Thoughts at the end of a school year

As I sit here backing up photos before heading North for a few weeks I am thinking about how the school year has went.

For Sierra, we saw her quite bored at the beginning of the school year.  “We are redoing things I learned in Grade 1”.  I asked her today if she felt the same way throughout the year and she said “No.  I learned a lot of stuff.  My favourite things to do were the spirales.”  The spirales were a combination of learning french language and math I believe?

Sierra made an incredible leap forward in reading.  She can easily read a book on her now and we’re not talking those 20 page books…we’re talking Charlie and the Chocolate Factory size!  I enjoy seeing her enjoy reading.

If anything, she has a lot of energy and has the need to learn more and more and more.  I need to work harder on finding things outside of school to keep her interested.

For Ezra, he has made a remarkable improvement.  From the kid who didn’t want to leave my side when walking into the school, to the kid who now carries his own backpack the whole walk to school and sometimes doesn’t say goodbye as he’s running off to school along with Conor, Scarlet and Sierra.

We are excited by this change in him…sure, he has a temper when he wants to but it’s nowhere near as bad as the first half of the year.  I think he’s starting to understand how things work like interactions with others.  His teachers once told us that Ezra is very calm and follow instructions well and I suppose that’s the ideal student to have!  Haha.

Our kids are still happy to be around their parents and we look forward to another summer off with them.


The summer has started

The first weekend of June brought a PD day at school so it was a long weekend for us.  Here are a few things that kept us entertained.

Sierra trying out her birthday rollerblades for the first time.

Enjoying an evening milkshake

Having fun waiting for some birthday cake at the neighbours

Haven’t seen Carrie in…maybe a decade?  Close to it?  She was in town from Germany so we had a few people over for a campfire.  It was a great night for those laughs that make you lose your breath.

We went to the big Vars garage sale on the Sunday but we should have went on the Saturday.  Only a few tables remained when we got there.  We managed to find a few good things including a couple of Wii games that excited the kids.  I say that but they never even tried them a week later!  Ezra was bummed he couldn’t buy a scooter for $1,500.  He asked me: “Do you have money on that plastic card you use to buy things?”  Certainly not!  But we appreciated his effort in trying to figure out way to buy it.

Dipping into the cotton candy

Hanging out with some friends on a warm Sunday afternoon.  The girls were preparing their dance routine for this year’s talent show at school.

Setting up the tent for another summer of fun

Always fun to have some family drop by even if it’s for a quick visit

Ezra had to present “What he wanted to be when he grew up.” at school.  He was struggling with it at first because he thought he had to actually CHOOSE it at this point in his life but we explained that it’s just to present ideas of what he’s interested in.  Maman introduced him to a camera and he took a few photos over the week.  He will talk about how he wants to be a photographer when he grows up.



Reverb Syndicate at Lola’s Pub

My pal Mike has a great surf rock instrumental band.  However, as I have got older, I can’t really say I’m enthused when I hear the words “Hey, we start at midnight, you should come down and check us out!”  (Actually I don’t think Mike has actively ever asked anyone to come to a show like that, I just imagine his voice calling to me.)

So when I saw that there was an afternoon of tunes I figured “This is my chance!”

I invited a few pals from work and we hit the road but in different modes of transportation.  Mina took his bicycle and started from my house and managed to get to Cornwall in four hours!  Clive took his motorbike.  I took my car and strapped Mina’s bike on for the ride home.

It was a perfect June afternoon.  A bit of clouds, some good heat…a day on the patio with some good friends and tunes is perfect.

The band with their groupie learning how to guitar

I’ve never really been to Cornwall.  Lola’s had a pretty great patio to hang out on for the afternoon.  Clive correctly ascertained that it was an old A&Ws and we were sitting in the area where the staff would come up and deliver your food to your car!

Good times on the patio

The band played three sets with some good time between the sets to chat.  We even got to hear a few new tunes which is always welcome.

Some dancing going on

Mina wondering why he never learned to play guitar

Reverb Syndicate at Lola’s was a proper good time and I would definitely go again.  Great start to the summer.



Review: Great Lake Swimmers at Red Bird

It was a beautiful night to head out to Red Bird (or is it Red Bird Live?) for the first of three sold out nights for Great Lake Swimmers.

I missed out on seeing them last year as they showed up in Ottawa on Vero’s birthday and we also had tickets to CityFolk Festival.  Luckily they are still touring around so I snatched up tickets really fast for this one and then they added a few extra dates to make a full weekend of fun at Red Bird.

I had fond memories of recording Great Lake Swimmers the last time I saw them.

The great thing about catching a show at Red Bird is the intimacy of the room.  I think they sell around 80-100 tickets.  Look at the spot I had to catch the band all night!

The concert was great.  It was like a greatest hits show with some choice selections from each album.  The band are in top form and there was some good banter in between songs.

I have to say that I feel bad for artists who hit the road on their own and don’t have much help other than themselves.  Case in point: in between sets Tony Dekker managed the merchandise booth and was fraught with technical difficulties with the tap payment system that he was using.  It wasn’t connecting and therefore, no one could pay.  We have moved into a cashless world so it’s not often that anyone has any money on hand.  I felt really bad for him as I’m standing in line thinking “He should have the opportunity to relax a bit for the second set but no, here he is stressing out because of some stupid technological problem!”.  It gave me an insight into the world of the common musicians roaming across the country trying to make a few bucks and entertaining us along the way.

If you have the opportunity to catch Great Lake Swimmers, do so!  You will not be disappointed.



Radon detector

We are probably going to buy a radon fan for the house but we wanted to check out various spots in the house before taking the plunge.  Here are some photos:

In the bedroom downstairs after a week

Near the bar area after a week

Check out that one day count sitting next to the open septic pit!


Sierra’s eighth birthday

This year Sierra asked to have her birthday at Ahoy Adventures so we did!  I think the original reason was that there was a hiding spot on one of the play structures.  I laughed at the thought of spending money on an afternoon kids could hide from us!

The mermaid throne

Ahoy Adventures was actually quite great.  They have two private rooms available.  We had the mermaid themed room.  The kids get to play around on a giant play structure and about an hour later a mermaid comes in, plays limbo with the kids and then serves cake.

There were some happy kids after a two hour stay at Ahoy Adventures.  They got juice, popcorn and a cupcake…what more can you ask for?

From a parent point of view, I remember Sierra’s party the year before involving a lot of preparation.  I even had to drop two car loads of decorations, coolers, drinks, tables at the park and then pack all that stuff back up!  I swear I didn’t empty the car for another week!  This Ahoy Adventures was the cats meow for parents.  Yeah it costs $300 but I think my time is worth money as well.

A few days after the party was Sierra’s actual birthday.  Grandmaman made an excellent cake and some lasagna and we opened a few gifts.  I always laughed when she would open a gift and she would say “THIS was on my wishlist as well!”  I guess she was a happy girl for her eighth birthday.

Grandma giving Sierra a call to wish her a happy birthday before school started

Ezra giving Sierra his gift of bubble gum.  When I asked him if he wanted to give her some bubble gum he replied “Only if I can buy a pack for myself as well!”

Checking out the new rollerblades


Ezra riding his bike on his own

Ezra is still four years old and managed to ride on his own (mostly, he still needs help starting and stopping).

He was so excited to hear that he achieved this accomplishment at a younger age than his sister.

At school every day someone has to present ‘what they want to do’ when they grow up.  Supposedly one of the kids were sick yesterday and the teachers asked if anyone wanted to present.

Ezra lifted his hand and volunteered and he told the class that he managed to bike all by himself the day before!  One of his classmates (Adriana?) said she saw him.   Perhaps she was driving by in the back of the car.  He must be quite proud to volunteer to get up in front of the class to talk about something.


Mulch and water seal

While my body is screaming at me for doing so much work over this past long weekend, I did pick up some tips for future years.


This year I bought 18 bags of mulch (52L or 2 cubic feet).  I had four spare bags now.  But I will need to look into whether it’s cheaper to get a load of mulch delivered instead of going for two trips of picking up bags.

Water sealing

I decided to seal the deck again.  I first used some Behr All Purpose Deck Cleaner.  I have to say that I wasn’t really impressed with it.  It first said to dilute it with water at a 1:1 ratio.  I did that and I didn’t really see a difference, especially with the green mildew.

I then used it without diluting (as per the instructions) on the entire deck again hoping it would clean up something.  Once again, the mildew wasn’t removed.  It did seem cleaner but I have a feeling maybe a pressure washer would have been better?  I already tried the pressure washer on the first four deck boards and they looked great.  At this point in their life cycle (4 years in?  Even longer?) the brown is starting to fade anyhow so if I strip some off with the pressure washer, who cares?

I only did the main deck so I still need to tackle the rest at another time.  Maybe I’ll just pressure wash that area and see the difference.

For reference, the main deck took a jug to cover.

Take a close look at this photo.  This is after cleaning it twice.  The boards closest to the house were cleaned with the pressure washer.  So…is that black stuff all mold that just didn’t come out?  Do I need to use an even harsher chemical?  I didn’t want to get into ‘staining’ the deck…maybe I’ll have to?


March Break 2024

We sent out a few invitations for folks to come visit during March Break but no takers so it was a good week spent doing little activities here and there.

The kids are at the age where waking up with them is a thing of the past (thank the maker!).  I usually hear them rustling about and they settle in watching the iPad (usually stuff on YouTube Kids) together in Sierra’s bedroom, or they split up and someone watches the iPad while the other watches the TV.  This allows me to roam out of the bedroom around 9AM most days and it wasn’t uncommon to see us emerging from the house around 11AM.  March Break was pretty golden for sleeping in and taking it easy.

Before March Break started, Vero had done a lot of research to make maple syrup from our trees.  While we’ll probably dedicate another blog post to go over the process and lessons learned, the majority of March Break was spent making syrup every day.  At one point we had TOO much sap and Vero had to scramble to get griddles and use BBQs which was amusing.

Saturday was a day of pouring rain.  Luckily I had seen the forecast and decided to order a couple of ‘escape room’ type board games.  I have to admit I had fear in spending $50 on a game where you solve it once and it’s useless to play again because you’ve solved all the puzzles.

But the game turned out to be a giant hit in our house which took all week to finish up (on and off.  I would say we probably played 8 hours total)!

We played Escape The Room – Mystery at Stargazer’s Manor.  The game is pretty neat.  You’re supposed to set a 90 minute timer but we didn’t want to feel rushed which turned out to be the best idea for trying to play a game with your kids and trying to drag it out as long as possible.

You start out with one envelope and they have a puzzle to solve.  When you think you have the solution you align symbols on a ‘solution wheel’ and if you get it right you will see two symbols of the next envelope to open (e.g. two stars).  There were a few easy puzzles that Sierra figured out immediately but there were two that took a few hours to figure out!  We let Sierra do a lot of the puzzle solving but it was neat when she was stumped and we all came together to figure things out and it STILL took a couple of hours to figure out!

Like I pointed out before, $50 to spend on a one-time board game is a hard pill to swallow at first but once I saw how long we spent on it and how it came in and out of our lives during the week, I realized that I could be spending $50 taking our family out to McDonald’s so this was money well spent.

Now all I have to do is convince others to buy similar games and then we can just swap them!

Rainy Saturdays also consist of doing science experiments.  Ezra wanted to just mix flour and water and other ingredients together to make a fun mess.  But then he realized that he might be able to make some bread with it!  So we popped it in the oven.  After tasting it he said “Oh no, it’s not very good is it?”  Ha ha!  That’s what recipes are for!

Sunday we headed out to Gatineau to see Arthur L’Aventurier with his new show promoting his travels to Morocco.  Ezra watched a lot of Arthur at his daycare so he knew all the old songs.  His latest video hasn’t had as much airplay in our house but he said he recognized most of the songs.

He’s a great children’s entertainer.  Lots of storytelling, singing and even inviting kids on the stage to participate.  I even got to hear my favourite song Emeu (French for Emu) which is a hilarious song.

The last time we saw Arthur Sierra seemed disappointed that she didn’t go up on stage when she had the chance.  But both kids didn’t want to go up on stage this time either.  But Ezra was clapping along a lot and they seemed to enjoy the show afterwards.  During the show it’s hard to tell if they are having a good time or not…maybe their rock n’ roll parents are expecting a lot more clapping and singing along?  Maybe I’m the odd person out and everyone else likes to watch the show?  Ha!

All week long the kids were making leprechaun traps for St. Patrick’s Day.  It was neat to see them expand a bit each day during March Break.  I’ve never caught a leprechaun so I told them not to get their hopes up.

But come St. Patrick’s Day they came out of their rooms to find that the leprechaun had nibbled on a few chocolate coins and ate all the Lucky Charms but evaded their traps!

This poster of Taylor Swift reminds me of the afternoon that I convinced the kids to help clean up my CD collection.  It was growing over the years and I don’t have much more shelf space so Sierra and Ezra helped me move half the collection into some drawers.  Sierra really enjoyed the game of ‘alphabetizing a collection’ for a couple of hours but bailed on the ‘now we get to put 200 cds back in their cases’ game!

Tuesday morning we headed over to the Embrun arena where they had free skating.  It wasn’t as packed as last time which was great.  Ezra was not in the best of moods going to the arena and he wasn’t enjoying skating.  But out of nowhere we came up with a game where we would try and reach each of us and he was having the time of his life!  He made it around the rink the entire way which is the most he’s done in his life.  Sierra is really good at skating and she goes around on her own quite easily now.  Maman was zooming around when the kids and I took a popcorn break.  Sidenote: the popcorn there is top notch…it’s the stuff that looks like a yellow nuclear bomb of salt hit it.

Ezra and I took a break while these two kept going around

Hilariously Maman and Sierra shared the same ‘tight helmet’ impressions

I can’t remember why he looked so shocked but he always laughs at this photo

Look, another batch of syrup!

The bowling lane in Embrun was a bust when we tried to go so we set our sights on the Casselman bowling on Wednesday.  It was our first time there and it’s a pretty great spot.  We didn’t have to wait for a lane when we showed up so that always helps.

Ezra is not someone who enjoys trying new things.  He kept saying “I don’t want to go bowling.” but he thoroughly enjoyed himself and every day since then he asks “Are we going bowling today?”

Sierra was excited to go bowling as she had won a game when she played at a birthday party last year.  But she didn’t feel too good after this game and she said she didn’t know when she would want to go back!

Another maple syrup update as I go through all my photos from March Break.  It’s interesting to see the change of colour throughout the week.

Thursday I headed out to Hawkesbury to pick up some new tires for the old car down in Gaspe.  Now I just have to figure out how to get them there!  It was a nice day for a drive down the highway.  A balmy 15 degrees in March is not a bad thing.  Of course I had some Rebel Force Radio (best podcast ever) along with some Backstage at the Vinyl Cafe to keep me company.

I also managed to make a quick pitstop in Wendover to play some ball with friends.

I guess the kids went for a bike ride while I was away as this is the first time I’m seeing these photos!

Vero had way too much sap to boil by this point of the week so she went into overdrive and started using the BBQ and the neighbour’s griddle to keep up with the amount of sap coming out!

The kids were nice this week and got to choose a reward so they decided a picnic in the park was a good idea.  I’m pretty sure they packed the entire box of Ritz Minis because we didn’t have any come Sunday when we were making lunches for the kids!

I told Ezra he looked like Jaws.

I think this photo was taken at the park where they have this spinning wheel contraption.  Supposedly they had created a ‘no’ game when Matante Andreane was visiting where if you say no while on the spinning wheel then you get pushed over into the snow.  We were playing the same game all week but the kids wanted us to be pushed into the sand!  Luckily Vero and I didn’t fall into the ‘no’ trap but they kids hilariously said no quite a few times and ended up in the sand.  Ezra was dropping sand out of his shoe every two minutes.

Here I am trying not to get motion sickness on the swing

Friday we invited some friends over for ‘tire’ which is…taffy in English?  I think it’s maple taffy.  Here are the kids enjoying some hot dogs.

Melody sniffed out the good toys hiding inside the house so I stayed and played with her for awhile.  Here we were identifying the colours of gems.

Tire time!  I also put on an appropriate French folk music playlist for the event.  Lots of fiddle.

This was after their fifteenth serving.  Look at the smiles!

It was interesting to see Ezra and Melody interact.  Ezra was very bossy to her.  We had never seen that before.  But perhaps this was his first real time in his life where he got to boss around a younger person after years of being bossed around himself?  There were some hilarious interactions like “No Melody, you cannot put your juice box on that swing!” and then they would argue about it.

Friday night I went to see Lisa Leblanc at the National Arts Center (photo from the NAC Facebook page).  I’ll write more later but it was a great sendoff to an incredible Chiac Disco tour.

Saturday Sierra went over to a friends house so Ezra got some quality time with his parents.  We went for another picnic and we had a hot tub later on which wasn’t too hot considering the tub was accidentally set to economy mode so I was sitting in 98 degrees for a half hour with Ezra.

On Monday Ezra has to do a presentation on someone he admires.  After candidates such as Robert Munsch and his sister, he finally decided to talk about his Maman and how much he admires her production of maple syrup.  We did a photoshoot and sent a photo to his teacher so he can show everyone.

And here I am on a Sunday night, lunches packed, baths done and the kids upset that they will have to wake up early to go to school tomorrow morning.  You and me both!  It was a good break with fun activities to do together.





Review: Sam Roberts Band at Bronson Center

Tonight’s show was not just a new tour promoting a killer new album. It felt like a celebration of everything fans love about them.

I was surprised at more than a couple of tunes I hadn’t heard live in a LONG time. It was part looking in the past but embracing the future. Loved it.

Ever since seeing them at the Capital Music Hall in 2003, they’ve gained a fan and they continue to put a fantastic show. Catch them on this upcoming tour.

It was also a rare night out for Vero and I at the same time!  We had a couple of babysitters (or as the kids call it…kidsitters) take care of them.

The opening bang was Grand Public from Montreal.  Shoegazing type music which wasn’t bad but I don’t generally get excited by that type of music.

This certainly is different than collecting paper concert tickets.  All I have is a screenshot of the ticket from the Ticketmaster app!

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Photos and the following article are from A Journal of Musical Things.  I’ve copied and pasted the text in case that site ever dies.

[Ottawa correspondent Ross MacDonald was at it again. – AC]

Six-time Juno award winner Sam Roberts has kicked off his 2024 North American tour in support of his new album The Adventures of Ben Blank. He started his tour in his hometown of Montreal on Friday 2 February, then on Saturday he drove two hours down the highway to perform at Ottawa’s Bronson Centre Music Theatre to a sold-out crowd.

Starting off the night was the Montreal alt-rock band Grand Public. Their music was shoegaze-style, highlighting a pair of guitars (with single-coil pickups) and lots of effects pedals. Fortunately, the band weren’t stuck to their pedal boards and moved about the confined stage.

It was refreshing to hear some french lyrics at an Ottawa concert. And the music definitely drew inspiration from the 90s and 00s rock boom; lead singer and guitarist Gregory Paquet was formerly in The Stills, so they come by their sound honestly.

After a quick stage setup, Sam Roberts took the stage with his band and without delay broke into the first track to their new album ‘The Ballad of Ben Blank’, followed up immediately by another new song ‘Afterlife’.

Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa

The night was packed with two solid hours of music, a mix of new songs, deep cuts from previous albums, and of course all the singles that the Ottawa crowd is familiar with; Sam Roberts deservedly gets a lot of airplay on the local Ottawa alt-rock radio station Live 88.5.

Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa

Sam let the boisterous crowd take over lead vocals for his biggest hits like ‘Where Have All The Good People Gone?’, ‘We’re All In This Together’, and of course the powerful ‘Don’t Walk Away Eileen’ that closed out his main set.

Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa

The extended encore opened with Sam Robert’s new hit single ‘Picture of Love’. After over 20 years, Sam is continuing to create relevant music that appeals to his new, and long-time fans.

Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa
Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa
Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa
Sam Roberts Band in Ottawa

Fittingly, Sam Roberts closed out the concert with his huge hit that started his career: ‘Brother Down’. After all those hard beats, it was hard for the crowd to go back to reality, as they filed out of the hall, into the cool night, to the sounds of some ska played over the PA system.