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This week was spring break, and mr. flea took Friday off and we went down to Mammoth Cave National Park, in KY. It's about a 3 hour drive, via Louisville. Friday we got there at about 2pm (they're on Central time) and set up camp in the very nice park campground. We headed over to the Visitors' Center and luckily got tickets to the self-guided tour of the cave from the Historic entrance right before they stopped selling them at 3pm. There would have been some unhappy kids if we had not gotten into the cave on Friday. The self-guided tour is actually rather dinky, but for the first day it was good enough. mr. flea managed to hit his head on the cave roof. Friday evening we went to a presentation by a ranger in the amphitheater after dinner, and this day's subject was animals in the cave, illustrated by a bunch of really great and often startling photos by the ranger's husband. Some actual animals helpfully showed up, including deer concealing themselves very well in the dusk, and bats flying overhead.

It was our chilliest night ever camping, probably down to about 40, but everyone was plenty warm in the tent. It was getting out of bed that was a little more problematic. But we made it out to the Cedar Sink trailhead at 8:45 for a hike with a ranger billed as Wildflowers and Water. This particular ranger was much more into the latter than the former, and mr. flea talked to him quite about about the hydrology of the region; a large area of farmland outside the park is karstic topography, dimpled like a golf ball, and it all drains into the cave. Apparently the park has had good success working with farmers to reduce water-borne pollutants. There were some wildflowers, but not as many as are usual for the date as we've had a cold spring. We saw some trillums and trout lilies, and the ranger said that in a week the sink area would be in full bloom. The sink itself is huge and an underground river surfaces in it. The kids listened well to the ranger, even Dillo who was quite serious.

We drove out of the park to a little town - really, an intersection - called Pig, KY, where the chocolate pie at the Porky Pig Diner had been recommended. Sadly for the children the pie-maker relied rather heavily on cool whip, which was not to their taste, but mr. flea was perfectly happy. We had a lazy lunch at camp and worked on the Junior Ranger booklets we'd picked up the previous evening, a great program they apparently have at 400 National Parks but don't always advertise well (we heard about it and asked here). Great age-appropriate workbook activities drawing on various displays and presentations. Then, with great excitement, off to the Visitor's Center for a 1:30 New Entrance tour. We went by bus to the New Entrance, with our headlamps at the ready. The first stage is a long descent, mostly very wet, on very narrow metal staircases (good non-slip treads, though) through vertical shafts. Then there's some slow up and downs through horizontal tubes - some eroded directly by past water flow, others with broken edges where the rock was weakened by water and broke off. The last section of this tour includes the Frozen Niagara room, the only area of the cave with stalactites, stalagmites, drapery, and flow rock. As we were about to leave we saw a single tiny bat (brown bat?) hanging near the Frozen Niagara entrance. We also saw cave crickets thoughout.

The kids loved it, and we thought it was pretty good, too. They got their Junior Ranger badges, and we did quesadillas over the fire, and the kids took up whittling in pursuit of the perfect marshmallow stick. Casper proved very good at starting fires both nights - she did Friday's nearly by herself - and Dillo was very eager to help but had a lot of trouble the whole trip with impulse control and listening to safety directions (he ran out into a road with his binoculars once, without even looking, which I'd had said was very unlike him!)

Saturday night was warmer, and Sunday we did the short ranger-led walk on Slavery at Mammoth Cave and then headed home.

Things I'd like to remember for future trips: a hatchet and a whisk broom would be useful; we need to find the sleeping mats and water bottle that are lost in our house somewhere; we should make out a Kaper chart like the Girl Scout do to make the kids help out more with camp chores.


Aug. 14th, 2012 08:15 pm
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We spent the week in Annapolis MD (briefly, for my grandfather's 90th) and Cape Cod.

The Good:
Swimming lessons at the beach, small group, with teachers who are challenging, but good at motivating (quoth Casper!). Both kids learned a lot.

Whale watch off Provincetown, with very frisky humpbacks, at sunset.

Visit to New Bedford historic district and the very nice whaling museum.

Flying our kite at sunset at Nobska Beach.

The familiar places: drawbridge and ferry, Candy Ice Cream (a store), Pie in the Sky, swimming out to the jumping rock with the kids for the first time, seeing LuSeal and Bumper at the aquarium, measuring the kids on the wall where my first height marker is at age 2.

The Bad:
Waking up at 2:30am the day we left, and being up continuously until the end of the birthday party that night.

It was ridiculously humid, even for the Cape, and fairly warm to boot. Swimsuits hung in the sun at noon were not dry by dusk.

There was some very dubious pork sausage involved in one night's dinner.

Dillo's fairly new "beanie boo" tiger got left on our final airplane flight when he fell asleep. Luckily this $6 guy was easily replaced on Monday morning, and Dillo took the situation well.

The Ugly:
The usual problems that might be expected when one vacations with one's mother, in a house one's mother owns.

Pondering the possibility of doing same for three weeks in a row next summer, so the children could attend the Children's School of Science.
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8/6/11: My mother is meeting someone today who is interested in renting the Cape house next summer. She told me the name, and I said, "I think I attended her birthday party in 1982." And I looked at my album, and I think I was right!

I was, in fact, right, and she remembered me (I have a memorable and unique name) and there's a picture in my album of about 6 8-9 year old girls shivering on a cold afternoon at Stoney Beach, marked August 13, 1982. I think my grandparents (with whom I spent the summer that year) must have known her grandparents; I think they lived on Buzzards Bay Avenue, down from the Schleichers. Presumably no longer living.

Unfortunately, I get to have feelings of inadequacy and underachievement, because this woman is a full professor of Economics at MIT, having graduated summa from Harvard, done an M. Phil at Oxford, and a PhD at MIT. She got her PhD in 2001, got a TT job at MIT in 2005, got tenure in 2007, and made full professor in 2008, all of which means she is hot shit. She works in the economics of health care and health insurance. She's probably met BOTH Barack Obama and Atul Gawande. She also has a 5 year old and a 2 year old.

I'm, um, probably taller than she is? Must repeat the mantra: Things I could have accomplished if only I had a completely different personality are not actually things I could have, or should have, accomplished.

8/5/11: We're watching Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds and Dillo says, "I wish Daddy was here so he could watch this *fabulous* movie." The kids LOVE it.

8/2/11: This morning I found and shredded neat file folders of utility bills and credit card statements, dating to 2000-2003. We also have taxes back to 1990 (but I am keeping those, mr. flea, if you're reading this, even though you only need to keep the past 7 years!)

8/2/11: Me: What is this on your windowsill? Dillo: That's garlic, to keep the vampires away.

8/1/11: Played "Muskrat Love" for the children (after mr. flea mentioned hearing it in the bathroom at Kroger.) They were not impressed.

8/1/11: Today is day one of Camp Our Street, coordinated by Coach Mommy. Somehow I doubt my energy will match that of the wonderful coaches at the Athens YMCA.

7/31/11: Casper is eating banana muffins with chopsticks.

7/25/11: It turns out we don't have a copy of our marriage certificate. I hope HR accepts the "souvenir cards" the court sent us as proof of our 13-year marriage.


Mar. 15th, 2011 03:23 pm
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I liked Charleston a lot, more than Savannah, which is similar in some ways but much more of a 19th century town, while Charleston is definitely colonial-era.  We stayed in a cottage at the James Island County Park, which is fairly awesome and has rock-climbing walls, a huge dog park with a pond, and a water park (not yet open for the season) and was hosting a remote-controlled sailboat race while we were there.  We went to Fort Sumter and saw dolphins from the boat both coming and going; played in the marsh a lot at the cottage; ate at Hominy Grill and a random place that was also pretty good, and had a conversation with an indignant Casper about whether or not children appreciate fine dining; played in the sand and a little in the surf at Folly Beach; visited the park with cannons; read gravestones in the yard of the circular UCC Church; and walked about lower Charleston long enough that Dillo asked, "are we going to WALK back to Athens Georgia today?"  I'd like to go back for a more adult- and history- friendly visit.  There are TONS more things we didn't see.  But this is travel with small children.

In other news of today, our friends who had just arrived in Japan for a month-long trip (with 4 and 7 year olds) decided that it was not a good time to be a tourist and arrived in Honolulu safely last night, where they will stay with people they have never met (parents of a friend) until they can get a flight back to the US mainland/home.  And a child whose birth and infancy I remember (she's 23) had a baby today, named Charles Oliver.
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Story hour at the (really pretty wonderful) library, Lorax and Rosemary Wells Mother Goose (Dillo, "I have this book at my house!")

Me off with Casper to the swimming lesson. It was hard the first day (Tues), much trepidation about face in the water. She would have skipped it today if I'd let her. But we emerged from the library (entered in steady rain) to almost-sunshine, then caught a drawbridge-opening, then caught part of seal-feeding at the aquarium. She was ready to face the lesson at the beach, greatly added by the calmness of the sea today. Teacher Joy worked closely with her and Boss Megan did too and she did 2 back floats, one for the duration of the alphabet song, and a brief front float. Quite proud of herself on the walk home with brownie reward, maybe we'll see "rocket" swimming by Friday?

Lunch at home then back to town, walking to Aquarium. Bought small presents at MBL visitor center (stuffed beluga for Casper and squishy octopus for Dillo), got ice cream and saw clouds rolling in, raining on Elizabeth Islands. Beat the storm home except for the initial drips, and now we have thunder and lightning. Such is Cape weather.

Tomorrow, Casper and mr. flea will go an a morning collecting trip with the Aquarium, and I hope manage it so that they are back just in time for the lesson again. Dillo and I plan some gardening (moving iris, planting daylily, salvia, and pink achillea). Weather uncertain, though.

Friday, swim lesson and tag sale/festival at the library from 10-1. Then up to see friends w/kids in Swampscott, possibly fireworks.
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mr. flea seems to be allergic to Cape Cod.

But mostly, it's just my mother being herself. How can we avoid each other for three more days in a small house?


Jun. 29th, 2009 05:01 pm
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To sign one's daughter up for swimming lessons at the beach after watching the teachers do private and small-group lessons for a couple of hours, without even asking what it's going to cost (we pay at the end of the week - they cancel for thunder, and if they cancel we don't pay. We do go if it's merely raining, like this morning).
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It was good. The reason for the trip was my 24 year old half-brother's wedding, which was Saturday. We drove up in the Honda from Boston, ate lunch at a little restaurant I'd scoped out on the internet in New London, and changed in their bathroom. Then off the the wedding, which was churchy but not too much so (evangelical, so nothing Popish like communion - instead, there was singing and talking about Jesus). The bride's family sang the benediction at the end together from the congregation, a cappella and in at least four-part harmony, and it was pretty awesome. This is apparently a traditional thing for them. My father and brother both made that "I am being looked at and am goofy and also proud" face. Dillo was adorably awesome in an outfit my mother got him - grey button-down shirt, black pinstripe vest, black pants, purple tie. Casper wanted to be told she was beautiful and was a little disappointed that Dillo got more attention. The reception was at a lodge at a lake about half an hour away, lovely except for the incredible number of mosquitoes. Very low-key, not a full meal, just fondue and a chocolate fountain and cheesecake as the cake. Some dancing. We learned that white evangelical Christians from Ohio mostly do not know how to do the electric slide. Casper totally busted a move, however, and also got a splinter in her foot on the deck, which my father removed.

It was nice to see my stepmother's family - her mother (age 79 and not in great shape - contrast my vigorous and active 77 year old stepfather), sisters Debbie and Brenda and their spouses, and my stepsister Joanne and her partner (Joanne cried and cried during the ceremony!) Talked some to stepmother and a little to father and sister and (busy bridesmaid) Kat. Then we had dinner in Concord with my other brother Nate and his friend/soon-to-be-flatmate, Elena, Dillo asleep on my chest for the whole meal. Nate, in classic Nate form, nearly failed in his one appointed wedding task. Kat called him Thursday and told him to bring 16 bottles of lambic beer to the wedding, for the groom and bride and the wedding night, apparently (dry wedding, though the couple are legally of age.) The significance of the number 16 is unclear, and why lambic? There was much general wonderment and mildly ribald speculation about the wedding night by Nate and Elena. He didn't procure this in Boston and was surprised to learn NH liquor stores don't sell beer, so sloped off to Concord between the wedding and reception to raid a grocery. Then locked his keys in the rental car at the reception. Classic. But, he paid for dinner and I quite liked Elena, so he came out okay on balance.

Friday we went to Crane's Beach in Ipswich and drove around very briefly looking at old houses and ate lunch. (Sibling set at the beach: Aidan, Seamus, Declan, Cormac.) Sunday we did the cemetery visits, both Woburn and Mount Auburn, and then mr. flea and I went to dinner and Star Trek for our anniversary. Monday to the Public Garden on the way to the airport, and here we are at home.
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Rather boring if you are not, um, me.

Trip to MA/NH for C's wedding:

Thurs 5/21
Leave home ca. 5am?
Flight leaves ATL 8am
Arrives BOS 10:27
Pickup by D? or Car-switch with vee?
Afternoon with D&D

Fri 5/22
Day with D&D - Mt. Auburn Cemetery? Children's Museum?

Sat 5/23
Leave 9am? to drive to NH (1h44min.) Bring clothes in car and change there?
Lunch in NH - with T&T? N&K? Need to email.
Wedding 1pm
Reception 3pm
Drive to MA when done.

Sun 5/24
Wedding anniversary. Get out alone?

Mon 5/25
Drive to airport ca. 11:30am.
Leave BOS 1:36pm
Arrive ATL 4:26pm
Drive home, arrive ca. 7pm.

Tue 5/26
Casper starts at YMCA

To do:
Get cell numbers and put them in phone.
Plan outfits for wedding, with backups.
Think hard about carrying on car seats, since checked bags cost $15 each.

Summer Vacation trip (June 27-July 5):
Questions to ask:
D - when is 25Q available? Sat 12 or Sun 12?
What will we do about cars, transport to/from airport/Cape? (Maybe we should rent?)
Vee - can you take some time off?
J&F - when should we come? What will we do if we come?
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For the record: twenty months is a difficult age to travel by air, especially when the child is flying as a lap child. It is also a difficult age to sit through a 1.5 hour Catholic mass. These events were basically our yesterday. Other highlights included Dillo shouting "AIRPLANE" whenever he saw one (since we were at an airport and/or on an airplane, this was often), Casper spilling a full cup of apple juice into her skirt while on the plane, and Dillo popping up over the back of the seat to shout "HEWWOW!" at our neighbors. Also we saw deer at the airport parking lot.

We had 6 inches of snow on Friday night (yay); a complete and total love-fest between Casper and her cousin Ryan, who is 9; swimming in the pool at the hotel; Dillo eating yo-yo for breakfast all by himself; a lot of whining by cousin Erin, who is 5 and having some kind of phase; and, of course, more Turbo-Toddler. In general Casper was a delight to be with the entire trip, and Dillo was charming yet exhausting.

I need a vacation. Am having second breakfast and hoping cup 2 of coffee will help make the day happen.

sad face

Mar. 11th, 2008 01:02 pm
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I am 35 years old and I have never had a tropical vacation. I just want a quiet, mosquito-free island paradise with warm water and books to read and good food and very limited children. Is that so much to ask?

(Okay, I have had one sort-of tropical vacation: when I was 10 my grandparents took us to Disney World as a consolation prize for our parents' divorce. There were no beaches, and no drinks with umbrellas in them.)
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I am thinking about vacations. mr. flea is in charge of Easter in Cleveland, but Casper has a full week plus off for spring break a week later. The YMCA has a fill-in day camp for $25 a day, but I am thinking of a vacation instead.

So, Charleston SC and Savannah GA are 4.5 and 5.5 hour drives, respectively. We've never been to either. Weather in the first week of April is likely to be highs in the 70s, lows overnight around 50.

Has anyone been to either? With kids? Is there enough to do? I am cool with beaching it on a 70 degree day (and knowing the south we might get lucky and hit 90), and I know Charleston has an aquarium. Historic houses with gardens to run around in (we can bring ball-ball - and the bikes!) would probably be good too, right?

Am I insane to consider camping? In a tent? If we've never camped with kids before? We'd have to buy a (big enough) tent, but the savings in hotel costs would pay for the tent (and then we'd have a tent). There are state park campgrounds in both places, at the beach, for $25-30 a night. I think if we are tent camping we can probably get a spot, although the RVs may be filled up.

Anybody want to go camping with us? (Hint: Mightyurchin family, this means you. We need someone who can survive on ketchup and wild onion soup.)


Jun. 8th, 2007 06:51 pm
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Forecast says highs in the mid 70s, lows in the low 50s for the forseeable future in MA! Must change packing plans to include more jackets and long sleevers.

It is 95 and humid right now, and same tomorrow. But I am ESCAPING!!!!1!

AND it's supposed to rain Sunday in Boston, so, hmmm. Stay tuned for possible plans.
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Have a bath in my mother's cool bathtub
Have a bath in the bathtub in the Cape house
Maybe try a bath bomb!
Find a hermit crab at the beach at the Cape and show Casper
Mark my kids' heights on the door frame at the Cape house
Eat pad thai
Go to the aquarium and show Casper the seal feeding
Watch a ferry load
Watch the drawbridge open

I am really looking forward to this.
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I neglected to mention in my packing/airport obsession post, that we will be in Boston (broadly speaking) this coming week, and Sunday the 10th is probably our best day for a meet-up with localistas. (There remains much vagueness about the date of availability of Cape Cod, but it's definitely not Sunday.)

Veejane and I have had some tentative discussion concerning the following possibilities:
1. Boston Common/Public Garden picnic/hangout, possibly with Make Way For Ducklings in hand. (I know, we sort of did this 3 years ago, but Casper is old enough to actually read the book now, and I have not matured at all!)
2. Boston Harbor Islands trip (though might be very busy on the weekend, and requires a $10 boat ride, for those with financial issues).

We could also invite you all to descend on my mother's house in Lexington, or you know, do anything else of interest you can think of. Help us in our indecisiveness!

In other news, Casper is a champion knee-scraper of late, and the Dillo has entered the phase of the face-plant and assorted fat lips, scraped noses, and the like. I am mostly astonished by how very quickly small children heal. They are definitely possessed of more vigorous cells than their quickly aging mother.
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Carry on:
umbrella stroller (gate check)
(Casper little backpack for her stuff?)

address book
camera, download cord, charger?
ipod?, charger? (for Casper)
DVDs for Casper (pick?)
books for Casper for plane
little toys for plane for both
snacks/dinner for both kids (check carry-on rules and see how they apply to food/baby food - is applesauce a liquid?)
bib, spoons
diapers/wipes/spare clothes
jackets? - check weather forecast
no shoes for Dillo
slip-ons for Casper (flip flops?)
copies of birth certificates

2 car seats
1 suitcase (my big)

diapers, wipes
shoes, couple pairs of socks
onesies for sleeps
thermometer, tylenol, suncreen, baby wash stuff
little bear jacket. hat?
long pants, long sleeve shirt in case it's cold
swimsuit and rash guard
needs a sun hat that fits.
extra food/snacks, bibs, little washcloths

shampoo, Advil, non-allergic sunscreen
sneakers, sandals, flip flops
socks, underpants
pajamas (probably 2)
swimsuits (2), sun hat
1-2 pair leggings in case of cold.

I am most worried about:
1. getting the car seats safely into various non-LATCH automobiles, especially under stress & time pressure (like, while everyone else is waiting in the airport parking lot).
2. getting through security checkpoint without losing the baby or my grip.
3. the fact that Dillo is almost guaranteed to stand in my lap bouncing up and down for the entire plane ride, and Casper will want an in-flight beverage that has a high percentage of being spilled. At least he'll probably be jolly and not screaming...


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