Monday, July 27, 2009

short and sweet

Me: Hey B. What are three highlights from this trip for you?

B: Legoland, Legoland, Legoland.

there's also doing 202 kph on the Autobahn, which was a highlight for TG and B, and not so much for the rest of us.

Off to a castle at Cochem, Germany, I think. More later if we have internet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The week in a glance

We have had a lovely week with Mom and P. in the Netherlands. Monday was spent getting there - ferry Dover to Calais, then a long drive up to the small Freesian town they are renting a place in. They've been overseas for almost three months - they are going home Aug 8, so not too long after we go.

We've spent a lot of time driving around sea dikes, old dikes, new dikes, scattering sheep - we climbed a set of steps inside a grain silo and took a look at the lay of the land, the kids got wet and muddy in more places than just one, but the one day we had our bathing suits along it was almost too cold to swim and B was a bit bothered by the huge "watch out for the undertow!" signs to really enjoy himself ...we have rented bikes and spent a day biking around a lovely little island called Schiermannikoog.

Sock yarn has been acquired and the Denver sock has been knitted on.

Today we are headed to Legoland, after which B will want to go. home. right. now. as he has been away from home for most of July. I think the first night he gets to sleep in his own bed he will weep for joy.

I have twenty three minutes to shower, get dressed and eat before a small boy shows up here telling me we need to GO RIGHT NOW.

HI MOM!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Annnd we're in England!

Friday morning - dashed off to Versailles, took a tour of the private apartments of Kings Louis 14th, 15th and 16th - the monarchy stopped at Louis 16th, what with the French Revolution and the beheading and such ...TG and A were very interested, I was very hot and tired and worn out from the humidity and B was just plain bored out of his tree. After Versailles, we headed north to Calais, and took a ferry across to Dover, and England and there are just not enough words in the English language to tell you how much I love England, and how very extremely surpassingly lovely it has been to spend time with our friends in Diss, Norfolk.

It's been raining off and on since we got here and I don't care. Dearly beloved friends that we don't get to see nearly often enough, as there's this great huge ocean between us, comfy beds and home cooked food, and oh my word, cheese. Loads and loads of different sorts of cheese - and I walked into a cheese shop and bought cheese. Felt very Monty Python-ish, although they did, in fact, have any cheese at all. They took us out to the seaside at Southwold and we sat in the sand and ate fish and chips and watched B saturate himself in the North Sea, and A freeze to death. Well okay she's still breathing :) but she got cold a lot faster than B did.

B has had the time of his life, sleeping in their son's room (the son has grown up and gone away to college and left a room full of car magazines and Lego) - he's been so pleased to have a wee place of his own that he's taken his coat out of the suitcase and hung it on a hanger - think he's hinting? The other day I thought I'd take the dog for a walk (although I let that thought get away before I did anything about it) and I went to ask the kids if they wanted to come along and B had disappeared. I found him upstairs in M's room with the door closed strumming on M's guitar. (and no, he doesn't know how to play guitar!)

Today (Sunday) we took the kids to meet their oldest daughter E, who is working at a church camp this week, and they spent about 12 hours there, being part of an English Bible Camp. They came home full of stories about how "they thought WE had an accent!" and the two billion questions the English children asked them about America. A is apparently coming back next year.

The rest of us acted like adults all day - well, as close as any of us are able to come to acting like adults! Church in the morning, lunch at a lovely inn (we got home from LUNCH at 4:30), a bit of cheese and crackers for tea (snicker) and then out to church again.

It's just all been so unimaginably good. Tomorrow there's a quick stop at a yarn shop and then off to the ferry again. Tomorrow night we'll likely be sleeping in Ternaard, with TG's Mom and her husband.

Some day we are all coming back to live here, yes we are.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A favourite moment

Last night, we found a pizzeria and were delighted to have a table outside in the lovely wee village close to our hotel. B was a bit unsure about the thunder and lightning and the black clouds rolling in ...when the rain started to fall we huddled under someone else's umbrella for a few minutes, and then the rain stopped, just as suddenly as it had started. Just as we were deciding we'd be fine outside after all, the wind picked up.

The waitress, who was completely unfazed by this, held the door for us all as we shuffled inside, maybe a dozen of us. She caught my eye as I passed her and grinned.

"That's France!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Paris

So we're driving around Paris. We have an iPhone GPS which gets lost every so often, and if we just use the iPhone map feature, it's free, whereas if we do the give-us-turn-by-turn-directions thing, it costs $$, so I was trying to get by with just the maps.

