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August 2011

Short Sweet Potato

Patrick and I were listening to our audiobook (Abhorsen, last in the trilogy by Garth Nix - yummy. DARK AND CREEPY and probably not for sensitive children - but yummy) in his room tonight when I realized that we had forgotten to saline his sinuses before bed. When he was discharged on Wednesday the nurse explained that he was not allowed to blow his nose for at least five days, so the combination of post-surgical blood and gunk would turn to cement inside his head without judicious and frequent sluicing.

I paused our book and said, oh, hey, you need to use the neti pot again.

Patrick gave an experimental sniff, then another.

I asked, how does your nose feel?

Snuff, whurgle, blooh. Snuff, whurgle, blooh.

Patrick considered and then said, "Amazing."

I said, "Really?"

He said, "Really. I've never been able to get this much air in and out in my life. I feel great."

I said, "Well that's terrific."

He said, "So will you go downstairs and make me some chocolate chip cookies to celebrate?"

And I said no. No, I wouldn't. So he drank some water instead and we went back to listening to our book.

Thanks for all of your good wishes. They pleased Patrick enormously and when he was up at four in the morning vomiting more blood (GOOD. LORD) he gagged, spit, rinsed, slumped and said, "No wonder the entire world feels so sorry for me."

Or at least our little corner of it. More later and our best wishes to everyone on the East coast who spent the weekend wetter and more wind-blown than they would've liked to have been.


BEMAE

On the way to Patrick's surgery today we drove past a site where there had been a rare squirrel double homicide. About four feet apart from each other lay the remains of two red squirrels who had - one assumes - been chasing each other when they met their unfortunate demise(s) at the wheels of a squirrel crushing, deer smacking driving machine.

I swerved a little to avoid them (I know they are past caring but I hate driving over that sort of thing - seems so disrespectful) and in doing so attracted Patrick's attention. He glanced out the window and said, "Oh, look at that. Two squirrels after sinus surgery."

He was a ball of laughing sunshine all morning, truly.

We have been saying sinus surgery but technically - according to the consent form I signed - he had bilateral endoscopic maxillary antrosomy and ethmoidectomy. I thought this was a nice mouthful so I read it aloud to Patrick a few times in my attempt to say it all without stumbling over the syllables.

When Patrick then met with his surgical team half an hour later they asked him why he was there.

"I wish I knew," Patrick said. "Unlucky I guess."

They said, no, they meant, did he know what surgical procedure he was having done? He froze and I know both of us were thinking uh, disco maximus astronomy something something?

The nurse said, "Sinuses?" and Patrick looked relieved and said, "Sinuses."

His two big concerns going in were the IV (specifically IV insertion - they had to stab him five times to get one in his first time at Childrens) and the mask for the anesthesia. They put the IV in after he was asleep this afternoon so that was a big plus but being put under was almost as traumatic for him as it was the last time. They let me stay in the operating room with him until he was out and he was fine, fine, fine... and then he wasn't. The mask started to go down and he started to shake. I held his hand and the nurses patted him and the anesthesiologist said three deep breaths and you'll be asleep.

Patrick took one, two, three breaths and then he glowered at us. 

"I'm not asleep!" he said, all muffled from the mask. "Don't start the surgery yet!"

The anesthesiologist said let's think about something else ok buddy? Let's think about

- hold on while I again start to giggle hysterically (as in hysteria not as in ohmygod how funny) because... well you know Patrick, you decide -

the anesthesiologist said, "Baseball! Did you get out and play a lot of baseball this summer?"

Patrick went momentarily rigid and then he lost it.

"No! I don't like baseball!" he sobbed. "I don't like any of that stuff!" 

He tried to tug the mask off and we had to pin him down and it was awful but the whole time he was still yelping about his sports issues. Eventually, mercifully he stopped glaring at me and his eyes crossed and he went out, still muttering, "ball... dangerous... hit in the head."

As I was escorted from the room the nurse patted my back because my shoulders were shaking. I think she thought I was crying but I was actually close to laughing aloud. I tried to explain this to her but as I did so my eyes filled with tears and I realized that I was both - amused as ever by Patrick and flattened by the guilt of having to hold him down while he struggled.

They brought us to him in the recovery room a couple of hours later and he was a mess. Literally (dried blood all over his gown and his hands and his arms and fresh blood soaking the gauze taped under his nose) and emotionally (he just wailed, this awful raspy gulping cry that was almost primal.) Anesthesia really sucks. No doubt. We got some ice chips into him and a little popsicle and he dozed off and on for about an hour. He probably could have slept there for a few hours but we wanted him home and they needed their space so we bundled him into the car where he promptly threw up about a gallon of blood and mixed gore. Thank god for those plastic bags, that's all I have to say.

He's home now and sleeping again and I am sure he would appreciate your good wishes.


Agendered

OK so I plan to start writing posts more frequently starting... now!

I'm not sure what happened last week. Last week must've slipped on the wet bathroom floor and hit its head in a classic seventh season amnesia storyline. One minute it was Tuesday and I was sitting down to write something breezy and (no doubt) hilarious and the next thing I know it's Monday again and I have written nothing. Not even a grocery list, which is why five people ate five different leftovers for lunch today and the only fresh produce we have is a dubious-looking orange that even Edward rejected and half a bunch of kale.

Once upon a time I would plan a week's worth of dinners and lunches; write the shopping list; buy all the groceries and that was what we ate for seven days. I did this before we had children and continued it for years after Patrick was born and - I think - at least through Caroline and Edward's babyhood. Last week I was rummaging in the freezer for something for dinner and I suddenly realized that I don't do that any more. I cannot think of the last time I planned food more than a day or two in advance and where I used to do one massive grocery trip (or order, back when I had groceries delivered) I now go every day or two and get what looks good at the moment. I find the new regime liberating so my guess is that my previous hyper-planning was less ace organizational skills in action and more loopy anxiety stuff. Like, maybe I was secretly worried that we would run out of food and be unable to simply go to the store and buy more? I'm not saying that everyone who plans their food shopping is responding to fears of alien invasion - just that I was.

Steve's college friend came for his visit and it was pleasant. He was nice to me and kind to the children and he and Steve were able to stay up late remembering the dear old school and that time the games' mistress caught Angela smoking in the bushes and what Lops Meller said to Fuzzy Ffurke-Burton to make her cry. He also brought us all I Heart NY shotglasses, which happened to be just what we needed so that was great too. Thursday night he and Steve went to the Walker as Mike is an enthusiast and was interested in seeing their collection. Steve doesn't know his elbow from a fire hydrant when it comes to art but he was more than willing to accomodate his guest; especially since Mike had been so cheerful that afternoon about going with Steve to take the twins swimming in the river. Quid pro modern art.

The Walker stays open late on Thursdays, which means it closes at nine. So when I woke up at two in the morning to discover that I was still alone in bed my first thought was that Steve and Mike had been killed in a car crash. Then I decided that that was just the anxiety talking, obviously they had been stabbed to death walking across Loring Park. Or maybe they had gone to a bar and Mike had mentioned to the guy sitting next to him that he had not bothered to watch the Superbowl since he is a Niners fan and he and Steve were then smothered to death in Packers paraphernalia (an ironic end for poor Steve who is a Packers fan, so much so that he has yet to delete the Superbowl from the DVR.)

You know, my best friend from childhood comes into town for business a few times a year and as often as possible we will meet for dinner in Minneapolis while she's here. We enjoy catching up on each other's lives and gossiping about old times and yet not once have I returned from these visits after eleven o'clock. I'm just saying.

So I lay in bed for thirty minutes planning Steve's memorial service and trying to figure out what I could possibly say to Mike's family and wondering whether the children and I would stay in the Cities or move and Steve finally rolled into the bedroom.

I hissed, "Two fucking o fucking clock in the morning is so fucking stupid. I've been worried sick."

He said, "We've actually been talking in the garage for an hour."

And I said, "That is even fucking stupider."

He said, "But less stupid than if we had sat in the living room talking right outside our bedroom, my sweet treasure."

And I opened my mouth to swear at him some more, processed what he said, recognized the fairness of it, ungraciously told him I was glad he wasn't dead and went back to sleep.

All of which is to say I am glad that Steve and Mike enjoyed the visit and I am REALLY glad that it did not wind up overlapping with Patrick's surgery because I am not entirely convinced I would have been able to cope with pretty much anything plus the return of Steve's salad days.

Edward is almost a caricature of himself. He is so very stereotypically male. And three. And male. The other day I tried to put him into one of Patrick's hand-me-down t-shirts; a fetching little number in magenta and electric blue that was one of Patrick's favorites back in the day. Edward took one horrified look and put his fat foot down.

"No," he said. "It yugly and it for GIRLS."

We have never in the history of our family ever ever ever said that anything is explicitly girl or boy or implied that there are girl toys or boy colors or anything remotely like that. Actually we couldn't even if we wanted to because Patrick is so broad in his tastes that it would be rude. So I have no idea where Edward gets his gender concepts. Innate I suppose.

