May 2022 family reunion Halifax trip

After being grounded since February 2020 – longer for NPY and Kiddo – we head to Halifax in mid-May with my sister and her family. The timing of late May was to catch lower fares and maybe we would have something to celebrate that was getting closer to the due diligence for a potential sale of the restaurant. It would turn out that the sale fell through a mere weeks before we visited but we figured out that it’s my mother’s 80th birthday – you read that right – a week after we leave.

Saturday, May 14

It is something new for me to pack for two kids and myself and even if we can get everything we need in Halifax, it not being some forlorn spot cut off from amenities, I didn’t want to forget too many essentials. I’d rather overpack or pack everything I need and when I use it up, free up room! As per usual, I was creating a packing list in Google Sheets and I dabbled in packing a day or two beforehand but the real packing was after work on Friday. We even ordered take-out and it didn’t seem to free up enough time. The kids knew something was up, the energy level was high and they didn’t want to sleep early, we were bustling about after bedtime doing “one last thing”.

Appearing organized and using the space on the sofa well.
The spoils: one large suitcase for me and kids, a backpack for each of us, a smaller suitcase for NPY and his spare room for any overflow from us.
Sitting in the cramped back middle seat with the kids because BIL is driving and NPY is in the passenger seat.
Kids going on a special adventure. Also note the matchy-matchy outfits I find for them.

News broke earlier that week about bonkers queues at airport security even for domestic flights. For our 9 am flight – which always sounds reasonable when I’m booking it, we’d regularly need to be there at 7:30 am, 90 minutes ahead because of kids. Working back, we have to leave the house at 7 am, wake the kids at 6:30 am, wake myself up at 6 am. Oh crap, that’s pretty cruel.

But with the long queues for security and – funny enough – the Transport Minister putting the blame back on travellers being rusty, we were supposed to get there “two hours before departure”, so leaving hte house at 6:30 am. When I was checking it, Westjet was suggesting getting at the airport two hours before boarding, which is to arrive at the airport by 6:30 – holy jeez. NPY made me do a dance around asking for a drive but in the end, BIL drove us and I was abashed to bump everything up by 30 minutes so just was on tenterhooks that we were too late already.

It turned out we were fine and no one looked closely at the Nexus I did declare were expired and we got into the fast line for security.

A four hour light to Toronto and fearing what the kids will put their hands on and not having enough to entertain them feels endless. I could easily entertain myself. Even Kiddo I could have him read, draw, zone out to some cartoons. But traveling with Baby who quickly bored of it all was tough. She did sleep more than Kiddo and I felt wretched he was missing sleep.

In Toronto, we met up with BIL who had gone a couple of days earlier. When it was just MY and KM (my niece) and me, NPY and the kids, we occupied one row with me across the aisle from them. On the second flight, BIL was sitting on his own but KM started fussing at take off and I switched seats with BIL and had peace and quiet for some 45 minutes while we were delayed taking off. I fell asleep and woke up as we took off.

We got into Halifax after 8 pm and so we all stayed up after midnight local time, of course!

Sunday, May 15

First real day in town and lazy wake up, if I recall correctly. We were never in a particularly rush although I had some secret hope of getting us from staying on Pacific Time to maybe getting to Central time zone, just maybe?

When we did roll out, it was in the order of 3 p.m. The fun part of being with my sister is how she – like when she was a kid – is curious and digs through stuff in the storage room and uncovered some gems for us to bring back to Vancouver. Perhaps we don’t have the most use either for some things, but it was more than none at all in storage.

The kids having eaten some semblance of breakfast at 1 pm local, I just wanted to get to our activity, potentially activities. But men need to eat and it wasn’t a bad idea after all. The first idea of Thai Express Dartmouth Crossing was scrapped when we saw Pur and Simple but it was closed because it was not late lunch time any longer. So we ended up at Ela! which was a comfortable choice and something different for my mum. After lunch it really hit how we’re in Halifax because it was Sunday and most things were already closed and after the kids had some fun at the amazing Dartmouth Crossing playground, we made it into Costco just in the nick of time. With my full family and MY’s, we had enough people to get some of the larger format food I’ve previously seen at Costco.

I also brought my recent experience ordering curbside at No Frills and ordered curbside at Superstore for my parents to pick up on Saturday before we arrived, thinking of what the kids would want, what the adults might want to snack on, what I’d want my parents to try or would eat if we don’t finish it.

The carpet is so plush. So plush it would make an excellent rug.
This awesome Fisher-Price device to keep your kids attached to you. My sister in particular would wander and my mum used this when she traveled to Asia alone with us in tow.
Well thought out for Dartmouth Crossing to have this fantastic playground in the center of the plaza.
Costco run with three generations present.

Monday, May 16

It seemed a bit early on but what were we waiting for? What’s the “perfect sequence”? The major activity was taking the kids to Hop! Skip! Jump! – KM and Baby’s and BIL’s first time. And I was naturally curious what Kiddo would do. While Baby did a cursory tour of the big kid area, she was still interested in and not too old for the toddler area. Kiddo is only six and in some ways seems on the brink of outgrowing the big kid area. But that’s where his imagination kicks in and his opportunity master like shooting balls or dream up imaginative scenarios as he climbs and jumps around.

A bonus activity for the kids was running the jacuzzi / hot tub in mum’s ensuite bathroom which might only be about the second time it has been used, the first time being when Kiddo was last there like December 2018. I poured in too many bubbles of course and it would replace use going swimming together.

I loved how Daddy sat down with the girls for breakfast and it was simple enough but sweet that he topped up their cereal and was attentive to them.
The colours, the space, the cleanliness of Hop! Skip! Jump! And that a parent can go in to guide the kids or be present in this awesome space with their kids is brilliant.
Baby wouldn’t stop for a second for a proper photo
Cousins dealing with way too many bubbles. There is such a thing.
So much scope for the imagination in the empty spaces in my parents’ home. Kiddo set up stations/centers for them to play at.

Tuesday, May 17

Tuesday, we did the waterfront thing and I approach it with the thought, “What’s there new to see?” Of course, it’s all new for the kiddies and there was the submarine park which was not fun for the toddlers and not many activities. They had more fun at the Wave sculpture where Kiddo scaled to the top – I did not think that would happen at age six!

There was new stuff to see like starting with Queen’s Marque which we passed between the ferry terminal (we took a ferry over from Dartmouth because experiences) to the play area. The striking, new, modern buildings and structures remind you of Nova Scotia’s marine industry, made of materials like iron (?) and steel. I joked with MY that the corollary in BC is all the wood and glass new buildings.

I picked up a kid’s guide to Halifax when we were at Hop! Skip! Jump! and there was a bingo card to check things off and it guided me on what I wanted to see at the waterfront as well as brought to my attention attractions I didn’t know about and might have missed. For example, we found the hammocks and the kids enjoyed that. I love seeing them spending time together, on vacation, making memories.

We dined at aMano at Bishop’s Landing – MY’s suggestion – and that was a great idea and it happened to be in the kid’s guide. There were delicious kid’s pasta where they got great quality creamy pasta that was not lost on them. Of course, we had Cows ice cream, from their kiosk rather than main store this time.

Requisite ferry ride on requisite waterfront day
Muir, a high end hotel anchors Queen’s Marque
Steps into the water? What?!
Kiddo is being so six, not just standing behind the frame.

Baby fell asleep in the car after “lunch” and we parked at Chapters Indigo at Mic Mac Mall and took turns bringing Kiddo into the store to look at books, toys, activity kids.

In the evening, Kiddo attending his Mandarin class via Zoom using MY’s study.

Wednesday, May 18

The Discovery Centre was something that was completed after my elementary school years (I think) and has certainly changed because now it’s at the waterfront whereas I think it used to be in the Maritime Centre (which was not on the water). A good afternoon spent for the kids – we arrived with 90 minutes before closing. They close by 4 pm so that doesn’t leave us a lot of time given we were still on Pacific Time.

I really enjoyed the water cycle exhibits and energy one – both of which happened to have large interactive set-ups and Kiddo was not listening to me while he raced around adding balls or turned the crank. The upstairs play area is so lovely and colourful with some good photo opps and Kiddo has aged out of that for sure.

Mum rode with BIL and KM and took off to buy a new printer from Staples and when we left Discovery Centre when it closed, instead of finding parking downtown again, instead of deliberating on a restaurant, I suggested we return to Dartmouth waterfront to Evan’s Seafoods because I wanted a lobster roll and at worse, the kids can have fries if they don’t want fish. They were out of lobster rolls so that was disappointing. The kids meals were great with a good number of pieces of tender fish nuggets.

Mum ordered a mahjong table from Amazon and it was set up for half the visit for late night mahjong (Pacific time) or for kiddies to experience the tiles
Real life mahjong tile matching game! It’s great to see his focus.

Thursday, May 19

Like many places in Halifax, I hadn’t been to Lawrencetown in years…! BIL’s aunty asked if he would reach the Atlantic Ocean and so I had to make that a reality. It was on my list of things to do anyhow, even Kiddo hadn’t been there.

I didn’t remember it being so rocky but where we started out, we walked along the water a little way to a sandy stretch. It was also really windy and the kids who were moving around were warm enough I think but the adults were chilly. I brought baked pizza for them to munch on.

They wouldn’t turn around for me so this is what I’m stuck with
Kiddo faces off with the Atlantic. He wasn’t going to wade in, actually.

Friday, May 20

Somewhere amongst these days, I started to not feel well. BIL and MY were unwell, the last of norovirus they picked up from KM a couple of weeks before. They said I didn’t have what they have because they were puking constantly. I was just visiting the washroom a lot.

This was the day we met up with Thuy for whom I was one of two bridesmaids in 2008. Her oldest was born in 2009 and her youngest is the same age as Kiddo, older by only a couple of weeks. We don’t keep in touch between my Halifax visits but it’s so pleasant to catch up and see her family doing so well. I’m so pleased to see their business flourishes and they are making real estate moves and career decisions. We met up at Westmount Elementary Playground which came up in “best playgrounds in Halifax” searches and the kid’s guide. It is fully accessible which makes it a really big play structure.

We had our traditional lobster and mussels dinner Friday evening, the only time we went to the restaurant. BIL and NPY were often driving my parents to/from the restaurant so that we could have access to their two cars while they worked. Lobster prices were up, like some $30/lb so recently we went for a family dinner in Vancouver and the market price lobster meal was $100! The prices dropped a little by the time we were in Halifax and we enjoyed a lot of lobster.

Saturday, May 21

To make sure we did something special because my mother turned 80 this year, I arranged a photoshoot conducted by myself. The cavernous, empty, bright living room space was the setting… I just didn’t have a great camera set-up and MY bailed me out for that. BIL made the suggestion to take pictures of us on the stairs and that turned out great too. By the time we in seriousness took photos, the toddlers were antsy but I got a few good, frame-able shots in the end!

We went for a mini hike on Shubie Trail which we couldn’t resist, it was so close to the house. On that hike, the destination was Lemondogs and we passed Shubie Canal which I now know I want to book a kayak and go on the water there next time!

Dinner was a “celebration” one and we had party platters of sushi (pick-up) and ramen delivered. Operating between Pacific and Mountain time zones was a bit of a headache to figure out dinner hour and for the first few days, we messed up and had dinner after 10 pm AT since it was only 6 pm PT. The kids really can start eating at 5 pm PT so we learned to have dinner the “early hour” of 9 pm PT! For all that Halifax has access to seafood, I think they source their sushi/sashimi grade fish elsewhere and the customers are not as demanding. As such, the platters sounded awesome but there were a lot of variations of California roll and not nearly enough nigiri. My kids wanted to eat all the salmon nigiri which is a bit embarrassing.

Both toddlers look up to Kiddo and it’s hilarious to see Kiddo (6) influence KM (2).
Lake Micmac

Sunday, May 22

Once again, when booking the flight, 9 am seemed reasonable and it was the only choice anyhow because we wanted (needed) to take the direct Air Canada flight and Westjet did not have one and there is only one direct flight per day.

Well, because even if YHZ Stanfield is a small and quiet airport, what if not arriving two hours before departure resulting in chaos for us? What if they correspondingly had staff shortages and long queues? So, we had to get there at 7 am and the kids would have to wake up at 6 am to leave the house at 6:30 am. We had barely moved them to Mountain time zone and sleeping at 12:30 am AT (9:30 pm MT), they got precious little sleep.

For my part, I packed and prepped and went to sleep with them to wake at 3 a.m. feeling wretched in my tummy and just hung out in the bathroom. Since the beginning of the visit, we put a box of matches in the bathroom we shared and did a courtesy match lighting and snuffing often, so you know what that signaled. At 4 am I crawled into bed not satisfied but just wanting to escape the terrible feeling in my stomach but I woke at 5 and vomited in the kitchen sink. So there’s that. NPY did not feel well and he thought he had food poisoning from the sushi.

On the flight back, we were in a different row from MY and her family. We learned at the airport that the seats we were assigned to different seats from originally assigned and it turned out that our new seats were Preferred Seats with more legroom. There may have been other advantages but really it’s all about the legroom. NPY sat across the aisle and had nothing to do with the kids. Kiddo and Baby were pretty good but by the time it was time to take off, Baby was just frustrated and tired and it was not the right time to have to keep her strapped in and so that was her time to wail her face off in frustration. There after, it was still boring my brains out but we somehow through. Kiddo watched a lot of the shows and ended up exploring some of the games. Thank goodness to Air Canada for that.

On this day..