Category Archives: family

Mark is now 15

Happy Birthday Mark!

He turned 15 today.  Despite his best efforts, he has made it 15 times around the sun without being tossed from the planet.

We celebrated in part on the weekend.  On Friday Wendy and I took him shopping and got him to pick out some new sunglasses.  He totally ignored the incredible looking sunglasses I picked out for him and instead picked some sunglasses that look like he is from The Matrix.  Whoa.

On Sunday morning we got up early and I gave him a MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and base.  For $8 the base makes the entire system a lot more secure.  Mark is pretty responsible but he is a teenager and therefore his coordination comes and goes. 

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

Wendy gave him a one person mess kit to cook with while hiking.  Oliver’s response was, “Only one person?  What’s Mark going to eat?”  He’s always looking out for his older brother.

We then took off to Prince Albert National Park and went hiking for the day.  We hiked the Waskesiu River, the Mud Flat Trail (where we got close and personal with some black bears), and hiked both sides of the Narrows.  Mark cooked us up some lunch with his new gear.  After a day of hiking and exploring, we went to The Angry Taco for dinner and called it a day.

Tuesday morning, we gave him the rest of his gifts.  Oliver gave him a frisbee disc golf set.

We all got him a Altec Lansing XL Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker which he has wanted really badly.  He was pretty happy to get one.

Altec Lansing XL Soundblade

Today after school him and I are heading out for a quick game of golf and then coming home to have some steak that has been marinating for several days.  It is starting out as a nice day.

So this is how it all ends

Tomorrow I am off to Prince Albert National Park to explore the Mud Creek Trail (and some others) with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.

It is a great trail to explore during the spring because of the high number of hungry black bears who feed on the fish in the stream.

Hungry black bears, a wound on my foot and a messed up ankle.  What could go wrong?

We are also up there celebrating Mark’s birthday (he turns 15 next week).  That birthday brings up the awkward conversations around learners license and driving.  As I told Mark, first let’s survive a bunch of black bears and then we can talk.

So… if is this blog and my Twitter go silent over the next couple of weeks, you know what happened.

If I had only picked up one of these.

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

A couple of months ago I was sitting down for beverages with Wendy and some friends when we started talking about some hikes we wanted to take in the Canadian Rockies next year.  Scott Theede recommended that I get Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies by Kathy and Craig Copeland which is a self-proclaimed opinionated guide to hiking trails all over the Rockies.

Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

I looked on Amazon and they wanted $400 for it.  Indigo wanted over $1000 for it.  Fortunately it was just between print runs and I was able to get it from Indigo for about $30.

One of the hikes we want to take is to Berg Lake and Mount Robson (a hike that Scott has taken and posted to Flickr).  It is highly recommended in the book.  Wendy was chagrined to find out that the hike she wants to take next year to Lake Agnes Tea House is not recommended at all (we will do it anyway as it gives ideas to make it a better trip.  That and Wendy really, really wants to have tea in a mountain tea house).

The book arrived in a heavy duty case.  Half of the case is full of opinions about which hike to take.  The other half is small booklets that offer the technical details on each hike.  The idea is that you do your research ahead of time and then carry only the map and details with you.  It makes a lot of sense.

So the plan is to hike to Grey Owl’s cabin in June with Wendy and Mark (for his birthday).

In July we are heading to Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary for a holiday and plan to hike Johnston’s Canyon then.

In the summer of 2016, we are going to camp in Lake Louise for a week at a rustic campground (where there are no showers) in the Bow Valley (grizzly bear country) and take in six day hikes through the Bow Valley with Mark and Oliver.  I’ll be honest, this no shower thing is already freaking me out.

In 2017 Oliver will be old enough (he’ll be 9) and we will take a multi-day hike into Berg Lake and Mount Robson (with some time exploring Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper).  Hopefully we won’t be wasting much time in the Canadian Rockies (Wendy’s trips to mountain tea houses excluded).

