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    November 01, 2014

    And I shall eat my weight in tortellini with cream sauce

    The last time I was in Europe I was pregnant with Jack. Younger Me is heartbroken over this terrible fact. Present Me is resigned and accepting. Future Me is horrified at how much money Phillip and I are going to spend to go back. 

    OH YES. For YEARS now my parents have been talking about going back to Italy to see their godson graduate high school. Quick back story for anyone new around here - my parents MET while teaching elementary school on American military bases in Europe, then they went back to the states and had a bunch of children, then they went BACK, taking us with them. I was 10 and starting 5th grade when we moved to Sicily. Two years there, then three years at a base on a 12x18 mile island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then three years (for me) at an Air Force base in northern Italy, about an hour north of Venice. I graduated from high school there, then went to college in Seattle and, as you may have deduced, stuck around. My parents were there, what? 13 years? And moved back to the states 5 weeks after I had Jack. And they haven't been back since. 

    So it's kind of a BIG DEAL. And when they started throwing around the idea of going back, I started throwing around the idea of going WITH. Because OBVS. Right? Right. 

    Except DEAR GOD has anyone checked the prices for transatlantic flights these days? Pass me my smelling salts. I used to mosey on down to STA Travel on the Ave and sit jealously while a tattooed and pierced and clearly well-traveled young agent found me a $700 ticket to Venice. Flights are now TWICE THAT. And my family has MORE than doubled in size. 

    But I've never been one to let a silly thing like MONEY stop me! I did spend my entire savings on a European Tour the summer before my senior year of college, not knowing quite how I'd PAY for that senior year of college when I returned. (The answer: a better paying job than the year before, trimester-long "emergency loans", and the fact that tuition at that time did not require signing over your firstborn, sheesh.) 

    (Phillip, on the other hand. Pray for the ulcer.) 

    NO, I'M KIDDING. 

    Basically all we REALLY decided was 1) my parents are renting a HOUSE and if there is ANY time to take your family to Europe it's when your parents are footing the bill for LODGING and 2) hey, maybe Phillip's job could assign him to one of its European offices for a week? Maybe pay for a plane ticket? Hmm?

    Anyway. Weeks of me furiously pecking at my laptop and Phillip having breezy oh-so-casual conversations with his superiors has resulted in the following (though, to be sure, no tickets have actually been purchased yet):

    Taking a one-way flight from Seattle to Venice in mid- to late May of next year. Yes we ARE taking the kids out of school. I felt very anxious about this until I started pricing things out and decided to take extreme advantage of my parents' generosity.

    Hanging out with them for a week and a half to two weeks, depending. In a house that they have rented. With enough room for my family AND my sister-with-the-new-baby's family. We shall take the train to Venice and drive to Austria and get fat(ter) eating all the things we all miss and probably go to Venice again and THEN...

    Because Phillip will be super irritated with me if I drag him to Europe and he doesn't get to go to Paris AGAIN, we will probably leave the kids with my parents for a night or two and take a cheap flight to Paris and blow whatever we were going to spend on their combined orthodontic work. Again, I am banking on the extreme generosity of my parents and also our good friend who is an orthodontist.

    AND AFTER THAT. We will take everyone on a cheap one way flight from Venice to London because Phillip's job was all, "Sure, yeah, totally fine if you want to visit the London office, we won't pay for your plane ticket because we're not SENDING you there, but we'll pony up a generous amount of pounds for your tiny business traveler hotel room OR, say, a three-bedroom flat you find on airbnb.com, whichever works!" So we're talking 4-5 days in London, maybe more? Depending?

    Second week of June-ish we take a one way flight from London to Seattle. The kids will have one week of school left if they'd like to return for the festivities, IF they recover from the jet lag fast enough... And summer will have barely begun.

    I KNOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW.

    I have to tell you guys that the only way in the WORLD we can pull this off is knowing that we don't have to pay for a hotel or vacation rental. If we had to do that there is NO WAY NONE. I'm still not exactly sure how we're going to make it happen what with renting a car and the price of gas and how much food my second grader now eats on a daily basis. I've priced out flights and WOULD YOU BELIEVE that it is CHEAPER for us to fly one way to Venice on a Wednesday than it is for us to use my [many] FF flyer miles on Alaska Airlines on the one Sunday they have an award flight? The fees are RIDICULOUS. It's even worse flying back from London. With miles. Flying out of another city actually made it cheaper all around, since Venice is such a pricey spot. And easyJet and Ryanair flights are dirt cheap making it easy for us to GET to London in the first place. (And Paris. Ack.)

    It's been nebulous and free floaty for so long that I have to write this all down to quite believe it might happen. We've been waiting to see what Phillip's work would say about overseas travel, expecting that they would agree, but not with the crazy flexibility. I mean, Phillip is basically going to tell THEM when he's going. That's the other thing that makes it possible - because he'll be working (for real!) he won't have to take a whole three weeks of vacation time. (Uh, all his vacation time for the year. Maybe some from the next year too. Oops.)

     

    I have no qualms about taking my "young children who won't remember" on such a big and expensive trip. I think Jack and maybe Molly WILL remember. And also I'm the person who took them to Disneyland when they were BABIES because *I* would enjoy it. Heh. Having my parents there for two thirds of the trip will of course make it easier to have the kids along too. My mom is already talking about taking the kids to all the places where she used to go on field trips with her class.  I speak and understand enough Italian to order in a restaurant and read road signs and get on a train. The airplane ride is going to blow. The jet lag will be awful. The figuring out logistics on site with my husband will of course be nightmarish. But we are SO. EXCITED. Way back I gave Phillip an out, telling him it was TOTALLY OKAY if he didn't want to stress about the money or take the time off or whatever, but he was more into it than ME. If we don't go when my parents are offering us FREE BEDS TO SLEEP IN, when would we go?!

    So. There's your heads up about this blog turning into a bakery slash Europe trip planning blog. Not sure if it was possible to get MORE boring, but I'm trying my hardest! Oh, also consider that a desperate plea for any and all Budget European Travel Tips & Advice THANK YOOOOOOU

    June 30, 2014

    Pls to advise re: cruise ships (with children) (and irrational Titanic fears)

    We don't have a ton of orders lined up for July - actually, if it weren't for the subscription boxes I'd be worried. But because subscription boxes are starting we are scheduled to make over 500 cookies in our rental kitchen this weekend. Katie says this is possible. I... am not sure. 

