Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Say It Ain't So, Zo.

We're cat people here at our house. Don't get me wrong, I like dogs just fine. In fact, I grew up with an assortment of the usual pet suspects. But there is something about a cat. The carefree, low maintainence regime has always fit well with our Gone For The Whole Day or Overnight mentality.

And for reasons that I cannot truly explain, other than to nod towards my possible questionable sanity, all of our cats have been 'Kennedy's'. All of them. We give them long, convoluted names, and then tack Kennedy on to the end of the whole mess. Voila. Welcome to our family.

Our current members of the Kennedy Clan are:
Anna Kalina Copernicus (she's 14),
Zoey Isabel Delaney (she's 10),
 and the newcomer, Suki-Chan Lotus Flower (she's 3).

Life was going along swimmingly until a few months ago when the normally portly Zoe started to slim down. It wasn't anything drastic, in fact she looked quite svelte. But still she continued to shrink.

And we noticed. But didn't notice.
Saw without really seeing.

There were other little Red Flags that went up around her: vomiting, lack of appetite, excessive thirst, lethargy; things that when taken as a whole become one blaring red warning light. But when seen separate are just that; separate little things.

We saw. But didn't see.
Or didn't want to see.

In the last 2 weeks her weight has whittled down to an astonishing 4 pounds. Four. Every symptom climaxed and we began to wait for what we knew must be coming. Every night, worrying. And yet there she was in the morning, looking worse for the wear, but bright eyed and happy to see us.

How long can she endure this? I wondered.
 How long can I endure this?

Today we took her to the vet, who confirmed what we had been fearing. She has diabetes. Our choices are to put her on injectable insulin, which may not control her level of the disease, or to let her slowly wind down in her own time. Or we could put her "to sleep".

What kind of choices are these, really?

The insulin route, even if it did work for her, is out of our reach thanks to that funny green stuff called Money. When we get sick (Dan, me, the girls), there is much deliberation before actually going to the doctor. Do you REALLY need to go? Sure we have insurance, but like most people today, our 'Insurance' is more like 'non-surance'...a great idea in name, but not much in policy. And let's not even get started on our prescription plan. That starts a whole other conversation of, "Do I really NEED to take that medicine?" We go over everything with a fine tooth comb. And that's with US. The extra the insulin and testing supplies would cost us is simply not in our budget. At all.

Putting her down was out of the question for me. Today. She rallied this afternoon, eating up a storm and showing some sparkle in her eye. I couldn't disregard her will right now. I won't.

So we've chosen the option to make her last weeks as comfortable as possible. She spends most of her days in the basement, so we've set up a little resort filled with cushions, food bowls with any variety of food we think might tempt her ever waning appetite, water bowls filled with cold water and ice cubes, which seem to be her favorite, her litter box, easily reached, and familiar toys.

Night time is hardest for us because she was always on our bed every night. With us. A lump at the foot of the bed to be hindered by and annoyed with. But a welcome lump, nonetheless. She can no longer jump up on the bed, and getting down would be dangerous for her as well. And we need to know that she's near her litter box because she's been having accidents. So at night we create a little retreat in the upstairs bathroom; comfy and with everything she could need, including us, nearby.

And we'll wait.
Wait for her to weaken more.
Wait for her to lose more weight.
To get more tired.
To get more sick.

We wait.

She'll be with us, though. Surrounded by the familiar faces and things that she's always known. And when the day comes (and we know it will) that she's too weak to continue on, then we'll say goodbye to her. With tears. With pain. With love. Hurt.

But until then we wait and wonder why med companies feel it's okay to make these lifesaving medicines expensive enough to be outside the reach of many people who need them.

Zoe's worth a hell of a lot more than we're able to give her.

And she deserves better than this.

Because she's waiting too.
And that's the hardest part.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free The Tatas.

One of the daily blessings that comes with young children in your house is the complete and utter unpredictability that is innate to their nature. And the sneakiness of it too. Just when I think I've got them pegged down, or when I find myself missing those oddly random comments that so characterized their earlier years, they surprise me yet again.

This morning we all woke up and padded downstairs, clad in our jammies. It's not that I'm not a morning person; it's more that I just really, really, really like to spend my morning sleeping. Is that so wrong, I ask you? Anyway, I was up and at 'em (whoever the mysterious 'em' might be), and ready to feed my kiddos.

Our "Go-To" breakfast of choice is Pop Tarts. They love them just so very much, so I keep a rainbow of flavors on hand at all times. Today we walked into the kitchen to find that one (or more) of our 3 cats had raided this cupboard, rooting through the boxes and eating her way through several pouches. (Now, I don't know who the culprit was, but if I find multi-colored sprinkled cat puke anywhere in this house, tails are gonna roll). There was a potpourri of sprinkles, crusts, and frosting bits all over the floor. This was not the way I wanted to start my morning, thank you very much. I spent awhile cleaning up the crumby mess the cats left for me, and then finally sat down for my own "Go To" breakfast: coffee. Hello, dear friend of mine.

It was starting to become less 'morning' and more 'afternoon' when I determined it was probably time to pull our act into gear and get ready for the day. I called the girls to come upstairs with me to get dressed, shepherding them up the stairs as I went.  Caedance stopped on the landing, looked at me with her head tilted sideways in a thoughtful gesture, and said,

"Mama, your tatas are free."

Remember, I was still in my pajamas at this point, and since I am not one to sleep all trussed up, yes, I suppose one might say they were..."free". And in my defense, I am not, as one might say, heavily endowed in this area either.

"Mama," she continued, "that is so much fun!"

Well what do you think of that.

"Gosh, thanks sweetie. That's just great of you to say. It's probably time for us to get dressed for the day now, huh?"

Move along kiddo, nothing more to see here.

"Oh, Mama. But free tatas are okay too."

Alrighty then.

From the mouths of babes, I guess. Right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nothin' Says Home Cooking Like Stuff Fried In Fat. (Nope, nothing.)

Truth be told, I am a sucker for fair food. Lord help me, I am. There is just something infinitely scrumptious about anything that is coated in batter and fried like the dickens. Oh, glorious golden joy; how I do love thee.

And because we normally try to be healthy eaters around here, we keep the consumption of these illicit treats to a minimum, and only during what we call "Fair Season". Thankfully, "Fair Season" is a short one here, lasting from the Blue Tip Festival in June to the Wayne County Fair in September. A short window to enjoy the goodness-gracious-golden-glory fare we do love just so very very much. But that's a good thing, right?

Anyway. Back to the purpose of this blog. Those know me know that I love to cook. A lot. One of my best things to do is to create some of our favorite foods in my own kitchen. It gives me endless joy to eat something at home that I loved in a restaurant; at a fraction of the price. Sometimes I make it a personal challenge to find "Copy Cat" recipes or to create them on my own, just to see if I can do it. (FYI, one usually can).

So in the spirit of Fair Season, that is what I set out to do for tonight's dinner. In truth, I kept it simple, only making the Chicken Gyros and Funnel Cakes from scratch. I had Dan pick up the fried veggies at the Blue Tip Festival on his way home, and I totally cheated and used bagged onion rings instead of making my own. (I do however, have an awesome recipe for them).

The results? Yum. Yumyumyumyumyumyumyumyumyumyumyum. (Can you believe spell check actually highlighted that? Yeah, me neither.)
Fair-Fare. Chicken Gyro w/cucumber sauce and Fried Veggies ('cause every meal needs a veggie).

Just look at all the cucumber sauce goodness. Go on. You know you want to.

Nothing beats a fried dessert. Am I right or am I right?
Try the Gyros:

Give these Onion Rings a chance. Truly. You'll be thinking "Swenson's who?"

Wanna fry up some Funnelled delight? Sure you do!

(Thank you, Allrecipes.com for the veritable smorgasbord of goodness you make it possible for me to put on my weekly menus.)

