Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Loudshoes in Quebec.

This past week was our first bit back at work after two weeks of holidays. I usually sigh and re-enter my life after holidays with a bit of and effort, but this time, it seemed right and true and wholly appropriate to get back to work. Maybe it was because we had a really nice, really relaxing time for the two weeks, or maybe it's that I was ready to get back to my routine, or maybe it was because I like my job and was eager to feel useful and needed and productive. Or maybe it was because I liked the idea of talking to someone I wasn't related to, or that I needed to make some money.
Regardless of the reason, it was nice to like going back to work.

We had a wonderful holiday, and it's not lost on me that, because my daughters are getting older and on the cusp of leading their own lives, and maybe will not want to go on holidays with their parents much longer. (When my mother suggested this to my father when my brother and I were around the same age, he confidently told her "as long as we're paying, they'll come.")

We went to Ottawa and saw the fireworks on Parlaiment Hill, which is something every Canadian should do sooner or later; it's a spectacular setting. There's something very satisfying about watching fireworks on a warm summer night with your family a a couple of thousand other people.

Then we went to Montreal for a few days, which is always a delight.
Iparticularly love Old Montreal. One time, when I was there with some of my cousins from Europe, I wondered out loud why, when they first settled Montreal in the 1700s, why did they build everything so close together? I mean, all they had was room, millions and millions of acres of land all around them, and they cram the buildings in on top of each other....what the hell? And my cousins, after a bit of thought, said that, compared to some of the oldest streets in Paris and Edinborough, these streets ARE wide....that there's streets there you can barely fit two horses going in opposite directions. So, yeah, I guess what is now Old Montreal was spacious and roomy by those standards. Also, I guess you have to remember that those millions of acres of land was filled with understandably hostile natives who would have been happy to slaughter any intruders bent on converting them to Christianity, and also, the winters there are freakishly cold, and maybe living on top of each other wasn't the worst idea in the world. Anyway, Old Montreal is fascinating and beautiful and entirely enchanting.

Later, we went to the Laurentians, where Big Liver Girl and her husband very generously allowed us to use their condo. Our girls had never been there, and were A) happy to finally see what I've been talking about for years, and B) delighted to be somewhere that everyone had their own rooms, and they could hang out and relax instead of having their mother constantly shreiking that she didn't drive all this way to sit in a hotel room and watch "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding".

The ski hill in Ste-Sauveur becomes a water park in the summer, and it is, hands down, the best water park I've ever been to. How can you not love a water park that requires you to take a chair-lift to the top of the water slide? And water slides that require a helmet?
Here is a shot of the Mister and I coming down a slide that rattled my brain and rearranged my internal organs and left us bloodied and bruised. I don't know if you can zoom in on my face, but I look like I'm either in dire need of medical intervention, or a good, stiff drink. (Maybe they are one in the same, I don't know.) Anyway, Thing 1 took this picture while standing on a little bridge, and she said she could hear me way before she could see me.
On another slide, we had to manoever our way down the mountain on a an inner tube while negotiating a series of slides and little pools that had us crashing into each other (and strangers), and laughing hysterically. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty sure we all incurred a bit of brain damage on that ride.

After we walked home from the water park, and we compared bruises and battle scars. The Mister's worse complaint was where his knees clonked together so hard he had two egg sized lumps and some impressively livid bruises on the inside of his legs. (He said he had trouble sleeping that night, because it's hard to get comfortable when every position requires your knees be involved somehow.) I had a sore shoulder from slamming into Thing 1 so hard I shot her over the lip of a slide, and Thing 2's elbows looked like she had been sandblasted.

It was a good day. And we weren't even done yet!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On The Road Again

The Loudshoes family is currently on vacation; we left last Sunday for Ottawa, and then spent a few days in Montreal and now are in Ste-Sauveur, just north of Montreal in the Laurentians.
It was about a 6 hour drive to Ottawa from our house, then another 2 to Montreal and an hour more to Ste-Sauveur. Welcome to Canada: the Land Where Everything Is Far From Everywhere!

I don't mind a long drive; a good road trip can be almost as much fun as the actual vacation. I can read in a car without getting sick, which means I get plenty of uninterrupted book time, and it is an unparalleled opportunity to have a nap. I can get a lot of knitting done, too. It's pretty quiet in the car,
the Mister is usually a man of very few words, and he requires very little entertainment while he drives. What he thinks about for all those hours I do not want to know. (Once, when the Mister had a kidney stone and was all hopped up on Percoset, I drove us to Montreal with him nattering non-stop in the seat beside was torture. In his drug-induced haze, he read every single road sign out to me for 500 miles. "It's 127 km to Kingston!"Every. Single. One. Throughout our marriage, I've been known to beg him for the occasional conversation, but right there and then I decided that him shutting up was the key to our success.)

Also, I'm of the firm belief that there are no calories in a moving vehicle, which means that one can consume as many potato chips, ju-jubes, peanut butter cookies and coffee as one's constituion and bladder will allow. Of course, this also has something to do with the fact that I have some control over where and when we stop, as well as how good the snack are in the cooler.

I remember many a long drive as a kid where I thought it would never end, and hell consisted of a hot car doing Mach 1 endlessly down the 401. Part of the problem, of course, when you are a kid is that you have no clue about how long this is going to might have been put in the car to go pick up the dry cleaning, or you might be in there for the rest of the day, who knows?
Big Liver Girl told me a story that illustrates this nicely; when her now brother-in-law was about 7, his entire family (2 parents, 5 kids, of which he was the youngest) got into the station wagon (circa 1973....any bets on whether or not it had wood paneled siding?)to go to a hunting/fishing camp WAY far away. They drive all day the first day, stayed somewhere overnight and then piled in the car the next day and took off driving again. After about another 6 hours in the car, David asked with some exasperation "where are we even GOING???" like it had never occurred to anyone to tell him, and it really hadn't occurred to him to ask.

Two things have improved the summer family car trip immeasurably: air conditioning and IPods. Before air conditioning was commonplace in cars, there was no option but to keep the windows closed or have the windows open. If the windows were closed, you roasted. But if you had the windows open, it was only marginally cooler and considerably louder,  but you did have a hurricane force wind blowing through the car while you tried vainly to keep small children from being sucked out the window. After a few hours of that, you feel like you've spent the day Iin a wind tunnel. And your hair looks just bitching'.
Before there was any sort of personal musical device, one's choices were: A) play the radio for the whole car, or B) conversation between the passengers, or c) silence. Options B and C had their own dangers, depending on the temperment and current mood of the participants, and Option A meant that someone in the car was deeply unhappy, no matter what was playing. My friend Kelly's father thought that a perfectly reasonable compromise was to set the radio on "search" and have it play 5 second of every station along the dial, in a continuous loop. As you can imagine, that sent everyone batshit crazy in about two minutes.
Now, with the happy advent of earbuds and personal music devices, the car is blissfully quiet and no one is paying the slightest attention to each other. You would think this is exact opposite idea of an ideal family vacation, but in fact, it insures its success: the less we talk to each other, the better we get along. I never once had to threaten to stop the car and walk to Montreal by myself, as my mother once did.

When we get home, I hope my children appreciate the wonderful memories that their father and I strived to create for them, fuelled by potato chips and Ipods.