And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

...And We're Back

We have returned -- though not yet recovered -- from our 10-day trip from coast to coast and back again. Okay, okay, it was the south-to-the-north version (Gulf Coast to Lake Erie), but whaddaya want with two kids in tow? Some highlights of/observations from/advice that results from the trip.

1. Vans are awesome. We packed for this preliminary-to-the-move odyssey, and we didn't even come close to filling up half of our Toyota Sienna -- and that's even counting the giant inflatable bed we had to bring. It gives me hope that we won't be giving the vacuum cleaner away to the neighbors when the moving van's pulled away and we've forgotten all the little things that are still left in the house.

2. Vans are also awesome because they eliminate many of the road trip hazards I remember from my youth -- those of the "He's touching me! Well, she's on my side! Well, he's breathing my air!" variety.

3. Even awesome vans and tons of goodies to entertain the children will not prevent them from uttering "I'm booooored" approximately every 2.4 seconds. (This even applies to the 2-year-old, who doesn't even know what that means.)

4. Sirius radio is seriously cool. It is a pain to find clear FM stations for the FM transmitter to work all the time, but I may be able to solve that by using the tape adapter from my Lyra. It was especially cool to switch to the all-Elvis channel on our way to Graceland, and then find that that channel actually broadcasts from Graceland (well, duh!).

5. Graceland is not so much cool. I'm willing to grant that my perceptions may have been affected by sleep-deprivation-induced crankiness (the kids do NOT adapt to hotels as well as I think they will) and 90+ degree heat and crowds with a median age of 57, but even if conditions were optimal, I'm not sure I'd be very impressed. It looks like your well-off aunt's house -- lots of plush white carpeting and furniture and everything a little bit too fancy, but still small, boxy, out-of-date rooms. There is one room that has green shag carpeting on the ceiling. (Ian's comment: "That wug doesn't be-yong on the ceiling!")

5a. I was very tempted to buy a stuffed replica of Graceland, as it almost fit the criteria for my stuffed object collection. I find a great deal of irony (and I readily admit I may be the only one) in plush versions of inanimate objects -- I have a stuffed Eiffel Tower, a stuffed space shuttle, a stuffed Boston Trolley, and a stuffed Saturn (the planet, not the car). These amuse me greatly. Alas, the Gracelance, while sufficently stuffed, was not furry, so it failed the test.

6. The St. Louis Arch is just an amazing work of art. Every time I see it, I'm just stunned by its simplicity and elegance. I even enjoy the 2001-like little cages you ride up to get to the top.

7. St. Louis's The Magic House is an incredible children's museum -- if you have kids and can get there, go! The exhibits were interesting, educational, and well-maintained. The kids loved racing from room to room, and they also enjoyed the 3-story high slide (that I even remember from when I went there about 25 years ago). I was the only one who would do the Van de Graaf generator (the thing that makes your hair stand up with static electricity) -- the children are a little bit chicken. I was really, really glad we ditched Memphis early enough to get to St. Louis to do this.

8. The Lincoln Presidential Museum was interesting, though we could have spent a little more time there, too. The multimedia shows they have were very well done. (Note to illustrate the difference between men and women: At the end of the stirring holographic Ghosts in the Library presentation, I turn to Dave, wiping away little tears. He looks at me excitedly and says, "I just figured out how they do that and why the window is at a 45-degree angle!") Again, the kids were a bit chicken -- apparently cannon fire isn't their favorite sound in the world.

8a. The absurd souvenir that I had to buy at the Lincoln Museum -- one of those pressed, elongated pennies with . . . LINCOLN'S HEAD ON IT!

9. My parents put up with a lot from us, including this whirlwind visit on very short notice. But they hosted us nicely, and accompanied us on all sort of outings, from a Wilton Tent Sale, to the mall to climb on the climbing structure, to American Girl Place, to the Field Museum, to an Architectural Boat Tour of Chicago -- all in 4.5 days. We did a lot less sitting around the house than we have on previous visits. The kids must be getting older.

10. Katie got to visit American Girl Place and see their show and pick out a doll to pay for with the money she'd been saving. After much dithering, she picked Josefina, but only wanted to buy one accessory set. I couldn't figure this out -- we were there, she had $80 still, and I couldn't understand why she was kind of shutting down. A few days later, she told my mom that if she saved just a little bit more, she'd be able to buy Kaya as well. Ohhhh, now I get it. She's a hoarder.

11. AG Place may be the most estrogen-filled atmosphere in the world. Dave's threatening to invest in property in downtown Chicago to build GI Joe World across the street. It was very entertaining to eavesdrop on conversations between girls and their mothers.

Mother: If you buy the modern clothes upstairs, you can put them on your Molly doll whenever you want to.
10-year-old girl, aghast: No, you can't do that!

12. If you're going to be motoring up and down the Chicago River on a boat for an hour and a half listening to descriptions of buildings on the day before the summer solstice and you're a pale redhead, you'd be wise to BRING SUNSCREEN. Remind me of this when I get skin cancer around my eye and cheek -- the spot that's blistering right now. This act of forgetfulness made me very, very unhappy.

13. Traffic in Chicago is nightmarish. We spent THREE HOURS driving home from AG Place on a Thursday afternoon, and that was leaving at 3:30.

14. The trip home was pretty uneventful, even though we spent longer periods in the car. I now think that we are going to be able to handle 6-hour stretches in the car during the move. Probably without killing the children. Although some well-timed stops at play places may help preserve our sanity. Do you think there's an online guide to those?

15. I've decided that there's a Starbucks on every corner -- until you're actually looking for them. I think I need some sort of GPS chip that will be implanted under my skin, so that I can be anywhere and just call a hotline that will give me directions to the nearest caffeine fix.

Well, that's long enough. As I said, we all survived, and that's the good thing. Now I hear Dave in the other room trying to explain what records are to the kids (I bought him a record player for Father's Day). I don't think I've ever felt so old in all my life.

2 comment(s):

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