When the cat’s away…

A few years ago, when we were still MeWomanYouMan and MeManYouWoman, Luc and I wrote about business trips.

Guess what? He’s gone again.

Not that I’m bitter. Over the ensuing years, I’ve come to accept his relatively infrequent (yet still somewhat envy-inducing) work-related jaunts across the continent and beyond. I even got to accompany him to Las Vegas last year for a whirlwind 48 hours, when a conference he had to attend coincided perfectly with our 20th (also known as the “How the Heck is that Possible?!”) wedding anniversary.

In fact, I’ve realized that there are actually some perks to his being away.

  • Clean sheets. I’ve always enjoyed crawling into a freshly made bed, but until a friend of mine confided that on sheet-washing day she will actually bump up her bedtime by hours if necessary just to get in there before anyone else (i.e. her husband) has time to mess them up, I didn’t truly appreciate the luxury freshly laundered, tightly tucked bedding can afford. Luc hadn’t even started packing his suitcase yesterday morning and I was already stripping the sheets off the bed in anticipation of washing, drying and remaking them into a cozy little flannel cocoon just for me.
  • Uninterrupted sleep. Much as I get a little freaked out anytime I have to sleep alone with just me and the kids in the house, once I fall asleep (after checking and rechecking that the vehicles are both locked, the garage door is down, all entry points to the house are barred, the oven and burners are indeed off AND cooled down, and the handle to the gas BBQ on the back porch is in its full and upright position–even if the last time we BBQ’d was months ago) I sleep like the dead. I do love a kiss goodnight and a warm body to snuggle with but, admittedly, Luc and I have mutually irritating sleep habits that don’t always make for a good night’s sleep (he snores, I snort; I fidget, he twitches; he fluffs his pillow against my head, I hog the covers; I check Facebook after the lights go out, he checks BBC News before the sun comes up…). But when it’s just little ol’ me, I can snort, fidget, hog and FB to my heart’s content knowing that I’m not bugging him and he’s not going to be waking me.
  • Breakfast for dinner. When the four of us are here, I try my best to plan out healthy meals for most of the week. But when we’re down to three, my different-lean-protein-every-night/vibrant-veggies-and-whole-grain-carbs-on-the-side approach goes out the window. The kids want toast with peanut butter for dinner? Sure! Maybe some scrambled eggs? Why not! Cheerios? You bet! Luc would never eat breakfast for dinner, so as much fun as it is for the kids, it’s also a happy break for me…and Luc is none the wiser.
  • Decorating freedom. For some reason, decorating inspiration always comes to me when Luc is away. He’s come home to everything from rearranged knick-knacks on the mantel to new throw pillows to a completely repainted main level (needless to say that one occurred during one of his lengthier business trips). Part of the fun for me is waiting to see if he even notices–once, a new painting hung in the front hallway for weeks after his return before he asked, “Did you do something different in here?”  (And yes, I’m sure there’s a small element of “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” in there too.)

So this time around, while the cat’s away, this mouse is going to get a great night’s sleep in fresh, clean sheets after a delicious pancake dinner…and maybe tackle the powder room in the morning! 😉

 

 

 

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7 Things I Realized/Discovered/Learned in Mexico

We’ve just returned to Canada from Mexico, our fourth Big Family Vacation (Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Dominican Republic being the other three).

I’m not sure why, but sizzling heat, salty margaritas and coconut-scented sunscreen seem to be my perfect ingredients for introspection. Here are just a few things I realized/discovered/learned this March Break.

  1. Being x pounds lighter (or heavier) will not make one iota of difference to how enjoyable a vacation can be. When we went to Florida in 2013, I was at maximum density for my adult life (excepting the later months of my pregnancy with my daughter when I put on a whopping 50 lbs’ worth of Mocha Frappuccinos). For our 2014 trip to California I lost 13 pounds. For our 2016 trip to Punta Cana I re-lost the same 13.  This time around, I was down 6 (or is that up 7?). In any case, was any one family vacation better than any other because of my weight? Sounds stupid even asking the question, doesn’t it? So yeah, no more putting “lose weight” on my vacation to-do lists. And on a similar note…
  2. Embrace the bikini. Sure I’m up 7 (down 6?) pounds, my skin is Irish ancestry/Canadian winter white, and my belly bears the stretch marks and crêpey folds of two pregnancies. But my hubby still finds me hot in the navy blue/white polka dot push-up bikini I splurged on at the last minute and wasn’t even sure I’d put on. And my girlfriends in the group we were travelling with gushed over my confidence (totally fake, but I’ll take it) in baring almost all. Over the week, I saw women of all shapes and sizes rocking their bikinis and from now on, I will too. (Plus, I happily realized, when you gotta go, pulling a bikini bottom up and down is WAY easier than contorting out of and back into a sopping wet one-piece.) Speaking of great swathes of unprotected skin…
  3. Not all sunscreens are created equal. Sprays are quick and painless and pretty reliable, but my fire-and-explosions phobia prevents me from ever packing aerosols on a trip that requires cruising at an altitude of higher than 10 feet, so I always pack lotions. But we discovered by painful accident that even within this category some sunscreens work significantly better than others. Luc and the kids HATED the thick and gooey Banana Boat Sport Performance I slathered on them over the first few days. But when we switched to the lighter, thinner, smoother Coppertone on Day 4, everyone burnt to a crisp. Same 30 SPF, same religious reapplication, way different results. So on Day 5 and for the rest of the week, it was back to thick and gooey. And not to get gross, but…
  4. ALWAYS PACK GRAVOL AND IMMODIUM. ‘Nuf said. And while we’re on the topic of universal constants…
  5. Sometimes the Big Dipper is upside down–but not for the reason you might think. One evening on our way back to our rooms, one of the group’s teens pointed out the Big Dipper–and the fact that it was upside down from what we were used to seeing at home in Ottawa. From whence ensued a deeply intellectual yet highly un-scientific discussion of why this might be. The best we could come up with was that it had something to do with looking at it from further south than we were used to, which didn’t seem quite right, since we were still in the Northern Hemisphere and figured the equator had to factor into the equation somehow. Plus, we couldn’t figure out at what point when travelling north or south the constellation would visually “flip”. And would it actually be invisible if you could place yourself at the perfect point in-between? Everyone, from the 9-year-old to the nearing-50s among us, had a theory. Of course, we could have googled it, but…
  6. Screen-free is freeing. Long before we boarded our 6 a.m. flight from Montréal, the kids knew that this was to be yet another screen-free vacation. When we camp: no screens. When we cottage: no screens. When we Disney: no screens. And when we all-inclusive: no screens. For our family of four, this meant that all extraneous electronics were left at home to avoid temptation; two of the three phones that made the trip were kept on airplane mode in the room safe; and the one cell that was kept on for emergencies only (“emergency” being defined as 1. urgent calls or texts from extended family at home 2. calculating the Canadian dollar/Mexican peso exchange rate during heated negotiations for tacky souvenirs and 3. being used as a camera when the camera card was full) stayed in Luc’s pocket for the duration. Sure we could have quickly pulled it out and looked up the whole upside-down dipper phenomenon, but that would have cut the discussion short with pure and simple facts…and where’s the fun in that? There’s more talking, more debating, more mulling, more joking, more laughing, more theorizing, more imagining, more sharing, and, much as I hate the word, more “interacting” when there’s nary a screen in sight. Which makes Mama a happy camper, and brings me to my final deep thought…
  7. There IS such a thing as the “Happy Place Paradox.” When I’m trapped in the vicious freeze-thaw-snow-rain-sleet-hail-ice cycle of an Ottawa winter, there’s no place I’d rather be than on a sunny, white-sand, turquoise-water beach down south. But by the time I get to the end of 7 days away (no matter how wonderful a no cooking, no cleaning, no working, no worries, margarita-on-demand vacation can be), there’s no place I’d rather return to than home. Which makes Mama a very lucky–and thankful–camper too.

P.S. If you’re dying to know why the Big Dipper is sometimes upside down, check out the quick and dirty explanation at Cool Cosmos or the lengthier explanation at Constellation Guide (yes, we googled it on the way home).