Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Summer 2010 - Meadowlark Gardens

Occasionally, I don't feel like lugging my D-SLR camera with me, so I bring my tiny Olympus with the button that occasionally sticks and shutter speed that is so slow I can usually catch a quick nap between the time I push the sticky button and the time a photograph is digitally recorded.

I took that camera to Boston, assuming that Ed would want to photograph all the excitement he and the kids were having. Not so, it turns out, but it was still an easier camera to transport from one spot to the next.

When I went to download the photos of my two friends that I've known the longest, Jenny (1st grade) and Lisa (2nd grade), I was reminded that my au pair had taken this camera on an outing to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens this summer. It appears that in a race of children versus geese...

geese win.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

From Left To Write Book Club: Room, by Emma Donoghue

Oh Wow. The thing I loved most about the From Left to Write book club this month is that the book totally surprised. I'm not a person who typically picks up a thriller. In fact, although I used to think thriller movies were fun, I lost that feeling shortly after high school when my friend that I often saw these suspenseful movies with and I moved to different cities. Another thing I like about the book club is that we do not do book reviews, we write posts inspired by the books we read. Which is a good thing in the case of this book, because beyond saying "wow", I don't know what I would say about the book. I think it would take a literary critic to dissect this novel and do it justice. But, Wow.

So here's the deal, in the first part of the book, the reader becomes slowly aware that a 5 year old boy and his mom are trapped in a room. Their whole world is this room. And because the 5 year old doesn't know anything different, he doesn't find it particularly bothersome.

I have a love-hate relationship with the zoo. I love it, because my kids enjoy going, it gives me the opportunity to see pandas and other cool animals that I would not normally be exposed to, and in the winter, it's a true lifesaver when looking for uncrowded indoor activities, because most people don't go to the zoo and hang out at the small mammal house like we do. But I hate it because I think about that polar bear that used to live in the Topeka zoo that paced back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The only day that amazing bear seemed even remotely happy was the annual "ice day" which was the day the zookeepers dropped an enormous chunk of ice in the polar bear's, and the polar bear got about a half day of respite from the heat of summer.

Today, we visited the zoo. While in the Great Ape House, I looked at a mother gorilla, her baby (who was really a baby the last time we saw it - sheltered in a hammock by the mother gorilla) who was now climbing all over the enclosure. The kids were totally impressed, though Helen kept pointing out that it didn't seem safe for a baby to be up so high, and she seemed visibly relieved when the mother carried the baby down to safety. I thought about how these gorillas grow up in a room, visited by humans daily. All their basic needs are met, just as the boy's basic needs were met. But I wonder, as I always do, do they realize that the world is enormous and they're missing out, or do they think the world is small, and they're experiencing everything there is? I suppose no one really knows the answer, but it does make me a little sad when I'm watching them.

Now the small mammals? I have no qualms about visiting them in the zoo. Those meerkats run around burrowing in tunnels and appear to be doing everything they desire. The naked mole rats seems equally thrilled as they industriously move wooden shavings from one part of a tube to another. Even the golden lion tamarinds seem fine, though I suspect they enjoy their days outside more than their days inside.

The other thing I thought a lot about while reading this book is the extent a mother will go to make the most of a terrible situation for her child. It really was inspiring, and it's something I see daily. It's the thing that makes me know that life is beautiful, even if there are some parts (many parts, even) that make me stop and worry. In the end, every mom I know would go to the mattresses for her child, and in Emma Donoghue's "Room", that basic story is retold vividly.

This post was inspired by Emma Donoghue's book "Room". I received a free copy of the book as a member of the "From Left to Write" book club. I was not obligated to write this post. Like all the books I've received thus far, this one will be passed on to another owner in the next few days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ed's Weekend With the Little People

Last weekend, I went to Boston to visit my two close friends from elementary school. I left early Thursday morning and returned Sunday afternoon. I had a ball.

I took my old camera with me, so that Ed could take lots of photos of the kids while I was away. Let me take a moment to share my favorite one with you.

Oh, you missed that, did you? Me too. Ed took NO PHOTOS the entire weekend.

He took the kids to our old CSA farm. They dug up some potatoes, got lost in a corn maze, played lots of mini golf, and Helen fed the baby pig her finger. Well, it tried to eat her finger, but Helen wasn't about to give it up. They rode the cow train at the farm for the first time ever (even Ed rode on it!). But did Ed bother to take even one photo? Nope. Not a one.

The next day, Connor and Helen talked him into a trip to Build-A-Bear where Helen purchased a pink bear (which she calls a cat) and Connor got a Jack Russell, the mommy dog to the baby dog he got last time we went there. And actually, this was pretty impressive on the kids' part because on Thursday night when I talked to the kids before bed, Connor casually mentioned that Daddy was taking them to Build-A-Bear and when Ed got on the phone, he was totally in denial about it. HA! Score one for persistence. But again, no photo for me.

So...if a Dad spends the weekend with his kids without their mother, but he doesn't photograph it, did it happen?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knowing Your Audience

My friend, Ellen, once referred to wearing no underpants as "going cowboy". I loved the phrase, and adopted it instantly. Both of my children did, too.

Connor not only adopted the phrase, but now that he dresses himself, he has also adopted the practice. I really don't know how I feel about it, though I have extracted the promise that some form of covering must be on whenever he sits on furniture.

Call me Charlotte.*

This evening, we were driving over to a friend's house. On the way, Ed mentioned to me that our young lad had been going commando lately. So I said "Hey Connor, why don't you wear underpants anymore?".

Connor got an impish grin on his face and replied "because it's efficient". Followed by "I don't have to waste so much time putting all those layers of clothes on".

Any other reason might not have held much sway. But this one, I liked. I smiled a knowing smile as I glanced at Ed and replied "you're going to fit in just fine in this family".


*Bonus point for those who caught this Sex and the City reference.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Helen's First Day of School...and My First Call to AA

Yes, in fact, I do have a daughter. And yes, she did finally get to start school. And yes, I fully intended to blog about it. But then, well, life got in the way. Between helping out with the school silent auction, trying to make sense of some numbers at work - that do not make sense!, traveling to Boston to visit two of my elementary school friends, finishing my summer sweater that I started before Connor was born, and making several magic wands with dragons on them for the fall festival, the blog has fallen to the wayside. But that doesn't mean starting school wasn't special.

As you might recall, Helen was not nuts about being in the parent-child class. She wanted to be in Connor's class. In fact, our agreement before class started was that she could pretend I wasn't there. I even told the teacher, just in case Helen went through with her plan of ignoring me.

As it turns out, Helen had a delightful first day, and most definitely did claim me as her mom. When we got to class, she was happy to put on an apron, and downright thrilled when she realized that she could pick up a knife and cut the apple slice in front of her into small pieces for the day's snack of apple crisp. Soon enough, she checked off that accomplishment and went to play in the other part of the room.

This is where things went South...for me.

Helen found a little mug in the play area, plopped an apple in it, and happily rushed to my side practically shouting "Look, Mommy! I made you APPLE BEER!". I smiled, told her it was a little early for that, and suggested that it was perhaps apple lemonade, trying to get her mind elsewhere. OK, apple lemonade. That was fine.

No sooner had I sipped my apple lemonade, than Helen returned with an egg cup with an apple in it, proudly proclaiming she had made me some apple wine! Seriously. At this point, I turned to the woman next to me and explained "My husband brews beer. Sometimes my kids are interested in it.". The woman was totally nice. So I invited her to our Oktoberfest party, because that is definitely the best way to convince her we're not a beer and wine guzzling house.

Or not.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Correlation vs. Causation

In my line of work, we often talk about correlations and causations. In the social sciences, the latter are almost impossible to prove. And often, people mistake the former for the latter. It's easy to do. A few nights ago, Ed and I were discussing this concept in relationship to Connor and school.

  • Connor's school does not teach him how to count. (Though it would in first grade, with a very different approach to traditional education.)
  • Connor's school does not teach him how to write. (He would do that in second grade. And then he would be tasked with writing all of his own text books.)
  • Connor's school does not teach him how to read. (Also a second grade skill.)

  • Connor's school encourages him to play with others outside and inside, in the most beautiful setting imaginable. (Well, except for the playground at Acorn Hill which is absolutely to die for. Seriously. If that school were anywhere close to me, my children would be attending it.)
  • Connor's school takes an experiential approach to education, and believes that while Connor is playing with that other child on the playground, they are both learning to negotiate the world. They are both drawn to things that interest them. They are being instilled with the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.
  • Connor's school focuses on the whole child - heart, hands, head. No standardized test could possibly capture what he's learning.
  • Connor's school has movement classes as part of the curriculum.
The other day, I heard Connor count by 2s beyond 100, and then he counted by 5s and 10s. He has counted by 3s on other occasions. (And yes, I am aware that people with OCD like to count!) If Connor were in a traditional school, I would've done a double take when I heard this and exclaimed about how great that school of his was, teaching him these early math skills. I would've thought his teacher was nothing short of brilliant. I mean, seriously, a few days in Kindergarten and that's what happens! I would've mistakenly attributed correlation to causation.

See, it's an easy mistake.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mysteries Abound: Following Polly: A From Left to Write Book Club

My friend, Ellen, fancies herself a career in the private investigator business, on occasion. And it might work, because she has a sunhat that is as fabulous as mine. (I just attempted to find a photo of it, but came up blank.) In any case, I always imagine she'll be sitting in a restaurant, menu up almost to her nose, head lowered to obscure her eyes. It would work as well as it did for Alice Teakle in "Following Polly", the most recent From Left to Write book club selection.

In this book, Alice, on a lark, decides to follow a famous person (Polly). And then Polly gets murdered, and Alice is framed for it. So, Alice does what anyone in this situation would fantasize about doing. She slips out of police custody, goes undercover, and hides out in the apartment of the man of her dreams. The story is completely unbelievable, which is what makes it completely fabulous to me. Until recently, I read nonfiction, almost exclusively. But lately? I'm reading for entertainment, and the nuttier it is, the better. And this is nutty. And hilarious. And if Alice can do it, so can Ellen, though hopefully Ellen doesn't get framed for murder.

I would hire Ellen in a minute to tail my kids to school and find out who their friends are when they're old enough that they no longer communicate this information freely. And that day may be coming sooner than I think. Last week, Ed and I had a couple of friends over for dinner. At one point, Helen made some ridiculous request. I denied it. She put her little fist on her hip, pushed her hip toward me while glaring at me and said "fine" in the absolute, most perfect teenager imitation possible. I have no idea where she picked it up, but she seemed mighty impressive doing it.

In any case, just in case Ellen is busy with her own two children when I need her, I've decided to take some time and brush up my own PI skills. For example, a few days ago, I found a pile of little pieces of string, a pair of scissors, and a baggie. The clue that told me who the offender that left this mess had been? The string was pink.

Notice the jar stuffed with confetti made from money? Thank Connor for that. He adores money, and he has a penchant for filling mason jars. I received this confetti when I attended a party at the Fed, and they handed out these little bags of money. Note, if you are ever in this situation. That tiny bag? It holds an ENORMOUS amount of confetti. I've been vacuuming the stuff up for over a year at this point, and we still have quite a lot in the house!

As I was sitting at Denny's having breakfast with Therese and her crew as we dried off from the rain shower that ended our camping trip prematurely, suddenly my orange juice was all over the table. Did the juice just fall by itself? That's what Helen would have you believe. But using my mad skills of deduction, I reasoned that her little paw must have pushed it over, as she told me she was trying to give me my juice.

Of course, I have a long way to go, because when I really needed my PI skills, I was useless. I'll give you this one clue. Connor and Eamon are very fast runners, and together, they can cause two mamas a bit of panic.

I'm going to keep brushing up on my sleuthing skills, so I can continue to figure out these important everyday mysteries.


Full disclosure: As a member of the "From Left to Write" book club, I received a free copy of "Following Polly". I have since gifted it to my friend Ellen. I was not obligated to write about this book. I will most definitely be reading anything else Karen Bergreen writes because her writing is funny and provided the perfect break for me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Following Up on the Pizza

As you know, I'm not a pizza connoisseur, but my husband from New York fancies himself one. Rule #1, New York style (thin crust) is the only acceptable style of pizza. Ever. It also has to have decent cheese, that doesn't congeal into funky blobs. (Sorry, Godfather's. You know I love your thick crust and cheese globs. I'm from Kansas, after all.)

#2 (and I agree with him here), the mushrooms and green peppers cannot come from a can. I mean, I'm all about the occasional black bean from a can, but peppers and mushrooms need to be fresh.

#3. Sauce is not sweet. Sugar should not be on the list of ingredients in the sauce. It should taste tomato-ey.

Unfortunately for him, Connor has less than high brow pizza tastes. In fact, Connor's absolute favorite pizza is that Mama Celeste pizza for one that grocery stores practically give away every few weeks, probably just so they can turn their inventory over.

However, despite their very different tastes, there is a local joint that can serve them both, without causing Ed to turn up his nose, and without causing Connor to refuse to eat it. And now you can try it at a big end-of-summer event.

Head on out to zPizza on Tuesday, September 14.But before you do, click that link and get a $5 off coupon!

Between 4:00 and 7:00, the Alexandria location (6328-C Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22306; (703) 660-8443) will be handing out free samples. While there, you can ask the director of training all those hot pizza questions you've been curious about, but didn't know who to ask. Like, oh, I don't know, what is the preferred method for getting that perfect crust - tossing or rolling?


P.S. Here's a tip from Ed. zPizza tastes best fresh. Eat it right away rather than stashing it in your refrigerator and pretending you still live in college by serving it to yourself for breakfast the next day.

But don't take it from Ed. Go to the event and let blogger extraordinaire, Janine, let you know all about the pizza. She's the one who tipped me off about this event.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, DC was blessed with beautiful, clear, blue skies. It was an unbelievably gorgeous day. I sat in my office like I did on almost every other regular work day that year, typing away at my computer.

Someone came down the hall and said the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. I called up Ed, who works very near the Capital, and told him to go home. He, naturally, thought I was crazy. You see, I am prone to over-reacting and the occasional doomsday thought, while Ed seems to be mostly impervious to all of the dangers that exist in our world. He's C.A.L.M. Partly, this is because he believes he can think his way out of any situation. Dead battery in the car? Ed will sit and ponder why the battery is dead, and begin thinking about what to do because he just cannot believe the battery is dead. Why is that battery dead? I, on the other hand, don't actually care why the battery is dead. We can deduce that in the 30 minutes it wil take for AAA to come to our rescue. Which is why assistance has been called by the time Ed has even begun to admit that yes, the battery is dead, and thinking about it WILL NOT HELP.

So there, Ed sat, and then the second plane hit the WTC. Now I told Ed he really needed to get out of Dodge. But he sat at his desk, continuing to not worry. Then the news went haywire. Nobody knew what was going on. There were reports of many major buildings in the DC area being hit or being targeted. It was impossible to get phone lines in or out. The roads were completely jammed. Some reports considered the DC subway system unsafe. I walked to my friend's house in Rosslyn, just over the bridge, and then she attempted to drive me and another coworker home, which ultimately took a LONG time. I would've been better off had I walked the whole 6 miles. Heck, George Bush didn't even seem to think anything important was going on as he sat and read a story to a grade school class, rather than leaving immediately and oh, I don't know, grounding all air traffic. FAST. Yes, eventually this happened, but those were important moments and he was supposed to be leading, not reading.

Government offices closed, Ed went home, I met him there. Then, we proceeded to do some minor home improvement projects (wiring more of the house for stereo sound) while we casually listened to news. By this time, it was fairly clear that no more attacks were coming. We answered the phone from concerned people. I called to tell my mom I was fine and she was totally annoyed at me because I interrupted some confusing computer training she was doing, and apparently many, many people had been interrupting her wondering if I was OK, and that led up to her being frustrated. Later, when she realized what was going on, I like to think she was glad I checked in.

That night, Ed and I went over to a friend's house. We had arranged to play cards a while ago, and we all decided that in the end, we were OK, and we'd enjoy the company. Ed and I went to retrieve his car by his office (which he had left parked because the streets were impassable - and took the subway that turned out to be perfectly fine, home) and this is when it really hit that life was going to be different. There were almost no cars on the road. Everyone was hunkered down. Ed had to show his Congressional ID every block, because if you didn't have a reason to be by the Capitol, you weren't allowed to be there.

We drove up to Bethesda on what would be a crowded street and saw only a handful of cars.

The next day, when I went to work, there were armed guards everywhere. This, if you have not experienced it, is very unnerving. I mean, I didn't feel all that unsafe when I started my commute, but seeing lots of people with guns made me feel very unsafe. Later, these guards were replaced with tanks, and then finally, a few buildings around me installed more permanent barriers that would prevent cars from getting too close to the buildings. Even though no cars were involved in the 9/11 attacks. But, whatever, I guess people always want to do something, even if it makes no sense.

Every year in September, I cringe when I look out and see those bright blue skies that tend to fill the month. They are such a big reminder of that day. It seems to me that every year prior to this one, the memorials and gatherings, and other remembrances have been everywhere. Everybody is talking about them, people are wondering what to do. Except this year. I really haven't heard much of anything. I have heard about a lot of festivals taking place - the Takoma Park Folk Festival, Adams Morgan Day, Kennedy Center Open House for kids, even a chocolate tasting at Biagio! But I haven't seen a lot of reminders about 2001.

I always wondered how long we'd be inundated with reminders about the date. In a way, I'm glad we're collectively moving on. Nine years ago, I really felt like my life was turned upside down. I really believed there was a chance my partner wouldn't live to see his eventual retirement from his government job. I put a pair of sneakers under my desk and discussed what escape routes from the city Ed and I would take. I rode my bike to work a lot more often. It's good to have normalcy restored. It makes life easier.

But it seems impossible to me that it takes just 9 years to push this event to the collective back burner.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Day of Kindergarten?

A couple of days ago, Connor could have started Kindergarten in the Arlington County Public School System. He would've walked a few blocks to school, and been among about 80 children who entered the doors for the first time as Kindergarteners, all of whom live in our neighborhood. He would be in one of FIVE kindergarten classes.

I would've taken a photo like so many other parents did, as he set off on his first day of school. I would've cried. He would've been expected to be in class from 8:50 AM to 3:41 PM.

But I'm saving all that for next year.

Instead, Connor goes back to his beloved Waldorf school for his second year of Kindergarten. In Waldorf schools, children attend Kindergarten for (at least) two years, and the big deal there is not entering Kindergarten, but moving onto first grade. That's when you meet your class teacher, who, if all goes well, will be with the class for the next eight years. The main issue we've been dealing with recently with respect to school are all the polite inquiries complete with feigned excitment of "are you getting excited about Kindergarten?". This question always confuses Connor, because he has been in Kindergarten. And he usually tells the curious person so, which confuses the curious person because she swore Connor just announced he had turned five a few weeks ago.

Connor chose his own clothes (as you might be able to tell from the photo I snapped this afternoon - HELLO - did he grow since the end of last year? I think so.). He reported playing with E., watching a puppet show that was the same story as the one we saw together yesterday when the children went to school for an hour, and he reported it was rice day for snack, which is - by far - his favorite snack day. By 7:30 tonight, he was in bed, and ready to fall asleep. School wears him out. I remember this from last year as well.

Connor adores both of his teachers, and has a total of 15 children in his class. They will have a 16th join in November, a boy who attended his school until about Spring break of two years ago. At that point, the class will have 8 boys and 8 girls.

This year might be the best year yet! Am I nervous? A little bit. Not about what he'll be doing this year, but about how his transition next year will go. However, I tend to live in the moment with my kids, so I don't think about it much. It'll likely weigh heavily on me as Summer comes to a close next year.

Tomorrow, Helen begins school. Today, she asked if we could go together, so maybe she won't diss me at the door, as she seemed inclined to do. Whatever happens, I'm already excited about my first finger knitting project! And then we're going to be making knot dolls, a project I have not yet done.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer Growth

At the end of school year celebration, Connor's teacher gave him a marigold that was about 1 inch tall, which the teacher  had raised from a seed. Connor carefully shepherded the tiny plant home, and I watered it almost religiously. Soon enough, it outgrew its pot, and Connor chose the perfect sunny spot to plant his plant.

In case you wondered what a marigold will do with full sun, full day over the course of the summer, now you know. I had no idea these plants could get so big, and Connor and I are both terribly pleased that we'll be able to give Mr. K. this photo this morning when school starts back up. (And wow am I thankful that Mr. K. didn't give him a bean, because Connor might be making daily trips up to visit the giants if he had!)

Here's to another great year!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Someday, Helen will beg me to give her this advice

On Friday, Helen will finally get to go to school. She's been looking forward to this day ever since she first dropped Connor off on the playground last year. She believes she ought to be in Connor's class. Unfortunately for her, Connor's class is for children at least age 4.5.

Connor has explained to Helen over and over that parent-child class at school is fun! He talks about his teacher, Mrs. T., and Helen has seen the classroom from when she's walked by it to get to Connor's classroom. She adores it. Selfishly, I have so many fond memories of that class from when Connor was in it and Helen had just been born that I can't wait to get back in it myself.

But the problem for Helen? She knows that someone has to be the parent in her parent-child pair, and she'd rather fly solo.

At the beginning of the summer, she announced often to me that she didn't need me to go to school with her. She could go by herself. Finally, I told her it was a parent-child class and unless she had a parent, she couldn't get in. This sufficed for a while.

Today, she announced again that she did NOT need me to go to school with her. I told her that indeed, she did. She argued a bit and finally I said this.

"Helen, we will go to class together on Friday. You don't have to walk in at the same time I do, and you can just pretend I'm not there the whole time. You can sit by whomever you want, and play with whatever you want."

She nodded her agreement with this plan and excitedly said "Yes!".

We'll see what her tune is on Friday, but I'm expecting a very different experience with her than I had with Connor. When Connor entered the class, he had just turned 2, and he was very much still attached to me. He loved being right by my side, and it took a while for him to be comfortable playing very far from me.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Two Tales of a Quiet Helen

Last Spring, I spent a day doing backbreaking labor (while Ed monitored sandbox painting). I turned the entire garden (which is relatively large), I then installed weed fabric, and finally, planted the garden out. It was exhausting. But oh, it was going to be fabulous. For starters, I did not plant regular tomatoes, because every year the birds or squirrels, or some other nuisance eats them before I can pluck them. Not this year. Cherry tomatoes only - and we had plenty. I also didn't battle weeds, because that weed fabric totally works. For weeks, I saw the most enormous melon vines grow. They produced probably 100 flowers that turned into melons, maybe more. And then the melons starting getting bigger, and bigger, and then they disappeared. One by one, almost every melon was plucked from its vine. We ate a few, but not that many. It's totally Ed's fault because he finally put a bungee cord on our trash can, so the raccoon that visits had to find another food source. Prior to the bungee cord, the fu**er would dine on clam shells recovered from our trash as it sat on our car.

But no more. On Friday, I decided to pull the remains of the garden. Every bit of it. Then I instructed Ed to pour grass seed on it as soon as possible, lest I become optimistic over the winter and decide to plant a garden again. I guess next year will not be the year I cross off #9 on my bucket list.

So on Saturday, we had a big day of yard work planned - oh, the fun! After breakfast, Helen busied herself by getting dressed, finding her hat and putting it on, putting on her sunglasses, going to the pantry and getting herself a little snack bag of peanuts, and then putting her shoes on. She was preparing to walk out the door when Ed found her, and doused her with sunscreen. For the record, she would've put that on, too, if she were able to reach the shelf I store it on. This probably marks the most productive, undirected period of Helen's entire existence. Typically when she's quiet, she's slowly plotting to either take over the world or destroy it. Sometimes both.

Which leads me to today, when she was similarly quiet. The results were a bit different this time. She was outside, playing near her sink. I looked up from inside my kitchen to see all three neighbor boys laughing and looking across our shared driveway in Helen's direction. They were looking at this.

Win some, lose some.


Friday, September 3, 2010

A Long Ride Home Can Ruin Everything

Connor hated the car when he was a baby. In fact, he was around 14 months old when he stopped screaming in the car with virtual certainty. And that was a blessing. It completely changed my willingess to use my car. Prior to that, rather than drive to the grocery store about a mile away, I would walk if I just needed a few things and Connor was with me. We'd walk everywhere we could, in fact, or I would run my errand when Ed was around so Connor could stay with him rather than get in the car. Ed did the same thing.

When we finally attempted our first long trip to Chincoteague, we left the house around 5 in the morning, drove until Connor woke up, played at a park, and then headed to Chincoteague at naptime. We were not about to risk awake car time. And even though Connor is quite pleasant in the car these days (although Helen is exhausting with her non-stop chatter), Ed and I still think twice before we get in the car. The memories of the screaming are strong.

After our very wonderful Chincoteage trip over July 4th, this past year, we drove home. Neither Helen nor Connor were excited to be in the car. And they let us know.

By the end of the car ride, we were all in  a negative frame of mind, and Ed and I were really doing our best not to let that anger show. At some point, Connor let me know that it had been a horrible vacation.

So right when we got home, we made two lists. First, we made a list of the things Connor insisted we do the next time we went to Chincoteague. All of the items on this list were put there because he either didn't get to do them and wanted to (and complained mightily about the injustice on the way home!), or he didn't get to do them as much as he wanted.

1. Get a toy.
2. Go to Mr. Whippy
3. Ride the ponies at Chincoteague Pony Center.
4. Ride the convertibles. (Little tiny cars that can be driven around Chincoteague.)
5. Golf - and not on Sunday because Connor doesn't want to play on the course with bumper baots. He wants to do a new one. Helen, however, likes the golf course with bumper boats.

Next, we made a list of all of the things we did get to do in Chincoteague. Connor had so much fun making this list, that by the end, he had remembered what an incredibly fun trip we had. It turned his whole mood around.

1. Rode the ponies at Chincoteague Pony Center.
2. We went to the beach.
3. We went to the golf course with the bumper boats.
4. We went to the Nature Center with the touch tatnk and Connor and Eamon held horseshoe crabs.
5. We went to Mr. Whippy's.
6. We rode Captain Barry's boat.
7. We rode bikes.
8. We played Trouble. (Thank you, Eamon!)
9. We ate cheese poofs (contributed by Helen).
10. We played with Helen's toys. Helen played with the cooking pot.
11. Connor rode a wave.
12. We went to the carnival.
13. We saw fireworks.
14. Mommy bought a pink hat.
15. Helen got a cupcake and Connor and Mommy got doughnuts.
16. We bured Helen and Connor in sand.
17. We went clamming with Captain Barry. Mommy found a lot. Connor, Helen, and Eamon dug them out.
18. Therese cooked periwinkles and we all ate them. We picked them with Captain Barry.
19. We went crabbing with Captain Barry and ate them for dinner.
20. We built a fort and animal hospital on the front porch.
21. We caught toads.
22. We walked to the lighthouse.
23. Connor crawled when a wave tried to wash him away.

Next time, I'm going to try and get Connor to make this list in the car rather than once we get home. It might make the drive more pleasant!