Monday, August 27, 2007

Our Appalachian Adventure

The Freshour family has returned from our first ever family vacation and I can tell you this, it won't be the last. We went to the glorious Smoky Mountains for 5 days and stayed in this lovely little chalet perched on the mountain. It was like staying in a tree house but one with two hot tubs, upstairs and downstairs wrap around decks, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms. Like our own home only bigger, and cleaner, and in a much more inspiring environment, and the food even tasted better because it was cooked over a charcoal grill...so much so that we think we are going to replace our rusty old gas grill with an old school charcoal Weber. Because we're all retro like that.

We spent our mornings hiking...



on trails we probably shouldn't have taken our highly energetic preschoolers on. We're not so strong in the wisdom department, but in the impulse department - now there is where we really shine. They lived to tell the tale, obviously. No doubt because we "closely controlled" them per usual. Peyton is a champion hiker.


But this Trail Tech backpack I carried her in was awful. I borrowed it from a friend at church to test drive it and it was the single worst decision I made on the entire trip. We're definitely springing for the Kelty after this...what with all that cash we're going to save on the grill and all.


It starts young, doesn't it?



Our afternoons were spent napping and then swimming in either the Little Pigeon River or at the club house pool. I will spare you the pool pictures since I've already posted some of those this summer...also, I forgot my camera that day.

There was a big debate here as whether to play in the mud or the water. That's a really tough decision when you are a little boy. Our own personal Auto Bell quickly made the decision for them and moved them across to the other side of the river where there was no mud. The Sienna thanks him for his sensitivity.

Jeff says this is Carter's cover shoot for Kids Weekly. Hopefully, his stylist will remember his swimsuit for any additional issues.

Peyton thought the mountain water tasted delicious. I initially had worries of bilharzia, but then I realized that we were in America. I've been here almost 20 consecutive years now. At some point that should become my first thought...right?

One afternoon Cousin Patrick and Cassie drove up for the day. Cassie is a small Jack Russell Terrier. Carter, our person, fits in her kennel. We contemplated getting one or two ourselves...kennels, not terriers. Just think how useful they could be!

All in all, our first family vacation was nothing short of fabulous. Since moving to Charlotte we have been on a hard, fast path of either home renovation or seemingly relentless reproduction and we haven't exactly prioritized either rest or intentional family time into our lives. Leaving the laptops behind and immersing ourselves in a little purple mountain majesty was a small step in the right direction. Next stop - the NC coast in September.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Can you feel the love tonight?

On Tuesday night, we went to see The Lion King. The roving Broadway stage production, not the movie. That we could have seen from the privacy and comfort of our own home. I could have worn a fetching pair of shorts and t-shirt from my own 2007 Summer Collection and been oh-so-comfy, if not quite ravishing. No, this was the stage production and I will admit that when Jeff excitedly called me from the box office several months ago to tell me that he and Mark were buying us tickets RIGHT THEN, I was completely taken aback. For one thing, this buying tickets for some art-drama-dance related performance is completely out of character for him.

Secondly, this is a guy who is dying to see Van Halen recapture their former glory, so even through he had seen The Lion King in London and thought it was great, I thought his review was questionable at best. Because, honestly, take a look at these guys.

Also, for three small reasons, we don’t go out much. In fact, the last few times we have attempted to go out to dinner and a movie (woo-hoo!), we have only made it as far as dinner. Because we’re too tired, not because we don’t want to see the movie. So when we do something as unusual as purchasing tickets for an event, I like to get the biggest possible bang for my buck. For example, below is a list of events that I would leap up from my desk to buy tickets for:

Blue Man Group (http://www.blueman.com/)
Cirque du Soleil (http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/)
The Charlotte Symphony (http://www.charlottesymphony.org/)
Stomp (http://www.charlottecultureguide.com/event.php?id=940)
Charlotte Bobcats (http://www.nba.com/bobcats/bobcats_intro.html)
Celtic Women (http://www.celticwoman.com/)
Carolina Panthers (http://www.panthers.com/)
Brian Regan (http://www.brianregan.com/)

I think I have a wide variety of interests from which to pick. Heck, I even wanted to attend the Bull Riding championships when they came to town earlier this year – it was essentially the bull riding Olympics and I thought it would be nothing if not a grand spectacle. Also, it involved an entire people group I don’t normally find myself mingling with and that intrigued me. Alas, we did not attend.

But Disney productions, you’ll note, appear no where in the list above. And this is why. I think on the whole that Disney productions reflect more their enormous bank account than they do actual talent – and I owned an annual pass to Disneyland for several years, so I’ve witnessed a fair amount of Walt’s magic. In this case, while the music itself was impossible to avoid, I’d never even seen The Lion King cartoon. And that was my biggest issue with these tickets my eager husband was buying. This whole stage production was based upon a cartoon. How good could it be?

As the time drew near for us to attend this ravishing spectacle, I grew more and more apprehensive and for two very good reasons:

1. I had nothing to wear.

2. We were going with a couple I didn’t know that well. Mark, I had met at Jeff’s office a couple times. Amy, I had never met. Why was this a problem? See number 1. Also, I realize I come across as grossly extroverted, but in my heart of hearts, I’m actually remarkably shy and insecure and it stresses me out to have to make conversation with people I don’t know over really expensive food. The right outfit is critical because it helps me project a confidence I may not be feeling and well, you know, it helps preserve the fraud.

Worse, I had apparently tried to mentally block out the whole upcoming evening because at no point did I write it on any calendar in our home. So when Jeff returned from his trip around the world, I was shocked to discover that the event was a mere two nights away. Not only had I not come up with anything to wear, but we didn’t have a babysitter either. 10 fruitless calls later it was hard to decide what to be more distressed about.

Fortunately, the wife of one of Jeff’s colleagues from work took pity on us and showed up to tend the Freshour flock. And about an hour or two before our scheduled departure, Jeff reminded me that Amy is 8 1/2-months pregnant and that Mark had said that it was slim pickings in her closet as well. That kind of snapped me out of my wardrobe fixation. Because we were really just going out with another set of tired parents, who had probably had their own set of babysitter issues, and I know were equally concerned about what to wear because Jeff's girlfriend, Mark, HAD ACTUALLY CALLED JEFF THE NIGHT BEFORE TO DEBATE TIE OR NO TIE! I find that funny. It’s a conversation Amy and I should have had.

Dinner at the Capital Grille was delicious. Mark and Amy are delightful and it was a very enjoyable time. Most importantly, I believe all 4 of us were dressed appropriately, if not similarly. Amy and I both broke a key southern etiquette dictum and wore black…in 94 degree weather. But it was a whole 9 degrees lower than it had been the week prior so it felt almost balmy.
And The Lion King…well Jeff was right after all. It was genuinely good. Spectacular really. I couldn’t help but think all the way through the first act how surprising it was that a performance of its caliber could be found right in my own town. Charlotte is the smallest, sleepiest city I have lived in for the past 15-years or so, and I still think of it as kind of red-necked. Sure, our red-necks are highly educated and generally quite wealthy, but their vernacular generally does not support that reality.

The singing was the weakest link, but the costuming and staging were nothing short of phenomenal and I was quickly transported back to Kenya. My absolute favorite scene was one in which the wildebeest migrate…and consequently kill Simba’s dad, but I was so mesmerized by how creatively and authentically the migration was portrayed that I kind of missed the moment there. Also, the puppets on bikes reminded me of the little street kids in Nairobi and their cleverly crafted wheeled toys. I was even drawn in by the music. For some reason, in that environment, it seemed to have more depth of meaning than it does played repeatedly over the commercial air waves. I really listened to the words and music and didn't just think: Elton John - Lady Diana - Elton John -Lady Diana. Tim Rice I now believe is a truly insightful lyricist. One stanza in particular I found so relatable that I am going to call up my friends at Wonderful Graffitti (http://www.wonderfulgraffiti.com/) and have it made for our bedroom in their flashy vinyl. Because it fully expresses how I feel about my relationship with my sweet, thoughtful husband who in that brief moment of at the Blumenthal box office proved on some days he clearly knows me better than I know myself. And that’s pretty high praise for a production I didn’t even want to see.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday Peyton!

See below for pictures of Peyton's very exciting evening...

She seems a bit unsure, which was surprising considering she woofed down her first french fry at McDonald's this afternoon without a second thought.


Feels good AND tastes great!


Back away from the cake!


A necessary ending. We'll get to the gifts tomorrow. Cake and Dad coming home were about all the excitement we could manage tonight.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

If only I had known this at the beginning of last week!

So despite my absolute HATING of Jeff's job these last two weeks, today, right at this very moment, I ADORE IT. One of the benefits of the bank is that they give us 20-days of back-up (emergency) care at a 4-Star childcare facility downtown for the low, low cost of $15 per child per day. It's a complete steal considering I pay my babysitter $10/hr. And Carter and Griffin absolutely love it there, so it works out wonderfully. But I have to carefully ration my days since bringing 2-children counts for 2-days. I can bring one of them 20 times, or both of them 10 times a year...I say as though that needed further explanation. Anyway, I sent them today because we had an all day mandatory audit/compliance meeting at work and I knew there was no way I could contain them if I was on a 3-hour conference call. But I've lost so many work hours lately with them being out of preschool, vacationing, and Jeff being gone that I really need to send them tomorrow as well. So I just called down there only to find that they have changed the plan "slightly" and now they are giving EACH KID 20-DAYS PER YEAR!!! Carter has 13 left and Griffin has 10. I thought I had 3 left between them which is pretty worrisome this being only the beginning of August. I kid you not, I just stood on a chair right here in my kitchen and sang the Halleujah Chorus at the very top of my lungs. It is truly a John 2 kind of miracle - a gift for all people really. I am full to overflowing with glee. Wachovia, I take back all the horrible things I have said and thought about you lately. If you bring the whole corporation to my house I will kiss the lot of you.

Hey Love, if you are reading this from Istanbul, since we have so many days left, we should put them all in there one day later this year when Peyton is no longer dining at Mom's and go white water rafting or something!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gross Negligence

Bath #3 in a 2-week stretch (Unless you count the one night I let them play outside in the sprinkler. In that case it would be 4.). It was so notable, I had to capture it on film forever.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Maryland Terp?

Back at the end of May, I found this turtle in the grass late one afternoon after Jeff had mowed. I was astounded he had survived the experience and moved him to the back of the yard hoping he would find something to eat or at least a little shade...after I let the boys hold him which was probably as harrowing an experience as avoiding the mower.

Then, yesterday, I discovered this turtle in my front flowerbed. I think he likes us.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Adventures in Babysitting

I made a bad mom decision recently. Had a lapse of judgement if you will. I've been seeing a physical therapist for the last couple of weeks. It's a long story as to why but it basically boils down to this; three children, four years. I have discovered in this process that reclaiming my "vibrancy" is going to take a lot of work...mostly at the gym. (Mom, here is an aside for you. One of the exercises I'm supposed to be doing is walking backwards on the treadmill. My therapist claims walking forward on the treadmill really does little for your glutes and hamstrings, and the eliptical machine or stair climbing - horror of horrors - actually builds them up rather than lengthening and toning them. I have used the eliptical machine all of twice this year, but I'll tell you this, I was relieved to be able to grasp onto this information as a logical explanation for why my butt is so big. Now if I could just quit having to walk up our stairs 30+ times a day while carrying another whole person, I think I'd be good. Anyway, I share this revelation only because you own a treadmill and you might want to try it. No other implication intended.)

The only reason I was put in a position to make such a dire mistake in the first place is because Jeff is currently enjoying the comforts of The Westin Palace in Madrid (I'm not kidding. IT REALLY IS A PALACE http://www.westinpalacemadrid.com/eng/) and is not, therefore, hanging out in our equally luxurious living room awaiting my beck and call. (Admit it Jeff, your room at The Palace looks a lot like this, doesn't it?)

I thought so. For anyone wondering, I did not just throw toys everywhere for effect. This is how our living room really looks most of the time...but without the boxes over there in the left-hand corner. Those are new. We recently decided to retire our vintage 1999 PC and replace it with something I'm not allowed to set up. So in the meantime, the boxes are being used as a sort of jungle gym.

Where was I? Oh yes, I had a PT appointment at 10:00am on Wednesday but at 9:30am I still hadn't found anyone to wrangle the wild ponies. So I was growing a bit desperate. Peyton was crying, the boys were fighting, and I just wasn't in the best frame of mind. So when our regular babysitter, Cheryl, suggested that her younger sister was available and could be at my house in 5 minutes, I said, "Drive fast." To a teenager behind the wheel of her first brand new car. With her younger sisters in the back seat. Notice I said sisters. This is because 16-year old Cheryl and 14-year old Lisa couldn't leave 10-year old Gaby home alone. As Cheryl was on her way to her real job at Walgreens that left Lisa at the helm. It should have been a wildly waving red flag to me that Gaby wasn't allowed to be home alone, but in my moment of desperation I thought, even better. With 2 watching 3, the odds are in my favor. Plus, Peyton was supposed to go down for a nap, so really that made 2 on 2. Those are like the best baby-sitting odds ever. And I wasn't going to be gone that long.

The girls arrived and off I flew to my appointment. I returned an hour and half later to find Lisa comfortably rocking Peyton. She hadn't had a nap but had been playing happily. So far so good. But then I walked into the kitchen. Griffin was pouring grape juice from a Costco-sized jug into a sippy cup on the floor. As the grape juice sloshed everywhere, Carter was gleefully using a turkey baster to try to suck the juice up so he could squirt it into the sippy cup, while Gaby tried to frantically clean up around them both with paper towels. As you can imagine, it was a fruitless effort on Gaby's behalf because she hadn't bothered to stem the flow of grape juice. I'm told this spilling-cleaning up routine had been going on all morning. In addition, the boys had also been dictating their own snacks. In 90-minutes the 4 of them had consummed: an entire bag of pretzels, a huge bag of potato chips, a bunch of raisins, and a half-gallon of vanilla bean ice cream. Seven scoops each if Carter is to be believed.

While they were eating their way through the pantry in an Eric Carle sort of way, they had also found all of the art supplies and had plastered the playroom with them. Which is not in and of itself a problem, they are theirs after all, but I usually monitor the usage. Such as, I don't let 2-year old Griffin play with the scissors which, incidentally, was exactly what he was playing with while I quickly tried to mop up the juice. Were that not enough, some child had found the glue and had dripped a trail from the kitchen to the bathroom where the remains had been carefully poured onto the floor. At that point I knew it was going to take me a solid day to dig out from the disaster scene and I should just give it up. I put everyone in the car and dropped Lisa and Gaby off at home, with a big fake smile of gratitude. Because, really, I wasn't feeling all that gracious. Or happy. At some point, Lisa's and Gaby's mom had come home because she met them at the door. This is what I heard Gaby say to her, "That was the hardest I've EVER worked."