Monthly Archives: March 2010

Today’s forecast – sweet and sticky

The sap is running down the lines. It’s being collected for transformation into that decadently sweet and syrupy pancake enhancer. You know what I mean that sticky, viscous, golden brown, liquid sugar that lazily covers everything in its path. Once it undergoes its alchemy in the wood-fired evaporator it becomes a new world ambrosia, a nectar like no other.

We’re on a run of our own along TC 102 and then over the 311 to Sugar Moon Farm. There’s still plenty of snow in the woods and fields at Sugar Moon. The higher altitude isn’t a match for the power of the sun though. The snow is soft underfoot. It’s on its final retreat – life span to be measured in days not weeks.

It’s crowded. There are lots of people here for a meal at the log cabin restaurant, a walk in the woods, or, like us, a quick treat of something special. It’s a smackeral of sweet you never forget.

I remember my first sugar bush outing in grade four. There was a symphony of drips in the galvanized tin buckets and networks of spiralling plastic tubing. Most memorable though was the secret recipe – syrup and snow, a kind of cool toffee. Delicious, fun and easy to make. Press your popsicle stick down on the line of syrup lying on top of the snow, twirl, pop into your mouth and revel in the gooey, sticky, sugary taste explosion. Repeat.

It’s just as fun at Sugar Moon as it was on the outskirts of Toronto way back when. Those stands of trees are probably all 905ed under now. Nellie and Noah have some ooey, gooey, gluey messes on mittens and coats and syrupy grins on their faces.

This March is spectacular. We’ve already had 11 sunny and clear, or mostly sunny and partly cloudy days. Temperatures have been consistently above average. On some days they’ve been creeping into the almost tropical zone. Well tropical for Halifax in March.

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My memory for weather from one season to the next is atrocious. I asked Mé if she remembered last spring. “Remember,” she replied. “Yes, I remember. I couldn’t get out of the house because of the dreary weather. I was pregnant, not feeling well and looking for ways to entertain the two small ones. Outside play was not an option. This is the kind of weather that would have been great last spring.”

Sure enough, the Weather Underground has all the weather readings going back for years. Last March was particularly nasty – four days of sunshine up to this same point in the month and much colder temps as compared with this year. Going back several years the record tells a consistent story. March is not a sunny month in Nova Scotia. This is surely a March to remember.

Outdoor play is so much less laborious now with the warmer days and sunny skies. It’s not that we hibernate in the winter, it’s just that spring brings such a welcome release from the multiple layers of clothing and the damp, chill-to-the-bone cold. It’s easier to get everyone prepared and through the door. Once outside, the self-led play is generally of a much longer duration.

At 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 our two older ones are pretty good at amusing themselves. Older brother Noah is mostly helpful with Nellie including her in the games he invents and giving her a helping hand as required. We’ve turned one of the flower beds at the front of the house over to them as a digging pit, car play place, etc. Then there is hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and the list goes on. They have a great time playing by their own rules.

And then there’s our playground explorations. We’re moving into high gear. In the last week we’ve had running, swinging, sliding, climbing expeditions at five different playgrounds. The kids and I love getting out to test drive equipment all over the city. It’s become a seasonal hobby that I blog about at PlayGround Chronicles.

We’re not the only ones to be enthused by this rosy weather. The birds are singing its praises. There’s more birdsong in the morning. Their impromptu concertos make me think back to last summer when Noah-David told me in a matter of fact tone that the birds weren’t singing for us but for themselves. Bulbs charmed by the warming sun are poking through their green shoots. Russell Lake is free of ice and our nesting ospreys are sure to return soon to fish and raise another brood.

The kids are raring to get outside as much as possible. We’ve got at least four activities to choose from today when we talk about what we’ll do – feeding the ducks at Shubenacadie Park, strolling at Point Pleasant, walking the beach and throwing rocks at Rainbow Haven, or rocketing and rollicking at the space shuttle playground. Of course we could put together a killer combo pack that will meet with everyone’s approval. And that’s all part of the fine weather too – more options for taking the fun outdoors.

This year approaching spring we experienced a wonderful milestone. Just a couple of days ago, Lila-Jeanne – now four months – let loose with her first cavalcade of laughter. Her peals of happiness chased away any clouds on the horizon and warmed us all up. Bring on the laughter and lots more sunshine.

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Lila Doux

Since the first day she came home from the hospital, she has been Lila doux for Nellie-Rose and Noah-David. I can’t remember which of the two tacked on the ‘doux‘ but it’s sticking. Doux is soft or sweet in French and Lila-Jeanne sends us into orbit on both counts. She’s off the scale.

Noah and Nellie have a song and dance number which, as cute as it is, must just about scare the baby crap out of Lila because of the boisterousness and spontaneity of it all. They usually break it out at least a couple of times a week. For the fullest effect, Lila needs to be either on the floor or at a very low elevation so she can see what’s going on and be seen by the performers. It’s a mad dash sort of dance, round and round and round the little sister until they are almost giddy with dizziness. All the while between giggled breaths, they are chanting a two-word song varying the tone, volume and rhythm, playing it like a magic incantation, like a joyous gift in the making. The lyrics are simple and unforgettable – Lila doux, Lila doux, Lila doux.

They are proud, excited, happy, funny and full of love in these moments of ‘we are three’. It’s a heady engagement in the sibling club. This is an exclusive membership that, as connected as we are in the maman and papa roles, we’ll never be able to join. It makes my heart warm to see this jump-up carnival that celebrates another baby, another sister in the ranks.

Lila doux and I are out on our second solo mission today – Halifax bound. It’s off to the on call doctor at our clinic to get another prescription for thrush. Just a week ago, we cleared up the first infection and now have to start over. It’s not serious but does cause discomfort and interferes with eating. I guess it’s easy for me to say that it just causes discomfort. I’d probably be whining away to beat the band if these nasties invaded my mouth.

We pick up the medicine at the pharmacy and continue to the mall for some shopping prior to returning home. She is in constant sleep mode. She wakes up for a nano-second as the doctor probes her mouth with a depressor and that’s pretty much it until we get home nearly two hours later. Even though she’s snoozed out, enveloped in inertia, everyone remarks on her. She is cute, darling, adorable, a dear, so sweet, a baby by any other name.

Lila and I have the longest conversations of late. It’s now a trilingual household. We’re all becoming very proficient in Gurgle. Don’t ask us what we say au juste. We take our cue from this youngest girl who speaks in tongues. She trills, squeals and sings a poetry of innocence. There are no words to fashion the images she shares with us yet they come across vibrant, bright and crisp. I get lost in her eyes as she tells her story. I am swimming in her light and her words shift my sense, my sound and sight. Everything we need to be is already there shining out at me.

Lila doux calls out in the morning after maman joins us in the kitchen. Some days she can ‘play’ by herself for 20 minutes. When she’s done with the self-directed stuff, she lets us know. She ratchets up her remonstrations slowly. She registers her pique, her disdain, her surprise that no one is with her. This is a good time to grab a quiet moment behind closed doors filled with early morning energy. I lie down beside her on our bed. I tickle, stroke and try the latest couple of colloquial Gurgle phrases I’ve learned. It’s a fine time, a waking dream, a sweet, soft surrender to the now of life.

If you want to try and wrap your tongue around Gurgle, here’s lesson 1.

Playground Days Are Here Again

Two playground visits this week. No snow and temps creeping up to a balmy 7° C. Nellie-Rose and Noah-David are in perpetual motion – slides to swings to bridge to climbing arcs. Their voices fill the sky as they call out to each other. Each breath of laughter is a deep exhalation, moments of momentous joy.

They race, encourage, and hug each other eyes wide open to adventurous new feats for their respective inventories of playground conquests. “Help me, help me,” rings through the air – a nudge up a last step here, a meter lift to the monkey bars there. Their independence is striking. Papa’s great contributions are helping when things are out of reach, pushing the swings and watching raptly as the equipment is put through its paces by two all star players.

I can’t get enough of their rosy red cheeks, their speedy fast running, or the calls for more, more, more. I relish with great anticipation the thought of Lila-Jeanne joining us for the playground capades.

Noah is impatient to get back to Sorel this summer. He talks about what we’ll do in Québec and often speaks about the Marathon of Playgrounds that we’re starting to plan. He thinks we should get one happening here in Halifax too.

We take a nice walk along a trail that overlooks the harbour in the Mount Hope area of Dartmouth. The sun is a magnet pulling people out of their homes for a more temperate engagement with the elements. There’s a steep hill with brown, windswept grass uncut and unkempt from last fall. The two mischief makers scamper half-way up and roll, tumble, slide down, down, down. This is a dust off and repeat manoeuvre until I strong voice them to the bottom for the trek back to the playground.

There’s no end to the exploring. Vessels are at our disposal in several locations throughout the city. This new one is tucked away in a small subdivision a five minute drive from our house. On this our second visit, we are the lone crew members. Good thing too as Nellie had to get a rapido outdoor diaper change.

I have a mutiny on my hands when I tell the two junior deckhands that we have to set sail for home. There’s a bit of chasing around and shiver me timbers talk. I’m tough with them though. It’s in the car, or walk the plank. They choose the lesser of two evils and we speed home for a reunion with maman and Lila.

My step is feeling a bit lighter. What’s the reason? Our kids and playground season – it’s here again.

Just Duckin’ Around, Waiting for Canards

As Nellie and I arrive at Shubenacadie Park, we head straight for the ducks meet the people gathering place by the canal’s edge. It’s a great spot to go when winter begins to loosen its grip and there is more open water than iced surface. Steps lead quickly to a dock where canoers and kayakers come ashore, or push off in finer weather.

It’s an ideal place to sit and wait for the ducks. Pieces of pita bread tossed in the air are a telegraphed invitation. They fly in from all over. Moments ago there were two and now there are twenty or more milling about waiting for the next morsels to be thrown in abandon.

We are so much luckier than Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon. Our waiting is short lived. Despite the grey tones in the sky and the muted light there is not much here in the way of melancholy existentialist angst either. The ducks do provide a certain unasked for camaraderie for both of us.

We’re having good fun watching the ducks and experiencing a feeling of largesse through our bread crumbs charity. It’s a simple pleasure through and through. It’s not until our bread is all gone that we see a sign requesting that no one feed the ducks. It’s well beyond the congregation area where we sat. How absurd is that?

Before we leave, we peek at the waterfall. The fast melt water surges over the precipice. There is more adventure to be had here. It’s a place we love to come for walks.

Shinny at the Open Skate

Noah Redblader made a triumphant return to Rink 1 at Cole Harbour Place today. A chair was used only once and not as a skating support. It was just for fun to speed and twirl him around the ice three times.

We met up with another young lad who we have seen during several previous visits. He always has a granddad, a stick and a puck with him. Today for the first time we brought sticks and a puck too. Brennan and Noah hit it off as soon as they started chasing around after the black magic. They gave each other the big goodbyes when they got off the ice.

They’re getting all their hockey etiquette ironed out right down to the hugs after scoring a goal. They’ll enjoy each other’s company from now on. Brennan was accompanied by two granddads today and little brother. One of the granddads coached Sid the Kid in Bantam AAAs. Maybe we’ll hear a few good hockey stories about Crosby’s early years.

Letting go of the idea of a chair as a support required some gentle pushing. He still wanted to hang onto it today. I told him that after his great skating and hockey in Sorel, he didn’t need any support. We went around the ice together a couple of times and he put in a strong showing. From there we started to shinny down in the end zones. All of a sudden before my eyes he was receding – drifting into the near distance. He had that hip swinging, backward skating thing on the go. He didn’t go to far but it was an excellent beginning for him, one that I didn’t anticipate would happen so quickly.

We’ll head back for more on Thursday.

Noah wants to see a real game again soon too. There’s a AAA Midget series coming to town. We’ll try and get out to that.

Tonight for the first time ever, Noah laid out a hockey stick, a puck and a pair of Lego ‘skates’ in Nellie’s bedroom cupboard just like he does for himself in his own cupboard. Nellie is moving on up into the big leagues. It’s so much fun to be a part of it all…