Immediately after Elizabeth was finished school, we left to go camping. That was the theory, at least. Intentions to arrive early were further foiled when we failed to follow our own instructions. I typed Lac Lapêche, Gatineau into Google maps on my computer when sending out instructions in the first place. I didn't bother to check the destination when selecting the same thing on my phone. Lesson learned. (Hopefully)
We knew we were in the wrong place after we passed a clearing with a giant cross and shrine to the virgin Mary but by that point we'd been on a rather rocky single lane "road" for quite a number of minutes and we had nowhere to turn around. That was also when I discovered this part of Gatineau has no cell service or 3G. Our detour added an extra hour to our trip!
We were further perturbed to arrive and discover that ALL gear had to be carried up and down a rather steep hill from the parking lot to the campsite. There is a path, but only the staff get to drive on it for some reason. Not as advertised! Mind you, there seemed to be quite a number of minor confusions and discrepancies. Like how much we had to pay for wood (A1. $80/quarter cord or A2. 5.75 for a bag or what ended up happening: $5.75 for an unlimited amount) Or how much we had to pay for parking (A1. $11/car A2. Four free cars, plus any cars after six also free, everyone else $11/car or what actually ended up happening: no one paid for parking)
If you are counting, we survived camping with 11 kids, 9 of them four and under including Yume (1), Matthew (not quite 6mo) and Isabelle (3 weeks). Xander (nearly 2) was surprisingly helpful with all the carting gear up and down - totally put the seven year olds to shame. Grandma and Grandpa didn't stay overnight but we were so pleased they were able to come for supper.
There were a number of firsts this weekend: First time camping (5 people), first time canoeing (3 people), first time holding sparklers (unknown but terrifying!), first time I've been camping with someone that had to have their hair cut out of the tent zipper (2 people), first time I've ever unzipped my tent to ask someone to please stop shining their $!@#$ flashlight into my eyes (it was the moon).
The kids were very quiet overnight considering their ages. Except Matthew, who wanted to nurse frequently and wet himself as often as you might expect as a result. With the temperatures dipping below 10C, there was a certain amount of screaming associated with removal from warm bed and freezing cold prefolds applied to bare bum. Xander was up first as usual at 5:30am. The rest of us lurched into consciousness as various wee ones demanded breakfast. The whole camp was up and breakfasted by 8 (!)
There were copious quantities of goose poo near the shore, swarming mosquitos at dusk and sunburns pretty much all around. But also a choir of frogs and loons, mist on the lake in the morning, a gorgeous view, and great company. We had a wonderful time.
Elizabeth wants to go camping again as soon as we get back from the cottage.
Today was the last day of Elizabeth's "Je d'école" program. Intended to help kids transition to full day french.
Every day, Elizabeth came home speaking a little more French. We noticed a remarkable increase in the complexity of sentence structure used and increased vocabulary over the course of the program.
She was excited to go to school, but turned into a clingy limpet as soon as I tried to head out the door. There was a schedule in pictures on the wall which we looked at and that seemed to help. The second or third day was particularly bad with her wrapping her fingers painfully around my hair and hanging on so that I couldn't leave while crying that she wanted to go home, she'd go back to bed and be quiet if only I would let her come. Of course I was late for a meeting that day so I extricated myself and had teacher Simon hold her to make my getaway. Definitely a low moment, although at home that night she boasted she hadn't cried at all to Daddy! By the end of the five weeks that seemed to be true. She never wanted to go home at the end of the day either. Sometimes on the way home she cried and demanded to go back to school. I found it helped if I promised to wait a few minutes on the stairs - apparently not knowing when I was leaving exactly helped her "decide to be happy".
We were encouraged by her reports of having "too much fun". There was playdough, crafts and paint. Gym time as usual was a particular highlight. Turns out they have plasma cars at her school. One day she excitedly came home with news that she got to move the DUCK! We eventually figured out this was a marker on the schedule in pictures.
The first week she made a new friend every day (and she kept count). This is probably some kind of developmental milestone, because until now she has always referred to all kids that she meets as her friends whether she has made eye contact with them or not. Now she distinguishes between friends and kids who aren't her friends yet using some mysterious criteria not shared by or unduly influenced by parents. "Want to know the way I made friends with Shaunessy, Mommy?" she asked one day "She helped me put on a butterfly costume! Then we were friends."
The two teachers Simon and Marie Pier were fantastic. Elizabeth talked about them at home a lot, especially Simon who had an extremely big collection of hats and tails. We worked hard to get Elizabeth to tell us about her day after school with varying degrees of success. Over the course of the program she did seem to slowly get better at telling us about her day and what she did. Overall we would say that the program was a great success and that we are very grateful that such a program is available. We were sort of dreading the transition to full day school, but now feel that this was really the missing link. Elizabeth certainly both learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed herself.
You've probably noticed that I enjoy celebrating the seasons (especially if it involves cute and/or tasty food). Usually I stick to liturgical holidays but I didn't get to make a bûche de Noël this year and I'm still feeling deprived.
Or maybe I was just inexplicably in the mood for Christmas carols... In any case I got up at 5am to wrap cucumbers in nori and generally had way too much fun.
Matthew learned about grass for the first time. Elizabeth brought him all kinds of things to look at. He was fascinated! Then we went to the park in our "dear little wagon". Matthew sits well enough that he could ride too. He fell asleep on Elizabeth's lap on the way home. Heart melting to see her gently patting his head.
I mentioned that Elizabeth is starting to include Matthew in her play in lieu of stuffies. Here he is taking the role of "doctor". She has since had him be the patient, because the doctor shouldn't eat his stethoscope!
Yukiko and I took the girls (and Matthew) to Cosmic Adventures.
The last time the cousins went together was in 2009! Maria was still in utero and Elizabeth was 2 months old. I spent the whole time crawling in the tunnels with Erika. We went again when Elizabeth was 11 months old but it was so traumatic for this slightly germ phobic mom that we haven't been since.
I'm happy to report that there was no vomit this time. It wasn't super busy but it's still a rather intense experience. Elizabeth and Maria weren't quite sure about the big tunnels full of shrieking pushy strangers so Yukiko and I ended up taking it in turns to crawl through the tunnels with the kids. Matthew even made it up the tunnels with Mommy at one point to watch them going up and down the slides.
Elizabeth really enjoyed herself, but I was exhausted afterwards!