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Days Six, Seven, & Eight: Sitting on a park bench, behind the wheel, and on a beach

30 Jun

Where on earth do I begin? Perhaps the epicenter? Which for Day Six (and the beginning of Day Seven) was the back deck at the Tisons house in Fairfield, Connecticut. Or maybe just at the beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start.

Day Six started off innocuously enough. My children were up early, but not obnoxiously so, and they managed to wake without bringing the rest of the house out of slumber with them. We kind of had a lazy morning as Joe & Tina got ready to go to work. Then mid-morning I loaded my three, plus the Tison’s 7 year old daughter, into the van, and took off for the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. Yet another science museum at which I receive reciprocal free admission. This was a small museum, but fun, mostly because they had an indoor ropes course-like obstacle course. Anything that gets the kids climbing, stretching, moving their bodies is great in my book. But before that makes me sound all pious and health-conscious, please allow me to confess that I then turned right around and took them to McDonald’s for lunch. After we had all ordered I sent them to a large booth to sit and wait while I paid and collected the food. They sat at the table, chatting excitedly, but in no way disruptively (shockingly enough, my children do actually have and were actually using their inside voices!) It took me all of four minutes maybe to complete my transaction at the counter, with them in view the whole time, and as I entered the dining room area an older woman snarls at me, quite loudly I might add (definitely not her inside voice), “THOSE children are being TOO LOUD!” Now, at this juncture I had several different routes of response: (1) I could totally ignore her. Not really my style. (2) I could have turned to the kids and said, hey, let’s show this lady what it really means to be loud. Very tempting, but, see, unlike her, I do have some class, so I decided instead to go with, (3) Laugh derisively in her general direction, and say, to the children who are looking at me silently and with great expectation, loudly enough for the other patrons to hear, Well, kids, that lady seems to think you are being too loud, so let’s remember to continue using our inside voices. I’m sure the irony was lost on her. Because nothing says “I’m a reasonable person” like someone who goes to McDonald’s at 12:30pm and then gets upset that there are children present.

After our lunch we headed on to Norwalk to make our annual visit to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children. For whatever reason, my children never get tired of Stepping Stones. Avery especially loves the water room, but Beau especially loves the outdoor space. There they have all kinds of hard foam blocks and shapes for building and climbing on. Of course it is tragedy waiting to happen because Beau has a very specific creation in mind, sets about trying to recreate it in three dimensions, and then some three year old comes by and finds great joy in knocking it to the ground. It is definitely a test of Beau’s self control. And sometimes he handles it better than others. He did fairly well, but his temper was definitely rising to the top. (Poor kid, comes by it honest. Crazy Momma feels you, sweet boy.) But it was out in that play space that I encountered the sassiest, most ill-behaved child ever. She was adorable. About 5 years old. And every time she opened her mouth I wanted to turn her over my knee. I cannot even imagine what her home life is like for her to have learned to speak to and interact with other people in such a way. She was hands on hips, bobbing her head around, what’choo gonna do about it, getting up in Beau’s face. Honestly, part of me wanted to let him haul off and knock her block off. Her behavior was so ugly and antagonistic, for no apparent reason. And as Beau, with my prompting, continued to say things like, can you please move back from my building so I can finish it, and can you please stop talking to me like that, she at one point spit in his general direction. At this point I was interacting with her, as well. Not discipling, but definitely being cuttingly sarcastic. I was hoping that her mother/father might overhear and approach me, or that she would run off and tell her mother/father, because I had some choice words for them. But clearly there was no guardian in sight, nor hearing distance. Eventually I realized that she and her equally as ill-behaved little brother belonged to one of the nannies that was sitting together at a table across the courtyard. Eventually she left Beau alone, and it didn’t come to anything else, but I weep for the future as I watch this latest generation of entitled children age. I tell my kids that one day they’ll appreciate how strict I am, that they will be much better adjusted and highly functioning members of polite society. That may not seem important now, but as adults, when they are prepared to handle disappointment, when they are capable of understanding and moving past the word no, they’ll thank me. Of course they already thanked me when on the way home from Stepping Stones we stopped in at Stew Leonard’s, like you do whenever you’re in Norwalk. Part grocery store, part sideshow, part excuse to eat ice cream for snack, we wandered the aisles pressing all the buttons, watching all the shows, and generally having a great time. I especially loved the interaction we had in the fruit aisle. We were chatting with another mom as we stopped for our sample of lemonade, and singing and dancing in the aisles (impromptu dance party!) to the Chiquita Banana song, when the other woman turned to Samantha, and said, “Your mom’s a good dancer.” To which Samantha promptly said, “Oh, that is not my mom.” I don’t think she was meaning to be rude, just factual, because what are the odds (I guess 1 in 4) that the woman would chose to address the one child that actually wasn’t mine! But it made us grown-ups laugh so hard. Because it was such a teenager thing to say. That is not my mom. Especially when it was directed toward the crazy momma that was dancing in the aisles of the grocery store!

