Posts Tagged ‘LL Bean’

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 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…


Day Twelve: A Freeport Fourth of July

04 Jul

Today started early. Really, really early. Like when my phone alarm went off at 4:45am early. And I was disoriented for a second, partly because I got such little sleep last night, but mostly because it was really bright outside and the birds were signing vociferously. My body was telling me based on stimulus that it must be much later, but no, all clocks confirmed that it was only 4:45am. A very confusing start. But I threw on my running clothes and crept out of the house, jumped in my van, and started the drive to Freeport. And why, you might ask, was I up at such a ridiculous hour? I did kind of give you a clue by mentioning my running clothes, but here’s the deal: Every year in Freeport, LL Bean sponsors a 10k Fourth of July road race. And this year, I was inspired to do it. Why? No idea. Mostly just to say I did. Partly because of the t-shirt. But it’s been over a year since I ran more than 4 miles consecutively. And I am prone to knee problems of the IT Band variety – which mostly explains why I haven’t run more than 4 miles consecutively any time in recent history. But logic be damned, I wanted to enter this race. Here’s the rub; online registration was closed three days ago and they were only offering 100 day of race registrations. And registration opened at 6am on the 4th. And Freeport is an hour drive from Kennebunkport. So, in my car by 5am, I made the jaunt up the interstate and pulled into a parking place right in front of the registration area right at 6am. At that point there were already people filling out the day-of paperwork. But I did it! I was one of the first 100, so I got my number (1545 – was I the 45th fool that was up that early hoping to torture myself?) and went back out to my car. I was excited, because it would have been a bummer to have gotten up so early, driven so far, and not gotten in. But I was also wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. I parked the van in the garage (easiest it’s ever been to park in Freeport) and wandered over to the LL Bean Flagship store. Handy that they’re open 24 hours a day! I poked around for a bit, took a selfie in front of the Bean Boot, and soon enough it was creeping closer to race time (7:30). I shed my sweatshirt as it was already getting really warm, grabbed my race number and my ipod, and set off for the start. It seems like the only people I’ve been randomly meeting in Maine this trip are from Florida. It’s kind of a weird coincidence. But there I was chatting at the start with a couple from the Tampa area. The woman told me that the run course was really, really hilly. So hilly that last year it made her cry. Oh no. So I quickly readjusted my mental goals. No longer was I even considering that my legs might feel good enough for an aspirational hour. I decided that time-wise 1:15 would be aspirational. And as for my other goals, I was still dedicated to running every step, or, at least not walking a step. Ironically, of course my walking stride can be much faster than a shuffling job, but it’s the mechanics of turning the legs over that was my point of pride. I would not walk. And I was going to try very hard not to cry!

My first clue that things might not go well should have been the downhill start. What goes down must come up! But honestly, despite the hills that started within the first mile, I was feeling really good. I had a decent pace, and for the first three miles or so, that one hour finish seemed possible. The scenery was beautiful as we ran through the countryside surrounding Freeport, and the crowd support was awesome. Every intersection had a knot of people cheering us on, all the houses we passed had people in the yard or on their porches cheering. It was a lot like the crowd support in the neighborhoods during the Gate River Run. So I was physically and mentally feeling strong. Was listening to some great music. I was in a good frame of mind. And then around the four and a half mile mark my right knee started to ache and register some complaints. Listen here, lady, we were happy to do that 5k earlier in the week, but four miles is our limit. Why are you still running? Hey! Listen to me. Oh, you’re going to ignore me, are you? Well, now I’m going to get your attention. And it was almost directly in front of the 5 mile marker that it felt like someone slipped an ice pick into the side of my right knee. Now, I am not a stranger to this particular pain. Felt it before (remember our Pumpkin Run 10k, Katie? It was exactly like that!) I knew what was happening, and that I needed to slow down if I wanted to leg it out (hee hee) the final mile point two. But I was still super dedicated to my goal of not walking, especially as I felt the pie in the sky goal of a one hour finish slipping away. So I ignored it, just tried to keep turning my legs over, even as the pain and the numbness below my knee escalated. As my good friend Katie once told me, a mantra for those hardest parts of a run, there are kids fighting cancer, I can do *anything* for a mile. I was not going to quit until I was finished. Could I have walked up that final hill to the finish line faster than I “ran” it? You bet. But I did it. I finished the race when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to. And, I did it in 1:03.22. Not bad for the girl who hasn’t done much running lately, and is woefully out of shape. Not bad for the girl with the ice pick in her knee. I was super proud of having finished without walking (or crying!) It was a great way to start the day. Feeling proud of myself.

