Day 11: I am still alive, and I have so much to say!

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The newest member of the Maineiac Family: Chester the Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera).

Know what happens when I leave the state, and my family, alone for five days? They get more than two feet of snow, have no school, and I wind up road tripping 560 miles home with a chinchilla.

It is times like this when you stop, take stock of your life and ask yourself: what choices have I made that have led me to this juncture? And the answer is, inevitably, really awesome ones!

Some backstory on the whole event:

My best friend in the whole world is hubs, and after that, I have a cadre of folks that I would trust both mine, and my children’s lives to. One of those that is at the top of that list is The Doctor. I met her when I was an undergrad and she was my TA, then I was lucky enough to be her SA for a semester, and we realized we really hit it off.  Lots in common, since we are both in the same academic field, and with the same basic background for our graduate degrees. Add in the fact that she is an awesome person, and you have a recipe for a great friend. This friendship has grown stronger over five years, and now, thousands of miles.

A few months back, she called to inform me that her most favorite band of all time was coming to her area, and that I had to come with her to see them. The band in question? The Red Hot Chili Peppers. *swoon* I have liked them since my boyfriend in freshman year of high school introduced me to their music, so this was a treat and a half! Add in time with The Doctor, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I will go on a tangent here for a minute and note that it is darned near impossible to fly into or out of Maine in the wintertime, and that includes both Portland and Bangor. Something about our silly weather, and the Northeast not being a high demand winter vacation destination means it’s a good idea to have a backup plan with a backup plan to get where you are going from November to April.

Anyhow, keeping that in mind, I purchased a one-way ticket out of Bangor with three days lead time to get to where I needed to be for the concert. Good thing, too, because my initial flight was cancelled, then the next flight was cancelled, and I was finally rescheduled onto a flight the day after. I made in to my destination easy-peasy, but as I was taxiing out of Bangor (which resembled a frozen tundra), I realized I was not going to make my connection. Also unfortunately, The Doctor’s cell phone croaked. Somehow, through the wizardry of the internet, I managed to convey to her that I would be coming into a different airport, which was no big deal because it was the same distance as my original arrival airport, just in the opposite direction.

I made it in safe and sound, and an hour earlier than I would have had I gone on to my connecting flight, and the fun began. Great chats, I got to meet The Doctor’s new puppy, who is insanely adorable, get a pile of year birds, learn some new songs, and about some artists new to me.

I will come back later and do a day breakdown, including some thoughts I had along the way. This trip was good for me mentally, and physically. I think on a day to day basis, we forget the constant grist stone that rubs down our souls, and a break from the everyday to reconnect with someone that can help lighten the load in new ways is a must.

I think that was the overarching thought I had whilst away: as individuals, we are hard on ourselves, we beat ourselves up, we shoulder the weight of the world, and it becomes something we no longer realize we are doing until we aren’t doing it anymore and our shoulders relax, our blood pressure decreases, and we no longer have transient chest pains.

I will get to the road tripping chinchilla soon, I promise…

 

Day 3: Happy Holidays, now quit lacing the food with the plague.

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Happy Days: birding in Maryland, warm weather, iconic Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Wait. What? Yes, you read that correctly. Our holidays since 2008 have been measured in amount of general malaise, or overt suffering, and when you think about it, it’s morbid, but sustainable. Ask any ecologist or economist, and they will tell you that not only is perpetual growth not sustainable, it is downright not possible, despite what every corporate sales target implies.

When you start at the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up, even if it is a great holiday because no one was puking up their toenails. Honestly, how many “Greatest Christmas EVER!!!” can you have? That gets expensive and silly by the time the kids are 10, but  “No one had to go to the hospital this year” is always a good holiday.

Let me take you back to 2008 for some perspective: a few days before Christmas, Hubs had an outpatient procedure done, it should have been a rather quick heal, and life would be back to normal in about a week. Enter the plague to end all plagues. Less than 12 hours after having the procedure, he begins vomiting, and when I say vomiting, I mean vomiting. This was a GI bug for the books. Know what happens when you are heaving like that so soon after a procedure that involved some cauterization? Yup, that was a fun hematoma. Roughly the size of a plum, and solid. Also problematic: being less than mobile while having gastric distress.

Now we add in an ice storm. An ice storm means if you don’t have to be on the roads, don’t be on the roads, don’t make life difficult for first responders because you needed some shampoo or a loaf of bread. It also means that there are some serious value judgments that come into play when deciding just how bad a situation is. This is my segue to my youngest spawn.

Youngest spawn (YS) was 15 months old, and didn’t weigh much at all. Guess who started with the GI Bug from Hell a few hours before his daddy? Oh. My. Crow. He was unable to keep anything down for more than a few minutes for over 12 hours. His diaper was bone dry. That young, no wet diapers, unable to keep anything down, I had to decide: ER or no? I went with no, because his eyes were not sunken in, he was responsive, no high fever, and still willing to try fluids. Not worth risking anyone’s life on the roads, and we kept a close eye on him for signs of dehydration.

One more bit of fun to add to the mix: we were in the process of revamping the basement because it had flooded that summer, thanks to a sump pump that went kaput while we were on vacation. Bare floors, minimal plumbing fixtures, and then an ice plug formed in the ejection line, so the new pump was running like crazy, making the water in the basin hot. Fortunately I noticed the constantly running pump, checked, and took the shop vac down to empty the basin. Every 30 minutes.

I am not sure I have ever been so damn exhausted in my life. Three flights of stairs, two barfing family members, a sump basin that had to be vacuumed out… the saving grace was that my parents were with us for the holidays. My dad, bless his heart, spent hours with YS on his lap with a barf bucket. My mom jumped in and helped with meal prep, pain management, and keeping oldest spawn (OS) entertained. Can you guess where this is going…?

