Tuesday, July 31, 2007

And we're off!

It's official. We received our clearance yesterday, had the last of three test flights this morning, and we're flying out tomorrow on our way to the South Pacific. I have to admit, as much as spending two extra days with my three boys was wonderful, it was good to be set free from the limbo of not knowing. I don't function very well with uncertainty - it almost paralyzes me. I came home yesterday after Test Flight the Third was scrapped for the second time and was fully unable to do anything productive. I could pack a little more, but what if we don't leave for another few days? I could start a little craft project, but what if it gets interrupted? I could just... uh...

Yeah. Limbo.

So instead I sat outside under the tree on my favourite chair and caught up on some Martha Stewart magazines that have been piling up lately.

And then the word came through in the late afternoon yesterday that we are cleared to go and land and measure and do research. And all the other fun things involved in this study.

So today, after Test Flight the Third "take 3" actually worked, I came home with a purpose. I have packing to do, tidying and cleaning and dishes, things to mail, a blog entry to write... all sorts of things that I need to do before I leave the house tomorrow morning at 6:45 AM.

Including a little bit of sitting outside under the tree on my favourite chair with my favourite non-human.

When I was six, my father went on a short term mission trip to Japan for three weeks. I remember taking him to the airport with my mom, and being surprised at how upset my mother was that he was leaving. A little while later, she explained to me that she was just sad about not being with him. After 10 years of marriage, they hadn't been apart for even a couple nights in a row. Three weeks seemed like forever!

Unlike my parents, Keith and I have often been separated for a few nights, a week, or even a few weeks while I travel for work. Thankfully, Keith is quite content to play the role of the-spouse-at-home, and happily faces my impending absences without complaint or question. And for the most part, I remain emotionally unflappable when I think about being away from home for an extended time.

But sometimes it hits me, even for a moment, that I am really going to miss my sweet boys. Today it happened as we flew close to our subdivision in Boulder just after take-off: I'm going to be in this exact place tomorrow, and it will be the last time I see my house for over three weeks!

So while I'm doing this

Know that my heart will be pining after my silly mutt:

And my adorable bub

And especially my sweet Keith

Stay well, family. I'll see you soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Holding pattern

I alluded to a particular pending diplomatic clearance in my last post. It seems that the time has come and gone for a guaranteed Monday departure, so the decision has been made to delay our leave taking until Tuesday or later, depending on whether or not the research permit trickles down through the proper channels (Kiribati government in Tarawa to the Kiribati embassy in the U.S.; to the Department of State to NSF to us) by Monday at 3pm. Think it'll happen?

In the meantime, I'm keeping busy thinking about packing, making a pasta salad for dinner at our friends' place tonight, purchasing random snacks and supplies for the trip, sorry-I'm-abandoning-you-for-so-long beer for Keith, and flip-flops to give away on the island.


As I was writing the above, the doorbell rang. It was our mailman dropping off Kai's new watch.

Wanna hear a funny story?

Do you remember way back on Kai's birthday... actually, I guess it was before his birthday, but whatever. FOR his birthday, Kai got a watch from two of his grandparents. He loved his watch. He wore it all the time. The next three months worth of pictures of him have it on his wrist in almost every one, including his 4-year-old portrait:

He would have worn it 24-7, but we insisted that he let his wrist "breathe" at night. The last thing he did every night was hang the watch on the corner of the MegaBlocks box that lives next to his bed. The first thing he did every morning was put it back on.

He loved his watch.

And then one day, it was missing.

"Huh? That's odd. Where's the watch?"

And I slowly remembered what had happened.

The day of our Canada Day BBQ, while he was playing in his little kiddie pool, Kai decided that he needed to take off his watch. This was odd because he was ever-so-proud of the watch's waterproofness. Nevertheless, he wanted it off, so I recommended that he put it on a chair beside the little pool, rather than just leaving it in the grass. I should have just taken it and put it away inside. Once I remembered that this was the last known location, we searched all over the yard, and in other toy bins, thinking that perhaps one of the other kids at the BBQ had picked it up and moved it, but to no avail.

Well, after three weeks, Kai was still watchless, and becoming very sad about it. Keith and I searched online, and it turns out that you can buy these watches on Amazon for a fairly reasonable fee. The order was placed last week, and a couple days later, I received notification that it had been sent.

Then yesterday Kai found his watch inside one of our flower containers in the front yard.

And today the new watch arrived.

Figures, eh?

Worst case scenario - we have a watch for the next time this one gets lost. Best case? We have a great gift to give one of Kai's friends later.

Oh, and we also have our very first Tragically Hip CD(s) "Yer Favourites" (with a "u"), added to the purchase to bring the total up to over $25, because really, who wants to pay for shipping?

