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A True Taste of Canadiana

I guess with the Olympics in full swing I should be doing something to support our troops in Vancouver. I haven’t bought a mug, our children have no collectibles from McDonald’s, and we do not own any red and white mittens, scarves or hats. We missed the opening ceremonies (my husband wasn’t even aware that they were happening) and have yet to watch any coverage of the event at home. With this blog entry I will however, attempt to wave my little red and white flag, and identify with the millions who are – now more than ever – proud to be Canadian.

While the opening ceremonies were being held in Vancouver, we were in our minivan heading north with Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch audio books cranked up to drown out the noise of the van’s rusting muffler. The plan was to spend two days and two nights at my brother’s house in the Kawarthas. The reason? It had been almost a year since we’d last subjected ourselves to the joys of spending a weekend away from home. These delights include copious amounts of luggage, sleep deprivation, and a delightful cat named Widget who thinks she owns the house at night (As Wiarton Willy is my witness I swear that cat loudly and repeatedly meowed the word “help” in the middle of the night).

Truthfully though, these weekends at my brother’s are great, even with 9 people sharing one bathroom. The children entertain themselves for 48 hours with new toys and dearly missed cousins. The adults spend most of the time sitting drinking Yerba Mate and catching up on life. It’s good times.

Whether by coincidence or by plan, Saturday – the first full day of Olympic competition – was to be a quintessentially Canadian day. Friends of my brother and sister-in-law’s had invited us all to join them at their family’s cottage. In true Canadian form, we would strap on skates in sub-zero temperatures and glide across the frozen pond, perhaps shoot a puck around, and then warm up with steaming cups of coffee sipped in front of the hearth back at the cottage.

In preparation for this momentous occasion (the first ice skating party for our children) I had frantically arranged for skates for the family. The only family member who would require new/used skates was our eldest, so in the hour between supper and nursing the babe on Thursday evening he and I rushed to three different stores looking for used skates before finally shelling out $50 for new skates at Canadian Tire (for days like today, right?). My consolation is that the skates are adjustable and should fit him until at least Spring at the rate his feet are growing.

When we arrived on Saturday the conditions were close to perfect. It wasn’t too cold – only about -12 or so – and there was no danger of falling through the two-foot thick ice. Our hosts had set up a portable fire pit on the frozen lake, and there was even a wicker bench in a snow drift to make the task of lacing up easier. We had just arrived and made the acquaintance of our hosts when the first cries rang out from the direction of the lake. On his way down to the lake our 5-year-old had slipped on the ice and kissed a rock. Bloodied and screaming he came towards the cottage, expressing his doubts about whether skating was really all it was cracked up to be (pardon the pun). Let the games begin.

By the time we arrived at the lake he had settled down and I was in the process of explaining to him and his brother that they needed to be careful when they stepped onto the lake because it was sli… Crack.

Down went son #2, first onto his bottom, then onto the back of his head (who buys a helmet for a single skating excursion?). In less than 5 minutes both boys had learned one very important lesson: skating looks easier in cartoons.

After those initial bumps in the road (those puns are unavoidable) we did end up getting skates on their feet. I took our two-year-old for all of one spin on the ice, which involved absolutely no effort on his part. His legs went limp as soon as I tried to stand him upright and he realized he was wearing skates, not boots. He preferred being pulled around on a sled. Our eldest fared somewhat better, although he did comment that this was a lot easier on carpet. He spent most of his time on his knees.

Oddly enough, the child who enjoyed his time on the lake most was probably the baby, who, along with our hosts’ infant, enjoyed a nap on the frozen lake, all snug and warm in his car carrier. The sight of those two little car seats resting on a snow-covered lake should probably have been photographed for the Kawartha Lakes tourist pamphlet.

Despite the rocky start, our children relished their first taste of true Canadiana. The two youngest preferred the warmth of the cottage, while the eldest and Daddy slid around on the lake until our son’s cheeks were white. We did enjoy the promised coffee in front of a warm fire back at the pine-paneled cottage, as well as some fine hospitality by total strangers – another Canadianism for those who have never ventured outside our borders.

Today our son’s school has rented the arena and our little Canadian joins his classmates for his first-ever school skating trip. (I anticipate the boards will be full of future Olympians hanging on for dear life.) Initially there was great disappointment that the excursion would not include a trip in a school bus (a severe blow indeed), but our boy has recovered and is looking forward to trying on his new skates again. He’s quite confident that it’ll be easier this time because there are boards. I borrowed a good-quality helmet, just in case he’s wrong.

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