Friday, July 31, 2009

Strange and Beautiful

One of the more unusual sights we saw on Prince Edward Island was Les Maisons des Bouteilles
(The Bottle Houses) . I had read about these oddities online before we travelled, and I was really looking forward to seeing them in person.

They did not disappoint and were every bit as weird, charming, and beautiful as I expected. They are... and you may have already figured this one out on your own... houses made out of bottles.

Here are Bear and Bug at the entrance to the parking lot. Because who doesn't need a picture of themselves by a bottle made out of bottles, right?
Initially I was thinking that whoever built these had to have been a total wack-job to think up something as crazy as building houses out of bottles. I changed my position on that, though, because I've thought up some crazy shit in my life. It's thinking it up and then actually doing it and devoting your life to maintaining it as a tourist attraction that is the fine distinction between "creative thought process" and "certified loon." Or between "time-wasting daydreamer" and "artistic genius." It's all how you look at it.

Because no matter how nutso of an idea building houses out of glass bottles held together by mortar is, there's no denying that the finished product is charming.
Breakable, but charming. They've already had to rebuild the houses once back in the nineties due to weather damage. PEI winter storms apparently being hell on buildings made out of glass. Imagine.Inside the houses, the light is amazing. Filtered through the lens of thousands of different bottles of every color, the sunlight glimmers and sparkles. Bear and Bug immediately wanted a playhouse made out of bottles. Tom was selfishly unwilling to undertake construction of one despite my pointing out that such a project would require us to drink a lot of wine and beer. Just to get the more interesting shapes and colors of bottles, you understand. For the children.
The rest of the grounds were equally quirky. Out the back door of one of the bottle houses, Bug discovered a garden with a lighthouse as centerpiece. She immediately went to find out if she could climb up into it (no).A fish pond with an arched walking bridge, herb gardens, and lush perennial beds that bordered every path completed the fairytale ambiance. The delphiniums were the most gorgeous shade of pale periwinkle I'd ever seen.

Footnote: Tom wanted to take a cell-phone picture of one of the houses and send it to our contractor with the following message: Andy, we've decided to go a different direction with the addition! Please see attached photo for details.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Jig Is Up

Scene: The girls and I are eating breakfast at a neighborhood diner, when the conversation turns rather randomly to Christmas. Random because it's July. And the hottest day of the summer.

Bear (age 12): I think I'm going to ask for an iPod Touch for Christmas. (pointedly) I REALLY WANT a laptop, but I know I won't get one.

Me (even more pointedly): You think that has anything to do with us already having four computers?

Bear: (heaves sigh at the blatant unfairness that is her life)

Me: What about you, Bug? Have you already started thinking about Christmas?

Bug (age 9): Not much. I like the chromatic iPods, though. They come in pink. Will you get me one?

Me: No.

Bug: I guess I can ask Santa for one, though.

Me: Sure.

Bug (watching me closely): Some of my friends think there's not a Santa, but I know you guys would NEVER buy us some of that stuff.

Me: Mmm. Where do your friends think the presents come from?

Bug: Their parents.

Me: And what do you think?

Bug (hesitates): I think that it's Santa?

Me: Hmm. You sound like you're not sure. Do you ever wonder?

Bug (narrows eyes): Why?

Me: I'm just saying that if you ever wonder about something like that, you can always ask us.

Bug (eyes glued to my face): You mean if I wonder if it's you and Dad?

Me (striving for blank face and noncommittal tone, while Bear grins behind a napkin across the booth): Yeah, stuff like that.

Bug: And you'd tell me?

Me: If you really want to know.

Bug (thinks for a second): I really want to know. Is it you and Dad?

Me: You're sure you want to know?

Bug: Yes. Tell me. Is it?

Me (nods head quietly):

Bug (jaw drops): REALLY?

Me: Yes. Do you feel disappointed?

Bug (considers): No. (shakes head, obviously moving on quickly) When do you get the stuff? Where do you hide it?

Me (eyes narrowed): Out of state.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm Getting Worried. And Hiding the Credit Cards.

As Bear creeps ever closer to teenagerhood (teendom? teenageing?), I notice indisputable clues that her interests are shifting. The child who, four years ago, would have unquestioningly worn a Hefty bag had I laid it out on her bed for school, now gets up a half hour early in order to have time to try on a variety of outfits. Accessories are carefully matched, and checked in a variety of lights for effectiveness. Hair is "done", as opposed to her old method of brushing the front only. "Out of sight, out of mind" suited her fine as a hairstyle motto, and I spent most of her elementary school years positioned by the front door with a hairbrush before she headed out the front door with shiny, tidy bangs and a tangled rat's nest in the back.

Now she's asking for her own blow drier and flatiron, and openly coveting the bottles of product on my dresser. (I tend to be a bit of a compulsive shopper at the salon. How, I ask you, does one resist the pretty little bottles that promise to end all of your hair issues in one fell swoop? Well, if you're does not).
My first clue that times, they were a-changin' came last year, when Bear actually seemed to enjoy school clothes shopping, instead of moaning delicately each time I told her to try on an armful of clothes. She actually had opinions about what she wanted, and put together some outfit combinations on her own. This was HUGE for a child whose previous three years were spent wearing: a t-shirt, hoodie, and jeans every single day, varying only the colors of t-shirt and hoodie each day. I began to anticipate leisurely mother-daughter shopping trips and conversations about clothing trends in our future.

Until...well, several things happened that raised red flags.

FLAG #1: she spent $12 of her saved allowance to buy a variety of preteen magazines. I watched her read them carefully, then turn back to the beginning and flip slowly through the pages, dog-earing several as she went.

"Whatcha doin'?" I asked curiously.

"Marking the new fall fashions that I like," she answered seriously.

Oh. Okaaay.
FLAG #2: ever since the arrival of a check from her grandparents to help out with the cost of school clothes, the kid has been hounding me to set a date when we can drive down to The Maine Mall. Unsatisfied with my answer of "Uh, sometime in August," she has taken to throwing random dates at me, "The first? The second? The third? What about the seventh?"

FLAG #3: Her allowance is being spent on accessories and clothes instead of Bratz and Webkinz.

FLAG #4: (the most alarming flag of all), she suddenly knows brand names. Expensive ones. Crap. I predict conversations wherein I have to explain why buying $150 shoes for someone whose feet are still growing is against my religion.

You know how you're mystified by your parents' parenting decisions when you're a kid? Like, where the hell did this policy change come from? And then you have kids, and you're all ohhhhh, now I get it. When I was fifteen, my parents, seemingly out of the blue, changed my allowance structure to include a "clothing allowance." They continued to buy me things like underwear, socks, pajamas, and shoes for me, but everything else was up to me. Initially, $25 twice a month seemed like RICHES. Until I got to the store and saw that, yeah, those Guess? jeans are $75. Six weeks of allowance. Suddenly Levi's didn't seem quite as revolting as they had when I was shopping with my mom.

There may be a similar arrangement in Bear's future, if she continues down the path of the clotheshorse...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some of Us Take Our Children's Literature Very Seriously

While we were on Prince Edward Island, with its proliferation of all things "Anne of Green Gables", my husband thought it would be hilarious to skip prissily through a meadow burbling about bosom friends, then trip in a magnificent pratfall over a low chain fence. Oh, while our youngest daughter filmed him.

I thought it would be hilarious to take a still picture and then post it on the internet.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ...

Tom of Green Gables!
Now we'll see if he pokes fun at any other of my favorite pieces of childhood literature.

Game ON.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our Prince Edward Island Trip: The Numbers

Length of the Confederation Bridge (which you drive across to reach the island).......8 miles
Here's another shot of it. It is pretty disconcerting to start out over a bridge when you can't even see land on the other side. Bear was pretty nervous about crossing an eight-mile-long bridge, and had been referring to it as "The Bridge of Death and Doom." I helpfully offered to let her out on the middle of it if she didn't like it, but she declined.
Number of hours we drove around exlaiming over how CHEAP gas was on the island (98 cents a gallon!) before we realized we were in CANADA where they have the freaking METRIC system, therefore making gas 98 cents a LITER and not cheap at all ... two.
Number of Nights in Which I Let the Kids "Choose your own bedtime because it's vacation!!"... one. What in hell was I thinking?
Amount of Time My Children Were Able to Share a Bed Before Being Split Up....30 minutes, 23 of which were a gradual crescendo into The Battle of Cover-Tugging (with illegal toenail action).
Sandcastles built... two.
Books Read on PEI (family total) ... thirteen and a half.
Number of Anne of Green Gables Sites We Dragged Tom to Before He Began Making Fun of Her ... technically zero, since he developed his meadow-skipping, "bosom-friend"-burbling "Tom of Green Gables" character before we got to any of the Anne sites. MEN.
Sea Glass and Seashells Collected... hundreds.
Hours of TV Watched ... zero.
Hours Spent Online ... zero (mostly owing to lack of wifi, I confess).
Number of Photographs Taken .. I can't count that high, OK? Shut up.

Amount of Peace and Relaxation Achieved ... countless
More coming as I continue photo-editing...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Red Sands of Prince Edward Island...

We're back!
PEI was lovely. Tranquil and pretty, like stepping into the past. I'll tell you all about it, right after I conquer the Mound o'Laundry we brought back with us.

That red sand? All over everything we brought back.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Faces of Tubing, version Bug

...Co-Starring Friend of Bear...
1. Apprehension:

2. Polite Endurance:
3. Arrg! Spray Face! Spray Face!:4. The Dawning of Enjoyment: 5. Excitement? Fear? Pleasure? Terror?6. Wild Yawping of Elation:7. Transported by Joy:
Alternate for this post: Damn it, I Told You You'd Have Fun.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Many Faces of Tubing, version Bear

...Co-Starring Bear's Friend...
#1. Anticipation:

#2. Excitement:

#3. Glee:

#4. Adrenaline Rush (with a side of Hysterical Screaming):
#5. Mild Consternation
#6. Breathless:
#7. The Hanging-On Like Grim Death:
#8. Happy Exhaustion

Repeat as necessary until child is tired to the point of going to bed an hour early. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bug on Bugs

Bug is, unfortunately, a mosquito magnet just like her mother. Place the two of us in a crowd of twenty people, and the mosquitoes will bypass every other person in order to suck our blood, which is, apparently, the Dom Perignon of blood. Or, at the very least, a better grade of crack.

However, despite being chewed relentlessly by the buzzy little bloodsuckers, Bug refuses to kill them.

"AAAAAARRRG!! Moooooommm!!! It's biting me!!!" she'll shriek, staring with horror at the insect blissfully sucking away on her arm.

"Then KILL it," I tell her, not inclined to cross the yard to swat a damn mosquito.

"AAAARG!" she replies, waving her arms like a crazy person.

Now not wanting to kill crunchy insects? I get that. I lived in Tucson, where we would occasionally get cockroaches or Palo Verde beetles the size of small cars in the house. And I would empty a whole can of Raid on one of those before I would smash it and hear the sickening crunch of its exoskeleton.

Ladybugs and cute little spiders that wander into our house? I happily transport them to the front door and set them free.

But mosquitoes? Blood-sucking and crunch-free? SMASH.

So it was illuminating, the other evening, when Bug finally shared the reason for her reluctance in bug-killing. She was curled into a chair next to me, wrapped in her fuzzy pink robe and reading "Calvin and Hobbes", when she suddenly said,

"Mom? You know how I won't kill bugs? Here's how I think about it. I think about some giant squeezing all the inside parts out of a person. And I think how that's what I would be doing to that bug. And that would be a horrible way to die, don't you think?"

I had to agree. It would be a horrible way to die.

But it's not going to stop me from killing mosquitoes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Out to Camp

It was NOT an auspicious lake day. The sky was the same moody, cloudy expanse that we've been confronted with for a month now. The lake, instead of a sparkling, inviting blue, had the dull gray gleam of pewter. The trees and hills on the opposite shore were green and blue smudges in the mist. But! It was NOT raining. And at this point, we're taking what we can get.

One of Bear's friends hosts a grand sleepover at her family's camp every summer. (In Maine, a lake cottage is called a camp. It took me my whole first summer to figure that out. I just thought I was meeting a lot of weird people who went to summer camp with their kids). Her friend's brave, brave mother not only has a passel of girls spend the night but also invites their families to come spend the next day at the lake. She is what you might call a saint.

Hey, how many preteen girls does it take to paddle a canoe? Three. Two to paddle, and one to beat off the pesky boys with a swim noodle. Naturally.

The first summer Bear went, she was seven. She was so timid that, even wearing a life jacket, she was barely willing to dog-paddle out to the float. Once there, she sat terrified on the float while her friends leapt willy-nilly into the lake. Now she's an old hand, and I watched her swimming to and fro, leaping not only off the float, but the dock, and, at one particularly random point, out of a canoe. Which didn't seem to serve any purpose that I could see. But, hey. Not judging.I helped Bug into her life jacket, but she stayed uncertainly in the shallows.. Despite swimming confidently in pools, she wasn't too sure about swimming out to the float with the other kids. (I'm thinking we've been watching a few too many "Monsters of the Deep" documentaries on the Discovery Channel).When her sister sailed happily by doing THIS,
I saw pure envy in Bug's eyes and asked her if she wanted to try a kayak.
five seconds...

"Maybe...well, no."

two seconds...

"OK, I guess I'll try it. Except I don't know how to paddle,"

one second...


I dragged a kayak into the shallows and helped her climb on it. Positioning the paddle in front of her, I showed her how to move it and what to do to turn. She easily demonstrated both skills, then said, "I don't know..." and started to waver. At which point I grabbed the back of the kayak and shoved. I mean, yes, there's a point where you need to hold your kid's hand and let them take their time, but there's also a point where you teach them what they need to know and then push them out onto the lake.

She LOVED it. At first I would only let her paddle halfway to the float and back until she was comfortable maneuvering the kayak. Soon she was able to go out and around the float. By the time we left that afternoon, she was confidently paddling three camps down the lake and back and begging to go farther.
We also went tubing that afternoon, but since I a few photos that day, I haven't had time to photo-edit them all. Tubing will be another day's post. (Fine, 1011. I took 1011 photos. And that's my brother's fault because he bought me the super-big capacity memory card. I don't have a problem or anything. Really).

Friday, July 3, 2009

See Bug Read

Scene: Last night. Nine-year-old Bug is reading on the living room couch, while Tom and I sat chatting at the dinner table.

Bug: Hey, Dad, what does "litigate" mean?

Tom: To take legal action against someone.

Bug: Ohhhh. What about "paleolithic"?

Tom: Um, like, prehistoric.

Bug (chuckles): OK. Heh. That's funny.

(ten seconds later)

Bug: What about "indigenous"?

Tom: WHAT are you reading?

Bug: The Far Side. It's this really funny comic book I found downstairs.
Funny, and apparently, educational!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weather Detente


Today? Drizzly. Pfffffft.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


We have had rain for 27 out of the last 30 days here. This has had a four-pronged effect:

1. The girls are heartily sick of craft projects, TV, Wii, and board games.

2. I am unable to remember what the sun looks like. And the sky? Didn't it used to be blue?

3. My garden, though slug-infested to the extreme, is growing extravagantly. I can only assume the weeds are doing the same, but my diligence in gardening ends at weeding in the rain.

3. My van is really, really clean.