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Adventures in Solo Travel

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Kids today are so lucky.  They have fewer chores (because they’re so busy) and they get to go everywhere (because they’re parents feel guilty leaving them at home). Parents today are much more adventurous in travelling with their children. I realize I’m part of this culture, indulging my children in all sorts of travel adventures. In return, I hope my kids will look back upon our family travels and continue to be inspired by the world and long to see more of it … preferably on their own … soon.

So my daughter recently experienced the pinnacle of childhood adventures:  the solo voyage. As in sans parents. When family and summer scheduling conflicts prevented us from attending a much loved beach week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my daughter somehow managed to finagle an invite from her uncle to go to the beach with his family – complete with puppy dog eyes, curled lip and promises of ‘I won’t be any trouble at all …’, I have no doubt . Naturally he, being entirely defenceless to the puppy dog eyes and curled lip look, agreed.

us customsThe first significant hitch she encountered was US Customs.  I guess runaways are extremely clever these days, including those with an official consent to travel form notarized by a lawyer, signed by both parents AND carrying a return airline ticket. Evidently US customs officials are impervious to the puppy dog look and curled lip routine but good on her for trying. She fared much better with Canadian Border Services upon her return and the usual, “Are you bringing back any weapons, alcohol or tobacco?’ was replaced with “I bet you had a lot of fun! Welcome back.”

This solo adventure of hers took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Arthur decided to take its own unfortunate turn towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she was staying with my brother. If anyone could turn a hurricane on its heels it would be my daughter, but alas, the Governor did not think know of her powers (primarily reserved for use at our family dinner table), and Dare County issued an evacuation order for Hatteras Island. While I am certain she had visions of a SWAT team lowering their ladders from helicopters evacuating stranded tourists such as herself, she soon found out what it really entailed: a day’s driving stuck in the worst traffic jam imaginable.

And now she is off to sleep over camp for two weeks (something she has done now for seven summers).  While there will certainly be someone there to feed her and do her laundry, I know she will return from camp grateful for a flushing toilet.

bluesfestMy sons are also on their own solo adventures this week. My 18-year old is at the national Canadian Big League Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario (ten days of residence living at Lakehead University will be good training for his body to get used to dorm beds) and my 16-year old is experiencing Ottawa’s largest outdoor musical festival, Bluesfest 2014 (requiring him to master one of the biggest travel obstacles for today’s youth:  public transportation). Their adventures, however, will probably not be titled Adventures in Solo Travel but rather Travel in with Solo-Cup Adventures. Sigh.

So this house is just a little too quiet for me right now and I think it’s time to embark on some solo (or solo cup) travel adventures on my own. But I am a seasoned traveller, right? None of this Customs nonsense, lousy beds, public transportation woes or guilt can get in my way, right?

Stay tuned!

airplane

 

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The New Year is a Time for Purification

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I keep all my New Year’s resolutions to myself – that way no one can hold me to them.

alcohol freeAs many of my friends know, every January I abstain from alcohol.  Stop laughing, I’m serious. This annual resolution – or 1/12th of a resolution – seems to be difficult to keep to myself and elicits much commentary by my friends and family alike. They are all very supportive, in a this-I-gotta-see kind of way.

I do this because, like many, I tend to overindulge in the all manners of food and beverage during December and have convinced myself that abstaining from alcohol for one month will set my life back to  Zen.  No way am I giving up comfort good in January so alcohol seems to be the appropriate sinful pleasure to slash instead of slosh. I’m pretty sure I can pull this off. God knows I was pregnant three times and breastfed three kids while abstaining from alcohol. But as the gap has grown considerably between the present day and my birthing and breastfeeding days, and I find it more and more of a challenge to do this annual “cleanse” – or is just because now I am mother to three teenagers? Judging from my Christmas presents, my teenagers may also think it’s a challenge for me.

For my first cleanse five years ago, I decided to go flat out and tried ‘Dr. Joshi’s holistic detox – 21 days to a healthier you’ made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, but I liked her back then, didn’t you?  Joshi promotes a detox diet regime – with no red meat, no dairy, no fruit, no wheat, no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar and no artificially processed foods. Yeah, so basically cardboard (you might know this as rye crackers). I recall reading a Canadian Living magazine writer’s review of this cleanse at the time and she wrote that she felt awful the first three days, then rather “kittenish” when she awoke the fourth day.  Clearly the kittens she knows are starving, acerbic, hypersensitive creatures with a razor-sharp tongues because that’s pretty much how I felt the fourth – and subsequent – days.  Of all the forbiddens on Dr. Joshi’s list, the hardest for me to give up was my coffee. It was not an enjoyable January and I have since then decided that giving up the alcohol is going “cleanse” enough for me. My friends and family generally agree.

The January detox doesn’t start until after the Kingston hockey tournament and it ends January 31st when the Nepean and Cornwall hockey tournament begin. Am I making excuses? Have you ever tried to make it through a minor hockey tournament weekend without alcohol? I rest my case.

So right out of the gate, my month-long January cleanse is reduced to 27 days. I am almost half way there, already.  Hooray! A toast to me! Oh wait …

Wish me luck on the home stretch… and keep all sharp objects (and chardonnay) away from me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

no alcohol

All I want for Christmas?

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I remember fondly the Christmas presents my children used to make for me at school. I still have the classroom-crafted Christmas ornaments from Kindergarten, the decorated Santa’s cookie plates from Grade One, and will simply never part with the rendering of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer done with hand prints for the antlers and footprint for the head from Grade 3. I am so glad that I wasn’t the classroom volunteer that day! Somehow Christmas Gifts for Mom dropped off our school board’s educational curriculum some time before middle school. Such a shame.

It was about middle school, however, that I suggested to them that just because they weren’t making things in the classroom anymore, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still get us a gift. I mean after all, the time had come for them to fully appreciate the old saying that “it is better to give than to receive”. Lord knows their dad and I have been doing a lot of giving over the past seventeen Christmases.

Generally their Gifts for Dad came out of my wallet and the Gifts for Mom came out of Dad’s wallet but that was ok. It was still fun to find a little something under the tree to enjoy along with our Christmas morning mimosa – my husband’s and my mimosas, not the kids (that would be wrong, right?). I’m so glad we started this new tradition because now that my children are all teenagers, I can tell that they truly enjoy picking out the perfect gifts for their parents.

So what was under the Christmas tree for mom this year, you ask?  Well, my oldest son bought me a set of wine glasses, my middle son bought me a Mason jar with a straw (with a heartwarming dedication, “for the cottage”, along with it) and my daughter, my youngest, bought me a coffee mug and a half a kilo of coffee. My mother, who was visiting for Christmas, suggested “Your children seem to know you well.” I couldn’t tell if she was impressed or disgusted.

Christmas 2013

Well, yes, they do seem to point to the things in life I appreciate the most, given to me by the people in my life who I love the most. Anyhoo, no matter. I love my presents and will no doubt put them all to good use. After all, my kids are undoubtedly the ones I have to thank (or blame) for needing them in the first place!

Was there something special for you under the tree this past Christmas?

You’re bored? Did you say, you were bored?!

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boredAnd then she says to me, “I’m bored!

A whole fifteen consecutive minutes of nothing to do has turned her world upside down and inside out.

You’re telling me you’re bored? Oh really. My dear child, you have no idea what bored is!

You do not know bored until you’ve spent all of July and August with nothing to do.

You do not know bored until sleepover camp means a night in the pup tent in your friend’s backyard.

You do not know bored until you spend an entire morning picking dandelions or daisies all by yourself.

You do not know bored until ‘pool time’ means a twirly sprinkler with ice cold water … or no twirly sprinkler at all and just the water hose .

You don’t know bored until the highlight of your afternoon is waiting for the ice cream trike to pass by at 3 o’clock in the afternoon …. and it’s only just past noon.

You do not know bored until you endure CBC children’s television broadcasting in the ’60’s in rural Québec.

You do not know bored until the only music you could listen to was CJSS AM radio.

You do not know bored until you’ve watched Brady Bunch re-runs.

You don’t know bored until movie night comes once a year and AppleTV is still a Fisher Price toy.

You do not know bored until your mom tells you to go outside to play and not return until lunch time or there’ll be hell to pay.

You do not know bored until the fourth consecutive rainy day on a camping trip.

You do not know bored until you’ve ridden to Timmins and back in the back seat of a Ford LTD with three siblings and nothing more to pass the time than a used set of paper doll cut-outs (with some of the tabs worn off), and a single Nancy Drew book.

You do not know bored until you’ve ridden to Toronto in the back seat of the same Ford LTD and your mom has forbidden anyone to speak since -oh – about 15 minutes into the trip!

Oh no, my dear. You do not know bored. Now, go find something to do or I’ll find you something to do (evermore the ageless cue to scram)!

What did your ‘bored’ look like?

bored2

 

 

Mascot Confidential

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According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the most dangerous jobs in Canada are in the construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors.  Surprisingly, no mention of mascots.

toufou1I was shocked when I discovered recently that Toufou, the beloved moose mascot of Tremblant Ski Resort in the beautiful Laurentians north of Montreal, now has security detail assigned to him. Evidently being a mascot is more of a high-risk occupation than I thought. Zut alors!

