Ending Vacation / Starting Short Work Week

My vacation is over which means back to work for me tonight. I have a “week” of night shifts. But it’s really only three nights. I have a four day weekend coming up starting Wednesday. Which makes it nicer to ease into the workload after vacation.

It’s been nice just doing camping, kayaking, and hanging out. No smell of diesel or grain dust on me. I will need to dig out my work clothes and gear before I return to work this evening.

My wife doesn’t return to work until tomorrow. So she is going to relax for one more day while I nap before my night shift. Pretty sure she is going to play video games. She has an extra day off on Thursday so her work week is shortened as well.

So far summer has been pretty good to us. I hope for it to continue over the next couple months.

Last Minute Getaway

My wife and I decided on Thursday to get away for a night on our anniversary on the Friday. We found a spot to stay at the Lonsdale Quay Hotel in the Carrie Cates Suite. It has a fantastic 180° of the harbour and Vancouver.

Essentially we were in the “Honeymoon Suite” at the top of Lonsdale Quay. Cost was $294 and included a bottle of wine and breakfast for two. Totally worth the money to have some quality time with my wife.

We enjoyed the sun setting from the tub, and later on enjoyed the city lights across the water. In the morning, we stayed in our room right up until checkout so as to enjoy the cityscape and harbour a bit longer.

19 Years Later…

Today is my 19th Wedding Anniversary! That’s a long ass time to be married in this day and age. Especially since I married her when I was only 25 years old. And had no idea what my life would have in store for me.

What’s crazy is I still feel young and alive when hanging out with my wife. She has been the greatest person to participate in life’s experiences with. From raising children, traveling the world, buying a home, or changing numerous careers… this has been a delightful challenge of life that I have enjoyed sharing with her.

I cannot wait until we get to celebrate 20 years, 24 years, 31 years, 42 years, possibly 65 years together. I love my wife tremendously and have been lucky to create milestones with her. I hope for her to feel the same and for us to have a Happy Anniversary! To quote the movie that inspired our wedding, and our life together:

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn- is just to love and be loved in return.

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love

Grad Dinner..?

Our oldest Graduated three weeks ago from Grade 12. Besides the ceremonies being cancelled, so was the Grad Dinner. My wife and I have been trying to get our daughter out for a special dinner since then, with no luck. Our oldest originally wanted a special meal like the one my wife and I did Last Year at the Bacchus French Restaurant. But it hasn’t opened yet because of restrictions.

Today, we finally went out for a meal. Our oldest also wanted her siblings along, so we ended up at Ramen Bella in Langley. Where we each got a large bowl of ramen, and our daughter got herself a Poké Bowl.

It was a good treat for everyone and also very filling. I’m glad our oldest picked a place that the family could enjoy, even though my wife and I were trying to offer her something special just for her. It seems as though our daughter is still very family oriented and loves sharing experiences with her brother and sister.

To me, that shows she is growing up into a wonderful young lady. Each day I am becoming more and more proud of her.

Weaver Lake Hike

Yesterday we took advantage of the overcast weather and headed on a hike around Weaver Lake. It was a good thing that it wasn’t sunny.

My friend was adamant that it was a 12km hike. My wife was saying that people do the hike in three hours. Neither sounded appealing to me. Especially since each of us were breaking a sweat within the first kilometer.

The trail was overgrown in some parts, and difficult to maneuver in other parts. I was glad that there were orange markers set up in trees along the path. There was also milepost markers every 500 meters telling us the distance traveled.

As we hit the 6 km marker we were at 2 hours and 45 minutes. We rounded the corner and we were at the base of the campgrounds. Turns out the trail was roughly 6 kilometers. I was overjoyed the it was over.

Honestly, it was a more challenging hike than I expected. Lots of rough terrain and constantly up and down the hillsides. Well worth it for the views. I’m glad it was shorter (distance wise) than we expected. The kids were happy as well.

Camping Is For The Birds

Our first night at Weaver Lake involved some visitors to our campsite. We had some Canada Geese show up near our fire pit. They were very domineering and strolled in like they owned the place.

A short time after, a couple of owls perched overhead preparing for their night hunt. They gave a couple squawks to one another as they landed. When they flew, it was silent. Most impressive.

We got ourselves a great spot by the water and enjoyed the frogs croaking as night fell. Being in the thick of nature is relaxing. And calming. Something magical about British Columbia that makes it worthwhile living here.

My Mythosaur

I really enjoyed Disney’s Mandalorian and felt that it had some fantastic story telling. So I made my own Mythosaur prop.

I’m not the most talented in the world when it comes to art. But I do enjoy making things. Last halloween, I made my Skesis costume and had some left over pink foam and clay that I decided to use for my Mythosaur.

