Saturday, 31 December 2005

Jeremy's Second Birthday

Look who is two? Yup, Little Man aka Destructo, turned two today. Per the Szymczak custom, Jeremy danced to the Captain Zoom birthday song (the one where your name is mentioned many times). Then it was time to open presents - a word Jeremy has mastered. From Corbin, Jeremy received a set of three Thomas the Engine trains. From Mom and Dad, he received a coffee maker, so he could make his own brand of "double double" coffee. Earlier this week, he received a bean bag chair from Babcia. In the afternoon, we lit the cake and Jeremy blew out the candles with no problems and proceeded to mash icing and cake all over his face (he is quite good at that).

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Christmas Is Over

The Christmas portion of the "Holiday Season" is officially over today. Adam and the boys, took his mother and Alex to the train station for their trip back to Brantford. After saying goodbye, the boys headed up to Future Shop and Best Buy to check out some things and to give Tina a break from everyone. During that time, Tina stripped the Christmas Tree of all the decorations and Adam removed the lights and took the tree apart and stored it in the box. Later during the winter season, Tina plans on going through our decorations and tossing those that are old and tired (we have had some decorations for almost a decade). We plan on visiting Bronners in Frankenmuth, Michigan sometime in February to get some ideas and new decorations. Now to clean the house up, put the gifts in the appropriate places and look forward to a quiet New Year celebration with the Karb Family.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Christmas Eve 2005

Christmas Eve went without a hitch. Babcia, Adam's mom, prepared the perogies by frying up some bacon and onion (expertly cut by Alex). We broke the wafer, a Polish tradition, before eating, wishing each person a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We ate the perogies, pizza bites and bacon-wrapped scallop and washed it down with wine. After tea and deserts it was time to open the presents. One by one the presents were opened and a few hours later, the Christmas Tree was barren of presents. Corbin loves his boxing gloves and shooting arcade. Jeremy liked the bowling set and alphabet magnets. Adam was excited about getting sports and dress socks (no, really, he was) and Tina was overwhelmed by books, DVDs and scrapbooking stuff. Babcia and Grandpa were trying to figure out how to get that DVD/VCR combo back home via the train. Just before going to bed, Corbin spread out some food for the Santa's reindeer, left a magic key so Santa could get into the house and put out some milk and cookies for Santa.

Friday, 23 December 2005

Getting Ready For Christmas

We have spent the last few days getting the house in tip-top shape for the holiday season. Essentially, we are cleaning the house for the eventual mess that will happen on Christmas Day. Every room has been dusted, vacuumed and tidied up. The house looks clean and tidy. That won't last for long.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Christmas In the Prettiest Town in Canada

We traveled up to Goderich Friday evening. Encountered some snow fall between the 401 and Bayfield - to be expected this time year. Arriving in at Chris and Lisa's house, we promptly unpacked the van and got a tour of the newly renovated and expanded Muggridge home. Chris and Lisa added a 2-storey extension with a full basement to their house. The extension contains the master bedroom complete with it's own bathroom and walk-in closet, a new kitchen and a fully functional rec room in the basement. The transition between new and old is flawless. The amount of floor area has doubled. The old kitchen is now the new office of Atomic North New Media (formerly located on the Square).

The kids opened their presents on Saturday and for the most part, they all played well and they all got along well. Corbin played with Teegan and Madigan's toys in the basement and a few games on the Playstation2. Jeremy did what Jeremy does best: play here there and everywhere. A few toys would make it out of the basement but when asked to take them downstairs, Jeremy would comply. Sleeping worked out well. All in all, it was a very relaxing weekend. Kudo's to Chris and Lisa on the expansion.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Christmas Newsletter Out

We have mailed out our annual Christmas Wastebasket Newsletter and it should be arriving in your mailbox shortly. If it doesn't, let us know, we will gladly mail one out, or, if you are technologically advanced, we can email you a PDF version. Only 8 more days to Christmas Eve, 9 more days to Christmas Day and 16 days to the New Year.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Kids Holiday Party

We attended the Kids Holiday Party organized for City employees. The party was held at the Cleary International Centre. Tina dressed the boys up in cute matching outfits. We arrived early and staked our claim at a table near the stage. Eventually we were joined by Mike Cooke and his family.
There was lots for the kids to do: eat, make gingerbread cookies (complete with icing and sprinkles), different kinds of crafts, facepainting, and running on the dance floor. Beebo, a childrens performer, kept the crowd busy. Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrived by fire truck - which Corbin had been waiting for and he had a great view from his spot at the window. The kids got books as gifts, which, seemed to fit their personality and likes. The event was well organized and well attended.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Christmas Tree Is Up

Christmas is here. Christmas is here. Adam spent the afternoon, setting up the Christmas tree so that it could be decorated over the weekend. After three years, Adam is getting better at putting the tree, a 7 foot Majestic Fir, together. Jeremy seems uninterested in the tree - for the time being.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Toronto Trip - Day 3

Back to Windsor today. We started the day with a visit to the Express Start breakfast bar. We got ready and packed the van. This trip to Toronto was exactly what this family needed. Time away from Windsor, from the house and from school. It was Jeremy's first time in a hotel with us, and we had no major problems. We brought a pack and play crib and simply covered it with a comforter from the bed to make it dark. Corbin simply loves hotels. He loves laying in bed watching TV. We left Toronto with good vibes. The weather was cold but sunny.

We decided to make a stop in Tillsonburg to visit Tina's grandma and her Aunt Lisa and Uncle John. None of them had seen Jeremy yet. There was plenty of snow on the ground in T'burg. We arrived at the right time because Grandma Jean and Tina's cousin, Emily, were just about to live to visit Emily's sister, Sarah. We spent some time hanging out and Jeremy enjoyed the new surroundings - new things to touch and play. We grabbed a bite to eat before leaving Tillsonburg and took the leisurely way home (old Highway 3).

Saturday, 3 December 2005

Toronto Trip - Day 2

We had no set plans for the weekend, but thought of going to the CN Tower. Corbin remembered the glass floor and said he would like to go back. We woke up to cloudy and light flurry conditions, which took the CN Tower out of contention. A quick check on the web and we noticed that the Royal Ontario museum (ROM), which is going under an expansion and extensive renovation, had a number of galleries open, including Ancient Egypt. Corbin is on a big Ancient Egypt kick lately. Admissions are reduced until December 26th, so we chose the ROM.

We called Angela and told we would be leaving shortly and that we would meet up with her at the Coxwell subway station. It was Jeremy's first time on public transit - at least with us. We entered the Scarborough RT (an elevated train system) and at first Jeremy was hesitant and scared by the noises that were made. Eventually, he realized we were on a train and he calmed down. Next, we transferred to the subway. Of course, we had to be at the front of the train so Corbin could get a birds-eye view of what was coming - he even saw some workers in the tunnel. We hooked up with Angela and headed to the ROM.

The ROM is right beside the Museum subway stop. It was not too busy which made for an enjoyable two hours. Jeremy seemed to enjoy the ROM, especially the bird room. Corbin kept it together and thoroughly liked the Ancient Egypt exhibit. The highlight was seeing the mummy. We left the ROM and headed out to Bloor Street to mingle with the crowds. Jeremy was in awe at the number of people, the cars, the tall buildings and the sounds. We stopped by the Indigo bookstore on Bay Street before walking down Yonge Street to the Eatons Centre. Yes, call us crazy.

Arriving at the Eatons Centre, we headed up to the Mr. Greenjeans restaurant. The service and food were okay - could have been better. We wandered around the Eatons Centre, found a toy store and bought Corbin some goodies for being a great kid. Back onto the subway and RT. We walked through the Scarborough Town Centre, kids and Angela in tow, and drove back to the hotel. The five of us hung out for a couple of hours before Adam took Angela back to Scarborough Town Centre (which apparently has no rider drop-off or pickup area - at least none that was visible at 9 pm).

