turning a forest into a play space

The house that we live in now is the house we moved into after Dave and I split up. In a couple of weeks, we will have lived here 4 years. One of the things I initially loved about this place was the yard. It’s full of giant, old shade trees, and the backyard is basically a forest. As long as I took care of the front yard (and let’s be real: I pay a guy to do that for me because I am a slacker about yardwork), I didn’t have to do anything with the back. Since we’re close to a couple of big parks, during the winter months, I regularly see deer wandering through our backyard. It’s nice.

But a few times now, Catie has made comments like, “When we move to our next house, maybe we can have a yard where we can play.” And look, I’m not planning on moving anytime soon. This house is about 1/2 mile from Dave’s apartment, and 2 miles or less from my parents, Lucy’s daycare, and Catie’s school. Basically everything we need is either within walking distance, or we can drive it in less than 5 minutes. We are where we need to be.

So, after getting the ok from my landlord, I asked Chris if he could help me turn the backyard from a forest into a usable space for the kids to have a play area. Half of the backyard is on a sloping hill with a lot of dips and tree stumps, and it leads down to a small ditch, so it’s not really safe for kids. But honestly, in all the time we’ve lived here, I never really noticed that nearly half of my backyard is a flat space, it was just completely overgrown to the point where you couldn’t see much of it.

This is what we were starting with:
Backyard before our cleanup project.
(The angle on this pic is odd because it was taken from an upstairs bedroom window – it was the only way to see the whole area.)

Note the green tarp off to the side – there was a huge woodpile over there, which we found was completely infested with termites. So, that had to go away.

And let me say, Chris gets a TON of the credit for this project that’s eaten most of our last few weekends. This is where it comes in handy to live with a guy who grew up on a farm, because he knows how to get stuff DONE. He chopped down trees and dug up their roots, while I raked and dug up all of the weeds that were sprouting up.

Eventually we got it all cleared out, my yard guy came to haul all of our debris to the dump for us (he’s the only person I know who has a trailer that could do it), and we put down landscape timbers to section off the part of the backyard I wanted to use for the play area.

Backyard project, midway through
Please ignore the random tools strewn about, and the Gatorade bottle on the deck railing.

Then we ordered a few cubic yards of playground matting mulch. The kids had fun with the giant mulch pile.
Catie next to the mulch pile (doesn't really show just how huge it was)
Queens of Mulch Mountain

Eventually we got the mulch spread over the entire play area (the landscape timbers are there to make sure the mulch doesn’t wash away when it rains), and finally, we put together my early Christmas present from my parents: a swing for the backyard.

New backyard swing!

They were pretty excited about it. I couldn’t even get them to get out of the swing when I tried to take a picture of the entire yard.

Backyard project "after".

I like that there’s plenty of open space where they can run around and play. There are a couple of things I still want to do, like put stepping stones from the patio to the play area, so the girls don’t go stomping on the monkey grass every time they go outside. But the big stuff is all finished, and I’m really excited about it.

Of course, we got all of this finished just in time for winter, so they probably won’t get a ton of use out of it over the next few months. But it’ll be ready for them next spring, and I’m already looking forward to it.

November 17, 2015Permalink Leave a comment

halfway through November by the time I blog about October

Apparently blogging is something I only do every couple of months now. I’m not sure why, it’s just hard to think of stuff I want to write.

So hey, let’s talk about October! Catie was out of school for the first three weeks of October, so I tried to take advantage of it and maximize the amount of fun stuff we did. Pardon me while I post a zillion photos now.

On a random Wednesday when the weather was nice, I took a vacation day, and we went to the zoo. (My manager was also on vacation that week, so the timing worked out well.) Chris couldn’t take the day off work, but my parents came along, and I’m so glad they did, because I think it was a lot of fun for all of us.

Girls & my mom with a sea lion swimming by.

The NC Zoo is BIG and involves a lot of walking, and I knew my mom would have trouble getting around. She has scoliosis, arthritis, and a lot of other health issues that cause her chronic pain. The zoo rents out mobility scooters, and at first she didn’t want to get one, but she finally relented. (Mom: “That would be embarrassing!” Me: “Who gives a crap what anyone at the zoo thinks about you?”) About halfway through the day, she said she was so glad she got the scooter, because otherwise there was no way she would’ve been able to keep up with us.

