Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home.

We survived the journey home yesterday. Jamie slept from Regina, Saskatchewan all the way to the Manitoba border, more than two hours. Micah slept for a lot of that too, probably an hour. As a result, Jamie was up until 11 p.m. last night, but we didn't care. It was worth it for some quiet on the trip. We were travelling yesterday for nine hours, and most of that was pretty uneventful, though we did have to stop at one point and switch Jamie's car seat into the middle row instead of in the back with Cody. They tend to fight, and the sound is horrible. It made me think of my parents back when we were kids. We travelled from Winnipeg to Calgary several summers in a row, a trip that took us around 16 hours with stops included. I remember spankings on occasion when we fought, but we never had the luxury of a minivan. There were three of us girls crammed across the back seat of a regular sized sedan, and wow, those trips were tough! I have always been one to cherish my personal space, and there certainly was none in that back seat. We fought. Yes, we definitely did, but we got away with very little.

I wrote that hours ago and now it is nearly midnight. I had nothing earth-shattering to say anyway, I suppose. Micah has had a lot of trouble sleeping this evening, with a lot of crying and begging to sit on my lap. Because he is still not talking really well, we don't always know what the problem is. We could only conclude that he is afraid, so his door is now open an inch and we will have to leave the bathroom light on all night. I hope that will be enough to help him. Maybe it's time to get him his own night light.

The only other thing I was going to share was that today we got our lawn back. I mean the whole thing. Mike was finally able to mow the entire front lawn, and even though the bush mower pulled behind the tractor had trouble getting through the tall, dense grass, eventually he got everything mowed and then a second time with the ride-on mower. There was enough long grass left laying in the yard that it looked as though we might actually be able to bale it, but now it looks like a yard again, for the first time this summer. Wow. What a year. So here are a few pictures.
This was taken in the evening, hence the long shadows, but I had to take it tonight because this was our first day of having a lawn this summer.


I didn't ever think we'd see a real lawn this year. Today was a very productive day inside and out. Mike mowed the lawn and did some other work outside, and I did a ton of cleaning and laundry, and even a bit of baking inside. For some reason, our beautiful condo in Canmore inspired me to clean like a crazy person, and even though it is still very messy in here, (a perpetual state with toys all around and stuff from the flooded basement sitting in a stack in the kitchen), I made progress today and feel determined to make more. Hopefully tomorrow will be as productive. I hope I will have as much energy too. 

Oh, and Jamie played with a tiny snake today. Mike caught it for him. He was delighted for hours, and even released it several times on my kitchen floor, but in the end he had to set it free outside and he bawled so hard I thought something had happened to him. He loves animals so much. 

That's it for today. I have to go to bed! Goodnight.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day Five: Drumheller and the Hoodoos.

Today was our semi-official last day of holidays. Technically, we get home tomorrow, but the entire day will be spent travelling so it is not really a vacation day. And I guess we are still on "holidays" after that because Mike has most of August off. But you knew what I meant. 

Mike took all three boys in the van this morning to wash it and vacuum it in Canmore while I cleaned our condo like a maniac. I had to vacuum, fold laundry, do dishes and pack up all of our stuff, food included. In all honesty, I enjoyed the work and I think it was because I was alone. There is also something satisfying about cleaning a place that actually looks beautiful when you're done instead of looking like a dump. Okay, I am exaggerating. Our house does not look like a dump, but it never looks beautiful. Not anymore. 

Anyway, we left our beautiful place at right around 11 a.m., local time again. Haha. I cried leaving the mountains. We just weren't there long enough. I wished we could have spent a whole week in that place, and I also wished I could have a couple of days there with just Mike. I did enjoy having the whole family there, but our boys make a huge mess everywhere and they are so loud that it is hard for me to relax. I was (and am even this moment) constantly worrying about disturbing the other people who are staying where we are, or that they are going to break something...etc. I also find that I worry the whole time about pushing them past their limits and I worry about whether they are enjoying themselves or not. I wished I could have a couple of days to just relax and breathe that incredible mountain air. I wanted to write, but Mike needed my laptop for his homework. So I took a few last pictures as we drove out.
This one was the view out my bedroom window this morning. I think I like the mountains best in the morning light. So beautiful. I hope I will never forget the smell of that air. I went on the balcony and sucked in as many deep breaths as I could before we left. 

This was taken from the van as we drove out.

These are the Three Sisters, we think, and this was also taken out my bedroom window in Canmore. 

One more shot of a mountain bathed in morning sunlight and shadows, taken on the drive east.

We did not plan to visit Drumheller, but we decided we might as well do something today rather than simply drive four hours to our hotel and then sit around all day. So we took the plunge and headed for Drumheller. We took several wrong turns, but we eventually got there. We didn't want to do the Royal Tyrell Museum, which is the major one with all the dinosaur skeletons and whatnot. I figured Cody would like it, but I suspected Jamie would be bored, and Micah was a sure bet to be upset and cause trouble. So instead we hit a place called Fossil World. It was much smaller than I was expecting, and initially I was disappointed, but in the end it was worth it for the fun they had on the play structure inside and the dinosaur toys they picked up in the gift shop. There was also a life-size T-Rex inside that was animated and it moved and sounded like a real dinosaur, as far as we can imagine anyway. Micah found it first and I saw Jamie pulling him back around the corner toward me with his (Jamie's) eyes wide open, saying, "Get back over here, Micah! It might eat you!" It was quite funny. Micah was delighted with the monstrous beast, and Jamie was not bothered by it once he figured out it was not real. But Cody was horrified and he is still asking why it sounded like that...etc. Sadly, I was unable to take a picture of it because they did not allow flash photography in the museum. (Boooo!!!) But Mike took video. I'm not sure whether I can post video here or not, but if I can I'll get Mike to help me when he gets back with our ice cream.


video

This Triceratops was standing outside the Fossil World entrance. There are dinosaurs everywhere in Drumheller.

An attempt, once again, at photographing all three boys at once. Cody only looked at the camera because of a lecture he got earlier from Mike. 

This dinosaur, a Brachiosaurus, I think, was also in the parking lot of Fossil World. I did not put a picture in here of the whole thing because its tail is very long and then the boys looked even further away.

Here are Jamie and Micah on the play structure. Micah just slid down that blue mat the whole time and was happy as can be. The other two went to the top and came down the big slide, but I couldn't take any pictures in there because of the no flash rule. Grrr. 

So after we finished letting the boys go crazy on the play structure, we took them to the gift store and they bought some dinosaurs to play with. Then we went to see the Hoodoos. That was my thing. I just really wanted to see them. I remember my aunt from Calgary telling us about them when we were little, but I don't think we ever went to see them, so we decided to do it this time around. Apparently, the word Hoodoos was derived from Voodoo. The Blackfoot and Cree people believed they were some kind of petrified giants who come to life at night and hurl rocks at intruders. Creepy, but I remember feeling way more creeped out as a kid when I heard about them. There is nothing creepy looking about them, but then again, they have now built walkways and staircases around them and it was crowded when we were there. Maybe if it looked wilder and less civilized I would find them much more ominous. I confess, they were much smaller in person than what I was imagining. We only stayed five or ten minutes because the boys were bored to tears, and it did not look like there was much to see. However, I suspect if one was to climb to the top of the "mountain" (or really large rocky hill, more accurately), there might be more to see on the other side. I will never know, as we did not do it and I'm not sure about the likelihood that I will ever visit the Hoodoos again. 




After that we buckled up and made the drive to Medicine Hat. We did stop at the Golden Arches in Brooks so the boys could have a little supper on their way to the hotel. When we arrived here they went swimming with Mike. Well, Cody and Jamie did. Micah stayed in the hotel room with me and played with his new toy Jeep, which he got for his birthday. Then Mike went to get ice cream for us all because we promised the boys when we were at Fossil World. Now they are bathed and in bed, but unfortunately, not one of them is asleep. And it is 9:49 p.m. our time. That is relevant now, seeing tomorrow they will be going to bed in our own home. I don't want them up until 10 p.m., but that may be the way things go because they will likely sleep in the van on the way there. Well, Jamie will anyway, and that always makes him stay awake really long at night. 
Cody and Jamie enjoying their McDonald's sundaes in the hotel.

I was naive enough to believe that Jamie was almost asleep about five minutes ago. Now all three of them are either talking or singing to themselves. This is going to be a long night. Mike and I can't even talk because we are all in the same dark room. Though Mike is watching football again, which is a source of contention for Cody. I guess I have the internet for company, so it will be a silent night. Other than the boys, ironically. I can't even read because we can't turn the lights off. 

So that's it for our vacation. I might update tomorrow when we get home, but more than likely I will just be unpacking and doing a lot of laundry and cleaning. I'm off for now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Four: Canmore and Banff!

There is no question, for me, the mountains are absolutely the highlight of coming here. Today was a very, very long day, and as such I will try hard to make this brief...or at least condensed. I took 263 photos, so again, I will try to be conservative with what I share.

In the morning we had eggs, bacon and toast, which we made right here. No going downstairs for a continental breakfast, or driving all over the town to find something suitable to eat. It was nice. I also vacuumed today. Yes, there is a vacuum here, and thank goodness for that! We were fairly relaxed in the morning, and at around 11 a.m. we headed out with lunches packed, to experience Banff. Mike and I realized on our way back that we have never been here together before. We were in the mountains once together, but we went through Jasper at that time, and everything was on fire anyway so the mountains were thick with smoke and quite difficult to see. It was a horrible sight.

But not today. Like I said, I took a million pictures, but I will share as few as possible on here. Our first stop was at a place called Cascade Ponds. The view was beautiful, and there were lots of picnic tables to choose from. We ate our lunch and then in our efforts to attract the ground squirrels who were checking us out, we threw crusts and other unwanted tidbits of food. However, the squirrels were shy and instead we were swarmed by a greedy and hungry flock of seagulls.

Jamie was enamoured with the birds, and wanted to catch them. This is his reaction to every animal he sees. 
These gulls were aggressive. I actually wondered whether they would land on our hands, but they did not. Also, most of them were young, as was evidenced by their grey and freckled appearance. Mike and I just happened to learn that gull fact on our drive to Medicine Hat on Monday.

Micah was also delighted with the birds. Here he had just thrown a piece of food and two were fighting over it. I think this was Micah's favourite part of the day for sure.
There were little bridges to get over the pond, and a pretty trail all around.

Here are all my guys on the second bridge.

Here is the view at the Cascade Ponds picnic area. The green roof at the bottom of the page is where we were parked.
A picture of Micah skipping through a beautiful field. He had picked bluebells for me, which is a no-no in a national park, but I was touched.

I made him pose on a rock while the other two went to find a bathroom with Mike.

Our next stop was Bow Falls, on the Bow River. This is a truly beautiful spot, and before I post my pictures (a few of them) I have to say that seeing this waterfall in pictures does not do it justice. I was awed by the power of this thundering water. Its speed and force were truly impressive, and a bit scary. But gorgeous. Mike had never been there. Here are a few pictures.
One of five failed attempts to get a normal photo of all three of our boys at once. There are the falls in the background. My parents have pictures of me and my two sisters sitting on that very same rock wall when we were little, feeding chipmunks out of our hands.

Here is a shot closer up of the falls. Again, the photo doesn't do it justice, but you'll have to take my word for it!
Here is the view from the bottom of the falls looking up to the mountains. 

Another failed family photo. Pretty much the way things are.

At Bow Falls we took the boys on an extensive (for them) hike up many, many, many sets of stairs. They were bored and tired, so we did not go the whole hike. We were not sure how much further it went, but we called it quits seeing it was a ton of climbing. 

The next stop was Sulphur Mountain where we went for a gondola ride. Once again, my pictures will not really give you the same sense of enormity that being there gave us. The boys loved the gondola ride. I did not. I have never been so terrified, and I have done that ride many times in my life. However, the last time was nineteen years ago, which makes me feel quite old. Anyway, it was hot and stuffy in there, and I could not escape my numerous and vivid thoughts of the whole thing breaking loose from its cable and dropping us to our death on the mountain far below. I have never been afraid of heights. Now I feel like I am afraid of everything.

You can't tell from the pictures, but the trees were probably 100 feet tall, and the gondolas were actually well above most of them. It was a LONG way down to the bottom of the mountain. The ride took several minutes, and I barely breathed the whole time.


One of the spectacular views from the top.

Another gorgeous view from the top of the mountain. If you enlarge this picture, you can see the massive and castle-like Banff Springs Hotel near the middle of the picture. Just above that you can see Bow Falls. 

Our time at the top of the mountain was hardly a "mountaintop experience" for our boys. We made the trek up to the summit of the mountain, and we must have climbed hundreds of stairs. It was very hard on the boys, and by the time we got back to our van, my legs were shaking a bit. Oh, one more picture from the gondola.
If I could circle a spot on this picture I would. I took it because I can see our van, a tiny speck between two trees in the parking lot way below. We were about half way down the mountain at this point and still our van was tiny. It is in the middle of the picture, and the only van visible between those trees. 

So the day was long and very physically exhausting. On the way back to Canmore, all three boys fell asleep in the van. For Cody to sleep in the vehicle is almost unheard of. Even Micah did not sleep the entire drive our first day, and that was nine hours. Wow.
Micah fell asleep first.

Then Jamie.

But Cody was the ultimate proof that we exhausted them today.

When we got back to our place, we had some supper and then we had a tiny birthday celebration for Micah, seeing we did not get to it yesterday. Mike bought this cake at Safeway. It was much cuter in person.

Micah's birthday cake. It's a monkey, but in this picture it looks like something out of a horror movie. He did not get any candles, but he is too young to have noticed.

You can see he was delighted with his cake. But it really did taste good.

Now I think all three boys have just finally settled, at 8:34 local time. (An hour later for us. I know, that's annoying, but it is significant, as we are not here long enough to adjust!) Mike is watching football and when that's over he intends to do homework. I'd be lying if I said that does not depress me. Homework I was prepared for, but ditching me for football when we have our last opportunity to spend an evening together (while the boys are actually quiet) in the mountains...Well, I am actually very sad about it. But I guess I will have to leave it at that. I am tempted to go walking through the town on my own, but I am so sore from the day that I just want to rest. Unfortunately, Mike will be using my laptop so I will not be able to work on my book. I guess I'll have to read, but I'm not that thrilled with what I'm reading, so it is not really appealing. I can't believe I am being ditched on my last evening in this amazing place. 

Anyway, I was wrong, Micah is still talking. I bet the other two are as well. I'm going to sign off now so Mike can do his homework. I will try to do another update tomorrow. It is our last day of holidays, and so far we have no plans, but we might consider hitting Drumheller on our way back to Medicine Hat. I'm off for now. Goodnight.






Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day Three: Calgary zoo and Canmore!

Today was a long day. I will try not to go on and on, though I probably could.

First, let me say that Micah, my baby, turned two today. I can hardly believe it. He is growing up, and he is so precious and adorable. His day was not spectacular, from his perspective, but tomorrow we will have a little celebration for him, as we ran out of time today.

So, we made it to the zoo right around lunch time. We fed the boys on the way there so it would not be an issue while we were there.
Cody posed first as a penguin.

Then Jamie took a turn. Micah was strapped in the stroller so we didn't put him in there.

We hit the dinosaur part first. Cody was a bit scared, particularly when he saw the Tyrannosaurus Rex through the trees. The weather was cool but sunny, so we seemed to be in for a great day. It clouded over right away, which somehow made the dinosaurs look that much more real in the lush foliage.


Shortly after we entered the dinosaur area, it started to rain, but only lightly. Judging by the sky it looked like it would not last long. Apparently I have very poor judgment. Not only did it last a long time, like the entire rest of the day, but it turned into a torrential downpour. We cowered under some dense trees overhanging the pathway, but then it started to hail. Oh dear. So we figured by then we were not that far from the beginning of that area and we decided to make a break for it. Wow. Wrong again. We walked/ran a long way and we got drenched and when I say drenched, I mean drenched!!! I don't remember the last time I got caught so thoroughly in a rain storm. Thunder followed, but fortunately, not for long. 

After that, the only thing Micah wanted to do at the zoo was dance and splash in the puddles. He did not care about the animals, except for the fish that were swimming with the hippos!

So in short, our zoo day was a bit of a disaster. My plan was to take them to a gift shop afterwards and let them each choose a stuffed animal for a souvenir, but the shop we went to had animals that were really not that thrilling and I decided it was not worth the money. We planned to head to Toys R Us instead to get Micah a birthday gift. That was the next order of business. 

We did make it to the toy store, and bought Micah a present plus he got a stuffed animal and the other two selected a bigger giraffe to share. That was fine. We then made it to the burger joint we were supposed to hit the night before, Peter's Drive Inn. Jamie and Micah did not like their burgers, and Jamie fell asleep before he could eat any fries. They gave us a bag of fries that was literally more than enough to fill a four litre ice cream pail. Most of them are in our fridge now. I did not eat, though I did share a milkshake with Cody and Micah, and it was yummy. Still, I was more in the mood for a sandwich.

I forgot to mention that Jamie broke Mike's glasses this morning. Bent them, broke the frame and popped one of the lenses out, so a fairly big disaster. Yay.

Then we drove to Canmore. We drove through a wicked storm to get here, more torrential downpours and hail, and a ton of lightning. I was quite scared on the highway because of the incredible volume of water. Anyway, we made it here, and our place is beautiful. We have a two bedroom "condo" at Lodges At Canmore, and we even have our own bathroom off the master bedroom. Here are some pictures.

Our fully stocked and beautiful kitchen, complete with dishwasher and everything!

Cody and Jamie's room. Hallelujah, they do not have to share a bed tonight! Plus we can close their door and send them to bed before us, which we did. This is so much better than a hotel room!
Did I mention the boys have their own TV in their room?? They were amazed by that!

Here is our dining room area, with the living room in the background.

Our gas fireplace, which now has a fire burning. 

The master bedroom. Micah's play pen is now set up at the end of our bed and he is sleeping there.
There is Micah, before he fell asleep. He cried really hard, but he eventually went to sleep. Hope we have a good night tonight, and not one with crying kids.
The view out the boys' bedroom window.

The view out our bedroom window.

More from our bedroom window.

And did I mention I am doing our laundry in our suite even now? Woo hoo! 

So, I am going to sign off as this post has taken way too long with slow internet connections. Hopefully I will have a good report tomorrow. Goodnight!