Friday, 2 December 2005

Toronto Trip - Day 1

We try to get to Toronto at least once a year. So we decided a weekend trip in early December. Since Corbin had a PA day on Friday, we figured we could get 3 days and 2 nights out the weekend. We headed out early Friday morning, had breakfast in Tilbury and continued towards Toronto. Then came London. The beginning of the snow belt. Traffic slowed right down due to a visibility reducing snow squall - at least a foot of snow came down. We averaged about 30 km/h until just before Ingersoll. After Ingersoll, the road was clear and the sun came out. That was fine.

We arrived at the Ontario Science Centre just after noon. The place was very busy due to school field trips. Corbin and Jeremy loved the place. Corbin liked trying out all the hands-on exhibits like throwing a baseball and so forth. Jeremy just like to run around and touch everything. A new feature at the Science Centre is Kids Park. It is a hands-on area where Children can play with water, dress up, work in a grocery store (with real scanners and cash register), play with a crane, and so on. Jeremy loved the part where you would launch a ball down a track with loops. Corbin liked the grocery store. We could have spent hours in this area.

After a successful day at the Science Centre, we drove to Angela's townhouse. According to Tina, the place looked better than the last time she was there, but was in no shape for us to stay over. So we spent some time with Ang. Adam looked in the Yellow Pages for a hotel, Jeremy drank water from the dog bowl and Corbin wanted to sleepover. We eventually headed to the Holiday Inn Express in Scarborough. They had rooms and at a reasonable price of $95 CDN per night (government rate). We unpacked and then headed out for dinner at a Red Lobster just down the street. It was a very full but awesome day.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Nanny and Poppy Visit

We had the pleasure of Nanny and Poppy's (aka Bev & Gerry) company this weekend. Tina's parents came down from Goderich early Saturday morning - around 9 am or so. Jeremy quickly said "hello" and began to play with Nanny and Poppy. Corbin, on the other hand, was watching TV in the basement and did not hear the doorbell. After a few verbal reminders, Corbin finally made it up and welcomed Nanny and Poppy with big hug. Adam received a present, two flashlights, from Bev & Gerry. Adam thanked them and said "one for Jeremy and one for Corbin". The rest of the weekend was relaxed and easy going.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Christmas Inventory

We finally got around to taking an inventory of presents for the boys and our nieces. We pulled all the bags out and sorted the presents by child and then further sorted by who is giving what and when. There were a few gaps here and there, nothing that cannot be remedied with a short trip to Toys R Us and Best Buy. We 'tagged' each present to avoid second guessing who is giving what and bundled the presents according to when they are being given (Christmas Eve and Christmas morning).

Sunday, 20 November 2005

A Day On The Trails

Today, the four of us, headed out to Ojibway Park on the west side of Windsor. The park is a natural area consisting of a forest with various trails and a nature centre where visitors can learn about the park and purchase books, bird feeders, bird seed and some goodies for the kids. Tina wanted to take the stroller, but Adam said let Jeremy walk and run free. It was a warm fall day - perfect for wandering on the trails.

The park was covered with leaves, everywhere. Jeremy liked the sound made when walking through the leaves, so he walked just off the trail where all the small saplings and bushes are located. Naturally, this meant that he kept walking into them - branches would bounce of his forehead. We ended up taking one of the longer trails - about 3 to 4 km - and Jeremy walked it for the most part.

We also brought the walkie-talkies so Corbin could wander the trails without out constant supervision. For whatever reason, Corbin was reluctant to go out on his own, so either Tina and Adam had to be with him. We ended up in the Nature Centre where Tina bought the boys a rubber snake for their excellent behavior.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Night Out

Dana, our former respite worker (she worked with Corbin - giving us a break) offered to babysit both Corbin and Jeremy one night. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity. The boys did not seem all that concerned or sad that Mom and Dad were leaving them with Dana for the night. We headed out for dinner at the Mongolian Grill in Lakeshore. Eating at the Mongolian Grill is an experience. You grab a bowl and fill it your choice of noodle followed by your choice of meat or seafood. Next you pour a ladle of oil and then choose your sauce (or combination of sauces - watch out some are hot). You can add some herbs and spices to liven up your dish. You walk over to the grill, which is a flat 5 grill with a hole in the middle that heats up to 600 degrees F. The cooks take your bowl and pour on the grill and proceed to slice it and mix up with sticks. About 45 seconds later, your meal is ready for you to take back to your table. Fresh, hot and tasty.

After filling up on a few bowls, we drove over to the Lakeshore Cinemas to see what was playing. Harry Potter just came tonight so the majority of people were going to see that movie. We decided on Jarhead, a movie about a Marine who was involved in the first Gulf War. The movie was excellent - well written and well acted. It provides a unique point-of-view of the first Gulf War. Highly recommended. Next we stopped for a coffee and a donut at Tim Horton's. We arrived back to a quiet house - the boys were asleep. Dana said that everything went well. It was nice to get out and spend some time together away from the boys.

Monday, 14 November 2005

Pee in the Potty

After Adam toweled him dry, Jeremy asked to sit on the potty. So Adam opened the lid on the potty and helped Jeremy to sit properly on it. Adam tells Jeremy to push and a few seconds later, Jeremy declares he is done and gets off the potty. Adam looks in, and lo and behold, there is pee in the bowl. It was the first time that Jeremy went pee or poo in the potty. Adam yelled "I don't believe it, but Jeremy went pee in the potty". Seconds later, Tina and Corbin came into the bathroom to congratulate Jeremy, who proceeded to sit on the potty again. Yet more pee in the bowl. Let's hope that this is the beginning of the end of diapers (and let's hope that this is a short journey).

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Babcia Visits Windsor

Babcia, Adam's mom, visited us this past weekend. She arrived, early Wednesday evening, by train. She spent the weekend playing with Jeremy when Corbin was in school and with Corbin when Jeremy was napping or otherwise preoccupied (like eating or getting his diaper changed). On Friday, when Adam and Tina were out buying Christmas presents for the boys, Babcia took Jeremy to the park for over an hour. Jeremy loves parks and he was loving it. On Saturday, she took Corbin to the park while Jeremy napped. There was a sudden silence in the house, something that Tina and Adam last experienced some three and half years ago. It was too quiet. It was a wonderful weekend for all. Tina and Adam were able to get some downtime and finish the Christmas shopping for the kids. Jeremy and Corbin were able to expend vast amounts of energy playing with Babcia. And Babcia got to spend a lot of quality time with her grandkids.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Christmas Shopping

In what has become an annual tradition on Remembrance Day (aka Veteran's Day in the USA), we went shopping for Christmas presents for our boys and our nieces. Adam and Tina get the day off, but the kids are in school, which makes it easy to buy the presents in one morning. Adam's mom was down and she was able to stay with Jeremy, which made the day even easier. We start with a breakfast at a local eatery and then proceed to Toys R' Us. The place is hopping by 9:30 am and we usually bump into one of Adam's co-workers, Jim, and his wife Tracey. While you do spend a lot of money in one day, the Christmas shopping is done for the kids. No need to fight the crowds and lines. Usually the weather is nice and makes for a very relaxed shopping experience. All we have to worry about now are presents for each other and our parents.