(My dad is 10 years older than my mom, but since he’s been a golfer all his life, walking is no issue for him. He trekked all over the zoo with us without any issue.)

We happened to make it to the zoo while the dinosaur exhibit was still out. We saw it on our last trip to the zoo (which I realize after going through the archives was THREE years ago! Lucy could barely walk & was still drinking out of a bottle! We need to get to the zoo more often), but they’ve improved the dino exhibit since the last time we were there.

And it led to this picture of Catie, which I think might be the most perfect Catie picture of all time.

Catie & the T. Rex

Catie and a T. Rex. Yep, that’s my girl.

We also went to Green Acres Farm, where we went on a hay ride, and the girls generally ran around like maniacs for a couple of hours, and made friends with animals.

Making friends with a goat.

Chris said later how strange that trip was for him, because he grew up on a farm, and he didn’t understand why people would pay money to visit one. He said, “I joined the Army to get away from that.” I tried to explain that it’s a novel concept to kids from the suburbs, he just shook his head and laughed.

Also in October, the NC state fair comes to town. I hate going to the state fair on weekends, because the crowds are insane, and the kids spend more time standing in line to go on rides than actually going on rides. So instead, I took off a few hours early one weekday (can I say again how much I love my job and how grateful I am for my flexible schedule?), and we went.

Girls on the Monster Truck ride.

Catie is still a little bit of a chicken about rides, and generally only wants to go on the little kid rides. Which is FINE, I have no need for either of my kids to be a daredevil, I’m already prone to anxiety attacks as it is. And there are some rides at the state fair that scare me just to look at them. So the fact that Catie doesn’t want to ride the big scary rides is A-OK with me. Instead, she rode the kiddie rides with Lucy, they were both happy, and I didn’t need to take any sedatives. Win-win-win.

Lucy the lion & Catie the giraffe
Random photo from the state fair that has nothing to do with anything, it just makes me laugh.

Last thing for October: Halloween! As per our usual tradition, we went to my parents’ neighborhood for trick-or-treating, because the lots in their neighborhood are a little smaller, which means the houses are closer together, so they can get a bunch of candy in a shorter amount of time. And there are tons of kids in their neighborhood, so Halloween ends up like a mini-street party, and it’s a great time.

This year, Catie was Spyro from the Skylanders game, and Lucy decided that since she was Elsa last year, this year she would be Anna. (If you thought she’d outgrow her Frozen obsession anytime soon, you’d be wrong.)

Happy Halloween from Spyro the Skylander, and Princess Anna!

One nice thing: I didn’t have to buy any costumes for Halloween this year. Catie got that Spyro costume back in March when we went to Comic-Con, and she’s grown so much in the last 6 months that it *barely* fits her now. The Velcro in the back kept popping open like she was the Incredible Hulk ripping her way out of her clothes. And Lucy got the Anna costume months ago as part of a potty-training bribe. It was nice to have a holiday where I didn’t have to drop any money.

Overall, October was an A+ month. Now Catie is back in school and we’re back to our typical daily routine, and there aren’t a ton of fun events in November. But I’m pretty good at coming up with fun stuff for them to do on my weekends, so I’m sure we’ll figure out something.

the past 2 months

I haven’t blogged in 2 months, which is weird for me. I keep thinking of things to write about and then I get distracted. So, here’s a bunch of random stuff that’s been happening lately.

We’ve been doing fun stuff on the weekends the kids are with me – now that summer is over and the neighborhood pool is closed, we’ve been going to the science museum and the playground more often.

Science museum. Have to pose with the shark jaw.

Those giant indoor trampoline places are fun on rainy days, too.

My levitating children at the Launching Pad.

I try to keep us busy on the weekends, it keeps the kids from fighting if we get out of the house and do active stuff.


Catie update:

Catie finished her first term of 3rd grade and she’s now on her 3-week track-out break. (Let me take a moment and say again how much I love year-round school. Just around the time they start to get burned out on school, they get a nice long break. And then, just when they start to whine about being bored: time to go back to school!) She’s been spending this track-out break with her cousins; my aunt Susie is in town taking care of my cousin Cat’s kids, so I’ve been dropping her off every morning at their house and she’s been having a blast.

Third grade has been interesting because the two teachers split the day – one does math and social studies, the other does reading, writing, and science. So the kids spend half their day with each of them. Catie seems to like both teachers this year, which is pretty lucky.

Oh, and Catie got new glasses. She picked them out herself, and they look fantastic on her.

