North Conway Week

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Coolest Bunk Bed Ever

We had a fabulous vacation this August in Madison, NH, complete with friends, family, theme parks, mountains, lakes, and a black bear. We rented a house for a week in Edelweiss Village in Madison, NH. Not only did our house have the coolest bunk bed ever (see picture - that's a twin, over twin, over triple - a little scary with the 2 year olds), but from our deck, you could catch glimpses of Middle Pea Porridge Pond through the green trees. Edelweiss contains five beaches spread over three ponds - Little, Middle and Big Pea Porridge. And despite their names, they are pristine, clear, spring fed bodies of water - the largest of which is closer to a small lake than a pond. Just right for young children, which worked for us because our household consisted of six adults and five kids between ages two and six. So even though we adults outnumbered (barely) the rug rats, it often felt like there was a horde of kids swarming our compound. It was actually really fun - the kids had a ball playing together and the household chores (cooking, cleaning, and entertaining kids) seemed less daunting when split between six adults instead of two. Leaving was harder than I imagined, and our house seems so quiet with just the four of us - I really miss having everyone around.

So what did we do? The first few days we spent at the ponds - swimming, canoeing, and cooking. Tuesday was rainy so we stayed in the house for the morning, then headed to North Conway for a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. We chose the shortest route - fifty-five minutes round trip from North Conway to Conway and back. This proved to be a good choice since both two year olds were getting very restless by the end of the ride. En route, we had some pretty views of the White Mountains including cloud topped Mt. Washington (the tallest peak north of the Carolinas and east of the Mississippi, according to our adorable, elderly conductor).

Conway Scenic Railway

Wednesday was the big visit to Storyland. I know in the past I've turned my nose up at this theme park - this was my first Storyland visit, ever. See, this summer I realized my baby girl is turning six! How many more years do I have to do things like Storyland before I start getting eye rolls and attitude in return? If you haven't guessed by the name, Storyland is a nursery rhyme based theme park ten minutes north of North Conway. The target age is eight and under (prime age is probably two through six). There are lots of little scenes based on nursery rhymes for the kids to explore (The Three Bear's House, Old Mother Hubbard's Shoe, etc.). Further into the park, there are kiddie rides including a (very) small roller coaster, a log flume with a decent drop off, teacups, and a tiltawhirl where you sit in turtles instead of little red cars. Nothing too scary - I was able to bring Mr. Gregory on all of those (the required height for the bigger rides was thirty-six inches and the marker bar just scraped the top of his head so he was in). I must say everything was very clean, and I only saw one gift shop.

Unfortunately, Wednesday morning Greg woke up with the stomach flu. I won't go into the gory details but trust me when I say it wasn't possible for him to make Storyland. I braved it with the two kids, and the two other families staying with us helped me out a ton. One of the coolest things was en route to Storyland we took a less traveled route (the main road through North Conway had major construction and traffic). Slightly off the beaten path, it still was pretty heavily populated. The night before I had taken the same road to retrieve a forgotten wallet at Ben and Jerry's by the North Conway Scenic Railway Station with one of the other Moms, scoping it out for our morning Storyland trek. It was pretty dark but I definitely saw something bear shaped in one of the yards we passed. People (myself included) were pretty doubtful that I had seen a real bear, so as we drove the road again in the morning light, I watched yards to see if any had one of those sadistic bear cutouts that always make you think you saw a bear, until you get a good look at it. And what do you think happened? That's right - right around the place I thought I saw a bear the night before, a REAL black bear ran out of someone's yard, directly in front of our minivan, and into the woods on the other side of the road. I saw it, Rebecca saw it, everyone in the two trucks following me carrying the rest of our brood saw it. When I checked to see if Gregory could see, he was fast asleep with a little drool running down his chin, so he missed it, but everyone else saw it!! So that made my day and kept my mood happy as I spent the day in Hell, I mean Storyland (just kidding - it was very nice and the kids both loved it).

Thursday was slightly overcast so the three Moms made the spontaneous decision to head to Santa's Village (translation: Storyland with a Christmas theme). It was much further - close to 1.5 hours from our rented house, but the drive was gorgeous - right through the heart of the White Mountains (no bears this time). Santa's Village was actually very nice too, except for these very annoying 'Elfabet' figures, each based on a different letter, placed all over the park. The kids were all given cards printed with the alphabet, and as we traveled through the park they had to stamp their card in each of the twenty-six 'Elfabets'. It got old after about three stamps, trust me. The Santa's Village roller coaster was actually bigger than Storyland's. Rebecca refused to go on it although Gregory jumped right on and loved it. We fed reindeer, took a 'sleigh' ride, and saw Santa before the day was out. I have now hit my kiddie theme park quota for the year and will officially go insane if I go within ten miles of The Sesame Place or Polar Express.

Our last full day, Friday, was warm and sunny, and we spent a marvelous day at Middle Pea Porridge Pond. Then it was time to make dinner, put the kids to bed, pack, clean the house, and crash into bed. We didn't even have the energy for a six person game of cribbage by the time we were done. And that was it. Great week guys - Greg and I are hoping to do it again next year.

For tons of pictures, check this out.

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First Dentist Trip and Bike Ride

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm having a little trouble getting out of vacation mode here. I'm actually still working on the NH post, I'm at a loss about why it is taking me so long to finish, except that I brought a really good stack of books to read, and didn't get close to finishing them on vacation, so I've been working on them since returning (on top of work, cleaning, life, etc.). In the meantime, we've had a couple of events this week.

The most notable is Gregory went for his first ever dentist appointment. Gregory does not like to brush his teeth, and the activity often turns into a tag teem wrestling match (parent and toothbrush versus Gregory and plaque). He has a visible layer of plaque on his bottom teeth which I always figured was due to said toothbrushing aversion. Anyway, I thought there was no way he would sit and allow a dentist to clean his teeth, but I just couldn't look at his little teeth without feeling like a neglectful mother, so I asked around for the name of a good pediatric dentist in our area. Several people recommended Dr. Gallagher in Worcester, and back in June, I made back to back appointments for Gregory and Rebecca. The soonest available on a Monday was August 24th, so Greg took them in this past Monday.

Greg said Dr. Gallagher was unbelievably good with the kids. They put them in side by side chairs, which worked well because Rebecca LOVES the dentist. Her attitude must have rubbed off on Gregory because the boy did great and let them examine and clean his teeth as much as they wanted. The end result? Rebecca has great teeth, barely any plaque, and they don't foresee any dental problems in her future. Gregory? A bit of a different story. According to the dentist, the plaque on his bottom teeth is the result of his being "a mouth breather". I don't understand why, something about the build up of calcium and other things caused by breathing though the mouth, and that all the brushing in the world wouldn't help (I still plan to continue our toothbrush torture tradition every night - must be my sadistic side). Still, they cleaned him up, and then informed Greg that Gregory has a pretty severe under bite (his lower jaw is longer than his upper, causing his bottom teeth to rest in front of his front teeth). There is always a chance he will outgrow it, but they foresee braces and possibly surgery in his future. Not much we can do now, which is good because we won't be able to start his orthodontist fund until we finish paying for his day care, but I digress. In the meantime, the under bite is probably what causes his lower lip to protrude slightly, giving him his adorable pout. I guess I will just enjoy that while he still has it, especially since it will probably cost me upward of $10,000 worth of orthodontist bills in ten years.

For fun I took the kids on the Rail Trail Friday morning for a bike ride. Rebecca did great, probably the most biking I've ever seen her do. Gregory tried with his tricycle, but it's just too difficult to pedal on the dirt trail, so we ended up ditching it (translation, I carried him most of the way). Next time, I will bring the stroller.

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My Baby Turns 3!

Friday, August 14, 2009

To my Gregory, on your 3rd birthday.
Three weeks ago, on Rebecca's birthday, I wrote the story of her birth. Today, in honor of your third birthday, here is your story.

It was Monday morning, August 14th, and I knew I was going to give birth very soon. I grew amply with my first baby, but with my second I was absolutely enormous. A lot of women exaggerate this, but I really don't feel that is the case here. In early June, when asked how long I had to go, I would respond 'two months' at which point, the inquiring party would laugh at me and say something such as "you're going to have a long summer". In my head, I was thankful they didn't know I had rounded down, and actually had two months and three weeks to go. By mid-August, I couldn't bend over to pick something up without losing my balance and falling forward. I had long since outgrown my pregnancy bathing suit, and most people were asking me if twins were expected. For several weeks, I had experienced irregular cramps, but they were becoming more frequent and stronger. Rebecca was born seventeen days early, and I advised my boss to get a replacement contractor in early. Somehow, here it was, seventeen days before my due date, and replacement was due for his first day at work. This Monday my plan was to spend the whole day training him. So despite some telltale signs, I made the hour and a half drive from Holden to Waltham, and worked a long day, trying to show the poor guy everything. By six o'clock that night, I was done. Sitting at the conference table with the contractor, I noticed some of the cramps felt more intense. On my way through the mostly empty parking lot, I had one strong enough to stop me in my tracks until it passed. I decided it was probably time to start watching the car radio clock to see if the pains had developed any kind of pattern.

You have to understand the logistics. I worked in Waltham, was due to deliver at Emerson Hospital in Concord, and lived in Holden. So basically, I drove past Emerson about fifteen minutes into my hour and a half commute. As I started down Route 20, I found the pains were coming roughly every four minutes. I contemplated driving the remaining hour home, and then having to turn around and drive another hour back to the hospital. This option wasn't at all appealing, so I called my doctor. We decided, since I was practically driving past the hospital anyway, I might as well stop in and have the nurses check me out. I parked in the Emerson parking garage and waddled into the maternity ward. The pain was not as intense as my first birth, and there was still no fluid leakage, but I really didn't want to miss that epidural window.

Although I wasn't feeling them as much, the nurses felt my contractions were regular enough that I should stay a while. I called Greg who had already packed up Rebecca, and told him to come on in. As I waited for him, my water broke, and the labor came on full strength. We're talking fast and furious, one intense contraction on top of the next. My first act upon arriving at the hospital, was to fill out my epidural paperwork (see previous post about first birth). So as Greg rushed to my parent's to drop off Rebecca, I received that beautiful six inch needle stab in the spine. Things were moving very fast, and for a while we weren't sure Greg would make it in time. He did, and after a little unexpected pushing (the baby was face up), there was my beautiful eight pound, one ounce baby boy. That's right - eight pound, one ounce, seventeen days early. Thank you for not coming two weeks late. He had the softest, roundest little cheeks, and like his sister he didn't cry on his entry to the world. Some fluid was stuck in his lungs because of his face up arrival, and they put him into a special room for observation overnight. The only family in the room was Greg and my Mom. My Dad was watching Rebecca, and things went so fast my sister, who was coming from Bath, Maine, missed it by ten minutes.

That's it. You know how it goes - stop on the way home from work, pick up a pizza, have a baby. I can't believe three hectic, joyful years have raced by since that night. Gregory, you might be turning into a little man, but you'll always be my baby.

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Van The Man

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Wang Center

For our last summer concert, Greg and I saw Van Morrison last night at the beautifully restored Wang Center in the Boston Theater District last night. The show was advertised as "Astral Weeks" and other older material, of which I am not very familiar. Greg loves Van Morrison and has listened to "Astral Weeks" since he was a kid, so this one was for him. Apparently Van Morrison is a bit ambivalent about performing, and does not want to be photographed or videotaped by fans. I was upset because in my rush to finish work, pick up Rebecca at camp, and get her to my Mom and Dad's, I had forgotten our camera. It didn't matter because when we arrived at the Wang Center, there were large signs everywhere forbidding attendees from taking picture/video, and this was actually enforced by Wang Center ushers. So sadly, I have no personal video/pictures from the night to post, but the performance was professionally videotaped, so maybe it will become commercially available at a future date.

It was a beautiful evening, and Greg and I arrived about forty-five minutes early, so we thought about stopping at a bar for a drink before heading over to the show. Everything nearby was packed, so we ended up going in early, and enjoying a overpriced glass of wine (me), a beer (Greg), and the view of the magnificent performance hall, from our seats high in the balcony. Van came out at 8:00 PM sharp, with no opening act. His onstage musicians included two cello players, a bassist, a drummer, a percussionist, a pianist, a flute/trombone player, a guitar player, and himself (vocals, guitar, saxophone and harmonica).

Unfortunately, the show was somewhat wasted on me. His voice sounded cool, but I couldn't understand a word he was singing, which made it hard since the only song I knew that he played the whole night was his encore. Greg is very familiar with Van's older stuff, and thought he sounded great. It was fun listening to him, and watching him conduct his nine piece band on stage, but I would have enjoyed it more if I knew more of the songs.

The encore song was "Gloria", which I thought was created by The Doors. Greg told me that Van Morrison actually created "Gloria", and it was an international hit for his first band, Them. Them toured the US in May and June of 1966, ending with three weeks in L.A. at the Whiskey a Go Go. During the last week, The Doors opened up for Them, and apparently Jim Morrison, extremely impressed by Van, based a lot of his own singing style on the Irish musician. On the last night of the tour, the two bands played "Gloria" on stage together, and The Doors continued to cover the song for the rest of their short but influential career.

On the way home, I started wondering if Van Morrison is the most famous person I've ever seen perform. My guess is no, although he is probably among the top four. So in honor of our last summer concert, here's the list, in very loose chronological order, of all the famous bands I've seen in the past twenty years. One star means I've only seen them as an opening act, and two stars means I've seen them more than once.

  1. Van Halen (with Sammy Hagar)

  2. Robert Plant (solo)

  3. Tesla

  4. Guns n Roses

  5. Metallica*

  6. Pearl Jam**

  7. The Red Hot Chili Peppers**

  8. The Rolling Stones

  9. Bob Dylan**

  10. Aerosmith**

  11. The Grateful Dead**

  12. Jerry Garcia (solo)

  13. The Beastie Boys

  14. Crosby, Stills and Nash

  15. Peter Gabriel

  16. Phish**

  17. The Allman Brothers

  18. The Black Crows

  19. Neil Young

  20. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

  21. Wilco**

  22. B.B King

  23. Jeff Tweedy (solo)

  24. The Decemberists**

  25. Van Morrison

I know I'm missing a few, but that's all I can come up with. If I saw them multiple times, I listed them roughly where I saw them for the first time. Anyone else seen some famous bands?

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Maine Weekend

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rebecca on the pontoon boat

We just got home from a very fun and exhausting weekend at Maine. Our friend's parents have a camp cabin right on Crystal Lake in Harrison Maine. And no, it's not the Friday the 13th Crystal Lake - no hockey mask wearing serial killers to be seen. It's a beautiful little lake North of Sebago Lake, surrounded by small mountains. There's a little beach, dock, and a pontoon boat. At night the lake looks like glass and you can hear the eerie calls of the loons (it's especially peaceful after a night sitting around the campfire and a bottle of Riesling).

Gregory enjoying a s'more

This weekend Patty and Phil bravely invited us, and four other families with small children to pitch tents on their property for a big camping sleepover. The kids were in heaven, and had a great time going for boat rides, tubing, swimming, fishing, toasting marshmallows, eating s'mores and hiking up Hawk Mountain. Rebecca was the only kid to fall in the lake with all her clothes on, and Gregory found a toy lawnmower which became attached to his little fingers as he possessively pushed it around the yard for hours. It was actually nice, whenever he was getting into mischief, I would just tell him the lawnmower was free and he would stop his shenanigans and mow the pine needles. Plus, it had a little fake engine that whirred when the wheels turned, so even if we couldn't see him we knew where he was just by listening. We considered stopping on the way home to pick one up at Walmart, but figured once he actually owned it he would never play with it again. He did go for his first boat ride too - he was nervous for about five minutes, then he became his usual wild self and it was Greg and I who were nervous. Thanks Sarah, Kenny, Patty and Phil for having us to your beautiful spot.

Here's all the pictures.

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