Here he is with his new favorite things:

His fliers


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His hammer

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And his crewdriver

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Oh and the other day Steve let him help steer the riding mower and I thought he was going to have an apoplexy. The joy! THE JOY!

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Meanwhile here in Stereotype Land I let Caroline pick a few new things for herself at Target. Frankly I was expecting her to go for a pair of wee Converse sneakers much like my own but no.

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She chose a hot pink ballet tunic, black faux patent ballet shoes and a pink sparkly headband.

How on earth did we wind up with a twirly-girly girl, a car-loving tool-packing Boy and Patrick? Patrick, who was once given 11 mismatched socks, hand-dyed by my dear friend Julie. When he outgrew them she made him a new set but now that they are almost worn out he wanted to try his hand at making his own. We got dye and dye related things (like organic Urea, which prompted me to go all West Side Story with "Ureaaaaaaa... we just bought ourselves some Ureeeeaaaaaaa") and Patrick and I had a terrific time dyeing the beejeezums out of a whole lot of socks. The last two he made multi-colored and they are the best but I don't have a picture of them yet. He's contemplating setting up some kind of online Mismatched Sock Shoppe but I don't know if the market is really there. Don't most people like their socks to match? You don't see Edward wearing two different colored socks that's for damned sure and Miss Thing likes pink socks, naturally.

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Two quick questions:

1. I am thinking about replacing Patrick's backpack. It's Lands End and therefore indestructible but it is too small to hold books, lunch and snow stuff. For the past two years I have put his snow stuff (boots, snow pants, hat and gloves) into random oversized plastic bags (usually from Target) but they have the disadvantage of tearing constantly. Have any of you northernites solved the dilemma of how to send all of the crap they carry to school? Please advise.

2. Caroline and Edward shared a room during our trip. Technically we all shared a room during most of it but they had their air mattresses right next to each other and when we stayed in the house on Whidbey they chose not to have their own rooms. When we got back they asked to share a room here and they have continued to ask ever since. I have let them do it a few times (over Steve's strong objections) and it worked out fine in that they both eventually fell asleep and no one woke me up before eight the following morning. The first time they both slept in Edward's race car bed but that looked rather crowded to me so I moved an air mattress onto his floor and she has slept there a couple of times since.

She is now asking to have her proper bed moved into his room. This would involve hauling a lot of furniture around (which I quite like but Steve as the one doing the actual heavy work tends to despise) but I don't see a problem with it. Steve says he thinks it will be developing bad sleep habits (says he who falls asleep whenever his head tips below 45 degrees from any surface) and that it will make things hard when they need to be moved back to separate rooms again. Another point is that Caroline has shown herself to be quite flighty in where she likes to sleep (remember the floor? and the closet? and the bathtub? oh yeah AND THE ROOF?) so it is possible she'll change her mind again.

Thoughts on sharing a room? Personally I think we're fortunate to have enough space that this is even a question (my brother and I shared a room until I was 8 because it was a small house) but I thought I would ask in case I (or Steve) am/is missing something. Does it matter that they're boy/girl? Should it?


The Verticals

One of the things I love most about you is the self-awareness that you (collectively) possess and that I lack like a tail. The bedtime comments/philosophies/strategies were fascinating and it wasn't until I read them that I realized 1) in my heart of hearts it doesn't really bother me when children pop out of the woodwork to talk to me at all hours of the night; but 2) if they try to get me up for the day before 7:30 (summer) or 7 (school) I simply won't do it. I send them to Steve. I pull pillows over my head. I mutter about getting themselves a banana. I feign death. Edward did wake me up at 5:54 the other day but he eventually fell back asleep on top of me since I refused to move or speak to him until the music (alarm) started and (just between you and me) I hadn't set the alarm. Patrick has learned to use the toaster this summer lest he starve to death before I get up.

So I get it! I understand! It is possible to bore your children into self-care and/or sleep provided you really truly mean it or can convincingly fake it. So noted and I hope all the suggestions were as helpful to you as they were to me. Personally, I am planning on starting the ticket system that Elle mentioned in the comments. Caroline and Edward are going to decorate two bedtime tickets a piece that they will be able to trade for a post-door closing water/trip to the bathroom/kiss/zoological spelling help session. When they have used both tickets I will get to say "do you have a ticket for me?" and when they say "oh ah huh I must've left it in my other pants" I will say "alrighty then it will have to wait until tomorrow - good night!"

I have no idea if it will work (and to be honest the past couple of nights have been better - I think they were in vacation meltdown) but I do know that they will absolutely love the concept. We already use library cards for bedtime stories

[at first they were imaginary but then Patrick got to work and made them each a card with their names on it, plus a scanner and a sign saying Manager that shows a dour looking stick figure smoking and checking out books.

Who is that supposed to be? I asked.

Oh, that's you, the library manager.

SMOKING?

It's how I saw you in the job, explained Patrick]

... anyway. Bedtime tickets. I love the idea.

After at least three years of Patrick asking if they could build a tree house, Steve finally (and rather abruptly) agreed that they needed to build a tree house. He mentioned this to me on Friday night and early Saturday morning he and Patrick set off in matching work gloves to buy lumber.

They worked on it all weekend and made decent progress.

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Oh hey look at that - a genuine beaming smile from Patrick.

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Edward manned the ladder and is still waiting for the railings that will allow him to go up, too.

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When Steve told me about it I had pictured something about two feet off the ground. Wrong. Patrick kept asking if it was making me nervous to have him up there and I kept saying nope because it doesn't - although I'm not sure why because I have a fairly well developed fear of falling. Not a fear of heights, I would like to point out, but roof edges and cliff sides and the like - places where the earth just drops away give me the total heebie jeebies. So you would think an unfinished treehouse would have me chewing on my hair but...

When we were in Yellowstone we took a path down to see one of the waterfalls but it turned out it wasn't an actual viewing area; just a small clearing with rocks and some grass and a sheer drop of a couple hundred feet down to the water. I was carrying Edward and started to walk toward the spot where Steve was holding Caroline and all of the sudden I realized how close we all were to the unprotected edge and I started to swoon. An honest to goodness whoooooooo when it felt like the earth was tilting me toward the cliff and the edges of my vision turned black and I started to hyperventilate.   

I squeaked, "Steve! I can't do this! I can't do this!" and in a romance novel he would have swept me into his arms in two strides and carried me to the safety of the car. In reality he snapped "Then don't! Just walk back to the path!" and I was, like, oh. Ok. I suppose I can do that. And I did but Edward was so mad at me for turning back before he saw the waterfall that he kicked at my shins. So we both got to go back to the car - he for his well-deserved time out and me for a nerve-settling diet Dr Pepper.

Total aside but I am usually a tea drinker. Two cups of black tea with mint - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - keep the caffeine to oxygen levels well regulated in my blood stream. When we were traveling, however, tea was out of the question because virtually no one on this planet can make a decent cup of tea for the road. So I started drinking Coke to keep me awake but I looked it up on this fitness app and discovered that each Coke was the equivalent of at least a cookie so I turned to diet Coke but (no offense) it tastes like battery acid. So I tried a diet Dr Pepper and I said wow, diet Dr Pepper really does taste more like regular Dr Pepper and yet again travel expands one's horizons.

It is dinner time but I cannot get anyone out of the backyard, Steve included. They're on their own I guess.

Picture of the superbestfriends, because they are cute

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Tuck In Your Elbows

I think this is how the astronauts felt when they came home. I'm not referring to the disorientation that must've come with finding the familiar suddenly strange but the part when they were smashed into the ocean at a zillion miles per hour and were then woken up at three am by crazy naked giggly elves.

Caroline and Edward were just... awake. Both of them. For good. At three in the morning. I suppose they're jet-lagged but we were driving and thus passed gently through the time zones not to mention the fact that we were going the other way so, really, the more likely explanation is that they are out to get me.

I just read this article in the Washington Post about a family who has 11 children under the age of 13. It seems to work for them and I admired the parents' various organizational strategies because I like that sort of thing but the line that stood out for me was when the mother said that the younger kids start going to bed at 7 and all of the children are in bed by 9 o'clock.

Or... what? They just go to bed and stay there? For real? What about when some variation of 11-x kids ask for water or the bathroom or... as is the case in my house circa ten minutes ago... what happens when their Edward starts weeping loudly in his room so they go up and he says, "SOB! I don't know how to 'pell zebra! SOB SOB SOB!"

Don't they tell him how to spell zebra or I am just a sucker? I mean, clearly I am a sucker because children take off their pajamas and climb into my bed in the middle of the night to gleefully announce that they are Lightning McQueen and Miss Sally respectively and that I am Flo and they need some gorganic fuel. But am I an incompetent sucker? Don't answer that.

Obviously her kids go to bed as stated or she'd be a gibbering idiot but HOW? HOW does she get eleven children to go to their beds and stay there and sleep every night? Someone once told me that at two and half Caroline was old enough to understand that when we said bed time it was bed time and she needed to stay in bed. I get that but I wondered about the 'or else'. Go to bed or else... what? 

