The baby book

When Woo was born, I chronicled almost everything he did for the first year of his life. It was very specific at first; his sleep, his diaper changes, his feedings… This was mostly because he was my first and I didn’t know what I was doing, and I wanted to make sure that I knew what I’d done and what he done.  I quickly saw that most of these notes could be transcribed into a “baby book”, that of course he would want when he was older*. Over time I refined what I recorded and actually included milestones that were noteworthy: the teeth, the words, the steps…

I made a conscious decision to stop at his first birthday.  While I continue to record some developments on the photos I was posting online, one year seemed like the appropriate snapshot to pass on in his baby book. When Goose was born, I recorded her milestones for exactly two days.

It was harder the second time. As much as Goose’s transition into our house was smooth, I just didn’t have the time to record EVERYTHING.  I made a halfhearted attempt by scribbling cryptic notes on whatever scraps of paper were on hand, but they were never transferred to her book, and more often than not lost or recycled as grocery lists. I give up entirely after about a month.

This blog, and my desire to chronicle our California adventure have become my second child’s baby book. I really wanted to record our stories, much like I did with our stories from India. It even seemed to start off well, but dropped off quickly.  Right now I have a pile of cryptic notes reminding me of stories to tell, several half written tales, and one or two completed posts that I just never published.

Then we had rats move in, and I realized that there are some stories that need to be told, that we are going to want to remember (and my memory is already failing me). It’s far too late for Goosie’s baby book, but it’s not for our current adventure. I hope it lasts more than two entries this time.

*while I still have the notebook that I used, these never actually made it into a “baby book”.

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Not prepared

In the last decade or so, we have lived in four homes, in three different countries. Every place, every city, every home is different. Each has its own quirks and unique features, and sometimes those come in the form of uninvited guests.  We have had them in every place that we’ve lived. Some of been amazing and added to our lives in ways we never anticipated.

Minerva, the stray who chose us

One of the many Geckos in our house in India.  The lils felt they took care of them.

Two of the foxes that come to our yard in the spring

For the most part the rest have been a giant pain.  We have lived with centipedes, mice, carpenter ants, spider families, and cockroaches. All of these caused me varying degrees of discomfort, but eventually have left me curious and appreciative of how each lives and encroaches on our lives. Each infestation was eventually dealt with, allowing us to resume our “guest” free existence.

When we decide to move to San Jose, I considered the types of pest that we may encounter. I wanted to be prepared. Cockroaches were given; all hot climates have them, but after the giants we faced in Bangalore, I knew that I could handle them.  Same for ants and termites, as we’d dealt with them too.  I even thought we might see a scorpion or two, as they do live in the area. We’ve been lucky so far.  All of the cockroaches have been outside, the ants tiny and easily controlled, and no scorpions yet, though we did see a tarantula!

On Sunday our luck changed. We came home from the market to discover that a plum had been eaten on the kitchen counter. I suspected a gecko or lizard might be the culprit, as I’ve heard that they do this, and have seen gecko poop in the house. I tidied up and didn’t think about it again, until that night, after the lils were in bed. I heard a thump followed by the sound of something rolling in the kitchen and knew a little hadn’t snuck by me, so I sat paralyzed by the questions running through my head.  Had the gecko return for more snack? How big was the gecko, if it was pushing fruit off the counter? Did I want to know?

I gathered my nerve and went into the kitchen to pick up the mangled tomato off the floor. Convincing myself that it was possible it had just rolled out of the bowl and gotten crushed on landing, I made sure all of the other fruit was placed in bowls so that it would not fall out.  Twenty minutes later I heard the same thump and roll sounds, repeated three times in quick succession. Something was up. This time I found three nectarines, each one with a chunk missing. I posted a picture on Facebook stating that I hoped it was a gecko or lizard.

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At this point, a local friend pointed out that fruit rats were known for “sampling” fruit but not eating it, and that our community has a large population of these rats.  I mentally dismissed the suggestion, because I could not accept that there might be a rat in my house.