I cut it out a few months ago, and then set it aside. Now that I’m on vacation, I figured I would finish putting the clay on and paint it.

It turned out not bad. All that’s left is finding a place to mount it. However, I can see all the flaws and know what to do better on my next project.

Time For A Tech Break

Getting the family ready for a camping trip is challenging. Even if you’re only gone for a couple of days, it takes hours to get packed up. No matter how much you tell everybody when you want to leave, you always fall behind.

It may seem odd to pack up the necessities of life in order to live outside temporarily. But I like camping. Most of my technology stays behind. Obviously I keep my phone for pictures and music. But the connection to the outside world via the interwebs is severed.

I like taking mental breaks always from the world. It keeps me sane. Plus I love the outdoors. I almost don’t need to leave our home as we have a lush and beautiful yard that seems to go on forever. We own an acre of solitude, just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and suburbs.

Taking a break from technology is important. I appreciate the world a little more when we do go away. A chance to see the natural wonders out there.

July 4th 2020

This year, we were planning on changing up our July 4th festivities. Back in February (before the pandemic took over) we bought tickets to Disneyland and booked our favorite hotel. Up until about a month ago, we were having a tough emotional time canceling the hotel. We really wanted to experience Disneyland in the summer since we’ve had the chance to enjoy springtime and numerous times at Halloween.

We really wanted to see the Disneyland 4th of July Fireworks. I assume that Americans can put on quite the show. Tonight, we shall watch those fireworks from the comfort of our home.

As well, instead of a road trip along the West Coast of the USA, I plan on taking some of the family camping during my vacation. As our kids get older, it seems there’s a bit of freedom expected. So our oldest is choosing to stay home. As uneventful as camping is, we are still happy and healthy and ready to enjoy the world.

But tonight, we shall resort to our July 4th Tradition. A viewing of ID4: Independence Day. I love this film. I also love the fact that our kids believed me (when they were much, much younger) that this film is historically accurate. Thank you Hollywood!

Happy July 4th to our American Neighbours!

Upcycled Growler Caddy

My wife and I have enjoyed traveling around British Columbia and collecting beer growlers along the way. I like the majority of the artwork that accompanies the Craft Breweries- along with the beers. We have gathered quite the collection of growlers over the years.

Today I finally made a growler carrier. I wanted to get one ages ago, but most only carry two growlers at a time. I wanted a larger one that can carry three of these 1.89ml (64oz) bottles. That makes it easier to transport them around.

There was a couple of old cupboard doors in our storage made of tongue and groove cedar wood. Easy to cut and put back together in a new shape. I also had an old closet dowel rod for the handle.

It took me a couple of hours to pull apart the doors and put everything back together. Here’s a secret- I only cut the two sides a bit shorter as the rest fit nicely together. The two doors had boards holding them together that I cut in half and made spacers for the growlers. A bit of sanding, some wood glue and a nail gun finished off my project. Because the dowel was so long, I decided to trim it down on one end to hold 4 small beer glasses. I figure that if I don’t like that part, I can always cut it off.

Now I’m ready to take this out for BBQs and camping! Plus it’ll be easier to get the growlers filled each time, as they won’t roll around my car anymore.

I love making stuff and repurposing items that would normally be disposed of. My holder may not be perfect, but it does the job it needs to do- carry my beers.

Newbie

So, I’m a relative NEWB when it comes to being outdoorsy. I have done some hiking and lately have been kayaking. I tend to get some beginner stuff in order to try out activities before getting carried away. Our kayaks are beginner style, and I have enjoyed them tremendously. My wife and I will probably upgrade them one day once we get better at paddling and such.

Today I went out and bought some fishing stuff. I’ve gone fishing with coworkers and friends in the past. I have just never owned my own equipment. I appreciate the basic knowledge they have given me over the years and am looking forward to having some fun this summer. Not the “Billy Bass” singing “Don’t Worry Be Happy” kind of fun. But actually trying to fish.

Before I bought stuff, I asked around for some advice on what a NEWB like me should buy. There is an art to what gear to buy depending on what you want to fish. Since I am doing fresh water fishing, I bought the gear that will be needed. I also paid for a fishing license for the year.

So any of my friends who want to hit the water with me and show me the ropes- I’ll be a bit more prepared than before. Now to watch some YouTube videos to get some skills before I make a fool of myself in front of my son.

Loving Canada

Today is Canada Day! I am proud to be Canadian. So much so that I work for Canadian National Railway. Just kidding, I work for the railroad because I love trains. Man, I cannot say that with a straight face. I work for CN because I enjoy making money to live.

Moving on…

Growing up, I remember my father always drinking Molson Canadian Beer. When I turned legal drinking age, Molson was my go-to beer for many years. Mostly because I’d buy a $20 t-shirt and get a free case of beer. (At least that’s what I told myself, but clearly it was the opposite).

There was a commercial years ago put out by Molson that I enjoyed. I Am Canadian aka Joe Rant. It felt like the commercial was made for me specifically. I rewatch it every year. I also share it every year. I am a proud Canadian and love this country with all of its amazing landscapes and diverse culture.

My name is Joe.

AND I AM CANADIAN.

Happy Canada Day!

One More To Go

I have one more shift to go at work before a week of vacation kicks in. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself. The crazy part is that I don’t have much planned for my time off. Our Disneyland trip is on hold due to COVID-19. We were looking forward to spending The Fourth of July in the USA for the first time ever. I assume it’d be a big deal. Especially in Disneyland!

I still plan on being not-so-sober during my time off. I do have a few days of camping planned with most of my family and a friend with his kids. Last summer he joined us and, well, drinking was pretty much non-stop. But the weather was great and so were the kids. So why not go for round two?

It’ll be hard to make it through that last day of work without a big smile on my face. Somehow, I’m sure I’ll survive until that first beer hits my lips. Then it’ll be a blur.

Mario Kart 8

On the weekend I bet my three children that I would beat them at MarioKart on the Nintendo Switch. I said that for every point they could beat me by- they would earn a dollar. I also said that to make it fair, we would play three cups of four races each. However, my stipulation was that we had to play 150cc Mirror races.

I had no idea my kids would be so good, or clever! I thought I could let them win a bit, then school them.

Turns out my kids ganged up on me. The oldest did her best to keep the lead with one of the other two staying close behind in second or third place. The third child did their best to take me out and keep me in the last possible place. They chose to pool their winnings and split it evenly three ways.

I lost $195.

Obviously I learned that my kids think I’m not very good at MarioKart even though I’ve been playing the different variations since 1992. I also learned that when given the chance, they can actually work together for a common goal.

My wife was none too happy. Until I told her that I’m okay with losing some money to the kids. This is the week we were supposed to be in Disneyland. So their “winnings” would have been spending money for the trip.

Look at those smiles. It was totally worth forking over $65 to each of them. Plus I got to “spend” quality time with them.

Vehicle Milestone

It’s always fun to see your vehicle hit certain milestones. I was on my way to work this morning when a numerical one hit my odometer.

Yes, I’m a dork and stopped to get a photo of it. Good thing it was 5am on a Sunday and no one was on the roads.

I get pleasure from the simple things. Like seeing my odometer hit 123,456km. Yup, I also reset my Trip counter to add in the 7.8! I’d been planning this moment for a few days. Now to figure out what the next fun milestone will be. I can’t believe I’ve owned this car for three and a half years already.

Do you get little pleasures from numbers and sequences like I do?

White Rock Kayaking: Nicomekl River

Day three in a row of my wife and I hitting the water in our kayaks. Today we drove further southwest and put in the water at Ward’s Marina in White Rock. The smell of the fresh sea air was pleasant as we paddled throughout the afternoon.

This spot opens daily at noon. So it is generally not very crowded, even for a Saturday. The weather was cooler than it had been the past couple of days. And with no trees to shade us, today was a perfect day to enjoy this adventure.

Of course, as we paddled from Elgin Park towards Blackie Spit. The route had some tough spots where we had to work more. But the neatest part was going under the BNSF train bridge as the train crossed overhead. The vibration made the water push us away from the location. Making it difficult to stay still in order to get a good photo.

On our way back home, we stopped by the Fraser Valley Cider Company and sampled some of their ciders. There was live music as we sat in the farmer’s field and enjoyed some local beverages and cheeses from other local farms. Stopping at a place like this was a nice way to end the afternoon. Plus it supports local businesses which I wholeheartedly encourage.

Three days off flew by quickly. I enjoyed our kayaking adventures over the last few days. I really enjoy the time I’m spending with my wife as well. We needed the companionship as we relax with time away from our hectic lives. Plus we are getting some good exercise as we go.

Kayaking the Salmon River, Fort Langley

Today my wife and I went out kayaking again. We drove towards our children’s school, and sauntered down the Salmon River in Fort Langley.

We parked along Glover Road and walked down a path and put the kayaks into the water. My wife and I slowly followed along the water for around and hour and a half. It was a nice leisurely paddle. But we also knew that we’d have to paddle back.

It was another calm, zen like experience. Since we were in Fort Langley, we decided that we would stop at The Trading Post for a snack and a beer. It was a great experience, we even made friends with an older couple who were out on a motorcycle cruise.

If the weather holds up into tomorrow, we hope to kayak once more locally. I’ll be sure to share that experience here on my blog.

The Vedder Made Today Better

I am so happy that my wife had us pick up a couple of kayaks last summer. We go a lot of use out of them last year, and we don’t want the momentum to stop this year. My wife joined a kayaking group on Facebook and there have been some great locations shared. Today, we drove about thirty minutes away from our home to enjoy a spot.

I want to start off by saying, it took me longer to get the kayaks ready today. That was because our fourteen year old son wanted to learn how to strap the kayaks to the car and he did the majority of it. There is a bit of an art to getting kayaks tied down, so I was glad to share the knowledge with him. I also enjoyed just chatting with Theory. He’s a bright kid who is always curious about how the world works.

Onto my wife and I and our afternoon. We found the small boat launch with ease. There was a few people around fishing, but no boats on the river. So we unloaded quickly, sunscreen and bug spray was applied and into the water we went.

My wife described the water as “Glass” and she was right. It was one of the smoothest paddles I have ever experienced. The water levels were so high, that at times we were not just going through tall grasses, but literally floating through the trees. It was calm and amazing.

We spent a good two hours just casually enjoying the views. We saw Canada Geese, ducks and a couple of cranes. It was quiet and peaceful as we wandered out.

By the time we returned, there were four more kayakers hitting the water. There’s something about kayaking that brought up conversations with strangers. We chitchatted with a few people as we packed up, because another couple of groups showed up. This spot is appealing right now because of the high water level and calmness. In a couple of weeks, the water will drop and the river will have an entirely different feel.

Chances are my wife and I will go back in a couple of weeks to see the change. But until then, there is so much more of British Columbia to explore. If you missed my Instagram video, here is a quick shot of a couple of cranes that we saw:

Fresh And Fruity

We have so much fresh fruit in our yard! I love it.

In the very back of our yard, there is salmonberries. Which just so happen to be ready for consumption! We also have a bunch of huckleberry bushes throughout the yard. Once they are ready, the kids load up on them.

This year, I discovered our cherry trees are producing fruit. It’s been a couple of years since they did. I’m looking forward to enjoying them. Our pear tree is also producing an abundance of fruit which should be ready in a few weeks.

We had a plum tree- but it ended up being diseased and had to get cut down. Those plums were juicy! As well, we used to have an apple tree, but alas it fell over one year in a storm. I have since planted a new apple tree a couple years ago- this time with four different types of apples infused into the branches. Currently I only get an apple on each branch, but one day- variety!

Do you have fruit trees or bushes that you grow? Summer is the best for walking the garden and eating right if the limb.

Leave Work at Work

When I finish a shift at work, I like to try and leave my thoughts of work behind. Of course it’s not always possible. Now that I have a “Work Phone” I’ll check emails while having a coffee and getting ready to leave my house. But I still avoid thinking about work on my days off.

If I hang out with coworkers outside of my work hours, more often than not we talk about… trains. It’s unavoidable since trains are what we have most in common. Sure, sometimes work gossip is fun, but there’s more to life than just that.

Work is essentially the beast you need in your life to survive. It brings you financial freedom, a meaning to your existence, a sense of identity. If asked, “What do you do for a living?” Your job is usually the first thing you mention.

Is it what you do for a living? Or do you enjoy your hobbies and family time more? Getting out of the habit of having a job or career define you is challenging. Once you get into the right frame of mind however, life becomes fresh and vibrant. Like being a child once more with no cares, but to play.

Remember to play. It’s good for the mind and body.

Father’s Day Night

With yesterday being Father’s Day, my children gave me gifts that reminded me that I’m a father. However, it was a very bipolar type of evening.

I arrived home to see my teenage daughters making homemade pasta for dinner. The kitchen was a mess and flour was everywhere. They were stumbling over each other trying to make dinner. During this, my son had retreated to his bedroom to hide.

For the rest of the evening, there was snarky attitudes going back and forth between all three kids and my wife. As they spoke to me, their tunes would change. They were each doing their best to show me kindness, but at a cost of being somewhat negative towards one another.

After dinner, the kids brought out the gifts that they had made for me. None of the gifts surprised me, as they were exactly what I was expecting. A Lego creation from my son (of my Nissan Rogue), some painted wood carvings from my middle and a painting from my oldest. I appreciate each gift as the kids showed off how proud they are of what they made.

We ended the night watching Robocop from 1987 just because I hadn’t seen the film in ages and wanted something to watch that the kids had never seen before. After the film, it was off to bed and sleep took over.

All in all a typical night, I even got a few gifts from it. It didn’t upset me that there was a bit of animosity between my family members. In actuality it reminded me of how normal we all are; and not everything is perfect no matter how much we try and showcase our lives on social media.

Father’s Day 2020

I’ve been a father for nearly 18 years now. In the grand scheme of things, I think I’ve done an okay job of raising three kids. Obviously I could not, and did not, do it on my own.

Without my wife; aka mother to our children; there really wouldn’t be a Father’s Day for me. She and I have worked together over the years to create a loving environment for our three beasts kids.

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I was ever going to be ready to be a dad without her pushing me. I’m glad to have taken on the challenge and the role. Our children are my pride and joy. I will always be there for them in whatever form they need me.

I was never close with my father. I’d like to think I have become the father I always wanted. The kind of father who goes on vacations, jokes with their kids, has family movie nights, even loses at video games to them. I have shown love and support through all of their endeavors, be it Cheerleading, Speed Skating, and the arts- no matter what they wanted to do, I was there.

Certainly there were times when they wanted to give up. But my wife and I pushed them and guided them through those hurdles. It’s not always fun and laughs when you have to be the bad guy either. In time, I’m sure they will understand why and when we needed to be strict with them.

For now, I’m just glad to be celebrated as their Father. I have a drawer full of handmade cards and gifts from over the years. I cherish those moments and memories.

I’ll always remember them as my kids, even as they enter adulthood.

Road Worthy

Our middle child turned sixteen on April 15th. Right in the middle of quarantine/ social distancing life. (Note: I’m not saying the world has overcome the pandemic, just that the peak of solitude seems to be behind us.) We were hoping that on her birthday she would have been able to go and do her knowledge test to begin driving. But it seemed that life was on pause until the start of June when ICBC began allowing people to book these tests.

Our daughter booked her test immediately- but there was a two week queue already. This gave her more time to study and finally had a deadline. I went with her yesterday morning because I had to sign off on her getting her license as she is still a minor. Once I signed off, I was asked to wait outside. I watched from the parking lot as our daughter took her exam. She had forty five minutes to complete it.

She was done in eleven.

She successfully aced the test with only one wrong answer out of fifty questions! 98% is dang impressive, clearly she gets her intelligence from her father. A very proud teenager showed off her “L” to her friends on Instagram and through texting. We stopped about a block away from our home, and I let her get a taste of driving.

All I can say is that this one will need lessons from someone who is not mom or dad. She may be book smart, but she needs to become road smart because those are two very different skill sets. I’m really happy for her and think that driving is a great skill to possess.

Smile Time!

It’s been a few years of orthodontics, but yesterday our middle child had her braces removed. Her older sister had hers removed back in December of 2018, read about it here: Brace Yourself, and she has been smiling more ever since. I’m hoping that this too will happen for our middle.

Naturally, I had to take a “Before” picture. Darwin was doing her best to hide the braces behind her smile. But you could sense the joy that was about to unfold as she walked into her final orthodontist appointment.

This is the obligatory “After” picture. Notice how she is showing more teeth! Finally, after a few years of braces, tightening, and suffering, she has a reason to smile.

The braces are off! Now, and for years to come, she will have a beautiful smile. And our pocket book will be full once more… until our youngest goes in.

Grad 2020

Our oldest graduates from high school this year. Last week was supposed to be her graduation ceremony and tonight was meant to be her Grad Dinner and Dance. But alas, 2020 had other plans.

So tonight, we tried to make her Graduation something special. Everyone got dressed up and we headed out.

A short drive away, the outdoor mall had set up a backdrop that we took full advantage of. Our daughter willingly got up on the stage and had some photos taken with each of the members of the family in front of a Grad 2020 sign.

Afterwards we picked up some sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home. Our daughter ate a Sushi Boat to herself- A goal she tried to do a few years ago on her birthday. She succeed tonight! After dinner, she received some gifts from us and ice cream cake.

Then we streamed her graduation ceremony that was filmed a month ago. It was filmed with social distancing in place and edited together. Before we watched it on our big screen, we talked about all the years of school she has been through.

She made some memories over the years, as well as some great friends. I’m sad she didn’t have the same graduation ceremonies as those who came before her. As unfortunate as that may be, Grad 2020 will still be memorable in its own unique way.

This may have been said numerous times by numerous people, but it bears repeating:

To all those high schoolers who have had to endure similar nights like ours- you successes over the years should not be diminished by the fact that the world is struggling through a pandemic. Your resilience to overcome diversity, pandemics, or any number of worldwide challenges is proof that you are the future. A future that will bring us all closer together.

Congratulations Class of 2020!