The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Weekly Gratitude

I am little late with my “Five Things” post this week.  Its been a busy week and weekend, which has taken me away from the blog a bit.  In any case, reflecting on this week, I am thankful for the following..

1. The “Hand Me Down Recipe” Book from Aunt Carol.  It has kick-ass recipes in it handed down from JB’s family and has made me (almost) a rock star cook.  The meatloaf, kielbasa and Shepard’s pie are favorites around here.  Though I have Apple Molasses Muffins in the oven and they smell terrific and I am confident will be a winner as well.  Perhaps I should share some of the recipes?  hmmm…

2. Sunshine on My Shoulders.  It has been nice out this week, so I was able to do three training runs outside.  The temperature is perfect at just above freezing, so happy to be running outside!

3. Body Lotion.  To quote the Apprentice, “It takes the itchies away.”  The air is dry here, like a desert, and lotion is needed.  I don’t think I have to go into detail, do I?

4. Chia Seeds.  The are great in salads, smoothies, in yogurt, whatever, and give me some energy and much needed Omega 3s.  Pick some up, along with some flax seeds and add to your favorite foods.  They won’t affect the taste, but will add some great nutrition!

5. Bleach wipe disinfectant thingys.  This is cold season, so I am constantly cleaning stuff, trying to keep sniffles out of the house.  So far, we are going fine in this department, and no major colds.

Now, back to my Muffins and Shepherd’s Pie…


A Tale of Three Bedrooms

It was the quietest of nights, it was the noisiest of nights..

8pm – “Everyone upstairs to get ready for bed!”  The parade upstairs begins.  The kids brush their teeth, put on their PJs and settle in for some reading.

8:30pm – “Lights out.”  JB and I return to the kitchen to talk about our days and plan for the next.

9:30pm – “I can’t sleep,” says the Girl, as she sleepily walks into the kitchen.  She cannot explain as to why she can’t sleep, she just can’t.  I tell her I am about to come up to read in bed anyway, so she can climb into bed with me.

10:30pm – I have read the paper and the State of the Union and get up to put away my iPad.  When I return, the Girl has gotten up to use the bathroom and wearily returns to JB’s side of the bed.

11:30pm – JB carries the Girl to her room and takes her place.  At least that’s what he told me, I was oblivious to this.

3:30am – Apprentice comes into our room, wakes me and informs me that high winds are keeping him from sleeping, (a Chinook is coming through).  I tell him he can just climb in with JB and I.  Of course, he takes me up on the offer and snuggles in.

5am – JB’s alarm goes off.  He gets ready to head out to the gym and work.  He asks why/when Apprentice made his way into our bed.  I inform him of the Chinook, etc, and he reports that Mid is not in his bed.  Assuming he will locate Mid prior to leaving the house, I nod off, lying perpendicular to the Apprentice.  Why is it that the bigger the bed, the less room I have?

6am – Much to the Apprentice’s chagrin, I get up.  I walk in to the boy’s room to find that Mid is in Apprentice’s bed.  The wind woke him as well.  When he came to my room to let me know he was scared and the wind had startled him so much so that he tore the sheets off his bed, he saw that everyone was sound asleep.  Therefore, he decided to take Apprentice’s bed so not to wake anyone.  Nice, right?

Why the musical sleeping arrangements?  I blame the Chinooks, with the rapid drop in air pressure, high winds and temperature change.  It’s like a full moon.  And, with all the activity overnight, it’s no wonder it takes a gallon of coffee every morning for me to feel human.

Eighteen Years and I Can Still Hear Her Voice…

“Full moon tonight.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“What the hell do you know?  Deal the cards.”

Every now and again my grandparents would babysit for my brother and I.  This was the conversation we would hear.  We were never bored when listening in on their card games.  We learned new words, how to properly use them in a sentence and many random weather facts.

Frances, my maternal grandmother, died eighteen years ago this month.  Reliving evenings spent at her house still makes me smile. In fact, these evenings are always topics of conversations when I get together with my brother and cousins.  Frances and Christian, my grandfather, would have Coletta, Clara or Pete and Gertie over for cards.  They would eat, drink, play and argue.  I loved it.  These were great people.