Everyone makes fun of mascots; it’s not just me, right? They’re obnoxious and kind of freaky but I don’t want to see them hurt. Except the one who knock over my beverage … him I want to hurt.

My daughter was a TouFou-stalker, but a I’m-a-cute-three-year-old kind of stalker. The minute we’d arrive at Tremblant, she’d look for that crazy moose everywhere and if she caught sight of him, she’d knock over everything in her path to get to him (including my beverage).  As a 12-year old, she now understands fully that TouFou is not a real moose, but it is still an annual tradition for her to have her picture taken with him.

So upon arrival to Tremblant over March Break, we strolled about the pedestrian village and it did not take too long for our first TouFou sighting. As my daughter posed for her annual photo with Moosey (as she still affectionately refers

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to her childhood friend), I joked with his security guard: “Mais voyons donc! TouFou’s making the big time now, eh? Needs security?” The security guard nodded but was not offering up any details about would not offer up any information as to his raison d’être.

As March Break lore goes, TouFou once got a little too personal with a few ladies who were dancing to the music in Place St. Bernard square. Seems the boyfriend of one of those ladies (probably after too many trips to the dépanneur) did not appreciate TouFou’s mingling with his lady and decided to teach that maudit TouFou a lesson toute de suite. Even worse, instead of telling simply telling their friend to manger de la marde, a whole group of his buddies joined in in giving TouFou an old-fashionable mascot thrashing.

I sure hope TouFou wasn’t seriously hurt but it certainly explains why he is now accompanied everywhere by someone whose vision is not impaired by a 2-foot wide head. But I also couldn’t help laughing at the stupidity of this obviously drunker-than-a skunk (or moose) reveller.

Just imagine the conversation with his girlfriend:

GF: “Seriously? C’est quoi ton problème?”

BF: “Well, he was – like – trying to grab your butt!”

GF: “Grab my butt. Really. With his paw. Uh-huh.”

BF: “I don’t like you dancing with other guys.”

GF: “Other guys? or just 7-foot tall biped moose?”

And what would a father say to his son after such a brawl?

Father: “Nice shiner, Son! What did the other guy look like?”

Son: “Uh, well gee Dad, I honestly didn’t get a good look at him”, which is probably safer than “he wasn’t wearing any pants but I’m pretty sure he had antlers”.

Franchement! But honestly don’t feel too bad for poor TouFou, he still gets all the girls!

As for the stupid idiot that prompted Tremblant to assign security to TouFou? Well, thanks to his girlfriend and father, he’ll be in therapy for years … once he’s out of juvie, that is.

tremblant

Outside my comfort zone…

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Not long ago, my daughter persuaded me to try surfing. I don’t mean internet surfing (on that I am a pro thanks to my highly evolved procrastination skills), I mean the real shaka bra water sport surfing (on which I am most definitely not a pro).  Not that it mattered to my daughter, but Mai Tai and I were perfectly happy enjoying my first visit to the Hawaiian Islands without this sharp turn outside my comfort wake.  Nevertheless she begged for an exciting and inimitable mother-daughter day – and 12 year olds are good beggars (until they turn 16 and can then drive themselves). “What the heck?”I thought, “When in Hawaii …” Well, I can now tell you the correct answer here is, ‘drink a Mai Tai’.

Despite a profound lack of experience and misguided sense of athleticism, I relented.  I was counting on my strong Canadian running legs to carry me over these waves, forgetting that my strong Canadian running legs were old and not at all that strong. I then carefully chose a surfing company that specialized in Beginners and Cowards because I am both (I kid you not; it’s right there on their website), and guaranteed their students to be surfing by the end of the lesson (though no reference was made to exactly how and the word ‘gracefully’ was omitted from their pledge). I was relieved to be paired with a father-son duo who, like me, had no previous surfing experience.

First wave.  Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. After this unsuccessful first attempt at shredding the nar the other youngster in our grouping asked me excitedly, “Hey Lady, was that you who did that amazing face plant out there?”  Three words I do not ever wish to see, hear or experience together again: amazing and face and plant.  After making sure my bathing suit still covered the significant – I mean appropriate – parts of my body, I quickly wiped the salt water out of my eyes (sea water not tears, thank you) and made my way back to the waves’ breaking point for round two.

Next wave, please. “You’re lovin’ it, right Mama?” Our native Hawaiian instructor, Kihe, had taken to calling me Mama during our land lesson and I carried this nickname into the water.  “Oooooohhh Mama,” he continued, “Here comes a 40-footer!” I don’t think Kihe was aware that I firmly believe that ‘here comes a 40-footer’ is only good news when referring to yachts, not waves.  Noting the panic in my eye, he assured me with a twinkle in his, that he meant the next wave was 40 feet wide not 40 feet high. Funny guy. I smiled nervously and paddled furiously as Kihe instructed me to do.

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. “Get out of my way!” shouted another novice surfer who erroneously assumed I actually knew how to get out of his way. “Addictive my eye” I muttered to myself, as we collided.  “Deadly is more like it.” There was water in parts of my body where water should not be. My instructor, Kihe, reminded me at my next turn that I need to keep my eye on where I want to go.  “If you look at other people, you’re bound to hit them.  It’s the same in skiing right Mama?  You look at a tree; you’re going to hit the tree!”  Oh my God, how did he know about me and the tree?

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. Contrary to my wildest dreams but true to the surfing company’s guarantee, I managed to catch a ride on the next wave. There is no doubt in my mind that those 60 seconds of adrenaline were definitely worth the ensuing two hours of work trying to recreate that experience.  For the love of Job, surfers are the most patient people on the planet. And strong.  In case you’re ever wondering why there are so few printed manuals on surfing out there it’s because video would make the following instructions come to life much more effortlessly:  Paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, kneel, stand, surf, kneel, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle,.  Repeat. So where was the part where you just lay down on your surf board and just … well … lay there? That would be a good part; definitely part of my comfort zone.

My daughter stayed behind for a few more rides as I let my surf board and the tide carry me to shore. So endeth the surfing lesson and my retreat to my comfort zone.

Soon thereafter, my son suggested we visit Black Rock for some ‘totally sick cliff jumping’.

‘Yeah.’ I thought, as I mixed another Mai Tai. ‘Send me a post card.’

 

Maui Wave Riders

Author’s note:  to the professional photographer capturing all these wonderful memories on film, I respectfully request to destroy all evidence.  Thank you.  The entire world thanks you.

Have you ventured outside your comfort zone lately?

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Shaving

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Second palm tree to the right and straight on ’til morning!”
– Peter Pan’s directions to Neverland, amended by a dustbunny

I need sun. I need the warmth of the sun. I am cold and I am pale. I’ve been wearing black turtlenecks since November. My toes haven’t seen the light of day since October. My get-up-and-go just got under the duvet, and from where I can see far enough to the pantry for more potato chips. I still have cold hockey arenas to bear for another few weeks. You know what else? I haven’t shaved since September. There. I said it.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder is listed as a legitimate mood disorder listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and its symptoms include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, social withdrawal, loss on interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes and cravings for high carbs and difficulty concentrating. I think those also cover symptoms of prolonged motherhood, though they fail to include that mid-winter aversion to shaving.

Although mothers are found all over the world, SAD sufferers are predominantly found in the northern hemispheres where symptoms are the worst between November and February (in contrast to prolonged motherhood whose symptoms are year-round and the only known treatment is high school graduation).

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting”

My daughter's windowsill flowers waiting for sunnier days

One of the most prevalent and most often sought-after treatments for SAD is light therapy. For many – including me – this involves a trip down south and a drink with a little umbrella in it. However, I drew the shortest straw in the family vacation vote this year and we are NOT going south. In fact the GPS will probably not register anything remotely similar to “S”. We are heading farther North in my already too-northern hemisphere. While I may have had my fill of Old Man Winter, especially since he made February one day longer this year, the kids and my husband have not, and we are going skiing. Not quite the light therapy I had self-prescribed for my self-diagnosed SAD.

As my goal for 2012 is always to find the positive, and I know there will be a cozy fire, a nice hot tub and wine.

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces”

The cool thing about a ski vacation is that it is socially acceptable to spend extended periods of time hanging around in your underwear. So along with my wine, I’m packing my most sexy and enticing Hot Chillys thermal long underwear.

This ski trip may also delay the post-Canadian-winter leg shaving ritual a little longer, given the effective use of thermal underwear. I can also breathe a sigh of relief that the dreaded bathing-suit-shopping-trip is postponed a few more months, too.

But then there’s the hot tub. The hot tub is an issue.

A long day of skiing (or even a very short day) necessitates a trip to the hot tub. A trip to the hot tub necessitates a leg shaving. Well, actually necessitates a two-leg shaving. And not the cheater-shave either; the below-the-knees shave I do on a rare night out during hockey season that requires me to wear a dress and pantyhose. I need a full leg shaving. And I need a bathing suit. The last thing I want to do is go shopping for a bathing, right now. In addition to an extra layer of body hair this winter I’ve also acquired an extra layer of blubber, suffering through my SAD potato chip treatments.

I find I am in quite a quandary: hot tub = bathing suit = shaving. Then I come across a perfect alternative to a bathing suit:

A wet suit.

Thermal underwear and a wet suit.

I have now found a perfect alternative to shaving AND a surefire way to have the hot tub entirely to myself!

“How do you like me so far?”

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