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Posts Tagged ‘Chez Tison’

The end of the beginning

19 Jun

It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting here shaking my head, wondering where the heck the time is going. Did I really leave home a week ago? How is that possible? And how is it possible that as of 7pm yesterday when I pulled into the driveway of the rental cottage in Kennebunkport that I had logged 1,374 northbound miles behind the wheel? It is all going too fast. Too fast for me to even keep up with apparently. Because here I am, three days behind on my blog. And I know this is going to sound utterly ridiculous, but I’m a little sad to have arrived. It’s what I was talking about in the days before I left home. I am looking forward to having this lazy week in Maine. Looking forward to long days on the little beach at our practically private cove. Looking forward to visiting Mecca, er, I mean LLBean in Freeport. Looking forward to possibly taking a little day trip for some light hiking in Acadia. But the fact that we’re here, that we can get started on all of that other fun, means that the northbound leg of the road trip is complete. Our arrival in Maine signals, quite simply, the end of the beginning. And the beginning was so very sweet. Visiting old friends – a huge shout out of thanks to Megan & Jack Deppe and Tina & Joe Tison! Having new adventures – Maymont Park, the Liberty Science Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Children’s Museum. Revisiting old memories – Hamilton Park, traversing the streets of Manhattan, Stepping Stones. It has been such a wonderful adventure thus far that I wish it would last, like how I felt sitting outside in the cool Connecticut air by the Tisons’ fire pit – I want to linger and savor and hold on so tight to the feeling that it never leaves me. But time marches on, and it’s not like I’m marching into hell or anything, so I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining about my week on the southern coast of Maine. But I’m already sad to leave behind the first chapter, no matter how excited I am about this one.

When last I left you, we had arrived at the Tisons’ house in Fairfield, CT. That next day (Friday), the hardest working woman I know, actually took a day off to play with us. So after a leisurely morning, which included manna from heaven (otherwise known as a fresh, new box of Lucky Charms) we took off in a caravan – Tina & her two, me and my three – for Norwalk, CT, and the much exalted by my children Stepping Stones Museum for Children. My kids thought it was super fun to have ready made playmates other than their siblings at the museum. And it was nice for me to be able to chat some with Tina and play zone defense while the kids scampered off to play. After meeting Joe for lunch, we then took off with an even better grown-up to child ratio on an adventure that I am still having difficulty processing. If I tell you that we intentionally went to a grocery store with 5 children in tow you’re going to think I’m insane. Or maybe that you heard incorrectly. But that is exactly what we did. We went to a grocery store. But it wasn’t just any grocery store. It was Stew Leonard’s. It is the Disney World/IKEA of supermarkets. There are costumed characters roaming the store, live shows, a vast array of food/drink sampling, a uni-directional set-up that forces you (but not unpleasantly so) to traverse the entire store. It has a rather farmer’s market feel to it, with individual stalls that carry a specific type of item. Yet it is huge. I certainly would not want to do my everyday stock-up shopping there, but it was wildly entertaining for the kids and they had some of the best looking produce I’ve seen. Rarely do I say that grocery shopping with the kids is “fun”, but this time it most certainly was.

After a long day, we headed back to their house and with a thunderstorm rolling in it was time for the kids to have some down time (read: veg out and watch a movie). And I must say, it was a nice respite for the parents as well. A dinner of some delicious delivery pizza chased with sweet treats for the kids and cocktails for the grown-ups was a delightful way to wind down the day. And then sitting by the glow of the fire produced by CT’s finest kiln-dried wood was the ultimate night cap. Was that the elusive Fairfield mountain lion in the back yard? We may never know. It might just have been the Summer Shandy talking.

Because of this dreaded end of the beginning feeling, I was in no rush to get on the road Saturday morning. So it was an even more leisurely morning, with Joe manning the waffle iron and the kids arguing that it was perfectly reasonable to eat Pop Tarts and waffles with syrup at the same meal. But that’s okay, because before shoving the kids in the car for the final leg, we tossed them all in the backyard to play on the bouncy house (I am so going to have to get one of those!) After packing up our stuff and wearing out the kids, we were in the van and ready to roll out to Boston at 10:15am. Not bad, and totally in the wheelhouse of my original plan. My plan when I thought that Boston was only two hours from their house, that is. When I originally looked at the Mapquest routing I had printed out, I saw that the segment from the Tisons’ house in Fairfield, CT, to the Boston Children’s Museum should be approximately 2 hours in duration. I just neglected to notice that 56 minutes after the 2 hours. Oops. Okay, so it’s going to take us a little longer and I’m wickedly sleep deprived, but that’s okay. Here we go. I cut some time by getting lunch to go and having them eat in the car. And I was helped along by listening to a great book on tape. Er, well, on CD, but no matter how much I’m supposed to call them audiobooks or whatever it is I’m supposed to call them, I still want to call them books on tape. And Gabriel Allon better watch out. I may be transferring my affections to a new spy/hero, Mitch Rapp. I’m only halfway through this, the first Vince Flynn book I’ve ever “read”, but I am liking Mitch Rapp immensely. He’s yummy. Anyhoo….

