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Posts Tagged ‘travels with Remy’

Day Twenty-One: W&L Hospitality Wars

05 Jul

Sadly, our time at Chez Tison has come to a close, and it’s time to get back on the southbound trail. The Tisons were back to work & camp, and the Willims were back in the car. Our first stop? Westport, only a few miles down the road, to retrieve our dear Remy. Because of his “exit bath” he was fluffy and sweet smelling, though anxious as all get out, as we piled him back into the car. I cannot imagine the mental gymnastics this poor pooch has been going through these past few weeks. First I put him in the car for a four days sojourn northbound – including a stop in a home with a backyard like he’s used to, then a hotel room, then a jaunt into NYC and a night in a big city apartment, then arrival in absolute doggie nirvana, where we proceed to spend 2 full weeks. He was clearly under the impression that it was a relocation, not a vacation, and settled into his spoiled existence, where every day included hours of vigorous ball chasing along the edge of and into the water. Then, this halcyon time comes to a close with me packing the car, and driving several hours to drop him off at an unfamiliar kennel, and leave him there for 3 nights. To be fair, it came highly recommended, this kennel, and I did spring for the 3 play sessions a day package, where in addition to his indoor/outdoor run, he got to mingle with other dogs and have personal attention from kennel techs. But then, I pick him up and he realizes that I have not left him forever, just in time for him to go back into the car for another long day of driving. I think maybe we should have shared one of his Xanax.

As we are driving south, I am noticing my fuel range dip lower and lower. Deciding that it was probably best to fill the tank soon, I got off at the last exit before a long bridge, and started looking for a station. I’m in the groove, looking for the best place to stop when Avery pipes up from the back, “Are we still in New Jersey?” I had to think about it for a second, but did confirm that yes, in fact, we were still in New Jersey. When I asked her why, she responded simply, “Because that means you can’t pump your own gas. Someone else is going to do it for you.” For goodness sakes! Good thing I have her on this trip with me! I had totally forgotten that, and would have definitely been yelled at if I had exited my vehicle at the pumps. That was certainly some stress avoided. Who says the kids aren’t paying attention to my ceaseless prattling on with random facts?

Today, as we were hopping from one W&L home to another, the W&L Hospitality Wars were launched. A friendly competition, no doubt, but a fierce one. Well aware of the deluxe accommodations and generous hospitality provided at Chez Tison, there is a very high bar, but Pete, being the competitive sort that he is, was aiming to clear it. For those of you W&L alum following along, especially you class of ’95ers, I am here to tell you that Pete Tapley grew up good. Pete was always a super nice guy, fun to be around, smart, genuine, silly, funny. But I have to admit he was one I couldn’t picture grown up. It could have gone either way. He could have been stuck in immature frat guy mode eternally (you all know someone who fits that bill), or he could have turned into a fully functioning, productive member of society. I am happy to report that he is the latter, but still retains the joie de vivre that made him such a wonderful friend back in the day. Mr. Fitzwell still lives, but now he’s the husband to a beautiful, funny, intelligent and driven wife, and the father of two handsome, polite, funny, and talented teenage boys. And did I mention that he can cook? Wow. He can cook. So much so, that at dinner I was going back for seconds of his roasted broccoli, which is the single vegetable I have never been able to stomach. And his omelettes? To die for. He’s officially my omelette guy. (Don’t worry, Joe, you’re still my General Nostalgia guy. Always.)

Pete is the consummate host, and was gracious enough to take us all in, including Remy the fluffy beast; who promptly thanked him for his hospitality by vomiting on his kitchen rug. Embarrassing. And as I walked in the door, he had the first round of cocktails ready. In a glass emblazoned with the W&L Trident he poured a daiquiri over trident-shaped ice cubes. Off to a strong start. It’s always such fun catching up with an old friend. On a shaded, screened porch over a well-mixed cocktail or two, even better. Round two, was clearly meant to knock me over. Ever heard of a French 75? I probably should have been concerned when Pete asked, “Does gin offend you?” But I knew I was in good hands, and the resulting mix of gin & prosecco, with a little simple syrup and lemon juice was delightful and refreshing! Clearly, the W&L hospitality wars were about pacing. As the third and final round, which I nursed for quite a long time, was a mint julep, made with an abundance of fresh mint. (The Tisons had the multi-night advantage, where the Tapley residence was a single night stopover, so Pete was pulling out all the stops!) Dinner was delicious, and dessert was inspired. Why use marshmallows for s’mores when you can use stale Peeps?! The sugar coating caramelizes in the fire adding a unique and tasty flavor and texture addition. After dessert and some visiting out on the back patio, we headed inside for a little impromptu concert performed by their exceedingly talented 13 year old son, Wim. Remy was loving the attention being paid to him by their older son, Jack, and we all enjoyed listening to Wim play some of his original songs on the guitar. One of them Cherry even got up and sang along. It was truly delightful, and I fully intend to say things like “I went to school with his father,” and “I once had a private concert in his living room,” when Wim becomes famous. Holy cow, can that kid write a song.

