July 2008

A couple of you have commented on the fact that we were brave to take a vacation like this with the kids, and looking back I see I’ve painted a rather revisionist rosy shade on our vacation. We did have a great time, but I have to be honest — this was a terribly stressful trip.

We just never got our equilibrium back after the trip down, I think. I was snappish with my family, which I hate, and I was hard on the kids. I was tired because Lucas is going through a phase where he wakes up looking for his soother about six times a night and tense because I knew I not behaving well and couldn’t quite control it. Lucas has started solids but is just a little bit too small and slumpy to be able to sit in those restaurant high chairs, so mealtimes were extra stressful. I think he was suffering from a combination of my stress and the stomach virus the rest of the family (save me) went through on the trip, because he cried a lot. One of the big boys was whiny with stomach cramps and the other forgot to pack his listening ears for the trip, and I was short-tempered with both of them. That, and the infernal rain… What fun!

So it was a good trip, and in a way I’m glad I can paint these pictures in the blog so it looks more like I wanted it to turn out. But I’ve never ended a vacation with such a strong, visceral desire for a “do-over”; on the drive home, I wanted to do nothing more than go back to the hotel and have another four days so I could take another shot at it. It wasn’t Lake Placid that was disappointing, it was me, and I wanted a second chance. The feeling kept on for days, that odd desire to turn back time and have another go at it.

If I could do it all over again, I would. I’d just relax a little bit more. I’d admit, though, I’m glad that we’ll never again be vacationing with three under seven, one of whom is not yet six months old. It can only get easier from here, right?


Last year when we were planning our trip to Bar Harbor, we toyed with places to visit on the way there. Knowing we’d cut across the top of New York State, some of the suggestions we got included the Ausable Chasm or the Lake Champlain Ferry (which we took). Both Marla and Nancy suggested — no, raved about — Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, New York. Nancy and Marla both – could there be a higher endorsement? And they were so very, very right.

Who knew? There really is a North Pole, New York. See?


It’s the perfect park for the under-10 set. There’s a bouncy house and a train, there are shows and a Santa Parade. They have rides that are just right for little travelers:



(That’s my niece and nephew in the first bobsled, and my boys in the second bobsled.)

But I have to say, we had the most fun with Santa’s reindeer. You know I have a thing about reindeer names, right? Well, we were all tickled to see that the Santa’s Workshop people got it right.


Not content to simply admire the bridle on the wall like I did, Papa Lou got into the act. Erm, into the bridle, actually.


And here’s another one of my brother bonding with Donder himself.


*shrugs* It’s a family thing.

But even for people not named after one of Santa’s reindeer, this park is worth the stop. I’m sure the clear blue skies — no, really! — helped to bias me in it’s favour, but it was simply delightful. And there was practically nobody else there; a couple of times, the boys just walked up and got on the rides without having to wait. (Empty as it was, though, we actually ran into friends of ours also down from Ottawa in the park. What are the odds?!?)

So if you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood of Lake Placid, looking to entertain the wee ones, I can’t say enough nice things about Santa’s Workshop. It made the drive home a perfectly lovely counterpoint to the hellish drive down!

(If you liked them, you can see the full set of my Lake Placid photos on Flickr.)


We stayed three nights in Lake Placid, and the time just flew by. The first day was burned up by the drive from hell, and the last day — well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our extended family convened for breakfast each morning at Charlie’s Restaurant, adjacent to the hotel. (If you go, by the way, I highly recommend eschewing the in-room coffee for the coffee shop in the Alpine Mall attached to the hotel. Great coffee and a lovely balcony view of the sunrise over Mirror Lake. I have happy memories of waking up before the rest of my crew and creeping out for an early-morning coffee, consumed with greedy unencumbered glee in the morning’s early light.) Our challenge was finding suitable entertainment for six adults and five kids ranging in age from six years to six months, one of whom napped in the afternoon and one of whom had a raging case of diarrhea. Did I mention the forecast was for rain with a side of thunderstorms?

On the first day, my dad suggested a trip to the top of nearby Whiteface Mountain. You can drive up, or you can take a cable-car ride up. We opted for the latter.


The gondola brings you to the top of “Little Whiteface,” the secondary peak of Whiteface Mountain. At the top, there’s an observation deck where you can look down on Lake Placid some 10 or so miles away.


It’s just a short little scramble up the bedrock from the observation deck to the peak. (We’d brought our jackets for protection against the rain, but it was a good 10 degrees cooler on the mountain than at the base, and the day only warmed up to 70F in the first place!)


Simon found a penny at the top of the mountain, and Granny told him to wish for sunshine on the way down. Turns out it was a lucky sort of penny, and by the time we’d made it back to the hotel, the intermittent drizzle had given way to the threat of sunshine. We made the most of the break in the weather and spent a few hours playing on the beach at the hotel. The boys and I even went for a little canoe ride — a much calmer and shorter tour than our last canoe trip!

The next day promised yet more rain, so we opted for some indoor adventures. We headed to Avalanche Adventures, which promised indoor and outdoor mini-golf as well as inflatable bouncy houses, a climbing wall and indoor “caverns” for exploring.


Kids (of all ages) had a great time!


The intermittent drizzle continued through the afternoon, but the big boys had fun with a hotel-sponsored “make yer own tie-dye t-shirt” craft while Lucas napped in his car seat in the bathroom with the exhaust fan on and Brooke chose Granny’s lap for a snooze.


We rounded out the afternoon with some shopping on Main Street. Beloved was delighted with the candy store, the kids bought new Webkinz, and I indulged in the Gap outlet store. Ah, nothing like a little retail therapy to shelter your soul from the thunderstorms.

We had great luck with dinners in Lake Placid as well. Aside from the fact that the woman in the little pizza joint we walked into on the first night snickered as if we were joking when we asked for a table for eleven, we had great service and great food the whole trip. If you go, you simply must try The Lake Placid Pub and Brewery on Mirror Lake Drive. Best nachos I’ve ever had, bar none! My only regret is that I didn’t get the chance to try their house specialty, make-yer-own ‘smores served right at your table. And for lunch, you simply can’t beat the sandwiches and the friendly service at the Saranac Sourdough Bakery. If we’d found them earlier, I would have eaten there every day. They have a home-made slaw with zucchini and other fresh veggies that’s making my mouth water just remembering it! In a lull, the owner wandered out from behind the counter and was nice enough to comment on how well-behaved the boys were — something I desperately needed to hear at that point. She mustn’t have been looking when Simon spilled his lemonade all over the table.

Next up — the trip home, by way of the North Pole…


We chose Lake Placid as our extended-family vacation destination because my parents have enjoyed visits there the past two summers. On their recommendation we booked rooms at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. Fantastic hotel! It couldn’t be more convenient, or more picturesque, and the staff are friendly and helpful. It’s in the heart of Lake Placid, with the main drag on one side and the Olympic Centre just a few steps away on the other side.

The best part, though, is that it backs onto Mirror Lake, and the first-floor rooms all have walk-out access to the grassy yard, mere steps to a white, sandy beach with roped off swimming area. They also have free peddle-boats and canoes, and a family of resident ducks and fuzzy ducklings.


(I was particularly fond of the yellow duckling, which struck me as the “ugly duckling” from the story. We kept speculating on why he was yellow when his nest-mates were mottled brown, and then wondered why cartoon and stuffie ducklings are always yellow when most ducklings are not. Such are the pressing issues of a well-spent vacation!)

We stayed in one of their specialty “fireplace rooms,” (scroll down to the “Whiteface”) which gave us two queen-sized beds and a little sitting area with a pull-out sofa and armchair arranged around a fireplace. There’s a glass door that walks out to a small private patio, and the lake is maybe 50 feet away. They also have an indoor pool with two hot tubs and a sectioned-off baby pool. I can’t tell you how much I already miss our after-dinner swim!

This is the back of the hotel and the beach (the sun is shining because it’s our last day and we are just about to leave!):


And the view. The view!! The only good thing I have to say about three days of rain is that when it lets up just as the sun is setting, you can get some pretty spectacular sunset photos. One of my favourite memories of Lake Placid is prowling around the beach after dinner, chasing gorgeous shots with my Nikon. Like these:




I’m already planning our return visit in my head.

Next, out and about in Lake Placid with five kids under seven…


Just got back from four days with my extended family in Lake Placid, New York. We went with my parents and my brother and his wife and their two kids. It was a — hmm, what’s the word I’m looking for? It was a memorable vacation. For a few of the right reasons, and a few too many of the wrong reasons.

This was our drive down to Lake Placid:

  • A stomach virus has been working it’s way through the family in the days leading up to the vacation. It comprises fever and wickedly painful stomach cramps with serious diarrhea. The morning we leave, one of the boys leaks through his underwear and leaves a poop stain on my 10-day old couch. We stop at a drug store on the way out of town to buy some overnight (thus oversized) pull-ups for the four hour drive. Just in case.
  • The weather forecast is for rain, rain, rain, and then for a change of pace, rain. The skies are grey and heavy with complaint as we leave town.
  • We’re not even out of the city limits of Ottawa when my iPod seizes up. The one I bought to replace the one that was stolen. Seriously, Steve Jobs must hate me or something.
  • We make it across the border okay, and begin to follow Google Maps’ instructions. It tells us to turn left and go east when my intuition tells us we should be turning right and going west, but we follow it because we have no other directions. After another turn, I ask Beloved if it feels to him like we’re doubling back. After about 20 minutes, it tells us to take a non-existent right turn. We follow the tiny county road we’re on, hoping to stumble out onto a main route that’s marked on my four-state New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine map left over from last summer. After another half hour of increasingly agitated driving, we spill out onto Route 37, and two minutes later we’re once again at the bridge where we crossed over from Canada an hour before. We’ve just done an hour-long circle.
  • By the time we stop and buy a new, more detailed map and get on our way, Lucas is starting to get fidgety in his car seat. He cries for the best part of the next two hours, but by this time we’re into Adirondack State Park and there are precious few spaces to stop.
  • He finally cries himself to sleep after reaching a fever-pitch of hysteria. About twenty minutes later, barely enough time for me to unclench my jaws, I am greeted by the sounds of retching from the back seat. Simon, always a tad motion sensitive, has awoken from a nap and the twisting and dipping mountain roads have unsettled his stomach. He barfs all over himself, the back seat, his backpack full of car diversions and his new Webkinz.
  • As I’m cleaning out the back seat, I notice that we’ve pulled over beside a lovely little bay. At first, I think “At least the boys have some nice scenery to look at while I clean up the barf.” I quickly realize that it’s not so much a lovely little bay as a bug-infested swamp. Biting bugs.
  • Props to the Huggies people: diaper wipes do an admirable job of cleaning up barfy back seats. Note to the Dodge Caravan people: you might want to consider some sort of leak-proofing system for the back seat, so liquids spilled (or barfed) into the back seat don’t leak into the trunk. I’m just sayin’. And I’m sending the bill for the detailing of my van to the Google people. If not for the one-hour detour, we’d’ve been in Lake Placid by the time Simon lost his lunch.
  • We’re finally on the home stretch about 15 miles out of Lake Placid when traffic comes to a dead halt. We don’t move for about 45 minutes. We’ll find out later that a traffic accident has stopped traffic in both directions.
  • While we’re stuck in traffic, I call ahead to my folks to let them know we’ve been delayed. We find out that the people occupying the first-floor walk-out-to-the-beach room we have reserved have failed to leave, and for the first night of our three-night stay, we’ll have to stay on the second floor.
  • We finally pull into Lake Placid a little more than six hours after we left Ottawa, two hours longer than the trip should have taken.

That was the worst of it. Thank goodness! More to come…


Weighty matters

by DaniGirl on July 23, 2008 · 16 comments

in It IS all about me

And yet another reason why I don’t come out and play in blogland much these days: I’m spending four or five hours a week at the gym.

Sigh. I’m almost six months post-partum, and I still have 20 lbs to lose. That’s 20 to get to my pre-pregnancy weight, and another 10 lbs after that would be ideal. But I’m not so much looking at the scale for validation, I just want to fit into the clothes I used to wear and not have those awful folds of back fat anymore. Ick!

I didn’t do too badly with the pregnancy weight, I guess. I lost track at the end, but I think I gained 40 to 50 lbs overall. I’m surprised at how hard it is to get rid of what’s left, though. Yet another way in which the breastfeeding thing isn’t quite working out like I planned this time around!

I’ve finally started to see some results from my three-day-a-week gym habit, but the going is still slow. I started with weights two days a week and a 45 minute cardio on the third day back at the end of June, thanks to Beloved being home and able to take care of the boys. I’ve managed to reclaim one pair of shorts that were too tight for public consumption on Canada Day that are now just a little bit uncomfortable now.

Funny, though, rather than feeling energized by all the working out, I’m feeling so drained all the time lately. Makes it hard to keep as active as I’d like to be, let alone active enough to chase after the boys!

My cousin has recommended a doctor here in Ottawa who specializes in weight loss (no, not “Dr” Bernstein) and I think I’ll check him out after our vacation. For $100 you get a 60 to 90 minute consultation and body analysis, and you go for weekly or biweekly follow-up appointments at $15 each. Cheaper than weight-watchers, which never worked for me anyway, and with a real GP supervising. It’s about time I learned how to eat properly once and for all, because I really think that’s the root of my ongoing weight issues.

Because it feels like I’m always at the gym these days, I keep looking at myself in the mirror, expecting the fat to just me melting off visibly. Even though that isn’t quite happening it does feel great to be going to the gym every other day. At least I can feel those neglected muscles growing — under the protective layer of fat!


Five-thousand pages in: Stephen King’s Dark Tower books

21 July 2008 10-pages-in

Once upon a time, I used to write 10-pages-in book reviews. I haven’t written one in a very long time, and a large part of the reason for that is that I’ve spent the last six months immersed in the seven books that comprise Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series. I got the first four […]

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Two reactions

19 July 2008 Baby days

I’m not overly shy about breastfeeding in public, but I’m also not very good about being discreet. I have to be able to see what I’m doing, yanno? Even so, through two and a half boys worth of nursing wherever I had to do it, I never really had any reactions that I’d noticed. Mostly […]

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My dufus-savants

15 July 2008 Ah, me boys

I know, the term is officially “idiot savants.” They’re not quite idiots, my boys. They’re plenty smart, they’re just not overly clever sometimes. Dufus seems about the right term for someone who walks out of a public washroom with a vaguely puzzled look on his face and asks, completely lacking in guile, “Did I have […]

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The summer of my life

14 July 2008 It IS all about me

I’ve been thinking about my greatest summer hits. In chronological order, I think these are the best five summers of my life. 1987. I’m seventeen years old. I’m working part time selling magazine subscriptions by telephone, but my hours are 5 to 9 pm, so my days are free. My folks have a little 16 […]

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