Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, Lara

Lara turned 6 today, and has been excited about it for weeks. She was happy for me to wake her up extra early this morning, at 6am, so she could open her presents before she went to school.
Dan helped too before we took him to nursery, and Olga was able to watch via skype, and join in with the singing of Happy Birthday.

Once we'd taken Dan, and had a quick skype chat with Grandma, Lara set off to school armed with enough muffins for the rest of her class.

At 1pm and 7pm she sang in her Grade 1 Christmas Concert, where the children sang traditional Christmas carols in both English and French (try and work this one out..."On vous souhaite un joyeux noel..").  The school streamed the concert live on the internet, which is a great idea. Grandma watched the 1pm show and Olga watched the 7pm show. When I went to see the 7pm show, with Dan, the school Principal said that they had had 130 hits for the 1pm show, including from the UK. When they review the hits for the evening show, they'll have probably their first Kazakh hit.
Dan was amazingly well behaved throughout the 25 minute show. I was prepared with all sorts of food to distract him - it usually works - but he just sat still on my knee the whole time, watching the show, and loved joining in the applause at the end of each song.

Lara played with all her new toys after we got home, had her third lot of birthday cake, and then did as she was asked when I suggested she take herself up to her room and get herself ready for bed.  I wasn't really expecting her to, and when I went up 10 minutes later, I was very pleasantly surprised to find her in bed with the light off. She wasn't asleep, and had neglected to brush her teeth, and after that much cake I insisted she get up to do it, which she did without complaining. 
She might just be growing into a nice young lady!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Lara - the woman of the house

Olga has had to fly off to Kazakhstan tonight for 2 weeks work, so Lara has been left as the sole female in the house! She is steadfastly refusing to do any cooking (or cleaning, come to think of it), telling me that "You're the chef, Papa".
I'll get my own back tomorrow morning when I have to wake her up extra early as she'll have to come with me to take Dan to nursery at 6.30... but she is having a pyjama day at school tomorrow, so at least I don't have to pick out her clothes.

We live under the flight path into and out of Calgary airport here in Airdrie, which meant we got to wave goodbye to Mama as her plane flew overhead this evening. It was the same when Grandma flew home in September, except this time I was ready with the camera, and Dan can say "Bye Bye Mama" now. I've also took a screenshot of the flight track, just to prove this was Olga's plane! You'd think I'd have more to do with my time, but the kids are tucked up in bed now. I'll try to catch up on this blog over the next two weeks. Famous last words...

(I know it's hard to see, but that small flashing light in the sky is a BA Boeing 767)

Here's the flight track:

Friday, 8 November 2013

A Long Weekend Away

The 11th November is a public holiday here, and Lara's school is also closed the Friday before, so we've decided to take this opportunity to have a long weekend away. We've come to Canmore, and are staying in the same hotel where we stayed when we visited between Christmas and New Year last year.
It was a bit daunting to see how we'd all get on sleeping in one room, it's different now Dan is that much older. He sleeps very well at home, going down with no fights at all around 7pm, and usually we have to wake him up at 6.20am to take him to nursery. Tonight he was funny, standing up in his travel cot and pretending to ignore us, but this only lasted for 10 minutes before he gave up, and started snoring (truely his Grandpa's grandson). At the moment - 8.30pm - Lara is putting up a fight, though to be fair she has developed a cough today. Typical really, the first day of a holiday and she's ill for the first time in months.
Lara and I have managed a little bit of skiing on our new skis this afternoon, but only on the nursery slope at Nakiska, where we've bought season lift passes. They're only partially open at this time of year, and we arrived too late to benefit from the lifts that were open, so we'll give them a try tomorrow. The main thing is Lara took off down the nursery slope like she's skied every day of her life, which is very encouraging. Dan was limited to playing in the snow and offering food to anyone who wandered past.
Once we'd checked into our hotel in Canmore, we headed to the pool, and its waterslide. This is a major attraction for Lara, I'm not sure if she's more keen to come here for the waterslide or for the skiing and sledging.
We enticed Dan into the pool as well, and he took to it like a duck to water. He's not been in a pool since he was very young, but he really enjoyed it, giving huge applause whenever Lara shot off the end of the waterslide.
There wasn't really anything to photograph at Nakiska today, there'll be plenty over the next day or two, but here are some photos & videos from the hotel pool, oh, and one cute one from earlier in the week when the kids were being sweet.

Lara finally fell asleep at 9.15pm while this video was uploading to youtube, after some medecine and once we turned the lights off, so Olga and I are sitting here, drinking beer in the dark. The things we do for our kids!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

No snow.. Yet

So we woke to no snow, but it has been raining, just to serve me right. The temperature is dropping towards zero though, so we might still see some white stuff.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

T-shirts or Snow Shovels?

The weather here is a constant source of fascination for me, as you might have guessed.
I was walking the dogs this morning around 7.15, dawn was just breaking, with the sky in the East turning from very dark blue to reddy-orange then light blue, and this has been the same thing for almost every morning, albeit the timing of sunrise itself is getting later and later - it wasn't until 8am today (according to my weather station).
If there was one thing back in England that I wish I could have changed, it was the rain. Very occasionally rain can be nice, a light drizzle on an autumnal walk in the countryside is fine, but I've had enough mornings getting up to walk the dogs, hearing the wind howl and the rain lash against the bedroom window, especially at this time of year. It was cold here this morning, probably 3 or 4 degrees C below freezing, but it was clear. I could put on a warm down jacket, hat and gloves and not depress myself at the thought of having to towel-dry the dogs when we got back home. Even when the snow comes, some might stick to their fur and brought inside, but it'll just melt into clean water and be easily tidied up. I know there will be wet days, and days when the snow is melting and slush will be the cause of some frustration, but those days should be few and far between. So far I'm liking this desert climate thing; I approve. As a curious side note, we have noticed that the dogs have been drinking much more water since we moved to Canada, perhaps a reflection on the dry atmosphere rather than the heat, but interesting nonetheless.
Once the sun comes up, the temperature rises dramatically, and by this afternoon it was almost t-shirt weather, which was a bit wierd as I'd just watched a TV weather forecast for the Calgary area which was predicting upto 5cm overnight. It was all the more strange as we were heading off to the shop to buy Lara a new helmet for ice-skating - she has her first group lesson tomorrow after school. This is her third helmet, she has one for riding her bike or scooter, one for skiing and now one for skating. We couldn't use the bike or ski helmet for skating, it had to be a skating one! We've not got her a hockey facemask just yet.

As I write now, at 10pm, the temperature outside is a balmy 9.1 degrees C above freezing, but apparently a cold front is approaching from the North, and we should get rain/snow showers by morning.

If it's rain, the dog-towels will be on standby by the front door... 

Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

This was our first Thanksgiving weekend, it wasn't going to be a big deal for us, but Lara's school was closed on Friday and Monday, and Dan's nursery was going to be closed on the Monday too, so we figured we might as well enjoy our long weekend.
We took the opportunity of Dan being at nursery on Friday, but Lara being off school, to go down to a ski equipment shop in Calgary and get ourselves measured up for skis and boots. We were in there for 2 hours and poor Lara got a bit bored once she had been measured up, and had picked out the skis she liked. But it's all over now, we're sorted out, and can really look forward to the first ski trip in a couple of weeks time.
On Saturday we took a drive out to Lake Louise, after a little stop off in Canmore en-route. We went out to see Moraine Lake, close to Lake Louise, and it was beautiful. Lara enjoyed climbing the moraine, and was pretty confident about it, even if Olga and I had our worries, and I was the one that had to follow her up! We drove back from Lake Louise to Banff along Highway 1A, the "old" road dating back from before they built the Trans-Canada Highway. We'd been told there was a much better chance of seeing bears and other wildlife, and whilst we didn't see any, it was a lovely drive. The whole day was about a 275 mile round trip, but certainly worth it.
On Sunday we did traditional Bank Holiday housey-type stuff, while our neighbours were entertaining friends and family. At least our garage looks a little tidier now!
On Monday the weather was perfect, blue skies with no clouds. So we loaded everyone into the car, including the dogs and drove to a local (only a 25 minute drive) provincial park - Big Hill Springs park. It was busy with plenty of families out for a holiday walk, and we were nervous about how our dogs would react, but they were fine, hardly a peep out of them. We did wander off the main path at one point, and had an impromptu scramble through the forest, but we found our way back to the path without encountering anything more dangerous than a squirrel. In the afternoon Olga cooked a full turkey dinner while I took Lara to the main park in Airdrie for a bike ride, and that was Thanksgiving.
Now we're just waiting for the first snow to fall - the weather here is dry. I mentioned this to a work colleague who has lived here for 35 years. He reminded me that we are living in a desert climate, not something you associate with all the snow we will get, but outside of winter, this place is a desert, and I must say it makes a nice change from the showery weather I've been used to.
Back to work tomorrow, although we will get distracted by having to buy Lara an ice-hockey helmet tomorrow before her first skating lesson on Wednesday. And we have to collect our skis and boots from the shop, once they have fitted the bindings. It's none stop here...!
Here are some photos from the weekend (click on any photo to see them all at your own pace in a larger window):

Friday, 27 September 2013

September 2013 things..

Here are just some general photos from September. The weather was great, hot and mostly dry with blue skies for much of the time. It's only got colder in the last 5 or 6 days, when snow fell on the mountains. It's cold in the mornings now, but warms up nicely in the afternoon. We are at an altitude of 3500 feet, which is the same as the top of Snowdon.
Click on any of the photographs to see the whole show at your own speed!

Happy Birthday Olga

Last Sunday was Olga's birthday, and to celebrate (after breakfast in bed) we headed off to our favourite bit of countryside - the Kananaskis valley. This is where we spent a few days over New Year when we came on holiday, and it was beautiful in Winter. We didn't have time to visit a waterfall that I wanted to see during that visit, so we decided to try again on Sunday. It was an easy 2km walk through forest to get there, and it was well worth it. We'll go back in Winter when the fall is frozen and looks even more spectacular. Lara might get even closer to it then...

The Badlands at Drumheller

In the middle of September we went to the town of Drumheller, just over an hour's drive east of Airdrie. It's the home of the Royal Tyrell Museum, one of the leading palaeontological museums in North America, as this part of Alberta is famous for its dinosaur finds.

Cochrane Labour Day Parade & Rodeo

The first Monday in September is Labour Day here, a national holiday. In Cochrane it meant a huge parade through the town, and the climax of a three day rodeo event. We went to both, and very interesting it was too. And hot, well into the 80s. We should have visited the rodeo the day before though, Kiefer Sutherland was there..

50 days in.. we're still going!

I don't think I'll be able to do a daily update of what's been going on, at least not for the last 37 days since my last post, you cannot imagine how much has been happening.
We've been planning this move for years, researching it, getting things ready in advance, and still it's been pretty much non-stop since we arrived. The weather for the first 6 weeks has been amazing, which meant that any time we weren't doing important stuff, we were sightseeing somewhere.
I'd love to do a detailed report on what we've been up to, but that will have to wait until I win the lottery, retire and have time to write a book about this adventure. I'll summarize it as best I can briefly..
When I left you with the last post, we'd just been to Canmore, having been here for three days. Wow, that seems a long time ago, I think we were still jetlagged then.
Since then, mostly we were occupied with house hunting. Grandma did a sterling job of looking after at least one of the children, sometimes both, whilst Olga and I went to view houses with our realtor, Eric. We saw 16 houses, some in Cochrane, some in Calgary and some in Airdrie. After a week we narrowed it down to second viewings of two houses, one large condo apartment in Cochrane, and one modern townhouse in Airdrie. We opted for the modern, 3-storey house in Airdrie, it was built in 2009, needed no work doing to get it ready (the Cochrane house needed the basement finishing), and the seller was happy to move things along quickly. We made an offer (at the asking price, this was not a situation to start quibbling) on the afternoon of Thursday 15th August, it was accepted that evening, and our proposed date for closing the sale (when we would get the keys and it would be our house) was accepted - Friday 30th August, just 2 weeks later.
That two weeks was hectic, as Olga and I had to start back at work, as well as organise house insurance, complete the mortgage formalities (thanks, mum!) negotiate buying a car, sort car insurance, health cards, social security numbers, nursery for Danil, school for Lara, visiting the dogs. This required many trips to and from Calgary during the week, and because the weather was so nice, at the weekends we went to the mountains or to Calgary, or to Airdrie for more recon trips. This meant that in the nearly three weeks that I had a hire car from Avis, I drove over 3000km, or 1800 miles, more than twice the distance from Lands End to John O'Groats. Good job driving is easy here, and cars have cruise control. Our new (used 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan) car has a DVD player for the kids to watch in the back, and that is proving to be worth its weight in gold.
It included trips to Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore, where we'd stayed when we came over at Christmas and New Year, so it was very interesting to see it in Summer as well as Winter.
Back to the house purchase - the seller was so comfortable with the deal that they signed their bits of paperwork within 48 hours of accepting our offer and went off on holiday for 2 weeks! That seems to be how business can be done here.
The other not-so-minor thing on our radar was our 40-foot container with all our stuff. The shipping company at this end had contacted me to say that it would arrive on a train into Calgary during the weekend of the 24/25th August, so 4 weeks from when it left Bury. They were happy to hold it until Saturday 31st, so when our house purchase completed as planned on Friday 30th August, it was all systems go for the container to be delivered the next morning. This house is around 1400 sq feet, and the house in Bury was nearer to 1800 sq feet, so there's a lot of stuff that's gone into the garage here, but things are starting to find  a home slowly. As I type now, four weeks into this house, we're about two-thirds unpacked.
The house has four bedrooms, one on the ground floor that we use as an office, one three on the top floor. The dogs have the ground floor pretty much to themselves, although we let them come to the living room and kitchen diner in the evening once the kids have gone to bed. The dogs seem to be absolutely fine, just their normal selves, and we've even taken them to one of the local, dedicated "off-leash" parks where they can run about in complete safety off the lead, which is something we daren't let them do in the UK.
Dan is in a nursery here in Airdrie, their hours are 6.30am to 6.30pm. We try to get Dan there early, by 7am, but we are also trying to pick him up by 5pm if we can. He's settled well, though he's had three days off nursery this week with a high temperature. Given the new environments and people he's been exposed to recently, it's a surprise he's lasted this long before catching something.  His walking is very good now, as is his climbing. Talking is coming on, his favourite word is definitely "no", which he uses a lot, along with very amusing facial expressions to back it up. But he's also very good with "Mama", not too bad with "Papa" and his "Wara" is coming on a treat. He understands instructions now, so "come here", "lie down" and "please don't put that in there" - relating to anything that might go in an electrical socket - usually get the desired result.
Lara is happy in her school, she's in a French Immersion class, which means the whole school day is conducted entirely in French! It's like this for three years before they start doing things in both languages. She loves the whole idea of the yellow school bus, and it seems to be working well, she's not missed it yet! We have to get her packed lunch ready each morning, so that's a new experience, as she was on school dinners in Bury. She already attends swimming lessons at the local leisure centre, and today she started a one hour class of "All kids of sports" there too, which she'll go to once a week. In October her ice skating lessons start, and soon we'll book her in for more skiing lessons, so she'll certainly not get bored.
I do catch her saying things in French, and it's almost becoming automatic already, especially simple things - she's saying "Merci" now instead of thanks without thinking about it.  She knows numbers, colours, and letters and all this in less than a month. It'll be wonderful to see what she can say in 6 months time.

I think we're about up to date, I've been a bit more verbose than I thought I'd be. I'll do a couple more posts now with some photo albums to show what we've been up to.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Canada - we're here and trying to blog!

OK, as I write this my count "up" clock shows it's been 12 days and 17 hours since this adventure started.
I'll give it a go to present a snippet of what's been going on on each day...

Wednesday 7th August
I had to stay up all night to get lots of paperwork things finished, pack my things and screw the wheels onto the dogs travel crates. Auntie Gill and Uncle Ron arrived at mum's house at 6.15am to give us a hand getting to the airport and onto the plane. They were great and I dread to think what chaos would have ensued if we'd not had their help.
I'd hired a van to get the dogs and the suitcases to the airport, and it was a good job I did:

To be fair to Air Transat, they took all our bags, car seat, pram, baby carrier and two dog crates in their stride. It took quite some time to get the dogs processed and off through security:

It then took ages to get us through security and into the departure hall, we had about 40 minutes before the plane was due to leave, and the screens were saying "Go to Gate..." - just enough time to buy some water and head to the gate then? Nope. Immediately announcements were made that it was final call for our flight, and just to spite us, the gate was the furthest one away. A brisk walk turned into a full on sprint once they started making Last Calls for the Armstrong group. Anyway, we made it, last ones on, but they had no issues with us using Dan's car seat for him (it was 6cm wider than their stated maximum width, but we weren't going to point that out to them). The flight was fine, the kids were well behaved, Lara got very good indeed at taking herself off to the toilet, she must have gone 12 times during the flight.