I'm sort of musing but sort of asking. I expect Caroline and Edward will get back into a routine sooner or later but as I got into bed last night a little before eleven I said, "I just hope I can get six straight hours of sleep tonight without interruptions."

Then I did the math and said, "No, no. SEVEN. SEVEN hours."

Edward woke me up at 5:54.

So that has been the negative side of extended travel with Caroline and Edward. The positive side is that they bonded. Uberbonded. The rest of us admired the mountains while Caroline and Edward took the two weeks of constant companionship and sealed themselves into some sort of together-forever-and-ever, you-complete-me twinitude. Which is sweet. Of course it is sweet. They played together and slept side-by-side and told each other how terrific they are

[Setting: Somewhere in North Dakota

Edward - I know to count to one hunnerd

Steve Patrick Me Caroline - Great!

Edward - I will count to one hunnerd now

Steve Patrick Me - That's ok, we believe you

Caroline - Go for it little buddy!

Edward (very slowly) One Two Tree Foh Five... Tirty-six Tirty-seben... Fitty-two...

Steve Patrick Me - Uhhhnn

Edward - Sebenty-eight Sebenty-nine...

Caroline - You can do it!

Edward - Nindy-eight Nindy-nine... Nindy-nine... Nindy-nine

Steve Patrick Me - Aaaaaaaand?

Edward - Nindy-nine...

Caroline - One hundred?

Edward - ONE HUNNERD!

Caroline - I'm so proud of you

Edward - I do it again!

Steve Patrick and I put our fingers in our ears. Caroline said - OK!]

He let her help steer his ride. Enough said.

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I liked the near daily posting (speaking of bonding - I felt like we were conversing in almost real time) and I shall endeavor to continue it. It will be less, well, scenic, but there it is. In the meantime I am working on a trip recap with a map and whatnot but to answer the most frequent question (although DJH handled the subject beautifully in the comments) a roll of aluminum foil is a great car toy. It is cheap, small, lightweight, appropriate for almost all ages, tidy and they can wad that stuff into pretty much anything for hours.

PS We never did see South Carolina or Rhode Island so our license plate total stands at 48 US states and 7 Canadian provinces. Today Patrick went with me to the grocery store to buy milk and apples and salsa (putting life back in order takes forever after a trip) and as I drove he whapped the states back into place in order to start our next round. We got five.

PPS Providence, Rhode Island is in my top ten favorite cities and as such I intended no disrespect to the state. I probably would not leave either. After all, when the wealthiest people in the wealthiest country at one of the wealthiest times in history chose to build vacation homes, where did they go? Rhode Island. I was merely frustrated that we failed to see one of their license plates.

PPPS I have no idea what's going on with South Carolina.

PPPPS Do kids usually just go to bed and stay there? Mine don't and short of breaking their thumbs I am not sure what to do about it.


Trip.2011.16

Really, Rhode Island? Not one of you wanted to leave the East Coast this summer? We have seen over ten license plates from Hawaii - including one that was happily cruising along the rather obscure Montana Hwy 2  - and yet not a single blue and white anchor. Actually, is it a blue and white anchor design on the Rhode Island plate? We wouldn't know since we haven't seen one. Or South Carolina for some strange reason but we have five hours left today and I'm sure we'll snag South Carolina once we're closer to the Cities. It's one of our snowbird states.

I'm shaking my fist at you, Rhode Island. Delware and even tiny DC have put you to shame.

Yesterday wasn't really worth talking about. We hit road construction multiple times in Montana that had us sitting in stopped traffic for upwards of half an hour. I thought Steve was going to have an apoplexy. All around us stretched thousands of open acres and there we were, parked behind a Materesque RV from Saskatchewan. We didn't get to our hotel until after 10 and when Steve (who has kept Central time even as the rest of us slid happily into the night owlery of the Pacific) forced us out of bed at 9:15 this morning there was open mutiny. We like staying up until midnight and then sleeping until about ten. Tonight is going to be ugly but I will be sleeping in my own giant bed again so I doubt I'll care.

Three to four hours across Minnesota and then home. After we unpack, do laundry and apologize to the cats (the truck behind us is hauling hay. from Manitoba. to Minnesota. past North Dakota - talk about coals to Newcastle) I'll put together a recap featuring What We Learned, Where We Would Most Like to Return, Where We Would Move If We Absolutely Had To Move Somewhere and Travel Tips. If you have any questions, concerns, criticisms or anything random you want to know stick it in the comments here and I will do my best to oblige.


