Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the good, the bad and the ugly...part 3

And now for the ugly:

Before we left, we had extensive discussions with the kids about what to eat and not eat, what to drink and not drink, washing teeth with bottled water, about washing hands frequently and all. Mostly because of baby boy's peanut allergies and also because of the dreaded "tourista".

As I said, hubby was a little tense and strung out for the first little while. So we had him book himself a scuba diving excursion on the 3rd day and a golf game on the fourth. Gets up to go diving and tells me his stomach is feeling funny. Off he goes. When he returns a few hours later, I can tell he's not well. I figured it was the boat that made him seasick. He spends the rest of the day in bed. Next morning, he can't go golfing. He's been vomiting all night. He's got diarrhea and severe stomach cramps. We send him off to the hotel's doctor. They want to send him to the nearest hospital, but he settles for over $US200 of medications. He ends up spending the rest of his holidays in the room, lying down. He couldn't keep anything down. He had moments were he felt a bit better and would come out with us for a little walk or lie in the shade on the beach but that's it.

I felt so bad for him. The main reason I booked this holiday was for him. It was a lot more than we intended to spend on a summer holiday but I really felt he needed to really get away instead of just staying home. I had to argue with him to get him to agree to finally go. Plus the weather here had been so-so and wanted him to get some sunshine. And now this :(


So I basically spent the whole time with the kids on the beach and him in the room.

On the last day, we were slated to get picked up by the bus to bring us to the airport at 8:30 a.m. I packed everything on my own, dragged all the luggage to the lobby. Upon checking out, they tell us the plane is delayed by 5 hours!!! At that point, I think he's going to loose it. All he wants is to go back home. He decides to follow the doctor's advice and gets a taxi to drive him to the local hospital. Meanwhile, I go back to the room with the kids and we spend another day, albeit guiltily, on the beach. I keep abreast of how he's doing with the hotel's doctor who calls the hospital regularly for updates. Mid-afternoon, we get in a taxi (kids and luggage and all) and meet him at the hospital. He's been getting IV meds for the past 4 hours and is feeling much better. Good enough to travel anyways. Thank God that we have private insurance and thank God that I know enough Spanish to understand everything that's going on. They check him out and drive us to the airport in ambulance no less. Of course, the kids, who've been absolutely tremendous through this whole ordeal, think its pretty cool. Specifically when the driver puts the siren on to get us through traffic!

We get to the airport, only to find out the plane is delayed for another 2 hours...7 hours total. I find him a quiet spot and get him to lie down while I keep the kids busy. We finally fly back and make it into Montreal at midnight (instead of 5 pm) and make it home at 3 a.m. Upon waking up in the morning, he drives himself to the hospital where he spends the day getting tests. We are still awaiting results.

He lost 10 pounds, we spent all this money for him to get sick and spend his week off in a hotel room AND the weather was apparently great here while we were gone. Dammit. I doubt he'll ever want to go back there and will hold me responsible for this unfortunate turn of events. But for myself, and especially the kids, it was a great get-away. The kids did really have a blast and getting exposed to another culture was so enriching for them. They picked up quite a few Spanish words and bought the CD of the music they played there and listen to it constantly.

Every trip is an adventure.

This one a bit more so though.

Oh yeah, and aunt Flo had to make its nasty appearance right in the middle of the week. Oie vey!

the good, the bad and the ugly...part 2

today: the bad...

So our annual summer vacation brought us first to Montreal for a few days where we usually stay at the in-laws. Its a smaller home with not all that much for the kids to do. Thank god for a local park to let them burn some steam off. Except when it pours rain... all day. Then there's not much to do and they can get all fidgety and rambunctious. So we had to come up with outings to get them out of the house.

We had promised them we'd go to La Ronde. We woke up that first day to major clouds and a forecast of heavy rains for the afternoon. Darn. We decided to go anyways. We arrived right at 10:30 when the doors opened. Because of the ugly weather, not many people showed up so there were absolutely no lineups. We got to go on so many rides! First it was drizzling but by the end it was cold and POURING. By the time we went back home we were all soaking wet and freezing. The next day, the torrential rains continued. So we all went to to this exhibit. Again, because of the rain, loads of people decided to go to this indoor activity. So we had close to a 3 hour wait to get in. We had lunch, checked out the other attractions at the Science Center. The exhibit, as controversial as it is, proved to be totally fascinating.

Our flight was leaving from Montreal at 7 am. We had to get up at 3 am to make it to the airport at 4 am. Made for a long day of traveling and some pretty tired people. When we arrived, the heat and humidity hit you like a ton of bricks which didn't help with the grumpiness. As soon as you arrive, the quest for your almighty American dollars starts. They take a picture of you (which they will sell for 8$US upon your return), if you go to the bathroom, there's a lady there expecting a tip. Some porter grabbed our bags before we had a chance to say no and had to tip him too. When we finally made it to the hotel, of course our room wasn't ready. Happens often and I was prepared, hence why I packed my bathing suit and the kids' in my carry-on. Big sis and hubby didn't. Well, we got changed, grabbed a lunch and went to the beach right away. They sat in the lobby moping.

I knew hubby was tired and needed to relax. But often when you're that tired, it takes a while to unwind. So for the first 3 days, he was tense and abrupt and complaining about this and that and made me secretly hope he wasn't around as he was ruining everyone's mood. I just ignored him, had fun with the kids and kept ordering "cervezas" for myself ;)

Big sis wanted to go on a banana boat ride: she didn't want to go alone and hubby was in a pissy mood, so I volunteered. It was nuts. She had a blast, I was petrified. During the last turn, her and I were ejected into the ocean which hit me hard on the left side of head. I ended up with a black eye. Looked like someone punched me so I got quite a few stares over the week. Its now at that yellow stage.

Big sis has been to a few horseback riding camps over the years. So I promised her we'd go to this excursion where you get to ride horses on the beach. We get the information, we pay up. We meet the person we've been talking to at the lobby and they get us on a bus which already has a few other people on it. Its an open back kind of bus and the driver is enclosed in a cab up front. They told us it was a 15 minute ride, which by Dominican time I was expecting to be 30 minutes. Next thing we know, the other people with us get dropped off at some other hotel and then its just big sis and I. This guy is going fast. We have no clue where he is going. We can't talk to him. He's on his cell phone in the enclosed cab, big sis and I can barely hear each other talk cause of the noise of the wind. We are driving through little villages filled with colorful little homes were the chickens roam free. We are traveling through pastures with goats and sheep and cows and huge mountains in the background. As beautiful as it is, I'm starting to get a bit worried. Especially when an hour later he turns onto this really bumpy dirt road in what seems like a godforsaken place. My adrenaline is surging, I'm getting ready to fight or flight. But after a few minutes, we see the ranch and all the horses. BIG sigh of relief. The people there are really friendly. They get us acclimatized to our horses (poor things big sis says, not as well fed as our horses back home) and we start riding with 3 other people. We go through a bit of a tropical forest and end up on the beach where the horses, ecstatic for sure to get here, start going really fast. I'm hanging on (last time I did this was well over 25 years ago) but am also taking in the sound of the horse's breathing, the feel and the smell of the salt water splashing on me, the turquoise ocean and the sun setting. Its absolutely beautiful. Afterwards, they take us through a local village. A great learning experience for big sis. She got to see how local families live in little homes, with outdoor showers and all. A real eye opener for her. The cutest little kids waving at us. She just wanted to go over and hug them all.

And the humidity, the humidity. Everything feels wet here. All the time. Books, money, bedsheets, everything always feels damp. And everything in the room has that faint musty/moldy smell to it. By the time we had to repack, some of our suitcases had a light coating of mold on them, ewwww. No wonder I've been washing for the pst 2 days just to get rid of taht smell which is on everything we brought.

Monday, July 30, 2007

the good, the bad and the ugly...part 1

home sweet home

we are back home

going away is great but nothing beats coming back to the comforts of home, especially my bed which is the only place I seem to be able to sleep properly and soundly

as I look back at the past 2 weeks, that Ennio Morricone song from that Clint Eastwood movie comes to mind (a song which I performed ages ago in front of a whole auditorium with other fellow music school students)

thank God there was more good than bad and more bad than ugly

today: the good...

no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no schedules for mom for the whole time away...now that was worth it!

First we spent a few days in Montreal One of those days was spent at La Ronde, an amusement park I hadn't gone to in 25 years! So many memories there of my childhood and rowdy teenage years ;). Was great to see my own kids enjoying themselves . There were rides for everyone and lots of laughter too!

We finally headed to the airport for our flight to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The kids were buzzing with excitement and me too. Nothing like going somewhere new to get me all tingled up!

The flight went great, kids got cool toys and we saw Blades of Glory, what a hoot! Upon our arrival, we were greeted by locals dressed in national outfits and a band playing local music. Talk about putting you in the mood. Right away we were surrounded with the flowing language of Spanish around us. A short ride in a mini bus saw us to our sumptuous hotel. We hadn't done an all-inclusive package holiday for a very long time and I was looking forward to it. Its great with kids cause whenever they're hungry or thirsty, there's something available for them.

The beach turned out to be absolutely beautiful: white sand going on forever, turquoise water, little waves, swaying palm trees, comfortable lounge chairs with cushions and towels, absolutely idyllic. There was a Kids Club where the kids went for an hour one day but they much preferred to stay with us. And there was so much to keep them busy: building sand castles, going in the super humongous pool complete with jacuzzi s, getting a drink at the swim up bar, Spanish lessons, pool aerobics, introduction to scuba diving, archery (where good old mom proved to be unbelievable), rock climbing wall, several games of indoor bowling, beach and pool volleyball, beach soccer, snorkelling, beach bocce ball competition (where yours truly won first prize...a bottle of rum!), pool tables, nightly shows, foosball, got the girls hair braided and big sis got a henna dolphin tattoo. We basically took advantage of everything available.

We added a few extras: bartering with the locals at shops right on the beach, hubby went scuba diving (one of his most favorite activities); big sis and I went on a banana boat ride (completely nuts) as well as an excursion to a nearby ranch where we got to go horseback riding on a beach at sunset...absolutely phenomenal!

I was in heaven. Lounging by the pool or the beach while the kids would entertain themselves and go get themselves drinks at the bar or food at the cafeteria. I actually got to read two whole books, usually unheard of on holidays. And it was so wonderful to hear a multitude of languages around us. The hotel was filled to capacity which surprised me. The vacationers were mostly Puerto Ricans, other Dominicans, Spanish speaking Floridians, Europeans from Spain and France and Italy and Germany and a very few Canadians and Americans. I really got to practice my Spanish which was awesome. Our French proved useful too as a lot of the workers there come from nearby Haiti. And baby boy was quite taken by the Europeans habit of going topless on the beach;)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a multitude of firsts

When kids are little, there are so many firsts to record: first time smiling, first time laughing, first time eating peaches, first time crawling, etc, etc. Those early firsts come in fast and furious. And then they tend to slow down but every once in a while, there's a few more.

That has been the case around here.

The minute hubby started his holidays, he declared: "that's it, the twins are going to learn to ride their bikes with two wheels only!" So off came the training wheels and on came the full face mask and elbow pads and knee pads and wrist protectors. And after quite a few sessions and a major case of sore backs, they finally got it!! It seemed so symbolic to me, letting go of that seat, seeing them pedal on their own. And the pride! Ah, the pride on their faces, priceless. We still have to work on getting them to take off on their own but they now know how to stop properly. The full face mask replaced by a bike helmet, but I think I'll keep the other paraphernalia on for a little while longer. If anything, for mom's peace of mind ;)

As for big sis, she just came back from her first week away at a canoe-camping camp. A big step for her, and a big step for her dad! I was willing to let her go a few years back but hubby refused. This year he finally agreed.

And what an awesome experience for her. A week with no TV, no computer, no watches, no indoor plumbing, no nagging mom;) They canoed for 3 hours a day, moving from island to island and setting up camp and hiking and rock climbing. She did bring her camera and couldn't wait to show us all the amazing photos she took. She had to eat whatever was given to her, even if she didn't like it cause that's all they had. They sang songs, they enjoyed the nature surrounding them, they developed friendships. Every day since she comes up with anecdotes of thing that happened at camp. It was a major boost for her self-esteem and she came back a much better person. More patient with her siblings, more helpful around the house, hope it keeps up!

The camp monitors gave her a glowing report, her bottom line being: "mature, reflective, thoughtful of others and with a lively spirit" Of course, she can't wait to go back next year and even set her goals on becoming a camp counselor when she's old enough!

Here's a few of her shots in no particular order:

Monday, July 02, 2007

the canada day week-end

Canada day week-end 22 years ago: hubby popped a ring and THE question at a camping trip near Lake Placid, in a tent while it was pouring rain outside ;)

Canada day week-end 21 years ago: our very own big fat Greek wedding followed by 2 weeks in Barbados. Last year we celebrated our 20th with a las Vegas trip. Did we do anything special to celebrate this year? Not really, we just felt like staying home with the kids. No cards, no presents and that's OK. I guess after so many years we are confident in our love towards each other.

Canada Day week-end 12 years ago: we baptized our first born and had a huge pool party/catered BBQ here at home to celebrate. It was a glorious day and all present vowed to return to our home every year thereafter for Canada Day. And amazingly, over the years, it has always happened plus or minus a few people.

Canada day week-end this year: a house full of people, relatives mostly, busy with picking strawberries (yes again), made more jam and a Canada day cake, decorated the house with balloons and flags and some body parts with little Canadian flag tattoos, lots of swimming, trampolining, street hockey, soccer games (the kids' and FIFA U20 on TV), board games, flying kites, eating, talking, drinking, doing dishes, eating again, watching the Snowbirds fly over the house(they do that every year, real cool)and finally some fireworks at Petrie island. The cool weather didn't put a damper on our mood and the occasional shower made for some gorgeous rainbows :))