Tag Archives: summer

Thrilling Hero-ics

Thrilling Hero-ics

I should probably follow up yesterday’s post with a What I Did On My Summer Vacation flashback.

In July, Hero got hit by a car.

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As anyone who knows her can tell you, that child is an incredibly independent soul.  Where most of her friends sit around waiting for their parents to drive them hither or yon, if she wants to see someone, she gets on her bike and goes.  Fortunately most of her friends live within two miles of the house, and she rides mostly on the sidewalks (because heaven forfend that bicycles get any respect as a mode of transport.  But that’s a rant for another day.) So on this particularly lovely Thursday in July, she was out visiting, and I was waiting for her to get home, as it was her night to make dinner.  She had wanted to try deep frying, and we had found a deep fryer at the thrift store that we were looking forward to testing out.  But it was getting late, and she wasn’t home, so I was getting cranky.  She has a bad habit of being late getting home, despite my reminders of both the carrot and stick variety.  So when her name came up on my phone, I was ready to lay into her.  What she said stopped me cold.  “Mom, I’m really sorry to bother you and I know I’m late, but I just got hit by a car.  Could you come?”

I scared the boys, who were both in the living room at the time, as I raced out the door.  I remembered my keys, wallet and phone, thankfully, as I’d be needing them all over the next couple of hours.  She wasn’t far, just at the train station a few blocks from the house, but I took the car anyway just in case.  They were right at the entrance to the station, and as I whipped into the nearest spot, I could see she was sitting up on the curb and that there didn’t seem to be any blood.  She was shaken, though.  A couple of young men helped bring her bike over as an older woman came to talk to me.  I don’t even remember what she said, other than that she’d been so scared she wet her pants.  Which I could see the truth of.  One of the young men offered her a pair of sweat pants.

Tangentially, I love these guys.  I don’t know who they are, but if I ever find them again, I’m making them cookies.  You see, there are two Pokestops for Pokemon Go right near the station, and one of them is kind of a hangout for the local players.  People put lures on both of them and can sit around in the park talking to each other and catching Pokemon.  Hero and I had both done it ourselves the week before.  These guys, though, had been out playing, saw what happened, and immediately came over to help.  Don’t ever bitch to me about Pokemon Go being a distraction and a waste of time.  It gets people out into the world, and more people in the world is a good thing.

The police showed up shortly thereafter, got our information and called an ambulance for us.  She hadn’t hit her head, but she insists that the car rolled over her leg.  She certainly had the scrapes to indicate it, although I’m not sure how her leg wasn’t broken if it had.  What we were able to figure out from the conversation is the driver didn’t see Hero riding on the sidewalk and went to turn right into traffic.  By the time Hero realized the car wasn’t stopping, it was too late for her to stop.  Fortunately they were both going slowly, or this story could have been a lot worse.

We left the officer to deal with the driver and got in the ambulance for Hero’s first ambulance ride and X-ray.  She did a great job holding it together until we were waiting in the hall for the x-ray tech.  She felt so bad to be crying, but I talked to her about shock and that she was going to be fine.  And she was.  I hated not being able to hold her hand while she was getting the x-ray, but it didn’t take very long, and she was good.

In the end, it looked like just a sprain on the top of her foot (not her ankle), so they gave her a wrap and an ice pack and sent us home with instructions to see the family doctor in a few days.  She was not happy to be sidelined in the middle of the summer, but she did like having permission to basically live on the couch.  She even slept there every night!  The PA at the doctor’s office confirmed the sprain and just told her to keep off it until it didn’t hurt.

Except it didn’t stop hurting.

She was getting around okay, so when we went camping, she just did her thing.  We aren’t hugely active when we camp, but we did do a couple of light hikes and a lot of swimming and bike riding.  And then school started and it was still hurting, so we went back to the doctor.  This time we got to see our GP, who ordered an MRI.  Joy.  Memories of my claustrophobic MRIs danced in my head, so I warned Hero as much as I could.  Except she didn’t have her head in the thing, and she got good music, so basically I came off as a big whiner.  I’m okay with that.  Once the doctor looked at the results, she recommended we go to an orthopedist, so I got an appointment at CHOP.  He looked at the results as well, and saw definite swelling along the bones of her second toe still.  He said it could just be healing slowly, but the swelling could be hiding a break, so he put her in a boot.  Now she was not a happy camper.  No biking, no swimming, and she had to stay in it unless she was sleeping or bathing.  This was the day before their placement tests in swimming class at school.  But on the plus side, now she has extra time to get to her classes, and she gets a set of elevator keys for the duration.

She has another week of the boot.  We go back to CHOP on Monday, when they’ll either release her or do another set of x-rays to get a better sense of what’s going on.  She has everything crossed for the first, but she says it still hurts, so I’m betting she’ll have some more time in the boot.  Not what an active teenager wants to hear.  After my experience last summer, I can totally sympathize.

The driver’s insurance company has been very good so far.  They gave us replacement money for her bike right away, and then gave a generous “pain and suffering” settlement.  I’ve stuck that in her savings, and with the exception of her new computer, she’s not touching it until college.  And they keep paying her medical bills without complaint, a pleasant surprise considering the unexpected MRI.  Which is all I can ask.

If it had to happen, this was probably the best way it could.  We both feel really lucky, and while she’s not scared to bike, it has made her a bit more cautious.  But I would always choose for it to not have happened.  That is the kind of phone call no parent ever wants to get.

Washington (in brief and pictures)

Washington (in brief and pictures)

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The D.C. trip was excellent!  Hard to believe it was almost two weeks ago.  Re-entry was a little rocky, but I blame the weather for that.  It can be fall any day now!

We didn’t leave here until almost 11, but made good time and got down there by 2:30.  I was most amused and a little startled to find that the hotel was the same one I stayed in when I came to D.C. for the first time my senior year in high school!  We were there early enough that once we settled in, we went out to explore the neighborhood, which was basically the Pentagon.

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Dinner was our only awkward food day.  We didn’t get a microwave in the room, but they had one in the lobby, so we went down and nuked them in public.  A little embarrassing, but it worked and was yummy!  The kids went swimming, I did some spinning, and by 10:30 we were all asleep.

Saturday was day 1 of sightseeing.  We caught the shuttle and the train and were downtown by 9:45 (the museums open at 10), which gave us time to explore.

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We started at Air and Space, where I got a picture of my Captain America Exhibit t-shirt in its home environment (that movie was a bit of a running theme for the weekend).

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Then we had lunch on the Mall before walking out towards the Lincoln Memorial and everything in between.  Only one person the whole day notice it, the cashier in the gift shop at Natural History.  He was pretty gleeful.

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(Yes, I do seem to be travelling with a posse)

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One of my favorite surprise photo ops of the trip.

By the time we walked back it was getting on to 5.  We went into Natural History for an hour and a half (thanks to Steven Universe, Hero really wanted to see the gems), and then it was dinner time.  That night was dinner out, so we found a relatively inexpensive fusion place that made huge naan burgers.

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Xander was the only one to eat all of his.

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Then home, a swim and OMG crash!

Sunday was much the same, only we did the other end of the mall.  Started at American History, where we all acknowledged after an hour that we had rather stopped learning and were just looking at things at that point.  Input saturation!  After lunch, we walked up to the Capitol, which was undergoing some pretty substantial reno.

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Pretty ironwork, though.

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On the way back, we wandered through the Botanical Gardens, which the kids surprised me by really enjoying

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and the Museum of the American Indian.

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Dinner that night was at Chez Hotel Room, and went well.  We sat up watching the first half of the special on the 2000’s, which the kids were really interested since that is all literally the length of their existence.  They got confused when I kept yelling at the tv, and quiet when I got teary.

We talked about doing something on Monday morning, but by then we were all brain fried and decided to sleep late and then get on the road.  Took the back ways to avoid traffic and tunnels in Baltimore, which was serendipitously beautiful, and made it home by 3.  Everyone had a good time but we were glad to be home!

We don’t have any more trips planned for the summer, which I’m just as happy about.  It looks like I’m going to have to get the brakes on the car done, so that takes any money I would have had for another trip anyway, and it’s probably not safe to take a long trip until I get them done.  *sigh*  Next paycheck.

So thanks for the memories, Washington, and we’ll see you again!

 

D.C. (Doin’ it Cheap)

D.C. (Doin’ it Cheap)

Months ago I scored a cheap rate on a hotel room in DC, so decided to take the kids down for a long weekend.  The younger two have never been, and it’s been a long time since Morgan went.  Plus I just love DC.  Probably because it’s the first place I ever visited on my own, back when I was a senior in high school.  But as we got closer to the day, my finances got thinner and thinner.  I didn’t want to give up the trip, but I knew there was no way I’d be able to feed this crowd by eating out every night, especially not at DC prices.  Restaurants are always expensive, and there’s really no such thing as a cheap lunch.  Even bottles of water at the museums are overpriced. So I’ve gotten creative.

We’re eating hotel room picnic style.

Taking your own food when you’re staying in a hotel room is a lot different then when you’re camping.  For one thing, you don’t have easy access to a cooking source.  We just have a regular room, not a suite, so no kitchenette, which would have made this even easier.  And the hotel we’re staying at doesn’t do free breakfast.  They do have some microwaves that you can request for your room, and they have refrigerators at an extra fee.  Yeah, no.  I did request a microwave, but my cooler will do just fine.  It will be in an air conditioned hotel room, not the back of an overheated car for four days, so it will be fine.

Since this was a special trip (we NEVER stay in hotels), though, I didn’t want to just live off camping food.  Plus I couldn’t guarantee that we’d even get one of the microwaves.  I had to plan accordingly. So, nice-ish food, minimal dependence on micro, and easy to transport and clean up.  Here’s the menu I came up with:

Friday:
Dinner – Lasagna in jars, caprese skewers

Saturday:
Breakfast – mini-quiches, croissants
Lunch – Ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit
Dinner – Out

Sunday:
Breakfast – Bagels
Lunch – Ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit
Dinner – Chicken pasta Caesar salad

Monday:
Breakfast – Out (if possible)

So, not too bad.  Some prep work, but healthy, balanced, plenty of snacks for hungry teens and easily transportable.  Of course, I had to do all the prep in 90 degree, 85% humidity.  That was NOT fun.  But it will be worth it.

Tuesday after work I went to the store for everything.  Hell, I even bought bottled water.  I never buy bottled water, but it just seemed easier.  $137 for everything, which isn’t much more than going out once or twice would be.  Then I went home and started cooking.

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The lasagna in jars was actually pretty easy.  I cooked up egg noodles and tossed them with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking.  Browned hamburger, onion and green pepper, then added a can and a half of spaghetti sauce (yes, yes, sacrilege, I was on the clock).  In a separate bowl, mixed a container of ricotta, a cup of mozza and a couple handfuls of parm with some chopped parsley.  Then I got out six pint mason jars and started layering.  I would rather have done It in wide mouthed jars, but I didn’t have any, so I went with what I had.  Thankfully I did have a jar funnel, which made things easier.  I put a little sauce on the bottom of each jar, then noodles, sauce, cheese, repeat to the top, ending with a little sauce and cheese.  I added some extra mozzarella on top just for a little browning.  You might want to tamp down lightly as you fill it, but don’t pack it tight.  Leave a little head room at the top.  Then pop them in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until they melt and brown up a bit.  You can serve them directly if you want, or cool them, put lids on them and stick them in the freezer like I did.  They’ll keep longer and help keep the cooler cold!  This is the only meal that’s dependent on the microwave.  I think they’d be pretty nasty cold.

I wanted a vegetable to go with this, but we’re having salad as a meal that weekend, so another one seemed like overkill. Then I found these grape sized mozzarella balls at the grocery store and was inspired.  Got those, a box of grape tomatoes, some basil and toothpicks.  That night I’ll have the kids skewer them up and I’ll drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic that I mixed up ahead.  Voila, fancy veg!

Next up were the quiches.  Easy peasy.  Cooked up half a pound of bacon in the microwave (tick tock), chopped it up, grated 6 ounces of cheddar, chopped up some more parsley, then cracked 12 eggs, mixed them up with a cup of heavy cream, salt and pepper, added all the stuff and mixed it in.  I was worried they would stick too much to my old muffin tins, so I dropped in muffin papers and sprayed them with vegetable oil.  Then each one got about a third of a cup of the egg mixture.  I got 18 individual quiches out of that.  Put those in the same 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, and they came out perfectly.  We tested one, both to see if we liked them and if the papers would come off.  They did!  And the quiches were perfect.  Two or three of those with a croissant, butter, jam and some of the fruit, and we’ll have a pretty nice breakfast!

The chicken pasta Caesar is even easier.  Rotisserie chicken from the store sliced up, a package of shredded parmesan, package of croutons and a jar of our favorite Caesar dressing and we were good.  All I needed to do was pre-cook the pasta, half a box of farfalle that I tossed with olive oil and shoved in a ziploc in the fridge.  Boom, there’s dinner.  I just put a serving’s worth of everything in a large tupperware storage box, shake it up and dinner is served.  If we have the microwave, we can warm up the chicken, but if not, no biggie, it will still be good.  If we come across some nice bread in our travels, we can add that to the mix, but it’s a meal in itself, so we don’t really need extras.

Lunch is kind of prosaic, but portable.  And easy to put together in the hotel room  I bought a variety pack of chips, which they never get usually, so that adds some special, and then maybe we can stop somewhere for ice cream to up the fun. I also got those squeezable water enhancers, so they can just refill one water bottle all day and flavor it as they go.

So there we go.  Schmancy eating on a not so schmancy budget.  Expect reports from the field over the next 4 days (and possible a post on my attendance at a live Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me show tonight which threw my packing plans into chaos!)

Away with the Ponies (again!)

Away with the Ponies (again!)

I wrote a beautiful, long, detailed post on my phone, but when I attempted to post it, the app tried twice, failed, and then ate the draft.  So yeah, sorry about that.

Let’s try again.

We had a pretty leisurely start to the day.  The nice thing about camping just a few hours away is that you don’t have to rush.  Once we got the last of everything loaded and the bikes on, it was about 9:00.  We stopped for money, gas and breakfast, and were on our way by 9:45.  Perk of going so early, we’re after the morning rush but before the beach rush.  Traffic was smooth sailing, and it’s a very familiar route for me.  Had I known how close Assateague was to where my old coven is based, we would have gone much sooner.

We got to the park check-In around 1:30.  The kids had to use the restroom, but there wasn’t one in the ranger station, so they went over the road to the beach facilities while I checked us in.  Which was when we saw our first pony of the trip.

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Yes, I know it’s a crappy picture.  There will be better ones.  The kids saw him, too, so we were all a bit giddy as we headed to our campsite.

I had screwed up our reservation, so we were camping on the bay side of the island instead of the ocean side.  The campsites were all very exposed, but that’s to be expected on a barrier island.  That said, they were nice sites, roomy and accessible.

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We decided to have lunch before setting up, which was when I discovered the first disaster.  In my “careful” checklist walkthrough, I never actually checked the silverware drawer in the camping kitchen to make sure it had, you know, silverware.  It didn’t.  So we ended up sharing one spoon between us to eat the potato salad.  *sigh*

We’re getting good at setting up camp.  About 45 minutes later, it looked like this.

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The bikes were parked under the hedge to the right, the food all stashed in the car as it should be, so we were officially camping!

Next up was errands.  We went to the Visitor’s Center to get a sense of the place, which was good in a lot of ways.  We saw the movie about wildlife on the island, especially about the ponies, and we learned about the environmental activities of the park.  None of us were very happy to discover all the bathrooms were pit toilets (bringing back nightmares from my camping as a child), but they use them because of the fragility of the island.  They’re actually vault tanks, so the waste isn’t leeching into the soil and they are easy to move as needed due to erosion and shoreline changes.  I felt better about it knowing there was an actual reason for it.  I got our pins and patches, and then we headed out for firewood.

I’d seen the firewood guy recommended in several different places, so we drove back the 5 miles to his stand.  The recommendation did not fall short.  Good, dry wood, a mix of soft and hard.  We got all we’d need for the weekend for $20.  On the way back we stopped at the island store for plasticware to get us through the weekend.  Hero and I laughed at the “I gave blood at Assateague” stickers with a big mosquito on it.  That would come back to bite us.  Literally.

We got back to camp, unloaded the firewood and decided it was time for a swim.  The park is wonderfully laid out for biking, so we changed, grabbed our towels, hopped on the bikes and headed out the 1/4 mile to the beach.  It’s a really nice beach, easy access by boardwalk, quartz sand (my favorite), and lots of shells.  We dropped and headed to the water.  Just before the water’s edge, I found hoof prints.  I turned to shout up to Morgan, only to see the ponies who had left them in the water themselves a couple hundred yards further up the beach!  Morgan took pictures, which I’ll share once he gets them up somewhere.

The water was perfect, cool but not cold, and the waves were perfect for body surfing.  We spent about 45 minutes cooling off before heading back to camp for a well earned dinner.

We had a surprise waiting for us.

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This is Clyde.  We felt justified in naming him, considering the fact that he spent most of the evening in our campsite, much of it in exactly this position.  We had learned from the video back at the Visitor’s Center that a pony standing in this position, one back leg cocked, is actually taking a nap.  We aren’t supposed to go near them, no closer than a bus length away, so we waited for him to wake up and move on so we could start dinner.  Except he didn’t.  Occassionally he’d put a foot down and we’d think this was it, only to have him switch legs and go back to sleep.  After 45 minutes of this, I sent the kids off for a bike ride, as Xander especially was getting really frustrated.  Meanwhile, I waited.

Which was when I started noticing the bugs.

Now, I’d been warned that the bugs were bad.  But for me, bad bugs meant you had to put on bug spray if you sat around the fire in the evening.  I’d gotten bug bands.  We had spray.  We’d be fine.  Oh, such innocence.  But at the time, I didn’t realize what I was in for.  So I took a tip from the horses and used a dish towel as a swish, back and forth over my shoulders as I waited on this horse.  Finally, though, finally, he started moving.

Between the tents.

First, he had a pee.  Thankfully not ON either of the tents, but dead in between.  I have a better frame of reference for pissing like a racehorse now.  Then he started eating.  He made his way back and around the tent, despite there being only about six inches between the tent and the hedge, then slowly came around the other side.  We’re going on over an hour now, and I’m starting to feel a little desperate.  Were we going to get to eat?  You weren’t supposed to get food out around the horses, because they will literally knock you over to get into your cooler.  Were we going to get to go to bed?  He was a lot closer to our tent than a bus length.  At this point, one of the campground hosts came through on her rounds, so I waved her down and explained the dilemma.  She offered to get a ranger to come chase him off, but I felt guilty about that, so I turned her down.  When she came back through ten minutes later and he was still there, I accepted.  The rangers came through and used a bottle with a couple of stones in it as a noisemaker to chase him off, although that may more have been the uniform.  Apparently the horses recognize the uniforms of the rangers and keep away from them.  I certainly wasn’t going to try it myself.  But at least I could get dinner started.

That wasn’t the last we’d see of Clyde, though.  After dinner, I started the fire for dish water, forgetting that we wanted to go walk on the beach that evening.  So I sent the kids off while I minded the fire and read.  The first time Clyde came back, a ranger came through shortly thereafter and I didn’t hesitate to have him chase him off.  I asked the ranger about going to bed, and he said we’d be fine as long as we didn’t have any food in the tent and we didn’t leave anything open.  Well, the food thing I was programmed for from bear country, so that wasn’t a problem.  Finally when he came back the second time, I’m like, “Yeah, whatever, horse,” and just kept reading while he ate his way across the site.

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We ended up as background in pictures for a bunch of our neighbors.  Eventually he seemed satisfied that he’d made his point about whose campsite this actually was and moved on on his own.  He wandered around a bit, left a dump in the middle of the road (thankfully not in anyone’s campsite) and headed out into the sunset.  Kind of literally.

By now it was twilight, and the mosquitos were getting bad.  The bug bands were doing nothing, and even the spray wasn’t helping too much.  I hid in the car and worked on the post that you didn’t get to read while the kids did dishes, but by 9:30, we were all in the tent, exhausted but content and safely away from the worst of the bugs.

The next morning our neighbors all started rising stupidly early.  I mean, 5:30 a.m. stupid.  The kids slept through it, but I was wide awake.  It was a run day, and I figured since I was up, I’d get an early morning run out of the way.  I knew mosquitos were out more in the dawn and twilight, but I figured I’d be on the move, so I’d be pretty safe.

Ha.

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I hadn’t gotten 50 yards out of the campsite before turning around to go back for the bug spray.  I passed a group of the neighbors out for their run/walk, who just laughed and said, “First day, eh?”  Holy mother of god.  And it wasn’t just mosquitos.  There was every kind of biting insect imaginable.  We had the mosquitos, but there were horse flies, black flies, and green head flies, none of which give a rat’s patootie about your paltry bug spray.  By the time I got underway, I was feeling a little desperate.  But the bug spray did it’s best, and once I got to the ocean side, the populations had dropped enough to be tolerable.  It was a beautiful cool, hazy, slightly humid morning, and it was quiet.  Even the waves were soft background.  I felt bad needing my loud music to keep on pace.  But I did have some lovely guests on the road with me.

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It was good.

When I got back, the kids were still sleeping, so I grabbed a shower and crawled back in the still bug-free tent to read and doze.  We finally all got up around 10:00 and had breakfast.  By 11, dishes were done and we headed off to the beach again.  The mosquitos were gone by then, and the biting flies were more of a mild to moderate annoyance.  We spent two hours in the water and walking the beach, unaware that our sunscreen application had been pointless.  By 1:30, we were all burned, Morgan worse than any of us.  So back we went to the campsite for lunch.  Over lunch, I suggested sacrilege.  What do you guys think about going home this afternoon instead of tomorrow morning?  Morgan and I were both ready, but the other two were hesitant.  We talked it over and finally they agreed that going home might not be a bad idea.  So we had a nap and started packing up around 3, and by 4:30 we were on the road home.

Mother Nature seemed to approve of our decision.

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We all agreed that we really liked the park there, but we were just so not prepared for the conditions.  We would definitely consider going back for a day trip (with better sunscreen application!) and might go back for camping, but just for one night and with minimal gear so we could hike it up onto one of the oceanside sites with a better breeze and so fewer bugs.  I felt like I had let down the family honor by bailing on the trip, but my mother reassured me that the green heads alone would have been enough for her to call it, so I feel better.

We spent the next two days in recovery.  Morgan’s sunburn was purple with little white pimples all over, so he’s on heavy doses of water, ibuprofen, cool showers and aloe.  I look like I have small pox.  Oh, and let’s add ticks to the list, as I just plucked one of those off this morning.  Watching for the bullseye now.  Joy.  So I was on Benadryl to reduce the itch.  We didn’t unpack the car until yesterday, and I didn’t even care about washing everything before packing it away.  It’ll keep.  We aren’t planning another camp this summer, although we may do a run up to Promised Land in August, in which case I can clean everything then.  Or not.  Maybe we’ll just eat out of pie irons and disposables for the weekend.

Thankfully our next trip is to a hotel with air conditioning and an indoor swimming pool.  That should make up for a lot!

First Trip

First Trip

Our first trip of the summer is this weekend.  At long last, I’m going to Assateague to see the wild ponies!

Oh, yes, I was totally one of those girls.  From the age of 8 to about 15, I read every horse book I could get my hands on.  I only ever got to ride a few times, but I always dreamed of having my own horse.  My mom says I get the horse crazy from her mother, who loved horses and had her own as a girl.  The closest I ever came was a friend ins chool who had one, and who meanly rode it in front of me but wouldn’t let me take a turn.  Until that point I’d considered her my best friend, but we never spoke again after that moment.

And of course I read Misty of Chincoteague.

40 years later, I don’t remember much of the book, but I do remember the longing to go to a place where horses roam freely on the beach.  Two of my favorite things, horses and the Atlantic.  I’ve always wanted to go, but there were always other things to do, other places we needed to be, or beach camping was too intimidating with little kids.  But the kids aren’t little anymore, and I don’t have any place else to be this summer, so we’re going to Assateague.

It’s a good thing I decided early to do this, because I had to make the reservations back in February.  They book solid for the summer almost as soon as they open reservations, so you have to get right in with your dates.  Since this was a new experience for us, and because I’d heard nightmare tales of the bugs, I decided we’d just go for two nights and check it out.  If we liked it, we could always go back.  So we’ll go down Friday and stay until Sunday.  It’s not a bad drive from here, about 3 hours, which is not much longer than when we go on any other trip.  We’re staying in the National Park, although there is a state campground on the island as well.  All the camping is on the Maryland end of the island, but there’s a lot of stuff on the Virginia end as well.  It’s 45 miles between the two, so I suspect that will be our Saturday activity.

This week is about getting ready.  The kids are getting the camping gear down, and I’m prepping food.  Chili, taco meat, traveling cheesecake, s’more puppy chow.  I have to figure out sand stakes.  I keep reading differing opinions on what to use, but the best suggestion I’ve found was using plastic shopping bags as dead man anchors.  Dig a hole, fill them with sand, bury them and stake out your tent.  Not sure if that will work for our corners, but it will definitely work for the awning and for the screenhouse.  And we will totally be using the screenhouse, because bugs.

And ponies, apparently.  Ponies.  In the campsites.  EEEEEEEE!!!!

No More Pencils…

No More Pencils…

By the time you read this, the kids will be done with school.

It was a pretty mixed year.  Xander did a lot better in some ways.  I do think the tech school was good for him, taking some of the homework pressure off him.  I did have some serious teacher issues with one of his teachers. On a daily basis, she would score him well, but on a weekly basis, she tanked him.  Which I had suspected would happen when we switched to weekly reporting.  She would give no ground and wouldn’t really work with us, to the point where by the end of the year, his behavior specialist and I were both throwing our hands up and told Xander to blow off an assignment she wasn’t giving him any wiggle room on.  You know it’s bad if we’re both saying that.  And it’s not strictly the subject matter, because he did fairly well in that class last year.  But he’s passed the class, and honestly at this point, that’s all I can ask.

Hero is another issue.  We got her IEP in place for the last marking period, but it wasn’t really in time to do much good.  she already had three failing marking periods behind her, and dragging herself up from that was a daunting task even if she’d been able to put the new habits in place, which at that point she really wasn’t.  So she is right on the edge of failing 2-3 of her classes.  It really all depends on her finals.  If she fails 2, she can retake them in summer school.  If she fails 3…  Part of me worries that she self-sabotaged, as her two best friends were also failing and she doesn’t want to leave them behind.  I’m also struggling with the question of whether or not to get her medicated to help with her ADHD.  I would really rather she learn how to work with support systems on her own, but if she can’t focus enough to internalize those systems, I’m not doing her any favors.  That’s the route we took for Morgan, and now his self-esteem is in the toilet.  I don’t want that for Hero as well.

We won’t know her grades until next week, and there’s not much I can do about it now.  Summer school classes start the 29th, so we’ll have our first trip out of the way.  I will have to make arrangements for her to miss one day of classes for our July trip, though.  But again, can’t worry about it now.

This weekend we’ll work on their plans for the summer.  They’re going to work on DIY badges again this year, so we need to figure out which ones they’re going to work on.  Xander needs to decide on a fitness activity.  I may make him walk the first episode of the 5k training just to see if I can get him hooked on the story.  We have to figure out their summer reading yet as well.  Both of them have one assigned book (she has The Illustrated Man, he has The Cage) and then they get to pick one book.  I’m letting them both do graphic novels, but I’m being picky about what they can choose.  So we have to sit down and talk about genres and see what they might be interested in.  I’d love to get Xander to read The Graveyard Book, but we’ll see.  I never know with him what genre will catch his interest.

And hey, I can start sleeping in a little!  Or go out for an early morning run.  Oh god, am I going to turn into one of THOSE people?

ETA: LATEBREAKING NEWS!!  This was written on Wednesday.  On Friday, the last day of school, I got word from Hero’s case manager that SHE PASSED EVERYTHING!!  It was really damn close, as she got a 66% overall in Math, but she did it!  No having to plan around summer school!  HALLELUJAH!

Movie Night

Movie Night

Last Friday was the first of Lansdale’s Movie in the Park nights, and they were showing Big Hero Six, which my kids have been dying to see, even though they are badly spoiled for it already.  Me, I knew nothing about it aside from what I see in GIF sets on Tumblr.  Rather than make it another Family Bonding Time(TM), I told them to invite any and all of their friends, and I would make pizza and bring snacks.

I really have to learn to be careful what I offer.

Unsurprisingly, Hero was the only one who actually invited anyone.  Four of her friends came.  Five teenage girls make a LOT of noise.  I started to feel really grateful this was an outdoor movie.

I had planned to make popcorn to take, but I got to a point where that was just one more damn thing, so I bought 4 bags instead, two butter, one cheese and one sweet.  Got a 12 pack of water as well and packed a couple bottles of water enhancer.  The piece de resistance, though, were the picnic cheesecakes.

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This was a recipe I got off of one of my camping blogs, and it’s FABULOUS.  It’s layers of graham cracker crumbs, sweetened cream cheese and fruit.  Easy peasy.  I layered them in little half pint jars and put the lids on them for chilling and storage, then brought a can of spray whipped cream to dress them up onsite.  Add some plastic spoons and voila, instant picnic treat!  This would work great with any fruit you like with cheesecake (I can’t wait for blueberry season!).  Or maybe mini chocolate chips and caramel sauce…. Hrm.  A double batch made 13 half pints filled pretty full.  We’ll definitely be making these to take camping this summer!

The movie was great, the girls cried, but the projectionist didn’t understand the first rule of Marvel movies: STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS!  So we had to track down the after credits scene on YouTube at home.  But most importantly, I am now NOT IT when it comes to hosting the teenage hoarde for a while!  Yay!!!

Remembering Memorial Day

Remembering Memorial Day

Not that it was that long ago, but hey, catching up here!

Our family tradition is to go to the beach for Memorial Day.  Not unusual, lots of families do.  I would love to be able to go for the weekend, but a) too expensive and 2) way too crowded.  So our tradition is to get up stupidly early, like 5:00 early, get on the road by 6, pick Nikki up (enforced annual sunshine) and cross New Jersey until we hit the ocean.  Being renegades and me being a hippie, we don’t go to the boardwalk or the regular tourist sites.  Instead we go to Island Beach State Park.  I love Island Beach, because it’s very similar to how Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod was when I was growing up: barrier dunes, quartz sand and nothing but beach and ocean to distract you from the day.  The only pinch is that it costs $20 for out of state residents to get in.  Ouch.  Especially since we get there by 9 to beat the crowds and leave around lunch time.  To a girl that had the Atlantic for free when growing up summers on the Cape, that’s a painful price tag on top of the gas to get there.  But worth it.

We packed up lunches, water bottles and 4 dozen homemade snickerdoodles and headed off on schedule, no excitement aside from the perils of dragging three teenagers out of bed at 5 in the morning.  It was closer to 7 than I like by the time we grabbed Nikki, so I drove a leeeetle faster than I should have through the Garden State.  No one seemed to mind.  It was New Jersey, after all.

This was our first time going down there since Hurricane Sandy.  Seaside Heights, the town Island Beach is attached to, got hit pretty hard in the storm.  You saw the pictures of the roller coaster in the ocean?  That was Seaside Heights.  So I wasn’t sure what to expect.  To my surprise, most of the buildings were still there.  We only saw one still boarded up from the storm.  The roads, though, were still getting a major overhaul, which slowed our passage down to the park.

Still, we’d made good time, and it was only a little after 9 when we got there.  We got a good parking spot and loaded up.  I have an austere approach to beach going, a gift from my mother and from always being so close to home at the ocean.  I don’t take much, and I don’t let the kids bring much.  Everyone has to be able to carry in and out anything they want.  So, towels, maybe something to read, sunglasses if they had them. A bottle of water each. We forgot the beach toys, so we didn’t have to worry about those.  We put on sunscreen at the car.  Well, as best as we could.  It was breezy, so the spray kind of went everywhere.  But we get burned every year and I get yelled at (I never had to wear sunscreen when I was a kid. Blame my mother.), so I was thorough.

The day was gorgeous, the breeze was nice, the sand was warm and the water was…colder than the Pope’s left testicle.  OMG SO cold.  There was a line in the sand where it went from being dry to being damp, and the moment you crossed that line it literally dropped 15 degrees.  The kids went straight to the water and immediately came back, reporting that it was as cold if not colder than the water in Maine last year.  But Hero was determined, and she ended up all the way in a couple of times.  Then she and Xander went back and forth from the water to the warm sand, covering themselves in grit each time before going to wash off.

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The adults, Morgan included, settled in on their towels, Nikki incongruously reading a book about Iceland.  Even the sunshine wasn’t helping the temperature, though.  Within 10 minutes, she’d put a shirt on and I’d started wishing for one.  We toughed it out, though.  Hero and I walked up and down the beach a mile or so collecting shells while Xander stood at the water’s edge, patiently making drawings that the incoming tide immediately washed away.  I read my e-reader, took a nap, and tried to get some sun on my fish belly white stretch marked stomach.  But finally around noon, it got to be too much and we packed it in.

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After we got photographic proof of having actually experienced sunshine and fresh air, we went and rinsed off and changed, then went to the car for lunch.  Ham or PB&J sandwiches on homemade rolls and snickerdoodles.  Yum.  Then it was back in the car and on our way home.

The only dark spot on the trip was the bad accident we passed on the way home.  The driver of one car was obviously in shock, had gotten out of her car which had then started drifting away from the intersection and down the road.  There were a lot of people there stopped to help, so we would only have been in the way.  Still, it was hard to sit there at that stop light right next to this with my kids staring at this bleeding, hysterical woman and not be able to do anything to help.

But all in all, it was a nice day, and I’m hoping we’ll make at least one trip back this year.  It would be nice to actually get IN the ocean for a change!

Heading home

Heading home

We were up at 7 and in the car by 7:45.  Pretty good, considering we had to break down all the cots, take down the tent and mount the bikes.  We stopped at McDonald’s in Ellsworth for breakfast (it would be a day of trying and failing to make good food choices for me), and after a little getting turned around, we were off by 9.  I decided this time to go straight out Route 3 to 95 and then south, thinking this would be faster, but it really wasn’t.  Even with snaking through all those little towns, I think Rout 1 is faster, just because you’re going south and west at the same time.  As it was, it took almost 2 1/2 hours to get to 95.

Once we did, though, we flew.  We almost got caught in traffic outside of Worcester, but we pulled over for gas and lunch, and by the time we got back on the road, the traffic had cleared.  The only real traffic we hit was between Waterbury and Danbury in Connecticut ::curse you, Connecticut::.  If we hadn’t made plans to stop by my brother’s in NY, we probably would have made it home by 8:30.

We went to Gabe’s instead, and I’m glad we did.  It’s always good to see him, even when it’s only briefly, and we got to take part in their Shabbat ritual, which was a little grounding in and of itself.  Plus we all got to Skype with Mom, which was fun.  We had dinner, and I was still feeling good enough that we headed out around 8.

No problems getting through the windy NY/NJ back roads.  287, however, had it in for us.  We got stuck in some godawful construction that took 4 lanes down to 1.  We were in that probably an hour and a half.  Finally walked in our front door at 11:45.  There would be NO unpacking that night.  There WOULD be showers, though.  It took a while to get everyone coordinated, so it was probably 1:30 by the time I finally go into bed.  Long day, but a good trip.

I think next time I would just plan to drive straight through both ways.  I’m not sure if it’s my weight loss or something else, but I really felt fine despite all that driving.  If going up we left around 4 a.m., we’d miss all the traffic in NY and CT and be in Acadia by 3-4.  Coming home, again if we left by 8-9, we could just fly through and be home for a late dinner.  Especially if I had a co-driver or two.

I’m kind of glad we ended up coming home a day early, though.  I had all day Saturday to get the car unpacked, do laundry and wash all the camping dishes to repack them for the next trip.  The tents are up and drying, and all the trash from the car is packed up.  I even did the grocery shopping that morning and put dinner in the crockpot.  Which left me the rest of the day to write this all up for you!  Not that I couldn’t have gotten all that done if we’d come home a day later, but still.  This was a bit more laid back.

And now onwards.  Morgan starts school next Wednesday, we’re going on one last camping trip Labor Day weekend, and then the kids start back.  So the next few weeks will be a lot of scrambling to get organized for school, order books, buy new clothes and all that.  At least all the camping gear is ready…

Day 5

Day 5

Nope, still raining.  Okay, another driving day.

I had kind of planned for it to be a driving day, anyway.  We’d gotten familiar with the island, but I wanted to look around off-island at some of the places I’d been finding houses for my farm fantasy.  Fortunately I’d had the forethought to have bought scones the day before to have for breakfast, so we had those and some hot chocolate and then hit the road to travel even further east.

Our first stop (sort of) was the College of the Atlantic.  We’d been passing by the campus every day, and I just wanted to see what it looked like.  Well, it looks like a summer camp for adults, which was fabulous.  When we got home, I looked up their programs, and they’re about the hippiest kind of school you could imagine, which, again, awesome.  Hero’s thinking about going there now.  Good thing she’s only 12, as it’s 40K a year…  I wish I’d known about it when I was younger.  My kind of school.

After that, we headed off-island.  We went out Route 1 towards Gouldsboro and Sullivan.  You could tell this area didn’t share in as much of the tourist trade as the towns west of the park did, but what in Michigan and Pennsylvania would have been pretty white trash looking, here it had a kind of run-down dignity.  And I was surprised by the occasional tourist spots we did see, a B&B here, an art studio there.  Winter Harbor was lovely.  Exposed to the sea but still grounded.  Since we were down there anyway, we checked out another part of the park, the Schoodic Peninsula.  I think this was my favorite part of the park.  It had all the rocks and waves we could have wanted, but it wasn’t as crowded.  I spent a lot of time playing with the burst function on my camera trying to get dramatic wave shots.

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Yeah, still not a photographer.

We had to treat today like it was the last day of the trip, so Hero had to finish her Junior Ranger challenges today.  The last thing she had to do was memorize the Junior Ranger Pledge, so we kept quizzing her on it the whole ride out and back, then stopped at the Visitor’s Center so she could turn in her book.  She was so proud of herself, especially when it turned out that she *hadn’t* needed to memorize it!  She got a big round of applause when the ranger announced it over the PA.

On the downside, we still had no luck getting our reservation extended, so today really was our last day.

That night was the last chance for stargazing.  We ate early and organized camp.  I had hoped to get everything but the tent packed up, but it was all still wet.  Nevertheless, after dinner we packed up the kitchen and took down the screen tent, just stuffing it in one of the empty clothes boxes until we could get it home to dry out.  I got the back of the car all organized so loading the next morning would be straightforward.  But as the sun started to set, the fog rolled in.  Gritting my teeth, I said we’d still make an attempt at going to the star show.  Hero, brilliant child that she is, suggested we go up on Cadillac instead.  My fear of heights screamed at me, but I put it to the vote and everyone agreed.  So I grit my teeth and we headed out.

Best. Decision.  Ever.

We were driving through fog and clouds the whole way, which was not making me feel better.  But about halfway up the mountain, all of a sudden we broke through and the road was perfectly clear, the clouds all beneath us in a way I’d only seen from airplanes.  We could see from horizon to horizon, the pale pink in the west, the darkening sky in the east as the stars started to come out.  And hey, we actually made it into the parking lot!  So did some other people who weren’t considerate with their headlights, but by 9:00 it didn’t matter.  Nothing was going to block out those stars.  Thousands of stars.  Millions of stars.  Billions and billions.  We watched satellites speed past.  Lingering meteors from the Perseids streaked by.  And finally, in a bright, glorious band, the Milky Way stretched across the whole arc of the sky, horizon to horizon, as we looked out across space and time into the universe.

(Not my picture. Crap photographer, remember?)

 

It was the perfect ending to the trip.