Strung Hams
What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Like A Band Of Gypsies

I suppose as far as things go there are worse things I could have left at home. God forbid we had forgotten Edward's tahssies (his word for his blankets - why?) or the fleet of Little Red Cars or Caroline's duct tape. Still, I regret that my media card reader is on the kitchen counter because I wanted to post some pictures of our trip thus far. We saw a rainbow and a tractor supply company and a vintage VW bug stretch limo (thereby crossing about a dozen things off our I Spy list in one awesome fell swoop) and a whole lot of Canadians. Patrick the forest kid was dazzled by the majesty of Ottawa's twenty stories buildings and Edward turned bright red and then bright white and bright red again when he discovered the giant crane working directly outside our hotel window. It was perhaps the only time in my life that I was delighted to learn there was a major construction project underway within six inches of my hotel room and it didn't even bother me when they got back to work again at seven o'clock on Saturday morning.

"Yook. At. Dat. OOGE. GUYANT. BIG. Cane," Edward kept saying, an Arthurian in a Yankee courtyard.

The drive was mostly terrific. Very easy and enormously scenic. While I can see what you mean about the relative dearth of stuff along the Trans-Canadian highway between Sault and Ottawa we thought it was beautiful.

"Ooooh what a pretty lake!" I would say and Steve would murmur an enthusiastic agreement, then ten seconds later Steve would point and say, "Hey! Nice lake!" and I'd say oooh again. Edward and Caroline talked to themselves and occasionally to each other, mostly about Little Einsteins' episodes they had enjoyed in the past. Every three hundred miles or so Patrick would agitate for better living conditions but I handed him another new/borrowed book from my enormous black backpack of books (not to be confused with my large green backpack of snacks or my tiny blue backpack of things to bring into restaurants) and he settled back down again like a placated swamp creature. I discovered that the I Spy list was actually for me as I was the only one who was really into it - Steve and Patrick just humored me at intervals; Caroline kept saying she saw water towers (true - but I already got that one; thank you Escanaba Michigan and your whimsical town council for giving me my smiley face water tower) and wire towers (also true but not on my list) and rollercoasters (a patent falsehood until Montreal.) I - modestly - am kicking ass on that list, by the way, and we still have the return trip in which to see your blasted inflatable giant rat and someone wearing a costume.

The Peapods are officially the greatest thing ever in the history of all time. You can always just rip hunks off a loaf of bread but what else would have kept Caroline out of the broken hotel bathtub that took ten hours to drain a foot of water? I was worried about how Edward would adapt to the change in sleeping accommodations but he was fine. The first night he cried and said Get Out? for about five minutes and then he shrugged and resigned himself to the new state of affairs. He's a very sanguine kid in many ways. Sleeping within ten yards of Edward reminded me of why I moved them to separate rooms back when they were four months old. He is the loudest sleeper. Very Heorot. He snores and he snuffles and he kicks and he scrabbles and sighs and says things like "Hey guys I'll help you" in his sleep. The first night Patrick sat with a book light and his brand-new summer journal and recorded events as they unfolded:

Chapter One - The big bad boring beginning

Things were LOUD in room 204....

And they were. But it was fine and we all (eventually) slept much much better than I expected.

What else?

I packed a lot of medium-sized bags with very specific purposes and I think that made things easier. There was the diaper bag that just had diapers, wipes, ziploc bags, antiseptic hand things and a big old towel to use as a cushion. I used a very small backpack (Patrick's old preschool bag actually) to take into restaurants. It had sippy cups and a couple of pictures books and some astronomy trivia cards and a travel shampoo bottle filled with dishsoap and an old bottle washing scrubby. We just drank water in the car but the twins got milk when we stopped for a meal. Rather than put the milky cups back into the car I took a second and washed them before we left the restaurant. Yes I felt a little gypsy caravan when people found me washing dishes in the bathroom sink but it enabled me to have the cups clean and ready to use again at the next stop. Other than that I had an overnight bag with pajamas and toothbrushes and our books and booklights and Caroline and Edward's special bedtime things. An outdoor bag with swimsuits and bug repellent and sun hats. A day bag with clothes - for some reason I vastly overestimated pajamas (they really could have worn the same pair for three nights) and underestimated clothing changes. I mean, one pair of pants per day per kid was just dopey. Three minutes into breakfast on the second day Edward tipped an entire bowl of Cheerios and milk into his lap.

"Aaaaaa!" He said. "Cold! Wet! Mahk! Need new pants!"

By the time we got to Vermont Edward looked like he had been rolling in lasagne for days, a state of filth that was very distressing for him. Oh well. Life is messy, Ed-wad.

Sudbury was unexpectedly interesting. You go past enormous mining, uh, operations and then drop into a neat little college town. I don't even know if there was a college there but it felt like it. We used priceline for all of our hotels (ever since you told me about priceline I have become a bit of a name your own price junkie. I like it because it's like gambling. be advised that you get much better deals on four star places - we spent the same on a four star in Ottawa that we did on a two star in Escanaba - so when you only have two star hotels available it's not a great deal) and they were all fine. Fine except...

I mean more disrespect to Steve than to any faith when I say this (Steve has Issues with organized religion, specifically those that proselytize) but the funniest moment of our trip for me was when I saw Steve's face as he realized that I had pricelined us into a hotel which was also hosting a... Jehovah's Witness convention. I am laughing all over again as I think about it and I would like to add that we shared the pool with many of the conventioneers and their families and they were absolutely lovely.

Speaking of friendly I have to thank you for the Laurentian View Dairy recommendation in Deep River. We had an excellent lunch and terrific ice cream. We did have to wait a while for the food which is always hard with little kids but a woman sitting at the table next to us assessed our situation and then got up and went and rummaged around in the waitress station, emerging with crayons for our table.

"It's a new girl," she said apologetically of our waitress before she sat back down to her own lunch.

I think that pretty much sums up the Canadians we met: WOW. I am sure there are surly, unhelpful, antagonistic, brutish Canadians as well - I would hate to further stereotypes - but everyone we encountered was very kind. And I loved Ottawa. Very pretty, livable city. I always like it when you have downtowns that blend history and commerce and neighborhoods all together.

Also funny: Patrick decided to pass the time by increasing Caroline's number awareness. After drilling them on zero through twenty he moved on to place values.

"What comes after ninety-nine, Caroline?"

She thought about it.

"Tenty ten," she announced and absolutely nothing Patrick said could dissuade her. He's still frothy about it. 

We're in Vermont right now which is a post unto itself and it will get one. Hopefully by then I will have tracked down a card reader. Don't you want to see pictures of my kids in the car? Sure you do!

PS If you can only have lunch in one restaurant in Montreal - preferably in Vieux-Montreal - and see an afternoon's worth of things there what would it/they be?

PPS Hope you are well. Oh and check out the featured reader ad for a Reader's Retreat. It sounds like it is right up our alley.

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