Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Ramblings – at Grandma Camp

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Since Reid is at Grandma Camp for three weeks, I have to rely on people to send me updates on what she has been up to. Occasionally – very occasionally – we manage to speak with Reid on the phone but she doesn’t like to tell us much. What happens at Grandma Camp apparently must stay there. This post comes courtesy of Aunt Karin.

On Sunday Reid and I walked up to Jacks for lunch, I voted for Car Barn but lost.  She had a chicken and bacon snack wrap and fries and cranberry juice to drink.  Before arriving at Jacks we had to go in the dollar store to look around.  She got a pair of flip flops like Sulienne and Lacey’s and a Canada Day fold out fan.  She could only eat half her wrap because she had to save room for triple chocolate ice cream in a cup for desert.  Uncle Dave was grateful for the left overs.

We came home and the heat and humidity were horrendous so Reid thought she should watch some TV.  Her and Dave immediately started watching some Science show on Public Television.  I said if they were watching TV I was going to lay down for an hour.  When I got up an hour later Dave had her on the computer playing games from tvo television about all the places in Ontario.  He said she wanted to do crafts but he told her he hasn’t had crafts in his house in 20 years.  She then asked him for a snack so he gave her a bear paw cookie and lime aid.  She was thrilled with the snack but only ate half the cookie and drank half the drink.

Dave had to go fix his mom’s computer and asked Reid if when he got back she would want to go for a drive along the lake all the way to Windsor to Suli and Ry’s, since she hadn’t been in the car long enough on Saturday, she thought this would be a cool idea.  We left our house at 3:30.  Before we left Wheatley, Dave stopped at Hillman Marsh beach (by the shoe tree) and Reid and I went wading while Dave skipped some rocks for her and found her a hundreds of millions of year old fossil (which they looked up on the computer the next day)  They found a great big yellow smiley faced Wal-Mart ball which they took turns kicking far out into the water but it kept coming back.  Dave showed her Point Pelee from this vantage point then it was time to move on but not far, we stopped in the thick of the marsh to admire some cranes then on again we went.  We tried to see Pelee Island when we got to the Municipal park in Leamington but we couldn’t make it out.

We meandered on to Kingsville where we had to get coffee at Tim Horton’s and of course Reid thought she should have another snack because it was already 5 o’clock and we still had a long way to go and maybe many stops to make before we made it to Windsor and Dave’s promised McDonalds supper (barf!)  So anyway she had a blueberry muffin and a small raspberry lemonade.  Not far out of Kingsville Dave again pulled over at a beach to show Reid Old Hen Island and explain to her about the Hen and Chicks Islands by Pelee Island.  He also pointed out Point Pelee from this vantage point.

On we go down back roads hugging the lake, through Colchester and by Aunt Pam’s house where we saw Donald’s new black car and Uncle John’s yellow truck but not Aunt Pam’s car.  Approaching Amherstburg we stopped at the mouth of the Detroit River where it spills into Lake Erie so Dave could show her a lake freighter and tell her how when they come up the Detroit River they displace so much water that were she standing at the rivers edge the water would rise past her knees as the freighter went by.  He showed her how strong the current in the Detroit River is that all the buoys are on an awful slant.  Finally into Amherstburg and Reid and Dave decided since it was 6:30 already we should just eat our supper at this McDonalds.  Reid ordered a Hamburger Happy Meal with her hamburger plain, it came with everything on it and she said “Oh well” and ate it without complaint, Dave and I were impressed.

We got back in the car and headed straight for Suli and Ry’s, where we visited on the back deck, played Holey board and got Reid’s bangs cut by Sulienne.  It was a late night but she survived.

Monday morning I had to take Carmel to the vet for a check-up (drop her off and pick up after work) and Reid to Uncle Chris’s. Boy did that bring back memories of having to drop kids at daycare and school before going to work.  Forgot her car seat in my car so her and Cheyenne had to walk to Melissa’s to play with the boys.  I took her car seat to Chris and Dar’s after work and she couldn’t even give me the time of day because she was too busy.  (A good thing that didn’t bother me in the least)  She stayed at Chris and Dar’s Monday night and Tuesday night and went to Melissa’s everyday with Cheyenne.

Tonight after work, I went to Timmie’s and got her a blueberry muffin to have her candle in because I know she doesn’t like cake, this made her happy.  She got a delicate watch with a picture of a dog on it from Sari, (Sari said she tried to find one with a cat but couldn’t), stickers from Linda and Jerry, a book, a Crayola craft thing and a journal from me, (she was impressed with the journal and immediately asked me for a pen)  The book is Diary of a Dork or some such thing, hope it meets with your approval.  Everyone else gave her money which I sent home with Mom along with all her cards.  I left the party before Reid did, but she is off to Aunt Pam’s till Saturday when Roger or I will go get her, oh and she misses you both terribly, lol, lol, lol.

