Thursday, January 28, 2016

Getting Carded

You reach a point in life when you accept that you're not young anymore.  That you'll never have the metabolism of a teenager.  That your idea of pulling an all nighter isn't staying up all night, but sleeping for a solid 8 hours.  That you don't know it all, in fact you can't even remember things you used to know.  Like how to spell knowledgeable without relying on spellcheck.

And that you're not getting carded at the liquor store anymore.  

That was all a lie.  You never get used to any of those things.  Or needing glasses to find your glasses.  Or the creaks your body makes when you stretch.  Or just sit down.  The gray hairs, the chin hairs and the unmentionable curious, stray body hairs.  There's no way of getting around it (without creaking or breaking a hip)...

...getting old sucks.  

But, it gets even worse.  Now when you're out in public and someone refers to you as "Miss", you know it's meant to flatter you because the person saying it knows you're ridiculously old and that you need it to stroke your ancient and dilapidated ego.  But you're not flattered in the least because you know you were only being patronized by an ignorant kid that you've just calculated in your head you're old enough to be the parent of.  

Nothing's worse than being reminded you're old by a youngster.  
Unless it's using the word "youngster". 

I thought I'd finally accepted that I'm not 21 anymore, but a middle aged woman.  Or as I like to think of it, 21 with 25 years of experience and a rheumatic knee.  That's when I went to the liquor store to stock up on some bold and complex bottles of red wine.  I passed by the more economical and inferior boxed white wines the youngsters like because their palate is underdeveloped on the way to the cashier.  The cashier, a youngster himself, promptly asked for my I.D.  That's when I realized...

 I'm only getting carded to check if I'm using a stolen credit card.  
In retrospect, maybe I actually like being patronized.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm a Physicist

Photo credit:
I've never taken a physics class, but somehow I accidentally became a physicist anyhow.  Despite the fact that I'm abominable at math and science.  I'm not even qualified to help my 5th grader with her math homework or science project.  Unless in this day and age of participation trophies "F" stands for fabulous.  And not to brag, but I'm completely fabulous at failing.  Especially as a physicist.

When I started pole dancing, I thought it was going to be all fun and games.  And it was, at first.  A few spins here and a booty pop there.  It challenged my non-existent grace and showmanship.  And still does.  And, god knows, attempting to dance in heels, which I can barely even walk in, would send me to the hospital.  So, I do have firmly established boundaries for things outside my skill set that I should never, ever attempt.

As I got stronger and more advanced, I started to gravitate to more difficult pole tricks that I realized required *gulp* physics.   Many of them look damn near impossible.  But, I've done some of them, so I know it's not only strength that matters, but also strategy.  In short, it's physics.  Like this trick called "Miracle" I did over the summer.
And no, this is not photoshopped, I really did make that face.
So last week, I decided it was time to try the pole dance move that every pole dancer aspires to.   The one that marks your debut into being taken seriously in pole fitness.  The Iron X.   Which looks something like this...

...only less purple in real life.  Obviously.

So I put on some kick ass music and then, I gave myself an extensive pep talk.

  You're strong enough to do this!  
You can do this!  
It's all just physics!
Remember the trajectory equation!
Wait, maybe you should pre-dial 911 just in case...  

The result was more Mangled K than Iron X.  Because I forgot to factor in the fact that I have the torso of someone who's 6 feet tall, with the legs of someone 5 feet tall, putting my center of gravity that much further from the pole, making it that much harder to hold.  Not to mention my inflexibility to straddle that leg down instead of out.  I'm no mathematician, but if you put the wrong factors into the equation to solve for x, of course you're going to wind up with special k.  Duh.

But, with time, effort and determination, I can solve this, 
because I'm a physicist*.  
*I never claimed to be a successful physicist.

In case you wonder how I got into that position, here's a short, grainy video...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Top 10 Travel List

While we were still in Buenos Aires, we started compiling a list of our favorite places to travel.  It seemed like a fun family activity and an opportunity to relive some of our favorite misadventures.   It wasn't.  It went the way everything else in our house does, it began a passionate disagreement and quickly escalated into a potential WWIII scenario.

So, when my husband and I were at a wine bar in the airport waiting for our flight back home and our kids were who knows where because after 2.5 weeks of complete 24/7 family togetherness, we didn't care. Go ahead judge me.  Later, the kids did care that Costa Rica didn't make the final list, as they all voted it in the top 3 which is the only thing they've agreed on ever in their lives.  Even in their miraculous semi-agreement, they were still completely wrong.  And they didn't pay for the trip. So they were overruled.

This list may be a bit arbitrary and capricious as it was written while under duress and the influence of alcohol.

1. France (Paris)
It's so cliche to love Paris.  But, if you've been there and you don't you're a heartless bastard.  I mean who can resist really old beautiful buildings filled with gorgeous antiquities stolen from other countries during imperialism?  Or the impeccably dressed, haughty Parisians who walk the streets and pollute them with cigarette smoke and thoughts that you're inferior to them.   WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?
Monopoly Money

2. Thailand
You know what's really fun to do with kids?  Walk through the streets of Bangkok and have them ask what lady boys are.  Really.  You should try it.  And I know you want to sit on one of the world's most beautiful beaches eating food from a floating boat and then have food poisoning for 2 days.  CAUSE GOING ON VACATION AND LOSING WEIGHT IS WIN-WIN!
Thai'd Not

3. Italy
We've been to Italy 3 separate times.  Rome and Venice were when my kids were really little before I was blogging.  So I never did write about when I was living in Germany with 3 little kids and my husband got to come home for 2 weeks during his 15 month deployment to Iraq and we went to Rome.   Where I booked us a family room we could all stay in together.  With the beds all right next to each other.   What was I thinking?  Did I mention I hadn't seen my husband or had sex with him in 7 months at this point?  Italy is much better and sexier if you actually have sex during your trip.  GO TO ITALY AND HAVE SEX.  DO IT NOW!
Mangia! Mangia!

4. Egypt
Sometimes it's not the destination, but what you have to do to get to the destination and the timing of the trip that makes you fall in love with a place.  Being refused entry into the country, living in the airport for 40 hours before being sent home and then paying a shitload of money to return in the aftermath of a revolution are all it takes to make me swoon.  Apparently.  Oh, and bribes.   DON'T FORGET TO PACK THE BAKSHEESH.
5 Star

5. South Africa
Maybe it's Kruger National Park, Nelson Mandela or the tantalizing thrill of the bad reputation of Johannesburg.  But, it's probably just the sexy accent the locals have.  Even apartheid sounds sexy when they say it.  WHICH IS REASON ENOUGH TO GO, AMIRITE?
Lychees, Crazy Camp Dog and a Cocktail

6. Turkey
Turkey probably makes you think of Thanksgiving.  But really, it's an incredibly geographically diverse country filled with people with unibrows who think we Americans are fat and don't travel.  Ok, Greece could also fit this description.  And Greece is pretty cool and could've made the list, but we traveled there with a toddler.  So we had to return to the hotel for nap time every afternoon so as to not turn into Greek tragedy, so we didn't see near as much as what we wanted to.  BONUS: YOU DON'T EVEN NEED TO WAX BEFORE GOING.

7. London
My husband insisted in putting England in the Top 10 and I conceded.  If you're into the latest fashion trends or the worst abominations of them, love the contradiction of foul language delivered with a stuffy accent you can't always decipher,  especially when the person talking is drunk and shouting, London is the place for you.  Plus, everything's already in English so you don't have to worry about looking stupid.  EXCEPT WHEN YOU LOOK THE WRONG WAY BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET AND GET HIT BY A BUS.
London Calling Part 3

8. Morocco
There's really only one reason to go to Morocco.   Because it's super embarrassing to admit that the only thing you know about the country is what you saw in some stupid Sex in the City movie.     DON'T BE THAT PERSON.
3 Days

9. Australia
We went to Australia without kids, which automatically puts it in the top 10.  We rented an RV and drove up the Gold Coast and snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef.  But, we also went with Craig's brother traveling around in an RV.  Which was great, but this again, made for a sexless trip.   But, my spoiled brat world traveling kids really want to go to Australia (and New Zealand) which is another great reason it had to go on the list, to make them jealous.  CAUSE AUSTRALIA IS AWESOME.
Spoiled Brat

10. Argentina
Despite Buenos Aires, which was not one of my favorite cities.  (I didn't find the air to be all that good which really is false advertising, among other things), Argentina did make the list.  It was humbling Patagonia, the glaciers and Iguazu Falls that put it over the edge. Or maybe being told I looked like Nicole Kidman and was a natural at the tango.  It could've been that.  Or the Malbec. Unless it was the steak.  DON'T CRY FOR ME BECAUSE I'VE BEEN TO ARGENTINA.
Lessons from Patagonia

Monday, January 18, 2016

Two to Tango

On our last night in Buenos Aires we took tango lessons.  Turns out we're naturals.  And with my naturally curly hair, unnaturally colored red, the instructor thought I looked like Nicole Kidman.   And with my husband's hair grown out he looked a bit like Keith Urban.  That must be why she saw some chemistry between us.  Or maybe it was because we were so passionate.  About our frustration of traveling with four kids for two and a half weeks.  Not to mention the curve ball that came our way in Buenos Aires.

The tango is elegance cavorting with intensity.  And I was pretty intense about the fact that the man leading the dance and the woman merely following is kinda sexist.  Perhaps it's the fake, feisty redhead in me, but I don't like the idea of anyone controlling me.   But, when I did finally submit, yielding to the tenets of tango, that's when the conditions were perfect.  And the timing was perfect.

Because, it takes two to tango.

We'd learned that the day before.  Before we even had a tango lesson in the bustling marketplace in Buenos Aires shopping for souvenirs.  Scoring one vintage soda bottle with Argentina in raised letters on it to remember our trip by.  Then we stopped for lunch.  And the timing was perfect.  Craig set his backpack down and it was unguarded for less than 30 seconds while the rest of us checked our phones.  And just like that it was gone.

Because, it takes two (or more) to tango. 

We took inventory immediately.  No kids were stolen.  Nor did they get the passports, the iPad or the iphone.  Just his new backpack, wallet and, as we'd remember later, the car keys to the minivan that was sitting at the Denver airport, an hour and a half from our home in Colorado Springs.  We spent the afternoon at the police station where there were three other tourists with the same exact story feeling just as stupid as we did.  Then we attempted to call collect to our credit card companies.  Which proves to be impossible.  (I tried when we lived in Germany and Morocco too and it never works.)  So we were left with one ATM card (with a cap on how much cash you can take out a day) and an American Express card (which is barely even accepted in the US, never mind overseas.)

Because it takes two (or more) to tango...

...the rest of the trip was an intricate dance timed exactly 24 hours apart so we could stow enough money to pay for the hotel, museums, lunch and any other incidentals.  Not to mention, inconveniencing Liz, my dog sitter, to find my keys and Heather, my friend, who I apologetically asked to drive my keys up to the airport to meet us.  It was a sloppy dance of shame.  One we'll take steps to avoid next time.  Taking care not to trip on each other's feet again.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Honeymoon Period

After we crossed the border back into Chile and we stopped at a small shop, my husband, Craig, couldn't find his wallet.  It could be way back across the border in Argentina.  In which case, it was mostly likely long gone.  Except it wasn't.  After an exhaustive search, he found it and the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.  And so started the honeymoon period of the trip. 

When we ventured into Torres del Paine National Park the next day we wondered why we even went to the trouble of going into Argentina chasing Los Glaciares National Park in the first place.  Because Chile boasted mountains and beautiful glaciers too.  

And we could take a boat ride to see them, just like we planned to do in Argentina.  

The one family photo we got the entire trip.  

And yes, taking photos of my kids, never mind posting them, still requires their photo approval.

For more on that, you can read my post from our trip to Thailand last year,
Photo Approval, about the challenges of capturing pictures of my kids on that trip.

Before we knew it we were returning the camper van and leaving Chile.  

Oh, I lied, this is the other family shot of us crammed in the van,  before flying back to Argentina.  

Where I finally found some fruit, poolside even.  
The struggle to poop while on vacation is real people!
As is the struggle not to shit your pants when you get a parasite or food poisoning on vacation.  
For more on that,  you can reference my post, The Shit.

But, we didn't come to Argentina to hang by the pool.  This whole trip started as a quest to see one thing.  

Iguazu Falls.
The widest waterfall in the world.

This photo is but a fraction of it and doesn't do it justice.

I'd wanted to see it ever since we visited Victoria Falls in Zambia a few years ago.
Which you can read about here.

And since we were finally here, we were going to see all of it.  Every inch.  

Which we did, hiking a total of 20 miles that day. 
 Even when it started to rain, through the mud.  

And it was so worth the blisters!
Because we even got to swim in them.

Before the honeymoon was over, we ate some of the best pizza (not to mention steak & wine) of our lives.  (Pizza is a staple food in Argentina & Chile.)

And we had mandatory family culture time, forcing the kids to walk the hot, humid streets of Buenos Aires for hours on end.

And explaining that the lady on this building was not Lady Gaga, but Evita.

Then I re-explained it over and over again when we went to the La Recoleta Cemetery where Evita, the  (not Lady Gaga) is  buried.

And just like that, the honeymoon period was over...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lessons from Patagonia

Christmas morning was cold with a haze so thick we couldn't see the mountains in front of us.  But, on the plus side, Santa had brought us generic Twinkies and tea which we sipped from the Styrofoam ramen cups saved from dinner the night before.  After our underwhelming breakfast, it was time to pack up camp and begin the long drive to El Calafate, over the border into Argentina.  

An hour into the drive it started raining relentlessly.  Then we ran out of gas.  When we finally made it to the border,  one of the passport numbers on the reciprocity fees (a visa of sorts) we prepaid for pre-trip was incorrect and we needed to pay an additional $160 for a new one to enter the country.  Then, finally, after a long, expensive day of mishaps, we arrived at our campsite.  Our extremely muddy, cold campsite. And it was still raining and the forecast didn't show a break in the weather for days.

It was a sleepless night filled with worry and what-ifs.  What if the tents leaked?  They did.  What if the kids were cold?  They were.  What if they got frostbite?  They didn't.   Where we were the most horrible parents ever for taking our kids camping in Patagonia in the rain?  Probably.  What the hell were we thinking?  I have no idea.  And how the hell were we going to break down camp in the rain, that had turned to sleet and then snow.  I had no idea.  

Please note:  Snow on the left, extra tent on the right and two gas cans.  
When morning came, we were in recovery mode. We'd driven for miles and now we were only a mere 45 minute drive from Glacier National Park in El Calafate.  Except we couldn't get there.  Because of the unseasonable snow we'd need snow chains for the rest of the drive, which we didn't have.  And with no break in the weather forecasted and deadlines for camper rental return and airline tickets to contend with, there really wasn't much of a choice.  So, we started the long drive back to Chile feeling defeated.  Because, at this point, it all seemed like a long, expensive, whiny, cramped, cold, wet, junk food ridden, waste of precious vacation time.  

Unless they were really valuable life lessons: 

1.  Do your research and plan, but not so much that you're inflexible.

2.  Realize you can't do it all and you're going to screw some things up.  So what?

3.  Persevere when things get hard, but know when to change course.

4.  Take stock of what you do have and salvage what you can.  

5.  Laugh.  At the situation.  And definitely, at yourself.  
(Which is sometimes easier after a full out ugly cry, depending on the severity of the situation.) 

And above all, respect Patagonia*.

*Patagonias may vary depending on particular life circumstances

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Eve of Misadventure

We were on our connecting flight through Santiago, Chile when we flew over the Andes Mountains.  The longest mountain range in the world and the setting for the movie Alive, the true story of a rugby team who crashed somewhere in the great expanse below us where the survivors ate their dead to stay alive.  "I'd eat the forearm", Jade said.  "The thighs would be more tender and substantive", I suggested.  That was the precise moment I first considered that maybe we were dreadfully unprepared to camp our way through perilous Patagonia.  And it wasn't the last. 

After we landed in Puerto Arenas and had a lovely day trip via boat to see an island inhabited by penguins, it was time to pick up our camper.  "Camper" being a relative term, as it was relatively sparse on actual equipment and space for the six people it claimed to accommodate on the internet listing.   Perhaps they meant six Chilean people, who are notably smaller than Americans.

There was a road trip courtesy reminder posted inside.
No farting.

This of course is impossible rule not to break.
Especially when all you're eating is junk food, because the camper had no refrigeration. 

Which made food shopping to stock the camper at the local grocery store on Christmas Eve with everyone else in town while being forced to listen to Britney Spears singing Christmas songs on Unimart's piped in muzak even more fun.  But not as fun as  considering what we could make on a one burner propane stove cooking in the open trunk of a van.   And doing this while dodging shopping carts,  without knowing how to say "excuse me" in Spanish with an entourage of four kids who still fight about everything, including who gets to push the shopping cart. Suffice it to say, it was really, really stressful.

 I was so busy, I didn't have time to investigate this mystery meat. 

What the hell is it? 
It looks like a cross between a baby llama and a deer.

Later, we'd see a resemblance to these guanaca.  

That night we (and by "we" I mean my husband, Craig) drove through the wind of Patagonia which almost blew us into into coming traffic on the narrow, shoulderless two lane roads we travelled to rent our sleeping bags and an extra tent.   

Demonstration of the force of the wind.  
And the barren beauty of the land.  

On Christmas eve we had an appetiser of peanuts and a gourmet Styrofoam ramen noodle cup.  Which pairs excellent with a local Malbec by the way.  

We set up camp at 10pm.  Yes, this photo was taken at 10pm.  It's summer here and the sun sets at 11pm.  We hoped we'd wake up to a sunny, clear view of Cerro Paine Grande, the mountain in front of our camp site.  

Of course, that's not what happened...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ode to Wet Wipes

When you travel there is one thing above all the others that you must pack, tickets and passports aside.  And that is wet wipes.  Oh, maybe you could buy them wherever you're traveling.  But what if you can't.  Or you get the kind with the little peel top that never adheres back securely and they all dry out and become the consistency of a manila folder.  Which brings me to the second thing you must pack, Ziploc bags to put the wet wipes in to preserve their integrity, sterility and wetness.  Trust me on this.

Because when you do make it to Timbuktu you will use them...

1.  As toilet paper when you realize they don't have any.

2.  To "dry clean" your clothes when you don't have access to a washing machine for over a week.

3.  They also work as a dry shampoo when you're traveling for hours on end without a shower.

4.  And of course as a full on shower when you're camping in Chile and the shower doesn't actually have hot water.  Plus, you never found a place to buy any towels, so you have nothing to dry off with.

5.  Not to mention, hand sanitizer.  Because even though you've been wearing the same underwear for 3 days (maybe especially because of this)  clean hands are essential.  

6.  And as Febreeze for the inside of shoes because you haven't changed your socks for days.  (See #2)

7.  Dish soap when you're camping in Patagonia in the freezing rain that turns to sleet and then snow.  Because it's important to have clean dishes when you think you've frozen your kids to death in a tent in South America because you're the worst parent ever.

8.  Antiseptic for cuts.  I don't remember the exact incidents on this trip to Argentina and Chile, but I'm sure it was because one of my kids pulled a knife on another one of my kids.   Because they fought for the entire 2.5 weeks.  (I'M NOT EXAGERATING.)   I think at this point, we should try for a spot in the Guiness World Record book for the most countries kids have fought in.

9.  Surface cleaner.  (See #8)  Blood is messy and could jeopardize the deposit on the camper rental.  And by camper rental, I mean a beat up Scooby Doo van with a tent on the top that we squeezed into.   Where actual physical contact with the person sitting next to you was completely unavoidable.  (See #8 again.)

10. As bird toilet paper.  When the part of the trip with the rigors of camping in a harsh and unforgiving climate are over and you're walking in hot, humid Buenos Aires for hours with sweat dripping down your butt crack, surely one of you will get shit on by a pidgeon.  Because it all comes back to shit.  It always does.

ADDENDUM:  Getting enough fiber to shit while traveling is whole other blog post unto itself.  Maybe I'll write it some day.


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