Happy Birthday, dear Sarah

Yesterday our daughter, Sarah, turned 12. The years are passing so quickly! Unlike their brothers, who have late summer birthdays when things are busy at the B&B, but not with school activities, we have to fit the girls’ birthday celebrations in when we can!

Olivia has had a countdown going for awhile:

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I am going back to Tanzania soon – only for nine days! Evan likes to pull his sisters’ chains!

Sarah’s birthday happened to fall on provincial inservice day for teachers this year, so none of the kids had school, and D’Arcy & I were both attending professional development seminars in Truro. We rushed through our traditional gift opening in the morning (it is tradition for our kids to give one another sugary cereal on their birthday – which is shared between the four of them). She had asked for a “challenging Perplexes” game for her birthday (she loves Science & math) so we got her the “Epic Perplexes“.  I will buy this type of toy/game as long as they will ask for them!!

My parents took the girls to a new indoor playground in Halifax for the day and they had a ball. The cut-off age to play is 12, so this was a one-and-only experience for the girls.

We all met at one of our favourite pubs, the Nook & Cranny for a celebratory dinner at 5pm, before Sarah had to be at Jazz. Unfortunately, Evan wasn’t able to join us because he was playing football in Dartmouth, but my parents and Alex’s girlfriend, Claire, joined us.

Dinner was wonderful and our service was great. There was one moment of anxiousness when Olivia said she thought her wrap had mayo (it did – and she has an anaphylactic egg allergy). Luckily, she is really good about checking before ingesting, so we brought it to the server’s attention and the wrap was replaced with a safe one quickly and with much apology.

They were happy to serve our safe cake (homemade egg-free cinnamon bun cheesecake) before Sarah ran across the street to dance.

Sarah has a highland dance competition this weekend, so Plan “A” had been for her to sleepover with her grandparents. However, the birthday girl knew some of her family were planning to go to Evan’s football game, so she wanted to join us. In the end, it was POURING a cold rain, so Alex & D’Arcy went to the game while the three girls had a sleepover, tucked in together watching the curling.

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The score was 28-0 for the Cougars!! Dartmouth forfeited at half-time.

Although it was a busy day, with lots to fit in, I think Sarah felt her day was special. The rest of the weekend features a highland dance competition, a B&B get-together, appointment for Olivia, Hallowe’en party, Nutcracker rehearsal, curling, and guests.

A few of my favourite Sarah photos from over the years:

 

Our annual Tatamagouche canoe ride 2016

Later this month, D’Arcy & I will celebrate 20 (!) years since our first date. We had been friends for more than a year before we started a relationship and, during that time, he had been building a 16 foot cedar-strip chestnut prospector canoe. A couple of years before, he had spent a summer in Northern Ontario in an Outward Bound program and loved canoeing every day. I’m sure when he started building the canoe he had visions of spending his summers on the various rivers we are fortunate to have in Nova Scotia, and in Canada.

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(Un)fortunately for him, it didn’t work out that way. One of our early dates took place in Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia (near Peggy’s Cove) in a shed on a clear early-September evening, varnishing the canoe, which was launched on September 21, 1996. (I always joke that he snagged me with the fumes!) By the following summer, we were getting married, and I was pregnant with our oldest son, Evan, the summer after that, so the canoe didn’t get anywhere near the mileage D’Arcy had dreamed about in those early years.

We have property in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, which is bordered by the tidal French River. Once our kids became old enough to trust in the canoe, we have made a point to take the canoe to Tatamagouche at least once per summer for a family paddle. Because of the current ban on campfires across the province, we did not stay overnight this year. (No fires to heat water or use for light at night – phew?!)

My father had volunteered to come greet our guests so that we could stay as long as we wanted, and we had a beautiful afternoon together. Although the canoe sits lower and lower in the water each year, it is one of our favourite traditions. We paddled, we swam, we drank some local beer (and Kool-aid – it was a “vacation” day!); we laughed, we talked, and our soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old drove us up and down the lane.

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The annual canoe photo – 2016 version!