Apparently I used the expression "or I could just stick a fork in my eye" a lot. Last night after we had gone through the same intersection TWICE and taken the wrong exit out of it both times, B leaned over to me, holding out something.

"Here, Mom." he said "Would you like my fork?"

I finally broke down and using the data roaming feature, and my life became a quest to make the bleeping blue dot go where it was supposed to go. I was in the back seat, and the only way the sensor could figure out where we were was if I held the iPhone out the window (with both hands!!!)...now I know what all those weeks of using hand signals for turn signals was for.

The only thing wrong with navigating with your hands out the window, in Paris, is ...there are motorbikes splitting lanes everywhere. I'm lucky I didn't get my arms broken by a motorcyclist!!!

It has been SO MUCH FUN to try to use French. Today I bought something from a bakery without once resorting to "Anglais?" I was far too pleased with myself after that.

ALSO - I found a little place called L'Oisive The (accent ague on that e) on the Internet, and after an hour of GPSing/pleasing the blue dot (I think the thing actually burst into tears at one point) we found it and I went in to this darling little corner tea shop and ...(deep breath) bought some sock yarn. I carried it in my purse with me all day, and kept taking it out to pet it.

So what else did we do today? you ask. Well here's the thing. We were trying to decide if we should go to The Louvre or Notre Dame or scrap them both and go wander the gardens at Versailles and we finally decided that making the children wander through the Louvre was really not fair. We've been to Paris twice but never been to the Louvre but we figure we will somehow someday recover from the financial hit eating in Paris has been, and come back.

This morning as we were getting ready to pack up and check out, A said "I really want to see the Mona Lisa." So we discussed it for awhile and ...off to the Louvre we went. And then she wanted to see the Renaissance areas and can I just tell you what a delight it was to walk around and listen to her talk about what she's learned at school about the Renaissance, etc?

I loved looking at paintings. B wasn't much into it until I started talking about the story within the story in some of the paintings, and we spent a lot of time together in an area where there were a lot of Bible story painting - the wedding at Cana, John the Baptist's head on a platter (apparently it was a bloodless beheading), all the different ways people thought Mary looked, and Jesus looked. There was one especially interesting one that I tried to write down the name of but could not find a pen, by G---dano (possibly) that showed Rachel and Leah and Jacob and Laban and I was struck by how much Jacob and Laban looked like I thought they would - not physically, but personality-wise. Jacob looked like a cheerful mover-and-shaker, and Laban looked a bit like a mover-and-shaker gone to seed. And Leah had several small boys climbing all over her, and a much-prettier Rachel had eyes only for Jacob. IT's the first time, I think, that I've thought of paintings as story-telling, and I wonder why it's taken so long to work that out.

Tomorrow we are trying to wander the gardens at Versailles (if the rain stops) and then head to Calais for a ferry to Dover. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be going to England. I love England with my whole heart fervently. The friends we are going to visit are people we met on our first trip overseas, almost exactly 20 years ago. (The three year old who assured us he didn't use much electricity graduated from University this year!) We have visited each other back and forth over the years - they've been to Canada at least once, and we've been back to England with an almost-two-year old A (when she could still fly for free) and then when B was just 2 and we came overseas with TG's parents. It's been too long between visits this time - I can't wait.

Yap yap yap. I am having a seriously lovely time. I am so reluctant to leave the charming small town on the outskirts of Paris that we have found ourselves in - but I know that other delights await.

It's a lucky lucky life.

Paris

I clearly remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower - we had had supper at a campground and then drove in to take a look at the sights. Suddenly there it was, glowing golden in the night, and I thought it was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen.

We got to Paris Tuesday, taking all sorts of wrong turns and driving around Jouy en Josas (greater Paris, essentially) looking for the hotel, which we eventually found. We checked in and went off in search of something to eat. A lot of things seemed to be closed, and we couldn't work out why. The grocery store we went into at noon, for instance, was closing in 5 minutes, so we hastily threw some groceries in a cart, and had to buy bread at a motorway rest stop, of all places. For supper we finally found a pizza place, where the European pizza was indeed as delicious as we remembered it to be.

We thought it would be great to surprise the kids with a view of the Tower at night, so we headed off in that direction. As we drove along the Seine, even before we could see the Tower, we realized we were in a HUGE traffic jam, and the bridges were lined with people. The kids were wrestling in the back when we got a first glimpse of the golden beauty that is the Tower at night and they were literally open mouthed in awe. Worth every minute of the drive.

TB rolled down his window and asked why there was so much traffic. The fellow who answered spoke just enough English to say "There is a national party today, and there will be a big party over the Eiffel Tower." His friend clarified that. "A fire party."

We had somehow lucked into fireworks over the Eiffel Tower.

A and B and I got out, running farther down the Quai. A pulled out my tiny digital and video'd what she could, in case traffic had suddenly picked up and TB wasn't able to see anything. The show went on for almost half an hour and it was AMAZING. There were times when it looked as though the entire tower was covered in molten light. The finale was overwhelming. Absolutely breath taking. Surprise the kids, indeed.

And TG was stuck in traffic on the bridge closest to the Tower, with a clear view of the Tower for the last several minutes. His face was positively glowing when he picked us up.

Wednesday was Climb The Tower day. Busy busy busy - but TG found a short, fast moving line. I wasn't sure I'd be able to climb it, as I am far from svelte, and I am afraid of heights, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a try. The heights issue didn't bother me at all, although it was a bit nerve-wracking when the wind picked up. Tower ascension is in three stages - you can climb the first section, then either take an elevator or climb the second, and then you have to take an elevator for the third.

It only took our family 15 minutes to climb the first section - and that was with all sorts of waiting for me to catch my breath. We wandered around the first floor for awhile and B said he was done climbing, he was afraid of heights. I sort of half heartedly tried to buy myself a ticket to take the elevator up the second section, but I couldn't get the machine working properly and ...I thought B might be encouraged if I made the effort, so I started up the second. Lots more catching of the breath and steeling of the nerves but we all made it. WE MADE IT.

Two moments stand out for me - B hanging out near me, hearing me say "Oh this isn't nearly as scary as I thought it was" and then taking off and beating me to the top, and the look of respect on A's face when she saw me coming out of the second stage stairwell. B and I have since had a discussion about how very good it feels to do something you're afraid of.

On the food front, we are loving eating at little roadside vans. People here are very kind about our struggles with the language, and the longer I'm here, the more I want to stay just a bit longer and learn to speak it!!!

Gotta run before we kicked out of the hotel.

Today Versailles, tomorrow Calais to Dover to our very dear friends in Norfolk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Also

if your child gets trapped in a bathroom while you are checking out hotel prices, and the woman behind the counter reaches for a pair of scissors and ambles over to the door, and uses the scissors to spring the door from the outside, would you check in there?

(we didn't)

And yes, they let me take my knitting on the plane but I was sure to take something that it wouldn't kill me to have to rip off the needles (wooden, double pointed - they may have been pickier about long metal as opposed to short wood) and I read Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen (of Water for Elephants fame) and Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. The second was a rapid read because I wanted to know how it ended. A fantastic book - kudos to you, Bonnie!

Hey wait a minute!

Facebook and Blogger are in French? Interesting.

Okay so business class with the kids was a hoot. They were certainly the two least jaded passengers there, exclaiming in delight over a multitude of things before they finally settled in. (The look on A's face when she was handed her first steaming face cloth was priceless - safe to say she had no clue what it was for. I'm not actually sure *I* know what they're for, but I use them anyway.) TechnoBoy and A slept a lot of the 8 hour flight - B and I, not so much. I couldn't seem to fall asleep, and when I could, or often even before I could, a small dark head would pop up from behind me. "Mom?" About 6 hours in, he finally succumbed to sleep in spite of himself ("the thing is, I have never slept on a plane before, and it is WEIRD.") and then I napped a bit too.

Got the rental car no problem, and then spent a few hours (several hours) driving around Zurich and environs wishing we'd bothered to buy a map before we left home. The "oh let's just wait and see" approach works only so far. We finally decided that Basel looked like it was sort of on the way to Paris and headed there, after an expensive lunch in a tiny town. We ate on the patio though and saw the weirdest looking insect coming to the petunias, which I finally realized was maybe possibly a hummingbird moth (us voracious readers hear about all kinds of stuff.) (apparently only two moths in the SPHINGIDAE moth family have the word "hummingbird" in their name, so it may not have actually been a hummingbird moth, but it was most definitely a moth of the Sphingidae family - that's what I learned from the internet just now, so that I could inform you all. Seriously, google it - they are the oddest looking things. Like a tiny tiny hummingbird with antennae and a long long central ..umm...thingy. Antenna like proboscis? Proboscis-lie antennae?)

Food here is expensive. We are hoping to find a grocery store this morning (err afternoon if SOME PEOPLE don't get out of bed. I'm looking at you, B, A and TB!!!) that is actually OPEN, and make our own lunch, and eat supper out. We had such a good supper last night, though - we saw a little van with the word SNACK on top in huge letters, and had hot dogs and a hamburger and something called Les Americains, which cracked me up, because I have lived in Les Americas my whole life and never had a sandwich consisting of half a baguette (ie twice as long as most regular hot dog buns) lined with mustard, mayo and ketchup, and then two hamburger patties and a fried egg, then stuffed with a large order of crisp french fries. (I missed the words "pommes frites" in the rapid fire French that explained to me what "Les Americains" were.) The kids hotdogs? Half a baguette, 4 wieners. FOUR. Nobody could finish their whole sandwich, although B tried very very hard, and I just couldn't wrap my head around a French fry sandwich, so I plucked those out and shared them.

We now have a map, Paris is a few hours away, and if I don't give Sleeping Beauty this computer, "*I"* have to book the hotel for tonight, so BYE.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Things I've Learned

1. A reallllly long stopover is a lot more fun when you've spent the extra airmiles and gotten a business class ticket, and therefore, access to a business class lounge. Not only is there a seemingly endless supply of free beverages, fruit, cookies and sandwiches show up on a regular basis, and it is very quiet.

AND I can still kick my daughter's hiney in Uno, this time on a table.

2. Knitting is much better carry-on entertainment than reading. I am not a particularly fast knitter, but I am a rather fast reader. I brought two novels along - by the end of the Calgary-Chicago leg of this journey, I had 50 pages left to read.

The Noro mittens I am working on are much much much much much lighter, and I can read five novels in the time it takes to knit one mitten.

Also mittens are prettier than books.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

ARGH and *snicker* and SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee

1. ARGH.

a. The mouth appliance that B and his parents (that'd be TG and me) have been fighting about for lo these many months managed to BREAK an hour before B left for Bible Camp. On a Sunday. He's coming back from camp today, 15 hours before we leave for Europe for 18 days, so I took the appliance in to be fixed on Monday and on Thursday we drove out to camp to bring him back to the city to have it re-fitted, and then we took him back. He was pleased that we let him go to "Tuck" in the city at a gas station, and a bit miffed that he wasn't missing the mandatory "date night" banquet.

b. Going for some routine medical test Thursday, I opened the van door and the requisition form flew out the door and under my van, so I started the appointment by kneeling on the pavement muttering and fishing around under my van with a back scratcher.

2. *snicker*

"Mom, I need to go to the dentist," A told me. "My tooth fell out and now my whole mouth hurts."

So off to the dentist we go. The hygienist pokes around in her mouth for 12 seconds then sits back, grinning. The diagnosis?

A is teething. (four molars at once)

3. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee

In less than 24 hours, all four of us will be on a plane. B had a Jones soda the other day, and there's always wee fortunes under the cap. B's said "You will soon be crossing big water" or some such thing, so we had no choice - over the Pond we go. I am ridiculously a) excited and b) unprepared.

And now to today's important question. It's a poll. Vote even if I'm already on the plane - I don't mind.

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO KNIT?

1. The Denver socks. That whole international sock thing is getting fun.

2. something straight and boring on a circular needle. You'll get a jumpstart on Christmas knitting (or finish DarienTheCommenter's scarf) and you'll never lose a needle.

3. Your mother's socks. Or those brown ones you promised to D. Think how good it will feel to get those off your conscience.

4. The Noro mittens. It's never the wrong time of year for some Noro love.

5. All of the above.

6. Back away from the knitting, you freak. What's wrong with reading a book?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Promises, promises

Real post coming soon, I say, and I have a few ideas what I'll say and here it is time to create a real post and I got nothin'. If I start rambling, however, things may occur to me.

***

Some things are too big to talk about. Glen Eyrie. What can I say? this year when I went I was a little unsure as to whether or not I should go - how many years can go you learn about writing novels without actually writing one? but that's SO not what this year was about for me. We had a lovely too-short almost-week, our little group of novel writers (there were four different groups), getting to know each other and each other's work and really in so many cases being cheerleaders for each other. "and let us consider how to spur one another on ..." I left with a bone-deep sense of peace and belonging. J and I drove around Garden of the Gods afterwards and one of us spontaneously started to sing "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation" and then we just kept singing. Until we got to the bit that goes:

Hast thou not seen? How thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

and neither one of us seemed able to sing past the sudden lump in our throats.

I'm going back, again and again and again, as long as Angie and Nancy and Kathy and Al make it possible, because it is a place that replenishes me.

***

On the knitting front, I've finished the rather pink shawl for my mother, save the weaving in the of the ends and the washing and blocking. I love it so much I want one in a different colour for myself, but I want mine to be wider and longer, and I don't spend that kind of money on myself. How I ever got to where I was no longer buying acrylic yarn is beyond me, but I can barely stand to TOUCH acrylic now, let alone knit with it. Makes for expenisve projects.

I've also finished a pair of socks from the yarn TechnoBoy brought from Oregon. I finished them in Colorado. I am now knitting a pair of socks out of sock yarn I bought in Denver, that I expect to finish in Europe. (I have already googled "yarn shops in Amsterdam" in anticipation of knitting Netherlands socks in Canada, once I've finished the Colorado socks in Switzerland.)

***

On the connecting with people you knew thirty years ago who then dropped off your radar - B and I spent an absolutely delightful day in Manitoba with a high school friend who now lives in Florida. (She's at her mom's for a month.) She has a gaggle of perfectly lovely children (seven under ten, mostly boys, all adopted) and uses the word "remonstrate" in casual conversation. She also has a completely flat stomach, but no-one is perfect.

***

On the Catching Baby Skunks front, A caught one at her uncle's farm last week. It sprayed, but not terribly badly, so we were able to take A home to Alberta with us without strapping her to the roof of the van. There is a 13 second video of it waddling into the bushes that makes you think baby skunks are very very cute.

***

On the Life is Quirky and Quirky Is More Fun When It's Happening to Someone Else front, the turn signals in my van have decided they have finished the course, fought the good fight, etc. TG went out to change the fuse, but the fuse was not burnt out, and now I am driving around town using hand signals until after our holiday. That never gets old, that rolling down the window and sticking your arm out, especially if your arm is rather short to begin with, so you have to shift WAY over in your seat before sticking your arm out ...it's been raining in Calgary all week. Hand signals in the rain cause you to go around muttering things about there being no crops in the city for the rain to be good for.

***

On the free grass front - that is, grass that cost nothing, not grass that has been liberated from its' thankless existence - our neighbours overestimated the amount of sod they would need to do their back yard and now our front yard looks like someone who has an inkling about yard care lives here. They even installed it for us.

Oh wait, also grass as in green stuff growing in a lawn like arrangement, not that other stuff.

***

On the Things My Mother Would Never Have Countenanced front - My daughter is making popcorn at midnight. She is thirteen years old. Why do I not make my children sleep?

***

Annnnnnnnnnnnd on the When Was Your Last Liver Ultrasound front - it's tomorrow, thanks for asking. I don't think there's anything wrong it (and indeed, neither does my doctor) but I cannot have breakfast tomorrow. And no coffee.

***

which reminds me!!! on the How Is Your Mother front - apparently there is no way to flip the Feisty Switch to "Off". She's taking her pills by mouth now, and eating three (very small) meals a day. She's often far too full afterwards but is insisting that her stomach is now working and the feeding tube can come out, thankkewverymuch. Gotta love her fighting spirit.

***

And on the What Are You Doing This Summer front, apparently this was the year TB decided to spend our accumulated air miles, so we are flying to Europe to spend a few weeks with his mom and her husband, who have rented a place near Amsterdam for a month. We'll be gone two and a half weeks, and are leaving our house guarded by a motley collection of vans, and a large dragon, just as soon as I can find one that will also take out the trash we forgot to take out today.

***

And on the Large Oozing Undetermined Injury on The Dog's Jaw front - why yes it's healed very nicely, thanks for asking.

***

And on the How Was Walking Around Winnipeg on July 1st? front ...it was lovely but caused me to rant about a few things.

A) if you know you are going to a place where there will be many people and it will be hot and you will be walking on pavement a goodly portion of the time - why oh why oh why do you bring your dog? Do you not like your dog?

B) summer clothes. Just because they sell it in your size doesn't mean it should be purchased in your size and worn.

***

And on the Long Post Much? front - I'm done. Did I cover everything?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Real post coming later today ...

seriously, that's my To Do List for the day:

1. Finish rating poetry for the magazine I'd rather not name in case it's not appropriate to be blogging about the whole thang

2. Test the gadget my brilliant spouse has written to operate under Windows Vista gadgets.

3. Do a blog post.

This wee post here? Just to get a few more editting things off my mind, because there's nothing better than sounding like a stuck up judgemental jerk.

1. Don't copyright your work, people. Nothing like saying "Hey strangers! I don't trust you not to steal my oh-so-special work. Probably you can't write nearly as good as me so please publish my poem but don't steal it."

2. Never mistake profanity for craft. The first swear word in a poem? I keep reading, just in case there's a need for it. The second one? I keep reading but I've lost hope. The third one? I think "Dude needs therapy" and move on to the next poem.