Sunday, September 30, 2012

End of an era

Okay, hopefully this is the last time I'll have to say this for a while but ... Jon was traveling again last week.  I'm fed up with this myself so I invited Julia and I to tag along.  Actually it was my last week of work and I needed to close out my job, sign some papers, turn in my keys, etc.  It had nothing to do with the free oceanfront room down at the boardwalk. Nothing at all.

Of course there were the other children to think about.  Thankfully Nonnie volunteered to take the watch.  Nonnie has a new car (just ask Jude, he'll tell you all about it) and was itchin' for a road trip.  She could only come for about 44 hours though, which was just enough for me to get away.  She did a great job and the boys thoroughly enjoyed their "slumber party" with Nonnie, who also happened to bring along lots of treats, books, puzzles, and my personal favorite - a box full of rice for each boy that he could could decorate and play with small toys in.  (Let's just say I've had to vacuum up a lot of rice this week!)  She even took pictures but sadly, I was talking while transferring them to my laptop and can now only find half of them.  Sorry Nonnie! 

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
Acorn and juice box craft.
We literally said hello, I showed her my four pages of caretaking notes (I don't think she consulted them, but it made me feel better), hugged my boys and hit the road.  It was after 6 by the time I grabbed a coffee and we had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us, if we didn't stop. In other words, it was going to be a "late one" for me. 

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
Riding the "dragon" in the woods.
But it was also Julia's bedtime and within minutes the backseat was silent.  Other than a few sighs and the occasional 30 second cry, it stayed that way the entire trip.  So I actually was able to make it all the way to Virginia Beach without stopping once.  You can imagine how I felt when I pulled into the hotel, especially after finishing that large coffee 3.5 hours earlier... Well anyway, with the baby sleeping and no other passengers to worry about the trip was a cinch!  And it definitely helped to have an audiobook on my iPod.  Might as well confess it: I've given in to the peer pressure and whipped my way through the Hunger Games trilogy.  And very frugally, I might add.  I borrowed the first book from the library and was surprised to finish it before half of our camping vacation had ended.  I borrowed the second book from my Kindle owner's lending library and polished that off over the weekend.  And then I had big plans to borrow the audio book from our county library for my drive down, but there weren't any available.  So instead I signed up for a free month's trial of Audible and downloaded the whole thing on my iPod.  Eleven hours of a lady with an excellent accent later and I'm done with fiction for a little while, well at least until the next time I go on a road trip with a sleeping baby.  I just can't be giving up hours of my life to literature at this point.

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View from our sixth floor accomodations!
Back to the trip.  We got in late, Julia woke up and then didn't feel like going back to sleep for a while.  Not even the ocean air and sound of the crashing waves could calm her down.  And then she was up with the sun.  No, before the sun.  Both mornings we were there.  In some ways this was nice, I got to catch the sunrise as well as the pre-dawn show.  But the lack of sleep, in addition to my sunburnt/peeling face, probably did me no favors for my last day of work.  Especially for someone who rarely shows her face around the office anyway.

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Watching the sunrise ... bed hog!
We met up with our old pal Janine and her son Nate for breakfast and then Julia got to go to work with me.  I had an 1.5 hour meeting to attend, as well as take minutes at.  Basically I sat her on the floor next to me with a pile of the quietest toys I could find and kept slipping her snacks under the table.  This lasted for about 30 minutes and then she started sliding around, and pulling up on the chair.  and then she wanted to do what Mommy was doing.  So I minimized my document, let her "type" away on the keyboard and started taking notes by hand.  She did fairly well until about the last 15 minutes of the meeting when she started her whole grunt/squeal talent show.  In the end, she didn't too bad.  And since it was my last week of work, I tried not to let it bother me. 

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My daughter, at approximately 10pm at night, typing on my laptop.
We had lunch with some co-workers, took a short walk around campus, and then she fell asleep in her stroller on the way back to the office.  So I wheeled her into the file room and switched off the lights so she could sleep off her snack-high while I was across the hall saying farewell to friends and career with some ice cream cake.

It sounds so simple really.  I knew my job was ending on September 30, 2012 since the day I started.  It's one of the things that got me through the really hard days, the ones where I was already drafting a letter of resignation in my head.  Just one more year, just a few more months.  Just finish what you've started.  And then it was here.  More straightforwardness - fill out some resignation paperwork, type up a training manual, turn in my keys.  Piece of cake.

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
Teamwork, bringing their big find in the woods back to the house.
But I'd be lying if I didn't admit it's all been much more difficult than I imagined.  I've never been one to handle change well, even if it means holding on to something that's not in my, or my family's, best interest.  I just like being surrounded with what is familiar.  There are certain other aspects of my job, my former career, that I loved as well.  And I was pretty good at it.  After 10 years of working in higher-ed admissions, and 4 years of working with an alternative route to teacher licensure program, I know my stuff.  Which has been a huge blessing.  It's rare when a student asks me a question I can't answer.  Or that I can't answer while making the bed, changing a diaper, or cleaning a toilet.  I could do most of this stuff in my sleep.  And now I have a huge area of my brain filled with knowledge that I might never use again. 

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
And more than that, I feel like I'm losing the one thing I'm pretty good at.  I'm a mediocre cook, at best.  A spotty decorator.  A sporadic house cleaner.  A horrible gardner.  A sloppy seamstress.  And an amateur parent.  And when I write it all out like that, my future looks very uncertain.

I'm going to miss the well-thought emails, the adult phone conversations, the rules and regulations and the data-keeping spreadsheets.  It was a nice, neat world to slip into on evenings after trying to decipher baby babbles, mediate temper tantrums, correct bad behavior and organize messy toy rooms.  I'm going to miss that sphere, so far removed from parenthood, even if it was just typing at my kitchen table, my elbow trapped in a sticky puddle of something leftover at Jack's seat.  Or taking phone calls buffered behind layers and layers of my husband's uniforms in the back of the guest room closet, as far away as I can get from my secondborn yelling "Poops, Mom, I gotta go poops!!!"  Or telecommuting into a meeting, taking minutes with one hand while holding a nursing a baby with the other.  For despite how close to home my job would hit, it was still something different.  Something else.

But now that era ends.  After 4 years of being a work-at-home mom, tomorrow is a new day.  I have no idea what that means.  Can't even tell you what to expect.  I'm sure once I'm over the mourning period, once I stop habitually checking my phone wondering why no new emails have come in, once I step away from my laptop for hours on end, once I stop getting random calls from my boss.  I'm sure we'll start something new.  And it will be good.  And I'll even admit I'm a little excited.  It's a new era.  And I'm not even sure what to call it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cape Henlopen, Part III (The Beach)

Brace yourself.  I have a lot of pictures and not a lot more to say.  I just wanted to close out our camping vacation with some final thoughts on my favorite aspect: the beach.

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Oh how I love the beach.  Or just the coast in general. And not just because it's our livelihood.  There's something so thrilling about standing at the edge of the world, and yet so peaceful at the same time.  The rythmic lapping of the waves.  The far expanses of sand and sea.  The ability to draw away from people, place and time and just focus, or not focus, on the emptiness around you.  It's calming, to say the least.

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Well, until my boys show up.  And then it's a loud, boistorous playground.  Who knew so much could be found to do in pile of broken shells?

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There are actually several beaches at Cape Henlopen.  The main one, with a bath house and other amenities.  A  more private one that most of the surfers frequent, that only has porta potties a good distance away. And another beach that we didn't visit. 

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It never rained during the day, but we did have one very threatening cloud!
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Showing us his crab walk.
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Guarding the snack mix from seagulls ...  or big brothers.
Our first day there was entirely too windy for the oceanfront so we opted instead to leave the park and head about a mile down the road to Lewes' public beach.  We paid a whopping $1.50 to park (turns out the parking lot is very empty in the middle of a September week) and planted ourselves in front of a large sand dune to block the wind.  And the kids were more than happy with their lot of sand and ability to trek buckets of water to their sand holes.

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Melissa and Doug cupcake sand toy.
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"I make you special cupcakes Mama!!"
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Seaweed sword fights!
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I may have forgotten to put sunscreen on one day ... I'm paying for it now with a peeling face. :(
In addition to the old standbys - building sandcastles, digging holes, going on scavenger hunts - we created a few new activities this past week.  Like pseudo-skim-boogie-boarding.  Jack lays on the boogie board, and Poppa pulls him through the waves.  Jack says he's "surfing."  And we like to let him think so.

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And then there was sand surfing - baby style.  Someone had the bright idea to pull Julia around on the boogie board in the sand.  She enjoyed it so much we started doing it every day.  The people around us enjoyed it as well.  There was lots of pointing, laughing and picture-taking of the little girl on her sand chariot.  And Girlfriend just soaked it all in.

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Of course, all that attention can really take a lot out of you.  Poppa returned to our "camp" at one point and Lia was completely konked out on the boogie board, toe dragging off the side.  And she contentedly finished out her nap under the umbrella.

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I gotta admit though, the highlight of our beach trip was when the Amish showed up.  Just one family at first.  And then a few more, and a few more.  Until we had around 20 parents, kids and grandparents gathered just down the beach from us.  In the beginning, they all stood around in their dressed, stockings, long pants and boots.  I was beginning to feel a little self-conscious in my tank top.  But eventually, one by one, they went to the bath house and came back in what I'm assuming was their beach gear - more dresses.  The guys were lucky though, they were actually wearing regular swim trunks. 

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Inconspicuous photo of background.
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I snapped this one while holding the camera in my lap.
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And I couldn't resist this shot while in the bath house.
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And they boogie board too!  Who knew!?

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And you thought this was a picture of Jack.
On our last afternoon there, we rinsed down little bodies in the beach showers, loaded them into the car and started on the drive back west.  Our trip home went much more smoothly than the previous one.  Two-thirds of my babies napped and the other third watched a movie.  We made it home in less than 2.5 hours and were there to greet Daddy when he pulled in a few minutes later.  We spent the better part of the weekend unpacking, vacuuming up sand and catching up on home stuff.  Because just a few days later we were scheduled for yet another beach adventure ...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cape Henlopen, Part II

Cape Henlopen is a family favorite.  We've been their often over the years.  I can only remember camping there once before myself, but it's been a popular stop on the way home from our beach house rental week and the perfect way to extend vacation to the very last drop.  The State Park is located in the adorable, quaint Lewes, DE.  I think I could really love that town.  But since I usually have small children with me I haven't had a chance to really soak it up yet.  It's also just a few miles north of Rehoboth Beach, where all the action is.  Although things look a little different in September.  And that's the way I like it.  Easy to find parking, no crowds on the boardwalk and, most importantly, no waiting in line for ice cream.  I think I'm going to start making a September beach trip an annual thing!

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He wanted me to take a picture ... and then he refused to look at the camera.
 
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Strictly window shopping here, I will never buy a hermit crab.  Anyone have any statistics on their average lifespan?  10 days? 15?  That's what I thought.
I need to just come right out and say it, we did not camp in a tent.  I know, I know.  I also think that anything other than a tent (or no shelter at all) shouldn't exactly be considered "camping."  And I do love me some good, old fashioned camping.  But not this time.  And especially not without my handy hubby around.  This time around we stayed in a "rustic cabin."  In other words, we had a roof over our head, a bed, and electricity.  That's about it.  But it was a good thing because the weather forecast was a bit iffy that week, and we did end up with some big wind storms and rain showers. 

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Jude's been eyeing up the marshmallows for weeks, and then repeats to himself: "No, no. Those are for camping fire."


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A little morning playdough action.
But that did not deter my children from hiking up a World War II observation tower each and every evening.  Not only did they walk the whole way to "the tower" but also climbed all 115 steps themselves.  And then proceeded to run laps around the top chasing each other.  They had so much fun the first night they convinced Marmie or Poppa to take them every night thereafter.  It became a post-dinner event and the perfect way to get them to finish their meals quickly!

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The cabin consisted of two rooms.  Marmie, Poppa and Jack slept in the front room, and Jude, Julia and I slept in the back.  I did it that way because Jude and Julia are my early-risers.  I just didn't realize how early that would be this week.  Or that they would continually take turns waking each other up.  The first night there Jude had a bad dream early in the morning.  I got him calmed down and then Julia started crying.  I got her calmed down and Jude said he had to go pee-pee.  So I take them both outside and since I'm not about to walk to the bath house with two kids before the sun is even up, I let him take care of business right outside the cabin.  It was all downhill from there and no one went back to sleep.  Thankfully Poppa assumed responsibility for Jude and together they took many a sunrise bike ride.  I kept Julia entertained each morning and Marmie watched over Jack, who has finally perfected the art of (what he calls) "grown up sleep" i.e. sleeping until 8am and beyond!

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Chin up, Buttercup!
The first night was actually one of our better ones.  Julia wasn't a fan of the unfamiliar sleeping quarters.  She's also working on some teeth.  So she was up a lot in the night.  And in order to keep from waking Jude I'd just slip her in next to me.  And then she'd insist on nursing.  And then when I was certain she was asleep and would try to head that direction myself she'd throw a mini fit again.  So we spent the better part of our evenings with her eating and me dozing off in between.  And then Jude would start to stir and realize he was missing out on a party in Mommy's bed.   So he'd sidle over to join us until Poppa came to the rescue!

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"Please Marmie, don't put me in the ladybug with the boys!"
Speaking of my girl, she is (drumroll please...) taking steps while holding onto your hands.  Okay, so I know there are 6 month olds that do this.  But it's the closest we've got to mobility so far since that whole sliding backwards bit.  You can tell she's pretty new at it.  She doesn't bend her knees and kinda juts her foot out as far as it will, and then brings the next one up with so much force I'm certain her legs are connected by rubber bands. 

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But she's also our little drama queen.  And the moment she loses your hand and *gasp* falls down, well her little world just caves in.

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I think she would much prefer "swinging" as her official mode of transportation, if that were an option:
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I think the fresh air and open spaces were refreshing for my boys!

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Hunting for deer.
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Spotted!
And although the weather was foreboding, it didn't keep us from seeking an adventure at the nearest playground.

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But while towers, playgrounds and nature centers are all fun, I had one thing on my mind - a suntan.  The beach was my daily destination. I would have been happy with just a book and a chair (and two grandparents to keep an eye on the kiddos) but our last day there proved to have something a little more exciting in store for us.  More on that next time ..
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