Monthly Archives: February 2019

Too cool for school

Today I was schooled. This is not a bad thing. Those who know me, know that I love to learn new things and better ways of doing things I already know. I get bored with repetition, and monotony literally makes me weep. Doing the same thing day in and day out brings on a gray, depressed mood that is difficult to lift. So, when I say I was schooled, regardless of how I was schooled, it is a good thing.

Today’s schooling was almost not a good thing. We’ve had snow on and off for the past month or so. It has been glorious! I love the snow. So much so that if I wake up in the wee hours, as I very often do, and it is snowing, I will stand for ages at the window watching the magnificent flakes spiraling softly to the ground. I revel in the silence, the almost-frozen-in-time stillness that is broken only by the obnoxiously noisy clattering and rumbling of the bright, roaring snow plows. These monster machines wouldn’t be out of place in Mad Max Fury Road. I love them! They fill me with such childish glee and excitement! I want to shout with them! I often wonder about the people who operate them: what are they thinking all alone in the roaring darkness?

Back to today’s lesson. Snow, and then warm weather and rain. Followed by freezing temperatures, equals ice. Not the friendly fill a glass with ice and pour a gin and tonic kind of ice. This ice is different. This ice plays a sadistic game of ‘Let’s shatter some bones and bruise some egos’. I knew there was ice today. We are kept well-informed with news reports on the weather with ‘Extreme weather’ warnings. And Canada’s favourite past time is discussing the weather (that’s how I know we are really and truly home – we talk about the weather all the time, too!). So, I knew. But I chose to use this as a learning and teaching moment for me and Holly.

I walk Holly to and from school most days of the week. It’s a wonderful privilege I have, afforded to me because I work from home, and I am grateful every day that I can do it. -15 degrees C? No problem! Pull your scarf up around your face, Buddy, and wear an extra layer of clothes. Snowing? Perfect! Let’s catch snowflakes on our tongues. But ice is different. So I have learned. The thing I should have paid heed to was that no other kids were walking to school (except our neighbour and her children, but she is from the former USSR so this kind of weather is basically summer for her). When the neighbour returned and immediately went outside to salt the sidewalk, that should have been clue number three. Yet, again, I thought I knew better, and Holly must learn to walk on icy sidewalks. We live in Canada for goodness sake! There is snow and ice; toughen up! But, the ice is different.

Holly pretty much ice-skated to school on the sidewalk, fearless as she usually is (being the bravest girl I know). The threat of a fall softened for her by the three layers of pants she was wearing including puffy snow pants. I do not have puffy snow pants and I am somewhat less bendy than Holly. I fall with a greater impact than children do. So, I walked the distance to the school in fear of breaking a leg. I walked in the crunchy snow where it is less slippery but more labour intensive. I felt like an intrepid explorer making my way through yet uncharted land in the frozen depths of Antarctica. Somewhat dramatic, I concede, since her school is 300 meters  from our house.

So, here I sit. Undamaged, bones intact, ego free of lacerations. But schooled in the ways of Canadian ice. There are so many things for us still to learn! It’s excruciatingly exciting. We’ve spent almost our entire lives in almost perpetual summer, snow and ice in nature a notion that was familiar only at the most superficial level. I can’t wait for my next lesson. Let’s hope it’s as painless as this one was.

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Following the light

Instagram gives me severe fomo. With each scroll down, I add new destinations, activities and experiences to my ever-growing list of things to see and do. Every so often, I’ll invite Roger to share in my panic as it threatens to bubble over. But, as ever, he calmly assures me that we have lots of time to explore. Why doesn’t he understand?!

Each time I open Instagram my list grows exponentially! We’ll never be able to keep up. There’s Aurora Borealis-chasing in Iceland; reindeer sledding in Finland; roughing it in a log cabin in upstate New York; an island holiday in the Caribbean; experiencing arguably the world’s most breathtaking views in Banff, Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, Jasper National Park, Nova Scotia, British Columbia. And, closer to home, there’s learning to ski, ice skate and snowboard, tubing downhill in winter, stand up paddle boarding and tubing down the river in summer, and camping in every beautiful National park within a few hours of our home. And we haven’t even started on the maritimes or the territories!

We haven’t been sitting idle though. We take every opportunity to experience as much of Canada as we can. It may not be ice fishing on Crystal Lake, or dog sledding in the Yukon, but we have been getting out there. Just last weekend we packed the kids into the car and drove over an hour north. There’d been reports of strong electromagnetic activity that would make the Aurora Borealis visible from areas in Southern Ontario. Although we were just slightly south of the visible band, I thought we had to try. We will never see the Northern Lights from our couch! And, worst case scenario, we would get to see some pretty magnificent stars. I couldn’t sit still at the thought of being able to try out our new DSLR camera. I’ve been playing around with it and doing some online tutorials, but I really needed something out of this world to photograph.

We checked our emergency survival kit to make sure we had enough blankets, water, snacks, extra gloves, hats and scarves. Then we bundled the kids into the car and … set off to the car wash. That’s right – at 8:15 on a Friday night we were sitting in a line of about 6 cars waiting our turn to get under the sprays. For those who aren’t familiar with driving in snow and on salted roads, they create a lot of mush. The melted snow and ice and dirt creates a brownish gray clay-like substance that sprays up from the roads and coats your car – all over. If you don’t take good care of your car and wash this gunk off regularly, your car begins to rust. It’s such a thing here in winter, that you get car-wash season passes.

With with twinkling stars reflecting off the car, we hit the streets and headed north, our spirits as high as the kids’ voices as they sang and yelped in the backseat, beyond excited for their adventure. As I slipped my earphones in my weary ears, I noticed, with a sinking heart, that the clouds were blowing in. Never mind, I thought. It may still be clear in Elmvale. So we continued our drive, me enjoying another My Favorite Murder podcast, Roger ‘enjoying’ the kids’ singing as they shared the songs of their people.

As the kilometers sped by, the children quieted down and eventually passed out. Roger and I, noticing the desire to slam our heads against the dashboard had abated, realized the kids had fallen asleep. Aurora Borealis or not, sleeping kids is a win in itself! We arrived in Elmvale to find a completely overcast sky. Not a single star could be seen, never mind the Auroras. We drove to a nearby park, away from the bright lights, just to make sure. Then we turned around and headed back home.