Monday, January 12, 2009

First Lego League Tournaments, Amongst Other Things

Max's First Lego League group managed to make it to the provincials, held in the Metropolis of Vancouver, which meant that we had to find our way to the big city, so his team could work their robotic magic against a number of other teams from the province. We used to live here, which meant a few things were in our favour:

1. We could probably find a friend to endure us for a night.

2. The terrain is familiar. This is a distinct advantage in a big city, particularly if one wishes to take advantage of big city stores that don't exist in one's little city.

3. We could meet up with old friends.

4. There is a Hello Kitty! store in this city, which meant that FDPG's dream of having a Catbus keychain would be a distinct possibility.

So over we went. Max and I. The twins were dispatched to their grandparents for the morning, after which they would be picked up by their dad, after which they would cease to occupy the "Did I schedule everything right?" portion of my brain. I packed some sandwiches, some fruit, some clothes, some earplugs (because some of us SNORE), and some snowboots, because the friends who had agreed to endure us had mentioned the fact that there were massive quantities of dirty wet snow that would prevent us from parking anywhere near their house was a fair bit of snow in the area. Max and I took the earliest ferry we could manage, and hit the town.
We went to IKEA, where we bought pencil cases for $1:
Is that the Underground I see there? The Metro Line? The doodles of an extremely anal man?

We also wandered around our old neighbourhood. Max visited his favourite Dollar Max, and I visited the Hello Kitty store, where I got this charming little Nekobus keychain for FDPG.
FDPG and I love this store, despite the fact that it's horribly over-priced, because everything about this store is so darn cute. They even wrap your purchases up in cute paper. And tape them shut with cute tape.
Next stop, little sister.

Vancouver hadn't changed a heck of a lot in our 18 month absence. Some things had been built, some things had been demolished. I didn't miss this kind of stuff:
Noise. Wet roads. Vast expanses of asphalt. Traffic. Wait, scratch that - discourteous traffic. I'd forgotten how obnoxious and uneducated and just plain dumb Vancouver traffic could be. People turn while in the wrong lane. People turn when they don't have their turn signals on. People stop in the middle of the road to answer their cell phones. People cut you off without even noticing, again, while on their cell phones. Most amusing and yes, I almostbutnotreally feel cruel for saying this was watching the cell-phone talking, bubble-tea-drinking, rocking-music-listening, boys in their hot but low-chassised cars spinning their wheels in the snow, without the slightest idea that they were completely and irrevocably stuck. And did I mention that they were on their cell phones? I think I might have done a lot of eye-rolling on this trip.
We marveled at how much snow was still piled up around the place. On our little island the snow is but a distant memory in most places; here the snow lay in grubby, slippery, chaotic heaps, disturbing parking, cutting off lanes, preventing people from casual perambulating, and generally Causing Trouble.

Our friends (the ones who had consented to enduring us for the night) said "You won't be able to park in front of our house! There's too much snow!" At the time Richard and I had looked out our window at our own snowless streets and chuckled patronizingly, but when I got to our friends' house, I circled the street 3 times, marveling at how little street clearing had been going on (if any). This was one of the more, err, posh zip codes in the city, and I am not usually a Conspiracy Theorist, but boy, did they have some serious issues with their city workers. There were piles of ice and heaps of snow on the roads. Some roads were impassable to our All Season tires. We slid. We skidded. We might even have fish-tailed, much to Max's delight. It was kind of fun in a strangely compelling way (which is why I circled the block three times). Finally, I parked, vaguely worried that I was stealing someone's carefully cleared spot, then we hauled out our snow boots and slogged our way across the street to our friend's house.

There's something lovely about not having to stay in a hotel on a trip like this. And there's something even lovelier about having friends who are glad to see you when you visit. We reminisced, we drank wine, we ate some serious pizza, and then I packed Max and myself off to bed, because we were due waaaayyyyyyy across town at the ungodly hour of 8am. Sure, snicker all you like, but before then I'd have to have driven us both across town to an unfamiliar place, gotten Max some breakfast, cajoled his pre-teen self into a good mood, and had my IV drip of latté some coffee. At the time, all I could think was "Ugh, it's all so early. Why did they set this thing up at such an unfriendly hour?"

The next morning, when my alarm went off at 5:45am, I thought "Ugh, it's all so early. Why did they set this thing up at such an unfriendly hour?" Not that I make a habit of repeating myself or anything...

But we did get there. And we got there right on time. Max got set up with his team. I watched the various groups enter, kitted out for Serious Action, watched the mothers and fathers and little sisters and brothers trailing after them, marveled at the team efforts, the family dedication, the camaraderie of it all, and then I got back into the car and drove off to do some shopping.

I know, aren't I the dedicated parent?

One day Max will write a book about me, I'm sure.

It's my aim to give him lots of material.

I went to Famous Foods, which is the closest thing to Trader Joe's we're likely to get around these parts, Canadian taxes being what they are. I bought samosas, fragrant and spicy, for Max's lunch. I bought weird looking bottles of habanero sauce. I bought an even weirder looking cured salami for my cured-salami-loving husband. I bought stacks and stacks of heavenly-smelling corn tortillas. I bought packages of Hungarian smoked paprika, lime leaves, Mexican chili powder, and black salt. They even, be still my beating heart, had their homemade paté on sale. Did I buy some? How could I resist?

After I'd staggered out of there, dizzy with conquest, I drove off to a few other places, just to see what I'd missed in the intervening 18 months. I drove past new stores, new buildings, new piles of snow, and lots and lots and lots of traffic jams.

It was fun.

Then I returned to watch Max's team do their robot runs. It was heady stuff, being around all those geeky techie types. The kids were having fun, the adults were having fun, the volunteers were having fun. I had a sudden insane urge to make all my children go into science careers, whether they wanted to or not.

I took some pictures around the campus, where the FLL tournament was being held. I've always wanted a window like this in my house. This, I fear, is the closest I may ever come to ever having that happen.

I also saw some new advertising campaigns.

Methinks this one is a little on the Super Cheese-ola side. It was on the inside of the bathroom stall I happened to be in. I got a few weird looks when I came out of the stall with my camera in hand.

Are you a People On The Stop?

I don't think I am.

At least, I sure hope I'm not.

Finally, the tournament was over. I was tired. Max was tired. But we had to get from where we were, waaaaayyyyy over on the East side of town, over to the Ferry Terminal, all the way over on the West side of town, to catch one of the two ferries left to run that night.

And while I'd been having all that fun in the bathroom stall with my camera, a blizzard had started.

It was dark outside, too.

Dark. Snowy. Slippery. Far far away.

And I have ever mentioned how poorly I see in the dark? I do. Richard thinks I need glasses, but what he doesn't think about is that it's the DARK that is the trouble, not my vision.

It was a white knuckle, no, it was a White Knuckle Drive. It took us almost an hour. We drove through slush. We drove through rain. We drove down a very long and very steep hill. It had a sign telling us that it was extremely steep, but I didn't take note of the incline. I was too busy wondering where all the road reflectors had gone, and wondering how many lanes my side of the road had. We watched cars hydroplane. We watched one car hit another car. We slid in scary heart-stopping ways once or twice. I do not like driving in the dark.

We pulled up at the ferry terminal and went inside, so Max could have some last minute opportunities to spend all his pocket money. We strolled, Max deeply enjoying the fact that there were a great many pop machines waiting breathlessly for his loonies and toonies. And before I could stop myself, in a fit of Post White Knuckle Bad Driving Conditions Induced Terror, I bought a hat from one of the tourist trap stalls there. A fake leopard-skin hat. A furry fake leopard-skin hat. It was so cheap I couldn't not buy it. Besides, I love hats. And this hat was soft. Even better, it was the right shape. I'm fussy about my hat shapes.

And when I told my mother about it, she said "Oh no! You and that fake leopard-skin! What is it about that stuff?"

Here it is.

And there is my nose.

And that was my weekend. How was yours?


Samantha said...

Hey! Look at you!!! Now I might have a chance at recognizing you on the street (esp if you are in the fake leopard-skin hat and any of the leopard-skin items you might own... or not ;-)
I did a semi cringe when I saw the traffic of Vancouver. It's been a looooong time since I've been there and I am not used to traffic like that at all any more.
Thanks for sharing your weekend! And very glad you made it home safely! :-)

Anonymous said...

It's nice to get a glimpse of what you look like.

I would have hated getting up early and slogging through Vancouver traffic too, but I'd do it for my kids. Probably. I think.

Becky said...

Congratulations to Max, and to you too for all that winter driving and getting you both around.

Love the hat, and the peek! And hearing about the shopping was exciting.

Rebecca said...

Oh gosh. Glad you made it home safe. I'm not a big fan of that crazy white knuckle west coast driving - and I've driven in a lot of snow in my life. It's just different out here.

So, if I see someone in a crazy pseudo-leopard skin hat strolling down the street, I'll assume it's you. Nice nose.

sheila said...

Thanks Becky. Yes, shopping in foreign climes is always exciting, isn't it? I'd forgotten how much I missed some of those stores, even if I hardly ever visited them.

I don't think I'll be showing much more than a peek of the old visage though. It's not terribly photogenic. Or should I say
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours?"


sheila said...

Thanks Rebecca! I do love my nose (sheila says modestly) And how will I know you if I run into you? Any weird clothing quirks that I don't know about, but should?

Andrea said...

You tell such a great story, Sheila! You crack me up! And hey! A picture of your nose! I just might recognize you in person... I have a thing for noses!

Kim said...


sheila said...

Got any body parts I might recognize, Andrea? Thanks for the compliments, by the way.

Hi Kim! I'M GLAD YOU LOVE MY HAT! Somehow I am NOT surprised that you love it, you rock star, you!

shaun said...

Gah! Cat bus! Too cute!

Also, I would like to sign up to be a person on the stop. I might sit down and update my blog or something.

Vivian said...

Congratulations to Max on the tournament and for you to getting home safely--white knuckle drive and all. The things we do to support our kids.

And the hat looks awesome on you!

Vivian said...

I'm back again. Just nominated you for a blogger award.