Posts Tagged ‘CMRT: Summer 2016 – K9 Edition’

Day Twelve: Once Around the Bases

26 Jun

Today was an eventful day off the creek. I have been wanting to take the kids to a minor league baseball game, and what better time than a glorious day in late June, when the temps are moderate, and the sky is blue and cloudless? The Portland Sea Dogs, a double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, happened to be playing a 1:00pm home game, and it was time to seize my chance. A quick jaunt into Portland, and cheap garage parking available a block from the stadium, had me in good spirits as we stepped up to the ticket window. The stadium is small, but they had lots of different seating options. I suppose if I had known how many balls were going to get tossed into the stands, I might have gone for the box seats just off the field, but I liked the slight elevation of the reserved seats. When I go to Jacksonville Suns games, I always sit on the first base line, but Hadlock Field in Portland is oriented differently than Bragan Field, so it doesn’t actually have seating on the first base line. Today I chose a section at the end of the visitors dugout on the third base line. A clear view of the batter, and most of the action on the field, with only deep left field being a blind spot. I was chagrined to discover that one of the huge holes in my parenting is that my girls have never been to a baseball game, and, in fact, know nothing about baseball or how it is played! As the game unfolded, I set about attempting to remedy that. Harper had a keen interest, and seemed to easily be picking up the intricacies, including the deeper strategies of things like advancing the runners on a sacrifice bunt. The game had gotten off to an exciting start with the Sea Dogs scoring 3 in the first inning. But the Reading Fighting Phils answered with 3 of their own in the second, another 3 in the third, and 2 in the fourth. The Sea Dogs answered by adding 2 in the third, and 1 in the fourth, but remained behind by 2 through 3 dry innings. On a humorous side note, Harper was finding it hard to root against the visiting team until I advised her that the “Reading” on the scoreboard indicated the team’s home town of Reading, Pennsylvania. Pronounced “RED-ing”, and in fact had nothing to do with books. Once she discovered that she wasn’t actually having to root against reading, her loyalties rested easily with the Sea Dogs. In the bottom of the eighth, the 6’8″ (Talk about a stretch!) first baseman for the Sea Dogs ripped a 3 run homer over the fence, giving the Sea Dogs the lead, and ultimately a one run victory.

Today happened to be a kids run the bases day at Hadlock Field, so we went down and lined up behind the left field grandstand. Holy cow, there were a lot of kids there! But it was a very well-organized event, with them using cones and tape to make a chute to direct the kids down the foul line, and around to home plate. (Basically just keeping everyone off the infield grass.) They split them up by age groups, with 9-16 running first, then 8 and under. So, they lined the little ones up against the outfield wall on the warning track, before turning the bigger kids loose in heats. Which was nice because then it wasn’t too crowded on the base path, and kids weren’t getting run over or bumped. I didn’t even get to see my older two run from my position in left field, but after running they directed the kids back out through center field and I caught a glimpse of Harper running through short center field. Then it was Avery’s turn, and I walked with her down to home plate, and managed to get a few photos of her rounding first and then coming home. It was fun being down on the field, taking some pictures from a player’s perspective. Hadlock Field has their own minor league version of Fenway’s Green Monster (Monstah?), and I got a pic of the kids lined up in front of the scoreboard. On a delicious side note: Hadlock Field also sells Fenway Franks, and man are they good! I love the New England hot dog bun, which essentially resembles a slice of white bread folded and smooshed around the dog. Good, good stuff. Overall, I think our first minor league baseball outing was a success. It was a good game, the weather was perfect, the stadium was small enough that I felt perfectly comfortable letting my kids go to the restroom or wander the concourse together without me as slight boredom set in. Not to mention that the home team won, and the kids got to run the bases after the game! I would, without a doubt, catch another Sea Dogs game the next time I’m in Portland. They have a really well-run organization, at least as it seems from a fan’s perspective, with nice facilities, and a fun minor league feel (their mascot, Slugger the Sea Dog, was very entertaining, and there were lots of between innings games/entertainment.)

After the game I insisted that we track down a restaurant that had come highly recommended in Portland, the impossibly cool and totally hipster, Duckfat (which my computer keeps auto-correcting to “ducat” – which to the best of my knowledge is just old/vintage slang for money. Even my computer is cooler than me.) In keeping with its hipster mystique, Duckfat is a tiny little restaurant; we managed to secure a table outside, but as space is limited, and outdoor tables are meant to seat 6, they sat another couple with us. How delightfully communal. I’m pretty sure they were on their honeymoon – and I’m pretty sure they were super excited about being seated with three children. A French woman wearing a traditional, folded at the waist, black apron delivered a carafe of water and four jelly jars as glasses, before taking our order. Hipster!! Anyway, I was told that Duckfat had amazing French fries, served traditionally in a paper cone, with an array of dipping sauces to chose from. But, no!! They in fact do NOT serve French fries, they serve Belgian fries! Belgian. Get it straight! Listen, I don’t care the true national origin of these sliced potatoes fried in duck fat, I just wish I had ordered more of them. They. Were. Delicious. The garlic mayo, very tasty. The truffled ketchup, sinful. Beau, never a fry fan, abstained, but the girls and I put a quick hurtin’ on that large order (which wasn’t actually so large). As they were savoring the last few fries and licking salt from their fingers, I recommended that the next time Mommy suggests we try a new restaurant they forego the whining and complaining, because there might be something just this delicious waiting for them. I also ordered a panini to go, with the intention that I would eat it later, while the kids were having something else for dinner, as the fries were meant as a snack, or an appetizer, of sorts. As it turned out, despite my saying I wanted the sandwich later, it came out just after the fries, and as it sat still warm in it’s wax paper wrapping, I thought, hey, maybe I’ll just take a few bites now, you know, since it’s still warm. Just to see how it is. Oh. My. Meatloaf panini. Let me just cut and paste here the description directly from the panini section of their menu:


horseradish pickled onion • cheddar • smoked poblano mayo

They had me at meatloaf. But horseradish pickled onion and smoked poblano mayo? It was tangy, and creamy, and melt in my mouth delicious. I could not stop eating it. Could. Not. The upshot being that as I drove away from Portland, I was incredibly grateful I had worn my stretchy pants. I was sporting a Duckfat food baby, easily a second trimester level food baby. And I would go there again tomorrow to try the Cuban panini, or the tomato soup (with grilled cheese croutons!) I would recommend that anyone and everyone who has ever had a tender thought about French fries go and experience their Belgian fries. Truly. It was that good. And to the friend who suggested it, I quote the Princess Bride, “I will never doubt again.”

Headed back into town I picked up a cheese pizza from Atlantic Pizza for the kids. And I didn’t even have a single slice, despite how much I love Atlantic Pizza, because I was still too full of Duckfat goodness. The kids ate their pizza and watched some tv, while I ran the tireless Remy into the waves for his ball, over and over again. Overall, it was a wonderful day. Full of new discoveries, delicious hipster food, and All-American fun.


EDIT NOTE: So, my local friend, Mandy pointed out that I had made the humorous error of calling it “Haddock” Field instead of the properly ascribed “HADLOCK” Field. I’d say that’s a time when autocorrect, and my lazy proofreading made for a rather funny mistake. She suggested I leave it be, but I just couldn’t leave the error once I knew about it. However, in my heart, the Portland Sea Dogs will always be at home on the delicious Haddock Field…


Day Eleven: Bush-League

25 Jun

Remember when I said that yesterday was a lazy day? Um, yeah. That was bush-league. Because today? Today’s level of laziness blew yesterday’s out of the water. There is not much of a linear story to retell, so I’ll just make a handy bullet-point list of the things I accomplished today. You should consider this almost entirely inclusive:

  • Woke up. Though I didn’t even do that with any particular grace. Apparently, woke in the middle of a sleep cycle, or something, because I was groggy and bleary for quite awhile.
  • Repetitively threw the tennis ball into the ocean for Remy to retrieve.
  • Took all my kids across at morning low tide to explore the beaches and tidal pools on Vaughan’s Island. This happened rather early (8:30am-ish?) We did turn over a few rocks seeking baby lobster. Photographs were taken to prove excursion, and existence of said shellfish.
  • Went to post office to mail package and get postcard stamps. Actually mailed two postcards.
  • Went to grocery store to buy toilet paper, dog shampoo, and, by request of the children, goldfish crackers.
  • Played Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit.
  • Updated my Mother of the Year application by adding: “While on beach asked 10 year old daughter to please go up to the house and fetch me a beer from the refrigerator. Reminded her to please not forget the bottle opener.”
  • Repetitively threw the tennis ball into the creek for Remy to retrieve.
  • Read 77 pages of my new book. (The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – kind of agreed to attend a book discussion on Wednesday morning. Only 243 pages to go.)
  • Lathered the dog with oatmeal shampoo when rinsing him off in the yard with the hose in hopes of ridding him of the funky creek mud stench he has acquired. Seriously, before his bath he had squiggly cartoon odor lines emanating from his body. Much better now. Until tomorrow anyway. When I will undoubtedly repetitively throw the ball into the water for him to retrieve.
  • Took a shower. (Yes, that is worth listing. It’s vacation. This is not a given.)
  • Went down in the creepy, partially-unfinished basement several times in order to do two loads of laundry. (Often times the dryer needs more than one cycle to get clothes, and especially towels, totally dry.) Several of those trips down were after dark. And after my 8 year old whispered in a bright, but spooky voice, “Don’t go in the basement!”
  • Made my kids eat salad for dinner. Shockingly enough, they did it. Sort of, anyway.
  • Finished a puzzle.


There you have it. Pretty much everything I did today. Though when I list it out like that, maybe yesterday was not so bush-league on the laziness front after all. Today seems like pretty strong work on my part. Of course I didn’t give you the list of things I did NOT accomplish today, which would include, chief among them, washing the dinner dishes. Oh well, have to save some excitement for tomorrow morning…


Day Ten: Down on Turbat’s Creek…

24 Jun

Not much to report today. We seem to have hit the sweet spot of laziness. Lounged around the house in the morning. Didn’t even go down to the beach until almost 11:30am. But I like that the kids are starting to show some initiative. Beau asked if he could go ahead down to the creek, and I said, absolutely! The girls followed suit in getting ready, and I was still in my pjs as I stepped into the yard to give them a proper coating of sunscreen. They each made their own lunch, packed it in their beach bags, and went on down to the beach. Fabulous! Meanwhile, I finished my, well, I guess at this point you have to call it brunch, before slowly getting myself and the dog ready to move our lounging from inside the house to down on the beach.

