Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 16: Way up north

Fargo, North Dakota

Keep wanting to post, but planning for our last big push through Yellowstone and California, dealing with a flat tire, and mostly a great week with friends and family in their homes are taking up my time. Anyway, we're just about through all 48 states, with North Dakota being #46. Just had to post from here for the randomness of it - catching up with old friends from Florida way up north here. (Yes Karla, if we're old, you're almost old ;-)).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 11: Going and coming

Champaign, Illinois

We're back in of our most recent "home" towns, spending days with generous friends who share their basement, food, and laundry room with us. After a 24 hour-long blip into Canada (Niagara Falls), a year-long blip away from this city, and a years-long blip from Michigan relatives, we're reminded of the sweetness of the familiar. It takes guts or sometimes just circumstances to yank us out of the familiar, but there's something about leaving that later lets us come back with a new sense of awe and appreciation. It's good to get away, so I stop and notice things like...

Restaurant names and prices that are American.

Extended family that understands being over 6-6 and shares your career path and looks like you. (OK, that one is John's - I know nothing about being 6-6!)

Friends, both parents and kids, that you can pick right up with every time you meet. Watching your friends' kids grow up and being able to play with them. As one of the girls prayed, "thank you God for friends that you know really love you."

Prairie clouds and rainbows that fill up the entire sky, from the ground up, and flat land to look across for miles in every direction. Peace and quiet.

A room shared with no small children, a late and lazy morning, a quiet afternoon.

The strangest thing about all of these things - I haven't grabbed my camera to capture any of them. For all the thousands of snapshots that I take, somehow it just feels most fitting be in the moment in the best of times.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 7 - Rules to live by?

Syracuse, New York

We've spent the last couple of days weaving our way through the mountains of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Everything is vibrant and green this time of year, and New Englanders definitely know how to do summer right - the Main Streets, flowers, and American flags in between postcard mountain views are pretty cool. If, that is, we had time to appreciate the fact that we were crawling along at 25 mph on the slowest going road trip days we've ever had.

Which is the nice way of saying that yesterday, after 360 miles and 6 hours, we were a nice mix of burnt out, frustrated, angry and other nice things like that. (I once read that couples that stay together are the one who camp together, because camping tends to involve learning to survive serious spurts of misery. If camping isn't your thing, might I suggest multi-day road trips with little kids?)

At the end of the day, there were two things that I want to remember.

1. Eat at McDonald's more often. We pulled into one for a quick dinner, and ended up eating in because White River Junction, Vermont apparently turns into a parking lot at 5 p.m. Turned out that there was a family with a 5 year old + 2-year-old triplet boys and another mom with a 2 year old plus 3 month-old-twins there also, all in our little corner. I've never felt so comfortable with my four rowdy kids, and so aware of how much ALL parents of little ones need to feel completely happy with feeding their kids easy, unhealthy food on a semi-regular basis.

2. Shamelessly sit in a desk chair on the front motel sidewalk with my husband more often. Carving out a little chill time apart from the kids is critical, and mid-trip it's either out front with the bikers or perched on the toilet and tub while the four of them slowly fall asleep. Neither one may be classy, but either one works to have hard conversations like - "when you said you were sick of this damn road trip and it was time to put me and the boys on a plane, did you mean it?" I hate how easy it is to get mad at each other, and it's always hard to talk through it. I don't know how people manage it for 50 years, but we did go to bed back on the same page and still friends. (Tonight, the hashing it out happened at the playground, and then we perched on the toilet/tub in peace later. There is no other way to do relationships that one hard day at a time, is there?!)

In between eating junk food with my kids and ranting lovingly with my husband, I will continue to survive on the kind or at least funny words of others too (and try to spread some of my own). The kind words of strangers do not cease to amaze and encourage me along the way - as simple as "you'll make it, and you have a beautiful family" or here, "you go ahead in line". Or my absolute favorite line ever in reaction to the twins from a girl at the playground - "Oh, they're twins? I have a twin in Antarctica." I was left speechless.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 4: Maine-ly miscellaneous

Bar Harbor, Maine

In which I recollect the excitement thus far… (To see what the heck we are doing in Maine and where we are going, see here.)

Day 1 – On which Danny decides to kick off the fun by waking up at 5:15 AM. On which John goes out to load up our last few bags, only to discover that I left the interior lights on last night and the battery is dead. This is a wretched way to begin a 4500 mile road trip. Somehow, he managed to not verbalize or even act on all that rage, causing me to be hopelessly in love with him again. Once on the road, the ease of travel is amazingly better than last year’s trip, namely the fact that bottles and breastpumps a la car are no where to be found. Chasing toddlers at rest stops is kind of treacherous, but I’ll take it.

Our kids are growing up with a keen gratitude for the little things in life (or very middle class taste). They think our Connecticut Hojo room that night is amazing and spacious, despite the various off smells that are thick in the room and hallways. Add a rotisserie chicken and $1.25 generic orange sherbet for dinner (Abby professes her love for the poor little dead chicken about 20x), and a supercool post-dinner playground trip, and they could not be happier. Even I swoon a bit over the cheap mattresses, which beat the air mattresses in our empty house from the past two nights. Never felt better to have a bed and a bistro table so close by!

Day 2 – On which we loath the green-dotted scenic routes in the atlas and Google Maps for saying it was a short drive and me for insisting we take the scenic route instead of the interstate. It was not any more scenic than I-95 and took an hour longer than expected. The boys stated in no uncertain terms that it was one more hour than their little butts could handle, and when they scream, we agree in misery.

However, we made it to Maine, a new state for all six of us, and ate lunch with a view of the ocean. We were serenaded with storefront signs introducing us to all things Maine-ly Motors and Maine-ly Ice Cream and Maine-ly Lobsters. Purple lupine along the road were beautiful, and the hotel at the end of the day was lovely too. If our empty house made Hojo seem palatial the night before, this next place is divine. A view of the bay/islands/ocean, towels thick enough to call fluffy, a continental breakfast with a toaster too, and only the smell of bleach to greet us.

Day 3 – On which John declares that he will never travel off season again, due to the fact that off season apparently equals weather that probably sucks. The prices are better, but after our water view disappeared into a hazy white mist from ground to sky and the temps hover around 50, and we put on every layer we have to go hike in the rain, we are a bit jaded. That said, it was the longest hike we’ve ever done with all the kids (3.2 whopping miles) and dubbed by Rachel to be “the most awesome place” she’d ever been. (Until Abby asked – “even better than Disneyland?” – and she conceded that Disney would come first.) We decide to extend our stay an extra day to chase the sunshine that they say is coming.

Day 4 – On which I started to have no complaints, until I find out for myself that our hotel internet is slower than what I had in the 90s and I have recollected all these things twice now! Speaking of twice, twins are twice as nice, but one will inevitably fuss and hurry you through your morning, even if they are carried at will, have ocean vistas in every direction, and a lovely sandy beach complete with edible goldfish to wrap it all up. Fortunately, their smiles and cheeks are irresistibly cute, and all is forgiven. Finally saw the quintessential rocky Maine coast complete with a few lobster boats and enough sun to make a shiny spot in the clouds – absolutely beautiful, and no rain today!!!

Oh yes, traveling with babies does have another upside. Nap time. It means each parent gets either a few hours to chill in a quiet room, or a few hours to hang out solo with the girls. Either way, you make out great. Can I also say that if someone came to my room and emptied the trash and made the beds and wiped the counters, I could almost get used to living in 200 sq. feet forever?!

Day 4: On the road again...

Bar Harbor, Maine

I'm re-surfacing from the craziness of life to try and journal another summer road trip... Our lives are in the midst of another big transition - a new job for the beloved Professor to whom I am married is taking us from my newly beloved East coast and back to the very neighborhood in which I grew up on the West coast. Long stories, but after months and months of knowing and planning, we left Baltimore four days ago, and are trekking across the country slowly with bits of vacation, friends, and family scattered throughout.

It's a move that was initially kind of shocking, even though we knew it was a slim possibility even before we arrived in Maryland last summer. In fact, the thought of moving back "home" felt a bit like a mega-letdown after I fled CA so many years ago! However, the job was offered, the timing seems good (especially for a fledgling prof and his full nest of school-age children), we will have the help of family near by, and so here we go!

Amidst all of the planning and spending of the move, I'm coming to grips with the fact that stuff is, well, just stuff. Giving away stuff, finding a new place to live (always full of give-and-take), worrying about the accounting of it all. Stuff is just stuff, money is just money. It's all going to be gone someday anyway, so why waste TOO much time stressing about it, eh? My natural inclination to do just the opposite of that, but maybe I'm growing a bit older and wiser by year.

Oh, and then besides stuff there are the people. If there is one thing that is on my mind as we said goodbye to a few dear friends in Maryland and started a few weeks of living in a van plus 200 sq. ft of nightly living space (which I have an odd affection for most days), it's that the people are really the ones that get you through, and that you can't live without, and that you will be living with and needing forever! Again, a bit against my natural independent instincts, but maybe I'm learning...

Anyhow, now that I've explained how we aren't in Baltimore anymore, I can move on to journaling the adventures here and there along our trip and then "on living in the OC".