Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Riding the rails play-by-play

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

6:31 – We’re on the train, in our seats with the tables open in front of us. Reid has many questions, about how I knew what seats we were in, what the leather bits at the top of the seats are for (we called them antimacassars when I worked at Woodside National Historic Site but I don’t know if the Victorian term has stuck), whether the engineer wears a seatbelt and if so what if s/he needs to go to the bathroom. Reid was pleased that she has the window seat so that she can see out and so that she doesn’t have to sit beside someone she doesn’t know. She added that she does like to look at old people. I’m hoping the 50ish man across from us doesn’t realize she meant him when she said this.
6:40 I asked Reid if she could sing in a whisper. The look she gave me was equal parts surprise, insult and confusion. I explained that some people were probably trying to go back to sleep and mystification took over. Sleep, now? The adventure is just beginning!
6:46 And we’re off. The car we’re on is mostly full.
6:58 Reid has found markers in her backpack and is turning her garbage bag into a hand puppet.
7:01 The snack lady stopped by for a visit. We bought a chocolate chip-banana muffin (it almost seems healthy with the banana) and an apple juice. When the hand puppet is finished, the snack will provide a diversion. The man behind us chose a bag of chips. It seems a much less healthy choice for this time of the morning but I remember reading that people should think of muffins as “fat sponges” and maybe it’s no better than the chips.
7:17 Reid asks, “Mama, can I watch your iPod.” I remind her that she meant to say “may I” and she rephrases her question.
7:18 Before I’ve had a chance to take my iPod from my pocket, Reid is asking where “the” iPod is. Having been a student of French, I’m aware of the importance of articles. It’s a family resource now, I guess.
7:55 I convinced Reid to pause the video and come to the bathroom. Her bladder is much stronger than mine.
9:36 After Dora, Diego, Super Why and Sesame Street podcasts, the iPod has outlived its attraction. Its now time for Reid to recline her chair, adjust the tables, rinse and repeat.
10:43 Time for Princess to have a nap. Reid says she is going to have one, too, and I’m afraid she will. We’re too close to Toronto for her to sleep and awake refreshed. She’ll be grumpy if she falls asleep and I won’t be able to carry her and our bags.
11:11 We calculate that we have 15 minutes before our train is scheduled to arrive.
11:13 Reid hits the wall. When I refuse to let her change the rules of I Spy in the middle of my turn, she starts to cry.
11:18 I’m banned from playing again for seven months. Reid doesn’t know all of the months in order consequently, my punishment doesn’t include January, February, March, April, May or September. Next we’ll be talking about briar patches.
11:26 On time arrival in Toronto. Hooray.
11:36 Veggie burger for me, original for Reid, fries for both of us from Harvey’s. The 5-minute wait for a veggie burger dragged into 10. I complained and ended up with a free meal. We had to hurry to catch our train I would have rather paid and had my food in 5 minutes.
12:45 Nap time. Please, please, please.
1:13 Reid asks to sit on my lap
1:16 Must. Pee. Now. I thought she was faking but I don’t play Russian roulette.
1:21 Start of 15 snuggly minutes. No sleep but actual rest.
3:05 Reid has made friends with the 11-month-old girl in the seat in front of us. They’re non-napping comrades. We’re almost to Chatham and I am looking very forward to seeing Melissa and her boys.
3:31 We made it safely to Chatham. Now for the craziness that is my side of the family.

Why we’re going back to the Great Wolf Lodge again this year

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Reid and I were talking last night about how in only 6 days, we’ll be at the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. She said:

The water slides are fun. The storytelling tree is fun. You can be noisy and the staff won’t mind. It’s the kind of place you’re supposed to be noisy. And the decorations are cool.

Reid returned to the subject of being noisy at the Great Wolf Lodge and I agreed, with only a small caution about not being *too* noisy but she is correct. It’s a family-oriented hotel without doubt. For an adult, the decorations might sometimes slide from “cool” into “kitch” but for a kid, the animal silhouettes on light shades, the animated forest creatures on the wall over the fireplace and all the rest are a non-stop delight. Once we add in people from Wheatley and Leamington, it’s obvious that the Great Wolf Lodge is a great place to be.

For the record, Reid also knows that it is a convenient place to stay. She told her teacher that it’s half way between where her aunt lives and where we do and so it’s a good place for us to go. This is proof, to me, that she is always listening since I’m pretty sure that I’ve said something similar myself.

Now if only the Great Wolf Lodge would hire Reid to be write advertisements for why people should go there… We’d take payment in free nights lodging.

Ain’t missing me at all

Friday, August 21st, 2009

When Reid was in Wheatley in July, she really wasn’t interested in speaking to me on the phone. At one point, someone told her, “but Mama misses you.” Reid’s response was, “Mama misses me because I’m all that she has but I have my cousins and grandma and everyone and I’m busy.” I think we’re at the same point in this week away. I’d love to hear from Reid and she is busy again. Until I see her tomorrow, I’m going to wander around with the fragment of Tina Turner’s “Missing You” running through my head:
I ain’t missing you at all
Since you’ve been gone away
No matter what my friends say.

Poor, poor me, forgotten so easily.

And lucky, lucky Reid to have such good relationships with all of you in Wheatley, Leamington and Windsor. And Harrow. If I forget to say “Harrow”, Reid adds it. Sometimes we remember Tilbury, too, but sometimes we forget – not that we ever forget you, Sari. And I’m not even sure where Chantelle lives.

Chicago, day 2

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

We had breakfast and then a swim, just to start our second day in Chicago off right. I’ve been assured by some parenting magazine that you don’t need to wait half an hour after eating and, since I needed a prod to get the kids focused on eating their breakfast, I chose to accept this advice. We were kind of slow though and ended up rushing to the Adler Planetarium. On the way, Dylan said that he liked Chicago a lot but it had no swings and he really likes swings. I made a point of keeping my eyes on the lookout for swings but we never did see any.

We got to the Adler Planetarium at about 9:58 for Elmo’s 10:00 walk around. Really, he was standing at the end of a line-up corral waiting for kids to come and have their picture taken with him. We were behind only four other families and that made it worth that spurt of rushing. There was an extra fee for viewing the One World, One Sky movie, or I should say there was a fee since our admission was covered by a reciprocal agreement that’s part of our membership to the National Museum of Science and Technology. The 23-minute film, which was projected onto the dome-shaped screen, was magical from the kids’ point of view. There was enough motion that I had to close my eyes for a bit so that I didn’t throw up. Reid asked me a couple of times if our chairs had moved. She’s never been to a movie in a cinema since Aunt Karin took her to the first 90 seconds of The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. After the movie, I told Reid and Dylan that Elmo was a  newcomer to Sesame Street and they seemed dubious. Elmo, who was on his way back to his room for a rest, overheard and looked disdainful. Okay, he had the very same expression as he always does, since his head has no moving parts but I imagined he thought I was old school and not in a good way. I noticed in our conversations that Reid refers to the big yellow bird as “Big Bert”. I told her the correct pronunciation but she is having trouble making the change. Habits are hard to break.

We looked at a few displays, including one of the robots sent to explore Mars, and did a couple of crafts. First, the kids attached a view of the globe to a paper that showed night and dark to help them see that when it’s dark in Beijing, it’s dark in Chicago and vice-versa. It’ll be good to use the next time that Ken is Afghanistan. They also decorated tubes to represent new modules for a space station. It’s pretty close to how they add on to the International Space Station. We also spent time admiring ourselves in some distortion mirrors that represented the effects black holes have on the space around them. Or at least I think that’s what we were supposed to learn.

After lunch we walked along the steps near the planetarium and then along a lake front path, searching for the Field Museum of Natural History. We stopped at a small park that was astronomy-themed. The kids climbed and played while Uncle Chris and I rested in the shade.
Once we were seated, we noticed that the Field Museum of Natural History was just across from where we sat. In the Crown Family Playlab, Reid dressed up as a couple of different animals – she can’t walk by a costume, my girl – and they examined some artifacts, including a mask, chest plates, etc. Reid sat and filled in a scientist’s observation sheet about two different kinds of fossils. She had to record the measurements, the name, etc. and draw the fossil she was observing. I’m going to try to remember to make and take a sheet like that the next time we go for a walk in the woods. Reid and Dylan looked in some drawers that had some artifacts in them and then moved into the dinosaur area. Dylan, in particular, enjoyed the dinosaur puppets. We went to the main part of the museum to see Sue, the world’s largest, most-complete Tyranosaurus Rex, galleries of taxidermied animals in small tableaux – old school for a nature museum but I prefer them to newer displays which rely on computer screens and videos and less on the majesty of the natural world. (Like is being done at the Canadian Nature Museum)  Reid and Dylan flitted from one to next, tableau to the next. We would have spent more time if we’d started at the Field Museum and we’ll definitely go back another time.

We went looking for a bus but they were, rerouted due to Taste of Chicago and we ended up walking about an hour back to hotel. I suspect that we may well have spent the same time in a bus because of the heavy traffic. I encouraged the kids to sleep in their strollers while Uncle Chris and I pushed them along. Dylan resisted the motion but Reid succumbed and she napped with her head flopping around, poor thing.

We had supper at Heaven on Seven, a Louisiana-style restaurant. We started with bread with sweet butter or bean spread. Uncle Chris and I each had a bowl of gumbo and then shared a Taster plate of beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs, bbq chicken with sweet potato polenta, coleslaw and black beans and rice on the side. We’d asked whether there was enough food to share and the waitress assured us we’d probably have food to take with us. She was right. Reid and Dylan each ordered cheese burgers and fries and got an ice cream sandwich for dessert, though Reid sent hers back unopened. I’d definitely go back to Heaven on Seven but I’d try to entice Reid to try some Louisiana food.

Everyone was ready for bed by the time we got back to the hotel. That’s a good way to end a day of touristing, isn’t it?

Chicago, day 1

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Dylan spent the night with us on Thursday so that we’d increase our chances of getting out the door on time. I’d worried a bit about the kids not going to sleep because of the anticipation of our trip. My worry was doubly misplaced. Dylan is the most determined and business-like kid when it comes to going to sleep and Reid was tired enough to settle once I laid with her. On the other hand, I woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got out of bed at 3:30 and snuck out to do some last minute surfing. I was calculating the amount of money we were going to save by visiting museums and using my membership card from the science and technology museums in Ottawa, when I stumbled on the site for the Adler Planetarium, which I’d dismissed as too old for the kids, and discovered they have a Sesame-street themed exhibit. There was a good reason for me being awake, I guess. Needless to say, I got everything into the car, even the kids, by 5:00 and we were pulling out of the driveway as the clock on the dashboard changed to 5:00 am. I’d have left early but poor Uncle Chris didn’t deserve to suffer from my inability to manage my excitement.

Reid and Dylan were drowsy when I put them into their seats but wide-awake by the time we hit the main road. As I drove to Leamington, they were exchanging “guess what …” statements about school and soccer and life in general. We added Uncle Chris to our merry band and headed for Windsor. After a quick pit stop, which made me wonder how many of these we’d need on the trip, we went through the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and spoke to the US Customs Official. For a long time. He didn’t ask about why we were driving someone else’s vehicle, as we’d expected but there were many other questions about where we were going, who the kids were, who they were to each other and us, etc. Uncle Chris said – and was absolutely correct – that the level of scrutiny would be appreciated if your child were missing. It was worth it for us, too, then. The kids fell asleep just outside of Detroit and that boded well for our day.

We got to the Lincoln Park Zoo about noon, or maybe 11:00, I have trouble with time changes.  Since the zoo doesn’t charge admission, there are many entrances and we were lucky enough to get a parking spot just opposite one. We got the kids into their umbroller-style strollers, added CamelBak water backpacks. The about-to-enter the zoo photos show Dylan and Reid sucking on them, just like the ones from the Toronto Zoo last year. There were a number of hands-on discovery carts throughout the zoo. A guide explained to the kids about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores using a series of animal skulls and a human skull. Another let them hold a few different horns and antlers and showed them pictures of the animal that matched the horn/antler. They have all of the usual animals, except elephants. The enclosures aren’t as big as at newer zoos but the animals seem well-cared for. The small size makes for a more manageable walk. Dylan and Reid rode on the 4-car train that runs in a circle and loved it. Dylan is train obsessed and wanted to go again but we didn’t. On our way to the car, we stopped and rode the endangered animal carousel. We were lucky to get on the last ride of the day – they were quitting early because of a concert being held at the zoo but I hadn’t realized that. The kids had asked about riding the carousel several times and each time I’d said that we’d go at the end since it was close where we parked (and because I didn’t want any objections at leaving). I was just about hoisted my own petard!

We drove along Lake Shore Drive to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. The traffic was heavy but it gave us time to gawk at the boats and beaches. I checked in while Uncle Chris and the kids got our bags and things out of the van. The hotel is one of those that only the bell staff are allowed to drive the luggage carts. Riding on luggage carts is one of the highlights of staying in a hotel, in Reid’s mind. We got settled and then went to Buca di Beppo for supper. The fellow who seated us at Buca di Beppo walked us through the kitchens so that we could see the places where they baked the bread, prepared the entrees and salads and dessert. The kids got chicken cacciatorre and spaghetti and Uncle Chris and I split an order of lasagna. The entrees on the regular menu were set up for 2-3 to split or 3-4 to split. I don’t know what happens if you’re dining solo or with someone whose tastes are widely different. We dragged our tired selves back to the hotel and I wasn’t at all sad that we’d decided against the Art Institute of Chicago‘s free Friday evening. It’s still on my list of things to do on another visit but I don’t know if I could’ve gotten to the hotel under my own steam.

Chicago out-take

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The scene: Uncle Chris puts toothpaste on Dylan’s toothbrush and hands it to him

Dylan: You do it.
Uncle Chris: I did it. The toothpaste is right there.
Dylan: No, you *do* it.
Uncle Chris: You want me to brush your teeth for you?
Dylan: Yeah. My leg hurts.
Uncle Chris: (laughs)
Dylan: (indignantly) My leg does so hurt.
Uncle Chris: I never doubted that it hurt. I don’t understand the connection.

Our first family camping trip – May 8-10

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Reid and I have gone camping together a few times with a variety of aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandma Joyce but Ken has always missed out. He went camping when he was younger but I’m pretty sure that it was quite a bit different with Reid and me and no case of beer. I was worried that the cabin – smaller than our dining room – would prove to be a challenge but when I made the reservation at the KOA at Cardinal, Ontario, I was thinking of the two playgrounds, jumping pillow and safe roads on which Reid could ride her bike.

When I opened my door to go register and get a key to the cabin, I heard a clap of thunder and had to acknowledge that the weather forecasters might not all have been completely wrong and that we might be in for a stuck-in-the-cabin camping weekend. Luckily for us, the heavy rain was brief and, after eating our supper on the porch to stay dry, we were able to have a camp fire. We all ate way too many marshmallows, as you’re supposed to when camping. Reid ate hers raw; Ken likes his burnt; and I like mine golden. Reid and Ken were able to achieve their targets with more consistency than me. Reid was able to help cook Ken’s, though he likes the full cooking-and-eating experience. I’d forgotten that Ken sets his marshmallows on fire. He reminded me that we had them at bonfires when Grandma Joyce still lived at the farm but I have the family memory and can’t remember but I know he’s right.

Reid had her first soccer practice/game on Saturday morning and so we left the campground about 7:15 am. It wasn’t exactly ideal to drive the hour-plus back to Ottawa but Reid was bursting with enthusiasm for soccer. Reid received a brown t-shirt and then she ran around with the other kids followed the coaches’ directions and did just what she was supposed to do. I’m still a bit surprised when the kid who usually hides her head against my leg when we meet people integrates so easily into a big crowd of kids.  The skies were grey but it didn’t rain on us. Yet.

We stopped at home for a bit before taking Reid to her swimming lesson – since we were in the city anyway and it was pouring by this time. Or, at least, I took Reid to her lesson and Ken stayed home for a shower. Ken is a practical guy, you know. We went to the M&Ms fund raising barbecue in support of Crohn’s and Colitis. For a minimum donation of $2.50, they gave us a hamburger, small bag of Doritos and a glass of orange drink. We can’t usually feed our 3-person family for $7.50.

Reid fell asleep on the way back to the campground, just as I’d hoped. The rain was falling in torrents but I convinced Ken to take us on a “scenic” drive anyway to prolong Reid’s nap. The rain was still falling when Reid awoke but the day was warm enough that it wasn’t a huge problem. We went to the ice cream social in the main building, contributing our money to camps for kids with cancer, and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the cabin reading and playing games. I made fried pizza sandwiches on the electric griddle that I packed and pretended as hard as I could that mine had come from a pie iron that had been resting in the coals. Reid loved sitting on her lawn chair and using the bed as a table. It’s hard to be out of sorts with a person who sees the adventure and up-side to everything. The rain shifted into a thunderstorm and we were treated to a sound and light show that included a tree-strike about 150 metres from our cabin. The flat area in front of our cabin turned into a small pond. Reid splashed in it and set her umbrella floating in its current when we braved the elements to use the bathroom. We were all in bed early. Ken had no fire to tend and sitting on the porch in the dark, watching the rain fall, lost its appeal quickly. Me, I was tired as always.

We were all up early on Sunday morning because it was so amazingly cold in the cabin. The folks in the office had given us a space heater – I didn’t say we roughing it – but it was noisy and we’d shut it off. I turned it on to help Ken and me defrost. Reid was as snug as the proverbial bug in her polar fleece footie pajamas. We ate a snack, cracked open a few books and started to pack up while we waited for it to be time for the campground-sponsored pancake breakfast. After breakfast, we finally went to the climbing structure at the park. Reid had asked many times, apparently not remembering her fall in August when we were camping with Aunt Karin and L., her friend from daycare. Ken and I worked hard at not freezing in the cold and the wind while Reid played but we didn’t last very long. Even with 2 shirts, a sweater and my coat on, I was cold. Poor Ken didn’t have as many clothes as me. He’d packed last and was conscious of the limited space available in our car. I’m oblivious to such realities. We had the car packed just after 11:00 and we headed for home.

If Reid had been younger, it would have seemed a very long weekend with all of the rain and cold but since she is an almost-five year old, who likes books and board games, it was a nice opportunity for us to all be in the same physical space. That doesn’t happen in our house where we could easily each be on a different floor, though we are generally at least two on one floor. Not that I’m hoping for more rain the next time we go on a family camping trip. It wasn’t traumatic, or at least I haven’t heard Ken mention it in such terms, I think we’ll do it again.

Anticipation or dread

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Ken sent me an email today to ask about the reservation for us to go camping in May. He’s asked before but I’ve forgotten. I might have thought that he was eagerly anticipating our first camping trip as a family but for the subject line of his email: when is our KIA reservation. Before I could stop giggling long enough to respond, he’d sent another message to clarify that he’d meant the KOA reservation. I hope that the mistake was a simple Freudian slip or typo and not a harbinger of things to come.

By the way, if you’re looking for us on May 8th, 9th or 10th, we’ll be taking advantage of a rent one night – get one night free at the Cardinal KOA. The special is North America wide, if you’re inclined to go camping as well.

Edited to add: Ken needs his chance to respond (now and again)

Just to clarify, in case you don’t know (and who could blame you if you don’t) – KIA is short for killed in action.  This is a military term far too prevalent in my professional life and, thus, far more likely to come out my mouth (or typing fingers) than KOA.  I don’t even know what KOA stands for, except that I think it’s “K” for “camping”.  And, I am looking forward to our upcoming weekend at the KOA.

Elevator blues

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Remember on our last trip to Toronto, when Dylan went running ahead because he wanted to be the one who pushed both the elevator call button and the floor button. Now that I think of it, I didn’t write about it at the time because I was feeling like such a bad auntie. In a nutshell, Dylan ran much faster than I expected, the elevator was also much quicker than anticipated and Dylan got on the elevator and the doors shut before I could stop him. I had Reid go to Aunt Karin and when they were back, Aunt Karin went to our floor while I stood guard in case Dylan came back down. She found him in the elevator lobby on our floor with an uncomfortable-looking twenty something man. Reid was nearly crying and Dylan was actually crying by the time we were all reunited. On the upside, neither kid even approached the elevator doors without a grown-up for the rest of our weekend.

Well, this time we had elevator troubles of a different sort. On the way to our room on the 20th floor of the hotel, Damien started to fuss. I thought he was upset because Aunt Karin wasn’t there with us. But he was super-excited to go to the swimming pool until it was time to get into the elevator and he got upset again. Damien is a man of few words and I’m no detective but I made the connection. The people who rode the elevators with didn’t look too impressed with the noise. People can be creeps, eh? At our second hotel, we were (thank goodness) on the 3rd floor. Two of the elevators overlooked the pool and that proved to be a better distraction than the mirrors at the first hotel. By the time we checked out, Damien was okay with the elevator.

So good, so far

Friday, October 24th, 2008

We finally got to the hotel about 11:30 later. Reid is a highway girl – as soon as I put the car in park her eyes popped open from what had looked to be a deep sleep. Uncle Roger came down to carry her up while I brought stuff in and presented myself at reception. By the time I got to the room, Reid was snuggled in a bed with Dylan watching television. Apparently Dylan is also a highway boy.

Aunt Karin, Reid and I were talking about who would sleep where and one of the proposals would have seen Reid sleeping with me rather than Dylan. He objected to this with an indignant, “I haven’t slept with Reid in so long!” as he touched her back. Like, never. They did try when we were in Toronto but Reid decided she wanted to sleep with me. Last night, I was invited to join them and that seems like progress to me.

Reid was awake about 5:00 or so but I told her it was too early to talk or be awake. When she woke up the second time, I tried the same logic but with little success. Her plaintive, “But when can I talk?” must have attracted Uncle Roger’s attention because he told us the time immediately when I said I’d have to check the clock to know. Reid is blessed/stuck with my internal clock, I guess, since she woke up at her usual time despite the break in her sleep (and my lack of sleep due to the drive.)

The kids modelled their Halloween costumes for each other about 6:30. They both made admiring noises and so I think that the skunk and pteradactyl (sp?) will be strutting their stuff at the party tomorrow night. I finally convinced Dylan that he should go to the bathroom and as he walked over he said, “I don’t know if dinosaurs pee.” (hee, hee, hee … Pause for effect …) I know that they poop! (hee, hee, hee) So funny!” It’s going to be a weekend full of potty humour – also Reid’s favourite – but a fun one, I expect.

Uncle Roger invited the kids to go for a walk. “Where to?” they asked. He told them they would see fancy signs and buildings but not that the key was to keep them from waking the others on our floor. I should take advantage of the time to shower.