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:: Todd and Laura, Hitched!

Kodak gallery pictures for this post are here and here .

The big news in my family this year is that my brother Todd and his special-lady-friend Laura decided to get hitched (woot!). It wasn't too much of a shocker, given how couple-y they seemed last Christmas, but we're still happy for them all the same. The big question on everybody's minds has been where they'd have the ceremony. Amy and I put in a vote for "somewhere warm, preferably near a beach, that's kid friendly". Todd and Laura delivered- the wedding was on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean at an all-inclusive, family-oriented resort called Beaches. Aye, so it's back to the islands for us.

While nowhere near as complex as having to plan a wedding in a foreign country, Amy, Benjamin, and I had a whole heap of problems to work through in order to make it to the wedding. We first had to get passports for both Benjamin and myself (I stoopidly left my newly-issued passport in my pants and did laundry when we returned from Portugal). Heh. Benjamin had to sit on my shoulders in order to be tall enough to get his passport picture done. Next, we had to make sure Benjamin was up to date on his shots (never fun) since we were leaving the country. Finally, there was the whole problem of enduring a cross-country trip with a young child. While we were able to break the flight into two hops (stopping in Miami to sample the airport's pastries), the trip took more than 12 hours door-to-door. The long day was especially hard on Benjamin- when we finally reached the hotel, he cried and cried for hours out of shear exhaustion. We felt terrible for putting him through such a long trip at an early age. Thankfully, our vacation lasted a full week, so he had time to recover and adjust before it was time to return home.

I have to admit that Amy and I were a little worried about staying at a resort, mainly due to all the bad travel stories you read about on the web. Resorts often seem to have a sinister side that's orthogonal to the DIY travel philosophy we're used to. However, as it turns out, this resort was just the kind of place that we needed for this stage in our lives. It was easy to move Benjamin from place to place within the resort, and the all-inclusiveness meant we could get food and drinks whenever we needed them. There were several pools to choose from and the beach was just a short walk away from the room. The resort also had its own scuba boat and dive masters, so Amy and I were able to take a (hard) refresher course and do a dive. While our dive was too packed to see much of interest (minus some jerkwad's flipper in my face), Todd and Laura did a bunch of dives and saw a lot of great stuff (ho ho, someday I'll make them dive out in the Pacific so they can see what wetsuits are for).

To be fair, we did stumble upon the sinister side to the resort about midway through the trip, while chatting with an ice cream barista about kids. The guy told me he had a son about Benjamin's age, so we wound up swapping a few of the usual proud fatherhood stories. However, after dodging a few of my questions, the barista revealed that his wife and son were actually living back in the Philippines and that he was doing a two-year contract at the resort so he could send them money for a better life. Several of the other non-native workers were doing the same. It was pretty sobering to think about the sacrifices these people were making for their families. While it made me feel guilty for being there, it's at least partly reassuring know that some small portion of our resort fees was going towards helping these families.

Anyways, back to our vacation. Another great thing about this trip was that a lot of our family decided to make the trek, as did our buddy Pete (aka the Red-Goggled Fish Boxer ). Having all of these folks around for the week meant that we could talk with people we hadn't seen in a while, as well as give them a chance to get to know Benjamin. It was a lot of fun hanging out with my relatives- it reminded me of the summer beach vacations my family used to take when we were kids. Pete fit right in with my family- it was almost as if he was that distant cousin from Kentucky that was always a lot of fun to visit, but we were never allowed to see because of some unspoken incident that happened long ago. Of course, having my parents around was great for us because they volunteered to take a few shifts watching Benjamin for us during his naps. Although Amy and I could never quite shake the feeling of "this is fun, but we should get back in case Benjamin wakes up early", it was great to be able to get out of the room and do things on our own.

Having the wedding in October in the Caribbean was a little dicey. Everyone kept reminding us that October was hurricane season down there. They forgot to point out that it's also very, very humid in the Caribbean in October. Amy and I really had a tough time with the humidity (guess we're adjusted to California now), but the sun was especially dangerous for Benjamin. We covered him with sunscreen and towels as much as we could and made periodic trips to the swimming pools and ocean. Benjamin really loved the pools. He was old enough to be scared of the water, but still he loved it when we'd put him on a float and skim him across the top of the pool while making motor boat noises. He also liked sitting at the swim-up bar with daddy and sneaking sips of cold (non-alcoholic) beverages.

Todd and Laura's wedding was a casual, outdoor ceremony not too far from the beach. The blazing Caribbean heat kept the speeches short and we all squeezed in for pictures on the beach afterwards. It was a good little gig, especially since Todd and Laura look so happy together. Following the wedding, there was a small reception with drinks and food. Heh.. My cousin Dean made sure to point out that they were serving Miller beer- which was funny because Dean's dad (my uncle) works for Coors. Following the reception, everyone went to the pool and played volleyball (well, everyone but Benjamin and I- we went back to the room and sat on the air conditioner).

We had a lot of fun, and really enjoyed seeing everyone again. The trip back was horrendous, but hey, if it was easy getting to the fun places, they wouldn't be so fun. In any case, congratulations to Todd and Laura. Here's to a lifetime of happiness- woot!

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:: Royal Visit

Heh. We had a visitor stop by the other night- this (Monarch ?) butterfly dropped in so he could go for a walk on my head. I guess there are a lot of these guys making the journey to the beach around this time of year. I'll have to stay inside more so as to not distract them from their route.

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:: Pacifica

Pacifica. It's a small town on the coast just south of San Francisco. We read that there was a Best Western hotel there that had a campy lighthouse attached to it, and figured that was about as good of an excuse as any to get us out of the house for a few days. We packed the Golf to the gills and joined the stream of cars. Perhaps we should have checked the weather forecast first. It was overcast, windy, and cold when we arrived in Pacifica, and it felt like winter the entire time we were there. That's the true NorCal coast for you.

The next day we met up with Tom, Betsy, and Johnny so we could check out the neighboring beach. While the water was too cold for us, there were surfers in wet suits all over the place. We walked up the beach for a while and then warmed ourselves up with a lunch at a place with a view. Later that day, while monitoring Benjamin's nap in the hotel room, a small mariachi band played for a little while in the hotel's courtyard, probably for someone's wedding reception. Kind of strange, but also interesting, if only because they didn't wake Benjamin up.

The last day we were there was as gray as the first. Amy tolerated my need to go for a short walk on a bike path that worked its way up the hill. Benjamin seemed ok with it all, once he was properly wrapped up in his stroller with warm blankets. Summer. Yeah, when you're visiting the coast you have to remind yourself sometimes that it's still summer and that you should be happy that you're not baking.

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:: Massively Behind Schedule

El Noodle from the future writes:

Ok, so I'm really really really far behind on the updates. The site is now over a year and a half behind and it's been a long time since I've written anything at all. I do like having a record of things, it's just that I only get an hour or two of downtime a day. I'd like to keep the site going, so I need to find a way to get caught up. The simplest thing to do would probably just fast forward and let the last year and a half just disappear. That's not very satisfying, given all the things that happened since the writing tapered off. However, trying to write up all the details now is a lost cause given the amount of time that's gone by and how fuzzy some of the details have become.

The compromise is that in the next month I will try to get caught up by writing short versions of the big events that have happened up until now. The writing is going to suck (more than usual) and the details will be sketchy. My apologies to the people that we're skimping on, but I've got to get this thing back on schedule.

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:: Cape Cod

(Once again, Amy picks up the slack and writes.. Tons of pictures are also posted here and here in our Kodak gallery.)

For the past few years we've made a trip to Cape Cod every summer. In general, we try to time it to coincide with my brother's trip to Cape Cod so we can all hang out on the porch drinking beer together. This year my brother's trip happened to coincide with Craig's trip to Las Vegas. Which left me with 3 options:

  • Stay home with 6 month old Benjamin all by myself for a week.
  • Hang out in Craig's Vegas hotel room with Benjamin while Craig attends the conference.
  • Fly by myself (with Benjamin) to Cape Cod, and hang out with my extended family while waiting for Craig to finish his conference and join us.

None of these options particularly appealed to me, but I thought option 3 would be the most fun. At least I wouldn't be alone with a baby all week. The only really hard part would be the plane trip. I managed to work myself into a panic over this 5 or 6 hour flight. What if Benjamin was inconsolable? What if he didn't sleep at all? What if I had to breastfeed while sitting next to a huge and unpleasant man? What would I do with Benjamin if I needed to pee? How would I carry all the stuff and the baby?

I made it through the trip without any horrible incidents. Benjamin didn't sleep as much as I wanted him to, but he also didn't scream (much). And there was a woman seated next to me, not a leering pervert. And I worked out a system for the baggage. You know, you would think at some point someone would have offered to help me, but no one did. I'm not sure I would have accepted help anyway. It's a strange society we live in.

My parents met me at baggage claim and we took a shuttle bus to the hotel. There was a truly upset child on this shuttle bus, one who had had enough traveling for a lifetime. Boy could he scream. It made me feel lucky that Benjamin was taking things in stride.

The next day we made our way to our beach house in Falmouth, with a stop in Worcester to visit one of my aunts first. It's always great to be at this house, because I grew up coming here every summer. It's just a happy place. I was excited to be bringing my child to the same place I had such good memories of. We all worked on settling in and getting ready for my brother and his family to arrive the next day.

Benjamin was starting to get a little freaked out by this point. I think he missed Craig. And he had a little cold. And was just generally out of sorts. But really, he was doing pretty well, and so was I. My parents were helping me out, but still, it's hard to be away from the routine and familiarity of home. And being away from Craig made me realize just how much he helps, even though he's only home for a few hours before bedtime.

The next day Dave, Gretchen, and the 3 kids arrived. The house was suddenly a whirlwind of activity. I can't really remember much of this week. Except that Benjamin got harder to put to sleep, and I missed Craig and his help more and more. I didn't even take any pictures, even though Craig had sent the camera with me instead of taking it to Vegas. Which is why Craig had to make a (very cute) drawing of an air conditioner.

After much pleasant hanging out on the porch and walking to the beach with Benjamin in a backpack carrier thing (Ergo!), it is finally time for Craig to join us. Poor Craig takes a red eye. On his birthday. And then upon arriving in Boston, he gets on a bus to Cape Cod. Poor Craig. But Benjamin and I are very happy to see him!

Next comes the weekend, which brings lots of visitors. The annual pre-4th-of-July Block Party is on Saturday. So my cousins and their kids show up to enjoy the fun. And Kelly, Stephanie, Trey, and Zoe also come! And so do Todd and Laura! Lots and lots of people in the house. For dinner, we (Craig and I, Todd and Laura, and the Kellegouses) decide to try take-out from a barbecue place I saw an ad for in the Yellow Pages. Amazingly, they had pretty good pulled pork. It may be easier, from now on, to convince Craig to visit Cape Cod, now that he knows he can get a bbq and sweet tea fix.

On the night of the fireworks (which was not on the 4th of July for some reason, though I can't remember why or when they actually were), there was something crazy in the air and none of the kids would go to sleep. We had intended to have Benjamin sleep through them, if possible, but we tried and we tried and he would not fall asleep, not even for a second. The same thing was happening with Gus, though I think Ari and Milo were allowed to stay up on purpose. Then, when it was dark enough, the fireworks began, and we saw that there would have been no sleeping through it. The whole house vibrated each time another one went off. We walked down the street to the water so we could watch the show. Benjamin wasn't scared at all. He was actually having a great time! It was more fun to watch his delighted face lit up all green, red, and white, than it was to watch the actual fireworks. When an especially loud one went off, he would giggle.

We spent a lot of time hanging out on the porch, and going for walks down to the beach. Every now and then my mom would watch Benjamin and Craig and I would go for a quick swim. We were also able to go out to eat without Benjamin a couple of times. One rainy afternoon the three of us tried to drive to Wood's Hole, but of course everyone in the area had the same idea, as Wood's Hole is full of cute little shops. So instead we went to a Thai restaurant in Falmouth, and then ran over to Dunkin Donuts and bought a dozen to take home for the rest of the gang. The doughnuts were well received. When aren't they?

As any trip to the Cape that doesn't include the Island Queen is a failure (in the wise words of my grandfather, Hampie), we made sure to make the round trip to Martha's Vineyard one afternoon. Benjamin loved it when I held is head over the edge of the boat so he could stare down at the water. Dave and family met us on the return trip, and my father was waiting on the jetty to wave hello as we came back into the harbor.

Then it was time to say goodbye to my family, and we headed for Boston. We had a hotel for a night there, so we managed to have dinner (burritos!) with Todd and Laura, and lunch the next day with the Kellegouses. Then we took a cab to the airport and began the trek back across the country. It was a good trip, but traveling with a baby is exhausting.

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