We managed to stuff all of our gear, both kids and Icon into our car to get to the airport. The shuttle driver was very courteous and helpful. (And Alex was thrilled to get to ride a new type of bus.) I have to say that the staff at the check-in counter was somewhat less helpful. There were a lot of people checking in and while we got pulled out of line so that we could be helped directly, there were several points where it looked as if we'd been forgotten. We ended up leaving our "please sit here and someone will be down to escort you through security" spot and just going through security on our own.
Security was very good with Icon. They made us have him go through the metal detector on his own but didn't ask us to strip off all of his gear. Alex got selected for a random screening but he participated reasonably well. We got to our gate about five minutes before boarding and introduced ourselves to the gate attendant.
We had the bulkhead seats on the plane. Dave and Alex were on one side, with Icon under their feet. Nathan and I were on the other side. It was nice having the extra leg room, but because we didn't have a seat in front of us to store our bags, we had to put them in the overhead bin, which was a little inconvenient.
The flight went smoothly and we arrived on time, meeting my father at the airport (he was in Calgary already and leaving the next day). The kids were getting tired and a little cranky but we managed to have a nice meal and get ourselves set up at the hotel.
For our first day, the only item on the agenda was the Stampede Parade. We left in what we thought was very good time, but ran into some complications. First, the train into the city was far more packed that we'd anticipated, sending Nathan into an anxiety meltdown. He was howling that he wanted to go home. Dave and I were straddling Icon, trying to keep anyone from stepping on him, so I was trying to hug Nathan and get him to calm down.
We had purchased bleacher seats in advance, which proved to be a very good idea. We found our seats and, with a little shuffling, sat down just as the parade reached our area. Alex quite enjoyed the whole thing, singing and dancing to the music and waving to the participants. Icon sat quietly by the curb and seemed interested. A few times, we got nervous because there were golf carts whizzing by to deliver water to the people in the parade. Nathan was still upset when we sat down, but then he got interested, then he got bored and started to get upset again. I think he had the hardest time. We were lucky that our seats were in the shade, but had a challenge in that Alex drank all three litres of water that I'd brought and did it within the first half hour.
After the parade, we got some snacks and more water from a convenience store and sat down in a park to allow the crowds heading back on the train to disperse. Nathan perked up after some water and chocolate and was much more cheerful. It took awhile, but eventually we got ourselves a train and headed back to where we'd parked the car. We spent the rest of the day having a quiet time and then headed out to dinner.
After dinner, I took Icon to visit my grandmother. She has a lot of trouble remembering things now and thought I was her niece. Our conversation was a little repetitive but she was delighted to see Icon (she's always loved dogs) and was happy to see me.
On Saturday, we went to Heritage Park, a historical village set in the 1890s to 1910s. Alex was not in a mood to be cooperative. He bolted several times and complained constantly about everything, including any random comments he overheard. Nathan was also in a cranky mood. Dave generously offered to supervise them playing in the park while I went to do some exploring and learning. I got to visit the Indian settlement and learned about some of the native games and tools, as well as visit the Hudson's Bay Trading Post and see how the trading system worked. After I got back, we rode a few rides on the historical midway and then headed back to the hotel for a quiet break. Unfortunately, Alex continued with his complaining and Nathan's mood wasn't stable,
Saturday evening, we went to my cousin's house to celebrate the 1st birthday of his new son. It was a good opportunity to see most of the Calgary relatives, but the boys were clearly having a difficult time. We left early and headed back to the hotel.
Sunday we went to Banff amid lots of complaining. At this point, I was feeling very discouraged and wondering if I had made a mistake about the whole trip. Dave made a comment that he didn't feel Icon was helping at all and had made things more difficult (since we had to deal with his gear and food, etc.) Personally, I think having Icon was helpful in that we could keep Alex tethered to him and he was keeping Dave calmer than usual, but it was still discouraging.
Nathan was interested in doing the trail ride along the Bow River, so we signed up and got ourselves some horses (Max for Nathan and Bowden for me). Alex, Dave and Icon went to amuse themselves. When we got back from the trail ride, Alex was done and Nathan was exhausted, so we headed back to Calgary.
We have another few days here. I want to spend a day at the Stampede and another at the Calgary Zoo. I'm hoping that the boys end up enjoying at least some of it but it's been a pretty intense grind. I'm still not completely recovered from my surgery and medical leave and I'm finding that I get tired very quickly and don't have the energy that I usually do.
I'm glad that we came but I have to be honest and say it's also been a lot harder than I was anticipating. Some of it is Alex's behaviour is more fragile and not in as good a place as last year, mostly due to the issues at school. Some of it is my own lack of resources. Dave has been making a real effort to be more supportive than on previous trips, which I appreciate. Icon has been picking up on the anxiety and temper, making him more anxious. And Nathan has surprised me with how much trouble he's having. I guess this may be a sign that he's more like Dave in preferring to be at home.