O Canada

Today we took a jaunt to Vancouver, BC.  For us– born southerners– Canada still seems like such a foreign, faraway land.  And for most Americans it is.  For Bellingham-ers, though, it is a mere 20 minutes to the north.

I have had three previous Canadian experiences :

1) A family trip when I was in high school.  It is a mixed bag of memories.  There were the happy parts I recall like my brother dancing and singing to tourists at the swanky restaurant in Chateau Lake Louise.  But also the painfully clear memory of my father being paged at the airport, to be told that his brother, our uncle, had just passed away.  Needless to say, my family often talks about this trip when we all get together.

2) A spontaneous two-day Greyhound excursion to Vancouver when I was living in Seattle in 2002.

3) An infamous trip to the Canadian border on December 4, 2008.  Oh yes, just the border.  We had been visiting Chris’s grandfather, Sam, for his 100th  (yes, he will be 1004 this year, good genes) birthday, and Chris was attempting a surprise trip to Niagara Falls for my own birthday.  It was an incredibly sweet gesture, as he had created a Niagara Falls collage for me a few months after we started dating.  It was a pretend Niagara honeymoon future-memory picture, and one of the first of many “this is the one” moments I had/have with him.

Love

(and speaking of collages, he just made this incredible one for Holden last night:)

He doesn't make collage all the time, but he should.

Holden’s two current obsessions: dinosaurs and monster trucks.

The Niagara Falls surprise of 2008 will go down in infamy as the most amusing and frustrating failed surprises of our history.  We had taken the word of others that Canada would allow us entrance with our licenses, much to our eventual dismay.  Needless to say, Canada wanted passports, and instead of just letting us turn around at the gate they made us enter into Canada, and then sign forms stating that me and my pregnant a$$ would exit Canada without haste.

De-nied.

The Wrath of Khan-ada

Today being our first attempt to enter Canada after being a-booted from it, we were understandably nervous.

Apparently for good reason too: again we were told to park and go inside the Canada Building of Shame.  WTF?  So all four of us cruised inside a shockingly familiar scene of any American bureaucratic gathering: a long line, 1 person working the counter, and 6 people either milling around aimlessly in back offices or staring very seriously into a computer screen…all united in the doing of nothingness.

Needless to say, we let the toddlers be toddlers, AKA loud and potentially destructive (though I did draw the line at trying to climb the Canadian flag, because I am a sensitive American like that) and all the sudden there were 5 people manning the computers.  Yay!

When it came our turn we were told that we have an “immigration record.”  I said we had never attempted immigration to Canada before?  However, four years ago there was this funny little thing in Niagara Falls…  Apparently that was the holdup, and after he promised to mark that we were hunky dory people in our file, we continued on our way to our destination:

SCIENCE WORLD!

We watched Imax in the pretty dome!

Nerd central; we were home.  The boys went absolutely cray cray.  Exhibit after exhibit of cool stuff.

My adorable knight next to a strange “tree spirit.”

Their dream come true, the second most complete T-Rex ever found (I saw Sue, numero uno, when she visited University of Florida.)

A very large version of the pin-thing you put your face in (except this one thankfully explicitly said to not put your face in it.)

Put a foam ball in the holl, turn the arrow, and see which tube it goes through. Need one in my house.

View of rainy Vancouver from the museum

Holden fascinated by the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

Needless to say, my little scientists passed out fast tonight.  With visions of dinosaurs dancing in their heads.

Hopefully Canada will continue allowing us in, so we can make regular daytrips to cool museums, and I can perfect my metric system conversions.

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In Medias Res

For those of you fortunate enough to lack the brain wiring that enables one to clog up their mind with trivia, “in media res” is a literary term meaning “into the middle of things.” This device is used in books that start in the middle of the story being told, like my beloved Faulker, or any movie ever produced by Quentin Tarantino.

In the case of this blog, it means that there was a yawning gap between this post and the last, and the recounting of my six months as a resident of Bellingham will therefore be chronologically disjointed and invariably take more than a few posts.  In other words, mind the gap.

The sappy, simple truth is that I have been busy enjoying  our new life here in Bellingham: “The City of Subdued Excitement.”

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means; I just know that it sounds happy, contented and balanced.  Which seems to suit the quaint but nevertheless bustling city that is Bellingham.  It also describes the populace of friendly, liberal and kind folks (which is an interesting yet somehow workable mix of families and college kids.)

My dream of the 90s is alive in Bellingham.

My dream of the 90s is alive in Bellingham.

And speaking of liberal, I still cannot get over living in a place where the majority of the population are like-minded.  As a person having spent almost all of my life in the south, it is like a huge universal weight has been lifted from my chest and I am free to breathe the not-polluted air.  I am down with the zeitgeist.

Take for instance, the restaurants.  The ones at which you bus your own table will inevitably maintain trash stations boasting at least five holes to sort your shiz: utensils, paper, compostables, aluminum, etc etc.

Respect for nature and sustainability are instilled in the youth, and people actually don’t want to pollute their waters or kill off their salmon populations.  If your dog was to poop at the park and you didn’t pick it up, you might be subject to a public stoning.  And not the good kind (though that is actually a subject to be determined in the upcoming election.)

I’m pretty sure that at night when everyone is asleep the trees actually come to life to do a little happy dance.

Yes, we can play hide and seek inside trees here.

So let’s cut to the chase.  The thing non-locals always ask when you say where you live (or in my case where we moved.)  “Doesn’t it rain there ALL the time?!”

Yes, it rains here. Yes it’s beautiful. No, I was not driving when this picture was taken.

Let me preface this by saying that we have just now entered into the rainy season, so we have not had much time to be jaded.  Season-wise, Bellingham is just exiting the most magical, beautiful and not-sweltering-hot summer I have ever experienced.  And we saw nary a drop of rain.  Apparently this was not a magic spell from a benevolent fairy; it happens like this every single freaking year.

Summertime, as it should be.

We are now in the midst of autumn.  It is also my very first real fall.  In the last two months the leaves have changed into varying shades of fire: slow-burning orange, full-on conflagration red, heaven-light yellow, and possibly my favorite: deep-plum purple.  Pure majesty excepting the maple leaves as big as my kids’ heads that now form a high-pile carpet on our porch.

My front yard. Really.

The rain has started to fall with the leaves.  Most of the time this rain is a little drizzle, and I see almost no one (who is not a tourist) walking around with an umbrella.  You wear a warm raincoat and you go outside.

The fact that it is not a heavy rain would account for the fact that Seattle (our closest large US city so therefore why I am using it for the statistic; Vancouver is actually closer)  is not even listed as a top US city for the most rainfall per year, or even the most rainy days, if you are splitting hairs.

However, since there are many days with light rain and overcast days, there is a resultant hefty amount of stoicism in this city.  With chilling rain coming down for almost half of the year, you find yourself– like we did yesterday– taking your children out trick or treating in the rain and wind.

Personally, being of the sometimes gothic persuasion, I found this to be delightful and quite fitting for Halloween festivities.  Interestingly, people trick or treat at the downtown areas here, or at the parks.  We went with a fabulous group down to the adjacent town of Fairhaven (whose slogan I am unsure of but should be “The Cutest City on Earth, Pity the Fool who Denies It.”) The fun thing about trick or treating en masse is taking part in the type of excitement that can only come by being part of a crowd all excited about the same thing, whether it be a concert, a sporting event, or in this case, getting loads of candy.

There were some amazing costumes, and most very creative.  I saw a child dressed as a shower curtain, a woman who used a clear umbrella and attached iridescent streamers to make it look like a jellyfish, two children in a huge Crayola box, and of course my two little guys.  Who chose to be a dinosaur and a robot: a few of their favorite things.

Casey bot

Holden dinosaur poses by Chris's favorite restaurant: the fish and chips bus.

At one point we went into Fairhaven Pharmacy, an establishment that has been around since 1889. This adorable little pharmacy, in which the pharmacist is referred to as “the druggist,” is a beloved tradition on the trick or treating route.

This is because they will take your child’s photo in front of a Halloween backdrop, and then it is later hung up in the pharmacy windows.  Of course your kid will also get a candy. But not the typical fun-sized candy from a bucket.  Oh no, your tot can select any candy from the pharmacy candy aisle.  And there are a lot to choose from.  Holden picked a roll of Starbust, and Casey selected dark chocolate M&Ms.  Both acceptable choices in my book.

I mention this story not only because it is sweet, but because for me, wielding a mostly-adult perspective,  it wasn’t the candy giving or even the picture taking that really struck me.  Sure, both things are great and appreciated.  But it was the presence of a very elderly man (who my Fairhaven friends say works at and/or owns the pharmacy) sitting aside the picture-taking flurry, and smiling and chatting with the children with such simple and pure joy.  He seemed to draw such peace from just being witness to the happiness and excitement that children exude from Halloween; the beauty of being young and dizzy with the excitement of dressing up as a dinosaur, or a flower or a bee.

It was a reminder that these times are precious, that myself and my children will grow older.  That one day they won’t ask me 20 times on November 1st if they can still wear their dinosaur costume.  And how very lucky we are to all be together, trick or treating in such a beautiful place.  A place that by happenstance we have landed, but with any luck we will call home for a very long time.

