Testing out a new lens as Mark and Oliver wandered by.
After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman. They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place. We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents. The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker. The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.
- I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera. She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade. This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes. It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it. I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary. A nice bonus for her.
- Mark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off. The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it. So far so good but it is early yet.
- Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography. Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom. He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
- Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera. it was used but barely used. Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens. I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
- The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter. I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras. Story of my life.
- I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera. He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it. It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount. Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account. That’s quality parenting right there folks.
- Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone. Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them. He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes. The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit.
- Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
- The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
- Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie. He’ll never take them off.
- Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug. It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
- Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks. He is going to need them.
- I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars. He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well. As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies. Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code. I hear beeping in my future.
- Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them. Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting. It should be fun.
- Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS. Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin. Mark isn’t so crazy about that. We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head. Something to inspire him with.
- Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs. Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
- Hutch got him an art set
- Maggi got him a compact camcorder. It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver. He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots. The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it. At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days. I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
- I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades. Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
- The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk. It seems to sum both of them up so well.
- We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.
- Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
- Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.
- Wendy gave me an Apple TV.
- Oliver gave me a rather sharp used F 1.7 50mm lens for my DSLR. He also gave me a LowePro lens case to keep it in.
- Mark got me The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells. (you can read a Toronto Star review here)
- Maggi collaborated with Oliver and gave me a Manfrotto compact tripod.
- Lee and Brittany gave me Battlefield 4. Now I have to go and fight the world myself.
- The dogs got me a lens! Err a coffee travel mug. Now I can pour myself a steaming cup of DSLR.
I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag
Well that’s enough from me tonight. We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner. Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.
On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert. We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert. Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.
Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.
Apparently it’s name is Oliver.
Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get some work done when Oliver and Mark decided to go to A.H. Browne Park. As a change, I suggested that they walk to Ashworth Holmes Park and check out the paddling pool. They did and three hours later they came home with some video that Mark had shot on his camera. The next thing I knew he had his SD card out and was uploading it to my Mac rather than his PC.
So after dorking around for a bit, he found the movie trailer feature in iMovie and I know I wasn’t getting my Mac back anytime soon. After an hour of them arguing over which clips to use, Mark came up with this. Now I have to just sign him out of Twitter, Gmail, and figure out else he has done to my MacBook.
Sadly I didn’t get one of these for Father’s Day. I never quite get what I want
Wendy and the boys did get some nice stuff and my awesome wife blogs about the day here. The day would have been perfect but the garbage hound I have for a dog got into a bag and spread it all over the house. I had no idea Maggi had been bred with a racoon.
Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far. Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy. The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing. She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home. I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.
Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed. I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.
As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs. A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first. It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”. Sadly their child didn’t make it.
I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited. Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was. A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”. There wasn’t much for me to say. He asked what I did for a living and I told him. He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.” I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning. I’ll be fine”. At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.
The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.
We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand. Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher. Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.” I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us. Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.” As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible. She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee. I took her up on her offer.
Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room. A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.
The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs. The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People. There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby. As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure. As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA. If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.
Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out. I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on. Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.
As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket. I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.
I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU. Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee. Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly. A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.
Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008. Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.
Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi. Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature. We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick. It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.
So now he is five. Time flies when you repress some of those memories.
Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:
- Spiderman water bottle
- Kick scooter
- Green Army men
- An NFL football (from Mark of course)
- Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
- Some new shirts
- An Angry Bird hat
He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt. He is off to take over the world.
Mark turned 13 on Sunday while we were at the cabin. He is now old enough to walk into an A&W and legally order a Teen Burger. It was a big day for him. For his birthday we chilled out at the lake but we did give him a new basketball, InFAMOUS 2, and a Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet. We also picked Oliver up a battery powered Super Soaker so he could shoot Mark (who was thrilled with that).
Mark, Oliver, and I went to the cabin today. Wendy was working so we got up and drove on out there. We brought out the electric oil heater, some clean sheets, the first load of non-perishable foods, and our deck box packed in the back seat.
We unloaded the car and observed the carnage that is my bird houses. Every spring when I go to the cabin, I have bird houses all over the lawn. In the past it looked like the deer had eaten the twine that I had used and that is why they hit the ground. This year I used some wire to hang the birdhouses and it was still on the ground. As Mark and I were picking them up, I realized that the deer had eaten the branches they were hanging on. Well played deer, well played.
Other than that, it looked good. Last spring it looked like teeth marks on the cabin but this year it doesn’t look like any deer chewed on the cabin on at all. I’ll call that a win.
Of course taking Oliver to the cabin for only ten minutes was not my best move. The entire time home I heard him grumbling about not going swimming, not being able to get to the horses, no beach, no ice cream, no badminton, and not seeing any snakes. Apparently I am a horrible father. It was looking better once we got to Pip’s Esso in Watrous and we got a Freezee but his displeasure in my parenting was made really clear.
We should be back for Mother’s Day. I doubt the ice will be off the lake but we should be able to play some badminton. Hopefully he’ll be happier that trip.
It’s been so busy the last week and I have been so incredibly sick that I never posted this last week. Since a bunch of you have asked how our mini-vacation went, here is the summary… just really late.
On Thursday morning we got up early, checked out the highway conditions and headed out to Calgary for the weekend.
It was Oliver’s first long road trip and we packed pretty well. In his backpack he had his VTech tablet and some kid’s volume controlled headphones as well as a cheap set of binoculars. Mark had his PSP and a National Geographic History magazine. The end result is that we stopped in Kindersley (for a 5 Hour Energy Drink for me), Hanna (for windshield washer fluid), Drumheller (to take Oliver for a walk up the giant dinosaur) and the boys were remarkably good.
The trip took up around 6 1/2 hours which is pretty good but like I said, our stops were quick. The stop at Drumheller took the longest and Oliver wasn’t that thilled with the idea of running up the “butt of a dinosaur” and I carried him most of the 100 steps to it’s mouth.
After heading back down, we were off to Calgary and checked into our hotel at around 2:30 p.m. Calgary time.
The hotel was the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn and was quite nice. Our room was massive and the photos on their site don’t do justice to how nice the pool area is. They have a normal pool, a hot tub but also a small pool that is only 2 feet deep for kids. Oliver loved, “his pool” and spent all of his time in it. They also have a free continental breakfast that was varied enough that we didn’t get sick of it. Of course it’s central location meant that it was out of the way of everywhere we wanted to go but not so far out of the way we didn’t go.
All day on Twitter, Mayor Nenshi was warning of the snowfall which we didn’t really notice until we hit Chestermere and the highway was closed because of a rollover. I am not sure what happened as we didn’t find the highways that slippery. There was some black ice but nothing that bad; then again I am used to driving in it.
We were two long blocks away from the 39th Street LRT station and took it downtown where we went for a long walk. We had plans to head up the Calgary Tower but visibility was really poor so we just took in downtown Calgary. The snow was really coming down but all over downtown were snow removal crews sweeping sidewalks and streets even as the snow fell which is quite a bit different than Saskatoon which puts the onus on store owners who may or may not shovel out downtown. It’s almost as Calgary’s downtown is a place of commerce.
That night we headed back, checked out the pool and ordered in from Mother’s Pizza, something that I have done since I was old enough to know what pizza was.
Friday morning the roads in Calgary were reported to be in bad shape but in reality were quite good. Thanks to Saskatoon for lowering my expectations for snow removal. Mark spent the summer and fall saving up for a new iPod Nano and despite being $4 short that I kicked in for him, we went to the Apple Store in Chinook Centre where a clerk named Jazz managed to help him pick out the one he wanted.
While Mark and Jazz finished the deal, Wendy pulled out her Samsung Galaxy and started to text something. She was lucky she wasn’t tossed out. As we were leaving, Wendy had a minor fit as she saw a Lego store and insisted that we had to purchase some Lego for Oliver for Christmas. Long story short, Wendy always wanted Lego as a kid and never had any. She had more fun than any of us in there.
