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Posts Tagged ‘summer shandy’

Day Eighteen: Departure/Arrival

02 Jul

I said I would have enough time in the morning, and I did. That waking at 6:15am thing helped immensely on that front. But I continued my parking process, began putting things in the car slowly, doing final cleaning tasks around the cottage, etc. I was originally shooting for a 10:00am departure. But I got a little distracted, and I decided that I deserved to sit down and have a decent breakfast while enjoying the insanely beautiful view from our table. So, the southbound leg of CMRT Summer 2016: K9 Edition rolled out of the driveway of our KPT cottage at 10:45am. But first, lemme take a selfie! I made the kids endure a final photo shoot in front of the cottage, including one of the group selfies that I am typically so terrible at. However, this one was an epic success, as included in the photo is myself, the faces of all three kids, the cottage, the minivan, and my gifted poodle making an epic photobomb. Perfection. Makes for a very happy Crazy Momma.

Odometer reading 70,248, and that poignant, new Peter Pan/Neverland song “Lost Boy” playing on the radio, we headed out of town, making a final pass through Dock Square. I was trying very hard to just soak it in without letting it turn into melancholy. I’m not sure I was entirely successful, but every time my thoughts turned to how sad I will be if this turns out to be the last summer of the cottage on Turbat’s Creek, or the last summer we vacation in Kennebunkport, I was mostly successful in remembering how lucky we are to have had this magical place be a part of our lives for so long. To have so many wonderful memories, to have made new friends, to have a place to return to, perhaps one day with my children’s children. (Aww, damn it, starting to tear up again. Sigh.) Anyway, it felt emotional to leave, it always does, but this time it felt somewhat different. There was the typical melancholia with an extra layer. But also, there was a sense that maybe it’s okay, that maybe, sometimes a blank slate is exactly what you need. And so, if the house sells and is no longer an option, I’ll have to look into other options. If the kids decide that what they really want to do next summer, and all the summers after, is go to sleep-away camp, then that will become our new tradition. I’m not finished with Kennebunkport, and KPT isn’t finished with me, but I respect the way things ebb and flow, and especially now, in the Summer of Serendipity, I am going to try my best to roll with whatever comes my way, seeing change not as a tragedy, but an opportunity.

We breezed out of the state, making our final crossing of the Piscataqua River bridge into New Hampshire. Holy heck is this the first time I was ever glad that I was leaving Maine and not heading into it. The traffic bound for the state of Maine was incredibly dense. There were varying levels of stop-and-go traffic for tens of miles. The stretch of I-95 through the entire state of New Hampshire (which, full disclosure, is only about 14 miles) was stop-and-go. And then as we exited onto 495, the traffic was still exceedingly heavy for at least several miles. Insanity. Judging by the traffic I’m guessing the population of Maine will be doubling this weekend. And I felt sorry for all those people with the Massachusetts and New York plates, thinking they were just going to take a quick jaunt up to Maine on a Saturday morning. But hey, at least they had a final destination of Maine to look forward to.

We made a few quick pit stops – to pick up fast food lunch, one at a rest area to clean up some dog vomit (I think it may have been the anxiety of watching me slowly pack up and pack the car this morning that did in his tender constitution) only to discover that the human potties at this rest area were closed and people were queueing up for portalets (NOPE!). So, that necessitated a stop at the next exit for a legit human potty stop. And then we reached our first destination in Westport, CT – Remy’s dog hotel. So, here’s the deal, I am eternally grateful for the hospitality of my friends. And never has it been more apparent than this summer, as I am rolling up and down the coast with my 55b dog in tow, that, as Beau so succinctly put it in New York City, I do “have the nicest friends.” But for this next stop, even though my gracious friend said to bring on the kids AND the dog, I felt like I needed a break. I needed to relax without worrying about the dog’s feet as we came in and out of the backyard. I needed to not worry about the way he slobs his water all over a 10ft radius of his water bowl, and I needed to be able to come and go from the house without having to worry about where he could stay and whether or not I needed to crate him when we left. So, I found a kennel in the area strikingly similar to the one we use at home. Indoor/outdoor runs, lots of extra playtimes, engaged techs, seemed like the real deal, and I’m sure that we will all have a happier, more relaxed weekend for taking the responsibility of the dog off the table.

As I checked him in to Townhouse for Dogs & Cats, I felt very good about my choice. First, I had to fill out two forms, fairly comprehensive in nature, and they seemed pleasant and briskly efficient at the front desk, and the tech that took Remy back was very loving and engaged with him. Even asking him to sit before giving him a treat. I arranged the extra playtimes, the exit bath, and all the details. Then, right before I left, the girl at the front desk told me that I should feel free to call and check up on him whenever I liked. Say what?? Call? And check up on him? At the kennel? Wow. I mean, I love my dog, I truly do. And Remy is an exceptional dog. But, call and check up on him? He’s a dog. I’m boarding him for the weekend. I’m pretty sure if there is something you need me to know, that you will call me.

Dog secured for the weekend it was long overdue time for us to make our stop at CMRT annual fan favorite: Chez Tison! Seriously, this is one of the stops that, not only has been an annual stop for CMRT, but has become as much of a destination as Maine. Last year when CMRT was on hiatus, my children readily accepted that we would not be traveling to Maine, but wanted to know why that meant we wouldn’t be taking a trip to Chez Tison. And what makes this particular enclave of Fairfield, Connecticut, so appealing? The people, of course. Okay, so their home truly is lovely, and the third floor bonus room is unlike anything my children are used to, plus they have a wonderful backyard with cool things to play with, but it’s the hospitality of two of the most generous people I know that keeps us coming back. I have known Tina and Joe since I was 17 years old. (They were already 18, but let’s not quibble about the fact that I’m younger than both of them!) They are both funny and wonderfully  fun to be around, with the added bonus that I went to college with both of them. The fact that they eventually got married to one another, despite never dating, or really being particularly good friends in college, is such perfection I can’t even describe it. Tina is such a detail-oriented hostess, that there is nothing left unattended to. When we rolled up and spilled out into their home, Tina is welcoming us in, the kids were off and playing in the backyard with their two kids, meanwhile Joe presents me with a Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen (delicious!) while the pork butt he’s been smoking for 8 hours already smells like a slice of heaven. Suddenly, the perfect summer day is unfolding before us.

I’m not going to drill down the details here. That’s not what I do in regards to our visits at Chez Tison. Here we are too busy living life to properly document it. Especially since the kids take up a large portion of time and focus, so when the five total (11, 10, 10, 8, 7) are finally asleep, we like to spend our time, late into the night, reminiscing, philosophizing, and solving the world’s problems. You know, discussing the mundane and inane, side by side with the important stuff. But suffice it to say, the following words/phrases would have been used if I had taken the time to properly document our evening:

How many kids can fit on one hammock?

I like pork butts and I cannot lie. Especially smothered in Fat Henry Tison’s Sauce.

Hot tub, possibly a time machine. Or at the very least a rocket ship.

Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Joey. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you know this.

Summer Shandy

 

On a side note: Who did I get a message from today as we began our southbound swing? Fellow W&L ’95 classmate, Pete Tapley. Another of the gracious hosts who has played innkeeper to Crazy Momma & the Willim 3, he simply asked, “Do we get to see you?” As if it’s a privilege, or anything at all to get excited about. I phoned him to say that our original intention was to drive through Virginia on Tuesday, as part of our mega long haul driving day enroute from Fairfield, CT, to a hotel room in Weldon, NC. To say I wasn’t super excited about that day anyway, would be an understatement, but this is the Summer of Serendipity, isn’t it? And if Pete was (1) serious about wanting us to visit, and (2) available on such short notice for a drop-by overnight including 3 kids and a dog on Tuesday night, then by all means, I embrace the serendipitous change itinerary, and am very much looking forward to seeing the Tapleys again soon! So, that’s it, the #W&Lhospitalitywars are on…

FYI, as we were pulling onto the Tison’s street, what song should begin playing on the radio but “Lost Boy.” It was uncanny. The soundtrack to our departure 246 miles earlier, was also the soundtrack to our arrival. It seems like full circle. An ending and a beginning all at once.

 

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Days Six and Seven: Discovering the spirits and reaching the Creek

14 Jun

Our Friday morning in Fairfield began in a lazy way. Which was fan-freakin’-tastic in my opinion. I think that’s one of the reasons I love our stops at Chez Tison so much. Because it feels like home. No sense of urgency, or what we are “supposed to” do. So we lounged about. The kids watched tv. Tina and I chatted at the breakfast table. Good stuff. But I had promised my kiddos a visit to the nearby aquarium, and Tina had promised her kiddos she would pull them out of school a little early so they could spend some time in the afternoon hanging out with their “Florida friends,” so despite the late start (11:00am-ish – Wowza!), we headed out the door.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a great little aquarium. Maybe a little pricey for what it is, but a good morning spent nonetheless. One of the kids favorite things was the “Jiggle a Jelly” exhibit, where they actually got to touch jellyfish! (Except don’t call it a jellyfish, because it’s not a fish, so call it a jelly.) My favorite part of the aquarium also involved jellies. They have a darkened room with a lighted cylindrical tank filled with jellies. It’s like a living lava lamp. So beautiful, and peaceful to watch them floating there. They also have some other nice tanks with some regional fish – cod can get pretty big! Out back they also have a lorikeet house. I refuse to pay extra for nectar, on general principal, but there are always enough other people feeding them that you can get a really up close look without getting your arm pooped on. As we were leaving, one landed on top of my head. It was a bit shocking, though I can’t really blame the poor thing for thinking that my rat’s nest of humidity frizzed hair looked like a comfy resting place. The funniest thing was, as I felt its little talons pricking my scalp, that none of my children had any reaction to the fact that a colorful, tropical bird was perched on the top of my head. When the bird flew off I raised my arms, and said, “What? No reaction to the bird on my head?” Beau and Avery just shrugged, but Harper cocked her head, stroked her chin, and responded, “It’s a step up from what you usually wear.” Touche.

From the aquarium we made our way to meet the Tisons at Our Backyard Play Place. (Side note: That name really bothers me. I don’t know why, but it’s so corny it’s creepy.) Name aside, it was an awesome place. It’s one of those huge, warehouse type spaces filled with inflatables – bounces houses, obstacle courses, etc. With the addition of several climbing structures and a horizontal climbing wall, maybe 7′ in height. Of course, immediately after we pay our $10 per kid for 90 minutes of play time, every single one of our kids immediately requested money to play video games. Le sigh. No. That’s right, kids, the answer is no. And in other news, 90 minutes of play time is a really long time. But at least I can feel good about my road tripping, sitting on their butts much of the day children getting some quality physical exercise!

Tina cooked us an amazing dinner that was super yummy – pulled pork, homemade mac’n'cheese (no, not Lindsey baked linguini and cheese, but baked cheesy cavatappi), and a vinegar based slaw. So. Good. And I was super proud of Beau for cleaning his plate. They were small portions, but he ate everything. I’m so proud when we make positive strides with food. Bath time was an adventure, and then the kids split up for some slumber party fun. Beau got the entire bonus room to himself, which pleased him to no end. Harper shared Sam’s room, and Avery shared Trey’s. They made cute pairings, and were so exhausted from our long day that they even fell asleep early enough to get a good night’s sleep. But the best part about them being in bed was….

It was time for the Annual Retreat at the Chez Tison Fire Pit. Since Saturday was National Bourbon Day, we did what any observant people would do, start celebrating on National Bourbon Day Eve! And if a group of W&L folk are gathering to drink bourbon, you know it’s going to be Jim Beam. After a few pre-firepit Beam & Cokes, we switched to Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. Ahhhh, summer + Chez Tison = summer shandies. Luckily the fierce rain storms that swept through in the early evening had made their way past, and we had clear skies, if dripping trees, for our fire pit rendezvous. And while nothing could possibly compare to the epic all-nighter that we pulled last year , we weren’t even trying, because it wouldn’t be possible to recreate something that happened organically. This was the year of passionate and heated discussion, and nothing was off the table: religion, guns, politics, books, movies, and, obviously, the Rangers. But there was still plenty of laughter and frivolity (that’s what she said!), and much reminiscing about our W&L days, and eager anticipation of our 20th reunion next spring. There is little I look forward to as much as our annual retreat around the fire pit. And this year, once again, did not disappoint. And that four hours of sleep I got after going to bed at around 3:00am, well, it was 4 hours more than I got last year, and it made all the difference in the drive I had to take today.

So, we were up and at ‘em, got ourselves all packed up, enjoyed a great pancake breakfast for the kids & yummy egg sandwiches for the grown-ups. (Side note: Here’s a helpful life hack – if you eat an egg sandwich with Tabasco on it, try not to rub your eye. You’re welcome.)

We set off from Chez Tison (after I stamped my foot and said, “I don’t want to go to Maine!) at 10:17am. The odometer read 24,319. It was a much easier drive this year! Amazing the difference a little sleep can make. But we took our time, stopping once for lunch and once for pit stops, and arrived at the Boston Children’s Museum around 2:00pm. The BCM has the most amazing climbing structure right in the center of it. And I wish we had more time to spend there so that the kids could spend more time in it. But there are lots of other exhibits that the kids love there, especially the construction zone. Beau built an amazing creation out of the shaped wooden blocks, Harper and Avery constructed a house out of the large building pieces. Another cool thing that was happening just today at the BCM was a visit by schoolchildren from Kyoto, Japan. They were set up in a large common room teaching visiting children games they play, and doing crafts like folding newspaper hats, origami of all varieties, making necklaces and decorating hair clips. It was fun to watch the kids interacting with other children who had a limited grasp of English, and being exposed to children from another culture in general.

We had a really nice afternoon at the museum, and we stayed longer than I had originally planned. The kids’ dad was originally scheduled to fly into Boston at 9am this morning, but JetBlue (I freakin’ hate that airline!) cancelled the flight on Friday afternoon, and rescheduled him for the 7:15pm flight out of JAX. Grrrrrrrrr. The kids were disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to meet us in Boston, but they understood it wasn’t something either of us could control. Still, I was inclined to let them play longer, even if that meant delaying our arrival in Maine. We left Boston at around 4:30pm, and leisurely made our way north. We made a stop at the New Hampshire Liquor Store. Um, I think its required when a liquor store has it’s own exit off the highway that you make a stop. Then we stopped at a grocery store for a few morning essentials (with the weeks’ shopping to be done tomorrow with a comprehensive list). And at 7:00pm we rolled up to the cottage in Kennebunkport. It was like returning home. Just put the milk in the fridge and headed down to our beach. The tide was out, so the kids could climb on the rocks. Beau was disappointed to see the beach strewn with kelp (or some type of marine vegetation – sorry if I’ve offended any locals who know exactly what the brown stuff is. I welcome education!) But they are definitely looking forward to tomorrow. Time on the beach, with old summer friends. We got the van completely unpacked, even got the suitcases completely unpacked. Everything is squared away. The house is set up. The windows are open – thus the reason I’m wearing a sweatshirt right now! (YAY!) Time to start phase two of CMRT; Ahhhhh…. Maine. The way life should be.

Final odometer reading for the northbound portion of CMRT: 24,570. That’s 1,335 miles behind the wheel, folks. As for the license plate game? Missing five. Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and, you guessed it, North Dakota.

 

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

30 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Day Five: Didn’t I go to college with you?

27 Jun

You people know that I rarely have much to say on Thursday nights because this is not only NYC day, but also our arrival at Chez Tison, the Connecticut home of my dear friends, Tina & Joe. But, despite the late hour, since you are kind enough to follow along, I’ll bang out the quickest of summaries of the day’s events.

For the first time in our four year tradition, I did *not* take the kids into Manhattan today. Mostly I think because I was kind of out of ideas of what to do with them there. Last year touring the Intrepid was absolutely amazing! And I adore watching them ride the subway, or in taxis, like little urban kids. But usually the thing they ask to do most often in NYC is “go to that big toy store in Times Square.” Um, you mean Toys’r'Us? Like the same exact toy store we have at our local mall? Sigh. Someone please tell me that my love for architecture, that my appreciation of people-watching and the pulse of the city, are genetic. That at least one of my children will one day feel the same swirling mix of emotions as I do just walking down the city sidewalk in Manhattan. Even if it’s just one of them, it would be nice to share a city, in particular, this city, with one of my children. But this year we took a different approach to our NYC day, and headed out from our Secaucus hotel (same one every year!) for a different borough. This year, the Willim 3 took the Bronx! Yep, headed out to a place I’ve heard about my entire life, but never visited – The Bronx Zoo. And let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Wow. Wow! It is huge. HUGE! And so very, very beautiful. As we exited the George Washington Bridge I said to my kids, “Welcome to the Bronx.” Beau, looking out the window, paused for just a poignant second before responding, “It’s not exactly what I expected.” I laughed, assuring him that the zoo would be much different. But I think I was wholly unprepared for how different. What an amazing piece of property, tucked away in such an unassuming manner. It was a bit pricey, but worth it. The habitats were cleverly designed and well-maintained. The assortment of wildlife was impressive. And with all the shady walks, it was very spread out, but nice to get around (though I will comment that the paths could be a little better marked). We could have easily stayed well more than the 4.5 hours we ended up having there (stupid traffic coming in from NJ.) I think I could have easily stayed more than 4.5 hours in the gorilla exhibit alone. The Bronx Zoo definitely gets a CMRT thumbs up. Plus, the prices in the gift shop were reasonable, and while I could have done without spending $3 for a bottle of water, it was easy to refill it at one of the many water fountains. Plus I brought in from snacks from home, so I can’t comment on the prices or quality of other food/beverages. Once we took off from the zoo, exactly on my designated departure time of 3:30pm, I was expecting a smooth ride up 95 to Fairfield, CT. Wow did I ever get that one wrong. Stop and go traffic the entire time. Which turned that 44 mile jaunt into a 2 hour slow burn. And by slow burn I mean the pain in my right knee from driving in stop and go traffic for so long.

But we finally arrived at Chez Tison, the kids bounding eagerly out of the car to see the young Tisons, and despite the aggravation of traffic, I couldn’t help but smile and forget all my troubles. We were at Chez Tison! Which has become one of the ultimate highlights of CMRT. I don’t want to make Maine jealous, but this two night visit with Tina & Joe has come to be something I look forward to every bit as much as my time in The Pine Tree State. Tina truly is the consummate hostess. I was taught never to arrive at someone’s house empty-handed, but Tina greeted us at the door with a basket full of goodies. And oh what lovely, thoughtful things they are! One of which honest-to-god made me tear up. Because nestled there in the basket with its lovely handmade “Welcome CMRT” sign (depicting me sporting a side ponytail & a rocking minivan) was a Tervis tumbler, an exact replacement of my beloved goldfish Tervis that was lost when left behind at the hotel the morning of Day Two. Tina Tison has to be one of the most thoughtful women on the face of the planet. And it very nearly made me cry right there in her entryway. Of course, also appreciated was the fact that we immediately sent the children off to play, and cracked open a shandy. Ahhhhh…. The very taste of summer!

After a bit we rounded everyone up again, and set out for dinner at their local Japanese steakhouse. I happen to love the teppan/hibachi/I’m never sure what I’m supposed to call it style cooking. I gorge myself every time on salty yumminess fresh off the grill/table. But this was a first-time experience for my picky-eating, food-allergic children. Egg allergy resolved by having them cook the fried rice not on the table, but in the kitchen instead. (Like I was going to go without fried rice!) Picky-eating vaguely resolved by my threatening the loss of dessert. And my kids are conditioned enough to remember that Mrs. Tison always has the best dessert treats planned. So they managed to choke down just enough to make me happy, and after dinner we walked across the street to the fro-yo shop, 16 Handles. This has become a bit of an obsession for my kids – the frozen yogurt places that offer many flavors of yogurts, tons of toppings, and then sell you this addiction by the ounce. Some of their combinations are too disgusting to even contemplate. Beau’s tonight ranks pretty high – mango sorbet with gummy bears and Captain Crunch. Ewww. But I digress, I was discussing the Japanese steakhouse experience. Let’s just say that Avery was less enthused about the “lighting the table on fire” aspect than the others. She soldiered on bravely, but mostly pressed to my side with her hands ready to cover her eyes. And every time the chef poured something on the table, like even the water to clean with at the end, she flinched and drew back. But Beau was especially excited but the pyrotechnics, and Harper, who chose to scoot back way, way, way from the table, was still excited and watching with rapt attention.

But really, aside from being happy that our kids get along so well and play so nicely together, these visits for me are about the after-bedtime-hours. The long conversations and remember whens. The time when Joe Tison mixes the perfect (and I do mean perfect) bourbon and Coke. I shouldn’t have to tell you what kind of bourbon. But I suppose some of you might not have gone to Washington & Lee University. If you had, if you have any connection to W&L at all, you know that bourbon = Jim Beam. And standing in the Tison’s kitchen, sipping a Beam & Coke, laughing so hard I cry, well, that’s like the mental equivalent of slipping into a warm bath after the most stressful day of your life. I just feel good. And if the rain holds off tomorrow night, allowing us to gather ’round the firepit, Beam or shandy in hand, then I will be in one of my ultimate happy spots. Because nothing says New England summer like sitting around a fire wearing a sweatshirt, drinking, reminiscing with dear friends. And nothing says happiness like laughing with dear friends when they are the kind of friends who knew you then, and still love you now.

With that, I’m off to bed. Hopefully to sleep a few hours before my early-rising children terrorize the entire house. Tomorrow (er, later this morning) I’ll take my three, plus the Tison’s 7 year old daughter, to a local science museum (The theme you’re recognizing here, Kevin, is that I get into science museums free with a reciprocal agreement with my Boston Chidlrens’ Museum membership!) So at least a few hours sleep would probably be a worthwhile goal.

 

Total miles on the trip odometer: Aw, man, I wrote it down, but then left my notebook in the car. I think it was something like 1,081. Whatever. We’ll just call it a whole bunch of driving.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim