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Posts Tagged ‘Kennebunkport’

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…

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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…

 

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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!

 

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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.)

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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]

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LMRT

14 Jun

So, clearly, things are going to be a little different this year. I mean, here I am, a little less than 8 hours away from the departure of the latest installment of Crazy Momma’s Road Trip, and I haven’t posted one darn thing about it. Some of you may even be wondering if it is happening at all this year. Yep. Currently, departure scheduled for T-minus 7 hours and 15 minutes. But I haven’t said much about it at all. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is that my words have found another focus. Amazing how meaningful it can be to spend time communicating directly with another human being. Not to take anything away from the bond shared between us, dear readers, especially those of you who are true CMRT fans. (Have y’all come up with a catchy nickname yet? The Grateful Dead had Deadheads, and Barry Manilow has Fanilows, and Benedict Cumberbatch has his Cumberbitches; I’m just saying’…) But in order to pander to a fan base, I’d have to actually hype the trip. And I’ve done none of that this year. Perhaps because this year everything feels different. Okay, maybe not every-thing. Still renting the same house on Turbat’s Creek in Kennebunkport, Maine. Still driving a minivan – hey, let’s get specific, a Honda Odyssey (Honda, where are we on that sponsorship deal?) And still taking the opportunity to see some of our favorite long distance friends – those who are crazy enough to host Crazy Momma & the Willim 3 +Remy (Huge debt of gratitude to the Taylor, Warr, Tison, and Gray families!) But there are some significant changes. Did you happen to notice that +1?

Indeed, this year Crazy Momma decided that her fourth “child” would make the trip. Because when the rental vacation house you love so much is dog-friendly, you change your entire plan to extend the rental for an extra week, and you throw your 55lb fur baby into the small space still available in the over-packed van, along with your three kids, and drive approximately 1,500 miles each way. At least, that’s how Crazy Momma rolls…

And having Remy along for the ride changes everything. Because CMRT used to be a journey. There were museum stops, and factory tour stops, adventure stops, and sit down service lunch stops. Now there will be rest area stops, you stay with the dog while I dart into the restroom stops, and let’s all eat in the car after pulling through this drive through stops. This time it is more about the destination. And sometimes that destination is the overnight stay with friends, which we are all very much looking forward to. But ultimately, the travel time has been shaved down to a bare minimum. Less about the journey, more about the destination. And frankly, other than getting those overnight lodgings secured, I have done next to zero planning. I used to have this trip drilled down with military precision. Not so much anymore. In fact, I have done so little planning, that my sweet baby Avery recently said to me in all earnestness, “Maybe we should change the name to ‘Lazy Momma’s Road Trip’.” Oh, sweet child, don’t kid yourself, it takes an awful lot of effort to be this unprepared!

Anyway, there are going to be several changes this year. I’m still going to attempt to post most nights (I’ll try harder if there was something of note that occurred.) But the dynamics have changed. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just different. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not great with change. But I’m going to do my best to roll with it. Besides, we have much to look forward to: a special surprise guest will be joining us for a few days (yay for friends taking chances, and breaking out of their comfort zones!), reuniting with local friends in KPT (can’t wait to play with the delightful Nelson girls), and being able to unpack and stay unpacked for two whole weeks!

So, having just dashed this off before sliding my laptop into my bag, and in the spirit of LMRT possibly not even bothering to proofread it, let me just say, thanks for following along. It’s going to be a different story this year, but hopefully just as entertaining for all involved. Including the muddy dog, and the Crazy Momma who will have to deal with him.

Welcome to CMRT 2016: K9 Edition…

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On the Road Again

23 Feb

Recently, I have had some rather unpleasant drama land unbidden on my doorstep. Uninitiated by me, but rather the result of some else’s selfish behavior and disappointing choices. I was not a willing participant. And, as such, I removed myself from the fray as quickly, and gracefully, as possible. But it has brought a certain kind of clarity that previously eluded me. And I am more grateful than ever for my true friends. Deeply appreciative of the people who care for me, and do not love me simply by half measures, or only when it is convenient or advantageous for them. I am reminded of the advice I recently doled out that life is hard, and being an adult sucks. That people will hurt you on purpose, and for no reason. But that life, if we pay attention, is also filled with unspeakable beauty, and moments of incandescent joy. So despite pain and disappointment, and people who suck, we must engage in our own lives. We must do it anyway.

The truth is, I need some peace in my life. So, to that end, it feels like the perfect time to actively seek it, or at least plan for the journey towards it. And nothing makes me happier than a journey. Recent home improvements may have curtailed the impetuous travel budget for a time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go big this summer…

That’s right, after a discomfiting hiatus last year, it’s time for Crazy Momma’s Road Trip to make it’s triumphant return! Time to get started on the planning phase of CMRT: Summer 2016 – K9 Edition. Yep, because 1 mom, 3 kids, and a minivan wasn’t crazy enough, we’re throwing the dog into the mix! CMRT is undergoing a major overhaul. Instead of a slow, leisurely jaunt up and down the Eastern Seaboard, with bizarre and exciting stops along the way, we are making quick tracks for Maine, and staying put in Kennebunkport for two solid weeks of blissful Turbat’s Creek living.

Just typing those words put a smile on my face. Two weeks in one of my favorite places on earth, but with a twist. The house we rent is dog-friendly, and the beach at Turbat’s Creek is definitely dog-friendly, so I figured, why not complicate my life exponentially?! Yes, it means we’ll have to put in some hard driving days. And yes, there will be limited entertainment stops, at least of the museum variety. And the kids get that. They are so excited to stay in Maine for two weeks, and to have our goofy dog with us, that they barely batted an eye at how this will change our travel dynamics. Of course, it may also have something to do with the fact that after 5 years of CMRT, we’ve hit pretty much every roadside attraction within spitting distance of I-95. When I asked them if there was anything they really wanted to do on the drive up, keeping in mind our canine travel companion’s limitations, they said that they still wanted to drive into Manhattan. Because what’s cooler to some suburban Florida kids than just randomly taking your dog for a walk in Central Park? Nothing. And this little dream? Yes, kids, your crazy Momma will make it come true.

But, as well trained as our pooch may be, and he is a very good boy, I recognize that this will necessitate changes in our overnight locales. I’ll need to find a few (large dog) dog-friendly hotels for a few nights. And I will wipe the slate clean, not presuming that anyone who was brave enough to take on Crazy Momma & the Willim 3, wants to up the ante by adding a 55lb standard poodle to their guest list. If I’m wrong, and some of you are willing to take us on, we’d love to see you, and would be eternally grateful. One of the ways CMRT has morphed most pleasantly over the years is the home visits with friends, old and new. So, if you still want to stay in the line-up, please let me know. I’m in the initial route planning stages. Our Maine rental runs from June 18-July 2. I’ve already locked up a few nights in CT to start our southbound leg – it simply wouldn’t be CMRT without a visit to Chez Tison – but everything else is still up in the air.

Friends, we’d love to see you, but I only recently got over the guilt of accepting people’s gracious hospitality, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you all to be onboard with the changes of CMRT – K9 Edition. So, I’ll start my planning, and maybe I’ll hear from you, or maybe I won’t; and that will be fine either way. Because I just can’t wait to get on the road again…

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Day Fourteen: Heading north on our southbound departure

21 Jun

This was it. KPT Departure Day. And for the first time ever, CMRT wasn’t specifically broken out into northbound and southbound segments. Because KPT Departure Day traditionally means the beginning of the southbound leg. But this year I pointed the van north out of Kennebunkport. Sometimes it’s fun to flip the script.

I can’t express how I felt about leaving the cottage this year. This last week has truly been amazing. It was really relaxed, and therefore mostly relaxing. Sadly, our favorite book store, Kennebooks, closed this past spring, and there is no summer Pixar release, so we didn’t end up having a movie day either. The weather was sublime; in fact, it was the first year that we didn’t have at least one day of rain. So mostly we just lounged around – the cottage, the beach, town (mostly in the general vicinity of Ben & Jerry’s – I love Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch!) I was, as always, sad to leave. But even the kids seemed to be sad to leave this year, and they’re usually ready for the next adventure. Beau even asked if maybe next year we could stay for two weeks. (Sure, kid, just remind me to buy a Powerball ticket on the way out of town!) Oh how I wish I could just “summer” up here. We met great people, played with old friends, soaked up the sun, remained laid back, and generally just had a blast together. What more could you ask for?

This morning when I awoke at 5:45am, I didn’t groan and throw the blanket over my head, cursing the noisy birds outside my window. I did slightly curse the open window, as I was freezing my butt off, despite sleeping in a sweatshirt under two blankets. Because of our northbound southbound departure, I was motivated to hit the road. I jumped in the shower, finished my own packing, stripped my bed, packed up our leftover food/snacks, and by 7:45am, I had the car totally packed except for the children and their stuff. And speaking of the children, the ones who had each morning been up before the dawn, today was the day they chose to sleep in. Avery appeared out of bed at around 7:45am, and Harper we had to wake sometime after 8:00am! I couldn’t believe it. Stinkers! And I bet now that we’re sharing a single hotel room they’ll once again wake before 6:00am. But I got it all together in record time, and at 8:45am we were pulling out of the driveway, with me trying not to get emotional. It’s hard to let go of a place when it is responsible for so many halcyon days. Memories that can’t be recreated any other place. And will we be back next year? I’d like to think so, but it’s hard to say. Things seem to be shifting, changing in ways large and small. Fingers crossed that Maine, and our lovely little cottage on Turbat’s Creek, will once again be a part of our summer adventures.

So, with the odometer reading 24,767 (1,532 miles so far), we left the creek and hit 95 North headed for Bar Harbor, our northernmost destination in the great state of Maine. It was a rather easy jaunt up 95 for the first 160 miles or so. And then we left the interstate. And the final 40 miles or so into Bar Harbor are on a small, single lane in each direction road. Snore. Oy. That last push was far rougher than the 3/4 of the trip that came before. But I have to say, the minute we hit Acadia National Park, it was all worth it. The drive just drifted away. I’ve been a lot of places in my life, I’m grateful to say, but few of them compare to the beauty that is Acadia. It has everything I love most. Rocks. Expansive water. Trees. Lush greenery. Wide open blue sky. Amazing. Truly amazing. Everywhere you look is a postcard vantage point. And I realized two things instantly: (1) A single afternoon and following morning were not going to be enough for me, and (2) my kids were not going to appreciate this anywhere near as much as I was. But, I think we found a pretty good compromise. We paid our $20 (per vehicle) and struck out on the Park Loop Road. We made a few random stops along the way – letting the kids get out and climb/play on the rocks – though Beau needed constant reminding that these were not the same thing as the rocks on Turbat’s Creek. Here falling of a ledge did not just mean a splash in the water or a broken wrist, it meant me shipping him home. So I had to keep him on a pretty short leash until we got to some more beachy spots where the rocks were much lower to the ground. And we found the perfect spot at Little Hunter’s Beach. Wide open beach, rock outcroppings to climb on, plenty of pretty rocks on the beach for Crazy Momma to investigate and ogle. One funny thing that happened there is that as we were loading back up into the van two young guys on scooters asked if I would take their picture. Told them I would be happy to and approached to get whoever’s phone or camera I was going to take it with. The first guy said his phone was turned off, and the other guy kind of shrugged and said he didn’t know where his was. They seemed really sheepish and disappointed, so I just grabbed a receipt and a pen out of my bag and said, “Okay, give me somebody’s cell number and I’ll text you the picture later.” They eagerly supplied a number and I took a few photos with my own phone. Later, when I had cell reception, I texted them two pictures. It was such a simple act of kindness, and apparently it meant quite a lot to them. Took little to no effort on my part, but to them I was “a hero.” Feels good to make some random strangers’ vacation better.

After doing about half the Park Loop Road we headed out of the park and checked into our hotel. Staying just long enough to drop off luggage, use the bathroom, and make sure I knew the right direction to head off in. We were seeking a trail I had seen in the Hiking in Maine book I borrowed (shout out of gratitude to Chris!) It promised to be great for kids, with lovely, scenic trails along the water. Boy did it ever deliver! It took us quite a bit of time to get there, as it was on the other side of Mount Desert Island, but it was worth it. (Side note: this may look like an island of a manageable size, but don’t forget that the roads don’t always go as the crow flies, and often the speed limits top out at 40mph, with most hovering closer to 25-30mph. Manage your time wisely if you visit Acadia/Bar Harbor/Mount Desert Island. You may only be 15 miles from your destination, but it might take you 40 minutes to get there.) But Ship Harbor Trail was great! It was probably only a little over a mile, with two loops. Half in the woods, half along the water. Half flat gravel path, but with enough varied terrain to make me feel like we were somewhat doing some real “hiking” (versus just walking in the woods). And plenty of rocks for the kiddos to clamber on. Lots of overlook spots with varied views. I really just can’t say enough about how happy I was that we sought out that particular path, and the fact it has a restroom right there at the small parking area is another boon. Because it was so close, we took a quick stop at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. It was small, and cute, but kind of a funny and difficult way to view it – walking up and standing right next to it, especially since there was a large family trying to get their picture taken with it in the background. A shame that you couldn’t get further away and actually see the lighthouse with better perspective. But we checked that box quickly and moved on.

Our next destination was Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show. ‘Cause MAINE! And LUMBERJACKS! Okay, so I’m not gonna lie, I expected so much more. Truly. I mean, it was cool, and their feats were really impressive, but it just seemed like more merchandising that production. I wanted more. But, the most important thing is that the kids loved it to pieces! They even got a chance to go up on stage and pull/push a cross-cut saw with the lumberjacks. Afterwards they got a certificate that they got autographed by the lumberjacks and Timber Tina (a former Survivor contestant) herself. Perhaps part of my disappointment was that two of the lumberjacks were high school students. And don’t get me wrong, the stuff they were doing was crazy impressive, and I don’t mean to take anything away from their skill, their effort, their ability, but I think I expected (wanted?) burlier men who could better fill out those flannel shirts. You know what I mean? But again, let’s focus on the fact that the kids were crazy excited about it, and loved every second. And that part was pretty darn cool.

Now it’s time for me to hit the hay. Kids have been down pretty much since we returned to the room. We talked about potentially taking a lobstering/seal watching cruise in the morning. And I would LOVE to be out on Frenchman’s Bay for a few hours in the morning. But I couldn’t pull the trigger on online tickets for a 2 hour cruise that departs at 10:30am. Our next hotel is close to 7 hours down the road tomorrow. So we should probably plan to leave Bar Harbor around noon-ish. But I don’t know. The thought of being out on the water up here is exerting a powerful draw on me. I’m going to leave it to the Fates. We’ll see how our morning goes, and play it by ear. I know, seems out of character for me, right? What can I say, this place is so beautiful, I just can’t force myself to be in a rush to leave it. But I’ll tell you what, I want to start right this very second planning a return trip to Bar Harbor, but this time sans kids. Maybe even on a sailboat.

 

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Day Ten: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!

17 Jun

“Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Everything is awesome, when we’re living our dream…”

Everything *is* awesome when you’re living your dream. And that seems to be what I’m doing on this vacation. This morning I rolled out of bed late, had a piece of sourdough toast and a cup full of blueberries, then herded the children out of the house because my appearance downstairs coincided with low tide. Low tide means we can walk from our beach across the mud flat and about 10 feet of maybe ankle deep water to a nature preserve known as Vaughan’s Island. It was time for our Lobstah Hunt! Two years ago my kids met a local teenager who showed them how to find baby lobsters in the tidal pools on Vaughan’s Island. Nothing difficult, just flipping over rocks, but there is a bit of a science as to which rocks are most likely to yield lobster underneath. And these are tiny guys, most are fit in the palm of your hand size. But for kids who have only seen lobster in the tanks at our local grocery store, this is something amazing. Frankly, I find it amazing too. This morning it took us a bit of time to find one, but once we got into the deeper, colder tidal pools, the lobster abounded. The first one we found almost managed to take a chunk out of my toe. Luckily my lightning quick reflexes had my foot retracted from the water as soon as I felt him scampering near my toe. That and the fact that my high pitched shrieking like a little girl with her hair caught on fire probably scared him back into his hidey hole! We also spot lots of other great things on our tidal pool adventures – sea urchins, tons of hermit crabs, many other varieties of crabs, sponges, etc. And never fear, no lobster are ever injured in our great Lobstah Hunt. We flush them out, sometimes pick up one or two for a photo op, but always put them gently back into place so they can grow to become delicious, er, I mean, adults.

Another great part of Vaughan’s Island is the outcropping of rocks on the near side of the island. This morning after we had exhausted our tidal pool interest, the kids clambered up the rocks and proceeded to play a very detailed imaginative game. I was nearby, but not involved – in fact, made a quick trip up to the house to retrieve my book and a beverage – while they all three played together cooperatively. One time I looked back to see Avery and Harper scaling a rock wall that must have been 10 feet in height. It took my breath away to watch them, but kids need to be kids, and if there were pieces to pick up afterward, then that was just what I was going to have to do. So I turned back around. Put my back to the action. And irony of ironies, no one was hurt on the huge outcropping, by leaning over rock ledges or scaling rock faces that were directly above pointy boulders; instead it was literally the last step off the beach onto the tarmac road where Avery slipped and slammed her shin into a pointy rock. Sigh. Many tears and a bag of frozen vegetables later she was exclaiming with great joy that her damaged shin was purple and pink, some of her favorite colors! I think she’ll live.

After returning from our island excursion, Harper and I once again played another game of Qwirkle. I tell you, I am flat out obsessed with this game. Luckily Harper is a puzzle enthusiast as well, and the game appeals to a visual learner, so I have a partner whenever I want to play. The funny thing is that it takes quite a long time to play a game when there are only two players, but she always stays engaged to the very end. Probably a bit because she enjoys it, but also because she’s so competitive. Wonder where she gets that?

After our game Harper wanted to be the one to make lunch. As you may know, patience is *not* my strong suit. I could have had those sandwiches made and distributed within 10 minutes. But, I need to let my kids do more things for themselves. I know that. I do. But it’s so damn hard. But I waited this one out. She took orders, Avery assisted as sous chef, and five sandwiches were prepared, chips and fruit put on plates, and distributed. It only took 45 minutes. And I did not rip out my hair. At least not all of it.

Beau’s dad had promised him that the boys would take an afternoon kayak adventure once the tide came in. Realizing how important this was to both father and child, I decided the best thing to do to keep the girls from arguing and demanding that they too wanted to go on a kayak adventure, was to get them out of the house. So we had a girls’ only excursion to – where else? – Target! But there was a very specific purpose for this trip. Today is June 17. And for anyone paying attention, you know that Tuesday, June 17th is when The Lego Movie was released on DVD! Yep. We got our copy, and I anticipate it will see a lot of use. I think I’d like to watch it at maybe half speed just to get a better look at all the details hidden in the background. Harper was also pleased about our outing because she scored the next book in the series she is currently reading. It’s another of Rick Riordan’s mythology based series (something of Olympus?), and the darn thing is like 800 pages. But a very reasonable price considering, and I’m a sucker for buying books, so….

Once we got back to the cottage it was time to head down to the creek for a bit. I just wanted to sit in the sun and read. And that’s what I did. Harper started out with her own book, just standing out on the rocks reading, but then she put her book away and played nicely with her sister for quite some time. Eventually the boys returned from their almost 2 hour kayaking excursion – I imagine Beau may have trouble lifting his arms tomorrow. We headed up to the house to get cleaned up, but not before asking some locals we had overhead talking about pizza where they recommended. They suggested a place called Lower Village Pizza just across the bridge in Kennebunk. And I am SO thankful they did. Wow. Some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Crust – Amazing! Flavors – Terrific! Truly some exceptional pizza. And the nicest people you ever want to do business with. A great experience, a wonderful dinner! We watched The Lego Movie while eating our pizza (but of course!) And after our long day, Avery was asleep on the couch with her dad before the movie was over, and the other two trooped dutifully off to bed without a single argument by 8:15pm. Ah, summer!

Tomorrow: Getting my windshield replaced! Just like two years ago when I had to have my windshield replaced in the driveway of this same house, but this time it’s a different Honda Odyssey. My only 14 month old one. Sigh. It’s supposed to be thunderstorms around here sometime after midnight, so here’s hoping those clear up in time to make this mobile windshield replacement a possibility. I don’t like driving around with a huge crack in my windshield.

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Day Nine: Hope you come down for breakfast

16 Jun

This one started out as another lazy, vacation day. The kids watching tv and eating cereal. Me staying in bed for awhile after I woke at my can’t seem to sleep past it 6:45am. When I did get up I made cinnamon rolls. Beau went to town with his dad to get coffee. I asked Harper to play a game of Qwirkle with me. (Thanks, Tisons! I LOVE this game! So. Much. Fun.) The morning was rolling along with everyone kind of doing their own thing, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. But there was still limited food in the house, and I needed to start a load of laundry but didn’t have any detergent, so it was time to head out to the grocery store. When I was ready to head out Harper asked if she could go with me. After I lifted my jaw off the floor, I told her of course she could. Seriously shocked. But it was nice to have some time to spend with just her, one on one. We took our list – which included sandwich and salad fixings, fruit, dinner items, and aloe for poor Beau’s burned crispy shoulders – and took off to Biddeford. Two funny things happened there. First, the deli lady kept giving us samples of different types of turkey. The first slice Harper was good-natured enough to take a bite of, but then she immediately handed it to me. Then the lady wanted me to try the Bacon-Lovers’ Turkey. And you know she didn’t have to twist my arm. But she hands two thick slices over the counter to which Harper says, “I’m good. No, thank you.” So there I was, clutching two handfuls of turkey. I almost had to be rude to get away, but, free or not, I just couldn’t handle any more lunch meat! In the produce section I was pleased to see that blueberries were both abundant and cheap. Until I looked at the package. They were from Georgia. That’s right, I found myself in Maine, buying Georgia blueberries for less than I could at home in Florida. It felt so wrong. Of course I bought them, because I love blueberries and they really were cheap (at least $2 less than at home!), but still it felt weird.

After our successful grocery run, we headed home and discussed what we’d be doing the rest of the day. Due to our other scheduled activities, one of which is getting my windshield replaced on Wednesday morning, there are only a few times that would work for our annual trek up to Freeport to visit the L.L.Bean flagship store. So we decided, what the heck, let’s go now! As soon as the groceries were unloaded and put away, we all hopped back in the car and made our way up to Freeport. It’s really a quick and easy jaunt, about as much time as going across town in Jacksonville. Last year we were in Freeport for the 4th of July – I ran the 10k, we watched the parade, stuck around alllllll day to see the free concert on the green (Matt Nathanson!) As you can well imagine, on that day the little town was packed. Stuffed full of people. No elbow room in sight. This year? June 16? Empty. In comparison, the town was eerily quiet. And I love it that way! The kids and I were the only people in the kids’ section in L.L.Bean for probably 15 minutes or so. And even when other people did come through it was like one or two at a time. Honestly, the one time we went to Bean at 3am, there were just about the same number of people. Very cool to feel like you have the store almost entirely to yourself. We found lots of stuff to buy, natch. Avery reminded me that last year I told her we could get her a customized boat & tote bag for her birthday and that promise never came to fruition. We looked around the store, but they didn’t have exactly what she thought she wanted. So I told her that when we got back to the house we could order a new one to be shipped to our home. She happily accepted that. Then we went over to the outlet store and she found a bag she fell in love with. A small boat & tote with a pocket on the front. A royal blue bottom and orange straps. (Go Gators!) It had clearly been special ordered and then returned, which landed it in the outlet. Most of the boat & totes that end up there have someone else’s name monogrammed on them. Which can be fine if you’re just looking for a random storage bag, because the bags are already discounted and today were an additional 30% off. But it’s not okay to have someone else’s name on it if you’re looking for something to truly make your own. In this case, the “perfect” bag had no embroidery. So we rushed to buy it, then scampered back across the street to get it properly monogrammed for free (I love you, LLBean Visa card). Avery’s face when we picked it up was pure magic. She was over the moon to have her very own boat & tote bag, in colors she loves, with her name embroidered on it. Happiest Bean customer EVER!

After the kids’ had ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (important scientific research regarding consistency of product throughout New England B&J locations), we piled back into the car. As soon as we unloaded our stuff back in KPT, it was my turn to rush back out alone. Time for a little Girls’ Night Out with Mandy! We headed over to the Sebago Brewing Company in Kennebunk for their Monday night team trivia. We also lucked into a Monday night special – any burger off the menu and a pint of one of their own brews for $9.99 (upsize the beer to a 22oz for only a dollar more!) Seemed like a darn fine deal seeing as though the burgers were each already at least $9.99 themselves. It didn’t go quite as we hoped, seeing as though the burgers we ordered medium rare originally came to us well done. But we stood our ground and asked for new ones. Of course eating the pickle spear off our plate first so we could get another one with the new plate! It came back better, though still not right. I thought mine was tasty though, and the homemade potato chips they served with it were out of this world. The beer, their own Sebago Brewing Frye’s Leap IPA, was also quite tasty. Now properly fueled, Team Like Us on Facebook, was ready to take the trivia world by storm! Or, at the very least, have a lot of fun. And fun we did have! There was definitely a lot of laughter, and when in doubt, the proper answer is Neil Diamond. But one of the things I love most about trivia nights is when I actually learn something I didn’t know before. In this case, it was a euphemism for someone who has recently died: “He won’t be coming down for breakfast.” We had many laughs about that one in particular. As for our standing, we came in dead last. Hey man, you go big or go home. We wagered everything on the final three questions and got absolutely none of them right. Which only added to the hysterical nature of the night. So Team Like Us on Facebook lost in spectacular fashion, but Team Krista & Mandy record a big win for an excellent night out with a girlfriend.

All in all, a really wonderful day. Full of ordinary experiences made special because of the people I shared them with. Can you really ask for anything more in life? I just hope I continue to come down for breakfast…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim