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.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Safe and Sound

HEY! I have loads to tell you but haven't found the time or proper connections to upload my writings and photos. I just wanted to tell you we've safely made it through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick. We stayed last night in Edmonston on the border of Quebec and are heading into QC and will end up in Montreal tonight.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

3 To Go!

Well, we leave for BC in 3 days and arrive in 3 weeks... it's a bit twisted, really.

Riley left for St Pierre bright and early this morning. For those of you who did not know this, there is a French island just south of Newfoundland called 'Saint-Pierre and Miquelon'. From the cars and architecture to the voltage, Euro and language, it is France. It is very, very small! Every year in Riley's school, the grade 6 French Immersion class (and often some English students) go on a trip there to use their language skills. Now that grade 6 is the last year of elementary school it is also a great send-off for the kids moving on to junior high. The kids have been looking forward to this for year. Riley was so excited until yesterday when she started to get nervous! All of a sudden she really didn't want to go, but we worked it through. They take a very nice coach bus for 5 hours to the ferry terminal and then the ferry ride is 1.5 hours. I didn't get any calls and the phone tree just informed me that they have arrived in France safe and sound. Their time there is jammed packed with French activities and many, many croissants! (It's a good thing they'll be walking a lot!) They are to be arriving back on Wednesday evening and we'll leave early, meeting the bus at the junction of the main highway and the highway to the ferry. It will at least save Riley about 3 hours in the car.

Yesterday, in anticipation of the heat and humidity of the majority of our fine country, I hacked off all of my hair. Well I didn't, but Tara at the Hair Connection did. I've done it many times before, but it always takes awhile to get used to! The boys will also get a visit from Mr Clippers tomorrow. (it was supposed to be tonight, but, well, it didn't happen.)

Today I ran a bunch of mundane errands, those lame things that need to be done but take up so much of your valuable time. *sigh*. I also had fun putting together the work sheet binders I've made for the kids for the trip. Lots of Canada puzzles and activities as well as activities for each province. My hope is it will turn into a great memory book that some day they can open up and enjoy with fond memories, not memories of mom making them do 'homework' the whole way!

Tonight I am sorting and packing clothes, tomorrow is cleaning-the-van day (and maybe the fridge?). A friend has graciously offered to have the boys after school and with Barton and Riley out of town, it's just me and Mattea. (Any takers for her???;) She's really good and naps perfectly so hopefully I can do some power prepping throughout the day.

Speaking of sorting clothes, I guess it's calling me now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Discovery!

I discovered something really brilliant today! Okay wait... that's giving myself way too much credit! Let me try again - I read something and then tried it and then discovered that it works really well!

My Carschooling book said that for long trips you should put a twin sized mattress pad or fitted sheet over your car benches/seats to protect them from the obvious long-journey messes. You cut slits in them for the seat belts and then at any time you can shake them out or wash them. I think this is quite smart for ANYTIME with kids, really. So I got a fitted crib sheet that fits over the back 2-person bench (just the seat part) of our van and then used an old twin-sized fitted sheet on the middle 3-person bench and it actually fits right up and over the back too. I'll slit holes for the seat belts, position-adjusting handles as well as for the head rest poles. I think it'll save at least a little wear and tear off of the upholstery in our van. I do have a twin sized mattress pad that I might try on the middle bench. If it saves just ONE juice spill...

The thing I think is so fun about this is, if you did it just regularly (considering how cheaply you can get sheets) you could go neutral to match your car or play with all kinds of colours!

Anyway, just thought I'd share! (Did I mention we have 7 days to go? Barton leaves tomorrow morning for the next 5...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One Week to Go!

In one week we will be embarking on a 6 hour ferry ride. To tell you the truth, that is the part I am most nervous about. I figure once we get off that boat (and our sea legs wear off), I will be much more excited about the journey. It's not so much that I think the boat will sink, or that we'll hit an iceberg (although... now that I think of it...) but just that after each pregnancy my susceptibility to motion sickness has increased. I'm thinking 6 hours of nausea - or worse - is not that fun! I will be packing much Gravol and maybe something a little stronger. My prayer concern for the present is calm seas and sunny skies. I know I'll be better if we can hang out on deck. However, we have booked our own cabin; 4 bunks and our own bathroom. It will be great to have a place to hang out or sleep or barf. I've never spent that much time on a boat, nor been on a boat in the open North Atlantic...

My piles have started. I have a to-pack pile going on the couch, eventually there will be nowhere to sit! I have some audio books and summer gear as well as books about Canada. I have also found some great resources for turning the trip into a semi-educational adventure. I figure, if I decide to home school next year I'll have Geography, History and Languages covered for the whole year!! I found a book called "Car schooling" that is FULL of super fun and creative travelling games. The whole book is broken into subjects and the games actually meet curriculum requirements!

Barton leaves this Friday morning for Halifax to a big conference, so I'm on my own for the weekend. Riley leaves with her class on Sunday morning on their trip to St Pierre. (She could probably tell you how many hours until they go!) Barton is back Tuesday morning and we will leave Wednesday at lunch. Riley's class is coming back in the direction that we're heading (there aren't many options when you're on an island!) so we are actually going to meet her in Goobies (seriously it is, look it up!) and snatch her from the school bus. It'll at least save her a few hours of backtracking.

Ok, that's all for now...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Getting Closer

T minus 9 days... *eek!*

We had an impromptu visit from a cousin this weekend and it was awesome! Although she decided to escape a 37* heat wave, I'm not sure she was counting on a 30* swing... overall, the weather was quite lovely. We had a great weekend sightseeing, walking a lot and participating in our many family activities. We did find a few icebergs but the whales completely let me down, I'll have to go have a chat with them.

Now it's time to crackdown.

I have discovered a serious market niche and have decided I'm the one to fill it. I won't tell you about it now but I will warn you - if my posts seem incredibly frequent and ridiculously detailed... I have a reason. ;)

I have decided to spend my time sorting, organizing and packing and not do any cleaning. I'll probably do one good clean over today and then it's going to the dogs (Though no longer literally. They should make an expression, "it's going to the kids."). I am going to have someone come in AFTER we've left to clean and get the house ready for the sublet-ers. Why I think I'm too good to do that, I'm not sure, but there's a heck of a lot of other stuff to do instead.

So, today the serious list-writing begins (as opposed to jotted lists that get lost) and piles are going to be started all over the house. Why, then, am I sitting here? Well... OK, I'm pretty good at procrastinating... but I'm going now. Really.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Getting Ready

It was April 2941, in a little place called The Shire, where a quiet and unsuspecting man named Bilbo Baggins found himself in the company of an old friend and 13 dwarves. Without so much as his hat, walking stick or money he found himself rushing from his home on a journey that would prove he could be more brave and capable than he ever imagined. Bilbo returned home with more than gold and jewels; discovery, friendship and personal growth changed him forever.

We're two weeks away from our Great Journey! I am not even close to ready... getting ready for a two month trip has proven to be much more difficult than initially imagined. Not only do we have to pack very lightly because of 'space issues' in our van, but we have to pack enough that we can function for 2 months away from home! We also have to get the house ready to be empty for awhile as well as inhabited by sublets; considering food left in the cupboards, which appliances to leave on and who will get the mail. Barton and Riley will both be gone the weekend before we leave so we should have as much done as possible beforehand. As it stands, we will be leaving St John's on June 18th, catching the ferry from Port Aux Basque on the 19th.

Thankfully, we have the time to get ready, I'm sure it will all come together in the end and hopefully we won't rush out the door without anything important! I am pretty sure we won't be encountering any dragons or trolls and I know we won't be coming home with treasure and jewels, but hopefully we will find ourselves growing, experiencing and becoming more than we imagined together. It's definitely a trip to change our lives!!!

"There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself."