Canada, where everyone waits in line politely
A long time ago, before my computer died, back when I went on a vacation that involved something like 8 planes and 2 boat rides and a rental car and several hotels and a couple of taxis, we went to my grandmother’s island in Eastern Canada. This was a part of our very complicated vacation and I had looked into getting a sea plane or even some kind of a multi-leg charter flight, but those were way out of our price range. Still, we could see why it was often easier for people to take vacations to Europe or Asia from this part of the US than to go back and visit this idyllic spot in Canada, despite its reputation for a summertime paradise. Many of our planes were late, and Dinah and Manuel were stuck overnight in Toronto because of thunderstorms.
Claire at water’s edge
We arrived so late in Sudbury that the rental van they’d promised us was not available. Everything was closed. Then we had to wait another hour for a taxi to come to the airport and another while to get into town. We got to sleep in our hotel close to 4 AM and had to check out in time to deal with renting the minivan and purchasing life jackets and sleeping bags for the kids, obtaining fishing licenses and buying food and beverages for the time that we’d be there, and race to the water taxi before they closed. We only had one suitcase apiece for everyone and had to carry car seats for the kids, formal wear for the wedding, more sturdy clothes for the island, and things to entertain them during the multiple flights and airport delays. We didn’t have room to bring everything we’d need. As it was, it was a lesson in physics to pack everyone in the car plus the luggage plus the groceries and supplies.
Ronin and Claire throwing sticks into the water.
I don’t think it necessarily helps to be worried about the schedule and the timing, but we did make it to the water taxi on time and we got to the island without missing an extra day. I know everyone would have been disappointed if we’d spent another night in a hotel.
The island is beautiful and peaceful
Grandma Smith was already there in the main cabin, and David and Pam and Steve were in the boathouse, where we had stayed last time. A nice dinner of lasagna was in the works and we set about trying to find space for all of the food and drinks we’d brought. Dinah and Manuel unpacked in the guest cabin, Mom in the bedroom in the main cabin, and we lined up our suitcases as much out of the way in the living room because we would sleep all together on the front porch after dinner was done.
Grandma Smith reading to her great-grandchildren on the front porch
It was very nice sleeping on the porch. We fell asleep looking at the stars and listening to the loons call across the lake, and every time I woke up during the night I could see the stars in the dark sky and the silhouettes of the trees. Soren woke up quite a lot while we were there. Everyone came onto the island fairly sleep-deprived from our late flights and it was hard getting the kids to sleep much because the sun went down so late and because we were sleeping in the main area where people would be up at night or early in the morning. Soren had a few bad dreams every night and eventually I learned to just move him next to me and Justin so he wouldn’t thrash around too much, and one night he had screaming night terrors, enough to wake Grandma Smith up a couple of times. It occurred to me he hadn’t had those in a while, so he’s mostly grown out of them, but I’d read that they do tend to happen in new surroundings or when kids are low on sleep.
Three kids playing Sorry!
We heard that the earlier months of summer had been rainy and cool, but we were fortunate with the weather. It was pleasant and sunny every day while we were there, except for one day that had a bit of a rainstorm. Even that was a refreshing change for us, since we haven’t seen a good rainstorm in a long time. We stayed inside and played games and did puzzles. There was always a puzzle going on the table on the back porch, and sometimes a bit of jockeying for the best position. Every once in a while we’d send a kid down under the table to look for any pieces that might have fallen, because it got frustrating to search for a specific piece and never find the one that fit, and it was such a great feeling to find one after a long search.
My grandma and my mom doing a puzzle
Ronin and Claire reading together on the porch
Time on the island passed quickly. There were canoe trips, fishing expeditions, walks on the little trails. Blueberries were abundant. I was conflicted about letting the kids out of my sight too much. They didn’t know how to swim yet, although they were learning as quickly as possible. I had put them in private, individual lessons with a wonderful teacher at the beginning of the summer and they were doing better than they ever had, but Soren really couldn’t do much with coordinating arms and legs at that point and he had no fear (or judgment). In fact, later on in the summer he ran to the deep end of a pool and jumped off a diving board without being able to swim and without someone there to catch him. Claire and Ronin had a little more caution but they tended to overestimate their abilities and also thought it would be easy to rescue a flailing sibling. It was tough. I really wanted to let them go and play as much as they wanted to, and I knew kids had been doing it on the island for a long time without grownups around, but I also knew that Soren could fall or jump into the water easily, even thinking to himself that he really wasn’t going to, and my kids tend to leap before they look more than most.
The blueberries were wonderful
We ended up being watchful with them most of the time. We let them go out behind the cabin without us, but then once or twice Soren disappeared and went down to the water’s edge or went off down a trail without telling us. It is hard to skirt the line of letting them have enough freedom to learn from their mistakes and feel adventurous without being so lenient that it’s completely unsafe. I have parents gasp at parks and playgrounds at what I let them do on their own, and other people tsk at me for being too cautious.
Dinah and Manuel on a canoe ride
We had one or two kids go out on the fishing boat with a parent and a grandparent, and my sister and brother-in-law took a child out on a canoe from time to time. Claire and Ronin turned out to be more wiggly in the fishing boat than Soren, who was enthralled with fishing. He paid rapt attention to everything my uncles told him. I had never seen him sit so perfectly still and quiet when he needed to.
Steve instructing Soren on the art and science of fishing
Unfortunately, the one thing Soren didn’t take in was that fishing doesn’t always result in a fish. On our trips, my sister was the only person who caught a fish, and she is the person who is least likely to eat a fish or bait a hook or touch a fish. We came back to the dock and Soren started crying and saying he couldn’t get out of the boat because he hadn’t caught a fish so the trip couldn’t be over. He was eventually appeased by the promise of fishing off the dock, which he did a lot. He also learned to cast and was a natural. Still, he never did catch a fish.
Ronin fishing off the dock
Ronin enjoyed fishing off the dock, too, but wasn’t as dedicated to it as Soren. He would start trying to see what the pole tip would look like if it was under the water swishing around, or go to a really shallow section with no fish so he could see everything. He liked the process more than the idea of actually catching fish.
Ronin fishing and playing on the front dock
Ronin was the only one of our kids who went all the way in the water when Justin and I went swimming. The water felt great after a hot day of paddling all around the Bay.
Ronin drying off after a swim at the swimming hole
On one of the boat rides with the uncles, we landed at a nearby island and David found a pipe, probably from a kitchen sink, that someone had dumped there at some point. He blew through it and tried to convince the kids it was some kind of musical instrument. They loved it. We called it the Lip Sync.
Soren trying to make sweet music through the Lip Sync
Later on, I found the Lip Sync on our island near the back dock, and David said he’d brought it back just in case they needed it some time. Ronin was happy to play with it again.
Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar
We spent a lot of time outside, walking around the island or playing on the rocks, collecting blueberries or throwing large rocks into the water for big splashes. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife, and saw minks, a bald eagle, and dragonflies galore.
The boys watching a rock hit the water
Justin liking the lichen
Racing over the rocks
Near the swimming hole
The day before we left, Justin and I were able to leave our kids for a while and took the kayaks out for a private tour. We ducked into inlets, studied plants and rocks, paddled alongside blueberry bushes and foraged for snacks. With our quiet boats, we could glide quietly among lily pads and see fish under the water or birds near the shore without alarming them. We paddled furiously when we were out on the open water, so we were able to cover a lot of ground (water?) in the few hours that we were gone.
Soren readying for his kayak ride
After we got back, Justin decided that kayaking was so much fun and such good exercise that he wanted to share the experience with the kids. He decided to take each one out, one at a time, towing them behind his kayak. He took Ronin out for a long time, and the other kids and I hung out for so long around the dock waiting for them to come back that we realized this was not just a little excursion. The uncles took pity on our boredom and taught Claire and Soren how to operate the beer can crusher they’d invented, and that occupied them for quite a while and cleaned up a lot of the cans around the boat house.
Ronin off on his two-hour cruise
Justin took each one out, one after the other. By the end of the day I think he’d paddled for about 10 hours all together. When we returned to California, Justin tried a couple of boating and kayaking expeditions with the kids, but it wasn’t the same. The two-person kayaks are unwieldy and difficult to paddle if the other person is just resting , and Claire complained that the water was dripping on her. Another time we all went out together on Lake Chabot on a busy holiday weekend. I took a paddle boat with Mom and Claire and Soren and it was so hot and there was a strong head wind and I realized at one point that my assistant was actively paddling against me.
A family dinner on the porch
Dinah and Manuel left one day earlier than we did. The last family dinner was a bit smaller. We tried to cram as much stuff as possible into our final day on the island, and we packed up and waited on the front dock for the water taxi the next morning. We were going to go all the way back home in one full day. We didn’t want to go.
Claire and Justin, enjoying the water taxi back to the marina
We made it back home after midnight, which ended up being over 18 hours of traveling in one day thanks to the time zone changes. Soren actually fell asleep for a little while during one of our flights. We were assigned seats during another flight that had all of our kids sitting in different areas of the plane next to complete strangers. While I was trying to deal with it, the staff asked me if they could just leave it like that. As long as they could sit next to people who would purchase their meals and help them reach their books and get to the bathroom, I thought it was worth considering. I ended up having all of the kids next to me.
Soren actually slept on one of our flights!
I started writing this entry more than 40 days ago. I managed to write a little bit at a time, and then a little bit more, and then I would have to go do something. I would forget what I was planning on saying and what I already wrote, and sometimes repeated myself and had to delete things. I am sorry it’s taken so long to post. I’m going to try to do more frequent and shorter entries in the future now that I have a working computer and my vacation entry out of the way.