Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ocean, or lack therof

It's already past mid-August and I can count on one hand the number of times we have made it to the ocean this summer. Jupiter is not so much a fan of the ocean, adorned as it is with seaweed and half gutted dead fish. So she never wants to go, although she seems to find ways to have fun when she does go. (When I decree we're going anyway, because I want to, and she can choose to be bored if she wants). When I lived in Iowa, my one problem with it was that it lacked ocean. Though I also find that Maine is particularly lacking in open spaces, which I think accounts for my partiality towards the open spaces of Scarborough Marsh.

But I've finally found a back road way that will get us between home and the ocean in under 40 minutes (not counting cruising around looking for a free parking spot). We went Sunday afternoon for awhile, before the thunderstorms hit, and walked a few miles on the beach. Then Jupiter planned to boogie board, until she saw the aforementioned half gutted dead fish washed up and was pretty much done with the ocean for the day.

We made it to my favorite sandy beach one other day this summer, and timed it properly to be able to walk way way out to the end of the sandbar; which was even farther out than usual due to astronomical low tide.

School starts a week from today. Jupiter is celebrating (not so much. She has informed everybody who will listen that she does not like school and has no interest in going back) by having a sick day today. The rapid strep test the doctor did today was negative, but I'm not convinced. She's presenting almost exactly the same way she did the last time she had strep. So we will see. Who wants to bet we will be on our way back to the doctor's office in a day or two?

Hooray for PBS kids programming. And ice cubes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Clearing Customs

So last week, we went to Canada.

Invariably, I am questioned about having permission to cross country borders with my daughter. Ok, so we only ever went to Canada one other time.

So I was prepared. In addition to Jupiter's passport, I carried and produced Jupiter's Maine issued birth certificate for foreign born child. The birth certificate states "Sole legal legitimate parent". Which should suffice to answer any question about whether I am authorized to bring my child with me when I visit another country.

At Canadian customs, I presented my passport and Jupiter's birth certificate. I didn't present her passport becuase she didn't need it to get in to Canada, and becuase the night before I determined that it had expired in March.

The customs officer had me open the back window so he could view Jupiter and greeted her with a big smile and a "Bonjour, Jupiter!" So I love the customs officer.

He did question me about having a document which authorized me to take her out of the country. We discussed it in Franglish. I was confused because I thought he had already read the birth certificate and was still questioning it. I asked him if I needed a copy of the court decree or what. Then he read the magic words and he was satisfied. I can cut him a little slack because English is not his first language. He was a bit apologetic about it and neglected to ask if I was bringing any guns, mace, or pepper spray into Canada. Then he sent us on our merry way.

Two days later, we crossed back into the US at the same border crossing between Quebec and Vermont.

The customs officer is waiting outside her booth when I drive up.

I give her both passports and Jupiter's birth certificate.

"Where do you live," she asks.


"WHERE?" She seems grumpy. The crossing is busy right now, so maybe she's just stressed.

I tell her where.

"Where do you work?"

I tell her I'm an anti money laundering specialist at The Bank, slightly gesturing towards the work photo id hanging from my rear view mirror.

"How long have you been doing that?"

Since I got an incomplete on the last question, I figure I should be sure. And depending on what she wants to know, the answer is either one year or 13 years. So I ask her if she means AML or the bank in general.

"Anti Money Laundering," she says. So I answer that question.

She looks in the back seat.

"Where's her DAD?"

"Russia?" I ask. I explain that Jupiter is adopted, even though I don't think I should have to. As much as I want to yell at the customs lady, I figure that being detained at customs is probably not a wise move and I should just tell her what she wants to know.

"When did you get her?"

Are you serious, lady? When did I "GET" her? First, she's not a dog, or a car, or a contagious disease. She's a person. A full fledged US Citizen, in fact. Who, by the way, can HEAR you. And who also, by the way, is currently extremely sensitive about not having a father, and you've just completely pissed me off because if you had bothered to read what I handed you, this line of questioning would be entirely unecessary. And if you do feel the need to ask these questions after you READ THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE, you could do it politely.

I'm so mad I amost get the question wrong. I stumble between 2004 and 2005.

"At what age?"

Maybe it's a quiz to see if I'm smuggling an illegal 7 year old into the country.

"A year and a half," I tell her.

"Does she speak a language other than English?"

This can't possibly be relevant. Is there a reason she needs to know this, or is she just being nosy now? Jupiter actually said "Bonjour," to a store clerk in Montreal a couple hours ago. Should I tell her Jupiter can speak French? Or Swahili, just for kicks? That would be fun.

"No." I shake my head at her.

"Did you buy anything in Canada?"

"Yes." I tell her we bought three books, one t-shirt, and some chocolate. (They have dark chocolate Aero bars now. And we bought some kinder-Eggs because we can't buy those at home). She looks in through the hatchback window at the carrier bag from Indigo.

"Any food in the car other than chocolate?"

I'm traveling with a 7 year old. Probably, yes.

I start digging through the snack bag, coming up with a Z-Bar to show her. Should I show her the extra oatmeal packet next, or the rest of the animal crackers in the Ziploc bag?

She clarifies. "Any fresh fruits or vegtables?"

Oh. Well, then why didn't you just ask me that in the first place, if that's what you wanted to know.


She takes the paperwork into her little booth and scans the passports. I wait to have a fight about Jupiter's expired passport.

The customs lady comes out of her little booth and gives me all the papers back.

"When are you going back to work?"

Again, why exactly do you need to know this? What day AM I going back to work? I don't even know what day it is today. I think it's around the 15th.

"The 15th? A week from Monday."

Apparently I got the right answer, because she let us into the country.

I stay mad at her all the way through Vermont.

Wait, I'm still mad at her.

I'm mad at myself for not being able to protect Jupiter from customs officials who don't think 7 year olds can understand them. I'm mad at myself not having better answers to questions that shouldn't be asked in the first place. I totally get that they need to be sure that she's not the victim of parental kidnapping. But I was not expecting the invasive line of questioning that we got. I guess I should have been prepared for that.

Next time I'll expect it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time Line Travel Blog-Montreal

(note to my sister: you should go register this domain name and use it)

So on Monday, Jupiter and I left to go visit Montreal for a couple of days. I've done this trip several times in the last 10 or 15 years and was feeling pretty confident about it when we left.

10:15- We get in the car.

10:20- We get in the ATM line at the bank so I can deposit US cash and then withdraw Canadian cash at the ATM in Montreal.

10:25- We fill up the gas tank at the corner gas station.

10:30- We're on our way.

10:50- Jupiter asks if we're there yet. We're still in the next town over.

12:00-We make it to New Hampshire.

12:15- I think I missed the turn for West Side Rd. I'm not sure how I missed that.

12:20-I take a turn for the Kancamangus Highway.

12:23- I see a sign that says no gas for 32 miles. I turn around and go back.

12:30- I decide that the road I'm on goes west, and will undoubtedly intersect with I-93 at some point, since I-93 runs the length of the state.

12:55-I see a sign for I-93.

1:15-No I-93 yet.

1:20- Another sign for I-93. Indicating it is about ten miles away still. Whatever. I take the turn. We get to see Lake Winnipausakee.

1:35-It's a miracle. I found I-93.

1:37- Littleton is 42 miles away. That road that was going west...also going south. Very south. We should have been in Littletown over an hour ago. I am an idiot. I envision the Family Circus cartoons were the kids run in random patterns all over the yard or the block. I have just done this in NH.

1:50-We drive through Franconia Notch State Park. We see a license plate that says Lina-D. Jupiter is pleased.

2:12- We make it to Littleton (finally) and pit stop at McD's. Jupiter eats chicken nuggets.

2:35-We get back in the car.

3:30-OH Canada.

3:32-I hand documents to the Canadian Customs officer. I don't give him Jupiter's passport since I determined the night before we left that it expired in March. He checks them out and asks me to lower the back window so he can see the child. I lower the window and he says "Bonjour, Galina!" with a big smile. We have a brief discussion about Jupiter's parentage. He finds the spot on her birth certificate where it states "sole legal legitimate parent" and sends us on our way. He doesn't even ask if I'm bringing in any guns, mace, or pepper spray.

4:15- I can see a thunderstorm headed towards us. Excellent.

4:25- The thunderstorm is closer. It's raining.

4:27- Is that a funnel cloud to the south of us in that big cornfield over there?

4:32-The storm hits us with a torrential downpour. The people in front of me turn on their hazard lights. I turn on my hazard lights. I follow a little green car blindly through the storm.

4:35-The green car and I and a few semis pass a bunch of people who were smart enough to pull over and wait for the storm to abate.

4:45- The storm is abating. We all turn off our flashers.

4:59-We're coming up on a potential rest stop. I ask Jupiter if we need to stop to use the bathroom or if she can wait a half hour. She says she can wait. I plug in the garmin in case I need it to find the hotel. Maybe I should have used it in NH.

5:15-We're about 4 miles from the hotel. Traffic slows to a crawl.

5:30-We're three miles from the hotel. Traffic stops.

5:40-We watch the lightning from the next approaching storm.

5:45-The storm hits us.

5:50-It hails.

5:53-Jupiter sees a Walmart on the other side of the six lane highway and wants to go there to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, the Walmart might as well be in Kansas for all the good it's going to do us.

5:56-Traffic is now crawling. People coming from some other road are merging in on the right hand side, managing to get in front of all of us who have been sitting on the road for 40 minutes. The garmin tells me to take the exit in half a mile. I follow another car accross two lanes of traffic to get in the right lane.

6:00-We take the exit. We're actually moving again. Which is good, because I really need a bathroom.

6:05- I take the exit supposedly for the hotel. I end up in the metro station parking lot driving in a circle. I'm confused becuase I know the hotel is next to the metro station, but I don't see a hotel. I see a big condo building labeled Petit Frere in big red letters, half of which are burnt out. I try to follow the garmin, get confused, and go in a circle. Garmin recalculates.

6:10-We drive around the metro station parking lot again. I try to go a different way. We go down some side streets while Garmin recalculates our way back to the metro station parking lot. I yell at the Garmin. I drive past the line of taxis and do the circle again. This time I see the orange sign indicating a detour for the hotel. I miss the detour.

6:15-We drive past the taxis again. When I get to the detour sign I try to remember which option I tried last time.

6:20-The road is different. That's a good sign.

6:21-Wait, there it is! I cut a sharp turn into the parking area and inform the booth attendant we have a reservation at the hotel. He gives me a punch card and tells me to keep it on the dashboard.

6:22-I pull in the first available parking space.

We check in and ride the elevator to the 12th floor. Jupiter gets first dibs on the bathroom. I look out the window at the Montreal skyline on the left side and on the right side, a big condo tower that says Petit Frere in red letters, half of which are burnt out. I couldn't see the hotel because the big condo building was in the way. Now, from the 12th floor vantage point, I can see where I was, where I am now, and the back entrance to the hotel parking lot which was inaccesible due to the road closure.

Since the plan to ride in to the city for dinner is shot due to our late arrival, we walk accross the parking lot to the metro station and shop for dinner in the mini mart. Jupiter gets a cinnamon roll and a drinking yogurt and I get cheese, crackers, and grapes. Then we hit the hotel pool which is stuffed full of people. When we go back to the room it's getting dark. I educate Jupiter on the importance of closing the drapes when one has condo neighbors accross the parking lot at the same level. She absorbs this information. She very much likes the view from the 12th floor. She does some homework and goes to bed. She won't let me turn on the tv while she's going to sleep, and I didn't get to go to the bookstore yet since we were so late, so I have nothing to read. I fall asleep too.