A Tale of Two Drivers or A Journey to The City

*When you don’t know which title to pick, pick both.

When we left Tuesday afternoon, Country Driver was behind the wheel. He likes wide open spaces, long drives on clear highways, and sing alongs to whatever song is being bluetoothed from his phone’s playlist. His wife rides along shotgun and happy. The kids ride content in the backseat quietly entertaining themselves.

All is good. They have the rest of the day (and the next day) to look forward to. There’s going to be a hotel stay, shopping, a museum, and a heart checkup. The skies are as clear as the highway. We’re all excited for our trip to The City.

Fast forward 3 hours and we are in the heart of The City with 415,000 people. This is 138 times bigger than Country Driver’s town. He got out from behind the wheel shortly before arriving in The City. Country Driver is too courteous to drive in The City. City Driver drives like he owns the place. He does what he needs to do to get where he needs to go. Blinkers be damned.

Anyway, City Driver took the wrong bridge into The City. Fortunately, his wife and Google Maps were able to navigate him to the hotel. The hotel overlooks a lake named “Chocolate Lake”. Hence, the hotel’s greeter is a chocolate lab named Aero (as in the chocolate bar of the same name).

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Loving Aero kisses

No trip to a hotel is complete until you have bed jumped and pool swam. Having competed the former upon entry, we changed into our suits and went to take a dip. I want to apologize to the couple who was in the pool when my otters arrived. I tried to keep them from splashing as much as I could. I tried to get them to keep their voices down, too. They are two country boys who are used to swimming in wide open lakes.

Bonus! There was a hot tub and it was nice to finish the swim with a sit in the hot tub. The boys joined me for a few minutes (I limited their time).

Then City Driver rounded everyone up, got them changed back into city clothes and we headed out to supper at Montana’s. The atmosphere was neat – wild west country style decor. The boys got to see a moose head and see just how big they are.

After horking down supper, City Driver got them to the mall where the boys could ride the escalators. Only one store had toys for the boys to look at and they were over priced.  $35 for a $10 stuffy. I imagine! They were happy get a bath bomb, though. We perused Build-A-Bear and came out empty handed. We made it to Toy-R-Us, too. One boy spent his $10 from Nanny. The other didn’t because he’s saving up for a puppy. I’ll let you guess which one couldn’t wait to spend.

Stores closed at 9, we stayed until 9. Back at the hotel we went to spend the remainder of our change down in the games room. Air hockey. Donkey Kong. The Simpsons. Pinball. Double Dragon. Ghosts and Goblins. A photo booth.

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It was a nice try…

10:45 pm and the kids were finally in bed sound asleep.

8 hours and 15 very short minutes later we were all bright eyed and bushy tailed. We hit up the free breakfast buffet, packed up all our stuff and made two trips to the truck to get it all loaded.

It was finally time for the moment we were all excited for. We were going to the Museum of Natural History where the Body Worlds RX exhibit was on display. First, we checked out what else the museum had; a 70+ year old tortoise, frogs and snakes.  Our favorite was the topographical sand table. With the help of a projector and an X-Box sensor bar, the sand would change color and the topographical lines would change to reflect the height of the hill we built. Furthermore, we could “dig” for water and the water would flow according the topography! We all want one for our house. The other really awesome thing they had was a globe that would change depending on what was being projected on to it. It could be any of the nine eight planets or the moon. It showed ocean temperatures over a year, daily air traffic around the world, shipping traffic, earth quakes, tidal waves and that was just the stuff we hung around to see!

 

Finally, we visited the Body World RX exhibit. We had to get there before Bang exploded. He was super excited to go. Should you ever get the chance to see this exhibit (there 9 and they travel the world) I highly recommend it. It’s such a learning experience. It shows how our bones work, how our muscles work. It shows our organs and veins and capillaries. It shows our 25 feet of intestines. It shows heart disease and lung disease. It showed our reproductive organs. Neither DW or I realized that a uterus was so small! And it showed it all in pristine detail. We were blown away by it. Unfortunately, our exhibit didn’t include the infant section where would have been able to see fetuses in various stages of development in the uterus. Bang was disappointed as he was really looking forward to that part.

From here, City Driver took the family to the hospital. It was time for a check up. For those who are newer readers, you can read about Crash’s open heart surgery when he was just five days old. First on the to do list was an EEG of Crash’s heart.

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Our Robot Baby

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2 years ago, Crash was only up to Dr. Wong’s shoulder. 2 more years and he’ll be as tall as him!

After that it was off to get an echo-cardiogram (ultrasound) done. Once that was done and Dr. Wong had a chance to look over the images he came to fill us in on his findings. There is a normal narrowing of his pulmonary, which is expected from this type of surgery. He said if there was any stress on the pulmonary it would cause Crash’s heart work harder in the right ventricle. He didn’t see that happening so he’s confident Crash is doing well. He doesn’t need to see him for another 2 years…

What a relief.

City Driver, ready to be done driving, got the family out of the city and back on the highway toward home where Country Driver gladly took over while the boys watched Cars 3 and DW crocheted. Anxious to be out of the truck and not wanting to fall asleep, Bang threw a couple fits that made us want to throw him from the truck. Fortunately, by 8:30 the boys were back in their own beds, the lights were out, and it was night night time after an exciting day and half journey to The City.

Our Travels (continued…) (Days 10,11, and 12)

Thursday, July 30th

We had just spent a week with my parents and my brother and his family. Ten of us in the house. Twelve if you count my aunt and uncle (though they were sleeping at a friend’s house, not with us). It was an awesome week and it was great seeing people we hadn’t seen for 5 years. But today, it was time journey on. It was a bitter sweet departure. We’re going to greatly miss seeing and playing with everyone. Games of UNO, Sorry, and Shut the Box. The delicious food. Come to think of it, I completely forgot to mention their dog Brody. He’s a good dog. Almost never barks. Loves to snuggle. Fun to play with and take for walks (which, I think, my sister-in-law used to up her Fitbit step count so that I could never get more steps). Anyway, leaving was sad. However, we were headed to Virginia to see more friends so it was exciting at the same time.

We did get to cross the Bay Bridge – a 4.2 mile long bridge across the Chesapeake Bay.

bay bridgeWhile that was fun for them, one of the highlights of our trip was about to happen. Crash had been waiting for this moment  since his birthday three weeks ago. The money he received was burning a hole in his pocket, but he knew good things were coming if he didn’t spend it. The LEGO store.

There was a bin full of Lego people pieces so you could customize your own characters. Crash built three. Bang fell in love with a train set. He sat and stared at it for a solid five minutes. He held the box and checked it all out. He loved it. His disappointment was heartbreaking when we told it cost $200 and he couldn’t get it. He did settle on a construction site with a wrecking crane, front loader and dump truck which made him nearly as happy. Crash also got a Lego Minecraft creativity set. It only took an hour to get out of there.

Four hours later were in the town DW and I lived it when a) we met and b) where Crash lived when he was born. We got checked into our hotel room (which had a leaky air conditioner so they moved us to another room) we contacted a friend to let her know we were in town. She’s the mother of Crash’s first BFF. He was only about 3 months old when they met at the YMCA’s child watch program where DW worked at the time. After a year they had developed a good friendship and loved seeing each other. They would dance and squeal when the other would finally show up in the Child Watch room. Crash was two when moved away from that town. We had gone back for a visit when he was three. Now five years later they were reunited.

They picked up right where they left off like not a day had passed. It was amazing to watch them together again. After a quick meet up in our hotel room we out for supper at a wicked awesome burger joint. As we were sitting there catching up, the heaven opened up and it poured buckets. Here in Canada, we get hard rains like that, but they only last 20 minutes. Here in Virginia, it wasn’t letting up. Come time to leave and we hightailed it across the street and through the parking lot to our truck. Shin deep water running down the road. A lost flip flop. Kids laughing hysterically. It was AWESOME!

IMG_2630We went back to their house and met their chickens (who all have names, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what they are). There’s one over on the left. They also have two dogs, a koi fish pond, a tree house, and an owl house. Sitting outside chatting after sunset, I realized I had forgotten all the night sounds. Cicadas. Crickets. Frogs. Birds. We ended up staying until about 10pm and the kids crashed hard that night. They fell asleep in seconds.

Friday, July 31

The hotel had free continental breakfast. It was a good spread, too. Bang fell in love with the pancake maker (he still talks about it). Just push the OK button, wait a minute and it “poops out two pancakes”. Afterward, we toured around town. We saw our old house. We saw the boat wharf, the school I taught at for six years. We stopped by the YMCA where DW used to work and got to see some former colleagues. From there it was off to lunch at a sandwich shop that makes the most delicious subs and sandwiches. We were sad to learn that the lady who began the shop has Alzheimer’s and her son had moved to Baltimore while her daughter kept the shop running.

From there it was back to hotel to go swimming. It was an outdoor pool. The thing about outdoor pools in the South is that they tend to get warm. This one was like bath water. But getting out felt nice when the breeze caught you when you were wet. A former colleague of mine, and great friend of ours, stopped by. It was great to play catch up with her. Though, thanks to Facebook, it was pretty easy. By then, Liz was off work and DW met her at a nail salon for mani/pedis. Then to a Mexican restaurant for supper. By now, I’m thinking if my kids never see another nugget and fry, I’ll be okay with that. Then we hit up the carnival hoping to see some former students. While I did see a couple, the highlight was the Ferris Wheel. Crash wanted to ride with his BFF and of course Bang wanted to join them. At first, DW was a bit worried about sending the 4 year old with his brother. However, it was Crash who ended up a bit scared by the rocking motion of the car. Bang had his hands in the air screaming with excitement. Then we spent the rest of the evening at Crash’s BFF’s house. We only stayed until 11pm.

Saturday, August 1st

I’ll keep this day short. It was mostly spent driving. We left at around 10 and headed for Pennsylvania to visit one more friend. My other best friend from high school and his family. Anyway, we were expecting to get there at about 2. Because of ridiculous traffic going around D.C. and Baltimore and stopping for a late lunch we didn’t get in until 4.  This would be the last place we’d visit before heading home. *Side note* Before leaving Canada, I had seen a picture they had posted of a small river and waterfall where they had taken their two girls to play and swim. I had asked how far from them it was and when she told me 20 minutes I knew I had to take Crash and Bang. I’ll write about this secluded, hidden little spot next time. But for now, I suppose I can show you what it looks like:

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Traveling (Days 7,8, and 9)

Monday, July

Monday morning we were up and at ’em. The morning had been planned for myself, my dad and my brother. We were going to “Go Ape“. It’s a zip line and obstacle course in Lums Pond State Park in Delaware. My dad and brother had gone last summer, but I was new to this. I couldn’t wait to get there. Once Crash found out where I was going and that he couldn’t he was quite disappointed. But a) you had to be at least 10 years old and b) I don’t think he would have done well with the heights.

I don’t have any pictures. I left my phone, my glasses and my hat at home. My brother brought along his Go Pro so he has some good footage. I’ve got to get that from him. I’d love to share my dad’s not so graceful landing. He had us laughing! It was A LOT of fun. There were 5 zip lines (the longest 2 being close to 700 feet long) and 42 obstacles (rope ladders, various tricky bridges, Tarzan swings, cargo nets, etc..). We were always tethered, so there was no risk of falling. Considering the two injuries we already had, this was a good thing. We had a great time and made it though fairly quickly. The staff offered to let us do part of again and we were all over that. Except we would have been behind a family of four and we would have been greatly delayed. So we headed for home, picking up white icing and lunch on the way.

Afterwards, DW and I took Crash and Bang to a farm. It was the farm another of my best friends lived on growing up. We would be seeing him later in this trip. Anyway, Crash and Bang loved the tractors and boom sprayer.

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IMG_2445 IMG_2443 That boom sprayer could have driven over our RAV4 without touching it (it’s that tall so it can drive over corn without damaging it while spraying insecticide/herbicides). Its booms unfold to reach 60 feet in either direction. IMG_2460

We got to meet Elmer, a baby cow. He must of loved the texture of Bang’s shirt and shorts because he kept trying to chew on them! Of course, Bang thought it was the funnies thing ever to have a cow eat his shorts.

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They also had some pigs. While rather smelly, there are kinda cute, if I do say so myself.

Then there is the obligatory handstand in front of the corn field. My friend who grew up on this farm enjoys getting others to take photos of him doing a handstand in front of famous monuments. So I did a handstand in front of his parents corn. Not exactly a “famous monument”, but still…. 
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Then Crash discovered the 3 day old kittens. Someone had secretly dropped off their unwanted pregnant cat on the farm. Of course, Crash wanted one. Sorry buddy, but we’re not taking an animal your mom is allergic to on a 20 hour car ride back Canada.

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While Crash and Bang were swooning over the kittens who hadn’t even opened their eyes yet, DW was swooning over the bird houses and butterfly garden.

Shortly after we returned from the farm and got showered and cleaned up, my aunt (mom’s sister) and uncle arrived from Florida. I had seen them when I had come home for my grandmother’s funeral service back in May, but this was the first time they had met Crash and Bang and it had been a long time since they had seen DW. That night was crab cakes and corn on the cob for supper. Mmmm. Delicious.

Tuesday, July 28th

Right after breakfast DW, Crash, Bang, myself and my dad went to visit my aunt in the hospital. She was still in pain but had found out that there were no floating bone fragments so surgery wouldn’t be needed. All they had to do was get the pain under control and she could be up and moving again. It was good to see her again before we left to continue our travels.

From there we headed back to my parents where the kids played in the sprinkler which progressed to a water balloon fight. Not much else happened that day other than hanging out and getting caught up on the times with family.

Wednesday, July 29th

This would be our last full day in Maryland. I had washed all our clothes yesterday so today’s task would be to gather the clothes we’d need for the remainder of the trip and pack them into one suitcase while the rest of the clothes went into the other two. This way would only need to haul in one suitcase to the hotels we’d be staying in. Smart DW 🙂

Crash Bowling

Crash

Bang Bowling

and Bang

Anyway, after breakfast we headed to the bowling alley. Crash and Bang had been bowling in Canada with small balls the size of a softball and tall skinny pins (candlepin bowling) but this would prove to be a new experience. Big balls and tall fat pins and two rolls instead of three. Naturally, one of them (or perhaps both) rolled the ball without realizing the pin sweeper would be coming down and the ball bumped into the pin blocker. After the first game Bang go bored with it so he played with his Gator 4×4 toy while the rest of us bowled. It was fun, though I could have scored much higher had I been allowed to use the bumper lanes with the kids.

Once bowling was finished we hit up The Green Turtle for lunch. All 12 of us. There, my aunt bought Crash and Bang each a Green Turtle t-shirt. They’ll be the only kids in school with one of those!

Find out tomorrow what happens when our trip continues to Virginia. Hint: Lego store, Crash’s first BFF, and a bit of rain.

Traveling (Days 4, 5, and 6)

Friday, July 24th

With Nana now on the disabled list (spiral fraction of her fibula, in case you missed yesterday’s post), things took a slightly different turn. Normally, we’re a family on the go. We try to do as much stuff as we can with the short time we have together. Now we got some extra visiting time and time to play with cousins.

No trip to the States would be complete without doing a bit of shopping. Especially in the tax free state of Delaware. Friday morning after breakfast we headed out, just DW, Crash, Bang and myself. We hit up Dick’s Sporting Goods first. DW was looking for a specific pair of running shoes. No luck there. But I did find a pair of running shorts and DW got a new kayak paddle to replace one of ours that had broken a few years ago in a hurricane. (She got to use it yesterday. But more on that later). Crash used some of his birthday money to buy a glow in the dark basketball and Bang got a pair of purple (his favorite color) Umbros- the greatest pair of soccer shorts one can buy. We grabbed a quick bite in the food court, which, except for Sabarro, was entirely different than when I was there however many years ago. It now marks the first time Bang tried a new food- deep fried broccoli cheese bites.

Thursday, the 23rd, was supposed to be family picture day. But because Nana broke her ankle, we postponed it to the next day. Five years ago, when we were all together last, we went to a nearby state park and had photos taken. This time we had an extra person, Bang, who wasn’t even born at the last photo shoot. At our last family photo shoot five years ago, DW had just shaved her head to raise money for Relay for Life – a cancer fundraiser. Her hair had been cut and donated then cut as short as the clippers could cut it. This year, Nana was in a boot for her broken ankle. We hid the crutches from the camera. Then it was back home for meatball subs made by my brother and sister-in-law. Mmmm. Delicious.

Saturday, July 25th

Saturday morning was pretty low key. It wasn’t until after lunch we got on the move. My dad had made a bet that he could fit inside the dog’s kennel. The bet was if he fit we had to buy him ice cream and if he couldn’t fit, he’d buy it. He didn’t fit. Or at least he didn’t force it for fear of needing the fire department to come get him out. The video my brother took of dad trying did make to Facebook. So, after lunch we went to get ice cream courtesy of Pop Pop. Afterward, we all went swimming in the pool of friends of my parents, also my former soccer and wrestling coach in high school. While there, my other high school soccer coach showed up. He said that now he’s retired, don’t be surprised if he and his wife randomly show up at our door. We extended the invite, of course. We only live 1,100 miles away! It was great to go for a dip, the kids loved it and I got to play catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for a long time.

Sunday, July 26th

While Saturday was fairly low key, Sunday was not. There was a big family bash planned at my aunt’s house. There was also rumor of a slip-n-slide. However, before that, we met IMG_2330another aunt at church for Sunday mass. Crash picked up on a couple big differences between mass here compared to home – we sung more here than at home and the communion wafers were crunchier. Then, it was home to change and off to my aunt and uncle’s house for the afternoon. First was the crab feast (or hamburgers and hotdogs if you didn’t like crabs).

Since it was the first time we had this much family together in quite a while we went ahead and celebrated every holiday at once. The crabs we just ate were for the 4th of July celebration. There was also crab chowder for Christmas. This was followed by an Easter Egg hunt for the kids.

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Finally, the slip-n-slide was prepared with water and 4 bottles of baby oil. The kids changed into bathing suits and away we went. Myself included. IMG_2387Then my aunt decided she would try it, too. Why not? It looked like so much fun! Unfortunately, when she stepped onto the slip-n-slide she turned it into a slip-n-fall. She intended to go headfirst, but her feet slipped out from under her and she landed on her tailbone and in a lot of pain. The ambulance came to get her, which really made Bang’s day- getting to see an ambulance up close. The next morning we found out she had a compressed fracture of her L3 vertebrae. Fortunately, there were no floating bone fragments she wouldn’t be needing surgery. Remember, my mom already had a broken ankle. Now this!

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There are 5 people in this picture!

Once we got home that evening one of my oldest friends came over with his wife and two kids. I’ve been friends with him for about 32 years now – since 1st grade. It was great playing catch up with them and seeing their two boys who are each a year younger than Crash and Bang. On their way out they surprised us with the news that they are expecting baby number 3 in February!


Sorry for the long posts. I do want to you all about trip to see family and friends without boring you with too many details. We really didn’t travel much once we got there. No fancy sights to see. No big outings. Just some fun times with those we love most 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Our Triumphant Travels (Days 1,2, and 3)

I wish I would have blogged our travels south. I seemed a bit busier traveling this time as compared when I traveled alone back in May. Anyway, here I am. Here we are. I have only written once since my last blog 22 days ago when we had stopped for the night in Portland, ME. That was half way to my parents and it had taken us 10 hours to get there. There were no issues crossing the border. Our new RAV4 performed spectacularly and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it did on gas. We could drive for five hours before having to fill up!

Along the way we paid some respects with a moment of silence:

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The boys were in awe over the bridges we crossed – The Tappan Zee and the Delaware Memorial.

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Now, on to the good stuff. We arrived at Nana and Pop Pop’s house shortly after 6pm on a Wednesday.

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What a welcome sight! Finally here!

They were keeping tabs on us through Waze – a navigation app for the cell phone. (That, in itself was fun. It gave us directions and warnings in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If he warned us of “danger” he would follow it up with “GET DOWN!”. Naturally, Bang would make us duck each time.) We arrived to hugs from Nana and Pop Pop, my brother- Uncle B, sister in law- Aunt Sara and their two kids O and KK. Inside, they had taped off the doorway with streamers for Crash and Bang to run through and tear down, which they did in glorious fashion. O and KK had even made a sign “Welcome home family”. Then we sat down to a spaghetti supper followed by minion cupcakes for dessert! IMG_2205

Crash and Bang were excited to see their cousins. They hadn’t seen Crash for 5 years (O was only 6 months old last time) and no one other than Nana and Pop Pop had met Bang. So naturally, they got to stay up late. By 10pm all the kiddies were finally asleep.

Thursday morning Pop Pop made us all waffles for breakfast. Then we headed to the park.IMG_2241 It’s the same park I played at 25-30 years ago except it received a major overhaul since the last time I played there. It was a beautiful park with some really neat equipment for the kids (myself included) to play on. It had cushion foam matting for flooring, too! Unfortunately, it wasn’t made quite level with the ground surrounding it. Nana stepped off one piece of equipment and rolled her ankle. When she tried to catch herself with her other foot she overcompensated. She heard something crack or pop and she fell. O saw her and said “Aaaand, she’s down”. Sara had gone back to the house to get my parents truck and upon her return Nana was taken to get x-rays.

IMG_2279Meanwhile, the rest of us continued to play on the playground and take a bit of wiffle ball hitting practice with the kids. We returned home for lunch and we heard from Nana and Sara – it was a spiral fracture of her fibula. She came home in a boot and on crutches. We spent the remainder of the day hanging around the house, preparing for supper and playing with nieces and nephews we hadn’t seen for five years.

It was so great to be home. It was the first time we’d had the whole family together. Five years ago we hadn’t been complete. Now that we were, it was pure joy to have us all together. Even if one of us had a broken ankle.


P.S. I’ve been out of blogging action for 3 weeks now. In that time I have still been receiving comments and followers. For this, I am grateful. I am grateful for and appreciate all of my followers. However, these eight have chosen to follow my blog with the assumption that I will return. They have liked what I have written enough to take the gamble on my return. I thank them. The rest of you, I welcome your return with an open blog.

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