Disney World Planning

Disney Castle, Orlando Florida
Disney Castle, Orlando Florida
Disney World. A once-in-a-lifetime trip.

So, why go to Disneyworld? Why Walt’s Wonderland? Why the Magic Kingdom? Why not the equally exciting city of Calgary? Or camping in the mosquito-infested forests of BC? Why even go anywhere?

Simple. But maybe not what you think.

See? Time is running out. The-Oldest graduates next year, and The-Youngest will (all too soon) be a YouTube billionaire, software engineer, mountain bike professional or plumber (depending on the day he’s planning this out).

So, we wanted to take advantage of a week’s vacation and go someplace amazing.

Calgary and camping don’t quite fit the bill.

Sooooooo…Disney World. Florida.

And, although there are other amazing places to go (NY comes to mind, maybe the Amalfi Coast in Italy, maybe Mars), Disney World was one place we could all agree upon.

To be fair, it’s not just Disney World. It’s a trip to see Disney AND see Universal Studios AND, maybe, just maybe, take a ride out to see the Kennedy Space Museum.

All in 8 days, including a flight.

That’s no small task.

Seems there’s a lot to see and do in Disney World (and Universal). Seems there are, like, 4 theme parks in Disney World, and in Universal, 2 parks plus a waterpark. Doing the math, we’d need 7 days, plus 1 for looking at rockets, plus 2 days for travel. That’s ahhh, lemme do the math in my head, ah, carry the two, invert pi, and, yeah, that’s 10 days.

And we have 8.

So how would we do that? How could we design a vacation that wasn’t a stresscation where we ran around desperately trying to see everything, probably literally running from ride to ride?

We would have to compromise. The simple truth was, we couldn’t see or do everything. So we began to look at what was important.

It’s why Disney World and Universal were the go-to vacation locations. The boys had already been to Disneyworld and, long, long ago, Legoland. I wrote a ton about that vacation. There was so much to see and do.

I mean, just look at what Disney World has to offer.

Rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Avatar’s Flight of Passage, a Tower of Terror, a Haunted Mansion, a ride soaring above spectacular scenery, safaris, loads of Disney characters wandering around, parades, fireworks, shops that sell authentic Dug backpacks from Up.

Then there’s eating a donut the size of your head, tasting the oddly popular dole whip, or munching on a huge pretzel in the shape of Mickey’s head.

 So, we came up with a plan. A basic plan to be sure, (that’ll be the next post), but a plan nevertheless.

All we had to do was figure out what was important to us. What did we HAVE TO see and do?

The-Youngest had a LOT of opinions. Even The-Oldest, after trying his teenage best to pretend this wasn’t going to be fun, had a few ideas. Both The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I had ideas as well, but let’s face it, this was a trip for the boyz and we wanted to make sure they had the BEST time ever.

More to come!

As always, thanks for reading this. Below is a neat video on planning a Disney World Trip.

Some good suggestions here – for people who like their planning!

What To Do In Alberta – The Dinosaur Museum

dinosuars in alberta 2018

dinosuars in alberta 2018
Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. On display, a stegosaurus.

Who could not love a dinosaur museum? Well, not everyone as it turns out.

The Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller may be the most impressive dinosaur museum on the planet, certainly there are signs saying so, so it must be true, but for The-Youngest, it was a big building filled with stuff that looked like stuff he had to learn.

He took an instant dislike to the whole thing.

No matter, we dragged him through the entire museum anyway. Like a mouthful of medicine, it would be good for him.

The-Youngest’s review: Too many people. Not enough popcorn. The bathrooms smelled like poo. It was full of bones and who likes to look at bones? I was bored.

drumheller alberta 2018 royal tyrrell museum
Outside of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the boys pose like prisoners going to be shot.

(That most terrible curse that afflicts our youth, boredom, like the world must be all flashy images and stupid videos about asshats wrecking a house.)

The-Oldest’s review: Could have been worse. Much worse. Things could always be worse. Or even worse than that.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s Review: Mmmmm. Busy. 3rd visit. Not a dinosaur person, really. It’s cool, but I liked the badlands better.

My review: Lighting is amazing. Seeing the size of those ancient behemoths is humbling. Reading about life before we decided to f**k with the planet reminds me how little time we’ve actually spent on earth.

dinosuars in alberta, drumheller, royal tyrrell museum
Size matters and in the dinosaur days, we would have been a quick snack for something.

I loved the pre-dinosaur history the most. Those creatures that plied the oceans were terrifying and so very different from what we see today.

I loved looking at the apex predators of their time like the Anomalocaris or Gorgosaurus.

I hate how much life has been lost forever in history. The mastodons. The Stegosauruses. George Burns.

But such is the harsh reality of evolution. Those that can adapt, survive. Being cute doesn’t save you. Being scary doesn’t save you. Being able to make a fire and craft a pointed stick does.

There was so much to read, so much knowledge to absorb, but that would take a whole day. Maybe two. And then even that would only scratch the surface of what’s in that museum.

Despite 3 out of 4 of us not being big fans of this particular adventure, I would say see this museum if you’re in Alberta (or go to Victoria where you’ll likely see as many old fossils.)

Next up, Edmonton, which The-Youngest looked forward to like a beaver looks forward to a forest of trees.

But for more pictures, check out this link.

 

 

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What To Do In Calgary – The Military Museum

Sherman Firefly in Caen 1944

Canadian Sherman tank, Calgary Alberta, 2018
Canadian M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman “Easy 8” tank . Military Museum in Calgary

Or Tanks for the Memories!

Of all the things we planned to do, the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing the Calgary Military Museum and their collection of tanks.

If you look at my website, you’ll see there’s a whole section for tanks. I love tanks. I don’t know why. My therapist doesn’t know why. There’s a lot of head shaking and eye rolling. But when I found out there was a military museum in Calgary of all places, I had to go.

The-Youngest decided to join me, (part of his plan) even though it meant getting up early. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and The-Oldest were happy to sleep in.

We managed to get there in about 11 minutes. Ok, 16, due to me getting lost despite a perfectly functioning GPS (when the nice GPS lady said take the SW exit and the sign said south, I hesitated too long while I tried to figure out if there was a SW exit as well…. And, ah, no, there wasn’t.)

No matter. We got there.

Most of the tanks were outside, which was fine except that it had decided to rain. Of course. And I had not thought about bringing a jacket. Of course. I debated bringing an umbrella, but apparently, people who use umbrellas here are considered marginally “challenged” in Alberta so I thought what the hell, a little rain never hurt anyone.

Calgary Military Museum 2018
A WW2 “Churchill VII” tank

The tanks they had on display I knew well. The Churchill VII, a huge British heavy tank, a Centurion Mark III, perhaps the best post war 1950s tank built, a surprisingly big Sherman M4E8 (an ‘Easy Eight’), and a soon-to-be-restored Russian T-34-85. Near the entrance, they’d stationed a T-72 with desert camouflage. ‘

Both The-Youngest and I were super stoked to be there, to touch the tanks to look at them close up. Only one of us did a happy dance, and (spoiler alert) it wasn’t him.

t72 tank calgary military museum
A T72 tank with desert camo.

I took tons of pictures while The-Youngest told me stories of the adventures he’s had with the tanks while playing World of Tanks on the Xbox.

I had forgotten how huge tanks could be. Even the Sherman which was supposed to be a fast, medium tank.

No German tanks, though and let’s face it, the best tank builders in WW2 were the Germans. However, despite their Tiger tanks with their huge 88mm guns that could shoot straight through a Sherman, the allies produced so many tanks that we simply overwhelmed the Germans with very reliable, mass-produced machines.

But it makes me realize the courage of our tank crews. It’s all fair and fine to sit in an 80-ton German heavy tank with a massive gun and armor that’s almost impenetrable, and it’s quite another to try and fight one of those beasts in Sherman.

Yet, they did.

Sherman Firefly in Caen 1944
Inside Calgary’s Military Museum were plenty of life-sized displays. This one featuring a “Firefly” tank fighting in a city.

Often at great cost.

Inside, the museum itself was fantastic for its size. They had great displays set up in regimental rooms, from the famous stand of the PPCLI against the German gas attack in WW1, to the famous victory for the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, to the battles in Italy and France in WW2, to the heroic stand during the battle of Kapyong, in Korea, and finally, to the peacekeeping missions around the world.

Check out my history section if you want to see more about all of this.

After seeing all the regimental rooms, we quickly toured the naval part of the museum, then the air force section, but had to pass on seeing their collection of planes due to a particularly scary entrance into those hangars (though The-Youngest had been so awesome coming with me that I didn’t mind we missed the planes.)

I could have spent long hours there reading of the heroic moments of these Canadian regiments, but we had a lot to do and The-Youngest, while vaguely interested in guns and tanks had no stomach for reading, which seemed way too much like school work.

No matter.

We were off to see dinosaurs next.

However, if anyone gets to Calgary, has an interest in the military, a family member who served, or hell, you just love a good museum, check it out. The staff were awesome. The displays fantastic. Fun was had.

And the sacrifices of our armed forces should never be forgotten.

 

Hey, if you’re interested, here are a few other links.

World of Tanks (the best tank game ever!)

Tanks in Canada

PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) Regimental History

Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) History

The King’s Own Calgary Regiment History

The Calgary Highlanders History

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If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

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What To Do In Calgary

Calgary tower in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada

in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Tower of Terror, AKA the Calgary Tower

When in Calgary, why not do the Tower of Terror?

Our zoo experience couldn’t have been better, unless, you know, the pandas danced or sang Oh Canada or re-enacted the battle of Waterloo. The weather had turned nice. The crowds were light. And the animals were mostly out and about doing animal things. We had fun.

And the day wasn’t done.

Next up, if we had time, was to see the Calgary Tower. Now, back in my day, it was the tallest building around and my Uncle Jim would take us there for ice cream for a very special treat. Today, though, it sits in the middle of downtown Calgary, nestled amongst the new buildings of glass and steel.

Now, why go here?  I mean, it’s a tower. In the middle of a city. No pandas up there. No waterslides. No pianos.

But it did have something that it didn’t have back in my day. A glass floor extension out from the observation deck. It’s the kind of terrifying thing I try to avoid in my elder years. Being petrified of heights, I can think of a lot more fun things to do like scoop my eyeballs out with a stained crack spoon or see how many fire ants I can eat while juggling flaming scimitars.

However, both The-Youngest and The-Oldest boy wanted to go. Both of them. That is like Di Vinci and Michelangelo agreeing to spray paint the Sistine Chapel. Or (to quote The-Oldest) “Like Stravinsky and Prokofiev agreeing to compose together.”

So, after finding a great area for restaurants (in a very trendy, former warehousie area of downtown Calgary that reminds me of Yaletown), we marched off to see the tower. The elevator that took us didn’t have any windows, which is like a car not having windows (which I guess is a van) but that’s what this elevator felt like.)

On the observation deck, I had to face my fears and go walk out on the glass floor that was at least 10,000 feet from the ground below. (Truth update from The-Youngest, it’s 525 feet down.) As I walked out, everything that could clench, clenched. Even a few things that normally don’t clench, clenched. Had anyone asked, I could have pooped out diamonds.

Calgary Tower glass floor
The glass floor in the Calgary Tower. In my mind, I stepped out a lot farther

But I did look down. Shaking. Dizzy. My stomach filled with angry butterflies, I did it.

Then I walked off it and went in search of a bar. Finding none, I decided to read all the plaques.

Honestly, that glass floor aside, it was an amazing view of the city and they’d done a great job on making the information about the various locations interesting.

Glass floor on the Calgary Tower
Overcoming your fears is part of growing up. I guess I am still growing up

The boyz, however, couldn’t get enough of the glass floor. The-Youngest, when he actually stood on the edge of the glass, had serious second thoughts that stepping out onto the glass floor would be a good idea. Like Oppenheimer looking at the explosion of the first nuclear bomb and thinking, “oh dear, can I take that back?”

Calgary Tower
The-Oldest is fearless when it comes to heights.

But when his brother walked out, fearless as always, being the younger brother, he had to do what his older brother did. And when he overcame his fear, he wouldn’t leave the area. He sat down on the floor, lay down on it, and even took about a hundred selfies. Only when he started jumping up and down on it did we stop him.

The real success, though, was getting The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to step out onto the extension. Like me, she was terrified, but unlike me, she is not motivated by overcoming her fear, of not being shown up by her children, or by needing to write a blog about something.

But when The-Oldest took one of her hands, and The-Youngest took the other, they were able to lead her over to the glass floor. She had that same look on her face that she had on her first date with me, that is to say, one where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive.

She didn’t stand long on the glass floor, but she did try and I love her for trying.

In the end, part of any good adventure is doing stuff you simply wouldn’t do at home.

Tomorrow would hold more of those adventures.

 

 

And hey, thanks for reading this!  

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Why Does the Calgary Zoo Matter?

Calgary zoo alberta 2918

Calgary zoo alberta 2918
Zoos can bee punny!

The Alberta Zoo

There is a move these days to get rid of zoos. It comes from good-hearted people who have not thought through the idea. Oh, they FEEL the idea, for sure, but they miss a fundamental concept.

Zoos connect people with animals, many of which are in danger of disappearing.

Now, we’re not talking about zoos that treat animals cruelly, those should be reformed, but zoos like the Calgary Zoo allow people (kids in particular) a chance to see something real. Not something on TV. Not something on YouTube. Not a poster somewhere of something that once existed.

Too often now, we make choices that distance ourselves from the real world. In a sense, we are putting ourselves in a cage.

Think about it.

Ok, ranty-rant over.

Back to our regular programming.

After the pandas, The-oldest joked had an attack of pun-iness. “I was expecting total pandemonium. Or at least a pandemic.”

To be fair, considering his usual puns take 3 mins to set up, (“so if I was a lion and it was telling me a story, and I didn’t believe the story because it wasn’t very truthful, then, you could say it was lion), those panda puns were good puns. As was his remark about Himalayan Deer ‘they must be very valuable because they’re dear.”

His favourite animal, though, was the markhor deer. It had curlie horns and looked like it was about to shed about 40lbs of fluff. I think the Taliban ride them into battle. He tried to talk to it. A lot. But it didn’t respond so we moved on.

alpakas in the calgary zoo 2018
Alpacas! Perhaps the most cuddly of the camel family.

The-Youngest hated that all the food stands were closed, and he didn’t get any cotton candy, however, he did get to see the alpaca that looks a lot like our spazadoodle. He, too, tried to talk to it, but it wasn’t in the mood for a conversation and simply pooped.

For The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, her best time was at the panda exhibit. She loved how the pandas snuggled, but I think she enjoyed watching the baby gorilla explore his world, play with his food and look for things to play with.

lions at the calgary zoo 2018
The Lion does not sleep tonight! I am not lying. They were not lion around.

Me? I liked hearing the lions roar and watching them stalk about the cage. I haven’t seen lions move much (they mostly pull a panda and nap most of the time), but they were magnificent creatures this day, powerful but not as elegant as a leopard.

The highlight for all of us, though, was our time in the lemur cage.

See, this is where my whole zoo-is-good thing comes to fruition.

The zoo had set up an enclosure with nets overhead and Fort-Knox-like gates that allowed people to BE WITH the lemurs, you know, those cute little things that appear in Disney movies.

We were told not to move too fast or touch them or feed them or talk to them about Liszt, but we could watch them as they watched us, get close enough to them to touch them (but not, you know, actually touch them) and have a chance to see real live animals up close, no bars, no windows, no metal mesh separating them from us.

It was fantastic, even if one idiot did try to touch them.

One lemur even took a liking to The-Youngest, and if you want to see how he reacted, check out the video.

Hippos at the Calgary zoo, alberta 2018
Hippos! They taught the pandas what to do

But we all loved seeing the animals (though no one seemed to appreciate me singing “Walk with the animals.”)

We scouted out the tigers. We waved at the giraffes. We shook our head at hippos that looked suspiciously like me after a turkey dinner. We watched momma gorilla look after her little one.

And then I think the family pranked me with the idea that porcupines shoot quills. They were so convincing that I had to load up wiki-thing to show them otherwise, and then they all just smiled at me and giggled.

So, go see a zoo some time. Spend time with the animals. Make a conscious decision to experience an amazing part of our world instead of watching a documentary about our friend the lion or leaving it up to Disney to show us what animals are like.

 

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If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

 

 

Will the Pandas Be Awesome at the Calgary Zoo?

pandas at calgary zoo

Calgary Alberta Zoo and pandas
Pandas at the Calgary Zoo. Posters and signs were everywhere.

The Truth About Pandas.

We had a choice to make early in the planning stage. The Calgary Zoo or the Calaway Amusement Park. The-Youngest argued for the park, since it had, you know, rides and cotton candy and rides and pop and rollercoasters and popcorn and more rides.

All good points.

But since we were going to the West Edmonton Mall, and they had rides and waterslides and rollercoasters, it was decided to see the zoo. The zoo had pandas, and pandas trump terrifying machines of death every time.

We arrived at 3:10, the panda exhibit reservation was at 3:30, at the far end of the zoo. We knew if we hoofed it, we’d arrive there.

We confirmed the location of the pandas with the ticket guy who seemed vaguely amused that we thought they’d moved them, but then again pandas are known for their blinding speed and ability to Tarzan from tree to tree so who knows, right?

We speed-marched to the panda exhibit like housewives trying to wiggle walk-off 20lbs in one journey. All along the way, there were posters of pandas looking cute. We weren’t deceived, we knew they were ferocious killers that took down mammoths once upon a time. They were known to move faster than cheetahs, and make homes from rocks they carved from the mountains.

Ok, all we really knew is that they were super cute and ate shoots and leaves. We’d seen pictures. And watched videos. Seems they did a lot of looking cute, a lot of munching on things and, every so often, they’d lumber around their enclosure like me with a foot cramp.

To our surprise, there were no line-ups and we got to go right in.

It was then we found out the real truth about pandas. Like me, also super cute, they like to nap. A lot. Seems it’s their favourite thing to do.

So, we got to see one napping on a big rock. She had managed to lay in such a way that it looked like one bad shift in her dreams and she’d fall off the rock and into the water. There are a lot of videos of pandas sleep-falling off of trees, rocks, and buildings. It could be that they are not the smartest animals in the kingdom.

I waited for her to fall off, but she didn’t shift a bit, happy to be inside, and warm and with her children safe and sound in another room. Her children were likewise asleep, happy to snuggle with each other. They weren’t as white and black as I thought they’d be, more a muddy white and a greyish-black, but their cuteness was undeniable. I waited my turn with all the other children who wanted to get close and take a picture, then snapped a few of them cuddled up.

The biggest difference between the older generation and the younger could be summed up here. I waited for my turn. Kids pushed their way in (and I’m not talking 5-year-olds who have an excuse for bad manners) but those horrible teenagers, the ones without social skills, no understanding of lines and raised by parents who thought that being their friend was the same as, you know, parenting.

pandas at calgary zoo
The panda babies didn’t really look like babies. If they had cell phones, they would have been taking selfies. http://joecummings.ca/travel/

No matter. I snapped a few pictures of the cuties, then took a bit of time to actually watch the pandas with my own eyes while teenagers cycled past the glass taking selfies. I took in the smell, which wasn’t that great, the sounds (only one seemed to snore) and wondered why they’d chosen those spots to snooze. The kids took a picture and moved on to something else.

Drops mic.

To be fair, the boys couldn’t really see the point of watching pandas sleeping either, but at least they didn’t just selfie the darned things.

As for the pandas, well, they really needed to do better. I’ll be writing a letter to their leader in China. They need to be more active and entertaining. Cute is not good enough.

But that was the great panda adventure.

The rest of the zoo, however, didn’t disappoint.

 

And hey, thanks for reading this! We writers love it when we’re actually read.

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BC to Alberta

rain clouds in alberta

Or How to Get There From Here.