I wish all of you out there (especially in the NE) warmth and safety, and no post-Halloween belly aching.

-Misfit Mom

Sorry for our dust

New post coming soon.

Just a couple more bucketfuls and this ocean will be empty!

image

And the Winner Is…

Bellingham, WA!

WTF? Where is that you ask?

Only in the most beautiful, progressive and amazing place in the whole wide world!

Well, ok, admittedly I have but a small frame of reference in comparison to all the places in the whole wide world.  But I’ve been to some good ones: England, Saint Croix, San Francisco, Austin to name a few.  And, of course, there was the two times in my early 20s (internship and directly post-college) in which I lived in Seattle.

Yes, my dream of the 90s has always been very much alive in me, and I’ve sought and seek out that dream in the birthplace of flannel shirts, Nirvana, rainy and grumpy skies, and in my opinion (and remember…I currently live where you want to retire) the most beautiful scenery in well…the whole wide world.  Take these, for instance:

Sickeningly gorgeous and mystical (Twin Peaks, anyone?) especially with the snow!  And a skatepark for the boys, sailing for me, skiiing/snowboarding for all, and after a recent foray Chris and I had at paddleboarding…we are hoping to do that as well (in wet suits!)

Also, you can’t forget the famous banana slugs!

Yah, they look nast. But I'll probably catch them anyway.

For us, it’s perfect.  Bellingham is an hour from Vancouver and 1.5 hours to Seattle.  There is an Amtrak that will chug you up to BC and all the way down to Portland, stopping wherever you like.  The kids..are..going..to…shit…themselves.  Well, they already do I guess, but you know what I mean.

Overall, I know that Chris is relieved to have the job search over.   After months of interviewing and offers made, we have a place to go.  And that it is the exact place we always hoped to retire is pretty freaking exceptional.  He said that he felt so humbled to have the opportunity to live in the Caribbean and then in the crook of British Columbia in an idyllic town of dreams.  I said he’s a badass, what does he expect?

And now for some stats on Bellingham (direct from Wikipedia, so it has to be true right?)

Nuts and Bolts:

  • Population (2011)-  81,070
  • Bellingham is acclaimed for its small-city flavor, easy access to outdoor opportunities in the San Juan Islands and North Cascades Mountains as well as proximity to the cosmopolitan cities of Vancouver and Seattle.
  • Bellingham’s climate is generally mild and typical of the Puget Sound region that includes Seattle. The year-long average daily high and low temperatures are 59 °F (15 °C) and 44.1 °F (6.7 °C), respectively. Western Whatcom County has a marine oceanic climate that is strongly influenced by the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains. The Cascades to the east retain the temperate marine influence, while the Olympics provide a rain-shadow effect that buffers Bellingham from much of the rainfall approaching from the southwest.
  • Despite this, Bellingham also has mild, pleasant summers. The hottest summer days rarely exceed 90 °F (32 °C) and the warmest temperature on record is 96 °F (36 °C) on July 29, 2009.
  • Drought is rare  (yes, this is part of the stated information)
  • Bellingham’s proximity to the Fraser River valley occasionally subjects it to a harsh winter weather pattern (termed a ‘north-Easter’) wherein an upper level trough drives cold Arctic air from the Canadian interior southwesterly through the Fraser River Canyon
  • Another weather phenomenon, known as the “Pineapple Express“, happens in the autumn. For most of a day, an unusually warm and steady wind comes out of the south. (now that terrible movie has a context!)

Goings on:

  • The Ski to Sea race[34] is a team relay race made up of seven legs: cross country skiing, downhill skiing (or snowboarding), running, road biking, canoeing (2 person), mountain biking, and kayaking.
  • The annual International Day of Peace is celebrated in Bellingham on September 21. The holiday was instituted by the United Nations as a 24-hour global cease-fire. The Bellingham-based Whatcom Peace & Justice Center publishes a calendar[39] of upcoming activist events with a theme of non-violence, community dissent, and worldwide Peace.
  • The Bellingham Festival of Music[40] is an annual celebration of orchestral and chamber concerts, held in July, hosting musicians from North American orchestral ensembles.  (sooo excited)
  • The Bellingham Wig Out, held each year the Friday before Memorial Day, is a celebration of fun and irreverent welcoming Spring. Events include the Wig Walk, a promenade of Wig wearers through the downtown business district, a Wig Competition, complete with categories from Wee Wigster to the Best Handmade Wig, and a Wig Out Party held at various locations that evening. The Wig Out folks also participate the next day in the Ski to Sea Parade.[42]
  • The scenic splendor of Bellingham and Whatcom County is appreciated by residents and tourists. Whatcom Falls Park is a 241-acre (0.98 km2) large public park encompassing the Whatcom Creek gorge, running directly through the heart of the city. It has four sets of waterfalls and several miles of walking trails, and is a hub of outdoor activity connecting and defining several different neighborhoods of Bellingham. Popular activities during warmer weather include swimming, fishing, and strolling along the numerous walking trails.
  • About 50 km east of Bellingham the Mount Baker Ski Area is home to many of the world’s first snowboarding champions, and it holds the world record for the greatest amount of snowfall in one season (winter 1998–1999). During most years the depth of accumulated snow exceeds 12 ft (3.7 m) and results in the closure of the ski area before the end of the winter months.
  • In the waters of the Georgia Strait and Puget Sound it is possible to go whale watching. Several pods of orcas (killer whales) are known to travel from the open Pacific Ocean into the area, and families of these huge aquatic creatures can be seen swimming and hunting near the local bays and islands.
  • Bellingham is also home to an active writers community, both at the local universities and independent of them. Western Washington University’s English Department publishes theBellingham Review.[53] This year the city hosted the first annual Chuckanut Writers Conference,[54] run by Whatcom Community College and Village Books, a local bookstore.
  • Whatcom Community College and Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce host the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference on MLK weekend every January. Event workshops, guest speakers, a silent auction and food address the general theme of Human Rights as expressed in the teachings of Dr. King. This event has been held since 1998.[36][37]
  • Bellingham Pride is a gay pride parade and festival held in July each year to celebrate LGBT people and their friends. The parade takes place on a midsummer weekend, passing through the downtown and ending in the public market area.[41]
  • Bellingham also has a burgeoning independent film community, which is supported by the Whatcom Film Association, a local group of film appreciators with over 1500 members[51] and the Northwest film school,[52] a hands-on filmmaking program.
  • Bellingham maintains sister city relationships with five Pacific Rim port cities and Vaasa, Finland.

After making the “official facebook announcement” I was asked “why we move so much” by a curious soul.  The interesting thing is that question never occurred to me.  The idea of living in new places, seeing new things,  and all that comes with it, just seems inherently good  and right to me.

Because we moved to Saint Croix, my kids went from a fear of the ocean to barely needing any help swimming.  And they are 3 and 1.5 years old.  They know words that other kids would have no idea existed. Words like gungalos and mongoose and iguana and mocko jumbie and bush cat.  And because we are in a the minority here, they see no skin color.  They run up and play and talk to all children with excitement and openness.  It has been amazing.

That being said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bellingham will be a place to cool our heels for quite some time.  And I have to mention how exciting it is to be moving to a blue state…after spending much too much time in red ones with very real threats of freakish policies looming over us.   I am still recovering from being a parent in Texas during the legislation to remove mention of Thomas Jefferson and the Civil Rights Movement from textbooks.

And what of our beloved STX?  We hope to always be able to come visit this beautiful island.  And maybe one day own a time share or condo here.   I’ll miss the amazing people we have met here (including my math teacher who cracks me up for the entire 1.5 hrs of class) but I’d be lying if I said i’d miss sweating in the house because the price of electricity is so ridiculous (well the price of anything really…milk, food), or the absolute lack of seasons, or some of the disgruntled folks who lived here past the point of the sheen wearing off and impose it on you, or the fear that the police (corrupt, it’s said) won’t be there for you if you needed them, the reading of the grotesquely-high crime statistics.  Yes, it’s possible we spent just the right amount of time during the best part of the non-hurricane, cooler-trade-winds part of the season.  Six months of living in a supremely unique and beautiful place.

And now it is onto the next adventure.  Luckily, we will be surrounded by islands where we are going, so the blog will still have a relevant title.

Frederick the Frog

Frederick the Frog,

Fits in a hole,

In our railing from,

The fungi foilage.

image

note to self: don’t post from the android.

Yard Orgies

So we have these red bugs that are always piled up in the yard.  And today I decided to research what they were doing in said piles,  since when they dispersed it did not appear that they were feasting on anything.

Apparently they are practicing tantra.

File:Pyrrhocoris apterus (aka).jpg

File:Pyrrhocoris apterus group.jpg

They can be seen in tandem formation when mating which can take from 12 hours up to 7 days. The long period of copulating is probably used by the males as a form of ejaculate-guarding under high competition with other males.[3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firebug

Yeah, sometimes it is best that some things remain a mystery, me thinks.