Saturday, July 11, 2009

East Coast Recap: Late June to Early July

Our last East Coast trip prior to the baby's arrival was packed with visiting and a good amount of driving. But we made the most of our time and enjoyed the our relative freedom as a couple. Hitting my 7th month of pregnancy while we were there, my stamina, tolerance for warmer, more humid temperatures and the ability to stay on my feet for long stretches notably decreased. Luckily we had no health issues or concerns during our trip.

Towson, MD

Our first stop on our whirlwind East Coast Trip was Towson, MD, a suburb of Baltimore and an hour & a half NE from the Capitol. The weather was pleasant and humidity bearable during our visit. It was the first time we'd seen our friends the Dan & Jill in their new home since they moved there last year. We also got a chance to spend time with their delightful 19-month old daughter Hannah. Unfortunately, we did not capture any pics of Jill but enjoyed spending time with her on Sunday and in the evenings after work. Dan is a stay-at-home dad who seemingly has endless energy to entertain Ms. Hannah. Ken and I struggled to keep up with the twosome who showed us their favorite playground and toured us through the quaint and windy roads of Towson. Dan also pointed out the swim center where Michael Phelps trains, the area where the Pimlico Race Course (home of the Preakness Stakes) is and took us to my favorite store, Whole Foods.

Naturally it's great for Ken and I to have exposure to children at different stages of development and to see the variety of temperaments in our friends' children. Hannah is a very compassionate and curious individual who fearlessly embraces the world. She also has 2 of the coolest parents who provide reassurance and foster an inclusive environment but don't fret or fuss about inconsequential things. It's really a joy to witness.

We also took a day trip to Philadelphia to visit two artist friends who recently moved there. I did not eat a Phily cheese steak because for me, one per lifetime is enough. It was great to see Krim & Maria who live in a transitional part of town in a 3-story walk up. It must have been built back at the beginning of the 1900's because there were painted over spigots sticking out of the walls for gas lamps. The character and Bohemian vibe seems perfect for a pair of artists. Naturally the economy isn't very forgiving right now to people who live for their art so it is a challenge to make a living. But we have confidence, that between the two of them, they will find opportunities to get them through this tough time so that they can get back to bringing beautiful creations into the world.

That night during the drive back to Towson, Ken and I endured the most severe torrential rainstorm plus lightning and thunder show that I have ever seen. The wiper blades on high could not handle all the water while semis on the highway still roared past us at 60 mph. The lightning display put the fireworks we'd see for 4th of July to shame and we managed to keep the car from hydroplaning despite all the water. My understanding is that this is not uncommon for the East Coast. It simply reinforces how tame the Western PNW weather really is--there is nothing extreme about it. And that is fine with me.

Eastern Shore, VA
After a few days in Towson, we made our way south to Ken's folks' place. This is always quite a change of pace and scenery compared to the DC area--leaving behind the tangle of highways, modern buildings and fast-paced life for the more rural and small town Americana surrounds. After a few stops to visit old friends of Ken's, we arrived at my in-laws house in Onancock, VA. Ken's brothers, step-brothers and families would all be converging there for the 4th of July weekend also.

It's been a long time since I've celebrated a 4th of July outside of Seattle. We usually watch professional fireworks at Lake Union but this year we went back in time. It was as if we stepped into the 1950's, starting on July 3rd with an ice cream social and the community band which played patriotic songs to a packed park full of townsfolk.

Later that night, we had some indoor fun as Ken had created a scavenger hunt for our 8 & 11-year-old step-nephews. This activity had been quite a hit last year when Ken had run a similar activity while the boys were down staying with Ken's mom & step-dad. This time he went to great lengths to make puzzles, riddles, word scrambles and other neato clues (such as writing in lemon juice and requiring the boys to hold it over the toaster to make the letters appear.) He really gets into it and the boys have a lot of fun trying to figure it out. Their final prize was $5 each. I'm so excited because my folks did that kind of stuff for us when we were growing up so I know we'll be carrying that on for our kids.

On the 4th, we took a cruise around the local waterway on Ken's step-brother's deluxe boat, creating wakes for Ken's step-nephews to innertube over. Ken and his 2 brothers were together again for the first time in 2 or 3 years and you could tell they were all excited about their upcoming motorcycle roadtrip. But what small town on 4th of July would be complete without a parade? Members of the family decorated a truck & flatbed and pulled together some instruments to make it more festive. I opted out of riding on it due to my incessant need to use the bathroom and my growing lack of coordination & balance that might be needed ride on the "float." Ken's friend Dave showed up right before the parade as did Dave's lady friend and her daughter so we all got to enjoy it together from the sidewalk. I think there were more people in the parade than watching it but it was delightful nonetheless.

The parade ended in a park by the water where many folks including our family had pre-placed BBQs and chairs. We dined on the quintessential 4th of July BBQ food as well as some pasta salads, shish kebabs and cold beverages. I was definitely a little paranoid about the bugs especially mosquitoes and ticks so I kept my insect repelling clothes on (which is why I look a little over dressed in the pictures) and applied a layer of DEET. The night ended with an amateur fireworks show which hearkened me back to when dad would buy fireworks and shoot them off in the front yard at our farmhouse back in Ridgefield when I was a kid.

Everyone returned to the house and many of the adults kept the party going by singing karaoke to songs of the 60's & 70's. Not really being my decades of choice, I focused on a piece of homemade cake that one of the gals had made and enjoyed that very much. Ken and I retired early to bed, missing an element of drama that occurred after midnight involving a missed step, a double sprained ankle and a trip to the emergency room by one of the extended family members. She ended up having to get a brace and be on crutches for awhile, but luckily she didn't break anything.

The following day, we enjoyed a smaller lunch/dinner gathering with Ken's folks, brothers & uncle/aunt where we had homemade crab cakes plus lots of other yummy sides. We then decided to drive to Mike's (Ken's middle brother) house in Salisbury to see their newly remodeled home and spend the evening up there. The 3 brothers were eager to watch Wild Hogs to get them in the spirit of the mid-life motorcycle trip that they were about to embark on. Needless to say, that movie is a little ridiculous but they all enjoyed figuring out which of the 4 characters they were most like--kind of what gals do with the Sex and the City cast. Each of the brothers and Ken's friend Dave took turns riding Mike's new Harley around the block.

During the hour-long car ride back to Onancock, Eddie the oldest of the brothers (and a stanch Republican) started a conversation/debate regarding alternative energy, deregulation and Obama policies. Ken and I did pretty well making our side of the case while remaining respectful and calm. Eddie is smart and a great debater so it's a fun challenge to see how well I can articulate and defend my point of view. But with such a range of views and political philosophies in this family, it is prudent to be mindful not to step too heavily when politics come up. I forget sometimes how in Seattle/Western PNW we are surrounded by many liberally like-minded people and that is not how the rest of the country necessarily thinks or operates.

Last Monday, I returned to Seattle and Ken stayed as his motorcycle trip would commence the next day. Though he just completed the trip, I've only spoken to him for a few minutes each day he was on the road. I expect a full story when he gets back tomorrow and will post some pics--if he'll let me. The only one I've seen thus far is this one:

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