We thought it would be an uneventful day, but as with any travel adventures, we ended up having two adventures we hadn’t planned on.

Dora the Explorer and the “I’m a Map,” dude. Along the road, through the forest, past spooky trees with faces and to find the house of death.

We’d planned to get to Calgary by 3 so we could see the zoo and the pandas. (If you recall, we had to book a viewing appointment with the pandas. Like they were kings. Or doctors).

So we couldn’t leave Cranbrook too late. It was over 4 hours of driving on the Crowsnest highway.

So, like Dora the Explorer would say, we had to go through the forest, over the mountains, and along the plains to find the city.

The-Youngest was oddly excited about actually crossing the border. I think he wanted gates, armed guards, and searchlights, but all we found were two signs. Leaving BC and Welcome to Alberta.

Not super exciting. Not even a bear or a scruffy-looking pipeline protestor could be seen.

So, feeling a little disappointed, we stopped for Timmies right across the border.

This became our first travel adventure for the day.

Tim Hortons. Mmmmm. Donut. Double double. Fast Service… or not

Now, I am, if nothing, a veteran Timmies guy, and this was perhaps the worst one I have ever, ever visited.

It was super busy, which is not unheard of, but the mass of customers waiting for double-doubles had broken the restaurant.

I’ve seen it happen on my watch in Toys R Us at Christmas time. The staff were simply overwhelmed.

One young employee stood there staring at a machine that stirs the ice drinks like he’d been shelled by the Taliban. A little old lady running the cash register got so flustered, she forgot how to ring in cash and just kept waving it in the air like the bill was on fire. Nearby, two sandwich makers bickered with each other about who had last used the buttering knife as a phalanx of sandwich orders hung on their station overhead.

Now, a good owner would take charge. Shift people if needed. Manage the crisis. Keep things rolling, but I swear to God, not a single coffee or sandwich was made in ten minutes while everyone panicked.

So it took a good 45 min to get a coffee.

It’s a weird thing when something like that takes so long. If someone said, hey Justjoe, it looks like this is going to take 45 min, I would have left, but after investing 10 min, do you give up?

What about after 20, cuz now you’ve invested even more time?

And then 30 min?

Well, Goddammn, after 30,  I’m sticking it out now!

Which I did. I got my coffee, fought my way out of the parking lot and we were back on our way. Minor delay. Major grumpy attack by me.

After that coffee disaster, the sky decided to echo my mood and turn dark. Like winter storm dark.

And with that darkness, came our second unexpected adventure.

rain clouds in alberta
Nothing like a good Alberta storm!

On the prairies, a dark sky either means aliens are gathering to attack, again, or a lightning storm was a’comin’. And sure enough, as we got into the foothills, a storm descended upon us with righteous fury. Lightning forked across the sky. Sheets of rain pounded on the car, making driving nearly impossible, and through it all, not a single boom of thunder.

How amazing!

Both boys oooohed and awww’d at the lightning, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World gripped the dashboard with a kung fu grip as we sped along a highway where we could barely see 2 feet in front of us.

Luckily, I found a gas station to pull into until the storm passed over us. We stood under a convenience store canopy and watched it roll towards the mountains. I won’t lie, I was still shaking from that highway drive and I think the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wished we’d stopped at the liquor store instead of a gas station.

thunder and lightning storm. alberta 2018
Storm’s coming. Alberta, 2018

But we saw a good, old-fashioned prairie storm. Something you just don’t see in Vancouver at all.

And both the Timmies catastrophe and the storm had made this part of the trip more interesting.

“Interesting?” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World asked. “What next? Driving into a tornado? Dancing on a lava field? Boating in a hurricane?”

The three of us boys thought all those things would be amazing, but next up, those exciting, super energetic pandas, aka the wildmen of the bamboo forest.

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Small Town BC

Just a Small Town Boy….

Greenwood BC. Once a mining town, now a stop on the way to someplace else

I didn’t grow up in a small town, unless you count Victoria as a small town, but it’s really a small collection of municipalities constantly at war with each other over which one gets to dump sewage onto the other one’s ocean-front properties.

But I have a romantic view of small towns and traveling through BC, along highway 3, we got a chance to see a few. Some are dying, for sure, but others are newly painted, with a few quaint stores, all revitalized.

We drove through several small towns. Bridesville. Rock Creek. Midway, which may have been, you know, midway between Calgary and Vancouver (and really shouldn’t all towns have simple names like that?).

The-Oldest decided he wanted to live in a small town. It’s a simpler life. He could walk to town where everyone would know him and cheer as he entered the local coffee shop to play the piano. People would ask how he’s doing but not talk to him too much because they knew he was one of those talented artists and those people like to be left alone.

Plus, there would be a day set aside for him, a day that honored all the great compositions he had made, and maybe a parade on his birthday. Something with fireworks and a marching band.

I had to agree, based on that belief, small towns would be a great place to live. It’s something I like to do. It’s the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-live-there?’ game.

Most places I think, yes, it would be ok, a few (like Cinque Terra in Italy), I think, hell yeah, I’d LOVE to live there and a few, like Duncan or Mogadishu, I think no way in hell.

In Greenwood, we stopped to take a picture and stretch our legs. It had a delightful collection of old wooden and stone buildings (all well painted and restored), a nifty mine to explore and an ice-cream shop. The-Youngest begged for ice cream but I have learned that if you feed an 11-year-old sugar and then take him on an 8-hour car drive, it’s a horror story akin to The Exorcist.

But that town made me think we should do a small town tour. Not with the boys, they would hate us forever, but maybe in our twilight years, just the two of us (or 3 if you include my robo-walker.)

It would be nice.

Grand Forks Town Hall
Grand Forks City Hall. That town has been through a lot.

In Grand Forks, we stopped for lunch. It was a larger town with businesses mostly strung out along the highway, but this quaint, attractive town had been ravaged by massive floods in the spring. It wasn’t exactly built on a low river bank and I was stunned the water could rise so far as to flood the town.

Still, there was a peacefulness to Grand Forks. No need to rush anywhere. No need to stress. A little oasis of calm.

But not far outside of town, we ran into an accident that shut down Highway 3. A fatal accident. One dead. Motorcyclist.

We were close to the accident but didn’t see it.

But even stuck in the line-up, no one honked, no one got angry, and we tried to have a good time despite The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World having a huge migraine – made worse by the altitude.

We had a laugh at the RCMP constable in funny shorts. He made his way down the line telling people it would be a while. Not sure how long, sorry, but a while for sure. You folks, ok?

Only in Canada, eh?

Outside of Grand Forks, BC, 2018
Playing Smash-Up at a smash up. Highway 3. BC.

While we waited the-Youngest pulled out his games and the boys played Smash-up, though I think The-Youngest used very generous interpretations of the rules to win.

Me, I thought about what it would have been like to see that accident, then stop, see the results and having no cell phone reception, do what? Drive down the mountain to the nearest town? Or what if they were still alive? Stay and be with the motorcyclist in their last moments on earth? Or leave to get help?

(It’s how we writers think.)

We were there for 2 hours.

I took over driving duties after they had cleared the accident, The-Youngest wanting to stop for ice cream at every town. We went through the very weird sounding Ootischenia (founded by Doukhobors), through Yahk, Castlegar and Salmo.

No ice cream bought.

We zipped past Creston and Moyie Lake and didn’t turn in for ice cream, but we finally stopped at DQ just outside of Cranbrook where The-Youngest decided he didn’t want ice cream after all.

Sigh.

Cranbrook, BC, 2018
Cranbrook. By the entrance to the downtown area.

The last stop was Cranbrook, a larger small town with a cute town center and a long collection of restaurants, gas stations and hotels along the highway.

We stopped at one of the hotels and the boys raced to the waterslides, the highlight of the day (planned by The-Youngest). The-Oldest tried to skip himself across the pool as far as he would go, while The-Youngest worked on getting down in the fastest time possible and cannon-balling himself into the water with a great splash.

After a long drive, I was glad to rest and just watch the boys play.

I love these moments when the boys get to be boys and just have fun. The car ride was ok, no blood was shed, no one threw up and only one person got a migraine, but the boys simply had no interest in towns or history or mine tours. For them, splashing and laughing and screaming down a waterslide trumps everything.

Small towns need to be told this. More waterslides.

Next up, a big town.

Calgary. Zoo. Tower. No waterslides.

 

And hey, thanks for reading this! We writers love it when we’re actually read.

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Canada Day 2017- When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong

Our lovely view from the Grand Pacific

Ok, so after Nerf Wars, there was still hope that I’d be right, that every vacation needed to be planned, but after an hour or so in the hotel pool, we retired to our room overlooking the Inner Harbour and waited for the fireworks with friends. Things had gone well. Very well. And I greatly feared that I’d have to make an admission.

I was wrong. You could have a good mini-vacation without planning every second of it.

But I held out. We still had the fireworks. Maybe we’d not find a spot to see them. Maybe every single food outlet would be shut down and because we hadn’t booked a reservation, the children would go hungry and be forced to beg for scraps from rich Asians in shiny suits. Maybe, because we had no plan in place, if there was a zombie attack, we’d die while trying to find a good chainsaw.

None of that happened, though.  We had a great dinner with friends in our hotel room overlooking the Inner Harbour. Later, we found a perfect spot for viewing the fireworks, and apart from a couple of asshat punks who kept on shouting m*therf***er this and that while sucking on those stupid vape pipes, we had the most perfect time (and, frankly, what plan would I have made for those idiots other than bringing a good baseball bat?)

 

Spoons! check it out!

Even the next day, after me getting up early, driving out to visit some friends who were about to head to the Far East (Saskatchewan), we had a fantastic brunch at Spoons (another place I would HIGHLY recommend), played Smash-Up with my best friend (I lost every game), and even had an epic dance-off! (Yes. there’s a video of that, but I’ve been told not to show it if I ever want to wake up again.)

Then even got on an earlier ferry than planned. Plus, though the ferry was booked solid and there looked to be no seats for us to sit down in, we found 4 together.

Like it was planned.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world took this one.

We had the best mini-vacation I’ve ever had in Victoria. Our hotel room had two doors, and a bedroom for each of us. The weather was absolutely perfect. We found parking downtown easily and it was freaking free! We didn’t have any problems with traffic, the food was great where we chose to eat, and no one seemed to hate us for showing up 30 min late.

All with minimal planning.

So, I have to say it.

I was wrong.

The key is to plan just enough. In all honesty, I’ve done the total seat-of-the-pants traveling and it has its challenges, like arriving at 10 pm in Edinburgh and pitching a tent in a flooded soccer field or finding the only room in a town is a serial killer’s murder room (boy, that’s a story, I tell you.)

However, planning every hour simply adds a ton of stress and takes away from the adventure. Part of traveling is not just researching the hell out of an area, then seeing it, no, it’s finding something unexpected, something amazing you hadn’t planned for, something cool to do that you never would have imagined.

The best visit to Victoria ever!

I hate that I missed so many of my friends. I hate that I didn’t get to laugh with them, hear about their lives, tell them my stories, but that’ll all have to happen at another time, or when they come over to visit us.

So, as my parting thought, as I wind up this mini-blog on Victoria, let me tell all my friends out there that it is ok not to plan out everything. You can still have a good time.

No.

A GREAT time.

Canada Day Epic Nerf War 2017

War is hell

The epic Nerf war of 2017 would be fought in the backyard, a yard full of rocky outcroppings, bushes, trees, chairs and one trampoline.

Rules were set (rules being even better than plans, IMHO.) They were a mix of adult rules and kid rules.

No head shots. (adult rule.)

When you’re hit, you have to stand still until you’re tagged out by a team mate. (kid rule.)

No constant shooting of people who have been tagged out. (adult rule).

No stopping to reload (Kid rule, brilliantly applied to maximize their advantage, as you’ll see below.)

No hitting anyone with weapons (adult rule.)

No one running out into traffic, no one running into the flower beds, no one shooting an ally for fun, no one eating any bullets, no climbing on cars, no digging trenches, no having fits if you lose, no one screaming out things like “Kill them all, kill them!!!!”, and everyone, yes everyone, will pick up the bullets after the war.

A clean battlefield is a happy battlefield.

(ok, let’s face it, when it comes to rules, the parents are always locked and loaded, and ready to go.)

The war should have been fair. 3 adults vs 3 kids. What the adults – especially me – lacked in speed, energy and an ability to scream at the top of our lungs, we made up with cunning, experience and hundreds of hours of playing Call Of Duty.

However, the kids knew this, so they stacked the deck.

Locked and loaded. Hyperfire Elite.

They each had a gun that fired about 300 bullets a second, backed up by drum magazines (at least 2) that force fed a thousand bullets into the barrel.

We had one pistol that had three shots and looked like the Cricket from Men In Black. We had one gun that jammed every two shots. We had a wildly inaccurate rapid-fire rifle that would have been fine had it not had a 6 bullet magazine.

Undaunted, we hid behind rocks, bushes and (in some cases) each other and waited for the onslaught. Blue bullets spitting out of their guns like horizontal hail, screaming like rabid soccer fans, they charged. We moved them down. We won the first game.

In hindsight, I think that was their plan because, after that, they spent the next hour shooting us so many times that I think I still have one bullet lodged in my ear and I looked like I had a bad case of measles from all the direct hits.

However, like the heroic defenders of the Alamo, we fought on, but we were outgunned, outrun, and frankly, outplayed. Seems kids can play Call of Duty as well. The Oldest would march forward like a Terminator with his rapid fire, belt-fed blaster. Fearlessly, he’d advance into a storm of bullets while the younger ones flanked us. We were so focused on hitting the Oldest that we didn’t see the little sneakerlings until it was too late.

The most fun part, though was when the Oldest’s gun jammed and he threw it aside, chasing around his mom while throwing bullets at her, the two of them laughing like crazy.

Panting, an hour later, we called it a day. I want to say we won as much as we lost, but having been mowed down about a hundred times desperately trying to revive The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World after being hit, I can say we likely lost badly.

No prisoners!!!!

No matter. We had a ton of fun. Even The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could be heard shouting battle cries like a Valkyrie filled with berserkergang bloodlust. All I can say is it was lucky we had rules against hitting people with the nerf guns – “You call that shooting, Joe?!?!?! A blind grandmother with Parkinson’s could have hit more than you did! You call yourself a Viking warrior? Get it in gear, buttercup! Arrrrrrrr!!!!!”)

But, panting, sweat dripping from my forehead, as we picked up a zillion little darts, I thought, not for the first time, how lucky I am to have such a great family, such a cool wife, and such great opportunities for fun.

July 1st Canada Day

Getting up early, are you mad?

You wouldn’t think there’s much joy in getting up early, especially with kids. They’re like little alarm clocks…

Oh, who are we kidding?

Trucks. Jet engines. Kids waking up. Decibal level of noise in that order.

They’re like garbage trucks right outside your window emptying a bin full of glass, chunks of construction metal and concrete.

Now, it’s not something the kids do out of cruelty, no more than a meteor smashes into a planet does it out or cruelty – They are simply natural disasters with limited awareness of the effect they have on the world around them

Hey, it’s 7am, I think I’ll slam every door in the house closed, then play the drums at a concert hall level, then make a sound like I’m falling down the stairs so you can’t, you know, ignore that.

So why get up early when, for the first time in a long time, you could actually sleep in?

Plus, in a hotel room, it’s 10X harder! First of all, it’s hard to sneak around without anyone waking up. You must have the dexterity of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat and the patience of a bomb disposer.

But I wanted to get the blog done and the only time I could do that is in the early AM.

So, I eased out of bed without making squeaks cuz the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World has mommy senses (which can detect her child sneezing from a mile away), unplucked the iphone from the charger, had a quick pee without it sounding like Niagara Falls, slipped into my clothes, found my shoes without asking my wife, “hey, where are my shoes?”

Then, I found my wallet without asking my wife, “hey, where’d I put my wallet?” extracted my hotel key from underneath a pile of coins, avoided tripping over the boys’ shoes that I asked them three hundred times to put under their bed, padded towards the door without sneezing as my allergies kicked in and my nose ran like a stream after a rainstorm, then unlocked the lock, pried the door open and shut it without a huge click as loud as a cannon going off.

All so I can write.

But there’s also another reason I got up so early.

The world is a different place at 6am. Crisp. Fresh. And largely free of people.

Is the word a better place without a lot of people? Well, yes, for sure, but more importantly, it’s a lot more peaceful.

A beautiful hanging basket from Victoria.ca

In Victoria, on Canada Day, on this day, it was especially peaceful. The sky was a bright, desert-sky blue. No crowds filled the sidewalks. No cars roared by or honked.

Gulls cried overhead. The odd boat puttered out of the Inner Harbor. The air smelled of the sea, not exhaust fumes and sweaty people who forgotten to put on deodorant. The coffee was freshly made, the baked goods newly delivered and smelling of cinnamon and warm chocolate. I didn’t have to fight anyone to get a seat or wait behind anyone who stared up at the food board and took a freaking year to decide to have a black coffee…

So why wouldn’t you want to experience that?

Why wouldn’t you go for a walk along deserted streets, passing by the hanging flower-baskets dripping after just being watered, stop at a café, sit down and look out at the glistening ocean waves while listening to Bach play on the café speakers and think, my goodness, isn’t the world wonderful, my goodness, wouldn’t the world be better without, you know, morons, anger-filled nutjobs, stressed out parents, activists, honkers, clueless idiots who stop their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle and block the entire aisle…

Without,  you know, people?

Cuz that is what the world is like at 6am. At least in Victoria. Today.

A perfect time to write. Because later, who knows what will happen?

 

A few sites to check out if you’re going to Victoria

https://www.tourismvictoria.com/  A good site for all things touristy.

Trip Advisor – Personally, my go-to site for tourist stuff.

Visit a City – You can plan days (so if you only have 2 days, they have suggestions)

Free Touristy Things – So you don’t have to spend billions.

Top 10 List – that leads to other top 10 lists.

 

 

Another Parent’s View – 10 Tips for Trips

Ten Tips for Travelling with Kids.

Sheila dinnerFrom my friend, Sheila.

Here is what she has to say….it’s awesome…

I learned from a master.  My mom drove my two sisters and I all the way across the country most summers when I was a kid.  Take a minute to process that.  Twelve hours a day, in the hot summer, in a car with three little kids.  A week there.  A week back.  Year after year.

She managed it quite simply by not trying to do much.  And making sure that fun, food, sleep, and physical exercise were delivered in regular doses.  She woke up at 4am, showered, packed and dragged us out to the car with our blankets and pillows.  On the road by 4:30am.  She drove for 5 hours while we all slept peacefully.  We stopped for breakfast at local small town diner around 9:30 every morning.  Then back in the car til around noon.  A picnic lunch in a park with lots of running around and playing.  Then back on the road til three.  Three was quitting time.  We’d find a hotel, explore the town, look for cool things to do; then hit the hotel’s pool (always a hotel with a pool), dinner and then an early bedtime.

I never managed to attempt anything that ambitious with my own kids, but we did manage a few vacations and almost all of them involved road trips of some sort.  So here are my ideas on how to make trips with kids fantastic!

  1. Visit places you – the parent– will enjoy.  Nothing will kill a vacation faster than an adult in a crappy mood.  Sadly, this meant, for my kids, absolutely, positively NO DISNEYLAND.  Sorry.  I know, I know — my kids are poor deprived souls.  Such a bad mom I am.  They have told me so often enough.  But a happy, relaxed parent is absolutely essential for a good vacation.  So go someplace you want to go.
  2. Remember that everything is new to kids.  I grew up on a beach with rocks and barnacles and purple starfish and seaweed that popped beneath our feet.  Going to a beach with smooth, white sand and sand dollars and long, rolling waves and sting rays and jellyfish washed up on the shore was like an alien landscape to me.  So cool.  It doesn’t have to be all about roller coasters and theme parks and toys.  (Are we sensing a theme here?).
  3. Don’t try to do too much.  Have a plan for about half of each day and leave the rest up to chance and mood.  Kids tired and want some quiet time by the tv or with a good book?  Or so full of pent up energy they are having food fights at breakfast and need to run around outdoors for like, an hour?  No problem.  Did the hotel desk clerk happen to mention an out of the way ice cream parlour or neighborhood park where all the local kids hang out?  Excellent.  Kids want to shop in the zoo gift store for way longer than you planned?  Just fine.  Did you stumble upon a strange museum in a hole in the wall that doesn’t show up in the travel guides?  Awesome.  If you save time for doing spontaneous things – you will have more chances to say “yes, we can!” to your kids, instead of, “sorry, we don’t have time.”
  4. Ask the kids what they want to do.  They might surprise you.  Ask them what their idea of a vacation is.  Is it learning something new?  Doing something thrilling?  Relaxing on a beach or some other outdoor location with not much to do?  Is it shopping?  Is it meeting new people?  Is it trying something different?  Ask yourself that too.
  5. Crowds, line-ups and places where grumpy, impatient people and their kids gather are poison.  They turn everybody into grump machines.  If you must be in a crowded place or wait in long lines – do it when everybody is rested, fed and comfortable.  But so far the only “must” I’ve found is airports.
  6. Become a master of distraction.  Have a few little toys or snacks or entertaining discussion topics hanging around in your pocket for whenever things get too boring or too excited.
  7. Don’t be afraid to split the group up.  If you love art and want to visit an art museum and everyone else rolls their eyes and screams, “boring!” – go by yourself.  Let them do something else while you do what you want to do.  It’s okay to have different interests.
  8. Expose, but don’t push.  That art museum?  Ask the kids to give it a try.  Tell them that if they don’t like it, they only have to stay for half an hour.  Then time it and stick to your promise.  If you can’t stand to miss it yourself, see #6.
  9. Don’t just ask for help – ask for ideas.  Talk to the locals.  Ask them where they take their kids for fun things to do.  Ask where the nearest play park is.  Or the best trashy diner for breakfast.
  10. Food, sleep, physical activity, quiet time at regular intervals.  No exceptions.  Your entire day is structured by this basic concept.  Most parents have mastered this at home but for some reason it goes out the window when we go on vacation.  Boredom and overexcitement are the twin evils of anything new you throw at your kids.  But those can be managed with a little effort and some distractions.  Hunger, fatigue, lack of exercise, being physically uncomfortable (sunburnt, cold, sweaty) is just a nasty downward spiral for the whole family.  Just make the commitment not to go there.  And always cater to the person in the family who is least tolerant.  Have a child that simply must eat every three hours or will have an absolute meltdown?  The whole family stops and eats every three hours.  Have a parent who absolutely must get nine hours of sleep every night?  The whole family is in quiet mode for nine hours each night (even if they don’t sleep themselves).

SheilaRemember what a family vacation is for – to spend time together, enjoying each other’s company.  Everything else must serve that purpose.

 

Traveling With Kids – San Diego 2014 – Tips

10 Things to Make a Vacation With Kids Successful

1)      IMG_0087Have a place to call home. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if we had to pack up every morning and move to a new hotel, a new location. How many things would get left behind, valuable things, like stretchy frogs or a gorilla cup? And how much harder would it be to unload all the stuff, deal with an ice maker that’s making too much noise or a bed that has too many lumps in it?  So, yeah, being in one place for a while was the way to go.

2)      Good shoes. So important. It may be important for the kids, too, but for adults, it’s more critical than having a bottle of Xanex in a purse, or taking a thermos full of Jack Daniels.  Nothing will grind a great adventure to a IMG_3419halt like sore feet. Oh, the heat, the smell, the blisters, the bone aching agony of wearing a pair of cheap shoes. If you spend any money on vacation clothes, spend it on shoes. You’ll thank me.

3)      Always have a first aid kit. Now, I don’t mean stock it with plasma, a bone saw and a vial of morphine (though the latter may come in handy sometimes,) but having a bit of bug spray, a small can of that numbing stuff (like Bactine), a handful of wet wipes and a few spare bandages comes in handy. I mean, hey, let’s face it, especially with boys (old or young), there’s a good chance they’ll climb something they shouldn’t, stick their hand into something icky or prickly, trip over something, fall into something, scrape their knees on something, or burn their skin on something. It’s not that you can’t find supplies nearby (at least in San Diego), but it not only saves time running off to a pharmacy or first aid station, but keeps everyone from crying a lot.

4)      Do not over-plan. Not as easy as it sounds. But one thing that continues to amaze me is how long it can take for 2 boys to get ready and out the door. If you think you can do, ‘9:00-9:05 brush teeth, wash face, go to bathroom, 9:05-9:37 Drive to gun range. 9:38-10:57, shoot guns,’ you’re kidding yourself. It’s ok to have a rough plan. Like we’re going to see the aircraft carrier, today, maybe even in the morning, but the more flexibility you have, the less stress there will be (and this will save money on the minibar bill at the end of the trip.)

5)      Leave one day (at least) free for simple fun. With a 7 and 11 year old this should have been pool time. It sort of goes to #4, don’t overplan, but by having a flex day, there can be a day everyone can relax and bit and avoid burn out. I wish we’d done this. I think by the last day we were just going through the motions of touristing.

6)      IMG_3746 (600x800) (2)Food. Eat food. I know this should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to skip on snacks, or push supper to later to go on that one last ride or yell at the lions to wake up one. Bring snacks if you have room in a backpack or simply set your fancy iphone to remind you or organize breaks at a certain point. Lack of food nearly ruined the Midway experience. Lack of food caused more than one melt down. And realize, as I often have to, that children have different eating/drinking needs than we, as adults, do. I know, another no-brainer, but the signs of hangry kids are not always there until it’s almost too late.

IMG_2224 (598x800)7)      Have distraction devices or ideas.  An iphone with Angry Birds can stop a meltdown. A DS3D can make a long drive tolerable. Even playing the ‘would-you-rather’ game can make a wait for your Denny’s pancakes go by faster. It’s something I’d had to learn. Distraction is your friend. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is good at this. “Mommy! I want to go on the Deathspin ride!!!!!” “Oh, look over there, there’s a giant jug of milk! Don’t you just want to hug it?”

