Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's All Good

Tomorrow, March 31, 2010- Breaking more new ground as a family.

Sweet Jane flies away to Munich, Germany!
And her mama hasn't a care in the world.

Her first flight will be the experience I would have wished for her older sister. Safe in the company of people who have flown a bajillion times before. They'll be so busy snacking and cavorting that they won't have any time for worries and what-ifs.

Jane, her cousin, and her aunties are spending a few days in Munich before they meet Arianna and take a train together to Rome, Italy. (Here's where I get jealous). My brother, his wife, and three girls live in Rome. He is employed by the World Food Programme (United Nations) and after spending most of his career in Africa; has now moved to "headquarters"_ Rome.

Two generations are spending a few days exploring the history and wonders of Rome. All the while, deepening family bonds. (don't fight- Okay?)

Jane will be hanging out with only her favourite cousins in the entire world. In the entire history of the world. I can hear them giggling in my mind's eye. (ear?)

Now, before you all go speculating that I've actually been selling knock-off Gucci bags online in some seedy black market... Well, it's time to give credit where it is due.

My girls have been working very hard this year. Wiping bums and soothing tantrums. (the acorn don't fall far from the tree?) They've been saving and planning. And doing it very well.

At this time- allow me to thank all the families of our community for putting my daughters on airplanes... Thank you for going out of Friday nights, Sunday nights, and we'll take any nights in between....

And... then there are my sisters. Generous, sentimental lot that they are. Sweet Kathy and Mel did some mysterious world traveller- type air traffic magic for us. And Carol? Sheesh. Aside from giving a full tutorial on how to survive airports, (which paid off, thank you Jesus), I just know she'll be spoiling the criminies out of those kids. (Here. Let ME get that baguette for you. Need some chocolate? Ah, forget it. Jane. You really MUST hang glide over the Colosseum and I'm paying for it- It's your birthday presents from now until you are thirty-four.)

And I really should mention that Brian tried to convince me to empty the meager coffers, let the deck rot for another four years, and spontaneously buy myself a ticket to Rome.

But then I thought of the paperwork.

Daycare waivers that would have to be signed...

In the event that you or your beloved
should fall to your death or
dismemberment through the widening
decay of an aging home in the slums of Hoo-Ville,
Ye must agree to never prosecute or even make to
feel guilty the daycare provider
or her man partner
or her offspring
Nor her oxen or her ass.
If indeed the deck doth kill thee, thou
must remain motionless and silent,


I don't love paperwork.
I'm staying home.
With this lot.
Doing Exciting Local Stuff.
On the deck.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Real Story

I'm not what you'd call an overprotective mother.
I'm not hyper-vigilent, over-involved.
I'm the one who always thinks that rules don't apply to me; because "bad things don't happen to me".
So, when I began writing on Blunderview about my anxiety over our daughter travelling to Europe, I knew that for people who know me a little bit better, there would be some furrowed brows- Joyce? Worried about her kid flying to Paris with thirty other people? Weird.

Here's the truth that I wasn't willing to share until my kid landed on terra firma in Paris, France on March 28, 2010.

She didn't travel with the group.
She was entirely and utterly alone, at the tender age of fifteen.

Why? You ask? (believe me. It's a question that has caused me great anxiety for weeks now...)

My brother and his family live in Rome. It seemed too perfect. Arianna all the way to France and Germany from little ol' Blunderview- She should stay a little longer and take in Italy with family! My sisters cooked up an idea. They would fly to Munich with our daughter Jane and my niece; where they would tag up with Arianna and then proceed to Rome for another adventure.

So we started the paperwork with EF Tours.
(never. I repeat never send your kid with EF Tours)
Their glossy pamphlet assured us that extending the trip was "no problem"! so we proceeded with the adventurous plan. We signed a waiver that we understood it might not be possible to place her with her group. I assumed that they would do their utmost, but just needed to cover their legal butts.

We received the itinerary, and the child was no where near her school group. They flew out of Toronto; she flew out of Ottawa. The kid's itinerary was a milk run. Six hours alone in Ottawa. Connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. (huge, huge airport) Two hours in Frankfurt to make a connecting flight to her final destination: Paris, France. Once there, she had instructions to make her way through customs, retrieve her luggage, and look for a) her group from school and/or b) an EF Tour guide named Serena who would be holding up a sign.

We didn't like any of it. Not one little bit. We solicited help from: the school, a local travel agent, my world-travelling sisters. They were all very helpful. We went to the airport in Winnipeg and spoke to the people at Air Canada. They were unable to change the flights themselves, because of the way EF purchases large lots of tickets from them; but they looked into their system and found a better alternative for Arianna. She could fly Wpg to Toronto by herself, then hook up with the group for the rest of the way. They provided us with flight numbers and info and assured us that EF could make the necessary changes.

EF blew smoke up our asses, excuse the French.
They dragged their heels, fed us political jargon, then phoned back three weeks later to say that it was too late for them to make the necessary changes. Besides, we had signed the waiver.

We all worked on badgering them.
They cared not.

So, we started work on option B: Equipping the kid with every possible tool she might need to get herself to Paris. Every tool. How to read airport signs. How to be street smart. How to navigate an airport. How to ask questions. Arrangements with the airline to get her an escort.

I loaded up her backpack: Tim Hortons card. Tylenol. Muscle relaxants. Cold medication. Snacks. (let's not forget that this is the kid who gets every virus, and has a back injury from her infortunate incident with a car on an icy day)

Meanwhile, Air Canada could not set her up with an escort. For reasons I still don't understand. At this point, cigarettes were sounding like a really healthy idea. (for me silly, not her) So were driving my entire family off the pier. Together.

Two days before her departure she woke up with a fever.
Oh My Gosh.
Took her to the Doctor. Added antibiotics to her backpack regime.

4:45 Am, March 27, drove her to the airport.
She got herself checked in.
Through customs.
Off to Ottawa.

We texted throughout the day. She was safe, confident, not worried.
I relaxed.
Napped intermittently throughout the day.
She last texted us just before boarding for Frankfurt, and then I went to bed.

She should have called us from Frankfurt, but we heard nothing. No big panic, since she said she wouldn't guarantee a phone call. There was less time there, and she had to make another transfer, so we simply waited for the next phone call, which we expected at 3:00 AM from the airport in Paris.

3:00 AM- nothing.

I said- what happened? Are you all right?
She said- heh. I have some stories for you, mom.

(our connection was not perfect, and I don’t fully understand the stuff she said, but I’ll try to reiterate)

Something messed up in Frankfurt, and she said she had to do baggage check all over again. (does she mean that her carry ons had to go through security again, or does she mean that she had to retrieve her suitcase, and go through check-in all over again?) Then she had to change TERMINALS (that is not how we understood it to be) and take a BUS to it. Then she flew to Paris, where she was to go through customs, retrieve her suitcase, and look for her group, and/or an EF tours agent named Serena holding an EF tours sign.

She found neither.
She said something like this:
“A guy kept following me around. He said that he was from EF tours and that he had arranged a cab to take me to my hotel. Nothing he said really added up, and he was really uninformed, he didn’t even know the name of the hotel we were staying at. I ran away from him, I got my own cab, and I went to the hotel by myself.”

She’s never been in a cab.
She’s never arranged for a cab.
She’s never flown.
Never gone through customs.

An hour later, her group came to the hotel.
Twenty-five hours after we left her at the airport, on a wing and a prayer.

I spent the morning intermittently crying.
Proud of my daughter.
Terrified at what might have been.
(flashbacks of another time, many years ago. A voice from a consulate, half a world away. A precious young woman- assaulted. Agony.)

Wanting to be angry at someone. Something.
But full of such wonder. Such gratitude.
Remembering all the prayers of many people.
Mad at EF Tours.
Profoundly proud of my daughter.

Yes, our second born departs on Wednesday. With her aunties who will be with her every step of the way.

And in two weeks, I suspect that the child who went away aged fifteen, will return to us an adult.
I can't wait to see her and hear all about it.
And THAT, my friends, is the real story.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hasta La Vista, Baby!

We couldn't have been more prepared.
At 4:45 AM, we picked up International Jet-Setting Auntie Carol to be Arianna's Grand Adventure travel mentor.

Auntie Carol was ruthlessly thorough.
She taught and re-taught. And wrote up some "cheat sheets". Decoded some lingo. Disclosed every airport mistake she herself had ever made. (they were impressive!) When the "crash course" concluded; the child had to check herself in while we watched her from the Tim Horton trenches.

We enjoyed watching her march right up to "executive class".
They checked her in anyway. Humble little EF Tours economy traveller. I think it was her good looks and obvious charm.
She's first class all the way. (in my books...)
Auntie Carol sidled up to First Class herself, once we were sure they were indeed loading her up with boarding passes and not selling her to a pirate ship in Somalia. She got herself a pass to walk Arianna through customs and teach her a little more stuff about how to read airport signs.

Oh yeah. We were cool that way.

So cool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy It's Not Always This Way

I have tonnes of stuff to be happy about, and I review them often.
Think about posting about them.
But right now, I've got to say that "I'm glad I'm not always this miserable". That's entirely honest.

I'm worried and stressed about my baby navigating her way to France. (I know. I "should" be happy that she gets the oppurtunity-- and I am. The feelings just don't follow.) It's like sticking her in a leaky boat with puttied up holes, and pushing her out into water. With a big smile on my face. And a cell phone that will work up to the Ottawa airport. After that-- Frankfurt. And Paris. (sans cell)

My beautiful girl.
I'm happy that she's sensible. Confident.
And I'm sure I'll feel really happy.
Once she's in Paris.

Meanwhile, I'll think about posting about the joys of friendships. The pleasures of a clothesline in spring time. The return of the Canada geese. Some new additions to my turquoise collection. An oppurtunity to promote bags 4 Darfur. Yard sale season just around the corner. Spring break. My bicycle. The skirt I'm sewing out of Betz White's "Sewing Green". The preschoolers rediscovering the backyard slide. My boy passing level five in swimming. My other boy reading. (grade one never ceases to amaze me). Beautiful, inspiring websites that I've recently discovered. The shortest winter ever. (didn't even have time to get depressed!) Kind parents who say "You're the best". Good coffee.

Yep. There's a whole lot to be happy about.
And I just know I'll get back there pretty soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Friday

On Fridays I enjoy my home. I spend moments in the daytime reclaiming the space- stashing away every toy, cracker crumb, and stray barrette. Because I know what's coming.
Brian's tapas night.

The magic that happens when Brian takes over the kitchen, and people start streaming in through the back door carrying pans and bowls and platters full of delectible delights.

The children feel much the same way about Friday nights. Pizza, poison, and video games. Yep, that's what I said.

There is something very satisfying about taking back my house on a Friday.
It reminds me that I'm not just a human doing.
That sometimes instead of wiping my chairs, and vacuuming my couch... I can sit on them instead.
That instead of cutting cheese and grapes into bite-sized pieces, and labelling sippy cups in green tape and black marker... I can sip and savour.
Ahhhh.... Happy Friday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy, I guess....

My firstborn.

My daughter.

Great kid.
She's growing up.....
In eleven days, she'll be at the airport headed for Paris, France.
The french and german classes from high school are headed off to tour France, Germany, and a wee little bit of Austria. When the tour is over, she'll be meeting her sister, her cousin, and her two aunties. Together they will travel to Rome, Italy where my brother is employed by the UN WFP. They'll see where their cousins, auntie, and uncle live. They'll spend a week doing as the Romans do.
And we're not talking Morris Manitoba here.
It's been almost a year of planning, working, saving, anticipating.
And for mama, back here wiping baby bums? A whole lotta letting go.
And my mommy heart is *ooooooooooooooh* its aching.
But I'm happy.... I guess.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happiness? Finding My Inner ManChild

Now, I know that plenty of pink toolbelts exist out there. That many women are excellent at swinging the hammer.
I, however, am not.
I tried it.
Mennonite Disaster Service. Ever heard about it? Well, the year that I joined, we really put the "disaster" back into MDS.

Thanks to people who have joined my blogs lately, I've had the great pleasure of browsing through their very extensive and interesting blogrolls. I've seen site upon site of women making and doing truly awe-inspiring stuff with junk.

Me? I have my talents, but fixing the shifty furniture that I gravitate towards is something I've never been all that proficient in. But after perusing site after site; I thought- how hard can it be?! Besides. I had a really great rocking chair that we bought when our fifteen year old Arianna was a baby. Two of the springs had sproinged and I'd hidden it away in the basement away from further damage by curious other-people's-kids.

I have noticed though, that I'm not getting any younger. I'm not really moving into other career fields either; and if I'm to fully enjoy the things that I enjoy, it's time to fix 'em up and put 'em out.

So, I remembered that several million couches ago, I took the pains of taking out all the springs before dumping the dusty old straw sack into junk hill. Armed with little more than a ball of string, some old couch springs, wood glue, and One Nap Time.... I tackled that wiley old chair.

I bungled and bongled those repurposed springs into place; tied the whole mess up with string, and black shoe polished her leather.

Okay, so maybe don't lie down on my living room floor and stare up at the bottom of the rocking chair, 'kay?

'Cuz right-side-up, it is looking F-I-N-E!
(and it sits real nice to boot)
All I've got left to do now is unearth that one wooden slat on her back.

And keep the monkeys off of her.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Pig of Happiness

So it came to pass that Ginny poo poo decided to send her pig-like tale of happiness in the mail. It was with some smiling happiness that this little piggy opened the package of The Happy Pig and snarffled up the contents within.

I like that.
Poet. Sounds Real.
Artist. wow. Sounds like he gets paid for it.
Philospher. *sigh* Must sit about waxing poetic, artful wisdoms all day long. For money.
Interesting Fellow.
Hey! We can all aspire to that!

That's one fine pig.

I know! thought the pig. I shall become an EXTRAORDINARY PIG! From now on I shall stand for everything that is LIGHT and BEAUTIFUL and TRUE and WONDERFUL. I shall see the BEST in EVERYONE and the BEST in EVERYTHING.

The next day, when Pig A complained about the weather... The pig of happiness went DANCING in the rain. The day after that, when Pig B was RUDE about Pig C's bottom and all the other pigs joined in....
The Pig of Happiness gave Pig C a FLOWER and said in front of all the other pigs that he thought Pig C had a BEATIFUL bottom actually.
And so it continued daily.
After a while, the Pig of Happiness became so HAPPY with being happy that his HAPPINESS became too BIG. It had to find an ESCAPE.

And so it was that it began to leak and seep from inside him into all the other pigs. Now ALL the pigs are happy.
And their happiness is beginning to show signs of leaking too. The sheep are laughing.

Get out there and be a Happy Pig. Let all the Pig C's know that their bottoms are actually quite lovely.
You'll find that it's quite catching.