Tag Archives: Canada

Drip, Drip…

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a resolution, but this year I told myself I’d take one picture a week – specifically, a picture which encapsulates the kind of week I’ve had. Last week I wanted to post a cute picture of the minivan as we returned from our road trip to the Great White North, but I didn’t know which picture to post. I had a few choices:

1. The pic of the new brakes I had to put on the minivan before we left. (Not myself, but by Bruce, my well-named and flawless mechanic.)

2. The pic of the fresh dent I put in the back of the van when pulling out my driveway as we were leaving.

3. The pic of the heating vents in the ceiling of the minivan dripping onto our heads as we drove through Quebec.

4. The pic of the tire pressure light which goes on each time the temp drops below 20 degrees. That light all but imploded as we dropped to -25 in Montreal.

In the end I couldn’t bear to post a pic of the minivan – I hardly want to encourage it. Instead, this week’s pic comes from M – in yet another attempt to subtly remind me to replace the toilet paper.

As I have already made clear, I do not believe in replacing the toilet paper. Other things in which I don’t believe: those crappy little snack-size ziploc bags and the half sheets of paper towel.

Consequently, we have all thawed out from our week in the Great White North; even the minivan. It is now 30 degrees in NY and it feels like Maui. Aloha!

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Filed under Canada, driving, Minivans, New York City, Road trip, toilet paper, Uncategorized

The Long Road Home (if you moan about the Springsteen I WILL leave you on the side of the road.)

It’s never as much fun driving home. We are all a bit deflated. We have none of the anticipation that propelled our way out … ten days ago. We have seen all the movies on our devices many times over. We are running out of food, on the last dregs of our supplies. We are grating on each other’s nerves. Sort of like the Donner Party. But not.

I brought our last pack of frozen cold cuts for the trip but forgot to defrost them. Here they are sunning themselves on the dashboard.

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(Loud child in the way back: I cannot currently attend to you. I am blogging. Hush.)

It seems we have all been together forever. Other than M, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to someone I didn’t birth.

It seems that everyone is peeing a lot more than usual.

It seems that I didn’t fully clean off all of Sidney’s puke off my t-shirt.

It seems we are subsisting on Pirate Booty and stale water.

It seems that I have not explained to these children the importance of silence during a Springsteen song.

It seems like I might need a vacation from this vacation.

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Filed under blogging\, children, Summer, travel

Canadia

Here we are in the far reaches of North America. When we lived out west people would ask me: What is the best thing to do in Seattle? Easy, I’d say: Go to Vancouver. Now that we are east coasters I thought we ought to have a look at what this side of Canadia (as the kids like to call it) looks like. (Plus, nothing makes M happier than using his Nexus passes.)

First: IT IS FAR. Seattle to Vancouver is three hours. NYC to Montreal is about six hours. Some of that is out of cell phone range, prompting a certain twelve year old to shout, in shock and frustration, HOW DO THESE PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THIS…?

(Included in this cell free zone is part of Lake Placid, the site of the Winter Olympics in the 1980’s. The same twelve year old shouted once again: YOU MEAN THEY COULDN’T USE CELL PHONES AT THE OLYMPICS?)

Second: Because so much French is spoken here, it’s really like being in another country. Speaking French makes me happy. But speaking French outside of Montreal, deeper into Quebec, is a challenge. I think I understand now how people who speak High German feel when they hear Yiddish: Really? You did THAT to the language? I’m not really sure what anyone is saying here in Mont Tremblant, but they are all lovely.

Three: Canadians on this coast are just as lovely. As far as I am concerned this is proof that high tax rates and socialized medicine is good for the soul.

Four: Canada Day! I’ve lost count of how many times I have been in Canada for Canada Day, but this year we even got to see a parade in downtown Montreal. (M cannot resist a parade. We are all slowly warming.) What isn’t adorable about men in skirts?

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Five: Jazz! We timed our trip with the Montreal Jazz Fest. Because all the music we heard was free, we were not annoyed when kids pissed and moaned and wanted to leave, which frankly, didn’t happen too often. It gave us an evening activity and there were enough scantily dressed buskers to keep everyone amused. A certain twelve year old even babysat while we snuck out to hear Diana Krall with a billion other polite people.

Six: The boys caught le hockey fever in NY and being in Canada is like going on a hockey bender for them, especially because it seems as though the hockey draft is happening now. They have also immersed themselves in CFL minutiae (who knew?) as well as World Cup drama. Apparently sports never takes a holiday.

Stay tuned to more news from Canadia.

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Just in case…

I am not, by nature, a planner. While I like to plan vacations and moves, there’s not much else I like to plan (and in all honesty, unlike others, I prefer to take my chances and book a trip as late as I possibly can, even if it means losing out on good deals). I think it’s because I’m convinced that at any given moment the other shoe will drop, and I’ll have to leave town in a hurry. What use would a full schedule be if a mob of angry Cossacks show up at my door? (Um, I’m sorry folks, I’d like to leave here with you and get the crap beaten out of me, but I have to cancel all the appointments I’ve made for the next six weeks.) Besides, I’d really hate to have to lose out on a trip because an angry mob just happened to pick my door.

This refugee mentality must part of my DNA because I’ve never really had to leave anywhere in a hurry, unless you count all the stores and restaurants from which I’ve had to beat a hasty retreat, badly behaved kids in tow. I recently revealed to M, and a couple we were out with (having last minute drinks at a bar, because, you know, to plan ahead would have been silly) that I always keep a stash of Canadian cash in my wallet.

That’s right.

Just in case the shit hits the fan and I have to head for the border. There aren’t a ton of good things I can say about Seattle, but I’ll say one thing: It sure is awesome to be so close to the border of an entirely different country. And when the time comes, I have a wad of Canadian loonies at my disposal.

Seattleites, you may think I’m nuts, but if you’re in a tight spot and need to break out in a hurry, you know where to find me.

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Vancouver, or bust.

I adore Vancouver, so much so that I think it may be my favorite North American city. Each time we go I make plans for our inevitable move, and it’s not just because I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle (I had to put the “love” in or M would accuse me of being a downer.)

So I jumped at the chance to run a half marathon there this morning. I contemplated going alone, but brought the crew with me because it’s always nice to have a cheering squad and who DOESN’T want to travel with five kids in tow?

M was giddy with anticipation, completely unrelated to my race or the actual weekend. Thanks to that interview with the Canadian mounties that took place on the snowiest day of the year (see this story),we now have Nexus passes, which allow us to zip in and out of Canada without a border wait. He had been very patient and could not wait another moment to use those passes.

The drive to the border was uneventful, save a constant downpour. As we fly across the border, ignoring a thirty minute wait, M said, no less than six times, “Well, I guess those Nexus passes paid for themselves,” and I am rather certain he also smirked at the line of Nexus-less cars and hollered, “Suckas!”

But our jubilation was short lived because once we were over the border and on the road into Vancouver, we hit some traffic and I asked M, “Hey, what’s that burning smell?”

M looked at the dashboard, looked back at me and said, without flinching, “Oh, that’s us.”

As smoke wafts up from out engine, we pull over to the side of the road in pouring rain. The traffic has now completely stopped, and it pretty much stays that way for two  hours, which is how long it takes for a taxi to come and pick up me and the kids and take us to the hotel. (It took over four hours for the tow truck to get to M and tow him and the minivan into Vancouver.)  In the meantime, the baby, after being cooped up for about four hours with nary a second of sleep, loses it and demands to be let out of the car. So I put on her raincoat and mine and we walk around in the rain. The shoulder of the road is thin and there’s only a huge patch of grass, but it’s goopy and muddy, and have I mentioned that I’m wearing flip-flops? At some point most of us get out and walk around and kind Canadian drivers asks if we need help and offer us candy. At some point M, the baby, and Bennett go looking for our taxi who can’t find us, but insists that we should be able to see him because he is flashing his lights. A photo:

You can’t see the rain, but it’s coming down.. even if it thinned now and then. Eventually the cab comes and I’m afraid he won’t let all the kids in without car-seats (I didn’t have an ounce of strength left) until he looks at me and asks, “You put baby in front?”  I assumed we be just fine without the car-seats.

“Baby” was a holy terror on the ride and we sing her every song we can to calm her down until she looks at me, grabs both my ears and yells “DOGGY IN WINDOOOOOW!” So all six of us sing multiple rounds of that song. Thank goodness we knew all the verses.

Eventually we get to the hotel, and when we walk into the lobby we are dazed and mud-splattered. The kids, thrilled to be liberated from a car, lay waste to the lobby, walking on couches and dismantling floral arrangements. I got in line at the front desk and the woman in front of me turns around and asks, “Didn’t I see you all on the side of the road?” Before I can ask her how in God’s name she recognized us (was it all the mud on my jacket?) she points to Bennett’s fluorescent orange basketball shorts and says, “I’d recognize those anywhere.”

You don’t say.

The next day we walk around Granville Island in search of buskers. The boys are walking and wrestling at the same time. It seems the inane “punch-buggy” game (you may know it as “slug bug“) is now selling franchise opportunities. It was not enough for them to punch each other each time they saw a Volkswagen beetle (bug), there was now the “mini (cooper) flick,” the “taxi slap,” and the “Toyota twist”… and before I knew it they are beating the crap out of each other with each passing vehicle. At some point, Bennett does something to mightily offend Efram and he loses it, throwing an entire bag of Pirate’s Booty at him, then lunging on top of him to deliver a tremendous beating. Booty flies, and I even see some of that incredibly expensive dried mango get thrown around. As we are pulling Efram off of his brother and listening to him scream and yell at all of us, he pauses for a second to ask, “Hey, where are the buskers?”

I look around and realize that we are seated on a bench in a central square and many, many eyes are on us. People have stopped eating, chatting, taking photographs and are staring at our spectacle.

“Hey Efram,” I say. “Thanks to you, I think we ARE the buskers.”

I contemplate removing his baseball hat and collecting some money to cover the cost of that mango, but we decide it’s probably best to leave. Quickly. With that, we clean up what we can, I grab Efram by the ear, and we beat the hastiest retreat possible.

I know that when we travel we often take our Crazy Show on the road, but I hadn’t expected, in one short weekend, to be both roadside entertainment AND a performance of the Family Von Trapp meets Jersey Shore for a crowd of onlookers.

They managed to pull it together and cheer me on heartily as I finished the race. And as I ran I wasn’t thinking about the hellish drive or how abhorrent they had been the day before. I was just thinking about how much I love to run, how happy I was to be running my first long race since before I got pregnant with Bennett, over eleven years ago, and how marvelous it was to have a few hours “alone”… just me and a few thousand beautifully behaved runners.

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Oh, Canadia

We’ve had snow days before, so I knew what I was in for, and as always, it’s the buildup that’s the worst. Specifically, the unbridled glee of many of my Facebook friends who cannot contain their excitement at the thought of being holed up with their darling, delightful children for days on end. (“Yay! It’s snowing!!” or “Whoopee, no school today!”or, my personal favorite, “Even if there is school, my kids won’t be going!”) There are even people who brag about how late they’ll be sleeping now that they don’t have to wake up their kids for school. Oh, how I love those. They strike me as especially funny because I’ve given birth to five human alarm clocks, and even if my clock has an alarm setting (I can’t say for sure), I’ve never needed to use it.

I won’t bore you with details of the panic attack that overtook me earlier this week, when I realized that with the exception of a few hours on Tuesday, that my kids would basically be at home all week long. I won’t bore you with details of work piling up, letters unanswered, on my desk. I won’t bore you with details of the vicious snow day cycle: cook, clean up, serve, clean up, blink, repeat, a cycle punctuated by yes, happy romps in the snow, romps that come with their own cycle of laundry and muddy, snowy footprint cleanup.

Truth be told, it hasn’t been as bad as I’d thought. Yesterday the snow fell all day, and we ventured out to build igloos and a snowman and to sled around the neighborhood (a mild form of sledding given a certain broken arm). Even Francie left the house. After some mild coercion, of course.

Today, there is no snow, only freezing rain and something the weather people called ice storms, but I’m not sure what that means. I do know that none of it daunted M, who dragged us all out of the house at 8 a.m. to take us to Boeing Field where we had our interviews for our Nexus passes. These will allow us bypass the lines at the Canadian border and go through a fast track lane.

Canada, you ask? No, we’re not Canadian. Nor do we have any Canadian relatives or go to Canada with any great frequency, but there is a permit, of sorts, involved. And M, being a lover of permits and licenses could not resist. So, he chained up the car and we all trudged out. Even Sidney had an interview. The nice TSA man made the mistake of asking the famously indecisive Francie if she wanted to approve her photo, and I feared we’d be there til spring until she saw a photo she liked. When I went into the second interview with a lovely man from the Canadian border, Efram got confused, and thinking we were already at the border, asked: “You mean that office next door is Canadia?” Yes, Efram, Canadia. We don’t even know the name of the country, but we can get there quicker than just about everyone else, and that’s good enough for us.

We also have something called Global Fast Pass (I probably got that name wrong), but the kids don’t get it because you need fingerprints for it and they can’t take fingerprints until you are fourteen. So, as the first man explained to me, when M and I leave the kids with grandma and go abroad alone, we don’t have to wait in line to get back in to the U.S.

I used every muscle I had to avoid falling out of my seat with laughter. Sure thing, buddy, I’ll keep that in mind next time M and I go overseas alone. I’ve been locked inside with my kids for days on end, and I haven’t peed alone since 2002, but Rome awaits us.

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