After the vomitfest began, and I had been cleaning up barf buckets for hours, YS and I wound up on his bedroom floor at about 4 in the morning, both of us in tears. Me because I was so damn exhausted, him because he was so damn tired and thirsty. I know when I have been barfing for hours, all I want is to chug something cold, but as an adult, I know I can’t. You can’t explain that to a 15 month old. All they know is they are thirsty. My folks were up by this point, and Mom relieved me of YS, Dad said he would get the sump, and I should go grab a quick nap.

I planned on an hour. Four hours after that, I woke up and panicked, but there was no need. Shortly after I went to bed, YS stopped barfing, and Mom got him a popsicle. Know what is great on a really sore, thirsty throat? Yup. Cold, with the added benefit of calorie-laden, slow fluid intake.Dad had been taking care of the sump pit, too. What an absolute relief to have that done.

The ice storm eased up, temps went north of freezing, and the ice plug moved out of the sump line. YS was on the mend, though he refuses chicken and noodles to this day, horking a meal up and following it with hours of sickness means you will not look at the first food on the floor for a damn long time. Hubs was on the mend. Dad and I hit the store and got the external sump pipe insulated to prevent further ice plugs. Life was good again.

Then came Christmas Eve and Dad wasn’t feeling well…

Instead of the Beef Wellington with creamed peas, herbed potatoes, crème brûlée, and excellent wine for Christmas dinner, Mom, OS, and I had macaroni and cheese with fish sticks. Dad, YS, and hubs were happy with jello and clear soda.

That is the saga of The Worst Christmas Ever for our family. Start there, and it pretty much goes up. Next post… cooties. Again. But this time for Thanksgiving!

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The Grinch and his dog, Max. ~Dr. Seuss

 

Day 2:We’re not in Indiana anymore, kids! Also? Turkey.

 

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Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) photo from American Expedition

This morning I slept in a little bit, until 06:30 (ugh), and I began my mental checklist of things I should probably do today to make tomorrow go smoothly and be slightly less stressful. So far I have got the turkey in brine, the cranberries made, and a pile of recipes on the counter, mocking me. I am making a cranberry apple pie for dessert, because yum.

Last night I started this page up, and I am fortunate because the folks that bought our house in Indiana include a fantastic freelance editor and blogger named Leah. She writes for many places, and has some great things to say over at her page Leah’s Thoughts. She pointed out that I had called Maine the “Granite State”, and that moniker rightfully belongs to New Hampshire. Maine is the Pine Tree State, which makes sense, 85% of the state is forested, and I have pines all over my yard! Thanks for the catch!

Before we moved here, we had discussed the possibility of moving to Maine, and since our oldest had to do a state report, she did hers on Maine. The Maine.gov site has plenty of interesting facts about our adopted home, such as: there is a state fossil, and even state soil! We moved from a state with over six million people to one with just over one million, and nearly the same land area; Indiana has 36,291 square miles, Maine has 30,843 square miles, so there is way more open area here, and the lines are a lot shorter at the grocery stores! Of course coming from California with approximately 38.8 million people, the vast majority of places I go are not nearly as crowded!

Some things here in Maine that I have had to get used to:

  • No central air in 99% of the houses, including ours.
  • Most heat is provided through heat oil, which is delivered to the house via a big ass tanker truck.
  • Septic. While not only a Maine thing, it’s new to me.
  • No hot water heater, we have a boiler which is used to heat the house and provide hot water for the house. And when I say hot water, I mean HOT!
  • Stunningly friendly people: trust me, folks in the Hoosier state have nothing on Mainer hospitality.
  • No traffic on the highways, and folks that get out of the way if you come up on them in the left lane. Unless they’re from Massachusetts, then all bets are off.
  • The price of electricity. I had a cow the first time I opened an electric bill. Turns out, it’s the 9th most expensive state in the nation for electricity.
  • Maine is like California in that it is nearly two states: Southern Maine, District 1, which includes Portland, is distinctly blue, very liberal, and has the highest population density. Northern Maine, District 2, where we live, is so red it would make the Queen of Hearts envious. It is sparsely populated, fiercely independent, definitely conservative-leaning.

That being said, I am very happy here. I am 45 minutes from the ocean, like I was in California, but with 0.5% of the population, and a whole new host of birds to entertain! In Indiana, I did have the chance to see Wild Turkeys often, and I knew with a fair amount of certainty where I could go to see a flock at any given time, and though they occasionally wandered through the neighborhood, they were not at all a bird I saw in my backyard.

Here in Maine? The list of yard birds is really amusing, some are old friends, some are old rare friends, some are completely new yard birds, though not life birds, for me. I can assure you I never looked out my back door and saw a Ring-billed Gull chilling in the yard in Indiana, or a Bobolink. Here? Eh, par for the course. My favorite part of the Bobolink: it sounds like R2-D2 is in the yard!

My best fly-over birds here in Maine have been: Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Merlin, Common Raven. Most of those stop in the yard for snacks, the added benefit of having a hay field.

I do miss seeing Trumpeter Swans and Whooping Cranes, hopefully when I go back to Indiana to defend my thesis next year I can have a gander at them again.

I suppose I have avoided my responsibilities long enough, and I should get myself back to the kitchen, because these pies and casseroles are not going to make themselves! A new addition to our table this year: a stuffed squash as a main dish for my oldest child, who is now vegetarian. We tried it last week, and it was delicious!

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Stuffed pumpkin!

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving Day dish? A favorite holiday tradition? I would love to hear all about it!