On the road to Grandma Camp

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Uncle Roger and Auntie M picked Reid up on their way from St-Jerome to take her to Grandma Camp (as we call the time Reid spends in Wheatley and surrounding areas in the summer). Uncle Roger and Auntie M hadn’t been home since before their trip to Scotland and Ireland and Reid carries a lot of gear – clothing, books and sports equipment – when she travels and so we were glad for the stow-n-go seats.

It was sad to see Reid’s tears as we pried her fingers from around our necks and put her in her booster seat. Just look at her.

Reid in Uncle Rogers van

BlogHer, take 3

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I’ve been lucky enough to attend BlogHer twice and am gearing up for a third trip. For some reason, Ken was the one who discovered that BlogHer even existed - and that BlogHer07 would be in Chicago. He encouraged me to go and, of course, I took Reid. (I took Reid everywhere, she nursed until she was 4.) At my first BlogHer, I wrote that I’d finally found a playgroup that I wanted to attend and this sense of belonging has kept me returning.  Reid and I weren’t staying at the conference hotel, though, and so I headed back to see her, Aunt Karin and Shea as soon as the sessions ended each day. I attended only one evening party. Admittedly, the conference, expo hall and party schedule were all much smaller but I was at a point where being away from Reid for 8 or 9 hours was more than enough.

While I was in the conference, Aunt Karin, Shea and Reid saw the sites of Chicago. They had a wonderful time and I was a teensy bit jealous. I planned a vacation to Chicago in 2009, in fact, so that I could see some of the amazing sights that they had taken in. This might mean I’m like the kid who wants to eat the cake and have it, too.

Last year, I attended BlogHer10 and I sort of brought Reid. We arranged to go to New York City with Aunt Pam for five days before BlogHer started (I’d learned my lesson about not seeing the city the conference was in) and then Reid and Aunt Pam left while I stayed on. It’s a scary thing, kissing your child goodbye when you know that they’re going on an airplane without them. Statistically, flying is safer than driving but it’s a less familiar risk and I was worried. They got back to Grandma Joyce’s safely and weren’t troubled at all and I stayed on to attend the conference and many parties, kid-free.

For BlogHer11, I am blending these approaches. We’re going to arrive in San Diego on Monday and we’ll explore La Jolla, Legoland and other exciting venues (to be named later) together until Thursday. For the conference itself, I’m planning to attend the sessions, have supper with Reid and Cousin Sari (Reid likes people to have their “rank”) – unless they’re not done exploring whatever part of the city they head to that day – and then go back for parties. Anyone who is missing their kids will be welcome to join us for dinner.

I don’t think Reid will mind me leaving for the evening because she’ll have her super-cool cousin (who is at least 30, I’m a responsible mom) to hang out with. I think it will do me good to have a break from the unreality of the conference – it’s fun but it doesn’t seem entirely real – and also to get a bit of sensible food in me. I recall eating way too many canapés in lieu of supper last year.

While I’m in the conference sessions, Sari and Reid will see the sights of San Diego. We have a membership to the Canada Science and Technology Museum, which entitles us to free entry to more than 330 science museums in North America, including the Rueben H. Fleet Science Centre and the San Diego Natural History Museum and I imagine those will be on the list of places to visit. (If you don’t have a membership to your local science museum, I highly recommend one. It’s a great deal for so many reasons.) I’ve bought Go San Diego cards so that we can visit lots of places and not have the pressure of “it cost $$$ to enter, we’re staying” for the venues that aren’t as amazing as we thought. Sari and Reid will be able to choose from the list of 48 options. We’ll have Monday to got to the beach and then we’ll get our tired (and, hopefully, happy) selves onto the plane on Tuesday.

Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it. ;)

Do you have strategies for when you take your family to a conference? A story to share from having done so in the past?

Three reasons life is better at Grandma Joyce’s

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I took Reid to Wheatley last Friday for two weeks of “Grandma Camp”, as she calls it. Reid cried a bit when we left Ken and told me that she was missing him a couple of times on Friday. Aunt Karin told me about a conversation that she had with Reid:

Aunt Karin: So, you’re not going to see your mother for fourteen days.
Reid: know and I don’t care

I’m sure that she does care, at least a little bit, but not in a worried she’ll miss me kind of way. In any case, there were at least three points where I noticed that life would be better at Grandma Joyce’s. 

  1. Grandma buys ultra-soft, super-deluxe toilet paper. Don’t think, “quilted”, think “duvet”. The first tme she touched it, Reid exclaimed, “Mom, it’s so soft!” and then she added, “it’s fresh.” (I didn’t understand that, really.) If Will and Kate use softer toilet paper, it’s made of actual cloth.
  2. Grandma serves grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread. They’re golden brown, made with higher fat cheese and available on demand. Reid’s mama buys whole wheat bread and light cheese. She is boring.
  3. Grandma’s world is populated with many teens and adults who have, between them, lots of time to dedicate to Reid. She loves adult attention and having a teen talk to you is like having a rockstar speak with y0ou, when you’re not-quite-seven.

Life is better at Grandma Joyce’s. I hope that Reid still believes this at the end of 14 days. It’ll be okay if she is at least a bit glad to see Ken and me when we arrive, though.

A silly girl with a messy face and hands

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Guest post written by Reid, photographs by Barbara

Blowing eggs The beginning of the story: how it started. One day Reid was blowing eggs at her Grandma’s house for Easter.

Dipping eggs in dye Reid likes to hold the eggs in the bowl of dye instead of using the dye thingamajigger.

Dying eggs Once the eggs were dyed and dried, Reid painted them.

Painting eggs Look at how messy her hands are.

Cake batter After Reid was done dying eggs, she helped Aunt Pam with the cake for Easter.

Decorating the egg cake Reid put icing over top of the white icing that Mama had put on at first.

Egg cake is decorated The icing that Reid was putting on was the colours that are primary and one colour that was secondary and one colour that was tertiary.

See Reid’s hands and face! In the end, Reid was very messy.

Big cousin, little cousin

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Reid spends much of her time with Dylan, Zachary, Damien and Madisyn – her little cousins – but her big cousins are fun to be with, too.

Adam and Reid

View More Wordless Wednesday Participants, look at my previous Wordless Wednesday entries, or check out the cute babies and kids at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Mexico Getaway – Thursday to Saturday

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This installment gets us through our last days and home from Mexico. You already know the ending, I guess.

Reid and I had tickets to Xel Ha (pronounced shell ha) for Thursday. It’s a marine park with many water-based activities. Like Xcaret, there was a swim with the dolphins activity but we didn’t even consider it. The “Manatee Encounter” was tempting but only for a moment.

We tried snorkeling in the inlet when we first arrived but Reid said that the waves were too big. The waves were smaller than when we were out on Tuesday. I think that it was the absence of Jorge that made the biggest difference to Reid. She just doesn’t trust me. Le sigh. We made an attempt to cross a floating bridge at the mouth of the inlet. I couldn’t make it the full way, though, because I’m a scaredy-cat. Nothing more humbling than having to tell your kid that you’re too frightened to walk across a bridge. Next, we tried snorkeling farther from the mouth of the inlet, and I’d note here that I wasn’t getting seasick but Reid still wasn’t comfortable. We stopped at a buffet for brunch – or elevenses, as I think the Hobbits called it – since we’d eaten breakfast before we left the resort. I managed to keep myself to a snack but Reid ate pancakes, French toast, bacon and the like. It was the most she ever ate for breakfast.

We made our way to the start of the Xel Ha river for a natural lazy river ride. The park provided a double-inner tube for Reid and me to share. The first few metres in the mangrove forest were enjoyable but then the first couple passed us and Reid wanted to go faster. Not so lazy as competitive, my girl. I used my arms to “swim” to move us along more quickly but my feet were trapped under Reid to keep her from falling through. After the mangrove forest – forest seems wrong but mangrove grove seems worse – we floated past the “Cliff of Courage” where people were jumping from a cliff of about 10 feet into the water. Reid wanted to try it but I told her I thought she was probably not tall enough. She asked me if I’d do it but I confessed that I was too scared. Reid really needs a braver person with whom to hang out. We also drifted by a couple of ropes suspended above the river, one to walk on and the other to hold onto while you walk across. I thought that this activity was more our speed but Reid was content to watch others make the attempt. When we arrived at the first reasonable place to leave the river, Reid asked to do so. Floating along wasn’t providing the stimulation she wanted. We had a trek through a tract to trees to get back to the main walkways. The path was well-marked and we had to double-back a couple of times. It was an odd experience, being able to hear the people on the river and knowing the path was close but not finding it right away. I told myself I was much better at being lost in the “wilderness” than being on the bridge.

We stopped for a while at the children’s playground – not that the entire park wasn’t a place for children to play. Reid enjoyed the slide, climber and rope bridge just as much as she’d enjoyed the more exotic activities we’d tried. The familiar is fun and welcome in the midst of all the novelty, I guess. There was also a sunken fountain for splashing in and Reid played happily with the other kids, many of whom didn’t speak English.

We discovered an extra-large xylophone along the path. (Do you remember my surprise when Reid’s Kindermusik class got stir xylophones and I discovered that the iconic “xylophones” pictured in children’s alphabet books were actually glockenspiels because xylophones are wooden? I think of it every time I see an actual xylophone.) Reid was impressed; this xylophone was at least as long as she is tall. She tapped it with her hands and examined the resonating parts closely until the musicians arrived. When they started getting out mallets, Reid looked at them expectantly and one handed a pair of mallets to Reid. He showed her the different sounds she could produce and encouraged her to try a rhythm. The other musicians played a bit while Reid did her explorations. I was amazed that there were no other kids who approached to try their hand at playing or even to watch more closely. I asked what the instrument was called, expecting a particular Mexican name, but  the fellow said it was a xylophone. When I said that I’d expected another name because of the resonating chambers, he offered “marimba“. With that bit of precision achieved – and with 10 minutes of Reid “accompanying” the musicians accomplished – I dragged Reid away.

After yet another no-alcohol Strawberry Daiquiri, Reid’s favourite drink for our week away and one she referred to as a Strawberry Dac by the end of the week, we returned to the floating bridge. I told Reid that I thought I could walk across if we both wore life jackets while doing so. It was important to me to show Reid that it was okay to be afraid and to find ways to face the fears. Maybe it was important for me to show myself the same thing. We were the only ones who put a couple of the ubiquitous life jackets on and then walk away from the steps to the water. Holding hands tightly, we braved the bridge. Reid took a few pictures though they don’t show the way the bridge heaved, they prove we crossed it. On the far side, there was a Mayan cave, though what made it Mayan was never made clear to me. We swam into the cave, got our picture taken through the hole in the “roof” and swam back out. I spent some time searching for my plastic carry case on a belt – like a fanny bag but hard plastic and water resistant – that was supposed to be around my waist but wasn’t. Once I’d finally reconciled myself to a call to the credit card company to cancel my card, I took off my life jacket and found the case where it had been hiding, more of less at my shoulder blades. The expression a “rush of relief” is very accurate for how I felt. Reid had picked up on my stress and similarly shared the near-euphoric relief. We almost went to see the cenotes but there weren’t bathrooms in this part of the park and Reid needed on. We put our life jackets back on and crossed the scary, I mean, floating bridge once again.

We changed back into our shorts and t-shirts and headed to the front gate. At a couple points in the day, people had taken our pictures and so we wanted to check out the results. At $12 per 8X10, the pictures were a bit expensive but we bought some anyway. My favourite is one of Reid holding a lizard of some sort while a small parrot (or some small tropical bird) sits on her head. At first, you don’t notice the bird but when you see it, it is particularly cute. There was a pretty good one of the two of us, each holding a brilliantly-coloured bird, as well.

We found our van driver waiting for us in the parking lot and we were soon safely on our way back to the resort. Despite having left the resort 8.5 earlier, it seemed like our day had been quite short when we compared it to the nearly 12 hours we spent at Xcaret. It was nice to have supper with Ken and share the stories of our day.

We walked along the beach to our sister resort. It was pretty windy and the waves were rather rough but the warmth and sun made up for these deficiencies. Being cautious, we had Reid wear her life jacket for the walk and a couple of times Ken used the loop on the back to fish her from the surf. It was definitely worth the space it took in our luggage on this day and others. Reid got hit full in the face by one sandy wave and she wasn’t impressed with the last bit of our beach walk. I love, love, love walking along the water’s edge. Ken is less enthusiastic, especially since he worried more about Reid being swept out to sea.

At the resort, we checked into Reid being allowed back up onto the trapeze but the fellow on duty said that the wind was too strong for someone Reid’s size. I think she was disappointed at not being able to show Ken her trapeze skills but maybe also relieved at not needing to climb all the way up the ladder – or maybe I’m projecting. ;+) We hung out at the pool for most of the day since the Caribbean was no longer in favour. We watched an iron man race, during which the competitors swam a length of the pool, hopped out, drank beer, swam back, pulled a girl in a life ring, walked like a chicken and then shouted like Tarzan. It was too close to call a winner and so there was a belly flop contest to break the tie. Reid found it to be bizarre and asked “why”?” more than a few times.

We made sure to leave in time for everyone to get cleaned up for our Big Night. Reid was excited to have a babysitter come to our room and Ken and I were excited to go out to one of the à la carte restaurants sans kid.

We went to the Aztec restaurant, which was situated right next to a replica of a famous calendar stone, and ate traditional fare. The linen table cloths and formal waitstaff were a nice change from the buffet, as was the adult-only conversation. We finished our dinner before the babysitter was scheduled to leave and so I begged Ken to walk to the Starbucks that was just up the street. I was missing dairy products and knew I could get a non-fat hot chocolate at Starbucks. (Reid and I both missed the skim milk, yogurt and cottage cheese we were used to having. Even 2%, which they called “light” was too creamy.) Another time, I might book a sitter for a couple of evenings, since Reid had lots of fun and so did we.

We spent a good part of Saturday at the beach, building a castle and moat with Jaden, a boy we’d befriended, and another boy who never spoke to us at all but who let is join up his pool with our moat and even helped. We decorated our castle with seashells and coral and it was lovely. Reid never fussed at all about the rule that prohibits people from taking shells and coral from Mexico. She seemed to see the logic in leaving them behind for others.

We had to vacate our room at 1:00 but simply went to the pool with a beach bag once we’d stored our luggage and eaten our lunch. The water was a bit cool for my liking – the pool water wasn’t heated – but we splashed a bit and Reid swam. Near the end of the day, Reid and I went back to the beach to check on our castle, splash in the waves and play just a bit more. Ken finally had to gather all of our stuff from the poolside and frog march us back to the bathroom, I mean remind us it was time to go back to the bathroom and change. We ate a bit at the pool bar and then, sob, it was time to go to the lobby to wait for our bus. I used my bracelet to buy Reid and me another no-alcohol Strawberry Daiquiri to share – I learned to love the strawberry slushy goodness – and then it was over.

Except for the hour or so drive to the Cancun airport (a downside to being close to Xel Ha and Xcaret), the interminable line to check in and the wait for boarding. I gave Reid her anti-motion sickness pill as soon as we got to the lounge and she was asleep before take-off, which sounds amazing but was really 1.5 hours after her usual bedtime. Sunwing gave us supper at some ungodly hour but we were hungry and so Ken and I ate it. We both napped a bit but were awake when we landed at 2:45 am. Reid stayed asleep as I staggered with her down the plane’s aisle and out to the walkway, only to find that our gate-checked stroller was missing. The smiling Sunwing cabin steward said that we’d find it in oversize baggage. He never offered to help Ken with any of the things he was carrying – a car seat, two backpacks, a coat – since I couldn’t with my arms full of a very long child who was doing her best to stay asleep despite the adverse conditions. In fact, the smiling Sunwing fellow never even apologized for the inconvenience. It’s too bad, since until that minute I’d been very pleased with Sunwing and my last, maybe lasting, impression is that their customer service was lacking. Okay, I’m done ranting but it *was* 3:00 am and we did still have to stand in line at Customs and I am weak and Reid is heavy. Even once she woke up and, of course, she did because I jostled her so much as I adjusted my hold in an attempt not to drop her. It was ever so cold when we went out to the cab stand but the cab, itself, was toasty warm and the driver was friendly. I’ll have to plan all of my trips so that Uncle Roger can drive us to airport and we can return by pre-heated cab. I can’t imagine being among those who had to take a shuttle to long-term parking to get to their cars, scrape the snow and ice and then drive home.

Toronto is for ladies

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Despite her initial confusion over why only ladies were invited, Reid very much enjoyed the ladies weekend  in Toronto. A girl who is 5-and-a-half gets some perks when she hangs out with ladies who are old enough to have stopped keeping track of their age in fractions. Reid and I got a late start, thanks to her teachers scheduling the Valentine’s party for the afternoon. The others didn’t wait as long as they might have, though, thanks to killer traffic between Kitchener-Waterloo and the hotel. Not that I’m glad they were stuck in traffic. We finally rolled in around 10 pm, Reid asleep and me happily listening to a book-on-cd and found Aunt Karin waiting out front for us. Aunt Karin carried Reid in and I parked the car. By the time I got to our hotel room, Reid was snuggled onto the bed with Aunt Karin and Auntie M. Hooray! Except that she was watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and was most determinedly not falling back to sleep. Reid managed to stay awake until the Canadian team entered the stadium. I didn’t look at the clock. I didn’t want to know in case Ken asked me.

On Saturday morning we went to King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs at the Art Gallery of Ontario. LeeLee (aka Kailee) met us there, once we’d established that the Royal Ontario Museum was not the right location. It would have made for a much longer trip from her apartment if she’d gone to the ROM first. Thanks to my having bought a membership, we got to go to the shorter admission line. I *love* being a member of museums for this sort of perk. We had tickets for 10:00, which was the second time slot available. It was exceedingly crowded, even at that early hour. We basically shuffled along in a great line from artifact to artifact. The people who’d rented the audio guides acted as speed bumps even at the slow pace we were moving since they had a set piece of text to hear and were impervious to the pressure to shuffle along like the rest of us. We saw many beautiful things, including a coffin for a cat and a commode with a stone seat but, from Reid’s perspective, the free admission reflected what should have been charged. There were too many people and it was too difficult to see the artifacts, have a discussion and move on to the next. I suspect that the others who didn’t have a small one in tow enjoyed it more. I did like what I saw and was glad that Reid is an experienced museum-goer who behaved well in the crowd but she was definitely eager to move through rather quickly. Being the first of group to finish had the benefit of giving Reid and me lots of time in the gift shop to try on a variety of Egyptian headress – done in cloth and sequins and another line in cardboard. For some reason, one of the clerks said we weren’t allowed to use the flash on the camera. It struck me as beyond silly but since we were playing with stock with no intention of purchasing anything, we complied. After a brief interlude of colouring with Brianna, Reid and I headed downstairs to “Off the Wall”, the kids’ activity area while the others took in a gallery or two. They never mentioned any paintings or other works of art, though, so maybe they all went out for coffee. Reid and I played and I remembered why I like “Off the Wall” so much. The activities are engaging but you don’t end up bringing anything with you, which is always a pleasure when you have enough crafty treasures in your life already.

We had lunch at Jack Astors and then most of the big girls went shopping while Reid, Aunt Karin and I went back to the hotel for a swim and to get my car. Reid would have been content to spend the whole day at the hotel pool. She is like that. We met back up with everyone in time to walk to Reid’s and my favourite Ethiopian restaurant, whose name I don’t know, to eat foods from the sampler-type vegetarian platter, whose names I also don’t know. Reid was over the moon in love with some green lentil stew and my taste buds were all around happy. One day we’ll have to try one of the Ethiopian restaurants in Ottawa. Reid and I returned to the hotel right after supper, with an expensive detour on the 407 when I took the exit before ours. There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re making a $20 mistake but not being able to stop what you’ve set in motion.

On Sunday morning we ate our breakfast (I love the Holiday Inn Express breakfasts, by the way) and then Reid and I went swimming again, with Aunt Karin along for moral support. Reid demonstrated her sideways way of entering the water – a skill she is learning for swimming the session, though I don’t know what good it will do her – and Aunt Karin tossed her into the water a couple times and then encouraged her to jump in and do cannon balls to splash me all by herself.

We went to the Free Times Café for their amazing Bella Did Ya Eat breakfast buffet. The blintzes and salmon and lox and all the rest are so yummy that one doesn’t notice the lack of bacon, ham, etc. There was a Yiddish folk singer in the back room where we were sitting – where you should always try to sit – and Reid even got to participate in one of the songs. The singer explained her songs in English and the fact none of us speaks Yiddish was no barrier in the least. The rhythm and spirit of the songs transcended language. We shopped a bit on Bloor Street and then went to see LeeLee’s new apartment, with a stop at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky shop along the way. Red Lobster sang it’s siren song and so we went there for an early supper before getting on our respective roads home. Reid can eat an amazing quantity of shrimp! It’s probably a good idea, from my wallet’s point of view, that I take her out for this type of food only when we’re on vacation. Not that Reid doesn’t point out the Red Lobster we see in Ottawa.

Reid cried for nearly 10 minutes when we left the other ladies. She was tired and sad, an awful mix. We made good time on our way back to Ottawa and the drive reminded me why I like to meet mid-way between Ottawa and Windsor.

Mexico Getaway – Tuesday to Wednesday

Monday, February 8th, 2010

We had tickets to visit Xcaret (pronounced sha-caret) on Tuesday but Ken was still too sick to go. Being the frugal sort, I asked for the meal and drink tickets that accompanied his non-refundable admission. They meant extra snacks to share and a second meal for me. The bus picked us up at our resort at 8:20 and we were at the front gates by 9:00. With twelve hours of amusing Reid ahead of me, I decided that we should sign up for the short “swim with the dolphins” session and snorkeling trip. Ken says that, based on all of the brochures from dolphin swim companies, swimming with dolphins was inevitable but I never consciously decided it until there at the front gate.

We got our bathing suits on and walked straight to the dolphin enclosure for our class. We were early enough in the day that there were only 8 participants (including us) than the usual 10. “Our” dolphins were named Ilaan and Xiika and were 5 years old. Reid wasn’t as impressed as me by this latter fact since she is 5 *and a half*! Apparently 5 and 5.5 are not close enough to be interesting. We got the standard dolphin kiss – I did mine wrong; Reid looked like she practiced for ages – at the beginning and then kissed them and held out our arm for a nose bump. Then, the trainer sent us out to line up and be jumped over and we also formed a circle while holding hands and a dolphin swam around quickly to create a whirlpool effect. Each pair of us also got to “talk” to the dolphins with our hands to get them to do a trick. The session finished with the dolphins swimming among us while be pet them on their bellies or backs. Dolphins feel like nothing else I’ve ever touched. They’re springy or spongy, a bit like a wetsuit but not the same texture at all. They’re not scaly like fish or smooth like my skin. I’d highly recommend the 30 minute dolphin swim, if you ever get the chance. (I don’t know exactly what else is included in the 60 minute session, other than a “foot push” but I can’t imagine that it’s worth the extra money – refer to me being frugal above.) Once we were out of the water, we were shown a video and pictures from the session. Digital video and still cameras must seem a godsend for such people. I was feeling sad that Ken hadn’t been there and also I’m an easy mark for such things, especially since there was a special price if I bought the video AND the pictures (not sure that qualifies as frugal).

Afterward, we went to get our snorkeling equipment and then had a quick buffet lunch before our boat set sail. Technically, the captain turned on the engine but there is no romance in that. It took about 20 minutes to get to the dive spot and we had 45 minutes scheduled to dive. Reid was the only small kid on the boat and this led to us having our own guide, Jorge, who was completely and totally amazing at teaching her how to snorkel and what to look at. He fed some fish so that they’d swim around them and even let Reid give some food out, too. Reid was delighted to “pet” the brilliantly-coloured fish. We saw beautiful coral and Jorge also found a sea star and some sort of sea urchin for Reid to hold. I mostly trailed along behind them and figured out what was going on as best I could. Until I finally had to announce that I was feeling seasick and needed to go back to the boat. We arrived only a minute or two before the rest of the group but I still felt sorry for cutting Reid’s adventure short. I’ve been snorkeling at sea twice and been sick both times. I should probably stop trying it. But I love what I see when I snorkel. Well, right up until I see the vomit, anyway. The boat ride back to Xcaret was uneventful (thank goodness) and we took a break in some hammocks near the water’s edge until my stomach settled. Reid was solicitous and tried to take good care of me in my moment of need.

Once I recovered, we walked to see the Mayan village. There were traditional crafts for sale and artisans working on them. I bought a dress for Reid and another for Reid. Hers is cream-coloured with bright embroidery. I was probably crazy to buy Reid a cream-coloured dress but it’s so traditional and so pretty. I just won’t let Reid eat or play while she wears the dress, I guess. We tried on some sombreros and Reid tried to persuade me to buy a chair-hammock to hang on our porch. We also spent a significant amount of time in a cemetery. The graves were arranged in a spiral going up a hill and were decorated with cement and/or wooden sculptures and were brightly-coloured. “Bright” was the word of the week. On our way back through the village, we saw a dance story being performed. I didn’t understand any of the words and there was no explanation but it had something to with fire. Reid was concerned for the dancers, who were handling fire, but they didn’t seem to be hurt.

We ate supper at a buffet restaurant featured traditional Mexican foods. Ordinarily this would have appealed to me but my stomach wasn’t up to it. For her part, Reid was too tired to want to try new foods. On our first pass, she chose Mexican rice, cucumbers, grapes and bread. Knowing I would be paying $14.95 for Reid’s dinner made me a bit crazy but it wasn’t worth a fight. When I went up for my dinner, though, I found shrimp and Reid ate at least $15-worth. The restaurant was next to the horse show and we had a table right beside the performance area. It was a great way to wind down before heading to the evening spectacle. The guide that had accompanied our bus from the resort had recommended the restaurant and the timing, as well as the times for the dolphin swim and snorkeling and he was a brilliant planner.

The evening show, lasted from 6:00 to 8:00 and represented Mexican history from the Aztec and Mayan periods, through contact with Spaniards and to present. The first half included a ball game in which the players moved the ball around with their hips and managed to get it up sloped sides and into a ring suspended from the side wall, just about at waist-height and perpendicular to the floor. Reid and I were amazed that they scored. Next, there was a game that was played with what looked to be hockey sticks and a burning ball slightly smaller than a volleyball. This was also impressive, with the speed that the ball moved about in the dark and the added element of danger of burning. The second half had many different dances and songs. I most liked the fellow with the cello who danced with his instrument as easily as the fellows playing the guitars and fiddles did. Reid and I were both enchanted by a dance where men with canes and old man masks danced and jumped around at high speed. It was even more fun at the end when they took off their masks to reveal themselves to be men with grey and/or balding hair. I asked if Reid could imagine her grandpas or grandmas dancing like those men and she giggled. By the end, Reid was stretched out with her head on my lap. “If I don’t blink or talk, it means I’m asleep,” she told me when I asked if she was planning on going to sleep. As her questions slowed, I made her walk to the top of the stairs and stand and then we left in the middle of the last song. I didn’t want to have to carry Reid to the bus and it was nice to miss the crowds in the bathroom. We got back to the resort shortly after 9:00. I’m not sure exactly what it cost us to go to Xcaret but I do know it seemed a good deal for 13 hours of entertainment. Unfortunately, I hadn’t communicated the length of the excursion clearly to Ken and he was a bit worried by the time he met us walking on the path to our room. Poor man, feeling sick and wondering where his womenfolk were.

We had a fairly quiet day on Wednesday. Ken was feeling better and joined Reid and me for breakfast. And for an interrogation, it turned out. He brought a plate with a couple of kinds of buns on it to the table. Reid looked at the plate carefully and demanded (not asked – demanded), “Where’s your protein? What fruit or vegetable are you having?” I explained that his stomach was still grumbly and he couldn’t eat much yet. Reid takes seriously the need to eat three of the four food groups at breakfast. I’ve taught her to make it easier for her to request what she wants – I hate meal planning and don’t see any harm in sharing the burden. Except when she grills her dad on his food choices. Couldn’t resist the pun, sorry ;+)

The beach was unblocked and so we were able to play at the edge of the surf, though the water was too rough for swimming, and build our castles with sand that had been wetted by nature instead of my cup (my trick from Monday). Reid likes to be buried in holes in the sand. She has since she was little. The idea creeps me out but it’s always a good diversion for her. We built a sea monster from sand and decorated it. Ken had to nudge me a bit to let Reid “help” me. Her artistic vision and mine don’t always match and I sometimes forget that I’m required to act like a mom. ;+) We showered off and went swimming in the pool after our creation was finished. Reid prefers swimming in the pool; I like the waves – like swimming as a kid in Lake Erie but much, much warmer!

Mexico Getaway – Saturday to Monday

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I’m so tired as I write this – our plane landed at 2:30 am on Sunday and we didn’t get home until 4:00 am – but I have to say that our week in Mexico was totally worth it.

When Ken was getting close to the end of his French training, he mentioned going away for a week. It seemed like we’d be jinxing ourselves if we planned anything, though, and so we had this vague plan to go somewhere warm and sunny. Once we got the results from his oral exam, I called a travel agent to get some options and, when Ken’s passport came (early even – an omen to be sure :+), I booked our trip. Five days later, we were being chauffeured to the airport by Uncle Roger (hooray for brothers!) to catch a plane. The temperature was minus 20-something in Ottawa .

We’d bought a Sunwing Vacation package. It was nice to fly in and out of Ottawa direct. The last time we flew through Toronto and I couldn’t bear the thought of doing so with Reid in toe. The Sunwing flight started with a small glass of champagne – which Reid doesn’t like, I learned – and included a hot meal. The meal wasn’t anything fancy but it wasn’t bad and was the first meal I’ve had on a North American flight in a long time.

Ken, Reid and I had seats altogether. Reid was in her car seat – the only kid on the plane in one – which defined her space and gave her arm rests of her own. She never asked to be unbuckled. I think she is so used to being restrained in the car that it didn’t occur to her. Ken was also restrained, though a lot of that is due to the fact that his knees touch the seat in front of him when he sits upright. I, on the other hand, rest my feet on carry-on baggage because my legs are too short.

Reid asked lots of questions about the plane, where we were going and what we’d be doing and then she asked to watch videos on my iPod. Those old-style headphones that I bought when I was pregnant so that she could listen to classical music in utero while I watched tv are earning their price. (And, yes, I realize now how uptight I was when I was pregnant.) Finally, Reid fell asleep in the middle of a video. Just before we landed, we hit turbulence and Reid half-woke, pulling at her ears. I couldn’t convince her to swallow or drink. Poor kid fussed like a baby for a few minutes and fell back asleep.

I lugged Reid off the plane, still sleeping. She is getting very long for me to be carrying. I think that I’m only 40 centimetres taller than Reid, if that. We popped her into her umbrolla stroller, which she is also almost too tall for but given the times for our flights we used it. The lovely people who work at Immigration in Mexico pulled families out of the line to go through faster. What a treat! We found our bags, got a “green light” that sent us through without a Customs inspection and stumbled to our bus. The plus 20 temperatures were a shock to the system but I wasn’t about to complain! Reid woke up for a bit but soon fell asleep and was eventually carried into the resort still asleep.

I suspect Ken had hoped that Reid would sleep in a bit on Sunday and she did if you were considering Ottawa-time instead on Mayan Riviera-time which is an hour earlier. We found our way to the buffet restaurant and ate the first of many outdoor meals. I loved eating outside. There seems less pressure to enforce “restaurant manners” on Reid. When she had finished her meal, she was free to wander the courtyard, checking out the fountain, the trees, the birds and whatever else caught her attention. I tried to convince Ken to have a Bloody Mary or coffee with liqueur in it – I don’t remember ever seeing such options on a buffet – but he wouldn’t let me live vicariously through him. After breakfast, we walked about to get the lay of the land and discovered that there was no access to the water. There were sunbeds set up on sand and then bright orange fences that blocked off an area with mounds of sand and big machines and workers who were moving the sand around and then, finally, there was the water’s edge. The Mexican government is working to rebuild beaches damaged during hurricanes a couple of years ago. Some of the others at the resort were angry but it didn’t seem the sort of thing anyone could control and the pool *was* open. The pool wasn’t heated, though, and seemed a bit cool when you first got in but it was always a welcome cool since the days were so warm. The first day we swam before lunch and after a nap. Reid would have gone back after supper but I was too tired.

On our second day, we went down the road about three or four resorts to our “sister resort”. There had been a rumour that we would be able to access the Caribbean Sea from their beach but it turned out to be false. Still, we built castles on the sand and listened to the waves. We also swam in the pool and ate at their buffet. Ken wasn’t feeling well and went back to our resort after lunch while Reid swam a bit more and relaxed in the hammocks. (Note to self: if ever we move houses, I want to have a hammock.) When we got back to our room, it was clear that Ken was very sick, probably with food poisoning, and so Reid and I made ourselves scarce until bedtime.