We made it to Boston by about 1:30 or so. And I’m just wondering, does Boston have a hockey team or something? Just kidding. Wow. There must have been some kind of Stanley Cup celebration downtown on Friday because the streets around the Boston Children’s Museum were jammed with people wearing their black & gold Bruins garb. But I have to admit that I am almost totally ignorant when it comes to hockey and my first thought when I saw all the fans was, is there a game today? Then an inkling at the back of my brain said, no, the Stanley Cup was just played. And finally it clicked together that, oh, maybe it was the Bruins who won it. Ignorance + sleep deprivation = slow on the uptake.

Once again Erin would be accusing me of making sacrifices to the parking gods because I scored another sweet on-street parking spot less than half a block away from the entrance of the museum. The good thing, only cost a couple of quarters in the meter. The potentially bad thing, the 2 hour limit. Hmmm. But I just couldn’t see us staying longer than that, so we fed the meter and went on in. I mentioned in an earlier post that we are members of the Boston Children’s Museum. I’m going to assume that seems strange to all of you who know that I live in Florida and have no family in the Boston area. We don’t travel to Boston, well, ever, except to pass through on our annual CMRT. So here’s the explanation. I found a loophole in the system. Well, not technically a loophole. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m just an outlier in the expected participant pool. The Boston Children’s Museum is one of over a hundred children’s museums that participates in an ACM (Association of Children’s Museums) reciprocal program. What this means is that members of the BCM receive free admission at over a hundred other children’s museums throughout the country. Of course you may be wondering why I didn’t become a member of a children’s museum closer to home to receive these same benefits. Well, first off, because Jacksonville, despite being a major metropolitan city, does not have a children’s museum. Secondly, the closest children’s museum I’m even aware of is the wonderful Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in Charleston. It is a great museum, and I considered joining there just because I wouldn’t mind giving them the money and I may be able to get back up there with the kids sometime in the next year. But to me, it didn’t really matter where I joined. I was really just in it for the reciprocal benefits. And the agenda for the entire CMRT includes no less than 9 children’s and science museums. So, no matter what children’s museum I joined (with the exception of the museums in the NYC area which placed some restrictions on reciprocal benefits) I could get in free to all the children’s museums we visited along the way. But, notice that I also mentioned some science museums. Well, after a little research I discovered that the Boston CM also participated in the ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) travel passport program. So, by joining the BCM I would get free admission to not only over 100 children’s museums across the country, but until the end of October I would also get free admission to over 200 science museums across the country. So, let’s figure out the math on this one. No, really. Let’s do the math. By purchasing the $125 family membership I would have covered all admissions to the following museums (with the cost of admission for 1 adult + 3 children listed in parentheses): Liberty Science Center ($50.25), Children’s Museum of Manhattan ($44), Stepping Stones ($48), Boston Children’s Museum ($48), Portland Children’s Museum ($36), the Franklin Institute ($51.50) and the Please Touch Museum ($60) in Philadelphia, Discovery Place ($42) in Charlotte, and Fernbank ($64) in Atlanta. Um, so $125 up-front investment = $270.75 in savings. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. Especially since those savings figures are based on this trip alone and the reciprocal membership to the children’s museums lasts an entire calendar year and the reciprocals for science museums lasts until the end of October. So, me and my suburban Florida kids, the ones who have no reason or occasion to be in Boston at any time other than CMRT, are now members of the Boston Children’s Museum. And oh how I wished we lived near it! The BCM is awesome. Filled with great active and imaginative play spaces and enough science of the kind accessible to small children. I really loved it. And so did my kids. They did not want to leave, and frankly I didn’t either. Metered parking space be damned, it was worth the risk of a ticket. We stayed at least 2 hours and 45 minutes, and could have happily stayed longer, except that whole I still have almost 2 hours of driving to get to the Maine cottage nervousness that was sneaking in. But it was a hit and I will quite happily keep it on the agenda for next year.