Comfort Inn & Suites - St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites
703 Route 5 South, St. Johnsbury, VT, 05819, USA
Stayed: 01-Jul-2005 to 03-Jul-2005 - Two Nights

Room Type: 2 Queen Beds Non-Smoking with Sofa Bed
Room Rate: $99 USD (Government Rate)
Room Amenities: Coffeemaker, Fridge, TV, Iron & Ironing Board, Small Table & Chairs, Desk
Room Number: 116

Access: Highway
Breakfast: Deluxe Continental included
Floors: Four
Internet: Wired
Parking: Free surface
Recreation: Large indoor heated pool, Whirlpool, Sauna, Outdoor patio
Other: Elevator, Video arcade, Laundry room
Nearby Amenities: Shopping, Movies, Restaurants in downtown St. Johnsbury

Good: Located right at Exit 20 on I-91; Excellent recreational facilities including a large indoor pool and a video arcade; Ample surface parking; Large rooms. Excellent check in and check out.

Bad: Temperature of pool was cool - would hardly call it heated.

Overall: Great location. Only 45 minutes from Canadian border; about 30 minutes to Santa's Village and 15 minutes to Littleton, New Hampshire. Cannon Mountain is about 30 minutes to the southeast. This was the first day of our vacation out east and we wanted to cover as much ground as possible (Brantford, Ontario to St. Johnsbury - 870 km/540 miles). So we decided to stay the two nights at this hotel and use the first night to recover from the long drive. It was a wise decision and with the great facilities at the hotel, it was a great start to our vacation.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Holiday Inn Express - East Greenbush (Albany), NY, USA

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites
Location: 8 Empire Drive, East Greenbush, NY, 12144, USA
Stayed: 09-Jul-2005 to 10-Jul-2005 - One Night

Room Type: 1 Queen Bed Non-Smoking with Sofa Bed
Room Rate: $92 USD
Room Amenities: Coffeemaker, Fridge, TV, Iron & Ironing Board, Office Chair & Desk, Clothes Steamer
Room Number: 123

Access: Highway
Breakfast: Complimentary Express Start Breakfast including omelets, bacon & hard boiled eggs
Floors: Three
Internet: Wired free
Parking: Outdoor free
Recreation: Indoor pool, Whirpool
Other: Elevator, Business Center
Nearby amenities: Restaurants, Shopping

Good: Easy access from I-90; One of the best continental-style breakfasts around, includes the awesome Express Start cinnamon rolls AND omelets, bacon and hard-boiled eggs.

Bad: No in-room microwave

Overall: Excellent hotel to spend the night on a long trip back to Canada. The breakfast is top-notch.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Super 8 Motel - Truro, NS, Canada

Hotel: Super 8 Motel
Location: 85 Treaty Trail, Truro, NS, B2N 5A9, Canada
Stayed: 05-Jul-2005 to 06-Jul-2005 - One Night

Room Type:
2 Queen Bed Non-Smoking - 2nd Floor
Room Rate: $110 CAD
Room Amenities:
Coffeemaker, Fridge, Microwave, TV, Iron & Ironing Board, Small Table
Room Number: 218

Access: Highway
Breakfast: Continental included
Floors: Two
Internet: Wired
Parking: Outdoor Surface
Recreation: Indoor Heated with Water Slide & Hot Tub
Other: Elevator
Nearby Amenities: Restaurants, Movies, Grocery Store

Good: New hotel (two years old in 2005); kids will like water slide; excellent continental breakfast with a good selection of hot and cold items; quick check-in and check-out; right off Highway 102; movie theatre, Tim Hortons, Sobey's Express and A & W Restaurant all located within walking distance; affordable.

Bad: Not much too do around hotel.

Overall: Great place to stop if you are travelling from/to Digby or Yarmouth from/to PEI, New Brunswick or Cape Breton. The water slide was the highlight of our 2005 summer vacation for our son.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Hotels & Motels

We have stayed at numerous hotels and motels over the past 12 or so years. Some great. Some good. Some okay. A few bad. We will recount our experiences with the hotels and motels of North America. We'll let you know if the room was comfortable, if the breakfast buffet was acceptable and if the swimming pool was really heated. Nearby amenities such as restaurants, shopping and entertainment facilities will be noted.

All rooms are non-smoking unless otherwise stated. Room rates are usually the best rate we can find and may include government and CAA/AAA discounts. We will try to note discounted rates where possible. "N/A" means that no information is available (we can't remember). "Nearby Amenities" refers to amenities that are within a short (walking or driving) distance of the hotel.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

New Eavestroughing

We had some major problems with the eavestroughing last winter. One trough totally froze up and was on the verge of falling of the house. The hole at the downspout was blocked up leaves (we have two honey locust trees that do a nice job of clogging up the troughs). A few other troughs were getting clogged up too and some of the hanger nails were coming out. To avoid a repeat of these problems, Adam decided to get replace all the eavestroughing and downspouts around the house.

He called Gauthier Roofing and Siding. Ron Gauthier, President visited the house on October 7th, conducted a survey and provided an estimate for all new eavestroughs with 6" (3x3) downspouts and with Gutter Clean System gutter guards. He also recommended a number of changes such as larger downspouts, altering the design of two short throughs and their downspouts to prevent leaves and other material from bunching up and giving more support to the downspout, and the relocation of one downspout so that it splashed into our sideyard instead of into our frontyard (which would have required hacking our fence). A price was quoted and Ron said the work could be done in about 2 to 3 weeks. The following Tuesday, Adam called in and confirmed the job.

On the 26th of October, Tina received a call stating that because another job finished ahead of schedule, that they could work on our house on the 27th. The installer arrived around 9 am and introduced himself to Tina. The old troughs and downspouts were down in no time. By 3:00 pm the job was complete. The short troughs look much better and sturdier. The downspouts look like they can handle a lot of volume without being overwhelmed. The leaves are just starting to fall, so we will report back on the performance of the gutter guards.

Sunday, 23 October 2005

The Pucher's Visit Windsor

Today, we had the pleasure of hosting the Pucher's - John, Cindy, Samantha and Heather. Seems the Pucher's wanted to visit us and see the newest addition to our family, Jeremy. Corbin was very excited about their visit and spent countless minutes, maybe an hour, standing at the living room window on the look out for our guests. Around 11am, the guests arrived from Woodstock and several stops along the way. Samantha, 4, and Heather, 1, did their best to make the trip interesting. We had a lunch at a local restaurant, Dirty Jersey's, which was an interesting exercise in feeding and watching four children and feeding ourselves. Returning to our house, Jeremy and Heather went down for naps, Adam showed John the new Pontiac Wave and a quick tour of the backyard, and Cindy and Tina watched Corbin and Sam play video games. It was a great visit and we look forward to visiting John & Cindy in the winter for a good session of tobogganing down large hill in their backyard.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

A Day With Corbin

One of Tina's co-workers offered to take Jeremy for a day and we gladly took up that offer since it would give us some quality time with Corbin. We decided to take Corbin to XS Family Fun Centre. They have laser tag, go-karts, batting cages and arcade games. The go-karts were not running despite the wonderful weather, so we inserted a $20 bill into the machine and received 100 tokens. We played video games, shooting games and arcade games. Tina and Adam did well with the arcade games. Tina hit the jackpot on one machine and won almost 400 tickets. Adam played a couple times on an arcade machine and won about 250 tickets. By the time we were done, we had over 800 tickets. The prize selection was good and Corbin walked away with 3 toys, vampire teeth and candies.

Corbin recommended McDonald's for lunch, so that was our next stop. Adam read the Globe and Mail and Tina and Corbin chatted away. After finishing our 'gourmet' lunch, we headed out to Leamington to eventually pickup Jeremy. We took the back road along the north shore of Lake Erie and saw several Heron's standing in the water, looking for fish to eat. We stopped at the Wal-Mart in Leamington and picked up some day-to-day goods. It was nice to spend some time with Corbin, and he seemed to appreciate it.

Sunday, 9 October 2005

Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

Given the prospect of nice weather today, we headed out to the Toledo Zoo - about a 45 minute trip south from Windsor, Canada (including time getting through US or Canada Customs). This was Jeremy's first trip outside Canada since he became a member of the Szymczak Family. At about the five minute mark of the trip, still in Windsor, Corbin asked how long will it take to get the Zoo. Adam politely reminded Corbin that we had not yet crossed the river.

Traffic at the border was moderate. US Customs had plenty of booths open, so it took about 5 minutes to get through Customs and on our merry way. Traffic on I-75 was typical. When we left Windsor, it was sunny but cool. When we arrived at the zoo, it was overcast but pleasant. We managed to find a parking space close to the entrance - probably the closest space we have had in two years. Jeremy was placed in his stroller and we walked to the admission gate. Being members, parking and admission are free.

We visited the Aviary for the first time. Jeremy was mesmorized by large birds. When a bird would squawk or chirp, Jeremy often would squawk of chirp back. It took Corbin some time to settle in. Next was the primate exhibit. The monkeys, apes, gorilla and orangutans were out in full force. Jeremy liked how the monkeys were swinging and jumping. In particular, he liked the slide they had. We are sure he wanted to try out the slide. Next was the aquarium, which Corbin loves. He has several tanks that he must see before leaving the exhibit. Jeremy was bored after a while, so Adam took him outside.

After lunch, we checked out the hippos, rhinos and elephants. Much to our surprise, Corbin wanted to see the elephants. He is not a huge fan of their smell, but the elephants were outside and that seems to make the difference. Jeremy had an interesting interaction with an otter. The otter was swimming and diving right by the window. Jeremy was intrigued and ran right up to the window to check the otter out, but about one foot away the otter, Jeremy froze and backed away slowly - seems the Otter was a wee bit scary to Jeremy. A few seconds later, Jeremy was still in awe of the otter and headed back to the window and again realized that "whoa, that thing is closer and all wild; I need to move back". It was fun to watch.

We spent about 3 1/2 hours at the zoo and both boys did an awesome job. The trip home was uneventful. A longer than usual wait at Canadian Customs but no problems there, though we were asked for ID - the first time we have been asked for ID at the Canadian border in Windsor. All in all, it was a well deserved family outing.

Monday, 3 October 2005

Corbin's 7th Birthday

Corbin celebrated his 7th birthday this past weekend. On Saturday, Corbin had a birthday party with 10 or so of his friends. This year's theme was "Spy Academy". As usual, Tina outdid herself. All activities were based around the spy theme. All attendees were given badges with their real name and an alias, and a loot bag to be used during the scavenger hunt. The next event was an obstacle course that had spy students go through a tunnel, around a dangerous sand dune, toss blocks into a tub and dress up as a spy. Loot bags were placed in a box beside the secret treasure chest and key to the chest. But at some point during the party, the evil agent, KAOS, stole the loot bags and key and hung the chest from a tree.

Upon discovering the items were missing, the spy students had to find and answer 6 clues. After eating some birthday cake, spy students had to answer the last clue: the location of the chest. The correct answer was a tree and we all headed outside to find the chest dangling from the tree. The key and loot bags were discovered. Next, each spy student was given an opportunity to crack open the chest with the key. Eventually, the contents of the chest fell to the ground and the spys went into a frenzy. Yet another successful birthday party.

On Sunday, Corbin's actual birthday, Corbin woke up and danced to the Captain Zoom Personalized birthday song. Corbin opened presents from Babcia & Grandpa and Nanny & Poppy. He eventually found his present from Mom & Dad outside - a brand new bike. He was most excited and wanted to ride it right away - but Adam had to put a damper on that since the tires needed air and the seat needed adjustment. Tina cooked up pancakes with chocolate chips especially for Corbin. Later in the day, Jeremy gave Corbin his present. Corbin said the entire weekend was awesome.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

"Welcome Home Jeremy" Open House

We had our official "Welcome Home Jeremy" open house today. Attended by family and close friends and colleagues, the party was a success. Jeremy loved the undivided attention, playing with other kids and opening gifts. Even Corbin received a few gifts. The highlight of the event was Jeremy filling is mouth and face with Bob the Builder cake. Again, he loved he attention. It was a wonderful day and we would like to thank all those that attended and those that sent us their regrets and best wishes.

Unfortunately, it seems the open house took it's toll on Jeremy the next day. He was under the weather. He "attached" himself to Tina and eventually fell asleep on her. After some rest, Jeremy seemed to get back some energy as he ran around the house playing with new toys and bugging older brother Corbin. But by late afternoon, he was not feeling well, so it was an early bed time. Too much partying.

Monday, 15 August 2005

Jeremy Vincent Szymczak

Jeremy is now with us permanently (as of August 11) and he has done a wonderful job of settling in. He has no problem saying no or ignoring our demands. He poops 4 times a day. He sleeps for 11 and a half hours. He wants to be fed immediately upon waking up. In fact, he seems to eat all the time. This kid is literally eating us out of our house.

He chases Corbin around the house and loves to jump on Corbin, but if Corbin gets within a foot of him, Jeremy will whine and cry, trying to get Corbin in trouble. Fortunately, we are aware of this game and usually ignore Jeremy in those situations.

He loves to do things that he is not supposed to do, like moving all the books off the shelves, moving his potty into the bedroom so he can reach things he is not allowed to have or to roll out all the toilet paper when the bathroom door is left open.

Saturday, 30 July 2005

Adoption Visits

We have finished over a weeks worth of visits with Jeremy and things are going smoothly. Both Tina and Adam have spent some quality alone time with Jeremy, and for the most part he loves their company. He loves the sights and sounds of Windsor - save for buses - saying "woah" whenever we drive on the expressway. Tomorrow and Monday we get him for a full day. Friday will be his first sleepover. That is when things get interesting. Have we said that this kid is cute? No? Well, this kid is cute.

Sunday, 24 July 2005

Jeremy and Corbin

Corbin is happy to have a baby brother, however Jeremy remains undecided.

Saturday, 23 July 2005

Adoption Visits - Jeremy

After a year and a half wait, we have finally begun visits with our second child, Jeremy. He is a 18 month old boy, who has light brown hair and weighs about 26 pounds. We just finished our third visit this morning. This kid is one bundle of non-stop energy.

Corbin met him for the first time yesterday. They chased each other around. We still have about 3 more visits before we sit down with our worker, the foster family, and the Jeremy's worker to discuss the next stage (visits to our house and sleepovers).

Jeremy could be in our house by the second week of August. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 12 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - A Summary

After a few days of recovery from a long trek, the vacation can be summarized in one word: Awesome. Yes, the vacation was awesome. Corbin was well-behaved and a had great time swimming at each hotel (to him a vacation is all about hotels and swimming pools).

The weather co-operated for the most part. It rained a few days, mostly a drizzle, but those were travel days so no big loss. We did not do all the tourist-type things that others may do, but we enjoyed the trip. The New England area of the US and the East Coast of Canada are beautiful areas. We will be back again.

Our Recommendations:
  • Super 8 Hotel, Truro, Nova Scotia is a newer hotel with a waterslide. Your kids will love you. A great place to stay over on your way to or from Cape Breton, Halifax, Digby or Yarmouth.
  • Irving Nature Park, Saint John, New Brunswick is an awesome nature park with trails, beaches, lookouts and more. A mere 7 minute drive from downtown. And it is free.
  • Comfort Inn, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Indoor pool. Arcade room. Laundry. Right off the interstate. Centrally located. This hotel looks beautiful on the outside. A great place to stop when traveling from Southern Ontario to the east coast of the US and Canada.
  • New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick. An excellent museum that is not too big with lots of hands on activities including a huge craft and play room. Open late Thursday nights. Admission is reasonable. After visiting the museum, have a bite to eat at a local eatery and wander the downtown and waterfront area. Watch the tide come and go.
  • Avonlea Village of Anne of Green Gables, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Yes, it is a tourist-type thing, but it is cool to interact with the characters in various buildings and on the street. The shindig at the Fishing Shanty was a highlight. You can follow the schedule or go along at a leisurely pace and enjoy the atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Days 9 and 10

Saint John, NS to Windsor, ON

Big push home. Two very long days of driving - about 800 to 900 km each day. Driving through the US with a stop in Albany, NY.