Am pretty excited to explore the rest of the book and the trails in contains in it.

41

It is my birthday today.  I was awoken to the sounds of my kids and Wendy coming into my room with presents.  I had plans to open the gift but Oliver made me very aware of what they were.  Wendy gave me a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens.  Mark gave me an old book about the City of Saskatoon’s street car system.  Believe it or not, we once had an amazing transit system in this city.   Oliver gave me a pair of hiking pants, sunglasses, and a new Starbucks Coffee mug.  Life is good.

The highlight of my day was getting my eyes checked at Prairie Optometry.  After failing my eye exam, it was off to order some new glasses.  

As I had mentioned on Twitter, I found a dog at the Saskatoon SPCA’s website.  I filled out an online application one night and they called me the next morning to pick up the dog.  Today we picked up an 8 month old black labrador mix that had been at the SPCA for a couple of months.  She had come in with her mother and siblings and was the last one left.  After visiting with her for a while, we adopted her and took her home.

Our new dog Marley

So far here is a list of things Marley has chewed on.

  • Wendy’s glasses
  • Wendy’s skull
  • My hand
  • My forearm
  • Wendy’s hand
  • Hutch (the other dog)
  • Slippers
  • Oliver’s boot
  • lip balm
  • Hutch (again)
  • My shin.

We haven’t had a puppy in my life since 1985.  I forgot how much fun they are.  When I say fun, I mean chaos.

Anyways, a word about the SPCA.  I know there are some excellent dog rescue’s out there but the SPCA was really pleasant to deal with.  We have gotten Elway, Maggi, and now Marley there and we couldn’t be happier.  

I have wanted a dog this size since we adopted Elway.  Not that there was anything wrong with Elway or Maggi, they were just bigger than I had wanted when we went in. 

Maggi

About this time back in late 2005, Wendy and I were out for a drive and she wanted to go look at the SPCA at puppies.  We had just put down Elway the Halloween before because of liver cancer and I was missing having a dog around the house.

We went in looking for puppies and came out with a full sized, rambunctious and rowdy Weimeraner/Retriever cross that had been badly abused.  In the interview room Maggi physically wounded Wendy by jumping all around while Wendy actually said with a straight face that she thought this massive dog would be a good lap dog.

The scene in that interview room at the SPCA reminded me of when two Loonie Toon characters are locked in a room and fighting.  It was hilarious and Maggi came out on top. Then in the line to adopt Maggi, the dog somehow wrestled Wendy to the floor and I remember looking down at Wendy who was flat on her back in the lobby of the SPCA and thinking that this isn’t going to end well.

We took her home and she was confounded by the stairs.  She had never been in a house before.  If you touched her, she would get so excited, she would run off to another part of the house.  If she saw your open hand, she would lay down and cry because she was sure I would hit her.

Slowly she became my dog.  I remember the first time she jumped up on the bed and slept there.  It was a big deal that she trusted me to be that close.  Eventually she realized that no one was going to hit her, stairs could be mastered, and a queen sized bed was just about the perfect size for her to lay on.  Over time she also realized that scaring the pizza delivery guy wasn’t helping her get leftover pizza and chilled out even with strangers.

We went on countless walks to the park and she was never happier than when she had her frisbee.  She ate with the frisbee, slept with the frisbee, went to the bathroom carrying the frisbee, and carried the slimy frisbee to bed.

Maggi with frisbee

She loved to fetch and would do anything to get a frisbee.  She hurdled a merry-go-round once to come up with an errant toss.  She jumped the front of Lee’s car to get another one.  One time two Saskatoon Police Officers stopped just to watch her come down with frisbee after frisbee.  After some tosses, their black police uniforms had blonde dog hair all over them.  They didn’t seem to care.

The one thing that would drive her crazy was fetching snowballs in the yard.  She would tear up all of the snow looking for a ball made of snow.  

Maggi getting a snowball

She would never give up and eventually would bring back any snow as a way to save face.  Of course I would make another snowball and toss it out there and it would start all over again.

Maggi with a stick

Maggi was always a bull in a china shop and we were worried when we brought Oliver home that she would be too aggressive with him who was still two months premature.  I’ll always remember that dog walking extremely slowly across the floor and giving Oliver a little lick before laying down right beside him.  For whatever reason Maggi thought of Oliver as her puppy and was forever overly protective of him.  When he napped, she slept outside his room.  When he played, she always was near.

Wendy and Maggi

Maggi was smart and devious.  She never really accepted sharing a bed with Wendy and was always trying to kick her off.  She would lay beside us and punch Wendy in the head. She would actually uncover Wendy at night while making a nest for herself.  She would also try to push Wendy’s legs out of the bed.  She may have accepted me as the alpha male but she never ever respected Wendy as the alpha female of the pack.  

She liked Wendy and even loved her but never really respected Wendy.  Many times Wendy would get mad at Maggi and she would walk over to me and look back at Wendy with a look of “do something about her.”  That always went over well.

Maggi looking for a ball

This fall she developed a lump on her leg.  We had it tested and it wasn’t cancerous but a fat deposit.  We dealt with that but there was the danger that it could return as cancerous.  In December it did and she started to struggle breathing and walking.  This week I realized she was in an incredible amount of pain.  The lump grew daily and we took her to the vet who told us that it was not only cancerous but had spread to her lungs.  There wasn’t any choice and today we took her to the clinic and I held her as they put her down.

Maggi asleep in the Honda Accord

Maggi and Mark

Let sleeping dogs lie

Maggi and Wendy

Siesta

Goodbye Maggi

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King wrote this about his dog Bailey when he put him down.

I will endure a few weeks of the occasional dark thought, and I will think: ‘Pretty good trade, 159 months of companionship and friendship and unconditional love for one or three months when sadness creeps in. In fact, that’s a fantastic trade.’ I feel the same as when Woody died: The easiest way to not feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be.

It was a good trade for my family as well.

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.  A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.

North 49 65 litre backpack with an internal frameBackpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.  You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.

I am carrying a 65 litre pack.  It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy don’t have to carry as much stuff.  It will hold Wendy’s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over.  I won’t use all of that space but it is there.

If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.  Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need.  They should do the job.

Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.  They had a loss leader going last winter and we got it then.  It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.   The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.  If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.

Ozark Trail 3-Man Tent

If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.   Weight and size are a factor.  Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).  If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.  It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.  If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.

0765159 1

Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.  It is small but it will be only him and his bag. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.  We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.  It’s small but it is light.

We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.  If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.

Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.  We will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags.   We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

For lighting both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have tactical flashlights and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wander out in the dark, we can be seen.

For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.  Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.  I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in June, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

Primus Classic Trail Stove

As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sporks and we are set to go.

Carmanah Large Cookset from Outbound

As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.  There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.  It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.  Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.

Food: Basically MRE’s.  We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.  We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.  Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.

Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.  As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.  We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.  While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.  They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.

Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras.  We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.  In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.  It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.  What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.

We bought everything local.  While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.

Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

Christmas Day

Hey, it’s Christmas Day this morning.

Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn.  We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home. 

Here is what everyone got.

Mark

Wendy and i gave Mark a new Asus MeMo Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet case.  

Asus MeMo Android Tablet

He wasn’t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away.  Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal.  He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal.  Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve.  I am hoping this helps him the new year.  If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers.  

Wendy gave him a VIA Rail shoulder bag with a drafting book inside.  It’s a murse!

The dogs got him the same kind of photography gloves that Wendy also got.

Maggi and Hutch gave him and Oliver PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that.  

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Santa Claus gave Mark a tactical flashlight and an old but amazing Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens.

Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens

I also gave him a and a brand new Pentax 35mm f2.4 lens which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll.  He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.

Oliver

As for Oliver, Wendy gave him a giant X-Wing fighter.  It is huge and he was thrilled.  Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced. 

T65 X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars

I gave him a toy AH-64 Apache attack helicopter  

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter

Mark got him a Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder.  I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing.  It comes with two lego characters.  Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT.  So yeah, that’s great.  

Lego Star Wars Snowspeeder

Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera.  It was an old one of mine that I didn’t use once in 2014.  Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.

Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set.  He’ll love it.

He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pair and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.

Bushmaster binoculars

You can imagine how excited he is about all of that.  You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.

Wendy

I gave Wendy a Sigma 19mm f2.8 Art Lens for Christmas.

Sigma 19mm Art f2 4 DN Lens

It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.

Oliver gave her a new knife set which she has wanted for a while.  He also gave her a J.A. Henckels’ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter.   So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.

J.A. Henckels' Chef Knife

Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.

Sennheisser 201HD Headphones

Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now).  Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.

Walmart Cheese Knife Set

Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.

Maggi and Hutch gave her some slippers that she later plans to chew up (it’s the circle of life). Considering Hutch and Maggi have no source of income, I am not sure how they did that.

Santa Claus gave Wendy a new LED tactical flashlight.  She wasn’t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the “Maiden” but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes.  I just told her that Santa was trolling her.  Santa also got her the same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.

Police Security Maven Flashlight

I was spoiled for Christmas. 

Wendy gave me a Pentax Q 01 Prime Lens.  It is a fixed f1.9 lens that you should see more of in the coming months.  She also gave me a Kata MarvelX-40 camera bag for the lens and my Pentax Q  

Pentax 01 Standard Prime Lens for the Pentax Q

Mark gave me a video light kit which will be used for OurYXE. 

CowboyStudio Light Kit


Oliver game me a canvas duffle bag from L.L. Bean with a Police Security tactical flashlight, and a Bushnell monocular in it. The dog gave me an old school Stanley thermos.

Large duffle bag from L.L. Bean

Police Security Maven Flashlight

Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.

Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.

I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas Morning

Good morning everyone. To be honest I hope you aren’t reading this when I post it.  It’s early and I can’t sleep.

Not sleeping well on a Christmas Eve/Christmas morning used to be my normal routine.  As a kid I would go to be early with all of these expectations of Christmas morning in my head.  I desperately wanted to sleep but never could (even then I knew that sleep would make Christmas come sooner).  I would read, count sheep, read some more and eventually around 4 a.m. my brother and sister would wander into my room while we debated if it was too early to go upstairs and wake up my mom (it was but it didn’t stop all three of us from taking the opposite view).

Around 5 a.m. we would try to wake up Mom only to be hollered at to go back to bed (later on I found out that she was awake too but wasn’t going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to open presents).  Around 6:30 a.m. she would wake up and tell us that we couldn’t come up until the coffee machine was done perking her coffee.  The normally fast coffee maker would slow down to a crawl on Christmas morning as we huddled at the bottom of the steps waiting for it to finish while Mom set out our Christmas stockings.  Every drop of coffee was heard and seemed to take forever.

After what seemed like hours, her coffee would be done and we would open our stockings and then our gifts before Mom would make us a big breakfast.  Since our stockings always had candy in them, at least once that morning Mom would say, “no more chocolate until breakfast” which would generate howls of laughter from her and us as soon as the words left her mouth.

After breakfast the wrapping paper would be carefully gathered up making sure nothing got tossed out.  Mom would then turn on the Disneyworld Christmas Day parade and we would collectively mock Regis and Joan Lunden.  Joan Lunden isn’t nearly as irritating as Kathy Lee Gifford but it was Christmas morning and we were high on chocolate and strong coffee.  Some toys would be assembled but in a family of readers, the books would distract us and soon all three kids would be in our rooms reading whatever soft cover book was in our stocking.  Since all three of us were up all night, it lead to a Christmas Day nap and some quiet time for Mom.

Then we would do something fun.  We went public skating one year, tobogganing on many of them, often we took Misty our dog for a walk along the Meewasin Trail and there was often friends who stopped by.  Once mom would make her initial proclamation of “no more chocolate until breakfast”, you would hear someone say it every time someone ate a candy, including her.

Eventually it was time for the Christmas dinner.  Mom had these crystal glasses that meant the world to her.  She would always warn us to be careful and it seemed like every Christmas she would break one in the weirdest of ways.  Even weirder was that even with brain cancer, she never broke many things except for those goblets.  The Bay sold them and we would always pick up the replacement glass for her on Mother’s Day but it was kind of a tradition, Mom breaking her prized goblets.  It wasn’t like she dropped them.  Something would fall out of a counter (which never happened) bounce and the ricochet into the goblet.  We would just sit there with a look that said, “I can’t believe that happened”.  Even weirder is that as kids, we never broke one and we were the ones who broke everything.

Then it was a night of talking together, playing crokinole, and drinking too much strong coffee.  

I hated crokinole.  Mom played it all of the time as a kid and would sit there and do all of these crazy trick shots and then go, “Jordon do you want to play?”  Let me see, getting humiliated by my mother who was a poor winner seems like a lot of fun.  She was undefeated for her entire adult life.  I was winless.  So I would play and get beat badly and then get taunted for losing.  I was so happy when Jolene and Lee were there and could be beat as well.  To be fair, my mom was insanely competitive and would accept any video game challenge we made to her.  She got as good as good as she gave.  Then we would wind down and make plans to take the tree down on Boxing Day.  Christmas always started the same (waiting for coffee to perk) and ended the same (waiting for more coffee to perk).

Taking the Christmas tree down on Boxing Day started because my great Aunt Beth spent every Christmas with us.  Aunt Beth never married and adopted Mom as her favourite niece and spent every holiday with us.  She would come down from Regina on the bus and stay for a couple of weeks.  We loved Aunt Beth but she was eccentric and lived alone too long.  She was also really short (that matters) and smoked a lot.  i used to bug her that she lit her last cigarette when rationing ended after World War II and then just lit one smoke of another since then.  It wasn’t that far from the truth.

Aunt Beth would come in the second week of December and so would the smell of Player’s Light cigarettes.  So to get the smell of nice pine Christmas Tree, our tree had to go up before Aunt Beth got here.  Which meant by Boxing Day, we were tired of the tree and Christmas decorations in general so it all came down.  She never realized the reason and I don’t think she cared that much either.  There was still cookies to eat and festivities to take part of.

So today is going to kind of be the same kind of day.  The boys aren’t awake yet but they will be upstairs soon.  My coffee is being made as I write this and I assume I will be joined shortly by Oliver and Mark (who will also be drinking my coffee)  We will have a nice breakfast together and then head downtown where we will take some photos of an empty and abandoned downtown core.  Mark, Wendy, Oliver and I have new camera gear to test out.  Someone has to feed Bridge City with fresh photographs. Then back home for a charcuterie board for lunch and maybe the kids will have a nap while Wendy cooks our Christmas dinner before spending the night goofing off and drinking too much coffee.

Hope your day is a good one.  Merry Christmas.

(tomorrow, the decorations come down)

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve.  It was a rare day for Wendy and I as we both had if off work.  We slept in for a bit and then I woke and was surprised that I wasn’t sick.  After a nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict and then taking the dogs out for a walk, we spend the rest of the day chilling out before heading meeting some friends for lunch at Alexander’s.  After some nachos, we chilled out a bit before heading over to Lee and Brittany’s for dinner.

Since it was Camdyn’s first Christmas, it was all about her.

We gave her a baby tablet, Oliver got her a cell phone, and Mark gave her a teddy bear that is the size of Oliver.  I’m seriously rethinking that gift.  She could get crushed by that bear.  Then again, in a fight with a giant monster, it will do quite well.

Teddy Bear vs. Giant Monster

The boys gave Lee and Brittany men’s and women’s Calgary Flames mugs.  Wendy and I gave Brittany a pizza stone and a signed copy of Amy Jo Ehlman’s book Out of Saskatchewan Kitchens. 

Wendy and I gave Lee a crate of dynamite inspired fire starter from Cabela’s.  Basically they are fire starters that look like sticks of TNT and come in a wooden TNT looking crate.  Unless I got him the wrong stuff and I actually got him dynamite.  If that is the case Evergreen could have a different look the first time he starts his fire pit.  Camdyn can use the giant bear as a protective barrier.

Along with Camdyn getting a teddy bear, we found Lee’s childhood teddy bear in a box in the corner of our basement.  It is over 30 years old, has seen better days but Wendy carefully sewed up Teddy and then got him a new outfit from Build-a-Bear.  So there will not just be one but two bears in their household, even if one is a greybeard.  Lee was so shocked that I think he almost cried when we gave him Teddy.  It was pretty sweet.

Lee wanted to get me a tripod but Amazon didn’t ship it in time.  Instead he gave me an Amazon.com gift certificate.  They also gave me a battery backup for my cell phone and a Pentax remote control for my camera.

They gave Wendy the main game and first expansion pack to Cards Against Humanity. The best part of the gift is that neither Lee, Brittany, or Wendy had realized how taboo it was.  They also gave hime a tea cup and tea from David’s Tea, a knife sharpener, and two books by Anne Lamott.  

They gave Mark an indoor basketball hoop, a book on the history of the NFL, a Denver Broncos toque (or knit cap for you American’s out there), and a violent PS3 game.

Oliver got a remote control dog, a Marvel posters, a Lego Batman alarm clock, and a Lego book/playset.

Now we get to head to bed and see what will happen on Christmas morning.  

Hope your evening was a good one.

So this is how it ends

Over three weeks ago Oliver and Mark came down with the flu.  Then Oliver came home with an ear infection and I remember him laying down on the bed beside me and both of us just whined to each other.  I started running these fevers and chills and could not get warm.  I would crawl under a dozen blankets, get the dog on the bed, wear a toque, mittens, and even a scarf and just be frozen until the fever would break.  This has gone on for weeks.

At first it was a virus that needed to run it’s course.  Then the pain moved into my face  and ears and one day I woke up with blood coming out of me ear canals.  I had ruptured my ear drums.  During that time being sick was playing havoc with my blood sugar and one morning I woke up with about 50 small sores all over my body.  I got on some antibiotics for my ears and infection but still I was sick with this never ending fever and pain in my face.  That and the high fevers never broke for long.  I’d work some days but most days I would just spend most of the day hiding in bed.

Wendy and I have always made our bedroom our bedroom.  We have a small house so the master bedroom is tiny as well.  If we were going to hang out somewhere, it would be in the living room.  Since I got ill, if the boys would want to talk to me, they would have to do it in our room.  They thought it was great.  I was like, “Just no one touch me.”  Of course being my sons, they would throw something at me.

Finally today I woke up and felt like crap and went to head to work.  I looked down at my right foot and noticed that there was a massive pocket of infection, just like the one that cost my mom her leg many years ago.  So instead of heading to work, I went to the hospital where they kind of let me sit for an hour and then a doctor saw me who promptly freaked out.  She looked at my nose, foot, ear, eyes and got a second opinion.  They started to prescribe some more powerful antibiotics which were not available at our neighbourhood pharmacy but I am now drugged up.  Of course there are side effects which are bad but not as bad as what I was infected with.

Antibiotics

The good news is that I should be up and mobile for Christmas.

I have lost 25 pounds.  Oliver and I have blown out our ear drums (him first then me) and that will take a long time to get back to normal for both of us.  In the mean time we sit down and have conversations like;

“What?”

“What”

“Fine”

“Cookie?”

“What?”

“Okay”

“Where did you get that cookie?  Get me one”

“What?”

I had cancelled attending most things but hopefully this will turn the tide and I can enjoy the holidays.

Christmas Gift Guide for Elementary School Aged Boys | 2014 Edition

Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade 1, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.  You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.  If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin).  You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

All-new Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tablet—with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee

  • A real tablet, not a toy—A quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio
  • Built for even the toughest kids—Enjoy the peace of mind with an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guarantee—if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked
  • Don’t worry about the bill—The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games—at no additional cost. Learn more
  • Starts in Amazon FreeTime—Built from the ground up for kids, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids can navigate visually to content based on characters or topics. Parents can exit Amazon FreeTime mode with a passcode
  • Best-in-class parental controls—Personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, and choose which titles kids can access from your own personal content collection
  • Take and edit photos in Amazon FreeTime—Snap photos within Amazon FreeTime mode using front and rear cameras. Fun editing tools lets kids explore their creative side by adding stickers, drawing on their pictures, and more
  • Kid-Proof Case—Durable, lightweight case to protect against drops and bumps caused by kids at play.

We gave Oliver Wendy’s old Kobo Vox tablet last year.  We tossed on some educational games, some apps, and he loves it.  We did the same with an old 2nd Gen iPod Touch that we loaded up with music.  He is careful and responsible with it.  With the Amazon Fire HD case and apps, it makes introducing your child to a computer even easier.

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.  The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

 

Nerf guns are all over our house.  There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.  If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.  Five bullets and lots of fun.

If you want to survive those ambushes, you may want to pick up one of these for yourself.

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 hockey set

There are a great gift.  Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.  So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.  Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

The old classic is still around.  It includes 86 all wood pieces.

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

The Lego Batcave

If you don’t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

R2-D2 alarm clock

How cool is this.  An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls.  “Help me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on time…”

LEGO Kids Star Wars Storm Trooper Mini-Figure Alarm Clock

Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper Alarm Clock

A great option for the kid who struggles to wake up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock.  Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.

The stories of Obi-Wan Kenobi / Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker by Ryder Windham.

Star Wars: Life and Legend of Obi-Wan KenobiStar Wars: The Rise and Fall of Darth VaderThe Life of Luke Skywalker

Apple iPod Shuffle

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We passed down an iPod Shuffle to Oliver a couple of years ago.  It is small and easy for him to use.  Even the 2gb version is enough to load him up with music for the longest of roadtrips.  Combine it with these kid-friendly Batman Headphones and you have a gift that they will love as much as you love the silence.

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.  Over the ear design also means that they won’t get headaches either.   It’s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the iPod Shuffle.

XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule Speaker with Rechargeable Battery and Enhanced Bass+ Resonator

XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule Speaker with Rechargeable Battery and Enhanced Bass+ Resonator

Sometimes kids want to listen to their music out loud!  For those times, a portable, small, and rechargeable speaker that provides great sound is the way to go.    It provides great sound but won’t overpower your house.   The also have a modular “Buddy-Plug” Design: Integrated stowaway 3.5mm stereo audio jack plug and socket connects multiple XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule speakers together for maximum sound.  So if one isn’t getting the job done, you can keep adding speakers.  They are compatible with any device that has a headphone jack, so phones, iPods, or any MP3 player.

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years.   Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Royal Gorge H0 Model Train Set

Remember your first H0 model train set?  How about a set that is modelled after  Colorado’s oldest scenic line?  It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.

How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

The Hohner HAG250P is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.

Spy Gear for His Latest Adventure

Night Vision Googles

Night Vision Googles

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools

The coolest utility belt that doesn’t belong to Batman.

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.

Christmas Gift GuideIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.