Now it was time to get myself cleaned up and ready for the parade. John was bringing the kids up from KPT and I needed to get ready to meet them. The bright idea was that I would go to the Freeport YMCA and take a quick shower. Um, yeah, that would have been great if they weren’t closed. Oops. So, now here I am with a change of clothes, but grossly sweaty (it really was hot out on the course. By Maine standards, anyway.) So, back to the flagship store for a French bath (there’s another name for that, but this is a family-friendly blog), and into my appropriately patriotic change of clothes. We managed to score a great spot in the shade, right across the street from the parade emcees, so the groups that performed (cheerleaders, etc) did so right in front of us. The parade was exactly what I was hoping for. A real slice of small town Americana. Fire trucks, antique cars, bands, small groups walking. I loved it. The kids did to. The parade wasn’t even half over before Avery asked if we could come to Freeport for every 4th of July. It did not disappoint.

We were dedicated to spending the entire day in Freeport, to see the free Matt Nathanson concert and fireworks that followed, but that meant it was now 11am and we had 8 hours to kill. Time to shop at LL Bean! Picked out new lunch boxes for everyone and got them embroidered. (Side note: LOVE my LL BEAN Visa card! Free embroidery!!) The girls each got a new dress – their play dresses are so cute and hold up really, really well. I was less enthused by the clothes offerings this year, but I did pick out a green polo and a new white t-shirt to replace the one I spill Harper’s orange juice on during the parade. (Handy!) Then we met the boys for lunch. My burrito was good, but my Shipyard Summer Ale was even better. A doctor friend of mine prescribed ibuprofen and beer as a post-race treatment. I wasn’t able to handle his prescribed dose, but that first beer did taste mighty fine. We killed a significant amount of time in an excellent toy store above the restaurant. But then it was off to the movies. So excited that a new theater has opened in Freeport Village just across the street from Bean. We caught a 2:20pm showing of Despicable Me 2. Very cute movie! I love Gru. But I’m not going to lie, I found myself drifting off from time to time. That early morning wake up call, coupled with a huge lunch and beer, a comfortable seat in a darkened room… zzzzzz. But I saw most of the movie and I really liked it. Definitely give it another look when it comes out on video. Also fun was spending time in the small game room at the theater. Pinball – which I love, but haven’t played in years – and even better, Police Trainer! Used to play that game all the time in my 20s – before kids, and back when arcades kind of made a social comeback. Beau was especially enthused by how well I did. I looked at him and said, your momma’s pretty good with a gun. He nodded, but I imagine that comment will come back to bite me at some point. Can’t wait to hear where he choses to trot that out again, oh yeah, well my mom’s really good with a gun. Sigh. They also had Big Buck Hunter, which I had played for the very first time in May when I was out with my girlfriends in NYC. Thanks Lauren & Kris, NYC natives, for turning me on to the redneck game of arcade hunting. You really broadened my horizons. Good stuff.

We killed more time wandering about the stores, had a little gun safety discussion with the kids in the Bean Hunting & Fishing store, grabbed some sustenance from the 1912 cafe – all it takes is bagels to make my kids happy, got our picture taken in front of the Bean Boot, got free Nalgene water bottles for being an LL Bean visa cardholder (The lady even gave us 4! One for me and each of the kids. It was super nice of her, especially since she was only supposed to give me one.) Then I grabbed towels from my car and claimed a piece of grass in the quad. People had been setting up chairs for the concert since the night before, so we had to make peace with a patch of grass off to the side between the Bean Home store and Ben & Jerry’s – not a terrible location, but we couldn’t see the stage from a seated position. And honestly, it turned out fine because the kids could run around in the grass behind us with a pack of other kids – apparently they aren’t Matt Nathanson fans, go figure. And John & I took turns wandering closer to the stage to really enjoy the music. I found an excellent spot behind the stage where I actually got a 3/4 view of him singing, and it still had really good sound. Matt Nathanson, besides being an excellent singer, is really, really funny with his crowd banter. The parts of the show that I could really focus on, I enjoyed immensely, the parts where I was stuck in the crowd with tons of kids being crazy and people having conversations, was still enjoyable, because the weather was perfect and the music, even when it was just relegated to background status, was good. The fireworks immediately followed the show and they were pretty good. It’s nice to be able to hear the show, have it exploding directly overhead. Usually we’re at the beach just watching them from a distance. Definitely loses something if you can’t hear the hiss of the rockets, the boom of the explosion.

The worst part of the day, the traffic trying to get out of Freeport. I’d venture to guess I spent 30 minutes just sitting still in traffic trying to get between the parking garage and 295 south. Very frustrating. But not enough to derail a really lovely day. It was exactly the kind of 4th of July I hoped for. Though I did notice a lack of patriotic music, I would have like to have heard more of that. Managed to get the kids home and into their beds, and then despite being physically and emotionally spent, needing to fall directly into bed, I sat out on the upstairs balcony. There were billions of stars out last night. I’ve never seen so many in the sky at one time. And as I sat in an Adirondack chair, face tilted to the sky, I could hear the lapping water, the momma duck who lives in the marsh next to the house, other random birds and animals, the wind in the trees. It was exactly what I needed to recover my bliss after traffic, and my painfully cramped knee (we’ll have to see how this affects the driving on the southbound leg). As I felt myself getting drowsy, I finally relinquished my nighttime view and fell into bed.

Tomorrow: The final day in Maine. Laundry, beach, laundry, beach, packing, beach, eating everything perishable out of the refrigerator….



Into the woods

18 Jun

I realize I didn’t post yesterday. I’m sure you all missed me terribly. (Not.) But there are two reasons for that (Reasons for my not posting, not reasons for you missing me, I think we’ve already established *that* didn’t happen.): (1) I was so desperately tired last night I literally went to bed as soon as I turned out the light in the childrens’ room, and (2) Yesterday was the perfect lazy vacation day, so considering the biggest activity of the day involved a trip to Shaw’s grocery store, there wasn’t really anything to report.

Sunday morning I woke, scrounged some cereal for breakfast, threw the kids in bathing suits, and trekked the 100 ft (?) to the beach. “Our” house is the last one on a street that dead ends into Turbat’s Creek. The lack of parking for more than one or two cars creates a lovely little “private” beach. This, as if I have to tell you, is awesome. Even better from the kids perspective, there is a natural rock outcropping right at the high tide water line that is wonderful for climbing and playing on, plenty of flat spaces for laying down, curved spaces for sitting up, ridges to balance upon, and even a valley between two taller formations for fort-making and general make-believe. My theory? Eh, if you fall and bust your head/break your arm/otherwise require medical attention, then we’ll go to the hospital. They have those around here, you know. The kids have too much fun climbing around on them to put a stop to it because of perceived danger. Heck, Beau managed to cause blood to flow by falling on the steps leading into the house, might as well let them have fun on the beach! But this day, this beach, was made perfect by the addition of Crazy Mandy, Resourceful Dan, and their delightful daughters, Maggie & Birdie. We met the Nelsons two years ago, our first year renting this house in Kennebunkport. They wandered onto the beach and we spent the last few days of that first year’s vacation playing with them. Though they live in Massachusetts now, Mandy grew up locally, and they were staying in one of the fish cottages on the creek (“The Crik” as the locals call it) owned by old family friends. Our kids became fast friends, and I adored talking and laughing with Mandy, so through the power of facebook we kept in touch, and vowed to make a plan to coordinate a joint return to KPT. Last year was a bust because an overabundance of snow days meant their schools dragged on too long to make a Maine visit possible. This year was much of the same, but unbelievably we arrived on the same day as the wedding of one of those old family friends of Mandy’s, so the whole crew was not only in KPT this weekend, but they were once again staying right across the street from us. And though they had to return home in time to be ready for school today, they stayed on late into Sunday afternoon.

