Monday, July 26, 2010

Boxes Everywhere!

Well, we are finally settling in--as much as you can surrounded by plywood, insulation and boxes and boxes of junk! It wouldn't be so bad, but we have to re-pack and move everything again at the end of summer so that the hardwood floors can be put in.

I'm refusing to unpack too much and I'm having a hard time finding the crucial things we need for the kitchen. It is one big organizational mess and those that know me, know my organizational skills are severely lacking.

In a kitchen that's used by 5 plus people daily, organizing and unpacking is like swimming against a constant riptide. It's a wonder how happy and calm I feel when I venture out for milk or to buy a toilet scrubber. Or when I simply go outside, turn my back on the Cot-Taj and drink wine.

We did in fact find the wine glasses. First things first of course. Sad, but true.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Packing It Up and Packing It In

I am a ten year veteran of packing for our month long Canadian visit. Our children look forward to this trip all year. It is only second to Christmas in counting "sleeps" before the event.

Each summer I live in a house that I've never had a key for. I forage through Rubbermaid bins to find my clothes. I do this because I gave up on drawers long ago, as the mice are the only ones using said drawers properly.

Friends refer to our Canadian address as a Pioneer Camp. There are often power outages and then the outhouse suddenly becomes very attractive and the most popular "room" in the house.

Each year we unpack all of the sheets and towels and plates out of other well-used Rubbermaid bins. We set up "camp" for our four week stay.

Going from Marin County to the woods of Canada is always a little culture shocking. Not for anyone but me, I have to admit. Gone is take out, the grocery store around the corner, the computer, tv, our weekly housekeeper, camp, babysitters, laundry, movie theaters and anything that resembles a housewife support system.

I usually pack all kinds of crazy stuff to take along. The towel with a little stain. Sheets that are getting worn. 20 kinds of herbal tea that we never have time to sit and sip. My mass collection of books that have gathered dust for a year add at least 20 pounds to the duffel. Last, but not least, stray pages torn out of magazines of recipes that I've been meaning to try.

There are no real electronics. The night is quiet. The days are commute and carpool free. You need a real grocery list, because if you forget an ingredient, you might as well forget it.

If you're patient with my posts, because from now on out, it's posting when I can, I'll introduce you to a little bit of our Pioneer Camp Canada.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Humane Society Camp

My girls just finished a week of Humane Society Camp. As my friend put it, "The only camp that comes with a puppy."

Every day they met different pets. Every day I needed self control of steel to fend off the cute fuzzy faces of homeless animals. On Bunny Day, cute, little, sweet bunny Zipper needed a home. Couldn't we please find space for such a small critter?

Day Two, Misha the Rat with a very soft tail needed a home. Couldn't we please find space for Misha? She was even smaller than Zipper and only needed a very small cage.

Day Three, Cookie's kitten sister, Klondike, had been adopted, leaving Cookie alone in the cage. My girls were heartbroken that these sisters had to part. Couldn't we please take Cookie home so that she could live with our cats so that she wouldn't be so lonely?

On day Four, Mia, a pug-beagle mix with an extra long tongue needed saving. She was having trouble finding a family to accept her special tongue attribute, even though she was a loving, active puppy. Couldn't we please bring Mia home to meet our dog? Couldn't we save her from a world where having an extra long tongue only works in rock and roll?

And all along there was Figgy. The cutest little puppy I had ever seen. She is a chihaua, which is not a breed I genrally am drawn to, but she had the most expressive eyes and a little face that said, "You need me."

By the time we hit Friday, I was a nervous wreck. I am an animal lover, and would love to give all of the animals a good home...but already having two cats and a dog, I know the reality of how much care pets require. My husband is not such a big fan of the pets--he loves our dog more than me, but that is a particular, separate case.

We said our good byes to all of the fantastic pets we had met over the week. I was confident in the fact that our particular Humane Society will keep a pet until it finds a home, no matter what. Some cats have been there for years.

I am sad that we don't have a bigger house, more money, more time and a better lifestyle for more pets. My girls are still hopeful that we will go back and rescue long-tongued Mia.

Please, if you are considering a dog, check your local shelter. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a bred pet, when you can free a pet from bars and give them happiness? Maybe an extra long tongue means extra long kisses?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Root of the Problem

It all began four years ago with a phone call. My husband and I were vacationing in London. The cell phone rang. There are so many moments that are defined by a single ring of the phone. There is always life defined before the phone call, and a new definition that unravels after the phone call.

When we saw our best friend's number pop up on caller ID, we were happy to see it. When my husband asked me who our dentist was and then passed me the phone, all I could hear was screaming in the background. Was that screaming in the background? What was all that screaming in the background?

There was no time for story, there was only action. In that surreal way that these moments happen, we were oddly separate from the moment. Separated by ocean. Separated by time. Separated and oddly cushioned from the blow.

During a baseball game, our son was playing third base. A quick throw came from home plate. The ball bounced off the tip of his mitt and hit him in the mouth. His front tooth popped out and hit the ground.

As far as bad things go, this was not epic proportion bad. It has however, been an epic proportion pain in the butt. It's meant many hours of time in the dentist's chair dealing with the unknown. Every procedure we "hoped" was going to help our long term prognosis.

Today, we have a date with the oral surgeon. The tooth has to come out. After four years and thousand of dollars, that good old tooth is finally going to be free, as fate intended.

It sounds simple. It's not. There are a lot more hours to log in the dentist's chair and care. There are still so many unknowns. My boy is in fairly good spirits. The mom is a little more tattered and weary.

I missed that brutal moment years ago, but I've been by his side ever since.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You Can't Take It ALL With You

I have gone the full circle on this. I used to pack light. Then I packed lighter. Then I had kids...and if you have kids you know what that means. Then I packed light for the first time in forever and:

"Sorry, Ma'am, your bag cannot be carried on. It's too heavy."

"What?" I had crammed two weeks worth of interchangeable clothing so that I could carry on and not be bothered with the baggage checking, collecting and payment process."

"It's over 11 kilos."

O-k, I didn't pay the best attention during the metric chapter in grammar school. Heck, I lived in Canada for 6 years and I am still foggy on the conversion. 2.2, blah blah blah. I couldn't believe my ears.


I could have princess packed and taken all of my shoes--and that's shoes strictly for orthopedic reasons I'm sorry to say. I could have left the mini bottle of laundry detergent at home and just brought more t shirts and underwear. Ugh.

This is just to say, read those guidelines. Yes, those ever changing rules that I swear they are changing when I'm on my way to check in at the airport.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stephen King Suite: Venetian Culture Shock

Venice began with something a little special: the Hotel Saturnia. We looked forward to this hotel more than any other place to hang our hat on the whole trip. It was our splurge! We decided to pull out the stops and have a beautiful hotel to end our trip.

We booked two rooms, so we went to my friend's room first. It was bathed in sunlight with light wood furnishings. It was bright and cheerful and clean. I was excited, and couldn't wait to see my room.

As soon as the door to my room opened, I knew I had entered another dimension. My son and I looked at the digs and shuddered. It was dark and scary and straight out of a Stephen King novel!

I love antiques. I am a fan of dark wood. I love the color red. However, when all three were combined in this particular setting, it created a whole new twilight zone vibe. If we were going to see a ghost anywhere on this whole trip, this was the place. I may think about this the most, as I have to get up to use the bathroom in the dark every night.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the carving and detail on the antique furniture, but I'm also an avid antiquer who antiques with karma in mind. This is weird, but I can feel when a particular item has an aura. This room, though beautiful, had a creepy aura oozing from every corner.

My friend, who recommended the hotel, said she figured I was suffering from "Ugly American Tourist Syndrome." Hey! I smiled at every person smoking at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am respectful of culture. Maybe this was just a little venetian culture shock mixed with superstition?

We survived our two nights without ghostly or ghastly incident. The beds were clean and comfy. Although the room smelled of antique wood, it was not unpleasant--kind of like being at your great grandmother's house overnight--way up in the attic.

For the record, I will tell you, the two boys would not stay in this room alone at night. To be fair, the hotel was immaculate. The service was impeccable.

Sometimes you just have to get over your own hang ups, and maybe being the Halloween girl that I am, I just had to create a little dark side drama for myself.

Happy Merchants of Venice

Venice began with the Hotel Saturnia. It had been recommended to us because it had location location location. What I didn't realize at the time, was its location to what. Innocently, I assumed it was the fact that it was located near St. Mark's Square, but I learned that location for one doth not mean location for all.

The hotel was tucked off a street of uber shopping: Gucci, Bulgari, Chanel, Dolce, Prada, Burberry, you name it, it was there lining the street like a mini shopping mecca for people with lots of money.

Jewels glinted from shop window and the streets were spotless so that the well heeled could maneuver in their spikes without care. It was a shopping wonderland.

However, there is always a however somewhere for me, I was so over the whole shopping thing by this point in our trip I could barely stand the all out, blatant shopping mall theme.

As I retreated to my anti shopping place, my partner in crime had finally realized her best part of the trip. She had been pining for great shopping ever since London. Her eyes were like saucers at the finery offered up for sale.

We spent an entire day in and out of every kind of shop you can imagine. I was bored. The boys were bored. The heat blasted us and drove us into the cool air of the shops. My friend had the gleam of gold in her eyes--oh, or was it Venetian glass?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Roman Holiday with Antonella and Clifford the Big Red Guide Dog

Rome was wonderful--mostly because we did the best thing ever: we hired a guide! Her name was Antonella and she was like taking your high school History teacher on vacation with you. Actually, it was even better, because she knew where she was going without a map and she knew Roman history like the back of her hand and no cheat sheets needed.

Our friends had suggested hiring a guide before we left. It was expensive, but considering how much we had already invested in this trip and our fear of mugging, we went out into the streets and subways of Rome with Antonella. She was as cool as a cucumber, and she showed us how to navigate Rome like a local.

However, as soon as Antonella left us at the turn off for the Trevi Fountain, all of our city savvy walked off with her. Yes, map in hand, I learned that if I tell you to go in one direction, you most certainly should go in the other. Paula and I spent 2 hours trying to find either the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps. We didn't care which, we would have taken any landmark that we could locate.

The boys dragged along behind us, hot and dirty, looking like they were wandering the desert. Exasperated, my son, took the map and looked at it for 30 seconds. He then led us exactly where we wanted to go with exactly 10-15 minutes in travel time between each landmark.

At that moment, we knew we had found our own personal, free tour guide: Clifford the Big Red Guide Dog. I've often referred to him as my overgrown puppy. He is 5 foot 8 in height but all 7 year old boy in his actions. It's like a huge, giant tail wagging and knocking over a shelf of crystal figurines.

I'd been calling him Cliff for most of the trip, now he was Cliff with skills. For the remainder of our journey, we'd just show him the map, and off we went with confidence.

Directionally challenged parents take note: the simplest answer might be standing right beside you!