As soon as we hit Highway #1, roads were perfect until we hit the Banff National Park gates and they never got the snow the rest of us got so it was a fun trip up with lots of stories and sight seeing along the way. We went straight to Sulphur Mountain and took the gondola to the top of it. Excited does not describe the reaction of Oliver and Mark who loved every second of the nine minute trip to the summit. Once at the summit I was tempted to hike to the science station but it was blowing and cold up there so we ordered a bite to eat and chilled out at the top.
Once back down we did some shopping and Banff didn’t disappoint. Every single shop had the exact same touristy junk. As I told Wendy, I spent most of my life trying to buy something nice in Banff and failed. Wendy found some earrings and found some Christmas gifts. Mark managed to get some more money out of me and bought some magnetic rocks and a Gondola souvenir. The highlight of the shopping was a large male elk meandering through main street and within inches of the car.
I personally love Banff in the off season and hate it during the peak season. The lack of tourists and crowds are nice, even if the weather is not. What I loved about Banff is that there was absolutely no trace of snow along their main street. Every flake was removed… again, it’s a place of commerce.
Finally we took the boys to Bow Falls where a combination of the cold, wind and humidity almost froze Wendy, Mark and I to death while taking some photos. Oliver just said, “I want to wait in the car”
As we were leaving, we went to Walsh’s Candy Store where I bought Mark and Oliver two massive jawbreakers and challenged them to finish them by the time we got to Calgary. It’s an impossible task (knowing first hand) but neither one of them talked all the way back to Calgary. I love it when a plan comes together.
For supper that night, we went to Five Guys Hamburgers for the first time. We need one of those in Saskatoon in the worst possible way. We ordered burgers and fries and couldn’t even start the fries as the burgers were so filling.
Saturday morning we met our good friend Dave King at Nellie’s where we had a good talk about politics, urban planning, cycling and photography all over a fantastic breakfast. It was cold out that day so instead of going to the Calgary Zoo, we went back downtown and checked out Mountain Equipment Co-op (twice), the Calgary Tower, Glenbow Museum, and snagged some milkshakes at Peter’s Drive-Thru.
While at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, we did some Christmas shopping and Wendy agonized over which bag to purchase (which she always does). She finally got one of these and seems at peace with the world. Meanwhile I got a sleeve for the MacBook, a left handed sling pack, some gloves, bike lock (as well as one for Mark) and a lantern. Mark also bought a sling pack which means that we kind of match which is awkward. At least his is right handed.
The Calgary Tower is always amazing and we spent a lot of time up there. The glass floor was fun as people were absolutely terrified to walk out on it while kids seemed to not even notice. Both Wendy and I took a bunch of photos with other people’s cameras while they stood out on the glass. We went back downstairs and across the street to the Glenbow Museum where Mark really had a good time. Wendy enjoyed the section on the National Energy Program and on Peter Lougheed. It was weird to see a display honouring Preston Manning and not Joe Clark or Ralph Klein. I know Manning has significance but so does Clark and Klein.
Saturday night against my better wishes, we went to Swiss Chalet. Wendy and the boys had never gone but the meal was what you expect of Swiss Chalet. Personally I am still bitter that St. Hubert is not in Calgary. Sadly everyone in the family like the meal which means that I am going to have to fight not to go back.
Sunday we drove back home after some more running around. The trip was quick as I had two boys chilling out to their iPods and sucking on jawbreakers. The only excitement was when we were back in Saskatoon city limits when we found out again that snow removal baffles our fair city.
I woke up this morning and was met by two boys and Mark’s Hoodie (don’t ask) who gave me some nice Father’s Day gifts.
We we had hoped to take some cameras out on the town but the weather stopped that idea. Instead we went to Smiley’s for brunch and had some horrible food and then hung out at home over coffee. I wanted to go elsewhere but was overruled. Apparently I get the gifts but no input on lunch. I missed that in the Father’s Day Charter but they assure me that is the case.