Saturday, May 26, 2012

Not without my daughter(s)...

True story. Other than the odd sip of wine here and there, I have not drank in about three years. Not for any specific reason, other than when I drink, I want to smoke. Like, to the point if no one has a cigarette, I attempt to light anything in my reach and smoke it. Kitchen tables aren't safe when I'm in the mood to smoke. It's my worst vice. So in my attempts to give that habit up for good, I avoid drinking. This saves me from smoking like I'm training for the next Iron Lung competition.

But hey, clearly less drinking over the years hasn't made me any smarter. Recently, my sister and I took our Mom on a hot holiday to Spain. The last time I went to Spain, we almost drowned and lost our son to the Mediterranean Sea. Click here for that lovely episode. So this time, my goal was to relax, behave, act know, just be like a regular person who doesn't do stupid things. For the most part, it was absolutely idyllic....walks on the beach, lounging in the sun, trips to Morocco, excursions to wee villages up in the hills. And then? It's almost like I can't help myself. Enter completely moronic behaviour consisting of blissfully passing out in a tiny bathroom stall right in front of my Mom. Hey, if you haven't drank in over three years, why not pull the plug right in front of your Mother? I'm smart like NASA scientist sometimes. And then I got to spend the remainder of our trip trying to convince her that I'm not a raging alcoholic. Good times, proud, proud moments. I should note here that years ago, back in my glory days, I was no slouch at consuming alcoholic beverages. My husband called me the Vodka Queen; I could consume approximately one ounce per 10 pounds of body weight. So 13, 14, 15 drinks during the course of a night (the latter being at the height of my bloat during university days), was not out of the question.

To summarize, it went as follows...I've broken it down in point form, simply because it's the only humane way to tackle this:
  1. During one of our last nights in Spain, we decide to head out with some lovely friends for a fancy supper at a local steak house.
  2. Indulge in first vodka in three years at nearby pub whilst waiting for said steak house to open.
  3. Find out that said steak house does not open until 7:00 pm, so indulge in second vodka in three years, in under ten minutes.
  4. By this point, I have forgotten that most European countries do not measure their drinks in ounces, rather they free-pour vodka to within inches of the top of your glass, leaving you with the awkward task of drinking straight vodka to make room for the 7-UP.
  5. Once the third vodka arrives, I completely forget about the 7-UP.
  6. Walk over to the steak house, third vodka in hand, and enjoy a decadent meal, dessert and WINE. Over the course of the next two hours, commence completely disastrous downward spiral as my body attempts to sort out large injection of alcohol into bloodstream.
  7. Body didn't sort anything out very well.
  8. At some point, my liver failed to absorb the overflow of alcohol, thus affecting my brain's ability to effectively monitor my actions. Results vary from person to person, but the corresponding behavioural malfunctions tend to manifest themselves rather quickly, particularly when there are no chicken wings lying around to help soak up the excess alcohol. Some gain the (frightfully horrific) ability to tell the same joke over and over, oblivious to the fact that are the only person laughing. Others experience delusions of grandeur, becoming convinced they are God's gift to the opposite sex, while suppressing (or not) an overwhelming urge to strip off all their clothes. As the liver takes a knee and surrenders, the brain tries to save itself by sending a signal to the stomach to empty its contents. If this order fails, the colon may start to cramp, resulting in painful spasms in the lower abdominal area in at attempt to bring the body back to its senses.
  9. Of course, some brains and bodies respond more creatively than others. Mine responded with a primal instinct as old as time. Like a large wounded animal, I dragged myself off to a dark corner to die.
  10. Unfortunately the dark corner was actually the bathroom back at the pub - a little hole in the wall just big enough for a toilet and a sink. And apparently the carcass of a large mammal waiting to die. Truly, I was a magnificent piece of wasted art.
  11. Many bathroom lights in Europe are on a sensor, so after a few minutes, they shut off. They were on just long enough for me to get settled on the floor, then lights out.
  12. I woke to the sounds of someone screaming; apparently some poor lady had wandered in to use the bathroom. As she opened the door (I had lacked the required mental strength to lock it...) the light automatically popped back on, and there I was, sitting on the floor, leaning up against the wall, getting some much needed shut-eye. Needless to say, I scared the shit right out of her.
  13. Next thing I know, I'm being ushered out by my Mom and our friend, who kindly drove the both of us back to our house. He was going to go back to collect daughter #2, plus my Mom's mobility scooter.
  14. Did I mention I was wearing my Olympic sweater? It looks real enough that I was stopped on multiple occasions to sign autographs. My Mom actually told three guys that my sister and I were retired triathletes. We now stayed home to raise our children. We had to Google triathletes to make sure we knew what that meant in case we were pressed for more details. We didn't even know how to spell triathletes whilst attempting to Google it. At any rate, I'm thinking after the bathroom episode, word has spread throughout European countries not to be overly concerned about competing against Canadian athletes in the upcoming Summer Games. Because of me, athletes throughout the world have breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Here's what I found out the next day:
  1. Turns out, mobility scooter will not fit in the back of a car, even when folded.
  2. Rather than leave Mom's mobility scooter sitting at the bar, my sister decided to saddle up and beast it home.
  3. Our friends wrapped her with a large maroon scarf to keep her warm and off she went. Full speed. A loping house cat would be twice as fast.
  4. It's important to note here that at the time, my sister was officially blind in one eye. My Dad, along with three of my siblings, suffer from a degenerative disease of the cornea. When their eye has an attack, which it will do a few times a year, it starts to leak, resulting in a burning and throbbing sensation. The cornea starts to rip, and it feels like someone is stabbing a needle in your eye. The solution is to put a special form of contact in that acts as a cover for your eye while it heals. In the meantime, it's extremely painful, not to mention the eye is super-sensitive to any light. What to do? Wear big-ass sunglasses 24 hours a day. Even when it's completely dark outside. Even when, pardon me, especially when, you're driving a mobility scooter home at top speed through the streets of Spain at 2:00 in the morning. Did I mention a cat would lap you whilst going top-speed on said mobility scooter?
  5. I made my sister show me what she had been wearing on the way home, because when she was telling me this the next day, I thought it was the most hilarious thing I'd ever heard. This tends to be the case when you're still hammered. She looked like a modern-day version of Amelia Earhart...that, or a Basque (masked) terrorist, with her scarf wrapped firmly from midsection to cheekbone.
