Christmas Letter 2004

 

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2004, word for word.

Seasons Greetings 2004!
This year was full of exciting events! Robin and Taylor both made it home from B.C. in 2004, although not at the same time…..

Wintertime found us enjoying our outdoor “playground”: a huge 65′ x 110′ hockey rink plus a full size curling rink and all surrounded by a huge skating oval – on the river! After Chris plowed the majority of snow off, it still took us 4-6 hours to shovel the remaining snow to bare ice. It’s great exercise – usually we’re too pooped to actually skate, but we do curl and play Bocce on it.

Our Skating Party was a great success again last February. Nellie’s entire class even came another day for ‘Operation Fun’. One night we even had a local CTV Ottawa weatherman do his 6:00 o’clock report right from our backyard rink! THAT was exciting!!

On March break, Taylor came home from Vancouver for a week and we really enjoyed his visit….. We also went winter horseback riding (my first in nearly 40 years!) at our neighbour’s sister’s farm – what a blast! Nellie took her babysitting course this spring and passed with flying colours. Melvin participated in all the school sports teams. Everyone passed and moved on to the next grade.

Marty still has a girlfriend, Tanya, and is now in his last year of high school. Kristi is also in her last year of university and is getting married to Mike next August 12, 2005!

In early July, I took a tumble in the woods across the road (which I’ve walked thousands of times in the past 23 years) and broke my left leg. I was in a cast until the end of August, so my garden took care of itself for awhile. I still have difficulty walking and am trying home physiotherapy to help my feet.

Robin came to Ottawa in July for a conference and visited overnight. Natasha stayed home in Victoria. He’s working on is PhD now – Dr. Rob, imagine that!  Chris was in B.C. for 3 weeks this summer on a job and got to visit with Taylor one night.

Our little “Munchie”, grandaughter Kalia, is so sweet.  She turned one in November and is walking all over the place! Darin and Amanda and Kalia moved to London, Ont. this fall where Darin accepted a job at a high-tech firm. We miss them a lot, but we talk every week and they’ll be here for a week at Christmastime. They are such great parents!

Well, I’ve mailed the parcels to B.C. and done most of the baking. Just a bit more to do before the kids get out of school in the next 3 days: Chris is painting the mudroom, we’re finishing up all the shopping, clean the house …… is there really any point!

I really hope that we see you all sometime in 2005 – or at least write or email us!
Merry Christmas!

 

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Christmas Letter 2002

 

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2002, word for word.

 
Merry Christmas!!
It’s been so long since I wrote a Christmas letter, I thought I’d better do one since my daughter began the tradition last year and put me to shame! What can I say – we’re all getting older and only some of us are getting better! Ha! Ha!

To start off the new year, we celebrated with our good friends and neighbours by hosting a New Year’s Eve Party in our ‘party room’ a.k.a. garage. A few years ago, Chris and Taylor put up drywall, some cupboards, added a woodstove for heat, and finished it with wall-to-wall indoor/outdoor carpeting. We use this space now for ‘overflow’, heating it whenever we have a gang for parties, Xmas, etc. but not usually for the poor Van.

Nellie turned 10 years old in January while Darin turned 25. Darin is the equipment manage of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team and traveled to Japan, Europe, and finally the Salt Lake City Olympics. I got to take the train to see my sisters, Faye and Betty, in Hamilton this month!!! Yeah – better than Europe to me!

In early February we held our annual skating party on the Rideau River in our backyard. As usual, we had a great time. On February 19th, Taylor turned 22 – he’s been living in Vancouver for a year and a half now and loves it. We REALLY miss him!

March began with a blast – Chris had a mini stroke which he’s mostly recovered from other than headaches which he never had, some memory loss, and slight loss of some small motor skills. However during the follow-up to find out what caused it, Dr.s discovered a hole in his heart! And he said he didn’t have a heart!! Not to be alarmed, though, since he’s probably had it his whole life and they’re just going to leave it for now. Poor guy – last year, after an ear infection (the only one he ever remembers having) he started to go deaf in his right ear. He’s mostly deaf in it now with some hearing loss in the other ear – he’s supposed to have an MRI, hopefully in 2003 (who knows with our health care system!).

We were distraught in April by the death of Grampa Bob Mellway. We will truly miss this wonderful Grampa, Dad, and friend. 😦

In May, I turned 49! – weeeeee…. headed for the big 50! Of course, the country held a national holiday for me and some babe named ‘Victoria’, so we celebrated with a bonfire and fireworks! Melvin resumed his summer schedule of wasp venom injections to build up his immunity to stings since he has a life threatening allergy. He even carries an Epipen in a waist-pouch where ever he goes.

We opened the pool and added the solar cover to boost the heat – I even went in during the heat wave!! I was briefly in the hospital for a heart scare. Chris turned 42 – I told him that once you turn 40 you are over the hill and start to fall apart! Everyone passed and was glad school was over. Darin graduated from Carleton University with a degree in Computer Science. Marty got a job at a local store and still works there on weekends.

The summer was hot and dry again. Marty went to summer school to boost his Math mark for a couple weeks. And Faye came up again this year for a week at the end of July. We always have a great time mostly just relaxing.

Kristi turned 20 in August, Robin turned 27, his wife Natasha turned 28, and Marty turned 16 years old! Whew! We traveled to Hamilton to Faye and Joey and Betty’s at the end of August. We took Faye and went to Niagara Falls and had a great time on the Maid of the Mist and the Caves Beneath the Falls – a must for any Falls tourist!

The kids resumed school in September: Melvin in grade 3 – his favourite subject is Math. He just loves to figure things out. He also loves to draw and is an avid outdoors player. Nellie is in grade 5 at the same school. Her favourite subject is Art. She is a social ‘butterfly’ and has many friends, her most special being Alyssa ( the one year old neighbour I babysat last winter). Nellie is almost as tall as me now! Marty is in grade 10 now and presently loves playing Playstation2. He wants to attend University of Victoria to study Marine Biology when he’s done high school.

Kristi lives in Ottawa and is in her second year at Carleton University – she maintains an A average, receiving a scholarship every year. She also works at the Ottawa General Hospital as a bilingual ER intake clerk, in her ‘spare’ time! The love of her life is Mike, whom she’s known since high school and now a student at Carleton University too.

Taylor works as a bartender in Vancouver and also does DJing, ‘spinning’ records at clubs whenever he gets a gig. His girlfriend’s name is Mary. Robin and Natasha live in Victoria, B.C. where Rob goes to U Vic and Natasha works. They say they love it out there, but it’s VERY far away……

Darin and Amanda got married this October 6th in a beautiful outdoor wedding. The day was absolutely perfect and they were so awesome – they honeymooned in Hawaii. At the end of October, Amanda celebrated her quarter-of-a-century birthday.

Faye and Joey came up for Thanksgiving this year and as usual we had a real nice time. The biggest surprise of the month was that Kristi and Mike got engaged!! They plan on waiting a few years while they finish University before getting married. Mike’s a really nice guy and the two of them are just like two peas in a pod – except Kristi does most of the talking!!

Well, November’s been an interesting month – Chris had a possible gall bladder attack (Stones? = ultrasound in December) and during the bloodwork they turned up some abnormal results, so they’ve run some further tests. He’s feeling better now, but still has constant vague discomfort. This weekend we are going to have a Canadian Football League Grey Cup party to watch the championship game – well, we don’t stare at the TV, it’s just an excuse to get together for a pot luck supper and good discussion while the football game is on!

December 19th, Melvin turns 8. But before that, I have to get my B.C. parcels ready to mail – which means making the usual Christmas cookies, squares, candy, and special surprises in early December. Oh yes, I still have to finish my Christmas shopping/decorating/creating – with 7 children, 2 daughters-in-law, and one almost son-in-law (let me see 7+2+1= that’s 10!) plus Chris, other family and friends, I’d better close this letter and get busy!!! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year. And if you find yourself in our neck of the woods, we’d love to see you!

Merry Christmas!
Linda, Chris, Melvin, Nellie and Marty

The Channel

It was the geese that I heard first. A few days ago, I could hear the Canada geese after dark ……. somewhere close. Lots of them, probably hundreds of them. And I knew that the middle channel of the river would soon be open!

It always starts upstream when small creeks and tributary rivers melt and the water current flows wildly towards the larger Rideau River. About a month ago or so, I noticed the Kemptville Creek, a.k.a. the South Branch of the Rideau River, completely melted and rushing through town towards the Rideau River. The temperatures spiked slightly above normal ~ around 5 degrees celsius (41F) ~ about three weeks ago and that started the big melt. Then it got colder, much colder, below normal colder and stayed that way for a couple of weeks – actually until now – slowing down the melt quite a bit.

When I drove to town, I noticed that the middle of the river ~ the Channel ~ was open at the bridge at Beckett’s Landing!  Hurray!!  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw that little sliver of water at my place. Each time that I went into town, the channel was open further and further towards my place. A few days ago, I noticed that it was within eyesight of my house! Yeah!  The anticipation of this ‘right of spring’ was so exciting!

Channel

 

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of Geese and other spring birds, I was delighted to see the open water, even through the fog and rain! Canada Geese rested along the edges of the ice after their long journey from the south. Some of them were swimming delightfully in the water.

The Channel being open is THE sign that spring has REALLY arrived! It’s the promise that winter is behind us even if we do get more snow. It means that the ice at the edges of the river are melting and letting go and embracing spring. Buds on the trees are waiting to burst; spring tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are poking their leaves out from under the slushy snow. Red-winged Blackbirds are arriving back to their homeland and Bluejays are coming out of the forests.  Yesterday, Nellie thought she heard a bullfrog.

Today, it’s only a sliver of water that’s open. But within a few days, the rest of the ice will let go and my Lake of Shining Waters (read about it here) will be exposed until the end of the year!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Ahhhh, spring!

 

Flood Warning ….. Again!

Repeat. Do-over. Redux. The past month has seen a variety of spring weather. It’s been very warm with temperatures in the high 20’s or below normal cold, and more rain than I’ve ever seen. Since I wrote my Spring Flood blog post (here) on April 9th, we’ve had an additional 107.8 mm (4.24 inches) of rain in April PLUS another 125.1 mm (almost 5 inches) of rain in the first week of May alone! That’s a month’s worth of rain in a week! It’s been raining now for 4 days straight prompting another Flood Warning for the second time in a month. This is the first time in my 36 years living here that a flood warning has been issued twice in the spring.

May8,2017WM

 
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, who manages the watershed, has been releasing statements regularly – I subscribe to email alerts and updates. The last one said that the rain will taper off tonight or tomorrow although we might get freezing rain or snow flurries:  “Flows in the Rideau system are now not expected to reach flows experienced in the spring freshet (flood). The rate of rise in the Rideau and its tributaries is slowing …….. Levels on the Long Reach will decline through the coming week.” The “Long Reach” is the area along the Rideau River where I live.

I’m grateful that my house is safe from the flood waters at this time unlike other poor souls who are experiencing devastating and complete loss of their homes. Most of these areas are along the Ottawa River and the Gatineau River. The Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River along with countless other rivers and small tributaries.   Almost 1,000 people have had to evacuate their homes. 😦   Many area have declared a State of Emergency.  It’s heartbreaking.

pond April WM

My pond on April 8th

pond May WM

My pond the way it should look in May

 

It will still be a few days before the flood level peaks. The military has now been called in to help in the flooded areas – much needed (and maybe a little belated) by exhausted homeowners. Federal government offices are closed in Gatineau, elective surgeries have now been cancelled at Gatineau Hospitals, schools closed, community centers closed, and libraries shut down on Monday because of the flooding

My house is set back about 300 feet from the river and up on a 3 foot ‘berm’ of earth. I’m glad that 40 years after this house began construction that it still holds the test of time thanks to Mr. Jones (original owner) and our old neighbour Mr. Mitchell who advised Mr. Jones to built the house a bit higher. Thank you gentlemen!

Lettuce

Lettuce in my raised Kitchen Garden bed

 

Luckily, I only planted my spring garden a few weeks ago in my ‘kitchen garden’ area in the raised beds up by the house. I planted spinach, peas, carrots, and lettuce. The garlic in the main garden, which is saturated with water, was up and had healthy 6″ greens. It occurred to me today that the mole/vole problem I had in the lawn down by the river last year might be ‘remedied’ by the floods this year. The grass is growing too fast with all this rain but it will be a week, at the very least, before the water has dissipated and the ground isn’t soaking wet like a sponge. Only after it’s all dried up, I can cut the grass – and the grass will continue to grow in the meantime. Oh well, more mulch for my garden!

Now that I’ve finished writing this post, the rain has finally stopped! For now?  And a beaver is swimming around my fire pit down by the river …….  But now it’s snowing!

Summer BackyardWM

Looking forward to summer in my backyard

Spring Flood

It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.

My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!

1 2017

2017

This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.

A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).

The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.

The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.

We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.

2 2008

2008

In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!

My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….

3 heron

Great Blue Heron on dock

The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.

4 Lake of Shining Waters

My Lake of Shining Waters

Spring has literally sprung!

New Deck

When we moved into this house in 1981, there was a small deck out back overlooking the river. In 1990, we enlarged it considerably (17 feet by 32 feet) to accommodate our growing family and friends. About 10 years later, we replaced the top deck boards with spruce 2×6’s as they were beginning to rot but kept the framing. That was over 15 years ago and the deck boards were now in bad shape > so bad in spots, that my daughter Nellie thought I might fall through and break a leg any time! So she texted her brother Darin and told him that they had to do something! Then she told me that Darin and her were going to build me a new deck.

1old-deck

old deck

 

Okay, I thought, yes they are right – that deck is in bad shape when I have to tiptoe on the nails to avoid stepping on the rotten spots! Yup, I had to admit it: I needed a new deck. We began with a deck planning session where we finalized the design and some of the materials. I wanted an area right outside the mudroom door, big enough to open up the screen door and be able to pass through before going straight down any stairs. We also needed a big deck area for sitting out or eating but not as big as the current deck which could accommodate our neighbourhood. And I also needed to access my clothesline and have stairs on the other side as well. This time, I wanted to use the new, eco-responsible treated lumber so it would outlast me.  Then Darin and I went to Home Depot to pick up some of the deck blocks and materials for the framing to get things started. Over the months of construction, I purchased material from both of our small town lumber companies to support the local economy.

We began one beautiful sunny weekend with ‘Deck Demolition Day’: Nellie, Darin, my 12 year old granddaughter Kalia, and I worked ALL day! Darin cut the 16 foot deck boards into three pieces with while Nellie and Kalia diligently removed all the old nails. We had the old deck down and the old deck boards stacked neatly beside the firepit at the river by suppertime.

2-rebuilding

 

During demolition, we discovered that some of the ledger board (the 2″x10″ board attached to the house which the deck is attached to) under the mudroom door was rotten. So we spent another entire day repairing this and the adjoining mudroom walls. There is still more work to do in that area but we had to focus on the deck knowing that it’s a project for next year.

During the week, I spent every day moving the composted leaves that had been under the old deck down to my garden – 19 wheelbarrow loads!

 

3-cutting-wood

 

The next weekend my son Melvin and and his girlfriend Cassidy joined Darin, 11 year old granddaughter Livi, Nellie, and I to begin the process of rebuilding. We had to measure everything out and place the cement deck blocks in place. We decided to go with free-standing deck blocks instead of digging down 4 feet through large tree roots. Each three foot deck post and all the framing had to be precisely measured and leveled. The kids worked well together like a well-oiled machine on the new deck while Livi and I did things around the yard like pick raspberries for lunch (I think we actually ate more on the spot); made lunch; made another little bridge for the back of the pond because the other one had rotted (we used two of the old deck boards that were in good shape); set up the badminton net; and played badminton for hours. And the girls played with the new kittens.

4-livi-multitasking

Livi multitasking

 

Darin set up the table saw out front of the garage for cutting all the wood that was sitting in the driveway. Cassidy even got a lesson and an opportunity to use the table saw. Livi also took time out to be the painter who coated the end cuts of the deck wood with special paint to protect them. Darin, Melvin, and Nellie attached all the deck hangers and supporting cross pieces which took a LOT of time. But finally, the framing was all done and we were ready to begin applying the deck boards next time.

6-darinnelliescrewingdeckframe

 

The next weekend we stated the decking. Each piece had to measured twice and cut once (as my FIL used to say). Livi applied the paint to the end cuts then I carried each deck board through the garage to the backyard. Finally, I was able to do something besides play badminton, eat raspberries, and make lunch!! Darin and Nellie steadily screwed down all the deck boards – boy, there were a bunch of them! We worked all day over two Saturdays and got almost all of them in place so we were actually able to stand on the new deck! And I was able to hang out my laundry for the first time all summer! And the best part was that I didn’t almost fall off the deck while putting clothes on the line because of the rotten board and the fact that the I had to lean out to reach the line before.

5playingaround

always time for playing around

 

All that was left were the two staircases. Darin has a special tool to measure out the angle which we penciled on to the board. Then he cut out the risers with Nellie and I holding the board. Three per staircase, so 6 risers. And two deck boards per stair. Finally, the whole deck was done! I have to thank my DIL Amanda who brought down supper a few weekends. Darin and Nellie rocked! They worked long days each weekend to “get ‘er done”. My granddaughters worked hard too, and best separately and away from each other ;). Melvin’s strength was a bonus as he carried all those heavy deck blocks from the front of the house to the backyard.

7framingdone

 

One of the first things I did, was sit outside on the deck with a cup of tea looking at the water, birds, and my back yard. I love that I can walk right around the deck now because it’s two feet shorter – I don’t have to go all around the chimnea fireplace to get to the other side of the house.  Nellie helped me move my big planters of spider plants outside to the edge of the deck and I took out the small outdoor table and a couple of chairs.

8done

 

Initially, I had planned to put lattice screens up along the base of the deck to hide the framing underneath but I changed my mind because it really looks nice, considering there’s a lot of money in that frame. So I’ve decided to transplant some garden plants underneath and along the edge. The other day, I planted some perennial geraniums and I have some real nice hydrangeas, hostas, and day lillies to add next spring. I also have some extra walkway ‘stones’ that my husband made years ago to put at the bottom of the stairs.

9-plants

 

That deck is so solid, if we ever had an earthquake, the house might fall down but the deck will be left standing!

Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

LawnTractorWM

 

I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

OilPlugWM

Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

backyardWM

Backyard at sunrise

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