Turns out that there were already some people down on the beach, but most notably one lady had her two large dogs with her. Remy was delighted to make the acquaintance of Maya, the chocolate lab, and Maisy, the yellow lab-ish mutt. Maya loved to play fetch like Remy, and Maisy just wanted to run at breakneck speeds and play chase. What that amounted to was plenty of quality exercise for all three of them. Luckily for me, their mom, Jane, was a very nice older woman, and I spent a pleasant afternoon speaking with her. She even helped me bring down the kayaks for the kids to paddle around in the basin right off the beach. She was an avid kayaker from Massachusetts, and was very supportive of me allowing my (life-jacketed) children to just explore and play in the kayaks. She even complimented them, and said they were doing quite well indeed for children who only kayak sporadically on vacation once a year. We stayed down on the beach until maybe 4pm or so – to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. The only strange thing that happened was a motley crew of men arriving to head out on an excursion. One man’s boat was anchored off the beach, and he needed to get out to it. He stored a canoe there on the rocks by the beach, but apparently someone had stolen his paddle. So, I offered to tow him out behind one of our kayaks. It was a bit of a workout, but honestly much easier than you would think, and I’m a little bit sorry that his boat wasn’t further out. I need some vigorous workouts these days. Of course it may just have seemed easy because he was helping row. With a 2 x 4.  Once I had safely delivered him to his motor vessel, he pulled the boat almost up on the beach, and the rest of the crew, a total of four men, clambered aboard. Say, what’s the average number of teeth in a grown man’s mouth? Yep, that’s how many they had. Between all four of them. After they had loaded up their gear and pushed the boat off the sand in the rapidly ebbing tide, Jane turned to me and said, “It was like we were in a scene from Deliverance.” But it was fun to have that kind of absurdity in our lazy day. The kids slowly dwindled, one by one heading back up to the house. And tonight, since I think they hadn’t showered at all in the past three days, I set them to the task as I made an early dinner.

What I have unfortunately discovered since then is that what I should have been doing as the children showered, was bathing my dog. Sweet Remy, the poodle who does not have any body odor of his own, is, despite my best efforts to hose him off after each beach excursion, stinking of the tidal mud! Truly. Stinking. Like makes the room smell bad when he enters it. I remembered to pack dog shampoo, so I just have to scrounge that up. Sounds like maybe I’ve got at least one thing on my to do list for tomorrow.

But that was essentially it. Unless you find my brief trip to the grocery store after dinner noteworthy. Though, come to think of it, I did buy ice cream sandwiches, and a couple of minutes ago I found that to be super exciting! But, other than missing our friends, the Nelson girls (get well soon!), nothing too much going on down at Turbat’s Creek today. And that’s just how I like it…


Days Eight & Nine: Whales, Beers, and Lobstah, Oh My!

23 Jun

I’m going to start off by explaining why I wrote the word “Lobster” phonetically in the title. Here’s why. I LOVE this regional accent. LOVE. IT. Seriously. It may be my favorite accent in the world. I have delighted in just eavesdropping on the locals around here. At the hardware store I overheard a man saying, “Third times a charm,” and I couldn’t help giggling with happiness. Another one called me “dear.” Someone was giving Amy directions yesterday and said the parking lot was on what sounded like “naught” street; turns out it’s on “North” street. I’ve always liked the Boston accent – Jon Hamm saying the phrase “box of quarters” in the movie The Town is one of my favorites – but up here it’s even better. Richer. Tweaked slightly. And I look for reasons/excuses to get people to say words containing the letter “r”. (And, yes, I realize that I could have also written the word “Beers” phonetically as “beeyahs”, but I wanted to be sure you all knew there was a brief discussion of local breweries to follow.)

And I’m going to admit that I’ve really enjoyed the last two days. They’ve been full and pleasant and frankly, I haven’t exactly been taking notes. It feels certain that I’m going to miss something, maybe even big things, in the retelling of it. But I kind of like that. I’ve been so deep in the experience of it all that I don’t have perfect recall for the details. Sounds okay to me.

Wednesday, June 22: Whale-watching, aka, I’m on a boat.

The beauty of it being low tide when we wake is that the boy (also an exceedingly early riser) and I can take Remy out to run on the immense mud flat that is Turbat’s Creek at low tide, easily crossed over to the Vaughan’s Island Preserve. Remy can run free, investigating all manner of scents, and exciting detritus that has come in on the Atlantic tide. Sometimes that means we have to take disgusting thing away from him, but overall, it’s a pretty sweet morning jaunt for all of us. Today Beau and I walked the length of Vaughan’s beach visible from our house to discover what was around the bend. And what did we see? A lovely view of the Goat Island lighthouse in the distance. Every new discovery just thrills me. To feel surprised by new beauty in a place where you feel so comfortable, is a delight.

But the big event scheduled for today was our Whale Watching Cruise! And man was I jazzed to head out into the ocean and see some whales! Unfortunately, Avery had kind of psyched herself out telling me she gets seasick (news to me. Seriously. Never heard this before.), and I had forgotten that Beau used to have a problem with motion sickness (I say used to, because it’s been a long time and several roller coasters since he’s had any troubles.) I gave Avery half a Dramamine before we left the house. She said her tummy still felt upset on the boat, but really what it did was make her sleepy and lethargic. Beau on the other hand turned green as we fought large swells while heading 22 miles out to sea. I gave him a Dramamine while we were underway, and it seemed to help – at least it knocked him out for a bit. I don’t usually have any trouble with motion sickness, and, thankfully, today was no exception. Amy said she felt queasy when we would stop and sit in one place bobbing around for too long. The fumes from the exhaust did get to me a bit. And I have to say that my queasy children were in good company, as there were at least a dozen or more people actively vomiting, and many more in the nauseous stage, on the boat. Thankfully it was a fairly large boat and I could distance myself from those who were not doing well. I tried to get Beau to sit on the lower deck near the stern, outside in the fresh air. But eventually we all went back 0nto the upper deck, and Beau & Avery collapsed onto one another for a hard, Dramamine-induced nap, in a little corner protected from the wind by the wheelhouse. Once they slept it off, they awoke feeling much better, and Avery had some of the spring back in her step. Now, for the whales. It took awhile, but we did finally encounter some whales in the wild. I don’t know about you, but I was expecting the whales to be large. Like really big. Um, not so much. Not to diminish the absolute coolness of a whale circling your boat out in the vast ocean, but as it turns out, a few Minke whales are  what we spotted, and Minke whales average around 30 feet in length. Not really that big. The usually come up head first (I only saw one of their heads break the surface), then roll like a dolphin. In fact, with their tiny little dorsal fin, they did kind of look like really large dolphin. They hardly ever breach (jump completely clear of the water), and they don’t present their flukes as they dive, so no tail sticking out of the water in what we have come to think of as classic whale pose. Plus their surface exhalations are very discrete, almost unnoticeable, so there was, disappointingly, no cause to shout, “Thar she blows!” But, all of that said, it really is humbling to be out in the ocean in the presence of creatures like that, even the small Minke whale. And while not everyone felt the same, I enjoyed the boat ride. Even as we passed through storm bands on the way back in. Clever us for staking a claim on the benches that were covered and protected behind the wheelhouse!

Once we returned to shore, we made a quick stop at a nearby bookstore, The Book Burrow, as Avery had been begging to go ever since she spotted the sign. It is a cute little shop, but small, and therefore not a ton of inventory. (Though, to be fair, their selection is fairly diverse, and there were many titles on the shelves that I had either already enjoyed, or I found interesting.) We are still mourning the closing of Kennebooks, one of our favorite places. In fact, I am wearing a Kennebooks t-shirt as I type this. But I picked up the new Elizabeth Strout book, and promised the owner I’d come back next Wednesday for the book discussion. Guess I should really start reading that, huh?

Once we returned to the house I followed through on a promise to Beau that we would get the kayaks wet. The tide was running out, and far too low already for us to make the trip he wants to take via kayak to Cape Porpoise, but it was a good chance to reacquaint ourselves with the kayaks. Not so fun to have to carry them up and down to the water, but it really was fun to tool around a bit, get a view of Vaughan’s Island from the water, and mess around in the creek. But then, as if the rapidly ebbing tide wasn’t enough, the wind kicked up something fierce. And having no interest in being blown or pulled out into the open ocean, we decided to call it a day. Besides, it was time for us to clean up and head into town for dinner.

One of our favorite places to eat is the deck at Federal Jack’s. Beautiful view of the Kennebunk River, a good burger, and excellent local beer, brewed right there by the Kennebunkport Brewing Company. We were all excited to take Amy to experience one of our traditions. Unfortunately, while a decent meal (at least the beer was cold and delicious!), it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Usually Federal Jack’s knocks a cheeseburger out of the park, but this one was marginal. Ordered medium rare and delivered medium well. Just not the juicy burger I’ve had before. And our waitress, who eventually warmed up, wore her mirrored aviator glasses the entire time she served us. It was like eating dinner being watched over by a state trooper. Or perhaps a prison guard. A very odd sensation. But, the KBC beer did not fail me, and I very much enjoyed my Goat Island Light. And no visit to Federal Jack’s is complete without a visit to their retail store/gift shop. They have some fun and irreverent items. Lots of Maine paraphernalia, and beer related gifts. Beau selected a coffee mug with the shape of Maine on one side, and “I Love ME” on the other. It is too funny to watch him sip milk from his coffee mug, affecting a smirk and a slightly raised eyebrow. Reminiscent of the boss from Office Space. Elbow out, “I love ME” facing the viewer. An excellent choice of souvenir.

Overall, a good day, and I can check whale-watching in Maine off my list. I would, however, take another whale-watching cruise in a different month, or different location, in the hopes of seeing Humpbacks, or other larger whales. Plus, just watching the sonar/depth finder was amazing. I stood in the door of the wheelhouse and watched it. At times the biomass of bait fish directly below the boat was as dense as the muddy bottom. And there is something wild about knowing when you are floating above 350+ feet of water.


Thursday, June 23: Lobster Cruise, aka, I’m on a boat. Again.

