A week ago yesterday, we arrived in North Carolina; our new home. A week later, I sit here in our apartment fielding requests from preschoolers every 4-9 minutes, staccato like an alarm clock going off – jarring and distressing each time. I’m on my second cold cup of coffee. To be sure, I am content and satisfied, although it might not sound it. I think this was the best choice for our family, and I am tickled that Durham is living up to expectations. Fittingly, this current mare’s nest is one of my own making. In the spirit of that great American folk hero, Clark Griswold, I completely burned us out on fun in four days. Let’s look back.
On Thursday, we drove down here. Bob left at 4am (or something, I don’t know, I was asleep) with the moving van, and my car hitched to the back of it. He had this to say:
I followed around 8pm, with the car packed full of overnight necessities and the children, caravaning with my parents who drove their car. Twelve hours later, I found myself raving like a lunatic at a keypad outside a gate, attempting to enter our apartment complex. Within the last 20 minutes of the drive, Eleanor had managed to remove the Velcro strap from the DVD players that get strapped to the back of the headrests, and firmly, irrevocably, strapped it to her hair. I cut it out a few hours later when I unpacked the scissors.
With help from my sister and parents, and Bob’s dad, we managed to unpack most of the kids’ room and the living room and kitchen that night. The next day, most of the rest of the house got unpacked, and we brought almost exactly the right amount of furniture. We’ll go to Ikea this weekend to pick up some missing pieces.
We spent the weekend visiting the pool at our complex and exploring. We went to the Durham Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, tasting fresh tomatoes at the tomato bar and playing at Central Park. We prepared for Monday, when Bob would go to work. I also was in touch with local multiple mamas, of which there are many! They have a scheduled girl’s night next month that I can’t wait to attend.
On Monday, Bob drove in to Durham for work, and I took the kids to the Museum of Life and Science, which was amazing! Every exhibit/area was really fun, and the cafe was great. We spent 5 hours there and at the end, I converted our visit into a membership for the family. I ended up having to drag them away, because I thought they might get too tired. This kind of far-sightedness diminished over the next few days. When Bob got home from work, we visited the pool and splashed until dinner. Mark one very fun day into the books.
On Tuesday, we started the day by getting dressed in outfits that actually matched and going to visit the preschool the kids will attend. After a successful visit, we headed to Target to pick up a few things, then came home to drop it all off. In the afternoon, we went to see Inside Out at the local theatre. I teared up during the short before the movie, because I was already sleep deprived from a small boy who had spent most of the night kicking me. And because it was damn touching.
In the evening after dinner, we went back to the pool and splashed until it was time for baths and stories. At the pool, we met a bunch of families who were all so nice (including one with a set of twins about 40 days older than ours) and at this point, I’m getting suspicious of the niceness. I think they want something from me? To be seen.
On Wednesday, determined to have as much fun as possible (this is where things really started to deteriorate), I took the kids to Marbles Kids Museum, which was … fun. It was a total madhouse. I lost Eleanor probably 6 times in these huge halls when she’d run from station to station. She spent the first 90 minutes determined to try everything, at the same time if possible (not possible). Henry helpfully let me know whenever she had run off again, by bleating plaintively “Where’s Eleanoi?” But the museum was fun. It was also the place that every kid in Raleigh was currently attending a camp. Because I am an expert planner and an unassailable parent who, like Thomas the Tank Engine, makes good decisions, I didn’t pack any snacks and we arrived at the museum cafe 6 minutes after they stopped serving food. They did have smoothies, so that’s what we had. Henry was skeptical that this was a sufficient snack. I told myself it was in a very bracing voice in my head, and I remained convinced for several hours. After snacks, we found a quiet courtyard with a water feature, and the kids played here for about an hour. They couldn’t escape, and only one or two other kids came in, so Ele couldn’t give me or Henry the slip. After that, we visited the “jellyfish” (actually bosu balls) and bounced for about another hour until it was time to go. We experienced Raleigh traffic on our way to go meet Bob. As we were getting close to our exit in Durham, I realized my phone wasn’t helping me arrive at my destination anymore. Because it had died. Fighting a rising tide of panic, I told myself (again with the bracing, if borderline hysterical, voice) that I could find Central Park again, and Bob had said he’d be waiting at the Art’s Council, which I was 100% sure I had seen across the street from the park. I could do this. And I could! I remembered the way and got us to the park! Unfortunately, it was the Durham Arts Collaborative across the street, not the Arts Council. At this point, Bracing Voice in my head took over. In her shrill, stiff upper-lip in the face of overwhelming disaster way, she remembered that we had passed by a Visitor Center about two blocks back. We circled around until we came back to it, and I ran to the outside info station and grabbed a map of downtown. We had been a block from Bob, and he’d seen us make the wrong turn – easily spotting us in a sea of traffic from the rolling whites of my eyes. With both of our phones dead, we tossed our dependence on technology, alongside our dependence on good sense, out the window and decided we’d try to visit Duke Gardens. We couldn’t find it, and instead backtracked to American Tobacco for dinner. We explored the area and then found our way home. This day ended with us with full bellies and no one was permanently lost, so it was successful. And we found our home again. Total win.
On Thursday, determined to “play it safe” and “let the kids relax,” I made plans to explore only in the afternoon. I spent the morning getting them registered with a pediatrician and filling out the forms for Henry with Eleanor’s information and vice versa, then realizing my mistake and redoing everything through frequent timing out by the system. After I was thoroughly pleased with myself and frustrated by online forms, I packed the kids into the car, admittedly I had to pry Henry’s fingers one at a time off the couch and carry him to the car (this should have been some sort of signal of things to come), and we went back to Raleigh to visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural History. Four floors of fun! Ok, so if I’m being honest, we were mostly just following Eleanor at this point. Henry was starting to mount his inevitable mutiny, and Eleanor had more energy than I did. Eleanor saw escalators, and that was the beginning of the end. We had to use every escalator, as well as all the stairs. Did I mention there were four floors? Also, did I mention that Henry is afraid of escalators and I had to carry him? On the fourth floor was the cafe. Henry, with his newly deepening distrust of museum cafes and their ability to provide him with snacks, panic-selected a blueberry muffin. It was not, as it turns out, what he was expected and he lost his slender grasp on his patience. After a 10 minute standoff, I sent him over to the counter to examine the choices and come back and calmly tell me what he wanted. He looked carefully and chose a bagel. Usually a very safe choice. As soon as I bought it and brought it back to the table, Henry’s eyes narrowed and through his burgeoning rage tears he told me “sorry, I don’t like bagels anymore I’m sorry!” Not as sorry as I was. After another fruitless standoff, I wrapped the bagel up and put it in my purse (where, as far as I know, it still resides). I then left the cafe with Henry following me reluctantly while yelling enthusiastically “I’m still hungry! My tummy is rumbling! I am hungry!” Sympathetic looks from the other adults gave me strength to move us to another floor where Henry could reset his snack expectations. We explored the science center attached to the museum – the bridge connecting the buildings was a big hit – and then returned to the museum to check out the gift shop. I told the kids they could each pick something out with my approval. Eleanor selected a stretchy frog for $0.50. Henry paralyzed with indecision. I walked with him to every corner of the store, and eventually he selected a green stretchy caterpillar and a blue rock (did you know: North Carolina is the only state where all four of the rarest gems have been found; rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds? Museums, bitches!). We headed out of the museum, and I spied the Museum of History across the courtyard and since I had just recently finished my metamorphosis into Bonkers: the Madwoman, I decided we should visit. I had successfully worn down the kids at this point so that they wandered around with me asking me whether kids were supposed to be there and why it wasn’t fun (it was very instructional and interesting, I swear). We found our car, and headed to pick up Bob and actually go to the Duke Gardens. Both kids fell asleep on the drive to Bob, and only woke up when we tried carrying them into the gardens. Henry had had enough. The next 40 minutes would serve as the defining heroic poem of tantrums.
10 minutes into trying to make the visit to the gardens work, we realized how determined Henry truly was, and spent the next 30 minutes trying to coax him the 40 feet back to the car. The heavens and earth couldn’t make things right for this little human, however, resulting in lots of this kind of thing:
Finally, back in the car, we wound our way home. I made mac and cheese for the kids’ dinner and we did baths and stories and they went to sleep. Bob and I sat outside and wondered at how lucky we were to be here, and how, despite a teensy bit of overdoing it, how much fun we were able to have so close to home.
Today, I sit here with my second cup of cold coffee all gone, taking breaks from writing this to mop up some spills, to repeatedly cover Eleanor with all the couch pillows so she can pop out, to get out – then put away – the play doh, to fill the bathroom sink with water so the kids can splash with their froggy and caterpillar, to help Eleanor with the iPad, to slice up a pear for the kids to snack on, and finally to put on the Lego Movie. Everything is awesome.
Plus, I have big plans for next week!