Thursday, August 31, 2006

A visit from gramma and grampa wears both of them out

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Family portrait days

I have not had my camera out much over the past month or so - in a bit of a slump, I guess. But yesterday we got together with the family at the trailer, and Dana requested a family photo. Here it is: Liam may not be smiling, but at least he is looking at the camera - and that's an improvement from this time last year (which I guess was the spawning of the annual-family-photo-at-the-trailer idea): It may well be that all I did was set up the tripod, hit the timer and run to get into the photo myself - but at least it gave me a bit of warm-up for today, when I did some family pictures for my friend Anne. Boy, did I feel rusty. And the last time I saw these kids, I swear they were not this big! How photogenic are they??...I'm back in the saddle, baby!... and looking forward to getting some more practise.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In stores today

... and also in my stereo. This is Chantal Kreviazuk's first album in 4 years and I have been dying waiting for it to come out. I'm a wee bit obsessed with her, in case you didn't know. Anyway, it's been 4 long years, during which time Chantal has been pimping herself out as a spokesperson for Garnier Nutrisse hair colour. And every time I've seen the commercial, I've thought to myself... please get yourself back into the studio, and spend your time writing and recording songs instead of filming commercials! Well, today the new album was released, much to my delight, and Liam and I were at the store first thing this morning to buy it. We picked up a copy... jumped back in the car... tore open the plastic to pop our new CD into the stereo... and what do you think fell out into my lap? A dollar-off coupon for Garnier Nutrisse, of course. Chantal, it's a good thing I love you... I will overlook this horrible lapse of judgment.

For what it's worth, I'm not completely sold on the new album (yet). Half of it sounds like the old material of hers that I like so much; half of it sounds too heavily influenced by her husband, Raine Maida. If I wanted his music I would go buy an Our Lady Peace CD. Chantal and Raine are coming to our little town in a couple of months and I have already had my tickets for quite some time. Chad and I were speculating about what Raine would be contributing to the show; now that I see how her music has changed, directionally, with his influence, I think I know. Sigh. Hopefully she sticks to her older catalogue.

Here are a few gratuitous Liam pics - you know, just to keep it all about him.

Liam and Henry during our road trip last week.

Liam and I enjoying his first Beaver Tail at the Toronto Zoo. (Who am I kidding; he was more interested in the juice box - he is slightly obsessed with them.) I love that Beaver Tails are starting to sweep the nation! It's a Killaloe Sunrise, of course. :)

Monday, August 28, 2006

As promised

Got my cards back today with my photos from the weekend. I'm a bit disappointed - taking photos on the fly is hard, hard, hard. Setting up shots = much better results. At least, for me. I like being able to wrangle people into a position I think would be cool, rather than working around them!Maybe you'll recognize a few of these contestants. This was the station I spent most of my time at - The Animal House in Wallaceburg. Contestants came into the store (not given away by name - they were simply told to find a place named after a Jim Belushi movie) and drew a card that had either a puppy, a snake, or a question mark on it. The store owner got to decide what the question mark would be and went with a flying squirrel named Shirley. (Who names a squirrel Shirley? - I digress.) You'd think the women would be afraid of the snake - a ball python that was much more menacing when stretched out than it appears here curled up into a little ball - but really, it was mostly the men being afraid of the squirrel that made things funny. The contestants had to hold the animal and get into position for a photo. Then they were off and running to the fire hall down the street, to grab either a hose or an extinguisher and take aim... This is the very first event of the day - contestants had to put together a jigsaw puzzle (without the box to go by) and flip it over to reveal their first clue on the back. Chad took on the task of assembling all 30 puzzles in advance (100 pieces each) and I helped him write the clue on the back. It took forever.

Hmm - the photo feature seems to be having problems again... guess that will have to do for now...

As for me, I was back in the office today, choosing to work one day this week in order to preserve a potential sick day for Liam for the coming months. I unexpectedly took a day off last week and thought I had better start preserving my personal days as a result. We are busy for the rest of the week so today was my only option. I guess there are no spur of the moment road trips in store for us this week after all - vacation time gets eaten up way too quickly!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What is this stone and why does it say mile on it?

Chad and I spent all day yesterday as volunteers at the CK Amazing Race; I was there shortly past 7:30 a.m. in order to photograph the start, and the party wrapped up around 8 p.m., so it was a long day. In addition to the full day event there was a 2-hour meeting on Friday night (3 hours for Chad) to go over the last minute details. With so much time required for the event, it was time to take drastic measures... we packed Liam up on Friday afternoon and shipped him out to the trailer to spend a night with Gramma and Grampa Cook. Not that big a deal for Chad, who has spent many nights on the road since Liam was born, but this was the first overnighter I had away from him. I cried as we drove away, of course, wondering if he would think that we were deserting him forever. Luckily it sounds like he had a grand old time without us; and I say luckily most of all because Liam will be spending 3.75 nights camped out with his grandparents when Chad and I go to Banff in September. I'm very, very thankful that the trial separation went well!

