Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer in Wisconsin

I really thought I had posted a message since we arrived- I guess I dreamed it? Weird. In that message I said that we had a good flight and were given seats together as we checked in at the gate. The plane left an hour and half late but we were off the plane and out of customs a half hour before my ride arrived at the airport (but then, in my 17 years of flying home I've learned to appreciate the baggage claim coffee bar...) Jetlag was once again a non-issue for Ella, which i never stop being grateful for. While waiting at immigration, I saw a woman who reminded me how lucky I am to have Ella who is an excellent traveller and also, how wise I am to have mastered the basics of international travel. This poor woman had 2 kids, one of whom was in a full scale meltdown and rolling around on the floor, but she was blinded by dry contacts and buried under a mountain of carry-on luggage. Clearly, she was not savvy to the Number One Rule of Travel:

1. Never travel with more luggage than you can carry yourself.

And that means counting children when the case warrants. Seriously, who in their right mind would travel with 4 small open tote bags, ie luggage that is impossible to set down without spilling out all over the floor? Here is some unsollicited advice- if you are travelling with children, a backpack is your friend. With any luck, you have a device to strap your non-walking child to your front. Your gear is all on your back. Then you have two free hands and the ability to manage two large wheely bags (checked prior to departure to verify that all wheels are fully functional). Voila- disaster averted, even if you have a screaming child and no luggage carts. Or you are suddenly required during a transfer to check your luggage in a distant terminal accessible only by slow moving walkway (true story). Sure, you can tell yourself that surely some kindly stranger will come along to help but in my experience a nervous breakdown normally finds you first. I will repack my bags three, four times to get to a point where I have reduced my luggage to a manageable amount. If its one thing that parenthood has taught me, its survival techniques. Only the fast and the strong survive.

So, it seemed like as soon as we arrived we were thrown into the thick of things, with all the 4th of July festivities. We got to enjoy my absolute fav bit of Americana- the Winter, WI 4th of July parade. Its the high school marching band, in their ridiculously hot woolen uniforms playing 'Play that Funky Music White Boy'; its the Little League team showing off their league champions trophy; its the Festival Queen in a neon pink polyester dress sitting on a hay wagon doing that silly pageant wave, its little kids dashing into the street to pick up candy thrown from the fire truck and nearly dying of fright when the Chief turns on the horns. I love every bit of it. And, of course, its twice as nice to bump into people I know and didn't expect to see- because its a small town so of course you see a million people you know. I love that I sit down, expecting to eat my sauerkraut covered brat alone at a picnic table, and end up sharing a plate of cheese curds with three of my aunts (and some strange, quiet man that plunked himself down right in the middle of us and we all thought was related to someone else). I love that the band playing Oldies Rock music all afternoon is a bunch of middle-schoolers, one of whom is a Chinese girl who is definitely shorter than her bass guitar is long.

Sadly, after a dinner of taco salade for about three times as many people as there were chairs in the house (another thing that I get weirdly sentimental about), I only managed to stay awake for the little fireworks at the house. The whole extended family, loaded down with bug spray and wool blankets, piled into cars to go see the town fireworks and 'oooh' and 'ahhh' while laying on the baseball field. I volunteered to stay home with the babies who were already asleep. When our neighbors decided to start setting off some major fireworks at 10:30, I jumped out of bed to close the window but, in my haste, failed to notice that there was a painting balanced on the top of the window, holding down a blanket to make it extra dark in the room. The picture came silently shooting down the blanket ramp while I tried to jiggle the window closed, hitting me smack on the bridge of my nose. So there I am in the dark, stiffling my screams so as to not wake the two sleeping children in the room, trying to get myself out from under the blanket while keeping the blood gushing out of my nose from getting all over everything- a bit of trick in the pitch black in a room set up like a obstacle course. I don't think I have ever had a bloody nose so this was quite an introduction. The blood stopped quickly enough but I swear I think that I really broke something. Its a week later and when I wash my face, I get a weird pressure down near my lip and my nose is super cracky if I wiggle the end. Thats not good, right?

So anyways, we have had beautiful gorgeous summer weather every single day. I am even counting the rainy weather because when it did finally rain, it was the most spectacular high-wind lightening storm that woke me in the middle of the night with the all the howling through the trees that was going on. We get woken up every morning by the flocks of birds peep-peep-peeping outside our windows (which is a nice change from being awoken in Paris by the garbage truck, but seriously, birds, can we take it down a notch or two?) When we drove into the driveway to our country house last week, I think Ella thought she had stumbled into a scene from a Disney film. First we had to stop so that a momma deer and her twin spotted bambis could get across the road. Then as we stepped out of the car, two squirrels jumped out of a tree and had some chattery little argument over a pine cone. And as we walked up to the door, a robin sitting on a post, sang us a little song before lazily flying away. Seriously, if a couple of dwarfs came whistling around the corner, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash.

All in all, I am so happy that we bailed out of Paris when we did. This is what summer holidays are supposed to be like. Ella has completely adapted to all the freedom she has to run around, in and out of the house with minimal supervision. I have seen my stress-level drop due the fact that I feel like a have a bit of space to breathe. It feels so nice to be out of that little rabbit cage we call an apartment! I'm already wondering how B is going to manage to drag us onto the airplane in the fall...

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