Monday, December 30, 2013

Gifts After Christmas

From a look out along our trek, the trees show the weight of the previous week's ice storm.
Today was one of those great days.  Its Sunday so we started at church.  There was a baptism and my son decided he wanted to take  in the whole service, including communion.  He is 8years old and he seemed genuinely interested in the service which made me truly proud.  I was even more proud when someone commented on how well behaved he was.  Then as I picked my daughter up from Sunday school she was very excited to tell me she sang a song.  She shared a bit of it with me and I was happy to hear her sing a gospel song.

My father and my son made excellent companions for a great snow shoe trek.
After church it was time to take on an adventure.  My father, my son, and I went for a snowshoe.  We trekked over familiar terrain.  Some of it steep, all of it deeply snow covered.  The recent ice storms have left a thick layer of frozen snow.  My son could walk on top of this layer and so didn't need snowshoes, my father and I on the other hand were thankful for the snowshoes.  Once again my son made me proud as he hung right with us for the two and a half hour hike over some very tough terrain.  I had to laugh as he continually found ways to have fun and created the motto "When all else fails, follow the dogs."  When the spruce thickets were really thick he would drop to all fours and follow the dogs, while I had to beat my way through the thicket.  It was fun to watch him find adventure.  From the ice caves we explored to the ice covered logs he would slide down, he found a game in it all.
The kids watched intently as the choir sang and people acted out Christ's birth.

As dark settled in, we arrived home in time to meet with the rest of the family to go out and take in the "Living Manger" at the St. Mark's Anglican church in Sussex Corner.  The original show date was postponed due to the ice storms so we listened to the story of Jesus birth a few days late.  The feeling was a bit different and it lacked something but the actors in the show deserve a ton of credit for giving it all.  The missing element was my own sense of anticipation of Christmas.  With Christmas over it was anti-climatic but still very enjoyable and the kids still loved it.  They sat wide eyed as the shepherds brought in the sheep and the wise men presented their gifts.
The acting baby Jesus was very well behaved, even in the cold, but the heat lamp likely helped, I know it helps this photo.

As I sat down in the evening and recounted this day I was humbled.  The snow was falling hard and the weatherman was calling for yet another storm.  It was a great day and I have so much to be thankful for. 

I want to share some of the photos from today so I hope you enjoy.  Keep in mind, I'm not a professional photographer.

Snow mobile tracks helped our progress on the first part of our trek.

This small cave provided my son with a great exploration opportunity.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Whalens

December 24, 2013.  Christmas Eve.  I've been busy wrapping presents and shoveling my driveway.  The weather is putting a great deal of stress on people who are traveling over the Christmas holiday.  For us even getting downtown is a chore.  I pray for all those who want to travel to see family this wonderful holiday.  I know the urge that possesses someone to see family.  Christmas is about family and traditions and to be alone is no fun.  You will brave snowstorms and icy roads just to see that familiar smile.

Personally I am so blessed to have my family all here in the same county as I am.  We all live less than 15 minutes apart and it truly is a blessing.  My wife sacrifices a great deal over the holidays as her family, though not terribly far, are farther away and we struggle to make time to see them.  I hope she knows that this sacrifice doesn't go unnoticed.   This year we are hoping to see most of them barring the weather.

The Christmas songs are playing loud, the wrapping paper is crumpling, and the ice pellets are still lightly hitting the windows.  The kids are laughing, they have delivered baked goods to the neighbors, and are getting more excited by the minute.  With my wrapping almost done, I'm getting more and more into the Christmas spirit.  It is very unlikely that I'll get another chance to write a post so from the Whalens to all of you we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Wandering Christmas Checklist

 Just a note, this is a column that appeared in the Kings County Record back on December 17, 2013.  Since then, I think, Poley has received lots more snow.  Unfortunately the Living Manger was cancelled for the first time in 22yrs due to an ice storm, and my shopping...well...I'm just about there ;)

So, as I write this there is a layer of snow on the ground.  Bill, and his crew at Poley, have their fingers crossed, hoping that the temperatures stay cool enough to keep it that way.  If they get their way, as you read this, skiers should be gliding down the slopes in picturesque Waterford.  Snow, check.

It seemed to go on forever.  On Saturday, December 7th, the lights were shining bright and the floats just seemed to keep coming.  Honestly I think this might have been one of my most memorable Christmas parades that I've seen.  My son rode on the 4-H float and, as he went by us, had a smile on his face that might top the one he'll have on Christmas morning.  The Kingswood University float was boisterous and the bands marched proudly and the entire procession was one the entire region could be proud of.  Parade, check.

Streets seem brighter in the evening recently.  The light poles shine a little brighter thanks to the various Christmas decorations that line the street and help spread the Christmas cheer.  The kids at Sussex Corner Elementary School are getting excited and get more so every morning they walk into the school.  They can't help it since they took time to hang festive lights on the trees out front of their school.  It looks great and since I can see it as I write this, I too am feeling more Christmassy (that's a word right?) Lights, check.

The intersection of Main, Needle, and Post Road has a new structure starting to take place.  It looks a little old fashioned but seems to remind me of something.  Oh yeah, the "Living Manger" will be set up soon.  One of my favourite Christmas traditions is set to go on December 22nd.  The St. Marks Church is once again going to tell the story of Jesus birth through a living manger scene, complete with real animals.  I've written about this event in the past and in my mind Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.  You should get out and check it out this season.  Manger, check.

A number of locations around town suddenly became much greener the past week.  Christmas tree lots are sprouting up and the seasonal business is booming.  I'm a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas so we have a real tree in our home.  The first tree my kids knew was the Christmas tree, even before the maple tree.  I love the smell of a fir tree in the house over the holidays.  When you mix the smell of a Christmas tree with that of a turkey roasting overnight, you have Christmas.  Tree, check.

I'm a social guy.  I enjoy getting out and talking to people.  I don't really like shopping but during the Christmas season, when I can socialize while shopping, I don't mind it.  This time of year you seem to run into people that you haven't seen in awhile.  Everyone has more patience, even when lines are long.  Instead of getting frustrated, people turn to the person behind them in line and chat.  The purpose of shopping is to get gifts but maybe the biggest gift you can give over the holidays is chatting with someone you might not normally talk to.  Presents, ok, so I still have some work to do here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone, my family sends prayers and blessings for good things to all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Lights and Snowballs

Not long ago I talked about how I was able to help spread some Christmas cheer. I promised that I would share some pictures of the Sussex Corner Elementary School's lighted trees.  I had been hoping for snow and now with the heavy snow over the weekend I was given a chance to take some photos.  As the snow started to subside I had to take the dog out for a walk.  We made our way over to the school with the temperature hovering just below zero which made the walk really enjoyable.  I admired the lights for a some time and tried my best to get some good photos.  Obviously taking photos at night is not one of my strengths.  I then turned my attention to the dog, who kept stepping into my photo frames and threw some more snowballs for her.  It amazes me how she will chase a snowball and search for it until I whistle and show her another one.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Karate Kids

Seth and Shaylee stand outside Hampton High showing off their medals.
Wow, what a weekend!  We had a lot going on but there is one thing that I wanted to write about.  Earlier this year my family made a tough decision to take a year away from hockey.  It was hardest on me, as hockey has long been a way that my father and I bonded, and I thought my son and I would do the same.  We've adjusted okay I think and this weekend helped.

Our kids have been going to karate twice a week for a little more than a month now.  This past weekend they took part in their first tournament.  Before I go any further I have to apologize to any karate officionados out there.  I'm new to the sport and I have no idea about the lingo.  Trust me the hockey lingo is easy compared to karate.  At least hockey lingo is in English.

We drove to Hampton for a 10:00am start.  I was surprised by the number of people at the high school gym.  We got both, Seth and Shaylee, registered and waited for their portion of the competition to start.  It was a bit of a wait but we watched as older competitors took part in "kata" and it was impressive how well these kids know the moves.
Shaylee was all smiles about getting her first karate medal.
Before long Shaylee was called to a ring to compete.  There were three kids in her age group, including her, and she knew all of them. This would prove to be very entertaining as who can help but find 4-5 year olds cute when in friendly competition. Shaylee fought hard and with a big smile on her face the whole time and thought it was great she finished with a bronze medal.  We were proud of her and maybe her brother most of all.
Seth proudly stood on the podium showing off his medal.

Next it was Seth's turn and now the competition was a bit more tense.  There were about 20 kids who competed in this age class ranging in age from 7-9.  Seth was one of the last competitors to have his first fight and I thought he might get nervous but it didn't show.  He had a hard won battle against a young girl that took him to overtime, where he won 3-2.  This put him into the round of 10 where he faced a young boy who looked capable but again Seth came out on top, winning 4-0.  Now I was into it and saw that Seth too was getting into it.  In his final round Seth faced a girl much taller than him and he had a hard time blocking her attacks when he would make his.  Her hands were a bit quicker and she grabbed his belt a number of times with the same move.  He graciously took the defeat, which I gotta say, made me as proud as the fact that he finished in third place in his first tournament.

I'm not sure I'm ready to say so long to hockey but I think Seth might be and as long as he is happy and staying active, that makes me happy. Check out some more photos below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Spreading the Cheer with Pride

Yesterday I was able to help spread some Christmas cheer.  I was over to the Sussex Corner Elementary School and helped kids decorate the trees outside the front of the school.  I was able to do this thanks in part to my municipal seat and the Village of Sussex Corner council all took part.  It was a great way to demonstrate to kids that municipal council seats can be fun and exciting while also helping get the community into the Christmas mood.

I was also confronted with some parenting reality.  Your kids grow up to fast...but my oldest isn't too old to hang out with his Dad :)  When I showed up at the school I was able to go to his class and bring them out to the tree we were putting lights on.  When I showed up in a Santa hat, which I have to admit, I thought might embarass him, he still ran up to me excitedly and gave me a big hug.  I was all to happy to hug him back and holler at his classmates to get their boots and coats on.  As I walked and chatted with him on the way outside, it hit me, "I don't have many of these moments left."

As his class mates slowly got bored of twisting bulbs, testing light sets, and passing lights up the ladder, they moved off to play in the playground.  Seth though kept with it until the end.  He worked with the adults and I was proud of him for wanting to hang with us silly hatted adults.

It was a good morning and I hope the kids had as much fun as I did.  I encourage you to take a drive by SCES and take a look.  It sure looks like Christmas at that school.  Mrs. Demerchant and Mrs. Cummings and their staff deserve a big pat on the back for making it all happen

Merry Christmas to everyone over at SCES, kids, staff, and parents of all the students too.

I'll be going over some evening soon to snap a photo or two and I'll post them here when I do.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Dirt Road Anthem

Note: This is a column I had published in the November 26th edition of the Kings County Record.  I fits rather nice with my previous post about country music. Dirt Road Anthem is a country song that I would often turn up when going on a fishing trip with my son.  Somewhere in my blog roll I have even talked about that.  The roads I discuss in this blog are just a small sampling of what the area in and around Kings County, New Brunswick have to offer.  Hope you enjoy this small taste.
This photo was taken a few years ago on a dirt road near Marrtown NB.  This was taken in late spring after a late season snowfall.  My brother and I were supposed to be fishing that weekend.
Have you ever been out through Jordan Mountain?  Have you ever taken the Mount Hebron Road the whole way through?  I mean the whole way you didn't just stop at the horse farm at the top and turn around.  Recently through my work I took a drive over some of the great back roads between Millstream and Knightville.  It was a truly enjoyable drive mixed with some scenic walking.

This time of year the weather is often cold, wet, and windy.  This is not great hiking, biking, or paddling weather, so driving is a great way to see the country side and we have lots to see.  The drive I talked about above provides some great vistas over farm fields and forests.  The ridges possess rocky outcrops and tall trees while the valleys house clear brooks and fertile farm fields.  There are some great dirt road drives that show off many of the natural surroundings.  I want to lay out my top three for you.

The first drive starts in Norton and isn't truly a dirt road drive but still has some great highlights.  From Norton take Route 124 towards Midland but take a left hand turn on the Dickie Mountain Road.  Make sure to drive slow and look around and if the rivers are high make sure to peek at Almshouse Brook where the falls will be wild.  Cross Dickie Mountain to Route 855 where you take another left until you drive to Route 121 where you take a right and the take another right onto Bloomfield Station Road, then find your way to the Bloomfield Ridge Road.  When you reach the Saltsprings Road take a left and make your way back towards Norton.

Dickie Mountain is tough to top but I think if you take a drive towards Waterford you might be rewarded again.  Waterford in its own right is a jewel.  Keep going though, out the Creek Road, until you can take a left onto Pleasant Lake Road.  You might need a truck for this drive, so drive slow and take in the awe inspiring brook that cascades down this steep valley.  When you reach the top of the ridge take a left onto the Philamunroe Road back Chambers Settlement.  At the Chambers Settlement Road take a right and follow it around to the Cedar Camp Road.  You'll pass by some high rock faces owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  As you take the left turn to stay on Cedar Camp Road you can make your way back to Waterford but be sure to stop at the bridge over Trout Creek and get some great photos.

Now for the drive I introduced in the beginning you'll need to be resourceful as I don't have the space to tell you all the details.  You'll need to know where the Carsonville Road is, once you find it, start your drive at its northern end, say at the Hayes Road, near Millstream.  Then find your way to the Mount Hebron Road being careful on the sharp turns before you get there.  The start of the Mount Hebron Road feels like your driving up someone's driveway, watch out for fences across the road, but don't worry the farmer has had someone drive through it before.  Push to the top of the hill but be sure to look behind you.  From there just drive and explore the ridges in this area.  The Mount Hebron Cross Road, the Jordan Mountain Road, Whites Mountain Road, and the Mine Road are all worth exploring. 

Take a lunch, a spare tire and jack, maybe some extra gas, and simply enjoy.