Book Review and Sign Off

Dear readers, friends, family and fellow bloggers,

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I constantly am going on large breaks from posting. I am an inconsistent blogger. I always have been and I’ve come to realize, I always will be. I have three wonderful and crazy kids. They are 10 months, almost 4, and 6 years old. I have a fantastic husband. We are involved in a terrific church. We have two extended families mostly living close by. We have a wonderful private school nearby. We live in one of the most beautiful and rich places in the whole world. We are truly and abundantly blessed.

With all of that, we have come to the realization that in order to raise the best kids we can in this post-modern, secular culture, we need to concentrate on our relationships with them. This takes time and patience, as any parent will testify. However, in the last 50 years, it takes a lot more time and patience. Our grandparents were able to raise large families with much less proactive parenting than we must today. They didn’t have the nearly as many distractions in their lives, technological or otherwise. Up until the 1950s or so, you could send your children off to play and have fun with the other kids around and be sure that your neighbours held similar moral and cultural ideas to your own. You could live simply because, quite simply, that was the only way to live. That is no longer the case.

I have just finished reading “Hold Onto Your Kids” by Vancouver psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. I won’t go into a long review here, except to say that I wish I had read it when it first came out in 2004. It is the only “parenting” book that has ever made complete and total sense of everything. I wish I had listened to my instincts when I first came across his name and theory when Emma was a baby, 5 years ago. I wish I had gotten rid of the baby trainer books right from the start. I wish I had cultivated an intentional attachment village. I wish I had spent less time worrying about things. I hope you will all pick it up at the library or buy a copy or borrow mine and read it. It has changed the way we think. Not since God came into my life have I ever been so transformed by and convicted of anything. For those that have or will read it: it may not be “Biblical” in that there are very few scripture references or mentions of God. But look deeper, between the words into the message. The God of the universe is the God of relationship. He is relationship himself. When you understand that, it makes absolute and total sense.

I am most grateful to God that I have the chance to mend my ways. I am not perfect. Neither is my husband. Or my kids. Or anyone else in our world. Only He is. And he gives us second chances. Every day, every breath, we are redeemed and forgiven. Over and over again. And it is with this grace, this renewal, this beautiful gift, that I sign off from the blogging world. It has been great to share of myself and our family and ideas, but it is not a passion. It is not a requirement for our family. It is not an income-earner. It was a hobby and a sporadic one at that. When I got into a consistent groove, it ate up a lot of time. When I wasn’t consistent, it was constantly simmering in my mind, heaping guilt on my conscience. Of course, that comes from no one else but myself, but as I said, I am not perfect.

And so blogging world, I have left my (minuscule) mark. But that doesn’t matter. I could have left a giant crater or nothing at all and it still wouldn’t matter. God doesn’t look at what we do, He sees what it is our hearts. And we are turning our hearts towards our family, on the firm foundation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As you meditate upon His awesome sacrifice this Easter season, ask Him, again or for the first time, to be the Lord and Master of your life. To forgive you. To redeem you. To free you. And He will – He is a faithful God, abounding in steadfast love. That’s what the cross is about.

To Him be all glory!

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Kung Hei Fat Choy: resolutions & a year in pictures

Happy Chinese New Year! This is the year of the rabbit. Is it ok to make New Year’s resolutions now? Considering that I actually never followed through on my previous 2 years of resolutions, it seems counter-productive to me but here goes.

Lose weight

Well, since I’m pregnant, I will both be gaining lots and losing lots by virtue of baby growing inside and then coming out. Done.

You can see my belly finally! Oh yeah, that's E's fabulous fifth birthday cake. Thank to Whisk Kid for the cake recipe!

Eat healthier

We don’t really eat unhealthy to begin with, but since dark chocolate is good for you, I can eat more of that. Plus I’ll hopefully be nursing. I tend to eat really well when I’m nursing. Done.

crickets and mole sauce. Yes, he's actually eating the crickets and mole sauce. No, they weren't good.

Quit smoking

Never started. Done. Don’t even have a picture remotely resembling anything like this. Except maybe a campfire.

roasting marshmallows. And this photo is almost 3 years old.

Be more organized

I’m going to have a kindergartner (starting in September), a preschooler, and a newborn. I’ll either be organized or be dead. Done.

you can only see part of our luggage here!

the charging station in the prisoner transport – definitely a fire hazard

Declutter

See above. Done.

decluttering is easy when you have to move your stuff

Exercise more

See above. The average toddler takes 176 steps a minute. She’s not a toddler anymore but still has legs. And we start walking to kindergarten in September. Done.

J diving at Cultus

I think that's a dive

at the Olympic celebration site in Holland Park. Who knew curling was so hot?

Take more pictures

I actually have a problem where we take too many. So really I need to take less. And edit and print more. Oh wait. My last Snapfish order was 700 pictures. Plus I’ll have a newborn. So…Done.

self-portrait

Spend more time outside

Did I mention the walking to kindergarten? Done.

preschool field trip

Read more

I read pretty much every day for myself (novels as well as blogs and magazines). Oh wait. I have kids. They like mama to read to them. A lot. Done.

start 'em young!


Spend more time with family

Again, having a newborn means we’ll probably be at home a lot more. And there’s a family reunion of J’s extended family this summer that we might go to. Done.

in Mexico at the Kasbah

in San Diego

Thanksgiving

I’m going to stop now, I’m wearing myself out with how resolute I am so far! No, in all seriousness, we don’t really make resolutions. We rely on God to lead us further up and further into life and faith. Hopefully we learn from the last year and enjoy life more this year.

So, Kung Hei Fat Choy to you! And may God be with you too.

Day 26: PT’s new home

This is such a great town. But did we see it today? No, not really We slept in of course! Then we walked (in the whipping wind) down a few blocks (and a steep hill) to Cora’s for breakfast.

Oh delicious breakfast, we have been dreaming of you since Day 1! Chocolate brioche smothered in fresh fruit anda bowl full of latte. Divine! (This would be funnier if you’ve watched Scrubs and imagined Molly singing…)

Then J took the PT for a wash and a meeting (not delivery though) and the girls headed back to out little house. On the way we went to Gingersnap, a modern kid store with toys and clothes. The girls had a blast playing and the proprieter is incredibly friendly. We had bought some things in this store last time we were here in the fall. Then we headed back to the house for a nap.

oh sweet sleep how we love you!

J’s meeting was well and when he got back he unloaded the last few items floating around. Then we got ready for dinner. The deliveree of the PT invited us to his house for a home cooked meal and happily he has a three-year old. So we arrived in Topsail (sounds like a Thomas the Tank Engine name) and enjoyed beautiful sunshine on the bay for they have a view of the ocean.

Oh wait, most of the villages and towns and people have ocean front property here. One is either on the coast, of which they have a lot, or up on a cliff or hill overlooking the coast.

But it was a beautiful view nonetheless, with the evening sun sparkling on the water and beaming into the kitchen. This was no quirky old fishing village house. This is a newer and well renovated house with rooms everywhere. The family was absolutely lovely and the three-year took to the girls (and they to him) with nary a fight. This little boy had rooms full of playthings and the girls were in play heaven once again. The wife is expecting in a few weeks but nevertheless made us one of the most delicious supper we have ever had. Family recipe seafood chowder, delicious roast with delicious potatoes and delicious beans, wine, and chocolate lava cake for dessert, the best chocolate-lava-cake-with-a-hint-of-mint-and-vanilla-ice-cream that there ever was.

Oh my.

We were absolutely stuffed. Horror of horrors, M actually left TWO BITES OF CHOCOLATE LAVE CAKE ON HER PLATE. She was that full. Oh how badly she wanted to finish it but there really wasn’t any more room. None! That has never happened before.

When we finally left and tumbled into bed it was quite late. That would be our last ride in the PT except for J’s delivery tomorrow.

Farewell, good and shiny friend! You have served us well and safely. Be off to your new home and be good to your sherriffs. Take care of your inmates and enjoy your long range travels in this land of rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and plenty of water.

Day 23: blessing upon blessing

Oh what a Gentle Island! Oh what gentle beds! Indeed they were new and they were so comfortable. We had our hotel continental and then loaded into the PT to go to Green Gables. Where else? The home of Anne Shirley, the land of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and some of the prettiest scenery we’ve seen so far. The last is so gently sloping here and there and gives one the impression of simpler times. On the way to Cavendish we found The toy Factory, a lovely toy store with a workshop in the back where the owner made wooden toys. She also stocked her shelves with all manner of imaginative toys including an extensive selection of playhouse for princesses, knights and families and play figures. The girls had a grand time playing and then selected a handmade top as their souvenir.

Then we got to Green Gables and tried to eat a late lunch. Except we were trying to buy lunch at a small cafe at 3pm so of course they didn’t have any lunch left, only pastries. Lunch consisted of a cinnamon bun, blueberry Danish, scone, chocolate milk and, of course, raspberry cordial. Green Gables was an actual farm at which Montgomery spent time although she did not live there. It’s been restored to the descriptions of her books and one can tour the barn, farmhouse, grounds and as always, the gift shop. We picked up a children’s version of Anne of Green Gables for E and fondly remembered the movies and shows. Then it was time to go and see what else there was to see. We also got a recommendation to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner.

 We had passed a restaurant in the next town that advertised lobster suppers and a 60 foot salad bar – it turned out to be Fisherman’s Wharf. What a restaurant! You pay as you enter and they have a salad bar only price for children based on age. How cool is that! We ordered one lobster and one crab dinner and then took our turn at the long, long salad bar. The bar included, as one would expect, salads, but also included cooked vegetables, rice, potatoes, some chicken dishes, jello, and non-stop mussels. It was all better than expected and also included piles of desserts, along with coffee & tea & juices. We had a turn at the bar and then ordered our mains. Both C and E tried the crab and E loved it. She tried the lobster too but didn’t like it. She had more fun picking the meat out of the shells. C liked both and was happy to eat bits of everything. Besides the heaps of cakes, pies, squares, éclairs, ice cream, and whip cream, there was made to order strawberry shortcake – we had two! All in all, it was a scrumptious meal.

After our supper, we went next door to the big playground to tire out the girls. And the park were some vaguely familiar looking equipment – turns out the park included an outdoor fitness area with machines designed to get one moving using body weight. So we had a mini-workout (after the heaps of dessert…) before driving some more. We pulled off on the north coast at a place with beautiful “white” sand beaches. Funny, the sands actually look white when all you’ve seen is red dirt, but in actuality it’s really more pink. We had fun as the sun set racing away from the waves and then showing a local family the PT. They had a hoot sitting in the cells and then recommended places to go that would really show us “our island”. If only we had more time! Montgomery wrote about the emerald, sapphire and ruby of the island and when you drive around, especially on a clear day, you are struck by the emerald of the vegetation, the ruby of the dirt and the sapphire of both the sea and the sky. Stunning!

And back to our hotel to bed once again. When we got there we remembered that we still hadn’t booked our ferry to Newfoundland for the next night. And when M got online, the ferry was sold out. In fact it was sold out to vehicles for the next three days… ack! We are the world’s best procrastinators. J called the Marine Atlantic office and she confirmed that yes indeed the ferry for tomorrow night was sold out.

However.

After J talked about the business and PT and M silently prayed the lady found some spots available for commercial vehicles. Hallelujah! She booked us in. We also were able to book a sleeping cabin, since the ferry was overnight, approximately 8 hours. Another hallelujah!

  • Melodies: can’t remember… birdsong
  • Miles: 63 (100 km)
  • Meals: hotel continental, pastries at Green Gables, lobster & crab at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Meltdowns: it was a good day!

Day 20: Moncton the Unremarkable

Not planning on staying in a Coastal Inn again. Our room was crawling with ants which the girls happily squashed all over and when J brought it up at check out the desk guy barely apologised and that was it. No upgrade to hot breakfast, no 10% off, no sincere concern on his part at all. Which means it probably isn’t a rare occurence.

Yuck.

Breakfast was another unremarkable continental. Our hotel was actually in Dieppe which is basically the French side of Moncton. The sides are separated by a large ring road/roundabout which we circled many times over the course of the day going from hotel to truck wash to this to that. Driving is becoming a bit of chore. Well, city driving anyway. The provincial driving is still beautiful and there is a lot to see. New Brunswick is lovely rolling hills, lots of trees, lots of rocks, lots of water… kind of like that Arrogant Worms song again…

J found a truck wash after dropping off the girls and was going to get change to start washing but he was already in his business clothes. The girl at the wash asked if he was going to do the wash dressed like that. J said yes, as he has been doing in all the other cities. And she said:

We have guys who will wash it for you.

J: How much is that

Girl: 7.50

J: Sev’n fiddy! Giver!

Moncton sits on the Petitecodiac River which connects to the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy has some of the highest tidal differentials in the world. In fact, the tides are so extreme that the rivers coming off the Bay exhibit what is called a tidal bore. Basically, the river flows in one direction during high tide and then changes direction during low tide. One of the best places to see the bore is Tidal Bore Park. M hoped to be able to see it around 10:30 am so that’s where J had dropped them off.

Except she had looked at the wrong day. The bore came in a 9:30 am. So no bore. Just a walk along the river in the misty wind. We’re in a funny part of the year where tourist season is just getting started in the Maritimes. The weather is really unpredictable and most tourist bureaus and visitor centres have just opened for the season. We travel like that – never in peak season but usually in the off or shoulder season: Oct, Nov, Feb, May. Why? We don’t know. It just always works out like that.

 J’s meeting was only a few blocks away so they walked into town to get coffee and a snack before meeting up with Dad. They found a lovely coffee shop (there seems to be at least one good one in each city that’s not Starbucks, Time Horton’s, or Second Cup) and had a drink with their leftover cake from The Happy Baker yesterday. Then they continued walking to find Dad.

Moncton is not nearly as charming as Fredericton but more modern and bustling. The City Hall is a modern building and the main road is a busy strip of traffic, business people, and office buildings. We found dad and the PT soon enough – he was just finishing up. Turns out J had to do some work on PT and need a Canadian Tire fast.

One thing we’ve learned about Canadian cities is that no matter how small they all have a Canadian Tire. Or two. Or three. It is Canadian after all. So we found one a J went into buy the parts he needed. Then he proceeded to work on the PT. And the girls huddled inside as it was windy and raining and cold. We are in the Maritimes after all. The weather changes constantly. Eventually M got the girls involved in a movie. And J continued to work.

When all was said and done a good two hours had passed in that parking lot. Wendy’s was had for lunch and then we finally headed up to Moncton’s famed Magnetic Hill. We followed some signs and eventually found ourselves at the newly renovated Magnetic Hill Winery. What a little treasure! The 1867 farmhouse was almost finished being restored and the owners made wine from everything but grapes – apples, blueberries, rhubarb… They were tasty wines and we are bringing a bottle home. The owner pointed us in the right direction for Magnetic Hill and we were off.

Please don’t ever be fooled by the notion of a magnetic hill. The story goes that your car will be “pulled” back up the hill by the magnetic force. So you pay your $5 (Yeah! $5!) to drive the little road, stop the car, put it in neutral, and marvel as your vehicle is pulled back “up” the hill. Only it’s really an optical illusion. Basically, when the view of the horizon is completely obscured by surrounding terrain one gets the sense that the hill is sloping upwards when in fact it is sloping down. So keep yer 5 bucks and go buy some wine instead.

So we left Moncton and headed to Halifax. As we neared Aulac, we remembered the kind tea shop man’s advice about the German restaurant. Well, it was getting around dinner time so we pulled off and found the Schnitzel Haus and a fine German meal we had. Sausages, spatzle, schnitzel, red cabbage… another one of these little finds that perk up the day. The girls even enjoyed their dinner and there was a table full of kids books and toys so we even ate in relative peace.

And onward to Halifax. We booked a hotel via Hotwire and ended up at the Holiday Inn in Dartmouth, just across the river from Halifax. It was very clean, modern, and the staff were very attentive. They sent up milk and cookies for the girls (who were still awake of course) and offered day passes to the Sportplex across the street. The girls ended up watching TV with their bedtime snacks and then snuggled down with mom for sleep while dad continued to work for a few hours.

Yes, hours.

Too bad you can’t bank sleep. You sure can bank exhaustion…

  • Melodies: Narnia: The Horse & His Boy, Marley & Me, Backyardigans Super Spy
  • Miles: 110 (175 km)
  • Meals: hotel continental, Wendy’s, German fare in Aulac
  • Meltdowns: we’ve stopped keeping track.

Day 18: an old city and a new province… and another time zone

We allowed ourselves to sleep in again. This is one capital in which J didn’t have a meeting planned. We had forgotten that it was the long weekend when he tried to book it and it never panned out to being the next day instead. Instead, J would do some work in the morning while M could do some walking and shopping. And the kids? E was to hang out with dad and C was to go shopping with mom. But first, breakfast. We had great breakfasts at a cafe we had wanted to try the night before. The meals were tasty and hot except the homefries were a little overdone. Each plate came piled with fruit which little C happily made her meal of. The J went back to the hotel room with E to work and M went shopping with C. It was hot in town again. Even hotter than the day before.

Have we mentioned how our packing is grossly disproportionate towards cool weather clothing? Poor little C. She does not do well in the heat. And she tries to escape the glare of it by covering herself with booboo. Which only makes her hotter. She relished the air-conditioned stores and devoured the mango gelato mommy shared with her. In one store, she was so happy to be running around that she ended up behind a mirror and a store clerk, a trendily-dressed, platinum-coiffed, metro-sexual Francophone picked her up and started asking ladies in the store if she was theirs. Mom was only a few feet away but turned towards a shelf of purses on sale (she does have weaknesses).  The young man finally spotted M as C reached out to her, and he babbled away to her in French, patting her head and saying something about petite. That was all M understood. C just grinned and basked in the attention.

We kind of forgot about lunch since breakfast had been so late and rather big. Plus the gelato had filled in that hole. Back at the hotel we packed up and got it all into the lobby where we were to wait while J went to get the truck from the parking lot.  The thing about the Manoir is that while the hotel has an elevator up the rooms from the lobby, the lobby is about 22 stairs up from the front doors which are at street level. And there is no elevator. Happily the valets and bellboys had let up keep our buggy in the lower entrance while we ran in and our several times over the course of the days, and a kind young fellow who was there each day that we were helped us with the bags up when we had arrived.

As we were bringing the bags down the stairs, C started to go down on her own. Not too much of a problem as she had done it several times before. E decided to take her own suitcase down the stairs but realized it was too heavy and tried to set it town. It careened town the stairs, headed straight for C. M and J both realized this at the same moment; J yelled and M bolted towards C in an attempt to either pull her out of the suitcases path or stop the suitcase before it knocked her flying down the second half of the marble-like stairs.

As M reached out she lost her balance and slipped down the stairs but still tried to head in C’s general direction to block the oncoming suitcase or at least break C’s fall. She managed to get some of her body below little C (who didn’t even realize what was happening) so when the suitcase finally hit her she didn’t go anywhere but just got a squished arm and a bit of a bonk on the head. M ended up with bruised shins, shocked joints and a scraped ankle. The pink Hello Kitty suitcase simply smiled on at us, unaware of the serious harm it could have inflicted. Little C was also unaware of how bad it could have been and upon looking up and seeing her mommy almost in tears and rubbing her shins, she crawled over and kissed her scraped ankle.

Magic moments…

The girls fell asleep promptly upon leaving the old town so J and M stopped at Presse-Cafe for sandwiches to go. They were really good for sandwiches, especially the roasted vegetable one. We also splurged on two pain au chocolates, one of M’s most favourite things. And these too were really good. Really, really good.

The drive to Fredericton was almost 6 hours and the girls slept a good part of it. We stopped  somewhere for gas, coffee and bagels so the girls could get in their PJs and stretch. Then it was still another 3 hours to Fredericton. The girls watched Ratatouille and then fell asleep on the rest of the drive through New Brunswick. New Brunswick is truly new territory for us. Every other place was familiar one or both of us, but neither of us have been to NB. The highway takes one right along the US border with Maine.  It’s a shame that we drove into town at night just because it is nice to see the lay of the land as you come in. However, we got to the Fredericton Inn after midnight and collapsed into bed.

  • Melodies: Narnia: The Horse & His Boy
  • Miles: 370 (600 km)
  • Meals: eggs and fruit and toast and great coffee at , sandwiches from Presse-Cafe, bagel at Tim Hortons
  • Meltdowns: a few again… keeping track isn’t easy anymore

Day 17: exploring our favourite place

We woke up in time for church! Everyone got dressed and out the door in time to go around the corner to Casse Crêpe Breton for yummy crêpes. Fresh strawberries for the girls and one with ham, egg & cheese, one with raspberries and chocolate for M & J. Délicieux! Then J went to move the truck for parking while the girls walked the five minutes to church. Only M turned the wrong way and was a little lost. Happily, we noticed J after a few minutes and found the church only a minute after that. Unhappily, the church had a sign on the door saying that the congregation was joining with another congregation for worship today. We almost abandoned our Reformed roots and headed off to the Notre Dame in the middle of town when M decided to Google the name of the other church which was printed on the sign. It turned out to be only a few minutes away and didn’t start for another 45 minutes so we headed over.

It turns out that there was a touring performing group called Victory Voices from Ontario and they were presenting their last show of their tour in the service at the Chalmers-Wesley United Church. Good thing because neither of the girls were interested in church otherwise! It was a group of middle/high schoolers doing a modern musical of Moses’ life from birth to the Ten Commandments. E’s interest was high; C kept saying, “Abatah (Avatar)” because Opa showed her a game on his iPhone from the Avatar movie and M has it on her iPod. “Abatah! Eyeee-pot. Me!” She sat watching if for awhile and spent the rest of the service gleefully running up and down the pew or the aisle. Happily the woman behind us what charmed by her and nobody minded her antics. The choir group was enthusiastic, the music was a cross between jazz and blues, and the narration and dialogue was humorous.  After the service we enjoyed refreshments in the church basement.

We headed back to the hotel so C could have a proper nap. J took E swimming – we haven’t been making enough use of the hotel pools that we’ve had access to. Then we had quiet time before going back out. We took the Funiculaire down and wandered around the lower old town. It was every bit as lovely and neat as we remember, perhaps even more so. E eventually fell asleep in the buggy and so we ended up at a restaurant for dinner in relative peace (that happens when one or the other or both are out…) the food was good and we were on the early side of the dinner rush so we left before the restaurant got too busy. E then woke up and we headed back up into the upper town for some wandering and eventually made it outside the old town gates to the Legistative Buildings. It must be the time of year for maintenance for many of the Legislatures we have visited have been covered in scaffolding. The night was mild, full of happy people, lights, horse-drawn carriages, and atmosphere. We had a good time. Back in old town we found  Trattoria de Mike’s for late night chocolate chaud and dessert. Then we went back to our hotel and settled into bed.

It is a funny thing to go back somewhere that one holds in very high regard in one’s mind. The first time we went to Quebec City was in late October of 2004. We were still newlyweds (just over a year married) and travelling on J’s first business trip for a conference that happened in the Frontenac, one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Canada. Because it was just after Thanksgiving and just before the Christmas pre-season the city was nearly deserted giving us the feeling that we had it all to ourselves. Even though many tourist attractions were closed the hospitality we experienced in all that was open was extraordinary and the culinary delights we experienced are still some of the best we’ve ever had. Of course, because we had no children, nor any notion of what having children might mean in our lives, we were able to give attention to each other and the city and the holiday that was complete and undivided. We were wholly absorbed in the beauty, history, and charm of Quebec City.  That trip still stands out in our minds as one of our best travelling experiences.

So it was with high expectations and fond, rose-coloured memories that we arrived in town. We were not only excited to be back in the city we loved but to share it with our beloved daughters. Only too soon did we realize that all of the things that made it such an exceptional experience the first time were different. It was the May Long weekend and the city was packed to the gills; we not only didn’t have the city to ourselves, we were just one family among dozens, one group among hundred, one buggy in a sea of tourists. The weather was not only sunny and beautiful but almost unbearably hot with the sun and heat reflecting off the cobbled roads and old stone buildings. Our dining experiences were not the gastronomic discoveries as they were in the simply because children, as Nigella Lawson put it, have very bad taste; even cultured, well-travelled children such as ours. Fries and burgers it is…

All was not lost though because being the analytical people we are, we came to understand where our snappy moods were coming from. Unfilled expectations can cause many unkind situations and this was the perfect example. So we talked about it and dealt with it. This would not be the perfect holiday in our perfect town. We were parents now. Buggy pushing, bib carrying, diaper changing, child dragging parents. And being a parent changes how one experiences things.  We cannot give undivided attention to each other or to absorbing the culture and history around us. We experience things filtered through our children, who are not excited by the same things as we are. And that’s ok. They remind that world doesn’t exist way up high. It also exists in the four feet of their existence, the same four feet that adults tend to forget about.

  • Melodies: church bells, street performers, Victory Voices choir from Ontario
  • Miles: hoofing it around town
  • Meals: crepes at Casse Crêpe Breton, lunch at church, duck confit at L’Échaudé, apple crisp and raspberry ice cream crepe at trattoria de Mike’s
  • Meltdowns: E-lots and lots. It was not a good day for E.

Day 14: Parliamentary Business

Little D and E spent the morning outside again. D noticed a humongous moth clinging to the screen door, so she and E started devising ways of getting it down and capturing it. D had a large stick – it was about 7 feet long – and was planning on knocking it down. E came up with a butterfly net and pulled up a deck chair to try to catch it. Except she only pulled up the chair partway – she was still about 3 feet from the door. It was quite comical watching them, sitting side by side in the chair after several failed attempts to get the thing. Finally D got it to come down and they girls watched it flutter and crawl around the porch. D ran off to get her Critter Catcher (a plastic basket with a trap hole in the bottom) to try to get it inside. The moth seemed to have a damaged wing (possible from the whacking of the stick and net…) and wasn’t having any liftoff success. It sure could run though. They followed it across the porch, saying, “Come on, go inside! Come on little guy, come in here!” trying to politely entice it into the cage. Its wings started to open up a bit and we got a good look at its “eyes” on the back of them. It really was a huge moth. D finally picked it up in her hands, very carefully, to put it inside and it finally got its liftoff right from her palms. We were able to see it fly almost all the way across the yard, it was so big. It almost looked like a bird. And so that was the science lesson for the morning.

Then we packed up the PT and said goodbye to our new friends. We headed into Ottawa for some lunch and a quick visit before the drive to Montreal. The girls, already exhausted from a morning of serious playing, fell asleep before we even got into town. So J & M pulled over a pho restaurant and J picked up some lunch which we ate on the steps of JW building next to the PT. Some people took notice of the PT as they walked by, but one group in particular looked a bit perturbed by the sleeping babes in the back with no adults nearby. Then the lady noticed M sitting a few feet away on the steps and asked what it was.

“It’s a prisoner transport. It was built in BC. We’re driving it to Newfoundland.”

She laughed and said, “Well, what is it now? I mean, it’s not a prisoner transport anymore, surely; have you converted it into a camper or…?”

“No, it’s a prisoner transport. It’s new. It was just built. We’re delivering it.”

She looked quite shocked, but then wished us a good trip and continued on.

Guess we’re a bit of an unlikely story.

After lunch, we headed towards Parliament Hill. Both girls woke up on the way so we pulled over again near a Starbucks (Yay!) to pick up lunch for them and coffee for us. Then we drove to the seat of government for our fair nation. And we headed in behind the buildings, into a lot marked “Parliamentary Business Only”.

M: J, we can’t go in. We’ll get pulled over, or arrested, or ticketed or something.

J: Stop telling me where to go. We’re on official government business.

M: Right. Who are you going to ask?

J: Those guards right there.

J pulls over and disappears for a few minutes, presumably asking if we can pull our unmarked, unknown vehicle in front of the Parliament buildings to “take a picture”. He returns and hops in.

M: Denied!

J: Not! They are sending a police escort for us.

So, yeah. We were escorted right up to the front of the building for a few pictures, after clearing it with the parking/security guards in the front of the building (different from the police escort). That police car left as another one pulled up behind us – our second escort to the other place for pictures. J was to give her the signal when we were done so we could go to the other spot. Where we got the first escort back to lead us off the grounds when we were done.

How does J do it? Sweet-talking people from coast to coast for favours and discounts all over the place.

Then we hit the road for Montreal. Thankfully not a long drive so we arrived just before dinner.Auntie  J & F were waiting for us with balloons on the front patio. Auntie J had prepared Moroccan lamb shanks and some of the best cheese ever. It was a repas gourmand. Then we watched the Habs win 5-1. Auntie J has never been a hockey fan. And now, she’s hardcore. She knows the stats, tThe name of the goalie and the crowd’s special cheer for him (Halac, Halac, I like it like that!), what a shutout is, and when the next game is on. It’s hilarious!

We fell into a peaceful sleep in our own room while the girls snored next door in their own beds.

Bonne nuit!

  • Melodies: Alice in Wonderland (last chapter!), Narnia: The Horse & His Boy, Casting Crowns, Ginny Owens
  • Miles: 150 (250 km)
  • Meals: bagels & coffee, Pho in Ottawa (protein plate for the girls from Starbucks – seriously, they love it.), Moroccan lamb shanks and excellent cheese (Saint Andre triple creme from France… drool!)
  • Meltdowns: J-0/M-1/E-3/C-1

Day 9: Land of a Thousand Lakes

  • Daddy: Who wants to get out of the bath?
  • Caelyn: Not me!
  • Mommy: Caelyn, did you eat Emma’s vitamins?
  • Caelyn: Yeah. Not me!

 The Comfort Inn in Kenora is all the things you want in a place to stay for a quick night short of having a pool (but they do give you passes to the rec centre doewn the street!). The staff is super-friendly and helpful, the rooms are comfortable, clean, and quiet, the parking is free, the breakfast included eggs, and the internet is wireless. It may not be upscale, heritage, modern, or hip but it does the trick in a pinch. The girls slept well snuggled up to their parent of choice and J got to sleep in.

M woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep (snoring little C next to me, squirming to get closer and pushing mommy off the bed…) so she got up before everyone else but after only a few minutes a tousled little head popped up and a very softly whispered, “Hi,” came from the bed. Little c was grinning away, waiting for mommy to notice her. C’s usually completely happy when she wakes up and this was no exception. So mommy & C got up and dressed and went to have breakfast. C loves hard-boiled eggs and guess what they had for breakfast? Hard-boiled eggs. She was very happy and walked around with her egg in a cup for all to see. We finished eating then brought coffee and a bagel for dad and E still snoozing away.

After packing up we hit the longest leg(s) of our trip. From Kenora to Timmins is something like 20 hours, with another 9 or so to Ottawa. Luckily, we’ve got Narnia! Today’s drive literally flew by because of it. E slept through some of it but we finished The Magician’s Nephew and moved onto The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and had to explain to her how the characters had changed. She kept asking for more Polly & Diggory in the Popsicles Of Narnia.

I’m not making this up!

We stopped for lunch in Dryden and as you enter town the dominating skyline is the gigantic paper mill, Domtar, on the mouth of the river leading into the huge Wabigoon Lake. We ate and played in Cooper Park, which is across the river from the mill. Mommy did some yoga, the girls played some soccer, Daddy tried both soccer and yoga and decided that soccer was more his thing. Then we packed back up for the drive to Thunder Bay. We pulled in around 8pm as we moved forward another hour and had dinner at Moxie’s.

Oh yea, it’s Saturday night in Thunder Bay! The place was hopping. Luckily, most of the hopping was on the bar and lounge side so we were relatively alone on the restaurant side. Which was good because what happens to little girls who sleep in a truck all day? The go LOOPY.

So now it’s 11:15 and we’re in our hotel and they are not sleepy. At all…

Daddy is showing Emma how to do a maze on the Moxie’s kids colouring page:

  • Emma: Why do we have to stay in the live ends? (and not go in the dead ends)

 

  • Melodies: Chronicles of Narnia – The Magician’s Nephew, Ultra Trance, Alice in Wonderland, MoneyLife
  • Miles: 310 miles (500 km)
  • Meals: continental at the Comfort Inn, picnic lunch in Dryden, snacks on the road, beef vindaloo & enchiladas @ Moxie’s
  • Meltdowns: J-1/M-1/E-2/C-3

Roadtrip Planning

I’ve settled (finally) on our online roadtrip planner. I’m using TripIt. After trying out many planners (Yahoo, Google Maps, TripTik, TripWiser, Rand McNally, Freetrip and a few others) I finally picked TripIt.

It’s still not perfect but it’s working so far. What I really wanted was a program where I could click on the cities/places on a map, put them in the order of visit, have the distance and time calculated plus routed on a map, and then place each leg of the trip on the right date.

TripIt lets me do all that without the clicking the places part. I manually type in the names of the cities and pick the date on which I plan to to do the travelling. It will then calculate the route, time and distance using Google Maps. Since we are making about 13 planned city stops (which have to be on weekday for business meeting) I have to be pretty meticulous about planning the time of day that we drive as well as the exact day we arrive or leave a city. It’s more of a Canadian Capitals tour than anything!

I am currently really excited by the trip. By 4pm I might be terrified again. Remember that I’m travelling this with two little kids (by little I mean 4 years and 2 years). Happily they are both girls, used to sharing a room, play very well together, and love adventure. We have travelled with them plenty of times – E had been on about 15 planes by the time she was 3 1/2 and C has been on about 12 in her 2 years. They don’t fly free anymore (we’ve only paid for E once) which is why we used to take them along on business trips all the time. Then again, we’ve only flown one trip with them both. All of the other trips were with each child separately. And we haven’t been real roadtrippers since we ourselves were children.

So we have magnadoodles, LeapFrog story pads (they each have their own), stickers, Colour Wonder markers & paper, a portable DVD player with some new shows (C’s birthday gifts provided some new entertainment), books, radio shows (like Paws & Tales and the Chronicles of Narnia), podcasts (for J & I!)… I’m sure we’ll be playing many hours of I Spy, Are We There Yet, and learning some much loved roadtrip songs (There’s a Hole in My Bucket, 99 bottles).

If you have any more tips or ideas for things to do or see while we’re travelling, I would love to hear them!