Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Cruddy Summer Vacation 2011: Family Staycation* Edition

(* I dislike the term staycation for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Maybe it’s the cutesy Brangelina-ness of the word combo or the implication that one is slumming because they are deigning to not travel the world this year. The economy, you know. But repeated use of stay-at-home vacation feels more like I am standing in an empty room trying to avoid eye contact with staycation while she raises a knowing eyebrow. You win, staycation.)

Mr. Crud and I spent a good part of our winter and spring in search of vacation ideas that fit one main criteria: they would actually be relaxing. Vacationing with an 18-month-old Purvis is the complicating factor. If we went out of town to a sweet cabin in the gorge would we be setting ourselves up for a heart attack-y time chasing her around a new set of hazards? How about child-proofing? Visions of uncovered electrical outlets and steep spiral staircases danced in my head. And sleep. Oh sleep. Last year our foray to Illinois to visit Mr. Crud’s parents marked the beginning of two sleepless months as Purvis’ once trusty sleep schedule was thrown into turmoil. I won’t even mention the slowly deflating air mattress that made our first night chez in-laws into a total hell. Well, I did mention it. Guess I’m still bitter about that one.

The coast? Nope. The tsunami in Japan and my subsequent research on the tsunami-unreadiness of our usual coastal haunts struck this option from the list. After an inventory of ways that the coastal areas are doomed should a tsunami strike, the articles shrug their shoulders: eh, good luck even though your doomed, coastal residents and unlucky visitors. Please, Cannon Beach, build that City Hall on stilts so that I can at least entertain the possibility of visiting your fine hamlet again.

The mountains? We’re not really nature people and minimizing Purvis’ and our chances of falling off something high and cliff-like ranks high on my list of to-do-s.

Family visit? Travelling with Purvis when she couldn’t walk was a challenge. I’m not ready to contemplate the new airplane reality with the up-and-at-em Purvis. More than toys and pizza, she loves running from kitchen to dining room, dragging her baby dolls and blankets. We plan to keep air travel to a minimum until she is old enough to plug into episodes of Dora or whatever is hip with the toddlers.

Then there is the trailer’s worth of baby crap we would have to haul to our destination and the promise of awkward diaper changes and backs sore from schlepping all of it. One of my yoga pals told me about a teacher who took her 1-year-old to India. “So you really can go anywhere with a baby. She doesn’t have to limit you.” So true. My fears and worries do a fine job of that, thank you very much.

So staycation it was.

We swore that we would not let the days slip away from us as in the past. I would skip my morning yoga routine (which to my chagrin seems to have f-ed up my back more than it was before somehow), we would eat out as we wished, and we would see the parts of Portland we normally take for granted. Staycation: here we come!

Magazines read:
No sweet junk food US Weekly, People, and abusive boyfriend O: The Oprah Magazine for me, an oversight on my part. Just the regular magazine subscriptions.

Yoga Journal
How I used to anticipate the arrival of a new YJ. Each page burst with promise of enlightenment and alignment tips. But in the last year I have soured on YJ. In part because it feels like I am reading the same issue over and over again. And maybe its more frustration with my own yoga practice and monkey mind than the contents of the magazine that is harshing my mellow. I am annoyed by the increasing page count full of shameless endorsement of expensive body lotions and shawl wraps with yoga-ey names and the appearance of celebrity yogis dispensing words of overly simplistic wisdom while they direct their personal chef to make the latest aruyvedic curry. We may soon part ways, dear Yoga Journal, but I will never forget the good times. Namaste.

Real Simple
So why does shameless product endorsement in YJ stick in my craw while I don’t bat an eye at pages and pages of “Things to Try This Month” in RS. Good question. I subscribe to RS not so much for the lifestyle tips as the recipes. Plus it’s easy to digest while on the can.

New Yorker
Gone are the days when I read the NY from front to back. Now I am lucky if I complete a Talk of the Town piece. Guess this is what happens when most magazine reading time is relegated to the bathroom. Maybe I should put down the Real Simple.

Madison: The James Madison University Alumni Magazine
Who wed, who died, and who bred sums up my skim of my alumni magazine. I wonder if I’ll ever have anything blurb-worthy to send. Sigh.

Books Read:
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
In the Crud house George R.R. also goes by the name “Mr. Crud’s Boyfriend” so beloved is he to my husband. For years I have been hearing about the ups and downs of the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. Mr. Crud laments pushed-back release dates for new books. He thrills at every new detail of the HBO series. All the while I roll my eyes playfully, “Oh you and your boyfriend.” He hooked his brother and sister-in-law on the series a few years ago. Every visit would include at least one long conversation with names totally foreign to my ears. Here we go again, I silently lamented. After watching the first season of the HBO series, “Game of Thrones,” I decided to give the books a try. I tried to be casual about it. I planned to read one then return to my literary diet of humorous memoirs, Scandinavian thrillers, and literary fiction. But no. I have to know what happens to Arya. What about the dragons? And that little shit, Joffrey? I have a new boyfriend and his name is George R. R. Martin. I look forward to Purvis’ naps because while she sleeps in my arms I read the teensy tiny print by eye-straining dim light. Mr. Crud has been sweet about not rubbing my new addiction in my face. The words “I told you so” have not crossed his lips. He reads over my shoulder. “Can you believe that happened?” No, no I can’t.

We kicked off our staycation with the Maria Bamford set at Helium Comedy Club. The week before our big night out I worried over the timing. We had a window of 45 minutes for the babysitter to arrive, Purvis to fall asleep, and to get to the club in time to pick up our tickets. I am a logistical worry wart. I see all the holes in the most simple of plans. All worked out as planned. The babysitter did not get waylaid by my imagined traffic jam, Purvis did not throw a tantrum because she sensed that we were heading out for a night on the town although I did throw Mr. Crud some shade for taking a shower and tipping Purvis off that this night was not like other nights. We found a parking spot and our tickets were waiting for us with time to spare. Because rock shows are now after my bedtime, I’m thinking that comedy will be my new out-and-about activity. I am totally addicted to comedy podcasts—Never Not Funny, Who Charted, How Did This Get Made, WTF to name a few—so why not support my local funny folk? Maria Bamford was amazing. I laughed until I was sobbing and begging her not to make me laugh anymore.

Lions, Tigers, and Cows Oh My!

Oregon State Fair
Tuesday we trucked down to Salem to take in the fine dairy-air of the Oregon State Fair. After a delightfully bouncy ride from car to fairgrounds—“Bumpy! Bumpy! Bumpy!!” Purvis chanted—we headed straight for the blunt yet accurately named Beef Barn. We mooed at cows, bleeted at sheep, neighed at horses, and quacked at ducks. During our two sojourns to the petting zoo, Purvis grazed the back of a deer and swatted at a goat’s tail. Thankfully she did not repeat my young petting zoo experience where a goat nibbled on my fingers as I tried to feed it. The petting zoo had the added excitement of trying to keep Purvis’ hand from jamming into her mouth after she had touched the poo and pee-riffic floor of hay. I didn’t even mind that the soap provided by the fair had the dreaded triclosan as its antibacterial agent. Funny how quickly the hippie mom worries about parabens and pthalates evaporate when possible e-coli is on the menu. As Purvis munched a PB & J, I read the Petting Zoo signs assuring fairgoers that the animals were delighted to be penned up and subjected to the sticky, swiping hands of hundreds of children. I couldn’t help but think to the scene in the recently viewed—thanks to a lovely staycation day minus Purvis during which we saw our first movie in 8 months and ate a leisurely lunch at Nostrana—Rise of the Planet of the Apes where main chimp Caesar bounds into a seemingly wonderful playroom under the watchful eye of his owner, the wary James Franco, and is then crammed into a dismal cage as soon as Franco leaves the building. Yes, I’m sure the petting zoo is a donkey’s dream. A pig slept in the corner during both our visits to the bustling pen. Pigs are smart. I wondered if the pig was depressed, if he was the Caesar that would try to lead the Petting Zoo rebellion. The fair food was disappointing. After all the website hype about the great food, I expected something gourmet-ish, representative of the pride Oregonians take in their grub. The usual parade of oily noodles, corn dogs (the foot-long corn dog named “The Dominator” resembled a soon-to-be-retired dildo), funnel cakes (which are admittedly delicious), elephant ears, mounds of curly fries, and the requisite fried Twinkies crammed the food court. State Fair life lesson: pack a lunch.

Portland Zoo
After my last zoo sojourn in college, I swore never to see another zoo without a tot in attendance. Otherwise, I spend the whole time feeling guilty that animals must be caged so that ding-dong humans can be convinced to not annihilate them from the planet. Alternately, so that animals won’t be annihilated from the planet because their habitat has been destroyed or they are fun to wear or they are tasty. I still had some of these thoughts, especially while huddled behind as mass of teenaged girls who squealed and hollered, “he’s waving at us!” while watching a chimp in the primate house. I can only imagine the parade of humanity that greets him every morning. Sorry, Mr. Chimp Sir, I tried to convey to him telepathically. If you become our overlords and annihilate us from the planet, I totally understand. Purvis dug the swimming sea lions, the grazing giraffes, and the pacing leopards. I am still partial to the primate house and the orangutans. After our zoo visit Purvis’s love of Goodnight, Gorilla (a tale of the most incompetent zookeeper ever) has been rekindled. Each mention of the zoo is met with a bellow of “Mooooo.” No cows at the zoo, but I appreciate her rhyming skills.

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
We saw exactly 2 ducks on our hike in the aforementioned wildlife refuge, but it was still cool to take a walk in the woods while in the city. Oh sweet Portland. I like to walk and I am a fan of nature (as long as getting lost in the woods and killed by deranged rednecks are not a danger) so it’s odd that I’ve not taken advantage of Portland’s many parks and hiking grounds. Mr. Crud and I vow to pull out our comfortable shoes—maybe even invest in some ugly but practical hiking boots—and start seeing the great outdoors. Purvis is a fan of outside. “Outside”—pronounced “dieee”—was one of her first words. Sometimes I worry that she is becoming too much a fan of outside. I fast forward to theoretical future when she asks to go on a hike in the wilderness or worse she is a young adult venturing into the woods with our without my blessing. Shiver. Maybe I can teach her a lesson a la the Arrested Development way by traumatizing her in a safe way so that the outdoors will not be so enticing. Now that’s some fancy parenting.

Tids and Bits
We bought Purvis a helmet so that she can ride her tricycle—actually be pushed on her tricycle—around the neighborhood with a protected noggin. She likes the helmet—her “helmey”—more than the actual trike-riding. We made a house rule that helmets are only for outside, a rule which as become the latest source of tears second only to the denial of pizza at every meal.

Purvis attended her first wedding and I spent my first wedding in decades not taking advantage of free booze. Are my boozerini days really over? Stay tuned. (A hearty mazel tov to Kelle and David.)

Purvis is an outgoing young lady. Her preferred method of getting to know you is to either holler “hi” or “baby” or swipe her hand at your face. She mistrusts the friendship overtures of other kiddos--she likes to woo her new buddies--and prefers to run with an older crowd. This week she made several temporary buddies. Moxy who shared in the fun of crumpling leaves and throwing them at each other. Anya who we have seen at the park near our house several times and showed Purvis the fun of leaping off high brick walls. The little boy who led Purvis in a “choo choo” parade around the perimeter of the park. While Purvis is working her shouty charm on a future temporary pal, I look to the parent and wonder, “Will you be my parent friend?” I remember how I scanned our childbirth preparation classroom and prenatal pilates class for possible future parent pals. After every conversation I analyzed the couple for compatibility with Mr. Crud and me. (Were they artsy, punky types? Would they want some former artsy, punky types for pals? How did they feel about attachment parenting? Do they mind awkward, dorky jokes possibly involving potty talk?) And after every conversation we stepped away from each other with no future plans to get together over coffee and chat, thus putting the kibosh on our parent friendship. I have my eye on the couple across the street. They fall on the yuppie side of the fence but their son is only a few months younger than Purvis and they have a killer yard. If all else fails I could try the Purvis holler-in-the-face method. Seems to be working out for her.

Podnah’s Pit is delicious. I say that I don’t like meat, but I lie. I like meat. I like it a lot.