Closed for the holiday

July 4th spirit

July 4th spirit

Yesterday, I took the Boy to yet another train museum – the Sandy River & Rangely Lakes Railroad in Phillips, ME. This one is several hours from here, and far enough off the beaten path that they are only open the first and third weekend of the month. From June to August. More or less.

No one was there, but we didn’t expect there to be.  I had emailed the museum a few weeks ago and the secretary very kindly sent a list of all of the sites to see along that railroad as well as within the museum grounds. The Boy and I walked the track and explored as much as we could, and just soaked in the history of the place. It was hot and humid and buggy, but we’d driven over two and a half hours to get there and we weren’t about to turn back because of a few of Maine’s notorious winged inhabitants, or the lack of breeze. So we sweated it out.

To be fair, he sweated it out and I retreated to the car so I could blast the a/c.

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Driving through all of the other small towns along the way, I began to notice a recurring trend. Virtually every business we passed had a sign declaring “Closed July 4 – 6″ or a variation of the dates surrounding the Independence Day holiday. Away from tourists, businesses were closing so they could spend the holiday with their families instead of trying to lure people in with holiday sales.

What a concept! In the middle of Maine where big box and chain stores are non-existent, retail is run by Mom & Pop shops who still close for the holidays, and even close early the day before.

Y’know, like in the old days of my childhood. When I was a kid, the holiday was all about hanging out with extended family, eating charred meat and corn-on-the-cob, and joining the masses at the beach for fireworks.

People in the middle of the state have their priorities straight. This really was a case of:
Maine, the way life used to be.”

Ay-yuh.

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You really can’t get there from here

The past couple of days have been full of adventure for the Boy and me. He’s a teenager now, so our adventures don’t start until lunchtime-ish, but then we’re off and running.

Or in my case, driving.

Nothing is near anything in this state. That’s what it seems like. It’s not true, but the anythings that we wish to see are near nothing. There’s a lot of driving past woods and farms, and state routes which intersect with each other, but there are no landmarks to take note of in most places.

Church in one of the station towns

Church in one of the station towns

On Monday, we wound our way north looking for traces of the old right-of-way for the WW&F. We found a lot of them and, true to expectations, they’re near nothing. Some are down dirt roads which convey a feeling of being in a Stephen King novel – with banjos. But most are on main roads and are easy to pass if you don’t know what you’re looking for. To clarify: these main roads go through nothing and lead nowhere.

Former railroad bridge, now part of a hiking trail

Former railroad bridge, now part of a hiking trail

We eventually made it to our destination - several hours after we left.

Ablion station - end of the line

Ablion station – end of the line

Along the way, our favorite surprise was Hussey’s General Store . Apparently, it’s the landmark in middle-of-nowhere Maine. I have no idea where it was, or where we were, but the place is huge; three large floors huge. It was at one of the many crossroads and I’m sure it’s the only game in several towns.

An indication of what's inside

An indication of what’s inside

We had to stop.

We did not regret it.

Fulfill your every fantasy!

Fulfill your every fantasy!

They. Have. Everything: Milk, paint, fishing gear, water balloons, guns, wedding gowns, books, auto parts, appliances, gas. And much needed bathrooms.

Phew. We’d been driving for a while.

The only thing I could not find there was cracked corn to feed the resident ducklings here at the inn.

"Feed us, we're cute"

“Feed us, we’re cute”

After we made it to Albion station and paid our respects, we made plans to have dinner with Lucy and Margaret and met them at an amazing diner for good food, amazing desserts, and a long chat.

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It was dark by the time we got back.

Water balloon wars

Water balloon wars

Tuesday was all about the water park. We spent the afternoon there. The Boy says he did not get his fill of playing with water balloons, but he spent an awful lot of time there trying.  In addition to trying to soak other people, there were water slides, a wave pool, and the Aquasaucer (imagine hearing an announcer saying that with a lot of reverb).

Squinting keeps the water out of your face

Squinting keeps the water out of your face

In spite of what I thought were my best efforts, but which turned out to be only mediocre efforts, I got sunburned.

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It was a good day. I think the Boy had more physical activity yesterday than he gets in a week during the school year. At least his sleeping in this morning, until after 9:00, was only partly due to being a teenager.

That’s how I’m justifying it.

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Settling inn

One of the main reasons we come to Maine is the WW&F Railway Museum. We’ve already spent a couple of hot days there. Afterward we drove back to the inn, to the ocean breezes and the salt smells and the sounds of lobster boats and conversations riding on the wind.

A ride with a view

A ride with a view

People and kids are everywhere. Sitting, walking, riding bikes, driving by, sailing by.

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Watching sunsets. Watching waves. Watching boats.

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It doesn’t get much better than this.

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This time I brought a map

Today was a busy day with the Boy, during which we met up with friends for a walk in the woods. The last time we did this, we didn’t realize that the trail we were on didn’t go in a loop. We got lost. We ran out of water. The DEP was called. The state police were called.

Not by us, but by a concerned husband.

Eventually, thanks to the magic that is the smart phone, along with a little help from Google, we got online, found a map and made our way back to civilization. Which was probably less than half a mile away.

Having learned from previous experience, this time I brought a map with me. I made sure to print it in color so we could actually tell the trails apart. In case we ended up lost on one. Again.

The day we got lost was disgustingly humid. I guess I didn’t learn that part of the lesson since I was doomed to repeat it. I was more focused on not getting lost. Today was not only humid, but the relief we had been getting from cloud cover was lost when the sun emerged just as we pulled into the parking lot. So it wasn’t just hot and humid. It was hot, sunny, and humid.

Bottom line: we didn’t get lost. But I did slip on a rock. A moist rock because of the rainforest-like quality of the woods owing to the soul-sucking humidity. I slipped on a rock and fell on my ass. It was not pretty. I don’t fall pretty, just hard. I got over the humiliation pretty quickly.

Pretty moss covered rocks - the non-slippery kind

Pretty moss covered rocks – the non-slippery kind

At the very end of the trail there was a steep descent and I took a detour to avoid more slippery rocks. Just when I thought I was home-free, I stepped in a hole. I stepped in a hole completely camouflaged by leaves. It was like a trap set by some evil, cunning squirrel as some sort of revenge. I sprained my damn ankle. The same ankle I manage to re-sprain every few years.

Whatthefuck Universe? I went out on this godforsaken day to get some exercise and spend some time with friends and the Boy and you … what? Are you bored?

I’m fine, really. I am. My ankle is a little sore but usable. It’s just that I’ve been really cranky all week; I needed a moment to vent. I’m done now.

The park we went to is a state park and it abuts a state forest. That cracks me up. The word “abut” (you spend too much time with a 13 year old who looks for words that have “ass” and “butt” in them, and see if you can’t help but start to notice them) and the fact that we have a state forest. We may have more than one, and I’m glad we have it (them), but it still cracks me up. Remember when the whole east coast was forest? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve read about it.

Sophia taking the lead

Sophia taking the lead

Though it might not be expected, the trouper among the group was, as always, three year old Sophia. She’s also the one that kept us safe from oncoming cars. Because the other two, who are old enough to know better, were too busy fooling around to be aware.

The fact that they're both smiling and the Boy isn't making bunny ears is a miracle.

The fact that they’re both smiling and the Boy isn’t making bunny ears is a miracle.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t even need the map this time. Although I felt it was important to keep reminding people that I had it. Y’know, because I was proud of learning my lesson. And being prepared.

Except about the damn humidity.

Yay, me!

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A bad day of parenting

Even though nobody sits you down and really tells you about it, you sort of know it’s coming. You hear stories, but you think “Oh, that won’t happen to me.” But you know it will because you remember; you were there once. Only then you were at the receiving end. Or so you thought. The receiving end that prompted vows of “I’ll never treat my kids like that.”

And then you’re there. Treating your kid like that.

Because your kid has become an asshole. They way your parents were assholes when you were a teenager. At this age, everybody is an asshole and the battle of wills creates discord and anger and promises of nothing. Nothing, as in “you won’t get what you want if you don’t do the job you’ve been given.” “I gave you plenty of warning that this needed to be done.” And there they sit. Not using their tablet device because they’ve lost the privilege. Not watching TV because they’ve lost the privilege.

But still not doing the job they’ve been told needs to be done; a job they’ve indicated that they fully understand needs to be done. But instead of doing it, they’re doing nothing. He’s doing nothing – actively doing nothing in order to avoid the job that’s not going away. Because it’s his job to do. Having created the mess he’s required to clean, he rewards you with attitude about cleaning it up.

He’s an asshole about it and you’re an asshole for expecting it. And, asshole that you are, you’re devising more punitive “rewards” for a job not done.

And mere minutes after losing TV privileges, he’s parked in front of the television watching something. “Really?” I demand. “It’s the History Channel,” he tells me, “It’s history. It’s educational.”

I swear, sometimes I think he’s going to be a lawyer. Just to spite me.

So the adolescent years have begun. I hate them already. And all I can think is “it’s going to be a long five or six years.” And even though I don’t want him to ever move out, I am already flirting with thoughts about how soon it will be until he moves into a dorm? How much longer do I have subject myself to this constant nagging? My constant nagging.

I’m so tired of hearing my voice say the same things over and over again. Ignored, disregarded, and yet he expects to eat and to have clean clothes, and to be taken places. He expects to have privileges that he doesn’t have to earn.

And it’s pissing me off.

The consequences don’t seem to be bothering him. Which pisses me off more. And causes me to ask myself “Why do I bother? Why do I care?” Because in this pity party of one, clearly I’m the only one who does care.

So I think, “where are the support groups?” and then I realize - I have an epiphany - and it makes so much sense: “This is why there is alcohol.”

Has there ever been a study associating alcohol abuse with the number of children a person has? I bet there’s a correlation. I’m tempted to consider alcohol, but I know how it makes me feel, and I generally prefer to drink socially if at all. Besides, puberty will persist regardless of whether or not I drink. And eventually, he’ll grow out of it. Right?

Right?

Because I like to think I did.

This summer vacation is not getting off to a good start. With vacation to Maine looming and tasks not being performed – tasks that must be done to earn the privileges so readily expected – it’s looking even more bleak. For him.

Because instead of taking him to all of the places we’ve discussed, which means many hours of driving on my part, I’ll be hanging by the pool with a book. And I’m okay with that. I’ll have to deal with the parental guilt, and there will be plenty of that because I feel guilty about everything – regardless of who’s shit it is, but I’m beginning to think there is no other way to get my message across in this game of asshole one-upsmanship.

And that sucks.

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