Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The ants go marching

     "It goes by many names: The Crisis, The Dark [Days], The Walking Plague, as well as newer and more 'hip' titles such as World War [B] or [B] War One. I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable B War Two. For me, it will always be The [Bug] War, and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word [bug], they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that [invaded my kitchen.]"  - Excerpt from World War [B]

     Maybe I'm overstating the case here, but the discovery that ants had a tidy little provision line set up in our kitchen was an unwelcome discovery when we returned home last week. Since then, there's been constant skirmishes and battles. Alas, winter is nowhere in sight.
     Ants were not the only unhappy surprise. We arrived in the midst of a serious heat wave, which here means "sticky, oppressive mugginess with suffocating temperatures above 95 degrees." Needless to say, the kids and I took advantage of the pool most days and I was thankful for the a/c every day. Although the pool wasn't exactly cool it was at least colder than the hot tub, which strangely had people in it every day that we were present. A little weird, yes?

Other random thoughts from the week:
- Regardless of whether the temperature is +40 C or -40 C, the effect on my life is about the same. We tend to stay inside, although outside activities are not entirely out of the question; the car is a horrid place to climb into; the time required to put on sunscreen versus snow suit is about the same. 
- Traveling back to Denver after our ranch excursion, I could not believe that we were not driving straight to our old house. How could we not be living there? I did not want to leave CO. But having been back in our MD house for a bit, I am in fact happy to be in my own space. I am enjoying "home," wherever that is.
- Simply gorgeous thunderstorms visited us this week. Some with the moon back-lighting the cumulus clouds. Some with constant cloud-to-cloud lightning. Some with impressive streaks to the ground. All eluding my attempts to photograph them.
- We saw our first movie as a family: Despicable Me 2. This was a highly anticipated event in our family, due largely to the minions. The kids love those little guys and we may coordinate our Halloween costumes accordingly. My overall review: 3/5 stars. Held the kids attention more or less, but I was counting the minutes about mid-way through.
I'm more excited about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. So many puns! And that leek joke gets me every time.
- In my last post, I mentioned that my altitude sickness was pretty bad while we were in the west. In truth, it was really bad and lasted beyond the duration of the trip. So I visited the doctor and had some tests run, and they all came back normal. While good news for my overall health, it also means I can expect to be decimated whenever we go back out west. Perhaps I am showing my age?
- It's cherry season, so my addiction is in full bloom. I suppose someone needs to save me from myself, but I really don't want them to.
- Speaking of food, my mom introduced me to this Yonanas thing. So far, I've managed to avoid going out and buying one myself, but I think I may cave today. It's kind of fantastic. Not as fantastic as cherries, but still pretty good.
- This week my kids neither want to visit the library, nor pick fruit at one of the local orchards. Obviously, we are doing something terribly wrong.
- Lately, my kids love nothing better in the evening than to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and watch Stephen Hawking pontificate on life, the universe, and everything. Obviously, we are doing something terribly right.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Floods, fires, friends, family

I have a thing for alliteration.
Anyway, we just returned home after a whirlwind 3 1/2 weeks. The kids and I were in Canada for a couple of weeks (Alberta and Saskatchewan), meeting up with Jon at DIA. We stayed in the Denver area for one night, then it was an early start to New Mexico, near Taos. There we gathered with Jon's extended family for a few nights. Next up, a drive to a dude ranch near Durango for four nights with Jon's immediate family to celebrate his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Finally, back to the Denver area for two nights, then hopped a plane to BWI.

So let's do the numbers:
Four flights
Four airports,
Eleven flight hours (taxiing not included)
Five beds
Thirty hours on the road
Two provinces
Two states
Three family reunions
One giant dinosaur (more on that later)

Given the velocity of it all, I'm not sure vacation is the appropriate descriptor. But enjoyment is in there, as is refreshing, and suspension of work. The logistics were difficult, but it was a good trip. I was sad when it was over.
In light of the scope of the past month, I'm taking a cue from my brother-in-law who chose to describe his vacation in terms of memorable moments, instead of favorite ones.

Here are a few memories that will stand out:

1) Floods. The night the kids and I landed in Calgary, the heavens opened and flooded out downtown, the zoo, the Stampede grounds, and our favorite camping spot in the mountains. This was/is a major event in the history of this city. My folks' house was unaffected, so it was hard to fathom the devastation that was occurring so close. Among the notable details was the difference in how the local authorities handled the devastation, compared to what one might expect in the U.S. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I can't imagine U.S. authorities denying homeowners access to their houses until welcome centers and hardware stores were opened. Additionally, I seriously doubt American authorities would enter private citizens' homes to remove any guns before allowing people back. On the other hand, no one was abandoned in a conference center.

2) Fires. While Calgary was flooded out, large portions of the southwest were on fire. I checked the Denver Post regularly for updated area and road closures, wondering if our travel plans would be affected by the now routine mega-fires. Thankfully, all was well in our travel vicinity.

3) More floods. I drove through the worst rainstorm of my life... in Denver. To be clear, Denver certainly gets downpours, but they usually don't last as long as an hour. And I'm usually not driving a low-lying hybrid car when they happen. And I generally don't worry about floating away in a river that used to be Wadsworth Blvd.

4) Prayer. I met with a couple of friends from my CO prayer group one morning. We sat outside at a cafe, caught up, and prayed for each other. I really miss that. 

5) Family. Saskatoon is a homey city, surrounded by a rolling prairie ocean, and filled with my extended family. What I will remember is their hospitality, despite my absence from the region for over a decade. I will also remember the heat, the paddling pools, and Anna driving a team of Welsh horses. 
In New Mexico, we met up with Jon's extended family. What I will remember is the lack of superficial conversations. I will also remember running four miles around the lake and not dying from altitude sickness. I think the kids will remember the elaborate city they created in the woods, running from Ruzers, and being rated on millinery by the Mad Hatter's chaotic bench of judges. 

6) Firsts.
   - Isaac's first movie in an actual theater, with Uncle T and Miss Jean. (Will he will remember that it was Monster's University?) 
    - Anna's first time riding horses. At the dude ranch she was assigned Gidget, a golden horse with a braided name, a gentle soul, and indifference at Anna's inability to remember her name. I treasure the memory of my girl decked out in a pink western shirt and pink cowboy hat, riding her horse forward and backward and all over the place. I could barely get my horse to stop and go.
    - Anna catching her first (two) fish
    - Isaac's first boat ride
    - Mommy (and Anna) tubing for the first time. Turns out tubing is fun, which was... unexpected.

7) Falling. My sister-in-law was bucked off her skittish horse the first day. But she got back on right away, and rode every day since. I surely would not have done the same.

8) Food. At the ranch we enjoyed gourmet meals constantly. But what I really enjoyed was the hour before dinner, drinking mojitos on the deck, watching the plethora of hummingbirds, and chatting with family.

9) Altitude. We've gone from sea level to CO before and it always had an effect. Usually Jon would get nausea for 1-3 days and I would feel anemic. This time we were slammed: flu-like symptoms, violent chills, aching joints, exhaustion, etc. But in terms of illness most of the news was very good. No one came down with a virus, and the kids were seemingly unaffected by the altitude. Perhaps Jon and I were simply showing our age.

10) Dinosaurs. On our way to Saskatchewan we stopped in Drumheller, Canada's paleontological mecca. Although we didn't visit the museum, we made the most of the visitor center. The kids and I climbed to the top of their resident T-Rex and looked out the mouth. We were also attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, so we didn't stay long.

11) Patience. We visited Calaway Park with my parents, and Anna busted out her super-hero skill: waiting in lines. That girl can wait in lines like no child I've seen. She went on every scary ride she could find, regardless of the wait. Luckily my Dad was there and rode them all with her. Isaac was too small for the scariest, so I spent much time explaining that he could ride them next summer. This explanation was marginally successful.