This morning’s nautical adventure was to be a scenic lobster cruise aboard the Rugosa, a lobster boat that sails out of the Nonantum Resort. We had checked on the possible trips Monday, but they had all been cancelled because of wind/choppy conditions. We signed up for the morning trip Tuesday, but I got a text the next morning saying the trip had once again been cancelled due to weather. (Side note: Amy was the one who wrote down our names on the sign-up sheet, listing both her phone number and mine, so we would have two points of contact. She did not receive that text, or a call.) Once Tuesdays sailings were cancelled, Amy went back and put our names on the list for the Thursday 10:30am sailing. This is a very small boat, so limited availability, and we felt lucky to get on that sailing since the other two had been cancelled. So, the girls (Beau decided he’d had more than enough water-based excursions for a few days) presented ourselves at the Nonantum Resort by 10:15am, ready to go. Only to see the sign-up sheet on the front desk with lines drawn through and scratching out the morning sailing. When we asked, the woman at the front desk said that the sailing had been cancelled because of mechanical difficulties, and the captain was currently working on his boat. When we expressed displeasure that no one had bothered to contact us, she said, with a rather snotty attitude and haughty tone, “The captain is *very* good at calling people to let them know.” I managed to keep my mouth shut, and Amy very calmly said, while pointing to the sheet, “Well, there’s my phone number, and there’s hers, and I assure you that neither one of us received any call or other contact from the captain, or anyone else.” The employee seemed vaguely flustered by that, and muttered an apology, but as there was nothing really to be done, we just walked away. I can fully understand canceling a trip due to weather conditions not being ideal, and I can fully understand a trip being cancelled due to mechanical difficulties. But I find it an unacceptable breach of customer service to not inform your customers the minute you have made this decision. We could have changed our plans if we had known earlier. As it was, we jumped back in the car and raced back up to the First Chance office to see if they had a morning lobster cruise that was going today, and if so, was there any space left available. Thankfully, their cruise wasn’t until 11:00am, so we were just in time, and managed to secure 4 spaces. Not wanting to pay $3/hr for parking in their lot, we found the free public parking lot about half a mile away (On naught/North street!), and hoofed it back just as everyone was gathering to board – putting us at the back of the line. But we noticed that the the crowd was queuing up at the wrong dock. Having been there yesterday, we knew exactly which boat we were headed out on, and there was no access to it from that ramp. So, Amy went back up to the office and verified that we were correct. So, one of the crew told us to stand near him and we would walk around to another dock access point momentarily. He also told us which seats to chose so we had front row access when they pulled a lobster trap. This was definitely a case of winning by having independent thought, instead of mindlessly following the crowd.

We boarded Kylie’s Chance, and headed out through the Kennebunk River. It was clear right away that we had a very capable, but laid back captain. And our first mate, was one of the crew that was on the whale watching cruise yesterday. We just headed out of the channel into the ocean, simply skimming the shoreline. There were amazing views of the ocean-front homes, including being up close and personal with former president George H.W. Bush’s home, Walker’s Point. The flags (United States, Maine, and Texas) were flying, so he was definitely in residence. I waved politely, just in case Mr. & Mrs. Bush (seems disrespectful to call them George & Barbara) were looking out their picture windows while having an early lunch. The captain was full of interesting information about the area and about lobstering (“bugging” as he called it.) We cruised over to Bumpkin Island to look for the harbor seals that sun and hunt around there. We managed to see a few sleek, dark heads bobbing in the water, but not too much of a seal show. They also hauled one of their traps. It contained two lobster. The mate banded their claws (only three in total because the larger one was missing a claw), and proceeded to tell us about them. There was one male and one female. The larger one fit within the regulations for keeping, a carapace measurement that was more than 3.25″, but less than 5″, and I was surprised they would do so even though he only had one claw. The smaller one was not yet big enough, and would be returned to the ocean. They let us handle them, and investigate them. There was a sickeningly cracking noise when a grown woman accidentally dropped the larger one to the deck, but there didn’t seem to to be a readily visible crack in his shell. They really did a nice job making sure everyone could get their questions answered, and get as up close and personal with the lobster as they wanted. I was happy we got the front row seat, and could watch the whole process. And, going for that whole on vacation, drink local maxim of mine, I enjoyed a Shipyard Summer Ale, brewed in Portland, ME, while on the boat. Ahhhhh! What is it about being on a boat in the sun that makes cold beer taste that much better? As we were headed back in from Bumpkin Island, the captain asked Harper if she would like to drive the boat. He pulled up a stool and she took the wheel, despite not really being able to see over the bow of the boat. He would direct her, and she was truly steering the boat. Which made her light up. After she had a turn, he let some other kids, and one older lady, take their turns driving, including Captain Smoochie. It was a perfect study in the differences between the sisters’ personalities. Harper was giddy with power, and very relaxed at the wheel. Avery was also very excited, and proud, but definitely taking it very seriously, and feeling the weight of responsibility. This little cruise has been one of the highlights of our Maine activities, and frankly, I may do it again one more time next week, encouraging Beau to join us. There was very little motion, and I don’t think it would get to him the way the ocean swells did. I could not be more pleased that the other trip was cancelled. I think this was a much better experience!

After finishing the cruise, we grabbed a quick slice of pizza at Atlantic Pizza, right there in the same shopping complex as Federal Jack’s. The pizza at Atlantic is very tasty. With the added bonus that they sell Coca-Cola in glass bottles. Which of course would be even better if they could be stuck in the freezer for 15 minutes first, but was still the perfect accompaniment to my cheese slice. Then we meandered a bit in town, Amy doing some last minute souvenir shopping. I found a few paintings that I’ll put in my Maine lottery home (you know, the oceanfront home I’m going to have if I win the lottery). Then it was time to head home. Sadly for us, Amy had to leave us today to continue her adventures elsewhere. We all said our sad goodbyes, and then spent some time relaxing around the house. Beau and I sat with our books on the balcony off the girls’ bedroom. A perfect view of Vaughan’s Island laid out before us, birdsong all around, cool breeze, face in the shade, legs in the sun, yes, a perfect recipe for a catnap! Ahhhh…..

But before it got too late, we roused and headed out on a few errands. I usually wear flip-flops on the beach at home. And that works great, because it is loose sand. Here, as I walk across the low tide, the mud is sucking at my shoes, and wearing those same beach flip-flops has torn my feet to ribbons. I am sporting some rather impressive blisters on both feet, so I decided it was time to return to the all-purpose water shoes of my Florida youth. I swear, I lived in Tevas through my entire teenage years. I looked for the closest Teva retailers, and decided that my best bet was the Kittery Trading Post. Kind of a Maine version of Bass Pro Shops. Lots of great gear and equipment, but with charm. (And you know how I love it when they say the word “charm” around here.) I found some Tevas that will work for me – close enough to the original style I loved so much, though they didn’t have the solid black I truly wanted. Harper found the training arrows in the archery department, and decided to purchase a couple with her own money. We also picked up a nice pair of binoculars that were sporting a very nice sale price. After gearing up at the Trading Post, there were a few items I needed that would best be acquired at a Target. When I searched for the nearest Target, knowing there is one in Biddeford, not too far from the house, I discovered that the closest Target to Kittery was in New Hampshire, a mere 6 miles away. Well, how could I resist that? The cache of crossing back into NH, taking advantage of no sales tax. We made the quick hop, picked up our few items, and then headed back over the Piscataqua River Bridge. I had promised a trip to Ben & Jerry’s today, but I thought it would be fun to seek a location other than our typical one in KPT. So, Waze directed us to Ogunquit, Maine. We utilized their free village parking lot, and walked up the hill to the main street. I would have liked to stop in The Sassy Olive, an olive oil and balsamic tasting room, but the kids had ice cream on the mind, and I felt more unwarranted, and unappreciated by them, delay was unadvisable. We walked with our ice cream, and spotted a toy store that definitely needed further investigating. (Wait. Quick shout out to Ben & Jerry’s, all locations, for taking allergy issues so seriously, and having a distinct protocol in place to keep their allergic customers safe, and ensuring they can have a full experience. My kiddos can only eat the sorbet, as all B&J’s ice cream contains eggs, but Beau ordered a smoothie with sorbet, and the scooper completely sanitized the blender before making it. Anyway, good on you, Ben & Jerry’s, we’ll keep coming back.) Now, back to the toy store, called Animal Instincts, where they were advertising the Disney Lego mini figures. Well, duh, I had to fondle a few of those, and see what I could find. These were rather difficult, especially since I can’t see the backs of the minifigs in the online images, and I admit that I was fooled by one or two this go around. Or, maybe not fooled, but engaging in extreme wishful thinking, and sloppy assessment work. I really, really, really want the Ursula minifig. And I’m not sure what I thought I had in my hand at the time (or perhaps I put the wrong one back in the box, and accidentally bought the one I meant to put back), but I ended up with a Daisy Duck, which I didn’t care about. However, I was very excited to get Maleficent, Buzz Lightyear, an alien, and Captain Hook. Harper came running up to me with a game I have never seen before, and had to splurge on – Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit. It’s travel size, just a colored die and a deck of trivia cards, enclosed in a wedge shaped plastic box. Considering Harper has read the series through approximately 4 times, it seemed a shame to put that one back on the shelf. Too bad we can’t have a Battle of the Books based solely on Harry Potter…

The sun was setting just as we were arriving back home, and the light was gorgeous. A warm pinky rose. It was a picture perfect evening. We took Remy down on the beach to chase his tennis ball, into the cold Atlantic, time and time again. It was down in the 60s and heading lower. That dog is tireless. He always wants you to throw it just one more time, and just one more time. Boy is he going to be mad at me when he discovers this is a vacation, not a relocation. It really is dog paradise.

We came back up to the house as the light was dying, and when I was hosing Remy off I discovered that 60 degrees is in fact not too cold for mosquitos. Guess they grow ‘em hearty, and cold-weather acclimated up here. I was getting eaten up, and glad to come inside to escape them. Some cheese & crackers & a cocktail – what else are you supposed to have for second dinner when you had ice cream for dinner? – and I was ready for a round of Harry Potter trivia. Some of the questions were fairly easy. Those are not the questions that I was getting. And, as predicted, Harper cleaned the floor with Avery & I. But it was fun, and I actually learned something, so that’s cool. A little late to bed, but a nice way to end a really wonderful day. I can’t believe that we get to stay another week. Usually at this point in the vacation, it’s time for me to start cleaning up, thinking about packing. It’s inconceivable we get to settle in and stay longer. Such sweet relaxation. I think Remy and I will be crying together when it’s time to go. Now excuse me, I really need to go buy that lottery ticket…



Day Seven: In the Presence of Greatness

21 Jun

Talk about a lazy morning. Amy was a go-getter, up and walking into town, while the kids and I lounged around the house. Lazed hard. Like if there were ribbons for lazy lounging, ours would be blue. And how freakin’ awesome is that?? Nothing quite like relaxing when the air coming through the open windows is salt-scented, less than 70% humidity, and temps hovering in the 70s. We originally planned to take a lobster boat tour, but for the second day in a row, the captain cancelled the trip due to unfavorable conditions (too rough and windy? Hmmm… Here’s hoping the trip scheduled for Thursday morning goes as planned!) Eventually, we roused to get ready and head out to an early afternoon movie. Because what’s one of our traditions on CMRT? See the new summer release Pixar film! This year, it’s “Finding Dory.” So, so cute. So very cute. And silly. And touching. It’s about finding our way home. And about the faith and patience of waiting for someone to come home. It’s about laying down a path to allow our loved ones to come home. And about figuring out what makes a family. It’s about otters having a cuddle party. And about me blubbering in my seat like a little baby. I have always loved Ellen DeGeneres, no more so then as Dory, but this time it was the octopus I fell in love with. Such great characters. This movie is utterly ridiculous and positively delightful. Two thumbs up!

After the movie we took a jaunt over to Cape Elizabeth and Fort Williams Park to view the Portland Head Light. It’s a beautiful white lighthouse, especially on a day with a clear blue sky. It also happens to be the oldest lighthouse in Maine. And the first lighthouse in the US completed after independence from Great Britain. Who ordered it built? None other than George Washington himself. It is said that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired to write his poem – The Lighthouse – by his frequent walks from Portland to visit his friends, the keepers of the Portland Head lighthouse. The views are simply stunning. Truly breathtaking on such a beautiful summer day. But the wind was blowing just enough to emphasize how miserable a post it must be in the winter. No doubt still stunningly beautiful, but bitterly cold and blustery.

As we were walking up to the light we saw a large group of rather ridiculously fit people in workout/running attire. Amy asked them something along the lines of, “Is this a tour group for only super fit people?” One girl laughed, and explained that they were all employees of Nike, out from the corporate headquarters in Oregon. She then went on to say, “When Joan Benoit Samuelson says she wants to run to the lighthouse, you run to the lighthouse!” I recognized that name immediately. To be fair, I couldn’t remember the exact origins of her accolades (first woman to win the gold medal in Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 games, never mind winning the Boston Marathon a few times before that!), nor did I know before googling her that she was born right there in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. But I recognized the name Joan Benoit Samuelson immediately, and I almost gasped out – “The famous marathoner!!” Well, sure enough, she walked up to the lighthouse with the rest of her uber-fit, uber-young Nike-employed companions. I’d have to say that she’s making 59 look good. Talk about some beautiful legs! (Seriously, milling about her were several 20-something runner boys in the tiniest little shorts I have ever seen, and I still found myself looking at *her* legs!) I managed to snap a surreptitious picture of her, surrounded by her entourage, as Avery walked by them. I confess that I wouldn’t have recognized her if she had walked right up and challenged me to a foot race, but I sure did recognize the name, and appreciate the fact that I was in the presence of running greatness. Seeing her definitely added a bit of quirky absurdity to the day.

On the opposite side of Fort Williams Park from the lighthouse are the ruins of a large, Italianate home – The Goddard Mansion. The original walls are all standing, but it is merely a shell of the former home, completed in 1859. It is a bizarre ruin – the walls fully intact, but everything else, the roof, the windows and doors, all interior simply nonexistent. Many photographs exist, showing the glory of the intact home over a century of time. It was once a private residence, but then was turned into married barracks and an officer’s club for those attached to Fort Williams. I had to research this beautiful shell more deeply, and apparently, the mansion was already in grave disrepair when the town of Cape Elizabeth purchased the fort in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1981 when they commissioned the fire department to implement a controlled burn of the interior to remove all dangerous debris. It is still hauntingly beautiful, even with the chain link fence around it. There is always something creepy about seeing vegetation growing inside the walls of a once stately mansion.

After making our way home from the lighthouse, we did some more lounging. Far too full of popcorn and movie snacks to consider a real dinner, we just picked. Amy set off in pursuit of a lobster roll (ultimately purchased from Mabel’s Lobster Claw – favorite KPT restaurant of former president George H.W. Bush). I took Remy down on the beach, and proceeded to throw the tennis ball into the ocean for him for approximately 45 minutes straight. Dog should be dog tired tonight! Goodness knows I am, and I haven’t done squat in terms of physical exertion today other than a leisurely Cliff Walk in Fort Williams Park, and the effort of feeling bad about myself in the presence of a legend of physical fitness. It was nice to have a day that was mostly about relaxation. I’m starting to think that Avery was on to something with that whole Lazy Momma appellation. That’s a low bar I can reach…

On the docket for tomorrow: Whale Watching!



Days Five and Six: Relaxing in the Sun and Howling at the Moon

20 Jun

The blogging always falls off when the destination has been reached. Partly because there isn’t as much to report, and partly because I slip into the laziness of vacation. The intended laziness. After all, isn’t that the point of vacation? It’s strange to think that we have already been here for two days. For two whole days. They have been idyllic. Truly. This weather must have been custom ordered for a Florida girl who is so over the heat of her home state. The highs here are in the 70s, occasionally soaring into the low 80s (did you hear the sarcasm in my voice?) Because even when the mercury touches 80+, the low humidity keeps it from feeling like a strangling weight on your chest and around your neck. The breeze has been almost constant. Jeans and hoodie/fleece vest at night, and frankly still a little too chilly for a bathing suit for me during the day. Blue skies, bright sun, stunning views, singing birds. It’s like a damn Disney movie up in here. And I am the princess who gets to live in this dream. What a lucky girl.

Let’s see if I can remember how the past two days unfolded…

Sunday, June 19:

Had a lazy, lazy morning. Kids watched tv or played on their tablets, I lounged in bed for a bit and read, we lingered over breakfasts, shook the weariness out of our heads. I was still feeling a bit tired, as I had gone to bed late, and rose far too early. Here’s the thing I remembered about our little cottage on Turbat’s Creek – it gets VERY bright in the morning. Here’s the thing I had forgotten about our little cottage on Turbat’s Creek – the sun rises at 5:00am. I am not kidding. Sunrise at 5:00am. Five o’clock in the morning. Isn’t that too early? But we took our time this morning. Why? Because we could. The brilliance of renting the house for two weeks instead of one, I have lost the ridiculous sense of urgency that we must go-go-go, we must get out on the beach early to maximize our time spent experiencing Maine, we must schedule our activities so we can fit them all in, we must, we must, we must. I have shed that sense of urgency that oftentimes gets in the way of our fun. And it is GLORIOUS. One of the things I had discovered on Saturday night was that the only hose, handy for rinsing muddy feet, and necessary for rinsing muddy dog, was merely a thin trickle of water. Not going to cut it. I mean, I rinsed the dog’s feet on Saturday night with water bottles refilled from the sink. Not an efficient model for keeping Crazy Momma’s thin sanity intact. But, being a fixer, I decided that a quick trip to the hardware store was in order. The old hose was so kinked and bent, that in places it was broken or worn through. Nothing a new hose couldn’t fix. So, one trip to the nearby Ace Hardware, and I had a cheap 100′ hose (which I will leave here) and a new spray nozzle (which I will likely take home). Connect everything and discover that I’m still only getting the barest amount of water, despite it being connected properly. New plan, check the source of the external spigot. Because I could see water spraying from the hose attachment (even when the old hose was attached), so I knew there was water flow. I detached my hose and turned the spigot on full – not the water pressure I was hoping for, or frankly needed. Did I freak out? No. I went down into the uber-freaky basement, and found the place where the interior water pipes attached to the pipe feeding the exterior spigot. The valve there? Only slightly turned. Yeah, I’m no plumber, but that valve needs to be wide open for the water to flow to the exterior spigot with enough force to feed a 100′ hose. Opened the valve, went back out to check the hose, and we were good to rinse! Was this rocket science? Nope. Not brain surgery either. But it felt good. Damn good. To be alone and confronted with a problem, and instead of losing my head, thinking it through and solving it myself. And when I took a moment to call my dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, I made sure to thank him. For everything he does for me and my family, obviously, but specifically for this. For never treating me as a princess who was incapable of learning or doing something new. For raising me to be capable. It is one of the personal traits I am most proud of. Being capable. And I am so grateful he taught me to trust in my own abilities.

Hose situation (or rather, what the heck are we going to do with the muddy dog situation) resolved, it was time to hit the beach. To be fair, the kids were already down there. This is what I love about this house, and the fact that my children have grown into their independence. While I was figuring out the hose, getting the beach chairs out of the basement, getting myself ready to go down there, the kids were already playing on the beach. I had helped to slather them with sunscreen, and get their towels, but the beach here is close enough to the house, that I could hear them if they shouted. With the caveat that they were not to go deeper than knee deep, they were allowed to go down and settle in, play on the rocks, wade by the shore. Turbat’s Creek really is a kids’ paradise. Turns out it’s a dog’s paradise, too. But it’s proximity to the house, it’s relative privacy, make it perfect for a momma who doesn’t want to, and probably couldn’t if she tried to, stay on top of her kids at all times. They played on the beach for hours, while I sat and read, or threw the ball for the dog. As the tide receded, Remy alternately chased a ball across the mud flat and into the water, kept a watchful eye on his kids, and laid in the shade of my chair. Again I state, heaven for everyone involved. About midday I left them playing, and came up to the house to make sandwiches, get a bag of chips and some drinks, and of course some applesauce cups with the intention that they use shells for spoons to eat (the Nelson family trick!).

The afternoon rolled on nicely, in the most delightfully relaxed manner, and late in the afternoon who did I spy walking across the flats with my girls scampering at her feet? Enter my promised surprise guest of CMRT 2016: K9 Edition – Amy Lynch, all around wonderful lady and school nurse extraordinaire! As plans for CMRT were unfolding, Amy rather jokingly said, “Will you adopt me? I want to be one of your kids. I want to go on the road trip.” And with complete sincerity, I suggested that she join us in Maine for a few days. House has more bedrooms than the kids & I strictly need, and at the time I offered it was unknown whether or not the kids’ father would be joining us, but even if so, it was only going to be for a few days, so I offered up a bedroom with an attached bath, and a sincere offer to join in the craziness. (As it turns out, the kids’ dad will not be coming up to Maine at all this summer, so there’s no rush for her to vacate on any schedule other than her own plans.) But I am so pleased that she took me up on the offer. The kids know and love her, and she knows and loves and has taken such extraordinary care of them in the years she has been at LPA. Plus, I greatly enjoy her sense of humor and company; it’s nice for me to have a friend.

We went back up to the house for a bit, waiting for the tide to finish going out. Then we headed out across the flat to cross the few feet of ankle deep water that Turbat’s Creek is reduced to during low tide. On the other side? Vaughn’s Island – a nature preserve island – home of the massive rocks for climbing on, the tidal pools for turning over rocks to spot baby lobster, and the tideline to check for interesting things that have washed ashore (one year I found the duck decoy that currently graces my mantle at home.) It is so amazing to live right across from this island, so easily accessible, so perfect for exploration, and cultivating the magic of childhood. Heck, the magic of a relaxed adulthood. It just strikes home the idea that life really is beautiful if you’re paying attention.

Thankfully, Amy is a far better houseguest than I am a hostess. Dinner was a low brow affair of spaghetti and meatballs, and then it was time to take the children, already in their pajamas, out for ice cream. Specifically, to the Ben & Jerry’s down in the heart of town. If you’re a bourbon fan, may I humbly recommend the Bourbon Brown Butter limited batch. Yum. Amy graciously treated the kids to their favorite flavors and toppings, and then gave them their special spoons. At the register they are selling little shovels, because ice cream is better when it is being “shoveled” into your face! These “spoons” are hysterical, and watching their enjoyment of using them was a hoot. More magic, to be sure. Wandered around the town a little bit – making a stop in one of my favorite stores of all time, that was thankfully open late – Daytrip Society. I swear it seems to be my goal to empty my entire wallet in that store. Daytrip Society has the cutest, coolest, most incredible current and retro items. Bought a wonderful necklace and some cards there. Then we wandered some more, peeking in the display windows of darkened shops, and found the companion kids store – Daytrip Society Jr. – also open and delighted in browsing there as well. Soon it was time to head back home as it was time for everyone to turn in. We had all been up a little too early – Amy earlier than all, and with a full travel day under her belt, to boot. It was a perfect first day of vacation. Can’t believe how lucky I am to have so many more of them lined up in a row.


Monday, June 20:

The first day of Summer! And Amy’s first full day with us in our beloved little Kennebunkport. We lazed a bit and tried to strategize our coming days, fitting in desired activities without making ourselves feel too scheduled, and taking the weather into account. When we discovered that there was a lobster boat tour scheduled for 10:30am, we raced to change and head out the door to the Nonantum resort. We got there just in time, though only to discover that the conditions were a little to windy and rough for lobstering, and all trips aboard the Rugosa were cancelled for the day. Okay, no matter, we’ll sign up for tomorrow afternoon. Then we piled back into the car and headed down to the “office” of First Chance Whale Watching down in Dock Square. We got ourselves confirmed for the Wednesday morning whale watching cruise, for which I am VERY excited. The lady said that there have been loads of whales spotted offshore, so I am hopeful that we will have abundant marine wildlife for viewing. They very nicely allowed us to leave our car in their parking lot for a bit, so we could wander up to the bookstore Avery has been dying to visit since she saw the sign advertising The Book Burrow, only to discover that it was only open Wed-Sat. Alright, save that for a return visit. A stop in the French patisserie for refreshments, a lovely shopping excursion into a shop called “Best of Everything” (and they’re pretty close to being accurate!) where Harper and I each bought ourselves new necklaces, and then it was back to the car. Well, anyone who knows me knows the place I had to take my friend. One does not come to Kennebunkport, so close to the retail nirvana that is Freeport, without visiting. So, since we had already forgone a morning on the beach, and the boat trips weren’t panning out, we took the 45 minute jaunt up the interstate to visit my mecca – the LLBean flagship store! Ahhhhh!

After finding easy parking in the LLBean parking lot, our first stop was, of course, to take our required pictures in front of the big Bean boot. But our most urgent need was lunch. I remembered and located the brick over pizza place we have frequented over the years, but it has undergone a transformation into a much swankier, hipper place. All things considered, they still let me in the door, and we had a delicious lunch (perhaps some of the best pepperoni I have ever tasted!) Harper was thrilled because she got to sit in a large, upholstered wingback chair at the table, and now she thinks perhaps what’s been missing from her life all along is a dining throne. After lunch we wandered into the book store next door. Such a cute store, with a wide variety of books, games, decorative frames, collectibles, notecards, etc, etc. And then down the street to The Mangy Moose – a really fun, and irreverent gift shop. And then it was time to head back across the street to the main attraction. I can’t explain what it is I love about this store so much. After all, it’s really just a store. And they sell nice things, but in the end they are just things. But it’s the combination of the beautiful store, the wonderful things, the incredibly nice and helpful people. It’s a happy place for me. The kids wanted to head up first to the kids’ section. We took a look around, but the real draw there is the photo booth. Amy & the girls had their silly fun, and then Beau & I took our turn. What a nostalgic souvenir, a strip of photos from a photo booth. We wandered the store, and all its sections, viewed the trout aquarium (which boasts the largest single acrylic viewing window of any other aquarium in the state of Maine), and then Harper got totally sidetracked watching a man in the hunting department fletch arrows. She was transfixed watching him glue feathers onto plain wooden shafts. Beau wanted to head off toward the rifles/shotguns, and wanted my company to do so, so I left Amy with the girls, and wandered through the guns with Beau, talking about his grandfather’s (my father’s) fowl hunting, and the possibility that perhaps we could both go skeet shooting with Pop when we got home. When we headed back toward the girls, Amy said that they could sell Harper a single arrow for less than $10. As she looked at me with her pleading gray eyes, I discussed with the kind LLBean employee what kind of tip he could put on the arrow, and then consented that she could use some of her own money to purchase one. She got to pick feathers, and he prepared the bare shaft for the tip and the notch end. So, now she has all the pieces to assemble her own arrow. Plus, it cost about $8.50. I just need to procure a small piece of light sandpaper and some superglue. Then she’ll be ready to go. I can’t remember the last time I saw a child vibrate from happiness in this way. The salesman compared her happiness to a current viral video of a dog playing with an automatic tennis ball launching machine. He bounces and dances and scampers on the deck as he returns the fetched tennis ball and waits for it to launch again. Honestly, I think Harper was even happier than that dog!

We wandered over to the bike and boat shop, but the kids were fading fast, so we needed a snack. Plus, I may or may not have promised a treat as I told them water was the only option to drink with lunch. Lucky for us, there was a Dairy Queen right across the street! (Ben & Jerry’s is great, but all of their ice cream has egg as an ingredient. Luckily, the older two love the B&J sorbets, but it is not an ice cream location for them. DQ is.) A quick dipped cone later, and we had happy campers on our hands once again. That bought us enough time to take a spin through the LLBean Home store. I could just move in there. I love the decorative pieces – sadly, I do not love their prices as much. But there are definitely a few things from their home collections on my lottery list. (You know, the things I’ll buy if I ever win the lottery. I’ll decorate my home in Maine with many things from LLBean when that happens.) Until then I just dream and drool. Back in the car for an easy ride home, and a dog that was glad to see us and play a little fetch in the front yard.

One of the things I love to do is play bar trivia, and at the Sebago Brewing Company here in Kennebunk, they have an awesomely unique bar trivia game on Monday nights. So, Amy & I had a little girls night out for beer, bar food, and trivia. The kids have gotten to the age where they are comfortable being left alone for a few hours, and I am comfortable leaving them so. They have their own kids’ phone, and are allowed to text or call me when I am away. Not only do I like having some more freedom for myself, but it is also good to build up their independence. Win-Win for everyone. Though I did tell the trivia host jokingly that he might occasionally see me on my cell phone, but I was not cheating, merely responding to my 8 year old whom I had left charge of the phone while Mommy was off drinking and playing at the bar. (And before you run to the internet to research, I’ve already done it. Maine, like Florida, has no laws regarding the age at which it is legal to leave children home alone.) The host laughed, and said, “Well, at least you didn’t say four year old!” He then proceeded to say he was changing our team name, which was merely CMRT, to “Responsible Parenting” which made the night infinitely more awesome! The beer at Sebago is delicious (I had their Runabout Red), the food was good, and we had a pretty showing – coming in 5th place. The people next to us, who came in second, won a decorative metal sign for Sebago Brewing Company. When I commented what a cool sign it was, they handed it to me and said, “Here. Take it.” I thanked them profusely – because I really wanted it – and turns out they are locals who play every single Monday. I told them I would happily take it back to Florida to represent a little piece of Kennebunk down there. Amy suggested that I come back next Monday and see if I could join their team. Hmmmm… Might have to do that…

Got home before too late, and the kids barely noticed us coming in the door, so I’d say all went well. But there was one last thing we needed to do before turning in. The full moon was hanging huge and low in the sky. So beautiful, and calling to something primal inside us. What’s the best thing to do with a full moon? Howl at it, of course. So we all walked down to the beach, and tilted our heads back to the sky to howl. Beau politely declined to be our boy werewolf, and Remy got excited, but kind of looked at us like we were crazy. But Crazy Momma, her girls, and her friend, howled at the moon like the wild women we are. It was perfect. And, as I later discovered, it was a special, once-in-a-lifetime (or at least my lifetime, as it only occurs every 70 years) event. An early Native American tribe named this full moon in June a Strawberry Moon, but it rarely coincides with the Summer Solstice. So, what we were howling at was the Solstice Strawberry Full Moon. A rare delight to behold, and in this case, experience.

With a heart full of beauty, it was time to turn in, and close the chapter on another awesome day. This vacation is unfolding exactly as I hoped it would… Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried.

(Editing may or may not follow at a later date. Just can’t be bothered right now.)


Day Four: The Summer of Serendipity

18 Jun

Every good adventure should have a theme. This year, for CMRT 2016: K9 Edition, is seems to be serendipity. The beauty of the unexpected. The utterly random turned into magic. It started with unexpected sandwiches on Day One. And evolved into a summer home drop-in today. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

We started our day in Manhattan. When I woke, Remy was snuggled in tight between Beau and Harper on the floor of the apartment. Like puppies in a whelping box. We managed to all wake, get dressed, roll sleeping bags, and move furniture back to its original position without waking Robyn. Earning us the best compliment that we are “the quietest house guests ever!” Maybe not always true, but we really did try hard this time. Probably also helps that being a long-time Manhattan resident she is used to a lot of ambient noise. While the kids watched a little tv with Robyn, I took Remy down to Riverside Park one last time for another quick, illegal off-leash romp. This time running around with a Labrador for a few minutes, then chasing a stick. Then back up to the apartment to bid a fond and exceedingly grateful adieu to Robyn, and pack the car. As we walked up to Broadway to the recommended bagel shop, Beau leaned into me and said, “You really do have the nicest friends.” Which obviously was a nice compliment for Robyn, but also for me. Made me smile and feel very warm inside. I hugged him to me and replied, “Yes, I do. I really do.” And then, being a mom, I couldn’t resist exploiting the teachable moment, adding, “And you know why? Because I try really hard to be a nice friend myself.” But it is so true that it squeezes my heart (and perhaps makes my eyes tear ever so slightly), I really do have the nicest friends.

At the bagel shop I left the kids on the sidewalk with Remy, and waited in line for breakfast. I am enjoying giving them these small tastes of true independence. Trusting them to behave properly, to assess their feelings of safety, and respond accordingly. It’s good for them, and I really should seek more opportunities to do it. A large sack of bagels and a few bottles of water procured, it was back to the car for the final push. Typically when we leave NYC it is on a weekday afternoon. And that means traffic. A staggering amount of traffic. Not so today as we were rolling out at around 9:45am on a Saturday. And as much as I absolutely adore driving in New York City (and I do! I LOVE it!), I really enjoyed my drive out of the city on the Henry Hudson Parkway today. Very little traffic, everything lush and green, a curving road cut through a beautiful landscape. It was wonderful! And as we cleared NY state and were rolling through Connecticut my dear friend, and inventor of the phrase “Pup Pit,” Jen, contacted me to ask if we were already through CT. Indeed not, dear friend, and why do you ask? Because you just landed in Hartford? What? Jen’s parents, whom I have known since I was 12, have a home in Glastonbury, CT, and which exit was Waze telling me to take to connect from I-91 to I-84? The Glastonbury exit, of course. So, here we are, 1,000 miles from home, and my dear friend from home will be shortly arriving in the little New England town that we just happen to be driving right through. Serendipity. And we may not be hungry at this exact moment, so no sandwiches necessary, but definitely unexpected. And though being fairly road weary, though Maine is now getting close enough to taste, how could I not stop? That would be like spitting in the face of fate. So we changed our destination, and rolled up to the Hughes’ gorgeous home. Remy was certainly happy to run free on their lush, golf course grass lawn, and it was so fun to see Jen and her entire family. The consummate hostess, Mrs. Hughes was insistent on plying us with some food, even if I wouldn’t allow her the time to make us lunch, so the kids munched on fruit, and enjoyed sitting in their stadium seats from Fenway. We had such a lovely visit in their beautiful home with these truly wonderful people, that I was loathe to get back in the car. But what a fun, serendipitous stop. Life really is beautiful if you’re paying attention.

Easy hop back onto the interstate. Thought I had it made with my packed car, and hopped into the HOV lane, only to get stuck for quite some time behind a guy who must have had his cruise control set on the exact speed limit. For goodness sake, if you want to drive the speed limit or under, just stay in the far right lane. Frustrating. Luckily he must have been local, because he got off at an exit, and gave me an open lane of smooth sailing for awhile. Those NY bagels and fresh fruit packed a punch, and it wasn’t until much later that we started feeling hungry.Thankfully we spotted an exit with a Moe’s, and while not necessarily the easiest thing to eat while driving, a burrito really was preferable to more fast food.

After lunch we had one final stop to make before reaching the house. Unfortunately, it was discovered as I went to lay out our clothes for today, that Beau had left his Crocs, the only shoes other than running shoes he brought on the trip, back in our hotel room in Pennsylvania. Grrrrr…. He needs to have beach shoes, and thankfully it turns out that there is a Crocs outlet in Kittery. So, about 10 minutes total – off the interstate, to the store, Beau & I hop out of the car, select the right size, pay, back in the car, back to the interstate. Not too long to solve that problem, and we were back on our way. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how I feel when the Piscataqua River Bridge comes into view. Before I focused on resolving the shoe crisis, I was feeling that delightful, floaty feeling I get whenever I cross over that bridge. When I see the “Maine State Line” sign in the middle of the span. It just makes me happy. Plus, writing about it gives me the chance to say “Piscataqua”, which is just fun to say. Go ahead. You try. Piscataqua. Yep, just feels good in my mouth, and makes all the love I have for this state blossom in my chest.

Once we had the shoes, it was just about 20 miles to the house. That’s nothing. As we drove through a packed Dock Square, made the turn onto Ocean Avenue, I just felt home. We rolled up to the house, and it was like no time had passed at all. There is comfort in returning to a place known to you, a place that holds happy memories. And just like coming home, it was time to get down to business before we could truly enjoy ourselves! I had scheduled a grocery pick-up from Hananford’s To Go, and I had approximately 45 minutes to completely unpack the car, and get to the grocery store. Side note: Seriously, this Hannaford’s To Go thing is amazing! (Shout out to my friend Mandy for letting me know about it!) I have spent the past three weeks or so compiling my list of two weeks worth of groceries. And all I had to do was press a few buttons, and manage to show up at the grocery store within the pick-up time window. Amazing. I got to the store and grabbed the two or three things I had forgotten to add to the list last week, and checked out, then the wonderful lady at the HTG at the Kennebunk store wheeled out to my car and we refilled the cargo area with grocery bags. Kids helped me unload the bags, I put the perishables into the fridge, and out onto the beach we went. And it did my heart good to watch the kids run off and scamper onto the rocks, watch Remy race around in the mud, splash into the freezing water without a single hesitation. Everyone frolicking, exactly as I hoped they might. This. This is why I do this. This, not Maine, per se, but this feeling of freedom and exploration, this is exactly what a childhood summer should contain. Exactly the kind of magic this KPT Cottage on Turbats Creek can provide.


Northbound by the Numbers:

Number of miles driven: 1,425

States traveled through: 14 [FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, MA, CT, NH, ME]

Number of license plates accounted for so far: 44 [Only missing Kansas, North Dakota (a perennial troublemaker), South Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii, & Alaska]


Day Three: A Walk in the Park

17 Jun

If you are a mother, especially if you have several children, you may or may not have at some point when you needed to assure a restful night (or plane trip, etc) given your children some “unnecessary” Benadryl. Maybe you are shocked and appalled that I would even suggest such a thing. But if you are still reading at this point, likely you are simply nodding your head in affirmation that, indeed, you have used exactly that move. Well, this is not a story about how I guaranteed drowsy compliance and/or sleep from my children by dosing them with Benadryl. This is how I guaranteed drowsy compliance and/or sleep from my DOG by dosing him with Benadryl. It was even the vet’s idea!! And I’m not sure if it was even necessary, because he’s been such a gem of a dog thus far, but we were in a hotel room, and frankly I wasn’t sure how he was going to react to the strange environment, the multitude of noises in the parking lot, etc. So, he may have had a bedtime pill. And whether or not it was the Benadryl, or just the exhaustion of traveling and missing out on his typical daily naps, Remy was good as gold in the hotel room last night. To be frank I am kind of wishing I had taken some Benadryl myself. Because I woke up early, too early, earlier than I needed. But at least that wasn’t the fault of the dog as it so often is.

I took advantage of this early rising to take a shower, and then demand it of all three kids. We run fairly fast & loose on the hygiene over the summer, but prior to heading in to stay at my friend’s apartment in Manhattan, I felt it important to arrive as clean as possible, because there was no way I wanted to get involved in ending up with wet towels in the car (and I sure as heck wasn’t going to ask my exceedingly generous friend to deal with 4 wet towels in her apartment! Nor assume she even had 4 extra towels to begin with!) So once we got all that accomplished, we rolled out a little before 9:00am. A suggestion had been made that when in Harrisburg, one really ought to at least take a look at their gorgeous state capitol building, so we left the hotel and made a drive-by, through downtown Harrisburg. I have to say, I was duly impressed. They did a really nice job planning the approach to the building – a long avenue opens up the view to the capitol, and it feels a bit like a red carpet approach. You are forced to go right or left around a park, but then are able to drive right in front of the fountain plaza in front of the building. It is an impressive structure, and quite beautiful, especially its green tiled dome. Though I did have trouble deciding how I felt about a Commonwealth having a “State” Capitol building. Shouldn’t it instead be a Commonwealth Capitol Complex? Either way, I was glad I took the few extra minutes to drive by and snap some pictures. Don’t know how much the kids really appreciated it, but I thought it was lovely.

Then we were off for a short 177 mile hop to the site of an infamous duel, and 5 previous years worth of photo shoots for the Willim 3. I am referring to Hamilton Park in lovely Weehawken, New Jersey. (Though, I must say, it seems a shame it’s not Burr Park; after all,  he’s the one who won the duel. Killing the other guy and not dying yourself is considered winning a duel, isn’t it?) Anyway, it’s been fun taking the same picture in the same place for several years in a row (excepting last year when CMRT was on hiatus). There is a handy white iron fence that the kids stand in front of, cleverly marking their height increases in relation to the top cross bar of the fence. It’s amazing how much they’ve grown. (Pause for nostalgic sniffle.) After taking some pictures with Manhattan laid out in the background, and letting the kids run around a bit, it was time to grab a bite to eat before heading into the city. Now, having children who are extremely picky eaters is frustrating, to say the least. On many levels. But I needed to make sure I got a full meal into the children before force-marching them, with the dog, all over the upper westside. So I used my handy smartphone’s map function to locate a reasonably close fast food restaurant. Of course in this environment, there is no handy drive-through, or even a parking lot. As I’m discovering exactly how urban this Union City, NJ, Burger King is going to be, and wondering exactly how I’m going to pull this off, I realize there is an on-street parking space directly across from the BK. Inconceivable. But, still shouldering the issue of traveling with a large dog (no hiding Remy the Wonder Poodle in a handbag), I decide to give the kids a little taste of responsibility, and send them into the restaurant with an appropriate amount of cash, and expect them to order, and pay for, the food. It seemed to take an awfully long time, but I was mostly content just standing on the sidewalk with the dog while they transacted food procurement business. However, if you are ever curious about how I got some of the nastiest looks ever glared my way in my life, it was by having an exceedingly well-behaved dog sitting quietly on the sidewalk taking up less space than most humans. I get that he’s a large dog, and that many people are scared of dogs in general, and large dogs especially, but Remy hardly looks like a menacing monster. And judging by some of the looks fired my way, you would have thought I was standing on the sidewalk juggling toxic waste and biological weapons. Finally, the kids emerged, and we all hopped back into the car to make our way into the city.

The parking karma held, and we managed to find a parking space very near to Robyn’s apartment on 92nd, between Riverside and West End. The tail end of the van was a little too much in front of a fire hydrant for my taste, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I just couldn’t let this spot go. There were other open areas on the street, but they were prohibited during school hours – until 4pm. So, rather uncharacteristically, I decide that despite being slightly illegally parked, it was good enough, and we headed off to walk our dog in Central Park. Walked into the park on the westside at 90th, where one of the children promptly asked if we could find a bathroom. Sigh. Thankfully there was a large map on a kiosk to get us started in the right direction to find a public restroom. There are not a ton of them in Central Park, but still better odds than out in the city. We meandered down the bridle path towards the Shakespeare Garden, using the bathrooms in front of the Delacorte Theatre. Then walked back up past The Great Lawn, and stopped to let the kids play for awhile in Spector Playground. Then walked more along the shore of the Reservoir, and after a brief time playing in Safari Playground, back out of the park at 91st. I was eager to go back and move my car into a better, less potentially illegal spot on her street. However, we had two things to take care of first. Beau was adamant that when in NYC, one must eat at least one slice of that delicious, authentic NYC pizza. (Someone is raising him right! In danger of breaking arm patting self on back.) So on Robyn’s suggestion we grabbed a few slices at a place on the corner of 92nd & Broadway, as a late afternoon snack. And while the dog was not welcomed on the playgrounds of Central Park, there is at least one place in the city that I knew we could take him – Petco! What better place to waste time in a busy city, than a field trip to enjoy some nice a/c in a place where the sign on the door reads: ” Leashed pets always welcome.” Once we procured a bag of treats, and a new bag holder to clip to said leash of leashed dog, we headed up to move our car. Which took all of about 30 seconds. And since it still wasn’t the end of the work day, we grabbed a beach towel and a deck of cards out of the car, and headed over to Riverside Park.The kids started off by exploring yet another NYC playground – the Hippo Playground. It’s really quite astounding the number and diversity of the playgrounds throughout the parks of Manhattan.

To further kill time, and properly enjoy one of the most magnificent days, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in New York, we spread out our towel on the grass near the 91st Street Flower Garden, and proceeded to play this new card game that we are totally addicted to called “Three Cards Down.” Beau brought it home to us from some friend at school, and it is a perfect road trip game because all you need to play is a deck of cards, plus it is fun and challenging for all the ages of my children. (Not to mention me!) Robyn found us in the park when she was finished with work. We picked up and walked down closer to the river, to her spot, and roped her into learning/playing our favorite new game. The girls started to crawl all over her like cats, and Harper proclaimed that she liked Ms. Warr, “because she strokes my hair.” As if I never do. Sigh. After a reasonable amount of time lounging in the sun, we packed up and went to Big Daddy’s Diner for dinner. Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned taking the dog back to her apartment? That’s right, he was wish us the entire time. The cool part about having outdoor, sidewalk seating, is that your dog can join you. At least they can be attached to you via leash sitting outside of the barricade. Remy wasn’t quite sure what to make of that arrangement. Though he was plenty comfortable, as the hostess brought him out a bowl of water, and I may or may not have snuck him a few tater tots to tide him over.

Finally back to the apartment it was time to ready the space for the Willim crew to crash. Robyn has a really nice-sized apartment, and while she graciously offered an air mattress, it wasn’t even necessary, because she has a rug on her hardwood floors. We pulled apart her cool papasan chair, turning the mattress into a super snuggly nest for Avery, then Beau & Harper just had sleeping bags/blanket right on the floor. While they were getting settled I walked Remy back down to Riverside Park, where flaunting the posted sign of “No Pets Allowed”, I joined some other less than law-abiding citizens in letting our dogs run off-leash. He was super excited to run, and it had the benefit of encouraging him to quickly do what I needed him to do. Gathered him back up after a few minutes and tromped the two short blocks back to the apartment. Did I mention yet that it really is a great apartment? And the location? Heaven, especially for a dog owner! We all snuggled in to watch the movie “Zootopia”, and started falling like dominos. First Harper, then Avery, then Beau, then me, until Robyn was the only one who managed to stay awake to watch to the very end. But after my little catnap I managed to rouse enough to appreciate a little adult conversation – seeing as though it was our only opportunity to speak sans children hanging on our every word, and literally hanging on us!

As for whether or not I’m making it to Maine with the entire prescription of Xanax intact? Seems likely. Remy, while being born on a farm and raised in suburbia, is clearly a big city dog. (Well, to truly be a big city dog, he’d have to learn to be curbed, but I’m confident if I tried to teach him, he’d pick it up quickly.) He was completely unbothered by all the noise, the bustle, the people, walking leashed on the sidewalk, etc, etc. He even adapted very quickly to having to be near, but physically separated from us on the sidewalk during dinner. He is a freakin’ ROCK STAR in NYC. A man riding his bike in Riverside Park stopped, came over, and asked if he could pet Remy, then proceeded to love on him and talk about what a great dog he was for several minutes. People on the street were stopping and asking if they could pet him – kids, old people, other dog owners. People were asking me questions about his breed, intelligence, training, etc. Seriously. He was getting a ton of attention. A rock star. And he took it all like a champ. Not wary or standoffish (in fact, he leaned rather hard into the guy who was scratching him in the park; I might need to have a stranger danger discussion with him.) And then, the thing that really induced my own anxiety, worrying about how his anxiety might manifest being in the apartment with the noise of the buzzers and entry door at all hours of the night, really turned out to be a minuscule issue. He did react to the door maybe two or three times, one of which was probably about 2am, but it was simply a low throaty growl, and I was able to swiftly shush him. So I was the only person he woke. It never escalated to barking. In fact, he did not bark a single time in NYC. Not when an ambulance went screaming by as we walked on the sidewalk (at that he didn’t even drop his tail and watched it go by), not when a little yippy dog randomly lunged and tried to bite his leg as we walked by in the park (then he simply danced sideways and looked at the rat on a leash with disdain.) And more importantly, not when he was in a strange place, hearing strange noises, when he is definitely a protect the castle kind of dog. No Xanax required. Not even any Benadryl. He was likely so bone-weary exhausted that he couldn’t muster the energy. But whatever the reason, I nominate Remy for Best Dog Ever. And I nominate this day, as one of the best NYC days I’ve ever had.


Day Two: And I Would Drive 500 Miles…

16 Jun

Well, actually, 506 miles. If anyone is counting. And believe me, I am. I want credit where credit is due. Today’s drive, while only 90 miles further than yesterday, felt much, much, much longer. A lot of contributing factors: starting later in the day, cruddy driving conditions (more traffic, people going under the speed limit in the passing lane, lower speed limits in general, rain later in the day, several accidents), not having any unexpected visits with friends to break the drive. The myriad causes melded together and made it seem like a long driving day. And to be fair, what I was expecting to take 7-7.5 hours ended up taking 9 hours. So, like I said, a long day.

But, this morning was delightfully lazy, even my early rising boy slept in some. Okay, okay, not many people would call 7:30am sleeping in, but believe me, for him, that was late! And as several of the crew were slow to rise, Avery & I headed out to take care of a little business, namely, filling the van with gas, picking up some plastic spoons (stay tuned, those feature prominently later in the story), and buy bagels for everyone. The bagels were legit. Though, when I asked for a dozen, and the lady said that meant I got 14, I was a but perplexed. I mean, I’m familiar with a baker’s dozen, but adding an extra on to that? One-up-manship? Or trying too hard? Whatever, they were delicious! And I had an opportunity for a little teachable moment when we were in Harris Teeter buying spoons (seriously, stay tuned). We went to use the self-checkout kiosk, and I immediately noticed that there was money in the “change” slot. As in $40 cash, money. I try always to do the right things, but I will admit that for the briefest moment that $40 “free” money was mighty tempting! But I only pondered it for a nanosecond, and then told Avery that we needed to turn it in to customer service, and hope that whoever it was that had requested cash back, and then neglected to actually take the cash, would realize their mistake and come back to ask about it. It was, in my opinion, the proper thing to do, turning it in, in fact, it was the only thing to do. When I got back to the house and explained what happened, Harper was indignant that I hadn’t taken the money for myself, after all, I had found it! And that’s really where the teachable moment came in, because Avery was immediately on board with the fact that it was never our money at all. So, I explained to Harper that if I had found the money on the street in New York City, and it wasn’t obvious who had dropped it, I would have absolutely taken it and been thankful for my luck. But this was different, for a lot of reasons, and turning it in was the right thing to do. At least maybe I’ll get some karma points?

Anyway, after some hanging out, and some delicious bagels, it was time to say goodbye to our friends, throw the kids and dog in the car, and set off for our next destination: Harrisburg, PA. Our first stop was 166 miles up the road, in Pulaski, Virginia. Which gives me the perfect segue for a travel pet peeve of mine; I think there needs to be some kind of law/ordinance requiring those blue highway signs informing of available restaurants/gas stations/lodging/services/etc to indicate how close said services are to the interstate. Because in this case, I got off at the exit due to the blue highway sign indicating a McDonald’s, only to find out once I was already off the interstate that said McDonald’s was 2.6 miles down a country road. Grrrrrrr….. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, an extra 2.6 miles wasn’t really that big of a deal, but it’s the principle of the thing. I like it a heck of a lot better when I get off the exit and see the follow-up sign that indicates my chosen service is only 0.1 miles to the right or left. But it turned out to be a worthwhile stop, as this particular Micky D’s had clean restrooms, and a shaded grassy area in which to walk Remy. Once back on the road an accident hd us slowed down a bit – two lanes narrowed to a single lane, that then had to perform a slalom between wrecked cars and large pieces of debris. Also on scene was a downed motorcyclist (thankfully on the on-ramp, so likely his accident didn’t occur at highway speed.) When we passed, he was on the ground being attended to, but he did raise his arm, so at least we knew he was alive.

More driving, and approximately 200 more miles up the road, it was time for our second stop, this one rather extended, as we all needed to stretch legs, use the restroom, refill water bottles, and procure fountain drinks/slushees. During the time that Beau & Harper were in the store (How much do you love Sheetz stores in the MidAtlantic?!), Avery and I finally got around to scratching off our North Carolina lottery tickets. That’s right, the Lottery Project is still in effect this year, though in a severely truncated form. North Carolina was our first outing, and it yielded a positive return – $10 investment, $15 return. Now I just have to remember to stop in NC to cash those winning tickets in on the way home! (Side note: Have put gas in the van twice so far – and both time paid $2.19per gallon. I think I’m getting off fairly well, seeing as though the tank of gas I started with from home cost me somewhere in the $2.33 range.

Later in the afternoon (early in the evening? What time exactly does it switch from afternoon to evening?), we encountered some rain in West Virginia. Ready for another product placement? Holy smokes do I ever love Rain-X (especially when it’s on the windshield of my Honda Odyssey! See what I did there?) But seriously, it should be required for every windshield. Perhaps then people wouldn’t have such trouble driving in the rain. The kids asked me why I bothered doing that, putting all that stuff on the windows, and today I could just point to the clear windshield, and say, “Exhibit A.” Fortunately for us, we were going northbound on I-81 today, because there was a major accident on I-81 South in West Virginia that had all four lanes closed. Like diverting ALL traffic off the interstate closed. It obviously affected the flow of the northbound lanes, and as we crawled by I saw a mangled tanker truck, and a great deal of sand that had obviously been purposefully spread on the highway. I’ll assume that was spill control, and the tanker was carrying some kind of fuel; I just can’t imagine the sand would have come out if it had been a tanker of milk. But even more sobering than the completely jackknifed and mangled tanker truck was the minivan sitting on a flatbed tow truck at the scene. It was the same topaz gray Honda Odyssey as mine, and I can only hope that there were no children in the third row back seat, because it was crushed. It was completely sobering to see that van, my exact van, in such a mangled state, because if it had been us in the accident, that back seat IS occupied by my two oldest children. And just seeing that wreckage made me shudder. I can’t find too much detailed information on the wreck online, but I did see there was one confirmed fatality. Again, I hope against hope that it wasn’t a child in that minivan. And for more karma points, I called my mother after clearing the scene of the wreck. I could just see this being picked up by some national news outlet – seeing as though the interstate was going to be fully closed for quite some time, and my mother seeing that mangled gray minivan, knowing that I was to be in the WV vicinity, likely on I-81 late in the afternoon, and just failing to see the southbound indication before flipping out. Better a proactive phone call, than a frantic, reactionary one. Feels like a potential bomb diffused.

Then it was just another 30 miles, and one quick, urgent bathroom stop later, before we arrived at our destination: Harrisburg, PA. I hear the downtown is really nice, and the state capitol is gorgeous, so we might have to make time to drive through town tomorrow morning on our way to our annual photo shoot in Hamilton Park (Weehawkin, NJ). But whether or not that happens, I am very pleased with the accommodations I secured for us. The Red Roof Inn isn’t going to win awards for swankiness, and their two doubles double beds feel really, really small (especially when facing the prospect of sharing with the starfish child – either spread eagle, or clinging to me in some contorted posture), but they are BIG dog friendly, and judging by the activity in the parking lot, every single person staying here tonight has a dog with them. Managed to back into a parking space directly in front of our room door, there is a large grassy area to walk the dog just across the parking lot, and there was a nearby convenience store, just a short mile or so drive away, from which to procure our dinner. (Here’s where the plastic spoons re-enter the picture.) Every year I allow one night of the road trip to be Ice Cream Dinner. And all we do, is go to a local grocery store, or convenience store, and procure vast quantities of ice cream, which we proceed to eat straight out of the containers. Of course we never quite finish it all, and it melts and goes down the drain, but damn is it fun to try to beat the forces of nature and down as much as possible of it before it changes form. So the children get adequately sugared up, and I seem like the coolest superhero of them all. I believe that’s what we call a win-win situation.


Day 2 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 506

Number of states traveled through so far: 8 (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania)

Number of times I’ve thought how lazy I am because I can’t quite muster the energy to re-read/edit these posts yet: 1,639,217 times.


Oh, and you may have noticed that other than mentioning the large-dog-friendly hotel, Remy didn’t get much play in tonight’s entry. And why is that? Because he is the super most awesomest, go with the flow, doggone road trippingest poodle that ever was. He hasn’t been restless or anxious in the car. He was super well-behaved at the Taylor’s house, he has been amazing on our stops. I am positively gobsmacked at how well it is going traveling with him. (Again, knock wood, we still have Manhattan to deal with – though I also have Xanax available should it become too much of an issue, so I’m still holding out hope!) But I really should thank him for shining a little light on the perspective that I indeed have more imaginary problems than real ones… Good dog.


Day One: Unexpected Sandwiches and the Evils of Sauvignon Blanc

15 Jun

The best part about being completely unprepared and having little to no plan? The fact it allows for serendipity. Today’s destination was the lovely Matthews, North Carolina, home of the Taylor family. Seemed like an easy and unexciting point A to point B day with which to start CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. And seeing my anxiety regarding the wild card that is throwing a large standard poodle into the Crazy Momma mix, easy and unexciting was exactly the speed I was looking for. Unexciting, it was not to be. (Thank goodness!)

At 7:46am, with the odometer on my trusty Honda Odyssey (name drop!) reading 68,307, the kids, the dog, and I rolled out to begin this year’s big adventure. Just prior to that, at 7:37am, I received a text from dear friend and former next-door-neighbor extraordinaire, Buffy Smith, suggesting that LMRT make a stop in Columbia, South Carolina. I pondered that kind request as we sat in traffic to get on to I-95, and then as we smoothly sailed on the new 9B North segment avoiding miles of traffic and shaving valuable drive time, and then I pondered it some more as we slammed back into another wall of traffic on 295. As I looked at Waze and realized the expected arrival time in NC was approximately 2 hours earlier than the 4pm arrival time agreed upon, I thought, why not? What’s the likelihood that this equally busy momma with 3 of her own kids was actually going to be home and available for visitors on a random Wednesday afternoon in the summer. Not good, frankly. But, it was certainly worth a phone call to find out. And glory be! Buffy said they would be there, they would love to see us, and hey, why don’t we feed you all lunch while you’re here! Is there anything tastier than an unexpected sandwich with loved ones? Of course, catching up proved to be just as difficult and disjointed as when we were having these conversations in our own driveways – kids have a way of interrupting, especially when there are six of them. But we managed to get through some rather important updates, and there is no better listener in the world than Buffy Smith (she may have missed her calling as a therapist, because she is also unafraid to tell you the truth out of love.) I have missed my rock and confidant of a neighbor, but I am so truly happy to see her and her beautiful family thriving in their new home. Happiness can be a tricky, elusive thing, and I am grateful the Smiths have discovered and embraced it in their new home.

Our roll up the interstate to Columbia, once we’d broken free from Jacksonville traffic, was an easy and unexciting one. And the dog, over whom I had much anxiety seeing as though he used to not be such a great traveler due to his own anxiety, has been an absolute gem so far! (Knock wood, it’s still early days) There were a few instances where his big ol’ head blocked the pull-down video screen while the kids watched a movie, and there is the fact that he absolutely refuses to claim or apologize for his flatulence, but overall he’s been an excellent road trip companion.  His “hammock” (cleverly nicknamed by my fabulous friend Jen as the “pup pit”) shares the first row of seats with my most amiable child. Sweet Avery, and her propensity to make the best and see the sunshine in everything. She interacts with Remy while they ride, sometimes just snuggling her head down on his prone body, and other times talking to or engaging with him. About 2 hours or so into the trip she imparted this nugget of wisdom: “Here’s a little bit of advice: If you invite your dog to play cards, get ready to play his turn for him.” Hard to argue with logic, and good to know the limitations of your playmates.

With careful planning of Crazy Momma’s cockpit, I had everything necessary in easy reach, so I was able to hand out snacks, as well as pass back the wireless headphones before starting a movie. This made it possible for us to get 4 hours up the road before our first stop. Unprecedented! And completely unexpected. And we passed our first test of traveling with dog with flying colors. A buddy system had the baby & I running in to the convenience store for a quick bathroom stop and to purchase a few bottles of water, while the older two stayed on the grassy patch by the van with Remy on a leash. As we came out of the store I watched someone approaching the kids, obviously interested in petting the dog. I bowed up slightly, but I was very interested to see how they handled this encounter without me being standing beside them. Another test passed with flying colors. The kids were polite, but aware, and the man petted Remy for a moment and moved on. Then it was their turn to run into the store, and we were back on the road in really no time at all. Almost funny now how concerned I was about how these stops would go, logistically speaking. Fingers crossed that my luck holds on that front.

So, after an easy drive, and a delightfully serendipitous lunch stop, we arrived at the Taylor’s house at 4:05pm, with the temperature gauge on the van reading an exact 100 degrees. In the delightful way of children who have missed their old friends, the 5 combined Willim & Taylor children scampered off up the stairs to play, leaving the grown-ups to catch up. And, since it’s Tony Taylor, drink some tasty local craft beer. We had thought we might head off to their amazing neighborhood pool, but hovering thunderstorms took that option off the table. But one addictive board game, and enough personal electronics to make for a linked Minecraft session proved enough to keep them entertained until it was time to eat the largest pizza ever delivered to a private home! Seriously. This thing was massive. I believe it was referred to as a “sheet” pizza. I’ll assume that was a reference to it being square, and likely baked on a cooking sheet. It might also have been a reference to it being approximately the same size as a bed sheet. With the added bonus that it was sooooooo good. Very flavorful. (It was no competition for DaVinci’s in Smyrna, GA, which I consider the second best pizza I’ve ever eaten – second only to DiFara’s in Brooklyn – but this was still vastly better  than your average chain delivery pie.) And by the time we had finished dinner, along with the salad, fruit, and veggies supplied by our healthful and thoughtful hostess, Karen, the skies had cleared enough for us to head outside for a corn hole show-down. Unfortunately, these pesky kids wanted to play too, so Tony & I were not able to have it out head-to-head. (Not sure if he remembers exactly how badly I crushed him last time I visited, but luckily I can report it here to remind him.) And I couldn’t very well insist on defending my title when he was actively participating in the first documented near death experience of CMRT! I’m telling you, beware the sauvignon blanc! Especially the sneaky Chilean variety. It’ll make an attempt on your very life. Luckily, Tony was able to come back from the brink of death to participate in an adults vs. Harper baggo smack down. Huh, I wonder where that middle child of mine gets her competitive streak?

Overall, it was a lovely day, and a positively perfect start to CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. We were loose with our plans, and a delightful visit fell into our laps. We connected with friends – both mine, and my kids’ – which is such a wonderful way to spend time. And we have nothing to do tomorrow but drive to our next destination, a hotel room in Pennsylvania. Leaves room for a lazy morning, and maybe we’ll get to fit in that pool visit after all…


Day 1 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 416

Number of states found (you didn’t think I would forget about my license plate game, did you?!?): 32

Proof-reading/editing done to this blog post: zip, zilch, zero (I’m sure my OCD will require I come back & edit later!)


© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim