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July 2012


11:20 pm EST, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Day One of our Big 2012 Summer Vacation, not to be confused with day one of our 2012 little summer vacation which was supposed to be a low-key long weekend in Colorado with friends and wound up - I remind you, darkly - shattering every childhood fantasy I ever had about the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island:

(but enough about the stupid Grand Hotel and their horrible service and outlandish pricing structure that one only expects... IN HELL - except to say you should never ever go there because every other accomodation on Mackinac Island is better including a cardboard box behind a fudge shoppe)

heavens I just had to fan myself.

So 11:20 etc and

Steve, Edward and Patrick are sleeping (some more protected than others: that would be Yehyo Bankie, Boo Bankie, Purr, Tiger, The Car Bankie That Patrick Made Me and his feet covering Edward front to flank - golly he's cute isn't he?)




Oh there she is. There might be times when Caroline goes to bed at a reasonable hour but... I don't know how to finish that sentence. I just handed her Patrick's Kindle as a bribe to leave me in peace since: a) he's sleeping and won't know; and b) there is only room for one insomniac night owl in this motel room and she happens to be trying to write a blog post a day for the next two weeks. 

Actually - or Ackshuhwee as Edward says every other second; he's inherited his brother's fondness for adverbs and correcting people - for the first time that I can remember, ever, Caroline did fall asleep before seven a few nights ago. On the couch no less.


Needless to say it turned out she was as sick as a hedgehog, sickest I've ever seen her, only fever I can remember her having ever, at one point she said, "My head is hot and cold at the same time. I must have a flu." A flu. 


I thought oh poor butterbean and tucked her into my bed (from which she woke up at three in the morning and gently poked me in the eye before saying "I have to throw up. Should I do it right here or the bathroom?') and then I thought oh good grief we're driving to Vermont in three days and if Caroline (CAROLINE) is this sick it must be the plague and we're all dooooomed.

A day later she was fine (she's still awake by the by) but Edward has lost his voice. Seriously, he can only speak in a whisper which brings me to:

Edward was enraged about something during our long (eleven hours with stops) drive but he is unable to shriek about it so he just squeaked softly from his car seat and punched his fists in the air. We all sat there in silence for a few moments while Edward raged quietly on.

Patrick from the backseat said, "OK. I'm just going to say what we're all thinking: this is a very refreshing change."

Apart from a marginally sick (but refreshingly mute) Edward, the drive was fine and uneventful. I finally convinced Steve to listen to an audiobook with me (after very careful consideration I picked the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik that someone recommended here ages ago - I was skeptical about dragons-meets-Napoleonic Wars [see how silly that looks?] but we are enjoying it tremendously) and we spent several good hours listening to my Creative Zen with earphones and a splitter. Every ten minutes or so we'd have to pause our book and settle some backseat dispute but for the most part it was pleasant.

I always consider the first day of a road trip something of a wash since you have to drive a pretty long way to get something different. North Central Wisconsin and Western Whatever Michigan, for example, look enough like our part of Minnesota

(exhibit A)


that only the most ardent of agricultural enthusiasts could maintain their ardor throughout the 6,8, 10 hour drive. It's pretty. It's rural. I'm sure it's a great place to live and grow corn and soybeans, much like our own little wedge of the breadbasket, but you don't really feel an urge to get out and explore.

Patrick did want to stop one place but...

we were driving along in Wisconsin and I heard Patrick say something from his seat in the way back. I stopped our book and asked, "What?"

He said, "I said that I bet that I'd like something there. We should stop."

And I said, "What?"

He said, indignantly, "That billboard. It says it's an adult superstore. For adults. We should stop."

I looked up quickly and saw the sign advertising something called Private Pleasures that did, indeed, proclaim itself to be an adult superstore.

"Yeah, We're not doing that."

"Why not?" Patrick was clearly on the verge of a Rosa Parks moment. "Why is it super and a store but just for adults?"

"Wine and beer," I said promptly and even as I said it I realized with absolute certainty that some day Patrick is going to look back on that moment and think his mom was reeeeeaaaallly naive. I'm ok with that.

Tomorrow we're doing a chunk of the TransCanada Highway (what was the name of that dairy you recommended two years ago for lunch? Made their own ice cream and blue cheese dressing to die for? Somewhere between Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury or maybe Sudbury and Ottawa?) and every time I think about it I laugh because I orginally called it the TransCanadian Highway but some nice commenter pointed out my error; the highway crosses Canada you see, not an exceptionally wide Canadian.   

And Caroline is finally asleep.

Like Watermelon

You might remember that when we bought our current house the refrigerator and the dishwasher were located such that the two appliance doors could never be open at the same time. This did not trouble me very much - I never felt the urge to check how much ketchup we had at the exact moment I was putting away clean forks - but it alarmed Steve to the point that he was muttering in his sleep and started sticking straw into his hair.

Steve's like that. He gets bothered.

So eventually he did the only thing he could do, really. He spent half a year's worth of weekends extending the house into the garage, relocating the laundry room, moving an exterior door, moving another exterior door, claiming the captured space from the old laundry room for the kitchen, getting what we call his midlife crisis refrigerator (because there is no other way to explain it - glass doors, you know) and voila. Problem solved, peace restored. The dishwasher stayed where it was because it could.  

I was thinking about this as our gravel/dirt driveway is more than ten years old and after a decade of use and winter plowing something needed to be done with it. It is developing potholes inside its potholes and it's beginning to feel like a particularly demanding section of a rally course. I suggested we get a quote to pave it because we will probably have to do it sooner or later (when we moved our road was unpaved but it's been done now as have almost all of the driveways surrounding us) and why not do it while the kids are little enough to bike and chalk and scooter on it?

Steve said urhhmm, hrrrrrmmm, I dunno, maybe but did eventually get a guy out to give us a quote to slap some asphalt on our existing driveway. This seemed straightforward to me but something about the process triggered a reaction in Steve's mind akin to the dishwasher hitting the refrigerator door and suddenly Steve was muttering again. This time he rattled the night watches with reminders that he has always hated the way the driveway comes straight through the yard without giving a proper view of the house and, really, as long as we were thinking about paving it we might as well...


Can you see that? That's my front yard with a gigantic pile of dirt in it and new dirt track (aka "future driveway") snaking its way through what was once a lawn and a playset (no longer pictured but still present: playset.)

Steve took a chainsaw and some flags and a guy with a skid steer and added an elegant serpentinitude to what had previously (I guess?) lacked drama. I dunno. Between you and me I think he's... well... he's adorable but deranged. Moving driveways and laundry rooms, forsooth.

The children, Edward in particular, are mesmerized by the equipment


but my favorite part is when I get to tell people to be careful when they come over because we're moving the driveway.

Everyone says, "You're... what?" and then the ones who know us well say, "Oh. Right. Steve."

Anyway right now the project has ground to a halt because we forgot to ask the guy with the skid steer if he had been recently cursed by gypsies and first he was out for a week with food poisoning and then it rained buckets and then the day he came back his skid steer broke (blocking the existing driveway, by the by.)

So eventually we'll have a new driveway. I hope. But hey you want to know something kinda weird? When you hire someone - someone, for example, who carelessly eats carnival food and owns a sickly skidsteer - to create a driveway for you that person will contact the utility companies and knock down trees and move earth and put in culverts and deliver gravel and stomp it into place but what they won't do is pave it. That's a completely different company. Who knew?

And does anyone want to place a bet on whether we wind up paving this new one? And do any of you remember why I started agitating for driveway change in the first place? Well, no, because I didn't tell you, but Patrick got a scooter for his birthday and I thought it would be nice not to have to drive somewhere paved to use it.


I finished the couch to 5k podcast (I wound up sticking with the 5k101 guy despite the techno because I was halfway through it although I downloaded the lovely NHS British woman as well) and I am now running 2-3 miles every couple of days. I am pretty damned proud of myself I must say and it was a relief when I realized that I can run and listen to audiobooks. I was worried that not listening to thumpy bass heavy music would - cough - affect my pace but it turns out I don't have a pace so I can run and listen to cozy mysteries at the same time. As recently as May I couldn't walk without getting shin splints and I certainly couldn't run for miles and now I can so if it is of interest to you I'm sure you can too. Really. Pick a podcast.

What is a little disappointing, though, is that I have not lost a single pound. Not one. I mentioned this to Steve and said I didn't understand how I could have increased my activity level so significantly without instantly dropping back to, say, junior in high school size. Steve said he thought I also had to stop eating... he claims he was saying "so much" but we'll never know because I clubbed him on the side of the head with 5 quarts of ice cream before he could finish that thought. Ass.

Someone asked in an email a couple of months ago whether Celexa had led to weight gain for me and I hesitated to answer because I don't have a very good sense of whether it has or not. On the face of it, yes. I weigh a good 10-15 pounds more than I did when I started Celexa almost two years ago. However, I also turned forty, I didn't exercise at all and I like to eat stuff and drink wine. So maybe Celexa is a contributing factor but I think there is also just a general metabolic slow-down in action. The nice thing about running is I don't care anymore. I run, I eat and I guess I'll just accept that I'm never going to wear that pair of shorts from college again.

C'est la vie grown up.

Patrick had a gastroenterology appointment today (and I need to leave here in 5 minutes to fetch him from cooking camp because I have to take him for an xray.) They are allowing him dairy again (seeing as how its absence had zero effect on outcome ahem) and we're ratcheting up the probiotics and we have a Plan so that's all good.

When the nurse was making small talk with Patrick about his summer and school she asked what he wanted to do when he grows up.

He promptly and out of absolute nowhere said, "When I'm an adult I want to write the screenplay for a movie called 'Halfway to Hell.'"

Recalling the total silence that greeted this is making me laugh right now. He's so droll and quirky; he just kills me. Also, what? No he doesn't.     

I was about to close this and finish it later but I have been doing that for weeks and I never do. So, publish.

A Travel Post

We're on vacation.

I say this partially to inform you of the fact and partially to remind myself of it because, really, leaving the house with kids... not exactly a vacation*. As my friend Lauren's friend Jenny once said: trips with young children can be fun but they are not relaxing. There's a reason why people without children always cite Travel as one of the first of many things they do with all of the hours they spend not assisting small people in the bathroom.

We decided not to go to Colorado due to flame, smoke and ash so Steve and I took a road atlas with us to dinner last Friday and thought about where to go. I used my thumb and pointer finger to estimate a radius from Minneapolis that approximated the distance to Colorado and then suggested New Orleans.

"Ha," said Steve, but not unkindly. "How about driving around Lake Superior."

I said, Memphis?

Steve said there was no way he was going south, let alone South, in July and repeated his desire to circumnavigate Gichigami.

I suggested Cherokee County Alabama but I wasn't really expecting it to pass even with a quorum and then I noticed that Mackinac Island is right at the top of Lake Superior and everything fell into place. Mackinac has no cars, lots of fudge and oodles of charming Victorian architecture and ever since I visited the island once as a child I have thought that a few days at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel would epitomize the elegance and grandeur of a bygone age. We called, they had space, we went.


We were underwhelmed by the Grand Hotel. So underwhelmed that we have come up with a new slogan for the place. Mackinac's Grand Hotel: Only Slightly Better Than a Forest Fire. It's a quasi-all-inclusive hotel/resort that requires coat and tie after 6 pm and - despite lauding itself as a family favorite for over 100 years - it does its best to discourage the presence of actual children. They have a kids' program for example that allows parents to have dinner alone but they only take kids over the age of five. FIVE! That's, like, almost the age when you no longer need to get rid of them in order to eat. They did agree to take Caroline and Edward one night but Edward was subsequently banned. Yeah. Edward.

Anyway, I didn't really mind the authentic itty-bitty turn of the century sized room or the inauthentic late 80s-meets drag Queen Victoria decor but the service ranged from indifferent to surly, the food was really mediocre and the whole thing was so outrageously expensive that it was hard not to keep calculating fun per minute per dollar ratios and feel like we were being shafted.

So Mackinac Island is lovely but the Grand Hotel was a disappointment. When I checked in the guy at the reservations desk was so hostile that I was too afraid to draw his attention to the sign behind him that offered me a free stay if he failed to smile. I thought he would shiv me. Ten thumbs down.

On the plus side Patrick was devastating in his evening blazer 





the proprietary Big Porch Ale (made by Bell's) was excellent


and the tiny room led to a series of musical beds that resulted in a photo of Edward and Steve all snuggly-sleeping.


So that was that.

On the way the timing was especially fortuitous and we were able to stay a night with friends at their amazing place on the Upper Penisula. It was so fun. Multiple familes and lots of kids and water and swimming and boats and beer (on draft!) and a great dinner. We were sorry to leave. 






After Mackinac we headed into Canada. Last summer we were awestruck by the Canadian Rockies and this time we were floored by the remote beauty of their side of Lake Superior.




Caroline fell into the lake. Twice. I had so many items of wet clothing hanging over the shower rail last night that Edward refused to go pee because "it was raining in the bathroom."

We spent a night in Marathon, which was nothing special although it currently ranks as the worst family dining experience we have ever had. The restaurant staff was so harried and confused that a four-top in the corner near us waited over an hour and a half for sandwiches that still hadn't arrived by the time we left. It took us two hours to get food and then only part of our meal showed up. Edward spilled water and then Patrick spilled lemonade and finally the waitress slipped and spilled lemonade all over Patrick who burst into tears. Edward burst into tears. Caroline burst into tears. I alternately scolded, bribed and cajoled. Steve threatened dire consequences upon us all. Caroline and Edward cried harder and louder until I bodily removed them to the parking lot where the three of us crouched in the hot car and ate bread and ham out of a cooler.

For the record the Grand Hotel was STILL the low point of the trip.

Last night we went to Thunder Bay or Thundery Bay as Edward calls it. It rained and was quite pretty, especially down by the waterfront.




I had never seen a splash pad before but I think they are brilliant. Public fountains always seem to be made for wading and yet you're never allowed to do so. The idea of a purpose built one like this delights me. We did tell the kids to just wade and try not to get their clothes wet since we all had to get back into the car but... that worked pretty much as could have been expected.


As ever I love Canada. If Canadaphile is a word (Canadiphile looks a bit too much like candidia, no?) then I am one.

Tonight we are at the Lutsen resort north of Duluth. It's right on the lake and lovely.


Home tomorrow.

Nothing like what we had planned for Colorado but all in all a very pleasant trip. I've never been this far north in Minnesota and I definitely want to come back. It's spectacular.

* Except Tyler Place. Tyler Place was an actual vacation. I cannot wait to go back.

PS Despite looking like this


Edward was actually negative for pertussis. So outbreak in our area, check, Edward experiencing respiratory distress, check. But no pertussis. I think Edward gets sinus infections like Patrick. Stealth ones. I also think that both of them have benefited from antibiotics but they are now in a vicious cycle with them in which the natural immunities that reside in the gut get wiped out by antibiotics and leave them more susceptible to future infections. I am trying to be really agressive with probiotics and limiting what we treat but it's hard. They get sick and just... stay sick.

Oh and although it was apparently completely irrelevant to Edward's situation, I thought the vaccine discussion was lively and informative and I thank you for it.