Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Note to all Mothers and mothers-in-law

January 14, 2013

If you’re interested in giving a metallic slinky and several wind-up toys for Christmas, please give a heads-up to your daughter/daughter-in-law to not pack them in her carry-on.  Tell her, and feel free to quote me, “That shit looks like bomb parts in airport security.”

Remind her how they will stop her and empty out her bag, digging out the kids’ toiletries, toothpastes, books, pens and pencils, feminine hygiene supplies, her bundle of knitting and wooden knitting needles and the incredible excess of yarn due to her pathological fear of being left without anything to do in the airport, down to every dirty tissue until they find the slinky box and then comment, “I haven’t seen one of these in years.”

Ask me how I know.

random coincidence

January 6, 2012

Here it is.   One of the things that happens occasionally that I really wouldn’t believe if people told me it would happen.

W and I were with the kids in Washington DC for the better part of a week.  We waited until the nicest day and went to the zoo.  We ambled about, and then, I almost ran over a lady in front of the bathrooms.  I can’t remember if I apologized, because I was mesmerized by her face.  Creepily.  I knew I was staring at this person and yet I couldn’t stop.  She just reminded me of someone I knew.  (You know about me and my little staring problem.  I’m aware of this and yet this seemed even more creepy and socially unacceptable.)  She kept looking back at me.  In my head, it was her trying to remember my features so she could report them to the police about crazy stalker-zoo-lady.

Anyway, I finally managed to say something like “Excuse me, but you remind me -”

And then she yelled out my name.  Much screaming and some hugging ensued.

Turns out, this was somebody I hadn’t seen in nine years.  We’d met and spent most of our active, in-person part of the friendship in Wisconsin (where she still lives), I’d been a bridesmaid at her wedding, and somehow, we both managed to take our families to the National Zoo on the same day and meet up at the toilets.  Crazy, huh?

W had taken the kids to the restaurant, and was pretty mad when I gestured for him to return back to the bathrooms.  His admitted feeling on it was “This better be some amazing frickin’ animal if you’re having me come back all the way there.”  (Ha!)

Sick of it

January 3, 2012

So sick. Got a terrible sinus pain from a bad cold. It feels like a toothache all over my face.  Just throbbingly bad.

Hopefully, that’s what’s causing my current writing blues.

What might have made the problem worse was the trip we just took to DC, which was great, except that I was so miserable for it. At least we did stuff and tried to not think about how miserable I was.  Walked the National Mall in the cold, yelled at children and tried to be upbeat.

Hey friends that I visited – I’m sorry if I made you sick. Really, really sorry.

Also, read the Stephen King writing memoir.  Most lasting thing: he aims for 2ooo words a day.  Just, wow.

Maybe I’ll go call in sick, hide in bed for a while and try to feel better, about the cold and my low verbiage.  (2k a day?  Damn.)

from here to there

December 26, 2011

I really enjoy the details of how a universe works, and the internal logic.  That means in protagonists, I want to see their weaknesses and how the author gets around those weaknesses while still being true to the universe they created.  If you push the line of what is logical in universe, you get a lot of cries of BS from me, but if you do it well, I’m impressed.  It’s an interesting exercise.

So that means in Naruto, no ninja can fly.  Sure, they have jutsus that can effectively do this, or some technologies (mostly in the movies), but given that the schizoid tech of that world, that’s not a problem for me.  They still have to walk to get to places, or hop trees, or whatever, and you see them do it.  Or that Harry Potter’s world, nothing can be created from nothing – which I find really interesting.  Because it shows the limits of whatever power there is – a power which might solve problems without other kinds of effort.  (For the record, I am not a Potter-head.)

My favorite, in theory if not in actual execution, is Dune.  Because the whole saga is based around acquisition of the spice, which is their way of getting around.  It is actually the oil equivalent of their universe.  (Almost literally – using the analogy of the desert people and all that.  I don’t know enough about it to comment further, but I am really impressed by this.  Although, to paraphrase themightygodking, you don’t have to read much further to get the point.)  But a civilization is based on exploitation of this spice, which is the lynchpin of their moving around the universe.  Without it, nothing goes.  Everything else, the family sagas, the technology, the religious cults, is secondary to this spice.