Immigration and customs at Calgary were no problem, everyone was very friendly and helpful, and the only casualty was that we lost one wheel off Jackson's crate - a design fault on the part of the wheel, nothing to do with my wheel-fixing ability! All our forms were stamped and we heaved our luggage into arrivals; it's 2pm local time, 9pm UK time now:

We're staying in the basement flat of another British expat in Cochrane for the first month, and Carolyn came out to collect as many passengers and bags as she could fit into her car, while I went and sorted out our hire car. Olga and I dropped Lara off at Carolyn's house and then took the dogs up to the kennels where they'll be spending a month:

That was a long day, but other than the dash through the airport, there were no disasters. The weather is a bit grim, warm but heavy rain showers.

Thursday 8th August
Regardless of how late we went to bed, jetlag had us up early on Thursday morning, like around 4.30am. That wasn't such a bad thing, it gave us chance to unpack a bit, and for Olga and I to sort out paperwork for today's agenda.  At 10am we went to the local branch of Scotiabank and finished the process of opening our bank account, which we'd started online a few weeks ago. Then  we went to meet Eric Boyd, the realtor ("estate agent") Olga had found to help us locate a house to buy. We viewed five properties in Cochrane that day. More rain today.

Friday 9th August
A wasted drive into downtown Calgary this morning, to try and sort out healthcare cards. We'd been given out of date information about where to register, but at least we had experienced the commute into downtown, and it's wasn't bad at all. More house viewings with Eric later, in the city of Airdrie, just north of Calgary, where we were also able to sort out our healthcare, so we're now covered in case of illness or injury, phew. Saw one very nice house in Airdrie which is definitely a contender. The weather improved as the day when on, it was lovely by mid afternoon, just in time for the weekend.

Saturday 10th August
Dan's starting to get the hang of getting over jetlag, he's waking around 5.30am now, everyone else seems to have adapted just fine. It's a bit misty, but Lara, Grandma, Danny and I head off to find the local river in the morning, to skim some stones. It's the Bow River, it's big and very fast flowing. It flooded 6 weeks ago, causing millions of dollars of damage around Calgary:

Later that morning we headed back into Calgary to have a walk around the park down by the Bow River, and by then the sun had come out:

After Calgary we headed out to Canmore, a lovely town in the mountains, about an hour's drive west of downtown. We'd stayed there for a few days during our holiday at Christmas, and we wanted to see what it looked like in Summer. The kids enjoyed the big car we'd rented, too:

Canmore was threatening with thunderstorms, this is something we've found - the weather can be lovely on the plain but 20 minutes later, it can all change. We parked by the town pond, where Olga and Lara had done some ice skating on our last trip:

And that will have to do for updates for now, it's exhausting just remembering how busy we've been for weeks!
More on the house hunting later...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Last night of normality

Here's a view of our office tonight, it's the last refuge of things that won't be packed tomorrow or Friday when the packers arrive. They're due to come here for 4 days and "wrap and pack" everything, and on the fifth day - next Wednesday - the 40-foot container will arrive outside and they'll load all of it into that.
That's the plan, anyway. So this evening we've been trying to clear the ground a little in some rooms so they can find something to do tomorrow. Stranglely, perhaps, we're going to tell them to start in the most-used room, the kitchen.  We've borrowed some crockery and cutlery from my mum, stuck it in a cupboard in the kitchen and stuck a note on the door of that cupboard saying "Please do NOT pack anything from this cupboard". That should do the trick. Everything else in a cupboard is fair game, though not everything on the worktops... there's no reason for us to take a toaster, kettle or microwave, whilst they might just work over there, we've got to have some fun buying new ones, with the right plug on!
It's proving quite difficult to balance everything at the moment; Olga and I are flat out with work commitments, partly by coincidence and partly because we need to get some jobs done before we go. We're also busy trying to cancel things, arrange things, sell things, buy things, pack things and throw things away. Danil has got in on the act by deciding tonight at midnight that he was bored sleeping in his own bed, so he's watching nursery rhymes on our eee-pad in the TV room while I write this post and try to get some more work done. Olga's committed to giving some online training tomorrow morning to three Kazakh gentlemen at between 10am and noon, and the packers are due to arrive between 9 and 10am. I've applied for a Canadian American Express card this evening, as we already have UK ones, and they tell me they'll just transfer our credit limit over to the new card, using our rental address (with owner's permission) but still they want a phone number, which I don't have...
So, I thought I'd get myself a Canadian SkypeIn number, that would work. Nope, the Canadian authorities haven't given Skype the correct license to do that yet, so I've had to use an American number, from Grand Falls, Montana. At least the number will work, if AmEx need to call me, it's not like I've lied..
That's typical of what we're going through at the moment. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel rushed up on us, and we've gone from feeling calm and collected about the whole thing to wondering if we'll sleep during the rest of July.
I think things will look quite different tomorrow, especially in our kitchen!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Lara Graduates from Reception

It was Lara's summer production today at school, and "Graduation" ceremony. She had even made her own mortar board hat, and was given a certificate. Her last day will be on Friday, although she has two birthday parties to attend before we fly to Calgary, so it won't be the last time she'll see her school friends:

The production was "The Gingerbread Man", and Lara played the part of the Old Lady. She was very confident, so those trips to drama and musical theatre classes have paid off!
When I told the admin lady in the school office that Lara wouldn't be returning in September, she was very disappointed: "Lara? Do you have to take her? She's lovely! Can't you take one of the naughty ones!?"
So, two more days of Reception, then it's time to prepare for Grade One, although we won't know where until we've found a house to buy over there. Olga's had some chats on the phone with an estate agent in Calgary, and we'll be viewing potential properties the morning after we arrive. There's no time to waste!

Oh, and that reminds me of something else Lara said that made me smile today - she said elevator instead of lift. We're planning on immersing ourselves fully in the culture, which means adapting to the language, so no more talk of estate agents, it's the Realtor from now on...

3 weeks to go...

It's all getting a bit exciting now!
Today I finally realised that the packers are coming next week to start, well, packing. Thursday to be precise.
Two weeks from today the container will arrive to take everything away, and three weeks from today we'll be flying from Manchester.
Wow. Most things are done though, there's not really much we can do at the moment - we can't pack anything, that's what the packers are coming to do. We can throw things away that we won't be taking, or sell things - we've made a profit on some of the baby things we've sold on eBay, so well done to Olga for buying it so cheap first time around!
Hire cars are booked, Sky has been given it's notice, but strangely very few service providers seem to want 30 days notice now. Most of the insurers & utilities providers have told me to call back nearer the time when I tried to cancel services with 30-something days to go.
Prospective tenants have been visiting the house, hopefully they've seen past the chaos that's going on. It can't have been as bad as when we viewed this place last year - there was a motorbike in the kitchen.
We'll be resigning from work soon - our last working day will be August 6th, with a new contract starting between our current employers and Olga and my new Canadian companies on August 7th. We're going straight on holiday for 10 days though - there's so much to do on the other side, not least buying mobile phones, a house, a car...
Lara was sweet today. She told me she couldn't get to sleep; I assumed it was because of the heat:

"No, Papa, I'm too excited!".
"What about, Lara?"
"The move!!!!"

She really is taking it very well, there doesn't seem to be any apprehension on her part, she really does seem to be excited about the whole idea. She doesn't seem bothered by having to start a new school, in fact we think she actually wants to be able to ride on a yellow school bus every day!

I had to do some shopping at Tesco on Monday, and it dawned on me then that I only needed one tub of butter (not the usual 2-for-1 offer), one small tomato ketchup, only one large kitchen roll... all those things that I've just bought in bulk before without thinking ("They'll get used eventually") aren't needed any more.
That was weird.

A Day Trip to London

I like making these video albums set to music, so here's another one.
On Saturday 6th July we got up a silly o'clock (4.15am) to catch an early train to London. The weather was brilliant, we went on the London Eye, had a picnic in St James' Park, walked past Buckingham Palace, went to the Natural History Museum and finally visited the pub near Notting Hill Gate where Olga worked 10 years ago while she was living in London.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A wonderful view of Bury (yes, it's true)

With three weeks left before we leave, on Sunday Olga, Lara, Dan, the dogs and I set off up Holcombe Hill, overlooking Bury, Ramsbottom, Rochdale and down into Manchester and beyond.  On top of Holcombe Hill is Peel Tower, a monument to Sir Robert Peel, and in my now 39 years, I've never been to the top - until Sunday. Lara raced up the 173 steps to the top, I was a bit more careful with Dan on my back, while Olga waited outside with the dogs. It was well worth the climb, and a lovely thing to tick off my "must-do" list. Afterwards we recovered with a drink at Ramsbottom Cricket Club.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Camping weekend & Telling Lara "The Plan"

We made the most of the nice weather last weekend to go camping. We didn't go far, only to a country park 7 or 8 miles from where we live, but the scenery was still lovely, and the campsite had everything we needed. We decided that the easiest thing for everyone was for Danny to stay at home with baba Luda, so only Olga, Lara and I camped. Lara made friends with the other children on site very easily, and they played for ages on the little playground that was there. It was well after 10pm before she settled down to go to sleep on Friday night. I was worried about her waking very early because the sun was due to rise around 4am; to get around this we'd bought her a little pop-up tent, and she slept inside that, inside our tent. I'd bought some blackout lining from the world-famous Bury market, and we draped that over her tent, and it was pitch dark in there at 7.10am when she did wake up.

We left early on Saturday morning so they girls could get to their ice skating lessons, and on the way back we picked up Danny and Luda so they could spend the afternoon with us. Even Grandma popped by for an hour, before I took Danny and Luda home again.  In the evening we had a barbeque, and Lara conked out a bit earlier this time, she was asleep by 9pm, and Olga and I opened a bottle of champagne, it was proper glamping!
On Sunday morning Olga nipped home to walk the dogs and check on Danny while I made breakfast and started to pack up. After Olga had returned, and we were enjoying coffee and croissants, we called Lara over to join us, we nodded at each other and took the plunge, and explained to Lara that in August we'd fly to Canada, and that we were going to buy a house and live there. She started at me, opened mouthed, but in a good way.  She certainly wasn't upset at the idea, and the more we explained how we would take everything with us, like her bed and toys, and even the dogs, the more she seemed to get excited about it. She went off again to play with her little friends at the playground, and when Olga went over to check on her a few minutes later, Lara was already telling one of them that "I'm going to live in another country".
Over the course of the day she didn't mention it again to us, but we brought it up a few times, just to see if she was upset at the idea, and she didn't seem to be.  Really she seems to have just taken it in her stride, as if it's a big deal, but not a really BIG deal.
This morning I mentioned to her teacher that we had indeed broken the news to her this weekend, and we've agreed that they will keep it low-key at school at the moment. After school I asked Lara if she had told her friends she was moving away, she said she had, but she didn't elaborate. She did say that she wouldn't be going into Mrs Greenwood's class next year, and Year One children get to play in a big playground, not the little one she plays in at the moment. I said the playground at her new school will probably be big too, that Canada is a really big country, and they have lots of space. Her reply was to tell me that they had puddles bigger than oceans in Canada, "but they're not very deep".
I'll be happy if she keeps being this untroubled by the whole idea :-)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Spring review, at last!

It seems to have been months since a proper post appeared on here, probably because it's been months since I wrote a proper post.  The Apprentice is on at the moment, Olga and Luda are glued, so it seems to be a good time to try and catch up.

That period has coincided conveniently with getting things ready for Canada. This has involved a lot of thinking, a lot of research, and a little bit of action.  The most important things are sorted (mostly):

  • Flights are booked - for us four, for Grandma (coming over for the first month) and the dogs. We're all going out on the same flight from Manchester on August 7th.
  • Accommodation is booked for the first month - an apartment in the town of Cochrane, just outside Calgary
  • Kennels are booked for the dogs for that period
  • Shipping is booked - a 40-foot container, to be filled and collected from our house at the end of July
  • We've opened a bank account aimed specifically at new immigrants with good terms for a mortgage, credit card, car financing etc..
Other things are about to start happening, most importantly we're going to tell Lara about the plan this weekend. So far we've felt it best to keep the news from her, she's happy and settled at school and home and knowing the plan too far in advance might just wind her up, and give rise to too many "when are we going??" type questions.  However, yesterday we had a meeting with her teacher and between us we agreed she would enjoy hearing the news, and they could possibly use the topic in a class in the summer term, as they will be covering the whole "moving up to Year One" thing anyway. Her teacher and us agreed too that she will almost certainly have no problem settling into a new school in Canada, she settled in very well at her current school despite not knowing any children in September. She's very popular with all the children, without having one or two very close friends, which will make life easier when it comes time to say goodbye.
If that wasn't enough to bring home how quickly the move will creep up on us, the arrival of June means I need to start making the calls to the utility providers to cancel our services; I know they want 30 days notice, but I'm going to give them 60.  At least I'll be spared their annoying efforts to keep my business: "I'm leaving the country" generally ends most sales pitches. I also have to give notice to the landlord of this place that we're leaving.
On the subject of schools, we've written to a couple of them in Calgary that Olga has researched, to see if they have a place for Lara this September. It's all a bit "chicken and egg" at the moment, as really we need an address in Calgary to determine which school she'll go to, but because we can live anywhere we like, we'd like to live close to a decent school. We are house-hunting as much as we can, and we have contacted a "realtor" (must start using the right terms now) so ideally we'll have a list of houses to look at as soon as we arrive. We're planning to buy rather than rent, if the right place appears on the list.

And onto the kids...
Danil is still teasing us with when he's going to start walking. It's been two weeks now since he first stood up on his own. He'll stand up, spot something a metre or two that takes his fancy, clearly think about walking there, and then change his mind, sit down and crawl there.
The big thing for Lara during Spring was that she learnt to ride her bike without stabilizers. I would love to take the credit, but it's all down to Mrs Mansell at Lara's school. They had a sponsored bike ride one day, and Lara took her bike (with stabilizers attached, but I put the necessary tools to remove them in her school bag), and then after school she dragged me to the local park to show me that she could indeed ride without them. A few days later we went back to the park, and with a little more practise, she pretty much mastered it. Just for the record, these were taken on 21st April:

We took her skiing in May at Chill Factore a couple of times. She simply has no fear, and I really have to make an effort to keep up with her now, she could shoot straight down from top to bottom if she wanted to. Here she is having a little go at some freestyling on one visit:

On the following visit, with Olga and I, Lara really demonstrated how independent and confident she can be, telling me in no uncertain terms that she didn't need my help, and she could do the whole thing - the skiing, negotiating the turnstyle and getting on the lift - without my help. And she did. She needs help still from someone to actually get her on the lift, but I was pretty gobsmacked, and very, very proud of her.
Her skating is coming on more slowly, but since last week she's now having a Level 3 (out of 10) group lesson and a one-on-one lesson on Saturday mornings, with her one-on-one teacher being the chief coach at the rink, an ex-British champion no less, so hopefully she'll really make good progress over the next few weeks. Olga is making more progress in her group lessons, she's up to Level 6 now and spinning around, doing all sorts of clever things, forwards and backwards, and all whilst being the oldest in her little group.

Not much happened in April, the weather was pants, but May picked up a little, and the Bank Holidays gave us a chance to get out and about. Early in May we went to Reading for the annual family trip to the Beer Festival, catching up with Anton, Becca, Eve, Tess, Lucy, Sergei, Simon, Arong and a host of other lovely people. We also squeezed a trip to Littlewick Green in while the sun was shining, and went to see our old friends from Deeds Grove, Michelle, Jon and Lara's bezzie mate Zoe.

Later in May we went to Cheshire for a catch up with my old Uni mates from Liverpool. 12 adults, 10 kids and some sunshine. Well done to Rob and Lizz for hosting it, and supplying the swings, trampoline and waterslide. On the Sunday we went to Chester Zoo for good measure (one of the following photos does NOT include either of my children):

Most recently it was Grandma's 70th (sorry, Mum, had to mention the number!) birthday at the end of May, and Cath, Nick, William and Elizabeth came up to visit, and we had a little celebration:

And Dan even got his groove on, albeit to Olly Murs:

So, now we're into June. The weather has finally turned nice this week - it's only been around 20 to 23 degrees, so not exactly cracking the flags, but still it's been the nicest run of good weather we've had this year, so we're planning to go camping this weekend. We'll only stay local, so the girls can still go to ice skating lessons on Saturday morning, but Lara is manic with excitement about the idea, and it should be a nice way to tell her the big news, rather than over tea at the kitchen table. At least she might understand why she's been having ice skating and skiing lessons! 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Toddler alert!

Watch "Toddler alert!" on YouTube

Danny has started standing on his own this morning, and took his first, very tentative, step!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Danny's upright, but not walking... yet

Just a really quick post to reassure our legions of readers that we're still here...
Danny has been standing up for a couple of weeks now, but he's not quite ready to take those first tentative steps. To help him with those steps, we felt it was time to buy his first shoes while we were in Reading 10 days ago:

I'm currently working through hundreds of photos and videos that need sorting, but I'll see if I can't rustle up a post or two this side of Summer..

Thursday, 4 April 2013

A First Pass at Some Holiday Photos

Here are some photos from the skiing holiday; if I ever find time to edit them together, I'll put some videos up here too..

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Happy 1st Birthday, Danilka

Danny had a very nice day today. Lara made sure he opened some presents first thing this morning, then he went to nursery as usual. We brought him home a little early so he could have a little party at home with us and Grandma, and with Auntie Catherine, and Cousins Elizabeth and William on skype.