Louisville Lessons

Summer 2013 is officially done. Over. In the books. We have returned from our final road trip of the season and school starts in one week which means, I hope to be unpacked by then. I’m not sure though.

We ended our summer with a visit to my parents’ home in Louisville, Kentucky. Besides the obvious joy of seeing my mother and father spending time with my children, visiting my parents is super fun because they so graciously feed us excellently prepared food (there was a full Thanksgiving feast!), their house is about 1,000 times cleaner than my own (I can walk around barefoot without cringing!) and they have a basement which is stocked with toys (we don’t have a basement so it is a novelty, a time-burning novelty!).

When we weren’t relishing in the first-floor quiet that comes when you banish children to the basement, we really enjoyed visiting both the Kentucky Horse Park and My Old Kentucky Home State Park. If you live in Louisville and have never been or are visiting the area with kids, I highly recommend both stops. (They meet every requirement on our scale.)

Since I’ve had a lifelong passion for horses, my enthusiasm for the Kentucky Horse Park may be a bit heavily weighted but I really do believe the proximity to the animals and the facilities are worth a visit. Besides the obvious pony rides and obligatory playground, they put on a really interesting riding demonstration in the main ring with horses from around the world. The riders dress in appropriate regional costumes and the commentary is quite informative. The kids were completely entranced, especially since the horses were passing directly in front of them.

This horse stands at about 6'2"!

This horse stands at about 6’2″ and could eat Millie for lunch.

There’s also a well done children’s barn with hands-on activities, demonstrations and assorted information about horses. You can wander through a couple of museums on the property as well. Mostly, it’s just a beautiful piece of Lexington countryside to explore.

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This was well before everyone melted from all of the walking. Were we this weak as children?

When faced with the awesomeness of getting to actually pet, talk to and possibly kiss a quarter horse standing directly in front of him, Charlie paused, pointed to the golf carts off in the distance and requested to ride those instead. Also, he would want you to know that there were tractors there.

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There might have been a scene shortly after this picture was taken when a certain someone realized he wasn’t allowed to climb on the tractor. But, I’m not pointing fingers or anything.

On our last day in Kentucky, we managed a visit to Bardstown and My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The park is home to Federal Hill, a mansion once owned by the Rowan family from the time it was built in the late 1700s until it was sold to the state in 1922. The home is really quite beautiful and lovingly preserved. A kind local docent in period costume guides you from room to room while you learn horrifying facts about what life was like back then. Like how they lost eight family members, eight slaves and two nuns in 24 hours to a cholera outbreak. Or, how their married 17-year-old daughter died in childbirth. It makes you clutch your pearls with the hardness of it all and reinforces why I shouldn’t complain when our air conditioning breaks.

My favorite part was running into the docent, right after the house tour ended, smoking a cigarette in full petticoat. Sometimes Kentucky is extra good at reminding you that you’re still in Kentucky.

The grounds offer loads of room to roam and opportunities to snap pictures of adorable not-quite-two-year-olds in dresses.

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Millie was upset the mansion was not for sale.

I managed the drive out to Louisville on my own while Bob and I caravan’ed with both cars on the way home. Dividing our children up amongst two vehicles is definitely the way to road trip. There was nary an argument or clenched-teeth directive to “Sit on your hands! Now!”

Of note from the 80 mph portion of our vacation:

1. West Virginia is not a state for wusses. We passed a dead BLACK BEAR on the side of the road that had been hit by a car. It was huge. Also, sad. But seriously West Virginia, what happened to just deer and the occasional possum? Your roadkill, much like the bumper stickers on your pickup trucks, intimidates me.

2. In hindsight, giving Millie that bag of Cheetos in the car in exchange for a few blissful moments of quiet wasn’t my best idea and definitely wasn’t worth the frantic baby wipe bath in the Wendy’s parking lot which did little to remove the processed cheese powder that landed in every nook and cranny on her and her carseat. We walked up to order our lunch and we looked like vagabonds, people. Dirty vagabonds who smelled faintly like baby wipes.

3. I’m not one to get all weepy at the passage of time and kids growing up and outgrown sneakers and whatever else happens when your children age according to schedule. However, I am unusually sad to report that Henry is so over trucks and construction equipment and fire engines. They’re not his bag anymore. He’s outgrown them. I have spent years of my life learning the difference between giant dump trucks and articulated ones. Between bulldozers and front end loaders. I know that sometimes concrete gets pumped through a boom instead of straight from the truck. That airport fire trucks look kind of funny and that regular fire trucks can be red, yellow or even lime green. I know of what I speak, is what I’m saying. And, I’ve spent years pointing out every fire truck and piece of construction equipment to him while on the road. He was always interested and now he’s not. This jump from the trucks of toddlerhood to the Lego’s of boyhood has hit me a little hard. And, before you think that I’ve got Charlie waiting in the wings, you should know that Charlie is more of a tractor man than a truck man.

In summary, is it too early to start Millie on riding lessons? We need more horses in our life.

Berry Good

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A trip to the grocery store resulted in a bounty of perfectly ripe strawberries. In season and on sale. They were even organic, so it was a win all around.

I was still unloading the groceries when Charlie spied those strawberries. His favorite! I returned from the car with the last load of bags to find Charlie and Millie eating them straight from the carton right on the kitchen floor. I shooed them away with the promise of plenty of berries on their lunch plates.

As Noon arrived, Charlie was hovering close by. As each new berry was de-stemmed and sliced, I would scoot it to the side of the cutting board where the sneaky hands of a 4-year-old were waiting to reach up, grab the berries and run. We continued like this, with me furiously preparing strawberries and Charlie reaching under my arm to snatch them right up; the pile of prepped berries diminishing dramatically. I enjoyed playing dumb and exclaiming, “Where could those strawberries be going?” Charlie’s laughter increasing with each new stolen slice.

He ruined his appetite with a belly full of berries. But his laughter was infectious and soon everyone was in on the fun and there were no strawberries left for lunch.

There are overly simple moments like these when our family life is so pleasing that the whole of it makes my breath catch. Incredulous that life could be this good. This happy. This blessed. Because more often than not, our life is not perfect, not pleasing. It’s frustrating, tedious, tiring, filled with big decisions and even bigger responsibilities.

It can be so hard to remember the good days when you’re having one where everything is sloping downhill. Where voices have been raised, tantrums thrown, tears shed and arms gripped a little too hard. Days with non-stop complaining from the kids.

So, it’s tough when Charlie is crying because his shirt is touching his skin (actually happened!), to pause and remember how fun it was that one time, earlier this summer, when he had the juice of way too many strawberries dribbling down his chin.

Parenthood. It’s such a mixed bag, you know?