And now my friends, I think I shall go exercise. For a rather long time, I should think.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Paging Doctors Ashlyn & Caedance

One of my favorite questions to ask the girls is the rather banal one of:

"What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up".

They both want desperately to be nurses or doctors. This is just a-okay with us, I should enthusiastically point out.

But when we ask them why they've set their collective sights on that most austere profession, they proudly announce that more than anything in all the world what they really want to do is to give people shots.

Did you read that? To give people shots.
Not help them.
Not comfort them.
Not heal them.

Just to give them shots. Lots of shots. All of the time.

Paging Doctor Ashlyn
We're naturally behind them as they plan out their future careers in the medical field, but I'm not too sure we'll rushing forward to be their patients. Apparently, they plan on being rather heavy handed with the syringes.
Paging Caedance, MD

A Tale Of 2 Authors

Officially, the girls have both now authored their own books.

This is quite remarkable for 2 very important reasons:

1. They normally cannot stomach writing or drawing
2. As their mother, I have decided that this, in fact, a remarkable event. End of story.

Here is how this stint into the wonderful world of children writing children's books came to pass. The girls were fighting over a dress up Minnie Doll they had just acquired. Well, they had actually each chosen a different Minnie Doll; Caedance had the dress up version whereas Ashlyn went for the plush talking Minnie. The moment they got home, Ms. Ashlyn began to experience the first pangs of Buyer's Remorse and decided that the only cure was to relieve Caedance of her choice and claim it as her own. What plush Minnie Doll? Dan and my dad decided that (since it was father's day, after all), it would be super-stellar if they could go on a driving spree to exchange the sad and neglected plush Minnie for a second dress up Minnie set. So off they set on their own epic adventure that can only be called "Super Wal-Mart On A Sunday". (Need I say more?)

Meanwhile, back on the home front, Ashlyn was congratulating herself on "her" fab job in "choosing" the dress up Minnie play set, and having a blast playing with it; sans the set's actual owner, Caedance. To keep tempers tamped to a low simmer, I used my stealthy Mom Powers to convince Caedance that she didn't really want to play with the doll at all. No. What she really wanted was to spend some quality time drawing pictures with me at the table. (What a super event that would be!)

Unconvinced, she joined me at the table, slightly snarling while I gathered the Art supplies. Dubiously, she looked at the sketch paper and crayons and asked the fateful question: "Mommy, will you draw me a Minnie Mouse?"

Now, here's the thing about asking me to draw anything. I am no Picasso. Heck, I'm not even Picasso's brother's friend's aunt's cousin's sister's housekeeper, (nor do I even know if such an entity ever existed). In fact, my pale contributions to the art world tend to lean more to the side of "Disappointment". However, this was an opportunity to show my non-drawing friend how the real purpose in anything is simply to try.

Crayon in hand, I drew the mouse. I handed it to her and to my astonishment, she picked up a crayon and drew one too. I drew another, and so did she. We then moved on to Daisy and Donald, each of us offering our renderings for consideration. When the paper was filled with our varied inspirations, she folded it in half and ran off to share her splendors with Ashlyn.

She was back at my side a few minutes later. "Mommy, this looks like a book", she said, noticing the half fold of her paper. "Only there's no words in it." A frown creased her brows.

"Hmmm. I do see your point, Cher. What do you think we should do about that?" (Like that broad "I'm Giving You The Authority To Make A Good Choice Here, Kiddo" question?)

"If I taped some pages in it, I could write a story about Minnie....."

Say no more!

 Shoot, I had just the thing. In my joy at hearing her utter the magic words every blogger dreams of hearing his or her offspring say ("I'll Write A Story"), I ran over to the paper stash and began rummaging around for a very specific piece of perfection. You see, just a matter of a week or so ago, a small stash of ready made, blank paged books came into my possession by way of a  certain mother-in-law who was cleaning out her classroom. (Thank you, Kathleen).

With the treasure finally in my grasp, I handed it over to Caedance, who smiled brightly up at me.

"Will this do, do you think Caedance?" I asked.

"Oh yes, Mommy. I think it will be just right." An ear to ear grin split her face.

She situated herself in her chair and began to work in earnest. Page by page, we continued with the formula that had started it all: I draw.You draw. My little sprite, who has never cared for creating, sat with determination as parts of her story were brought to life with each wrist motion. When she was happy with the pictures on every page, she painstakingly wrote out the story. Line by line. Careful to form each letter and sentence correctly.

She worked all afternoon and into the evening on it, stopping only when the last bit of writing was completed. She then rushed to my side to share it with me.

And so opened a new door for us.

We read and re-read Caedance's creation all evening long; even Ashlyn spent some time reading it and marvelling at the accomplishment of her sister, the Author. This morning both girls woke up with writing on their brains. Caedance wanted to write another "Minnie Tale" to fill in the remaining pages of her book, and Ashlyn was ready to try her hand at this whole publishing thing.

An afternoon and a few broken crayons later, we have 2 lovely books by my two lovely daughters. What makes me most proud is simply their will to try and the effort they put into the entire process. It was a wonder for me to sit beside each of them as they worked through what they wanted to say and how they wanted to show it on the page and in the wording.

They worked. I sat nearby and smiled. Occasionally I acted as Collaborator, helping with plot points (such as they were) and as Editor, helping them with the words they asked me straight out how to spell. And of course, I was also the president of their fan club, oohing and ahhing over the completed works.

I'm guessing their currently all written out now, having spent the better part of nearly 2 days being authors, but man I'm happy they did it. Really happy.

From Caedance's 2nd story.

From Ashlyn's story


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bike Riding Ruminations

"It's like riding a bike"...

How many times do you hear that expression? I can think of so many things that have that adage attached at the tail end.

Haven't knitted in awhile and you're afraid you've forgotten how? Why, it's like riding a bike! You'll remember in no time.

What's that you say? You've been wearing slip on shoes for so long that you think you've forgotten how to tie your sneaker laces? Pe-shaw! It's like riding a bike! Tie away, laddy, tie away.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens for the people who can't ride a bike? Hmmmm? Where's the hope for those poor souls, I ask you? Will they remember the old knit-purl combo, or will they just go scarf-less? Will they need to watch an instructional video reminding them about the little bunny jumping through the hole, or are they destined to shuffle around with forever untied shoes laces?

Needless to say, our own summer project, aptly named, "Get Those Girls Riding Their Bikes Because It's Just About Time, Don't You Think?", has not been going quite so well.

Rest assured, we've made some progresses; small, incremental steps that have taken us away from the horrifying side wipe outs that were so definitive of our first attempts with them. But such success have been few and far between.

And we've tried....everything. Oh, how we've tried.

First we took off their training wheels when we realized that they weren't so much helping the girls learn to balance as they were causing a constant safety hazard on their bikes, which are 20 inch bikes that just do not work well with training wheels. Off they went. And any hope we had that our offspring would miraculously summon their sense of inner balance crashed to the pavement right along with them.

Next we tried putting towels around their bellies and under their arms, holding them together at their backs as we ran along beside them. This step gave us the most progress, I must say, but after awhile, each girl was just sort of wobbling along, waiting for her "Towel Holding Parent" to yank her back up just before she fell over completely. We became a handy crutch, you might say. And have you any idea just how heavy it gets to hold your peddling child up by a towel as she speeds along the sidewalk while you clamor beside her, often times pushed awkwardly into the grass, desperately trying to keep your own footing, because you are fully aware that if you go down, she goes down. And whose fault would that be? Hmm? (My arms have gained a certain She-Ra-ish build to them though).

We are now at the stage we call: "Off You Go, My Child". The girls know it better as: "Pedal Or Fall". We take them out into a big field, get them situated on their bikes, give 'em a push, bid them farewell, and let them go. See ya, sweeties! (Pedal or fall now, you hear?) And it's true: she who pedals, stays aloft on that crazy two wheeled contraption; meanwhile, she who tries to coast along on gravity's good graces tends to fall.

Caedance is making great strides with this particular method, saving her great crashing skills for when she doesn't like the direction she's going in, or determines she's going to fast. When it doubt, fling yourself from your still moving bike, folks.

Ashlyn continues to stubbornly refuse this particular mode of transportation. I'm not sure she honestly sees the point in it. Why pedal anywhere, really, when you can run, or skip, or gallop? Pedaling is for suckers! She tends to spend her quality practice time demonstrating her own savvy techniques for ditching her bike. She's perfected the roll over fall, whereby she tosses herself off the bike while still holding onto it, thus encouraging it fall on her as she rolls. After The Event, she lays very still, muttering to herself, "Well, well, well, well." We continue to teach to her the value and virtue of utilizing her bike's brakes.

We continue to work towards our ultimate goal of having honest to goodness Bike Riding Kids, but most days it feels like an uphill battle with them. Along the way, we've heard interesting input from a variety of parenting resources, most of which serves only to make us truly suspect that our children may in fact be the last nearly 7 year old non-bikers on the face of this planet. Uh-huh. True-sies.

I've politely nodded at the parent who insisted her balancing genius knew how to ride the bike the moment he sat up on it. (Well, bully for you, lady. My kids don't.)

I've smiled at the mom who regaled us with the tale of the 3 nights it took her daughter to have 2 wheeled success. (So what if we're going on a year of training drudgery?)

And tonight I watched, incredulous, as a 4 year old neighbor sped by us on his two wheeled steed, stopping in front of us to off load himself from Old Blue and take his ipod buds out of his ears, giving us a chin nod as we went by. (Alrighty then).

Honestly, do my kids really have to ride a bike? Isn't it enough that they can both swing now? Can't we just call that this summer's grand accomplishment? What do you say?

Oh, I know. We'll keep trucking away at it. Don't worry. They'll get there. And if you happen upon our neighborhood one night and maybe see two little sprites with rabbit ears on their helmets making grand crashes in the grassy knolls and laughing with glee while they're parents look on with dejected, furrowed brows; well, you'll know that's us.

And remember, no matter how off balance and wobbly they may look today, they were probably much worse yesterday. And just think of where they might be tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And Now For The Conclusion Of The Freckle Saga...

We've hopefully reached the conclusion of The Saga Of The Freckle. I say that because when you mix kids and stitches, you just never really know what you might get. Not really.

Ashlyn endured her surgery yesterday, and I have to say she did it like a pro. Not prone to nervousness, from the moment we arrived at Akron Children's Hospital, she was a bundle of anxious excitement. Every small activity was a big new adventure for her.

"I get to wear hospital pajamas? Really?!" (A big smile on her face)

"I get to breathe in an airplane pilot mask filled with raspberry chap stick?! Really??" (Hopping up and down).

"I'll take a nap on THAT bed? It looks so comfortable!" (Full-out, no-holds-barred jumping with glee).

Where could she sign up for this slice of heaven? She was ready to go.

As her mother, on the other hand, I had a tad more reluctance going into this whole magical experience.  Any of you who have had your children in surgery can appreciate this. No matter how "safe" anesthesia has become (and I recognize the amazing strides the field has taken), there is something inherently wrong about signing papers dealing with "In Case Of An Unforeseen Complication" and "Blood Donation" in conjunction with your flesh and blood.

But onward and upward, eh old chaps? I signed the papers and let the festivities begin.

She loved it all: the pajamas!, the masks!, the various tables she got to lie down on!; but most of all, so loved the idea that the freckle would be gone.

"I'll look just like Caedance now and will be able to play Trickery Games with her! No one will know who I am!" (As if we were always 100% before, right?)

When they walked her away from us and back to surgery, I surprised myself by not crying. Not one tear. That is unusual for this lady who still cries at commercials, even when they're not sad at all. (I've recently ventured over into the "Warm Fuzzies" brand of tear ups and the "Such An Accomplishment" state as well. I can't wait to see where I'll be in 10 years; probably crying at my frying pan because, "It's so beautiful".)

Our wait was, thankfully, a pretty short one. The surgery took just 35 minutes and she was back in recovery, awake and awaiting us. Her nurse said she popped awake almost as soon as she was wheeled back there and was raring to get going. We sat with her as they monitored her post op vitals, and found ourselves to be quite entertained by our still woozy daughter. She spent a good deal of the time alternating between sitting up and starting to get out of the bed, (which she was continuously "just noticing" had unusually high railings), and staring vacantly at the beeping screen of the monitor while mumbling, "That's it then, I've been hooked up to a computer, after all." Then in between these two extremes, she'd let out these odd, whimsical, little laughs, whereby she'd throw her back and grin from ear to ear. It was hard to know just exactly what to do with her, but we figured she was trying so we could sit there and be sociable, EVEN when it meant laughing along at her little outbursts.

We were on our way home with her just under an hour later.

But she didn't want to go home. Not right after surgery. That would be tacky, apparently. So instead we went to Kathleen's house, where our Patient Helper, Caedance, had been spending a special day herself. I thought for sure our dazing daughter would curl up and snooze for a bit when we got there; however, after a lunch of bananas, applesauce, and toast she was itching to move about. Still under the influence of the drugs she'd been given, she spent her time playing for a minute and then spending the next 5 or so upset about various things that never seemed to matter before. Like how upsetting it was to flush the toilet; no one should do that.

Finally she popped up and announced that she'd be resting in the guest room. We tucked her in, grateful that she was going to rest, and sat down to take a breather ourselves. Being the neurotic parent that I tend to be, I sent someone in to check on her every few minutes. And although she wasn't actually sleeping, she sure seemed to be resting and was fine, so we kept to our 5 minute checking schedule.

It was during one of those 5 minute intermissions that she decided she had healed quite enough, thank you very much, and no longer needed the outer bandage or the steri-strips covering her just hours old incision. Off they all went. When I went to check on her, she quickly burrowed under the covers, hiding herself from me: Red Flag One. I then noticed the reddish paper strips all over the white coverlet: Red Flag Number Two. Not quite putting the pieces of this puzzle together yet, the picture became crystal clear when I saw all the blood on the pillow, sheets, and blankets around her head: Red Flag Number Three.

Staying as calm as one can be in this situation, I gulped and took a look at her cheek; fearing the worst. Thankfully, the stitches were still in tact, so there was no gore to look at. Ashlyn was frantic, though, sensing she had maybe made a mistake in her "All Healed" thinking. I put a call in to her plastic surgeon and was urged very firmly to bring her back in just as quick as I possibly could get her in, if you don't mind very much, and thank you in advanced.

Leaving Caedance with Kathleen (thank goodness for this arrangement), we tore out of the driveway and hurled ourselves back in to the hospital, making it to the doctor's office just as they were closing for the day. They rechecked all the stitches and deemed them to be properly in place and secure, and put on more strips and several more "Just In Case" layers of bandages.

The entire time, Ashlyn wept.

Still under the effects of the morning narcotics, she was under the illusion that Caedance and Kathleen wouldn't like her with the bandages. Barring that, mom and dad wouldn't like her either. In fact, somehow these bandages turned her into the Hunchback Of Notre Dame and she'd be a social outcast at the tender age of 6.

Weep. Weep. Weep. Weep.

Tears rolling down her cheeks, there was no consoling her. So we thanked the doctor again and promised that we'd see him at our 3 week check and not a minute before. And we took our softly sobbing daughter out the door and back to her twin.

It was an eventful day. Surgery and a near crisis. Dan and I were both emotionally drained. Ashlyn, however, was still going strong, if still a bit on the weepy side.

Incidentally, Kathleen and Caedance happened to LOVE her bandages, and so do Dan and I. As of this writing, she has promised to never, ever, ever, ever touch her bandages again.

(But I slept very near her last night........just to make sure.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Girl And A Swing

Hello Friends.

Today Caedance learned to swing. Yes; she's 6 1/2 and just added this to her "Learned" list. Perhaps it's a bit late, but it wasn't for lack of trying, let me tell you. She'd sit on the swing next to Ashlyn, who was pumping away and swinging high as the sky, but her own two legs couldn't seem to make the magic happen. We patiently repeated the "Pump your legs in and out" mantra time and time again, and she'd pump them all right; just not at the right time, or with her legs together for that matter.

There she'd sit; a still leaf in an otherwise fast flow.

I don't suppose I need to paint the picture of frustration that this caused for her. Or for us. For her it was something just out of her reach; for us it seemed like something she should have learned already, even though I know perfectly well that's not true.

But as I've written before (Star Child), Caedance is the one who decides when she will learn to do anything that is to be learned. On her own terms.

And today was The Day.

After dinner, she went out to the swing and sat on it. Motionless. Alone. Then she began letting herself glide slowly forward and backward, going with the gentle ebb and flow of the swing's natural motion. Dan and I watched in silence as she sat out there, feeling out the swing, waiting for her moment to take over and 'Swing Forth'.

And she did.

Oh how she did.

Legs pumping, arms bending; her face a radiant beam of light. Squeals of delight echoed through our backyard as she mastered a skill which previously eluded her. On her terms.

"Mom! Look at me! Look at me!" she squealed time and time again.

Look. At. Me.
Yes, my darling little girl. Look at you. You are one ball of precious potential, wrapped up in a package worthy of our absolute attention and love. You and your sister need only be exactly who you are. Just who you are. Because that, my hearts, is more than enough for me.

Look At Me!

Swing Savvy Sisters

Friday, June 3, 2011

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Cross The Border...

Today I come to this Blog with a tale to tell.

 (And incidentally, I'm watching the King's Speech on DVD right now, so if my vernacular has a bit of stoutly English propriety to it, that would be where to point the long finger of dire blame).

Upon the completion of the girls' first school year, we decided to squeeze in a quick trip up to Niagara Falls. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, Pizza Paradise, this is a favorite destination. And, alas, it would seem the pizza was indeed calling our collective names strongly this year. It was more like a yell, really. And far be it from me to ignore such a summons as that.

We picked the girls up from school and headed to our first stop: Kalahari in Sandusky. Yes, I know that is actually no where near Niagara Falls. It's going in the opposite direction for us, in fact. But this was an upside down, topsy turvey trip, as it turned out. So our random start fit in well.

We spent the day sliding our little hearts out at Kalahari, and fell to sleep tired and ready for a super great 4 and a half hours of driving joy the next day. Whee!

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early and off we shoved to our next stop on Destination: Fun. Niagara Falls, Canada. My favorite part of the trip up to Niagara is always that last leg of the trip on the Robert Moses Parkway. This by-way rambles around the waterway, taking you past the water as it's still calm, and then as it becomes a raging series of rapids making ready for its grand performance at the brink of The Falls. And all the while the jagged skyline of Niagara Falls, Ontario is in the background, standing at an odd angle to the water; just past the void left by the carved out gorge.

My least favorite part of the journey is always going through customs. Let me start off by declaring my full knowledge of how stupid this fear is. I am not, nor do I ever plan on becoming, a criminal. I'm just regular, law abiding citizen type A. Hello.

And yet.

On this particular trip up, I'm pleased to announce that we made it through to Canada with no problems to report. Whew.

Fast forward through our stay: (insert lots of fun memories and perhaps a few future blog entries here). Time to pack up and begin our journey home. If I'm nervous on the way into Canada, I'm a true wreck on the way back on to U.S soil. We've had a few experiences at customs in the past that will back up my hesitancy. There was the time when they thought we were driving in a stolen vehicle because we still had temp tags on it, which made for an unhappy officer and some equally edgy travellers. Then there was the time when, upon being asked if we were in fact her parents, a 3 year old Caedance stubbornly screamed, "NO! Now shut the door!" to our utter horror and equal astonishment.

It's the unpredictability that keeps me on edge, you could say.

We decided to take the QEW to the Peace Bridge home this time, which is something to put on our "First Time" list. It was a nice enough drive, and it's always fun to play the Convert Miles to Kilometers game, so we went for it.

As the Peace Bridge and customs loomed, I took out our passports and felt that familiar gnawing of growing worry rumbling around in my stomach. I sat back and began to wait the feeling out. It was a crowded day at Ye Olde Peace Bridge, let me tell you. Cars were jockey-ing their way into lanes amidst commercial trucks trying to sidle into their own respective lanes. We waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally our turn drew near. One car ahead of us. Then the lane was clear. We pulled forward slowly, window down and passports at the ready.

"Citizenship?" U.S
"How many on board the vehicle?" Four.
"Reason for your trip?" To see The Falls. (Whew, this was going okay, after all!)
"Okay then, the computer has just randomly chosen you for a vehicle search. You'll need to pull over and go inside door number 2. You'll get your passports back after you're done inside."

Uh-oh. Maybe not so good after all.

We looked at each other. Oh man. Even the girls were quiet.

Have you ever been behind a car that didn't make it through customs? Well that was us today. Access denied.


We pulled off into a gated area in front of the building, parked the van and made our way into whatever awaited us behind Door Number 2. Truth be told, I've always wondered what the inside of a customs building looked like. They seem so shiny and impressive on the outside, but the inside was a big blank to me. And as to what went on behind those reflective surfaces, I had no guesses.

We found ourselves waiting for a bit while our particular case was being reviewed. An officer called us up and asked us the routine questions that you get asked at customs, and then asked for our keys. We returned to our seats while they searched our van.

Have you ever had your car searched? This was another mark in the "First Time" column for me. Truly. Let me state this clearly: we have nothing even remotely controversial in our home, let alone in either of our cars. And yet, there I sat, mentally tearing the van up, fearing my mind's eye would uncover some hidden danger; like a weapon I never knew we'd had or something equally damning.

And oddly, another thought going through my mind was how truly grateful I was that despite being on vacation, our van was clean. And I mean clean: organized, dusted, vacuumed, and all toys put in the actual bin where they belong. Oh yes, that's me. Even on vacation. And I found myself wondering if the inspecting officer was noticing that as well. Perhaps he (or she) walked to the van thinking, "Oh man, they've got kids. What kind of a wreck will this be?" And then when he or she looked in on that clean interior, maybe they were just a bit impressed. "Wow. I'm impressed." Maybe. Or maybe he was only looking for guns and drugs. But I'd like to think I sort of made someones day today with my surprisingly uber clean vehicle.

After their inspection of our van, the officers returned our passports and keys, sending us on our way with a "Good day to you" from one, and a "Have fun" from another. We piled back in and proceeded on our way home. We were wary of our presence in the flow of traffic, as if we had a large "Detained At Customs" sign on our tailgate; our own scarlet A to mark us as sinners.  But we trudge forward anyhow, putting on the James Dean persona of You Got Somethin' To Say To Me?  to our fellow road mates.

All told, this unforeseen adventure only took about 20 minutes. True to their word, the officers did have us out of their building and on our way again.

And it's worth the mention to say that even though it was an intimidating place (rightfully so), every single officer we worked with at the Peace Bridge was extremely polite and respectful to us and to every person we observed them interacting with.

My experiences today have me thinking on the increasingly delicate balance act these men and women perform every day. They protect our borders, acting as sentinels against what must be an at times dangerously invisible enemy. It's a job I'm not sure I would ever be able to handle, raising them up many notches on my Esteem Scale.

It made for an interesting end to our impromptu vacation, and quite the kick off to our Summer Of Fun, indeed.