Saturday, May 12, 2007

They're WHERE?

Have you ever looked out of a hotel window, or a hospital window, or some other high-up-in-the-sky room, and noticed that, down below, there's clothing on a roof a couple of stories high? Did you ever wonder how it got there? I have.

I don't anymore.

Let's say, just for a wild and crazy scenario, that a mother on vacation spent the morning at the laundromat. Let's say that when she got all the clean clothes folded, she found ONE shirt, ONE pants, and ONE undies for a certain child. Imagine that when she got back to the hotel room, she found a drawer stuffed full of dirty undies. Imagine that a certain child was given instruction that morning on 1) the importance of putting dirty clothes in the dirty-clothes bag, and 2) how to wash clothes in a sink with shampoo instead of in a washer with Tide. Then said child learns that there is no good place to "line dry" dripping wet clothes in a hotel room. So the clothes are hung over the edge of the balcony in the sunshine. Not a bad solution.

However, imagine that what started as a sunny and totally calm day .... uh, ... changed while the family was out gallavanting around vineyards, wineries, canals, and locks. Y'know, changed to wind and rain. And wind. Imagine that the family returned to their hotel room, much relieved to see that the wind deposited most of the again-dripping-wet clothing onto the patio, but not all of it blew toward the building. Then maybe you could imagine why unmentionables are sometimes unexplicably seen upon rooftops.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Welland Canal

When we decided we were attending the Gerhardt symposium at the St Catharines seminary, we needed to figure out what else we'd do here. Niagara Falls was an easy decision. But what else?

Turned out that about a month ago, we were reading some schoolbooks on transportation which fleshed out a history book we were reading about "American stories." Having read mini-blurbs about the Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad, we extended our reading on those topics. A book on the St Lawrence Seaway had lots of information about the Welland Canal. Well, we'd never heard of it, but it looked like it might be in the same general vicinity. It wasn't just in the general vicinity. Turns out that the canal is only about a mile from our hotel. Yesterday, driving around, we saw one of the locks.

Today we ventured over to the nearest lock. There was a visitors center and a viewing platform. Looked cool. We stood and stared, and we read the signs. We drove past the "flight locks," where there are three locks back-to-back, climbing up the steepest part of the heights (over which the falls crash a few miles away). Happily, there was road construction on the narrow little street directly adjacent to the canal, so we had to stop and look, even though there was no place to park and get out to walk around.

No ships were due through for another 5-6 hours, so we decided to go to a winery and then go back to the hotel to swim. On our way back after the tour, we decided to buzz past the canal, just to see if that ship had started into the lock system on the further end. We were stopped at the drawbridge, waiting for the Winona to pass. Then as she headed upstream, we headed around the corner to Lock #3. We watched her enter the lock. We observed all the things we'd read about earlier: tying up the ship to the bollands, closing the gates, filling the lock with about 22 million gallons of water (which we figured would be ALL the water that about 1000 people would drink in their entire lifetimes), and then saw the ship exit on the south end of the canal. Then we saw the lift bridge raise up for the ship to pass under.

I feel like such a tourist ... but that was SO very cool!

More Trip

I'm sitting in the laundromat. I like laundromats. You get the laundry done SO FAST. It's quiet, and you can read or blog or watch country music videos. Every time I go to a laundromat, I think that it'd be really tempting to make this a part of my week (except for pumping quarters into the machine). But by the time I have little enough laundry to be able to afford it, I won't crave the hour and a half of aloneness that is the corollary to laundromat-time.

I was going to blog about the symposium and all the cool things we picked up there. But my desire to read the kids' blogs overrode my desire to ruminate on hymnology and Gerhardt. So I'll have to do that later, as my dryers don't have enough time on them to do two blogposts.

Mooooo. Apparently Canadians don't depend on dairy like Wisconsinites. The cheese selection at the store is small, and the price is outrageously high. Of course, I'm always stunned by the high grocery prices whenever we're on a trip. Good grief, I'm stunned by high grocery prices simply when I shop in my own county instead of at Woodmans. (I may have mentioned once or twice that I thank God often for Mr Woodman.) Gary told me that he'd heard Canadians pay a lot for groceries. Yowsa. He's right. And the butter. I pay about 40 cents a stick. Here it's $1.40 a stick. Probably eating less dairy is good for them. But the prices make my eyeballs pop outta my face.

We are enchanted driving through the countryside here around Niagara. Orchards and vineyards. That's all you see. No wheat. No corn. No beans. No cows. (Ah, that might explain the high dairy prices.) Just loads and loads of fruit. It's so pretty at this time of year, with the fruit trees all in blossom! The grape vines aren't doing anything yet, but that makes it easy for me to see the variety of ways they look, all bare-bones like, which gives me ideas of what I might do with my overgrown Fredonias (similar to Concords).

We went to see Niagara Falls yesterday after the symposium ended. The water is so clear. The power is overwhelming. The chill surprised me. It's warm this week -- mid 80s. Well, here it's high 20s. (I really made someone's jaw drop when I said our temps had been running in the 50s. I meant it had been cool, but the confused woman must've thought I lived in Death Valley.) Anyway, we were dressed for warm weather, and the temps by the falls were significantly cooler. All that water in the air! All that water rushing past in the rivers! Paul pointed out that you could actually see your breath. Not easily, but just a bit you could. And the tulip beds closest to the falls were just beginning to get buds on them, whereas the ones further from the falls (like a block or so away) were newly budding, whereas the tulips in neighboring suburbs were full and big and getting old. So it's not just my old bones and my decrepit chilliness that gave me such goosebumps yesterday. It kind of stuns the mind to realize that the temperature can be 30 degrees different (15 for you Celsius folks) in the space of a couple of city blocks.

Well, loads more to bore you with, but the dryers turned off and I should start folding clothes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Ya leave the country. Nobody calls on the cell phone (which is on roaming anyway). Then in the space of three hours, we get three phone calls. Beginning to panic. Calming self with the rationalization that it's just coincidence. But the mommy heart frets that something terrible happened, and people are trying to get hold of us because of a fire or a tornado or an ER visit. Tried to call people. Tried to email. Got no response. The imagination goes wild. Finally one child calls back, and it turns out that she is just trying to find out whether her kombucha turned out all right. Turns out that Gary got a hold of one of the other callers, and he said the discussion could wait until next weekend. So it was all nothing.

I tell myself and tell myself that these people are grown-ups and can take care of themselves. But it's ridiculous how fast my mind can conjecture scary scenarios out of nothing.

Monday, May 07, 2007


We enjoyed a grand time in Fort Wayne the last couple of days. We stayed with dear friends. We went to church at a place with kneelers and my daughter's favorite Easter hymn. Jane invited a few other homeschool friends over for Saturday evening, and that was a blast!

While in Fort Wayne, we buzzed past the apartment complex that Katie and Nathan will be moving into next month. It sure is nice looking! Wow! Maggie especially likes the scuplted hedges.

On Saturday morning, Gary was checking one last time for the information on getting into Canada. He realized that it could be that the adults, not only the children, would need to prove American citizenship, and that a drivers license and voters registration card wouldn't necessarily be enough. (What do the border-crossing guards know about illegal voting in the US that the Wisconsin legislature does not know??) Anyway, Gary made a quick run to the bank to fetch birth certificates from the safe-deposit box.

The lesson learned yesterday is that you should go potty before crossing the border into another country. A certain child informed us that we had to stop as we were approaching Detroit. But it was a big city and crowded and we were watching roadsigns. We thought we'd have to stop at the border anyway. Well, guess what? After being good little citizens, and hauling out the drivers licenses and the state IDs and the birth certificates, we approached the border. The guard asked where we were from, where we were going, and why. Quite the funny look in his eye when we told him that we were attending a symposium and what the topic was! There was a tourist information bureau just a block or so from the border. Of course, it was closed on a Sunday evening. So no maps. No information on exchanging currency. And worse, no potty. With the twists and turns in the tunnel, it was hard to figure out which way we were supposed to head out of downtown Windsor. So we drove in circles for a while. Thankfully the sun was starting to go down, so that helped with establishing directions. Finally found a gas station, but they had no potties. Drove a little further and found a Subway. So we hurried in a bought something before a little girl exploded. Whew!

The boys kept looking for signs of how different Canada looked from the US. About the only thing they noticed was that the flags have no blue on them, and the word "centre" switched the last two letters. In yesterday's installment the story we are currently reading aloud, the main character crossed the border from Connecticut into New York, the first time in his life he'd been out of his home state. He was disappointed that it didn't look nor feel any different. So my boys had to make the same statements about crossing into Canada. Stinkers!