Friday, June 29, 2018

Notes on our Canada trip

I'm sitting here in the basement of my friend's parents' empty house (they are on a trip to England), listening to my sweet baby boy honk away in the next room. All of the children are asleep (including the honker) and it's quiet, or at least about as quiet as has been for a while.

We took three days to drive from Spanish Fork to High River, stopping at the Lewis and Clark Caverns, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, the Tour Alberta Milk River Center, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. We spent one night in Great Falls and one night in Raymond and now we're finally here.

Spreading the trip out was fun to do—we saw some interesting things and never got too sore from sitting in the car—and the kids have been phenomenal little travelers. Rachel has been such a helpful baby tender, snack distributor, and restroom companion (she has helped Zoë while I've been changing Alexander's diapers). Miriam has sitting in the backseat between Benjamin and Zoë and has been helping them get their shoes set up and playing games with them and opening snacks and finding lost shoes. Benjamin has been doing his best to keep quiet with books and movies. Zoë has been doing her best to remember to say, "Please, may I have...." rather than "I WANT..." Alexander has mostly been calm as well.

Our first pit stop, in fact, was Idaho Falls! We talked about how funny it was that we just flew from Spanish Fork to Idaho Falls because when we took the kids up to Idaho in April it was disastrous!

Things went very smoothly this time around (though I must admit to having a slightly raging headache anyway).

My favourite conversations from the trip so far have been:

1) When the kids were vying for some evening screen time and we were insisting on reading time because they'd all watched so much television on the drive (it keeps them quiet). Andrew was having them all admit how many movies they'd watched (three or four apiece) and then he said, "And Zoë watched every existing episode of Simon."

"Yeah!" she agreed enthusiastically. "And Llama Llama!"

"And Llama Llama," Andrew added.

Zoë was a little upset to find out that her little addendum had sealed her fate and there would be no screen time for anyone that evening.

2) Benjamin was doing something annoying in the car (which, he explained to us is simply the way he learns (so what we might find annoying is really just him learning)) and Miriam lost her temper and slugged him.

"Hey!" Zoë squealed protectively. "Be nice to my brother!"

"Well, he's my brother, too!" Miriam retorted, as if that gave her the right to punch him.

3) I got a little Canadian "fact book" for the kids—specifically Benjamin—to read in the car, which they did. Benjamin got rather excited about a jail in Ottawa that had been turned in to a hostel.

"Hear this!" he exclaimed in his town-crier fashion. "You don't even have to break the law to spend the night in jail!"

"It's true!" Miriam added. "They turned a jail into a hotel."

"Except...hotel has an es in it," Rachel said.

"Shotel?" Andrew asked.

"No, hostel," Rachel said. "At least, I think that's what it says."

We had a conversation about what a hotel is versus what a hostel is (versus what a motel is) and then Rachel said, "What if you stayed in a hostel with a hostile person?"

"It happens," Andrew said. "I was robbed at a hostel in Italy once."

"That sounds like a pretty hostile hostel," Rachel said, then squealed, "Ooh! That could be an A Series of Unfortunate Events title!"

So I put that up on Facebook and my friends got way into that word play (because I have nerdy friends, which are the best kind of friends) and this is what we ended up with:

A holster-toting, hostler-needing, hostel-staying, hostile hustler of holistic Holsteins.

4) When we were crossing the border, the border patrol agent asked if we had any goods to sell or leave behind. Andrew told him that we did not and the agent told us that he'd need a few minutes to type in our birth certificates (passports these days can be scanned quite quickly but birth certificates...can't) and closed his window.

Rachel tapped me on the shoulder.

"Is that even legal?" she whispered, horrified.

"What?" I asked.

"Selling kids!??!??!?!" she said.

"Goods," I said. "He asked if we had any goods to sell."

"Oh!" she said with relief.

"Yes, human trafficking is generally frowned upon," I said. 

Not that the idea of selling the children hasn't ever crossed our minds.

5) At Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the sweet girl at the desk asked my children in good ol' Canadian fashion, "Do you want to give me your wrist so I can put this bracelet on you?"

She looked quite taken aback when Benjamin and Zoë shook their heads and said, "No."

I had to explain to my sweet American children that although that may have sounded like a request they could say no to, it was actually rather obviously a request that required their compliance (in other words, it was an command).

I am forever having to explain to my children that when Canadians say, "Do you want to [fill in the blank]?" what they're really saying is, "[Fill in the blank]."

For example, when Mommy (that's me) says, "Do you want to sweep the floor?" she doesn't really care whether or not you want to sweep the floor and you don't really have the option to decline. Because what she means, in American English, is "Sweep the floor (please)."

It's a constant struggle for me because issuing such a forthright command (such as, "Sweep the floor," feels so rude to me (even with tacking a please on at the end)) but when I say things in the much more comfortable (for me) "Do you want to...?" format, I'm often ignored or my request/command is denied (which seems a little rude to me because obviously if someone asks you if you want to do something for them—and that thing is a nice thing—one's answer should be yes).

6) I suppose this isn't really a conversation, but I made up little road-trip BINGO cards for the kids to play on our drive (hoping to get them to look out the window and enjoy some of the scenery, rather than being glued to their screens/books the whole way). It was fun for about half an hour for the back seat, but Rachel and I got pretty into it, though to be honest Rachel was only playing because if she got a blackout BINGO she'd win a free treat at the next gas station (for whatever reason this incentive was not tantalizing to the back row).

We could not, however, find a tow truck! We scoured the highways for three days and didn't see a single tow truck!

We finally saw one on our way to Calgary on Thursday (even though the trip to Calgary ended up being a bit of a waste we at least got to find a tow truck)! Rachel picked out a big mint Kit-Kat (which she will hopefully share with her siblings because it's huge).

7) Alexander has been quite clingy lately. Separation anxiety and stranger danger are certainly traits he's exhibiting right now. So he hasn't been very keen on being held by anyone but Mommy and Daddy (and Rachel), even though he loved Auntie Abra when we came up in May.

Zoë, however, has been so excited to come up to Canada to meet my sister. She's been looking forward to this trip since I left her home in May. On Monday she carried around a Canada flag all day and kept telling everybody, "Onee one more 'eep until we go to Can'da to see Mommy's seester!" (translation: Only one more sleep until we go to Canada to see Mommy's sister!).

All we had to do was introduce her to Auntie Abra and they were best friends...except not friends because that would be weird. She is my sister, after all.

When Zoë was sitting on Abra's lap at Tim Horton's (we went there for lunch today), Andrew asked her if she'd found some new friends and she looked at him like he'd stepped off a spaceship and said, "Daddy, this is Mommy's sister!"

She wasn't very talkative to Abra at first, though she was all about having Abra hold her, so Abra did her best to start a conversation.

"How's Canada so far?" she asked. In response she got Zoë's typical ice cold silence, but then Zoë suddenly melted* and decided to answer the question.

"I've pooped four times," she announced.

"Oh, have you?" Abra asked, trying to keep a straight face.

"Yes," Zoë confirmed importantly.

So there you have it: Canada is four poops.

(And so cold! I forgot about that and we didn't pack enough warm clothes.)

* Probably because Abra was a bit of an ice queen herself when she was younger. We didn't call her "Crabby Abby" for nothing!** If anyone can get through to the Zogre, it's her!
** She hated this nickname for some reason. Who knows why? *shrug* It's a real mystery.


  1. Love your blog. When will we start seeing the honker in your masthead?

    1. I just figured out what this means! Nancy, you need a new family picture at the top!

    2. We're terribly outdated, I know. I just got around to changing it and you won't even recognize the honker because he's so tiny!

  2. Four poops..ha!

    Is it always that cold in Canada in late June...because I saw your pictures on Facebook about the time I came in from swimming in the pool on a rather hot summer day?

  3. June can see warmer days, but the average high for this area is only 68F, so certainly not the dog days of summer you’re experiencing!

    July and August have average highs in the mid 70s. :)

  4. I certainly got burned on our Canada Day festivities on the 30th.

  5. We all got a little burned. But I wouldn't say that it was sweltering out. You can get a sunburn when it's snowy/cloudy! :)

    1. I think the angle of the rays helps to get tanned or burned in Canada's summers.