Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oh Canada!

These adventures we've been taking have been incredible!  I have LOVED exploring this beautiful state.  We have seen and experienced so many amazing sights.  I feel exhilarated and exhausted at the same time.  I get so excited the night before we leave in anticipation of seeing these new places, some of which I've wanted to see for years (Mt. St. Helens for example!!).  The days in between our excursions have been wonderful too.  Though they aren't as exciting and there aren't as many pictures, we usually capture those magical family moments that don't happen in the car when I'm wrestling Eli, the boys are watching a movie and TJ's concentrating on getting us to our next destination.  Back home at our "Chalet," we've watched movies, played croquet, made forts, had read-a-thons, played games, hung out in the hot tub, taken naps, relaxed, laughed, played and have grown so much closer as a family.  TJ and feel so blessed with the sweet little boys we have.  Drew and Cameron have been fabulous.  They get along SO well.  We rarely have to tell them to stop fighting, and on those occasions, their arguments are so minute and easily resolved.  They have been very helpful with all of the loading and unloading of the car.  They help me a bunch with keeping an eye on Eli or helping to entertain him or even feed him on occasion (thanks Drew!!).  They have made us laugh and we've enjoyed learning more about their personalities.  Eli has also been a sweet, sweet boy.  He's had his moments in the car, but even then they're not so bad.  He sleeps SO well (THANK GOODNESS!!!!!!)  In fact, the other day he slept from 8:30 pm to 11:50 am!!!  That. was amazing.  He has come out of his shell more, he smiles more, is more interactive and is starting to cuddle-yay!!

Last summer, I made a goal chart for the boys to read 100 books.  They finished and got a toy at 
Toys r Us at the end of the summer.  I made the same goal for them this summer and it's so fun reading together.  They love having read-a-thons because we have treats, make a fort and read their favorite books.  Cam and I have been reading the Magic Tree house series and it's been so fun for me to see him get caught up in these stories.  He's also learned (he has a lot to learn still, of course) to read a little and is always reading or trying to figure out words all around him.  I love his eagerness to learn!  Drew and I started the Harry Potter series about a year ago or so and he loves the series.  I love how excited he is and it's so much fun sharing it with him.  He will literally jump up and down with excitement when it's time to read these books.  It's been a fun activity we can do together that we both love.  I'm so grateful that Cam and I AND Drew and I get to spend this time together.

As Eli approaches his first birthday, his personality is coming out more and more.  He's crazy, silly, random and so, so cute.  He usually wakes up with a scowl on his little face but how quickly we can get a smile out of him.  I just love this little boy!  

I've so loved these little moments with my little monkey.  Whenever we lay him down for his nap, we feed him a bottle beforehand.  At home we rock him in his rocking chair but since there isn't a chair up here we cuddle with him in the big queen bed next to his pack n play.  I'm so in love with him right now!  He smells so good and I love watching his little fingers hold the bottle and how his eyelashes fall on his cheeks as he dozes off.  

Our most recent adventure was to Vancouver, Canada.  We planned this one a little last minute.  We were debating whether to go to Vancouver or not.  We thought about going to Victoria, but ended up going with our original plan-Vancouver!  We are glad we went.  It was a great trip.  We left Saturday morning, very early to make it up to the border before it got too busy.  Lucky for us, we only to wait about 10 minutes to get across.  It's a bit nerve-racking crossing into another country, especially with my kids.  We didn't have passports for them, just their birth certificates and social security id's.  The officer who let us in asked a bunch of questions-all in a very serious manner.  
Our first impressions as we entered this new country were:  It was beautiful!  Very well taken care of and beautiful surroundings.  It was fun to see the small differences like the km/ph signs instead of miles per hour, the gas (it was sold by the liter instead of the gallon-in cents, not you'd see 139/liter), the french language was the second language on signs, packaging, pamphlets and more.  The roads were interesting as well.  They didn't have left turn lanes, so if you happened to be in the farthest left lane at a light, you just had to wait until the person in front of you turned until you could continue.  Also, there were signs above the lanes with either a red X or a Green X over them.  If it was green you could drive in that lane, if it was red, then it was for traffic going the other direction.  They would change throughout the day too!  Also, there were no parking lanes on the side of the roads in front of the shops and our Hotel.  They were driving lanes, so there were times during the day, the right hand lane was for driving and others when it was filled with parked cars-so very bizarre!  I find it SO interesting to see new places and cultures- so cool!
Our first stop in Canada was Grouse Mountain.  It was about 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver.  There was a race of some kind going on that day.  There were runners/hikers everywhere.  We think they were hiking up the mountain to where we took our tram.  4 miles straight up hill-no thank you, I'll take the tram please!  The trip up the mountain was incredible.  We literally traveled vertically-up, straight up!  The views were spectacular.  The weather was great (it ended up being that armageddon/Las Vegas kind of heat once we got to the top though).  We could see out into the ocean as well as the city below us.  I wasn't sure what the boys would think-they were pretty impressed.  TJ noticed a group of people speaking Italian and introduced himself in Italian and we made some new friends.  I love it when he's able to speak his second language and we are able to meet new people!

At the top of the mountain we saw a grizzly habitat.  There were two grizzlies in this area.  It was so funny to me that in all the years when I was younger and while driving around Yellowstone looking for one of these guys, we were only able to see them once or twice from a distance and here we just walked up to a fenced area!  They are beautiful animals.  I hate to see them in captivity, but they were saved and now are kept here.  They have a nice forested area, a little hut for the winter and a bunch of water to play in.  

The boys were able to feed some birds peanuts, right out of their hands!  We went to a cool bird show as well.  I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked.  We got there too late and it was very crowded.  I did get a pretty cool picture of a Great Horned Owl.  The other birds in the show were a falcon, a barn owl, an eagle and a vulture.  Beautiful creatures!

We went to a lumberjack show which was wildly entertaining.  One of the lumberjacks (the one climbing in the top right photo) climbed the fifty foot tall tree in 14.1 seconds.  Jaw-dropping amazing!  They had an axe throwing competition, a wood-chopping and sawing competition and the guy with the chainsaw above made a rabbit out of a log.  He "accidentally" chopped off the upper section and it was magically a little tiny chair.  They offered it to the youngest person in the audience...  Guess who that was?  Eli!  TJ took him up there and had him sit in it and I got a cute pic :)  What a fun story, I loved that!  The boys thoroughly enjoyed the lumberjack show.  They were hoping to do it again, but it was WICKED hot and the show was outdoors.  I was lucky enough to get one of the worst sunburns I'd ever had on my neck from sitting in the sun so long :(  My kids and TJ also got burned.  I completely forgot sunscreen!  DUH!!
To get some relief from the sun, we went to the visitors lodge and watched a short film.  After a little more exploring, we decided to go back down the mountain.  It was 1 loop de loop short of a theme park thrill ride getting back down the mountain.  It was straight down and both times we went over a tower, there was a few seconds of free falling and the tram swaying.  Everybody in the tram (all 80 of us) screamed both times.  

Poor Eli was exhausted and crashed in the baby backpack on TJ's shoulders as we were waiting for the Tram.

  I got an okay picture from the bottom of the mountain looking up to where the Tram goes, but it doesn't even come close to what it's really like.  In reality, you can't even see where it goes!  It looks like it just disappears...

After Grouse Mountain, we parked our car to go across the Capilano Suspension bridge, but came to find it was more than just a bridge-it actually looked like a lot of fun-but it was very expensive and Grouse Mountain (or grossly-overpriced grouse mountain as TJ calls it) was expensive as well, so we just ate the $5 it took to park the car and headed to our hotel.  After we got settled and I bought a vat of Aloe Vera Gel, we headed out to Granville Island.  It was a new hip/chic part of town that had replaced an industrial part of town.  It was quite the hangout!  There were markets, shops, restaurants, places to sit and watch the birds, people and ships in the harbor.  We took an aquabus and rode around Vancouver bay/harbor.  It was so fun!  The weather was cooler, the views were fabulous and the atmosphere was a lot of fun.  After eating dinner and exploring (everything closed early!) we got a quick ice-cream and headed back to the hotel.  I got on of the best nights sleep I'd gotten in a long time in that hotel!

I LOVED these totem poles in Stanley Park!

Middle right and lower righthand photos-the beautiful city of Vancouver and Lionsgate Bridge

The top right picture-one of my fav's of the boys impersonating the bigfoot statue!
The lower right pic-flowers planted to look like the American Flag!   A welcome sight when coming back home to our wonderful country :)

The next morning we woke up to a 10 degree temperature change and rain.  This spoiled most of our plans as we were going to go swimming and on a bike tour through Stanley Park.  We drove around the park, got out to walk around a bit during a dry spell and snapped a few pictures.  The city and harbor looked beautiful with all of the low clouds and the rain.  We headed over to Granville Island again to hit up the kids market.  It was a cool, fun place with an indoor play area and a ton of fun kids shops.  We went to lunch at a restaurant called The White Spot.  It was suggested to us as a fun, kid friendly place to go.  It was yummy!  After lunch, we ended up at an aboriginal village called Klahowya Village (they feature different aboriginals from the British Columbia area).  There was a train ride, face painting and other activities as well as an Indian tribe there to show their culture.  The kids loved the face painting-they were painted to look like real Indian warriors.  
After the village, we decided to head back home.  It only took us (once we got there) 15-20 minutes to get through the border back to the States.  We stopped and visited TJ's aunt Linda (LOVE her!  She's hysterical!!) and then came home!  
It was fun visiting a new culture and seeing new things and new places.  Mine and TJ's favorite part of the trip was Granville Island and the tram up to Grouse Mountain.  The boys LOVED the lumberjack show.  It was a great trip!

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