Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring break MA trip

Way back in November Tim's dad asked us to surprise his mom on her 65th birthday with a visit for the week of spring break.  He actually offered to fly us there, making it an offer we couldn't refuse.  But Tim turned him down and told me we'd drive.  I was like, 'No way, are you crazy?'  After a brief attempt to persuade me that the 14-hour drive is not so bad, he was soon shopping for plane tickets.  It seemed like the day was forever away, but now it's already over and done.  We left last Saturday early in the morning and got back the night before Easter.

It was our first time flying as a family of five, and it went really well.  We did a direct flight from Raleigh to Boston and back, so we wouldn't have the hassle of changing planes.  Tim was pre-checked for security both times, so he and the kids just zipped through and only I had to do the x-ray machine and all that.  As many time-consuming steps there are to the whole process -- the 2.5-hour drive to the Raleigh airport, the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport, the walking, the waiting, the flight itself, then getting bags, getting our rental car, and driving the hour to his sister's house -- it's almost as long of a day as driving.  In fact it was about a 10-hour day, because we woke up at 3 a.m. to get ready and leave for the airport, our flight landed in Boston at 11, and we didn't end up at Karen's until about 1:30 or 2.  But it all felt like it went by so much faster than sitting on our butts hour after hour in a car.  And then to not have to deal with all that traffic from northern VA to New York and beyond, made it all worth it to me.

The kids behaved well.  They were excited to be flying. The girls carried their own boosters and backpacks full of toys from place to place.  Timmy trotted along with his little puppy lunch box full of cars and trucks.  He loved the shuttle rides and cheerfully said goodbye to the drivers whenever we'd get off.  The plane had TV screens on the back of every seat, and we were given full-size (snack size, but not the miniscule airline size I'm used to) bags of chips and pretzels during the flight.  Right about the time we were thinking, 'we did it!' and were about to drive from Logan airport to Karen's house, we had our only hiccup.  Tim went to install Timmy's carseat and the girls' boosters in the backseat of the Toyota Camry we'd rented, and they wouldn't fit no matter what he did.  Tim quickly regretted his last-minute decision to change our rental from minivan to sedan, thinking we'd save some money.  He figured they'd fit because when I'd had to rent a car after the accident a couple years ago, I'd been able to fit three carseats across in an equivalent sedan.  Now we understand that three carseats across is doable, but one carseat and two boosters with armrests is not. So we waited in the parking lot for about 20 minutes while he went back inside to rent another car.  We were very hungry for lunch by that point, and the kids were restless.  That was the hardest part of the day.  Tim came back outside with the keys to a brand new Chevy Traverse, and that would cost $200 more for the week.  Ouch.  But soon we were on the Mass Pike bound for Karen's house.

Once there, we ate some lunch we'd picked up from Dunkin Donuts, and then waited for their parents to arrive.  Tim Sr and Carolyn were to stop by before Mass to look at Karen's broken icemaker.  This family loves to do surprises, and they especially like to surprise Carolyn.  Tim and Delaney paid a surprise visit a couple years ago, and long before he had me and the kids I know Tim came home unannounced many times throughout his Marine Corps career.  "Is it even possible to surprise her anymore?"  I asked at one point in the weeks previous to this trip.  For him, there's never any doubt.

Tim's other sisters Sam and Kathy came over with their girls and we took this picture of all the cousins while we waited for their grandparents to arrive.
Left to right: Alexa (10), Delaney (6), Annie (4), Timmy (2), Juliana (11), Natalie (5), Sofia (9)
Finally, the big moment!  You might need to click over from email to see the video.
That evening we joined Grandma and Grandpa for Mass and then it was back to their house for a birthday party with extended family.  After dinner and dessert, Juliana played her guitar and sang Taylor Swift songs with her sister Alexa.  Sofia played her flute.  Juliana also found "Carolina" by Parmalee on her iPad for Delaney to sing along to.  I thought I took video of that but I can't find it so I guess I didn't after all.  Too bad because it was cute.  Performances of one kind or another are common at every family gathering.  These kids love music, singing and dancing, and the adults love to watch.  Only no jumping or stomping because the curio cabinet might fall.  Ever since the oldest of these energetic girls reached toddlerhood, that has been the fear.  
After that very long day we left the girls for a sleepover with their cousins, and took Timmy back to Karen's with us where we all soon collapsed.  The next day was a lazy Sunday for me (thanks to Tim waking up with Timmy), and later, more birthday festivities just for immediate family.  After that everyone went outside.  Saturday through Monday were warm and sunny, and everyone was so happy after an exceptionally rough winter up there.
We took full advantage of our last warm and sunny day in the forecast by taking the kids fishing in the morning with Tim Sr.  Juliana and Alexa played hooky from school to join us.  This was the first time our kids had been fishing and I think they had a lot of fun even though the fish weren't being too cooperative.  When Annie and Timmy lost interest, Juliana and I took them to the playground right down the road.  Delaney and Alexa caught a fish each after we left, I think.  For a rooky fisherman, I think Delaney had a lot of patience because they all lasted about an hour after we left for the playground.
Before going back to raid their kitchen for leftovers, we stopped at the bank to say hi to Grandma.  She is 65 years old and NOT retiring.  Her reasons: she likes her job as head teller, and she does not want to spend her days at home with her husband who is retired.  He would drive her crazy more than he does already.  He was able to arrange in advance for her to have a couple days off while we were visiting.  Note the time and temperature behind her.  The next day would be quite a different story.
The following morning we woke up to snow on the ground.  Snow!  It was coooold again.  And by the way, we came to town with no outerwear whatsoever.  We wanted to pack light so we'd already decided to get by without jackets, but I had intended to at least grab the kids' sweatshirts before we left for the airport.  It wasn't until we'd made the 2 1/2 hour drive there that I realized I'd forgotten them.  The girls were able to borrow from their cousins until we got them something new, but we just kept Timmy indoors until we came up with something for him.  Sweatshirts are scarce at stores this time of year.  

For the rest of the week, we did mostly indoor things.  We went shopping a couple times.  We planned our Disney trip for June -- eeeek!  This was decided only two weeks ago when Tim mentioned to his dad that we wouldn't have a home for a few weeks after we move.  He said it sounded like a good time to do Disney.  Disney has been brought up many times in the last few years, but up until recently we've been able to say we've got a baby or a toddler, and it wouldn't be any fun with a kid that little.  Now we have no babies or toddlers, Tim's not deployed, Timmy will be not yet three (so still free), we will have nowhere else to be, and our kids are their only grandkids that they haven't been to Disney with.  We've run out of excuses.  I love how everyone -- friends and family -- upon hearing about our Disney plans says, "You'll have fun!"  In the next breath comes their favorite Disney horror stories.  And you'd better believe, everyone has at least one.  (Think rude people gnawing on turkey legs and ramming their strollers into the legs of the elderly.)  Big crowds scare me so it isn't hard to imagine.  But my Disney planner knows this, and we are doing perhaps a lighter itinerary than some other people would prefer.  Day 1, for example will be Epcot in the morning and a character lunch, followed by the afternoon spent at our resort at the pool.  And there is relief in knowing I always have the option to take a bus back to the resort if it gets to be too much.  For me and the kids, it will be our first time there.  Yes, we are going to Disney.  It is happening.  Carolyn and Karen have bought their plane tickets and we will go immediately after the St. Augustine vacation with my family.  We have booked a resort and even have dinner and lunch reservations made for most of the days.  I will have to follow up with the planner about Day 2.  Everything must be planned ahead or we will be lost.  It's going to be a crazy June.  I hope after all that there is a house ready for us to move into on Parris Island.  We'll be needing a breather!

What else..?  We took the girls to Claire's to get their ears pierced.  They were both very brave.  We went to the Ecotarium one day, where Tim's parents' neighbor works as a wildlife expert or something.  After we walked around by ourselves, she met with us and gave us a private tour and showed us more animals.  That was fun.  We ate a lot of yummy food that Tim Sr cooked for us.  Tim and I went out to eat and shopping by ourselves, got reacquainted with the Mass Pike and the crazy toll plazas with most cars whizzing to the left and the right like they're supposed to, and a couple of them stopping dead in the road in front of us (bad).  I unsuccessfully tried to maintain my avoidance of sweets for the final days of Lent (a feat for even the most iron-willed individuals, in Tim's childhood home).  Tim was disappointed in me when I broke down and ate that freshly-baked peanut butter cookie, but what was I to do?  It had been sitting under my nose for the last 20 minutes!  On Friday night, the kids all had another sleepover at their grandparents', and Tim and I went to a party and both got to imbibe, with Karen as our designated driver.

Here are some more pictures in no particular order.
Natalie and Annie looking more like sisters than cousins
I've never cared much for reptiles, but that bearded dragon was as cute and charming as could be, and if I knew how to keep anything alive besides my kids, I would love to have him for a pet.

All the kids enjoyed the change of scenery, and getting to see family and flying and whatnot, but Timmy -- my smiley guy, my social butterfly -- was in his glory this week.  His heart was full to bursting with all the love he felt for everybody and everything he encountered along the way.  I tried to take note of whenever he said something that made me chuckle.  Here are my favorite Timmy quotes:

To Juliana: I love your pink shirt.

To anyone listening: I loooove Grandpa, and I love trucks.

To Tim and me: Grandpa loves me very much.

Timmy: Who was that? (indicating the cashier at the airport long-term parking lot)
Tim:  That was Glenn.
Timmy: I love Glenn.
We kept it together very well on the way TO Massachusetts, but on the day we traveled back here we were a ragtag group.  The kids were lagging as we went from place to place through the airport.  Maybe because it was the middle of the day they didn't have the energy they'd had starting out the week before.  Also because enthusiasm was a little lacking with this being the return trip.  Tim kept hurrying along as if he didn't know we weren't right behind him, as focused as he was on catching the shuttle from the rental car agency to the terminal.  He didn't hear me when I called for him to slow down because I had a kid who'd insisted on pulling along a heavy suitcase, which then toppled over when she tried to pull it over a curb, which required me to go back and pick it up, but kids were still going..  I kept calling out, "We need to move along because your father is not waiting for us!"  I might have also mentioned to anyone who cared to hear that I was going to kill him.  Thank God there didn't happen to be any cars driving down the road at that time.    
It was a very long day.  Timmy slept through the flight to Raleigh, which took us to 6:15.  We had to walk about a half a mile to baggage claim, and wait about 10 minutes for our bags.  After that we took another shuttle to the park and ride, where our chariot awaited.  We got on the road at about 7.  We were hungry for dinner so we stopped at a Subway about an hour from home.  The girls picked at their quarters of a footlong, and mostly ate chips.  Timmy wolfed down the other half of the footlong himself.  I devoured mine hungrily, all the while wondering how I could have so many toppings on it, and still all of it tasted the same, like cardboard.  Tim wondered how we could have such a crappy little dinner and it still cost $30.  Then we were back on the road.  The girls fell fast asleep but Timmy was wired and chatting with us nonstop.  After awhile his happy chatter turned somewhat less happy.  Then a little bored.  A little discontented.  Sad.  Very sad.  Mad.  Very mad.  By the time we reached the final five miles of the trip he was screeching out a note of pure anguish that I can't even remember hearing from him ever before.  I just sighed and said, "Poor guy."  I reached back to hold his hand and he gripped my fingers tightly, his eyes so big and sad.  It took him all of yesterday and half of today to recover from that.  Even still, I know we had a way easier day than we would have had driving the whole way.  

While the rest of us slept soundly at 5:45 a.m., Tim rose and went to Walmart for all the makings of our Easter feast.  If it had been up to me, who knows what we would have eaten that day?  PBJ?  Pancakes?  But my husband, bless him, went to Walmart at 6 in the morning so we could have a delicious dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, veggies and rolls.  He prepared it all himself, and we ate it on the "fancy" placemats and used the "fancy" napkins (according to the kids).  This made the day considerably nicer, especially since I'd been ready for it to be a little sad since it was the day after we had said goodbye to family.  And for that I forgive him for leaving us behind at the airport.  

And that was the end of a great spring break.  I am so glad we took this trip and got to have this time together.  We miss them all a lot, and even though Disney looms, I am still looking forward to June.


  1. I'm so excited you're going to Disney! I think you will have SO much fun. We went recently and honestly, I don't think I can think of a single horror story, it was just so, so, so much fun! Definitely go the route of less is more - we did plenty of days where it was just a half day at the park followed by swimming at the resort. The kids didn't care! And, I was happy to see you've planned/booked a lot of your dining already. That was probably our only stress, that we didn't book dinner dining for every night and had to scramble two of the nights. But, otherwise, it seriously was so much fun!

    1. Thanks, Jodi! Honestly, the first time I saw your Disney planning post, it didn't even occur to me that any of it would soon apply to my life. But as soon as I knew we were going, I read back through it and tried to follow your advice. I wanted to stay at the Polynesian, but the military discount rooms were booked. My SILs and MIL all said that they enjoyed Pop Century, so that's where we're staying. I also argued in favor of no meal plan, but everyone else was IN favor, so I lost on that one. Hopefully we don't eat too much junk. And yes, I got right to work with the planner, making sure we had one sit-down meal every day. It's going to be an adventure, that's for sure.