Time for a Nap or Two

Day 10. 
I hit a wall today (figuratively not literally, although who knows – I totally could run right into a wall and not realize it, I’m LITERALLY SO TIRED!).  

Waking up at my parents farm, I knew that I needed some sleep (badly) and that I would have to get some on the bus this afternoon. I’d worry about setting a bad example for the kids (seeing as we have a rule about not napping) but they’re mostly asleep whenever we get on the bus, so I don’t think it really matters!
Not sure why they needed to sleep so much today as they all slept in at the farm. I couldn’t believe that they would be able to have such a good sleep in their “spots” but they all claim they have…..(if they’re texting you and saying it was AWFUL, I don’t even want to know, cuz IGNORANCE IS BLISS and also IGNORANCE is not having to deal with it!!).

Our bus driving team told us that the kids are “so wonderful” this morning (which clearly indicates to me that they ARE NOT FIT TO DRIVE!). 🙂 They have noticed how many of them are very helpful and polite. This morning, they went to load the suitcases on to the bus as the mechanic finished up. They selected a few random kids to help (which they did) and then a few more gave a helping hand as well. I’d love to tell you that they’re going to be as HELPFUL and COURTEOUS upon their home arrival, but I’m pretty sure it’s all Ms. From’s and my influence (so you’re out of luck, sorry about that!).

From the farm (where apparently my mom makes the “best cinnamon buns I’ve ever had” and “your dad let me drive the tractor even though I’ve never it done it before’) we were quickly enroute to Regina. Our arrival at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum was met with dismal news – there was a live snake exhibit and it was feeding time! You’d think I’d have more of a stomach for this seeing as I did HUNT rattlesnakes with my older cousins when I was kid (that’s why I’m so tough, you see!)….Even given that experience, I wasn’t too into it.  

Many of your kids were though, which makes me even more sure that I’ve profiled them accurately when I take on a defensive stance whenever they approach me! They watched in GLEE as the little mouse babies were consumed by the snake (so gross, I’m just saying!) and then as the mouse moved through the snakes body. The detail they used to describe this would have certainly come in valuable during their Literacy lessons in the past year!  

We shortened our museum visit from 90 to 60 minutes to make up a bit of time and the kids were on the bus soon after the one hour mark. Except THAT ONE KID. Poor Aubrey got left behind because she was “so into” the exhibits and was reading loads of information and learning lots of stuff. Which endeared her to me A LOT because it was all about Saskatchewan and she’s usually running late because she’s doing her hair and makeup, THEREFORE I knew that this Saskatchewan information was REALLY, REALLY important to her!

Departing from Regina, it was a sleep for me (after threatening SUMMER SCHOOL to any kid who woke me up!). They took this pretty seriously, most of them went to sleep themselves just to ensure they didn’t end up waking me. At one point, I think the saying, “Don’t wake the sleeping bear…” was tearfully whispered between a couple kids….

After the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (which I totally recommend to anyone travelling through Regina) we were back on the highway and heading East. I asked a few students if they liked the life-size dioramas or the miniature diaromas more? They were divided mostly, but some asked, “what’s a diorama? I only made it to the gift shop….” (sigh).

Our arrival in Brandon was a bit later than usual so we went straight to supper (Montana’s!) and planned for a late check-in. Supper on the last evening has been a tradition for years (with kids typically dressing up in their fanciest clothes, doing their hair, wearing perfume/cologne and then still acting like they’re on the playground!). We called it the “un-fancy” supper because most of them didn’t shower at the farm this morning (don’t worry…I did!) and many of them look carazy after sleeping on the bus most of the day!

The staff were great though and didn’t mind at all that we brought them 29 ravenous, unkempt, stinky kids! They were more than happy to accommodate their meal requests (Allyssa, “Mac and Cheese with no bacon please.” – Ok. What? Me, “Just throw that bacon on whatever I order!”). Some shared meals because it was “have a dessert if you want to….” The staff expressed some surprise at our travel itinerary and commended us on lasting this long (it’s amazing what existing on adrenaline can accomplish).  

From there, we had our LAST HOTEL CHECK-IN! (Woot!). In other news, they’ve also finally learned to enter quietly, stay in their rooms and converse so other rooms don’t hear you. If we’ve accomplished nothing else this trip, it will all have been worth it!  