 

 

 

 

 

Blowing the dust off…

I have been neglectful of the blog this past year, a fact which has been pointed out to me three times in the past two days. The reasons are many and varied – busy lives running in six different directions, a productive, but exhausting school year, extra projects… I often find that by the time I get to sit at the computer I have the energy for a quick Facebook check-in, but then my eyes just want to close, and not continue looking at a screen.

Both family and guests have mentioned to me how much they love reading the blog. Family, to keep caught up with what we are up to, and guests because it gives them a sense of who we are before they come to stay with us. I enjoy writing, and especially looking back at where we’ve been and what we have done.

So I’m blowing the dust off, and promise a series of updates as the summer continues.

In the meantime, here is a photo of my newly learned summertime skill – cutting watermelon! I can’t believe I have been a parent for almost 18 years, and just learned this this week!! Cut watermelon pieces into a grid to make “fingers” rather than triangles. Much easier to store, and far less messy to eat! Thanks for the insight, D’Arcy!

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And thank you to those of you who have gently nudged me back here. It feels good to be back!

A night away

Historically, bookings during the first week of July have always been slow. Earlier this week, we had a night without any reservations, so we closed out our online booking calendar, and packed up the van to spend the night at our property in Tatamagouche, on the Northumberland Strait.

What a wonderful getaway we had, spending time together as a family without distractions. Our property has a bunkhouse and an outhouse, with no power nor running water – unless you count the river! We chatted, played cards, went exploring the riverbed while the tide was out, had a bonfire, made s’mores, stargazed, canoed, swam, set off bottle-rockets, had a washer toss tournament, drove the van up & down the lane (a 14 year-old-boy’s rite-of-passage), skipped rocks, and laughed. We ate well – everything tastes better outside! We had risotto with asparagus, sausage, and cheese cooked on the campstove for supper. (Along with some local wine & beer for the parents.) Breakfast was bacon, fruit, yogurt, and homemade brown-bread toast made over the campfire with homemade jelly.

We have eagles – now named Joe & Josie – who were quite interested in what we were doing and circled around often. When we were canoeing, “Joe” was swooping down close to us and then perched on the treetops, watching the kids swim. I was hoping that he didn’t think Olivia was a fish!

We don’t have any more nights without bookings in the coming weeks, so we won’t get another overnight for awhile. However, we’ll try to get back for a few hours during the day again soon.

Summer fun, hanging out together

Summer fun, hanging out together

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Relaxed

Relaxed

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Alex's charred marshmallow

Alex’s charred marshmallow

Early morning washer toss tournament

Early morning washer toss tournament

Making toast on the fire

Making toast on the fire

All food tastes better outside!

All food tastes better outside!

Canoeing on the French River

Canoeing the French River

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo – we’ll soon all be too big to travel together

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade canoe

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade cedar-strip canoe

Family Literacy Day 2015

Although Family Literacy Day is on Tuesday, January the 27th each year, we celebrated early. D’Arcy is scheduled to have surgery this year on the 27th and when Sarah heard, her first comment was, “Oh NO! He’ll miss Family Literacy Day!” We have been celebrating annually since 2007, the year Olivia was a baby. Each year we have a slightly different format, depending on what is going on at the time. We’ve celebrated at lunch, at dinner, on the weekend, on a week-night, at our house, or at my parents’ house. The constants are that we all attend along with my parents, share books/magazines/newspapers, stories, and food. Sometimes the books we receive are new, sometimes, they are new-to-us, and there have even been years when books were borrowed from the library.

Family Literacy Day has become an event as special and highly-anticipated as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter at our house!

This year, we combined our Family Literacy Day celebration with a celebration of Auntie Ruth’s 86th birthday, and included Mirelle, our guest from Brazil. As the children have gotten older, the day has evolved to include questions that you must answer before receiving your book. “What are your earliest memories of visiting the library?” (My first visit was to story-time at six days old, but I don’t have a memory of that! 😉 ) “Where is your favourite place to read?” “What was your favourite book as a child?”

We had many laughs as we ate munchies, then assembled sandwiches from a recipe. We celebrated Auntie Ruth’s birthday with “Mud Pie” and discussions about technology.

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Mirelle’s new book about Nova Scotia. She can take it back to Brazil to show her friends and family.

