Monday, January 31, 2011

Canada Catch up Pictures

A few pictures to catch up on the last days in Canada before flying to L.A. They include Sam's visit to the fire station and Miniature World.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowflakes, a deer, and Good-byes

Due to some very poor planning on my part, we leave Vancouver Island on Tuesday morning (tomorrow). Which means, we had to start our good-byes on Sunday afternoon. First, our good friends Anne and Ray, Maria and Errol and their children. It's been lovely to spend time with them all again, but just not fair to have to wrench the kids away from their new friends (and, I admit, new friends' toys). And then it was good-bye to my sister Sharon, her husband Will, and cousin Megan (14). Megan has been an absolute doll playing with the girls most days, taking turns at being mum and babysitter and sometimes probably even baby sister. We will miss her hugely and I found it very difficult to say good-bye to them.

This morning we took my mum and dad for breakfast to the Whitespot and happened upon some old friends Vic and Alice, who once long long ago invited me to youth group with their kids and as they say, the rest is history. Living history in fact, in our four kids.

The rest of the day was spent packing until we noticed some dandruff floating from the sky. Sure enough, it was snowing and we went out for a lick and a feel and a little play, although it wasn't really sticking to the ground. I thought, wow, isn't that cool that we finally got to see snow, even on the very last day. And then wouldn't you know it, there was a young deer coming up to have a snack in my parents' backyard, so we all ran from one window to the next to have a watch. Pictures are on my camera, naturally. Megan's sister Ariel (18) came over to say good-bye before she had to go to work, and many hugs and kisses later, the girls let her go. Finally, my brother Scot, his wife Cindy and James and Jocelyn came for a last visit and thankfully stayed for steak dinner. Some very special connections were made between our kids and theirs on a number of levels so by the end of it, the good-byes were very hard. At least we've got them to promise to set up Skype at home, and maybe just maybe we've actually got them thinking about coming to New Zealand. James will get them to watch the Lord of the Rings films and I'm sure the deed will be done.

It is our last night in Canada, and I'm feeling strangely surreal but the timing is right. We miss the green, the sun, te maunga, the aqua sea of home and of course our dear friends. That's the thing with coming back to a place that was home long ago: friends are special and I love being able to pick up where we left off but the memories and history shared is old. We just don't have the time or space to create new experiences together, no matter how hard we try. I must admit I am looking forward to being with my people, the people who know us as Susan and Paul, the Dominikovich family who teach and play and fellowship amongst them day after day.

First up: Disneyland!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ferries, Trains and Fire trucks

Canada Place, Vancouver

The Olympic Cauldron
Sam in front of a building blocks Orca
Lonsdale Quay Beaver Tails
Madeline and Andraya, Crescent Beach
Madeline, Violet, Andraya, Crescent Beach

