Category Archives: adventures

Halloween

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Tristan in his dragon, last year.

Last year Halloween was pretty chill. We’d just moved the week before, so we were too busy unpacking to even thick about decorations. My friend Shelley had bought Tristan an awesome dragon “jogging suit”, which he loved, so he wore that. We went to the mall for “trick or treating”, then in the evening Nathan took him just to the immediate neighbours to introduce ourselves. I ate all the candy, and that was that.

P1100222This year was quite different. We’d been talking about Halloween for a while, and he’d done lots of Halloween crafts and activities in preschool. He knew all about candy, pumpkins, and costumes, and was keen to try trick-or-treating. Luckily for me, he insisted on wearing the dragon again.

Loooong line at Galey Farms

Loooong line at Galey Farms

Probably the most exciting thing about Halloween for him was all the train rides. The Saanich Historical Society, the Forestry Museum in Duncan, and Galey Farms all had special Halloween rides – it was a bit of a scheduling challenge to fit them all in. Tristan loved all of them, despite the crowds, long lines, and mayhem. Probably the highlight for him was the one in Saanich, because it had lots of ghosties and three singing pumpkins.

20131020_125005Tristan was also super keen to carve a pumpkin this year. We picked through the very mouldy crop at Galey, and came up with a few that we thought would hold out until Halloween. I didn’t get any pics of our pumpkin, alas, and we smashed it up today, but it was a lovely smiley face that Tristan chose, and he helped scoop out all the guts.

P1100211We invited Aunty Melissa over for trick-or-treating, and it was a good thing we did. Turns out wrangling a costumed kid, a pumpkin treat bag, and a flashlight is a two-woman operation. Nathan stayed home with Cora, our little superbaby.

Tristan was braver for trick-or-treating than I expected. He boldly went up to every house and gave a very firm double-pound on the door. His usually didn’t need to be prompted to say trick or treat, though he did so in a very small voice. He also almost always said thank you, though that usually did need some reminding. He was very keen on any house that had pumpkins or ghosties, and very hesitant about any decoration that looked like it might sing or laugh.

P1100208Alas, no pics or video of trick-or-treating; even with Melissa’s help there weren’t enough hands. But a good time was had by all. He’s been sad to see all the ghosties in the neighbourhood go, but is glad that the next big holiday is Christmas. Because, as he told us the other day, he will be happy at Christmas.

Destination Texas – End of Days

Sunrise – by Nathan

We had high hopes for Wednesday – Tristan really likes boats, so we wanted to take a harbour tour in Galveston. We checked the website, phoned the night before and listened to their hours/rates, and everything seemed to be a go. So that morning, Nathan went early to search for his Seaside Sparrows and Boat-tailed Grackle (both of which are supposed to be common), and came back skunked, but with plenty of time to make the boat. We decided at the last minute to phone again, and good thing we did. The boat was reserved for a school group, so no trip that day.

Enjoying the beach by our hotel

Instead we decided to go to the beach, but it turned out to be too cold and windy, and there was no playground, though we’d been told there was one. Finally, in desperation to do something fun with Tristan, we decided to take the ferry off the island to Port Bolivar. After a few wrong turns, we finally found it , and were pleased to discover that it was free!

Looking at dolphins on the ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula

Tristan enjoyed the ride very much, as did Nathan and I, mostly because there were lots of Bottlenose Dolphins galavanting in the bay. I’m not sure if Tristan was actually able see the dolphins, but he seemed to like practicing pointing at things. And he definitely liked getting the sea spray in his face.

Hi! 🙂

On the other side, we went for a short drive, again in search of the elusive sparrows. Nathan had his eyes in his scope the whole time, but Tristan was happy to run around in the sand again. I thought that here he was saying hi, but maybe he was trying to get our attention because he’d seen them.

Ugh – more birding. I’ll just collapse here.

Those gorillas are very interesting, but I’ll hang onto your hand just in case.

After a record 3-hour nap, Tristan got up just in time for dinner. We decided to try out the Rainforest Cafe – a jungle-themed restaurant with animatronic animals. Tristan was absolutely entranced with the moving gorillas and elephants, though he did like to hold hands when the storm came and everybody started making noise.

Jungle Boy

Sunrise – by Angie

Thursday morning, I got up early to enjoy the sunrise on the beach. Nathan then ran out for his final try at his two birds, and managed to bag the sparrow. The grackle, alas, never deigned to show his mighty boat tail.

Seaside Sparrow habitat at Galviston Island State Park

Enjoying a ride on the luggage trolly.

We then bid a mixed farewell to Galveston. It was a lovely town, but a lot of what we wanted to do was closed for the season, or just due to bad luck. We had one more destination left – just north of Houston was a park Nathan wanted to see, in order to see his last few hopeful lifers. We drove the morning and got to our hotel, right near the park, in time for T’s nap. Nathan decided to go scope out the park so that we’d know exactly where to go in the morning. Can you guess what happened? After his bad luck in Galveston, he managed to get all three lifers in the park in about 2 hours, during his “recon” mission. That brought his lifer count up to 12 – which was 3 fewer than he’d hoped for.

Hermann Park

That freed us up on Friday, our last full day, to do something fun with Tristan. We headed back into Houston to Hermann Park, which advertised a big playground, a train, and paddleboats. Tristan was very happy to run around in the park, despite the lack of other children. Seems they were all in school or something.

Fun times on the train in Houston

The train was a big hit, even more so than usual. He cried when we got off, and was only eventually consoled by lunch. We then took a ride on the paddleboat, which he wasn’t too sure about. But we eventually found a fountain to paddle by, and he loved playing “sprinkle face” – which basically entailed moving into the wind spray of the fountain until we all go sprinkled.

Tristan concentrating very hard while watching “Cars” in the car.

After that, it was a long 4 hour drive back to San Antonio, where we would fly out the next morning. Tristan slept through much of it, then we kept him happy by watching some movies. We’d already finished Finding Nemo, we moved on to Cars, which turned out to be not as popular. What can I say, he’s the son of biologists, and so far Finding Nemo and Rio are his favorites.

Saturday was a day of many plane rides. We had a verrrry early morning, then 3 flights. Tristan, as always, was a champ, and managed to keep a smile on his face most of the time, by reminding himself that Gramma would be picking us up in Victoria (Bama Bama Bama!). So, all in all, a great trip, but we’re all glad to be home.

Nathan’s total Texas bird list: 155
Nathan’s lifers: 12
Angie’s lifers: 17

Destination Texas: Days 10 – 11

Monday dawned cool for the first time in our trip – we were shocked when we went outside to load the car and found that we needed to put on warmer clothes. Though we had less than two hours to Galveston, Tristan was quite grumpy during the car ride – I think he’s getting tired of all the time in the carseat. Because our rented car is a crossover/small SUV (Chevy Captiva), and because the carseat is a lower model than ours at home, it means that Tristan can’t see out the window very well, except for the sky. Also, the carseat is behind the passenger seat, instead of in the middle, so he really has no view. It must get pretty boring back there.

Fortunately Nathan planned ahead and found a playground half-way to Galveston, so we stopped there for a while. Then, when we finally arrived in town, we found our hotel had a heated indoor pool (thank goodness! The outside pool in McAllen had been somewhat too refreshing), so we enjoyed that before lunch. Fortunately, this hotel has a little sitting area, so there’s a half-wall partition between our bed and where his playpen is set up. It makes naps and bedtimes a little easier.

Background to next part – one of Tristan’s souvenirs is a barn owl that makes a hissing noise when you press his belly (apparently they don’t hoot, they hiss). Tristan can’t press the button by himself, but likes to hiss back at the owl when we do it for him. Today, when we put him down for his nap, he tossed and turned for a while. After a few minutes, we heard the owl hiss – he must have rolled over onto it. Then we heard him hissing back to it, and had to struggle not to laugh.

Recreation of the owl incident.

A moment later, the owl was still hissing, and we looked over towards the playpen. The barn owl was marching back and forth behind the partition, as Tristan hissed enthusiastically. It was utterly hilarious, and Nathan and I totally cracked up. We walked around to see Tristan standing up, holding the owl up, hissing and grinning and looking mighty pleased with himself. I wish we had a video of it – it was so funny that we had hysterics again just thinking about it later that night.

Sunset at the beach in front of our hotel

After his very delayed nap, we wandered out to the beach in front of the hotel, but it was getting dark by then. Tristan didn’t enjoy the beach as much, mostly because it was so cold. We did walk the nearby pier to check out the view, and mightily enjoyed watching the guy in front of us get soaked by a rogue wave.

Tristan waving goodbye to the toad sculpture

Tuesday morning was still cold – it seems the warm temps of last week were an unseasonably warm spell for Texas, so we’re lucky we had it at all. We decided to check out downtown, and some of the old houses in the area. We found a walking tour that highlights some of the oak sculptures of the neighbourhood. In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, and killed many of the old oaks in the town. In an attempt to create beauty from the devastation, many of the homeowners had the remaining stumps carved by local chainsaw artists. Tristan enjoyed finding the sculptures, especially the animal ones.

Herons sculpture

Squirrel sculpture

The curbs and sidewalks in Galveston leave much to be desired.

Unfortunately, the sidewalks seem not to have been repaired since the hurricane, so pushing him in the stroller was a challenge. It was a bit better on the main drag, where we went next to do a little souvenir shopping. We also found a chocolate shop/ice cream store, and despite the cold weather, had to enjoy a homemade apple pie ice cream cone.

In the afternoon we found a playground to run around in, then went out for our first (finally!) Texas BBQ dinner. Leon’s Finest Texas BBQ was indeed mighty fine – especially the North Carolina Chip BBQ. Even Tristan liked that one! We topped off the evening with a hilarious bath – for once he wanted water poured over his head, and he was signing “more” so vigorously that I was afraid he’d bruise his knuckles. We then got all cozy (dozy dozy!) and snuggled up together to watch some Finding Nemo. Tristan particularly liked the turtles. 🙂

Nathan’s Texas bird count: 130
Nathan’s lifers: 7
Angie’s lifers: 17

Destination Texas: Days 8 and 9

Saturday morning we decided to head into Corpus Christi to go to the botanical gardens. Unfortunately, the weather was quite hazy and cloudy, and not so good for photography. Which was fine with Tristan, as he didn’t want to prolong the 45 minute drive any more than necessary.

The botanical gardens were pretty cool, quite different than I expected. It was small, but had many very interesting and beautiful displays of different types of plants. Tristan liked smelling the flowers quite a bit, and running around like a crazy person. There was also a small playground, which suited him nicely. The plumeria exhibit was in the process of being trimmed, so most of the leaves were gone, but Bama was right, their scent is lovely!

After a quick lunch, Tristan fell asleep, so we decided to take the scenic route home, around Corpus Christi Bay. We had lots of big bridges to go over, which always pleases me, and some great views of the very flat saltpan landscape. After a very short ferry ride (about 5 minutes, but we saw dolphins!) we were back in Port Aransas, where Tristan finally woke up.

He was pretty grumpy until he found out we were at the beach. Then he had a great time for almost 2 hours. First he got totally soaked in the big surf, then he found a sand dune and rolled around in it, ensuring he was filthy from head to toe. We had to pour a water bottle over his face to get the sand out of his eyes, then strip him down before we could even put him in the car. Fortunately, he didn’t pee all over the carseat during the 10 minute drive back to the hotel.

The next morning we availed ourselves of the free continental breakfast (which always includes waffles in Texas), then decamped and headed north. Nathan had high hopes for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a few hours away. We took  our time getting there, and stopped on Goose Island to see the Big Tree – an oak over 1000 years old. It was cool, but nothing compared to big trees at home. At least it grew straight, unlike most of the other oaks we saw in the area, which were severely affected by the strong winds coming off the Gulf.

Alas, Aransas NWR was a bit of a bust. Lots of nice trails, but all the viewing platforms and boardwalks were off limits because they “weren’t up to code”. All the wetlands were dry, and the forests were very quiet. We hoped to see Whooping Cranes, as this is where they winter, but no luck. In fact, no lifers were to be had here at all. Lots of mosquitoes, though.

Disappointed, we continued north. We hoped to make it all the way to Galveston while Tristan slept, but again, we forgot to let him in on the plan. So we stopped for the night in Bay City, where he ran around the hotel for ages before he had enough wiggles out to finally go to bed.

Nathan’s Texas bird count: about 117

Destination Texas: Days 5-7

On Wednesday morning, Nathan left dark and early to head out to Bentsen-Rio Park, in search of birds. Tristan and I had a fun morning planned out – we’d take the bus to north McAllen to a place called Bounce. They have a bunch of inflatable bouncy toys for kids to play on. Nathan would meet us there, we’d have lunch together, and he’d bring us back to the hotel.

Of course, it didn’t go as planned. The buses were more complicated than I thought, but we figured it out. Then we walked for a very hot couple of blocks to Bounce, only to find out that the website was out of date and they no longer opened until 1pm. And of course we had no way of contacting Nathan to tell him the plan had changed.

After walking for about 20 minutes in the broiling hot sun, and not finding a bus stop, we gave up. We had a quick ice cream at Walgreens, then took a cab back to the hotel.  Tristan was a champ and didn’t complain at all. We made up for it by having a swim in the pool at the hotel.  During his nap, Nathan ventured out to get Whataburger for us (seriously, that’s a chain here), and got lost, AGAIN. Even though it was only 2 blocks away. I could do a whole blog post on Nathan getting lost. But it would probably be funny only to me.

After Tristan’s nap, Nathan and I took him back to Bounce, only to find that they’d closed at 4pm (after the girl in the morning told me they were open until 6 that day), because they had no customers and had decided to clean the air ducts. Hopping mad by then, we cursed them with our gypsy magic, and went off to find a playground. At least Tristan got to run some of his wiggles out there, and enjoyed racing Nathan down the twisty slide.

Thursday we all got up early and headed to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It was a hot day, again, but windy, so not too bad for a long walk. The forest there is very dry, very different from what we have at home. At one point along the walk we were right on the banks of the Rio Grande, and across the river we were looking at Mexico.

We found a few lifers for each of us, but Nathan missed the Hook-billed Kite – the park’s specialty. Tristan did lots of walking and playing in the dirt, and got some free rides in the baby backpack. The scariest moment was when we were looking at some ducks, and he was sitting in the path, making dust castles. Suddenly he began to scream, and ran to us with his hands out. They were crawling with tiny black ants – each one biting his hands. We dropped everything to brush them off, and after a few minutes of trauma he stopped crying and was back to normal. We’re pretty sure they were just normal ants, and not fire ants, as the bites didn’t swell up and haven’t seemed to bother him after the initial trauma.

Friday was another travel day. Nathan got up early to have another shot at the kite, and Tristan and I had a bit of a sleep in, then a dip in the pool, and then we packed up. Then it was a long drive to the next town. We stopped after an hour to play in a playground and have lunch (mediocre Mexican food). Tristan then napped most of the way north to our next home – Port Aransas. It’s a small town on Mustang Island, near the bigger city of Corpus Christi. So far it’s lovely, and I look forward to taking some pictures – my camera batteries died just before things got really pretty. But I did manage to snap a pic of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher we saw while taking a detour to look in vain for wild Turkeys.

Nathan’s Texas list so far: not done yet today
Nathan’s lifers: 6
Angie’s lifers: 16

 

Destination Texas: Days 3 and 4

On Monday, we got up “early” and made our way north to the San Antonio Zoo. We were warned to go early, to avoid lines, but the zoo was pretty quiet, so we needent have worried. As usual with zoos, Tristan was happy to run around and glance at animals, but he doesn’t really get into it yet. There was also a 15 minute train ride through the beautiful Brackenridge Park, and he wore his serious face for the whole thing. But he seemed to like it, especially when it was over.

After coming home for nap, we played with his new animal zoo train set for a while, then headed out for dinner. We went back to the river to experience the romantic ambience of the River Walk at night. It was very beautiful, and we had some very tasty and relatively inexpensive Mexican food at Casa Rio. Tristan enjoyed his chicken wings, and pointing out all the passing barges. We took a few pics, but they’re all a bit blurry.

On Tuesday, we closed down shop in San Antonio and headed south. After an hour and a half or so, we arrived at Choke Canyon State Park. Nathan was hoping to find some wild turkeys, and a few other birds. We found the turkeys pretty quick, but the birding was slim. We were there at high noon, and it was bloody hot, and every sensible living thing was hunkered down in the shade.

The only exceptions were the butterflies. Texas is CRAZY with butterflies right now. I don’t know, maybe it’s an all year thing, but looking up in the sky at this park was like looking up into a heavy snowfall. The sky was thick with small butterflies. Putting my binoculars on them was like discovering the stars with bins the first time. You’re like, “Hey, there’s a lot of butterflies up there,” then you put your bins on them, and you’re like, “Holy Hell! There’s 1000 times more than I thought there was 10 seconds ago!” Unfortunately, trying to take photos of them just up in the sky like that is not possible for my old camera. Nathan got a few feeding on flowers.

We then headed south for 3 hours, to McAllen. Tristan was supposed to nap in the car, but I guess we forgot to tell him that. He got quite bored and tired and hungry and fussy, and ended up screaming. I finally jumped in the back with him and calmed him down by opening my computer and putting on Chuggington for a while. Thank goodness I loaded some on the computer!

We arrived at the hotel to find that our hotels.com reservation had told the hotel the wrong dates. So 25 minutes later, the very nice front desk staff got us sorted out, and we finally got into our room. Tristan ran around like a crazy person for 45 minutes or so, releasing the wiggles from the day. But after a quick dinner of leftovers and a quicker bath, he was out like a light. Hopefully he sleeps in tomorrow!

Nathan’s Texas bird count so far: 50
Nathan’s lifers: 2
Angie’s lifers: 7

Destination Texas: Days 1 and 2

A mere 14 months after our wedding, Nathan and I finally are able to go on our honeymoon. And by honeymoon, I mean semi-relaxing-vacation, complete with almost-two-year-old son and cranky-wife with massive belly. So, not so much with the romantic. We had originally planned and hoped for Hawaii, but finally had to admit there were a few problems with the plan. One, I’m massive (seriously, are there two in here?), and not at my physical peak. Two, getting to the two islands that we wanted to visit (Kaua’i and Hawai’i) is really expensive. I really didn’t want my possibly only trip to Hawaii to be remembered for all the things I wasn’t able to do.

So, after much deliberation (like 20 minutes) we decided to make Texas our honeymoon destination instead. Reasons? Neither of us had been here, the weather would be nice, and there were some new birds for Nathan to see. We also had to go quickly, as Tristan will be 2 soon, which means he’ll need his own seat on the airline, and I’ll be too pregnant to fly soon. So, despite Nathan just starting his new job, and us just moving to Victoria a week ago, we found ourselves with tickets booked to Texas for Nov 3rd.

After a successful trip to Halifax with Tristan in August, I wasn’t very concerned about taking him on the plane. And, as expected he was a champ. We had a quick flight to Seattle, then a long wait at the airport, then a 4 hour connection to San Antonio. The bambino slept in Nathan’s arms the first 2 hours of the longer flight, and the rest of the flight was easily taken up with lunch, his toy plane, and a new sticker book.

After taking a bus to the car rental place, finding and installing a car seat, and making our way to the hotel, Tristan was VERY excited to get to our room. He spent almost half an hour jumping and playing on our huge bed. We then took a quick drive downtown to find some food. He wasn’t so interested in the quesadilla, but was happy to listen to the mariachi band playing at the next table.

I’d had concerns about putting him to bed in the same room we would be in, and be up in, but it was fine. Mostly because we were so tired that we went to bed at nearly the same time that he did! Ah, romance!

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear (and a little early, thanks to the time change). We enjoyed our free continental breakfast, complete with waffles, at the Best Western Alamo. We then ventured out to find that most-important historical site here in San Antonio. Turns out it was easy to find – it’s right downtown, surrounded by hotels and shopping malls. I wonder what Davy Crockett would make of that.

The Alamo was very interesting, surprisingly emotional for me (I blame the pregnancy hormones), and very beautiful. Tristan enjoyed getting his fingers dirty in the mud and trying to scale the cannons. BTW, the Texians are lovely people, and everybody smiled at Tristan, rather than giving him the stink eye for attempting to climb their national treasure.

Next up was a short walk to find the River Walk. My mom recommended we take the barge tour, and it was money well spent. The tour goes through the canal/river that makes downtown San Antonio such a beautiful and popular tourist destination. Our guide, Rusty, was funny and knowledgable, and only bumped us into the side of the canal once.

After the trip, we headed to the food fair of the Riverwalk Mall for lunch, as it was almost one and Tristan was starved. We then walked along the river a little way until we were able to find our car and head back to the hotel for naptime. Not just for him!

The nap was off to a slow start, as Tristan was a little wound up from the morning. After listening to him sing for about 10 minutes, Nathan and I looked up from our bed to see a little face poking around the corner. He grinned, waved, said “hi!”, then raced away and tried to get out the door and down the hall. We have no idea how he escaped the playpen, but he was mighty pleased with himself!

As he and I slumbered the afternoon away, Nathan went on a long and fruitless search for a grocery store. After T finally awoke, we drove a few blocks until we found a playground, and he happily ran around there for almost an hour. Then it was off for a quick dinner, a long and very wet bath, and bedtime. At least he didn’t escape the playpen again!

Tomorrow: the zoo!

Nathan’s Texas bird count = 12