Saturday, July 11, 2009

Backyard surprises

Victoria continues to surprise me.

Like yesterday when I walked into the house. I just happened to glance up at the plant that grows at the front of the overhanging porch roof -- and discovered that purple flowers had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. For the last two months, the plant has been covered with yellow flowers which eventually dried up and faded away into the greenery. But now -- there are purple flowers!

When I looked carefully, I saw that another type of vine had been planted at the base of the first plant, and it was the new vine's turn to flower. Very clever gardening, if you ask me!

Another surprise: about three weeks ago, I took a closer look at the ancient and strange looking bush planted in a square in our patio. It looked familiar... and then I took a sprig and rubbed it between my fingers. It's rosemary! I've never had fresh herbs growing outside. For the last two weeks we've had roast chicken with rosemary for Sunday dinner -- delicious!

The climate here is so different from anywhere I've ever lived. The greenery is lush and extremely varied, and our yard seems to have one of every kind of thing that is able to grow around here. Just when I think that things will stop growing, another kind of flower blooms in our garden.

The people who owned this house in years past went crazy with perennial plants. There must be at least 50 different kinds of flowering plants in our yard, and I can only identify three or four. We have at least two different kinds of poppies in four different colours, three kinds of flowering vines (no idea what types), a large overgrown grape vine and a huge fig tree.

We've never been much for gardening, but we're being forced to pay attention to our yard this summer. It's going to take us a long time to get it all figured out!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shooting a math video at the beach

Yesterday we shot a video at the beach for the Math 8 course that I am overseeing at work. It was a beautiful morning to be there! The sun was shining and there was a bit of a breeze, so the temperature was just perfect.

The video is about integer multiplication, and I wanted to make it a stop-motion video because I think it will appeal to kids in grade 8. I think it will also be a fun video because it stars kids -- specifically my kids -- Cameron and Meghan.

Sean looks through the camera to see if all of the numbers are visible.

A few weeks ago we scouted out the location by checking out all the sets of stairs that lead to the beach off Dallas Road in Victoria. We thought we needed at least 21 stairs going straight up and down (it turns out that we didn't need that many) that were not shaded by bushes -- and given all the plant growth around here, bushes are hard to avoid!

But we did find a great set just off Douglas St. south of the Terry Fox Mile Zero memorial. So yesterday morning, the kids and I drove down, parked by Beacon Hill Park, and trudged down the stairs to the beach to meet up with my co-workers Sean and Caitlin.

The kids soon found out how boring it can be to film something. It's all in the preparation -- and as soon as we started stapling the numbers to the stairs, we realized that we weren't going to be able to see them all in the camera. After ripping off all the numbers, redoing a few of the equations, and some bleeding on my part after putting a staple through my thumb, we had a new set of numbers in place, and we were ready to shoot.

Redoing the numbers

By this time we'd lost the kids, but luckily they were just sitting over on the next set of rocks waiting patiently for us.

We ended up having an audience while we were shooting the video -- a man who was sitting at the top of the stairs when we first arrived, and who stuck around to watch the fun but moved over to sit on the rocks, and another man who came a bit later with his two grandsons to play at the beach. And how could I forget the minks! During the shooting, two little, thin, black furry creatures appeared from behind a pile of rocks where Cameron was sitting. They were very cute, and not very afraid of people.

Two of our audience members: one doesn't seem to be paying attention; the other one might be Martin; and the minks are nowhere to be seen.

We found out the name of one of the grandsons, because I mistakenly called it a marten (close, same family, but not quite right), and one of the kids yelled, "Hey, my name's Martin!"

Anyway, Cameron, Meghan, Sean and Caitlin all did an awesome job! Once we were set up, it took less than an hour and we were done. Sean had a great idea for the ending -- the kids are going to spin around and disappear! I can hardly wait to see the end product -- I'm so excited about all these videos we've been doing for Math 8. I think we'll try to release some of them on YouTube, so if we do, I'll post a link to them here in my blog.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Making a home in Victoria

I think we're finally getting settled here, although I still have moments of "unreality". I've had several of those over the past 18 months -- times when I could hardly believe what we're doing: selling our house of 17 years and putting our furniture into storage to live like gypsies for a year; moving to France for an extended stay with no other plans than to travel extensively and soak it all in; and then moving to a city with my family, something that we had planned would happen eventually, but is still a shock to us country bumpkins.

Meghan relaxing with the cats. I'm pleased to say that we've finally got the boxes unpacked.

Victoria is still new enough to us that it seems like part of the adventure, yet we all know deep down that this is where we'll be settling for a while. But I still get those moments of unrealness, like when I was walking in the main hallway of our house last week, suddenly wondering, "Where am I? What place is this? What am I doing here?"; and then I give my head a shake and I'm back in the present again. I think I feel sometimes that I'm living a dream, and when I wake up I'll be back in my bed in our old house in Burns Lake again. I guess spending that much time in one place really burns itself into your whole psyche.

We've already had a few visitors - my mom, my sister Pat, and this weekend, Mark's mom and brother Steve. Here my mom and Mark stare out into the stormy-looking clouds.

This is really a post of family news, so I'll update you on each of us:


Mark's job here is Director of Forest Worker Safety. At this level, he's really close to government, so he deals with Assistant Deputy Ministers, Deputy Ministers and the Chief Forester for the province quite regularly. After just over six months on the job, I think he's getting into the groove, but it's still very different from being in a small community like Burns Lake. Sometimes I think it's a little too close to the action!

Mark's also going to Toast Masters to improve his public speaking skills. His group meets before work on Friday mornings, and Mark is so dedicated that he gets out of bed about 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus and get there on time. The only Fridays that he doesn't make it is when he's off to meetings in Vancouver, which seems to be happening a lot these past few weeks.


I'm really enjoying my new job as an Education Project Manager at Open School BC. I'm in charge of developing a grade 8 math course for distance education, so I get to do all sorts of things that I love: organize things; do math; talk to people; do research; work on the computer; and keep things on schedule and on budget. I'm very busy right now -- it can be a little overwhelming at times. Currently I'm reviewing several fifty-page documents, editing and suggesting changes before forwarding them on to other people.

I now work for the provincial government like Mark does, so I'm getting used to all of the government lingo and procedures. It's a huge organization -- approximately 30,000 people work for the government of BC, and sometimes you can get so caught up in processes that you hardly have time for your work.

When I'm not working I'm still trying to keep up with my French studies. I've enrolled in a French diploma program at the University of Victoria. When I tested for the program I scored at the "high intermediate" level, so I was pretty proud of myself and thought that the year in France perhaps wasn't a total waste! : ) I go to class two nights a week, but sometimes after a full day at work it's really hard to drag myself there. I always enjoy it, though, and I'm really glad when I made the effort. I'm trying really hard to speak French as much as possible in class, and I think that I'm finally losing my fear of sounding silly.

Mark and Chris

We've really made a commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions this year, and one of the things that we're doing more is riding the bus. We really only use the van one or two days a week to buy groceries and other big stuff. Both Mark and I were able to get a permanent bus pass through our work, and it's great to be able to hop on and off the bus when you want. We have great bus service almost right at our doorstep and it takes us both directly to work. A side benefit of this is that we can now ride the bus together to work in the mornings -- one of those activities in our new life that still feels strange and different to me! : )

In between work and our extracurricular activities, we're trying to get the inside of the house painted and some yard work done. Mark is much better about this than I am -- even though we both have to start working a little harder!

Our fitness routines have been suffering a little as we try to find some balance in our new lives, but both Mark and I have signed up for a 10 km walk (me) or run (Mark) at the end of April. Mark has to train for running, but I just have to train my feet to not get blisters! That's always the worst part about long hikes for me.


Cameron is in grade 8 this year and just had his 14th birthday -- there's no going back on that teenager thing now! I mentioned before that he shot past me in height about a year ago, and he's now very tall and lean. He's doing very well at school although his teachers think that he's too quiet -- but that might just be because the rest of his class is very loud! I encouraged him to join the concert band this year in order to keep busy with some extracurricular activities, so he's playing percussion. Cameron went with the band to an overnight camp in the fall, and they're now preparing for a four-day trip to Whistler in May. It should be fun -- by the time they registered, the only choice they had was a four-star hotel. I'm sure all those 14-year-old boys will really make the most of the facilities!

Cameron's heading off to high school next year; he's looking forward to it, and I'm feeling anxious about it! We're quite excited that he applied for and was accepted into one of the school's special programs where he will be challenged academically and provided with opportunities for leadership training and volunteer work. It's the only program in Victoria where students are invited to apply to become pages at the BC Legislature. Cameron will also carry on with French Immersion; I gave him the choice after this year, and I'm very pleased that he's made the decision to continue.


Meghan is also getting tall: if I'm slouching, she can stare me straight in the eye. Unfortunately, she's also now graduated to wearing women's sized clothes; clothing four "adults" sometimes puts a strain on the family budget! Meg just turned 12 (in January), is in grade 6 at the same middle school as Cameron, and she's really enjoying school. She plays flute in the concert band, and since they weren't moving fast enough for her, she's also started to play my old clarinet at home. She has several friends whose houses she's already visited and is doing very well academically. She's a natural writer -- and I'm her mother so I can say, "gifted". : ) Sometimes I read something that she's written and it almost makes me cry, it's that good.

Meghan loves to play soccer, and it's very big in Victoria, so she would have been playing throughout the winter if we had known to register her in the fall when we moved here. However, she has lots of options to play in the spring and summer, and we live right across from one of the big soccer parks, so I think she'll be in the thick of it soon.

One thing that makes us all happy is that the kids can walk or bike to school this year, and either way it takes them less than 20 minutes. Since Mark and I have to leave for work earlier than they leave for school, they get ready on their own. I think it's really made them more independent and has been very good for them.

This was a really long update; I hope you lasted 'til the end! Drop us a line and let us know what you're doing:

christinateskey @ or mvieweg @ (take out the spaces when you email).