Monday, 31 October 2011

A Full House and Full Hearts

We've enjoyed having my Mother- Father- and Sister-in-Law visiting from Vancouver for the past 10 days.  I am blessed with amazing in-laws, a gift for which I am often thankful.  It has been so nice to have the house full of people, all enjoying each others company over the past week.  Jeff dropped them off at the airport early this morning, and the house seems suddenly empty in their absence.

We had a great time hanging out together over the past week. We had a fairly leisurely pace, but still did a lot. A few trips were made to Stony Swamp to feed the birds ... this time to the trail beside the Wild Bird Hospital.  There were a number of walks around the neighbourhood, some with Maya riding her bike.  Jeff, SIL and I went out to Saunders Farm for their haunted activities one night.  My parents came for dinner one night, and we ordered in Chinese on another night (I'm embarrassed to say we were finally checking out our local Chinese Take-out after 3 1/2 years in the neighbourhood!) My MIL helped me sew together the curtain panels we'd purchased for Maya's room. In the midst were the usual routines of school and swimming lessons, of course.  And the culminating point, yesterday, was the joint birthday party for the girls; Maya turned 4 on Thursday and Chloe turns 1 tomorrow, so we had the whole extended family over for a birthday lunch complete with hot dogs and 2 birthday cakes.

It is a joy to watch my children with their Grandparents.  My father-in-law in particular absolutely loves babies and small children.  His mission on this trip, following Chloe's first steps last week, was to teach her to walk. Within the first 24 hours he had her taking 2 or 3 steps at a time from the coffee table to his arms and back.  By last night she was regularly taking up to 5 or 6 steps at a time, sometimes un-coached and we can truly say she is now walking. My MIL is so gentle with my children, and they both clearly love her.  Did I mention how blessed we are?

The girls have loved having so many adults available to play with and entertain them and I foresee some Grandparent withdrawal over the next few days.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Feeding the birds -- Jack Pine Trail

One of the best things about the community in which we live is its proximity to the Stony Swamp area.  Part of the National Capital Greenbelt, this protected area is full of walking trails where you can experience different flora and fauna as well as geology and sometimes a little bit of history.  You can check out a map of the various trails (and parking locations) here.

Our favourite is the Jack Pine Trail.  There are lots of birds and small animals such as chipmunks and squirrels to be seen in the forested areas, and the boardwalks across the several beaver ponds often have ducks or turtles and even on occasion a muskrat to see, depending on the time of year and the water level. The chickadees will eat bird seed right from your hand and the ducks are always happy to have you toss them some bird seed or stale bread. 

Monday afternoon the sun broke through the fall dampness and we decided it was a perfect time to head out for some fresh air and family time. We parked at P9, loaded Chloe into the backpack carrier and headed out on the trail.  We had barely left the parking lot behind when I noticed the chickadees flitting up to perch on nearby branches and watching us intently -- clearly they were interested in whether or not we had food for them.  They're a little more skittish in summer when food is plentiful, but this time of year when they're storing up for winter they are eager to feed from the hands of visitors -- even small and wiggly children.  We had lots of fun standing still, cupping birdseed in our outstretched hands and waiting to see which birds would choose to come land on our hands, and which would wait for us to give up and leave a little pile of seed on the ground for them as we continued on our way. I was impressed by Maya's patience and captivated by the delight and wonder on her face as birds came to land on her outstretched hands. 

Chloe loved watching the birds Daddy tried to feed, but they gave her a wider berth as she was a bit too noisy and wiggly for most of them. 

There were many ducks at the first boardwalk pond, enough to quarrel over the seeds we tossed them. (I forgot to take pictures ... oops.) After that, the trail took us through more forest where Maya looked for chipmunks and squirrels, and pointed out all the birch trees she saw, and then eventually to two marshier boardwalks.  Maya was disappointed she couldn't see any frogs, but the usual frog spot was largely obscured by cat tails this time. 

We recommend you check out this walking trail if you're in the area.  Maya is able to walk the approximately 3 Km loop herself (she's just about to turn 4), but you could make it shorter by just walking in from the parking lot as far as the first boardwalk and then returning back out the same way.  (There is a shorter loop you can do in the trail, but it misses the duck pond boardwalk.)  The trail is also navigable with a jogging-style stroller.  If you want a longer walk, the Jack Pine trail connects to trail #26, which adds a long loop over to P11 on West Hunt Club road and then back again.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Long-distance walk

My in-laws live in Vancouver. (For some people, having their in-laws thousands of miles away would be a blessing. As it turns out, my in-laws are wonderful and loving people whom I'd love to have living a lot closer.) My husband is very close to his parents and I know he regrets that his move to Ottawa following university took him so far away from them. To bridge the distance, we spend a lot of time talking on the telephone, e-mailing photos and videos, and videoconferencing.

My mom emigrated to Canada from Europe all by herself as a young adult. She hadn't planned to stay permanently but she met and married my dad and more than 40 years later she's still here. Growing up, I remember her writing a letter to her parents every week, full of the details of our lives. On very special occasions, there would be an expensive long distance call. I remember my mom's excitement about these calls, but also that she always seemed a little sad when the call was over. I know she wishes we could have had closer ties to her family while growing up.

This week, 11 month old Chloe took her first steps.  Chloe and Jeff were playing in the living room and videoconferencing with Grampy using our little netbook.  Chloe was standing with Daddy when Grampy held out his arms to her on the screen and encouraged her to walk to him.  And Chloe took 2 little steps from our living room straight to her Grampy, thousands of miles away.

Chloe hasn't taken any more steps since then.  Maybe walking to Vancouver was a little exhausting.

Chloe stands, but isn't ready to take any steps on her own yet.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Eye surgery

I haven't forgotten about blogging, just been busy recovering from laser eye surgery to correct my vision.  I've had it planned since last winter, and the date finally arrived last week.  It has had mixed results.  Everything went smoothly with the right eye and my distance vision is already much improved, even though I'm still in the midst of the healing process.  Sadly, there was a complication with the left eye.  When they cut the flap in the cornea it was too thin, meaning they couldn't lift it to proceed with the actual laser correction part for fear of tearing the cornea and leaving a hole in the centre.  There's no damage done, and it will heal normally.  In 3 months I will be able to have the vision corrected in that eye using a different technique -- one that doesn't require cutting the cornea, but which will involve a much longer healing time.  I was remarkably calm about it all at the time, due to the sedative I'd taken just before the surgery to calm my nervousness about the process.  And by the time the sedative was well worn off the following day I'd already had a chance to process the initial disappointment.  So all in all I've taken it pretty well (I think Jeff was much more upset about it) but it still sucks.  In the meantime, reading is still difficult, especially on the computer screen and will likely continue to be challenging for at least a week, so it is likely to be quiet around here for the next little while.