Thursday, October 9, 2008

Boys will be Boys

"Wow! It broke!!" "Do it again!"

Bridger, Nikolai and their two friends had just discovered the joy of shattering rock on rock.

There is a creek close to our home that reaches from the Torbay Wetlands to the ocean. Part way down its journey, the water falls over a sleek, wide rock into a pool that will eventually drain through the large rocks into the waves.

As boys will do they randomly started throwing rocks at this water fall and quickly discovered the satisfyingly shattering smash of the shale. Not only were they rewarded as the slices burst into pieces, but then the pieces would tumble down with the falling water, into the pool below.

I'm sure this fun could have lasted an hour but it would be a close vote as to whether this was as fun, more, or less fun than putting a stick in the top and following it to see how far it would float downstream. Oh to be the one who's stick makes it past all the falls, obstacles and traps right down to the ocean!

Mattea, always the mover and shaker, was getting cranky in the backpack, but with the warm sunny weather I did not want to be the one to call a time's up on the fun! Did I really have somewhere better to be? My housework wasn't going anywhere that's for sure. Luckily it wasn't I who had to call it quits, but the friends who hadn't told their parents where they were!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bad Habits

I LOVE fabric stores. I can spend as much time (and money *cough*) in these stores as I can in paper stores and London Drugs. It's terrible. But I see, in a fabric store, the infinite possibilities for creativity and fun. I can picture making all the things I love, plus new things I've discovered with so many fun types of fabrics. Then there's the add-ons like ribbons and tassels and buttons... oh my! I also LOVE love love the East Indian fabric stores in BC, which I miss terribly (though I'm sure Barton and the bank account are quite happy with this).

So, I have this bad habit. I buy fabric that I love, with a fabulous project in mind, but then when I get home I don't have the heart to cut up the fabric! It's like hanging photos after you've freshly painted - it quite literally hurts. The result is a pile of fabric taking up room on a shelf which is a actually a little pile of unfinished projects staring at me day in and day out.

I have decided that this fall is project finishing time. I'm pretty sure I said that about last fall, but Mattea was pretty little back then so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Aside from the fabric is the scrapbooking... oh dear the scrapbooking! That's a whole other story.

Back to the fabric...

So I've come up with a few projects that will help me use up some of this fabric. I did make myself a skirt, and Riley wants one too. I made a few baby slings for friends and I'm covering those plastic travel wipes cases in fun designs. Last year I made a bunch of kid's aprons for birthday presents and I didn't use all of them so now I'm selling them. I think they're a tiny bit small now for the kid's friends so hopefully other people will be able to use them. I have a bunch of boyish fabric out of which I'm doing some more aprons (dinosaurs and stuff) and I really want to finish some cushion covers I intended on making ages ago.

This does mean that my spare evening time will be spent sewing but I'm really excited about some of the projects I'm doing and I really want to get them finished. But I do work while I work my way through Prison Break Season 3 while simultaneously watching Season 4 on Monday nights (How did they get...? Wha...? Where did...? Huh...?) At least the TV time isn't completely wasted! (thought I'm sure it takes me twice as long to finish the projects!!!)

What I really want though, is to buy a serger, so I'm looking for one I can afford. I have borrowed a serger to do a few projects that I sold and gave away because it makes it so much stronger and nicely finished. I would like to have my own because I hate borrowing things like that! Then I'd be able to make more 'serious' projects and make them more durable.

For the month of October I am making cute wipes cases that have a pink ribbon on them. They sell for $15, $3 of which will go to breast cancer research.

You can see the projects I'm working on here:

http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=33278&l=3fc3f&id=517954448

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Autumn!

I can't believe it's the end of September! How does that happen? Crazy...

The first month of school and unschool has gone really well. Riley is enjoying grade 7 and likes the changing of classes and teachers. She is playing trumpet again, and hopes to join the after school jazz band. She is running in the cross country races for 3 weekends and successfully ran her first race, taking 1st place in her school and 6th overall for grade 7 girls. Her scores from this year and last always hover around 6mins 3 seconds so she is trying to get under 6mins before the end of this session! She also made the volleyball team and looks forward to her practises and games getting regular and serious.

Bridger started drum lessons on Sept 14th and took to it very quickly. He starts by practising on random soft areas so it's not too loud yet! He has very good rhythm and is quickly learning the music theory required. He is doing well in his school work but having a hard time with what I affectionately call "laziness." *sigh* He has been using an Ancient Egypt workbook to learn English topics, Math and Creative Writing. He is also doing long division and angles.

Nikolai started guitar lessons last Sunday and is very excited to get learning. They told me the lessons would have to be on a trial basis because he is so young but he seems to be doing fine. He is trying hard so I think that'll make him succeed (as long as he doesn't get discouraged!). He is also doing well with his work, learning subtraction with borrowing, habitats and mapping. Right now he is doing English work using a new Robert Munsch book each week.

They have both asked me to do some Harry Potter studies, but these aren't really available in the way I want them to be, so I am writing my own. Should be fun! Will keep you posted... maybe I'll sell them!

For activities, the boys are starting basketball next week which runs at the elementary school and will go all year. They also start next Friday a 10 session set of swimming lessons with the other homeschoolers. It'll be nice because the classes will be so small. We also try to go to Judo on Thursday night. Barton is a bit concerned about the violent aspect of the sport... so I guess that will also be on a trial basis!!!

I have been really busy and by the time I go to bed I am completely shot!! It's a good dead tired though... I had plans for the boy's room, I have told them since we moved here that I would paint it! I bought some stuff in Vancouver for decorating because I knew what I was looking for, but now I don't see any time to paint in the near future. I didn't want the things I got to be sitting in piles (trying really hard to NOT leave unfinished projects lying around!) so I decided to everything but the wall painting. That way, at least it'll be fun for now and if I ever get the time, I'll paint. So, it's almost done and I'll post pictures when I'm finished. At the same time I ended up making a few slings for friends and because I had a borrowed serger, I figured I should do a few other projects at the same time. So I have a skirt and the boys have curtains! Unfortunately what happens when those projects are going? NOTHING else gets done!!! Every once and awhile I'll tidy so I can project away with a clear conscience but the rest of the house is getting pretty desperate. I am almost done...

In 8 months, Barton will be done! It's insane how quickly that has gone! We are still trying to make the huge decision of life after school ends (What? School ends?) and it's starting to drive me crazy. He's doing well though! He's working at the smaller St John's hospital right now, which means an easier schedule and home call instead of overnight in the hospital. His emergency shifts were great because he had so many days at home and with the boys home they got lots of extra time together. He has started studying with his classmates so they're getting serious! No turning back now... After having his old (favourite) bike stolen in Kelowna (strike one for Kelowna!) he received an insurance payment and bought a fast new bike. He has been enjoying his rides to work since picking up the bike this week.

Mattea... what do I say about Mattea? She is something else! She's hilarious and brings constant joy to everyone in the house. The novelty has not worn off for the older kids so they still love paying attention to her and always tell her how much they love her and how "they can't stand it" that she's so cute! She's walking all over now and getting into everything. She's such a climber, so I'm pretty sure she'll be the one we find sitting on the fridge! The other day she picked up an onion peel and opened the cupboard and put it in the garbage which I thought was really funny. She still says "bobbi" all the time, with all the different intonations that it can be used for. She has a few other words though. Bobbida, bobbiya, mommy, daddy, hot, and the kid's names.

Well, I guess that's it for now! Have a great weekend!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back To Basics

At some point I said I had more to say and here I am almost a week later! I can't believe it's been a week since we arrived back on The Rock. So much has happened in so little time! This week marked the start of Riley's first year of Junior High, I started homeschooling the boys (more about that later!) and Barton did a bunch of shifts in the emergency, his current rotation. In and amongst that we have unpacked almost everything and have found 'almost' everything! We've semi settled back in and almost feel normal again.

It was very bizarre to come back home after being away for 2.5 months. In fact, it still feels weird to say we're 'home' after 2 months in a place that houses all of our family and most of our live's memories. When we got back we just kept wandering around the house going, "this is so weird!" The colours looked off, the smells, the stuff. It was really odd. Anyway, I think we've settled back in. We've mostly cleaned up our stuff but it seems like there's always something I can't find, or something else to throw in the laundry.

So here we are. Ready for another year and counting down to the end of Barton's long years of training. He is 9 months from finishing grade 25 and has a lot of work to do this year in the shadow of a very large exam in the spring.

Like I said, I have the boys home from school this year, so we have a lot to learn and adjust to. I'm really excited about it though and am really hoping it goes well. Pray for us!

Riley started grade 7 at the junior high this year. I am pretty hesitant about the whole process but we'll give it a go, at least until Christmas.

Mattea started walking this summer and is such a climber! She climbs EVERYTHING. Luckily she has also learned how to back off of most things...

So, that's the nutshell! I am going to write about my decision to home-school, that'll come soon!

Monday, September 1, 2008

NORTH SYDNEY TO PORT AUX BASQUES AND HOME - AUG 30-31

We got up early and (learning our lesson from last time!) called to check the punctuality of the ferry to Newfoundland. Once again it had been delayed, so instead of needing to get to the terminal at 8:30, we should arrive around 11. That was nice, our morning was more relaxing and the kids braved one more swim in the freezing pool. We arrived at the ferry and played around a bit before Mattea napped in the car. The boys went for a bike ride to pick up bagels for lunch and we ate in the lineup. We loaded at left by 1:30pm. The small glitch we encountered was our van not starting, of course right when they were trying to load our lineup. While the entire production of loading and unloading the ferry is one of the least organized and efficient things you'll ever see, clearly they have many people with dead batteries at the last minute. All of a sudden a truck was there and we were off! They gave us some space behind the van so that at unloading they could send the line around us and then give us a boast at the other end. Upon landing we had at least 2 or 3 crew ask if we needed another jump but fortunately we didn't.

The boat ride was 7 hours. I must say that it is one of my least favorite things to do. There is quite a rock to that boat on the best of days and I don't have much for sea legs. Like I said last time though, it's worth every penny to book that cabin, there's even a shower so you can freshen up before de-boarding. If you plan on doing it, call long in advance.

We docked at 8:30pm and though it is advised up and down not to cross Newfoundland at night - at this point we just wanted to get home. So the kids fell asleep and we drove. I took the first shift, though considerably shorter in length. Barton drove the rest, once again hopped up on Red Bull. The driving was slow and unpleasant. Rain either intermittent with or coupled with fog made it less than ideal. There was one long clear stretch where thanks to our high beams we saw two moose grazing the middle of the road long before they launched over our hood. They were quite beautiful, does their coat change through the summer? That was the only close call and the roads were dead empty. We arrived home sweet home at 6:30am. The kids had slept all night as did Mattea so we were the only ones desperate to sleep. Barton earned the first shift in that department so I did some van emptying and tea drinking.

It was very strange to be home! It was 2.5 months that we were gone. Everything just 'looked' weird. Like the colour of things in the house, or the arrangement or the smells. Funny. There really isn't much like your bed though (although some of those hotels had darn awesome beds!) and all in all it was good to be home.

I count this trip as a success as the first thing the kids said when our van touched solid ground on Saturday night was "That was an awesome trip!" We were already discussing options for our next adventure and that has to be a good sign. We all learned so much and some day the kids will realize how grand of an adventure it truly was. For now, they just think we went on a cool holiday, not realizing the true uniqueness of the whole thing.

Well, I have more to say and I will keep this blog going as a family thing but I should go have dinner with my birthday celebrating husband!!! I have our photos ready as well and will get all those links up shortly.

Thank you for following along with us on our epic journey. It was truly a blessing to have this opportunity with our family, but I also know that your prayers and thoughts and sometimes your literal food and bed, kept us going the whole way. We were safe, healthy and happy.

WE DID IT!!!!


Kelowna BC - 0 (about 350 from Abbotsford)
Banff AB - 501
Oyen SK - 999
Broadview SK - 1795
Winnipeg MN - 2255
Fargo ND - 2728
Menomonie WI - 3236
Chicago IL - 3765
Bancroft MI - 4268
Oakville ON - 4694
Ottawa ON - 5238
St Jean Port Joli QC - 5792
Waasis NB - 6292
Pictou NS - 6765
Deer Lake NL - 7306
Goobies NL - 7796

MONCTON AND NORTH SYDNEY- AUG 28-29

Well, we did make it all the way to Moncton!! It was a long day but we were ready to get on with things. We arrived in the evening and had a swim and snack. We definitely had our smallest room yet, but no one complained! In the morning we were late getting going but headed down to the Hopewell Rocks to see the tides. It was raining but we walked down to the lookouts and watched as the ride rolled in. Unfortunately we missed the super low tide and didn't get to walk around the ocean floor, but we did see it at it's highest.

While in Moncton we figured out that our plans for Halifax were not quite panning out so we decided to make a run for it and bump our ferry sailing up one day. We drove all the way to North Sydney and found a cute little motel close to the ferry terminal. We ate a really nice dinner there and had another swim. It's always worth finding a place with a pool as the kids can burn off some steam and get a good sleep. The bad side is you're always dealing with wet bathing suits!!!

We definitely had intended on camping more. We realize now that we should have ditched some of our superfluous belongings to make room for mattresses and pillows etc. The only problem with camping is you want to show up early enough to set up camp, but in the evening when everyone is getting sleepy and it cools off is always the best time to drive. We were always keen to push on a little more, so it would just end up that we'd show up somewhere at 10pm. Our plan for the next time (we'd go again if we moved and take more time to go one way) is to be more intentional with that.

The trip was quick and uneventful. New Brunswick is very beautiful so it was a lovely drive. It was cooler which is always nice for driving and ending at Cape Breton Island was gorgeous.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

KINGSTON TO OTTAWA TO RANDOM STOP IN QUEBEC - AUG 27

We spent time outside in the morning, playing in the pool and with all the toys outside. It was a beautiful morning and it was great to see our friends! (I'm so excited about all the potential for pen pals for the kids from this trip!)

We left around 11 and drove the 2 hours to Ottawa. On our last trip through we missed the Parliament Tour and I erased our photos from the city, so we really wanted to go back. We parked downtown and immediately noticed how many more people there were strolling the streets of Ottawa this hot day in late August, compared to the post-thunder shower day in late June on our previous trip.

As we walked up to Parliament Hill we passed by the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal and were just in time to watch them guide someone's boat through. Not only was it fun and interesting to watch but the boat pilot had a parrot! Okay, that's not really that exciting but the kids though it was funny, like he was a yacht pirate or something!

We made it exactly on time for a tour (which are first come first served and run 4 times an hour for free) so into the Parliment we went. It was really gorgeous inside, a lot of amazing stone work and stained glass. The library was beautiful and we learned lots about the House of Commons and the Senate (most notably that Royalty cannot enter the house of Commons and could lose their heads if they do! =) Always the fun facts...) We ended the tour with a trip up to the clock in the Peace Tower and then a look at the memorial books.

From there Mattea was at the end of her rope and we needed to get going, so we walked back down to the car and drove out of the city passing by the Prime Minister's house at 24 Sussex Dr.

From Ottawa we just wanted to get going and see how far we'd get. We weren't sure if we'd make our way back to Quebec City or not so we just started in the general direction. We did end up bypassing it, going on the south side of the river and stopping just across for the night.

This is a beautiful spot, if anyone is interested... we're at the Hotel Bernieres, in Saint-Nicholas.

Today (the 28th) we are setting a course for New Brunswick. I don't know if we'll make it all the way to Moncton but we're hoping to catch the Hopewell Rocks this time around.

TORONTO TO KINGSTON - AUG 26

We hit a bit of a kink in the plan this week and had to take our van in for servicing in Oakville. the breaks were seized so it was definitely something that needed to be dealt with. We spent the morning playing and doing laundry before heading into Toronto, $1000 poor-er because of the van.

We parked downtown and tried to do a tour of the CN Tour but the line was really long and we only had so much time. We took pictures and touched it... then walked to the Hockey Hall of Fame. There was way more to see and do there than we expected and all the kids were thrilled to be able to touch the Stanley Cup! Even the building, an old bank, was stunning.

Walking around downtown was fun, I love the big cities, but Barton does not so he couldn't get out fast enough! We drove out via a visit with some friends that moved to TO in June. They've had a baby since so it was awesome to have a very quick catch-up and a little cuddle.

Out of Toronto, we drove 2 hours to Kingston where we stayed again with friends that just moved here.

INDIANA TO MICHIGAN TO ONTARIO – AUG 25

After breakfast at the hotel we were en route again, heading for Michigan, which would take us up past Detroit towards the border. It was a beautiful drive without incident with really pretty landscapes that are all very much like the Canadian prairies. A few more roadside runabouts and a stop at the Target in Flint, Michigan and we were all of a sudden crossing the bridge over Lake Huron into Sarnia, Ontario! Back into Canada with another smooth border crossing!

So, we’ve got quite the collection of maps going! Do you need a map? We have now been through 10 provinces and 7 states, including our shopping trip to Washington… but we didn’t get a map!
We stopped in Sarnia at the beach on Lake Huron... we were meant to dip our feet but somehow (are you shocked?!) both boys ended up soaked and covered in sand!

We made our way back to Oakville, Ontario where we stayed again with our cousins there.

MINNESOTA TO WISCONSIN TO ILLINOIS TO INDIANA - SUN AUG 24

We went through 4 states today!!

We crossed the Mississippi River today as we skirted Minneapolis. Did you know that Minneapolis is practically on the border of Wisconsin? We didn’t! As soon as we were past the city we were headed into a new state!

Southeast through Wisconsin took us all the way to the bottom corner and into Illinois. We had lunch in a really nice rest area (all the State rest areas are very nice!), and had dinner at Culver’s where Mattea had her first taste of ice cream! Well, it was frozen custard but she was a monster once she’d had a taste!

We came through Chicago at night and it was so beautiful! We didn’t get any time to explore, so I guess I’ll have to go back! The city lights were awesome and we passed by the massive O’Hare Airport and then Wrigley Stadium, where unfortunately we missed a baseball game, just hours earlier!

A future tip for anyone passing through, there is the equivalent of about $5 in random tolls along the way, have a bunch of US coins ready.

We wanted to get out of the city before finding a place to stay so just passed Chicago we crossed into Indiana - State #5!!

We DID have a wonderful, restoring sleep (and confirmed no wedding parties!) in Hammond, Indiana.

WINNIPEG TO NORTH DAKOTA AND MINNESOTA – SAT AUG 23

We slept very late in the cool, dark basement, even Mattea made no peep until 9:30! It was a slower start than planned, but we repacked and got going. We picked up Becky and headed to the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg. We did a tour there and learned a few interesting things, like that particular mint makes coins for quite a few other countries (including Madagascar!) and that at any given point, about 40% of people around the world are carrying coins in their pockets made at the Winnipeg Mint. We all held a gold bar worth $500,000 and also learned that they don’t transport their coins in armoured cars, but random company semis like Safeway, McDonald’s etc. That made our semi-spotting a little more interesting along the drive since! Unfortunately, because we did the tour on a weekend, the machines weren’t running. That’s a note to self... go on a weekday.

We dropped Becky off and said our farewells, for much longer than 2 months this time. From there it was south to North Dakota… huh?

We had no trouble crossing at the border, which was a blessing as we were not keen to take everything out of the van! We made a quick pit stop and I discovered one of the smartest things I’ve seen in a long time! At one of the rest stop bathrooms, they had in the stall a pull down seat, made exactly lie those pull down change tables, (but small) with a harness so you could strap your child in and go to the bathroom!! What a novel idea!

We had lunch in the car (making sandwiches on the road is quite a task) and stopped for supper in Fargo. Almost immediately after that, we crossed into Minnesota.

In Minnesota we drove south/east through St Cloud and spent the night just on the outskirts of Minneapolis. We found a Hampton Inn and Suites and got a steal on a great room. It was quite a beautiful hotel with a pool and it included breakfast for all of us. We settled into our kushy beds for what we hoped would be a long, restoring sleep.

At 1:30 we were awoken with a clatter and Barton sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Unfortunately, it was not an early surprise visit from ‘you-know-who’, but a mass of drunken idiots. Is that fair to say? Sure… so, after repeated bangs on our door, slamming of other doors, shouts and miscellaneous other ruckuses, we had to make a call… and then another. A take-charge kind of woman with a big mullet (I’m saying that only because it made her seem so much more serious and not the type you’d mess with…) came up and started yelling at them all to get to their rooms. It was the third warning and after that, apparently the cops get a call. At 3:30 am, I fell asleep hoping ‘this’ would be the time they don’t come back. We found out the next morning that there were TWO weddings in the hotel and we happened to be on the same floor as one. There were also many red-eyed patrons at the continental breakfast… the kind people at the desk covered the cost of our room and though we wouldn’t hesitate to try the same chain again (the beds were awesome!) we have learned our lesson now that even if it’s a Motel 6, we’ll be asking if they’ve got a wedding party staying the night!

WINNIPEG - FRIDAY AUG 22

We arrived in Winnipeg in the afternoon on Friday and went to Barton’s sister Becky’s house. Twice in two months, that’s pretty good! Her garden has flourished since we were last there producing zucchinis the size of baseball bats and yummy tomatoes, squash and kale. We had a short visit while the kids played in the fish pond again and then I headed over to the house of old family friends, the Koslowsky’s, where we would spend the night.

Plans, but not details, had been laid beforehand, so with the help of a family member we ‘broke in’ and got ourselves settled. We needed some cool, quiet-time, Mattea desperately needed a nap and I needed to sort the disgruntled food box. Once we were all ‘realigned’ we headed back to Becky’s for supper where we made pizzas with her garden veggies. Yum!

We went back to the Koslowsky’s house and settled in, watching some Olympics and heading off to sleep. Becky picked up Barton late from the airport and dropped him off.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Saskatoon to Elkhorn, Part 2 Day 5 - Aug 21

On Thursday morning we ate breakfast and did some laundry. I cleaned out the van a bit, repacked the top box and was ready to go.

Reuben is a Saskatoon Police Officer and he took us to his Department and gave us a tour! It was really fun and the kids thought it was really cool. We got to see the jail cells and hear a woman kicking the door down to try to get out =). They showed us where they take all the dispatch calls, all the computers with the maps and grids as well as the interview rooms. We even got to watch someone dusting an alarm box. We left the station discussing who would now be the paleontologist and who would be the police officer. The boys liked the idea of being in the communications department where their lives wouldn't be in danger... I guess they're not 'there' yet. =)

From there we drove south to the outskirts of the city where we went to the Western Development Museum. The kids loved the car museum and I have a new goal in life - to own and drive a car from the 1910ish era. SO COOL! The museum is set up really well with a whole indoor town and then an antique farm machinery museum. Some of the shops are even working, you can watch a blacksmith, eat in the cafe and have your picture taken 'western style' at the photographers. We left at closing, 5pm and drove for eastern Saskatchewan... or so we thought...

We made it to Regina for supper and enjoyed 'calling' the houses along the river and main road. It's really pretty, old with big trees and Victorian houses.

Out of Regina the goal was to get to Wapella and hopefully stay somewhere near there, or in Moosomin if necessary.

It was Golden and Oyen all over again! All along that road the hotels were full and all of a sudden my gas light was on... we found gas in Broadview right at closing and ended up crossing the border, switching our clocks to midnight and finding a motor inn in Elkhorn, Manitoba. It was 50 bucks and just what we needed to sleep and take off again! (you can take that whichever way you'd like!) Luckily we were kept entertained the whole drive from Regina by an incredible lightening show!

Now, you may be sensing a pattern here of not finding places to stay right? I'm just not sure how else to do it. If you book ahead you are limited to stopping there, or pushed to make sure you get there. Where one stretch might be further than you thought, another is all of a sudden closer and you end up plugging on. In both cases though, had it not been me by myself, Barton and I would have definitely pushed on to the next stop.

We woke up in the Elkhorn Motor Hotel to absolute pouring rain and cold weather. We jumped in the car and took off, eating dry cereal as we went! It was a short easy but wet drive to Winnipeg, arriving at about 3:00.

Kindersley to Saskatoon, Part 2 Day 4 - Aug 20

We left Kindersley at 12pm. We drove the short distance to Saskatoon and stopped for a break. We were a bit early but our hosts were ready for us so we made our way to Warman, to my cousin's house. Vicki, her husband Reuben and their daughter Kiara welcomed us there! Reuben was picking crabapples from the front tree and was already at about 7 bags full. Mattea enjoyed nibbling at one and I made a mental note to take some for the road - they would keep her busy for quite awhile!

We walked around Warman and played at the water park and then had a huge hot dog roast/BBQ and I got to catch up with the whole family! (uncle and aunt, 4 cousins, spouses and kids!) It has been so long since I've been here, since Riley was about 5 we thought. Hopefully it won't be so long before I see them all again. Thanks everyone!!

We visited late and crashed all over the basement. It was nice and cool and dark down there and once again we slept way too late!

Calgary to Kindersley, Part 2 Day 3 - Aug 19

We took our time in the morning and left around 10:30. I needed to stop for diapers and contact solution and wanted Mattea to nap once the errand was done. As I left Dana's the van was making a very strange sound. I got a bit nervous and was just about to make the executive decision to have it checked out when it stopped. Weird. We were out of Calgary shortly after and on the road again!

This time we were heading a short jaunt to Drumheller, the Dinosaur capital of the world! We got to the Badlands of Alberta and enjoyed a trip through the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It was fascinating and of course, so much to see in a short time. The kids loved the massive dinosaur skeletons and I liked seeing that there were tiny little creatures from that time as well. You always hear about the big common dinos but never the little ones. After the museum we walked around outside a bit. It was really hot and we weren't up for the hikes that are around the museum but they would be really great on a day when you're prepared, or not so hot, or not carrying a baby. I have the backpack for her, but already she's feeling too heavy. We left Drumheller in the late afternoon and drove on towards Saskatchewan.

Starting around Youngstown we started looking for food and lodging. You may remember our experience in Golden on the westbound trip? Where every hotel was full? Well, we encountered that again. Apparently during the week there's all kinds of crews and workers filling the hotels. In the middle of nowhere there was a huge, new Super 8 and we thought "surely..." It was full! So, at the very least we got food for supper that way, if I had to, I'd just carry on. We ate at the Oyen Family Restaurant. The pizza was awesome and it was just the place a bunch of kids could be loud, and watch the Olympics.

From Oyen we tried a few other spots along the way and ended up in Kindersley Saskatchewan. This was frustrating because we are now 2 hours from Saskatoon. It was 10pm and showing up at midnight somewhere seemed less than convenient for our hosts, plus if I got a hotel then I would be carrying deadweight sleeping kids into who knows what kind of place. So we made the stop and got the literal LAST hotel room in the city. Conveniently enough it was a suite, with a bedroom, fridge and micro and a fun pool.

We relaxed a bit, had a great sleep, swam in the morning and ate breakfast there. It was a bit of a splurge although they gave me a deal, I think they felt sorry for me travelling alone!

Kelowna to Calgary, Part 2 Day 2 - August 18th

What a rough night!!! The Kelowna Hospital keeps a small house for doctors temporarily working at there and Barton was able to use this house for the last two weeks of his stay. We arrived there in evening and it was SO HOT. I guess because Barton had been away for a few days in the stifling heat it became it's own little hot box. There was no breeze and only one fan so the boys slept with their heads up against the patio screen door (but wouldn't sleep outside for some reason!) and Riley had the back room with the window wide open. We didn't have a play pen and so Mattea had to sleep with us which never works well. Because she can crawl, walk, roll and knows how to climb off the bed trying to get her to sleep without a four-walled contraption is near impossible. It took forever, because always just as she's drifting to sleep she'll open her eyes a tiny bit and start talking to you, or kicking her legs or just squeaking and chatting. It's SO frustrating! Then all night, most likely because of the heat, she woke up constantly. It wasn't great... but we got up in the morning and headed down to the beach. The nice thing about the Kelowna hospital area is that it is only a few blocks to the lake and there's a fantastic beach with ziplines into the water and a playground. We played there for a bit and had a swim (I say that like I did!) and then around 11am it was time to head out. We left Barton in the driveway and headed East for home.

Our plan was to stop in Revelstoke because they have this great rec centre and on the way west we had told the kids we would stop there on the way back. After that, I would head on to Banff and then Calgary.

One thing to note is that if you're ever in need of a camping spot in the vicinity of Sicamous, the Mara Lake area was really pretty. I don't know much about it but it looked like a nice place to stop.

I found my way to the pool, about 2.5 hours from Kelowna, and if you're ever in the area, the Revelstoke Rec Centre is the perfect stop for a family. The pools are great, including a tiny baby pool, a huge but shallow kid's pool and then a regular pool with diving board, waterslide and a climbing wall that falls into the water. It's also all salt water so when you're done you don't have that gross chlorine feel or smell. It was a refreshing break, even if we hadn' t been on the road too long. If you have the time, bring a picnic because across the road from the pool is a picnic area overlooking the river and it's quite stunning.

If you ever find yourself uttering the words "We'll stop for a quick supper in Banff" you may as well have said "I'll just hop into IKEA for napkins" or "so and so and I are going to have a quick coffee, I'll be right home." It was a total gong show. First of all, the drive from Revelstoke was a bit longer than expected, so we arrived hungry to the point of tears. (peanuts and beef jerkey only get you so far!)

Between the bad parking, the huge lineups and the lack of employees, it took TWO HOURS to get 'fast food'. If you are looking for work, apparently Banff (and I've heard the rest of Alberta as well) is the place to be. One Subway was shut down because they didn't have enough people to run it. The other was run by two people and two people were manning the McDonald's. Had I taken the time to park and walk it would have been better, but I was trying to be 'quick'. Considering Camrose was 15 minutes down the road we should have plugged on. Note to self (and you!) eat in Camrose or Golden before or after your drive through. That being said, Banff is really beautiful and I'd love to have a couple of days there with Barton to stroll and explore. There are lots of great shops, and it's a beautiful setting. I was tempted to stay a bit but it would have had us arriving in Calgary later than we were already set for. We left Banff at 9:30pm.

The drive to Calgary was smooth sailing and we got to my cousin's around 11, after a little roundabout jaunt thanks to the GPS! My cousins Norm and Dana and their sons Jared and Blake put us up for the night and treated us to a crepe breakfast in the am, after we woke up at 9, thanks to the time change. It was really nice to catch up with them- it's been waaaaay too long.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Today's The Day! Part 2, Day 1 - Kelowna

Well, the day has arrived for us to turn around and head home. I'm not sure how the summer went so quickly, but isn't that always the way? Never enough time... Our plan today is to drive up to Kelowna this evening where we'll leave Barton and head on to Calgary tomorrow. Barton will be flying to join us in Winnipeg so for the next week I am driving solo! We'll be updating the blog again so please follow us along and join us on our journey!

Our Odometre in Kilometres

Just moving this over from the sidebar to make space...

Torbay NL, June 18 - 0
Goobies NL - 170
Deer Lake NL - 660
New Glasgow NS, June 19 - 1210
Moncton NB, June 20 - 1698
Saint Jacques QB, June 21 - 2164
Louisville QB - 2662
Gananoqe QB, June 23 - 3317
Niagara Grimsby, June 25 - 3820
Sudbury On, June 26 - 4390
Marathon On, June 28 - 5238
Sault St Marie On - 4710
Upsala On, 5696
McHunn MB, June 29 - 6158
Brandon MB, July 1 - 6658
Regina SK - 7032
Canmore AB, July 2 - 7927
Medicine Hat AB - 7512
Pritchard BC, July 3 - 8479
Abbotsford BC - 8830

Saturday, August 9, 2008

As Our Time in BC Wanes

Greetings and Happy August!

Unfortunately, our BC time is quickly coming to a close and it's time to update you before we leave on the final leg of our cross country tour. We have had an amazing time her, it's been so much fun catching up with old friends, spending time with family and doing a little sightseeing in our home province.

We had the chance to camp with friends in Peachland and enjoyed some water-skiing/wakeboarding as well as making up silly games on various flotation devices. Riley went to a 5-night Bible camp in Peachland and had a blast making new friends and learning some new skills.

The boys got to go to Mayne Island with Grandma, Auntie Melissa and Uncle Dan for a few days of golfing, exploring, digging, looking for snakes and deer and playing tennis. The older kids also enjoyed time at "The Tower" in Vancouver with their Nana and Papa, riding the skytrain, seabus and buses, going to Science World and spending hours and hours on English Bay. I spent the night there once with mom and set up their tiny condo like a refugee camp with all 4 kids sleeping here, there and everywhere. We took the little water taxis over to Granville Island and strolled the marketplace there.

Barton and I took in a Bard on the Beach a few weeks ago with Clay, Nadine, Kris and Kathryn which was great. We've also enjoyed a couple of other dates which is a nice opportunity!

I've caught up with old friends meeting babies and kids galore and even taking in the wedding of my second oldest friend. The older kids and I had a great day at the Trans Canada Waterslides in Chilliwack last week with Grandpa, Rachel, Caleb and Elijah. Though 'they' called for a 36* day, it didn't end up getting that hot and was perfect. Mattea enjoyed a bonding day with Grandma.

While I have been playing, coffeeing, shopping and on Tuesday I go for a massage, Barton has been working his tail off. I don't think I ever fully explained our purpose for being here this summer:

As part of Barton's training, he was given a couple of months to set up his own work terms to either fulfill missing gaps in the program or do further work in areas in which he's interested. We turned this into a triple whammy by setting these months up close to home so we could visit, and also in places we'd be interested in living; to scope out the work scene and see how we feel about the general area and work environment. He spent the month of July working in the Abbotsford, though unfortunately their spanking new hospital doesn't open until August 24th. He did get the grand tour and was able to play with the machines. He had a very good experience with the staff here and enjoyed the work. For the month of August he is working in the Kelowna hospital and so far has also had a good experience there. The hospitals are very different but each offer their own assets, though commuting to Kelowna on a weekly basis from Abbotsford is not ideal!

We have spent a little bit of time checking out the areas and housing and though it is extremely painful to look at the housing costs here, we think we have found a couple of spots that we'll keep our eyes on. It does look promising but we're not announcing anything yet! Barton has now less than 10 months left until his final exams are over and we can't quite believe we've come this far. All of a sudden it's all within reach, though Barton has a lot of work and study to do before the end!

We have totally lucked out with the weather here this year. We fully anticipated frequent rain and cooler days and have had almost nil of either. I believe it's rained two days and was cooler and overcast maybe one or two others. So that whole extra hockey bag full of rain and cold weather clothing has been sitting unopened under Mattea's crib... and to think of all the extra space it took up in our van!!!! How were we supposed to know? I have worn pants once, so the two pairs of jeans and two pairs of pants have been 'really handy'! Well, fortunately I did intend on leaving quite a bit behind - we have little warm weather left in St John's so it won't be necessary to bring back too many summer items. Plus the kids have outgrown half the stuff we haven't used, so that can stay too! That's also lucky since we've been shopping... =)

Now, as we prepare to leave once more, I am also preparing - mentally - for Mattea's birthday. I just can't believe she is going to be one! It has gone so quickly. She has 8 teeth, says lots of words, somehow got blond curly hair and although she's taken lots of steps, she's refusing to walk. I'm sure 2 more weeks in a carseat won't help that. But that's OK, I'm not ready to chase her yet! She is definitely reminding us of Nikolai and when we look at his pictures from this age, they are almost identical, though he was much fatter!!!

There was a lot of other things I wanted to tell you but I didn't write it when I thought it so now, of course, I've forgotten. As we head out on our journey once again I will keep the updates coming.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Photo Update

I finally got my BC photos and the second album of Ontario photos posted, the links are on the main page. I still have to convert all my Quebec photos which are all RAW, so I'm doing my best to get those to you quickly. Hope you're having a good week!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The First Few Days

Well, it's been a fantastic first few days back home. First of all, we arrived on Thursday afternoon and the kids were so excited to be here. They kept saying "I can't believe we're here!" and then on the way to my parent's Bridger said he was so excited he felt like he might cry. We enjoyed our first evening with my family for dinner and then we've just been spending quality time with them and friends. We are staying at Barton's parent's place because they have moved themselves around a bit to give us space that will be our own. We will go back and forth a bit but this will be home base. They are still on the road coming home from Manitoba so we won't actually see them until Wednesday or Thursday.

Today was an exciting day for wildlife! We saw a coyote run through the backyard, and then a pet rabbit on the loose in the front... it's a good thing they didn't cross paths!

Mattea learned a new trick today! She was playing in the grass and doing her usual crouch/squat when she decided to stand right up on her own! She had this wide sumo stance which was quite funny but was then able to stand quite a while, even while flapping her arms and clapping. It's only a matter of time...

The first thing I'm noticing (other than the large trees and RULES everywhere for everything!) is how much easier it is to be outside. No wind, no bugs, no cold. You can always just step out with your lunch and enjoy it outside - of course it helps that both of our parents have amazing outside areas! The kids also just come and go and run around and bike in the cul-de-sac. Nice.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Travelling Thiessens' Anthem

Loving Arms
From "The Story of Harmelodia" by The Rheostatics
Performed by Sarah Harmer, written by Dave Merritt

It takes a trip, a step away from your own home
To see more clearly what otherwise you wouldn't know,
Like what makes a seed--sewn in garden fabric--grow.

Leave it up to the sun to shine, the rain to fall around.
Leave it up to the earth to lie down and lay the ground
For something like love.

It takes a trip, a step away from what you know
To trace your family back as far as time can go,
To see what made it and will forever let it grow.

Leave it up to the loving arms to carry it along.
Leave it up to the beauty of love that's travelled on.
It didn't go it alone.

Leave it up to the smallest pieces everything is made of.
They didn't go it alone.
They hang on with loving arms.
Leave it up to the loving arms.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ARRIVED

More details to come but just wanted to announce that we have arrived! We are safe and sound at home in BC!!!!!!

I hope those last few notes made sense, they were edited on the go and I'll have more pics to come. I realized that if you are getting these updates through Facebook or email you may not be getting the photo links. Just so you know, they're on the main page of the blog.

Ok, more later including an odometre counter!

BC - LAST DAY!

I cannot believe that today is our last day of driving! It has gone so quickly! And it’s funny how a 5 hour day of driving seems so short to us now! We’re so close to home and will leave after an early breakfast.

We pulled a VERY long day yesterday. We left our Saskatchewan campsite yesterday at 8:45 and arrived in Revelstoke at 12, 1am in the previous time zone. So that was very long. We stopped a few times, so it wasn’t all driving but still… we are staying at the Powder Inn in Revelstoke.

I also just can’t believe how well this trip had gone, I was not nearly optimistic enough about it before leaving. It has been so fun and so shockingly easy. If our success in this trip inspires even just one person to do it, I will be so happy. I have decided that it is absolutely necessary for everyone to do this in their lifetime, but, you need to do it for the purpose of experiencing it, not getting to a destination on a time frame - there’s so much to see and we have missed so much.
We have done a lot of travel as a family, but nothing like this, but look how we’ve lived to tell the tale! I am so happy that Barton and I can take a trip like this without biting each other’s heads off and I love it that the kids have been talking, playing, singing, making up games and asking a million and one questions… exactly why they don’t have video games in the car.

Well, it’s time to shower everyone to remove the layer of grime from yesterday’s confinement and eat and GO!!!!!

Alberta and BC - July 2

We camped at a fantastic little campground in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, just west of Swift Current. It was cheap with clean bathrooms and nice level sites. We had a great sleep, did not get caught in thunder showers and were packed up and on the road by 8:45. We needed to stop at the next grocery store for breakfast food … so we ate in Medicine Hat. Oops. For future reference, there isn’t a lot on that stretch of highway… BUT now we’re 9 provinces down, 1 to go!!!!

We ate breakfast in a park in Medicine Hat (at lunchtime) before ploughing through the rest of Alberta. Once again, I’m sorry. Do not be offended. It’s interesting how when you get this far, all you want to do is get to the end, you know that feeling? Like the last hour of a flight?
Unfortunately, that means that the Maritimes will most likely get the same treatment on our way home. We did take a one hour pit-stop in Canmore, Alberta where we stopped to see some friends and stretch our legs in our park there. We were so very excited to hit the mountains just before Canmore! It’s so beautiful and we could feel that we were that much closer to home.

Canmore is a stunning little spot if you’ve never been… We drove through Banff and Lake Louise before FINALLY crossing the border into BC with many a cheer and whoop! We were greeted close to the border by an elk which was so nice of you, you really shouldn’t have! We (again) tried to find food and maps etc but it seems as though small towns like to shut down early another thing to keep in mind for next time. We ended up in Golden for supper at 9pm our time, switched back to 8 of course. We’ve been searching around for a camp that was recommended to us but we can’t find it anywhere. We tried all the hotels and motels and every single place (even the dingy ones) were booked full. Maybe it’s the fall of Canada Day and Independence Day this week, but thanks to whatever event is causing people to book up Golden BC, we’re on our way to Revelstoke!

Unfortunately we will miss Roger’s Pass, passing it in the dark but the outline of the mountains is still visible in the night sky. It’s darn dark out here though.

Okay, so we just passed a sign that says we should changed our clocks back. Oops, apparently you don’t change your clocks as soon as you cross the border into BC which would explain why everything wass closed… but still, we’ve noticed that a lot along the way (even where we’re NOT near a time change zone!)

We just hit a huge chunk of tire in the middle of the road, but it looks as though the van is ok. Yikes, breaking down here would not be good.

There’s Rogers Pass!

Into Saskatchewan - July 1

Getting to this point in our trip was pretty major and had the realization that we had really only 3 or 4 days left of travel. I knew that Ontario would be a long stretch and because I’ve done the BC-Man route before, I figured once we were on that road it would go very quickly. For such a short amount of time you really don’t need much, so we did a serious repacking, keeping only one small bag out for me and the kids. It’s now much more easily accessible and there’s less stuff to fuss over at each stop.

if I knew then what I know now about this trip, I would have packed so differently. Isn’t that always the way? When we went to Florida I had each of the kids pack a backpack which was a mistake because it was just too many bags to worry about. So this time, I put all of our stuff into one bag and this too has been a mistake. I thought of it last minute, that pulling the hockey bag down from the roof top box might be a pain, but we stuck with it unsure of what was the best system. Now I realize that one small bag per two people would have been best. I did do a few smart things though, I packed one hockey bag full of stuff that we are not opening or touching until we get to our final destination; nicer clothes or other items I knew we wouldn’t need. That bag is at the very bottom of the trunk. Also when we were in Florida, I bought a bunch of nylon drawstring swim bags for $5 at the Nike store. They were very useful as swim bags and are now even more useful. One is a jammie bag, so that at the very least, it is easy enough for a quick night stop to pull it out and I’m not scrounging around in the dark trying to find everyone’s night wear. Another one is an underwear bag, in which each member of the family has a large Ziploc with clean underwear in it. This bag is only for removing underwear to wear and I am the only one allowed to put underwear back in. This is working well, because you know how dirty underwear inevitably gets mixed back in and then who knows what everyone is wearing? The final drawstring bag is for dirty laundry. Luckily we’ve been staying with people along the way and have been able to do laundry so we only need to have one small bag to get us from place to place. But that way, anything wet or dirty can just be put in there to deal with later.

Ziplocs are definitely my friend. One for plastic cutlery, one for baby wipes, another for the first aid items in my ‘car kit’ etc. To go with the drawstring bags we have two toiletries bags with tooth brushes, contact stuff etc so that quite literally, if it’s a quick stop we can pull out that and the jammie bag and that’s all we need.We discovered that used Gatorade bottles, the ones with the closable squirt tops, make great bottles for skim-milk-powdered-milk. Squirt it over your cereal and away you go. If you reuse them for water (yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that…) they are good for refilling bottles etc because of the squirt feature. The new ‘cereal bowls’ that General Mills put out are good for cereal on the go. I wouldn’t normally buy those because they are expensive compared to buying boxes of cereal for at home. Consequently, they are cheap compared to breakfast out! Plus you can rinse and reuse the bowls for dividing other snacks later. We also have a cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter and that has been fantastic. It fits between our two front seats so it also doubles as an arm rest, cutting board or tray as well as laptop stand for watching movies. I’m not sure who designed the cooler but they put stretchy cords across the top so that’s where our information booklets and maps go. Thank you Canadian Tire! Also, to put in the cooler, water or Gatorade bottles work really well for freezing and using as ice packs. By the time you’ve exhausted your water bottles they’ll be melted enough to use. Just for your info, Gatorade expands considerably more than water when frozen! Take a big swig before freezing.

Back to the travels…

After repacking and doing some laundry we got away late, just before noon, and burned off the rest of Manitoba before getting to the Saskatchewan border. We wanted to make it to at least Regina if not further that day. When discussing our trip with others, we noticed that most people made the comment that all of the drive would be interesting except The Prairies. I happen to think that the prairies are quite beautiful. Considering most of the other times I’ve driven through Manitoba it’s been brown, it was lusciously green and lovely. It’s also so much less stressful driving here, the road is dead straight, little traffic and not a lot of danger, resulting in no tense shoulders watching for moose, no fog and much less fatigue. We did of course see countless road-kill, officially seeing many more dead deer than alive.

I hate to say this, but we completely burned off Saskatchewan. I’m really sorry, this is not for any reason other than time. I had wanted to see family in Saskatoon and stomp around their grounds but time is not allowing. It is looking more and more like we’ll be heading back this way so we will prioritize this part of the county for our return trip. I would like to say though that the long fields and pockets of farms and trees are so peaceful, we really did enjoy the drive through. It’s also fun to count trains and watch hawks chase little birds and vice versa. We actually saw a little bird riding a hawk, no lie.

Steinbach and Winnipeg - June 30

The following day we all headed out to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach, to explore some family history and enjoy the yummy food. Having spent 4 years in Newfoundland with very little Mennonite culture it felt really good to be there. The village is gorgeous and the weather was amazing. We learned lots and ate lots! After that we headed back, played around, hit up the water park and then got ready to go visit my oldest, bestest friend’s parents for dinner. I must say that we have pretty lousy timing; we were early in our itinerary - but so was the grandchild they were expecting! Even in their excitement, fatigue and special family togetherness, they threw together an impromptu pizza dinner with all the other kids and grandkids. Thanks so much! It was so wonderful to visit with them all - I don’t think I’ve been there since I was just a year or two older than Riley is now. Once we were back and had put the kids to bed we went over and spent some time with Becky before turning in.

Dryden to Winnipeg - June 29

We found a warm place to lay our heads and even go for a swim at the Best Western in Dryden. Definitely not the ‘best’ western but hey, we can’t complain right? We left there in the am after breakfast and a swim. The landscape changed again dramatically after Dryden, tapering into rolling hills and then very flat plains. It was very green though, and quite beautiful. We crossed the border into Manitoba and I was very excited to have a flood of good memories from many childhood summers spent there. Falcon Lake, Bird’s Hill Park, Portage Place, The Forks etc. We went straight to Barton’s sister’s house where she and his parents were working hard renovating and gardening. It was another hot day and the kids were very excited to hear that the following day, the park across the street would open their water park for the summer. We brought down the kids bikes and they went for a bike around the neighbourhood and along the Red River. We ate dinner at the house where my inlaws were staying and stayed the night there with them. It’s a beautiful house with a yard that slopes down to the Red River, where you can watch paddle wheelers and motor boats go past. After dinner, a few of Becky’s friends joined us for dessert and it was really great to meet some of her friends and we feel very reassured that while she’s far away from family, she’s in very kind and loving hands.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Drive to Dryden, June 28

Once again we had a breakfast feast (I know, you want their number don’t you?!) and then we found ourselves packing once more. It was pouring rain so that made packing a little more difficult.

We left Manitouwadge heading towards Manitoba. Manitouwadge is 40 minutes off the highway and then about 3.5 hours east of Thunder Bay. It’s a beautiful drive all the way through Ontario, but it’s been slow going since we left the TO area. The speed limit is often 70-90 and there is so much construction. So, it was slow again along this route. The last 100kms before Thunder Bay are called the Courage Highway, a monument to Terry Fox, whose journey ended there. At Thunder Bay you hit the shores of Lake Superior and once again, it’s massive and beautiful. We stopped to dip our feet, it was more accessible than Lake Ontario, and took some photos. It is quite incredible that you can drive for hours and still be along its shores.

The landscape changes dramatically after Thunder Bay. Throughout the former portions of Ontario it actually slightly resembled Newfoundland with a lot of jagged rock and brushy forests. The trees are bigger of course and there seems to be more variety, but it has that very rugged feel, not lush like the Mainland Atlantic Provinces. Immediately after Thunder Bay the rock disappeared and the trees became more sparse, the fields more bare and the ground looks quite marshy.

Along this stretch we entered the “Arctic Watershed” which means that all the rivers and lakes after that point drain North into the Arctic Ocean, which is kind of cool. And then we passed the Central Standard Time Zone line so we moved our clocks back. We joked to the kids that we had gone back in time and that any mistakes they had made over the past hour could be redone - The Thiessen Time Machine - they took us a bit too seriously for a minute! We are now 2 hours ahead of BC and 2.5 hours behind Newfoundland.

Around 9pm we were treated to perhaps the most incredible sunset I’ve seen. Because we’re so far North and travelling West we seem to be chasing it and it doesn’t quite want to go away. That’s fine with us, it’s a beautiful driving back drop… or front drop I guess.

Our moose count is climbing! The moose here seem to be much darker and if possible, even bigger, than those in Newfoundland. I don’t know if that’s a seasonal thing, like molting or something, but they’re pretty tough to see. Only one was on the road - that was on the stretch to Manitouwadge. He was taking his merry time across the road, but they are almost impossible to photograph.

So, as it stands it’s 9:48pm and we’re about 50km from Dryden. We had initially planned to stop in Kenora but we’re aiming for Dryden instead. Actually, I think the itinerary says Upsala but we’re a few hours past that. Man, there is NOTHING up here. It’s so big and open and beautiful. The sun is still trying to set, the road is long and even. If I was sitting on a clock I could say that I see the sunset from 10 o’clock to 5 o’clock, almost all the way around me. It only recently stopped raining, lots of rain today. We lost our ‘moose mangler’ because I had to stop and attempt photos of the sunset. There’s no one else out here. Three quarters of the kids are sleeping and the temptation to plug on to Winnipeg comes again. We are so excited to get to Winnipeg (yes, that’s right, excited to get to Winnipeg!). Barton’s sister is there and his parents are visiting her as well! But, we’ll stop … There’s a sign, 48km to go.

Manitouwadge, June 26 and 27

Our stay in Niagara was unfortunately very short. The morning, as always, came too early and we were eating breakfast and repacking once more! I can’t wait until we can go awhile without repacking our bags every single day. I must say that we are getting much more efficient and knowing what I know now, I definitely would have packed differently.

We took off once more for the longest stretch of our journey – 15 hours to Manitouwadge, Ontario, to stay with friends there. Our intention was to get to about Blind River, part way between Sudbury and Sioux St Marie, which is a pretty long day of driving but would make the next day a little shorter. We actually made it “The Sioux” and were faced with the dilemma of stopping or ploughing on. The drive would be another 5 hours, but the kids were falling asleep and it would mean having the entire next day to relax and play. Stopping would mean spending on a hotel and then not getting out to our destination until probably 3pm the next day. *Some people* have a hard time getting up in the morning and then there’s breakfast and repacking so it’s usually 10 before we can pull away. We called Jeremy and Loreal, our friends there, and decided that since we would be staying in the house next door and not disturbing anyone showing up in the middle of the night, we would plough on. I of course got the wickedly foggy stretch! Barton took over just before Wawa and at 3:40 am, 15 hours plus rest stops after leaving Niagara Falls, we pulled into Manitouwadge. We found the house no problem and crawled like dying turtles into our beds.

We were treated to a pancake feast the following morning with Loreal and their 5 adorable boys. Us girls were fairly outnumbered and had to stick together! It was already scorching and the boys dragged Barton out for a bike ride. The little ones were left behind and Loreal and I visited and played. The boys showed up a few hours later soaking wet and waving their underwear like white flags. They had gone to a bike park and somehow ended up swimming in the local lake. Barton made them all tie their underwear to their handlebars, so they fashioned themselves a bit of a gang. We had some lunch and naps and headed back to the beach with the whole group for a swim. The boys, in typical boy fashion found some mud… it started innocently with just a few rocks tossed in. You know what’s coming right? Then they moved in a little… eventually every single boy plus a few locals were covered head to toe in black mud. Once everyone had been thrown into the lake and made their way back home, Jeremy showed up with BBQ. The bugs were quite bad so everyone was nursing some constellation of bites on their bodies. We had a great evening playing, visiting and more of the same in the morning.

Niagara Falls and St Catherine's, June 25

I am starting to completely lose track of time… I am having a lot of trouble remembering what the day is and where we are in our schedule!!! I think that we’re a bit ahead of time which is actually good because Barton would like to be in BC a bit earlier than we had initially planned. We’ll see how it goes but at least now we do have some time flexibility along the way.
We had a pretty relaxed morning on the 24th. I spent some time uploading photos, we did laundry and packed. The kids played with the cousins a bit more (they got to stay home from school another morning!) and were introduced to Rock Band... it was so great to get to know this family and hopefully we can keep in touch!

We left Oakville around 2pm and set a course for Niagara Falls. It was a leisurely drive as we were already outside of Toronto. We drove along Lake Ontario for awhile and had to work pretty hard to convince the kids that it was actually a lake, not the ocean as it looked.

Niagara was incredible of course. We were told by many that they ‘only’ way to see it was on the Maid of the Mist so we did. It was awesome, we got soaked and got an up close and personal look, it’s quite shocking really, how much water is there. The day was scorching so that was perfect. We walked around a bit and then headed up to my Uncle and Aunt’s in St Catherine’s.

We arrived just in time for supper, but put it off a bit so that everyone could take a dip in the pool. What a great day! We feasted on chicken, corn cobs and baked potatoes, with cold Pepsi and then ice cream with strawberries for dessert. That meal had ‘Baerg’ written all over it! I am 30 years old and this was my first time to their house, terrible I know. It was wonderful to finally see them there and my cousin joined us too from Hamilton. (but she’s not ‘from’ Hamilton, I’m sure she’d like me to clarify for you…) The older kids got to sleep in the tent trailer while we slept with Mattea in the house. We are so thankful for the blessing of so many beds and roofs provided for us on this trip!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Northern Ontario Update

HI! We are safely in Manitouwadge, Ontario. We did a 15 hour drive yesterday! I will update more later, just wanted to let ya'll know. We left Niagara heading for Blind Lake or the Sioux and ended up going all the way. The kids were sleeping and it gave us the entire day here today. It's been fantastic, we're staying with good friends and their 5 kids. It's beautiful and hot, the kids went pond swimming and atv-ing!

More later... leaving tomorrow, will stop over night before going to Winnipeg.

Also, I'm having some issues with the Quebec photos... I've got 'em but I won't have them up right away.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Photos

OKay, I think I've updated all the photos for now... you can tell where we burned through and didn't stop much, not without regret though!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Toronto, June 24th

Well, of course as we packed up the tent in Ottawa, it started to rain again. With a bag full of wet, sandy clothes and a soaking packed tent, we took off for Toronto. We had hoped to stop in Kingston to meet up with some friends from NL but we were unable to make the connection.

It was a long day of driving straight through to Toronto, but it was beautiful. We had the full gamut of weather, starting with thunder showers and more lightning followed by hot sun and finishing with more rain in Toronto. Unfortunately, during this ride I realized that, to make a long story short, I deleted my photos of us at the Parliment Buildings in Ottawa. I was really upset, but it's turned into one more reason to come back this way on our return trip home (as opposed to through the States.) We'll see, there's lots of time to make that decision.

It was lots of fun pulling into the outer limits of Toronto waiting to catch a glimpse of the CN Tower. Many times the kids thought they saw it but it turned out to be a crane or water tower. Finally, there it was! We had arrived in the big T.O!

We zipped through on 7 lane highways and made our way past into Oakville where Barton's cousins live. We thoroughly enjoyed the city limit signs through the different suburbs, figuring out how the populations compared to ours at home. Mississauga has more people than all of Newfoundland and Labrador, while the 'smaller' suburb of Oakville still has more than St John's. Every few exits was a new city, with still more people than we've seen in a very long time! Even so, the traffic was great coming in and we arrived just before 10pm.

Once again, we were welcomed in by a generous family! Don and Brenda and their four kids let us take over their basement. We were up pretty late catching up and then crashed like never before. When we got up this morning, the kids said they had had the best sleep EVER (of the trip). We ate breakfast on the porch and watched Barton and the kids set up the tent to dry it out. We threw in some laundry and packed up for Canada's Wonderland.

Though our drive to Wonderland was stunted by a bit of a 'traffic issue', we arrived at lunch time to Wonderland and the kids began their day of speed-demon ride obsession. The lines were pretty long but they got a few good runs in before a quick lunch and the water-parking it for the afternoon. Then it was back to more rides for late the afternoon and evening when we shut the park down at 10:30pm. We almost all took a turn on the new ride "Behemoth" (me too!) (http://behemoth.canadaswonderland.com/public/fun/videos.cfm) and a few others became faves. Nikolai loved "Dragon Fire" and rode it by himself at the end of the day. He and cousin Adrianna are the same age and had a great time in the kids area, while the bigger kids rode the rides with higher height restrictions. It was a fantastic day with a huge gang of awesome kids including one of the cousin's friends who brought our kid-total to 9!

Now everyone has completely crashed but we're looking forward to a relaxing morning, with no rush to get out to Niagara for the day.

CarDiscipline

Someone needs to write a book about CarDiscipline... what's that? You think I should do it? Oh stop! (oh do go on...)

All of the regular tricks and systems for discipline kind of go out the window at 120km/hr when you're all strapped into your seats for a week straight. The whole "when we get home " is a bit useless, what - am I supposed to keep a log of offences for mass punishment on arrival? Where can I send you for a time out? We don't have any handheld electronic devices so I can't even take anything but crayons and workbooks away! It's also a little hard to ground one person in the car from watching a movie when it's 6" from their face. So, Creativity once again must be enlisted for help. We've taken Nikolai's lips away a few times when he gets so darn loud, he has also been grounded from using pens after he decided to give himself a mask and write all of our names on his legs and arms. (okay seriously, how do you effectively 'punish' when you can't stop giggling?). We decided to think of a few other time out options for future times of need, do you have any ideas for more?

- Must plug ears or not get headphones during movie watching
- For more severe punishments, plug ears and watch movie in subtitles.
- Cannot participate in car games
- Car counting for lengths of time deemed appropriate for offence
- Grounded from any flavour of Tim Bit except Vanilla

No but seriously, it's an interesting twist on misbehavior. We're stuck in the front, they're stuck in the back and really, when they've been in a car for a week, can you really blame them for lashing out? Maybe we should start a point system?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ottawa! June 23/24

I love campgrounds with Wi-Fi!

We left Montreal yesterday at 12:30 started out towards Ottawa. We FINALLY got to eat at a sugar shack. We were actually able to hit up the one Barton and I went to almost 3 years ago called the Sucrerie de la Montagne. It’s so awesome! If you’re ever in the area it’s so definitely worth it. It’s beautiful and delicious.

I wrote a story about it ages ago… http://smudgemedia.blogspot.com/2008/02/true-sugar-shack.html

Lunch was long and relaxing so we arrived in Ottawa just before 6pm when we found a camp ground and set up our tent. We brought out tent and sleeping bags but NOTHING else! (This is where Nikolai would correct me and say “Not NOTHING else!”) Just after we had everything set up and taken out of the van we heard some loud cracks of thunder… so everything got packed away again. We left the tent up and tried to cram everything else into the van.

The boys and Riley were out riding their bikes around the camp ground and within 10 minutes we found them, looking like drowned rats riding bikes. Nikolai was terrified, the thunder and lightning were so close! They jumped in the van soaked completely through and Bridger had a new gash across his chest where he tripped over Nikolai’s bike when Nikolai dropped his bike and ran for the hills. “That which doesn’t kill you…”

So we drove into Ottawa soaking wet and were unfortunately too late to actually go into any buildings. However, it was warm enough so we walked around the Parliament Buildings and some of the downtown. It’s very beautiful, especially along the Ottawa River. The kids really enjoyed the ‘eternal flame’ in front of the Parliament Buildings as well as looking for all the guarding gargoyles.

We were back to the camp ground and as we were all tired and wet and we had no lantern or campfire, we all found some softish object to use as a pillow and were all sleeping by 10! We woke up to the sound of light rain on the tent which is always a nice sound, especially when you’re dry and warm inside.

Mattea’s first night in a tent was a complete success! She slept very well and the other kids were great, they can sleep anywhere! We tried our best to manoeuvre ourselves into the van and change without getting too wet, most just ended up staying in what we slept in. We left the tent, hoping it would stop raining and at least partially dry out while we were in the city. When we found parking we changed into what we could and ate what was found in the car!

We went to the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau which is absolutely amazing! I cannot believe the detail and work put into it. You have to go if you’re here. There’s a huge kids section and all the other museum sections are so amazing that you can’t help but enjoy it. We ate lunch there and just returned back to the campground to pack up the tent. I’m not sure how dry it is, Barton’s dealing with that!

We unfortunately don’t have time to go for a tour of the Parliament which is something I would have really liked to have done. Maybe next time we drive across the country…

The kids were surprised at how French it still was here and were excellent at communicating at the sugar shack and the museum in French.

I forgot to tell you about the deer I almost hit in Fredericton! We had no wildlife encounters through most of the latter part of New Brunswick. I pulled into the city limits of Fredericton, was driving through major traffic in the industrial section and of all places, THIS is where a deer decided to boot it across the road. I had a semi to the right and barricades to the left. I really had to slam on the brakes that time, it was a bit frightening really.

And Mattea has two new teeth! One is French, one is English. I woke up today to discover a brand new tooth on the bottom, completely out! Who knew?! So that one came out somewhere in Quebec. Her new one is just poking through now, so that will be an Ontarian tooth. That makes 6! She also has totally stood on her own a few times and yesterday in the camp ground we thought she might teach herself to walk because she DID NOT like the feel of her knees in the dirt.

The lightning along the way has been so cool!

OK, that’s all for now, I should probably go and help the 'tent situation' and I'm still working on time to upload those photos…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Doing the Captial Stretches! June 22nd

We arrived in the Kanawake Reserve last night around 9:30 where our friends Ojistoh and Jamie live with their 4 kids. Ojistoh was a fellow medical student of Barton's at UBC and we have always kept in touch. At the time we arrived, the local lacrosse team (of which Jamie used to be a part) was playing another local team at the arena. Ojistoh is the team trainer and deals with the game injuries during and after play so we stopped by there and Barton, Bridger and Riley caught the last part of the game. We went back to their house where they surrendered a few bedrooms for us and we slept like logs again. Once again, Barton was sure he heard the trains that run through the reserve but I heard nothing.

It is so hot!!! The kids are outside playing with O&J's kids. They have a ball hoop and lots of space to run. Finally too, there are girls Riley's age! They are so funny though, they were all excited to see each other but once we got here they all stood around scared to say anything. I think the ice is broken now though, so we'll let them play for a bit. It's sprinkling a little but so warm. What a treat!

The kids are doing awesome! They are being amazing travellers. We've had a few scraps here and there but all in all they are being excellent. Mattea loves hanging out with the kids so much. So far they've only watched 3 in car movies, which for a 4 day trip doesn't seem so bad! I think they were a little relieved to hear that Ojistoh and Jamie don't speak French at home! =) But all the way through the rest of Quebec and into Ottawa we can keep the French train going.

Ok, well, we're all eating breakfast and I'm being a little anti social so I should go! Jamie just brought home a traditional Sunday lunch...

We're going to Ottawa today and I think we'll spend the day there, maybe camp tonight. The next few days we'll be in the GTA area going to a Jays game, Canada's Wonderland and Niagara falls.

Happy Summer! Quebec on June 21st!

The hotel served us breakfast in the morning and after attempting to repack the van a little, we were again on our way. We couldn’t quite figure out how we could have more space at this point and are wondering if that’s a good sign that we’re learning to pack better or a bad sign that we’re leaving stuff behind!

At 11am we made our way to the Quebec border at which point we banned the kids from using any English. At first our ride was very quiet… but they finally got more comfortable with it. Quebec City was next on our stop and we got there early afternoon. We went back to the Plains of Abraham where we enjoyed the Carnaval Du Quebec earlier this year. Instead of trudging through 3 feet of snow, however, we walked and biked in tank tops through the park, past friends and couples lying in the grass enjoying the sun, sharing a bottle of wine or throwing a Frisbee – a slightly different scene! We enjoyed the area immensely. I loved the way it felt there. The whole area was alive as they prepared for a big festival to celebrate the 400th birthday of QC, and as it was Saturday, there were prom parties doing photographs and picnics in abundance.

After that we were off again! What a whirlwind! Out towards Montreal were started, trying to find a Sugar Shack for our supper. Our attempts were constantly foiled so we ate sandwhiches in the grocery store parking lot… we will try again tomorrow! We did get some pretty awesome looks from people coming and going into the grocery store =). Lots of French muttering and a few "Bon Appetite!"s. We have just pulled into the city limits of Montreal as I write this, we will be spending the night and morning with a friend and her family on the Kanawake reserve just outside the city. More tomorrow!

New Brunswick and PEI, Friday June 20

We had a pretty uneventful trip through Nova Scotia on Thursday. We were heading towards West Amherst because Riley’s good friend from school moved there last year. We rolled in around midnight and they had graciously set up their trailer for us. We knocked out pretty quickly and slept like logs. Barton thinks he heard a train but I didn’t hear anything!

Maitland’s property is beautiful, set back in trees and dead quiet. We had some breakfast and a cup of coffee OUTSIDE. Yes, that’s right. After months and months of scarves, mitts and toques, we enjoyed our breakfast outside before 9am. Even the bugs were out! It was short and sweet and we were on our merry way by 10am.

West Amherst is on the order of New Brunswick so we shortly thereafter made our way into our third province of the trip. We couldn’t decide between going to the Hopewell Rocks or PEI. We opted for PEI to be sure that we would hit every province along the way. We also have to come back through NB anyway, so we’ll hit the rocks on our way home.

It’s pretty quick into PEI. It was about an hour to the Confederation Bridge and then half an hour into Charlottetown. PEI is very pretty. Picturesque and green with lush red fields. After trying to garden on The Rock we both thought it would be pretty awesome to sink our fingers into some of that dirt! We went down to the waterfront and had a picnic and threw around the baseballs. As we headed back to the bridge, we stopped at the little market area for Moos ice cream. Yummy!

Back into New Brunswick we headed. I found New Brunswick to be completely stunning. It was so so so green. Lush and full of rivers and rolling hills covered in green trees. We didn’t stop for much along the way except for supper in Fredericton. After supper we took one last stretch out into Edmonston. It is very close to Quebec and as we made our way closer and closer it became more and more predominantly French. I always knew that NB had a large French population but in the last 100km or so, the signs slowly transferred from English with French to French with English. Eventually there was barely any English at all. We crashed at a Days Inn around 11pm.

Some things I have found interesting at this point in our trip:

We have a great, great expanse of beautiful land in this country that is almost completely untouched. I was especially struck by this through NB. Just so much space! Also, so far, the other provinces are so far beyond Newfoundland with respect to recycling that it’s silly! It’s a minor thing to notice, but every public garbage can has 4 compartments, garbage, recycling, paper and compost. Pretty impressive. The other thing was the rivers! I love the rivers.

The First Stretch - Wednesday and Thursday June 18/19

We're off the boat and have two provinces under our belts! Wednesday got off to a good start. The boys had their last day of school, so while they were away we had the final packings and sortings to get finished and then the task of finding spots for everything in the van.
Riley's teacher called with the heads up that they were on their way from the St Pierre ferry and so we tried to gage the rest of the day to their timing.

Riley's teacher called again and they were way ahead of the schedule we were expecting so we were all of a sudden packing in a frantic hurry and literally throwing things into the car, assuming we'd be able to make space for Riley later! We dashed out the door at the 4:30, much behind this new schedule. We did our best to get to Riley as quickly as possible but when they called from the meeting point we were still 3o minutes away.

We finally arrived, I felt so bad! We scooped her up and said good bye to her friends and teacher. We were off!!!

Riley had a fabulous time in St Pierre. They were very busy with all of their activities and learned lots, including the fact that in France, kids can 'legally' smoke at 13 and drink when they are 15 or 5 feet tall!

Barton drove the stretch to Clarenville where we stopped for a quick supper.

We had told the kids we wouldn't be eating out anymore until we were on our trip so we hadn't been out in months! They were thrilled to finally get to eat out!

From Clarenville I drove and the weather was good. I hit a really foggy patch along the way but all in all in it was quite uneventful. The forests along the road were incredible with amazing shades of green. There was no one else on the road and it felt like we had the whole province to ourselves! I suppose a Wednesday evening isn't the most popular time to take a drive across the province! It got dark around 10:30 and we had a good 4 more hours to go. It is not recommended to drive through Newfoundland at night because of the moose, but we really didn't have much choice. I positioned myself behind a nice big truck to use as my moose catcher and away we went. I saw two moose on my driving shift and only once did I have to really try to slow down for it.

At Gander we switched and Barton did the driving, hopped up on some energy drink. The fog lifted and the moon was full, which made for gorgeous driving. We saw about 4 more moose. We made it through the infamous Wreckhouse stretch with little wind. *phew!* (Google it!)
We arrived in Port Aux Basques at 3:30am. We parked ourselves in the visitor's info lot and tried to sleep until morning. At 7am Barton drove down into the ferry line up only to find that the ferry was not arriving until 11am! (We were set to leave at 8:30.) So, back into Port Aux Basques we went. We got breakfast at Tim Horton's and then the boys pulled their bikes off the back and we went for a little excursion.

At 9 we headed back down to the ferry. They said that even though it arrives at 11, by the time it would be unloaded and loaded back up it would most likely be closer to 1 that we would be leaving. So far, our 'itinerary' was getting very messed up! So, we got ourselves to the ferry lineup and hung out at the terminal for the morning. Mattea napped in her car seat and so I tried to sleep as well, feeling very gross from the lack of sleep the night before. At 12:30 we boarded the ship.

We found our way to our little cabin and we were pleasantly shocked at how great it was. Four bunks with tucked bedding and bathroom with a shower! We explored the boat a bit before everyone but I went down for a nap. I stayed outside for awhile. In the fresh air. It was very cold but it was getting quite wavy and it made me feel better to be outside.

The kids slept a good long time and when Barton got up we traded places. There weren't many people on the boat so it didn't take long for most people to recognize Mattea and for her to make some new friends. The kids got up around 5 and we were treated to a complimentary dinner because of the delay in sailing. We showered and it was time to get off the boat. Not too horrible.
Now we're heading to Riley's friend's house in Amherst Nova Scotia. We will stay the night there and move along in the morning.