Growing up, my mom’s parents lived about three houses away.  We would stop there on our way home from school and share all our newly acquired knowledge.  They were always so impressed.  And, if we were really lucky, my grandfather would take out his dentures.

Grandma had only an 8th grade education, as she grew up on a farm and was needed at home.  Despite her limited education, she read the newspaper every day and was up on all current events.  She would often read aloud and I learned a few new words from her.  Like “Shiite”, for example.  “Those Shiites are at it again,” she would say, when reading the news from Beirut, though she was not aware of the proper pronunciation, (neither Grandma or I mean any offense to the Shiite people).  The first time I shared this news with my parents, I almost had my mouth washed out.  I think you get the idea.

Then there was what came to be known as “The Peach Cobbler Incident”.  A simple mistake had been made on her chart at the home and she was being denied dessert.  Not diabetic, or as she put it, “I ain’t got that disease”, (and no offense intended to diabetics anywhere), Frances because increasingly frustrated with the lack of sweets coming in her direction.  So she did what any reasonable woman would do.  She wheeled herself down to the nurses station and called each of her children, demanding peach cobbler.  My mother, being closest and the nurse, went down to the home and got everything straightened out.  Pleased, Frances asked for a second piece of cobbler that night just to make a point.  You did not mess with Frances.

She was always sharp, right up until her passing, though she could never get our names right the first time she called for us.  Give the woman a break, she had seven children, 42 grandchildren and I-have-no-idea how many great-grandchildren.  In any case, in the fall of 1993 JB and I became engaged.  We went to see her at the home and talk about wedding plans.  She pulled JB aside. “You! You’re the one marrying my granddaughter?” I know she knew his name, but really, she was old and had a lot of visitors, so did not bother to address him with his name.  (see above, don’t mess with her)

“Yes, Grandma.  I am marrying Erika.”

“You Catholic?”  Frances was a devout Catholic.  Another note about when she would babysit us – she would pray the rosary at the top of her lungs, so the Pope himself would hear her (while doing whatever it is they do) in the Vatican across the ocean, in the hopes that we would become Catholic someday.

“Yes, Grandma, I was raised Catholic.”  JB had been warned this question would be coming and was coached on a response.

“Good.  Will you have Catholic babies?” oh boy.  She went on to explain to JB (in detail) how she became a mother, my grandfather’s virility, yadda yadda.  Priceless.  Sadly, she was not physically present at our wedding.

I can’t help but believe that somewhere in heaven she is pleased that through a series of twists and turns, my kids now attend a Catholic school.  I imagine her giving the Good Lord a big fist bump and telling my grandfather that she knew it would happen someday, because of her praying the rosary.

God Bless You, Frances, you’ve been gone eighteen years, and I can still hear your voice.

Five Things, Week Two

 It was so beautiful this morning I simply had to go walking and take some pictures.  And, after the bitter cold of the past week, -15C felt almost balmy!  This week, I am thankful for…

1. Heat.  It has been cold this week and I am thankful for the roof over my  head and the furnace that is heating it.  Not everyone can be thankful for this, so I encourage you to support your local homeless shelter, rescue mission, or whatever organization in your community helps those that are having a tough time.  Its dangerous out there for folks that do not have shelter.

2. The Peruvian people who made the Alpaca wool sweater my mom bought for me while hiking the Machu Picchu.  It is the warmest, softest, most comfortable sweater I have and I have been living in it all week.

3. The Principal at the school my kids attend.  Last week I mentioned the Vice-Principal, and this week a shout-out to the Principal.  It has been bloody cold around here this week, which means that the cross guards are not outside school before or after school.  In their place, the Principal has been outside before and after school every day, making sure that students get across the street and inside the school safely.  He has the kids line up for their buses inside, then runs between the buses and the gym announcing which bus has arrived, so these kids don’t have to wait outside.  He does many great things for the school; this is just one example of how he truly puts the kids first.

4. Video Games.  This is from Mid and I am afraid I have no explanation. *sigh*

5. My family.  This one is from my husband, to which the kids replied, “well, of course.  Everybody is thankful for THAT.” duh.  I am very thankful for my family.   Due to my new interest in baking, the kids are beginning to take an interest as well.  The Girl and Mid have both baked with me and today Apprentice has asked for a turn.  It is a nice mom-kid activity.

What are you thankful for this week?

A January Confession

When I announced that I was moving the NW, a man I worked with warned me.  “It gets cold there.  I lived in Manitoba for a while and it was lovely, but the winters can be like nothing you have experienced.  Bloody bone-chilling.”  I smiled and nodded politely, because I really like and respect this person.  But I was thinking, dude, you are from South Africa, what do you know about cold?   I was raised in Wisconsin, for crying out loud, I know what cold is. (To get the full effect, say it like this – whi-KAHN-sin, through your nose.)  All through November and December, well-meaning Calgarians had been asking us if we were ready.  Winters are not usually this mild, the cold weather would be coming soon, they would say.  Bleh.   It was fine.  I had barely gotten out my parka.

For the last couple of days it has been -29C, with a windchill of about -40C.  (-22F without the windchill.)  I have a confession.  I am cold.

The interesting thing is that although things have slowed down a bit, almost nothing is cancelled.  Schools are still running, businesses are open as usual, people are going to work as planned.  I have only seen a few things temporarily close where the activities are outdoor, like downhill skiing.  Which reminds me of something a running coach said in San Diego last year.  “Winter does something to a person.”  He meant it in a positive light.  Winter does, in fact, do something to you.  It makes you appreciate things like the air you are taking into your lungs, (because you can feel it all the way down), the crispness of a morning, the grass under the snow that is just begging to turn green again in the spring.  This morning the sky is a bright seawater blue with shiny ice crystals.  Its beautiful, assuming you are indoors with hot coffee, of course.  Winter makes you slow down, to be better prepared.  It can also keep you inside with your family, and when the time is used wisely to play inside games or read or just snuggle on the couch, it is all good.

Winter makes you an optimist.  For me, I am optimistic that the forecast is correct for the weekend and it will make it to 0C.  Heat wave!

Five Things, Week One

I try to be thankful for many people and things in my life.  So starting today, I would like to post a weekly “Five Things” that I am especially grateful at that particular time.

Here goes..

1. My children.  I know this one is a given, but this week I am proud of them for different, specific reasons.  The Girl earned her first Girl Guides badge this week, Apprentice is back in skating lessons (picked it up right where he left off in December) and Mid started a new basketball program where he does not know anyone.  While this may be tough for him, he is coming to the realization, (ever so slowly), that if you sit in the basement and play video games all the time it is tough to meet people and make new friends.

2. My legs. I am not competing for a spot on the Olympic marathon team, but I love to run and I am thankful for the ability to do so.  Let the training for the next marathon begin!

3. The Vice-Principal at the school my kids attend.  Her background is in art education and she is committed to bringing in fine arts at their school.  This week they had a drum circle concert thing, which was different from the usual assemblies they put on, and it was great.  This was different, because usually the assemblies are orderly, low volume and a bit reserved.  The drum circle was orderly, but loud and really fun!  It took me back to my glory days in marching band.

4. Friends that read this blog.  This a new adventure for me and I am grateful for the occasional comment that says, “I really like your blog.” It makes my day.  So, thanks.

5. Whomever invented Skype, (Al Gore? kidding, I crack myself up).  We are thankful for being able to keeping in touch with friends and family through Skype.  It makes us feel not so far away from all that is familiar.

That’s it for this week.  If you are so moved, please comment below on something that you are thankful for this week.  I plan to continue the weekly gratitude.

Of Dinosaurs and Badlands

When we prepared our sales pitch to the kids about moving, we fully understood that each child had a different button we needed to push to get their agreement.  For the Apprentice, it was the promise of hockey.  For the Girl, new adventures hiking and skiing in the mountains.  For Mid, it was dinosaurs.  So far, we had made good on our commitments to the Apprentice and Girl.  But for Mid, our promise of dinosaurs was starting to appear empty.  So this weekend, although my daughter begged to go skiing in the fresh powder (to be honest, I wanted to as well), we made good.  We took the family to see some dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Alberta Badlands.

As we started out, we explained that this was going to be a bit of a car ride.  “How long?” Apprentice asked.  “About an hour and a half,” I replied.  A little bit into the ride, he asked for the first of many times, “How much longer?”

“About an hour,” I replied.

“That’s forever!”

“Actually, it’s the time of two Spongebob Squarepants episodes,” Mid reasoned with him.  This appeased the Apprentice.  I am not proud to admit that our concept of time directly relates to Spongebob and iCarly.

In any case, we were on our way.  I was beginning to get suspicious of the directions JB had printed off google, as we seemed to be headed further and further east into nowhere.  I was sure that at any moment we would cross into Manitoba or Saskatchewan and be lost for days.  Then, out of nowhere, the earth opened up into this massive, striped ravine and we started to descend into the thick of it.

“We’re almost there!” JB exclaimed.  Really?  I thought to myself.  Because from where I am sitting it looks like we are headed underground, below wheat fields.  Harumph.

The ride through the quaint town of Drumheller, Alberta, was entertaining with all the touristy shops with their dinosaur signs and whatnot.  And after crossing the Red Deer River, we arrived at the museum.  Folks, if you ever get to Alberta and have the slightest interest in geology or dinosaurs or paleontology, you must visit this museum.  The scenery surrounding the museum is right out of your textbooks explaining sedimentary rocks, erosion and ice ages.   When inside this museum, you are witness to excavating work, dinosaur fossils (that have been recovered mostly in Alberta) and hands-on exhibits explaining all of it.  In a word – amazinglyeducationallyrelevant.  Not a word?  Okay, I can’t do it.  I simply cannot explain the entire place in a word.  My kids were taken by the hands on exhibits about the Jurassic periods, ice ages and the like.  For those that are visually oriented, there were interesting videos about the landscape outside.  For those that just like to read the information, everything was displayed in a way that you could read about it and examine it in detail.


We went through museum, (though it feels weird to call it that, because everything begged your participation, not just your observation and acknowledgement), soaking in all kinds of information.  Where were/are all these fossils found?  Why are they found all together?  Why are they in those contorted positions?  Some dinosaurs really moved in herds?  How did it all end?  Are there any remaining creatures from this period?  Who are the scientists that study all this stuff?

There was a significant display of Women in Paleontology, which was great for my daughter.  Many were women from the late 1800s and early 1900s that could not be published or publicly recognized because of their gender.  Although many made brilliant discoveries, their work was published through someone else, (a man).  My kids and I had a conversation about the sexism of this practice and why it was “stupid” (to quote Mid).  There were also biographies still in the works as these women continue to work with the Royal Tyrrell Museum or within the science of paleontology.  Did you know that there is scientist that researches how dinosaurs and reptiles smell?  Or how their brains function?  Amazing.  But I digress.

After a walk through the inside, it was time to go out to the walking trails.  We will definitely be back to the Badlands in the summer, because today we only able to walk about one kilometer of the trails due to the weather. (It has been a warm, sunny winter, but this IS Canada, eh?)

As we headed out, JB and I were pleased with the day.  We had made good on a promise, (‘There will be dinosaurs, a lot of dinosaurs”), our kids had a fun, educational day away from the television and we found a great place to visit again and again.

We called this one "The Treehugger", but it is actually a Prosaurolophus.

I should probably note the pictures in this post were taken by me.  Our family was not compensated by the museum, we just had a great time, learned alot and I felt the need to share.  However, if an organization would like to compensate me in some way by reviewing their stuff, please contact me.  I’m not that way.  Below is a link to the museum’s website for your perusal or for you to ignore, your choice.

Mom is Always Prepared

I had a nice phone conversation with a friend in the US and we were off! (yes, youngsters, you can still talk on your phone)

SO prepared.  The kids and I decided to celebrate the last weekday of their holiday break by doing some laps at the Y during open swim.  Okay, we didn’t do laps, we just played in the pool.  Our bags were packed (by Mom, of course) and we were ready for some fun.  It has been fun break for all of us and I was ready to congratulate myself on surviving my first holiday break as a Homemaker.  We arrived at the Y for swim and my boys explained they are old enough to go into the men’s locker room to change on their own. Huh?  No family locker room?  Split second decision to not fight this new independence.  They would meet my daughter and I by the pool.  With that, the Girl and I went into the women’s locker room and to get ready ourselves.

Something was missing,  In all my care to get lunch fed to the kids, a quiche made for dinner, kitchen cleaned, laundry done and their bags ready, I had forgotten to pack my own suit.  Drat.  I thought perhaps I could go commando, but it IS the Y, not Lake Chenequa and yadda yadda, so it was a fleeting thought.  My second thought was that I would just watch the kids swim from the side of the pool.  Yep, that’s the plan.  We went out to the pool.  The lifeguard saw the kids dressed appropriately and me, well, not, and informed us that the Apprentice would need to have an adult int the pool with him because of his age.  Darn it.

Apprentice was upset because he had his heart set on swimming.  So, what’s the “prepared” mom to do?  That’s right.  He and I sped off for home so I could get my suit, (the other two are old enough and strong enough swimmers to go in the pool on their own).  He looked every bit the cutting edge of fashion as he walked out to the car in his swim trunks, socks and boots, fleece and toque, (for my American friends, a toque is a hat).

For the record, it took us 24 minutes to get home, run in and get my suit and return to the Y.  It was worth it.  The four of us had a great time frolicking in the pool for over an hour.  The moral of this story?  I guess it’s true that you should put on your own mask before assisting others.  While I carry emergency supplies, snacks, swimsuits, or whatever for everyone else in my family, I sometimes forget to bring the bare essentials for myself.

If I made new years resolutions, which I don’t for many reasons, perhaps this should be one of them.  Always be prepared for the kids, family and especially myself.

I certainly hope that someone else finds a little humorous that this post is about being prepared and it took me almost a week to post it.  Like my swimsuit, better late than never, I suppose!

New Year Celebration, Texas Style

Another Christmas and New Years holiday have come and gone.  This year we made the decision to spend the holidays with family in Houston.  The decision to see family was easy, although the plane tickets were expensive.  Also, my brother in law’s house was already full with his parents and sister.  To add a family of 5 seemed a bit much to expect.  However, and perhaps against her better judgement, my sister in law (SIL) said, “C’mon down, everyone else will be here.”  So we went. And let me tell you, it was a blast.

Our first night involved many adult beverages and laughter with my two SILs, documented on Facebook for the entertainment of many.  The second night was New Years Eve and friends of my inlaws were nice enough to welcome our family into their home during their NYE party.  The crowd was fun and welcoming.  I was especially thankful for the teenagers that took the younger kids for ping pong and games while the grown-ups got to know each other. I would like to think that we made a few new friends for our next visit.

We hit the space center, which is a must see for any trip to Houston.  My husband and I were awestruck and nostalgic of the space shuttles and space program in general, while the kids asked how they can become astronauts.  The Downtown Aquarium proved to be quite of bit of fun as well.  The kids learned about sharks, pet some rays and we enjoyed the rides on this sunny, warm day.

As we prepared to return home, I got a little nervous.  This was our first vacation after our move.  Would the kids be excited to head back to their new home?  Or would they ask if we could return to Wisconsin?  My husband asked if they were excited to go home.  All replied that they were having a blast with their cousins and family, but were ready to go home to their friends.  After taking a deep breath, I asked who and what they were looking forward to when we got home.  To my relief, they all talked of skiing, hockey, Calgarian friends and our new home.

Here’s to an eventful 2011.  I am looking forward to what 2012 brings us.  My best to all of you in this New Year.

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