As far as the Amazing Race goes, that's a story in and of itself; it was an amazing (there really is no other word) event. 30 teams whittled down to the top 3 who battled it out for the $2500 first prize. Chad was a judge at several of the events, and I was an event photographer and also spent part of the day at Command Central. The events took the racers all over CK - some of the challenges included:
  1. Hunting for your next clue in a trailer full of manure at TJ stables - then catching a chicken before taking a detour of either mucking out a stall or milking a goat
  2. Singing karaoke on the roof at the Capitol Theatre downtown while your partner busked on the street below
  3. Building a sandcastle at Mitchell's Bay
  4. Rowing a dinghy out around Erieau
  5. Shooting baskets or swimming laps at the YMCA
  6. Hunting for your next clue in the Cornfield Maze

You see the Amazing Race on TV and think that without the exotic locale, you could never have as much fun; but I was totally impressed with the activities that were put together. It was even fun for the volunteers (something you can't always say). A team came from behind to win in the end, which (in my humble opinion) was too bad - the other 2 teams in the top 3 had been neck and neck in the lead all day, and seemed to deserve the win. Anyway, I will post a couple pics when I get my cards back - they are currently being processed by the race officials.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Class of 2027

We spent part of this past week in Kingston, the first time I have really been back in the city (apart from a couple of quick drive-throughs) since I finished school back in '97. Chad and Liam humoured me with two days of There's where I used to live! There's where I used to take physics! There's where I used to wash my clothes! Yes, even a laundromat was able to incite some nostalgia in me (as well as much thankfulness that I can now do laundry under my own roof).

Of course, it was much easier to enjoy Kingston when it wasn't buried under four feet of snow in -20 C temperatures; I didn't have a lab, a midterm and a mech drawing all due on the same day; and I didn't have crazy roommates to contend with back at the hotel (just a little dude who decided once again to worm his way out of the hotel-issue crib and into the big bed with mom and dad). In the summertime Kingston's waterfront is hopping and the pace of life much more relaxed than what I remember living from September through April each year. For old time's sake we ate at Woodenheads and the Copper Penny and White Mountain, and took a drive by the penitentiary across the road from where I used to live (yes, Karla Homolka and I were neighbours!), and even tuned into CFRC FM 101.9 to see who is ruling the student airwaves these days.Liam climbing the old Battery walls. Feeding the ducks goldfish crackers (and Liam snacking on a few, too).
A windy walk along the waterfront - Liam's hat blew off about ten times until he took matters into his own hands and secured it nice and tight. Too bad he almost tumbled into Lake Ontario after that.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

(**crickets chirping**)

So, we've been out of town for a few days this week. Which I would have posted before, only I realize that is pretty much an invitation for our house to be burgled... hence, no warning. Back tonight and will have details tomorrow.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Head to head

Last week as I was bitching and moaning about my upcoming exam to Cindy, she sympathized and said that she had just written an exam, too. Turns out she took an ECE course over the summer and was just completing it as well. I love that she is interested enough in what she does to do that kind of thing. She said the course was great and gave her lots of ideas; and lately she's been on a roll with the kids, so they're reaping the benefit. On Liam's last day with her before her current holidays, she took the kids out to her sister's farm to see the cows as the culmination of Farm Week - complete with individual cow themed ID badges she made for them - and then spent the afternoon at Jaycee Pool with them for the last time (because it closes in September). The very next day she started holidays and I was home alone with Liam, and the pressure was enormous. It's no longer enough to assume that Liam will entertain himself by fishing some long-forgotten toy out of the toy box; I feel like I need to be more proactive in putting new opportunities and activities in front of him. On Friday, we went for two walks, made a trip to the park, did a finger painting, went to the library for some new books, and went for groceries. I think Liam enjoyed his day, but there's no way I can keep this pace up for the next two weeks.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hello again, hello

So... exam is over. Life is back to normal. Don't get me started on the exam; after specifically stating that three chapters would not be included on it - at the last minute - which required late-night revision by me of the formula sheets we were allowed to take in - two of those three chapters were covered. Needless to say, I have major issues with this professor, and the teaching evaluation I am set to fill out will show it.

So why am I driving myself crazy by being in school?... well, I am 2 courses away from done. I have taken either 20 or 22 courses to date (can't remember) so I'm far too close to call it quits now. I estimate that so far this degree has cost about $17,000, all of which has been picked up by my employer. I worry that if I were to walk away now, even with the intent of getting back to it in a few years, I would (a) never get around to it and (b) not have my remaining courses paid for. At this point I think plowing through and finishing is the only solution. I am taking an on-campus course this fall, which I only intend to go to in person very occasionally (if there are marks for participation I may be out of luck); and then the capstone course for the degree is being offered next summer, so I will wrap things up then. I guess I get a nice break over the winter!

The downside to being in school as an adult with a job and a family as opposed to as a 17-year-old is that something always interferes with your plans. Such as your job or your family. We were out of town for three days last weekend, during which time Liam had some sort of belly bug bothering him, and by the time we got home on Sunday night I was freaking out thinking of the work I had to do to prep for the exam; and he was freaking out, I think, because he could sense that I was not focusing on him. He was up almost til midnight on Sunday and also had trouble settling to sleep for the remainder of the week. This is extremely uncommon for him. Last night he went quietly to bed; I think he feeds off how I am feeling, and last night was one big sigh of relief for both of us. Lessons have been learned and next term I will start my exam prep much earlier (yeah, yeah... that's what I always say).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Still alive, just swamped

Back when life returns to normal... whatever that is.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I'm just sayin', is all.

(On the road right now - more to come later.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One. Of. THOSE. Days.

Gah. I was a couple of hours late coming home from work. Shortly after I got home, we started having water problems - water that started out a little rusty and was eventually downright brown. It disappeared on its own after a couple of hours, and I would like to think it was something to do with the construction going on on the next street over, but a nagging part of my mind is saying that we are going to need to tear our walls down and start ripping out pipes. (Our next door neighbours swear their water was fine, which lends credibility to this theory). Got NO homework done. My idiot professor STILL has not shared a sample exam with us as he promised. Luckily, Liam had a good night, what little of it I saw (have I mentioned that the past few nights I've picked him up from daycare, he has come running up to me rather than crying when I attempt to wrestle him into the car? - and tonight I got showered with hugs when I walked in the door so late. SO CUTE.) Still not sure how I am going to pull this next week off. If I owe you an email or a phone call, it may be a few days yet.

Bag of tricks entry #37

When Liam is running around completely hyper, and it is way past his bedtime, and he is showing no interest in going to sleep... brush his teeth. For some reason this induces hair twirling, thumb sucking and drowsiness every time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Home decor, Cook style

Yesterday, an inside joke of ours ended. This Orangina print is a souvenir Chad picked up from a street vendor on a business trip to New York City last year. It got the desired effect; I burst out laughing when he presented it to me. A year prior to that, I was two months pregnant when we left on a trip to France and Switzerland. I was in the throes of morning sickness that lasted all day, and the Orangina totally made me feel better. Part pop, part juice, I swear it was some sort of magic elixir. I had a few queasy spells when we crossed the border from France into Switzerland, but a couple of days later we were back in France and the Orangina was back on the store shelves. I couldn't get enough of it.

For a long time we had been searching for something to hang on the walls in our dining-room-turned-playroom, and we just couldn't decide. We didn't want meaningless box store prints, it had to go with the family-friendly nature of the photos and Curious George prints we already had in the room, and I vetoed the idea of Agassi posters plastering the walls. There was an eyesore of a nail sticking out of the largest wall, left over from the old dining room days, and we stuck the tiny little 5x7 Orangina print on it in jest, almost just because it looked so bad to have something so small hanging someplace so big. Nearly a year later, the print was still there and I think our family and friends thought we'd lost our minds. Relax now, people. We finally got around to ordering, mounting and hanging two prints from a series called Classics of the Tour de France. One is from the 1970s and shows the final laps on the Champs Elysees; the other is from the 1920s and shows the peleton crossing an old stone bridge in Brittany. I think it's fun that there's still something French on that wall and each print measures at least 2x3 ft - the problem of scale has been solved.

The Orangina print is now tucked away, awaiting a new life in The Room That I Will Claim As My Own When We Move. You know, the one that I will get to decorate on my own, and spread out all my projects in on my own, and even lock behind me if I so choose (surely that will foil the would-be Christmas present spoilers). It probably won't come out until then... unless, you know, we someday have another gaping wall to fill.

Monday, August 07, 2006

At the beach

I was a major killjoy this weekend; it was a holiday weekend and I spent most of my time indoors studying. Or pretending to study. Or worrying about how I should be studying. We did make time for some fun stuff though; we blew through some Dairy Queen coupons a neighbour gave us for house-sitting for her, and we also made it out to the beach in Rondeau. Chad's BFF Carl was in town, with wife and child in tow. Little Ray is six months younger than Liam. At this age six months makes a big difference, but watch out Liam... Ray is definitely gaining on you. I think Chad and Carl have both watched too many Friends reruns - why is it that the first thing they do when they hit the beach is dig a giant hole? No matter - the kiddos loved the holes. In fact, when we were in Algonquin, Liam took great joy on beach days in jumping in other families' holes. Maybe digging giant holes on the beach is a universal thing... who am I to say.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Finally, Algonquin

Cindy had Bug Day at daycare while we were away. Before we left she gave Liam the loot from that day, this bug jar and a net, which came in super handy. There's a grasshopper in the jar in this photo... later, he was replaced with a frog.
Liam loved the tent. LOVED the tent. Maybe I'd have an easier time putting him to bed at home if he could sleep in one of these all the time!!
Kayaking... this activity lasted all of about two minutes. Liam was totally not crazy about wearing the PFD.
S'mores!... he enjoyed the taste, but handed it back half-finished when the sticky marshmallows started to drive him crazy.
How Liam got around the park - directly through every conceivable body of water.
Afternoon at Lake of Two Rivers beach.
Bedtime stories - read sitting around the campfire.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Oh what a night

This week has been a killer. It’s been tough getting back into a routine. Even though Liam had us all up bright and early while we were camping, it’s different – and harder – waking up to an alarm clock each day. I’ve had a busy week at work and am also trying to hunker down as far as school goes – I had an assignment due today that took me forever to finish, another one next Friday and my exam the week after that. So now all I have to do is learn 24 chapters’ worth of polynomial distributions and ADELP charts in less than two weeks (what the hell IS this stuff I’m supposed to be learning???) I haven’t had the time or energy to make it to the gym or finish running all the errands that need to be run or tidy up the house all week. In short, I feel lousy, behind and exhausted.

Last night I finished my assignment at a decent hour, and was going to try to get to bed (relatively) early. I wanted to get up and go running for the first time in ages this morning; and I have a presentation to one of our VPs today that I wanted to be in top condition for. Liam had other ideas. As I was brushing my teeth, he woke up crying in a way he hasn’t cried in a good long time; and so began the process of trying to get him back to sleep. I sat with him. I rocked him. I put him down. He cried, not just a cry of protest but a screaming, howling cry. I picked him up. On and on it went. This was no ten-minute soothing back to sleep; this was the remainder of my night, and then some.

At one point I put him back in his crib and left him to tough it out. I was more concerned about being tired myself and not wanting to be a walking zombie while trying to explain to Mr. VP what I have spent the past six months doing and why he should be grateful for it. He cried and cried and cried… and a long time later, I caved and went back in to get him again. I felt so bad. I picked him up and he was a river of snot and tears. And then I started to cry, because I felt so bad for caring about myself more than him; clearly he was upset. I sat down with him in the rocking chair and mopped up all the fluids from his face, and he looked up at me in the dark and smiled and pointed at the light fixture on the ceiling and whispered, “Ball.” What a little stinker.

I’d like to say that that was that and that he went back to bed without a peep, but really it was midnight before he settled down, and it didn’t happen without more tears. I don’t know what was up with him last night, but I am mighty thankful that I don’t have to get up early again tomorrow. Thank God it’s Friday.

(Cindy gave me an envelope full of photos she’s taken of Liam at daycare for the past several months. He’s a recent one of Liam and some of his buddies at the park. Cindy’s kids (11 and 13) and a couple of her friend’s kids she also watched for a week turn it into a pretty big group. Poor little L-man, too small to sit at the picnic table!...)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy anniversary to us

Next month is our fifth wedding anniversary. To celebrate, the company is sending Chad to Calgary for a week (I'm not sure whether it's customer meetings or a conference or just another boondoggle - there have been so many trips this summer, I've lost track). In an effort to stop the company from stealing all our fun, I bought a ticket to fly out and join him for the weekend after his business is done, and we have just booked ourselves in for 2 nights at Chateau Lake Louise (pictured at left). It's kind of pricey, but there's a buy one night, get one free offer on right now, which made it a more palatable splurge; and I've always admired the old CP hotels and never stayed at one before - if not now then when, right? I am nervous about leaving Liam for so long (3 nights) - I'm sure Gramma and/or Grampa Cook, who are moving into our house to stay with him, will do just fine; but what if I'm not fine? Too late to think about that now - we're set to go. We have the guidebook and are busy planning our weekend, which we hope involves much hiking (there are beautiful trails that skirt the lake and head up to the glaciers beyond) and some good Alberta steaks. Up until now we have followed those silly lists of traditional anniversary gifts (which has been terribly difficult to do). The fifth anniversary is wood. This year, we're going to take a hike through the forest and consider it done.

(I uploaded a bunch of photos last night and then had my post eaten. I'm having terrible luck with these vacation pics - will try again, maybe tonight.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Further proof

Kearney Lake (view from our campsite)
Pitching the tent
Again, having difficulty posting photos. #$*(@!^?!! Maybe tomorrow?...