I am myself working on several pieces which involve these little details.  One story is basically halted because of the problem I am having in getting a reasonable fix on how this civilization would transport mail/messages.  Because if you’re crossing galaxies, you’re wanting mail/news from all the corners of your empire, right?  How can you do that in a way that doesn’t seem dated by the standards of the technology you’re already getting up there?  Couriers?  Some hyper-light mail?  Which I can’t buy because of the problems of the physics, not that I know anything about it, but it is a stopping block.  How fast would it have to be to be reasonable?  Would you just set up mini-wormholes/mail drop boxes everywhere?  That’s crazy.  That would work with crack fic, but not a serious piece.  (I know lots of works just handwave it (looking at you, George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry), and I probably could too, but it seems like something really key to the story right now.  It’s probably kind of dumb that I’m stuck on it, but this is one of my Problems.)

I can’t help but think that the things that add to/halt a civilization’s communication/travel say a lot about it, and because of my need to Say Something Important Occasionally, it’s sort of blocking-making.  No wonder people start to write fantasy, if only so they don’t have to deal with it.  It’s all MAGIC, then.   Because this theorizing can sometimes feel like BS all by itself.

NaNo no mo’, traveling blues

November 28, 2011

I’m admitting it.  I’ve just bailed on NaNo.

It’s the holiday’s fault.  Well, it’s really mine.  We traveled to see relatives for most of last week for the Thanksgiving holiday and I forgot the power cord to my laptop.  So there went whatever writing I had intended to do for the week.  Bleah.

Truly, I didn’t intend to forget the power cord, but there you go.  I did mean to write, and even though I knew I wasn’t going to get very far.  Still, it is a let down to be thinking about what all I could be doing if not for my own packing fail.

I did have a little bit of time, however.  What to do when there’s no computer available?  Read a physical book, duh.  I haven’t done that in a while.  Problem – I didn’t bring any books with me.  I haven’t traveled with a book since my kids were born – I found that when I brought a book, I never got around to reading it and it was annoying to be lugging books around. .. as opposed to any laptops without power cords – I’m still irritated with myself for that.  Anyway, I could check my email and stuff on W’s computer – but it’s not the same.  First, because it’s not my computer, and second, W would want to be using it when I wanted to, so no go.  (Also, W has a Mac, and it’s just weird to be using it for extended periods of time.  There’s no “Del” button.  It’s annoying.  And the Open Apple Key – what is that?  Anyway, yes, we do have a mixed married in that sense as well.  Sometimes, it feels like the only thing we have in common is our love of soft drinks and bad sci-fi.  Oh, and the kids.  Mustn’t forget the kids.)

At the hotel, there was a reading room, and people had just left tons of books behind.  I found “84 Charing Cross Road” and it was a charming, fast read.  Just light enough for the occasion.  I was thinking about bringing it back with me, but W stopped me.  He’s of the opinion that he didn’t want to carry it/pack it, and we don’t need to be bringing books we don’t actually own with us.  He’s all about things like that.  What-ever.

(I also have an odd habit – I sometimes bring stuff with me with the intent to throw away while I’m out of town.  It helps me figure out if I want it enough to carry around.  Usually, I don’t.  Lots of small items have been sacrificed on the altar of this particular crazy thought.   I have never voiced this to W – because he would find it truly problematic.  But I don’t know if I’ve ever done this with books.  Thinking.  Hm.  Yes, I have.  But it was through Bookcrossing.  Intent to abandon for the good of others, as it were.  That seems more magnanimous than trying to figure out if I want to keep a pair of old socks or a mostly empty bottle of hand lotion.)

vacation stuff

September 7, 2011

So we’ve come back from vacation.

We spent most of a week in Minneapolis, where W had a conference.  It wasn’t a great vacation for me, because I still had to take care of the kids but now in a new and different locale without any outside support.  Still, I got to see an old friend and her children and go to a bunch of different museums and generally have some different scenery.

Then we went to Hilton Head, SC, where my brother has a time-share.  (Why he has one is a completely different post – but the short of it is that he bought it on ebay sight unseen.  I mean, who does that?)  It was really nice, but sort of stressful.   First, our flight landed several hours late, so we had to book over to the car rental place because it was going to close.  Then W got stung by a jellyfish.  Then Henry slipped while running on tile, hit his head and then couldn’t stop vomiting.  So W ended up in an emergency room while they decided whether or not he had a subarachnoid hematoma  (Look it up, it’s f%@$ing scary.)  W went with him in the ambulance to the local trauma center in case they needed to do brain surgery.  They didn’t, but kept him overnight for observation.  (Henry’s fine now, and still running on tile – giving me agita all the time.) I yelled at him a lot following the hospital visit to just slow his skinny little butt down.

Well, at least we left before the hurricane got there.  That would have been just the finishing touch to a vacation worthy of writing about, in the negative sense.  (My brother is all “I’m sorry you used our time share and had a bad vacation.  None of that stuff ever happened to us while we were there.”  I don’t know if he’ll ever offer it to us again, given our experience.)  It wasn’t a bad vacation at all – it was pretty relaxing when I wasn’t all stressed out.

My usual bugbears were in residence – how much food to buy?  (Nothing but coffee was supplied – and I refused to buy sugar and salt for 6 days.)  What to do?  Are we lost?  How are we going to feed the children?  What do we take back with us?  But I was moderately productive and finished a short story I’d been working on.  (It was a prompt for a kink meme, and not very kinky.)  The kids loved the beach (and I loved it at low tide – it was amazing, so much beach!), and the kiddie pool on the property.  There was a surprising number of birds (pelicans, herons, gulls, terns, and a bunch I couldn’t name) – and J kept calling out “Birdie!  Birdie!” everytime we saw one.

I felt awkward about the playstructure being right next to the bar – because I wouldn’t want to see my kids seeing me drink – cocktail in hand, hanging out by the monkey bars.  I wanted the playstructure to be situation on a big plot of green on other piece of property – far from the bar, where my kids wouldn’t be able to see all those people drinking.  W says that nobody else but me would think it is wrong to have a drink at the bar and watch your kids play while you’re on vacation, because, guess what, you’re on vacation.

But I guess I’m applying non-vacation standards to a vacation.  Story of my life (the wrong application of situations to standards/thoughts/actions).  Sigh.

quick tip, travel and clothes

August 6, 2011

I’m off to vacate somewhere for a while.  (In a manner of speaking.  I actually can’t vacate from my real responsibilities – you know, the kids.)   I’m always stressed about leaving the house for any period of time – whether it be for a weekend or more.  I want the change of scenery but I can’t stand the mental anguish of prep.  And packing for me plus two kids and consultations about everything from future weather to maps – it makes all the downer facial expressions of other parents in airports totally relatable.  I’m going to have that face too in a few hours.  But, we do the best we can.

So, I present you with a tip a friend told me.

If you’re in a hurry, you can approximate waist size by wrapping the waist around your neck. Yes, you read that correctly. It freaked me out a bit thinking about how my neck is 1/2 the circumference of my waist, but then I tried it. It’s about right. She also added that people would look at you funny, but if it saves me time in the store while the kids are melting down, I will totally do it.

(I’m thinking about this while I’m packing.  Why am I thinking about new clothes while I’m packing?  Is it because all the ads for back-to-school are coming out?  Is it the fantasy of buying stuff while we’re away because I hate packing so much?  Is it because having young children in the climate in which I live is sort of like purchasing a new wardobe for them every 3-6 months hence, I’m always thinking about new clothes?)

foreign parent bonus

July 27, 2011

Did a little presentation in Henry’s class the other morning.  Showed off his dol hanbok (first birthday Korean outfit), talked about the party we had for Henry for his first birthday, and then we made a simple version of kimbab.  (Rice w/sesame oil, fried egg, carrots, takwon (pickled daikon) wrapped in a seaweed sheet.  Usually, there’s some kind of meat, and spinach and the vegetables are really well seasoned, but because of allergies and how I was carrying each ingredient separately, and the amount of time the whole thing took, I simplified it down to things I thought the kids would eat.)

It was okay.  (Not my best effort, I have to admit.)  Not every kid ate it.  Some kids ate just the carrots, or egg or whatever.  It was nice to see the ones who tried it.  Some did like it – so, yay.  I tried to keep my expectations low – you can’t get really worked up about 15 5-10 year olds encountering seaweed for the first time.  It can be really off-putting to some of them.

Henry gets some kind of bonus points for having a parent who will come in and do a demo/talk on a foreign place, I guess.  I was the only parent who had done something for the “International” theme of the week.   I don’t mind doing it – it’s just weird that other parents didn’t do it also.  (I know this because mine was the only name in the newsletter, and I am not the only well-traveled parent in the group.)  Henry loved me showing up with the demo.  He even ate the whole thing – usually, he sort of picks it apart before he eats it.

To be fair – it was a lot of prep for 20 minutes (spent 2 hours cutting, cooking, etc. not including shopping time) – and that was because the food was done in two shifts!  Makes me think that people who do food demos really earn their money on the prep, as opposed to the show.

Begin rant here:   How can you say no when your kid’s preschool teacher asks you something directly to share a personal thing that unique to your family? It’s just time.  Not your life’s blood.  It doesn’t require money (the stuff I used I took directly out of the fridge – but I could have easily not done that and just showed the outfits which we already had on hand.).   I work with some of these parents –  and I know they’re not that busy.  (I’m on reduced hours in the summer, but come on.)  Yes, I’m judging.     End rant.

weekend doings

June 27, 2011

We went to Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY this weekend.  It’s a recreation of major sections of the fort – it was nice.   It’s all fairly modern wood – built heavily, so there wasn’t anything the kids could hurt.  (Of course, one had to keep an eye out because 1, they could fall off a battlement, and 2) the huge barrels of rainwater at every corner that they wanted to drink.  Yuck.)   Not very busy, so the kids just ran around like crazy.  It had been raining for the past couple of days, so it was nice to get out.

Chanced upon an Italian bakery – bought 0.5 lbs of cookies.  Big mistake.  Should have bought more.  You know those hard, nasty little cookies people buy from bulk stores and bring in for Christmas (shaped like little pink leaves with chocolate in the middle, or circles with hard little gummy dots of jam in them)?  I was afraid these were going to be like that – all tasteless or actively repulsive, so I got just enough to satisfy Henry’s desire for a couple of every kind.

You know something?  The reason people think about buying those hard little nasty cookies is because the real stuff is so good.  I should have totally bought more.  A little anise taste, sweet but not shocking, and just two bites big, and the chocolate coating was nice dark chocolate.   Moist, not crumbly or damp.  Just right.  I have totally got to taste them before I buy them now – so I can make sure we have enough to make it through the ride home.  (Also makes me realize that my instinct to eschew those damn biglot cookies was right.)

My blog – 1 paragraph on important historical site, 2 paragraphs on cookies.  Yup.  My life right there.

4 hours in NYC

December 16, 2010

I was in NYC a couple of weeks ago with the fam and the SIL. We took the train, because Henry loves the train, even though it was a little more of a hassle.  We started off the Columbus exit off the PATH, went to the Fire Museum of NYC, wandered around, ate lunch and ended up getting back on the PATH at World Trade Center.  A lot of walking for the little guy – and I especially forgot how the winds get channeled down the streets.  He was tired but too excited to sleep.  He kept asking about where the conductor was going and where we going to stop – but in a purely informational way.  He did not want to get off the train.  He passed out in the 2 minutes we were in the car heading to my parents’ house.

Anyway, in deciding where to eat lunch, I learned something – that restaurants in NYC get cleanliness grades now.  Someone noticed a “B” restaurant, which was considered interesting, because that was the first that person had seen – everything was an “A” or not yet given.  We ate at Spring St Natural – something for everyone!  (By the way, they had an “A.”  The meal was also pretty good.)

I also figured out we’re squarely in the “ordering stuff that’s not on the menu” demographic.  Until I had kids, I never did this.   I always settled – never made a fuss.  But now, I make it a point to get exactly what it is I’m asking for.   I’m haven’t gone MAD with power or anything.  Now, if something’s not on the menu, but the kids would eat something in the same group, I will feel free to ask.  For example, if there are fancy omelets available, I will ask for simple scrambled eggs.  Or complicated paninis = grilled cheese.  Or milk – which tends not to be on as many menus as one might like – which is something I don’t understand.  Because as much as I might like my kid to eat a turkey/apple/walnut with cranberry/orange chutney on black bread made with twigs and leaves (W’s words), they ain’t gonna.  I like eating in public without all the screaming of crushed food dreams, thank you.  (I know, weak parenting.  You can take it up with me offline.)

Anyway, the meal was good, the kids liked the scrambled eggs and grilled cheese and milk.  Then baby J boldly snatched some of the brown rice/seitan/mushroom in ginger-lime-black bean sauce off my plate, so happiness all around.