  6. She told me at one point, she had gotten lost and followed a vehicle into the dark corners of a parking lot. It likely wasn't so much that she got lost, rather she couldn't really see shit. She was like a lost baby deer mesmerized by the glow of headlights. Or in this case, tail lights. It didn't help that the battery was running low on the mobility scooter, so her headlights had gone out. When she approached the car from behind, and realized she had turned the wrong way, everyone seemed to momentarily panic. The car abruptly screeched to a halt beside another vehicle, at which point my sister assumed she had just blown the cover on some sort of late-night drug deal. She pulled a u-turn with the mobility scooter - as angrily as one can with a mobility scooter - to stir up a cloud of dust for cover, and started heading back off in the opposite direction. I tell you, this story just kept getting better and better. I told her they likely took one look at her in their rear view mirror and thought she was a diligent member of the neighbourhood Crime Stoppers division. That, or an insurgent from a local terrorist group. Or quite simply, someone who had gone completely bat-shit and was not to be tangled with. Really, who in their right mind would be ripping through dark alleys on a mobility scooter, pulling hoopers at 2:00 in the morning, wearing dark sunglasses, wrapped head to waist in a maroon scarf? A crazy person, that's who.
  7. By this point in the story, I was wailing with tears, I repeat WAILING. I was laughing so hard that I could hardly stand up. Just when I thought I couldn't take anymore, my sister leaned in and whispered, "It gets better. I think I crashed the mobility scooter. I'm really scared to go look at it." Be still my weakened bladder, for I couldn't take any more.
  8. Upon inspection of mobility scooter, we noticed that part of the floorboard on the one side was completely smashed off. As best of she could remember, she thought she flew off a curb after completely missing the pedestrian ramp to go onto the street. She vaguely remembered something that sounded like a glass being smashed on the pavement. In hindsight, she believed it was likely the sound of plastic floorboard being demolished. She felt the need to add: "I was going so fast. No doubt it got destroyed when I popped that curb. My God. I thought our days of immense stupidity were long behind us. Clearly we've still got some juice left in us." 
  9. At this point, my Mom inserted a comment into the conversation that went as follows: "You're the mother of small children. You shouldn't be drinking like that!" I asked her if she was referring to her youngest daughter, drinking and driving a mobility scooter, and that yes, I agreed that it was very naughty behaviour. She just glared at both of us, then added: "I'm 72 years old for heaven's sake. You two should be taking care of me." Fair point.
  10. I pointed out that it was likely the heavy wine sauce that was served with my steak that put me over the edge. That, or food poisoning. I told her I'd be looking into it and launching a complaint against the restaurant. I told her we were all just lucky to be alive. She gave me a look that did not convey unadulterated joy at my existence.
  11. I then told my Mom the great news. She now had appropriate material to pen a memoir, titled, "Not without my daughters", as essentially she had saved our lives. To which my sister then pointed out it should really be called, "Not without my one daughter", as she was left to drive home blind, pissed as a rat, on a mobility scooter. My Mom said had she known that daughter #2 wasn't getting a ride home with the scooter, she would have walked back herself to drive the both of them home. She would have shoved daughter #2 into front basket on scooter had it been required.
  12. All of these dazzling visuals were killing me. Unfortunately, I had to pull myself together rather quickly as we had booked a cab for that morning to give us a tour of the Spanish countryside. It took everything in my power to act normal that entire morning. The cab driver spent an inordinate amount of time pointing out monuments that bad been erected throughout the hills...when people experienced a religious sighting, they erected monuments to mark the spot. I told him that was really cool because I had also experienced a religious sighting the night before, for I believe I caught a glimpse of the other side, so I should likely head back to the bathroom stall to erect a monument. Upon hearing this, Mom glared, Sister fell apart, Jesus wept.
  13. We ended up paying approximately $200 in damages for the mobility scooter. That right there is money well spent. When asked what happened, we told the rental agency that we weren't entirely certain what had happened. (Which is the truth, really...let's not split hairs.) We said it could have been this or it could have been that - we mentioned that Mom had been hit by a car while driving the scooter, so it could have happened then. Incidentally, she did get hit by a car earlier in the week...tapped would be a more apt descriptor...but that's a whole other story and this is already getting long. As my sister was recounting the events of said car accident to the guy at the rental desk (while intentionally leaving out ALL details of the wreckage derby home from the bar), my Mom had to walk away. I pretended to be grossly absorbed with the foliage of a nearby plant. I couldn't contain myself. I had to hide my face. As my sister continued to describe the collision in delightful detail, I could hear him gasping, tsk tsking and saying he was so happy that our Mom was alright. He then asked if we happened to get the plate number of the car who hit Mom, and she said, "No, sadly not. We were far too distraught."
  14. Moral of the story? I can't think of one. But let me tell you this - the memories of our trip will keep me entertained well into my twilight years.
I'll leave you with some photos that capture some of the highlights of our trip. Enjoy. xo
In Gibraltar, waiting for ferry into Africa. Thanks to my awesome ROOTS jacket,
I was asked by other passengers what Olympic sport I was competing in...
that, or simply because I look like an athlete. Clearly.


So I showed them...
at least my Mom thought it was funny.


Landing in Morocco, ready to tour the city...

Canadian athletes are rarely seen without their Pringles...


When Mom told us that her and Dad had ridden a camel back
in 1980 when they came to Morocco, we decided we just had to do it!


Then I wasn't listening when he told me to hold on tight,
and damn near fell off the back of the camel.


Camel is smiling,  giving me the sly-eye as if to say:
"Hehe...finally getting rid of this loser."


Sister looking much more relaxed and athletic on camel.


This guy on the right asking me, "What sport is that? I've never heard of it."


They were apparently going to pipe a snake out of this Puma bag.
I didn't stick around long enough to find out. Jesus.
That's the stuff nightmares are made of...

Gateway from Africa to Spain, looking across the Strait of Gibraltar...


The streets of Morocco...


Mom and I about to dine on unidentified meat skewers...
that's sheer terror in my eyes.

There are just so many things wrong with this photo...
I wouldn't even know where to start.

Clearly, I'm even telling myself to stop dancing already...the clapping
and cheering got me all worked up like a whirling dervish.
That lady in green was egging me on like Satan. She was positive I was an Olympian.
Let me tell you, she could shake things I wouldn't even know how to start shaking.

Three little buddies walking through the streets of Morocco...


That's happiness to see me, right?


My Mom's had a few hip replacements, yet she could
do the stairs better than me. What am I saying...this is
me training for an upcoming triathlon. Always, always training.
Mom and I waiting for the magnificent display of Persian rugs...

We made it out of Morocco in one piece. Barely. I tell you, when you hit those
back streets and they see tourists, they are on you in an instant. My sister said that at one point,
she lost the group, got cornered in a back alley, and came out the proud owner
of three camel carvings. As I was mocking her on the way back to the bus,
this crowd of people approached me, and one man asked me to hold this mirror for him.
Just for a moment, he said. He then disappeared, I was left holding this mirror, and one
of his minions was harassing me for money for the mirror. It caused quite the stir. When my sister went
ahead with my Mom to get away from the crowd, she looked back at me and said I looked
like Jesus being followed by his group of Apostles. That's under the grand assumption
that Jesus would ever be caught dead carrying an art deco gold mirror.
The one passenger was laughing so hard about the mirror incident, that he took
a picture of me holding it, with his reflection in said mirror. I'm not entirely certain
if he was laughing at me, or with me. The former, I suspect.
There was a storm brewing on the ferry ride back to Spain. The boat was heaving,
as were many of the passengers. Mom had to hold onto the rail pretty tight for this photo!
I'll take a wild guess that the Altantic Ocean is riddled with partial dental plates and hair pieces.
Back to the scene of the'll notice the two blue pieces of plastic lying on the sidewalk.
So, yes, we were able to retrieve a vast majority of the missing pieces of the mobility scooter, but alas,
Elmer's Glue could not put Humpty back together again.
Showing me how she went flying off the curb...after this reenactment,
I had to sit down and take a break for a few hours. It was all too much.


Sister taking a photo of me on the beach. She missed the lower half of me,
plus most of the actual beach. But hey, she was blind.


Enjoying a laugh with Mom about all the events of the week.
She really is a great sport. Mercifully, her love for me is unconditional.

As is mine for her...even with the
odd attempt to push her over ledges.
Figuratively and literally.


How's that for a view every morning,
enjoying a coffee along the beach?


Mom and sister up in the village of Mijas,
overlooking the city of Fuengirola down below...


Down in Marbella, where the rich and famous come to play.
This is the Spanish city where the likes of
Sean Connery and Antonio Banderas have homes.
We just go to take pictures of their yachts and finger their Ferraris.


Morning after vodka food poisoning incident.
Looking for a place to get sick in the bushes...
Kidding. Ahem.


Two of my favourite people in the whole, wide world...


Statue near a little monastery high in the hills...erected due to religious sighting? Likely.


Reflecting on my own religious sighting from the night before...
that, and wondering how many more autographs I'd be asked to sign
prior to departure back to Canada. My wrist was starting to ache.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

First steps...

He took them. Ten months old.
Ready to take on the world...
he never doubted his abilities,
even when he faltered,
he knew he could do it.
Children are brave like that.
They trust their instincts.
They don't worry about what other people think.
They just get up and try again.
Try, try again.
With a joyful spirit.
The ego hasn't suffocated the heart.
May I always be that courageous.
May I never doubt my abilities.
May I always have faith in myself,
even when I falter.
Especially when I falter.
May every step I take be like my first.
And may my eyes be open to beauty...
to experience life with unabashed awe and wonder.
Thanks for reminding me,
you brave, beautiful soul.
I love you.

p.s. The first video is of James's very first steps. Please no comments on the abomination of a blue-striped shirt I'm always seems to happen that I'm dressed like a dirty bridge troll when the video camera comes out. Oh wait, this isn't (even partially) about me. Bummer. The second video clip was taken a few days later. Already bored with walking, James decided to take a shot at running. He looks like a cowboy who's been on a horse for about 37 years. At some point, Jack insisted on showing James "happiness". I had no idea what he meant, until he scooped him up and attempted to toss him in the air, which resulted in some form of awkward air-humping. With "happiness", I suppose. Enjoy. xo

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What I've learned from my Mom...

Pretty much every one of my qualities can be traced back to my parents. This, of course, includes my absolutely absurd behaviour at any given time, usually exhibited in very inappropriate circumstances. But sadly, this post isn't about my lunacy, rather hers. Let’s start by giving credit where it’s due, shall we? On Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think of what it means to be a mom, and everything I have to be thankful for when it comes to the lottery ticket I pulled in being blessed with the parents I’ve been given. With that praise of course, comes a rather dark side.

Exhibit A. Years ago, as I teetered on the precipice of adulthood, I drove out West to visit a friend of mine. I was already showing signs of maturing into an upstanding young adult, so I’m not sure why my mom was so worried about my road trip. (Yes, I have a daughter now. I get it.) But, without fail, as each one of her kids tested out their new wings of freedom, there were corresponding bouts of irrational behaviour. She made me promise to check in when I was about to stop for the first night. As I packed up the car, I was weak with excitement. It was my first major trip, all on my own. The thought of no adult supervision left me feeling light-headed and dizzy. I had so many butterflies in my stomach that I nearly spewed whilst leaning out the car window to wave good-bye. That would have gone over really well.

And so, after a long day of driving, I decided to call my mom from the road to alleviate her concerns. We chatted for about ten minutes before my cell phone battery went dead. I didn’t think anything of it because we were pretty much done our conversation anyway, and I was concentrating on finding the right exit to get a hotel room for the night. I checked into a cheap, little motor hotel, then marched up the service road to get a bite to eat and buy some trashy magazines. When I returned to my room about an hour later, there was a note taped to my door, asking that I report to the front desk immediately. Puzzled, I headed over to the front of the building and approached the woman sitting behind the desk in the office. She eyeballed me over her bifocals.

Me: Excuse me. There was a note taped to my door, room sixteen, that said to come here immediately.
Her: Yeah, that’s right. The local police department is trying to get a hold of you. It seems they need to speak to you right away.
Me: The police? Are you sure? What for?
Her: How would I know what for? It’s none of my business. I didn’t ask.

The way she was staring at me, she totally felt it was her business. I figured she had me pegged as a drug dealer or an illegal immigrant. I swear she was just shy of jumping over the desk to frisk me herself. Instead, she handed me a slip of paper with a phone number to call. As I headed back to my room, I started to shake, racking my brain for what I could have possibly done to warrant a police search. And then it hit me…something terrible must have happened to someone at home. I quickly dialled the number to the local police department, gave them my name, and told them one of their finest was apparently looking for me.

Constable: Oh, glad to hear from you. Are you alright, then?
Me: Of course I’m alright. Why are you looking for me? What happened?
Constable: By any chance, were you on the phone with your mom recently? In the last hour or so?
Me: Yeah, why? (heart pounding, dreading horrible news...)
Constable: Did you get cut off or something?
Me: By another car, you mean?
Constable: No. I mean was your conversation prematurely cut short?
Me: No. Well, wait, my cell phone battery died near the end of our conversation. Why?
Constable: That’s what I thought. (By this point, the poor dude was having a very hard time stifling his laughter.) Do me a favour and give your mom a quick call to let her know you’re OK. She thought that maybe your call had been disconnected because you’d been abducted or kidnapped or something, so she called us to track down your car.
Me: Please tell me you’re joking. Really, who is this?

Sadly, not a joke. I was beyond embarrassed. M.O.R.T.I.F.I.E.D. That my mom’s concern for me would extend to notifying the police that I went missing, from a phone call, was beyond comprehension. Not to mention, I couldn’t quite understand how she thought I could have been kidnapped from a moving vehicle – maybe she’d been watching too many Superman reruns. I called her immediately; she was so overjoyed to hear from me. I told her that I couldn’t believe she had embarrassed me like that. She just laughed and told me that I’d understand one day. She also mentioned she couldn’t believe how quickly the police department had responded - she asked me to find a phone number for a local florist so she could send them a bouquet of flowers to thank them. At this point, I distinctly recall telling her that placing an order for a floral arrangement would irreparably damage our relationship. I could already imagine the potential clip on the evening news, should the story be leaked:

Breaking story – some of the following footage may contain scenes that are graphic and disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised. Police are following up on a bizarre case involving a teenage girl – it’s believed that her umbilical cord is still attached to her mother. The hospital where she was delivered years ago, could not be reached for comment. Stay tuned as the sordid details continue to unfold. Apparently there's a connection to a local florist shop, which we will continue to investigate.

Flash forward to present day. Now that I’m a mother, I completely understand what drove her to call the police…sort of. (I’m certain the last piece of understanding will come when my daughter decides to take her first trip alone.)

This Mother’s Day, I want to say this:

Mom, thanks for calling the cops to find me when you thought I was in danger. It's kind of amazing to be on the receiving end of that kind of love. I hope you know that the world is a better place just by having you in it. You make being a Mom look easy - I now realize it’s the most challenging assignment one can ever accept. Raising eight kids? You must have had dreams of running far, far away…very, very often. But you didn’t. To the best of my knowledge, you didn't do drugs either. No, you did it all on your own - no hallucinogens or any other mind-altering substances to help. You stuck around and gave us all you had. Every day. You still do. I pray that I’ll always be that brave for those I love. 

Thanks Mom – you hold my heart. Always have. Always will. I love you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Heaven is totally for kid saw it, too.

Every April our family ventures down to Hilton Head, South Carolina, home to more alligators than you can shake a stick at. Being avid fans of the TV program Swamp People, our contingent is more than happy to visit this piece of paradise.

After grabbing our bags at the Savannah Airport, we rolled up to the rental car desk, only to find the attendant apologetically handing us the keys to a rather large white transport van. Apparently they were overbooked on minivan rentals. And when I say large, transport van, it could easily shuttle a herd of sight-seeing wildebeests. I mean when you opened the thing, there were three full benches crammed into it, much like church pews. THREE benches. You needed a mega-horn to get the attention of passengers seated in the back. The only thing missing was a cage of chickens strapped to the roof.

Side note: we did go to exchange it the next day. For something smaller than a space shuttle. Upon arrival at the rental desk, my husband was handed our iPad. "Sorry, I had a look at your photos and totally recognized your kids. I think this is yours." Nothing like leaving your most expensive thing, other than your children, lying on the floor at the airport.

Here is (the rather unfortunate-looking) photo on our iPad screen-saver:

Yup. Those faces would be hard to miss. Thank you to the kind, honest people for returning it to us!

At any rate, we made it to Uncle Angus's house in one piece...Hilton Head, South Carolina is about an hour's drive from Savannah, Georgia. We peeled into his gated community and screeched onto his driveway on two wheels. At first glance at this unmarked white van in his driveway, Uncle Angus waved amiably at curious neighbours, who presumed we were members of a local drug cartel. They stood gawking whilst waiting for the doors to burst open, most certain that poor Uncle Angus would be taken out at the kneecaps and dragged into the van. When this didn't happen, and out instead popped three disgruntled children and four screaming adults, they u-turned their golf carts and lumbered back on towards the ninth hole. Incidentally, Uncle Angus did spend a good portion of the first hour pretending not to know us. To his credit, he wasn't expecting Dora, Diego and their possé of illegal Mexican immigrants for another hour.

As always, it was an extremely enjoyable week. There were cuddles, alligator hunts, and oh, the near drowning experience. Now for those of you who missed it, when James was only four months old, we nearly lost him to the forces of the Mediterranean Sea. (Read awful, sordid details here.) This time, it was our five year old. We're not incompetent parents. I swear. (A lot.)

We were all enjoying the warm afternoon - splashing in the pool, lounging on beach chairs, running after kids, changing soggy diapers, hiding any "floaters", praying that some other kid was misbehaving worse than ours - you know, the usual. Isla and Jack both had on these flotation devices with wings, (approved by the U.S. Coast Guards, I'll have you know...) hence securely bobbing the surface like empty Javex bottles. Roddy was playing with James, I was with Isla, and I thought Jack was still floating around the shallow end. Unbeknownst to me, Jack had convinced Roddy to let him take off his flotation device in exchange for one of those flutter boards.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw Uncle Tim barrelling to the side of the pool like an Olympic sprinter. He flew in, executing a near-perfect shallow dive/cannonball combo, right next to the no-diving sign. I remember giggling and thinking, "Oh, that Tim! Anything to make the kids laugh. He's such a good sport." Next thing I know, he comes flying to the surface with Jack under his arms, half-drowned, forlorn-looking as a motherless baby seal.

I was beside myself. I quickly wrapped Jack in a towel as he whimpered and sputtered and mewled. I told him I was so sorry that I hadn't been watching close enough, and that I was eternally grateful that Uncle Tim saw him and saved him before he drowned. At this point, Jack pulled his head up from my chest, turned to me and stated, "I did drown, Mommy. Three times before anyone got me." Then he lay his head back down on my chest and starting crying again. Ouch.

Later that night, Jack and I took a long, hot bath together. I kept staring at him, drinking him in, counting my blessings that he was alright. At some point during our bath, Jack turned to me and asked:

Jack: Mommy, what colour are spirits?
Me: (jolting upright, trying very hard to hide my excitement...) Why, did you see one? When you were drowning?
Jack: No. There were spirits on Transformers.
Me: Transformers? (WTF?) Don't you mean you saw them when you were drowning? (Cue feeble desperation on my part, as I could already taste my critically-acclaimed bestseller, a follow-up to that other kid's book, Heaven is for Real.)
Jack: No, Mom! It was on Transformers.
Me: Oh. Well, I guess spirits can be all sorts of colours.
Jack: Oh. Hey, guess what I was thinking when I was drowning?
Me: Oh my God! I knew it. (fumbling for pen...rather hard whilst in tub...) You saw heaven, didn't you? What did they say? I mean, sorry, what were you thinking?
Jack: I was thinking I shouldn't have let go of that board Daddy gave me. Then I wouldn't have drowned three times.
Me: Oh. That's true, Jack. Please don't ever take those water wings off again without being right beside Mommy or Daddy the whole time, OK? I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you.
Jack: OK. Hey, Mom. Did you go to heaven?
Me: No, sadly not. One day though, Jack. One day we're all going back to heaven and we'll meet up there. It's going to be so cool.
Jack: Can we do whatever we want in heaven?
Me: Absolutely! What do you want to do?
Jack: Hmmm...I think I want to punch people in the face.
Me: You can't punch people in the face in heaven. My God. Why would you want to do that? (As I performed a rather hasty, "Satan be gone" exorcism behind his head.)
Jack: You just said I could do whatever I want. Punching people in the face would be so much fun!
Me: Fair enough. Punch away. (Mental note: book therapy session(s).)

To recap, the title of my next bestseller will be a toss between the following:
  1. Heaven is totally for real. My kid saw it, too. (My choice.)
  2. My parents are incompetent assholes. (Jack's choice.)
  3. In heaven, you can punch people in the face. (This title screams best-seller.)
I'll leave you with some photos that capture the highlights of our trip. Travelling, party of five. No entertainment required. We make up our own. xo

Jimmy Bean loving his window seat...

"This is super cool, Daddy..."
Please note I have no idea how to work Hipstamatic or Instagram,
hence the different photo lens. Jack totally hogs the iPad. In the off-chance
I do get to hold it, I'm completely flummoxed.

My little David Beckham. You can see Peanut in the far-left corner,
completely pissed as she discovers her cheap Dora backpack does not have wheels.

How we roll in airports. Wide berth, stroller packed with toys,
iPad convention being held in back row seats.

First alligator sighting...this beast had us fumbling for our treble-hooks.
OK, that'll be my last Swamp People reference. For this photo, anyway.

Peanut and her cousin Mara, holding hands
as they watch the alligator on the far bank.


Someone's sure proud to be pushing his baby brother.

Taking the dogs out for a walk with Auntie Betty.


I sure love it here!


Even when he's horsing around, James always keeps an eye
out to make sure Mommy's around to save him if need be. That's my boy!


Grandpa, Daddy, Jack and Isla...


Jack and Grandpa doing Lord knows what...


Hands held high, ready to race down the hill!


Daddy preparing Jack for the "speed roll" down the hill...


Peanut informed me she wanted to run like "Spirit".
Did she see heaven, I asked, breathless with excitement?
She just stared at me. Hard. Like I'd dropped from planet Jupiter.
Jack then told me that she was running like Spirit, the horse, from that movie. Whatever.


A little glimpse of paradise...


Thank you to Uncle Angus and Auntie Betty for moving here. What a place!


This photo is odd for a few reasons. I was told by Jack to "crouch like
a soldier on a mission to hunt alligators..." as he captured this photo. I'm not
sure why my shirt seems to be hanging down in front like a butcher's cape,
nor can I understand why my thighs appear toned and muscular. Odd. But I'll take it.

Jack and brave little soldier.

Jimmy Bean hanging out with Uncle Angus.
That there grin is pure love, baby...


Jack making his way down to the ocean...


James's first brush with the shores of the mighty Atlantic! He loved it.

Isla and her Daddy...

Be still my beating heart. Why is it that
I suddenly got a glimpse of her as a long-legged teenager?


Jack having a blast in the waves!
Heading out "shark hunting"...
I think it's time we introduce him to the movie JAWS.
Too soon?

James fooling around on the deck as I lounged nearby on a beach chair.
He was pushing that stroller back and forth, apparently a little too close to the shrubs for some.
At one point, some dude from the towel cabana (which you can see in the upper left-hand side),
shouted out, "HEY! WHO'S WATCHING THAT BABY!!!"
Lord, is that a white pebble in his mouth? My poor little orphan.
Jack catching a photo of Auntie Fiona, Lila, Daddy and Peanut.


Yowzers. Here's a family photo for the books. Jack staring at the parrots,
James starting at Jack, Daddy looking at Isla, Isla glaring at Mommy. I can already
hear my Mom, "For heaven's sake. Cut that poor girl some bangs!"
Need I remind her what happened last time. See next photo for butcher job by Auntie
when Isla was only 11-months old. It looks like she was being prepped for brain surgery.

This ordeal deserves it's own blog post. Stay tuned...

Me and my Jimmy...I cut the one-eyed Captain out of the photo.
My husband has a hard time with digital flashes, not to mention sunlight.


James is fascinated by this contraption...
Uncle Tim and Jack, patiently waiting for the big bite...


Yippee!!! Daddy and Jack caught a fish! It scared the crap out of Isla,
who ran screaming, dragged James out of the stroller, and strapped herself in.
Apparently the fish was "gonna bite her."

James getting punted from the stroller...

A little too close to the edge...
I think I may need to get her legs checked out...

Waiting for the pirate boat to dock. And yes. I was asked by
several people what sport I was representing for the Olympics.
Had a hard time responding through my mouthful of Doritos.


We had just seen a grotesque water moccasin snake, hence
our squealing like school girls when Daddy told us
to sit on the grass for a photo.


Peanut and Mommy sharing a moment...

Jack taking some shots of Mommy and Jimmy...


Did I mention I'm an Olympian? As I stumble to put
out my cigarette...kidding people. Ahem.


Someone was 100% certain that Mommy was her horsey for the day...


When Mommy dropped (to do 50 push-ups) at the side of the road,
Daddy took over the duties.

This was Isla's face when I informed her it was Jack's turn
to go on Daddy's shoulders.
That's not happiness to see me, is it?


This photo taken moments after Isla is peeled from Daddy's shoulders...
she is screaming like she's being disemboweled by an alligator.
Ironically, it made for a cute photo. From the back.
Seriously. She's mid-scream here...
just taking in air for the next mouth-to-the-sky howl.
It makes me laugh that the picture looks so serene.
Auntie Fiona, Isla, Lila and Grandma having a girl chat...
Uncle Tim and Jack up close and personal with a butterfly...
oh, and that pretty little no diving sign.


Master James wasn't too sure of the water at first...


He continued to give evil glares to no one in particular...


Jack making fun of Uncle Tim playing his game on the iPad...
that, and pure relief that he survived drowning. Three times.

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