Friday, 29 November 2013

Decorating With Evergreens

   Looking at that van filled to overflowing with evergreen branches it seemed impossible to ever possibly use all of them.  I guess I could see if Mom and Dad would like some I remember thinking.  Oh how foolish I was.  I used every single scrap of evergreen and am planning another trip out today for more.  This time however the frigid winter weather has made it's presence known... with a vengeance!

     Incase you didn't read yesterday's post (and if you didn't shame on you), Christopher, Elly and I made our annual pilgrimage to the forested roads in our area.  We took an afternoon and enjoyed the quiet solitude of the nature that surrounds us.  We enjoyed the quiet but we also enjoyed all of the free greenery.  We filled the back of our mini-van to capacity, and then some.

    The day after our pilgrimage,  I set to decorating the house with those pilfered evergreens.  I had separated everything into huge like piles.  The front lawn was filled with generous piles.  I stood on the top front step purveying my plunder.  I then set to making mental lists of what I needed to do.  My first project was to decorate the front railing.  I set to making bunches to attach to the railings.  Ordinarily I use wire to attach my branches.  This year I broke with tradition and used zip ties.  I have decided that I love zip ties.  Zip ties make life easier.

    My next decorating task was to attempt a wreath.  I bought a wreath form this year.  I have never used a wreath form before.  I began to make my bundles, once again using my beloved zip ties.  After I had made my bunches I began to attach my bunches to the wreath form, once again using zip ties.  If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I have really poor spatial sense.  That was the case this time.  I had this big pile of bunches for my wreath, silly me thinking that there were tons... there were not.  When I had finished attaching those seeming tons of branches, I had only filled a quarter of the wreath form.  

    When I had finished I looked at my wreath admiringly.  I was quite pleased with myself.  I then tried to lift it, man was it heavy.  It turns out that half of the evergreens from the back of our overflowing van went to the making of that wreath.  I struggled up the step ladder to hang my masterpiece.  I am afraid of heights, so it was interesting.  I got to the top of the ladder, only to discover that the task at hand would not be quite as easy as I had thought.  I struggled to hang that monster wreath, and not to fall off the top of the ladder.  When I had finished I took a few steps back to admire my work.  It was then that I noticed the huge bald spot in the wreath.  I am still debating pretending that I don't see the bald spot, or taking it down to fix it.  Right now I am leaning towards pretending I see nothing.

     When I had finished my work, there was not a scrap of evergreen left.  My hands ached, but I felt satisfied (well other than the partially bald wreath).  I had finished before the snow fell, and the weather was still nice.  It has since snowed, and the snow looks all the more pretty on the evergreens.  Two days of my life spent outside in the fresh air, well spent.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Collecting Our Evergreen Boughs For Holiday Decorating

        Every time I go to the store and see the bundles of evergreens for sale I shake my head.  I cannot imagine paying money for that which I can get for free.  Not only do I get it for free, but it is a beautiful bonding experience, nope I would not trade that for any amount of money.

    Last Friday Christopher was most fortunate to have the day off of work.  The weather was unseasonably warm (I love global warming... please don't tell the tree huggers that).  It was the perfect day to make our annual pilgrimage out to the forests that are in our area.   

    I know that I sound like a broken record on this one, but I am blessed to live in this part of the country.  I am surrounded by nature.  That means that those who dwell in the cities must get their greenery for holiday decorating from merchants, I on the other hand need only drive a few kilometers to find a plethora of greenery, for free!  Honestly it is one of my most favourite holiday traditions.

    We loaded Elly into the car, along with gardening shears and bags for pine cones.  I set the satellite radio for the Christmas station and we headed out.  We drove up lonely dirt roads in search of the perfect greenery.  We would stop, collect one or two branches and move along.  The forrest was so beautifully quiet.  It would be very difficult to be stressed for very long standing in that quiet.  There were the call of birds, the rustle of pine, it was peace.  Every now and then we would let Elly out of the car to search for pine cones.

    Her little face was alight with pure joy as she darted beneath the evergreen trees in search of pine cone treasure.  The quiet forrest noises were occasionally interrupted by delighted squeals of "I found a pine cone!!!"  She was single minded in her search of the perfect pine cones.  

     A few hours of tranquility and fresh country air and our van was packed to the roof with our spoils of nature.  The van smelled heavenly with a potpourri of different greenery smells.  We exited the van feeling lighter, happier.  We had mugs of hot chocolate on our minds.  This is a beautiful tradition.

