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Archive for May, 2008

Toronto is ~80 miles from Niagara falls. Much of the drive was uneventful, but closer to Toronto, the Gardiner Expressway was PACKED and was down to a crawl, even on a Sunday. I found the last 15 miles the most painful – took almost 40 minutes for this stretch! Our hotel was right in downtown (it is PK’s insistence that we stay in downtown in most big cities we visit).

Our plan for the day was to visit the Toronto Islands and do some biking over there and see the rest of the city the next day.From the top of the CN tower But the timing, weather forecast, fatigue etc called for some change of plans. We decided to go see the CN tower. So, after lunch, we started walking there. It was a good 40 minute walk! Kids who live in the suburbs are not used to this. It is not like AK is not physically active – he does a lot of hiking, biking, sports etc, but just walking in the city to get to a place is new to him. He whined a bit, but we goaded him on, trying to get him excited about the trip to the top. The lines for the elevator were long and we probably waited for about 45 minutes for our turn. The guide book had mentioned that on summer weekends, it could be a 2 hour wait, so I can’t complain too much. There were some kids in the line who seemed to be scared at the prospect of going up. It was a clear and sunny day and the views from the top were absolutely gorgeous. Then, we headed to the glass floors section. A small section of the floors of the observation deck have been made of glass. Apparently it can withstand the weight of 14 large hippos, so they assure you not to worry and even jump up and down on it, if you can handle it. Even though I don’t have a fear of heights, I muGlass floorst say that this part was a bit scary, initially at least. This is also one of the most crowded places, with many people just not wanting to leave. We didn’t go to the highest level, the Skypod, since that was extra money. The walk back seemed never ending, even though there was a break for dinner. The kids wanted pizza. The main street in downtown is YongeSt, which is lined witha ton of eateries. The side walks were very crowded with a lot of pedestrian traffic. The Yonge St Square, near Eaton center had a live band playing and the water fountains were on, so we hung around a bit.

Next day’s agenda was Toronto Islands. But the morning started off very damp and the forecast didn’t look encouraging either. But it did say it would clear up by afternoon, so we decided to while away the morning. Hoping to get some Indian food in Little India, we rode the subway there. This was the highlight of AK’s trip so far (goes to show how often we go to Boston, he doesn’t remember riding the T there). It was a wasted trip. First of all, the shops and restaurants open around noon time and it was barely 10.30 am when we reached there. And I wasn’t desperate enough to hang around till noon. So, we turned right back. We exited the subway into a mall, had lunch at the food court and back to the hotel.  After a short nap, weather still didn’t look any better, but we were headed back home the next day, so considering that we had lugged bicycles all the way, I was determined to go. The ferry dock in the harbor was probably 2 miles from our hotel, but parking would have been very hard to find and very expensive. So we decided to bike it up all the way. Our only hesitation was that the streets were crowded and we have never ridden anywhere outside of designated bike trails in state and national parks, so this was very different. We decided to take a longer, less crowded path, but it was still a “stop and Toronto Skylinego” ride since we had to stop at the lights at every block. And at some point, we had to join the busy streets which led to the harbor and it was evening rush hour, but we finally made it there in about 1/2 hr. We caught the 4.45 pm ferry to Central Island. It was a short 15 minute ride with great views of downtown. The islands themselves are heaven. I don’t know if it was because it was past 5 pm or what, it was practically deserted. There’s miles and miles of park/greenery with lots of picnic tables, drinking water etc. Very clean and well maintained. And its free, except for the nominal ferry fare. I couldn’t have imagined such a serene place right across from such a big, crowded city. We rode our bikes (PK on rollerblades) for about 1.5 hours. We first went left to Hanlan’s point. Great views of the city from here. From there we went all the way to the other end of the islands – Ward’s island. The only downside of going that late in the day was all the cafes and eateries were closed. Not to worry, we had our PBJ sandwiches and had a picnic dinner at Ward’s Island. We took the 7.45 pm ferry back into the city. I was dreading the ride back to the hotel for three reasons – by now, my legs were tired, then there was the stop and go thing and the third was that the return back would be slightly more uphill. We somehow made it back – I could see the others were tired too.

The next morning was pretty chilly, so we abandoned plans for any more sightseeing. We anyway had a long drive back, so we decided to just hit the road. We started @ 9 am. 10 hours and 2 stops later, we were home by 6.45 pm. It was PK’sbirthday and I felt sorry for him – he spent most of the day driving and had a terrible lunch at one of the fast food places in the service areas. But friends visited in the evening with cake and some drinks, which was nice, and the kids had a blast. They were surprised at how calm, pleasant and energetic our kids were after spending most of the day in the car. And the fact that we made such few stops each way.

So, may be we are all ready for the cross-country drive PK and I have talked about!

 

 

 

 

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Last weekend we went on a 4 day road trip to Niagara falls and Toronto. Basically AK had been asking for a while to go see the falls, but I wasn’t so keen since we have been there too many times and it is such a long drive (~8 hrs), but he was persistent.

We started around 7.45 am with the car crammed with bicycles, roller blades, tons of food, snacks and drinks.  After filling up for $3.89/gallon, we hit the road. We bought a portable DVD player in preparation for the trip, but even then I was actually dreading the ~450 mile drive. But the kids did amazingly well. The first stop was around noon for a second tank fillup. Since we had snacked so much through out, no one was ready for lunch. The service areas on Interstate 90 in New York are AWESOME! The rest rooms were clean (I have a phobia of public restrooms. My kids are troopers too and can go upto 6 hrs without needing to go, so I’ve been lucky!), fast food selection was decent,  good picnic benches to eat any home brought food and best of all, they had free Wi-fi access. I remember taking my parents on the same trip ~ 7 yrs ago and my dad was so impressed with these rest areas. Around 2 pm, we were approaching Buffalo and road signs indicated about 30-45 minutes wait at the border crossings. So, we made a quick lunch stop, and another Walmart stop in Niagara Falls for some essentials we forgot, and we were at Rainbow bridge @ 3.30 pm. Took us ~45 min to get through the border post. This was our first visit to the Canadian side here. The great planner that I am, I didn’t take either the address or the phone number of the hotel we were staying. After holding for Expedia on the phone for several minutes and struggling to get the required info over poor cell signals, we were finally checked into the hotel by 4.45 pm! The kids had watched only one movie (cars) and had done so good for the rest of the drive – no whines or fights. I was pretty thrilled.

Rainbow

We set out in the evening to see the falls lit at night. When we arrived there around 6.30, we were treated to beautiful views of a rainbow (the picture does not do it justice). The spray from the falls were drenching us and SK was cold. We walked around a bit. I didn’t like the Clifton Hill area at all. It was too touristy, almost like Las Vegas – too visually distracting and loud. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked my visits to Vegas, but this is too artificial, especially in a place where the main attraction is a wonder of nature! We soon realized it would be past 8.30 for sunset and the lights to come on. Everyone was tired, so we decided to skip it and went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Horseshoe falls

The next morning we went back for the boat ride into the falls. We were early, so thankfully there were no long lines and we walked right through. We also found good spots on the boat. But when you get closer to the falls, you get so drenched, it is almost impossible to keep the eyes open, so I don’t remember seeing the falls up close from any of my boat rides. The kids enjoyed it. AK was even paying attention to the commentary on-board and excitedly told me the height and volume of water flowing. We were all done by 10 am. We had some coffee, croissants and bagels (second round of breakfast!) at the ubiquitous Tim Hortons and started our drive to Toronto.

 

 

 

 

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Two recent events have left me wondering if I’m the aggressive, Type A mom. I hope not, at least that is not my intention.

Few weeks ago, AK had his second recital. For the opening piece, there was a high-schooler who played the Fur Elise. She was sooo good, if I hadn’t seen her, I probably would have assumed it was a record playing somewhere. AK did his pieces pretty well and we did let him know that we were happy and proud of him. Two days later, when we were hanging around I just asked him if he remembered how well that girl had played (I can’t remember if this when I asked him to go practice his music). Honestly, I only said it in the hope that he would feel inspired to be as good one day. I know better than to compare a 16 yr old who has learnt piano for 10 yrs with a 7 year old who has taken lessons for less than 10 months. His response was, “Even I played good. Remember Ms K said that it wasn’t a competition and we should just have fun?” (which Ms K, the music teacher had, at the beginning of the program).

AK’s school has a reading incentive program where in they read regularly for specific amounts of time (20 minutes for first grade) and do some book keeping (cross out a book from a pre-printed sheet for every 20 minutes read), and redeem a sheet (10 books per sheet) for a small prize (like a pencil, eraser, sharpener etc). If they turn in at least 10 such sheets by the end of the school year, they get a medal in a small ceremony. So, today I got the invitation letter for that ceremony. I asked and found out that he had turned in 15 sheets. Just out of idle curiosity, I asked him about a few other kids in his class and many had turned in over > 20 sheets. I don’t know if my face showed disappointment, tears formed in his eyes. “Why do you always think I’m not good enough or others are better?”. I was shocked. I apologized profusely and pointed out to him that he has been reading regularly, only he has stopped the book keeping once he comfortably passed the requirement for the medal (~2 months ago). He felt much better and surmised that he probably had done 20 sheets too.

My dilemma is, how to instill a sense of good, healthy competition in the kid without making him feel inadequate?

 

 

 

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A trip to the circus

Yesterday, we all went to see “the greatest show on earth“. It was awesome! We had seen it two years ago too, but I don’t remember being this impressed (May be the sleepless nights with a 6 month old or whatever). This time was different. The kids had fun too, but I guess I enjoyed it most of all. When we left, I was feeling so hyper, but the kids were really tired and sleepy (thankfully not cranky). They enjoyed the animal shows the best – tigers, elephants, zebras etc. There were some cute tricks by poodles – back flips which got progressively faster, it was unbelievable. SK was too young to appreciate the tight-rope walkers and the trapeze artists, but at those times she would just curiously look around the audience and keep herself entertained. If only the had made the cotton candy more affordable, it would have been a perfect evening.

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