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AndyO Blog

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

B.C. Vacation: Sandcastles and movies

Today we went to the Parksville public beach to see the Beach Festival sandcastle sculptures. I was expecting some

amateur sculptures, but these turned out to be pretty amazing. The winner of the festival was an entry called Plumbing Nightmare that showed a bunch of guys trying to fix plumbing problems around a castle. One of the images was a guy sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper.

After that, we went to the playground next door that was one of the best I've ever seen. It had everything from zip lines to a mini water park. Cameron and Drew loved it, as did all the kids. We figured out later that the Canadians still install all the good playground equipment, instead of creating "litigation-proof" equipment, like what we have in America. Just look for a teeter-totter in a new U.S. playground, and you'll see what I mean.

Later in the day, Cameron and I decided to go to Nanaimo to see a movie called "Barnyard." We got there about 45 minutes early, so we walked around the Bay Mall, looking at the different stores. One that caught my eye was The Sony Store, where I found some great portable speakers for my Clix. Unfortunately, the Visa folks didn't understand how I could use my credit card in Canada, and the sales rep and I spent 15 minutes on the phone with them to sort it out. I like their vigilance, but it was annoying when it took so long to verify my identity.

Cam and I were actually late getting to the movie because of the Visa incident, but I still had to buy some popcorn and snacks. When I went to hand the snack bar guy my credit card, he promptly said, "Oh, we don't take those."

"You don't take debit cards?" I asked.

"We don't take debit cards or credit cards."

He sent me to the cashier in the box office, who told me I was out of luck unless I wanted to go to the bank (even though she had let me pay for my movie tickets on my credit card).

Seeing my frustration level rising she offered, "You can just pay with U.S. Dollars, but you won't get any exchange rate."

At this point, I didn't care. If I lost some money in the transaction, it was worth it--because Cameron and I were starving. I paid $13.00 for my food, and Cam and I went into the movie. It's a good thing the movie ended up being pretty good.

posted by AndyO @ 10:55 PM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 21, 2006

B.C. Vacation: Getting in the groove

Today we finally got into the "vacation" groove. Day 2 at Parksville was spent getting the room situation sorted out at Tigh-Na-Mara, moving our stuff to a new room next door, going out to lunch at A&W, walking the beach, and chilling out.

The Old Country Market in Coombs, B.C.Today, Brenda, our two boys, and I went to Coombs and visited the Old Country Market. The Old Country Market's roof is topped with grass, and goats that live on the roof regularly graze in front of wide-eyed tourists. This seems like a gimmick until you walk into the market to see that this is no ordinary store.

There's a definite European flavor to the grocery items, with brands I've never heard of and items such as mayonnaise in a tube. There's also a gift shop, with a great selection of wood toys. I bought Cameron a wood sword and shield, and I bought our friends' girls acrobatic animals on sticks. There were Japanese lanterns and garden-decorations in one section, and an amazing deli and restaurant in another section.

Brenda and I took turns shopping in the store, since Drew decided to take a nap in the car. When Brenda came back, she had a stash of goodies, including an African Samosa, a rich blend of peas, potatoes, carrots, and seasoned chicken stuffed in filo. When Cam and I went in the store, I bought another one.

After the market, we went to Englishman River Falls for a short hike. A bridge took us over a deep canyon with an amazing view of the falls. Hiking with a toddler is no easy feat, so we didn't walk very far.

We finished off the day back at Tigh-Na-Mara with another stroll on the beach as the tide was coming in. Then Brenda and I left the kids with Michelle and Youssef and went out to the Tigh-Na-Mara restaurant for dinner.

Michelle and the kids on the beach

posted by AndyO @ 8:21 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Travel day to B.C.: Cars, Boats, and Customs

Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Today we traveled with our friends Michelle, Youssef, and their three kids, to Vancouver Island, B.C., to start a week-long vacation. We've traveled with them before to Cannon Beach, OR, and we always have a good time.

First, we drove from Seattle to the fishing community of Anacortes,

WA, and took the ferry through the San Juan islands. This is one of the most beautiful boat rides you can take -- even more beautiful on a nice, sunny day. We stopped at Orcas Island and then in Friday Harbor. Jenna, Michelle and Youssef's oldest girl, and I spent a lot of time on the observation deck of the ferry, looking for Orcas (several Orca pods swim around the San Juans). Unfortunately, we didn't see any.

After three hours, we arrived in Sidney, B.C., and went through Canadian customs. Before 9/11, this kind of trip was a breeze -- but now you need to bring passports and birth certificates. The Canadian customs officer asked if we had photo ID for the kids, which surprised me. We'd never been asked for that kind of ID -- but, as I said, things have changed. Youssef and the boys on the ferry

After passing customs, we took the Trans-Canada Highway 1 all the way up to Nanaimo and then to Parksville, our final destination. This was only an 80-mile trip, but it took us three hours (with one stop) to get to Tigh-Na-Mara, the resort in Parksville. We were rewarded with an amazing cherry-pink sunset on our balcony.

We found that the rooms we booked weren't what we had asked for, so Brenda was soon on the phone sorting it all out with the resort staff.

The kids were all wound up, as you would expect after an eight-hour travel day. It took three stories and lots of bargaining with them to finally get them to sleep at 10:30.

The view from the deck at Tigh-Na-Mara Unfortunately, Drew was still ready to play. He went down at 11:00.

posted by AndyO @ 5:33 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hanging with Drew

The past week, I had a chance to fly solo with my 18-month-old son, Drew, for the first time. Brenda headed out for a relaxing two-day spa weekend with her friend Michelle (last Saturday and Sunday). Cameron was at his Grandparents' house in the Tri-Cities.

You learn a lot about your kids when you're "flying solo" with them. Most babies or toddlers usually prefer their mothers to their fathers, which makes sense. So it's only when the mother leaves that you get to really bond with them. (This is also one of the reasons fathers should take paternity leave with their children, if possible.)

The first night with Drew was amazing. We ate dinner together, I gave him a bath, read him stories, and rocked him to sleep at 9:00 p.m. He woke up at 5:30 a.m., but after I gave him a bottle he went back to sleep until 9:00. I think because he slept so long, he decided he didn't need a nap. As any parent will tell you, naps allow you to recharge. So I was pretty fried when I started putting him to bed at 8:00. During storytime, we had a next door neighbor's 5-year-old granddaughter who was visiting, come over and join us. All seemed good.

But then Drew started crying. And crying. And crying. Nothing would soothe him. I realized he had gas pain in his stomach. This usually happens when we give him cow's milk, as he seems to be lactose intollerant, but I didn't remember giving him any milk. The neighbor girl suggested I bring Drew over to her grandparents, because she knew her grandma could calm him down. I actually took her up on the idea.

But after about 10 minutes of relative calm at the grandparents' house, Drew was writhing around again. After 20 minutes, we left. I figured out that Drew hadn't eaten much for dinner, so he was probably so hungry his stomach was hurting. I gave him some Wheat Thins crackers, along with some cheese, and I put on Star Wars: Episode 1, which was in the DVD player. After Drew was done with his snack, he lay down on my chest and watched the movie. We both fell asleep around 11:00 p.m., the sounds of Star Wars in our heads.

I was just glad Brenda was coming home the next day.
posted by AndyO @ 9:43 PM   0 comments links to this post