    Between the subscription boxes and preparing for the street fair the first weekend in August, the bakery is giving me hives. Good hives! But oh man, SO MUCH to prepare for and think about. With the additional stress of knowing that EVEN THOUGH we are doing better each month, the thought of being able to pay ourselves seems light years away. My whiteboard displays six different bullet lists noting everything from renting a canopy to printing labels to noting the subscription box that needs to be sent two weeks late to "buy blue sprinkles" to "try sealing bags with flat iron?" Wait, let's ignore that last one as I'm sure some food inspector person will take issue AHEM.

    WE ARE DOING WELL. But the rest of life has to happen too, and I can't focus my entire brain on the bakery, and I think this is what's been hard lately. I've also had to think about the end of the school year, having the kids home, family vacations, moving bedrooms, who's grown out of what, etc. etc. I've been short and snotty with everyone in my family because of it. One of my STRENGTHS is to sit down and zero in on something and get it done, but one of my enormous FLAWS is the inability to un-focus when something else needs my attention. This is why I have flown into fifteen rages over someone requesting a drink of water. 

    It's also why I have been cranky about something WONDERFUL and FUN and EXPENSES-PAID in my life, that being a week-long Alaska cruise with Phillip's side of the family to celebrate his mom's retirement. I am ASHAMED of my crankiness while also not really trying to un-crankify myself. My issues are: 

    • I have been and forever will be terrified of Massive Bodies of Water and potential Titanic Scenarios. I just am. Drowning is my thing. I have never wanted to go on a cruise and I truly am anxious about the Out In The Middle Of The Ocean-ness, no matter how many times my dad snorts in reply and tells me that we're "only" going up the Inside Passage and I need to get over myself. 
    • You cannot check your email on a boat. At least not as many times as I prefer to check my email. And when I'm able to do so it will be $$$. Did you hear I have started a new business? And am the main point of contact for all potential customers? 
    • I just LOOK at a boat and get seasick.
    • We're going on a cruise to ALASKA, where it will most likely be Not Warm, in the middle of July which is one part of the year in which my city is reliably warm. As a Warm Weather Hoarder, this also makes me anxious. 
    • How much weight am I going to gain a cruise? No really, HOW MUCH. OMG.

    Okay, so those are the major cranky factors. I am doing my DARNDEST to focus on the following:

    • When the Babysitters Club went on a Bahama cruise it was super fun and they met lots of exciting people and also Intriguing Love Interests and my inner 12-year-old awaits the many possibilities for At Sea Adventure.
    • The opportunity to bring a bunch of cute dresses and wear all of them. 
    • The opportunity to go out every night. I am TOTALLY the person who will love a cheesy song-and-dance cruise ship show and I TOTALLY intend to watch at least fourteen. 
    • A connecting room with my in-laws means I CAN watch fourteen shows. 
    • The kids will love it. 
    • Phillip has always wanted to go on a cruise. 
    • Katie will take care of everything at home. 
    • DESSERT TABLES. There will be dessert tables, right? 
    • I don't HAVE to get off the ship and sightsee in Alaska. My MIL totally has my back if I just want to hang off the deck, gaze at an iceberg or glacier for a few minutes, and then go find the on ship spa. I don't have to go PAN FOR GOLD or whatever crazy excursions we've looked at over the last few weeks. I CAN BE A HORRIBLE UNINTERESTED IN SIGHTS PERSON. 
    • MIL also tells me there are lectures on the boat! Lectures! I love lectures! I hope they are not ALL about the history of Alaska. Do you think there will be a WW2 expert on board?
    • I am also STRONGLY considering blondness in honor of my 35th birthday (well, as far as my colorist will take me, which will maybe be 3 strands of blond mixed in with proper grown up hair) and I QUITE like the idea of being a BLOND lady with CUTE DRESSES on a SHIP in the EVENINGS with a DEVASTATINGLY HANDSOME CHINESE MAN on my arm and my CHILDREN in BED. Right? That sounds FUN.

    Okay, so, now it's your turn. Hit me with your best cruising tips, people. Seriously. I have never done this before and have waited until now to give it more than two seconds' thought. Pretty sure my SIL has every detail imaginable under control, but JUST IN CASE! TELL ME EVERYTHING.

    June 23, 2014

    Places I Want To Go

    Discussion has begun re: Cheung Family Invades Europe Spring/Summer 2015. Well, we've been TALKING about it for a long time, but now our talking includes things like, "So, are we really doing this?" and "Huh, how are we going to pay for it?!" 

    The most that's been decided is the fact that Phillip and I BOTH want to go. I've always wanted to go (OBVS), but I was a teeny tiny bit surprised that Phillip didn't even hesitate when I asked him the other week. Yes! We are in. It's just that sticky financial piece... also the time off piece...

    My parents are planning to rent a house nearish their old north Italy digs. This would be about an hour away from Venice. And they are planning to be there from mid May to mid June, or thereabouts. Those are my only parameters so far. The only thing on the itinerary is: Take Advantage Of Parents' Rented House, Also Child Wrangling. 

    But everything else?! 

    So okay, knowing me, I would like to do everything. Yes. I would ESPECIALLY like to see all things I haven't seen, namely most of Eastern Europe, ie: everything I've been reading about for the last two years. But can you imagine? I mean, besides the fact that WE CAN'T DO EVERYTHING, dragging three kids through museum after monument after historical site after famous square... Phillip would kill me first. 

    But now I'm like... DIRECTIONLESS. We could do anything we wanted. Except not, because of the not independently wealthy thing. But say we're starting in Venice. Venice is for sure. I would go to Venice every single time I go to Europe, several times, for all time. And this is good, because Italy is the country that doesn't send me into spirals of omgIdon'tknowhowtodoanything. But from THERRRRRE...

    I was thinking Sicily! Sicily was the first place my family lived when we moved overseas and I have put the food and beaches and weather on a pedestal in my memories. I could definitely see us having a Beach Vacation. And if I started to feel like I needed to go somewhere new I could insist on SARDINIA! Haven't been there! I hear the beaches are FANtastic. 