Love Bobcaygeon. And Fireworks. That song makes me think of Christian every time I hear it because he was convinced that you could simply replace all the lyrics in the song with the word "hockey", and it is still a good song.

I'd better go finish that pasta salad. And maybe I'll think some more about packing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Random things from today:

Test Flight the Second was significantly less interesting than Test Flight the First. My channel didn't work at all: a shorted lens inside the pylon (on the outside of the plane) equaled an inability to even think about fixing it. Thus, I simply had a 5-hour long ride back and forth across Nebraska in the barfomatic plane.

Yep. There were a lot of throw-ups today. Thankfully, they were not by me, or around me, or within earshot of me.

Mind you, the latter would be all but impossible.

Nevertheless, the vomit bags, which live in a little metal box at the front of the cabin near my seat, were being reached for on a very regular basis during the last hour of the flight. We were in the boundary layer for a long time (the lowest ~ 1 km of the atmosphere). Think 2 hours straight of turbulence while sitting in a sauna full of coffee grinders that just keep grinding and grinding. Bumpy, hot and loud.

Oh, and nothing outside to look at but this:

and on occasion, this:

Seriously. Nothing against Nebraska, but it's a pretty boring state from above.

Other completely unrelated tidbits:
  • I forgot how much I love Snickers Almond. Much more than the version with peanuts.
  • I saw an ad tonight for Corner Gas being aired on WGN! Here, in the U.S! So exciting!
  • I booked myself a flight to New Zealand today. Wacky.
  • I bought the first two seasons of the U.S. "The Office" today. I'm hoping that they'll keep me occupied while I'm on Christmas Island. Did I mention I'm on my way to the South Pacific? Yeah... next week. Well, if all goes well, I'll be leaving on Monday. If all doesn't go well, it might be a day or so later, or even a week... Diplomatic research permit politics. Feh.

Monday, July 23, 2007


As first test flights go, today's was pretty typical: some things hobbled along painfully, some parts didn't work at all. And there is now a lot of pressure to fix these parts tomorrow before the next test flight on Wednesday. All in all, a very normal outing.

Complete with flat landscapes and far away rain showers. That's Superior there at the end. The community, that is, not the lake.

I think my inner ear just woke up. I'm gonna go lie down for a few minutes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday project

What do you do when someone offers you a large patio furniture box? Why, you fashion it into a wee cottage. Naturally.

...complete with a house number (#4, of course, for the four-year-old), and a flower box full of flowers.

To celebrate the completion of the cottage on yet another 95+°F day: a couple real fruit Splenda(TM)-sweetened popsicles.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Irish eyes a'smiling

Keith's dear old friend Mark came for a visit this weekend. His band Enter the Haggis, a fantastic Celtic rock band, is here in Colorado playing at the Colorado Irish Festival. After chillin' with Mark on Friday night and all day yesterday, Keith and I had the privilege of hanging out with the band backstage at the festival before enjoying their show with a few hundred local Haggis Heads:

James (ETH drummer) and Keith. With coolio VIP access lanyards.

Mark and Keith. Backstage. Before the show. Avec the green drinkin' wristband.

Waiting for the bands to change.

Keith and me. Dusk. Just before the Haggis show.

Trevor, Brian and Mark. Doing their thing.

Enjoying our vantage point from the VIP area backstage.

It was great to see you again, Mark. And thanks for the skirt kilt.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I am well aware of the fact that I am a guest in this lovely country that lies just to the south of my own. A happily employed, gratefully health-insured alien of a guest.

Yeah, I'm officially an "alien". If you look up alien in the dictionary, the first entry (at least in the dotcom version) explains that alien is simply the opposite of citizen. Nevertheless, it still makes me giggle.

But yes: a guest. And as such, I try to be discreet about my feelings regarding the country in which I reside.

Oh yeah - there is no longer any confusion about my status as a non-resident-for-tax-purposes versus my incredibly incorrect ignorance regarding my status as a resident-for-immigration-purposes. I am a full-on, legitimate resident of the U.S. now: taxes, customs, immigration, health, body, mind, soul and vehicular warranty limitations. (Uh, hey GM - 36k miles is way less than 60k km, you know. For the record.) The good news: no more getting yelled at by angry customs officers who are obviously just bitter about being stuck in the basement of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport signing off on weary through-travellers' customs forms rather than getting to work the Mexico border in Laredo where the tequila confiscation is much easier to accomplish.

I so digress.

Right. Where was I? Oh yeah. I'm a guest, and I try not to diss this country too often, at least not so much in this public-forum-stylish place. But sometimes I just can't help myself.

I think it is fair of me to estimate that the majority of you are Canadians (after all, I have a site-meter... shhh... don't tell), and my main message here is for you: I want you to stop complaining about the health system in Canada. I know it has flaws, but... well...

Oh just read on.

Last week while eating my lunch in the break room of the hangar, one of guys who works there asked me about my status as a Canadian and how it affects my health insurance while I'm working in the U.S., and did I actually have insurance here?

At the risk of sounding like Dwight Schrute:

Fact. No Canadian is allowed to set foot in the U.S. on a legitimate visa without American health insurance.
Fact. For two years we kept our Ontario health cards active, because, well... it made us feel good.
Fact. We allowed our Ontario health cards to laspe because we are trying to cut our residential ties with Canada because... um. Well, we're tired of paying for health insurance in two countries, when we really only live in one.
Fact. If we moved back to Canada, our Canadian health coverage would kick in after three months. I have no idea what we would have to do in the interim. That is only slightly disturbing, but it seems that my instinctive response to not knowing something that may or may not be important is to hope and pray that it won't be important.

I tend to avoid worrying about things that may never need to be worried about. I find I can worry about those just fine if and when the time to worry ever comes. I know I know... can't add hairs to your head... yeah yeah.

Wow, I digress.

I replied to the break room question that yes, I need to have health insurance here, and that yes, I'm with Kaiser (Permanente - for those of you who have seen Sicko, and I'm afraid I haven't yet, I believe that Michael Moore discusses Kaiser as the big bad wolf of HMOs. Oh goody for us.) Kaiser is one of the four health care options that we have at my workplace. The options, as laid out, were as follows:

option 1) Cigna premium. You want good health care? Okay. Give us your firstborn.

option 2) Cigna middle-of-the-road. You want decent health care with a nice name? Okay. Give us half of your firstborn.

option 3) Cigna worst-case-scenario. You want to pay for everything until you've paid $5000? And then we'll pay the rest, even though you've already run back to your home country 'cause WOW things got bad. Okay. Give us $5, and then go away until you've reached your deductible.

option 4) Kaiser's just-under-middle-of-the-road. You want decent health care? You want to constantly see commercials on TV telling you how good your health care provider is? Okay. Give us 1/4 of your firstborn.

And so we're with Kaiser. (Option 3 would be good if we could actually afford $5000/year in the event of a tragedy, but that's too risky for us.)

The little break room question turned into a little discussion on American versus Canadian health care blah blah blah, and at the end of the conversation I realized why I fundamentally despise private health systems:

Health insurance companies are businesses. Their goal? Make a profit. Even if Canadians paid more money for their health care (hidden in their taxes, rather than overtly stripped from their paychecks every two weeks) than Americans, which, according to many sources, they don't, then at least they wouldn't be helping some stuffed-shirt CEO of some hideous very-much-for-profit company get even more filthy rich.

Right now I'm resisting an urge to change my last sentence to use the word "paycheques".

I, personally, would much rather give my money to a government institution (flawed though it may be) and have said institution dole out said money for my medical treatment than hand over the same money to a company whose main concerns are to (a) keep their shareholders happy and (b) stay in business.

Not the health and well-being of their customers?


Unfortunately, I don't have a choice, living where I am, and I am forced to pay into a Kaiser health insurance plan to the tune of ~$180/mo.

Have I had issues getting something covered with them? Umm... yes, but fortunately, it doesn't involve life or death, and it doesn't involve something that has already happened, and thus needs to be paid for by someone. Something like this incredibly well-written, but oh-man-I-feel-her-pain story. I know. It's a long read, and I've already blabbered on for a good 10 minutes, but especially for you Canadians I think it's good for you to understand just how good you've got it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What (not) to wear

I fell into the Gap today. I think it was my first time in a Gap in what must be at least a year.* The last time I shopped at a Gap I don't remember thinking that I didn't belong there, but today I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of anti-belonging. It was a strange fish-out-of-water syndrome. I think I used to blend in adequately, but it seems that they've changed their look, and I'm apparently not keeping up with the times.

I'm more of an Old Navy girl, really. And Target, which I don't even feel the need to call "Tar-gey." I'm definitely casual enough for affordable Mossimo- and Cherokee-chic.

Anyhow, regarding the Gapdisbelonging, it didn't matter: I still bought a cute little brown stretchy tank. Of course it was on sale.

I'm pretty fortunate - my typical work attire is a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a zippered hoodie. In the summer, the jeans become shorts - typically a casual pair with a relatively long inseam, but more on the industrial side than professional. For my feet, a pair of sneakers is ideal, functioning well for bike-riding and for working in an area ripe with chemicals and stubbing hazards. I can and do dress up from time to time. But if I know I'll be in the lab, lugging cylinders around or crawling around on the floor of the plane, it is simply impractical to wear "nice" clothes.

And I couldn't be happier.

I might not please Stacy and Clinton, but my style suits me just fine.

*I'm not counting the Gap Outlet - they're much more down to earth at the outlet than they are at this hoity-toity zone I wandered into today.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Crikey! He's a beauty!

First, to Keith's parents: you may want to look away.

Everyone else, check this out. (I'm not web-savvy enough yet to post a video right here. Maybe someday I'll take the time to work it out, but for now, this should work.)

So there I am, watering the flowers in the backyard with Kai following me like a little shadow, and as I turn to water the second window box, I notice movement in the grass below.

Big orange and yellow stripey movement.

That's right folks. It was the largest garter snake I have ever seen in my life!

(I should pause to admit that I've really only ever seen about 3.)

Being the calm, cool and collected mom that I am, I screamed for Keith.

Well, scream is a relative term. I called loudly for him. (yes - I can yell when I need to.)

But he was busy vacuuming, so I had to turn, walk four steps, knock on the sliding glass door, and then proudly explain that I found a snake for him to show Kai. (Me pick it up? Are you kidding me?)

So here is what ensued:

Wow... Pretty amazing! It's not everyday that you get to experience nature up-close like this or share an appreciation of wildlife in your own backyard with your child. And I especially love that Kai is so willing (albeit somewhat reluctantly at first) to hold a snake. He's a gutsy little kid.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Adventure is in my blood.

I have had a variety of hobbies in my lifetime, almost every one entails being outside. There really isn't an artistic bone in my body, those gifts were bestowed to my brothers. I don't know if it really means anything but almost all of the pictures of me from my childhood were taken outside. I have memories playing and tramping for hours through the old gravel pits in Cedar Springs, not wanting to come inside when the sun set. There were canoe trips, Boy Scouts, riding my bike down to Lake Erie for some adventure on the beach, lots of days wallowing in snow and playing pond hockey on the coldest days of the year.

Spring ahead to May 2005, we move to Colorado with mountains and valleys almost too numerous to name. Soon after arriving I started taking courses that would teach me the skills to be active and safe on these glorious peaks. I recently completed Basic Mountaineering School and I have started to work on requirements for Advanced Mountaineering School. This past weekend I was in Rocky Mountain National Park learning how to climb in crampons and I had this sense come over me that all the things I had done in my life had prepared me for this moment. I am a climber, albeit an amateur with more to learn and experience but a climber none the less.
Becky and I have had a conversation about me climbing Everest some day. She doesn't want me to go, she would prefer that Kai be married and she was actually dead before I attempted that peak, well she needn't worry anymore. There are less crowded and more enjoyable mountains in the world that can be climbed, and I intend to climb some of those magnificient monsters.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lazy Day Off

We're just chillin' today: doing some sewing, playing with our trains, and mowing the lawn. Happy 4-7 to all y'all!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Maple Leafs forever

We just received a lovely surprise in a package from Shannon. It is a little big, but that just means that there is plenty of room for the shoulder pads. Or for growing. Whichever comes first.

I love the ensemble - it rained earlier, so the boots had already been fetched for some serious puddle-stomping.

Want to trade citizenships?

Boulder has a reputation for being the People's Republic of Boulder so it isn't unusual for me to hear someone asking if I wouldn't mind trading citizenships. More often than not people can be heard saying, "He's not my President." It really makes me feel like I'm back home actually. The disturbing thing is that most of the Christians I have met voted for W - twice. (Insert question of your choice - Why? What were you thinking? Are you insane? Oh?)

Most people would agree that much of the world now sees Americans as arrogant, forceful and incapable of cooperation. Why has this happened? There is no doubt that the foreign policies of the government created this attitude. And this is why on Sunday a lady at our church told us a story I'm sure we have all heard before. While in Europe last summer she put a Canadian flag patch on her bag in order to pass as a Canadian instead of being found out as an American. The Americans I have had the pleasure to get to know are kind, gracious people and if they feel that they need our protection while abroad we should just invite them north and make them citizens or we could just welcome a few states into the Dominion. Who says a one way trade has to be a bad deal?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Canada!

I'm exhausted, but before I head off to bed, I just wanted to wish everyone a happy Canada Day! I hope your day was as enjoyable as ours. We hosted a barbecue, had a wonderful time with some of our American friends, and we even had our Canadian buddy Tim here to celebrate with us. Tim, I'm so glad we were able to hang out with you for the weekend - you are a joy to have around!

Happy birthday to my favourite country.