It was such a short visit, partly because the drive that was supposed to take 6 hours took a little over 8. Blerg. But it was so pleasant just hanging out with Jack, who I’m hopeful will be playing lacrosse at W&L in another two years. I’d be happy to think of a young man like him being part of the next generation of Generals. And Cherry, who is funny and sardonic, just like me. And Wim, who is darling, and quirky, and soon to be the next huge singer-songwriter sensation (and he darn well better come through on those backstage passes he promised!) And Pete, who grew up good, and continues to be such pleasant and entertaining company.

And the winner of the W&L Hospitality Wars? ME. Me and mine. I feel so blessed to have such beautiful friendships that have spanned the decades with people who are so generous and gracious. I am definitely the winner in this scenario.

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Day Seventeen: It’s History

01 Jul

I tried to stay zen upon waking this morning. This, our last full day in Maine on CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. And potentially our last full day ever in this house we have grown to love on Turbat’s Creek. Remember how I told you it was on the market (for a very reasonable price, those of you interested in real estate investment with a mind to allow responsible single moms with great kids and a hypo-allergenic dog to rent it during the summer!) Well, yesterday the real estate agent came to show it to a couple who were in town and very interested. I was a good girl. I told the owner that of course I didn’t mind if the real estate agent came by, and I even cleaned/tidied up so that it would show to max advantage given the fact that it was an active rental to a vacationing family. And I stayed on the beach while the showing was happening. Well, for the most part. When Beau checked to see if they were still here (yep, cars in the drive), he noticed that the front door had been left wide open. Since it was me, and not the real estate agent, that was going to have to spend the night in the house with whatever mosquitos and other biting insects she let in, I stepped inside and called out a friendly hello. When she poked her head down the stairs I very politely told her that I was just grabbing some snacks, and shutting the door on my way out!! But I never did see the couple, so I don’t know if they looked like people who would rent to me or not.

Anyway, here it was, the final full day. And I was trying desperately not to think about it. To not ponder at all. And I was mostly successful. That has been one of the brilliant aspects of the extended two week stay. Feeling less rushed and less “we have to do this now it’s our only chance!” Which has made for a more pleasant experience overall, and made me more appreciative, less melancholically nostalgic. Which used to happen to me while the vacation was still happening! So, this morning the girls and I decided to head into town to a museum that we’ve passed almost every day of every year we’ve been coming here and never bothered to enter. White Columns, aka The Nott House, aka the First Families Museum, is a lovely 1853 Victorian Era Greek Revival mansion run by the Kennebunkport Historical Society. It stayed in the same family for over 130 years, and was a family member’s home until the 1980s, therefore many of the furnishings and decorations are original to the house and family. The rest has been filled in with donations to the historical society that are appropriate to the era. They even have vintage era clothing hanging in the closets! (And, yes, this house had closets! Which is shocking for that time period. And we discovered the fascinating reason why on our tour.) Admission to the house with a 30+ min tour was $10 for me, and kids under the age of 12 are free. The tour was excellent, and done by an intern from Kennebunk High School. He was very knowledgeable, and entertained all questions, including those posed by my curious girls (like, did any of the family children slide down the banister? He wasn’t sure, but he did know that one of the original glass sidelights by the front door was broken by a slingshot wielded by the first child to live there.) Anyway, the home is in excellent condition considering its age, even the original, hand-painted wallpaper is intact in most rooms! In one of the rooms of the home (I believe the original kitchen) is the First Families Museum. It is a room full of objects dedicated to the Bush Family, most specifically, to George H.W. Bush, who, with his wife, Barbara, spends the majority of their time at their Kennebunkport, Maine, home, Walker’s Point, land that has been in their family for generations. It was a neat little exhibit of Bush and Kennebunkport memorabilia. The best part to me being the displays of old family photographs. But they were also running a video biography on a tv in the corner, and I happened to catch the last little bit. Regardless of your political leanings, it was an interesting history of a family that has played a huge role in American politics, and a nice little exhibit in support of one of Kennebunkport’s most famous resident families.

After the house tour/museum, during which the girls were excellently well-behaved and engaged, we wandered into town for the last little bit of souvenir shopping. We hit a few stores, bought a Christmas ornament, and then interest petered out rather quickly. Because of the amount of food we still had at home, I was not going to buy lunch in town, so we headed back to the cottage for a late lunch.

And the afternoon was reserved for beach time with the Nelson girls. Mandy brought her girls down to Turbat’s Creek one more time, and we were joined by her friend, Monica, and Monica’s toddler granddaughter, named Vaughan (after the island.) It was a pleasant afternoon spent chatting, and watching naked beach baby Vaughan being cute as all get out. After an exploratory walk to Vaughan’s Island, and playing some card games on the rocks, Harper and the Nelson girls went out into the water one last time, with Harper even being brave enough to dunk her thin-blooded Florida head under the icy water. Then it was time to round everyone up, say our goodbyes to the Nelsons, and rinse off the beach gear one last time. What a pleasant ending note to what has been a glorious vacation.

Then the laundry and packing frenzy began in earnest, because I had done exactly zip to get ready to leave! Unfortunately, my allergies have started acting up something fierce in the past few days and I had to take something to stop the incessant sneezing. Benadryl was effective on that front, but the drowsiness was something that I just didn’t have time to succumb to. Soldiering on, I got as far as I could, leaving a fairly large chunk of work to do tomorrow morning. Oh well, it will get done. It just will. And since I haven’t slept past 6:45am on any morning but one this whole 2.5 weeks, I’m guessing I’ll have plenty of time…

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Day Thirteen: Team Chickpeas, You Can Like Us on Facebook

27 Jun

It started off as another lazy day on the creek. Watching tv, kids fixing themselves a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lazing around the house. I bought some sourdough bread the other day, and made the effort to make some eggs, heat up some bacon, to go with my toast, but there was no urgency to the morning. Eventually, Beau came and asked me if he could go down to the beach by himself. Because the location of our cottage is damn near perfect, and Turbat’s Creek is, frankly, magical, I said of course he could. He needs some time away from me, to explore on his own. Soon his sisters followed suit, heading out to the beach together, under strict orders that if their brother wanted to play with them, fine, but they were not to annoy him if he didn’t. He did pop back up to the house to show me the prize he had discovered on the vast field of seaweed covered rocks – a leather football. Soaking wet, but otherwise in excellent condition. Quite a find. (Later, I did ask the young family renting a house on this street if perhaps it was theirs, and it had just gotten away from them on Vaughan’s, but they said no, so I guess it’s Beau’s now!)

After a bit, I roused myself and changed out of pajamas to take Remy down for his own exercise session. I swear that dog is tireless. I think it entirely possible that he would happily run himself, quite literally, to death. And my goodness has he turned from a dog who loves to fetch into a ball obsessed monster! After awhile I put the ball & chuck-it away, and while the big kids went back up to the house (I’m assuming Minecraft was calling!), Avery & I continued over to Vaughan’s Island. The Lobster Detectives were on the case! The tide was so extremely low, that many of the tidal pools we poke around in were far shallower than usual, and this summer they have also been choked with sea grasses/kelp. Makes it difficult to seek out wildlife in those conditions. But after turning over a rock or two, Avery & I found one baby lobster with a single claw. Feisty, that one. But we just wanted to find them, never touching (have you ever seen how far back a lobster can swivel its claw?!) And after that one, our interest kind of petered out. Now true low tide, Avery headed back up to the house, and I stayed down with Remy, tossing the ball directly into the Atlantic. Watching him bound out into the cold water time and time again. Again I say, he is going to be so angry at me when we leave…

After some beach time everyone made their own lunch, and Beau actually fell asleep on the couch on the screened in porch. I’m guessing this is a growth spurt happening. Fingers crossed it will not necessitate all new clothing! The girls & I got cleaned up a bit and headed into town. I woke Beau to ask if he wanted to join us, but he just wanted to continue napping. We went to a few of our favorite stores down in Dock Square, picking up a postcard here and a t-shirt there. We also had to stop in the Copper Candle to get our Christmas ornament. Every place we travel we get a Christmas ornament as a souvenir. It is always so much fun unwrapping the ornaments in December, and revisiting the memories of our travels and adventures. We now have quite a few Maine ornaments, but I found a new one shaped like a whale, with a hand-painted scene of a lighthouse, and the year. Perfect! As Avery pointed out we went whale-watching for the first time on this trip, and we went to the Portland Head Lighthouse, so it was a good representation of Maine 2016. I also wanted to peruse an antique store or two, but the one I remembered as being so good, is now mostly new things, or vintage reproductions. Still incredibly lovely stuff, and you could easily decorate a gorgeous home from their stock, but I was looking for something a little grittier, some true, you know, old, antiques. I was going to strike out to US-1 in search of some of those we had driven by in the past, but it was getting on in the afternoon, and I figured the kids might not be as excited about this venture as I. So we headed back to the house. Beau was awake, but said he had slept for most of the time we were gone (definite growth spurt). The kids headed back outside to play/explore, and I set about making dinner. Because it was Monday night, and time for another round of responsible parenting…

I know I have mentioned her before, but I have a local friend named Mandy who I adore. She is a nut, just like me. Fun, and funny, energetic, kind, and lovely, and crazy in some of the exact same ways I am, we always have such a great time when we’re together – whether it’s a girls night out, or just sitting side by side on the beach at Turbat’s Creek as our kids play on the rocks and swarm around us. She has a lot going on in her life right now, and has, unfortunately not been available to play with me until tonight. Which I completely understand. I am in KPT on vacation, away from most of my life responsibilities, but she actually lives in Kennebunk, and her responsibilities are raining down on her head daily. But reviving a tradition we started last visit with the powerhouse team of Like Us on Facebook, we met up at Sebago Brewing Company for another go at Monday trivia night. Drinks ordered we began tucking into our potato nachos (normally these things are to die for, but tonight they were overcooked). As I took a bite, I noticed something strange, but recognizable on the plate. It was half a chickpea. Glad that it was recognizably edible food, but what the heck was it doing on our potato nachos? We took it as a sign, and team Chickpeas was born! I wouldn’t say we were exactly crushing it on the trivia, but it’s difficult to properly focus on accessing the useless knowledge storage part of one’s brain, while actively catching up with a dear friend you haven’t seen in two years. And we had much ground to cover: burned barns, gifted children, family, boob wrangling, new/old boy, signs from the universe, microwaved ice cream, and lest I forget, Mandy is now a Major Award Winner, which cannot go un-recognized! My goodness, how we laughed. Deep belly laughs. It definitely counted as an ab workout. And perhaps the most hysterical part was our come from behind victory! Team Chickpeas was quite happily in last place before the Hail Mary round. The final round has three questions, for which you must wager between 1-10 points. If you’re right, you get the points. If you’re wrong, they get deducted. Well, we certainly had nothing to lose, so we intended to bet big no matter what. Here’s the crazy part. We knew the answers to all three questions. Okay, maybe we didn’t *know* the first one, but we both had the same gut reaction answer, so I felt pretty good about that one. And I was positive I *knew* the last two. One of the answers was even “Daytona International Speedway” – holla for the Florida chickpea! Anyway, our score, with an additional 30 points, was good enough for 2nd place!! We were shocked and very amused. Especially since one of the prizes for 2nd place was the metal Sebago Brewing Company sign that I got last week because sweet locals didn’t want their prize. (Funny thing is that as I left the house, Beau had said, “Win another metal sign tonight, Mom. I want one for my room.” I told him no way was I going to let him hang a brewery sign in his room, seeing as how he was only 11 years old, but he shrugged, and told me to win another sign anyway. And we did!) So, in splitting our prizes, Mandy took the sign, and I took the bar towel and bottle opener key chain. Then two boys at the bar, I don’t know if they were the 1st or 3rd place winners, had extra bottle openers, and gave us a few more of those. I’m happy to clip one to my beach bag, and always have a memento of team Chickpeas and our epic trivia adventure.

Another great day, another day I’m thankful that we stretched our rental out to two weeks. It really has been idyllic to just relax in a place we love. Not feel like we *have to* do anything. The kids were even asking me today if we could just buy a house and move here. I loved the innocence of that inquiry. Obviously, my Florida kids, who have only really experienced snow on ski vacations, haven’t the slightest clue what their winter lives would be like, but I do love that they have also come to love, and feel at home in, this place that makes me so happy. Just like Beau’s mug says, I Love ME. And when I’m here, that is especially true for both meanings. I love this place, and I love me. The Maine version of Krista. Me.

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Day Eleven: Bush-League

25 Jun

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

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

 

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

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Day Three: A Walk in the Park

17 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Day Two: And I Would Drive 500 Miles…

16 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 506

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

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

 

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

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LMRT

14 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to CMRT 2016: K9 Edition…

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On the Road Again

23 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim