No Bad Days

EAD9485A-CDA3-4C72-B462-D99769FC21D2When friends inquire about our spring break vacation, I should just show them my Google search history to help provide some insight:

things to do in Maui when it rains
address Maui urgent care center
cancellation policy, Molokini snorkel tour
how to get a trapped bird out of a house
how to photoshop six-pack abs
can I buy Koloa Coconut Rum in California

Turns out, Ono is not only a fish commonly found off the coast in Hawaii, it’s also a good mascot for our recent vacation, albeit with a slight spelling modification: Oh. No.

Oh no, the weather forecast calls for rain the entire week we’re here. Oh no, the kid woke up with an eye infection. Oh no, the kid now appears to have both an eye infection and strep throat. Oh no, the other kid squished my arm while I was wearing a sleeveless dress and started calling me ‘Lil Beefer.

It would have been easy to slip into a sullen mood when I was greeted every morning by grey skies, steady rain, and hunched palm trees seeking protection from the pummeling wind. But I was in Hawaii, dammit, and there are no bad days in Hawaii.

So I forced myself to be happy.

I would cut myself off mid-thought if I was going negative. It felt ridiculous at first, but then it became a weird little game. Something like:

I can’t believe I’m sitting on the beach under a cloud cover so thick, it makes my skin look blue. But… think of how happy the dermatologist will be when I show up for my next skin cancer check without a hint of a tan. Besides, my pale skin would sizzle like a slice of spam on a flattop if I were outside in the tropical sunshine on a cloudless day. It’s better this way.

Undeterred, I floated in saltwater while being pelted with rainwater, all while keeping an eye out for lightening because with the way things were going, I couldn’t be too careful. Fortunately, the ocean was warm and the giant sea turtle that surfaced for a breath right next to me was friendly. Good things happen all the time. Even in the rain.

I learned that my new wide-brimmed sun hat also works well as an umbrella, that rum cocktails are delicious in any weather, and that the sound of ocean waves can still shush you to sleep even after the stormiest of days.

Despite the minor disasters that befell us, most things worked out in the end. Antibiotics got my daughter feeling better and back on the beach in less than a day. The wayward bird found his way out of the house with minimal drama. The canceled snorkel tour was replaced by an epic hiking adventure involving waterfalls and rope swings. Lunardi’s carries my new favorite rum. And I’ve only been called ‘Lil Beefer once since returning to the mainland.

The trick will be learning to apply my stubborn cheerfulness back in the real world. It can be harder to look for the good amidst the mundane, but I’m trying. Just as I was grateful to be waking up on a tropical island, I’m also trying to be grateful waking up to a life filled with laundry, carpools and orthodontist appointments. It’s all a gift and it’s all fleeting.

Enough days have passed that I’m only dwelling on the good memories from our trip. Ono is once again a fish instead of a vacation catch phrase. And as I search for the moments of joy in my everyday life, I realize that although I didn’t leave the island with a deep dark tan, I did leave with a change in perspective that will hopefully last longer than bronzed skin.

Kids Gone Wild — Adventures in Camping

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MEMO FROM THE OPC (OFFICE OF PROPER CHILDREARING)

Dear Unskilled Perfectionist,

It has come to our attention that you have violated several key tenets from the OPC during your recent camping trip.  The charges against you include but are not limited to the following:

Improper Language
Upon approaching Cinder Cone and realizing that your husband’s plan was to hike to the top of the giant volcano, you blurted, “Get the f@$% out!”  Yes, your disbelief was motivation for your kids and they powered to the top, but horrible language is frowned upon by the OPC.

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Complete Disregard for Proper Nutrition
We have reports that you fed your children so much stuff cooked on a stick over the fire, that when they passed a café at the Lassen Visitors Center, they begged for an apple.  An apple!  It is also our understanding that you let your children invent something called “The Ultimate S’mOreo” — a stacked monstrosity that includes: graham cracker, roasted marshmallow, bottom of an Oreo, another roasted marshmallow, top of an Oreo, yet another roasted marshmallow and another graham cracker.  We’re pretty sure the road to childhood obesity is paved with Ultimate S’mOreos thanks to you.

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Engaging in Activities Unfit for Children
Really? You taught your children how to play poker?  It doesn’t matter that they won.  Poker is poker.  They chopped wood with an axe, whittled with a pocket knife, put bait on their own fish hooks and wandered down to the lake without an adult trailing them warning “be careful.”  We also have a report of child labor violations as you made your daughter paddle the two-person kayak while you kicked back and took pictures.  Shameful.

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Inappropriate Clothing
Your children played in the snow while wearing shorts and t-shirts.  Yes, it was 90 degrees out and the snow was a welcome break during a long hike, but children in the snow need hats and gloves – no exceptions.  And what’s this rumor about skinny dipping in a lake when you forgot to pack bathing suits?  Ok, just a rumor.  We’ll strike that from the record.

In conclusion, despite your children’s claims that this was the “best trip ever,” those of us at the Office of Proper Childrearing hope that this warning will prompt you to make some much needed changes before your next family adventure.

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The Adventures of Roller Girl and not-Giselle

We were quite a duo as we hiked the hills behind our kids’ elementary school.  My friend, fresh from her visit to a phlebotomist, was accessorizing her running shorts with knee-high white surgical stockings.  Resembling a sexy roller girl from the 70’s, she wore her ugly socks with pride.