Back on the road for the final stretch. Those miles flew by. A quick stop for gas and Coca-cola. Another quick (and oh so classy!) stop at the New Hampshire Liquor Store. Nothing quite says classy like a single mom taking 3 small children into the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whiskey. (Perhaps the C in CMRT can also represent Classy.) Before we knew it we were crossing the Piscataqua River and into the state of Maine. My reaction to crossing that state line is a visceral one. I experience physiological changes. My shoulders relax, my heart rate slows, I involuntarily grin. And when I see that sign that says: “Maine, The Way Life Should Be” it makes my smile even bigger. (My brother, who is back home in Florida, dealing with ash from a far away forest fire falling from the sky suggested that Florida’s state motto might be: Have a beer, things might get better. This made me laugh.) Once we got to the house in Kennebunkport we immediately went out onto the mud flats that are left behind in the Turbat’s Creek cove at low tide. Climbing the rocks, squishing through the mud, running about – happy kids. Happy Momma and happy kids.

I am sad for the first segment of road trip to be over. Do I really have to wait another year to try it again?  As much fun as we had, we have finally arrived. A mere 1,374 miles logged. Holy crap. That seems like a lot. And now, it’s time for the rest of the fun to be had. And I’m going to get right to that. Right after I get some sleep…

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Into the belly of the beast

18 Jun

New York City deserves its own post. I mean, it’s the Big Apple. The City. Gotham. Manhattan. And we took it. Just like the Muppets. Me and my three spent all day Thursday in the city. And it was glorious.

Stayed Wednesday night in a hotel in Secaucus, NJ. The same La Quinta Inn we stayed in last year. Not because it is a particularly good hotel, just because it was a known quantity. And the access to the city was incredibly easy. My original plan was to drive into the city and park in the parking garage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Last year we parked in the garage at the Museum of Natural History. Reasonably priced for Manhattan, guarded, underground garage – what’s not to love?) This year’s NYC stops were to include The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the Metropolitan, and FAO Schwarz – so we’ve got Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Central Park South. A decently tight little triangle that should be easy to navigate via cabs with an obligatory subway ride thrown in for fun. So we got up, ate our free lobby-served breakfast, and were ready to roll from the hotel by 9:30am, which was perfect timing because the museums opened at 10am.

I’m going to tell you a secret. I love driving in New York. Yes, driving my minivan into the city via the Lincoln Tunnel. It was fun. Of course, I do have a rule that the minute we leave the tunnel the children are not to speak directly to me or otherwise behave in a distracting manner. And I fully admit that I map out my route the night before. But I love the aggressiveness. There is no time for fear, no place for hesitation. You just go and you trust that the other people are as skilled at driving as you. If there is a gap, you slip it. If there is a lane, you ignore it. It makes me feel powerful and in control in a way that little else does. And I dig that feeling. But I digress. I was telling you about the plan. Into the city and directly to the Met garage on the Upper East Side. Except that the last time I was in NYC I dropped by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to see if it was a place the kids would enjoy and I remembered there was some street parking available. So, altering the plan, I just winged it a bit and drove straight to the CMOM on the Upper West Side. And sure enough, I scored sweet street parking on 83rd, right in front of the museum. As I deftly parallel parked the van in a spot that was just big enough, I thought of my dear friend and college housemate, Erin, who once accused me of making sacrifices to the parking gods because I always scored one of the 2hr spaces right in front of the D-Hall.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pretty good. The traveling exhibit there now is Curious George and it was really cute. The kids certainly seemed to be having a great time. But I admit that I rushed them a bit. I mean for goodness sakes, we’re in New York City! And the weather is beautiful! Let’s get out there! Or, at least, go to the art museum! But I have to give it to them. The kids were having fun, but when I told them it was time to go, I got no arguments, no attitude, just happy compliance. Awesome.

We piled back in the van, went through the park on the 86th Street Traverse, and down 5th Avenue to the garage entrance at 80th. Avery delighted in telling the ladies at the membership desk that “we are members” and “we drove from Florida to get here.” Beau said that he wanted to see “mummy art,” so first things first we went to see the Temple of Dendur, which elicited a few wows. Then we traipsed through the Arms & Armor and the Musical Instruments. I wanted to show them my favorite painting (Pygmalion & Galatea by Gerome), but when I was in New York at the beginning of May it wasn’t on display. Apparently it had been loaned to the Getty for a Gerome exhibit and had since been returned, but was still languishing in the basement. I was hoping it was back on the wall in its rightful place, but alas, no. Harper said she wanted to see some “princess paintings,” so we went over to the European paintings and found a few pretty girls in fancy dresses. By this time it was past noon and the energy was starting to wane. Given the neighborhood surrounding the Met, I wasn’t likely to find a slice shop or the type of food my kids will eat, so I just sucked it up and took them down to the Met cafeteria. Figured it would be expensive, but there would have to be something they would eat, even if just a bag of chips. Um, yeah, it was expensive. But my one eater, Avery, got a kids’ meal hot dog and it came in the cutest cardboard taxi. She was so excited about it and spent the rest of the day carrying it around. It’s a little battered now, but nothing a little scotch tape can’t fix.

During lunch I tried to map the rest of the afternoon. A friend had tipped me off that there is a Lego store in the shops of Rockefeller Center, so I knew I had to find a way to fit that in. And I really needed to manufacture a ride on the subway. But I preferred to work it in to our actual travels, not just take a ride. So we exited the museum by the front entrance, giving the kids the opportunity to see the scope of the facade, and caught a cab to the Lego store. Okay, yes, we spent too much time in there, but they had some really cool sculptures and hey, Beau had some of his own money to spend, and frankly I’d rather him spend it on Legos than on random stuff at FAO just because he wanted to spend his money. And I may or may not have bought a set of my own. I saw one of the hard-to-find sets on the shelf in the Star Wars section and picked it up. I had to have it, because as Beau said, “it reminds you of your childhood, doesn’t it?” We walked a few blocks and went down into the subway. Caught an uptown train, went 2 stops, and then we were on Central Park South. Took the obligatory pictures with the toy soldier in front of FAO. I even bought the commemorative shots since that darn toy solider is just about the only thing that differentiates it from a regular Toys’r'Us. Again, we spent far too much time stimulating the economy. Though I will admit that I was highly amused to see the Barbie section. And if I only had $25k laying around extra, I would have picked up the Barbie foosball table. That’s right. A foosball table where the players are actual Barbies. Ridiculous. But awesome.

Now, I can’t go to the city without seeing my friend, Kris Pollina, the one and only Crazy Yankee Chick. And since she stayed with us for a night when down in Jacksonville for a friend’s wedding, the kids were clamoring to see her as well. But she works for a living, apparently really hard, so if we wanted to see her, we had to go to her. But hey, that’s why there are so many cabs roaming the city, right? So from FAO we grabbed a cab and went down to the historic Daily News Building, where she, and by happy coincidence, her sister Lauren both work. We visited with the Misses Pollina for a few minutes and then realized how late it was getting. It was already almost 5:00pm and I still had to not only get out of the city, but drive to Fairfield, CT. Hopped another cab and I have to say, this might have been my favorite part of the day. Harper spent the entire ride holding onto the strap and staring out the open window. It all seemed so natural. Avery fell asleep resting against me. We were all quiet and contemplative. I was basically in awe of my children. Their wonderful behavior. Their adaptability. To watch Beau and Harper strolling down the city street, sharing a soft pretzel, they just looked like little urban kids. As if the city bustling around them didn’t faze them. Like I said, it just felt so natural, all day long. And they were total rock stars. Aside from some whininess right before lunch, when everyone’s blood sugar was dropping, including mine, they were brilliantly well behaved. They were great listeners, they used their nicest manners. It made me feel so happy and proud.

Of course we still had to get to the Tison’s house, so our adventure was not quite complete. As I was getting everyone strapped into their seats in the garage at the Met I wanted to give them a little snack. And when they asked if they could just have some of their candy they got at FAO, I agreed. This was a spectacularly bad idea. It didn’t really affect Harper and Avery. They were both so incredibly tired that after munching on their candy, they were asleep within about 15 minutes. And it was all going so smoothly, the traffic thinned quite quickly, we were making spectacular time, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And in this case, it did involve shoes. As in Beau puking on his own. Yeah, he started complaining that he felt bad, and then he got more specific saying he thought he might throw up. So, I immediately pulled off at the Larchmont exit and found him a side of the road place to empty the contents of his stomach. There went all that expensive bulk candy from FAO Schwarz! Now, what the heck caused that? Was it just too much candy? I don’t think so. But maybe that in conjunction with some motion sickness? Perhaps there was egg in one of the candies? I have no idea. But it was sudden and out of the blue. And not at all the way I want to arrive at someone’s house. But hey, what are you going to do?

And arrive we did. Finally. And the whole Tison family was sitting out front waiting for us. It was great! With the exception of Beau being down for the count for about an hour (he threw up once more then rallied and was totally himself by bedtime), the Willim and Tison kids just started playing immediately. Of course the girls shared a mutual love of dress-up. They were so happy and so engaged, that I couldn’t bear to ride herd and tell them it was bedtime. So we just ignored it and let them play. To round out the evening, right before they finally went to bed, the kids put on a show together. It was called “Pajama Dance” and the best I can tell, Beau was freestyling a called dance (kinda like a square dance) and the older girls were showing off their ballet moves. Avery was just smiling and spinning in circles, but it was clear her heart was in it. Thankfully they did eventually go down and I was able to sit around talking and laughing with Tina and Joe.

It was a long, exhausting, wonderful day. And while I could have done without the sick boy, it was superlative in every other way. I was happy. The kids were happy. It was a big adventure. But it was also like a lot of days we have at home. I’m hoping they’ll remember it. Even just one moment of it. Even if it’s just a cardboard taxi holding a hot dog. Or a two stop subway ride. Or the way the city looks from the backseat of a cab. Or even the cool Lego sets they have at the New York City store. At least I know it made an impression. Just today, as we were driving to Boston, Avery asked me: “When are we going back to New York City?” Not soon enough, baby girl, but one day. I promise.

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The fire pit

18 Jun

It’s really just a grown-up campfire. And who doesn’t love a campfire? Right now my hair smells all smokey, in the best possible way. And I just feel happy. Of course that had less to do with the fire and more to do with the people sitting around it. Joe and Tina Tison are two of the best people I know. Both funny and vibrant, charming and gracious. They’re just good company. The kind of people you want to sit with around a fire, swapping college memories, drinking beer out of an East Lex coozie. We may not have solved all the world’s problems, but we touched on a few. Mostly we just had pleasant conversation. That easy back-and-forth that flows between good friends when no one is afraid to say what they mean, nor are they afraid of telling the story that makes them seem like an idiot. We’ve all been idiots before. Sometimes in each other’s company. Tonight was – to use what has lately become one of my favorite words – delightful. I didn’t want it to end. And for the first time in days (days!) I don’t really even feel tired. But it’s 1:30am and looming in front of me tomorrow is packing our bags (staying here two nights apparently caused our stuff to explode), driving to Boston, taking a spin around the Boston Children’s Museum (we’re members, I’ll talk more about that in a later post), then driving on to Maine. So, another long day that involves several hours of driving. And did I mention that Beau will be awake, ergo waking me up, by 6:45am? I will definitely be needing a caffeine drip. Hey, any chance someone has the hook-up for that corporate Coca-Cola sponsorship? I am, at this very moment, wearing a t-shirt that says “Enjoy Coke” and at lunch today I shunned the proffered Pepsi in favor of iced tea. I’m just saying, after all the support and faithfulness I’ve shown them, it sure would be nice if the Coca-Cola company showed up for me now.

But speaking of now, let me reiterate that it is 1:30am. Time for bed. Yes, I know, I still haven’t recapped our day in New York. And now I’m really behind because I also have Friday to recap. But I will catch up. I mean, not like it should take too long to blog about my days in Maine. Example: So, got up, walked down to the beach, sat in a chair, played with the kids, ate lunch, took nap, walked down to the beach, took shower, ate dinner, read story to kids, went to bed. It’s all going to be pretty cut-and-dry. So I promise that in the next few days I’ll take you into the belly of the beast, with me behind the wheel of my minivan on the mean streets of Manhattan. But for now I’m going to bed.

Right after I google a source for summer shandy and kiln-dried firewood…

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Not tonight dear, I’ve got sleep deprivation

17 Jun

Today was New York City. It was amazing. The children were total rock stars. They behaved like little urbanites – piling in & out of cabs, navigating sidewalks, riding the subway. I was happy, delightfully unstressed. And that’s even with all the driving I did in the city. Truth be told, I actually enjoy driving in the city. I never feel more confident or powerful than in that situation where it is impossible to survive if you show any fear or hesitation.

Anyway, I want to recap, but I just can’t. Not tonight. Because of course, it is not still tonight, it is already tomorrow morning. I have once again stayed up too late, but it was so worth it. I adore Tina & Joe Tison. Their company is delightful. And Tina should have her own stand-up act. I will happily trade sleep for laughter like that. But despite going to bed late after performing a spectacular “Pajama Dance Show” with Sam Tison, I just know that Beau is once again going to be up and at my bedside by 6:45am. So I must sleep now. I must.

Besides, it can’t hurt to savor my perfect day, keep it to myself a bit longer. I’m going to close my eyes and ponder these things: Avery falling asleep in the cab, her warm weight resting against me. Beau & Harper naturally grabbing hands as they ran across the street. Beau’s excitement at the Lego store. The ease of Harper’s body posture as she held onto the strap and looked out the rolled-down window, as if riding in a cab was a natural thing for her. And Avery’s joy over the cardboard taxi cab that her kids’ meal came in.

More about New York soon. I promise…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim