweight and had mobility issues. First using a cane but then eventually required a walker for most distances.

She would spend most of her days sitting watching TV or peering out the window waiting for us to do something that she could yell at us to stop.

When I was about about 12 years old I ended up doing odd jobs for Melba. With her mobility issues she had a hard time doing even simple tasks. One of the first things I started doing for her was grocery shopping.

Once a week we would hop in her old Chevrolet Chevette and drive to the grocery store. She couldn’t reach back to pull the seat belt across so usually she just drove without it. The drivers seat was broken and in fact the whole car leaned to the drivers side. Eventually we started taking a taxi as the car was too old and she really shouldn’t have been driving anyway.

We always drove past three or four stores to get to the one she liked as it was familiar and it had a little dining area where she could sit while I went around the store getting the things on her list.

When I was done I would bring the cart back so she could inspect everything and give me the money to go pay. She had little money so I really had to pay attention to what everything cost to make sure it for the budget.

Once I gained her trust with the grocery shopping she also had me start doing her banking. So we would stop at the bank and she would either sit in a waiting area or stay in the car. She had a different account for every bill so I would deposit her Government cheque and then transfer funds into each of the accounts so the bills could be paid. I would also get envelopes with cash in them for things like groceries and my pay.

House cleaning became another service I would do for her. Dishes, floors, bathrooms, and laundry. Like most of us she had a oil furnace for heat. There was something wrong with it as everything in her home was always covered in a black film of soot coming from it. It was very unhealthy but I knew she couldn’t afford to have it fixed. It was about this time that my feelings for Melba Green changed. It became obvious that my helping her was as much about companionship as it was anything else. I was someone to talk to, a break from obvious loneliness.

Her yelling out the window at us neighbourhood kids came from that boredom and loneliness. Even though she had family fairly close, they had their own lives and her finances made even that distance of travel difficult.
Instead of just going and doing my job I tried to have more conversations with her. We would every once in a while sit and have meals on TV trays while watching soap operas and chatting.
Melba taught me a number of things and looking back I can see them even more clearly. Not just the practical life skills but also perspective.

There are reasons people are how they are and it’s important to have empathy and try to see things from their perspective.

When she finally was moved to a nursing home I was happy for her. She wasn’t someone I worked for now, or the cranky old lady across the street, but a sort of friend. The environment was going to be much healthier without oil soot in the air. The food would be healthier and there would be people closer to her age for companionship.

Once she moved we only visited her a couple times, but she seemed so much happier and even started losing weight.
We lost touch when my family moved away as well, but I hope she knew that she had an effect on my life and I believe I’m a bit better of a person for having known her.

Raspberry Time Travel

There are not many things in this world that can immediately send me to another time and place. For some it is a song or a smell, but for me, just sometimes, when I place a freshly picked raspberry in my mouth my mind is flooded with memories from the past.

All of a sudden I’m a little boy again, parked in one of the rows of my Grandparents garden. The tall raspberry bushes hiding me from anyone who isn’t in my row. Allowing me to pick raspberry after raspberry until I could eat no more. There are few places which hold a sentimental place in my heart, usually that is reserved for people, but my Grandparents home will always be a special place to me.

We lived only a few hours away, but only visited a few times a year. Going to visit them was our family vacations and was something we all looked forward to. Their yard seemed like the biggest property I’d ever seen and was always kept neat and tidy. While we were there we were free to run and play anywhere on this grand estate. Maybe it was because I was young and small or maybe it was because we lived in a mobile home on a postage stamp sized lot. Whatever the case their yard was massive and I loved having the run of it.

Aerial view of my Grandparents home 1960.
Aerial view of my Grandparents home 1960.

The property ran from the main road all the way back to a beautiful river. On one side there was a farmers field on the other side a row of trees separated their yard from the neighbours. Along the fence between their yard and the farmers field there was a gooseberry bush. It still to this day is the only one I can recall ever seeing. It grew wild but the berries were a delightful sour. This reminds me that I should try to find a bush to plant in my own yard.

In the far left corner, close to the river, was an old shed which years ago was used for housing animals. It was since converted over to a kids play house. The toys still in there were from my Mothers generation and earlier so they seemed old to us but still fun to play with. The windows had curtains in them and besides the main door there was a small sliding door that was used to let the animals in and out, but if you could fit it made for a sneaky exit as well.

In the far right corner the neighbours had a small fish pond which they kept fully stocked. If you got close the fish would all start jumping looking for food. On occasion we would be able to help throw pellets to them and watch the scramble as the water erupted with what seemed like thousands of fish all trying to get the food.

Another place which was great to sit and relax was the two seat wooden glider swing. It didn’t matter if I was by myself or if we loaded both sides full of people, I could sit there and swing back and forth and let the time float by. As I got older I would sit out there reading and swinging.

If I decided to take a break from the swing there was a tree in between it and the house which was excellent for climbing. I recall sitting up there, out of sight, and spying on people coming in and out of the house without them ever knowing I was there.

My Grandmothers pride and joy, and my favourite place on their property, was her garden. To me it seemed like she could have fed the whole neighbourhood based on its size and everything growing in it. Apparently by the time I was around it had already shrunk in size compared to what it used to be.

She seemed to grow everything and there was nothing better than a meal from things that came out of her garden. Nothing except maybe just standing in the garden and eating peas right out of the pod, or beans freshly picked. My favourite though was certainly the raspberries.

My Grandfather past away while I was still quite young but my Grandmother stayed in the home almost until she past away in 2007.

Walking the property one last time before it was sold, it no longer seemed to be as big as it once did, but the memories were still there and always will be. Now I look forward to the times when that simple act of putting a berry in my mouth can transport me back to that yard.