Miles and Miles Away

August 30, 2010

We may have lost babysitting privileges.

It was a hot morning and we slept in.  I drifted in and out of sleep, dreaming of eggplant calzones and starting a 1960s ad agency (Draper Geraghty Cooper Pryce). Then there were footsteps.  Assertive but light.  There was also a distant and gentle giggle.  Miles Jameson.  Little nephew’s checking in at 2.5 years, about 27 pounds, two dimples, and suddenly blazing speed.

If you saw him, you’d think, yeah, this kid’s cool. Sometimes he wears funny hats and chic rustic outfits, other times just a diaper.  He doesn’t drool like he used to.  If he wants to say goodbye it’s ‘night night,’ regardless of what time it is.  We have a shared affection for Buzz Lightyear and I admire his obsession with juice boxes.   Most people agree that a hug from Miles is one of life’s ten greatest offerings.

So we get up and say hello to the young guy and my mom tells me she’s babysitting him for a few hours.  We can help out if we want.

I fist-pump Bethany because this is our one chance.  We’ll be gone for a year so we need to somehow convince him that we’re worthy.   He’s not old enough to buy off with video games and birthday checks so quality time is really the only way to go.

What do kids love?  Doing things they’re not supposed to.  My father- his grandfather, and a tremendous one- tells  Miles to put some shoes on before they go outside.

Ha!  I will let him outside without shoes on behind my father’s back!  Trying to be the cool uncle really knows no bounds.  I throw him on top of my shoulders and we run around the house playing cops and robbers.  We were the robbers and there weren’t any cops.  It was chaos, a la Joker via The Dark Knight.

He’s laughing.  I’m sweating but happy.  I am earning the boy’s trust.

But man: that little boy can go.    B and I had a breather on the front steps and let him just be for a few minutes.  He was messing around with leaves- crumbling them up and throwing them on top of himself- and he was pretty close to the street.  Ok, fine.  He was on the curb, maybe a half-inch from the street.

But it was no big deal.  Cars rarely travel down our road and Miles is trained not to go onto it.

So when we heard a car, we thought, whatever.  I said, ‘Miles, be careful.’ We were probably about twenty feet from him.

Miles did exactly what he was supposed to, and there were no injuries.  The problem was that it was his father (my brother) in the car.

My brother got out quickly.  His look of surprise was evident.  How could two adults possibly let a kid play with leaves this close to the street?  And why isn’t he wearing shoes?  And why is his face marked with dirt?   And why isn’t he wearing sunscreen?

‘I’m just going to take him inside for a few minutes,’ my brother said.  It was a nice way of saying, ‘You’ll never be left alone with my child again.’

We’ll always have cops and robbers, Little Man.


Ode to Lasalle Bakery

August 29, 2010

6 out of 7 days a week for almost 3 weeks… I wake up and think “hum- what should I have for breakfast, lunch, dinner?” Lasalle Bakery it is. Snickerdoodle or tirumisu iced coffee. White or sauce party pizza. Macaroons. Danishes. Cupcakes. Delicious!  Among the places I will miss is RI, Lasalle Bakery tops the list. -b

Exactly one more week until we leave for Spain… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I have not done Rosetta Stone since arriving in RI. I also have not done the grammar lessons that ttmadrid sent us to do before starting the course. I have however done quite a bit of shopping. Clothes, toiletries, suitcases galore. I have a semi-packed suitcase sitting on the bed I have been sleeping on and long lists in my head.

Besides anxiety related to the impending unknown, this RI interlude has been relaxing. I have woken up late every day and have spent much-needed time with my family (great to see you Sam and Caleb!). It surprises me how easy I get use to not working. Pretty much immediately. Sean has been visiting his brothers in NYC and will be home today. He will be happy to know I have purchased a sterling silver band for our travels; the rings are staying behind. -b

the portage

August 24, 2010

Our trip to Maine was a dream. We arrived in Portland on Wednesday and I finally got to meet Hinkley, the wonder dog. We stayed at Courtney’s house the first night and had a lobster feast. Four lobsters cost only $23! I needed another lesson on how to crack the lobbies open and what parts not to eat. Courtney was a brave soul because she ate some of the green stuff. Hinkley realized early on that I was the weakest link of the group; he stole several licks of butter from my plate. After dinner Courtney drove us around downtown Maine since we might want to settle there after Spain. Courtney called the tour the “big sell”.

On Thursday morning we drove North or West or Northwest; I can’t quite recall… but I do know our destination was Moose River. In the afternoon, we loaded our canoes and hit the water. I hadn’t been on a canoe trip since the Saco River about 8 years ago and I sort of forgot how to paddle. Courtney and Tyler were consistently 60 feet ahead of us; whenever we reached them they were patient and offered tips on how we could perfect our technique. We paddled for 9 miles and had to empty our boats and carry the contents for 1/2 a mile at the portage to reach our camp. There were two other groups of people at the portage with us. Late into the night we could hear one group singing “God Bless America”.  Courtney was the chef during the trip, and she was pretty stinking good. She whipped up delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sean actually lost 5 pounds due Courtney’s healthy cooking (and the boating exercise I suppose). When Sean and I went on a camping last year we ate soup, cold out of a can; Court’s food was a big improvement.

On the second day we went back to the start of the portage and carried the boats to our camp. We reloaded the boats and paddled for 11 miles. The first 5 were quick and easy but the wind picked up afterwards and made us travel in a zig zag pattern. We went over a few baby rapids and landed at a wonderful private campsite in the early evening. After dinner we went on a walk in the woods and saw a moose and a beaver. Back at the camp, Tyler climbed a tree to put our food out of critter reach but he got his foot stuck in it so had to take off his shoe. We had a restful night’s sleep and awoke early to beat the wind. For the last day of the trip we had less than 4 miles to go, and most of them were on a lake. The lake was placid and lovely to paddle on. We reached the shore before 8:30 am, where our vehicle was waiting for us.

We are so grateful to Courtney and Tyler for planning an amazing trip. It would not have been possible without Tyler’s expertise and Courtney’s wilderness homemaking skills. -b 

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Looking Forward to…

August 22, 2010

A top-ten list to honor my boy DL.

1.  Visiting the ham museum:

2.  Teaching English as a foreign language.  Need to brush up on participles, gerunds, and the pluperfect.  Also avoiding slang.  Instead of ‘I’m finna dip,’ must teach ‘I’m leaving soon.’

3.  Seeing Granada.  I read in a book that it was a cool place.

4.  Becoming incredibly annoying.  I already hate myself for telling someone in the future how much I loved Granada’s charm.  ‘It was life-changing.  You have to go there…’  If I do that, show absolutely no mercy.  Slap me on the jaw.

5.  Running with the bulls.  Just kidding.  Conan tweeted that this was immoral.

6.  Watching movies that take place in Madrid and recognizing places.  Have done this countless times with ‘The Fugitive’ (Chicago) and the barely watched Showtime drama ‘Brothers,’ which takes place in Providence.

7.  Drinking sangria and nodding my head to Spanish I don’t understand with my new countrymen.

8.  The Barcelonian lisp: ‘Como es-th-as?’

9.  Guernica at the Reina Sofia.

10.  Learning how to say ‘I’m finna dip’ in Spanish.

family time

August 18, 2010

We have been back in RI for close to a week and have had quite a bit of family, pool, and beach time. I have especially enjoyed being with my darling new nephew, Collin. He is so precious and is always moving his arms and legs. I think he would look like he was dancing if you put “all the single ladies” on in the background while he moved. 

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In a few hours we are renting a car and driving to Maine to visit my dearest Courtney and to go on a canoe trip. We will be back in RI late Saturday night.  I wish we could have s’mores, our favorite camping snack, but Jeri told me marshmallows are made of pork so they are out. I do sometimes eat soup that I presume has a meat base and just don’t ask… maybe marshmallows can be a similar experience. Once we get to Spain we will probably have to give up vegetarianism and eat ham at the ham museums… who knows. -b


August 16, 2010

We’ll have to be more frugal and economical in Spain.  I used to think I was a minimalist.  Pretty much a Buddhist at heart, no attachment to any material possession.  Then B pointed out how many books we had that we don’t need (90), and I realized how many t-shirts I’ve bought to avoid doing laundry (over two dozen).  In other words, ample opportunity for further simplification.

Toughest Goodbye

The simple life will be necessary out there.  We’ll have to make some adjustments. Teaching for the last five years has led to a modest but steady income.  No kids? Check. No car? Check.  It’s been the good life. $60 nights at the movies.  Two tickets, one cinnamon pretzel, Reese’s Pieces, Junior Mints, one nacho order, and two Icee Drinks.  And then maybe out to eat after that.

And then there’s coffee and tea.  Starbucks was a trip because I’m one of these punks who doesn’t say ‘venti’ or ‘tall.’  It’s always just, ‘Yeah, a medium coffee please, black, and a chocolate strawberry vivanno.’    Refusing to give into their corporate culture as the barista swipes my card for $7.84.

Speaking of baristas: please go easier on me in the future. Please let me be anonymous.  Don’t say ‘See you tomorrow’ and patronize my addiction.  Don’t memorize my order.  Act surprised to see me and be humored by my rakish charm.  Think to yourself, wow, he doesn’t even care if I put 2% or skim milk in his latte.  This boy is hard.

In Spain we’ll have to change.  We’ll drink a ton of coffee still, but maybe make our own.  Less snacks at el cine.  More long walks and home-cooked meals instead of restaurants.  Nights at the discoteca instead of joining a gym.  Grooving all night long, drinking water and pretending it’s vodka.

Because the goal is to travel- to travel a lot- and to do that, we need more coin.  We want to get out there and see it.  This isn’t a journey of self discovery where we Eat Pray Love and find  inner middle-class happiness.   This is about starting (and then running away from) a couple street brawls on the streets of Poland or Italy.  Taking a long run on the Irish countryside.  Spending a couple hours in Paris without overdrafting our checking accounts.  Going to Prague so my dad will be satisfied per his ‘You MUST go to Prague’ recommendations.  Going to Lisbon to…I don’t know what goes on in Lisbon.

Google Image Search: 'What Goes on in Lisbon'

Little Compton, RI

August 15, 2010

today we drove to little compton RI, the sweetest beach town in the US. we went to the beach after circling the farms and quaint shops. sean went for a short run along the shoreline and i stretched out on the sand. i didn’t think i needed sunblock but i remembered how kristin’s teacher told her “any change in skin color means sun damage”. i took off my engagement and wedding rings and placed them on my lap while i applied sunblock. sean returned and we talked about swimming in the water. he asked me to put sunblock on his back so i stood up to do it. after that, i went towards the water but backtracked because i had forgotten to take off my earrings. after placing them in my bag, i went into the water. i went to about my waist and reached to touch my ring finger (as i routinely do). i realized my rings weren’t there and, like lightening, understood what i had done. i ran back to my place on the sand and frantically started searching. i was far from systematic and grabbed chunk after chunk of sand. i couldn’t think clearly. i finally got sean’s attention (he was still swimming in the ocean). he approached me and i told him i lost my rings, although my speech was likely unintelligible through my tears. a group of four teenage girls started helping us look. their friends, a group of 6 boys, also helped (the girls told them to help or get away). a few adults joined. a mother and a 5 year old boy did as well. i sobbed while combing my fingers through the sand. i was a mess. i couldn’t even talk to the people who were so gracious and generous with their time. after a half hour, a girl-Savannah- found the wedding band. an additional hour later a forty year old woman-lisa- screamed “i found it!!!” holding up the engagement ring like the golden ticket in charlie and the chocolate factory. it took my brain a few moments to process but i ran to her, grabbed the ring, and hugged her for a very long time. the group of helpers dispersed quickly to swim. i am ever so grateful for their willingness to help a blubbering, tear streaked, talking to herself (“saint anthony, saint anthony please look around… there is something that is lost that must be found”) stranger. -b

yesterday we finished packing, cleaned our apartment, and loaded all we own into a cat-pee-smelling 10 ft budget truck. we made one last stop at argo tea and got our favorite drink- the teapachino. sean drove out of the city because i was afraid i would knock off a car’s side mirror, like i did the last time i drove a moving truck through chicago’s congested streets. it was 1:55 pm when we passed museum campus. sean said “it doesn’t seem like we are leaving for good”.

an hour outside the city, the rented GPS stopped working. sean called the rental office to complain and request a refund ($60). we bought a map and decided to navigate the old fashion way (as a side note- on the second day we discovered that the GPS actually did work but we had it plugged into the wrong outlet, we didn’t pursue the refund after all). sean and i drove in 4-5 hour chunks and stopped for the night when we reached pennsylvania, due to rain and windshield wiper issues. we followed a sign for a campground at a state park. the grounds were vacant; there was not a single tent, person, or car. we slept in the locked truck (front seats) because of the spooky factor and not knowing how to find our tent without a flashlight. the campground made me think of something my dad said when he helped me move to chicago 5 years ago. looking down the alley at 1130 pm, while old electrical wires weaved overhead, he said “now this is a good place for a murder”.

at 5:45 am we awoke and drove away from the site as fast as our truck could take us; neither of us were well rested but we were motivated to keep moving. the rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. we pulled into sean’s parents driveway at 3:00 pm. the total trip was around 17 hours. we were a bit worn, but quite pleased to be home.- b

best weekend ever. after my last day at RUMC we went to door county (sturgeon bay) with eric and kristin; sean and I are still trying to figure out how we managed to be so lucky as to get an invite twice! we pulled up to eric’s cabin at around 10, went to the beach, and star gazed. we saw planets, shooting stars, and a UFO. well, maybe not the last one. the next day we went into town to Renards. i ate tons of free cheese samples and bought some for the road. sean and eric watched the video on how cheese curds are made (while kristin and i tapped our toes). cheese curds are amazing little things. kristin says you know they are fresh when they squeak. these curds were definitely squeaky. back at the cabin eric took us out on the catamaran. he was doing most of the work, although kristen was pretty handy. i got soaked and we almost couldn’t turn the boat back to shore. it was great! i must have spent 5 hours in the water between saturday and sunday. lake michigan is the best of both worlds- it has waves like the ocean but is not salt water. we bobbed on tubes over the waves forever. no seaweed… no sharks… maybe a snake or two (one showed eric its fangs). we look forward to our return to door county next summer for the big wedding- b

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