Trip.2011.15

I just saw a speed limit sign announcing 45 mph and said to Steve, "Oh we must be in a school zone." We're back in Montana (home of the 75 mph roads) and I think I'm funny.

We had toyed with the idea of extending our trip by spending more time in Lake Lousie and the rest of Banff National Park, then Calgary before maybe heading down to Glacier Park (US version.) However, plans, mice, men, gang agley... Caroline has picked up Edward's virus and - I say this with all of love in my loving heart - they both suck too much to consider prolonging this delightful vacation by a millisecond.

This is Edward being bodily removed from (no I really, really, really mean it this time) the. single. most. beautiful. place I have ever seen: Lake Moraine in Banff National Park.

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I have other pictures of him today being bodily r. from a scenic vista, a mountain creek, and a Safeway but the long and short of it is he's the last person with whom I want to spend more time in a car. Of course there's Caroline who... well, here:

Steve said, "Oh hey! Look look look! Up there! That! Is a glacier!"

Caroline said, "Oh wow! Really? Let me see! Oh wow oh goodie goodie! Open the roof so I can see better!"

Steve and I looked at each other, like, aw, what a long drive but to foster in our children such enthusiasm about the earth's magnificence... priceless. So we cranked the sunscreen thing and pointed to the glacier while Steve lectured on glaciers, their formation and the impact they have.

Caroline was silent for a minute and then she said, "Wait, where's the blimp?"

Blimp? No no, Caroline, it's a glacier. She sobbed for forty minutes, as if she had been knowingly deceived about a dirigible and she was just heartbroken by the treachery of it all.

So! Wheels home, as Steve likes to say when he is being especially annoyingly folksy. Tonight we're in north central Montana and tomorrow we're staying inconveniently further than we had hoped in North Dakota. Quick, name the hardest place in the world to locate a last minute hotel room. Cannes during the festival? Ha HA. Try North Dakota, like, always. North Dakota has a boom going and limited temporary housing so the result is a serious shortage of hotel rooms. We got a heads-up about this from my friend before we left and I thought oh we'll need to remember that and of course forgot all about it until tonight when we tried to find a room for tomorrow in Bismark. No dice. Jamestown? Uh-huh. Fortunately Steve spends a great deal of time in the state being kind to our fine feathered friends and was able to name more than three towns in North Dakota (thus beating me by four) and all of them had hotels and only a couple were completely full.

But Banff. Banff and Glacier. Hands down my favorite location for the entire trip was the stretch that lasted from Glacier Park in British Columbia to Banff Park and a little beyond in Alberta. It was... sublime to borrow from Tine in the comments.

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Lake Moraine - where the water is blue and the wildlife are obliging. It was so, so gorgeous there.

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Last of the mountains and the last time my hat will look inconspicuous.


Trip.2011.14

I am laughing as I write this because... what was it I was moaning about? Sleeping on the floor? Children fussing in the car? Well! Scoot over minor inconveniences because yesterday Edward developed a roopy gloopy cough. Today he was up early whooking and chlucking so Steve took him off to breakfast while the rest of us slept in. It was a pleasant 15 minutes but when they returned Edward was covered in vomit. As he explained it, "I was coughing big coughs and then I cougheded and my c'anberry juice popped up."

Excellent.

Today was like driving with a bomb strapped to the car seat. Every time Edward so much as cleared his throat we swerved across lanes of traffic to get him to the side of the road. Just in case.

After what felt like five years we finally got to the hotel room and started offering pizza and the pool in that order. Patrick and Caroline said, "Yay! Pizza pizza! Pool pool!" Edward climbed into the nearest bed, pulled the covers over his head and whispered, "I'm going to seep now."

Pizza, we said? Pool, we coaxed.

"Shhhhhhh," said Edward.

So Steve took the other kids to eat and Edward and I are lying in bed watching the only thing on television that is not the news. I would tell you what it is but it's in French and features talking animated electrical outlets. I'm baffled but my goal is to keep Edward awake at least until 6:30 and it seems to be doing the trick nicely. 

So this sucks but on the plus side today we drove through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my entire life. I know I have been saying that the whole trip but... Glacier Park in Canada. Oh. My. GOD.

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We are staying in Lake Louise tonight and although the plan involved more seeing of the sights and less watching of francophone TV life could be worse. Edward is nibbling on a piece of bread and Patrick found a washer/dryer downstairs. Perhaps you can imagine how much we needed a laundry? And this is the view from the balcony next to the bed.

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Tomorrow, no doubt, will be better. We might even get to see the lake.


Trip.2011.13

For future reference five people cannot sleep comfortably in four allocated spaces.

One of the (I think) clever things we did was to bring two aerobeds with us on this trip. Last year I was in love with the Peapod and I think they might have worked this year, too, in the absence of a big brother who sleeps in a bed that is not a tent. We tried the jumbo Peapods a couple of times at the farm and both times Caroline and Edward thought they were fun until Patrick climbed into an actual bed with actual sheets.

Anyway, we brought two aerobeds with us on this trip: a toddler-sized one that we've had since Patrick was little and a twin. The smaller one has a slow leak but Caroline seems to prefer it that way; by morning she has sunk so far that she is completely surrounded by her mattress. Just like a banana slice suspended in jello. She thinks it's cozy.

Last night we arranged the mattresses on the floor of a luxurious yet wee hotel room and let the children watch Bolt (I've never actually watched it before; Miley Cyrus voices the child actress whose emotional needs are sacrificed to her professional obligations - oooooh, Disney, awkward.) I looked at the size of our bed and tried to talk Caroline into it and Patrick onto hers but she said, "No no don't let him take my little bed" and Patrick looked scornful so I dropped it. Eventually they all fell asleep where they lay: Edward on the twin, Caroline on the toddler, and Patrick on one side of the bed. Oh, and hey look at that, Steve was asleep on the other.

I looked at my sleeping family, the family I love more than life itself and the one that I have tried so hard to assemble. There they slept, all sweet and peaceful in the glow of the closet light, and I felt like smacking each and every one of them. Where was I supposed to sleep? The window sill? The bathtub?

I took a throw blanket and a pillow off the bed and arranged myself on the floor. From that angle the closet light was blinding so I turned it off - I figured anyone trying to find the bathroom in the dark would just step on my face and then I could steal their bedspace while they were up. I tried to get comfortable on the floor but do you know what is under those thin hotel carpets? Concrete. And under that there must've been a pea or something because I only lasted about five minutes before I reconsidered my options. I tried putting myself upside-down on the bed with my feet between Steve and Patrick's heads but when they both rolled toward the center they almost suffocated me. So I shoved Patrick in between us on the pillows and tried that for a while. I might have actually fallen asleep for a minute but Patrick got all sleep spastic herky-jerky and he landed about six elbows in my eye.

I sat up and noticed that Edward had slid from his bed onto the floor. Eureka. I picked Patrick up, tossed him on Edward's bed, brought Edward into our bed and settled myself to go to sleep again but what Edward lacks in Patrick's size he makes up for in repetitive motion. He turns like a clock in bed, like the stooge who would rotate from the axis of his elbow. Eff that. So I moved down to Caroline's bed for a while (my calves stuck off the edge and all of the remaining air in the mattress poofed over to her side; causing Caroline to pop up six inches while I sank onto the concrete floor again) and then I tried to share the twin with Patrick (elbows) and then I went back into the big bed again.

I have no idea how much sleep I got in total but I finally woke up around seven to discover that I was sandwiched between Patrick and Edward in the bed and Steve had taken himself to the continental breakfast.

Never again. Two beds mandatory. Or... at least a king. I've done this before - gone for the fancy downtown hotel best suited to the business traveller and regretted it from the moment the valet handed the bellboy my plastic Target bag of wet clothes. From now on I will limit myself to three starred suburbans at the max; no matter what Priceline thinks I can get away with.

Anyway, moving on.

We wandered around Victoria today and were kinda sorta very sorry we were there with the c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n. It is a lovely city. A charming city. A city in which to drink coffee and wine and eat shellfish while watching the boats skim the waves. It is not a city to visit with Edward, whose fondest wish is apparently to get shanghaied.

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From the moment Edward saw this pirate ship (Ed. note: not actually a pirate ship. it is a tall ship built in the 1980s in Poland and modeled after the Russian Barque Kruzenshtern) 

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from the moment Edward saw it he knew he needed to dive headfirst into the harbor.

Partial aside: Edward falls over. A lot. As he ran down the hotel corridor tonight ahead of us Steve and I watched as he fell on his face, twice. I was reminded of the fact that Steve took Edward many months back for some sort of an appointment and as he left I shouted, "Don't forget to mention the tripping!" and Steve shrugged like, yeah, whatever. In retrospect the tripping and the middle ear glue and the hearing problem are all related so... I don't know. Trust your instincts and mention things to the pediatrician and make sure they actually are listening.

But I digress. We spent less time walking in Victoria than Steve and I would have liked which was far more time than was healthy for Edward and then we drove around for a while before heading up to the Vancouver ferry. I was dreading the ferry after yesterday but this one was mammoth and much more fun. 

I'd have pictures but my subjects revolted. Or mutinied, I guess you'd say on a ship.

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And then... I can't believe I am admitting this and I will never forgive you if you bring it up again but... then I got seasick. On a ferry. And, no, I have never taken a cruise and apparently I never will. Seasick. On a ferry. One and a half hours. Bleh.

From the moment we left Whidbey Steve and I had no idea where we were going other than east. We knew we wanted to see Banff and Calgary but beyond that we were flexible. We decided to head to Kamloops because we liked the name and it was on the way to Banff and... why not? 

The drive was terrific, especially since we had no idea what we might see. Fields and then mountains and then more mountains and then ohmygod mountains and creeks and rivers and British Columbia is just so beautiful.

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Forgive the glare but the waterfalls were everywhere and so pretty.

We did another random creek stop although this time it was a river.

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Patrick goes wading


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Caroline goes fishing with a stick

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and then falls in

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Steve and Edward

Kamloops has been a very pleasant surprise. It's a slightly arid valley surrounded by hills/mountains with a lovely slow river winding through it. We had dinner on the river and watched everything from speed boats to inner tubes out on the water.

We have another four (or five? or six?) days on the road and I am beginning to run out of ingenuity. I will summarize the things that worked for us at the end of our trip but if you have any suggestions (someone last year came up with a roll of aluminum foil in the car and I still think that is brilliant) I'd love to hear things that helped you survive family travel.


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Woof.

One of the things I like best about road trips (apart from how much more you can see) is the fact that you are generally in control of your own destiny. If you like a place you can explore it further and if the children start to lose it you can just stuff them in their seats and go. I don't like being in a car with screaming children but there are no words to describe how much I prefer the relative solitude of my own vehicle to being, say, on an airplane with the same yowling ditto.

Today the plan was to pack up, clean the rental, dislocate Patrick from my brother's (he slept there every night except the one I kidnapped him and the night his cousins came to us) and set off across lovely lovely Whidbey for the ferry at Anacortes. At this point it would be criminally remiss of me not to send a giant thank you to Susan who sent me a random email this morning telling me about lane closures and delays and providing me with step by step directions for avoiding the traffic. So I thank you. And more importantly, Steve thanks you since we all know how he feels about sitting in a car that is not moving. As it was we zipped along.

Which - ha, look at that - brings us to the ferry to Sidney, which was supposed to leave at two. We got there a little before one to be on the safe side and wandered off to purchase the world's most expensive hotdogs (I asked Steve, "Is that in Canadian dollars?" He said, "Do you think we're in Canada?")

Our ferry was delayed for over an hour and the kids were about ready to expired from the boredom. Eventually we boarded and it was totally cool for about twenty minutes and then somehow the scenery failed to engage them as I had hoped it would.

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Weird, right? How can you not want to spend three hours staring at this?

Edward found a broken arcade game and spent the entire time happily pretending to drive. I went to see if he needed to take a bathroom break and without removing his eyes from the screen he said, "Oh good, Mommy. I need new tires. Get some new tires. Pit stop, Mommy, pit stop!"

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Whatever, Edward. It was on a demo loop for heavens' sake.

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Patrick realized he had been neglecting the twins' education so he played counting games with Caroline.

Those two pictures make it look rather serene but it was actually sort of stressful. I asked Steve how the pilgrims managed; little boats, limited water, no electronics - ocean travel with children in the 1600s must have totally sucked.

Our hotel tonight is in downtown Victoria and is both too fancy and too small for us. Priceline is my passion but this time I really screwed up. We're a block from the water in Victoria and you can't toss a curling stone without hitting a great restaurant but somehow I neglected to get a pool (the pool. is key. with children) and we have 1 (one. un. uno. yi) queen-sized bed. I'm not entirely sure how this is going to work but we did bring two inflatable mattresses so... still short a bed but not as short. 

We fed the children in the room after checking in late and Steve and Patrick have ventured off to hunt and gather some sushi for those of us who are taller than Boo Boo Bear (Kings Dominion? 1970s? anyone?) Caroline and Edward and I are watching Schoolhouse Rock. Caroline loves this DVD. I bought it for Patrick for the trip but she's taken it over. Just today as we were stuck in situ in the customs line she said she needed to pee and then - presumably because Steve and I looked helplessly at her - she sang, "I need to pee. I need to pee pee pee" to the tune of the adjective song about the hairy, scary bear. It didn't get her to the bathroom any sooner but it was cute.