Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 3

I'm sitting in our room in the dark, eating half-frozen iceberg lettuce. Because, ironically, my dinner salad was oddly devoid of vegetables. Some would argue that iceberg lettuce doesn't really count as a vegetable. But whatever. It tastes really good right now, and it's helping to absorb the two frozen margaritas in my belly. I had to chug the second one because LittleFritter was melting down, as we've changed time zones, and it's past her bedtime. We bought a pitcher as part of a happy hour special. Wouldn't want it to go to waste...

I'm sitting next to her travel crib. My phone has doubled as her white noise machine and my computer. I'm really thankful for the auto-correct feature. I don't tolerate two margaritas like I used to. Wowzers. 

So we were at a "Mexican" restaurant in Cave City, Kentucky. Staffed by actual Mexicans. (Trump would be horrified. Although I bet his Trump Tower Mexicans make better taco salads.) Watching Canadian football. I can't make this stuff up. Trip Advisor ranked it the #1 restaurant in Cave City. I'm glad we didn't try the others.   

They say that traveling can teach you a lot about yourself. What have I learned? I'm a food snob. A serious food snob. I expect vegetables to be fresh and plentiful. Baked goods to be fresh and/or contain whole grains. And food to not be slathered in sauces made with ingredients I can't pronounce. What else have I learned? That this kind of food can be hard to find traveling across the U.S. We were thrilled to find a Sonic for lunch yesterday when we bopped off the interstate for a potty trip. But I noticed a rather linear relationship between the size of their tasty beverages and the waistline of their consumers. Oh I don't want to be judgemental. If I had a Sonic in my neighborhood, my waistline would certainly be larger. (Oh cherry and cranberry limeaids, how I love thee...) But there was no (non caloric) flavored seltzer to be found in the local grocery store, and the produce section was sad and unappetizing. Experiences like these help me understand the incidence of obesity and diabetes in our country. Especially when my dinner "salad" resembled no salad I'd ever eaten. 

We did do more than eat questionable Mexican food today. We went down into Mammoth Cave. BestestHusband and HeyMama went twice. (I and the younger 3 girls went back to take a nap in the afternoon.) We toured Dinosaur World. We saw a lot of Dino models. In their "natural" environment. It was kitschy, but moderately educational. 

So we learned a bit about geology and prehistoric life today. And the food time warp we're currently in. "Mama, can we eat in tomorrow night?" Translation: can we find "normal" food at a grocery store instead of eating at a questionable restaurant? Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 2

Wow. It's only been 2 days?

Day 2 was all about chocolate. We spent the bulk of the day in Hershey, PA. 

The girls started their day with a mug of hot chocolate. Then we went to the Hershey Museum. The big girls and BestestHusband got tickets to the Chocolate Lab to make chocolate bars. While they were learning about where chocolate comes from and how it's made, I was managing a grumpy toddler and a hungry and poop-covered infant. After a trip to the car for a feeding, cleaning, and attitude adjustment, we tried the museum again. They have some great exhibits, including a "factory" where you get to "try out" the jobs done before mechanization replaced the heavy lifting. Wear the aprons. "Roast" the beans. Move bathtubs full of chocolate. Wrap and pack the chocolate. It was a cute way to teach the girls about how the chocolate was made in the early 1900's. 
They also had a cute "I spy" game to get kids to look through the artifacts of Milton Hershey's life. They had an impressive collection of artifacts, as well as info about his ongoing philanthropic endeavors. His legacy includes a school for orphans, hospital wings, much of the town of Hershey, and a solid economy of dairy farming. A chocolate that is based on a recipe of sweetened condensed milk needs a lot of milk. And being perishable, a local source requiring minimal transport is handy. 

I had no idea that he was such a huge philanthropist. Apparently, he had booked passage on the Titanic, but had to change plans at the last minute. Lucky for him. I also didn't know that Hershey used to make soap and other products out of the discarded cocoa fat. 
I really learned a lot, actually. The staff was knowledgeable and very engaged. They seemed to be a mix of older specialists and teen summer interns

The cafe had tasty food. The international hot chocolate tasting was delicious. The gift shop had multiple options for our obligatory Christmas ornament purchase. It was definitely a winner of a destination

Hershey's World of Chocolate was the opposite of the Museum. It was enormous. It was flashy and animated. Singing cows! People in candy character costumes. (The girls got to high-five a Jolly Rancher!) There was a free ride that showed how chocolate was made. (Singing cows! Talking chocolate bars and kisses!) Everything else required tickets. Much of the complex was a giant souvenir shop. HeyMama finally found her perfect memento keychain there. We had already done a chocolate tasting, and the girls had already made candy bars. Since we didn't have time for a trolley tour of the town of Hershey or a trip to the amusement park, we cut our losses and headed out to hit the road

We still had a lot of driving to do. LittleFritter does not love being in her car seat. Me sitting next to her helps a little. But not for long. So traveling at the end of the day is very wearying. We got off the highway to Take a break and found a family restaurant with a soup and salad buffet. It looked like a nice restaurant.

The cheese in the ham and potato soup tasted like nacho cheese. But everyone got to eat fresh veggies, and LittleFritter found a gaggle of staff to dote on her. So I call it a win-win. 

We got to our hotel after 9:00 . So another night without the chance to use the pool. But we front-loaded the driving in the trip, so the days should get easier. After tomorrow. Tomorrow's our longest driving day. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 1

I'm writing this from a bathtub outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Well, the bathtub is inside. But we're not staying in Hershey itself. You know what I mean...

BestestHusband, 4 little girls, many bags of gear, and I loaded up into the minivan this morning in Boston, and went to bed in Pennsylvania. Well, I'm not in bed yet. I'm in the bathtub outside... You know what I mean. 

The girls handled the 11 hours of travel like champs. We started travel journals and checked off the states we visited (MA! CT! NY! NJ! PA! - we're working on state abbreviations right now) and states we saw license plates from (OR! VA! FL! TX!) 

They marveled at Manhattan skyscrapers. They waved to the Statue of Liberty. They sat in traffic. Lots of traffic. Apparently I -78 in NJ and PA had a series of accidents today. At one point, the highway was shut down completely. When we finally passed the aftermath, we lost count of the crunched cars. And were horrified at the image of a shattered 18 wheeler. I have never seen one separated from its engine before today. I hope to never see it again.  But I had to keep reminding myself, "At least we weren't in the accidents. At least we weren't in the accidents." Because LittleFritter is NOT a fan of stop and go traffic. Not at all. And she is not impressed by skylines and statues. Not at all. It was a long and noisy drive. 

Memorable moments:
"Are we there yet?"
Deer along the highway in CT. 
Slow scenic drives on rural roads along 78. 
Pizza topped with a few raw ingredients, served in a grimy restaurant. "Mommy, why are my shoes sticking to the floor?"
Getting peed on in that restaurant. 
Creating the cleanest spot on that floor. 
Temporarily solving the crying problem by climbing back and sitting next to LittleFritter. 
The instant smile when she saw me (I'm still a gooey puddle about that one.)
Also snuggling with MeToo in the back seat. 
Fireflies lighting the way to our hotel. 

I'm not sure if I'm just still amped from the start of our trip, in need of some silent awake time, or suffering from the giant iced coffee I needed after dinner. But it's past my bedtime and I'm still up. And we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. I should wrap this up. If you have a moment, please say a prayer for the travelers of I-78 today. Some of them had a really bad day. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2 Boxes

Summer weather has finally come to Boston. At least, it's making frequent enough appearances to warrant pulling out the bins of summer clothes and switching over the girls' wardrobes. (Don't worry, I'm leaving out a few hoodies and sweaters. Mornings are still in the 50's. It IS Boston...) Thanks to my obsession with IKEA Samla bins, I have large plastic containers with labels on them. 3T. 4T. Size 5. Sz 6. 7-8. 9 and 10. (I've been gifted with a great hand-me-down provider, so we have a few sizes to grow into.) This makes it easy to sort clothes into their proper places. Clothes come with tags. These tags generally have sizes printed on them, so sorting clothes into bins is simple. Now, it does take some effort to drag all of the bins up from the basement, but the task is pretty clear-cut.

With all of the recent tragedy in the news the last few weeks, it's occurred to me that people really want to do this to other people. 

Sunday morning, I had the privilege of witnessing both the baptism of a friend's son, and the Brit Bat of a friend's daughter. (Sequentially. Not simultaneously. That would be an interesting service!) But while I was shedding tears of joy, people were shedding tears of anguish and fear over a horrible event in Orlando. Their friends and loved ones were shot. Some were dead. Some were fighting to live. Countless lives were shattered. But my feelings of grief were followed by feelings of horror after reading reactions on social media. The carnage was the fault of Muslims. It was the fault of Conservative Christians. It was the fault of Democrats. It was the fault of the NRA. It was the fault of anyone who wasn't actively and loudly lobbying for LGBT rights at this exact moment. Accusations were flying all over the internet. It was everyone's fault.

I've concluded it pretty much is everyone's fault. Everyone who likes boxes. Well, everyone who likes to put people into boxes. 
Gays vs. people who live a "normal" lifestyle.
Conservative Christians vs. people who aren't crazy.
Muslims vs. people who like peace.
Gun owners vs. civilized folk.
Republicans vs. people who care about others.
Democrats vs. people who believe in liberty and freedom.
People who vote for my candidate vs. people who are obviously evil.*

*Um, I don't agree with these binaries. I just see them on Facebook. A lot. Really, a shocking amount of my FB feed includes people posting "Us" vs. "Them" comments, clips, links, etc. And the "Us" vs. "Them" commentary is coming with an increasing amount of vitriol. Some I would characterize as hateful. There is a level of hatred that is frightening to watch. Hatred over things that don't make sense to me. If I guy burned down your house and killed your dogs, I guess I could understand you hating him. (I personally would pray to be able to forgive him, but I'm not going to force that burden on you.) But hating him because he thinks single-payer healthcare is a better idea than a market-based system? Really? You think that justifies your hatred? If so, I think you're just as much to blame as a guy who hates the sight of two men kissing so much that he feels the need to shoot up a nightclub. Those two reasons for hatred seem equally ludicrous to me. 

So if you're busy putting people into boxes of "us" vs. "them" and allowing yourself to hate whoever is in your "them" box, you are at fault. Because that's the same kind of mentality that drove the shooter to kill 50 innocent people. And I'm very afraid of where that mentality is taking us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Two and a Half Months

Whew. LittleFritter is two and a half months old. It's seemed like and lifetime and a blink of an eye. Funny how time works when you're a parent...

She has, of course, changed our lives completely. Babies are so demanding. Yet so magical. And really really exhausting.

Let me update you on what I know about her.

  • She likes to sleep in a Woombie. With white noise. For naps, she prefers motion. The Mamaroo has been a lifesaver. (Thanks for the rec, Leslie!) At night, she prefers her crib. (No more baby in the bed! Wah-hoo!) She sleeps more than I like to publicly admit. It's almost too good to be true.
  • She likes to be upright. Put her up on your shoulder, and she's a happy gal. 
  • She also likes to try to stand up. Support her standing, and she's your best friend. 
  • If you let her try to support herself, she does the Crazy Baby Dance. Her ataxic attempts at standing and using her arms provide constant entertainment for her sisters. 
  • She smiles and coos. 
  • She likes to have conversations. Speak her language, and her eyes light up.
  • Her language consists of "oohs" and gurgles. Try it. It's fun.
  • She is starting to recognize me as Mama. When I pick her up after a nap, she lights up to see me, even in the absence of food. No longer am I just the Milk Maid. I have redeeming qualities beyond basic nutrition. 
  • She weighs about 15 pounds. 
  • She wants to be held most of the time when she's awake. 
  • She's most insistent on that idea when I'm trying to get dinner on the table and the girls to bed. 
  • She's very loud when she doesn't get what she wants. 
  • Her arms and legs are made of marshmallows. (See that 15# thing, above.)
  • I've developed a seriously messed-up upper back trying to keep her upright  and happy. 
  • She's developed a mohawk of fluffy dark hair. 
  • Her eyes have transitioned to grey. I think I see the beginnings of green.
  • BestestHusband calls her "Mini-Joy". (About time I get a kid that looks like me...)
  • She is the perfect caboose to our gaggle of girls. We are truly blessed.