Funday.

I am stunned by autumn every year. (Spring, too.) It’s like a strange sort of seasonal amnesia. I forget, every single year, that hot, muggy, hazy summer days are going to fade into brilliant sunshine and crisp mornings. The sheer delight of waking up next to an open window is like some crazy, new thing every year. But that’s how it is. It’s amazing, this weather. And it’s going to get better before it gets worse, which is even more amazing. I wonder, every year, why we don’t live somewhere else so we can have this weather every day, but I guess it wouldn’t seem so dazzling if it wasn’t novel every time it came around.

Today was genius. It was nature at is best. It wasn’t ever too cold or too hot — not even for a second, which is saying a lot because I run hot. We spent the whole damn day outside and came home beat. We’ll all sleep well tonight.

We started the day at the playground with pals, picnicking. (I swear I didn’t intend that corny alliteration until it was too late and I had to follow through.) You don’t get a picture of that, though, because I only took one and it was full-face and I’m too tired to edit. What you do get, though, is our next stop: Super Sunday. This is basically a bunch of flea market vendors (plus local food vendors) set up on our street. We met up with friends there and bumped into two other friends randomly. Between today and tomorrow, The Who will have seen pretty much every friend he has.

After the playground and Super Sunday, the sun was still shining and we still had energy, so we went to the local pop-up carnival. I am not terribly trusting of these rides, but figured the carousel couldn’t be a big deal, right? Little did I know that, as soon as the ride tickets were purchased, The Who would be saying, “roller coaster, here I come!” Granted, it was the kiddie coaster, but still. It was his first time on a roller coaster, but he was eager and brave. As soon as it started, though, he put his head down and didn’t pick it back up until it was over. Despite that, he burst into a big smile when I picked him up at the end. He reported that he “loved it, but the going up parts were scary!” He is 6th from the left in this photo.

The choppers were more his speed. I assured him this ride was made “just for three-and-a-half-year-olds” and he watched one go-around before deciding that he wanted to ride. I caught him making motorcycle noises throughout the whole thing. Big hit.

What’s a carnival without a sno-cone?

His favorite ride, by far, was the Monkey Maze, which is a narrow network of doorways, arranged with mirrors to trick little children into smacking their heads into walls. It ended with a staircase and then a swirly slide down, with which he was totally enchanted. After the first two run-throughs, I let him go through the maze himself (“hands in front!”) and he did remarkably well (doing best when there was a bigger kid ahead of him to lead the way.) While I stood outside, watching him in the maze, I heard a kid (not mine) smack into the wall every minute. “There’s another one,” the carnie said. He didn’t laugh. I did. He’s a better person than I.

Holiday.

By the end of yesterday, m* had really reached the end of her rope and needed a stretch of several hours of quiet, which I totally understood. So, I put myself to bed early last night (to make sure I’d have enough energy and patience) and planned a solo day with The Who. Nothing hugely special because it is Labor Day, after all — and a rainy one at that — so our choices were really limited. But we made it work and had one of the chillest days we have had together in a long time.

Some looking around online last night alerted me to an antique car show that was happening rain or shine at a diner over the bridge, so I figured — breakfast PLUS cool cars? Ok. That’s where we started our day.

I always have a Take-n-Play Thomas set (among other things) in my “backpack o’ fun” that comes to restaurant outings with us. We are very rarely caught without at least a few things with which to pass the time between sitting and eating. Today was no exception.

Once the train novelty wore out, I pulled a few other vehicles from the backpack and we made our very own car show like the one setting up outside our window. The Who drew the parking spots and I labeled them. He named the show: “The C’mon In Car Show.”

He chose grape juice as his drink and ordered challah French toast. Halfway through the meal, he said, “Hey! This is like shabbat! Challah and wine juice!”

Despite the rain having all but stopped while we were inside eating, by the time we were done and ready to look at some cars, it was practically pouring horizontally. The Who, bedecked in his totally weatherproof windbreaker wanted to soldier on, but I just couldn’t.

By the time we got back to the car, this is what my pants looked like. That light spot is the only part that wasn’t soaked through on both my pants and shoes.

In the car, The Who took off his shorts, underwear, socks, and shoes and hung around nudie booty, listening to his namesake book on CD while I blasted the heat, trying to dry my clothes. Once that was over, he slipped into the dry clothes I had brought for him (and neglected to pack for myself) and we headed across the street to the mall for a while. The Who has pretty much never been to a mall, so this was pretty novel.

Although I did bring dry clothes, I did not think about dry shoes. ShoelessWho threw some pennies into the fountain, probably wishing he had some shoes to wear. (But, on second thought, probably not. He kind of loved walking down the mall without shoes. I drew the line at escalators, though, and made him sit in the stroller.)

(We did find shoes, which was my plan. JC Penney totally came through with $5 sale Keens knock-offs, so he wore those for most of the day.)

We hit the Halloween Store and tried on many masks. Perhaps the reason it took him so long to fall asleep tonight is because he was scared by the Romney mask he made me try on after he sported Obama.

As we were leaving, I saw him standing quietly by the Obama masks. When I got closer, I heard him whispering, “Bye, Obama.” I hope it wasn’t a foreshadowing…

We stuck as close to the side as possible so as not to piss off the hoards of back-to-school shoppers, slipping into Abercrombie. One lady was audibly frustrated behind us, so I convinced The Who to let me share the wheel.

Our final mall stop before venturing back out into the deluge was the kid’s shoe section in Nordstrom’s. It was right by the door and had an aquarium in it, so The Who asked to take a peek. Then he noticed the polka dotted seat. Then the collection of cute books. We read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” a couple of times and I might have bought it if I wasn’t so skeeved by pigeons in general.

And that was mostly our day. We drove home, The Who took a quick snooze, and then we met up with m* for a late afternoon movie. (The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, which was kind of weak when compared to Pixar-type kid movies, but he was engaged for the whole hour and a half and was singing along by the end, which is definitely better than when I took him to see Ice Age, which was over his head.)

Tomorrow, The Who starts Pre-K, which is the oldest classroom in his school/day care. He started there at 13 months old and now he’s like a senior in high school. Crazy big. Just crazy.

Stories.

I have two stories to tell about today. First, there is Story A: the one where my sweet little kid and I spent the day together, traipsing around the city — meeting friends at playgrounds, delighting in artisan popsicles (really!), and gathering fresh herbs from the local farmer’s market. But also, there is Story B: the one where my demanding, off-mood preschooler and I spent hours together, battling high frustration and low patience, continuously re-starting, having “time-ins,” and trying to get it right.

Story A: We finally got it together to make plans with our city pals — a favorite toddler and his new baby sister. We couldn’t have ordered up better weather. Dry, sunny, breezy. The playground was hoppin’ and there was lots of green space to run, dig with sticks, and basically love life. When The Who announced that he was hungry, it was easy to rally the troops and casually walk the few blocks to a charming neighborhood cafe.

Story B: A whole day’s worth of preschooler drama happened before 7:30am and it all stemmed from the wrong butter. Really. Unsalted stick butter for the toast when the expectation was the usual spreadable salted kind. After that insult, nothing was up to par. The crackers were broken. The milk wasn’t warm enough. I didn’t fast-forward through the show’s opening song with enough accuracy. I was frustrated and tired and The Who wanted me to play with him, which was low on my list of desires. Getting out the door was challenging and when we finally made it into the car with the aforementioned cup of milk to go, he told me: “Now it’s too hot!” Of course. Of course it is.

Story A: After lunch, where The Who and his pal played amicably together and the baby even smiled for a few quick snapshots, we parted ways, the boys giving each other charming, delightful hugs goodbye. The Who and I walked hand-in-hand back to the playground, spent a few minutes singing and playing, and then meandered back to the car. Before going back home, I decided to run us by the local gourmet popsicle shop that I knew had opened not long ago in the neighborhood. The Who chose “Chocolate with Salted Caramel Brownie” for his and I slurped on a Watermelon Mint one.We hung around the shop for a bit after as The Who and I cheerfully played “popsicle shop” with the charming little wooden pop stand they had set up in the corner.

Story A.

According to The Who, that one in the foreground is “Strawberry, Garlic, and Blueberry” flavored. Uh, yum?

Story B: At some point during lunch, the window/counter seats we were at started to become uncomfortable and sweaty as the afternoon sun beat down on us. At just about the same time, a comfy cool table for four opened and so my friend and I made the executive decision to move operations over there. Well. The Who was not amused by my show of authority and he let me know by loudly protesting and insisting that he and his plate AND a grown-up needed to stay with him. In hindsight, I should not have made this decision without either asking for his input and/or letting him know what my plan was before I up and moved us. The upshot: a scream and a cry inside the cafe that I had to take outside to address. He did calm down and join us at the table and I apologized for disregarding his preference so rudely.

Story A: After popsicles (and a quick visit to the taqueria next door for a take-out burrito and a potty visit) we headed to our farmer’s market, where we picked up homemade pickles, local heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and placed an order for an organic, free-range, small-farm turkey for Thanksgiving. We popped over to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few essentials to round out our groceries (namely fresh mozzarella to go with those stunning tomatoes and basil) and got home in enough time to relax a little with some lemonade and Little Einsteins before I cooked up a delicious dinner that we all ate together while we chatted about our days.

PopMouth.

Story B: As predicted, The Who beelined for the cupcake stall at the farmer’s market and, as predicted, he was allowed to choose one and eat it on the spot. He chose a heavy, dense blueberry cupcake with lemonade frosting. The cupcake lady apologized for not having any napkins today and I, obviously stupidly, moved to break a piece off of the cupcake so The Who could eat it more easily (and tidily.) He. Lost. His. Everloving. Shit. Right there in the middle of the farmer’s market in front of the sausage guy, to whom we had promised to return before we left. It was all “you broke my cupcake!” and “I need a new one!” I tried to smoosh it back together while apologizing and assuring him that he could have it all and I was just (obviously misguidedly) trying to help him, but he would have none of it. He wanted it to be whole and he wanted it to be new and he wanted to SCA-ream about it. Loudly. So, I did what I had already done once in this day: I took him by the hand and walked him out of the situation. We holed up in the car, which was parked across the street and he tried to calm himself while I held him on my lap, simultaneously expressing remorse for fucking with his cupcake and also letting him know that a screaming fit and demand for a new cupcake was not appropriate and wouldn’t be tolerated. Somehow, with some back-stroking and feeling-talking (“I felt so sad when you did that to my cupcake) he was able to calm down and take a few bites of the now-mushed and mangled cupcake. Turns out he didn’t like it anyway. (“It tastes like sugar and sour all mixed up together.”) Just before we got out of the car to go back to the farmer’s market, I said, “Now, let’s try to have no more screaming and be kind to one another,” and he said, “I was just going to say the same thing to you!”

The rest of the evening was neither here nor there. We were both pretty beat, I think, from all the sun and the walking and the emoting.

Thank God tomorrow’s a school day. I think I feel a migraine coming on.

Glow.

This evening, our neighbor brought over an invitation to his birthday party, along with a little treat bag, which included a pack of glow bracelets like you would get at the 4th of July fireworks. The Who, naturally, was delighted and insisted that we crack into five of them at once. He happily found the darkest room in the house and put them on. When he went to bed, I hung them on his dresser drawer handles, “in case I need them,” he told me. We read ten books (yes, ten. It was a bargaining chip with a very tired boy) and then I made up my nightly story about his stuffed dog Bella (who, tonight, found herself pretending to be a superhero — Super Jumping Dog), sang his favorite bedtime song (“Hurry, Hurry” with his own invented verses) and told him I would check on him in a few minutes. “One minute,” he told me. “One, Mama. Not a few.” I closed his door and went to dry my hair and then as I came out of my room to head back down to him, I saw him standing there, in the dark hallway:

“Mama! Look at me!”

That nut. He just kills me dead with the cute.

Snacks.

There are two notable things about today’s drive home and they are both food-related, which anyone who has road-tripped with a kid will understand. It’s all about the snacks. In our case, we actually only made one stop (well, two, but one right after the other, just up the road) and that’s where all the action was.

Within the first hour, The Who was knocked out. Neither of us slept very well last night and I’m not sure if it was the anxiety of having to say goodbye or the humidity in the room or our allergies (maybe a combination of all three) but compared to all the nights in our house on the Cape, where I laid my head down and didn’t remember a thing until I was woken up in the morning, last night was sort of restless. And I know I heard The Who rustling around a lot, too. So, yeah. Not great sleep + droning highway driving = sleeping Who.

So, as he napped, I plotted. I remembered having seen the PEZ Visitor’s Center advertised on 95 on our way up last week, so I did a quick google, got the address, and pointed my gps directly at it. This gave The Who an hour and a half to sleep and when he woke up, I got to tell him that we were at a candy store. Win-win!

I want to have one of these PEZ benches in my house. Although, I think, first I need the kind of house in which a PEZ bench wouldn’t look crazy.

Wall of PEZ.

It was a little chaotic in there with all the kids and The Who so excited that he was like a pinball in a machine, so I didn’t get to really read all the history on the walls. But I did catch this. Did you know this?

This is a bunch of candy set in a window in the floor. There were a few of these in the room with different things in them. One was all different dispensers. One was PEZ candy packages.

Somehow I didn’t get a picture of the bank of PEZ tablets in bulk, with which you could fill a small bucket for $5. You’d be surprised how many PEZ fit in a small $5 bucket. (HINT: A LOT.) Immediately after that, you could choose a decorate-your-own dispenser. The Who chose a tractor-trailer to decorate. (Surprised? I wasn’t.)

He used his mad pattern-making skillz to fill it up.

And then he just gazed lovingly at it for a while.

And then there was lunch. I contemplated driving around and looking for an actual restaurant, but that would have taken too much time, so I hopped back on 95, expecting to just get off at some crappy rest stop and eat crappy rest stop food. Little did I know that the rest stops on 95 in Connecticut are awesome. Freals.

In a clean, well-lit building with super parking, sat this beacon of perfection. Freshly made, totally customizable, good-sized grilled cheese sandwiches. The Who was instantly sold.

The Who had a “classic” but I had this tomato/fresh basil gem. Road trip food is never good. But it was today.

And now we’re home.

The end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Day.

Today, our last day on vacation here at the beach, was probably my favorite of the whole week. There was nothing particularly special about it, but maybe that’s what made it the best. We made today “Who’s Choice” and his choice was to spend the entire morning at home.

Our morning at home mostly consisted of block-building.

There was also some picture-taking. The Who took my phone and started shooting — mostly photos of his own face, but there were also a few artsy shots like this one.

We all woke around 6:30 and didn’t really mobilize to go anywhere until noon. And even then, we didn’t actually get out of the house until 1:30. I was mostly unstressed about this until I looked up when high tide was and saw that it was at 1:52pm and I knew the beach we were headed to was short and virtually non-existent at high tide. And, lo, I was right. We cruised by it to see the entire world congregated on the tiny postage stamp of sand left on the beach and so we set out for another one.

We could have gone to the National Seashore beach, but they make you pay the entire season’s pass even if you’re only going for an hour and while we would have done it if we had to, neither m* nor I thought to bring a wallet, so we were flat broke. Lucky for us, we remembered that last summer, our pals stayed at a place that had beach access and they didn’t seem to care who used it or whether we parked in their lot or not, so we parked and hiked down to the water.

Aaaah.

We had a grand time until I noticed the water bugs all over the place and got too skeeved to stay. (Some googling revealed that I think they were aquatic sowbugs, which indicate poorer water quality, so it’s a good thing I both firmly forbid ocean drinking and skin-licking and that I got out of the water after only a few minutes. I’m also glad we are all now showered and clean. Blech.)

Guess how many bites of Cheezit he got that weren’t accompanied by crunchy grains of sand.

We had an awesome, calm dinner out, complete with lemon lavender cake for dessert and now all that’s left is the morning pack-up and head-out. The Who and I will catch the ferry in the morning, spend a little time at the New England Aquarium, and then have one more sleepover at Grandma’s before hitting the road back home. It’s been a great, exhausting-in-all-the-right-ways vacation.

Second to Last.

I have virtually no pictures of yesterday because we spent most of it in the water. We finally found time to go to the pool and beach and we ended up spending 5 hours there. The pool is a public one at a hotel in the middle of town and it opens up to the bay, so after we had spent some time swimming, we ventured out to the water’s edge. The Who was, initially, kind of skeeved by the seaweed, but eventually took my hand and walked further in. By the end of the afternoon, he was sitting right in the water, collecting rocks and seashells for the “vacation jar” we plan to make when we get home.

We did visit the bounce house at the “Littles Gathering” in the park again in the morning, though, and it also happened to be “Magic Show Day” there, too. The Who tried over and over to get chosen to be an assistant and finally, got his chance on the last trick. The magician thought he needed someone “braver” (read: older) but I assured him (knowing that The Who really wanted to be able to participate) that he would do just fine. And, of course, he did.

“That doesn’t hurt, does it?”

“Where’s my arm?”

Voila!

Today is “Who’s Choice” day. It’s our last one here, so we promised him that we could do anything he wanted to do. So far, it has been to hang out at the house and play. Maybe we’ll make it to town or to the beach later. Whatever his little heart desires. And then tomorrow, it’s back on the boat to begin our journey home.