Catie got new glasses

Catie’s eye doctor is concerned about one of her eyes being significantly weaker than the other, so she’s now wearing an eye patch. She was upset about the idea of wearing it to school, because third grade girls can be mean about teasing, so I relented – she wears it from the time she gets up in the morning until she leaves for school, and then from the time she gets home until bedtime. She has it on for several hours each day, and hopefully that’s enough. We have a follow-up appointment in December to see how much progress she’s made.

And because she was constantly complaining about how her hair was making her hot, we decided to cut off several inches and give her a bob.

Catie's haircut before & after

She looks adorable, I absolutely love it. Between the haircut and getting her bangs off her face (both girls are growing their bangs out), she suddenly looks so grown up. Although maybe that’s partly due to her recent growth spurt. Girlfriend is now 4’5″ – she’s grown over 2 inches in the last 6 months.


Lucy update:

Lucy has started taking a weekly dance class at her daycare, and I wish I could spy on it because I’ll bet it’s adorable. They email a newsletter to talk about the stuff they’re doing in class, so I’ll ask her to show me something (like pli√® and relev√©), and it’s a riot.

She also takes a weekly soccer class at daycare, which she really likes. I’m glad our daycare has these types of extracurricular activities, because I’m not sure how we’d make it work on our own time.

Lucy had a fever yesterday, so she's staying home with me because she needs to be fever-free for 24 hours before she can go back to daycare. She's obviously feeling better, so we're playing with hairstyles.

She’s gotten to a phase where she’s suddenly shy around new people, and her daycare teacher even says that she’s one of her quiet kids, but when she’s home, she’s still my hilarious little goofball.


Me update:

I had a rough few months over the summer – there wasn’t any reason for it, just out of the blue I was suddenly anxious and jittery more often than not. It’s gotten a lot better in the last few weeks, for which I am thankful.

I’ve also been enjoying my weekends when the kids are with their dad. I get to sleep late, Chris and I can go see a movie or go out for dinner whenever we want, without worrying about anyone’s schedule. Yesterday, the weather was so gorgeous that I ran for nearly 5 miles, which is the first time I’ve gone that far since the half-marathon back in March. The combination of an injured foot plus the summer heat made me scale back on running, but I’m getting back into the longer distances and really enjoying it. I’m also doing the Barre3 28-day challenge with some friends, which is kind of fun just as a way to mix things up.

Work is good; I had my annual performance review a couple of weeks ago, and I got a raise. I asked Chris if it made him feel emasculated that I now make more money than he does. He laughed and said, “Sweetie, you go ahead and make aaaaall the money you want, the more the merrier.”


Today it’s been 3 years since my divorce. I don’t think I would have remembered it, except the Timehop app on my phone reminded me. It made me think of this conversation I had with Lucy a few weeks ago:

Catie was with my parents, and I went to pick up Lucy from daycare. We were leaving when we saw a man waiting in a car in the parking lot. I recognized him as one of the teacher’s husbands – they only have one car, so he drops her off and picks her up.

Lucy: “That’s Miss Nikki’s husband.”
Me: “Yep.”
Lucy: “Just like you have a husband.”
Me: “No, I don’t have a husband anymore.”
Lucy: “You used to have a husband but he died?”
Me: (thinking: WTF, that’s morbid) “No, baby, I used to be married to Daddy, but we got divorced.”
Lucy: (genuinely shocked) “You used to be married to DADDY??!!”

Dave and I split up when she was only 2 months old, so of course she has no memory of us ever being together. And I guess in one way, it’s sad that she had no idea that was where she came from. But at the same time, I’m relieved that her only conscious memory of her parents is the two of us as friendly co-parents. We could’ve done a lot worse.

This doesn't happen often, but I love it when it does.

Because these two kids? They’ve turned out pretty spectacular so far.

October 12, 2015Permalink

and we didn’t even see a single shark

I had been thinking about taking the girls to the beach back in July, when Catie was on her summer break, but there were all kinds of stories in the news about people getting bitten by sharks, and it kind of freaked me out. I fully realize that it’s statistically far more likely that we’d get hurt in a car accident or a million other ways before anything involving a shark. But I already have a weird phobia about open bodies of water – I’m fine in swimming pools, but I hate boats, and at the beach I don’t go in the water past my knees. So just the idea of sharks was enough to keep me away.

Then last week, I realized it was August, it’s been weeks since there have been any shark incidents on the news, and I really hated the idea of skipping out on something that’s become an annual tradition for our family. So, on Saturday, we loaded up the car and went to Wrightsville Beach for the day.

It’s about a 2-hour drive to the coast, which isn’t that bad, although it’s long enough for the girls to really get on each other’s nerves and start fighting. At some point I felt like the cliche of every parent on earth when I yelled, “I will turn this car around and we will go back home if you do not leave each other alone FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” (My mom would probably find that hilarious, since it’s pretty much verbatim what she said to us on countless road trips when I was a kid.)

Once we got to the beach, the girls had a blast, and you’d never know from the pictures I got that they were at each other’s throats in the car just mere moments prior.

See? Total angels. Ha. Haaaaaa.

Catie has been taking swim lessons this summer, so she’s gotten a lot braver in the water, but she’s still very careful in the ocean. She found some other kids around her age and hung out with them, building sand castles and jumping waves.

Catie in the ocean

Lucy is a little more unsure about the ocean, but she had fun lying on the sand and waiting for the waves to roll up over her. She also had me carry her out to jump waves, which was fine, since we stayed in the very shallow water.

Lucy kept lying on the sand, waiting for the waves to roll up over her

After about 4 hours, when they’d completely worn themselves out, we loaded everything back into the car, grabbed some dinner, and headed home. Both girls slept most of the way, and I hated to wake them up when we got home, but they both needed showers after playing in the sand for so long. They got to bed way later than normal, but since it was a Saturday night, no big deal.

That night, around 2:30 a.m., Lucy came into my room and said, “Mama, I throwed up in my bed.” Chris stripped the sheets off her bed while I cleaned her up. She spent the rest of the night and most of Sunday feverish, puking, and miserable. Poor little goose.

Fortunately, it was just a 24-hour bug, because by Monday morning, she was completely fine. I kept her home on Monday anyway, because daycare wants them to be fever-free for 24 hours before they go back to school, and I wanted to keep an eye on her. Kids bounce back so quickly, though, she really was completely fine all day. And she was excited that she got to come with me up the street to meet Catie at the bus stop, since she’s normally at daycare and doesn’t get to do that.

A series of "waiting for Catie's school bus" selfies.
A series of “waiting for Catie’s school bus” selfies.

Unrelated to anything: I’ve decided I’m tired of the girls having bangs, because their hair grows so fast and their bangs constantly need to be trimmed. So we’ve started growing them out. (Hence why Lucy’s hair is pinned back in those above pics.) It’s an annoying process, always trying to find hair clips in the morning, and convincing Lucy not to pull hers out halfway through the day, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run. I know I’m biased and all, but I happen to really like seeing their entire faces.

August 12, 2015Permalink

how we spent our summer vacation

I haven’t blogged much lately, so I sort of forgot to mention that Catie finished 2nd grade a few weeks ago, and she’ll be a third grader as of Monday.

Last day of 1st grade vs last day of 2nd grade. She's grown so much this year, and Catie is now a 3rd grader!

At the same time, Lucy has moved up to the pre-K class at daycare, which feels completely surreal, because it’s the exact classroom where Catie was, 4+ years ago when I was pregnant with Lucy.

Show & Tell at daycare. Lucy opted to wear her Anna dress and bring her matching Anna doll, because what else would you expect? (...And a fruit snack for the car ride because carpool is long & boring.)
(She’s a big fan of Show & Tell day.)

Catie has pretty much outgrown the “school-age” camp at our daycare, most of the kids there are in kindergarten or first grade, and she didn’t want to go anymore. She was scheduled to go to Science Camp for one week (it was last week, and she loved it), but she asked if for the rest of her summer break, she could just stay home with me.

I should explain a little about my job here, because I don’t talk about it much: I work on a small-ish team at a large company. My team is maybe 70 or so people, but we’re spread out all over the U.S., and some people are in the U.K., Russia, and China. My manager is based in California. Because of time zone issues, working from home makes more sense than a set 8 to 5 office schedule. It has its downsides; I often end up working late at night after the girls are asleep, when I’d much rather curl up on the couch with Chris and watch the Daily Show. But it also means that my daytime schedule is super-flexible. I know most working parents don’t have this type of telecommute option, and I feel very fortunate that I can have this flexible schedule working at a job I happen to love.

So, Catie wanted to have some “lazy time” at home, and I don’t mind, because she’s pretty self-sufficient and easy to have around. The problem is that I didn’t want her to sit on the couch playing Minecraft all day. (I have no issue with Minecraft, I think it’s actually good for their creativity to build things, but there’s no video game in the world that needs to be played all day.) And since I’m working, I can’t completely disrupt my schedule to help entertain her with various projects.

She did this same thing during her 3-week spring break in April, and I made a deal with her that if she wanted to stay home, she was going to have to run with me, because at least she’d be getting SOME exercise and fresh air. And let me say, that was a terrible idea. The thing I love about running is that I can lose myself in it and zone out, and you cannot zone out when your 8 year-old is whining that it’s too hard and she wants to just walk for a while. So I’d get irritable and start barking at her like a drill sergeant, she’d get pouty, and it just sucked.

Now, though, it’s July and it’s too hot to run most days. (I have a rule that I don’t run if the heat index is above 85. I love running, but I’m not a masochist.) So on this summer break, our daily exercise break is to go to the pool; Catie plays while I swim laps. I’m normally hyper-vigilant about watching my kids in the pool, but Catie is so cautious, she never goes past the water that’s 3 1/2 feet deep because she doesn’t want to be in over her head, and there are always 2 lifeguards on duty. So she’s fine, she plays with the other kids and has fun, and for a few weird minutes I feel like one of those stay-at-home moms who can do nothing but hang out at the pool with their kids on a weekday. Except not, because I swim laps for about 30-40 minutes, then we come home and shower so I can get back to work.

[Side note: swimming is WAY harder for me than running, and I am ridiculously bad at it. With running, I know I’m slow, but I don’t care because: whatever, I’m running. With swimming, I feel like a baby elephant flopping around in a bathtub.]

Also, if she’s had too much screen time, I bought Just Dance 2015 for the Wii, and yes ok, it’s still a video game, but at least she’s up and moving. I’ve done it with the girls a few times, and that game is a workout. So, if she starts whining that she’s bored: ok, go try to beat your high score on “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry.

(I admit, I mainly bought the game because it includes “Let It Go.” Try to guess which one of my kids has the high score on that one. Go on, guess. Hint: it’s exactly who you think it is.)

And really, she’s been great. She hasn’t whined much, and she’s spent a lot of time working on little art projects (as the growing stack of her drawings on my desk can attest), not playing video games. It’s been really nice having her around.

At the same time, I’m excited for her to start school on Monday. Partly because I want to get back into our regular routine, but also because THIRD GRADE. She’s getting so grown up! It’s both weird and completely amazing to witness.

July 23, 2015Permalink

on Southern Pride

Things happen in the news sometimes, and I think “hey, I should blog about that,” because I have a lot of opinions on a particular subject and my thoughts can’t fit in a 140-character tweet. But then I never actually sit down and write it out.

(Well, ok, I did last July during the whole birth control ACA Supreme Court case. I guess political posts are something I do once a year now.)

Ok. So. The Confederate flag.

I grew up in Mississippi. The Confederate flag is one of those things that I’ve seen my whole life, in one capacity or another (bumper stickers, flying outside of people’s houses, on the damn state flag, etc). And I don’t want to write a whole long thing about whether or not the Confederate flag is racist, because it is undoubtedly, inarguably racist, and there are no less than a million books and articles you can read about it if you don’t believe me.

(Examples: What This Cruel War Was Over, which quotes the actual secessionist documents, or The Surprisingly Uncomplicated Racist History of the Confederate Flag, which focuses more on the 20th century, pro-segregation use of the flag.)

But there’s a weird thing I keep thinking about in this argument. The people who are in favor of the Confederate flag say it represents “heritage, not hate.” You hear that a lot. I hate that phrase, for what it’s worth. I think it’s a cop-out.

I’ve also heard people say, “I’m a Proud Southerner!”

And it got me thinking about pride in general, and the different things we take pride in.

I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of my career. I’m proud to be a in a loving relationship with a good man. I’m proud to have built such a strong support system of friends and family in my life.

But being proud of the geographical place where I was born doesn’t make sense to me, because I had nothing to do with it. I’m proud of the things that I’ve accomplished, things where I actively made a choice that led to a good outcome – like, for example, I’m proud that I graduated from college.

Am I proud to be from Mississippi? No. Fortunate, maybe. I suppose growing up in Mississippi gave me a particular perspective on life that I might not have had in other places. I don’t think that perspective is any more or less valid than anyone else born in any other place, though.

I’m also fortunate that I was born into a good family that loves me, supports me, and has helped me to become successful in life. But really, the geography doesn’t matter at all, it’s the people themselves.

And on the subject of family and heritage: my great-great grandfather was a little boy at the time of the Civil War, too young to become a soldier. He had several older brothers who did fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and a few of them died in combat. (I believe there were 8 boys total, but I can’t remember how many of them fought in the war. It’s been a long time since I did that genealogy project.)

I also know, because there are African-Americans in Mississippi with the same last name as we had – which is one of those highly unusual, “Americanized spelling of a Swiss name” type of last names – that obviously at some point, my ancestors owned slaves.

But here’s the thing: it’s not hard for me to acknowledge that I love my family, and also acknowledge that my ancestors fought for the wrong side. Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

And to be clear, I’m not ashamed of them either. Just as I don’t take pride in anything I didn’t accomplish, I also don’t see the point in apologizing for my great-great grandfather’s brothers, who died over 100 years before I was even born. I have no control over what they did. I’m sure that at the time, they thought they were on the right side of history. And until someone invents a time machine, I can’t go back to try to enlighten them about race issues.

So, yes, I suppose the Confederate flag is part of my heritage. I’ll own that.

But just because it’s associated with my past, doesn’t mean it has to be part of either my present or my future.

June 25, 2015Permalink

road trip weekend

I think one of the keys of a successful relationship is accepting the fact that your significant other has interests that you find totally boring. I’m not sure what mine are that bore Chris (celebrity gossip and social media stuff, probably), but his is playing Magic the Gathering. If you’re not familiar, it’s a card game with wizards and spells and whatnot. Sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, but even geekier (if that’s possible).

And in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse. At least he doesn’t ask me to watch any type of sporting events on TV. (I have a lot of women friends who love sports, but I am not that girl. I would rather watch paint dry than watch a football or baseball game.) And when he plays, he has to go to a game store where they play in groups, so it’s a more social hobby than most.

This past weekend there was a big Magic tournament in Charlotte. Chris wanted to go, and I had the girls for the weekend and no big plans, so I thought it would be fun to tag along with him. My brother and his girlfriend recently moved to a new apartment in Charlotte, and they have a new puppy and kitten, so I knew we’d have fun visiting with them while Chris played in his tournament.

(Side note: there were something like 4,000 people in this tournament. Chris and I joked that if a bomb went off in that convention center, IT helpdesks across the Southeast would be virtually wiped out, because that’s the type of person who plays Magic the Gathering.)

Friday afternoon, Chris and I packed up the car, picked up the kids from daycare, and set off for Charlotte.

Picked up these messy-haired ragamuffin children, & we're road-tripping to Charlotte for the weekend. They're kinda excited.
They were pretty excited.

We stopped for dinner along the way, so we ended up not getting to Charlotte until about 9:30, well after the girls’ bedtime. They were so wound up from the trip, they ended up not falling asleep until after midnight.

Catie is totally in love.
Catie is totally in love with my brother’s puppy, Annabelle.

My brother’s girlfriend Mandy was trying to tell Catie how to get Annabelle to obey commands, and Catie obviously doesn’t spend much time around dogs, because she said, “Ok, Annabelle, if you want a treat, can you sit?” I tried to explain that dogs understand one-word commands better than full sentences, but it was very sweet that she tried to phrase it so politely.

Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, is pretty enamored with my brother's puppy.
Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, came around and played with Annabelle for a while.

Samson, my brother's kitten, wisely kept his distance from my loud children all weekend.
This is Samson, the kitten, who kept his distance most of the weekend. Most cats tend to be a little skittish around loud children, so I don’t blame him.

Saturday, Chris got up early and went to the convention center for his tournament. The kids and I goofed around for a while, then my cousin Renee (the cousin whose wedding we went to last October) came over and we all went out for lunch together. It was great to see her and catch up.

It was so hot over the weekend (in the mid-90s) that doing anything outside like a playground was just impossible. So after lunch, my brother dropped the girls and I off at a nearby kids’ museum so they could run around and burn off some energy indoors where it’s air-conditioned.

Flying an airplane at the kids' museum.
They had fun.

At the kids’ museum, they have a big stage in the middle of the main room, and every hour they have some type of presentation. One was a science experiment (which was pretty cool), and they also had a puppet show. We were sitting on the floor to watch it, and the emcee was trying to get the kids all excited. She said that the puppet show was going to be about the circus. She asked the audience, “What types of animals are in the circus?”

Catie leaned over to me and whispered, “Tortured ones.”

Which I mean… ok, I laughed. It was kind of a snarky and rude answer, but she knew that, so she just whispered it to me rather than saying it out loud. And it’s not like she’s wrong.

(As for how she knows about Ringling Brothers’ animal abuse: she once asked if we could go to the circus, and I said no, because they mistreat their animals, so I won’t give them any of my money. She obviously remembered that.)

Chris played in his tournament until pretty late that night (he got back after 10 p.m.), so in the meantime, the kids and I went out for dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.

In hindsight, I should’ve known that going out to dinner was a bad idea. (Foreshadowing!) Lucy hadn’t slept nearly enough the night before, and she’d skipped her nap that day, and she was starting to get kind of whiny. We walked to the restaurant (it was about 4 blocks from their apartment), and even though they live in a really pretty area, the walk was pretty unpleasant in the heat. Then we got to the restaurant and the hostess said it would take 30 minutes to get a table. Red flags everywhere that we were headed for Meltdown City, and I missed them all. Lucy is normally so easygoing, I just wasn’t expecting it.

We finally got a table (it was more like 45 minutes than 30), the waiter came over for our drink orders, and I ordered an apple juice for Lucy. The waiter said they didn’t have apple juice. And Lucy just completely freaking lost her mind. She was wailing, “Aaaaaapple juuuuuuuuice!!” over and over, and this was not fake tantrum crying, she was completely distraught, real tears and snot everywhere. I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be able to calm her down because she was too far past the point of exhaustion. I told my brother what to order for me, and told him to have it boxed up to go. I left Catie with him and Mandy, and I carried Lucy outside.

And I carried Lucy – all 40 pounds of her – the four blocks back to my brother’s apartment. (In case you’re wondering, yes, my back still hurts from that.) She stopped crying once we were outside and lay her head on my shoulder, and I thought she might fall asleep while I was carrying her, but she didn’t. Near my brother’s apartment, there’s a Starbucks, and we stopped so I could buy her an apple juice. That seemed to help perk her up a little.

Once we got back, I got her bathed and in her PJs, and she fell asleep on the couch watching cartoons on Netflix. I moved her to the air mattress that she and Catie were sharing, and she kind of half-woke up when I moved her. She said, “I’m going to watch TV for a while, but when I go to sleep, I’ll stay in my bed all night. And if I have something to tell you, I’ll just tell you in the morning.” I stroked her hair and said, “Ok, baby girl,” and her eyes closed and she was asleep again within seconds. She didn’t make a peep until 7:30 the next morning.

I really hope that when the kids are older and I look back on these little trips we took, that I remember the fun stuff like watching them laugh running around together in a kids’ museum, or singing along with silly pop songs on the radio, and not the parts like Lucy losing it in a crowded restaurant.

Nice one, Lucy.
More of the good stuff like this, not the meltdown stuff.

And credit where it’s due: I always think of Catie as being my high-strung, more anxious kid, but she is an excellent traveling companion. The last several times we’ve taken trips, she’s been so easy, she doesn’t whine, she’s extra-patient with Lucy, and she’s just been great. She still gets stressed if her routine at home is thrown off, but I guess when we travel, she accepts that we’re going to be off routine anyway, so she adapts and it’s totally fine. I look forward to doing this type of thing when Lucy is a little older (past the “needing a nap” stage, anyway), because I think it’ll be even more fun.

Uncle Chris & Mandy's house has a big couch with a big TV. They've wasted no time making themselves at home.

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff, and said our goodbyes to my brother, Mandy, and the puppy and kitten (that was the hard part for the kids). We made one quick stop by the convention center downtown so Chris could get a couple of his cards signed by the artists who designed them. (It’s kind of a “thing,” and it supposedly increases their value. Like getting baseball trading cards autographed, I guess.) After that, we headed home. The kids slept in the backseat for a large portion of the drive, so it was a pretty easy trip.

Overall, it was a fun weekend, Chris enjoyed his tournament, the girls had a blast, and I’m glad we all went together. That said, it sure was nice to get back home last night.

June 15, 2015Permalink