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.

IMG_0781

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.

IMG_0797

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.

IMG_0843

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.

Destination Vacation

I think it’s generally understood that vacationing with young kids isn’t really vacationing. I mean, for the kids I guess it is. For the parents, not as much. For us, it’s more of a pretend vacation. It’s fun to pretend that you will get to read that book. It’s fun to pretend that the kids will sleep in. Even on vacation, you still have to complete all the tasks of caring for your children with the added challenge of leaving the place where all of the things that make that job easiest are located: your house.

With totally realistic expectations and a minivan full of crap we thought we’d need but ended up never touching (see: book), we departed for South Carolina. And, spoiler alert, we actually had a great time.

IMG_0379

This was the first year that anything involving swimming and our children was even remotely fun. We’ve spent years watching Henry cling to the side of pool walls, whine about getting water in his eyes and just, like, basically scream at the site of his swimsuit before we thought, hmm, maybe he could benefit from some swimming lessons, no? Eight Saturday mornings in a smelly YMCA later and we had to basically beg him to stay closer to shore while he was willingly SWIMMING IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. Charlie was equally as enthusiastic.

IMG_0378

Millie, as is her style, just expected to be able to swim without the assistance of a flotation device and was a tad disconcerted when she would wrestle out of her floatie and promptly sink. She did get to see the ocean for the first time and boy, isn’t that a perk of parenthood – getting to show your kids something new and awe-inspiring for the first time. She took to it.

IMG_0403

I’ve been vacationing in the same spot off and on since I was just a few years older than Henry is now. We stayed in the same condominium, slept in the same bedrooms and swam in the same pool where I bounced around as an adolescent. It was positively surreal to be the mom this time. The one unpacking the groceries, slathering the sunscreen, hoping for just five minutes of peace and quiet.

IMG_0421

We celebrated Father’s Day and painted pottery and went on pony rides and just generally reveled in not being at our normal house with our normal responsibilities. I guess that counts as a true vacation after all.