It just so happens that Maggie just finished 2nd grade and was, like Beau, reading the Harper Potter series, and Birdie just finished kindergarten, so it was a perfect fit for my clan. Harper & Birdie especially hit it off. I believe the rock formation became their very own mermaid city, a place where they frolicked and played while finalizing their plans to attend “Barbie School” together. Crazy kids that they all are, they also ventured out into the frigid waters of the creek. Me? I had put on my bathing suit in the morning thinking I might want to soak up a little sun, but instead I sat quite comfortably the entire day wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt, and my thin W&L hoodie. Yes, my bathing suit clad children played in the water while I sat comfortably in layers. Unfortunately for those bathing suit clad children, I was a bit remiss in my skincare duties. While Mandy dutifully slathered her pale New England children with spf 110, I neglected to haul my lazy butt out of the chair to go back up to the house to get the sunscreen I had forgotten to apply to my regularly sun-exposed Florida children. Which probably would have been okay if we’d only been out for a short time. The sun continued to play peekaboo behind some fairly significant clouds. But before I knew it we’d been out on the beach from 10am – 2:30pm without a break. Whoops. You can guess that it is my blue-gray-eyed, blondie child that is now suffering the brunt of it. (Hope I don’t get called out by our pediatrician for this! I’m otherwise a good mom, I swear!) Though to tell you the truth, she seems to enjoy having something legitimate to complain dramatically about. And I bought some aloe, and after suffering the initial shock of the coldness against her heated skin, she seemed to actually enjoy the application. I’m sure it’ll fade to an epic tan in no time. Blerg.

After reluctantly coming back up to the house after we said goodbye to our new-old friends, the kids got showered up and after polishing the list, I took off for the grocery store. See, I told you my day was super exciting. It was one of those stock-up for the week trips that takes a really long time and you end up buying more food than you could eat in two weeks even if you ate every meal at home which you never do on vacation. Sigh. Oh well. And it’s one of the downsides to being one of the first people to rent a house in the summer season. I have to have mustard for my hot dogs/sandwiches. And the kids want ketchup. And there’s no charcoal for the grill. Etc, etc. At least we ended up actually cooking some of the food for dinner that night – burgers/dogs/sausage on the grill, corn on the cob.

So like I said, it was early to bed last night. Which was good; I needed it. And I was sleeping soundly, though with some rather disturbing dreams, until my unscheduled wake up call. Anybody else out there a “Friends” fan? Remember when Phoebe was dating the cop (played by Michael Rapaport) and they are being bothered by a bird singing out on the fire escape right outside their window? If you recall, he reaches over Phoebe, grabs his service revolver, and shoots the bird. Well, this morning at 6am, if I had a gun handy I might have shot the woodpecker that was in the tree right outside my open window. Oh my goodness was *that* annoying. I realize even the birds have to eat, but couldn’t he have held out for brunch? Luckily I managed to block him out after awhile and fall back to sleep, so I could arise from bed at a much more civilized 8am. It was definitely an even lazier start to the day this morning. Kids doing their own thing and scrounging for their own breakfast. At least, that is, until I got out of bed and was willing to get them each a Pop Tart (hooray for vacation!!) But considering Harper’s sunburn (bad Mommy!) and the fact that the beach was likely to be a pretty big letdown given the absence of Maggie & Birdie, we decided that today was a perfect day for a pilgrimage. But before we could shuffle off to Freeport, we had one quick stop to make.

As anyone who has ever traveled in the Mid-Atlantic/New England could tell you, they are pretty fond of their toll roads up this way. And this morning I was determined to correct an oversight, something that had plagued CMRT from the beginning. I should have taken care of this years ago, but hindsight is 20/20, and I have officially resolved the problem as of this morning. I am now the proud owner of an E-Z Pass. No more waiting 10 minutes just to enter the Mass Pike. No more shuffling over to the far right to get in a cash/receipts lane. This girl is going to cruise straight through the tolls/pike entrances with her very own E-Z Pass. Seriously, why did I not do this 3 years ago? Well, mostly because I didn’t think of it. I don’t have this issue in Florida because I stick to the northern part of the state. I could have ordered this thing and had it mailed straight to my house months ago. But, oh well, no sense looking back on all the time I wasted on the northbound leg of this trip, instead let’s celebrate all the time I’ll save on the southbound portion! Hmmm, having this is going to make me want to travel to Virginia and points north more often…

Okay, so a quick stop at the E-Z Pass administration building in Portland and I walked out, E-Z Pass in hand, ready to make our way north to Mecca. Er, I mean, the LL Bean flagship store in Freeport. After finding a parking spot pretty far back in the lot, we walked into the bustling shopping district in search of a lunch establishment. We should have just eaten at the cafe in LLBean. We went to a place right across the street called Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen. Sounds perfect, right? Um, not really. Let’s just say, that in the future, no matter how hungry I am and how convenient the restaurant, I will YELP it first. Ironic to do that now and see what incredibly bad reviews the place got. To them I say, yes, completely overpriced! Yes, the wait staff was marginal, and that’s being generous! Yes, we waited almost 40 minutes after ordering to get our food – which was just some soup, a sandwich, and pasta for the kids (because all the bread they use, including hot dog buns, has egg in it)! Anyway, the nicest thing I can say is that they gave each of the kids a little bag of something called Wikki Stix. Basically just string dipped in a wax coating, but they can be bent into shapes and then straightened and re-bent. A really cool, non-messy, busy-hands kind of thing perfect for kids that have to wait an hour for their lunch! I’ll never again go to Linda Bean’s, but I will run out to Wal-Mart and pick up some more Wikki Stix for the kids. Now, by the time we finished lunch we were just ready to go. So that, in conjunction with the fact that it is tradition to eat at Ben & Jerry’s, even if they have moved their building from directly in front of the Bean flagship store, meant we did not avail ourselves of dessert. But I’m guessing that the Linda Bean’s ice cream take-out window might be where another Freeport-visiting friend recently sampled the Lobster ice cream. No, I’m not kidding you. He ate ice cream with lobster in it. I know I need to work on being more adventurous with my food choices, but I’ll call it a day with the venison sausage I had for lunch and leave the seafood out of my dessert.

After our lunch debacle it was time to head into LLBean. After the obligatory picture in front of the giant Bean Boot, that is. Took a quick spin through the children’s department just to peruse the sale items. I just can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on my children’s clothes, no matter how well made they are, because if they outgrow it before they outwear it, it drives me crazy. But we found a t-shirt & a dress on sale, and a swim shirt to cover up the delicate skin of sweet Harper Kate. Then I went looking for the items that were actually on my shopping list. A new pair of socks to wear with my hiking boots – check! And a new rain jacket. I bought one at the Patagonia store in Seattle 16 years ago, and just this year it finally crapped out. The waterproofing laminate finally started to dissolve and flake off. The jacket still looks good on the outside, no tears, clean condition, but it is not at all waterproof. And while aesthetics are a nice addition, it’s really the rain-repelling qualities I seek in a rain jacket. So, though I loved my old jacket, I bought a new one today. I did actually look at the Patagonia outlet store first, but the jacket I wanted was not available in my size. Oh, well. I found a Gore-tex Bean one that, while not as technical as my beloved Patagonia, is going to be perfectly fine for the Florida rain. I wasn’t crazy about the color choices – I’m just not really a pink kind of girl – and I was really in love with my old deep, jewel-toned purple jacket, so I went with black this time. Boring, to be sure, but practical. Avery was really pushing me to get her favorite yellow colored jacket, but until I own a sailboat, I don’t think I can go with the yellow slicker. I sadly didn’t find anything else in the clothing department that I wanted. Nothing. Not even a t-shirt. So I moseyed over to outerwear and picked up a beautiful Nantucket red barn coat for $35. Yeah, like that was a practical purchase. I mean, if it ever got below 60 degrees in Florida, I think I’d wear it quite a bit. It’s that getting below 60 degrees thing that’s working against me.

Of course, if you’ve been following along, you know all about my obsession with Tervis. I had been planning to make this trip the summer of the Tervis souvenir. Most stores are lousy with the stuff. But I have not made a single Tervis purchase yet this vacation! I went into the LLBean Home store thinking they’d still have their “wall of Tervis,” but they didn’t. And other than a non-descript sailboat and retriever motifs, the only LLBean/Maine branded ones they had were the kind with a paper insert between the layers. They look cool, but for whatever reason they don’t seal the seam where the paper meets and it always gaps. It just looks cheap to me, and I knew that would bother me, so I didn’t buy any. Sigh. I’m hemorrhaging money in every other way, but I can’t even find the thing I most wanted to buy. Grrrrrrrrr.

After our Maine retail experience, it was time to actually experience Maine. Same friend with the adventurous palate loaned me his “Hiking in Maine” book, and I was excited to put it to use. Just a few miles outside of the bustling commercial center of Freeport is Wolfe’s Head State Park. Chock-full of easy trails. And by easy, I mean so hard-packed they are technically wheelchair-accessible. But they also offer lots of different options for loops of varying lengths, and interconnected trails that mean you can stay deep in the woods, or go along the coast and walk out onto the rocks. This was an especially pleasant thing to do at the osprey nesting area. According to the informational sign, mid-late June is when the babies are hatching and beginning to eat fish. There was a huge nest in a tree on a little island out in the cove. A man was sitting on the rocks near us with his telephoto lens trained on the nest, so I’m assuming there were babies within. At one point two adult osprey flew away from the nest, so maybe they were heading off to procure dinner. Considering the mosquitos were beginning to try to carry us home for dinner, it was time for us to also fly away. But we took two different loops around the area, probably hiking 2 miles or so total, most on hard-pack, but some on loose trails, and all basically flat (excepting the stairs down to the water). Definitely a good place to hike with kids. Plenty of parking, facilities at the parking lot, and easily traversed trails. According to the book there are also some more challenging trails with steeper terrain and I’ll assume a greater pay-off in terms of view. But all in all, it was pleasant to head into the woods. The kids enjoyed it and seem game to give it another go. And me, well, before the next time I’m going to remember to charge the battery on my camera. Maybe I’ll go do that right now…


All Systems Go

31 May

This is the awkward time. The restless time. The time I hate.

The planning is basically done. The hotel reservations are made. The friends connected with. The attraction tickets purchased in advance. The mapquest routings finalized and printed. The car snacks procured. The children’s handheld electronic devices (read: my sanity) charged. The audio books borrowed. The packing lists written. And now I must wait.

It’s t-minus 10 days until the northbound departure for Crazy Momma’s Road Trip: Summer 2012 Edition. And all I can do now is wait. (And possibly add more items to the packing lists.)

Because the one thing I can’t do right now is pack. Which is of course the only thing I want to do. But it’s hot here, and Crazy Momma only has so many pairs of shorts that fit her. So I’m definitely not willing to spend the next 10 days in my B-list, or possibly C-list, shorts. But I want to get started. Packing for this trip feels like a monumental task. Because I’m essentially packing for 3 separate trips – northbound, Maine, southbound. Each with its own special activities and locales. Clearly there is a great deal of overlap, and I will in Maine have access to a washer & dryer, but it still requires some forward thinking and logistical planning. Because when you are traveling as the sole adult with 3 small children, you can’t count too much on their help getting bags into the hotel from the car. Unless you want to put the word help in quotes. And by “help” you mean arguing over who gets to push the luggage cart. Because, oh yes, you *will* need a luggage cart, despite the fact you are only staying one night. Despite the fact you will be in the hotel less than 12 hours. You will need a luggage cart because you will have to bring the bag with your stuff, the bag with the kids stuff, your laptop bag, the kids’ backpacks (including any blankets, snuggle friends, pillow pets). You may also need other assorted and sundry bags or items – Does the hotel have a pool that you intend to use? Is there a complimentary breakfast, or do you need to bring in the bag of snacks? Do you have a late start or did you arrive early, in which case you may want to bring in the portable DVD player so you can steal some shut eye or take an uninterrupted shower while the kids are too occupied to figure out moving the chair you wedged under the door handle and accidentally lock themselves out of the room. I swear, every time I roll up to a hotel it looks like I’m mounting an expedition to summit Everest. And I’ve gotten pretty good at this routine. I will brag that on a few occasions I have actually shunned the luggage cart. Because I like to pretend that I am stronger than I am, and those are the times I make it to our room sweating and heaving and grunting, yet for some reason proud of myself despite my appearance. But I digress.

My point here is how much I simultaneously love and loathe packing for this trip. It appeals to the uber-logical, puzzle-loving, obsessive-list-making side of me. The contents of each bag is carefully considered and placed with purpose. And I’m the type that prefers to have several small bags instead of a few really large ones. That way I can break it down by need. Because lord knows I don’t want to have to tote bathing suits and beach towels and rain jackets and sweatshirts into a hotel in the South that doesn’t have a pool. So I utilize a good deal of my LL Bean Boat & Tote bag collection. Which is significant. And I know down to the last pair of Disney Princess embossed underpants what is in each bag. (And that’s just my stuff! Kidding.) So it is eating me up to have this grand plan in my mind, but not be able to yet put it in action. I have 10 more days at home. That’s 9 more days until I can pack the car. That’s several more trips to the pool, and 4 more days of school, and 9 more nights of pajamas. That’s me using my laptop and my toiletries, that’s Beau taking his medicine, and that’s the kids snuggling/reading/playing with the future contents of their “Go Bags” every single night. For 9 more nights. So I’ve done the packing I can do. I’ve expertly packed the snack bags. Yes, bags. There’s a reusable grocery bag with northbound snacks. There is a reusable grocery bag with Maine/southbound/auxiliary snacks. And there is a smaller bag with snacks just for me. What?! I’d share my Slim Jims and almonds, but the kids just aren’t that adventurous. And okay, well, I wouldn’t share my dark chocolate & mint M&Ms, but that doesn’t make me a bad mom.

So, here I sit. Waiting. Waiting to pack. Waiting to go. I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied in the next 10 days. Among other things I’ve got a kindergarten ceremony/ice cream party, a shopping trip for new shoes for the kids, swim lessons, taking my parents’ dog to the vet, getting the tires balanced/rotated/aligned, an oil change, kids’ dentist appointments, ballet recital rehearsal, ballet recital, and girls’ hair cuts. I also intend to cram into my otherwise full schedule a mani/pedi for me, and at least one movie (probably Snow White & The Huntsman, because I’m dying to see that). Point being, it’s not like I’m just sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but it’s still hard to wait. Because the lists are made and I’m itching to start checking things off. The routes are printed. And Mapquest tells me that my Northbound excursion will be 1479 miles of driving. With 616 miles of that on the very first day.

So I’m here. Awaiting launch sequence. Eager and excited. Vaguely nervous, because of all the things I can’t control. But mostly just ready. Ready to put my plan into action. Ready to get going. Ready. All systems go.



22 Jun

Have I mentioned before that I love L.L.Bean?

Anyone who truly knows me knows this already. I love L.L.Bean. I love their products, I love their culture, I love their vibe. So for me, Freeport is like Mecca. And if I’m going to be in Maine, I have to make the pilgrimage to their flagship store. Above is me, giving the giant duck boot a little love. (Ignore the random child in the background. I have no idea who that one belongs to.) Believe it or not, this time I resisted the urge to purchase any boat & tote bags (I would shudder to count the ones I already own!) This is not to say I didn’t purchase anything, but no more bags. And this is not to say I didn’t peruse the bags, with the full intention of buying one, but nothing suited my fancy. There just wasn’t anything different or interesting on the boat & tote front that I needed to have. A few t-shirts, a new pair of flops, a book I’m really excited to read called Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks. I have to say, their stock seemed a bit thin. Kind of like the town. Like maybe because the summer crowds hadn’t yet hiked up to full capacity, the store shelves were a little lackluster. And for the first time ever, I had a bad customer service experience with L.L.Bean. This is unheard of. They used to live and die by their 100% satisfaction guarantee. And I’ve never encountered anyone in that store (or even over the phone) that wasn’t trying to bend over backward to help me find what I was looking for or resolve a problem. Well, I have this watch that I bought from Bean maybe 3 years ago. I wear it almost every single day. It has three interchangeable bands. I was most fond of the brown leather one and that was my default band. Until it broke about two months ago. But I knew I was coming to Freeport, so I didn’t bother calling to ask about replacement bands when I could address the issue face to face. Now I realize this is a leather watch band that is eventually going to wear thin, but I take pretty good care of my things and I was shocked when this one broke. Maybe I should have expected it, but I really had never considered the life span of my watch band before and I would have expected this to last longer. Today I took the watch to the customer service department to see what they could tell me. I was wearing the watch with its black leather band and carrying the original storage box with the ribbon band and the broken brown leather band. When if was my turn I cracked open the case, showed the customer service rep my broken watch band and asked if they (a) still carried this watch, and (b) had replacement bands or could do anything to help me out. Without batting an eye and without expressing any empathy, she just said, “Go down to the camping department and see if they can help you there.” I stood there dumbfounded for a second, just staring at her thinking she must have more to say. Something. Even if it was just a, “Oh, gosh, that stinks. I’m so sorry that your favorite watch band broke like that. You must be disappointed.” Some show of empathy, even if she had no intention of offering compensation or replacement. But all I got out of her for my pause was, “Do you know where the camping department is?” So I went down and spoke to a gentleman there. He was very kind, expressed the empathy I was looking for, and then told me he was sorry to report that I was out of luck. They no longer make this watch apparently and there are no such thing as replacement bands. At least he offered me the name of a company in Portland that makes watch bands. But I’m left wondering, whatever happened to the 100% satisfaction guarantee? I’m not sure exactly what I wanted them to do, and I understand that they no longer make the watch and I should have expected that eventually my watch band, when worn enough, would end its useful life. But still. I am definitely not 100% satisfied with my encounter with the Customer Service department in Freeport today. And I’ve worshipped L.L.Bean for so long that I found it utterly confusing and didn’t know what to do when they disappointed me.

But what wasn’t disappointing is that I got the opportunity to spend some time in Freeport by myself. I actually got to roam into shops with delicate, breakable knick-knacks. I got to try on clothes. I got to peruse and amble and actually think about purchases before I made them. This was a nice treat. Though these days for me solitude always is, no matter what I’m doing. As I was driving back to Kennebunkport I stopped at the grocery store in Biddeford to buy more cereal (a fairly common activity for me) and decided to ask for some local advice on whether or not there was any decent Chinese or Thai food in the area. I wasn’t holding out hope for gourmet, but that’s the sort of stuff I was really craving and it’s exactly the type of food my kids can’t/won’t eat, so I like to seize the opportunities when they arise. Most recommended was a nearby Japanese steakhouse. I love the teppan grill cooking and I never get to go to those back home, so I decided that no matter how pathetic it was for a single woman to go to a place like that alone, I was going to do it. Besides, those tables are communal and sometimes you get lumped in with some really fun and/or nice people. The hostess led me to a table and sat me right next to a couple (actually they were the two on the end and I was the next over on the corner). I expected that the other seats would fill up. However they didn’t and I was sitting right there next to them. And it became painfully obvious that this couple was on their first date. And apparently the girl had just turned 17. The boy, I later eavesdropped, was turning 21 very soon. And there I was, sitting right on top of them. To call that situation awkward would be a gross understatement. And so we basically ignored each other’s existence as best we could. Then the chef asks where I’m from and when I said Jacksonville, FL, he says, oh, I used to live in Saint Augustine. Wtf? That is bizarre. What are the odds of visiting a Japanese steakhouse in Biddeford, Maine, and finding out your teppan cook used to live and work in Saint Augustine? At least the people at the adjacent table livened the place up. There was one woman in their group that was getting absolutely smashed. Let’s just say she was wearing the chef’s hat and he was squirting sake from a squirt bottle straight into her mouth. (Please don’t let me be in the background of any of their straight-to-You-Tube videos!) Honestly, it was like having dinner and a show.

The rain arrived this evening. It is a soft, gentle rain. But it brought the fog with it. As I drove home to the cottage tonight I got a sense for why Stephen King is so inspired by his home-state of Maine. It is pitch-black dark, even under some of the functioning street lamps. And this dark backroad is dark, with the misty fog clinging to and rising from the blacktop. Gave me the willies. But maybe some of that was just because I was thinking about Stephen King. The forecast says rain off and on for the next two days, so we’ll have to find something other than the beach to do. This morning we went to story time at Kennbooks, where they read several childrens’ books and then had a fun dinosaur-themed craft for the kids. I suppose tomorrow we may take a jaunt to the Children’s Museum in Portland (where we will get in free because of the reciprocal program with my Boston CM membership!) Because I don’t mind being on the beach with a little drizzle, but right now the temperature is in the 50s! So that just won’t do…

© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim