Archive for April, 2010

ode to a fine pair of boots

Chocolate brown lace up boots brought home twelve years ago.

Big mountain purchase when “big money” was a baked potato at Wendy’s.

Backpacking on Mount Mitchell, Green Knob Trail non-proposal.

Vistas in the Columbia Gorge, monster-sized slugs in Olympic.

Trudging through the snow in North Carolina with kids in tow; these boots have seen it all.

Until.

Crouching in a toystore in Boone to get a closer look at the Playmobil Wedding Chapel.

Thwack.  Slap, slap, slap.  Trip.

A trail of my shoe’s dark gray matter follows, tiny bits of my hiking soul.

Shedding the tread of my footsteps.  Erasing the fall of my feet.

Unceremoniously dumped into a trash can outside of a fudge shop in favor of a pair of chocolate brown

flip flops.

A girl has to walk and these boots were made for walking no more.

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maybe they are trying to tell me something?

Two weeks ago, we attempted to go swimming at the Durham YMCA only to learn on our arrival (argh!) that the pool was closed for a week for repairs.  Oh well. The kids dealt with the disappointment well, and we moved on.

Last night, I decided that we should hit the pool at the Y today; it’s dreary out and we have nothing else to do. Then this happens.

I guess someone really, really doesn’t want us to go swimming…

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fort in the mist

Emerging from the rolling fog appears a wooden fort, a barbarian fort if the packaging is to be believed.  A fence resembling wooden spools serves as a first line of defense against the invading forces of Little Sister. Furthermore, the fort is built up on Abraham Verghese’s latest novel (1.8 inches thick) which needs to be returned to the library tomorrow.  Impenetrable defenses?  Invincible to its environment?  Time will tell….

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camping with the kids

Last summer we decided to try out the whole tent camping thing with the kids, so we headed over to Hanging Rock north of Winston-Salem. It was pleasant, low-key, relatively close to home, and it went well. Chalk one up in the success column. This year, we decided to kick it up a notch and go camping on the beach. I have, it turns out, a very narrow window for camping/hiking/outside adventures. I prefer not to freeze at night when I have to traipse to the bathroom if I accidentally drink a beverage after 6:30, and I really do not like scratching my arm raw from bug bites. So, when the camping season opened up on the Outer Banks at the beginning of April, we decided to jump on it.

Last weekend then found us leaving the house at 6:00 am heading eastward with two kids who decided that the adventure was far too grand to waste by sleeping. After reaching Kill Devil Hills in shockingly good time (I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t been to the Outer Banks in a dozen years and they have messed with/straightened roads or created some unfathomable crimp in the time-space continuum), we headed to the Wright Brothers Memorial. The kids, surprisingly, were underwhelmed with the singular exception of the sign urging them to stay on the path due to the (phantom) presence of the prickly pear cactus.

Our next step at Jockey’s Ridge, however, was a home run. The kids tore off across the dunes, racing up and around and back and forth. Both kids managed to climb up the giant dune to take in the view of beach in the distance.

Little e. and I, holding hands, struggled a bit climbing up to the top, but with her brother shouting words of encouragement (“Mama, you’re doing AWESOME! Keep it up!”), we made it to the top.  Twice, little w. thanked us for taking him to Jockey’s Ridge–who is this kid??

Finally, we headed down the highway to catch the ferry to Ocracoke, our camping destination. Little w. proclaimed the vinyl-encrusted passenger area to be the highlight of the 45 minute crossing; apparently the two dozen motorcycles on board just weren’t that noteworthy…

At long last, we set up camp at the National Park Service campground on Ocracoke, a campground about as barebones as one could get– cold showers only and a grim list of “Do NOTs” humorlessly rendered.

I’ve been camping plenty in the mountains, but this was my first time camping on the coast, and it’s really quite a treat.  The kids were bowled over by being able to walk one minute over a dune to a completely abandoned coastline to play–no beach houses, no other people, no piers, no nothing except for tracks from trucks on the beach (How is that still legal?  For fishermen?).

The most memorable part of the being at the beach for me was the terrifying night sky; it was so completely filled with stars in a way that you never see anywhere else due to light pollution and general haziness.  This celestial display certainly invoked awe but also stirred up some cosmic anxiety of how tiny we are in all of this.

Unlike being in the middle of the woods on a camping trip, being on Ocracoke afforded us the ability to be marginally civilized–as civilized as one can be when one refuses to jump into an unheated shower.  Dinner at an amazing restaurant with a lovely patio, Dajio, where I had some truly shocking gazpacho.  Coffee while sitting on the lawn in beach chairs while the kids munched on a delectable cinnamon roll.

This kind of camping, I can get used to.

And the final testament to how much fun the kids had on our camping adventure–little e. sobbed from Goldsboro to Raleigh because she wanted to go back to the campsite.  Someday, but not until the humidity and mosquitoes have run their course…

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midway between the past and present

On the way to the coast last weekend, we had to stop for breakfast 45 minutes into the trip somewhere around Knightdale.  (Ahhhhhh, the joys of traveling with small children…)  Pulling back onto 64, I spotted this sign for the shopping center that we had been in:

Last fall W and I went to the NC Museum of Art to see an outdoor screening of the film “Moving Midway” which is about a family’s decision to move their ancestral plantation home and delves into their past and the past of race relations in the South.  The old house is slowly moved so as to make room for a new shopping center which is, you guessed it, “Shoppes at Midway Plantation.”  (And why, oh why, do developers insist on spelling it “shoppes”?  Put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig.)

Horrified/amused/bemused, I realized that our Chick-fil-a breakfast was part of the crass new world that was foretold in the movie.  We were just one part of the streaming flood of people plunking down their hard-earned dollars for a piece of nameless, bland, safe suburbia on our way to somewhere else. Thank you, Midway, for anchoring us for one brief moment as we made our flight to the coast.

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no swimming for you

Three swimsuits.

Three pairs of flip flops.

One bottle of Burt’s Bees.

One swim diaper.

One plastic diaper cover.

One change of clothes.

One set of plastic sharks.

Plastic bags for wet suits.

Snacks for the ride home.

All of this grand preparation foiled by one little sign at the front desk of the Downtown YMCA–“The Training Pool will be closed from April 5th-April 12th.  Sorry for the inconvenience.”  Inconvenience?  When you are bribing two kids to hang out in the playroom while you get your workout in by taking them swimming afterwards, the pool being closed is not merely inconvenient but downright tragic.

The funniest part of this whole episode is that I almost checked the Y’s website before we left home just to make sure that it was all systems go.  Oh, wait a minute!  Just checked it and the only mention of the pool being closed for a week is that “the YMCA SOS campers will be in the training pool every weekday from March 22 – April 9 from 2-4 p.m. ”  Or maybe not…

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a wild easter ride

Somehow, Easter has become the holiday that keeps on giving.  As a kid, Easter was the day when we got a bag of our favorite candy, received maybe a six pack of Coca-Cola in bottles if that was what we gave up for Lent, and then headed over to Lois’s house for Easter dinner.  For my kids, the holiday has somehow morphed into a nonstop orgy of Easter Egg Hunts and parties.

Some of this is my own doing, but much of it just seemed to happen.  The church has a special breakfast and egg hunt.  The neighborhood has an egg hunt and playtime.  There’s a family supper and attendant egg hunt.  It all makes for a fun-filled weekend albeit a drastic departure from the humdrum, calm ones that I remember as a kid.

That all being said, my favorite part of the day had to be the treasure map that my mom and I designed for the kids.  At 10 pm on Saturday night, the last thing that I wanted to be doing was sitting down with a box of Crayolas and a crumpled up piece of a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.  But, because I want so desperately to win the Mother-of-the-Year Award, I put my nose to the grindstone and produced an Easter Egg Present Treasure Map for the kids. Rhyming couplets and bold directional arrows  combined with a dodgy sense of scale resulted in this very fine map that the kids were (surprisingly) able to follow.

Each discovery was a thrill for the kids (little w. even remarked on the Easter Bunny’s thoughtfulness on straightening up the bookpile).

You have to love it when they get excited by finds from the Target dollar section.  Bunny ears–wow!  Coloring book–no way!  Foam sword–awesome!  The Easter Treasure Hunt culminated outside with presents in the tree, on the fence, and in the playhouse:

I’m not sure what we can do in our preschoolers’  book to top this Easter.  So, next year, we either need to have a general toning down of our festivities or else I need to step it up and try to work on my Easter sonnets a month early.

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