It was midnight as they fell asleep (some are “staying up all night but don’t tell Mrs. Parrish… (ummmm, I’m right behind you!)) and not long after when I was tucked in as well (with zero intentions of staying awake even a millisecond longer than I had to….).  
We’re bringing your kids back to you tomorrow (that’s a threat OR a promise, depending on which kids we’re talking about!). Good night! 🙂

Hello My Love (aka Driving into Saskatchewan)

The kids are all in trouble because they were super SUPER rude today! In fact, everyone EVERYONE has to write a big LONG APOLOGY letter to me…..(I’ll publish them in a book and make money from it, don’t you worry!).
Here’s what happened, enroute to my parents’ farm, the students asked if they could watch a movie. Well, WELL I replied in a VERY KIND manner and said, “Why would you want to watch a movie, look at that beautiful scenery out the windows….”

Oh. My. Goodness. The jeering, the sneering! They were ruthless with their disdain and insults. So INCREDIBLY Rude.  

And that’s why they’re all writing sincere apology letters right now (while they watch Monsters Inc!).  
Before all that happened, they had a pretty eventful morning (as in they had their usual breakfast, packed their bags back up, hung out in the hallway and loitered in the parking lot waiting to board the bus!). ACTUALLY, they did meet a dinosaur who visited them in the hallway of the hotel room (which doesn’t happen every day!).
I’ve taken to multi-tasking (mostly because I’m running behind all the time and secondly because I’m dog-tired and wanting to get as much sleep as I can!). This morning Josee slept in (and by slept in, I mean she woke up mere minutes after her 5:15 alarm – she’s pretty much conditioned to get up at this time, with or without an alarm!).

Anyway, back to my multi-tasking. That’s why you would have found me bossing kids around a parking lot this morning while still brushing my teeth. It’s multi-tasking taken to an art form (in my opinion!).

Rumor has it that a busload of kids had to await Zac, Quinn and Jamie’s arrival. The three boys were lolling about in bed, just chillin’ when Ms. From walked in to check if their room was clean and emptied of its contents (which it was clean. and emptied of its contents. except 3 humans!). Upon advising them that they were a little out of area, they got up faster than students hearing the words, “gym time”. Impressive.  

Departing Drumheller, we realized that we forgot the pizzas. This would have been a catastrophe except the hotel is next to a McDonald’s which means we all got a topped-up-coffee! Ahhhhh, the little things in life!

The bus ride to Saskatchewan was pretty quiet (they are SO TIRED), except James who was listening to ringtones on his phone, which is APPARENTLY hilarious, because it involved 4 kids giggling their heads off and one comment I overheard, “ahahahha, this one is Mrs. Parrish’s ringtone”. I’m too tired to even care.

Lunch was awesome! All hands on deck by the chaperones who cut up fruit, prepped iced tea, assembled veggie platters and set up the buffet. Kayli said the lunch was “the best one yet” which we’re going to give her money for saying so because quite honestly, any compliments coming our way at this point have to have monetary value! It was super, super windy and about 10 plates and cups were picked right up off the picnic tables because of it. We thought we’d have to assemble them into a large group to tell them, “Kids, It’s. Really, Windy. Out”, but thankfully after about 10 plates had went flying, they realized it on their own….

From lunch, it was to THE FARM (my favorite spot on this whole trip and ahemm…in the WORLD!). As many of you know from my blogs (and if you’ve ever talked to me), I had a great childhood growing up in Southern Saskatchewan and wear my prairie-love proudly! It may surprise you to know that it wasn’t actually my idea to stop at the farm 6 years ago – it was Jim Reid’s! He said, “we should take the kids to Ponteix” and I was like, “for what?”. I didn’t realize how much the kids would love it, nor how much I would love seeing them love it!  
And love it they did! From the “best mantracker game ever” to a “lawn dance party” to a “homecooked meal” and “climbing huge trees (well I tried Mrs. Parrish….)”, they spent the late afternoon and early evening having a great time. 

 Scanning the farm from my vantage point (a comfy chair in the garage), I could see them enjoying themselves and their time with their friends. Supper was catered by Ponteix Bakery and Restuarant (which my mom used to own), tractor rides were provided by my dad! The mantracker game was complete with Dale’s trailer from The Walking Dead (they loved this!) and loads of vehicles they could hide in and under. Jakob had the GREATEST hiding spot – except that we were all having supper while he giggled with glee at his cleverness! Thankfully, Quinn looked around and saw him missing (and took initiative to find him, cuz I was too busy enjoying the chicken and macaroni salad!).  

Students with the penny boards enjoyed some free time learning how to ride them – which I commended them on until one flew out from their attempted trick and pegged me in the shins, “No one is allowed penny boards from now until you’re 20!” (or at least until I’m a minimum 1 kilometre away!”

We stretched out the evening because everyone was having the greatest time. Kids were happy to have the time to JUST PLAY, and I was happy to just sit and visit with my parents! Around 7:30, we decided to head into town to begin our gym-camp-out. Most of the kids were somewhat tuckered out (and by “most” I mean, 1 or 2 because the other 27-28 of them never seem to run out of energy, which is awful and awesome in equal measure).  

Unfortunately, the bus had difficulty starting and after some quick troubleshooting, the kids were told “go and play some more”. My dad called the neighbour (a high school friend who is also a diesel mechanic) and the men put their heads together to figure out the issue. Within a fairly short amount of time, they had it figured out and were problem solving how to get the part and a mechanic to the farm. We advised the kids that they were staying at the farm and expected to hear some groans. Instead, they happily started unpacking the bus, setting up beds and just being generally the MOST AMAZING KIDS EVER (why aren’t they like that all year long….).  
The boys set up in two locations (the 5th wheel and the garage). Garage kids got top priority on air mattresses and blankets which seemed almost not worth it seeing as Jamie, Zac and Quinn were begging to sleep “under the stars”. In fact, when I told them that there are coyotes on the farm, they looked at me trying to figure out how that was a problem (this. I. cannot. understand.).
Mr. Renner and the boys did some glamping in the camper with a pretty sweet deal that a hotel room would have had a hard time beating (and a gymnasium floor wouldn’t stand a chance against!).  

Sabrina, Taylor, Jinelle and Jade got my brother’s room (which has a KING SIZED bed in there, which I am NOT BITTER about at ALL….). They set up to sleep perpendicular to its usual orientation which was cool except that Taylor’s long legs were well over the edge!

Shayne, Trisha, Kristy and Aubrey slept in my sister, Melissa’s room. Rumour has it that they stayed up late “learning how to twerk….(insert giggle, giggle, giggle)” so I’m glad I didn’t check on them AT ALL.
Kayli started off in the lazy boy but moved to the memory foam (“I actually had a good sleep, Mrs. Parrish….”). Emily, Emma, Brooklyn, Landon, Ruby, Allyssa, set up home bases on air mattresses in the downstairs rumpus room (I think this was the first group asleep!). They settled in quickly and (I think) were sleeping before 11 (except when Trisha woke the whole bunch up by flopping on to Emma and Brooklyn’s air mattress (thanks Trisha!)). 

Chaperones stayed up to visit with my parents, but I was pretty much out of it with tiredness. I was guzzling coffee like these kids with their Starbucks drinks, but it didn’t seem to help one bit! By midnight we were all in bed with hopes of a quick-bus-fix and a lot of thankfulness about just-how-awesome-can-these-kids be! They have been really “go with the flow” which is what you really, really need when there’s 29 of you and you’re travelling 5000 kilometres! 

So, although things didn’t go as planned, we made the best of it! Of all the times to have bus trouble, this was okay. We weren’t stranded on the side of the highway, we weren’t confined to hotel rooms, we weren’t too far from the mechanic or the parts….In fact, we had a place to stay – an absolutely awesome, amazing, wonderful (and FREE!) place to stay! I think Kayli said it best when she commented, “that was so good, Mrs.Parrish”.  :) 

We’ve started Behaving Like Your Children

With no small amount of embarrassment and a hefty dose of shame, I begin this blog post by saying, “We’re setting the worst example for your kids.” And as well, “I’d apologize but I’m pretty sure it could happen again….”. Also, “We’ll pay back the money we owe your kids when we get paid in September!” 

And finally, “IT’S ALL THEIR FAULT!”
(Eyes downcast, big sigh!)

The whole shebunckle started innocently enough when I texted my sister last night to ask which mall we could meet at for lunch (after the Zoo). She stated we should probably head to Cross Iron Mills Mall as it’s enroute to Drumheller.
Cross. Iron. Mills.  