    But Phillip, because he is a giant pain, would probably prefer to go NORTH. He likes order. Also giant hunks of meat, both things easily found in Germany. He loved Germany! I like... Bavaria. I would be very into visiting Munich. My dad has drawn me a little map of a circular driving itinerary - Venice to Milan to Innsbruck to Munich with lots of stops in between. That is a big possibility.

    ORRR we could get one of those cheap intra-Europe flights (I just made up that term) and go to... PARIS. or LONDON. or BERLIN. or PRAGUE. or somewhere big and city and famous and fabulous... and I think that might be terrible. Also expensive. But happy for ME, the person who wants to go everywhere and see everything. Unhappy for everyone else.

    The kids, I think, want to see some of the things they see on Rick Steves' TV shows and eat gelato. And stay long enough to get un-jet lagged. My parents want to take the kids on a bunch of outings they used to do with their elementary school classes. I want to ________. Phillip wants to _________. I suppose we should figure out how to finish those sentences.

    ANY IDEAS, FOLKS? Or anyone who's traveled with kids to Europe? Or, best of all, anyone with any fancy secret tips for how to fly us all there without totally draining the savings account?  

    April 17, 2014

    Spring Break meanderingness

    Friday night we started driving to Montana to visit friends for a short Spring Break trip. We got there Saturday afternoon, spent a glorious two-and-a-half days never seeing our children because they were always exploring outside, and drove all the way home on Tuesday. We knew we'd have a good time, but we had SUCH a good time. I can be a huge downer about going places other than bright shiny cities (or beaches, obvs) and the drive through Eastern Washington gives me the shakes. Also, our friends live on 40 acres of empty fields (in a spectacular designed-by-them house, BUT STILL) and middle of nowhereish places are not my favorite. That said, when your children are out of your hair and having a blast AND you yourself are enjoying excellent company, a middle of nowhereish location is fantastic. There were hours and hours of Drinking Wine While Having Deep Meaningful Conversations, which is pretty much my favorite thing to do. My kids ran through alfalfa fields, burned sticks in the forest, petted dogs and horses, drove go carts, climbed trees, rode bikes a million times farther than they get to ride them at home. I'm still positive I couldn't live there, but I honestly do have an entirely new and delightful outlook on living in the middle of nowhere. Ish. 

    I've been getting pretty lightheaded in the afternoons for about two weeks. Today I finally googled "lightheaded" and "Pr0zac withdrawal", as it's the only reason I can think of. It appears to be a definite possibility, but honestly, ANYTHING related to SSRIs look to be definite possibilities when you ask Dr. Google. The one recommendation I found that seemed reasonable is to start taking fish oil supplements (Omega 3). I can try that. 

    I also googled "weight gain" and "Pr0zac"... because. I want to say that I'm still struggling with this, but I also struggle with whether I should write about it. Part of it is a legitimate thing I need to do and work on and figure out and come to terms with. Part of it is me looking at pictures of the summer I turned 30 and hating myself because I don't look like those pictures anymore - even though I have one more child, a wildly different schedule, way less time for myself, and a new business. (A BAKING BUSINESS.) While I suspect the meds have made it near-impossible for me to LOSE weight (I'm not sure if they made me gain) and I do think it's important that I find a way to shed some weight in the near future, I also need to find a way to let go of that almost-30 body. Most of all I need to reframe the narrative in my head that tells me I failed and disappointed myself and others. 

    I rearranged my living room. It's kind of wild how something like rearranging one's living room can make the entire world brighter and happier. I am typing this from my "office" - a tiny console table I stole from the entry way and placed in the corner of the living room, on which I placed my laptop, a lamp, and my box of bakery files. I crammed the printer into the bookshelf next to me. It's not comfortable, but it's cute, and it will work until we kick EJ out of her room and create The Prettiest Office In The Universe [Even Though I'll Have To Share It With A Boy].

    The bakery is going well! Sort of! We are almost finished with our new application, which is fantastic, and let's not think about the "4 to 6 weeks" it will take to even get looked at. Deep breath. I have also received heaps of marketing advice from Twitter, most notably Ginger from Ramble Ramble and ONCE AGAIN I am in awe of Thumbprints' supporters online. I am still completely freaked out that no one is ever going to order anything from us, but now I have things to DO while no one is ordering from us. Things to TRY! It appears I'm going to have to be way more present on Facebook than I am currently (boo), but on behalf of the bakery (yay). I apologize in advance to any locals who are innundated with FB posts from Thumbprints. And the rest of you - hardly any of you have tried our treats, maybe you think we're overpriced and our website sux and we're doing everything wrong, but even YOU, I thank you for keeping that to yourselves. Everyone has been SO GREAT. I LOVE YOU.

    OH! I wanted to tell you that our Montana friends have a DOG. Okay, they actually have way more dogs than one family should own, but their INSIDE dog is a Maltese/Yorkie mix and I love her. And she's a needy, anxious, just-got-her-hair-cut-so-she's-not-even-that-cute dog. But I LOVED having this little warm body next to me on the couch or in my lap. I don't like cats. I have a thing about cat claws and I get super nervous and tense when a cat climbs into my lap wondering when it's going to dig in. It's terrible, because Phillip only likes cats and I only like dogs and no one would help me take care of a dog and what would we do when we go somewhere etc. etc., but MAN I really want a little doggie. At the very least I will demand my own little doggie when EJ goes off to college. Will Phillip deny his sobbing baby-less wife THEN? I THINK NOT.

     

     

     

    February 20, 2014

    Disneyland, how I love it so (and whoa, this got long and introspective SORRY)

    This was our third trip to Disney since having kids. Third. I have shame about this, Internet, and I need to hash it out. 

    See, TRULY cultured people do not like Disneyland. And even the people who DO like Disneyland wouldn't prefer it over, say, a national park, or a great American landmark, or a ski trip or a road trip. Not THREE TIMES. 

    And I think of my parents, who found jobs in Europe for the prime purpose of their kids getting to see Europe. And how they always ask if we're driving on our trip and then I say we're flying and then they say, "But you see so MUCH when you drive!" and I think "But... that's less time I have in Disneyland."

    Many of my growing up memories are traveling memories, but it serves me well to remember that we didn't do our first big trip until I was nine and my youngest sister was five. (Five kids in five years, y'all. I was not quite five when my youngest sister was born. Shall we have a moment of silent respect for my parents?) I know we did smaller trips (they took my brother and me to Disneyland when we were 1 and 2!) but nothing big until I was nine and we road tripped to Dallas to visit my grandparents. I am positive my affinity for cities and utter dread of driving to Spokane was born on that trip, when on hour seventeen zillion of driving through a Southwestern desert I thought for sure we would run out of gas, die of thirst, and become bleached white bones for some archaeologist to find in the future. 

    Then the summer I turned 10 we moved to Sicily and every weekend after that I was sitting in the back of a van getting car sick on Italian streets, on our way to yet another ruin, another cathedral, another historical town. When we moved to the Air Force base on the remote Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic we got an extra free plane trip per year - the island was THAT small and mental illness-producing for adults - and we went to Spain for Christmas, London in the summer. I had an aunt and uncle in Germany and when we moved to northern Italy they took us skiing in Austria over Christmas break. I went to different countries on sports trips. We flew back to the states every summer to visit family, and we almost always made a point of spending a few days somewhere interesting on the East Coast. All of this to say that traveling was the NORM in my life for a long time and now the best place I can think of to share with my kids is a THEME PARK? 

    If I could take my family anywhere I wanted, for sure hands down no contest we would be on an airplane to Italy right this second. We would spend half our time eating and half our time wandering around beautiful cities. But plane tickets are nearly double what they were when I was in college. And there are five of us. And Phillip doesn't get three consecutive months of vacation. It seems... difficult. 

    Next up would be New York. Or Chicago. DC. Big cities with lots to see and do. 

    Then Hawaii. We loved Hawaii. We went there with kids! It was for a wedding, otherwise we probably would have deemed it too expensive. I never thought I was a laying-on-the-beach-all-day person until I went to Hawaii, but now I have seen the light. And it is beautiful and makes the water sparkle. 

    I hate camping. I don't especially like being outdoors, although I appreciate the outdoors as a backdrop to something else going on, like a concert or theater in the park, or something like that. All the mountain sports that my part of the world so enjoys are not really my thing. (Those Austrian ski lessons were totally wasted on me.) I APPRECIATE the Grand Canyon without being excited to go there. So my kids are sort of up against their mother's unfortunate distaste for scenery as the purpose. 

    And then there's Disneyland. After the second time Phillip was all, "Let's go to southern California and... DO SOMETHING ELSE." Which... yes. I am a fan of sunshine. I like the beach. A vacation rental in San Diego sounds great. But I felt SAD that he didn't want to go back to Disneyland. And that he thought Sea World or Legoland would be just as cool, because NO, THEY WOULD NOT. This time I floated Disney as something for Emma, because we loved seeing Disney through our other babies' eyes, and Emma is 2 and a half and therefore still free, and hey, maybe we could bring the in-laws along as a sort of MIL retirement celebration?!

    Which is how we went again and I secretly got my wish: more Disney. Because I LOVE THAT PLACE. It is not cool. (Unless you are there. When you are THERE it is the HEIGHT of cool to be wearing one of those lanyards with the million pins and the special pass identifying you as a Frequent Disney Visitor. Oh, I was jealous.) But yeah, not really that cool. People want to spend all that money on something more meaningful or cultured or whatever, but I just want to walk down Main Street and hear the music and see the colors and the castle and the perfectly pruned trees and feel happy because it IS the happiest place on Earth, dammit. 

    But I realized something else this time. Phillip had a way better time, namely because the big kids were big enough (and willing) to go on the big rides. I refused to let them try the giant roller coaster in DCA, but everything else was pretty much on the thrill ride table. Several times I let them go on ahead while I stayed back for a repeat parade viewing with Emma, or even just walking around pointing out the Mickeys with Emma. I realized that I could go to Disneyland and not ride a single ride, but still feel like I got my money's worth. I love the parades. I love the constant live singing and dancing. I love the crazy water shows. We caught the last half of Fantasmic this time and HOLY COW THAT WAS AMAZING. I love how clean it is and how everyone at the park is trying to make sure you have a good time. I only encountered a few less-than-cheery employees, and that seemed to be a matter of catching them at the end of a long shift than anything else. I love how easy it is to take care of your kids' needs. I love that it's big, but not too big. I love the feel and mood of each "land". I love the fakeyness! I even love the crowds. Honestly. (I am someone who was sort of sad she didn't go to the Seahawks victory parade, not because I wanted to see the players but because I thought it would be so awesome to be in the middle of that ecstatic crowd.) 

    Anyway. I know it's as lame to be ashamed of my penchant for Disneyland as it is to HAVE a penchant for Disneyland. Own your uncoolness, etc! If it helps I am now planning (over a year in advance) a trip to Italy - we're planning (hoping) to tag along with my folks when they go back for a high school graduation next June. And Phillip and I are trying harder to get out more with the kids (despite the disaster that was Victoria). There's a way that Disney feels easy and known and a sure thing, in a way that even a trip to Hawaii doesn't. I don't think I feel AFRAID of going new places with the kids necessarily... I know that Phillip is often apprehensive about managing our family and I am apprehensive about his apprehensiveness. I think, actually, I just really like Disneyland. 

    I have specific thoughts about this trip. I thought I would write them here (tips and new things and such) but I ended up writing THIS instead (sorry) so if you are going soon and interested, email me. I'd be happy to bore you via email instead. 

     

    ETA: I feel compelled to add a quick acknowledgement of the fact that I am blessed beyond measure and not everyone gets to go to Disneyland and for God's sake shut up about not liking your Austrian ski lessons, POOR YOU. I will shut up. Apparently this post is mostly about how it sucks that *I* am not a teacher for American schools on military bases overseas and therefore cannot See The World for cheap, even though 1) I don't want to be a teacher, nor would I be any GOOD at teaching and 2) I don't even think we should HAVE those military bases anymore and 3) THANK YOU, MY PARENTS. Okay, NOW I am shutting up.

    December 29, 2013

    In which the Cheungs take the least direct and most expensive route to Victoria, BC, all in the name of Spontaneity

    In Cabo Phillip and I talked a good deal about taking more (or, should I say, ANY) family trips. Not so much Big Deal Vacations as little day trips or weekend overnights. Have we gone anywhere? No. Then Phillip had the day off on Friday and we talked about a day trip to Leavenworth, which is this fake Bavarian village in the mountains and you know how much I love fake and manufactured cheer. (See: Disneyland, Las Vegas.) But we were also invited to my niece's first birthday party in Port Angeles on Saturday and late Friday morning I dreamed up the following plan: we could drive to VICTORIA that afternoon, hang out, and take the ferry across the next day for her party. HOW BRILLIANT WAS THAT?

    NOT VERY BRILLIANT!

    The brilliant thing to do would have been to spend at least five minutes looking up ferry information. Ferries, those terrible, horrible, miserable steel behemoths, the mode of public transportation that consistently gives me panic attacks and neurotic episodes, the most dreadful and ire-inspiring aspect of living where I do. You live in Seattle? Would you like to drive somewhere cool? OH SORRY, YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE A BOAT OF SATAN.

    Even though it is a well known and oft mentioned fact that I Hate Ferries, I did not consider them when suggesting Victoria. (Which is also not my favorite, but more on that later.) I think this is because we didn't have a SCHEDULE. I mostly freak out about ferries because WHO KNOWS if you're going to get on the one you want, no matter how early you get there, and what if you WASTE TIME?! Oh I HATE wasting time. How I LOATHE waiting around. The inefficiency! The un-productivity! My anxious Three heart is going apoplectic just thinking about it. 

    THE THING IS. What I did not know when I booked (and paid in advance for) the Victoria hotel is that there are only 2 ferry crossings from Port Angeles to Victoria per day. OH HO HO. How this would have affected our decision! 

    Because the INTELLIGENT way to get to Victoria from where I live is 1) take a ferry to Kingston, drive across the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles, take the 1 and a half hour ferry from the PA to Victoria, which drops you off right in front of the Empress Hotel, and you can just WALK ANYWHERE. The UNintelligent way to get to Victoria from where I live is to drive alllll the way to Canada, sit at the border forever and ever, then drive alllll the way to the Tsawassen ferry terminal in Canada, take a 1 and a half hour ferry to Sidney and then drive another half hour to Victoria. Which is, of course, what we did. 

    But no matter! Phillip and I said to each other. At this point we were still big believers in Spontaneity and Good Intentions and Family Togetherness. 

    And of course, on our way to Canada, I realized I'd left Emma's coat at home. So we had to stop at Target, obvs, and buy the only size 2T coat in the store and THAT took forever because Targets are few and far between once you leave The City and all the moms in a 25 mile radius had driven in to their mothership, Target, and it was trafficky and busy and ACK. 

    The border was okay. Not the hour promised by all the warning signs in Bellingham, but not too short either. I was very nervous that they were going to ask me if I had any fruits and vegetables because I DID, I FORGOT, but they didn't ask and I didn't have to lie about my two bananas in my purse. I called my brother in the PA to give him the update. He didn't SAY we were insane, but I've had 33 years of experience communicating with him and I could TELL he thought we were insane. He DID say, about nine hundred times, that he is the expert on Victoria and we should have called him first and he could tell us anything, especially about FERRIES, which is IMPORTANT, and alert! alert! Internet! Do you want to visit Victoria? YOU BETTER CALL MY BROTHER FIRST.

    Driving to the Canadian ferry from the border was okay. We were totally on time for the 3pm ferry and maybe we'd have an hour or two to explore Victoria before going to bed. (And leaving at 9am the next morning. Oh, did I not tell you that part? That we were basically going to Victoria for dinner? Yes.)

    The 3pm ferry was all booked. Of course. "It's a very busy time of year," the ticket lady told us. "You MIGHT get on the 4pm ferry." Huh? She also wanted $100 which... what? 

    THANK GOD there was a little playground at the ferry terminal and a warm little gift shop in which to wait. We were there over an hour and GUESS WHAT! One of my kids was not feeling well. Poor Molly. We tried very hard not to be annoyed with her, but come on! Where was HER sense of adventure and spontaneity and feelings of family togetherness? (Okay, mine was drifting.)

    We thankfully made it on the 4pm Tsawassen/Schwartz Bay ferry, and my God that thing is massive. MASSIVE. And MUCH nicer than any ferry I've ever been on, AHEM, Washington State. There were, like, multiple places to get something to eat. The bathrooms, which I used several times with various children, were very nice. The seats were comfy! If you found one to sit in, of course, as the entire population of British Columbia was going to Victoria for dinner with us. 

    Please note that Phillip and I had not fought AT ALL. Our children were perfect angels (except for that sick one.) And once we made it to the island we easily found our way to our hotel where we dropped our stuff off and promptly ordered our tired and hungry children outside because we were going to ENJOY OUR HALF HOUR IN VICTORIA, DAMMIT. 

    (Frail mopey Molly rode in Emma's stroller.) (I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow morning.) (She has a Mysterious Rash! And a Fever! SURPRISE!)

    THE NEXT MORNING. We felt smart. We KNEW that there were only 2 ferry crossings to Port Angeles. We KNEW we had to be there an hour and a half early. We KNEW, because we had looked it up on the website, that it was First Come First Served. 

    We ate a lovely breakfast at the hotel and drove over to the PA ferry loading area. The girl in the ticket booth asked us if we had a reservation. 

    "Uh, no?"

    "Oh, then there's no way you're getting on the 10:30 ferry."

    We were informed by the ticket girl and the ferry worker dude, who desperately wanted to get us out of the way, that if we parked NOW, we could be second in the STANDBY LINE for the 4pm ferry. Freaking FERRIES!

    I was all "FINE" and Phillip was all, "DO NOT RUSH ME INTO MAKING DECISIONS, PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, I AM A NINE AND I WILL SIT HERE AND FORCE EVERYONE INTO A STANDSTILL UNTIL I FEEL LIKE COMMITTING TO SOMETHING, WHICH MIGHT BE NEVER" and finally I was all, "DUDE. Let's PARK and GET OUT OF HERE" and that's what we did. They hurried us out of line, parked us off to the side, wrote a big '2' on a scrap piece of paper, and put it on our dashboard. 

    I felt super terrible about missing my niece's party, but we had a lovely time in Victoria. Even though I don't really like Victoria. And the only reason I'd suggested Victoria is because we could also make it to my niece's party. Victoria is... well, it's PRETTY and picturesque, but it's also got this stuffy uptight lady vibe (to me) and it's Britishness is not the Fake and Manufactured Cheer kind that I enjoy, but more, you know, ACTUAL Britishness. Victorian stuff (like Victoria) is not my bag. (But I LOVE London? I am a mystery.)

    BUT ANYWAY. We really did have a good time. We saw the Christmas trees in the Empress, we walked up Government street and stopped in book stores and candy stores and had hot chocolate at Murchies (Murchies?). And we went to the Royal BC Museum which is pretty awesome and I could have wandered around forever (the HUMAN history parts, not the natural history parts - SNORE.) (Exhibits on Pacific Northwest ecosystems are right up there with ferries, in my opinion.)

    We went back to our car at the exact right time to wait to be checked by Customs. And we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and finally someone came to check us EXCEPT! We didn't have a particular necessary form because OOPS! we hadn't bought a ticket! Somewhere in the decision making that morning we'd parked in line without buying a ticket, or anyone requesting that we buy a ticket, or Phillip and I remembering that we needed to buy a ticket. Phillip ran out to the ticket booth and bought a ticket (for ANOTHER $100 OMGGGGG) - and then we waited again. And more and more and more and more and Phillip got out two or three times to see what was up and they just kept telling us to wait and wait and wait and HEY, THE CARS ARE MOVING WHAT'S GOING ON. 

    Phillip asked ME to get out and ask that time since he was afraid he was annoying the Customs folks. When I got out they were nowhere to be found. The ticket girl was useless. I ran up to the office and was yelled at by a ferry worker who told me to (guess!) WAIT. 

    We waited. And waited. And finally our line started to move and okay, I was considering freaking out at this point. See, I am anxious and neurotic and all that, but I'm actually QUITE GOOD in the moment. I was tense and had nervous tummy etc, but I was GOOD. I was READY. And when a Customs lady started running to our car I knew everything would be fine. 

    Phillip rolled down the window and she shouted, "Why weren't you guys in your car for the check?!"

    "WE WERE."

    "Then why didn't you TELL anyone that no one had CHECKED YOU?"

    "WE DID."

    "Well you might not get on this ferry! You should have ASKED!"

    She had us pull out of line (THE STANDBY LINE) while she went over our passports, though, to her credit she gave us the fastest lookover in the history of customs. She sent Phillip running to the office for some sort of pass and ordered me into the driver's seat so I could meet him there and bypass the cars bypassing ME. And Phillip jumped back into the car with the appropriate papers and the grumpy customs people grudgingly let us through and YES. We made it onto the ferry. 

    And THIS ferry... so, at first I'm driving on thinking "Oh thank God, there's ONE SPOT LEFT." But it turns out that spots are relative. It was like car tetris. A ferry dude came up to me and said, "Okay now, what we're gonna do is swing out waaaay far and then turn here and then go right into that slot right there." Fine! And I assumed he meant I should back in. I don't know why. Maybe it was the condescending driving directions? Because I didn't NEED condescending and overly specific driving directions to basically park head first in a regular parking space? So I swung out waaaaay far and then turned the wheel as if to back in and suddenly MANY ferry dudes are barking at me and making faces and Phillip is grabbing the wheel and THAT, my friends, THAT is when I lost it. Here I was doing precisely what I thought was the Right Thing, and it turns out they just wanted me to REGULAR park and what's wrong with this idiot woman who can't just REGULAR park and once I got into that parking space I cried. I put my forehead on the steering wheel and sobbed the sob of a girl who hates being yelled at, hates doing things the wrong way, hates being taken for an idiot. 

    The ferry was slow. It was rocky. We were practically the last car off. We saw my brother and his family for MAYBE 45 minutes, long LONG after the pary had ended. Then we drove to our very last ferry, which we made with time to spare, and got home at 10pm. 

    I am never getting on a ferry again. 

    We've discussed blaming Spontaneity, but this would have never happened if we'd gone to Leavenworth. You don't have to take ANY ferries to go to Leavenworth. I thought about blaming my brother - how come HE didn't call ME? But I've decided to blame ferries. Miserable horrible STUPID STUPID OVERPRICED FERRIES.

    Our next trip is to Disneyland. SO THERE. We have much better luck with airplanes, believe it or not. (See you in February, Sunshine!)

     

    May 23, 2013

    I didn't MEAN to make this about how much I love Seattle, but it's just so easy to go there

    Tomorrow the kids are off school and we are busting out of this joint. We're headed to my parents' house, then the Children's Museum in Tacoma, then we'll lunch at a restaurant I get to review for Trekaroo - hey, did I tell you I'm writing [totally inane, somewhat useless] reviews over at this lovely family travel website? FANCY! Sort of. It's not like they're flying me to Paris. (Carrie, could you work on that?) It's kinda fun, though I've totally run out of things to write about. Must go on a trip soon! 

    We're staying the night with my folks and heading up to Port Angeles in the morning for my nephew's birthday party. And can I just say: I HATE DRIVING TO PORT ANGELES. I'm sorry All Of My Family Who Live Up There, but I do. It's just so... PACIFIC NORTHWESTY. That stretch between the Hood Canal and Sequim? Does anyone live out there? Is it just a million square miles of FOREST? Populated by nothing but Weyerhaeuser propaganda signs? 

    Actually I think I hate driving up there because when I was little MY cousins lived in Port Angeles too and I swear it took, like, nine hundred hours to get to my uncle's house. One of the first times I went back as an adult I was totally fantastically shocked at how close it was from Seattle - that ferry ride cuts out SO MUCH DRIVING! However! Catching the ferry on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend? I am not so foolish! So we're going to stay with my parents the night before, drive up with them, and take the ferry HOME. Much better. Especially since I bet my parents will take all the kids in THEIR van. EXCELLENT PLANNING, SELF!

    Anyway, have you even HEARD of Port Angeles? I remember wearing a Port Angeles t-shirt in 5th or 6th grade on the Italian military base (because I was THAT stylish) and being made fun of because it's LOS Angeles, not PORT Angeles, who's ever heard of PORT Angeles. I would like to swat that boy on the back of his head with a hardbound copy of Twilight. Harrumph. 

    But it's funny - my brother and SIL up there would rather eat glass than live in or near SEATTLE. Actually I think I'm really the only one in my family who's totally committed to High Density Living. Not that the rest of them live out in the woods or whatever (and not that where I live right now, on the far northern edge of Seattle proper, is particularly hard core city living), but where they can take it or leave it, I must have it. Not just because Phillip's job is in the city and all our friends are here. There is definitely something about the fact that at age 18, after years of feeling like I didn't belong, I fell in deep monogamous love with this city. To leave it sounds... like changing ME. Or something. I don't know. I can be a bit overdramatic. 

    I remember my first couple of years living here - my only other family member in town was my aunt, and she would pick me up at the dorms and take me to movies or out to dinner or to her house or whatever and I would just be in AWE of her navigational skills. I knew Seattle wasn't a huge city, but it was so much MORE than anywhere I'd ever lived and every neighborhood was far away and new and strange to me. I couldn't imagine a time when I would know my way around. But now I do! And I am still so happy about that in my own warped head. Almost every time I drive north across the ship canal bridge I hear my aunt say, "Nearly every building you see over there is part of UW," and I now I know what those buildings ARE. 

    I just really LOVE THIS PLACE, is what I'm saying. 

    Nearly all of Phillip's business trips, back when he was business tripping, were to Atlanta. I can say that now, I think. So much so that we talked (just a little bit) about MOVING to Atlanta. If he'd wanted to stay at that job and move up and go far, all that, then yeah, moving to Atlanta would have to happen. And because I love and support Phillip, I could contemplate it. How nice for me that he didn't want to stay at that job, eh?! (Not that we discussed it for more than 10 minutes anyway.)

    The only other place we've talked about is San Francisco, also because of a job. I think I would like San Francisco? That seems possible in a way that Atlanta doesn't? But still. No, for a whole bunch of reasons. 

    There was a job that had potential for living overseas. I think I would do that. Maybe. Depending. That's different - we'd come back. (Right?)

    But anyway, Port Angeles, yes, nice place, very scenic, mountains and water and forests and lakes and that Dungeness Spit - all lovely. Not enough traffic for me, though. (HAR HAR. That was for my dad, who hates traffic more than anyone else in the world hates traffic. He hates traffic as much as he loves Harry Potter. That's a lot, people.)

    THE END

     

    April 21, 2013

    After stocking up on Vitamin D

    *blows dust off the ole blawg*

    The last time I went to Europe I was pregnant with Jack. It seems like forever ago. It was even MORE forever ago that I stopped going "home" (Italy) once or twice a year (Christmas, summer). So it makes absolutely no sense that I am still so happily surprised to note that traveling doesn't HAVE to be a days-long, multi-flight, jet-lagged affair where you must be sure of everything you're packing because WHO KNOWS if you'll be able to buy it THERE. 

    I was SO AGAINST flying with children, because flying, to me, was (see above) a days-long, multi-flight, jet-lagged affair that took on all sorts of new neuroses after 9/11. I didn't fly anywhere for a long time. No interest. When I planned our first trip to Disneyland it was going to be a road trip. Oh yes. I was not getting on a plane WITH CHILDREN. 

    But then we flew to Vegas with Phillip's family and I marveled at how easy it was. And we flew to LAX for the Disney trip. Twice. And seriously, I am still SO amazed when I am sunning myself mid-morning in a California backyard and fixing my kids dinner by 5pm in Seattle. WHAT A NIFTY WORLD WE LIVE IN!

    Plane tickets are expensive and child care is complicated, but I highly recommend hopping on an airplane every so often to visit a friend. There are fare deals to be had and grandparents to sweet talk and you can make it happen! Bonus points if your friend lives in what is basically The Tropics compared to your marine temperate locale and your weekend souvenir is an awkward and unfortunate tan line. 

    Elizabeth will tell you that the first time Getting On A Plane And Visiting An Internet Friend came up I thought I would only go for one night. I couldn't POSSIBLY stay longer. Not because my kids needed me or I would miss them so much or anything nice like that, I just felt like I wasn't ALLOWED. I can't go anywhere BY MYSELF! JUST FOR FUN?! So it's totally crazy to me that a few years later here I am taking off, alone, for absolutely no reason, for four days... good crazy. 

    I had such a great time, you guys. And it was so nice to get away. I feel bad because pretty much my entire family was sick while I was gone - either getting sick or continuing to be sick - and I was off, you know, lolling about a beautifully landscaped yard and plotting my move to California. But after the house guests and the holidays and the sicknesses and the stuck at home it was nice to just GO. I am so lucky I'm able to GO. I am so lucky I have such great people to GO to.

    IMG_3460

    And whenever you start to feel like a lame frumpy housewife, there's nothing better than parking your own car, taking the shuttle, going through security, sitting at your gate all by your lonesome to feel like a Jet Setting Sophisticated Cosmopolitan Lady. (Just me?) 

    Also, airport snacks contain no calories. FYI.

    Anyway. School starts again this week, I have the Great Spring Clothes Sorting to suffer through, and a six-year-old's birthday to plan. Back to real life! I kinda missed it.

    IMG_3466

    ooh! ooh! Before you go, I have a serious question. How cost prohibitive do you think it would be to install a SLIDE alongside the DECK STAIRS????? (I'm calling contractors this week. I AM.)

     

    July 22, 2012

    Beggars would ride

    You know what is not that awesome? Standing around on the empty, bleak, gunmetal gray Washington State coast, in the almost-rain, clutching your thin and useless hood around your chins, and watching your nutjob children gleefully racing the waves with their nutjob cousins, all while listening to your just-married sister extol the virtues of the Disney resort in Hawaii. AKA where Jesus goes on vacation. WAH, I WISH. And then perhaps, if you are me, you come home from your family beach weekend and start looking up prices for beaches that actually live up to the name.

    But FINE - my preference for white sand, blue sky, and 80+ degree temps aside, Family Beach Weekend was a good time. The kids CLEARLY don't care what color the sand/water/sky are, they are throwing themselves into it no matter what. Sand? YES, MORE SHOVELS! Water? WE WILL GET WET! Sky? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! THAT'S JUST OCEAN MIST!

    I walked out to that stupid beach more times than I really wanted to, simply because the best thing about having kids is watching them be kids. You just have to see those skinny chicken legs galloping through icy surf, listen to the high pitched shrieks of frozen joy, grudgingly participate in the building of a the too-cold-for-water but not-too-cold-for-digging dilapidated sand castle. (And, if you are P Cheung and New BIL, a channel out to the ocean to fill up the moat - excellent engineering, men!) 

    Photo (8)

    Photo (7)

    Photo (9)

    And did I tell you that Phillip goes on a business trip tomorrow? I conveniently forgot this fact myself. Right now I am Thinking Positive: it'll be a good week to get everyone back on my very favorite thing, A Schedule. Would you believe I'm actually sort of excited to put our house back together, get things cleaned up, remember where I put the mop and all that? 

    I even had an incredible moment of foresight a few weeks ago and signed the kids up for two separate weeks of Vacation Bible School. The first week fortuitously starts tomorrow YAAAAYYY!!! It's at my friend's church so at least Jack and Molly will know those kids, it goes from ten to one Monday through Thursday, and if nothing else it'll be a few hours each day when all of us are having our own kinds of fun. My friend thinks we should drop our kids off, go find a coffee shop, and blow the rest of the time shopping. I'm not entirely sure if Emma will nap before or after VBS drop off, but I don't see why that should interfere with the coffee/shopping time. That's what Ergo carriers are for, right? 

    It's a relief AND a disappointment to know all the big stuff of our summer is over. Until our couples retreat with friends over Labor Day, we are looking at a nice long stretch of Nothing. Usually a nice long stretch of Nothing is exactly the sort of thing to send me into a blubbering angsty-blog-post-writing panic, but it honestly sounds pretty good right now. The only way it could be better is if I had white sand/blue sky/warm water in my backyard.

    Yeah yeah yeah if wishes were horses WHATEVER.

    June 20, 2012

    Fun Fact: Phillip neatly flattens and folds our plastic bags into quarters and stores them in a drawer. I will actually miss that.

    As of July 1, plastic shopping bags are banned in Seattle. Banned! OH SEATTLE. 

    In theory I think this is an excellent idea. I am Pro Environment. I am a Proud Supporter Of Our Earth. I am Team Recycle. Plastic shopping bags are terrible horrible things, especially for our Precious Marine Habitat which, I hear, is the main reason we are banning the shopping bags. (?)

    In PRACTICE I am PANICKED. 

    I own, like, four thousand reusable bags. I have them from absolutely everywhere. I've even bought a few on purpose. The other day at the library I bought THEIR reusable bag because I just didn't feel like stuffing 10 picture books into my diaper bag. 

    But once I own the bag it never leaves my house again. Oh, sometimes I pack them with the kids' overnight things for a stay at Grandma and Grandpa's. Or I use them to tote dinner to a friend's house or to haul some baby clothes or whatever. I have never ever brought one of my reusable shopping bags to a store. EVERRRRR!

    So this is bad, Internet. How am I going to get my groceries home NOW? Wait wait wait - how am I going to carry home my weekly $100 worth of Target junk? THEY AREN'T GOING TO HAVE PLASTIC BAGS AT TARGET!!!

    Okay, don't pester me about the DETAILS of the ban. Like PAPER bags are allowed. And those little plastic bags they have in the produce section are allowed. And I guess there are exceptions and qualifications and all sorts of confusing things that don't really affect the fact that Target is no longer going to have BAGS. 

    I'm thinking that I'm going to have to store my bags in the car. Right? This makes sense. HOWEVER. Once I carry all the bags inside and unload the groceries, I will then have to put the bags BACK in the car. And the chances of me doing THAT are, well, NOT VERY HIGH. I am already SO bad at this sort of thing, Internet. I can put off menial Taking Care Of Life tasks until the rapture comes. My library books are ALWAYS overdue. I make important phone calls at the absolute last minute. I still have a handful of thank you notes from Jack's birthday sitting on the counter, because I can't be bothered to buy stamps. 

    Up to this point, the only people affected by my Extreme Laziness were, well, myself, and the library I suppose (they are many dollars richer) and also my aunts who haven't received their thank you notes and are rueing the day they ever bought their great-nephew a shirts-and-shorts set. But now my children are going to starve because I won't be able to bring the groceries home. 

    It's really just one more annoying way thing to remember or, rather, another thing to forget and race back into the house to find, cursing and stomping the whole time. Like I don't already forget everything ELSE. Why is my city trying to make my life harder? WHO CARES ABOUT THE MARINE HABITAT?!

    Sometimes, I think, THIS is why I live in Seattle. I am not naturally green. I do not particularly enjoy nature. I was SO not the girl planning to be a marine biologist when she grew up. I am not overly concerned about emissions and waste and local and organic. But I live in a city where those things are pretty much a religion and because of that I am horrified when I visit out of state or even hour-away friends who do not recycle plastic bottles. And then my heart starts to hurt because OMG THEY JUST THROW THEM IN THE GARBAGE?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?!?

    Okay, that's not REALLY why I live in Seattle. But I think it's a reason why I like it here. It's good for me. I sometimes feel that way about being Catholic. I think I'd make a super non-denominational church goer, but even though I don't feel passionately about liturgy, I want to be around it. It's good for me to be in it, to be with people who value it. 

    So dearest Seattle... I love you. I don't want to go camping with you. I don't want to go to the REI garage sale. I don't want to hike or ski or snowshoe. I buy the cheapest gallon of milk. Sometimes I get really mad at bicyclists. I don't see how you can afford to shop at Whole Foods. I can't tell the difference between Peet's and Zoka's. I will never EVER keep chickens in my yard and I will ALWAYS vote for whoever is running against Jim McDermott. But you are good for me. You stretch me and challenge me and keep me honest. I will never leave you. Even if I forget my reusable shopping bags every single time I shop. 

    Love, Maggie

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