Friday, August 5, 2016

Toronto, Day One

Worst. Trip. Ever.  Okay, maybe that's exaggerating a bit.  I'm sure there were many, many more things that could have gone horribly wrong on our trip...but as Craig said on the way home, all we needed was Aunt Edna to die...and if you don't get that National Lampoon's Vacation reference, my apologies.  But so many things about the trip did not go according to plan, and that's even considering I left a lot of room for flexibility.  I knew we had a lot of activities planned and it would be a lot to cram into four days, but still...even allowing for an average amount of kid complaining and overtiredness, we still had an epically rough time. 

Jacob's behavior went off the charts on this trip for some reason, and Carter was overtired (possibly started off by a lot of nights sleeping in the basement leading up to the trip) which made his involvement much more challenging as well.  Long story short, Jacob has decided that his life will never be good with Carter around, and it is his mission to make Carter's life miserable.  Hurting Carter makes Jacob feel better, he says.  Yeah, not good.  So most of this trip involved keeping them separated, because Jacob constantly was drawn to him to he could step on his feet or trip him or take a swing at him (even if he didn't really intend for it to land).  And the thing is, Carter is such a sweet kid that he still thinks that's just the way Jacob plays, so he doesn't make a conscious effort to avoid it.  He'll do it back, which just infuriates Jacob more and gives him more motivation to up the ante and make it worse.  So, yes, recipe for disaster.  Add in that Jacob still has a bizarre preoccupation with Carter's need to wear a pull-up to bed (even though he himself wore one far longer), and that Jacob has no filter and is constantly yelling and making random noise and feeling slighted by all of us, and that it pretty much never took a break on this trip, and it was rough.  We have a lot of stuff to chat with the therapist about on Monday.  If nothing else, this trip--and the sustained time together--made it very apparent that we need more intensive therapy than he's been receiving.  I fear that his desire to hurt Carter will continue to ramp up, and there are just a lot of things I see that make me worry for his future.  That said, let's see how the rest of the vacation went.  Just assume that there was a lot of random misbehavior and frustration going on throughout all of this, and I'll try to keep the repetitive mentions of it to a minimum...

Packing up in the heat of our house was no small feat, but we got on the road Saturday to go to our nephew's birthday party in Buffalo.  We had our first incident of the trip there, where Jacob dumped lemonade on Carter--which was doubly bad because he knows Carter doesn't like getting wet and the lemonade was sticky.  And when you only have a finite supply of extra clothes, it's pretty annoying.  So that was not a high point.  But the party was nice and we all actually went to bed at a decent time.

We got up relatively early the next morning to head to Toronto.  The weather was crappy on the way up, which would have been more disconcerting had we not been going to a baseball game in a dome stadium.  We ended up with an unexpected wait to grab some breakfast (choices were limited at Craig's parents') and then again at the bridge (website said "No Wait" when we were already en route, but apparently everyone got there when we did), and then we had a potty/money exchange stop just over the bridge.  Then we got stuck in some traffic in Toronto, nothing awful but enough to hold us up, at which point Jacob really had to pee (again).  He was getting panicky and there was no good place to pull over, so we opted to attempt to have him pee in a cup (parenting low point, right there).  It almost went well, but somehow we had a minor issue that involved a wardrobe change before exiting the van.  We had to find parking, throw some waters in our bag, and head off.  By that time we were running more than 90 minutes behind our ideal schedule.  We missed the giveaway (a bummer, but not a big deal) and actually just made it into the stadium in time for the game despite aiming to be there much earlier. 

I neglected to mention that we were planning on buying tickets off Stub Hub and suddenly all of the reasonable tickets disappeared.  In the end we found two sets of sort of reasonable tickets in close proximity to each other.  Craig ordered them, and I originally thought they were in the same section, three rows apart...but they were actually a full section apart.  So, of course, I went to sit with Carter and Craig sat with Jacob. 

We didn't have any luck with the gluten-free options I had read about, so Jacob mostly ate peanuts.  Carter and I had hot dogs and some Goldfish.

Carter was more willing to sit through the game than he usually is, which was good.  We had a pretty good time, but it was definitely weird not sitting with our whole family together.
He was hiding from me :)
We eventually took a walk as a family to shop for Blue Jays gear, and when we went back to our seats, Carter fell asleep on me.  It was not particularly cool in the stadium, so I was sweating under my big kid, but I figured the nap would be good.  The game went into extra innings, which got a little painful, but we managed.

Eventually Carter woke up and we headed over to Craig and Jacob's seats since most of the people had cleared out around them after the Orioles took a big lead.
Jose Bautista at bat!

Once we got out of the game, we needed to find dinner.  At least it was a nice day to wander by then...

We tried to go to Wahlburger's (yes, the place owned by Mark and Donnie Wahlberg) because they are good with gluten-free stuff, but they were not doing anything but takeout by that point because of the postgame rush.  We tried our gluten-free apps, which weren't working there for some reason, then settled for Pizza Pizza, which was supposed to be our backup plan for the whole trip.  Sigh.  We got our pizza, ate, and wandered over to the CN Tower area.

We were debating trying to go up in the tower or go to the aquarium to check one thing off our list that evening.  It had already been a long day, but it beat the thought of wrangling both kids in a hotel room all night!  We thought the tower could be more of a fill-in at some point, and it would pair well with a walk down to the Hockey Hall of Fame store or other random city wandering, so we opted for the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.  Oh, and in case I didn't mention it, we bought passes that gave us discounted admission to five of the most popular attractions in town--and only one of which any of us had ever done before!  Despite how much we go to Toronto, we haven't done many of the traditional stops because we're too busy with games, I guess!  Anyway, that pass pretty much set our agenda for us, though the order we did them was up in the air based on weather and timing.  So off to the aquarium we went.  It was a bit of a wait since we had to buy Carter's ticket separately (he was below paying age for most of the attractions, so the pass didn't make sense for him), but luckily they had some tanks along the queue.

Once we got in, suddenly Jacob professed his dislike of aquariums.  I don't know when that started since he loved the Niagara Falls Aquarium up through a couple years ago, and we haven't been to one since.  But it was like an anxiety thing, but almost based in stubbornness?  Like it wasn't a full blown anxiety attack, but he had been voting for doing the tower that night and perhaps that just made him be more stubborn?  Anyway, we spent half the time there dealing with that. 
This was the view when we got in...a large tank across the way, whale bones in the air, and a fun aquatic-themed playground below.
We started in through the exhibits...
So many fish!

Crab...he would have fit right in with our kids that night!

Blue lobster!

Three different colored lobsters!


Such a pretty tank!
Eventually we got down to a giant walk-through tunnel tank, and that's when we lost Jacob and Craig for a while and Carter decided he didn't like aquariums, either.  I practically dragged him away from this wall of buttons that made things light up (after like 10 minutes of doing it) and took him into the tunnel.  There were so many things to see and eventually he chilled out. 
Sting ray!  I love how they sort of smile!

Swordfish...he has a face like the stingray, but his looks angry!

The tunnel was huge and there were lots of other fish to see as we moved along a moving walkway.  By the time we popped out, we tracked down Craig and Jacob.  Carter took a few minutes to go on the playground slides before finding this cool water table with boats, locks, and fountains.
Carter checking out one of the locks
He did that for a while and loved it!  I had to drag him away as there was more to see!  There was a "Nemo"  tank with clown fish and Dory look-alikes, and Carter discovered the fun of the tanks that you can crawl under and pop up in!
There's a Carter in that tank!
We saw seahorses...

...and blueberry jellyfish...

...and stingrays.

There was one funny thing where Carter hit a button next to a plastic bubble on the wall that contained a piranha skeleton in the midst of darkness.  A moment later, a swarm of piranha skeletons swung out of the darkness into view.  It scared me a bit, but he just laughed!  Oh, and another time he went into one of those bubbles in the middle of the tank, he was in there with three girls.  I could see him in there gesturing and clearly telling them a story.  He desperately wanted to get them to come out with him and see something else!

We moved on to my favorite part, the jellyfish tank!  It was set up almost like a greenhouse window, where you could walk in and have the jellyfish all above and around you.  They were somehow lit in a way where the background stayed consistently blue, but the jellyfish alternated between white, hot pink, and teal.  It was so cool!

Another tank had these, which were just so intricate and more consistent in shape than the ones above...

Just before we headed out, I snapped this shot.  I thought the background looked so cool.  It looked impressively real, even in person!

It was a struggle to get the kids through the store (we looked and considered, but in the end they just got too hard to handle so we left).  Back out in the later evening, we snapped a couple shots in the shadow of the CN Tower...

We finally got back to our car and headed out of the city.  Our hotel was in a different spot than we'd ever stayed, a bit out of downtown on the east side near the lake.  I took the chance because it was reasonable, had decent reviews, and seemed a bit more convenient to the zoo, among other things.  It looked like we could avoid nasty highway traffic into the city, too.  In the end the hotel wasn't outstandingly great, but it was fine (comfortable beds, free breakfast, and free parking) and the travel was much more pleasant.  I'll take stoplights and good scenery over bumper-to-bumper craziness any day!  That first night was a late one, but eventually the kids went down and we all had a decent night's sleep.

Stay tuned for more...

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