Oh my goodness, I really, really like that mall (even more than West Edmonton Mall) and have already played drop-a-grand there in my travels to Calgary (psst….don’t tell Ron!).🙂  
It’s a great mall and I highly recommend you checking it out if you’re in Alberta – they’ve got a huge Bass Pro Shop (which I care absolutely zero for!) and loads of outlets of actual great stores! It’s huge (109 000 square metres) and has 206 shops. Something for everyone!

Anyway, like I said, it did start innocently enough with GOOD INTENTIONS to head to the food court and feed the kids. All of a sudden, Jen and Sandy (our bus driver who could out-shop Jen!) had extended our 20 minute lunch break to a 2 hour “Mall Exploration of Modern Day Architecture” study. Kids were VERY HAPPY (Randolf told me, “There’s !3! stores here I want to shop at! Can you believe it?”). I would have set some limits on them, but I was busy clicking my heels in glee and checking if I had any more room left on my VISA!

With the kids settled in to lunch and shopping, Ms. From, my sister Melissa and I went into a fevered shopping frenzy (think 29 kids heading in to a souvenir shop in any Alberta location on this trip!)! We were rushing into stores, grabbing 10 to 3000 items off the rack, quickly trying items on, throwing discards at unsuspecting retail workers and whipping our Visas at the cashiers (“Charge it!”). It wasn’t pretty AT ALL. When my Visa was refused, I grabbed random GLC kids, turned them upside down and shook them until the change poured out of their pockets….Frustrating, really, because they’ve got so little money left – I mostly got nickels from them. A few unlucky kids gave up twenties cuz their parents just e-transferred them more money (thanks Mel for my new shoes and thanks Darlene for the cute top and sweater you just bought for Jen!).  

With some chagrin (as much as I could muster with two heavily-laden arms weighed down by shopping bags!), I tried to redeem myself with the kids (and with my own conscience). I wanted to feel sorry for my actions, I really, really did!
But. Then. I saw your kids…..
(Some of you must be in SO MUCH DEBT BY NOW!). 🙂 They had shopped and shopped again! And you know what, they’re getting to be such savvy shoppers too! One of them told me, “You know what, the stores are having so many sales! It’s like they knew we were coming….” (sigh)

Apparently they NEEDED penny boards (a type of skateboard where you pay the same price as a full skateboard – but you only get a half of a board for your money..). “We got such a good deal on these Mrs. Parrish!”

After a quick hug with my sister and Pyvie (my super-cute niece who just turned 4 on Monday, we were back on the bus and enroute to Drumheller. I took on HERO STATUS (yet again….) when the kids realized that it was only an hour to Drumheller rather than the three hours I had told them it would be (I somehow managed to turn this around into a “I wanted to surprise you guys….” which is why they were showing the love (rather than exhibiting their typical disdain).  
When we got to Drumheller, we decided to blitz the three excursions (Royal Tyrrell Museum, hoodoos and suspension bridge) because (a) I’m exhausted and (b) I’m really exhausted!

The museum was fabulous (as you know if you’ve been there) and amazing (because SO ARE DINOSAURS!). It’s a combination of Science and Art with the majestic displays that pull you right into Earth’s history. Aubrey was very intuitive when she told me that “it makes me kind of sad…” and Sabrina and Ruby were pulled (kicking and screaming!) from the museum (LIKE ABOUT 45 MINUTES AFTER EVERYONE ELSE WAS DONE!). Sabrina even told me, “I like dinosaurs now….”. (She was previously devoted to her first Science love, “Space, all things Space”. 🙂

Many of the kids chose the audio recordings to guide them through the museum (17 of them in fact!). Ms. From had told me that a number of them had appreciated the audio devices at the SkyWalk and so we gave them two options in Drumheller – the homework sheet or the audio devices. No wonder SO MANY hands went up when the choice was offered. Heaven knows they wouldn’t want to do any more homework on this trip then they typically want to do during the school year!  

Except Kristy of course who likes homework like Taylor Swift likes writing about her breakups….

The hoodoos were their typical terrifying self. This is Ms. From’s most dreaded part of the trip (mine is getting on the bus in Balmertown….)! We didn’t have to worry a bit though! Once we realized our terror had been fed by our last trip’s chaperones (ahemm…Ron, Chris and Darrin) AND that none of the kids would RUN LIKE CRAZY, RISKING THEIR VERY LIVES if these guys weren’t there issuing challenges like., ‘Hey! Let’s all run down and risk our lives…” everything was A-OK. Kids stayed safe and had a good time.  

Randolf took a minute to consider the intricacies of our world – a great thing to do when we’re herding 28 kids on to the bus! All of a sudden, EVERYONE wants to sit and stare at the sky (“If Randy’s allowed, why can’t I….”).

Matthew and Connor were dressed alike on the way to the suspension bridge (“Take a picture of us, MP! Take a picture of us, MP! Take a picture of us, MP!” ….. “MATTHEW! Seriously! I will in a minute!”) Bradford and Matthew were also matching but I missed that photo opportunity (because Matthew only asked me ONCE!).

Suspension bridge was okay, highlights here were Sabrina’s mid-bridge cartwheel and Shayne’s handstand. Both were commendable in my eyes because it’s just metal grating underneath us (and a RIVER!). I was busy holding on to my phone because I was pretty sure with my jumpy nerves and general clumsiness it could end up in the river faster than I can say, “Whose pillow is this on the floor?” or “Who left their phone on the back of this toilet?”.  

Supper credits go to Ms. From who ordered pizza, wings and chicken fingers from a great place in Drumheller. The kids ate in the breakfast room and then swam until 9:30. Once confined to their rooms, we found them peacefully watching TV and writing in their journals. Speaking of watching TV, they’re so diverse with their TV watching habits (which kind of surprises me because they mostly behave with a herd-kind-of-mob-mentality!). Shayne, Landon, and Kayli have been watching cooking shows (the Food Network) – as have Emma, Emily, Brooklyn and Allyssa; Riley, Matthew, Seth and Connor have thrown a couple of movies on; Zac, Quinn and Jamie have watched “Yukon Trappers” and “Border Security” (yawn, big yawn….); James, Jakob, Lukas and Randy have watched baseball and other sports (kids are putting me to sleep here…); 
Bradford, Will and Sidney have opted out of tv for music (dance party anyone?) and Jade, Jinelle, Taylor and Sabrina turned on their TV and watched the “continuous circuit of movie previews that was on when we turned the TV on….” (sigh)

Chaperones were in bed early (just after 11, I think) and kids were smart enough to talk quietly so we couldn’t hear them through their doors (they’re so savvy!).  
Saskatchewan for Day 9 AND getting to see my sweet little hometown and the best spot of land in the world – my family farm. Kids are super-lucky because I’m gonna regale them with hours of stories of my childhood. Who else gets these kind of chances in life, I ask you?  

South and then East (we’re heading home!)

Day 7!

Although we won’t arrive until Friday evening (and most of us won’t be coherent until late Sunday afternoon), we’re kind of “heading home” as of today. After driving Canada’s MOST BEAUTIFUL highway, we turned East to head back to Ontario (no small amount of sadness (on the kids’ part) and happiness (on the adults’ part)).  
A very early morning began with me waking with a start (my alarm didn’t go off and I slept in until 5:15!) and the kids waking up soon after. After showering and getting ready, I felt that I should pull ALL the items out of my suitcase to rearrange everything (Aubrey also did this, but she accomplished this task while all the kids were already ready and waiting at the bus doors….(sigh!)).  
Mrs. Blais made breakfast (she’s a volunteering machine if you hadn’t already noticed that!) and kids cleaned the dorm rooms (no small task!). At 7:58, the bus was loaded and ready to go (they’re still awesome and we can barely believe it!). Kids on first were happy to find spots to settle in to for the day.

 Everyone’s got more candy than you can imagine (they’re literally like bears preparing to hibernate!). Yesterday, they found a candy store in Jasper and they spent your money like nobody’s business. Kayli and Jamie bought giant jawbreakers (the size of a baseball (softball) – I’m. Not. Kidding!). Sidney and Jamie bought tubes of bubblegum (which held !30! bubblegum – the two boys were SO POPULAR for however long there was bubblegum in that tube!). Emma bought 125g of gum-chews and another one of those massive jawbreakers! Emily bought a gum machine that you can type on (ok. what?). And Shayne got salt water taffy (that I can agree with!).
A LOT of candy was purchased. And they were happy.

Speaking of happy, I’m getting to know this Emily-kid from Ms. From’s class. She’s super annoying with all her smiling and happiness. Can. We. Talk. About. That? She wakes up with a smile, spends her day smiling and EVEN SMILES in her sleep. Honest. It’s completely annoying when you’re as tired and grouchy as I am. 
At Athabasca Falls, they took a group photo to the annoyance of several tourists who waited for us to assemble into our formation. To these tourists, I say, “Want to trade places? Yeah, I didn’t think so.” Speaking of trading places, Ms. From, Mrs. Blais and I accidentally boarded a bus of retirees after walking away from Athabasca Falls. It took us minutes to realize that it wasn’t our bus (cuz, your kids have aged significantly over the last 6 days!). The retirees didn’t want us (we begged considerably) and so three slumped-shoulders-feet-dragging-women carried on until we boarded our own bus.

At the glacier, they killed me with their acute observations (“Mrs. Parrish, it’s really cold out here.” – we told them like 900 times it would be!). Actually, they really loved the glacier and did PRETTY GOOD (especially compared to that group a couple trips ago!) staying on the glacier. Matthew stood in the stream of water to fill his water bottle and then said to me, “guess what? My shoes are soaked!”. They took loads of photos (more selfies of course) and even photobombed a bit too!  
There’s been some braiding going on (although nothing near the braiders of 2012). Emma has braided Taylor’s hair every morning (thank goodness, cuz T’s got crazy flyaways), Trisha has braided Aubrey’s hair, Aubrey’s braided Trisha and Kristy’s hair, Allyssa has braided Emily’s hair and Will’s braided Shayne’s hair (I didn’t see that one coming…)

In Lake Louise they woke up. Which would be good, EXCEPT FOR THAT ZAC KID! Has anyone ever seen him HYPER? He’s legitimately ANNOYING – all that energy and happiness and smiling and bubbly personality…. (ok. what?). Yes, I said “bubbly personality!” I can’t even describe it, here’s some pics to illustrate the absurdity of it all.  

We’ve been really diligent about not letting them sleep because it’s VERY IMPORTANT TO US that they sleep at night (because we REALLY. REALLY. REALLY need our own sleep….). As you can see, they’re totally on board. (sigh)

In Banff, we really wanted them to have a good meal and experience this Canadian gem. We gave them strict instructions “eat somewhere where you have to sit down” (one of them yelled, “do you mean McDonald’s and Subway?” – ummm, ok. No!). Off they went with their money and small groups to find a place (some of them are checking menus on the doors to clarify price range!). Kudos to the ENTIRE group for being at the bus on time! They were ALL on the bus for 7:01 (I sauntered in around 7:10 with my shopping bag under my arm!). We asked them where they had went for supper and I couldn’t help but smile as they relayed their choices…
“We went to Tony Roma’s, did you know it’s expensive there?”

“We went to Coyote’s and the iced tea was so disgusting.”

“Our place was a dive but it was owned by some locals and the food was good.” 

“We had Greek food, and went over our limit by $5.00 cuz I didn’t like the drink I ordered!”
All in all another great day with these great kids. As I type this blog, they are HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY. One group at the front is online looking up jokes (and then reciting them one after another to their nearby friends), a few students are reading, some are playing iPad games, a few are listening to music (apparently you can’t let the whole song play through though….) and there are a few writing in their journals.  

They’re all so lovely. I bet you’re missing them. We’re bringing them home to you – heading East now! They’re very homesick for you (lots of tears!) and they’re very very tired (so are we, so are we!). They’re going to be genuinely happy to hang out with you on Friday night (don’t worry, it won’t last!).
One last addition before I post, Kristy and Taylor just showed up and were STARVING! After a quick chaperone meeting on how to solve that (we have NO WAYS to SOLVE that….), I walked away to deal with another problem. Minutes later, I returned to the room to find Ms. From feeling PRETTY DARN IMPRESSED with herself. Upon asking her what was up, she gleefully explained that both Kristy and Taylor had agreed to eat one of her LARA bars.




Honestly, we’re TOTALLY taking care of these kids!  

Onward and Upward (“Those are the Foothills, not the Mountains”)

Our departure from Edmonton began with a chaperones-and-bus-drivers-ONLY-Tim-Hortons-stop (which meant anyone over the age of 14 was impressed, those under….well…not SO MUCH). It made a big difference for the adults though (as in, we woke up and interacted with our charges rather than just existing in the same hemisphere as them…).
The drive to Hinton was quiet (except for some snoring….).  

In Hinton, we stopped at Safeway to get lunch for the kids and groceries for the next two days (breakfast at the Rec Centre and bonfire-lunch at the horse stables). Lunch was assorted items of no nutritional value (Honest. To. Goodness.). James and Connor gave me the gears when they let me know that I was RESPONSIBLE for RUINING their healthy-eating streak. APPARENTLY on Day 3, they bought a healthy lunch in Lloydminster (ummm….sweet potato CHIPS) BUT then when they went to buy lunch in Hinton, I told them to buy “something healthy and something fun”. Once they purchased their items, they walked by me and said, “Way to go, you ruined our healthy eating streak (ummmm, it was one day!) because you told us to buy something fun.”. (I. Can’t. Win.)

Blog post competitions to represent the Safeway stop in an exciting manner resulted in no effort at all (they’ve got only enough energy to walk upright….). I literally saw a student eating an ice cream and it was dripping profusely down her sweater. She glanced at it and then continued to eat (eyes may have been glazed over…).  Don’t worry, though, Aubrey has great friends to clean her up! 
Our Jasper experience began with a stop at the Miette Hot Springs. There’s two cold pools and two warm/hot pools here – the kids went between these pools with a bravado only matched by participating in a Dodgeball game with their peers….The cold pool is REALLY cold and UNCOMFORTABLE and I’m happy to say that noone had the blue-lip syndrome! At the Miette Hot Springs, they were also really, really impressed with the mountain goats (sheep?, not sure what they were!). They typically hang out in the parking lot waiting on new vehicles to arrive so they can lick the exhaust pipes (weird, I know!).

Slushies were on tap at the gift shop so most of them sugared up before we left Miette (again with the communal straw!).
Our arrival and settling in at the Rec Centre was another testament to their fine organization and commitment to timeliness and orderliness (first evidence I’ve seen of that this school year!). Girls headed up to the curling lounge while the boys were bunking downstairs in the Arts and Crafts room. It all had to be very quick as our tramway flight times were already booked!

The tramway was AWESOME! Kids loved, loved, loved climbing a mountain (some didn’t like the tram so much!) and KUDOS to the fact that ALL of them were warm enough to enjoy it (we reminded them about a million times to wear sweaters and runners!). Kids took off like a shot up the mountain (I think Bradford was in the lead!). Once up there, Matthew, Kayli and Trisha built an inukshuk and Aubrey, Connor and James phoned home (what better place to call home from than the top of a mountain!). Things got A BIT TENSE (think wringing hands and furrowed brows) when they informed us that we COULDN’T GO DOWN! Apparently, the winds were up (LIKE as in THE SNOW WAS GOING SIDEWAYS!) and we had to wait out the weather. I was a little stressed we’d have to spend the night because heaven knows these kids need their toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant! Luckily, though, it was just a bit of a wait and then we were good to go (imagine trying to put those kids back on the tram after the guide had said, “it’s not safe to go down….”).  

From the tram, it was off to supper in chaperone groups (where three of four of us ended up at the same restaurant anyway!). Josee and her girls enjoyed a wonderful Italian supper that her daughter (Rebecca) had enjoyed on her trip! Speaking of that, there have been many instances where kids have said to us, “This was so-and-so’s favorite part of the trip.” or “My brother told me about this.” and even Jakob who took guided us to a great restaurant in Jasper where his family had eaten on a previous trip (the amazing menu and great atmosphere of this restaurant was vetoed by the group in favour of pizza, but we at least looked in the window….sigh).
The group ended their evening with a game of mantracker on the school playground next to the Recreation Centre – what a setting for this game, in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. They came back in the centre with huge grins, laughing and giggling about their game and time in Jasper.  

Such a sweet moment. Which I ruined. And boy were they NOT impressed. I advised the group that showers weren’t allowed to the next day, WHICH APPARENTLY was a super-mean thing to do (except for the ones who haven’t been showering, they were like “Meh, whatever!”). 🙂

Girls held a dance party in the Curling Lounge which I’m hearing had some judging issues (poor Allyssa, she really was in a bind!). Rumour has it that Aubrey held her own against a team of Instep dancers – I’d have to see that to believe it! Lots of giggles and fun as they enjoyed all the girls being in the same room. Downstairs, I think they were playing a real-life version of this game they’ve been playing on their phones (Slitherio or something…). Basically, they were just ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR.  Apparently, the boys were in their sleeping bags and they would try to capture their peers who were also cleaning up the floor with their sleeping bags also. It sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN. 
Lights out and phones charging, they were soon asleep (which would have been good had all three female chaperones not been WIDE AWAKE!). In the boys room, I’m hearing someone’s alarm went off in the middle of the night (was that you Sydney?) which according to the boys was a MAJOR FAUX PAS (they were circling him like wolves do as they approach prey….).

Sunday morning started with horseback riding (we LOVE Jasper Park Riding Stables). The staff here must be second to none (because they’re absolutely perfect!). This has long-been one of the favourite excursions for our kids. Ms. From organized some groups to head out with the cowboys and cowgirls while I prepared my “photo spot” (I have also now learned that you can substantially spook a horse and its accompanying rider when you are partially hidden behind a tree….).  

Enroute to the stables, kids were lucky to see a momma elk with her baby saunter across the road into the forest. The female elk paused kindly for our students to take photos (what a nice elk!), while she posed her baby took the opportunity provided to have a little milk drink (you know what I mean by this, right)? I was just enjoying the serenity of this nature-at-its-purest moment, when I heard Riley from the back, “oiy, that looks like it hurts…”. (I’m seriously not making this stuff up!).  

Upon return from the horseback ride, Mr. Renner got the bonfire going and prepped all the food for consumption (again, think wolves circling around their prey…). Hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and smores were the menu items (with some partaking in A LOT of food….). Myself, I was all about that cheeseburger and fairly hugged the poor kid who cooked it for me (sorry James!).  

After saying goodbye to their horses (and taking a million photos!), they were back on the bus. In the front seat, Lori (our second driver) and Josee were comparing their FITBIT counts. Apparently, APPARENTLY they were counting steps WHILE HORSEBACK RIDING! Ms. From and I have taken EXCEPTIONAL EXCEPTION to this and haven’t let them hear the end of it! Cheaters. Horseriding cheaters.  

Smelling like the stables and a bonfire, it was off to the laundromat (where people promptly left as soon as they saw us coming!). We had to learn about laundromat etiquette when (out of the corner of our eyes) we saw someone glaring and muttering about us. Sooooo, I thought if you wanted a machine, you put your bag in front/on top of it to “claim it”. Good thing, Mr. Renner did some PR with this individual to redeem us (I think I overheard him say, “Those ladies don’t have a clue what they’re doing!”).

Speaking of Mr. Renner, he’s been on point with the coffee runs (and why wouldn’t he be, he gets up IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!). On Saturday, he arrived with a tray of coffee from the Bear Paw Bakery which he handed to us. This was fab, but when he handed us the WHITE CHOCOLATE SCONES, we canonized him and his name was changed to “Saint David”. This morning, he showed up with four different selections – each one individually matched to our personalities! 

After laundry and free time, we were off to Maligne Canyon where the kids hiked a couple of kilometres (mostly downhill, but they still complained!) through the most majestic canyon you can imagine! Kids took lots of selfies to improve this majestic view (sigh…) and just generally enjoyed the time in our great Canadian land.

Evening chatter included a recap of the shower situation. Honest. To. Goodness. I was dying when I heard the boys talking about how they had to shower in a communal shower. Apparently, APPARENTLY this was their first experience with this and it was none-too-comfortable. I was on the floor laughing my head off! when Zac said (please imagine it in his tone of voice), “I just shut my eyes the whole time….”.  
With a curfew of 10, they were back in to the Rec Centre (and many were into the shower like nobody’s business!) and soon into bed. Josee and Jen came up with a “get these girls sleeping by 11” plan that was the cat’s meow. Not sure what happened downstairs because (a) that’s Dave’s show and (b) I was sound asleep!
Turning East soon, going to be a bittersweet moment. These kids are so SO good! When we left Jasper Park Riding Stables, they told us, “your kids were really great. They’re so attentive and polite. Lots of good manners!” (Ok. What?)

Which goes to show all their mature behaviour must be accredited to the experiences they’re having, because one kid told me yesterday, “I’ve learned more on this trip than I have my whole school year….”.  
Oh goodness.  

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