Day 9 - Saturday - consisted of driving through Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York to eventually arrive at the Holiday Inn Express in East Greenbush (Albany), NY. The forecast called for rain. We left Saint John around 9:00 am and arrived in St. Stephen, NB about an hour later. We stopped by the Ganong chocolate
store and bought some more goodies. US Customs was next.

As mentioned previously, both Canada and US Customs are located at either end of the bridge that connects the communities of Calais (pronounced Kaliss), ME and St. Stephen, NB. In fact, the booths on the Canadian side are located on the deck of bridge. Talk about a space crunch. Trucks entering the US have to make a sharp 90 degree turn to the right to get to their booths. I have read that sometimes, trucks are asked to pull straight ahead and the inspection takes places on the main road. Crazy. After the usual questions, we were permitted to enter the USA. Loaded up on some cheaper US gas (about 25 cents per litre cheaper) and continued on our long journey home.

It started to rain in Maine, which seemed to take forever to drive through. In New Hampshire, where it stopped raining, we came across the biggest scam in the US: the Blue Star Turnpike. I don't have a problem with toll roads per se, but the toll road (I-95) in New Hampshire is about 15 miles long, has three exits and costs a $1.00 (both ways if you are doing a round trip).

have signs 3 miles ahead of the toll plaza warning you about the toll plaza - this is where the wait begins to pay the toll. It took about 30 minutes to get to the toll booth (there must have 10 or so toll booths in each direction). There are no rest areas on the turnpike, but if you have a need for some booze, there are state-operated liquor stores. The only reason this toll exists is to exact a tax from Bostonians and New Yorkers (and other travellers) who are heading up to Maine and the East Coast of Canada for some fresh air and clean water.

As a comparison, we paid $1.50 to drive 89 miles of the Massachusetts Turnpike aka Mass Pike (and they have real rest stops on the Mass Pike). I can imagine the backup during holiday weekends. We took I-495 to I-290 to I-90 (Mass Pike). This took us through Worcester, MA. Traffic was moving well. Around 6:30 pm we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express East
Greenbush (Albany-Skyline). After driving for 10 hours and almost 900 km, Adam was tired.

Day 10 - Sunday aka the Last Day of Vacation - started out well. It was sunny and warm - no drizzle to worry about. The Express Start Breakfast Bar was the best on this trip. Besides the warm cinnamon buns, bagels, toast, juices, coffee, boiled eggs, they also had real bacon and scrambled eggs. A very good breakfast. We managed to get out of the hotel around 9 am (since Adam is a Priority Club member, no checkout is required - just leave the keys in the room or counter and off you go). We stopped by a nearby Wal-Mart so Tina could buy a book to read on the long trip home.

It was an uneventful four hour drive to Buffalo, NY and the Peace Bridge (which needs a major upgrade) into Canada. Canadian Customs was packed but moving at a good clip - about 10 minutes in total. Another 5 minutes to pay the bridge toll and away we went on the QEW.

Typical Sunday and summer traffic on the QEW, 403 and 401. Stopped at the Woodstock rest area to fuel up (only 88 cents a litre) and let Tina drive us home - Adam was burnt out from driving some 1500 km in two days. It was a usual drive down the 401 to Windsor.

The flat land after London seemed all that much flatter after driving through the Appalachian mountains and various valleys, coves and bays. We arrived in Windsor around 6:00 pm, to the same weather that we left 10 days ago - hot and humid. The weather seemed unbearable - we got used to the moderate climate out east. Unpacked the van. Vacation over.

Friday, 8 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 8

Saint John, NS.

No plans again today. With the weather warm and sunny, we picked the Irving Nature Park as our destination. Located a mere 7 minutes from downtown Saint John, the park is a natural area with trails, lookouts, picnic areas and beaches. There is no charge to visit the park. The park is simply beautiful.

We drove a narrow and winding gravel road and came upon a small parking area. Below was a large "beach" of stones, rocks and pebbles. It was low tide, so there was plenty of stones for Corbin to pick up and throw into the ocean. Adam walked into the water, now officially having stepped foot into both the w
est coast and east coast of Canada. Adam picked up a few stones and managed to cut his index finger, creating a lovely gash. Next stop: the hospital.

Tina drove up to the hospital, which is located at the University of New Brunswick Saint John Campus. There are no straight roads in Saint John, so the drive took about 10 minutes. About 40 minutes later, the gash had been glued and covered with a bandage and Adam had been given a tetanus shot. We left the hospital, paid a $1.25 for one hour of parking (most hospitals around Windsor charge $2.50 or more), and headed back to the Nature Park.

We stopped by an observation area that also was a picnic area (including barbecues). Because of the picnic area, the whole area was crawling with chipmunks. While excited, Corbin was cautious of the friendly chipmunks.

After a few minutes and some reassurances, it became Corbin's mission to feed the chipmunks - not that they needed feeding. At the van, we left some food and waited for the rodents to appear. Sure enough, one came from a distance and began nibbling. Adam took some closeup pictures of the chipmunk.

We left the area and headed down to the main beach, where Corbin proceeded to throw more rocks into the ocean and Tina and Adam watched the tide come in. It was a relaxing day spent at the nature park (including the side trip to the hospital).

Thursday, 7 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 7

Digby, NS to Saint John, NB.

Very little driving today because we are taking the ferry to Saint John, NS. The day began with another continental breakfast that was acceptable. It was cloudy with a light drizzle. With the ferry scheduled to depart at 1:00 pm, we hung out in the motel room watching TV and playing games until 11:00 am, when we checked out of the motel and drove into Digby to Return of the Toymaker, a toy store with hand-made wooden boats, wharfs and doll houses, Christmas ornaments, and other goodies.

Children can make a miniature sailboat; naturally Corbin was excited. The sailboat is pre-made, but requires the drilling of two holes to hold the masts. The owner, Howard Pyle, placed the boat in the jig and Corbin turned the handle on the drill press to make the two holes. Next, a dowel was placed in a vise grip and Corbin sawed it to make two masts. Mr. Pyle then placed the dowels in a jig and asked Corbin to pull down a handle on a century-old drill press. The dowels were inserted into their holes and Corbin hammered away. Next two pins (one at the front and one at the rear) were hammered in. Mr. Pyle threaded a string through the holes. A sailboat was created. Corbin immediately wanted to paint it and asked where the sails were. Adam said we could work on those things at home. We left the store and headed to the ferry dock.

At the ferry we wandered around the terminal, stopping for a customary "pee break" and getting a few munchies from a vending machine that gave Tina a hard time - as in you paid for something and it got stuck - but all worked out well in the end. We sat patiently in the van. The Princess of Acadia arrived around 12:15 pm or so. Unloading the ship took a long time - at least when compared to the Chi-Cheemaun (Tobermory, Ontario). Eventually, we were directed to enter the belly of the ship. We headed up to the passenger decks and proceeded to the cafeteria to have lunch (which was reasonably priced).

The journey between Digby, NS and Saint John, NB takes 3 hours. There is a big screen TV in the main lounge where a children's movie is shown. They were playing Ice Age, which grabbed Corbin's attention and freed us for about 90 minutes.

After the movie, Corbin messed around with his GameBoy, played some games with us and we kind of wandered around the ship. The weather changed from dreary to sunny about half-way through. Around 4:00 pm, the ship arrived in Saint John, and a few minutes later we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites.

Adam mentioned that the New Brunswick Museum was open late Thursdays. Since we had not done much this day, we concluded that it would be good to see the museum and grab a bite to eat. A trail, Harbour Passage, leads downtown along the harbour and was only about a 2 minute walk from the hotel. It took about 10 minutes or so to get to the museum, which is located in Market Square, a larger facility with stores, restaurants, a library and a convention centre. Admission was $9.73 for the three of us - the bargain of the trip.

The museum consists of three floors with large exhibits. On the main floor, a guide, Elizabeth, asked us if we had any questions. Corbin had plenty. Corbin and Elizabeth hit it off. She showed Corbin around and took us to the second floor where the whale bones were on display. The museum looks small at first but is jam packed with exhibits. Apparently about 40% of their collection is on display. Elizabeth had to leave us to make an announcement. We headed up to the third floor which contained a large play room where kids could read books, make crafts, play with toys and computers. At the craft counter, Corbin and Elizabeth made a snake.

Unfortunately for Corbin, we were getting hungry, so after about 2 hours at the museum, we went to a restaurant inside the Market Square and had a late supper. The day ended, with us walking back to the hotel - that is Tina and Adam walking, Corbin running - and heading to the pool for a swim and a dip in the hot tub. Even Corbin spent some time in the hot tub.

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 6

Truro, NS to Digby, NS.

No real plans today - a 300 km drive today. The weather forecast for today is rain during the afternoon. After filling up at the continental breakfast, we got Corbin ready for one last water slide session while Adam loaded up the van. We checked out around 10 am or so and headed out to Digby, NS. We decided on the scenic route - Highway 215 aka the Glooscap Trail (which takes you from Truro to Windsor). Along the way we saw the vast tidal bore at
Shubenacadie River at low tide - an amazing site - an huge flat area of red. We could only imagine what high tide looks like.

Near Walton we stopped at the side of the road to watch the tide come in. It was neat to watch the small creek reverse flow and the water slowly rise. At Walton, we took a small detour to visit the Walton Lighthouse. One has to climb very steep staircases (almost ladders) to reach the top for a great view of Walton Harbour and the Bay of Fundy. By the time we left the lighthouse, a steady drizzle was coming down. We arrived in Windsor - the one in Nova Scotia. Corbin was initially confused but quickly caught on that it was not his Windsor.
Heading towards Digby, it started to rain more. The big problem was the spray from the vehicles. It was not raining hard enough to clear off the mist. Adam eventually pulled off Highway 101 and took the more scenic Highway 1. We passed the Annapolis Tidal Generating Station where the power of the tide is used to generate electricity.

Arriving on the "outskirts" of Digby, we were greeted by a Wal-Mart, Sobey's, Atlantic Superstore and a Canadian Tire. Who knew Digby was such a commercial centre? We arrived at the Admiral Digby Inn tired but safe. The Admiral Digby Inn is located a mere 1/4 mile from the ferry dock and about 2 miles from downtown Digby. It is a two-storey motel where one drives up to their room. The rooms were clean and well-appointed. After unpacking, we headed into Digby to have a nice supper at the Fundy Restaurant. Adam ordered grilled scallops (a first for him), Tina had haddock and Corbin had the usual hamburger and french fries. The scallops were to die for. Sauteed in a garlic sauce they were firm but flaky. The baked potato was perfect. A great dinner at a reasonable price - you cannot go wrong with fresh seafood. We strolled the main drag and headed back to hotel.

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 5

Cavendish, PEI to Truro, NS.

Headed into Cavendish for some breakfast at the Friendly Fisherman, then back to the hotel to pack, let Corbin swim one more time and check out. Went up the road to Cavendish one more time. We spent some time at Avonlea Village of Anne of Green Gables, a recreation of the village from the television series. Complete with the original schoolhouse that L.M. Montgomery taught in, the village has people not only playing the various characters found in the books but interacting with visitors. As we entered the schoolhouse, Corbin was shy and refused to enter. He slowly warmed up as we watched a shindig at the Fishing Shanty. As we
left Avonlea Village, Corbin wanted to stay - could have been the pony ride, could have been him having a good time.

After a quick browse at a local shopping plaza, we drove to Wood Islands to catch the ferry to Caribou, NS. Catch is a very key word. With nine minutes to spare, we arrived at the ferry dock, paid our money and boarded the ferry, saving us two hours of waiting time (or two hours of grief). It worked to our advantage. We arrived at the Super 8 Motel in Truro, NS (about 45 minutes southeast of Pictou, NS).

This Super 8 Motel is only two years old and has a water slide. Yup. A water slide. Corbin refused to believe Adam at first but once he saw it, he could not contain his excitement. But he had to wait - we were hungry. We stopped at regional eatery - Frank & Gino's - for a nice dinner. A quick stop at Sobey's to stock up on munchies and we were back at the hotel. Guess what we did next? Water slide! That thing is amazing. Adam was able to splash half the pool room - the speed one picks up is scary but fun.

Monday, 4 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 4

Bangor, Maine to Cavendish, PEI.

Another big travel day - just under 600 km. No major stops planned along this leg of the trip. It was ironic that on Canada Day we traveled to the US and on Independence Day we drove to Canada. After fuelling up on some cheaper American gas, we headed out into the Maine wilderness towards Calais, ME/St. Stephen, NB and the US-Canada border. No problem at Canada Customs (or whatever they are called this week). First stop in Canada? Tim Hortons, naturally. Second stop? Ganong Chocolates (right across the street from Tim Hortons). We bought some chocolates and candy and continued our trek to PEI.

We stopped at the information centre just outside Saint John to get some guides on what to do in Saint John when we return via Digby, NS. In Moncton, we stopped at McDonald's for a quick bite to eat and headed towards the Confederation Bridge. Adam experienced his first traffic circle or roundabout in Canada (his first experience in a roundabout as a driver was in Boston). It was interesting to say the least. Eventually, the Confederation Bridge appeared in the distance. Since tolls are collected when leaving PEI, the highway leads straight onto the bridge, which makes for a informal entrance to PEI. Believe it or not, we saw a police officer giving out a speeding ticket on the bridge to some poor sucker. Anything for a buck I guess. After our 12 km trip across the bridge, we arrived on the red soil of PEI. On the drive to the hotel, we
saw potato plants growing everywhere, yet no chip or french fry stands were to be seen.

The landscape in PEI is beautiful. The red soil contrasts against the lush greenery. The island is hilly (something we have encountered on a daily basis since leaving Essex County). We arrived at the Clarion Hotel Cavendish Gateway Resort, a lovely hotel located just south of Cavendish. Our room was located on the top floor of a three-storey structure that looked to be original and had a hardwood floor, a peaked roof and a great view of the countryside. The evening was young, so we headed into Cavendish to check out Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum and play some mini-golf (which we do at least once on almost every vacation). Back to the hotel and the swimming pool.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 3

St. Johnsbury, Vermont to Bangor, Maine.

Since we decided to go to Santa's Village yesterday, we had to revise our "plan". Our first stop was Chutters in Littleton, New Hampshire. Chutter General Store has the longest candy counter in the world - 111 feet and 11-3/4 inches long. There are three rows of jars filled with all kinds of candies. There is penny candy, regular candy and specialty candy. You put on plastic glove, open a jar and fill your bag with the candy. We bought $20 worth of candy. Tasty. Next, we toured Main Street and visited a few bookstores followed by a walk through a covered bridge to a small farmers/flea market. Adam was salivating at the fresh bread available, but due to the long drive ahead, did not give in to his temptations.

A few miles down on I-93 we stopped at the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain. This was the first aerial tramway in North America. Contrary to popular belief, a tramway is NOT a gondola. A tramway consists of two cars, with each car acting as a counterweight. When one car goes up, the other is coming down. We did not have to wait too long to board a car - trams were departing every 12 to 15 minutes. The ride takes about 8 minutes and takes you to the summit of Cannon Mountain at 4,180 feet. At the summit we took a trail that offered a breathtaking view of the surrounding area - all the way to Canada! Corbin and Adam walked up to on observation tower that also doubles as a communication tower. It was
a clear day so the view was amazing.

The next 3 or so hours consisted of traveling through the White Mountains area on twisty hilly roads. The highest we go was an elevation of 2,600 feet (not as high as the 4,000 or so feet in the Smokey Mountains). We stopped for supper in North Conway at Friendly's Restaurant. Yes, the staff were friendly. We arrived at the Days Inn in Bangor, Maine some time after 6:00 pm. It was a long day, we were tired, checked in and headed to the pool. The hotel is dated and in need of a major make over - and there are plans to renovate this year. But the hotel was clean and cheap (though the wireless internet signal was useless).

Saturday, 2 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 2

St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

We had decided during the planning of this vacation to spend two nights in St. Johnsbury for two reasons: 1) to give us a chance to decompress from the long drive on Day One; and 2) to act as start or gateway to our East Coast vacation. Well, make that three reasons: 3) Adam had discovered there was a lot happening tourism-wise in this area, so St. Johnsbury was acting as a base for information collection for future vacations.

There was no itinerary for the day. Options included visiting a local museum and planetarium or a trip to Littleton, New Hampshire (a 10 minute drive southeast). The weather forecast for today was a warm but dry day. No humidity and no oppressive heat. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and headed out to Santa's Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire (this was to be a stop on Day Three as we headed towards Bangor, Maine). It was an excellent choice. Santa's Village is about 35 minutes east of St. Johnsbury on US-2. By the time we arrived the place was alive with excitement - and Corbin was more than willing to add to that excitement. He loved the place. With no oppressive heat and humidity to wear you down, it was an enjoyable experience for all. It was one of the best outings the three of us has had. Corbin went on almost all the rides including the roller coaster, ferris wheel, log flume and multitude of other rides. We caught a cheesy show with a talking Christmas tree and four elves. But Corbin liked it and that is all that mattered. After almost 5 hours in the park, we left tired but having lots of fun.

We headed back to the hotel via a side trip south to Littleton, New Hampshire. Main Street in Littleton has won numerous awards. The place was busy. It was late in the day and Tina and Corbin were tired so we drove through and headed back to St. Johnsbury via I-93. At the hotel Corbin was itching to get back into the pool, so we spent some quality family time in the pool (which is advertised as heated but is nowhere near being heated). We had supper had a local diner. The food was good, but on the pricey side, especially after you convert to Canadian dollars. Food in the US is either dirt cheap or expensive. Seems to be no middle ground.

With Santa's Village off the list, we are making totally new plans for Day Three. Possibilities include Littleton, the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain and/or the Slide Ride at Attitash. Any of these would include driving through the White Mountains area - an amazing range of mountains and valleys. Stay tuned to find out what where we went.

Friday, 1 July 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 1

Brantford, Ontario to St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The big first day of our vacation. Just under 900 km in total. Our target departure time was 6:00 am. Our actual departure time was 7:05 am. Why the difference? Seems that the combination of going to bed late and waking up too early was enough to put Corbin in a miserable place. He complained his leg hurt, his wrists hurt, that he was going to throw up, that he was not well. Yeah. What a good way to start the trip. It almost drove Adam to the brink. After 30 or so minutes, Corbin slowly came around, and we said our goodbyes and headed out. Traffic through the GTA was typical - even for a holiday. The only slow down in Toronto was due to jack-knifed truck carrying bagged ice - the irony was not lost. Shortly
thereafter we stopped in Ajax for breakfast and a refuel.

The next 200 km or so were torture. You see, some time after the Highway 35/115 interchange, the 401 goes from 3 lanes to 2 lanes. Usually not a major problem, but with cottage bound traffic, it was a problem. You would be driving along and in a few seconds you were doing 20 kph or you were at a standstill. No accident. No nothing. Seems that some people had difficulty in passing vehicles, as in they would barely speed up to pass a slower
moving vehicle. With the volume of traffic, that meant traffic bunched up good. At the rest stop between Napanee and Kingston, Tina took over driving duty and Corbin was given his special surprise of the trip - a Game Boy Advance SP. He was in seventh heaven.

Just inside Quebec, we were looking for a place to eat other than McDonald's, but it seems that Quebecers love McDonald's. It was not until east of Montreal that we found an alternative in Burger King. Wait. Let's go back a few minutes. Yes, Tina drove through Montreal. With Adam playing the navigator, she managed to drive through Montreal with no problem. Tina was proud of her accomplishment. After finishing a late lunch, Adam drove the final leg. We hit some light rain in the Eastern Townships, but that quickly gave way to sunny warm weather. There was very little traffic on Autoroute 55 towards Vermont. We arrived at the Canada-USA border to be greeted by a small US Custom's facility (two booths). It was amusing not having to pay a toll to enter the US. We arrived at the Comfort Inn & Suites in St. Johnsbury, Vermont around 5:00 pm. Check-in was courteous and fast. In less then an hour, we were enjoying the swimming pool. A good Day One.

Thursday, 30 June 2005

East Coast Vacation - Day 0

Windsor to Brantford.

Why Day Zero? Well, because it's not really the first full day of our trip out east, but it is the start of vacation. Day Zero is the day where we tied up the loose ends around the house, such as, cutting the grass, getting the garbage out, cleaning the bathroom and, oh yeah, packing. We loaded the Montana and headed out to Brantford just after 4:00 pm. It was an uneventful trip. Traffic was not too bad for the last working day before a holiday weekend. The cops were out, but thankfully, they were busy handing out tickets to other drivers. Corbin was very excited about arriving in Brantford because he had a surprise waiting for him. The surprise? A new larger "treasure chest" that had a new toy waiting for him. Needless to say he was excited. It was early bed for Adam - we have a long day ahead of us tommorow.

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Relay For Life - Goderich 2005

We headed up to Goderich this weekend to participate in the Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life in memory of Mary Jean Boughner, Tina's Aunt who died just over a year ago. The Relay For Life is a 12 hour event from 7 pm to 7 am where teams of 10 take turns walking around a track. Money is raised through pledges. Our team consisted of Chris & Lisa (Team Captain) Muggridge, Bev & Gerry Muggridge, Mark & Rhonda Waldick, Scott & Robert McFarlane, Sarah & Emily Boughner, John & Lisa McFarlane and ourselves. It threatened to rain, but no rain came. It was cool night - which was good when walking but not so good when resting. By 4 am it was getting chilly and people were bundling up in sleeping bags. It was long night and everyone was tired at the end, but over $130,000 was raised at the Goderich event.

Friday, 10 June 2005

10th Anniversary

Today, Tina and Adam celebrate 10 years of marital bliss. Yes, 10 years ago, we decided to walk down the aisle and exchange vows and rings at St. Aloysius Parish in Kitchener, Ontario. It was beautiful day - warm and sunny. Not bad considering that it was supposed to rain. In a departure from other weddings, we greeted guests as they entered the Church and walked down the aisle together. After the ceremony, we headed to a small parkette to have pictures taken. A small break and freshening up and it was time to enter the reception and Mr. and Mrs. Szymczak. The reception turned out to be a rip roaring time - people from another reception down the hall were peaking in to get a glimpse of the party. We danced until god knows when. It is a day that we both will never forget.

Friday, 20 May 2005

The Tooth Fairy Cometh

Corbin spent his morning trying to remove a loose tooth. After several hours of tinkering, he was successful in the removal of the loose tooth. According to his EA, Corbin spent the next 30 or so minutes showing and telling everyone about his tooth and the gap in his mouth. Talk about focus. The tooth was stored in a bag stapled to his communication book, that was left behind in school. The Tooth Fairy will have to wait until Tuesday to take it way.

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

Goodbye Sunfire...

...Hello Wave. Yes, we finally decided to retire the Sunfire (after 10 years and 263,000 km) and get a new vehicle - a silver 2005 Pontiac Wave 5-door (aka hatchback) Uplevel. We took it out for a full day test drive this past Saturday, during the recent spring snow storm.
The inclement weather made for a more realistic test drive. Tina loved it. She said it was "peppy" - which was evident to Adam as he tried to keep up with her. She also liked how the seating was more upright - similar to our Montana minivan. The car comes with automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless alarm and entry, heated side view mirrors, and a AM/FM CD player with MP3 capability. The rear seat is a 60/40 split that not only folds flat by also can be fold forward to increase the volume of space. The engine is a 1.6L DOHC. More information is available at the GM Canada website.

We are leasing the car for a period of 48 months. It's our first lease, so we hope this works out. The car comes with the standard GM warranties and roadside assistance. The Wave will be ready for pickup at Jerome Taylor this Friday at noon. Tina is a happy because she will not have to drive the gas guzzling minivan, Adam is happy to get back his gas guzzling minivan, and Corbin is, well, excited about anything new.

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Trip to Indianapolis - Day 3

Today was the trip back home.

After a relaxing morning which included Corbin sleeping in till 8:30 am and Tina and Adam munching on some things from the Continental Breakfast and various snacks we had, we headed out to Greenville, Ohio, about one and a half hours east of Indianapolis via US36. Around Noon, we arrived at the KitchenAid Experience in downtown Greenville. Tina was overwhelmed - an entire store dedicated to KitchenAid appliances, accessories and cooking lessons. Adam gave Tina a KitchenAid stand mixer as a Christmas gift and she simply loves it. Almost purchased a coffee grinder; next time maybe? Instead, Tina purchased some accessories and we headed back home.

Originally, we were going take US36 to I75, but Adam decided to take US127 north to SR224 west and eventually to I75. It was a more relaxed drive on some decent two-lane roads. Corbin listened - and sang - to the mix CD Adam made in his portable CD player. It was amusing at times. There was not much traffic to deal with. We had a late lunch at Burger King in Ottawa and then drove to I75 and joined the driving masses. The trip up to the Ambassador Bridge was uneventful. Fuel was running low, but the warning light did not come on, so Adam pushed on. At the Bridge we paid our toll, fueled up on some tax and duty free unleaded gasoline and crossed back into Canada. No issues at the border. Just one quick stop at Tim Horton's to satisfy Tina's desire for coffee. 15 minutes later we were home. An awesome trip.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Trip to Indianapolis - Day 2

The day began with a trip to the hotel's continental breakfast. Nothing special. In fact, it was a below average continental breakfast. At 8 am, the only fruits left were apples - no bananas or other choices. There were few danishes and some plain bagels. Adam passed on the coffee, whereas Tina found it ok. They did have make-your-own waffles - a nice touch.

After breakfast we headed out to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, just outside downtown Indianapolis. Unfortunately, some roads were renumbered. According to the map from the Children's Museum web site, we were to follow SR37 south to 30th Street. We headed out on I69 and followed the sign that said 37 south. This took us onto I465 - a loop road. This was not right. We got off at the next interchange and headed west. Eventually, we made it to the museum. We will email them about their map.

A larger parking garage is located directly across from the museum. Plenty of parking at 10:30 am. The best part: parking was free. Yes. Free. Score one in the For column. A bridge takes you from the garage to the main entrance of the museum. Admission was reasonable. For the three of us it was US$31. This includes admission to a planetarium and theatre - though you have to get tickets from the admission counter for both venues. We did not go to the planetarium or theater. The museum has 5 floors of exhibits ranging from science, games, dinosaurs, the world, and so on. Many exhibits are hand on. There is a large cafeteria with McDonald's, Pizza Hut and other restaurants. We spent about 4 1/2 hours exploring. Corbin loved the place. He ran from exhibit to exhibit showing no signs of fatigue. Mom and Dad on the other hand were dead tired. It was a good time. Highly recommended.

We headed back to the hotel and went for a swim. After drying off and relaxing, it was time to eat. We ended up at Olive Garden, The service was excellent - the server played a couple games of tic-tac-toe with Corbin. The food was served quickly and hot. Refills came without asking. Next was shopping at a nearby mall. It was more or less a browse and walk session. Back to the hotel for much needed sleep.

Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Trip to Indianapolis - Day 1

Left Windsor shortly after 10:00 am. Stopped by CAA office to get maps of Ohio and Indiana and the back for some American money. Crossed over Ambassador Bridge and arrived at Customs only to find out the light for the lane we were in changed to red. Customs officer scolded me but processed us and said good day.

Good driving from Detroit to Toledo. Took I75 to I475 to US24. US24 is primarily a two lane road except for a couple of sections of 4 lane expressway in Napoleon and Defiance. Part of US24 follows the Maumee River which provided some great views. It is a busy road - lots of trucks (used as a shortcut from I69 in Indiana to I75 in Toledo) - but traffic moved at a constant speed. A refreshing pace of change. There were maybe 3 or 4 traffic lights total between I75 and I69. Stopped in Napoleon for lunch at Wendy's and filled up the van with gas. Traffic dropped off a bit when we took I469 southbound at Fort Wayne but picked up again when we merged with I69.

The drive down I69 reminded us of Highway 401 between London and Windsor: Flat, two lanes each way and lots of trucks. Stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break.
Traffic started to increase the closer we got to Indianapolis. We arrived at the Comfort Suites shortly after 3:30 pm. Checked in and took a breather in our room. Changed in to swimwear and took a relaxing dip in the heated pool - one of the warmest we have ever been in. Dried off and headed out in search of food.

Lots of restaurants to choose from. A mind boggling array. We settled on Tony Roma's American Rib House. Tina ordered a half rack of baby back ribs, baked potato and veggies; Adam settled on a full rack of baby back ribs, a loaded baked potato and coleslaw. Corbin took the obvious route: hamburger and fries. The food was served quickly and was hot and cooked. The ribs were great.

Took a trip down a major street. Lots of commercial development and activity, but unlike some commercial developments in Canada, there were no portable signs to be seen, and landscaping appeared to be mandatory. Most developments had larger stores (Wal-Mart, Kroegers, Home Depot, etc) at back and smaller stores in plaza type development closer to the road. Traffic moves smoothly due to the liberal use of left turn (double left turns at some intersections) and right turn lanes. Most left turn lanes had either an advanced or delayed green which gave everyone a chance to turn. Lots of townhouse and apartment development.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

March Break

It is obvious that March Break was invented by the travel industry. Who else would come up with the bright idea of taking a week off with your kids? Don't get us wrong, we love our son, but this concept of planning a weeks worth of activities is crazy. During a typical school week, most kids spend around 7 hours at school. That is 7 hours of structured activities (aka contained mayhem). Kids may hate it, but parents love it.

With March Break, the ball is in the parent's court. We have to plan activities, which in some cases involves a vacation to some sunny spot such as Disney World, but that involves packing, traveling, eating out, and all sorts of other stresses.

Sure, as parents, we have the ability to not make plans, to go with the flow, but that lasts about, oh, two or three hours. On paper March Break looks good, but in reality it can be a much different experience.