But the real crown in the jewel of Saturday was the post-slumber-party-bedtime socializing. As I’ve said before, Tina and Joe are some of my favorite people on the planet. And while it makes me sad that I don’t see them more often, the times when we are all together are magical. I’m not going to recreate our night for you all here. It’s too personal, too you-had-to-be-there, the memories too ethereal to translate. But let me give you the brief, stream of consciousness recap here: The night started at about 9:30pm on Friday and ended at about 7:30am on Saturday. We drank Beam & Coke, we shared a 40, we taste tested summer shandy. Yon distant light did nothing to repel mosquitos. There was the fear of imminent, collective demise due to a mountain lion attack; luckily it was only a tiki torch that was attacking. On several occasions we all almost wet ourselves laughing. I’m pretty sure Tina used to be a DJ, just ask her, she’ll tell you, and her “fire” playlist was one of the best things that ever happened. I will forever be unable to see a park bench without thinking of Tina and Joe. We took a short course in the proper identification and naming of Indigo Girls. We discussed our love of Bill Murray, no, not him, the other guy, a W&L legend and mutual friend. We saw the sun rise, and sang morning has broken. We cried. We laughed. We cherished our friendship. I honestly don’t recall the last time I pulled an all-nighter, but I’m assuming it was law school. But I can say that I don’t believe I’ve ever had as much fun pulling one. And how do you end an epic up all night experience? With a run to McDonald’s, of course. Never has a trip to acquire breakfast sandwiches involved so much giggling.

Now, as road trip strategies go, pulling an all-nighter before driving approximately 250 miles, doesn’t really fall under the category of best practices. It tends to hamper the efficiency of travel. Having to stop every 50 miles because you need to get some blood flowing and mainline caffeine, that is. Yeah, I would feel myself starting to get drowsy, thus necessitating another stop. I can only wonder what my children thought was wrong with me. But even if the trip that should have lasted 2.5 hours took us 4 hours, I made it safely to Boston, where we went directly to the Boston Children’s Museum. The irony of this whole thing being that I became a member of the BCM due to their fantastic reciprocal agreements with both other children’s museums (50% off) and science museums (free), but of all the museums we visited on the northbound route, BCM is the one we spent the least time in. Of course, it was my shenanigans the night before, necessitating the stops, that lengthened our drive, that shortened the amount of time we could stay, but… I’m not even the tiniest bit remorseful, and I wouldn’t trade that all-nighter for the world. And frankly, my kids have outgrown many of the exhibits there. So, I sent my crew straight up into the BCM climbing structure to burn off some energy, and we went into the construction exhibit room they all love so much, they once again participated in a scientific study that some grad students were conducting, and they managed to slip into the art room for a quick painting project. Could we have done a little bit more if it wasn’t getting quite so late? Sure. But I was ready to make the final push to Maine, so at 4:30pm, we loaded up and put Boston in our rearview mirror.

At this point, even though it was later in the day, I was feeling more alert, but I was so anxious to get to the cottage I didn’t even stop at the NH Liquor Store! There is something physiological that happens to me as we cross the Piscataqua River Bridge. An easing of the mind and spirit, a relaxing and release of the stress in my body. Maine makes me happy. Plain and simple. And yes, I realize that I am visiting at a halcyon time. I’m not shoveling snow, or dealing with ice on the roads. I’m experiencing blue skies, fairly low humidity, and evenings cool enough to require (at least for my thin Florida blood) a sweatshirt. So, I’m willing to amend, to add a word or three, so I’ll say, Maine in the summertime makes me happy. Because it does. And how can you argue with their state motto? Maine: The Way Life Should Be. We made our way up 95, off the interstate, through Dock Square, down Ocean Avenue past Walker’s Point, and down to Turbat’s Creek Road. And there it was, our rental house, waiting for us as always. Just pausing long enough to throw my purse into the house, and notice the awesome kitchen renovation, we immediately walked the 50 feet down to the beach to soak in our favorite view. Then I immediately turned back around and walked back to my car to grab my sweatshirt! Ah, Maine in the summer! Of course it was probably only 70 degrees, but when you’ve been used to high 80s and high humidity, it felt downright chilly. After throwing some rocks and poking around, it was time to come back in and unpack. But what a relief to be here, especially after all of the bizarre automotive incidents we were plagued with, it was lovely to end the northbound leg of CMRT: Summer 2013 Edition with an event-free roll into Kennebunkport.

Thankful that the children let me sleep in a little – after all, I was operating on a fairly severe sleep deficit – we had a very lazy first day in KPT. Just lounging around the house in the morning, we didn’t even make it down to the beach until almost noon. But remembering my mistake from last year, when I neglected to apply any sunscreen to my children because I was wearing long-sleeves and a hoodie, ¬†this year I made sure to lather the children up. Then I sent them down to the beach by themselves with strict instructions that no one went deeper than their knees, and they stayed together. This is one of the things I love most about this house. The beach is so close that with all the windows open I could hear them if someone screamed. And they are getting old enough that as long as they roam as a pack, I feel like I can loosen the leash a little bit. The most dangerous part of our beach is the rock formation on which they like to climb and explore. But guess what? If someone is going to slip and fall, my sitting 20 feet away from them on the beach isn’t going to prevent a broken arm, or a need for stitches. So might as well give them some freedom to explore without my watchful eye. Lovely to have a place to do that. Their dad went down to join them first, but I wasn’t too far behind and we ended up spending several hours down there. It was low tide, so we walked across to Vaughan’s Island, which is part of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve. This is our lobster hunting ground. Last year a teenage boy showed us how to flip over rocks and spot baby lobster. Under his expert tutelage we found tons of them. This year our first expedition brought us only two lobster, though one was rather large, and tons of hermit crab. I even saw several larger hermit crabs dragging smaller hermit crabs. I found this to be curious. Why were they doing that? For the purposes of mating? Were they going to eat them? Was it mothers taking care of babies? Odd. (Maybe one day I’ll Google hermit crab behavior, but for now I’ll plunge ahead with the end of my boring story because I’m still rather tired and should go to bed.)

When the tide started coming in we walked back across to the mainland, and I parked myself in a chair with a book while the kids played on the rocks, and lounged in the tidal pools there. There were some admonishments about not throwing rocks with other people nearby, but mostly the kids were free to explore. At one point, when he woke from a nap, John was nice enough to head up to the house, and return with sandwiches for everyone, and a beer for me. Not a bad little beach day, all in all. But the sun began hiding behind the clouds, making it cool enough for me to slip on my cover-up and drape a towel across my legs. The kids had kind of wound down on the whole beach experience, especially since we said we weren’t dragging out the kayaks today. So, after a brief check of Fandango, we quick-stepped it up to the house and got cleaned-up. Usually we are just wrapping up our week in Maine during the annual summer Pixar movie release day, but since we traveled later this year, we missed the big event and Monsters University has already been in theaters for over a week. So we headed up to Portland and got our Pixar on. My brief review: I liked it, but I’m kind of surprised that the kids did. Though come to think of it, Avery didn’t have much to say about it, and it was Beau who said he really, really liked it. I felt like the themes were really rather mature (disappointing your parents, trusting your friends, second careers), and that slowed the pace a bit. But I always appreciate a kids’ movie with adult humor, and I loved the references to Monsters, Inc. And the brilliant thing about taking your kids to a 4:45pm movie is that you don’t have to feed them dinner afterwards! So, after eating a popsicle in the driveway after returning home the kids were happy to jump into their jammies and get into bed. And now, it’s about time for me to do the same. Not eat a popsicle, I’ve been sipping a rum & Coke (Now I only drink bourbon when Joe Tison mixes it for me), but time for me to rest my weary head.

Coming up tomorrow: Another beach day, this time with some friends of my friend, Jen Hughes Manley. We don’t know each other yet, but we all love Jen, so I’m positive that we’ll get along gangbusters. When we’re all together we’ll have 9 kids ages 10, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 6, 5, 5. Good times, good times. I think I’ll keep that rum handy…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim