Wednesday the 24th was mostly taken up with getting from Somerville, MA to North Babylon, NY. I remembered to book a ferry in plenty of time, and I am so very glad I did. I keep saying that the Ferry doesn’t save you time or money, but saves you a lot of stress, but I’ve concluded that it does save you time if you are travelling with a child who nurses. Since you can nurse a kid while on the Ferry, which is in the middle of the trip, that cuts down on the number of times you need to stop so the baby can be nursed. Of course I am a weirdo because I am still nursing a child who is old enough to ask for it in no uncertain terms, but it seems my type of weirdo is pretty common among my peer group. Thanks to the ferry the trip down was great except for the last couple of miles, where a fatal accident on Sunrise Highway held us up for nearly an hour.
My sister and her family arrived bright and early Thursday morning. This was the one nice day we had weather-wise. The house I grew up in is not large. It seemed like plenty of space at the time, but with 7 adults and 4 children under 5 years old it was pretty crowded. We’d been counting on spending most of our time in the yard, and Thursday was the only day this plan actually worked.
The rain started Thursday evening just in time for dinner. My parents moved the picnic table, the only table they had remotely capable of seating us all (it seats 8, we fudged it a bit for the little kids) into the garage. We ended up eating nearly all our meals in the garage as hurricane Irene kept things wet for the rest of our stay in NY.
The big event Friday was going into NYC to see the natural history museum. It turns out they have dragon bones, or so Duncan claims. Poor Jett missed out on this outing, though I don’t think he minded given that it didn’t feature much food.
Saturday the plan had been to go to the Long Island Scottish Games. In fact, the whole trip had been scheduled so that my sister Margaret and I would both be visiting that day so we could all go to the Games. Sadly there was this small matter of a hurricane which seemed to be freaking people out unduly and the event was cancelled. Everything was closed. That left us all in a smallish three bedroom raised ranch house trying to occupy the preschoolers and toddlers. Star Wars was watched, and Kaden and Margaret became fast friend. Margaret refers to Kaden as “my cousin” now, and she seems to very much mean it in the ownership sense of the word “my”. Duncan and Jett didn’t take to each other so much, in spite of being closer in age and the same gender. I think Duncan found Jett a little alarming, possible something about him being six months younger but a pound heavier.
The grass may have been very wet, but when it wasn’t actively raining we encouraged the kids to be outside.
Sunday we spent a windy, rainy morning on Long Island, but given that the eye of Irene was passing well to the west and the storm had already been weakened by travelling over land the damage was negligible. My sister and I kept cracking jokes about going to Disney World. In 1985 the eye of Hurricane Gloria passed directly over our house, leaving our neighborhood without power for ten days. After a week without power my mom got us free tickets to Florida and we spent a long weekend in Disney World. After a week with no power and no hot water it was a welcome mini-vacation. Irene was no Gloria, and once the storm had finished traveling up the New Jersey turnpike we left to go travel down the New Jersey turnpike.
In Washington only Hongmei stayed with Warren’s mother. The rest of us stayed in a nearby Holiday Inn. It was nice to have a little space of our own, and we while the food in the hotel wasn’t great, the ‘kids eat free’ part pretty much made up for the quality shortcomings as far as I was concerned.
We went to the national zoo on Monday and saw a giant panda, a clouded leopard, the reptile house and some other cool stuff. The zoo doesn’t have a huge variety of animals, but it does a really good job with displays. The only part I could complain about is that the hilly nature of the park made pushing a double stroller full of kids and stuff a bit more of a workout that I’m used to. I also spent way too much time carrying Duncan, because he was too short to see the exhibits from the ground. Still, it’s a great zoo, and while we paid for parking, the zoo itself was free.
Wednesday night Warren’s mom took us out to a famous Peking Duck restaurant. We had a great time, especially Duncan who I expect would not be underweight if he ate there every single night. I’m really glad the kids are pretty well behaved in restaurants.
We liked the zoo so much that we went back on Tuesday to see the stuff we couldn’t get to on Monday. This was the tigers, lions, small mammals, and other stuff. The surprise (to me) hit of the day was a building called Amazonia, basically a small patch of Amazon rain forest with the stuff below water level exhibited on the first floor, and the rest on the second floor. This was a huge hit with Duncan who kept eagerly pointing and exclaiming, “A big fish! A big fish!” for most of the first level. They were very big fish indeed.
We’d had dim sum on Tuesday, before the zoo. Wednesday was mostly devoted to packing up some of Warren’s mother’s collection At 79 she is trying to make sure her stuff gets divided up before she dies. I now have a shoebox and a largish tote bag with family heirloom jewelry, some of which she gave to me and some of which she indicated was for the kids, but except for the stuff that she said was explicitly for Duncan I am basically holding all of it in trust for Margaret, her only granddaughter and clearly the intended eventual recipient. We went back for a late dim sum after the packing of the family treasures, and afterwards we went to see monuments. Actually we only got to the Jefferson memorial, but the kids enjoyed it.
We were there just as the sun was setting, and there was this cool looking cloud across the water behind the Washington Monument. After taking my first shot I realized I should reframe it to get rid of the security barrier, which I did. As we were leaving, though, I realized the first shot was a much more truthful shot about the country as it is now.
When we got back Margaret decided she wanted to stay with Nai Nai. Hongmei backed Margaret up, saying Margaret could stay in her room, so we headed back to the hotel with just Duncan. Sadly, there was only one diaper left in the bag, and when Warren returned to his mom’s place with spares Margaret decided not to stay after all, but in the brief time Margaret was experimenting with the idea of spending a night away from her parents Warren took this shot of Duncan sleeping alone in the big bed. (Warren is not used to my camera.)
Thursday September 1st we loaded up the car with the paintings and all our luggage and headed north. It was a long drive. We played 5 Disney movies on the van’s DVD player. I love my car, and honestly I have no idea how parents kept their sanity before the invention of minivans with DVD players.
We’d moved the second row seats in the van together in order to make room for a big painting, so Margaret and Duncan were sitting right next to each other instead of being separated by several inches. They had their first vehicle territorial dispute on the trip back, concerning who had control of the armrests. We’ve decided to keep the seats together, however, as we feel that fighting over car space is part of growing up, not to mention on shorter trips they use the proximity primarily to hold hands, so the cuteness makes up for the disputes. Now that we’re back life is busy, but that is the intended subject for my next post which I also meant to have written and posted by now.</ljcut>