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July 2015


We are in Vermont today for a visit with Steve's paternal birth family. The one brother lives here, the other drives over from New Hampshire and their Dad and his wife come from Maine.  It's lovely.

Steve's birth brother has all sorts of fascinating things at his house - like a peach tree and a pond with turtles and Lake Champlain with a pebble beach across the road and a vegetable garden with ground cherries (the sweet, lemony little tomato things that grow inside green paper skins? what do you call them?) - and he and his wife are the sort of people who urge you to pick, eat, do, explore. Needless to say - and yet here I am saying it - the children love it there.

Caroline in particular could remain at their house forever; mostly because they have chickens and brother's wife taught her how to catch them a few years ago, so Caroline is an expert chicken wrangler with little opportunity elsewhere to practice her art.


Granted, the chickens never need to be caught for any particular reason but, equally granted, sometimes the means justify the means.

This whole catch-and-release chicken safari in itself would have been enough to keep Caroline happy for hours but then... THEN...

one of their ducks loved not wisely but too well and - as is the inevitable result of these things (see: pretty much every 19th C novel) - there were Consequences.



Quick. Name five things cuter than a duckling.

Can't be done.

Meanwhile Edward and Patrick wanted to create an optical illusion in which they would use the hillside but it would appear as if Edward was jumping over Patrick. After about fifty attempts I said, "Yes, great, perfect."

"Does it look like I am jumping over him?"

I looked at the picture on my phone.

"Sure," I said.

PS I almost forgot entirely: last night Steve took the mattress off the folding cot and wedged it onto the floor between the bed and the radiator (Patrick said it was like sleeping on the bones of all the children who had been previously consumed by said mattress - I told him not to be so fussy; then I sat on the mattress and had to admit it felt like brambles wrapped in burlap.) Steve left the bed part outside our door until morning. We then folded the inflatable mattress up at the edges, squeezed it into the space at the foot of the bed and inflated it as much as possible, which wasn't much.

Caroline slept there.

"She looks like taco filling," Patrick observed.

"I'm fine!" she called.

We put Edward in between us in bed and - with the exception of Patrick, Caroline and Steve who said he was repeatedly kicked by Edward; which I can only assume is a foul lie because my end of Edward was serene and rosy cheeked - we all slept surprisingly well.


I was going to say that I cannot think of a word to describe the size of this hotel room (I just typed woom) but then I thought of a few: eensy, miniscule, teeny, minute, microscopic, Lilliputian. Checking into a two-story hotel five minutes after a hundred teenagers and their assorted chaperones we were met with the following options: two double beds in a smoking room or one king in a non. We went with the king and figured that we could manage with the addition of a cot plus the inflatable mattress. And I'm sure we could; if there was anywhere to put them other than on top of each other and under a pile of luggage.

Five people in a room the size of our cat's closet is making me feel a little... chest clutchy. I took the longest shower of my life, came out to discover Patrick and Edward thrashing around under a blanket playing Silent Tickle - HA! - and went back into the bathroom to take another shower. 

Spent the morning in beautiful Fredericton walking along the river front and visiting their art museum. Nice building, small but interesting collection. Contemporary exhibit of photographs and some mixed media pieces in their basement spaces were the most popular with the family - also the antique furnishings which were few but lovely.

Maine is another one of the places to which we are not able to give nearly enough time - we spent an hour last night trying to work out a way to see some of the Acadia National Park and still be in Burlington by tomorrow afternoon. Not happening; so... next time. 

On the plus side, the hotel has a guest laundry with two machines so I have been able to put in a load of clothes (I brought a small ziploc with some of those detergent pods in them just in case) for which I am inexpressibly grateful. After the mud and the water - so much water; did I mention the water? - of the Bay of Fundy I have been nervously eyeing (spell-check just accepted eying and is rejecting eyeing - really? I'm too tired to google it but that cannot be right) the bag of still wet clothes and towels in the back of the car.

I need to go check on the clothes, breathe into a paper bag and then escape into a book. I've hit my introverted wall. Walls, actually, and I can touch all four of them while sitting on the bed.    


Today we went to the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tidal range in the world; meaning that the difference from high tide to low tide averages over forty feet and peaks at over fifty. 


So an hour after I took this picture the river had risen almost to where Steve is standing on the deck. The tide turns and then it just pours in to fill the basin - impressive, amazing and a little scary.

There  are lots of places you can go to appreciate the tidal change from a nice bench on a bridge or platform, but Patrick lobbied heavily for the opportunity to get into the middle of the surge and Steve is very much a DO kind of vacationer so we opted for a tidal bore rafting trip with (let me get this right because they were so nice and especially good with children - yes, I promise to trip advisor them) Wild Waters Rafting out of Princeport near Truro.

Initially Edward was not amused. The whole idea seemed preposterous to him. We were going to throw ourselves into tiny rubber boats and then agree to be driven in these boats directly into wildly tossing waves? Absurd.


He came around but it kills me, a little, to cajole him because do you think I wanted to get on that little rubber boat and get splashed with all that water and go up and down on the rapids like a roller coaster? Of course not. I just got the entire Anne of Green Gables series for $0.99 on my kindle and I have 37 hours left to go.

But we both went and it was terrific. Wet, but terrific. Exciting, fun (wet) and terrific. To cap the trip a bald eagle came down right in front of us on the river and snatched a fish out of the water. We all applauded.

So, Bay of Fundy. Jazz hands.

That said, I think I loved the rest of the day most of all because it was all so unexpected. I assumed the tidal bore would be spectacular. Who knew that Truro, Nova Scotia has an exquisitely beautiful public park with great hikes smack dab in the middle of it?






Or that I would love Fredericton, New Brunswick so much that we would visit it twice?

Since we had some flexibility on where we went tonight there was debate on the merits of heading directly into Maine. I mentioned to Steve that we could certainly do that but I thought he would really like Fredericton, which the children and I had come through on our way to PEI.

It is truly a jewel-box of a little city: historic common spaces and gingerbread Victorian houses all set on a placid river. Oh, and public tributes to beavers.







We went to a pub for dinner downtown and walked around afterward to admire the houses. Steve said, "I am enamored with this town" and I felt pleased like you do when you recommend a book that someone reads and likes.

Not sure where we are going tomorrow but we have to be in Burlington Vermont by Friday for our annual visit with Steve's birth family (father's side this time) so we are definitely heading south and west. Most likely I will miss Canada like a limb but I haven't been in Maine for almost forty years (can that be right?) so I expect I will like it there again too. Blueberries. Lobster. Ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. Hawkeye Pierce.

*Yeah. Well. I did get Edward a new Kindle. I had it shipped to our house and Steve brought it when he came. On the one hand I was, like, what, you've lost your mittens? You naughty kittens! Et cetera, et cetera, NO PIE. And on a very real level - for Edward at least - it was like that. On our very shortest day we had at least three hours in the car and Edward's iron stomach has enabled him to read or listen to his own audiobook regardless. So every single one of however many minutes that was without his kindle was painful for him. That said - it was even more painful for me because he kept talking about it. Ceaselessly.

True story: I tend to wake Edward first in the morning - you would too if you had to choose between  generally sweet Edward slowly blinking to life and the other two snarling like bulldogs trapped under a rug  - and days after his kindle was broken I said something annoying (I'm not a morning person either) like: "Time to wake up and start a bright sparkling new day..." and Edward opened his eyes from a dead sleep to counter, "...without my kindle."

So I ordered him a new one for my own sanity and I take comfort from the fact that this indulgence won't be the reason why he winds up moving into our basement - it was his intention all along.


Since we got into the Maritime Provinces people have been apologizing for the weather. Apparently they are having the coolest, rainiest July in over a decade (two?) and everyone wanted to let us know how very sorry they are about it. It's very endearing (and Canadian) but personally I think the weather has been glorious. I'm a cool and rainy sort of person so the fact that it was in the 60s as we explored Cape Breton - mizzling off and on - suited me just fine.

Today was more of an in-between day. We left Cape Breton; went to the Gaelic College where I mentally explored the possibility of returning for an immersion course, bought a better dictionary, a phrasebook and a new grammar text - my dream of one day being able to read the children's book someone gave me years ago is getting closer to reality; I can now tell you with confidence that not only was Jimi a mouse, he was a happy mouse - then we had lunch before heading to Truro.

Steve drove, it rained, we listened to Bartimaeus book two (a little slow, I have to tell you) I fell asleep and then the children had to explain to me what I had missed during my nap: not much, being the consensus.

Steve has the kids at the hotel pool and I'm sitting here, well obviously I am talking to you, but I am also trying to figure out where we are going to squeeze the inflatable bed for Patrick on the postage stamp sized squares of floor space around the two beds.

Oh poor Patrick and I am so vexed. In anticipation of this trip I researched inflatable mattresses. We have a couple at home that we use when the cousins visit but they are heavy and battery operated and I deemed them unsuitable since I was the one who was going to be dragging the bags around. So I bought a new one that the internet swore up and down was light and fast and it plugged in and I thought - great! The first morning we used it I woke up to the muffled sound of Patrick trying to move his arms and legs. His body was resting directly on the floor and the mattress was puffed up around him.

"I feel like I'm being injection molded," he moaned.

Which would have been bad enough but he's had to... oh for heavens' sake. I just had a thought while I was typing this. I can move Patrick in with Edward and Caroline can sleep on the inflatable. She is half Patrick's size and perhaps the leak won't be as bad with less weight? I'll try that.

Speaking of packing and as long as Steve still has the kids at the pool... I think I did a pretty good job of organizing our belongings for the trip.

I went with many small'ish bags and the theory that I would then only have to bring in what was needed for each hotel (provided I had safe parking - so far so good.)

I have a backpack that just has swimming stuff in it - suits, googles, towels; if there is no pool or no plan to swim it stays in the car. I have another backpack for fleeces and a third for raincoats. Each family member has their own duffel bag (I, ah, have two) and I separated socks and underwear into a jumbo ziploc bag inside everyone's duffel so they've been easy to find. Caroline has a backpack with her Kindle and special blanket and... a printout of a botanical illustration of a mandrake root (don't ask. I haven't.) Edward has a backpack with his, well, just his blanket for a while there after the Great Smashening

- Julianna asked about the passive construction of "Edward's Kindle got shattered" wondering about the lack of expressed agency. Short answer: I don't know. I went into the gas station to pay and when I returned the car was in an uproar and the glass was fractured into a million billion pieces. The currently accepted story is that Edward accidentally sat on it but... I dunno. I think there is more to it than that. However, Patrick started a Siblings Protect Each Other movement somewhere in Ontario and it has continued to hold fast; no one is snitching. I guess I approve -

What else?

I brought a tote bag full of shelf-stable snacks like apples and breakfast bars which has stayed in the car with a small cooler for water bottles and a duffel bag that holds the inflatable mattress, a sheet, a pillow and a blanket, ditto.

I think that's it. Oh, and a laptop bag that has my laptop and all of the chargers. 

Family is back; off to try a recommended Thai restaurant - all hail Yelp.


No, really. Cape Breton.



















It is all just so beautiful.

PS I met a couple from Toronto in the hotel lounge this evening and when Steve joined us she asked, "Now, where are you from? I mean, where did you grow up?"

Steve said, "In the Washington DC area" and she said, "Ah ha, yes, I can hear it. The South. You two sound very different from each other. The accents."

Highly amused, seeing as how Steve and I grew up within ten miles of each other and he sounds like he swallowed a plum soaked in excellent brandy with no hint of Dixie anywhere; I asked, "And what is my accent?"

"You don't have one," she said, promptly.

From which we can conclude that my ambition to pass as a Canadian is coming along nicely. Also I think I have become that person who spent January term in London and returned sounding like a drag version of Princess Margaret being strangled by a tea cosy - but more Confederation.

Cahh-nuhh-duh, eh?

PPS After a week of totalitarian rule in which I have been The Total, it's been a little... odd to have another adult back in the picture. A Mary, if you will, to my William. I cannot tell you the number of times in the past two days that I have laid out a perfectly ironclad plan only to have a voice pipe out some ridiculous objection; like, "We cannot take the ferry to Newfoundland for a night. It's a twelve hour trip each way."

Four days ago I would have been able to say, "Silence, child! I will tell you what is or is not a twelve hour ferry ride" but when it is Steve making the objection I have to be more tactful. 

PPPS We saw another moose. This time much closer. It was quite thrilling. Also a seal - not totally confirmed, but likely. No whales but a few rocks that looked like they might have been whales and for several moments we were all a'twitterpated. 


Cape Breton. Cape Breton, Cape Breton, Cape Breton. Road signs in Gaelic that I can almost read, winding roads through sea and cliff, Edward ordered mussels twice in one meal, acoustic guitar, great singer-songwriter, glass of red wine, Steve has taken the kids back to the room, every inhalation brings the sea and roses.

Possibly the happiest I have ever been in my life.


We just had the one night in PEI and I freely acknowledge that we are not spending nearly enough time in any of these places.

Patrick said, "Wait, what, we're leaving Price Edward Island? We just got here! And I'm still hungry!"

Edward compared our whirlwind tour of Canada to a tasting menu (charmingly butchering the word in the process; degust, disgust) - it's been a little bit of a lot of different things. 

True. But there is only so much time and when I first discussed the idea of this trip you guys were pretty adamant in saying that a person can go here OR there OR yonder but it is madness to attempt all three. So I settled on visiting northern Nova Scotia and everything up until now has been the sugary icing. I think it is all to the good since there are so many places to which the children want to return; Patrick loved the city feel of Montreal, Caroline liked Quebec and Edward imprinted upon PEI, channeling a culinary John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun to eat!"

Steve flies in tonight to meet us in Halifax and then we will spend the next week in and around Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy. It will be lovely to see him and have him be able to enjoy some vacation time too.

In the meantime, I am proud of myself. I went so far outside of my comfort zone that I am surprised there is breathable air here and, I think, the children have had a really good time so far. I know I have.


I went to check into our hotel today only to discover that I had inadvertently booked the room for last night. Ah. Ha ha ha HA. Since I had used one of the internet booking sites ( in this case) I was utterly flummoxed; I had already paid for the room and the hotel had held it for me despite the fact that I never arrived. They then charged me for the room as a no-show; since it is not their fault that I am the human equivalent of a radish. So I stood there gaping at them and they looked blankly back at me and I think at this point we would have been at an impasse - what with me saying that I do not know how I could have been so flaky and them saying yeah we don't know either - when the desk clerk and the desk manager and the general manager who happened to be standing there all took pity on me and gave me the room. Just like that. No charge. They were even nice enough to say it could happen to anyone; which was, of course, a complete lie.

[Hey social media savvy people - I'm not on facebook but is there a twitter appropriate way to say thank you? Obviously I can tell you right now that The Grand Holman hotel in Charlottetown, PEI is the bee's knees but that only gets them, ah, so far. Do I just say thank you for x @whatever? Please advise.]

Apart from that, Prince Edward Island. Preeeettttty. So pretty. We would have seen more of it but we couldn't stop eating. Edward alone has consumed at least two pounds of mussels and another two pounds of lobster in the past six hours (John Browns and Rowhouse were great) and Patrick and Caroline - who have previously been mussel adverse - tried one each at lunch and then dove face first into the bowl.



And there is always the hotel pool




Heh. Yeah. Sorry about that. I splurged on a very nice dinner at the hotel last night and splurged still further by ordering the tasting menu (say it with me: le menu degustation - looks kind of gross when you write it in French, doesn't it?) for all four of us. This wound up being a very long process - which is generally dining with children suicide - but it was made much easier by the fact that there was an honest-to-god fire juggling acrobatic street show going on underneath the window and our waiter was a miracle of service and tact. Also, and this was the point, he paired my entire meal by saying, "I think Madame would enjoy the sweetness of a sauterne with this course, complimentary, just a small taste" and then he would bring me a giant urn full of wine. Repeatedly.

It was extremely enjoyable but by the time I got everyone back upstairs and into bed I was ready for bed myself. Or the floor.

"Quebec!" I shouted (typed) before I fell onto my face and slept until morning.


We left Montreal two days ago but prior to leaving I drove through downtown; got detoured by the comedy festival; went in circles; managed to find a parking lot; negotiated with the parking lot attendant in French, alone, and without a leader; and took the children to the Contemporary Art Museum (hi Elena!) where I got confused about when I was supposed to present the tickets I had purchased - I thought she was asking if we had tickets and I was, like, yep! sure do! nod nod, mais oui, bien sur! and kept going until she gently clarified her need to be handed the tickets.

[Edward loved David Altmejd's Flux exhibit. A lot. So much that he has brought it up repeatedly since then. Caroline, in contrast, looked around and said, "We aren't really going to look at this stuff are we?" and when her brothers gave her a hard time she said, swear it, "OK! I don't know anything about art but I know what I don't like! Which is all of THIS and especially THAT!" then she sulked from room to room.]

Then Montreal to Quebec which is the teddybear pomeranian of cities. It is so ridiculously charming and scenic and lovely and olde worlde that you get things like this when you glance down from the sidewalk:

That would be a cannonball around which the roots of a tree have been growing for two hundred years; which is interesting enough in its own right but Quebec is so secure in its charm that there is no fuss about it. No plaque. No Here Is A Relic. The only reason we knew to go look for it is because our cab driver in Montreal suggested we try to find it and when we asked the concierge about it at the hotel he marked an X on a map.



Patrick devised three person human chess and very graciously - I think - tried to let the twins win.  Edward took it in straight sets; Caroline was more interested in hopping.

In conclusion: Quebec City is adverb adverb positive visit exclamation point.

PS On the drive to New Brunswick we saw a moose and a baby black bear. Not together, alas, but still very exciting.