8)      Know that things will go wrong. Things you can’t plan for. Things that will cause you to be late or miss something or have to use #3. Short of arterial bleeding or a zombie invasion, most of the obstacles  are actually pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Even missing a plane can be dealt with. My way of coping is to remember that all the crap that happens makes for good stories. I mean, who wants to hear, “hey, the vacation was fine, we had fun and nothing bad happened”? Better, “OMG, you wouldn’t believe what happened when the youngest …”

9)      Ask for help. As a guy, this is one of the hardest things to remember. If you’re can’t find Bricksburg in Legoland, ask. If you need to find a good place to eat, ask. If you need a bathroom really, really badly, like now, like really now, ask. It helps to ask people who might know – The concierge at the hotel, a taxi driver, a theme park employee, google, a friend who lives there. If you doubt me, watch Amazing Race. The winners will ask for help all the time. It’s ok. Really.

10)IMG_2222 (598x800)   Remember the purpose is to have fun. Fun for everyone. I loved that on this trip, everyone had something they wanted to do. I think that’s important. That we talked to the boys and found out what was important for them to see, to do. I loved that both the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I both got to do some adult-like things. It’s not that everyone can’t enjoy what the others enjoy, but how much better will a trip be that meets everyone’s needs at some point or another. So, ask, what EXPERIENCE are you looking for? “I want to experience the thrill of a fast rollercoaster.” “I want to see my friend, again, and reconnect.” “I want cotton candy, cuz, I dunno, I want it, like, it tastes good and we don’t get it at home.” (that was me, by the way) “I want to find out how claustrophobic it is on the lower decks.”

I’m there are dozens and dozens of other ideas. What tips would you give to other parents traveling with kids?

Traveling With Kids – San Diego 2014 – Top 10 list #1

10 things I thought I would never say on this trip

This may not come as a shock to anyone who has kids, but you end up saying some of the oddest things. Things you probably wouldn’t say at work, at church or over a cup of tea with your grandma.

That’s part of the joy of kids. You just never know what they’ll inspire you to say…
1)      The pooing will start now. Who’s first?

2)      Let go off your wiener, please, I know you have to go to the bathroom.

3)      Stop hugging the ketchup bottle.

IMG_36914)      Ok, go kill some ants, just don’t whack each other with the sticks.

5)      After the youngest said, “I just peed all over myself.” You wouldn’t be the first.

6)      Stop twerking your brother.

7)      Complaining about it will not make it go any faster.

IMG_02738)      Stop making faces at the gorillas.

9)      No zerbering your brother in the security line

10)   No, Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, I’m exhausted, I just want to sleep.

Next up, the 10 things everyone should bring on a vacation to make it the most awesome, epic, stress-less vacation of all time.

What things have you said to your kids or said on a vacation with kids?

******

Traveling With Kids – Leaving San Diego – Plane Truths

The Plane Truth

plane at nightYou’d think riding in a small, confined space with a whole bunch of strangers would be a great place for lots and lots of good stories. Death matches. Cannibalism. Screaming babies. But the ride down to San Diego was pretty uneventful.

The ride back, however, offered some great writing material. I had the youngest sitting to one side. A pretty, university girl on the other side. The youngest was busy trying to defeat some Mario villain. The girl on the other side was texting with such speed that I think her fingers were going back in time.

But behind me a little girl, somewhere between the ages of 3 and 12 (I can’t tell ages) was having quite the meltdown. Seems she wanted to sit with auntie Suzie. The conversation went something like this.

“I WANT to sit with auntie Suzie!”

“You can’t, that seat is taken.”

“NO! I! Want! To Sit! With auntie Suzie.” Like yelling it louder would make it happen.

“I’m sorry the seat beside her is taken.”

“I!!!! WANT!!!! TO!!! SIT!!! WITH!!!AUNTIE!!!! SUZIE!!!!!” Honestly, the exclamation marks do not do this little girl’s word’s justice. There really is no way to describe how much she really, really, really wanted to be with her auntie Suzie.

Now I could write the same thing again and again and again cuz that was pretty much the conversation. For about 10 minutes. I kideth you not.

Even the youngest looked up at me and rolled his eyes. I think he’d had enough of women for a while.

Then the mom finally said, “I can’t do anything about it, sweetie.”

To which the little girl snarked, “I don’t know if you know the meaning of anything, but sitting there doing nothing is not it!” I imagined her arms were folded and she was looking at her mom like her mom was a 2 year old.

The mom shut that down quickly with a few sharp words of her own.

I looked at the youngest playing his 3DS quietly and poked him in the arm, whispering, “Dude, you’re awesome!” And he was. For the entire flight, his fold-out table full of candy and chips.

For me, the ride back was absolutely wonderful. I was exhausted and the youngest was happy to play, then chat about the airplane or what boss he’d just defeated, or ask why the little girl behind him was so angry?

The university student asked if we could all switch so she could chat with her friend. They youngest thought this was awesome since he would get a window seat. But being on the aisle, now, she and her friend were chatted up by, well, for lack of a better description, an older guy. Late 30s. Maybe 40. Tanned. Trying to look a lot younger than he was.

Me, I don’t have to try. I DO look younger. It’s the great advantage of being ID’d in bars until I was 40.

Now, it wasn’t so much that he talked to them, I’ve heard people talk to other people on the plane all the time, it was the way he did it. Aggressive-like, yet awkward.

It’s hard to pull off. He had a whole flapping line-up of red flags.

Apparently he’d bought them pizza. Paying it forward, he said. Apparently they did not remember him. Hey, they were girls in their early 20s. I doubt they put too much thought to an old guy shoving pizza at them.

He wasn’t happy that he wasn’t remembered. He made a joke of it, then a bit later, another joke, then later, again with the joke. It pissed him off. That much was clear. It was like he thought that he had bought their time or interest or whatever with a pizza.

I wondered if they could see that.

I’m sure my friend, Sheila would have something to say about this.

But there were more creepy, red flags … he didn’t listen to what they said, or to their tones, or to their body language, the last two things pretty clearing saying that he should move on. Go back to his wife and kids. But he had no interest in reading the signs. He wanted to know where they lived, what they did, blah, blah, blah. The guy just oozed yuckiness.

Finally he left and they tittered as young girls will do as soon as he was out of earshot. They whispered something about him I couldn’t hear, then went back to talking about how one girl was like pretty, you know, even really pretty, but she was tall and not in a tall pretty way, but in a tall way that took away her pretty like that girl they’d seen earlier, by the pool who had a great face, but her hair was totally all wrong and …

When we landed I said, hey, it’s none of my business, but keep an eye out for that guy you talked to. Something’s off.

She said, totally. I think she knew.

Other than that, though, nothing went wrong. I couldn’t really write on that wee little table and I was bored with phone games, so I mostly just kicked the back of the guy’s seat in front of me and listened to the youngest explain why having a bigger 3DS than his brother made him a better player. A few seats up, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world sat, looking tired but still beautiful. The oldest sat beside her, quietly playing on his own 3DS.

IMG_3912We’d had such a great adventure together.

But it was time to go home.