My two performers shine again

As the school year end approaches both boys had the chance to show some of their talent. For Nic it was playing trombone with his Grade 9 band at the spring concert. For Eli it was playing the role of ‘le conducteur’ (go figure!) in a French play then as the narrator for Robert Munsch’s “Mud Puddle”. The latter was the starring role and with his animated delivery Eli out-Munsched Robert Munsch. And he had memorized all his lines!


20150528_094534 20150528_094735

Chilling with band buddies after his performance, and watching the Grade 10 and senior bands.20150527_210420

Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment

Birthday parties and other fun

A couple more photos from Eli’s cooking class — the scrumptious apple turnover he made (and I partially ate before I photographed) and him in class. Unfortunately Eli doesn’t like most of the foods they are preparing but he still likes cooking them.


We have two boys on the street that Eli often plays with, Aaron (pictured here) and Brandon. Brandon’s little sister Ava tags along too. With some hot days this spring the boys enjoyed water gun fights. And our grass needed the watering.
aaron and eli

I’m always keen to check out the endless opportunities around Ottawa to learn, explore, and experience. The rest of the family is less keen. Here Eli’s face shows what he thinks about the Ontario Scene hip hop event I dragged him to.
hip hop 1

hip hop

Eli’s 9th birthday party was at Laser Quest. In attendance were brother Nic and friends Corin, Thomas, Darian, Brandon, Jack, and Ben. Nic was a fill-in as all 3 girls Eli invited (Gabi, Zoe and Ariana) were unable to attend.


The following weekend was Gabi’s party — on a pirate ship! Gotta love a girl who’s into pirates and is also an avid reader (i.e. brainy) and a talented dancer. Most photos courtesy of Gabi’s mom (I didn’t go on the ship).

pirate 5

pirate 4

pirate 3

Normal Eli…
pirate 2

Evil Eli!
pirate 1



Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment

Nic’s band invades Banff, April 2015

I think the trip can be classified as an invasion as there were 107 Gr 9 band students, at least 75 from the upper grades, and about 18 teachers and chaperones on the 5 day trip. Marlene was a chaperone. What an amazing trip!

Here’s an article about the trip that Marlene wrote for the local paper: Making_Music_in_the_Mountains draft

A view inside one of the three buses that transported us everywhere. We even got bused up to the Banff Centre from the Brewster Mountain Lodge, where we stayed. It’s only a 15-minute walk but with all the instruments and the very real chance of losing a student or two, we always took the bus. In here somewhere are the 10 lovely young women in my chaperone group.
on the bus

Students arrived in Calgary on different flights throughout the day so as they did they were bused to the Calgary Zoo. Brilliant plan on the part of Gord Birkinshaw, the senior band teacher who planned everything. The kids got free time to hang out, adjust to the time zone, see a nice zoo and were corralled into a confined area (easier for the chaperones!) Once all the kids had arrived and had some time at the zoo we filled three charter buses and headed to Banff.

En route to the zoo (Marlene & Nic were on the earliest flight, with about 80 others) we stopped at a mall food court for lunch. The place was just opening but we’d been up for about 9 hours by then.
zoo food court

zoo food court 1
At the zoo. Gorgeous day, about 22 degrees and sunny.

Being the first group to get to the zoo we had something like six hours there — more than anyone really needed. But the kids found ways to entertain themselves while everyone else arrived, like a mass card game near the entrance.zoo card game

Despite having to be up around 3:00am the day of departure we were scheduled for a 5:30am wakeup call the next morning, to grab our bag breakfasts and get on the buses at 6:30am to get to our Columbia Icefields tour. We were booked on the first tours of the day, but the tour company definitely over-estimated the travel time from Banff and we were easily an hour early. That gave us time for a scenic lookout stop enroute.icefields enroute 2

icefields enroute 1

icefield enroute

Here’s the massive ice explorer vehicle that took us onto the glacier.icefields 1_sm


Glacier underfoot selfieglacier selfie

Apparently it’s something of a tradition for the boys to bare their chests while on a glacier — at least that’s what happened on the previous two band trips to Banff, and the 2015 guys were up to the challenge.icefields 2_sm

A food court in Banff — right around the corner from our hotel, with lots of choice, so we went there for several quick lunches. Mostly the kids were on their own for dinners, to go out, buy groceries, get takeout, court

The senior concert band performing — a mix of the Grade 10 and senior (11 and 12) bands.senior band_sm

Chaperone style selfie. You get to boss all kinds of kids around when you’re dressed in a band shirt.selfie chaperone

Some of Marlene’s fellow adults, left to right, Karen Baird, Krista Norton, Josee Witherow (my roommate), Peter Littlefield, and Catherine Roberts. All chaperones, and experienced ones, except Krista who’s the Grade 9 band teacher (and fearless leader in all kinds of fun non-musical activities).

lunch chaperones

Josee and I enjoying an exceptionally delicious Bloody Caesar (garnished with a pickled bean and a yummy s+p chicken wing) at the Eddie Burger. Got to watch the Sens whip some Montreal butt there too. The whole chaperone contingent joined, plus teacher Krista, making a party of 12 (and I do mean party). The Eddie is right across the street from the hotel so we took turns popping over to make sure the kids weren’t getting into as much trouble as their chaperones were.chaperones

Managed to fit in a hike at Johnson Canyon, about 20 minutes west of Banff. The kids needed to see why this place is a national park. Despite the trail actually being paved (when Marlene was a local she shunned it along with all locals who considered it too tame) it was gorgeous. The kids loved it too. They half ran the whole thing and were constantly taking pictures of the scenery and each other. It wasn’t very cold — definitely well above zero — but we had a little snow flurries to make it even more mountain-ish.canyon sign

johnson canyon_sm

Nic’s band performing — part of Loch Lomond. Look for Nic amongst the trombones.

The junior band waiting for their clinic to start, which was the day after they performed. Follow the arrow to Nic.nic in clinic 1

nic in clinic

Getting set up for the formal festival photo — not only did it take forever, this band being more than twice the size of most, but the benches the kids had to stand on were rickety and narrow. One poor kid fell off from fairly high up. Banged himself up a little and ripped his pants but curled around his sax when he fell so the instrument was unscathed. Follow the arrow to find Nic.
junior band_sm

group photo

The last full day in Banff the kids had the option of skiing at Sunshine Village (which Nic and I chose) or going on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola and Mineral Hot Springs in town. It was amazing spring skiing at Sunshine. sunshine 1_sm

It doesn’t get much better than this.
sunshine 2

Our last evening in town the whole band dined together at the Olde Spaghetti Factory.spaghetti factory

What I haven’t posted in photos are the nightly get-togethers in the band teacher’s room, where we had ‘tea’ and laughed well into the night. I haven’t slept that little in a week for decades! The final night there I had 2 hours sleep, because I just had to take part in the evening social and had to wake up at 2:15am to escort one student flying on points to the Calgary airport for our very early flight home. Krista says I was a great chaperone so I’m hoping to have many more band trips with Nic.

Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day Mom/Boubi!

Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment

The winter continues, early 2015

Third harsh winter in a row, and the worst of all of them. We set a record for February’s unbroken sub-zero streak and also a canal record for longest continuous days of operation. I skated there once — too cold most of the time! At least there was a good amount of snow (after a late Dec thaw). But too cold for me most of the time. I practically didn’t run all winter (turns out having a training goal is necessary for me now) and only skied when I was coaching (no personal outings). My biathlon training attendance was spotty too, because standing still with a large hunk of metal does not keep you very warm!

Mid January Eli and I attended a Cub Scout camp. Beautiful place, not far from Ottawa, and it was well programmed. Even the food was good. Unfortunately the leadership of this Cub pack is not. I’d hoped Eli and I would get to know folks better so he’d like Cubs more. But not a single leader there even introduced themselves the whole weekend (similarly I could never figure out who was who at the weekly sessions and again no one would really talk to me). Plus the leaders didn’t always show the respect to the kids (i.e. Eli) that they promote so much. Nevertheless it was fun for me to spend the weekend with Eli.cubs camp 2

We shared a room with another mom and her son. cubs camp 4


cubs camp 1

Sleddingcubs camp 5

Yes, it was very cold!cubs camp 3

Saturday evening back in the cabin we made bead geckos.cubs camp 7

cubs camp 6

cubs camp

Sunday our last activity was hockey on the frozen lake. It was warmer than Saturday and Eli really enjoyed it.
cubs camp 8

Nic’s Grade 9 class went skating on the canal. Follow the orange arrow to find Nic.canal_trip_feb_2015
Nic in his new ‘natural’ environment: in the den playing a multi-player online game with his buddies and Skyping them at the same time.
Nic new glasses

Nic played indoor soccer through the winter and his skills improved remarkably. He was one of the best on his team of mixed ages (2000 was the oldest year), with one of the hardest, most accurate shots. I think they came 5th overall, when they won their last tournament game.
soccer tournament

For March break we spent just a weekend away. Marlene and Eli took the train to Kingston, while Nic and Doug drove. We stayed at the waterfront Holiday Inn and went to Rail O’Rama in Kingston but otherwise none of the museums and historical sites were open. Nice little get-away.
eli on the train

Eli in the hotel pool.
hotel pool

I didn’t end up traveling to any biathlons but did compete in the local one near the end of the season, at Chelsea Nordiq, my home range. It was a lot of fun! I managed not to get disqualified (there is no end of little things you might do wrong with your rifle that will get you disqualified, like starting to take it off without both skis on the mat). I shot poorly and skied worse! I called the course, which I skied both days in the two different formats, ‘puke and tuck’ because it was either a gruelling uphill or a cruising downhill. Here I’m trying to get my empty mag out (always a challenge with frozen fingers and too-big gloves).
coupe quebec 5 2015 4

Usually the 14 lanes were almost full with shooters and thus exciting to watch (with folks cheering loudly as shooters next to me hit every target). This photo must be from Sunday’s race where the Master Women started near the end and skied fairly far so by my last time shooting there weren’t many left on the course.
coupe quebec 5 2015

Shooting standing, with reasonable form. Being watched by the head of Chelsea Nordiq, Pierre Dupuis. 
coupe quebec 5 2015 3

Turns out with so few women in the Master category I could take home lots of bling! Silver on Saturday and gold on Sunday. Because the race was both an Ontario Cup and a Coupe Quebec I got two of each colour. 
coupe quebec 5 2015 5


Eli had a ton of dental surgery at CHEO — 5 teeth removed (including an extra one embedded in his upper palate), two crowns and a few fillings. We had no idea it would be that rough on him — he looked like he’d been in a car crash, ended up with an infection (possibly from pulling all the stitches out within the first day), and needed a week off school. When he awoke from the anaesthetic he was so angry and yelling even the most seasoned children’s nurse couldn’t calm him down. Eventually he whimpered, “I feel so weak without my teeth.”

Nic’s Grade 9 concert band (all 120+ of them) played at the National Capital regional music festival. They did really well. Especially because the school went into ‘safe in place’ status while the band was setting up. Half were on stage already while the other half, including the teacher, were in the warm-up room and no one could leave where they were. It lasted a half hour or more and the kids on stage were so quiet and focused — one of the percussionists (Nadia) went to the front and started warming them up. The adjudicators noted their maturity and probably helped them get a gold rating. These photos are from the school library where they had a clinic right afterwards. The safety status happened again and we were stuck there quite a while. Again, the kids were great. The teacher, Krista Norton, told me it’s the most remarkable group she’s ever had and Nic is lucky to be part of something so special.
20150227_094738_resized 20150227_095257_resized 20150227_095852_resized

For Easter weekend Mar and the boys went to Toronto and stayed at Mom’s. It was also Passover so we went to Rob’s for a seder with lots of Liebermans. The boys were great and it was a lovely weekend. We stopped at Tim Horton’s in Tweed for lunch and somehow Nic let me take his photo. Love his new glasses!
nic at Tim's

Eli at Tim’s.


eli at tim's

We visited the new aquarium in Toronto. We drove downtown so Marlene could check out the CB2 store (usually we take the TTC so Eli can ride the subway, streetcar and bus). We had lunch at a sushi place in Liberty Village, where the furniture store is. The aquarium is across the street from Steam Whistle Brewery, which has an actual roundhouse and steam engines and a caboose. Eli was thrilled.



Inside the caboose
in caboose

Purple rice sushi!
purple rice sushi

Urban rail love (behind Liberty Village)
urban rail love

Seder bound. Photo by auntie Leslie.
seder bound

Eli is taking a cooking course — first lesson was French toast, which he treated the family to on the weekend.

There are also photos of Nic cooking over March break — a perfect cheese sauce and a grilled cheese sandwich. But you’ll have to check Marlene’s Instagram account for those:

We had a very fun-filled evening at Cormac and Renata’s late in the winter, except that Eli had an allergic reaction to something (the guinea pig, perhaps?) and Doug left early to take him to CHEO. So he missed out on the Dominican Republic cigars (thanks Mike G) and port.cigars 1

Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment

American Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, 2014

After the ultra we spent another day in Hagerstown, and visited a local railroad museum. We took a scenic route (along the spine of the Appalachians and through the Shenandoah Valley) down to North Carolina to visit the Taylors. Enroute we stopped overnight in Spencer, NC (only a couple hours from Raleigh) to visit the NC Museum of Transportation the next day. That museum sounded great and Marlene had contacted them to make sure they were open around Thanksgiving — they said they were but something changed and they were closed. Eli was in tears! Also closed was Dan Nichols Park, which likewise sounded like an interesting attraction. A sign at the park gate mentioned something about the state budget causing extra closures. At least we could walk around those grounds.

Marlene initially booked the wrong motel (Courtyard — more $$ and no breakie included) so spent one night there then switched to the intended place, Country Inn & Suites, where we’d stayed before. All we could get was a little suite but Nic was happy with the pullout couch and it was still cheaper than the Courtyard and included breakfast.jfk maryland

Before we left Hagerstown we went to the mall near our hotel where there was a Christmas train display.
jfk trains

There was a little railway museum in Hagerstown, which we visited.

Dan Nichols Park
jfk dan park 2

jfk dan park

The boys with Lois outside her residence, Preston Pointe. We rented a room there which worked out great. We got to see the grandparents a lot but they didn’t have us underfoot the whole time. In this photo we were on our way to Dave & Karen’s for Thanksgiving dinner, hence Nic’s proper shirt and Eli’s tie.

my boys

Not in focus but the only shots I have of dinner and Karen, Keelie and Jenna.
thanksgiving 2


Dave took a day off work and went out to lunch with us in Raleigh.

The morning we left the Preston Pointe had just put up their Christmas tree in the foyer. I still had swollen eyes — that happened after the ultra and lasted for several days. Other than that and some dizziness (perhaps both related to dehydration?) the old bod felt great.

On the way back we routed through Washington DC and had a short but fun one-night visit with the Vervuurts. At home in DC with Eric and Danielle (actually, Falls Church Virgina).
vervuurts 1

We were leaving the Vervuurts early for the long drive home and stopped shortly after for gas and lucked upon this wonderful steam train and old station.

random train

And soon it was Christmas, which overlapped with the end of Chanukah this year (but don’t seem to have taken any menorah photos). The lovely-looking strangely symmetrical tree is artificial — as much as I’m reluctant to have a tree, I’m even more opposed to a fake one! (More crap to store somewhere and eventual go to landfill). Unilateral buying decision on Doug’s part. Maintenance free though. Eli left cookies and a note for Santa, plus water for the reindeer. We tracked their progress courtesy of NORAD — I think I was even more excited than the kids (nerdy mapping geek that I am).

santa 3

santa letter 2

santa letter

Kelly was in town and on her own Christmas Day so we had her over for a somewhat traditional festive dinner.
xmas 2014

Kelly brought the dog she was minding.
xmas 2014 1

After Christmas we traveled to Toronto to spend a few days with the Alt family. Doug stayed back in Ottawa so there was room for me and the boys to stay at Mom’s apartment. Rob and Risa hosted a belated Chanukah dinner. True to form she got the kids some great (and whacky) gifts (as in these hats with scarves and mitts attached).


Aaron and Vicky opening her giftchanukah 1We stayed over New Year’s and had a lovely visit.


Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Fall of 2014

Not necessarily in chronological order, but here’s what we’ve been up to…

You know it’s autumn when we can go apple picking. Just me and E this year but the crop was plentiful, the day was lovely and we hauled home about 20 lbs.

apple picking


apple picking 2

Mountain Orchards has a variety of things to do, including corn mazes, a playground and a hay barn.
apple picking 3

A big focus for Marlene all fall was preparing for the JFK 50-Mile Ultra Marathon. Running 5x/week plus did a couple other events as part of the training.

I lucked into this great little running group from MEC, led by the always cheerful, helpful and unstoppable Jonathan. We ran the trails of Gatineau Park, starting at P7, every Saturday morning until the snow came. The run lasts about an hour, with considerable climbing involved. This is a few of us on our last outing of the season, during which we ran every trail off P7, for a total of about 18km.trail running 3

Johnny Boy, Mel and I on the run. Thanks to Jason (also from MEC) for the photos.
trail running 2

trail running


After one of our outings earlier in the season. Do not expect to get out dry or clean! These muddy feet belong to, from left to right, Mel, Chris, Daryl and Jonathan.
trail legs

Some non-running highlights: a visit from Leslie (when I made her suffer the out-of-doors to check out a family fall festival), Nic’s nightly ritual (now abandoned) of doing a dozen or so handstands, Eli as a spy for Hallowe’en, a long-overdue dinner party with John + Isabel + JD + Marcus and Peter, and Nic’s day with me at the Canada Council for the Gr. 9 ‘Take your child to work’ day (along with the other visiting students; Nic enjoyed it much more than he’s showing)
les les 3 les 2 les 1

handstand handstand 2

spy gy


john peter

grade 9s at work

If you’re not much interested in Marlene’s running, now would be a good time to stop reading this post!

I was supposed to run two marathons (42.2 km) and do two 45km runs in preparation for the 50-miler, so I signed up for some events to make those runs more interesting. First up was the Cumberland Fall Colours Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend. But I’d been sidelined with hip bursitis for two weeks at this point, with almost no running possible (even walking was painful). I started some ART (active release therapy), embraced pharmaceuticals (Celebrex) and drove to the far side of Ottawa to give it a try. I knew I’d never manage the whole distance but it was two loops of 21.1 km and I did manage one. It was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for distance running. I was hobbling badly by the end but actually had a respectable finish time (only about 10-15 minutes slower than my PB) and a smile on my face for accomplishing that. No one there to take my photo so had to settle for a selfie at the end.

Two weeks later I was scheduled for my first 45km. Instead I joined up with the Turcanus, Adrian and Daniela, for an 8-hour rogaine (Google it). It’s basically trail running, bushwhacking, climbing, fording streams (using beaver dams where available) all while looking for as many control points as possible. I figured we covered about 35km in the 8 hours. And we won the Masters’ category! Not bad for my first rogaine. Although the Turcanus are old pros at these things, and adventure racing too. They usually go by the team name ‘Vampire’s Night’ (they’re Romanian) so with me we became ‘Vampire’s Night with a Twist’. By the way, I ran 19km the next day, as per my training plan.

We came in with just over 3 minutes to spare (7:56:49). Soaked to the bone. Once it started raining, about 4 hours in (before the ground had been merely damp, except where we were in a bog), Adrian declared with a big smile, “Now THIS feels like a rogaine! I was too comfortable before.”
rogaine 2014 sm



The following weekend, another 45km on the schedule. Still having hip issues (at this point I was regretting that I hadn’t chosen the cortizone shot, but not in the end). I’d registered for the MEC Gatineau Park marathon, promoted as the country’s hilliest marathon. My friend Carol was doing it too — we had planned to do some training runs together but never managed to, so the race would be our only chance to run together. But Carol is generally faster than me and I definitely was not in top form. Plus a training run is not supposed to kill you. So I told Carol to just go ahead, and I’d see what I could manage. I figured it might only be 10km. But I ran the whole marathon!! It wasn’t even too shabby a finish time — about 15 mins behind where I might have been without bursitis, and only a couple minutes behind Carol. I was so happy! I even walked the 1km uphill trek from the finish line back to the chalet. Oh, and I ran 20km the next morning.

The chalet at the start of the MEC Marathon. Coincidentally this was exactly where the rogaine was based too.MEC marathon 2

MEC marathon 1

MEC marathon 5

MEC marathon 3MEC marathon 4

Then a few weeks of tapering (longest run was 19km) until the big event on Sat. Nov. 22. The day dawned clear and cool (just above freezing) but no wind and really perfect for an ultra. The first 23km or so were on the Appalachian Trail, starting at the high school in Boonsboro, Maryland. We ran for a few miles (and up a very long hill) to get on the trail. The trail itself followed a ridge to start, with gorgeous views down to valleys on both sides through the leaf-bare trees. Once off the trail we had a full marathon (42km) on a tow path along the Potomac River. Very, very flat (which I don’t like) and after a while it didn’t feel scenic any longer. Starting running from aid station to aid station (mentally — you don’t want to think about how far the finish line is). Aid stations were 2-4 miles apart and like running up to a Bulk Barn! Crazy selection of real food and snacks. In retrospect I should have been both eating and drinking more.

I drove down to Hagerstown, Maryland, where the ultra was based, with Mel and her boyfriend Darryl — Mel was also running the race and Darryl was our trailside supporter. A role he fulfilled expertly! As a military guy with lots of operational experience he took his role very seriously. I think he was as nervous as we were! And also super happy to see Mel and I come down off the Appalachian Trail together, where he was at his first support station. Darryl had our other runners (non-trail ones), food and even camp chairs. He shouted so loudly at us when we came into view that we had big smiles for the camera.

Photos start with Mel and I in the high school gym getting the mandatory briefing before the start. Because the race started 50+ years ago for the military there’s still a big military/first responders feel to it and everyone who had served or was currently serving stood up to be acknowledged.
jfk start 2

jfk start

The long uphill in Boonsboro to the trail, just as the sun is coming up.
to Appln trail

On the trail and coming down from it.

Appln trail
Appln trail 2


darryl 2

Our sweet trail-to-tow path transition, courtesy of Darryl

The area we were running in is very historical, especially in relation to the American Civil War. We ran past Harper’s Ferry. Darryl took some scenery shots. It would be lovely to visit again (and perhaps only go for a short jog).
darryl 1

darryl 4


darryl 5

The Potomac River and part of the tow path we ran on. Mostly it wasn’t near any roads, except at the aid stations.
darryl 6

darryl 7

The finish line — well after dark! The event has a 12-hour time limit and I was delighted to complete it in 10:42. Only 30 minutes behind my age group winner!
end Appln trail

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment