Posts tagged vacation



I understood the first night because everything was too new. They had been very young the last time we’d stayed in a hotel with them. Young enough that they this might as well have been their first time staying overnight in a hotel.

I’d hoped things would get better the second night and they did, kind of. Still, there was a lot of goofiness and fidgeting and the like. I remained patient with them and eventually, they quieted down and fell asleep.

Tonight, they were worse than either of the previous two nights. Almost completely out of control. They were loud and bouncing around and banging into the wall and being way more than just excited. I warned them on multiple occasions to settle down and each time, they ended up just as rowdy as before. There seemed to be no end in sight. I gave them a final warning that punishment was imminent.

They ignored me and I waited as long as I could before I finally decided a message needed to be sent. They received it loud and clear. I haven’t specified what it would be, only that they would both be punished tomorrow for their behavior tonight. I had no levers immediately available, so I opted for the ones I’d have with the dawn of a new day.

Kids test and test and test and test again. They do this because on some level, they perceive the rules changing as they grow up- their freedoms increase as our trust in their judgment increases. So they test old rules to see if they’ve maybe, just maybe, been relaxed. They test so much that they know when a parent is serious about a threatened punishment, and the behave accordingly.

I suspect that tonight wasn’t entirely about testing per say, as much as it was about not being able to reign themselves in and understanding when they’d gone to far. But it afforded me the chance to remind them that I say what I mean, and mean what I say. Hopefully, they remember it for the next time.

A Day in Portland


Today started, well, like any normal day would. An alarm went off and the Wife got up first to get ready for her day while I remained behind to doze a bit longer. Except for the fact that we’re about 3 hours away from home, the bed was too small and the kids were still sleeping next to us, I suppose it was just like any other start of the day.

The kids were awake and ready before I was, so the Wife took them to breakfast which gave me a chance to wake up and come up with a plan for the day. Unlike the Wife, I tend to fly be the seat of my pants. So after a shower, shave and the third ‘S’, I sat down at my computer and did some googling to find out there was to do up here in Portland for someone with a couple of kids in tow.

The first thing I came across was a Children’s Museum, which I’m guessing is something every state in the country has at least one of. While I’m sure it was somewhat unique from the one’s the kids have already been to, there wasn’t anything overly unique about it to pique my interest.

Moving on, I found an interesting nugget. The Delorme Map Store is just up the road in York. Frankly, until I found it I’d never heard of Delorme. Apparently, they sell mapping software- which struck me as unusual in an age of smart phones and Google Maps. But it wasn’t the software the caught my attention, it was that they have the world’s largest globe. Certified by Guiness no less! Seeing as how the kids are always intrigued by novelty items, it seemed like a sure fire win. So I had one destination all set.

But I needed more to work with and it wasn’t long before I found another thing unique to Portland: The Observatory. It is the last known surviving maritime signal tower in the US. Seriously, what are the odds of finding two completely unique, one-of-a-kind things in one spot like that? Destination number two settled.

I figured those two things would get us to lunch. After that, well, we’d be in winging-it territory again.

The trip to Delorme was quick- quicker than I’d expected. The globe was big though. Real big. Forty-one feet and one and one-half inches in diameter, to be precise. Australia never looked so big. It sits in the atrium of the Delorme building on a mechanical arm and rotates around as well. The kids and I stared at it in amazement until the novelty wore off, then moved on to the store.

The store was, well, a tourist trap. Sure, it had tons of maps of all varieties: road maps, topical maps, maps of the US, maps of Europe, night sky maps. They also had plenty of junk as well. Naturally, it was the junk the kids were attracted to. In fact, I ended up purchasing them some junk items: they both wanted a combination-safe bank. My initial impression was to say “No” because what the hell does a cheap safe with a two-number combination have to do with Maine? But then I figured, here was something they wanted and they’d remember where they got it. How’s that for rationalizing a ridiculous purchase?

The boy bragged how he’d be able to store things in the safe to keep them from his sister because she wouldn’t know the combination. The safe is basically a six-inch cube. I wondered a) what he had of value that he could possibly fit in it and b) what he had that he needed to keep from his sister so badly. But he seemed to have a plan so I opted not to press.

I also picked up a cool looking 1000 piece puzzle of a gray wolf. Again, not much to do with Maine per say, but I’d always remember where we got that puzzle. See, that rationalization was working well. Finally, I got a book on building rock walls. Who knew I’d have to go to a map store in Maine to get one? And, admittedly, it’s a bit late. I figured I could get an idea on how much I got right and wrong. The book is called The Granite Kiss which is subsequently defines as:

That instantly discouraging, and inevitable, experience in stone work when a fingertip or two fails to escape the contact point between two large stones on the occasion of their first meeting.

Yes, I’ve been kissed by granite.

The hardest part about getting to The Observatory was finding parking. I searched in vane for a parking lot nearby and was further frustrated that all of the street parking was labeled as “15 minute” parking, which wasn’t terribly friendly. I finally found some parking near a park that was a 15 minute walk away and next to the Casco Bay. It was free though, so I wasn’t going to argue.

While I was finding parking, the kids busied themselves with their new safes. The boy was pleased that he was able to figure out the combination on the first try. From their, he set himself to working on memorizing the 2-number combination. The lass, on the other hand, was able to open her safe once. Just once. On every attempt thereafter, she said something to the effect of “I did everything EXACTLY right, and the door won’t open,” each time with more frustration in her voice. I tried to get her to think about the problem with her statement, to no avail.

Upon arriving at The Observatory, we were informed that a tour had just started and they were up on the 2nd floor. I paid the nominal fee to take the tour and hurried up the stairs to find that the tour group consisted of… us and one other guy. The guide was kind enough to rehash everything she’d gone over and finished up just in time for a couple of old ladies to join us. So we got the whole spiel again.

The Observatory is a tower, built on the highest point in Portland, which was once called Falmouth. The individual who owned the property built the tower and then used it to keep an eye out for ships looking for a place to come in to port. He would then signal them with flags, granting the ships permission to enter the port. It stands 86 feet high on the top of the hill and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Portland.

The kids enjoyed having a monopoly on our tour guide, who also seemed to enjoy having them along. They asked her all manner of questions, including things that had nothing to do with the Observatory, or even Portland and Maine history. She graciously and patiently answered them all to the best of her ability. Including the ones where all she could say was “I’m sorry but I just don’t know.” I was glad to offload that job to someone else, if only for an hour or so.

The guide also pointed us towards our afternoon destination: the Portland Head Light. It’s a lighthouse about 15 minutes South from The Observatory, by car, that’s located in Fort Williams Park. After lunch, we headed down there to walk around. We got to view the coastline of Maine and checkout the Casco Bay a little further. We also got to check out remains of some of the old military forts and building littered around the area. But the building that most captured the kid’s attention was the Goddard Mansion. They both were immediately impressed by the word mansion, but confused because the building wasn’t that big, “So why is it a mansion?” I tried to explain but had little success. To them a mansion was all about size. So they finally settled on referring to it as “the little mansion.”

After the disappointing mansion, the kids were further disappointed by our hotel. They had learned that it had a pool and were excited to have the opportunity to swim. The weather up here hasn’t been beach worthy, so they figured the hotel’s pool would do just fine. Unfortunately for them, the pool is a small lap pool- probably 6 feet wide and 20 feet long or so. Suffice it to say, that wasn’t the experience they’d hoped for.

We caught up with the Wife a bit later. She’d been doing her work thing all day and now it was time to play with her colleagues. They’d arranged to head over to Peak’s Island, which is a 15 minute ferry ride across the bay here. The kid’s and I joined them.

The boy had somehow convinced himself that the ferry ride was going to be “the worst thing he’s ever done in his entire life.” He hated boat rides was all he’d say- even though I could really only remember 1 boat ride he’d been on in a little speed boat. Nothing we told him could provide him solace and when it was finally time to board, he had convinced himself that we would all shortly be fish food after some unforeseen calamity beset the ferry. His gloom and dooming was off the charts. Contrast that with his sister, who was vibrating with excitement at the prospect of a boat ride. Half-way through the ride, the boy was too busy pointing out all the sites and other islands to realize that his expected calamity never happened.

Having spent a couple of hours on Peak’s Island, I can say that I wouldn’t want to live there. We walked around a bit and saw that there wasn’t a whole heckuva lot to see. The island is pretty small, about 3 miles to go all the way around. Aside from restaurants, we didn’t see any other real stores. There were ads sprinkled about for some kinds of handyman that was available 24/7 and would basically do anything: lawn care, car care, masonry, carpentry, excavation, site cleanup. There were also a lot of ads for babysitters- all of them having taken some babysitting course which taught the “Heimlich Monoover.” No really, that’s what the ads said. There is also an elementary school on the island.

So basically, to live on Peak’s Island, a resident is almost totally dependent on the ferry and the mainland. Groceries, work and all other amenities were basically back in Portland proper. To live on Peak’s Island was to live a quiet life where not much appeared to change. While that sort of life style has it’s charms, they aren’t enough to lure me out there.

That said, life up here in Portland strikes me as a pleasant, slower style. Everyone is friendly, the city proper is quite clean and very New England with large swaths of cobble stone roads, paver sidewalks and brick buildings. There is a bustle here, but not the rude sort I’d associate with New York. Drivers yield to pedestrians on the main roads and let other cars in from side streets. Delivery trucks stop in the middle of the main roads and the drivers execute their deliveries from there and no one honks there horn nor sticks an arm out the window while swearing at them. Strangers walking by don’t try to shoulder you out of the way and seem to generally and genuinely be patient with tourists.

After a day here, I’ve realized that we’ll be back here again some day.

First Night Goofies


We’re up in Maine for a couple of days.  The Wife decided to take us along on one of her business trips.  The room was already paid for and she was driving up anyway, so why not?

I’m currently waiting for the two of them to expend their goofiness.  We had a nice dinner with the Wife’s colleagues, but now the kids are all ramped up in the hotel room.  We got back late enough that it was basically time for them to got to bed.

Getting them ready wasn’t any trouble.  Getting them to actually go to sleep is proving to be very difficult.

First, there’s the novelty of them sleeping in the same bed.  So they have to wrestle over the covers, the pillow, and their territory.  Then, there’s the overwhelming urge to reach out and POKE! one another.  Then the giggles start.  Then they quiet down long for a bit before the next wave of giggles start.  Then one of them farts.

You get the idea.

In the meantime, I try to be judicious with my interventions.  I let them go on for abit, thinking they’ll burn themselves out.  But that takes too long.

Then I sternly tell them to settle down.  That’s followed with a “Yeah!” from one to the other.  Then more giggling. 

I wait a bit longer, then try it again.  After repeating the same pattern several times, I start to get more menacing.  They’ll sleep on the floor; they’ll regret it tomorrow.  Now, we move to the scenario where one is actually trying to go to sleep, but the other isn’t obliging.

Then, they try to blame me for not being able to sleep because I have a light on.  I point out that the light has nothing to do with it and that the two of them have been goofing off the entire time- THAT’S why the can’t sleep.

Finally, now they have settled down, the novelty of the room and situation having run its course.  I didn’t even have to scream myself horse.

Feeling Good


While I largely believe age is more in the head than anything, I also have a realistic view that I’m not as young as I once was and that comes at a cost. Lately, between my landscaping exploits over the course of the past month and twice-a-week martial arts lessons, I’ve basically come to expect to be sore and tired. So when I woke up this morning, imagine the pleasant surprise when I got up and was ache-and-pain free.

It’s almost certainly not a coincidence that this happened during a few days of vacation down at my parents place. I haven’t touched a shovel or paver in almost 3 days now and probably haven’t lifted anything much heavier than a grande cup of coffee. The signs of recovery are noticeable.

It’s also encouraging that it occurred over such a short period of time. As I noted, it’s only been a few days of basic inactivity. While it’s not about to become the new normal, it does serve as a reminder of the importance of taking time to recover from a long period of strenuous activity. In fact, a period of recovery should almost certainly be a part of any exercise regimen. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future.

The New England Aquarium


That’s where we spent our last day of vacation. It was a surprise for the kids, though they did their level best to get us to spill the beans ahead of time. After realizing the brute force approach wasn’t working (“Where are we going?” Answer: “You’ll see” or “To where we’re going.”) they started using more elaborate strategies. For instance, they’d ask if we were going to place ‘X’ in an attempt to narrow down the field of possibilities. They’d ask what city it was in. Or they’d ask if we’d been “there” before. Regardless of the tactic, we maintained our cone of silence right until our arrival.

The penguins were the big attraction. They were center stage around a massive center-column aquarium with all kinds of fish swimming around, including what looked like a couple of sand sharks. There were also some groupers and a couple of massive sea turtles. I’d say that aquarium was roughly 4 stories tall and about 50-60 feet in diameter. As big as it was, many of the fish in it looked cramped for space- especially the sharks and groupers.

Around the center-aquarium were a variety of smaller aquariums stuffed to the gills (ahem) with fish. A few of the tanks had some good sized fish, but mostly they were of the smaller variety. The high lite was when the kids got to see some Cuttle Fish eat shrimp. Let’s face it, Nature at her rawest is pretty cool in general.

We ended the day watching a 3-D Imax movie about fish of the sea. It was a little disappointing, in truth, because it spent a disproportionate amount of time on just a few types of fish, the Cuttle fish in particular. It was also narrated by Jim Carrey, whom made sure to take the time to lecture us about how evil we all are and how we’re destroying our oceans but “we’re starting to learn we can do things better” blah blah blah. Too bad a shark couldn’t take a bite out of his ass.

The fun thing about the 3-D was the lass, who repeatedly would put her hand out to “pet” or touch the fish. The end featured a section where seals were coming right up to the camera and that was when she was at her most frantic in attempts to pet the seals. It was amusing to watch. When everything was done, I asked her what the seals felt like. She replied “Dad, I couldn’t actually touch them! It was just a movie.”

Well, the 3-D hadn’t fooled me. But she certainly did.

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