After a few sweaty miles, I started suffering from an itchy heat rash across my middle.  “Fuck it,” I said as I folded my shirt into a micro crop top in a desperate attempt to get some fresh air on my misbehaving skin.  I’m 100% certain that the only human on the planet who should legally be allowed to wear a micro crop top is Giselle — and I’m not convinced she’s entirely human.  I looked ridiculous, and sadly couldn’t even muster a redeeming roller girl vibe.

So there we were, Roller Girl and not-Giselle, trudging up the mountain, talking, laughing and reveling in the fact that we’ve reached the age where we truly didn’t care that we looked like we escaped from a facility harboring the criminally unfashionable.  We were women of substance.  (Yeah!)  We were fearless.  (Hell, yeah!) We were standing right in front of a huge gopher snake.  (Oh, shit!)

Admittedly, the thing looked comatose as it stretched across the trail soaking up the sun.  But it was big and it was close and, well, a snake is a snake.

Shrieking, I started doing the jumping, flailing, I-just-almost-stepped-on-a-snake dance.  Believe me when I say not even Giselle could pull off that dance while wearing a homemade crop top.  Roller Girl stopped pointing and laughing just long enough to put an arm around me and walk us waaaay around the snake before we both doubled over, roaring with laughter at the absurdity of it all: the knee socks, the crop top and the jiggly snake dance.

Once I wiped the tears from my cheeks and caught my breath, I commented that between the goofy clothing and uncontrollable laughter, we were not that much different from our daughters – and that made me so happy.

Our daughters are close friends, bonded over a shared love of tether ball, adventure novels and a complete disinterest in the drama that we know is just around the corner in the ‘tween years.  They have fun together, look out for each other and laugh hysterically – just like their moms do when they’re together.  Ages ten and forty turn out to be uncannily similar, with all four of us at the same place of carefree self-assuredness.  The daughters haven’t yet descended into the abyss of self-doubt and mean girls, while their moms have comfortably made it through to the other side.

We continued our hike, talking about our kids and how we wished we could bottle up their plucky attitude for future use.  Keep it behind glass with a “break in case of teenage angst emergency” sign plastered next to it.  But we also know that our girls must navigate the journey on their own and that the heavy lifting of adolescence builds muscle for adulthood – a form of strength training for the soul.  Truth be told, we know these girls will be just fine, eventually reaching the point where they find themselves happily hiking through life’s hills, protecting friends from snakes and confident in their roles of Roller Girl and not-Giselle.

True Colors

Although I took this photo a couple of years ago, the image of that ballsy orange tree letting its freak flag fly in a mountain of green has stuck with me.  A good reminder to join the ranks of brave souls offering their true colors for all the world to see.

Post inspiried by today’s Shutter Sisters prompt: reflection

Flaming Marshmallows

Perhaps the best byproducts of a good road trip are the epic tales of adventure that get told again and again, becoming family legend.  Here’s a peek into our first camping trip and the nicknames that everyone earned along the way…

Firestarter

Nothing good could come of his two favorite camping activities: whittling a stick with a pocketknife and poking roaring fires.  This kid seemed bound and determined to finish our trip with one less eye or finger than he started with.  Near misses included: pulling the knife straight towards his face while whittling; flipping a flaming log completely outside of the fire pit onto a pile of dry pine needles; and purposefully igniting his marshmallows so he could wave his hands and shout “IT’S ON FIRE, IT’S ON FIRE!”  I’m packing bubble wrap and safety goggles for our next trip.

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Happy Camper

We were floored to discover the vegetarian who’s afraid of spiders is a rock star camper.  She embraced it all — the dirt, the wildlife, the meat cooked on sticks (especially the meat cooked on sticks).  She dug through the dirt to choose the perfect worm, created a 9-hole pine cone golf course on our campsite, and happily sprinted for a bucket of water when Firestarter flipped the flaming log onto the pine needles.  Most impressive was the extreme skill with which she roasted marshmallows: fifteen minutes of patiently rotating the skewer to create the most perfect golden, melty treat.  She’s found her calling.

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The first morning of our trip, my husband left for what has to be the camping equivalent of a Saturday morning tee time: the early morning fly fishing expedition.  The kids and I ate cereal, played cards and wandered to the camp store to buy postcards.  Our intrepid fisherman returned home happy but sorely lacking in fish.

Later that afternoon it was the kids’ turn to fish and they each plucked two from the lake.  Emboldened by the adrenaline from hooking their first fish, they started talking smack.  “Wow, we both caught two fish, how many did you catch this morning, dad?”  “Zero fish.  We should call you bagel.  No, we should call you donut.”  “Do-nut.  Do-nut.  Do-nut.”  With the donut chant ringing through the pine trees, he grabbed a pole, added a worm and bobber, and a few minutes later, caught a fish.  It didn’t matter, the nickname stuck.

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The family decided my name had to be Cookie, as in the grizzled character who made the camp food in all the old Westerns.  Turns out, I love cooking in a cast iron skillet over an open fire.  I don’t know if it was the smoke or the abundance of bacon grease, but everything tasted so good and was so much fun to make.  I considered it training for when we undergo a kitchen remodel and are cooking on a hotplate for two months.  I think we’ll be ok…

After four days we headed home a changed family.  We were campers, nature lovers, fish hunters and hikers.  We were Firestarter, Happy Camper, Donut and Cookie.

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