    Christopher and Elly and I emptied the van and began to sort out our haul into piles of like materials. By the time we were finished my hands were covered in pine sap.  I started to giggle thinking about that scene from Christmas Vacation where Clark has had his mini-nervous breakdown and cut down the yuppy neighbours pine tree.  He is lying in bed looking at a magazine and his hands keep sticking to the pages, tearing them out.  I could really commiserate with Clark.  There seems to be no amount of washing or scrubbing that will take all of the pine sap off of your hands!

    That night I lay in my comfy warm bed still smiling.  It had been a beautiful day.  My hands felt like they had been stung by a million bees (at some point I will remember that work gloves are a good idea to handle evergreens).  There were still patches on my hands where tree sap seemed to be permanently attached.  It had been a beautiful day.  I drifted off to sleep making plans for all of those pine boughs, smelling like an upscale car air freshener.  Life is good.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Why I Hate "I Spy With My Little Eye"!

    One of my most favourite things in this world is to listen from the sanctuary of my comfy, glorious bed to the goings on of the rest of the house.  I listen to unguarded conversations, and most of the time it makes me smile.  It is honestly one of my most favourite things.  I most especially enjoy listening to Christopher's conversations with the kids.  Most of the time it makes me realize how lucky I am that he is the father of my children.  It really is beautiful to hear his deep voice and the higher voices of the kids in that sing song interchange.
    This morning Christopher and Elly were up together.  As I listened I heard "I spy with my little eye something that is yellow..."  It was at that moment that I lay all the more quiet.  I HATE I SPY!  I hate it because I have yet to meet the child that is not a dirty little cheater and makes that stupid game last for hours.  Inevitably those dirty little cheaters change their eye spy object so that they can win.  You could be in a black and white room with one red object and it would take them hours to admit that you found the red bobble.
    I lay in bed, covers snuggled around me listening, trying not to breath to loudly, lest I be asked to join the game.  "Eye Spy With My Little Eye, Something That is Red."  She sounded very smug, like it never occurred to her that Daddy could ever in a million years find it.  "Is it the little house?"  There was a slight pause.... the tone had changed, no longer quite so smug, more on edge "No, try again"  This went on for at least fifteen minutes.  There were really not a lot of "red" things in the living room to choose.  I have to admit that Christopher was a real champ on this one.  I humor them for a few minutes and then give up, which is met with "awwwww", and then me saying in a not so motherly loving way "Well I'm done playing."  He was a good sport, and lasted a long time before he admitted "I give up, what's red?"  Her voice took on a condescending tone, "Daddy!  It was the house!"  "But I said that!"  "No you didn't... I win!"   Kid's cheat at Eye Spy, I rest my case.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Our Package from Scotland

    Nana would have been slightly younger than me when she boarded the ship that took her away from everything that she had ever known and plunged her into the unknown.  She was leaving Scotland, and all of her family to come to Canada.  As she stood on the deck of that ship holding my mothers little hand in hers the piper played his melancholy tune while she drifted away from her life.   She left her homeland never knowing if she would ever see it again, never knowing if she would ever see her mother and father, sisters and brothers ever again.   I cannot imagine having that kind of courage.
    When Nana boarded that ship, she boarded with four children, all by herself.  My Papa had gone to Canada with my Aunt Jean their oldest before the rest of the family.  He wanted to have a job and a place to live set up for his arriving family.  I truly cannot imagine the strength she had.  I'd like to think that she gave a little of her strength to me.  This was not a trip that lasted just a few days.  This trip was across the ocean on an ocean-liner.  She had four children, no other adult to help her, and I can only imagine the fear and trepidation that she felt.  I could cry if I think about it too much.  They left Scotland to find a better life for their family of 5.  They had hope.  They had never seen Canada, it was the great unknown, what strength.

    Eventually my Aunt Mary and Uncle Willy (Nana's younger sister) and their children also immigrated to Canada.  Now Nana had a little bit of home.  She would write letters to her parents, and her siblings.  Sometimes Aunts would come to Canada for a visit.  It was always so exciting.  My Aunt Ella came for a visit when I was tiny, but I still remember her.  I remember holding her hand and going for walks.  A few times Aunt Mary's twin sister Aunt Margaret would come for a visit.  I loved my Aunt Margaret.  She would tell me that I looked just like a young Liz Taylor. She would also bring us treats from Scotland.  Scotland became this faraway place that I so desperately wanted to see.  

    My Nana passed away just two months after I was married.  I still miss her.  Aunt Mary passed away a few years ago.  That was the end of my Scottish connection.  I still had visiting Scotland on my bucket list, but now there was really no family there anymore, or so I thought.

   Facebook has built a rebirth of my Scottish connection.  It was because of Facebook that I have begun to get to know my cousins who live in Scotland.  I see pictures of their families.  I get updates about what they are doing.  They write little messages to me, and I to them.  I feel a great debt of gratitude to Facebook for this.

    Over time I have corresponded regularly with my cousin Elaine.  She has four little boys very close in age to my four.  She has a set of now 10 year old twins (mine will be 10 in July).  It has been a real pleasure to get to know her, and her sisters.  My kids like to wander over while I am looking at her pictures and see their far away cousins.  It was this that gave me an idea.  What if we sent them over a "Canadian" package, and they sent us a "Scottish" package?  I suggested my idea to Elaine, and she was really excited.

    This little project really made me think what is Canadian?  What objects could I put together that really said "Canada"?  It really got me thinking about my country, something that I do not normally do. I could send the stereotypical maple syrup, but is that really Canadian?  I had wanted to send them mini-hockey sticks, but of course there were none to be found (wanna make a bet that this week when I go to the store the walls will be lined with them).  In the end I sent off a package (I'm not saying what I put in it, because Elaine hasn't received it yet, and I don't want to give it away).  I'm not sure how "Canadian" it is, but I gave it a shot.

    This week when we went to the post office we had a parcel in.  It was our parcel from Scotland.  The kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement.  Right on the top of the package were four adorable tartan tams called "Hey Jimmy's".  The kids thought that these were great and right away every little head had one on.  You would have thought that it was Christmas with all of their excitement (o.k. and mine).  Each of Elaine's boys wrote a post card and had put it in with the treats.  My guys were overjoyed to read them.

    That night after Christopher got home from work I let the kids tear into the treats.  It really was an amazing treat.  There in the box were some of the treats that my Aunties had brought us from Scotland, all those years ago.  I smiled as I ate my snowball and thought of my Nana.  Now my kids keep asking me when we can go to Scotland to meet their cousins.  Thank you Facebook for helping me get to know my family.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade 2013

    Watching the Toronto Santa Claus Parade is a family tradition.  For us this parade signals the beginning of the holiday season.  Normally we cozy down in our living room with pizza.  The kids all eat their left over Halloween candy, comparing who has the most left.  On the television the floats look so larger much than life.  They seem to tower almost as high as the buildings that stand on either side of them.  It seems like magic.
    It is a tradition that began in my childhood.  When I was a little girl we would go to my Nana's little apartment and gather around her television.  Sitting at Nana's, Toronto seemed a million miles away, almost like the North Pole itself.   Those floats seemed like Christmas magic.  I promised myself that when I was a grown up I would go to Toronto and see that parade in person.  It was a promise that I kept not only to myself, but to my children.

    My first Toronto Santa Claus Parade was my first year at York University.  I was on crutches (that's another story) and being jostled around by the mob of people.  It was overwhelming, and yet a promise fulfilled.  In the end I went up to McDonald's in the Eaton's Centre and watched the parade from a plastic seat, a Big Mac in hand.  I sat there feeling like I had made it.  I was finally a grown up.  I had seen a real Santa Claus Parade in the flesh (the irony of that statement is not lost on me).  

    The first year that Christopher and I took Gabe he was around five.  It was magic all over again.  I got to be that little girl who thought that those floats were magic.  I got to witness that magic through my little boys eyes.  Those floats were so bright, but so small.  As a little girl those floats seemed so much larger than life, but in reality they just about the size of a transport, only not as tall.  There we stood at the side of the road, bundled up against the cold, feeling like the best parents ever!  I was living through my child.  We stood there in awe.  Gabe's little hand nearly falling off from all of the waving.  Then the big guy, the man of the hour, that jolly old elf made his appearance.  Gabe's face filled with wonder, as he just stood there, mouth a gap.  He was star struck.  It was and still is one of my treasured memories.

    Over the years we have made a few return appearances to the parade.  Some years the weather has been lovely, some years it has been miserable.  The one constant was how much the kids loved it.  The last time we visited the parade the twins were only around three.  Elly has never been.  This was the year that we decided to remedy that.  We made it into a week-end mini-vacation (see yesterday's blog).

    We had planned the hotel that we stayed in based on the parade route.  Our hotel was just a few blocks away from the parade.  The weatherman had called for rain all week long.  We had come prepared with rain ponchos that I knew would drown the kids.  Our fingers were crossed, hoping that the weatherman was wrong.  I wonder if Santa had a word with Mother Nature, because by noon the skies were grey, but there was no rain, and the weather was unseasonably warm.  

    We walked down to University and Bloor Street.  The police already had the street blocked off.  From the distance we could see bright red balloons showing the way.  We arrived at the road as a flurry or runners ran past.  They were helping to support the parade with the Holly Jolly Run.  The participants paid $100.00 to enter the run, and their entry fees help support the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  I was surprised and excited to see that there were only a few people in front of us on the parade route.

    The kids were so excited for the parade to begin.  Elly sat up on Daddy's shoulders.  Throughout the parade she would need to get down and walk off the pin and needles, but then she would be begging to go back up there.  Elly had the best seat in the house. All there was left to do was stand and wait.

    Unlike a lot of people I do not think of Toronto as being inherently bad.  It's busy, and everyone is generally anonymous, that is how I think of Toronto.  I am accustomed to acts of kindness at home, I expect it, that's why I live here.  I don't expect it in Toronto, and that is why it was all the more unexpected.  There was a lady in a wheel chair sitting in front of us.  She had said that her husband was running in the Holly Jolly Fun Run.  She had her daughter sitting beside her in a camp chair, both there to root that generous man on.   Before the parade began several vendors came by selling cotton candy, grossly inflated reindeer antlers and elf hats, and there were army cadets selling reindeer noses.  The lady in the wheelchair asked one of the kids selling the noses how much they were.  She was told that to buy three got her a better price.  She bought three.  She then turned around and gave them to my three youngest children.  I was stunned.  I thanked her profusely, the kids thanked her.  It was so kind and so very unexpected.  She then asked if we would like some hot chocolate, because she had brought to flasks and had lots of cups.  WOW!

    We stood there basking in the warm weather, the excitement and the kindness of a complete stranger.  We stood eagerly anticipating the beginning of the parade.  A policeman came up the street to tell us that the parade was just a block away.  The kids were beside themselves with joy.  It was around this time that the hoard of people began to find their way to our area.  They were the Johnny come latelies who had not thought to come early enough for a good spot, but had enough nerve to just push their way into our spots.  I could feel my temper boiling as grown adults fought their way up to the front, attempting to push in front of our children.  Several times Christopher and I politely reminded people that "our" children had been waiting there for some time, and not to push in front of them.

    By the end of the parade I just wanted to leave.  I was so angry.  On television the parade lasted minutes, in real life it was hours.  I was seething with the injustice of those budders.  My feet hurt, and I  was squashed like a tube of toothpaste.  I very nearly had a temper tantrum and left.  Thankfully my better part, that part that is the mother who wants her children to have beautiful memories, and not memories of Mommy being escorted away from the Toronto Santa Claus Parade with a police escort in handcuffs prevailed.  I looked at my kids.  They were tired, but they were also excited.  The crowds pushing in on them were a annoyance, but they were still having fun.  I took a deep breath.  Toronto is a busy place, with lots of people.  Not everyone has great manners or a sense of fairness, deal with it.  The world is not fair, suck it up sunshine!  After that internal resolution I began to refocus.  I stopped thinking about the idiots around me, and instead brought my attention back to where it should have been, my kids.

    The kids would excitedly look back at us and tell us about that cool float.  "Oh that one is my favourite, no wait, it's this one."  They were drinking it all in.  They were doing exactly what we had brought them there to do.

    I hate to admit it, but my inner child did come out, just a little.  It was at the sight of the princess with the HUGE dress.  As a little girl I always loved those.  I would sit and plan how I too could get one of those amazing dresses.  I would close my eyes and picture how I would look walking in one of those dresses.  I saw that pretty princess dressed in blue, and I was that little girl all over again.  The angry lady vanished.

    In the end we had an amazing day.  All of our feet hurt, but it was o.k.  We stopped along the way back to our hotel where we were parked.  We looked in stores that we don't have around here.  We looked at beautiful things that are on my "when I win the lottery" list.  We saw Toronto the good and we saw Toronto the not so great.  It was an amazing week-end, a week-end that none of us will soon forget.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Our Toronto Adventure

    Time is a funny thing.  It races by when you want it to slow down and it drags when you want it to speed up.  I find that the older I get the faster time seems to go.  My tiny little miracle baby is now 5!  I'm not sure how that large chunk of time came and went so quickly.  My time with my children is limited, I know this.  I also know that I need to make the most of it, not just for their memories, but for my own.  I also know that life as we know it can change in the blink of an eye, it's fragile.  We make these big bold plans and spend hours making plans for how our life should unfold with our five year plans, and what is it really for?  What is the point in planning for the future, when the now is without spark or fun? 

    Right now Christopher and I are trying to make the most of our lives.  We have no retirement (I sure hope that one of the kids takes us in).  We don't have fancy things (as anyone who has ever visited my house can attest to).  What we do have is a lot of fun, and amazing memories.  We are trying to plan mini getaways every few months.  It doesn't have to be extravagant, or expensive.  What it does need to be is fun.  It needs to be something that the kids and ourselves will all enjoy.

    It has been at least six years since we last went to the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  We watch it religiously on the television, but it always seems like such an ordeal to get there.  This year we took the bull by the horns and decided that we would take the kids.  Elly has never seen a Toronto Santa Claus Parade live, and the twins were just tiny the last time we went.  We decided that this was the year, and we made plans for it months ago.  We kept it a secret from the kids.

    Saturday morning we secretly packed the car.  I phoned Christopher's cell phone, and we pretended that Christopher had been called into work.  He told the kids that he had to go into Toronto to get a certificate.  He could really have gotten an acting award,  I was impressed!  "Well, I'm headed to Toronto for work" he told me with a straight face, within earshot of the kids.  "Oh, that stinks, I had wanted to go into Belleville as a family today", I told him with an equally straight face, within earshot of the kids.  "Hey, are you just getting documents?" I asked.  "Yes".  "Hey do you want some company?  Maybe the kids and I could tag along?"  This was met with groans of "Do we have to come?"  Christopher suggested that maybe we could go and look at the Christmas windows at the Bay.  He had them in the palm of his hand.  We tossed them all into the car, a blanket in the back hatch covering the suitcases.  
    The kids were very excited when we drove up to the hotel in Yorkville.  Their little faces were just glowing with excitement.  We ordered pizza in the room.  Christopher and my goal was to see how inexpensive we could make this trip.  I had done some research to find out what was going on in Toronto on that week-end and was free.  One of the events that I found was the Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic lighting ceremony.  There was a free concert by Canadian recording artist Sarah Slean.

    After our pizza we got dressed and went to the Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic lighting ceremony.  It was only a few blocks from our hotel and the unseasonably warm weather was glorious.  We walked taking in the sights of the tall skyscrapers, and the beautifully decorated picture windows along the way.  When we got there, the concert had already started.  The local school choir was singing.  Although none of those children were mine, I still loved their beautiful little voices.  You could hear the pride as they sang their little hearts out.  Then there was Sarah Slean.  What an amazing talented performer.  She sounds a little like Kate Bush, my favourite singer.  I stood there in the crowd listening to that glorious music.  Christopher had Elly up on his shoulders.  I looked at my two big girls in front of me.  They had taken a break from their usual bickering and had their arms wrapped around each other.  I feel like I have over used the word "beautiful",  but that is the only word that I can think to use. I stood there completely in the moment, tears glistening in my eyes, taking in every single minute detail of that moment so that I could put it into my memory.

    We stood with strangers listening to the music.  We were with strangers, and yet it felt like we were in a community.  That is not something that you often feel when you are in Toronto, and yet we felt like that.  The crowd oohed and ahhhhhed when they had the official lighting of the trees.  They shone brightly, lighting up the warm night.  I loved the looks of awe on my children's faces.  This was magic. This whole night was magic.

    After our concert we headed onto the subway to the Dundas Street station.  The crowds were monstrous.  The subway was so crowded that there was not even space to hold on.  The kids used us as their support.  Rowan had his face buried into my jacket, his arms wrapped tightly around me.  The girls circled their Dad, using his strength.  It sounds overwhelming, but honestly it was such an adventure.  The kids got to experience the city.  The city is not always slow and easily paced, it is smelly and crowded and exciting!  We got off at our stop, holding tightly to the children.  We walked into the Eatons Centre.  

    The lights inside were bright and sparkling.  There were impossibly huge reindeer made of lights.  Everything was larger than life, just like Toronto.  The kid's little faces were alight with amazement.  My not so little face was alight with amazement.  I love Toronto.  I love Toronto and I want my children to see the beauty of it.  It is such an amazing city full of people all every ethnicity, every size, shape and colour.  You can visit the world, in just a few city blocks.  The larger than life buildings, the unlimited possibilities that it presents.

    After we had walked through the dazzling Eaton's Centre, we walked over to see the Hudson Bay windows. They were stunning, like something out of a movie.  We all gasped at the detail in every single bit of them.  The kids all pointed delightedly at something that they just loved.  We walked window to window, pouring over all of it, taking in every little detail.

    It took me back to my own childhood memories of this city.  I remember being small, and holding my parent's hands looking into the big windows.  Back then all of the downtown windows were animated.  The smell of roasting chestnuts surrounded us.  I still expect to smell roasting chestnuts when  I look at today's Hudson's Bay windows.  If I close my eyes I can still picture it.  I see those bright windows with the seemingly magic dolls.  I can picture the man standing just a few feet from the windows with his little red and silver cart full of chestnuts.  I still smell it, still hold it as a beautiful childhood memory.  I want that memory for the kids, well maybe not the smell part, because the city smelled a lot like sewer when we were there.  

    After we had seen the Hudson's Bay windows we cautiously made our way across the road to Younge and Dundas Square.  The square itself was one big knot of people.  These country folk decided to stay a respectable distance from the human block.  The Younge BIA had sponsored a free outdoor entertainment extravaganza, Illuminite.  There were a dizzying amount of stages set up around the square, each with a different performer.  Atop one of the buildings were these amazing drummers that reminded the big kids of the Blue Man Group.  There were performers akin to Cirque Du Soleil, they were amazing. We stood with our backs to the Sears windows at The Eaton's Centre and watched the amazing magic.  Sitting still and unobtrusive was this enormous white balloon.  We were soon to discover that it was not "just" a huge balloon, but rather a hot air balloon that was used for one of the performers acts.  She gracefully did these amazing twists and turns all the while even with the tall building.  We stood spell bound.

    When the show had ended we debated getting back on the subway.  It would be faster and we had already tired kids.  It would also be packed.  We would in essence be human sardines.  We decided to go against good instinct and walk to our hotel.  Toronto is Canada's largest city, and yet the downtown core is so walkable.  I find that there really isn't anywhere that you cannot walk to in Toronto.  
    It was not a short walk, nor was it a complaint free walk, but it was beautiful weather, and Bay Street (the street we chose to walk) was very quiet.  We walked taking in the sights, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  There was just enough nip to feel like winter, but not enough to feel like WINTER.  We walked and walked.  The kids all complaining about how their legs hurt, they were tired, like a bunch of cranky old men.  Oh they complained, but every now and then they would stop, their attention caught by some piece of beauty, something alien.  We live in a beautiful part of Ontario, of Canada.  All around us is fresh clean country air (sometimes that country air is not so fresh when the farmers are spreading manure).  I would not choose to live anywhere else, and yet... and yet I love to visit the city.  It is the opposite of the quiet beauty that normally surrounds us.  I want my kids to experience that excitement, that difference.

    We stopped along the way back to the hotel at a Tim Hortons.  It was overdue time to rest our tired feet, take a break.  Christopher sat with the kids while I went up to order coffees and hot chocolates.  I noticed a neat little treat in their display case, Toronto Maple Leaf doughnuts.  How could I resist.  Christopher and Rowan are die hard Blackhawks fans, but our Gabe's blood ran blue.  I think in part it was to bug his dad, and in part it was to show his independence.  Whatever the reason was, Gabe loved the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I ordered each of the kids a Leaf's doughnut.  Somehow it felt like we were including Gabe in our big adventure, like just a little part of him was there with us.  We did our usual when we encounter something that Gabe would have loved.  The kids lifted their doughnuts up to the sky and said "This one's for you Gabe!"

    Even after all of that adventure we still made it back to the hotel before 10:00 p.m.  We all sank into the extra fluffy, comfy beds.  Everyone was tired physically, but mentally everyone was jacked up.  We had seen so much.  The kids all excitedly shouted out their favourite parts of the evening.  I lay back, my feet still aching, but a serene smile on my face.  This is what life is all about, adventure.  The adventure that was for the most part cash free, but rich with joy and memory. 

    I had a tough time convincing the kids to sleep that night (as a matter of fact I fell asleep before they did).  Their senses were on overload.  They had seen so many amazing and wonderful things.  They also knew that the next day we would be walking up the street to see the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.