This post is WAY overdue, but we've been kind of busy around here. (I know: excuses, excuses).
Anyway: back at the very end of June, the kids, Sharon and I, and our wonderful niece Sarah headed to Maine for the wedding of my close grad school friend, Marc, and his long-time partner, Jorge. Marc and Jorge had already gotten hitched in Toronto, CA, where Marc teaches and where it's legal for same-sex couples to wed. They were hoping that the state of Maine would evince a level of enlightenment similar to that of its northern neighbor, but, alas, no such luck. So their second ceremony was held in a location where gay and lesbian married couples dare not speak their wedded name.
It was a lovely occasion, and the newly re-weds make a ravishing couple:
But more on Maine in a bit.
The drive from Philly to Maine is not one that we could have done without stopping on the way. Nor is it one that we could have done without borrowing Aunt Laura's minivan, which is equipped with seating that accommodated all five of us (having been an occasional desperate rider squished between the two carseats in the second row of our Hyundai Tucson, I can assure you that I am personally quite grateful for Aunt Laura's generosity in lending us her van). Not to mention that Aunt Laura has a DVD player, which made the ride all the more enjoyable for the kids (though after a million re-plays of Laurie Berkner and Jack's Big Music Show DVDs, I am not sure that I feel quite the same way).
We left after Hallie was done with school on the ultimate Wednesday in June (about five hours after we expected to depart) and high-tailed it up to Mystic, Connecticut, for our first leg of the journey. Hallie was awake the entire way but Lea slept for the majority of the drive (after being a very irate passenger for the first hour or so. Lea is not a happy backseater and is not nearly as fond of DVDs as is her older sister).
For the girls, the highlights of our hotel stay revolved around running the halls (which I am sure made us very popular with our vacationing neighbors; we did make sure this running happened only during day time hours, though) and riding the luggage carts. Here are some pictures of our arrival at our hotel in Maine, so it's technically out of order, but it should give you an idea of the nature of the sport:
After getting in late on Wednesday night, we took our time waking up and eating breakfast on Thursday morning. Amazingly enough for our brood, though, we managed to be out the door by eleven. Our first vacation day was spent at the aquarium:
We saw manatees:
Here Sarah and Hallie are posing by the manatee exhibit, which was the first place we visited:
Our kids have a big thing for penguins, so we spent a decent amount of time at that exhibit:
And did our best to pick out the frogs who hid among the lily pods:
We visited the sea lions both outside and watched them perform their very cool tricks indoors:
Lea slept through part of the sea lion show but Hallie was thrilled by it and wanted to get a closer look at the sea lions when the show was done:
After the sea lion show, we took a break for lunch. Amazingly, Hallie ate nearly two slices of pizza and polished off a chocolate ice cream. All that looking at sea creatures really worked up an appetite in our reluctant eater, I guess:
Then it was off to the indoor exhibits, which include jellyfish:
And regular fish:
And lots and lots of sharks:
The aquarium also sported touch tanks and both of the kids indulged (and exhibited approximately zero fear, even when it came to touching sharks and slimy creatures).
Here's Hallie waiting for the sharks to come by:
Amazingly, given how sweet Hallie is, they were not biting (thank goodness! They are really, really small sharks, though, so I think Hallie's hands would have coexisted with them peaceably had they not gone into sensory overload--sound familiar?--and shut down for the afternoon).
But, fortunately, there were other opportunities for touching things. Hallie made a bee-line to the exploration tanks where she grabbed hold of a starfish and lifted it out of the water within seconds of our arrival. I did not get a shot of this because I was too busy getting her to put it back (as the signs noted that lifting the little sea creatures out of the water was a big no-no).
But I did get a shot of her swooping down for a crab, which she touched with much glee:
Here she is trying to get in on the action with the little boy next to us who rather annoyingly kept reminding me that the kids weren't supposed to lift the creatures out of the water:
Now it's Hallie's turn (and my turn to remind the little guy who was probably in the vicinity of 8 or 9 that Hallie was merely 4 years old and very excited):
Of course, once the touching was done, Hallie needed to wash her hands (it was like she suddenly became aware that all of those fish and creatures were pretty slimy; this is kind of her MO. She will often eat her meal, which involves buttery toasts or french fries or chocolate ice cream quite frequently because those are three of the seven or eight things that she will reliably ingest, and then suddenly come to an awareness that her hands are REALLY dirty, slimy, or greasy and need them cleaned IMMEDIATELY. It's a weirdly delayed reaction, but at least this means that she will comfortably try new things (unless it's food) and eat those foods even though they send her into eventual sensory overload).
Speaking of sensory overload, we did have a bit of a potty-training setback that began during our Connecticut leg of the road trip. We put Hallie in underpants for the aquarium and she did wonderfully for the first half of our stay. She let us know (sometimes by grabbing at her pants and once by telling us) that she had to go and we made it back to the bathrooms in time even when this involved some sprinting (thank goodness for the sit-and-stand stroller we brought along with us since I am a bunch faster than Hallie is when it comes to racing to the potty). She peed after lunch and before we headed into the fish tank area but did not quite make it to the potty in time when she needed to poop. No big deal: we were well-equipped with wardrobe changes and life went on.
The real issue we faced vis-a-vis pottying ties back into the sensory stimulation stuff. After returning from the aquarium, we went out to the hotel pool for a bit. This, in retrospect, was not the smartest thing to do. While the pool was nice and empty (a good thing), it was also getting chilly out since it was fairly late (around 5pm, and Connecticut's shoreline is a lot cooler in the evening than the city of Philadelphia tends to be). So while the pool, being heated and all, was pretty warm, the air outside was not. We played for a bit and Hallie enjoyed swimming (so much so that she did not want to get out and change for dinner. And let us know this in no uncertain terms by jumping into the water at about five feet or so of depth after the rest of us had gotten out. This did not please me, to say the least, and while she was fine since she was wearing a personal flotation device, it provided me with yet another reason to be helicopterish and, even more importantly, underscores the need to get her private swim lessons pront0). Anyway, I digress. So, we pulled her out of the pool and wrapped her in a towel and headed back to our room.
Of course, keeping Hallie wrapped in a towel is no easy feat, and, regardless, the hotel lobby was chilled to a frigid temperature (at warmest), so Hallie's teeth (and mine) were chattering during the walk to the elevators and the walk down the second floor hall to our room. When we got there, Hallie needed to pee and so we took her to the bathroom right away. The second she began to do so, though, she got frightened by how hot her pee was next to her cold, cold skin and started yelling that it hurt. We worked through this (we thought: more on this below), got Hallie dried off and into clean clothing and headed off to a rustic lobster dinner by the docks of one of the neighboring hamlets.
Hallie enjoyed dinner (even if she did not eat much. Certainly no lobster, but she did have part of a hot dog, part of a bun, and some potato chips, which all in all was not bad). She played with the toys we brought, was thrilled to see the family of skunks living under the docks (we were not and were thankful that they did not spray us, even as we were not grateful to the mosquitoes who decided we were tastier than lobsters). And most importantly, given the earlier events of the evening, Hallie did not try to jump in the water, which was a great relief to a very panicked me.
Having Sarah with us was great, and not just because she could take some pictures while I ran around after one kid and Sharon ran around after the other. We were thrilled to treat her to her very first lobster dinner, which she enjoyed thoroughly (even against the overtones of my seething anxiety about Hallie's penchant for jumping in the water when expressly forbidden from doing so). Here's a lovely picture of Sarah in the sunset by the dock:
Anyway, when we got back to the hotel, we were thrilled to find that Hallie's underwear were still dry. This thrill, however, abated when she refused to pee before putting on her pull-up and pajamas and getting in bed. Once more she began to scream: "It's hot! It hurts!" And she would not go.
At 3am or so, she woke up, once more screaming that she was hot and it hurt and would not pee. And her pull up was bone dry.
By this stage, we were a bit worried about what was really going on. She had been holding it in since at least 7pm (so 8 hours or so) and, given that she was a recent embarker on potty training and does not reliably wipe in the correct direction, I began to think that Hallie had a UTI. She did not seem to be running a fever (which is a usual symptom, something we learned from Lea's forays into the wonderful world of UTIs), but it's possible to have an infection without spiking one. Not to mention the fact that we did not have a thermometer with us so we couldn't exactly confirm that Hallie was fever-free.
Being the preemie mom that I am and having memorized our pediatrician's number (and of course having it on my list of contacts on my phone just in case I have a brain blip), I decided to call the excellent after hours folks to see what they thought. I detailed Hallie's 'symptoms' to the nurse and she advised that, if Hallie did not go by morning, we needed to get her to an ER for catheterization pronto.
Now this is not a fun process (having lived through three failed attempts to cath Lea at our ped's office this winter, I speak with some authority on this manner) even when you are not a few hundred miles away from home. It is even less fun if you have to ponder the relative merits of driving an hour back to Yale/New Haven, an hour and a half up to Providence, RI, or a couple of hours up to Worcester, MA to visit a pediatric hospital versus finding a doc-in-the-box in Mystic who might or might not have experience catheterizing special needs kids.
I spent the next several hours awake contemplating these options and downloading screen shots from google maps that would help us locate one or another of the places we might visit while on vacation (!!!) and praying that Hallie hurried up and peed in her pull up (which is not what most parents actively engaged in toilet training their kiddo usually wish to do).
Morning came and Hallie woke up. Thankfully her pull up was soaked (and I mean soaked) at this point.
We took her potty (as we usually do in the morning upon awaking) and once more she screamed about how hot it was and how it hurt. And that's when it dawned on us that the whole issue was a sensory one, and not a medical one.
The downside: potty training took a major step back for the balance of the vacation (though she did evince a willingness to try to go potty again after a few more days of this).
The upside: we did not have to cut our vacation short or acquaint ourselves with the medical options available to us when on it.
In the end, everything worked out and we had a great time on the balance of the trip (during which we not only got to go to a fabulous wedding but also got to meet some fabulous 23 weekers), but all of that is going to have to wait for my next post...