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Auntie Ruth answers her question before opening her book.

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Some sister-love for Evan. “What’s the most awesome thing to ever happen to you?” “My siblings.” ❤

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Olivia and Beanah

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D’Arcy reads his book while Alex answers his question, “Is there a book that you’d like to, or feel you should read?”

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Sarah answers her question, “What was the best thing to ever happen to you?”

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Sarah took forever to open her book of trivia.

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Auntie Ruth chose the book for Ginna

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Some time to enjoy our books between courses.

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Family Literacy Day 2015

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Happy 86th birthday, Auntie Ruth!

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Fun together

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Happy Birthday!

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The perfect gift!

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The whole family 2015

Evan drove us home, much later than we had intended, and way past bedtime. However, nobody wanted the evening to end.

For me, I’ll be reading my book, “The Blue Tattoo” by Steven Laffoley, a novel about the Halifax Explosion, on the actual date of Family Literacy Day while D’Arcy is in surgery. I’ll be happy to have a story to occupy my thoughts and help me pass the time. He’ll be happy, I’m sure, to have some new books to read during his recovery.

We’d love to know about other people’s Family Literacy Day traditions. Please tell us in the comments!

Happy New Year!

First day of School 2014: Evan Grade 10, Alexander Grade 8, Sarah Grade 4 Immersion, Olivia Grade 2 Immersion, D'Arcy Grade 7/8 Teacher, Anne NSCC School of Business Faculty

First day of School 2014: Evan Grade 10, Alexander Grade 8, Sarah Grade 4 Immersion, Olivia Grade 2 Immersion, D’Arcy Grade 7/8 Teacher, Anne NSCC School of Business Faculty

I always find the new school year to be more of a fresh start than January 1st. Since D’Arcy & I both teach, the first week of school is always a big transition; the B&B is still running at full capacity, and we are juggling the responsibilities and stresses of getting ready for our students. This year, for whatever reason, it seemed to go more smoothly than normal. For the next six or seven weeks while it is still our busiest time, we will get everything ready for breakfast before we leave for school, and my parents, Dave and Deanna, along with our helpers Lori and Amanda, will be here to serve breakfast and entertain. We are a great team, and D’Arcy & I certainly appreciate their help.

While I’m not really ready to say good-bye to summer (we had a busy and fun one), I have enjoyed meeting my new students and first impressions tell me we’re going to have a great year. I do still intend to blog about some of our summer adventures when we took day trips or overnights around the province, to give our guests ideas about things they can do while here. As the leaves change, the days get shorter, and the nights get cooler, it will be fun to reminisce about this summer, and plan for next…

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With our cousins from Florida, Oregon, and Alabama at the end of the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton. We saw a black bear eating a moose carcass along the way!

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With the Florida cousins on a chilly July day at Peggy’s Cove – the weather certainly didn’t dampen our fun!

Lobster in the backyard with our American cousins

Lobster in the backyard with our American cousins

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The crew after Tidal Bore rafting and mud sliding on the Shubenacadie River in an extreme tide the day before a “super moon”.

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A wonderful visit with a school friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Raina and her husband, Matt,  were here from Virginia for a family reunion.

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Our family took some time to go canoeing on the French River in Tatamagouche.

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We took a night off to camp in Tatamagouche. D’Arcy enjoyed doing the dishes in a more serene setting than normal.

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My cousin Chad, and his bride Koren, got married at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax after a ten year courtship. It was a wonderful celebration!

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I graduated with my Education Diploma from NSCC in August!

Gigantic lobsters fresh of the boat from Pictou with university friend Karen, visiting from Yellowknife, NT

Gigantic lobsters fresh off the boat from Pictou with university friend Karen, visiting from Yellowknife, NT

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At Basin Head Beach in PEI

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We ate lots of seafood – bacon wrapped scallops for Olivia at Alex’s 14th birthday dinner at the Gahan Pub in PEI

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Three session of swimming lessons at Victoria Park Pool had our girls completing Red Cross swimming levels 6 & 7. Sarah also participated in summer swim team.

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Our boys spent a week at Whitecap Curling Camp, living in residence at UPEI

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An “all about me” quilt for Alex’s 14th birthday, made with love by his grandmother.

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2014 was a great summer!

 

Turning the Page to August

Here we are in August and I am way behind in chronicling our summer adventures! Since my cousins left, we’ve been sticking close to home for the most part. Our school year is so packed with activities, that it’s nice to enjoy our home during the summer.  We’ve also been getting the little projects that get put off accomplished. In July, we painted our girls’ room; got a new washer and dryer (finally!) which necessitated trimming the shelves in our laundry room and getting it cleaned out, painted and organized; and got the garden growing.

The girls have been at swimming lessons and Sarah joined summer swim team at Victoria Park; she also dances once each week. She had a successful Highland Dance Competition in New Glasgow at the Festival of the Tartans, winning a 1st, a 2nd, and two 3rd place medals. Her baseball team came in 2nd place in regular season and will start play-off games this week. Alex has been house-sitting for people and worked stage crew for the local Spotlight Theatre. Evan has been a typical teenager going into high school and has been hanging out with his friends – we haven’t seen him since Wednesday! (He’s at a friend’s cottage on the Northumberland Strait, playing golf and board games.)

Yesterday, D’Arcy & the girls spent the afternoon at nearby Shortt’s Lake. D’Arcy’s brother & his wife were hosting the sailboat races, so D’Arcy went racing with Kevin while the girls swam and played with their cousins and helped their Auntie Kay prepare for the after-sail.

The weather in July was glorious (after the Tropical Storm) and while today is calling for rain, our lawns and gardens really need it! Hopefully, by not being torn to be outside, I’ll get some blogging caught up! 🙂

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Our little slugger!

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A “Happy School is Over” barbeque!

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The girls’ first night in their newly decorated room! They switch between top and bottom bunk on the first night of each month.

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The garden is coming along and I finally figured out that if you put water bottles in the fold of the sheets while they are drying, they won’t wrap around the line in the wind!

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Sarah and my dad, Dave – one of her biggest fans – at the Festival of the Tartans where she was Highland Dancing.

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Me & my dad in front of the Clark Tartan

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Sarah with her medals – 1st in Sword, 3rd in Highland Fling, 3rd Seann Truibhas, 2nd in Lilt

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Evan learns to use power tools with his father

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The beautiful new washer & dryer. Come do your laundry with us!

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Our new great nephew, Thomas John, just moments old. He was born July 31st and belongs to our niece Megan and her husband, Rob. Photo credit: “Dad” Robert Perry

Summertime in Nova Scotia

We had a bit of a whirlwind start to our summer vacation here at the Belgravia. The last day of school occurred on June 28, while I was still at Cornell. I arrived home late (2 am) on the night of June 30 and my cousins arrived from Portland, Oregon, a few hours later. Phil & Susan are the same cousins whom we spent this past Christmas with. His younger brother, Richard, arrived with his wife, Aletha, from Mobile, Alabama, the following day. They stayed with my parents, and on July 5, Phil’s daughter Lori, her husband Adam, and their four children arrived from Florida for a week. The next few blog posts I make will attempt to chronicle our travels around the province while they were here. Because we are usually working full-out at the B&B, we don’t often get the chance to explore our backyard at this time of year.

We started off on Canada Day with a trip to Pugwash, to the Festival of the Gathering of the Clans where our daughter, Sarah was competing in the highland dance competition. This is an interesting competition which takes place in a beautiful setting, on a wooden stage with the water in the background. There are street vendors, a midway, and a parade throughout the day. It was fun for me to run into a number of my childhood friends who were also visiting. Sarah danced well, winning a 1st place ribbon for her Highland Fling, and 2nd place for her sword dance.  Afterwards, they rode two rides on the midway and got some cotton candy before we left to drive along the Sunrise Trail to Tatamagouche.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

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Sarah, #201, awaits the music for the Sword Dance

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Proud of her two medals and second stamp

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Scrambler!

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Scrambler!

My maiden name is Clark and the Clark family homestead is located in Tatamagouche, which is a beautiful little town on the Northumberland Strait, along the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Between the cousins, we still have somewhere close to 100 acres of farm and wooded property along the French River, which is the perfect place to picnic. One thing you should know while traveling in Nova Scotia is that certain parts can be buggy on certain days. If the wind is breezy, they usually aren’t too bad. On Canada Day, however, there was little breeze and we all had to use bug spray and put up a mosquito tent to avoid being bitten while we picnicked.

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Playing in the French River

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How many people does it take to set up a mosquito tent?

 

After we had a late lunch, we stopped in at the newly opened Tatamagouche Brewing Company and picked up a couple of growlers of their Hippy Dippy Pale Ale and Butcher Block Red to take back home. Phil and Susan had to be at the airport to pick up Richard & Aletha at suppertime, so we drove straight home.

We ordered pizzas for dinner, I got in the pool for the first time this year and everyone came back to join us around the fire for the evening. We climbed out onto the roof to watch the Canada Day fireworks – even my mom!

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The Canadian “wannabe” from Oregon. 😉

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Happy Canada Day!!

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Roasting marshmallows while waiting for the fireworks

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My parents, Dave & Deanna, enjoy their family

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Our American cousins – Phil & Susan from Oregon and Richard & Aletha from Alabama

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We were lucky to have our family in town for almost two weeks, and took the opportunity to travel around the province a bit with them while they were here. I will chronicle these travels in my next few posts.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Alex’s Adventures in Brazil… Part 2

Once again, Brazil is turning out to be one of the BEST TRIPS OF MY LIFE!! I can’t believe that I am actually here in Brazil, and this entire experience of being in a new country / continent / hemisphere, has really made me realize how lucky I truly am!

On Tuesday, we had a Portuguese lesson at Via Mundo. The lesson was very helpful but also very confusing. (It was a good thing that we took notes…)

The next day was definitely very exciting and very long. The day started with a nice arts and crafts workshop at Crescimento School. Which then gave us some time for either classes or time with you host family. After that, we spent the rest of the day playing beach volleyball & climbing up a HUGE sand dune by the beach.

After one of the best sleeps I have had in a long time, I got up to start the next chapter in this great trip. I pretty much just sat around and enjoyed Brazil for most of the day, and then I went to Dad’s home stay where we worked on a presentation that we will be giving to the Brazilians all about Canada. Then we went to the Lions Palace which is the state’s government building. This was by far the most beautiful building I have ever seen. (The only downside was that we weren’t allowed to take any pictures while on the tour.) Next we went on a little walk through a little market area before going to a drumming and dancing workshop which was really cool!

That takes me right to today where we will tell stories at the Maple Bear Canadian School. (For kids around grade primary.) And a volley ball game tonight which is sure to be fun.

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Little Rocks – the next edition

Team Hennigar - all younger siblings ofcurlers at the Truro Club.

Team Hennigar – all younger siblings of curlers at the Truro Club, with coach Chuck Patriquin.

Following in their siblings' footsteps...

Following in their siblings’ footsteps…

After dropping D’Arcy & Alex off at the airport for their adventure in Brazil, we got ourselves geared up for the girls’ first Little Rocks Curling Bonspiel. The girls have been at many of the clubs around the province, watching their brothers over the years, but have never been in a competition themselves before. (For Olivia, the first draw was her first-ever game, but I’ll get to that in a minute…)

The girls started curling in “Little Rocks” at the Truro Curling Club last year and loved it. The rocks are the same size as regular curling rocks, but only half the weight. At practice, they learn some of the rules of the game, how to slide, and some of the etiquette that goes along with the sport.Unfortunately, part way through this year, practice had to change from Fridays to Thursdays to accommodate the coaches’ schedules, but our girls dance ballet & jazz on Thursdays. They were disappointed, but stopped attending to continue with dance.

We heard that the club’s team was looking for another player for the Under 11 Provincial Bonspiel being held in Halifax and Sarah was quick to volunteer. This upset Olivia, wondering why she didn’t get to be on the team since her brothers play on the same team, therefore the two sisters should as well… As luck would have it (?!) one the boys on the team was also involved in hockey the same weekend, so Olivia joined the team as a 5th – just in case. The past two Sundays, D’Arcy has taken the girls to the Truro club and practiced with them and make sure they could get the rock from one end of the ice to the other.

We made arrangements to stay with Aunt Erin, packed our gear, and headed for Halifax. Sarah has had an awful cough, so I was worried she would be too sick to play. She & Olivia arranged to switch off and play every other game. They were so proud of themselves!! All 23 teams were piped in to the ice shed during Opening Ceremonies, and Team Fay (Nova Scotian Bronze Medalists at the National Juniors and Team Nova Scotia for the 2015 Canada Winter Games) threw a ceremonial rock through the “honour guard” of curlers.

I wish that I had appreciated at Evan & Alex’s first Little Rocks experience just how adorable this bonspiel is: it takes almost as much luck as it does skill to win a game, there’s not much hurrying happening, and sweeping? Let’s just say the ice was well dusted – when the sweepers were paying attention! There are lots of falls, a few tears (not from any of ours), and lots of smiles. I love seeing the kids shake hands both before and after the game, and love watching them interact with the other teams.

As exciting as it was for them to win their games, the teamwork and sportsmanship I watched was what made my heart burst. Before Olivia’s first game, she worried about how she would know when it was her turn to throw? Evan H. (8) piped up, “I’m the second, so I’ll make sure to tell you!” He or Sage gave her a mini-tutorial before each shot to make sure she was throwing the right turn and knew what shot she was making. So cute!

Sarah came off the ice after one game they played particularly well. I high-fived her and told her what a great game it was and how proud of her I was. She cuddled up to me, looked up and asked quietly, “Mom, but did we win?” She wasn’t quite sure. (They had!)

Each child on the team is a younger sibling of kids who curl with the boys, so although they had never played one another, they knew each other well enough to be close on the ice and have fun together. Aiden was going back and forth from curling to hockey, and cut it close enough on Sunday that the girls got to play a game together.  By the end of their first five games, they had won three and lost two. They were second in their division which meant they made it to the “Red Division” playoffs and were guaranteed two games on Monday!! We were in shock!  I contacted work to ask to take a vacation day, and we spent a second night at Aunt Erin’s. Evan had gone home on Saturday night with my parents so that he could attend his own Podium Project curling practice on Sunday afternoon, so I made arrangements for him to get a drive to the city on Monday with the girls’ coach, Chuck. I love that he was anxious and willing to come cheer his sisters on!

The girls had lots of family support, despite the fact D’Arcy & Alex were away. Both of my parents came to two games, Aunt Erin & Grandma McDonah came to a game, and Aunt Shannon & Uncle Camille came to a game. The best was when, on their final game on Monday, Alex watched the entire game via FaceTime from Brazil! Oh, technology!

I absolutely love how our children support one another!

In the end, Team Hennigar lost both games on Monday and were out. Unfortunately, we learned at lunchtime that Sage was sick, so the girls played their final game together. Sarah even got to hold the broom for skip stones so Evan H could sweep. It was a positive experience for both of them and they are keen to participate again next year. At this age, when they have fun, that’s what counts!

Olivia and Chuck, coaching

Olivia and Chuck, coaching during the first game.

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Love the conversation happening on the ice. The little girl in the foreground had some tears in this game, but eventually came around. She swept for us or for her own team; it didn’t matter. Near the end of this game, she and another little one on her team didn’t sweep at all, because they were standing at the end of the ice with their brooms in the air.

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Girls’ night at Aunt Erin’s!

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Little Rocks – Where the brooms are taller than the players! 😉

The officials are out on the ice at every game, giving pointers, and stopping the game to teach rules. In this case, the other team threw our rock by mistake. They are learning that they should have let it play, and replaced it when it came to rest.

The officials are out on the ice at every game, giving pointers, and stopping the game to teach rules. In this case, the other team threw our rock by mistake. They are learning that they should have let it play, and replaced it when it came to rest.

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Olivia gets a tutorial from her teammate before she throws.

Sarah's rock

Sarah sweeping

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Exhausted after an eventful weekend!

And just for fun…

Evan & Alex with teammates Madison & Lindsey, and coach Todd at their first Little Rocks, four years ago.

Evan & Alex with teammates Madison & Lindsey, and coach Todd at their first Little Rocks, four years ago.