Kelley and Doug's house (far right), Surrey

Outside Canada Place, downtown Vancouver

Karsten and our kids on the Skytrain from Surrey to Vancouver

Auntie Marilyn with the children on the ferry

My cousin Donna, Scott with Serenity
The view in Surrey

Ice Skating, Canadian style--on a frozen pond

with friends Kelley, Doug, Andraya and Karsten at Crescent Beach, Vancouver

On January 2nd our family headed over to the mainland accompanied on the ferry by my cousins Donna and Scott with Serenity and my Auntie Marilyn. It was a great idea to have the company and the distraction for the trip, although Violet was ready to make friends with some strangers sitting nearby on the boat. A sad good-bye and best wishes for Donna's new baby in February, and then we were Surrey-bound, to visit our good friends and my old Capernwray buddy, Kelley and Doug Stuart with their two children Andraya and Karsten. It was fantastic to see them again and to quickly fall into our easy and familiar friendship despite the years and distance. We also got to see some snow on the ground! We enjoyed the walk to the park, the brief snowball fight (Sam discovered that snow is really cold on the hands!), and playing hide and go seek in the woods. The next day we all drove out to Crescent Beach where we walked, played, balanced and explored in the sun. The highlight was driving past all the skaters and hockey players taking advantage of the frozen pond beside the highway. Followed by McDonald's which was a real treat for all, and then home to Surrey for some street hockey behind their house. Tuesday, January 4th was departure day but first we had a surprise for the children and drove to the train station in Surrey. They were all excited to see the trains and Sam exclaimed at the fact that they were coming and going, but still none of them cottoned on. Finally, Paul told them all to get out of the car and the grins started to show. We took them on the Sky train into Vancouver where we explored Canada Place, saw the Olympic Cauldron up close (no need for chain link fences anymore), took the sea bus to Lonsdale Quay and enjoyed some freshly made Beaver tails, all before racing back to try to get the 3 pm ferry. Amazing Race indeed, although we nearly missed our checkpoint and ended up getting the 5 pm ferry after a wrong turn and an unscheduled trip through the tunnel (twice!). But would you believe, the strangers that Violet attached herself to on the first ferry? They were there, sitting in the same seats. I'm not joking.

But the fun didn't end there! When we finally dragged our travel-weary bodies into the house on Cooperidge, Grandpa told Sam he had an appointment with him the next day at 10:30. The two of them had a tour of the Central Saanich fire station together--just when you thought our Sam's grin couldn't get any bigger. He has fantastic photos of the station, the chief, the old trucks in the museum and of himself driving in one of the trucks. Naturally, he impressed the guys with all his fire-wise knowledge! And he came home with a badge, a crest and a t-shirt from the station, treasures and keepsakes for years to come. Our lucky boy.

Today we finally managed to take the kids to Miniature World in Victoria and I'm so glad we did because they absolutely adored it. What a fantastic venue for old and young alike. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Last week's excursions: Sidney and Butchart's

Carolers at the Butchart Gardens

Abigail keeping warm
Abigail on the Carousel
Megan and Ariel warming up over hot chocolate

Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney

Collecting treasures at China Beach in Sidney

I'm playing a bit of catch up with my blog because the two excursions above happened before New Years. We went to Butchart's on a beautiful clear but crisp evening with Uncle Will and cousins Ariel and Megan. The children marvelled at the Christmas lights which adorned many trees and covered a few acres. It was pretty special to share that with them, the place I worked for many a summer holiday (flowers in season, lights at Christmas). It has changed quite a bit now and has an outdoor skating rink and a full size carousel. Imagine the delight of riding on a wooden animal going round and round and up and down! And the kids loved it too! Uncle Will stayed on terra firma to take photos but the rest of us had a wonderful ride.

On another day, also before New Year's, we went into Sidney with friends Anne and Ray and their children to visit the Ocean Discovery Centre. This was a great trip to extend Sam and Madeline's learning about the sea from school last year. We enjoyed the giant aquariums full of beautiful fish and sealife, as well as the touch pools at the end. Afterwards we explored China Beach to collect bits of smooth glass for our collections, and then some hot chocolates and another pumpkin spice before home.

On New Year's Eve we were fortunate to have options, so enjoyed the first half of the night with friends, visiting and eating sushi and sundry Japanese items. Delicious. Then we met up with my cousin and her husband and little girl who had come from Vancouver for games and laughs at my sister's house, including my brother and his family. The game was Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and I have to say, the women were smokin' in the second game (I won't mention the first) until we discovered we were nearly at countdown. Turned on the tele to see a "not quite what I remember" Bare Naked Ladies performance and then we counted down. Except, no one wanted any bubbly. Except me, but I was a lone voice. Rather a hollow experience and we all knew it, so 10 minutes later we did it all over again, this time with the cork popping. Excellent! And since we're still on New Zealand time, the night was still young!

And tonight we have just come home from a fantastic couple of days in Vancouver, but I'm sorry, to do the blog justice, it will have to wait for another day. Photos to load and stories to tell.