Time moved slowly and I started to worry that she was right. I sat in the entrance to the kitchen, hypersensitive to any little sound or movement, wanting to see what was eating my fruit. I heard it before I saw it. The noise became a shadow under the counter, climbing the chair. When I came into the light, it was clear we had a rat. No one told me that we might have rats in the house. I was not prepared for this. I held my breath and stood up, not knowing what I was going to do.  In an instant it disappeared back into the dark.

I am terrified of rats. Not in the quaint stand up on a chair and yell “eek” kinda way. In the “I’ve been traumatized by working in a building that had many rats, huge city rats” kinda way.  I kept seeing them alive, and then later discovering their corpses. There were many and it was horrible. It got to the point where I had to go to therapy to stop thinking of them and continue to go in to work. Sunday those feelings came flooding back, and I have spent the past two days on the verge of tears on many occasions, with a horrible pain in my stomach that only goes away during the brief times that we have left the house.

With Willy away, I had to call in professionals. The exterminator came today and left a pile of traps. One rat is dead, and he thinks he’s found where they’re coming in. I hope so this is the end. I need this to be over quickly. I need my house to be free of rats.

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Comedy of errors

One of the areas that I have struggled with during our transition to California life has been around martial arts for the lils.  We were spoiled in Ottawa to have found fantastic Dojos where our lils were treated really well.  They were minutes from our house, located on the same street, and the classes were at the same time.  It was perfect. Replacing perfect is hard.  I have not found anything for Woo, and, after a few false starts, Goose has only recently found her stride and really embraced her new Dojo.

She is happy there, and that is all that really matters. There are some logistical challenges for me, though  It’s much farther from our house, and many of the classes are over our dinner time.  It’s made me become a lot more creative in my meal planning. Sometimes that creativity means that their meals are KD, hastily thrown together sandwiches,  or  take out. Tonight was to be one of those nights where we took out. There is a pizza place that I’ve been wanting to try three doors down from Goose’s Dojo. As we pulled arrived for her class tonight, I called in our order, to be picked up just as her class ended. Miraculously I remembered to pick up the pizzas after her class and we wandered down to the restaurant.  When I told the guy at the counter my name and what I was therefore he said “but she’s already picked up her pizzas!”

I tried to explain that they were my pizzas and I was standing right in front of him waiting for them, but he just said the pizzas had been picked up. There was no effort made to apologize and there is no offer of making new pizzas, so Goose and I walked out and started driving home.  I knew we needed a quick meal and I had nothing in the fridge, so I called Willy and send him to the local Taqueria to pick up some burritos for us. He tried to suggest that I order and wait for new pizzas, but I was steaming mad at this point, and refused.

When Goose and I were moments from our house, my phone rang.  It was the pizza place calling, so I answered to see what they would say. They apologized for selling my dinner to someone else and offered to remake the pizzas at fifty per cent off. I was ticked and wanted none of it. I told them that I was 15 minutes away from them and I wasn’t interested.

We continued home and arrived to the front door locked, as Willy and Woo were still out saving dinner.  I figured that Willy had not locked the patio doors, he never does.  I wandered into the backyard, but sure enough, he was thorough – this time.  By the time I return to the front step, Goose was sitting down reading her book. I grabbed mine and said “Thank goodness we have our books, eh?”  When I open my book, I realized I was two pages from the end.

The boys arrived about 10 minutes later, and we hurried inside to eat. Woo was performing in a school play tonight so time was a bit of an issue. We all dove into our burritos, but quickly noticed that they were bland, that the tortillas were not very fresh, and the toppings not very good.  Realizing that our second dinner choice was actually worse than having our pizzas sold out from under us, we agreed that the Taqueria was officially off the list.  As is the never tried, never will try pizza place.

I think that is the first time we have ever banned two restaurants over one meal.  I hope it’s the last.

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Not convinced

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am not a fan of running. I see no joy in running, and never have. Some running, like running around the bases, has a purpose and brings me great joy, as does running and playing with the lils. Running for the sake of running has always seemed like torture.

My little girl, however, loves to run. She runs for play, she runs to race, she runs to get there faster, and she runs because it is fun for her. Willy and I recognized this early on, and in the last year or so, have tried to convince her that she might enjoy doing some organized running, where she can learn how to run properly. It is clear that this is not something I can teach her.

While she has resisted up until now, I recently signed her up for a program called “Girls on the Run”, without consulting her. Organized out of her school, the program seeks to give girls in her age group both the training that they will need to run a 5K, and some tools to help build their confidence. It is a perfect fit for our running but shy and anxious Goose. Although she was dead set against it at first, we managed to convince her to try.

We are two weeks into the program, and she is so happy. She comes home smiling and hot, but excited to tell us about her progress. She has started running every day at recess, but knows her limits and doesn’t push them. She is eagerly anticipating the 5k that marks the end of the program in May, and can almost run 5K without stopping already. She needs an adult to run that 5K with her and is over the moon excited that that adult is me.

That is correct, I have signed up to run a 5K with her. To ensure that I survive this, I started the couch to 5K program. Friends who have tried it and succeeded rave about it, including those who didn’t like running to begin with. I have some doubts that I can complete the program, but I am determined to finish it for Goose. I want to do this with her, and I want her to know that sometimes doing the things we like* is hard, and it is worth it to push through.

To help me get through this, I convinced Woo to join me in the training. I want some company while I plodded on, and Goose can’t always run with me. He is not a runner, but keen to try. So we run around the block together, and we run/walk and talk and try to get through it. The first day of the week is the hardest, but each subsequent run is a little bit easier. The plan is still daunting to me, and sometimes I am not sure that it will be enough for me to do the race with her.

Last night I read Goose’s training plan, that she had left on the table. It said that one of the keys to her success was running with her family. That gave me the extra push for today. Even if she wasn’t running with me, she could know that I was running. Training so that I might be able to keep up with her.

I got out of bed this AM in the almost light of pre-dawn. Goose isn’t running today, and Woo chose the warmth of his bed. I resisted that temptation and headed out the door. One foot in front of the other, I walked and ran for thirty-one minutes. Today, I successfully completed my run without having to take breaks, and without turning into a tomato from the heat. It was a good run by those standards, but it still wasn’t a pleasant run.

I don’t know that running will ever be enjoyable for me, but I am open to that possibility. When I returned home, I started the day, pausing only for a well-earned slice of breakfast-cake. THAT was enjoyable.

(*please note that the thing I like here is succeeding with Goose, not running. In case I wasn’t clear on that)

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Double digits

Dear Woo:

It is hard to believe that you are now ten years old! It seems like just yesterday that you came into our family. The last decade has been filled with lots of laughter and love, and a little bit of chaos thrown in. I have loved being on this adventure with you, watching you grown and develop into the amazing guy you are today.

I know that this last year hasn’t been the easiest for you, not only did you move far from home, leaving your family and friends (and bunny) behind, you started a new school where you knew no one, where the rules and norms were different, and there was a whole new way of teaching things to you. You have handled this so well, diving into your school work, joining new activities, and making new friends. This new school has also brought new independence, and I am so proud of you whenever you venture out on your own.

California has been good for you, in many ways. You have embraced the adventuring spirit, and challenge us to bring you new places and show you new things. Many of these trips bring us to your favourite museums or aquarium, where you continue to learn and share what you find with us. You continue to be a voracious reader, frustrated only by the seemingly arbitrary limit of ‘50 books from the library at once’ that Mama has imposed on you. You love to swim with your sister, and hike with the family, and I am enjoying our new running adventure together. It is awesome to have the time with you, and to try something new together.

Watching you with Goose has shown me that you are very much the older brother I thought you would be. You love to tease her and boss her around, but you also are fiercely protective of her, and will back her up regardless of the circumstance. She continues to be your sidekick, partner in crime and best friend, and your Dad and I love to see this.

Happy birthday to my favourite guy,
Lots of love,

a year of woo
A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo



California Adventuring

**If you are looking for Disneyland tips, scroll down half way**
**There are roller coaster videos at the bottom**

When we moved to California, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we made the six hour drive south to Disneyland. We’ve wanted to take the lils for a few years, and this move gave us the nudge that we needed. The schools here are strict about missing classes for fun, so when we started planning this trip in November, we knew it would have to be on a school break. Last week was that week, so early Sunday morning we piled in the car an started driving. We didn’t tell the lils where we were going, just that it would be an “overnight” trip.

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Going on an adventure

We finally spilled the beans when we arrived in Anaheim and were about to check into the hotel. They were starting to get suspicious at this point because, as Goose pointed out, “six hours is a loooooong way for an overnight trip”. They were very excited about everything, especially after we walked to the parks to have a look around on Sunday night. We had three days in the parks planned, so we knew we’d have to make the most of the time there. Willy and I both did a little bit of reading on what to expect and dove in early Monday morning. It was a packed three days, with lots of good memories made.

It was so fun watching the lils move out of their comfort zones and try stuff that was new to them. Woo was identified as the secret spy on the Star Wars ride, which amused him greatly. Goose learned that she really likes carousel rides. They both went from overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, to navigating the fast pass system, lining up, and riding rides without Willy and I before we knew it. Willy got to spend time experiencing the parks with each lil on their own, which was great for all of them. I was super excited to learn that both lils really liked roller coasters, so I know I’ll have their company on the thrill seeking rides from now on. Overall, we liked Disney, but we didn’t LOVE Disney, and we are OK with that. We knew going in that the lils weren’t really on the Disney train. They have never really watched the movies, didn’t really get into any of the characters (save for the Star Wars ones), and don’t really want any of the mouse ears or princess dress paraphernalia. Disneyland, for us, was a good amusement park, albeit a really crowded one.

Solo flyers

About half way through the week, we revealed the second part of our plan, that we were driving to Legoland for two more days of fun. Legoland was the perfect second stop for us; less crowded and slower in pace. We splurged and booked into the resort hotel, which was a huge hit. There were Lego creations AND loose Lego everywhere, and the rooms were Lego themed. We had two days there, and that almost wasn’t enough, even though the park is much smaller than Disney and all of the water attractions were closed. While there were rides and games at this park too, the biggest draw for all of us was the amazing collection of Lego creations that were scattered through out the park. We spent hours wandering around in awe of the mini cities and themed displays. I’d return there in a heartbeat.

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Amazing Death star

As we pulled into the driveway after our really long ride home, Woo sleepily told his dad that this was the best vacation ever. It was the perfect end to our first adventure.

Tips for Disneyland and California Adventure
*There is no Wifi in either park, so make sure you have data on your phone. You are going to want it to keep in touch with others in your party, entertain you while you are in line, and use the disneyland app.

*Use the Disneyland App. It is actually really, really helpful. I was shocked that there were not more people using it, because it saves you loads of time. The key bits of information that the app provides include whether a ride is open or closed (including temporary closures – but without an estimate as to length); the current wait time, in minutes, for every ride; and the time frame that fast passes for that ride are being issued.

*Fast passes. Disneyland is in the process of adding a fee based fast pass system, but it is not in place yet, so… for those who don’t know, fast passes are available in limited number for the most popular rides. When you are holding a fast pass for a ride, it allows you to skip the bulk of the line-up for that ride. You generally save between 30mins and 120mins of waiting time, and often walk right on.

*The passes are available near the entrance to most rides, from machines that are marked “fast past distribution”. There are some exceptions to this – the fast passes for the Cars ride is in the Bugs Life area, and the ones for the Star Tours is by the Buzz Lightyear ride.

*When you get a fast pass, you typically can’t get another fast pass until the start time for the first fast pass that you are holding. So if you obtain a fast pass at 9:30AM that allows you to ride at 11:00AM, you can only get another fast pass at 11:00am (and you should do that, get the second fast pass before you ride the first ride). BUT if you pass is for more that two hours in the future, you will be allowed to get a new fast pass sooner. Look on the bottom of your fast pass, it tells you the time that you are first eligible to get another pass.

*There will also be at least one ride (possibly one per park) that doesn’t lock your fast pass, so you can hold a fast pass for it and get another pass instantly. When we were there it was the Buzz Lightyear ride, which we all liked, so we went on it often.

*You can get fast passes for all members in your group and have only a subset use them. We got four passes for some rides and the lils went twice, or in the case of the big roller coaster, I went solo multiple times.

*You can have multiple fast passes in each park, but pay attention to the times that you have to use them. If they overlap, it may be tricky to get from one park to the other in time.

*Plan the rides you sorta want, and plan the rides you really want. The most popular rides for our trip were Hyperspace Mountain and the Cars ride. They had the longest waits and were out of fast passes first. If you want these rides, get your fast passes for these first, even if it means you are riding it later in the day.

*Don’t stand in line for more than 30 minutes, for any ride. We went on a week where it was really crowded (not the most crowded it gets, but pretty close), and the waits for the popular rides were all over an hour (some were 2.5 hours!), but we never waited for more than 30 minutes by paying attention the fast passes and the wait times listed on the app.

*Rides randomly shutdown, especially the roller coaster rides. Once they are shut down, they often have to go through many security checks, so they are shut down for a while. Don’t save any ride as a special ride. If you are there and it is available, get on it.

*Bring a lunch. The food in in the parks is expensive and not great. We packed a full lunch and snacks every day and were never questioned.

*The exception to the food thing is the Dole Whip. Have a dole whip. Have a dole whip float. Every day.

*When you go in to Disneyland, go left. Everyone heads right to Tomorrow land. Going left takes you to the Indiana Jones ride, Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted mansion. You can get a fast pass for one, ride the all three then use your fast pass all within the first hour if you are organized.

*The “magic morning” is available for both parks, but it is not all that magic – not all the rides are open and you can’t get fast passes, so the line ups for fast passes when the machines do open are actually really long. Ditto for the rides. It does let you get *into* that line before the rest of the crowd, though.

*Pay attention to the park opening hours. In addition to the magic morning, the times vary by day and by park. If you go on a day when the magic morning for one park is the same as the open time for the other park, expect long lines for both security and getting in to the parks.

*Find out what nights the parade and the fireworks are. They aren’t held every night. We found the parade to be OK, but the fireworks were really good.

Big Thunder Mountain

California Screamin’

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The pool guy

When we came to San Jose to find our house, we basically lived through an episode of “House Hunters International.” The relocation specialist that Willy’s company provided a list of suggested properties, based off criteria that we supplied and included a few homes that we had found online. We had one day to see twelve houses; twenty minutes in each house. If we were lucky, we got those twenty minutes, but we also had to deal with traffic, agents who were late, and agents who brought the keys to the wrong house. It’s somewhat amazing that we found a house at all.

Going in, we figured that we were moving to California, so our priority items for the house included a pool. It turned out to be a pretty easy wish to fulfill, given that all but one of the houses we saw had a pool. Thankfully, the house we chose also came with a pool guy, saving us from having to figure out how to maintain the pool. I think that this was included to save the pool from damage more than as a perk for renters, but we were OK with that.

Our pool guy is not the stereotypical “pool boy”, who is more eye candy than anything else. He is a really nice, knowledgeable guy who has helped us to understand how we can help to keep the pool warm and safe for our lils. He has also offered great tips on maintaining the hot tub, which we are responsible for. He seems to like us too, and is always pleased when we take his advice.

It was our hope that the pool would be available for use year-round, but the lack of supplemental heater and the cloudy, rainy, and “cold” winter days meant that the solar heater and covers were doing very little, so we packed everything up and closed the pool after one last cold swim in early December. The lils were sad, but they could see that the pool was barely getting to 14C most days. It became hot tub only season.

Last weekend, after a gorgeous sunny hike, Goose and Woo got it in their heads that they should try going for a swim. The water was a chilly 15C, but they went in multiple times for quick swims. They went back in the following day, and the day after. Then we had friends from home over, and their lils went in briefly. By this past weekend they were actually swimming happily. We knew the only solution was to pull out the solar covers and re-open the pool.

Monday morning brought the pool guy at his usual time. He walked into the yard and looked at the covers on the pool with a puzzled expression on his face. “The lils have been in every day for a week,” I said. “We knew we had to give them an extra degree or two with the covers.” He smiled and shook his head, saying “Your children are CRAZY.” Then he set to work on what he needed to do to officially open the pool for us. I am pretty sure we are the first pool he has opened this season.



Creepy crawly

I have a love-hate relationship with most things that creep and/or crawl. I mostly hate them, but pretend to love them so that the lils don’t grow up freaking out over bugs of any size. This approach worked fairly well when the lils were younger, making sure that they thought of all the littlest creatures as “friends”. They embraced this idea, but it did mean that I could not just kill a bug when it was found in the house. Those bugs had to be saved and re-homed. Willy became the bug mover in our house, even if it meant that the bug was just tossed outside in -30°C. Everyone was happy with this arrangement (except maybe the bug).

As the lils got older and Willy started to travel more and more, I became the relocation expert. Centipedes were among my least favourite, followed closely by the spiders. We live in an old house, so we have plenty of these creatures live in the basement and the dark corners. I got very good at catching them, and disposing of them without showing my true feelings, for the most part. Woo seems to have accepted all the bugs that cross our path, but Goose is infinitely twitchier. I am sure that some of those twitches can be tied to my reactions to the various bugs. You can really blame me, though. Over the years we have had a few really cool bugs show up, but we have also had our share of pests that were giant or overwhelming in number. These things start to get to you after a while.

This year has been the year of the spider. I don’t know why, but they seem to have taken a liking to me, to our house. We had about a thousand hatch from two egg sacks in the late spring.
Creepy Crawlers Creepy Crawlers

These stuck around, and became big garden spiders. Harmless garden spiders, but still an annoyance. Every time I walked out of the house I walked through a new web. Walking through a new web meant that I had to do the “OH MY GOD, there is a SPIDER on my face/neck/hair…” dance many times a day, much to the amusement of my neighbours, I am sure. The last thing I saw as I was leaving for the airport on moving day was this guy, who’d been around for weeks and was actually growing on me.
Creepy Crawlers

In moving to California, I figured that we might see scorpions if we looked really hard for them, but I wasn’t terribly worried that we would even see them. “It’s just like home,” I convinced myself, “but with more cockroaches.” Then this happened on a walk with Woo:

Despite my desire to run away, I did stop to take a picture. Tarantulas are creepy as hell, but they are also pretty cool. This one was not too big, and was walking very slowly. It looked like it had been injured, so I was fairly certain I could outrun it if it made any sudden movements. Woo was thrilled. He told me several times that this was the best day ever, and has taken to referring to that particular walking trail as ‘tarantula path’. When we were there today, we both were on the look out for more of these big furry spiders, but only one of us wanted to see one.

I didn’t sign up for this. I am afraid of what comes next.



Wordless Wednesday – redwoods

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

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Round Trip

In theory, one of the perks of our move to California is that it should be relatively easy to get home for visits. We’ve lived really far from home, and during that time, it would have been nice to be able to go home for special occasions, or the not so special occasions. California is close. It’s not the one flight that I would like it to be, but we live near two major airports and Willy has a pile of frequent flyer points from his many, many trips back and forth over the last two years. It makes it very easy to plan a trip and go.

To test this out, I am heading home this weekend for a quick trip. I booked the trip weeks ago, a getaway with my book club. We are going to sit around and eat too much, drink too much, play cards, and read nothing on the first day. On the second day we will get on a school bus with a bunch of strangers and visit wineries where we will sing for a taste of this year’s harvest, while still reading nothing. I plan for it to be glorious (save for the singing part).

Of course, as my departure date gets closer, I realize that it is not that simple. My flight leaves on Thurday, which is US Thanksgiving. While it may not be the busiest travel day, I am sure it is up there. I’m booked out of San Fran because the flights are more direct, but it means that I have to leave here before 4:00am to catch my 7:00am flight. I can’t drive there myself, because Willy needs the car, so I am trying some random shuttle service that I found on the internet. Hope they come and get me!

As anxious as I am now, I know it is going to be a great weekend once I get there. In addition to the shenanigans, I am going to squeeze in some family time, extra friend visits, and a giant shopping trip so that I can bring home all the Canadian treats that we have been missing. I’ll even get to visit with our bunny for a bit. It’s a completely frivolous trip, but I can’t wait to get there!


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