Monday, June 4, 2018

Camping hacks from the Morgans

Planning on going camping this summer?  Here are 7 camping hacks that will leave you wondering how you ever survived camping without them!

1. First off, ditch the camper - and even the tent.  Just pack a bag and head out.  Leave it all behind.  Become a drifter.  You gave it a shot.  Now it's time to move on.


2. For a quick and easy fire starter, just bring a flamethrower.  Ignore that bear in the jeans and silly hat.  He's just talking crazy again.

3. Want fresh eggs for breakfast while you're living off the grid?  Bring a chicken with you. Seriously. His name's Carl.  He loves long road trips. He'll be at your house in the morning.


4. Wondering how to keep clean on a camping trip when you're far away from showers?  Wait until it rains*.  It's probably going to rain again soon, right? Just go stand outside.  Boom - you're clean.

5. For mosquitoes and biting flies - still have that flamethrower handy?  I'm kidding, but seriously - what is Carl doing anyway?  Don't chickens eat mosquitoes??

6. Natural tick repellant - don't go outside.  Bring plenty of electronics and camp somewhere with wifi.

7. Hotels.  Forget it - this is too hard.  Make sure it's a pet-friendly hotel.  Carl needs to maintain a certain lifestyle.


Now get out there and have some fun!

*Not recommended for winter or desert camping. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Old Charlotte County Gaol

123 Frederick St.
St. Andrews, NB


The Old Charlotte County Gaol (it's really a jail, we get it - they used to spell things funny) sits judgmentally at the top of a hill in the middle of St. Andrews, and from the outside looks to be about as much fun as a giant cinder block.  One beautiful sunny day last week, armed with their stuffed Pokemon toys and a pair of play handcuffs, our boys decided to take us along to see what it was like on the inside.  

The St. Andrews Archives share a space with the Old Gaol, and while I'm sure there are just troves of fascinating stories and funny old fashioned spellings, we were there with a four- and seven-year-old so we were focused on fun and educational.  A very nice man greeted us at the front door with a few guests that had just toured the cells and they were headed over to the courthouse next door.


This courthouse was built in 1840, and was last used for a trial in 2016.  Now it is more of an educational facility, serving both as a sort of legal museum and training space for law students.  The tour guide described how prisoners were brought in, where they sat, and how they were shackled to the bench to prevent any shenanigans.  We spent most of the time in the courthouse trying to wrangle our very energetic boys while attempting to learn about history.  Just a word for parents - while it may be great for history buffs and legal nerds (I was fascinated by the cabinet full of standard weights and measurements), this isn't the most exciting part of the tour for small kids.


After the museum of legal history, we made our way over to ye olde gaol.  Remember the St. Andrews Blockhouse that we visited last week?  The one that they built to protect the town from pirates?  Well these bleak cells paint a stark picture of similar times - there is talk of drunken sailors (shave his belly with a rusty razor...) and disgruntled lenders (you could have people put in gaol jail for owing you money!).  


With doorways about two feet wide and a tiny slit in the bricks that serves as a window, these cells do not seem like an enjoyable way to spend a night.  When the jail was built in the early 1830s, there was no electricity and torches would prove too dangerous a luxury, so nighttime meant complete darkness for the inmates.  The tour guide explained that "good behaviour" was rewarded with the freedom to roam about the secured cell block (at least during the day), but rowdy - or intoxicated - guests were confined to these tiny dark rooms.  By the way, the "window" slit wasn't covered with glass, so summer days were hot and winter nights were freezing.  


There is a blown-up copy of a sheet of ledger hanging on the wall complete with names of inmates, plaintiffs, arresting officers, and the results of their stay.  Several just said "released to sea" in the cases of visiting sailors that found the wrong way to blow off steam while their ship was docked in the harbour.  

The tour was interesting - complete with stories and "what ifs" to work up the imagination.  The boys even wanted to go into a cell and close the door to see how dark it was.  The tiny amount of early afternoon light that penetrated the window slit made it barely possible to see more than a few inches in front of our faces.  It was a lot of fun to pretend and imagine the unfortunate lives of the people that stayed for any amount of time in this bleak place.  


For more information on the Old Gaol, the St. Andrews Archives, the Charlotte County Courthouse, and more, visit www.ccarchives.ca. Admission just $2 for adults and kids are free - and you can put a donation in the barrel on your way out of the cells.  

If you finish the tour(s) and the kids still have some left over energy (ours did), just down the road is Vincent Massey Elementary School with the biggest playground we've ever seen!  It deserves a blog post of its own, but for now I'll just post a picture:


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Art day Saturday

Today we decided to have a quiet, relaxing day at home with the kids and the dogs.  Instead of stressing about classes, work, camping, cleaning or any of the other things that drive us crazy during the week, we got out paints and brushes and spent the afternoon being creative.  Connor discovered a love for watercolors:



While Vickie tried to work out the week's kinks with some yoga.  While it may have been difficult to work around the kids and the dogs, it turned into a different kind of stress relief for her: 




I worked on some characters that the boys and I have been creating for stories that we will write and illustrate together.  No spoilers, but they will be about a couple of adorable alien robots that meet an astronaut that looks suspiciously like our beagle.  They got their first full-color page today:



Vickie also worked on a piece set in her native province of Newfoundland:



And then she added the water colors to a sketch of the Blockhouse in St. Andrews that we visited yesterday:



And this was the result.  I think that if we can look back on a Saturday and remember it like this, we will have done alright.  And hey - homeschool art class!



When they were done painting, the boys decided to bring down some instruments and sing their new favorite song for us:




See you next time!
-Josh

St. Andrews Blockhouse


23 Joes Point Rd.
Saint Andrews, NB

If you’re ever driving through southwest New Brunswick, watching the picturesque scenes of the Bay of Fundy fly past your car windows, about 100 kilometers from the hustling, bustling big city, (if you look hard enough) you will find the beautiful coastal hamlet of St. Andrews by-the-Sea.  Despite the Algonquin Resort looking over the town like a medieval citadel, this sleepy little bay gives off a laid-back west coast vibe that might remind you of simple songs about fruity drinks and busted flip flops.  While there is plenty to enjoy here - and we take any opportunity to explore with our kids whenever we visit - one place that we have frequented is the St. Andrews Blockhouse.



Usually we take the kids around low tide so we can explore the red sand bar that juts out into the water where the St. Croix River meets Passamaquoddy Bay.  At times it seems that you could walk right across and into the dense trees of Navy Island, but if the tide drops low enough to make it (with dry feet), we’ve never seen it. There are more rocks than you can fit into everyone’s pockets (much to the dismay of our boys), and plenty of snails and shells and kelp to keep the kids interested.  When the water is low enough, it’s a decent walk out to the point and back to the parking lot.



Once you make it back from the point (if the kids aren’t all tired/asleep/crying), the fun and educational part of this Canadian National Historic Site is waiting for you just up the hill.  When the War of 1812 started, the Loyalist-founded town of St. Andrews was concerned about attacks from privateers looking to loot and plunder (or whatever it was that privateers did), so they built three cannon batteries along the coast to protect themselves.  Quickly realizing that pirates could land, turn the cannons around, and use them against the town, they erected blockhouses like this one to protect the cannons that were protecting them.



The cannons are cool enough by themselves.  On a hill pointing towards the water, there are three big cartoonish-looking guns on wheeled contraptions that made it possible to manually move them around and aim before firing on marauders. Whether it’s allowed or not, our kids love to climb up into the wooden platforms under the cannons and pretend they’re fighting evil pirates.



The blockhouse is a small two-story building right behind the cannons that looks sort of like a giant wooden mushroom.  There are small holes cut into the walls all around the building, and a large square hole in the middle of the second floor wall.  According to the informational signs around the area, these loopholes (did you know this is where the commonly used word comes from?) were used by soldiers fortified inside the building to fire muskets at anyone who tried to attack the battery.  The big square hole upstairs was meant for a fourth cannon, tucked safely inside and away from the battle.  I can’t imagine it was pleasant shooting a giant iron gun inside a room the size of your kitchen, but these were simpler times.  There were no smartphones and no Facebook.  They had to do something to destroy their brains.



This site is a great place for an interactive history lesson for the kids.  Between June 1st and August 31st there are tours inside the blockhouse, complete with period artifacts and silly looking hats.  Since we haven’t visited during the summer months yet, we have only explored the outside, but there is still plenty to learn.  We discussed (not in great detail – they are only 7 and 4 years old) the war of 1812, the reason for the cannons and the blockhouse, pirates, and how different the place must have been 200 years ago. We even talk about all the different types of rocks and sea life on the sand bar as we hike.  The boys love to find paw- and shoe-prints from all the walkers before us.



Between the sand bar and the blockhouse, you can easily spend an hour or two exploring this small historic site.  It's a great way to learn about history while getting some fresh air and letting the kids run around and burn off some energy.



Check out the ParksCanada website for more information.




See you next time!
-Josh

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Getting started

Last day of #mentalhealthweek. Time to #getLOUD and all that.
I have been giving a lot of thought to what it must be like for the boys to have a Mom with PTSD. I've been a zombie since we lost Joe and sharing our story has helped tremendously. It hasn't been a walk in the park for them. At least I feel I haven't been the parent I wanted to be. The boys love me endlessly anyway.

Now that Ounce of Prevention has been picked up by Rogers TV we are going on the road to discover Canada. Through libraries, parks, playgrounds, campgrounds.....through music, writing, vlogging, documenting, who knows what else.

Our boys have spent their lives in the US missing out on Canada for far too long.
Josh too (haha.)
I hope you'll follow along at www.awalkintheparks.ca when we get started.

See you out there on the road.

~Vickie Morgan