We’ve moved a lot in the past decade, only staying in one place for a year or two at best. At 2 years and 8 months, Derby, KS counts as the longest of our stays. That’s probably why it’s also the hardest to leave. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and so has Liam. Living close to family has been both a blessing and a curse — wonderful to see them so much more often than we used to, but also more difficult to say goodbye. Liam cried when we left my sister’s house for the last time. I told him we could still keep in touch by writing letters and video chatting online, but to a kid his age, it just isn’t the same.
It feels like we’ve been talking about this move for ages (since August, I think). We did a lot of preparing, and yet the actual moving part feels like a complete mess so far. Moving overseas has proven to be an incredibly complex endeavor. Months before we left we had a laundry-list of things to accomplish. In the weeks before the movers arrived we had to figure out what we were taking and what we were storing. I thought we had a pretty good system, but when the movers arrived on Thursday it was still chaotic. First they packed a roughly 5′ square box of essentials that would ship by air to Greece in about a week or two. We filled it with mostly kid stuff, toys and clothes and items we didn’t think we could live without for months at a time and that couldn’t fit in our luggage. It filled up fast. Next came the larger items that would ship by sea — Liam’s bed, Violet’s crib, the glider, most of Liam’s toys, books and DVDs, two flat-screen TVs, a couple of blue-ray players, my bike and outdoor toys for the kids. It felt like a lot. We were allotted 7000 lbs, and by some miracle we came in under that. And at the very end of the evening, a tow truck came to haul away the car. Depending on the weather conditions at sea, we can expect all of these things to arrive sometime between two and six months from now. The car will probably take the longest — they have to tag and license it in Greece before we can get it.
Friday morning the movers came back bright and early to start in on packing everything else for storage. But they were ill-prepared for the amount of books they kept finding in every available cabinet. They didn’t end up finishing until 7:30 that night, and since we only had one car (a minivan that James wisely rented to fit all of our luggage in), we couldn’t check into the hotel until well after the kids bedtimes. Violet and I started to come down with a cold, just what I had been worrying over the past week. So many little details got overlooked: my winter coats, scarves and gloves all got packed with the sea shipment, along with all of the baby spoons. We forgot to pack all of our cookie sheets, the cutting boards and mixing bowls — they all went into storage. And I have a feeling we’ll be finding more things like this in the coming weeks.
Saturday morning we all got hair cuts, then while Liam spent the afternoon (and night, thank god) with friends down the street, James and I toiled away at cleaning up the house and collecting and tossing stuff the movers couldn’t pack. Nothing liquid could ship or store, so it was a lot of stuff. I was feeling sicker by the minute, and poor Violet could hardly breathe. But we managed to make the house presentable in time for our walk-through with the owners, and we got our entire deposit back. Neighbors let us borrow vacuums and brooms, and my mom helped watch the kids while the movers were here. It was great to have so much help!
Our flight doesn’t leave until Wednesday and I’d planned to eat at our favorite restaurants and take Liam out bowling and to Exploration Place. I was hoping to say a last goodbye to friends. But the worst of the cold hit Sunday, and what with the temperatures dipping down into the 20s with horrendous wind-chills (and me not having a proper coat, doh!), I thought better of leaving the hotel. I’m feeling a little bit better today (Monday), and my friend Tracy graciously offered to take Liam out bowling with her granddaughter after we had a chance to visit in the hotel lobby. James is applying copious amounts of Zicam to his nostrils in hopes of staving off the worst of this cold. I fear Liam will come down with it just as we’re leaving, but at least I can dose him up with some sleepy-time Dimatapp. It’s Violet I’m the most worried about. There’s not much I can do for her symptoms. But she seems to be on the mend, slowly but surely.
This will likely be my last Greece-related post here. Check the new blog for updates about our arrival and continuing adventures overseas. I’ll be posting more personal things about family and the kids on Mandy’s Motherhood Musings. Violet turns 9 months old soon. Can you believe it?
Tags: photos, school, Wichita
We packed a lot into our Saturday: First a trip to the Bergmann Corn Maze, then an evening at Liam’s school carnival.
We first went to Bergmann’s when Liam was in preschool, and just like last time we rode the tractor to the start of the corn maze. Except this time I was considerably more burdened.
Just like last time, we attempted to blunder our way around without consulting the map. I let him lead the way, and we meandered around until we happened across the first set of trivia questions. But then I was starting to feel it in my back, so I suggested we look at the map. He was a great little navigator this time around, and he happily took the lead and showed us the way out.
After a short rest, we started in on the larger of the two mazes. But three turns in and I could tell baby girl needed some nourishment. I told Liam to find us a nice, secluded dead end so we could feed Violet. Such a good boy, he consulted the map further while I covered Violet up with a blanket to keep her warm. The wind whipped through the corn above our heads, and we could hear distant voices from others winding their way around the maze. No one came across us there, though. After Violet was sated, I could tell she really needed a nap. My back and hip were aching, and even Liam thought it best to call it a day. We stopped by a vendor near our house to pick out a couple of pumpkins while Violet slept in the car – much easier than attempting the trailer ride to the pumpkin patch at Bergmann’s at that point. Plus, the line to pay was getting quite long.
By that evening we were ready for carnival! I loaded Violet back in the Bjorn and headed inside. Liam used his own allowance to buy tickets, being the grown up first grader he is now. We skipped eating there this time and headed straight for the games. His favorite again was cake walk, but after three or four tries we still didn’t win. Last year he got really bent out of shape, but this year I promised to buy him a cupcake at Dillons if he didn’t win and didn’t throw a fit, and that seemed to placate him. He got a tattoo, played giant Yatzee, did the beanbag toss, fishing, and the lollipop tree. We stood in line for the balloon darts, but when I thumb tack accidentally flung toward him and landed with a small thunk on his shirt, he decided this game was “too dangerous.” Let’s go home. Ok, dear. It was probably just as well – as we headed down the hallway one of my neighbors noticed that someone in our party had dropped off:
After the kids were (finally!) in bed, I had to take a couple Advil and rest my back and hips. I remember wearing Liam all around DC, even hiking through the Arboretum with him when he was older and heavier, but I guess nearing 40 has taken its toll on my poor, achin’ old body. Which bums me out – Athens, like DC, is not very stroller-friendly. James may have to do the majority of the baby wearing this time around. I don’t think he’ll mind. He not-so-secretly loves it.
Tags: photos, Wichita
All day Saturday we had a mix of freezing rain and sleet. Liam watched anxiously at the front window, wishing, wishing, wishing it would turn to snow. He got his wish, but by then it was fully dark. So first thing Sunday morning, he was ready to bundle up and run outside. The last time he’d seen the fluffy stuff was in Lexington last Christmas. But that was only an inch or so. We laughed when he asked if we could make an igloo. The Christmas before that, also in Lexington, it snowed a good five inches on Christmas Eve, and Liam had a magical time playing with his cousins in the snow. He was only two, but he seemed to remember there being snow in the back yard when we came back that summer. Of course, the Snowpocaloypse of 2010 and the huge storm preceding it in December 2009 are still fresh in my mind, but Liam has no memory of it. His real first snow was in December of 2009, when he slapped that big picture window with his slobbery, fat hands and pointed, “Ba!? Ba!?”
The last two years in Florida have been snow-free. So I shouldn’t be surprise that one week from turning five, Liam tried sledding for the very first time. And he LOVED it. We tromped over to the high school behind our house and found some modestly steep, short hills. Perfect for a first-timer. He went all by himself, insisting that I could take a turn on my own next. So that’s how we spent our morning, taking turns going down the hill, exploring the grounds for more hills, and experiencing some snowy thrills. He exclaimed, “I love snow!!”
But after awhile his poor little hands were getting icy cold, so we headed home for hot chocolate, cartoons, and lunch. With any luck this snow will stick around for Christmas morning. As I recall, white Christmases are pretty rare around these parts.
Tags: photos, Wichita
While we were away Liam’s preschool class went on a field trip to the Bergmann’s Pumpkin Patch. I felt bad that he missed it, so James and I took him on Sunday. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day, and I knew our little maze nut was going to have a blast. Funny enough, I think his favorite part of the outing was the trailer ride to the maze. There were actually two mazes, a relatively small one and a huge one. We picked the small one first. We let Liam lead the way, not even bothering to consult the map. We don’t need no stinkin’ maps! But after blundering around for 15 minutes, it seems we did in fact need the map. They set up boards with trivia questions for adults and children, but Liam didn’t have to patience to bother with that. He mostly ran at top speed while James directed him where to go more or less. As we neared the end, Liam started to tucker out a bit. So we hitched a ride on the next trailer (at Liam’s insistence), and rode it 100 feet to the pumpkin patch. This late in the season it was pretty picked over, but we managed to find a decent bunch. Liam begged us to try the bigger maze, but James had a headache, and, besides, we had a Trunk or Treat to attend! Back home for a wardrobe change!
Liam insisted he wanted to be Lighting McQueen yet again this year. So we dusted off last year’s costume and that was that. Off to get some candy! The line stretched into the parking lot, but Liam waited (relatively) patiently for his turn. I kept prompting him to say Thank You with the typical mom phrase, “Now, what do we say?” After the first handful of treats he seemed to get it. But by about treat twenty he started answering, “Nothing!” He got a few laughs, so then he said it louder and without prompting. This one is a clown, I tell ya. Course, hardly anyone else knows it. We had a parent/teacher conference on Friday and his teacher says he barely talks. He’s always the first one to sit quietly when she asks, and on the playground he just stands in one spot the whole time. But he’s always very good – she uses him as an example to the other children, “Look how quietly Liam is sitting.” And she often pulls me aside when I drop him off to tell me a funny thing he said or did. He once had a mosquito fly down his shirt, and he told her it was a “shoo-fly”. I think Liam is a little like my dad: he doesn’t say much to people, but when he does, it’s hilarious.
We still had quite a bit of daylight left, so Liam and I headed back to the farm to give that big maze a try. This time I followed the map, and at each intersection I got down to his level and had him help me work out which way to go. He really seemed to get the hang of it…although sometimes he didn’t trust the map and wanted to explore the dead ends for himself. We told him earlier that cutting through the corn stalks was cheating. We saw a bunch of teenagers doing just that, and Liam shouted, “Mommy, look, they’re cheeeaating!” After a good long while we made it to the end, and, even though the parking lot was a stone’s throw away, we had to wait for the tractor to drive us there. Apparently this maze is also open at night, and you can bring your own flashlights. Perhaps we’ll try that next year. Spooky!
Tags: museums, photos, video, Wichita
We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at The Old Cowtown Museum today. I lugged around my Nikon, looking full-on Japanese tourist, and Liam did his best to ruin every photo I attempted by refusing to hold still or pose. No matter – once he settled down a bit (after running from house to house to house like a chicken with its head cut off) I managed to snap a few decent ones. The shops and artifacts were super interesting, and we even stumbled into an old fashioned baseball game in progress. My favorite was the apothecary, complete with dentist and doctor’s office upstairs. All the instruments of torture were on display…shudder. They also had a working printing press, an old farmstead, and lots of tradesman’s shops. Liam loved working the old water pumps. We had to fill up his watering can three times to water the vegetable garden. Then we had to stop to water the trough.
We stopped in the saloon for some refreshing sarsaparilla, and Liam finally held still long enough for me to get one good close up. We ended the afternoon with a gun show – a dime-store tale reenacted on the main street. Very cute!
It looks like they host a Victorian Christmas program in December, which I’m hoping I can talk my mom into going to with me. James already volunteered to stay home with Liam – I doubt either of them would enjoy it like I would. It’s times like these I wish I had a daughter. Perhaps I can borrow my niece for the occasion.
Tags: photos, Wichita
Our fleeting summer comes to an end with the first day of preschool next Tuesday, and with high’s very much in the nineties, we decided to head to the beach. I have fond childhood memories of Lake Jocomo and Longview Lake beaches in Missouri, mom floating on her raft while we kids would dig in the sand, play on the shore, and float on our inner tubes. Good times. I did a little research and decided El Dorado (that’s El Doe-RAY-doe in these here parts) was our best bet, just under an hour’s drive, and with two beaches to choose from. I called ahead and was told the beaches were at Walnut River and Blue Stem Point. A quick google map view led me to believe that Blue Stem Point would be more akin to the beach experience I was used to. Mind you, I wasn’t delusional enough to equate a lake beach to the beaches in Florida. I even remember how trashed the beaches in Missouri would get by late August. I truly wasn’t expecting much.
We arrived at the mud hole, erm, beach at Blue Stem Point, and after briefly contemplating the goose-turd-laden shoreline and general quagmire look of the water, I decided to flee in search of Walnut River. I also had fond memories of camping at the North Fork River in southern Missouri, so perhaps we’d have better luck at a river beach.
Indeed it was a tiny bit better – at least there were a few other patrons that deemed this particular mud hole swim-worthy. Perhaps Florida has made me a beach snob, but this place was the pits. Poor Liam wanted to see the Lake Beach, which I’d been talking up all summer, so we had to make do. The sand was still goose-turd laden, but we managed to find a relatively clean spot near the shore to put our stuff.
Gross. I know. At least they had covered picnic tables so we could enjoy our lunch in the shade. I brought my beach umbrella, but I had no intention of sitting amid the poop on the beach, so I left it in the car. Instead I brought my chair down to the water, and after taking a dip with Liam in the deep end (which he actually seemed to enjoy better without the waves we typically encounter at the Florida beaches), I could relax with the latest issue of Nat Geo while Liam made a mess of himself building sand castles. Or, rather, filling his bucket with wet sand and dumping it out, since I told him there was no way I was letting him build goose-shit castles on the dry sand.
By late afternoon I managed to convince Liam it was time to leave. We took a little stroll through the nearby campground, following a trail that snaked along next to Walnut River. But after walking through a few too many spider webs and smacking a mosquito on my forehead, I decided I was getting just a little bit too much nature on me.
All the way home Liam praised the lake beach, how much fun he’d had playing in the water, mucking around in the sand, and going on our nature hike. It’s funny to think that perhaps my memories of Lake Jocomo are equally inaccurate – perhaps it, too, was a mud hole that my mom merely tolerated taking us to because we loved it so much. But she’d never lived in Florida, so I doubt her disappointment was as bitter as my own.
Perhaps next summer we’ll try exploring some of the other lakes in the area – I hear there are three other beaches worth checking out. And perhaps in early June they’ll be in better shape. Or, more than likely, James will have set his sights on a new locale for us. Maybe something near the shore in a warm climate. Sigh.
Last night Liam couldn’t stop talking about going to the zoo, so I told him if we could manage to get up early enough, we could go. I figured it was the last day I could get a discount, so we might as well try. And wouldn’t you know it, we got there by 9:30! A flippin’ miracle for us! It was already 81 degrees, but after the 105 temperature Thursday, it felt downright autumnal.
First stop, the giraffes, which are Liam’s favorites. I was pretty impressed by how close you could get to them. Liam remembered from one of his Curious George episodes that their tongues are purple to keep them from getting sunburned. Astounds me what he remembers. We went around to the feeding station to give that a go, but the giraffes were busy munching up all the fallen branches and leaves from the big storm we’d had the night before. No biggie – I’m not sure if Liam would have gone through with giraffe feeding anyway.
After perusing the reptiles and taking a stroll through the very humid indoor jungle, we took a boat tour to see the Bison, Bald Eagle, Crested Cranes, and Lemurs. The boat was Liam’s idea, but he almost changed his mind when they handed him a life jacket to wear. He wasn’t having it, but the folks were nice enough to let us board anyway as long as I carried it. Oh, how I love age four. In typical Liam fashion, he was more interested in the bridges we passed under than the animals we saw. I had to promise him we’d go back over those bridges in the stroller.
So we strolled around as the temperature climbed. My favorite was the blessedly air-conditioned gorilla compound, where we saw a giant male silver back just standing with his palms against the glass. One of the moms warned me that he was in a grumpy mood, and her daughter piped up that he’d been pounding on the glass before we came in. I was tempted to get a closer look, maybe entice him to give the glass a little thwack, but I’m sure that would have scarred Liam against apes for life, so I thought better of it. We stopped for lunch, where I was put on “goose duty” – tasked with chasing away the scavenging Canadian geese if they strayed to close to my finicky boy. “Mommy! Get that goose away from me!” And I’d have to obligingly get up and scare them away with a “Shoo” and a “Beat it!” Then Liam insisted we take a break from all this animal gawking and play on the playground for a bit. Which was fine with me after I found a shady spot to sit.
The rest of the zoo was kinda Meh. We saw some zebras and elephants, took a stroll through the very disappointing Australia exhibit, walked through the “pride of the savannah” without seeing a single lion, and popped over to the Barnyard to feed the fish. Liam never wants to actually touch the animals, so the petting zoo was wasted on him. By that time it was creeping up to 95, so I decided we’d seen enough of the zoo. It was fun while it lasted. Besides, I remembering going to the KC Zoo with Jill in the winter, and we actually heard the lion roar! Perhaps we’ll try again in late November.
Tags: museums, photos, video, Wichita
Staying at home is not my strong suit. After cleaning the house (bloody thing takes all day, this monstrosity!), doing laundry, playing in the backyard, biking to the park, and flying kites in this crazy Kansas wind, I decided Liam and I needed to venture out…more for my own sanity, but he benefits, too.
Our first stop, Exploration Place, Wichita’s science museum. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, I’m used to the Smithsonian and Disney World. But I have to say this little museum surprised me. Out front we were greeted by an animated T-Rex surrounded by a security fence, all part of the dinosaur exhibit currently on for the summer. The dinos were so realistic, Liam grabbed my hand and made me run through it, lest we get eaten. Another section featured a castle where the kids could climb around on the ramparts, shoot a catapult, prepare medieval meals in the kitchen, create their own stained glass, and ride the ponies. In yet another section devoted to air travel, Liam flew his own little Cessna in large form…
In another section devoted to farming, Liam particularly loved driving the harvester. On the video screen you could move bales of hay, harvest soybeans, wheat, or cotton. No mistaking we’re in central Kansas!
By far our favorite part of the museum was the Kansas In Miniature exhibit, complete with train. They’d taken all of these historical buildings and sites all around the state and recreated them as one mini town. And if you looked closely, you could see a bunch of them moving. Kids on swings, a whole carnival, a farmer swinging an axe. And the lights would change for night and day, with a rooster announcing each sunrise. We spent a good deal of time in this dark room. Very relaxing.
We liked this museum so much, we bought a membership. We’ve already been twice, and James promised to go with us again this weekend. We discovered a trail along the river and a bunch of playgrounds outside, which I’m sure we’ll explore more when the weather is better. It topped 100 degrees today, yikes! Our membership also included free mini golf, something else we plan to explore once the weather cooperates. My kid loves mini golf!
I was a delighted to discover that there are several museums along the river in downtown Wichita, and when you visit one, they give you a discount card to the others that you can use within the week. So Liam and I have been in museum mode. On Friday we visited the Museum of World Treasures, a kitschy little museum devoted to an eclectic array of subjects. We found dino bones, mummies, military garb, cannons, ancient Greek and Roman reliefs, and more. But the real treasure was the kids activity room. We had the place all to ourselves, and Liam spent a great deal of time playing with the puppets on this awesome stage. Though I’m not sure he understood the concept…
Liam rushed me through most of the more boring exhibits, so I decided to spring for a year membership here, as well, so James and I can take our time perusing at our leisure. They sponsor evening events, as well, so might be a fun date night in it for us. We’re such nerds.
It’s so abysmally hot here right now, so we decided to forego the Zoo, the Botanical Garden and the Cowtown for another week. Lots to look forward to in the fall!
Yesterday Liam and I ventured to the Kansas Aviation Museum, housed with all of the other airplane manufacturing facilities in the “Aviation Capital of the US.” With all that prestige, I was expecting…more. But it was pretty underwhelming. It wasn’t nearly as neat as the Maryland Aviation Museum in College Park that we used to go to all the time when Liam was smaller. Although there were a couple of impressive exhibits. We got to sit in a few old cockpits and pretend to fly. I found it particularly hilarious when Liam asked me what the ashtrays were for.
They also had a decommissioned FedEx plane that you could walk up into. Liam chickened out at the stairs, but I walked all the way down to the cockpit from the back. A rather dark walk, so maybe best Liam didn’t come along. But I thought it was pretty cool.
And today we visited the Wichita Art Museum, a wonderful way to spend a hot afternoon. Liam did better than I thought, and I tried my best to explain the artwork we were seeing. When his interest started to wane, he entertained himself by pushing his stroller around and pointing out the elevators and stairways. But then we discovered the a glass bridge that you could walk on, sans shoes, and see the colorful glass shapes of the sculpture we’d seen on the first floor. Liam definitely liked that best. I had to carry him away kicking and screaming when I was ready to move on.
Aside from the museums, we’ve also done a little exploring closer to home. I took Liam to Derby Bowl to partake in another of his favorite pastimes. They rented him the cutest little shoes.
These lanes weren’t nearly as “sophisticated” as the ones in Lee’s Summit, so I was stuck bowling with the bumpers, and Liam managed to get in a few gutter balls in spite of them. His ball kept getting stuck – at one point in actually bounced off the pins and rolled away – so I had to help him give his ball a little push down the alley. There’s another bowling alley I want to try sometime that might suit us better.
I discovered the Farmer’s Market a couple of weekends back. The one in Derby was pitiful, so I drove 20 extra minutes to downtown Wichita for the bigger one. I guess I didn’t realize how good I had it in Takoma Park, MD and Overland Park, KS. Even the one in Orlando had more actual vegetables and fruits for sale. There were a lot of stands selling lots of things, but only two produce stands. Weird. I did get some tasty lemonade and an awesome breakfast burrito. Oh, and some delicious homemade cookies. Maybe later in the season I’ll see more produce. I’m particularly interested in the tomatoes and okra, which usually hit in July. So we’ll see.
One evening as I was enjoying some wine on my new porch swing, Liam and I heard a ruckus on the other side of the trees. Come to find out there was a carnival in the high school parking lot. I couldn’t convince Liam to ride anything, not even the Ferris wheel, but we did play some games and win some toys. And we left with some cotton candy to share with daddy. I made it a condition that he had to retreat from playing video games and eat it outside with us. The only time he sees the light of day, sheesh.
Well, there was also this time that he played soccer with Liam in the backyard.
And I made him promise to come to the fireworks show in High Park on the 4th. It’s very close to our house, and I told him we didn’t have to go until 9. Baby steps. Baby steps.
Next week Liam starts swim lessons at the Y. I signed him up for private lessons with the head honcho, a swim coach veteran named Clarence who I’ve been assured is good with young kids who hate swimming. We’re going once a week instead of every morning for two weeks, which I’m hoping will help. And I set them up for later in the day because we can’t seem to get out of bed until 9 these days. Liam was impossible to rush out the door to our morning appointments last summer.
We’ve officially given Pull-ups the boot. Liam’s doing much better pooping in the potty, but after waking up with a load in his Pull-up one morning, my mom suggested I just put him in underwear and see what happens. We’ve been at this potty training thing for more than a year, so I have high hopes. So far he’s mostly just peeing in his bed and my new washer/dryer is getting a daily workout. But one morning, miraculously, the bed was dry. We’re going to keep at this, though I have a feeling we’ll keep the Pull-ups on reserve for trips to my mom’s and our upcoming trip to DC in July.
I met some more neighbors! But, of course, Liam was wailing and flailing in my arms, insisting that he wanted to go home RIGHT NOW. So it was more of a hello/goodbye/hope-to-talk-with-you-more-next-time meet and greet. And with temperatures climbing into the hundreds this week, I doubt the neighborhood kids will be playing outside much. But we’ll get there, I’m sure.
I think I found a preschool for Liam! It’s church-based, but their website didn’t seem as “churchy” as some of the others, so I’ll take that as a good sign. They don’t serve food and don’t hold classes over lunch, which is a plus for my picky eater (who I’m sick of packing lunch for), and they offer afternoon classes, which is a double plus. And, egad, is the price right! I’m waiting for them to get back to me about class sizes and availability. They also encourage parents to volunteer, and they take field trips, so that sounds like fun. Crossing my fingers this works out.
That pretty much sums up our last few weeks. Well, and this: