We stayed outside Philly with Allison and Jon. As always they were amazing hosts, and the kids learned to play Snake Oil with them. When I say "learned" I mean they both grasp the concept of the game, kind of. Elliot likes to do things like get two cards that say "Food Wand" and sell it as "a magic wand that can make food, but it's magic, so I can also make anything else, too, like robots. It can make a whole robot army. You can conquer the world." And Charlotte with the same two cards, will present it as "it's a wand made of food. You can eat it." So, you know, they're still working on their delivery.
We also went to what was seriously the most amazing playground ever. Smith Memorial Playground cannot be summed up in mere words, so I offer you some visual evidence of it's sheer awesomeness.
They had a giant wooden slide:
They had... what is this? A Conical Rope Merry-go-round? I dunno, but it was great:
I also finally got to meet my friend Callie in real life, and that was pretty fantastic. But I failed to take a picture with her, which I regret.
In Salisbury we met up with Brooke and Brown and went to the NC Transportation Museum, which I classify as "unexpectedly awesome." It's got road and air vehicles, but by far the most amazing part of the museum was the TRAINS. Elliot was in seventh heaven, and Chaz may have finally caught train fever, too. Since the museum seemed like a safe environment for my phone, you may prepare yourself for another barrage of pictures.
I had never seen an actual roundhouse before. I knew what they were, thanks to Thomas the Train, but it's kind of fantastic to see them in person.
Charlotte has always been a transportation hub for NC, so a lot of the trains and vehicles were labeled the "Charlotte" something or other. Chaz, predictably, was very enthusiastic about this.
Elliot was so happy about all the trains he was vibrating. I think all the pictures of him were at least mildly blurry.
This train is mine, by virtue of it being purple.
The internet makes it everywhere. Even back in time.
In Simpsonville we stayed with Aunt Beth (and Jackson and Olivia and Andrew) who was recovering from surgery. That meant that we spent most of the time hanging out at her house, but that was totally cool. The kids adore Aunt Beth's house. I will not speculate on how much of this is because she feeds them ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST, and how much is based in other things.
I did have an adult night with Beth! Jackson and Olivia watched the kids, and Beth and I went out with her friend Amy to eat at a restaurant called BACON BROTHERS. Yes, it was my dream eatery.
There were a lot of selfies that night. A LOT.
We stayed with Nora and Becky in Winston Salem, and saw their new house! Apparently I didn't get a picture of this at all? Which I feel shameful about. Also, we didn't stay with them long enough. That's two years in a row that we've basically only been there overnight, and that's hardly enough time to catch up. I am trying to convince them to come visit Boston, but we shall see.
I also managed to catch up with Jessica while we were in Winston. We grabbed breakfast and then let the kids play at Miller Park while we chatted. I haven't seen her in nine years, so that was amazing. Also, she fished a gnat out of my eye, which I think is a sign that, although long parted, we are still very good friends. :)
We went back to Keswick and Breeden's house, and this time we chilled pretty heavily. That was good, because the small people were starting to short out from exhaustion. We did go to the local pool, which has an AH-MAY-ZING water slide (seriously, if I lived around there I would own a seasonal pass) and that was great. We also hooked the kids on a new anime, Sword Art Online, and the kids hooked us on Dragon Mania Legends.
Yes, I know. Yes, I feel shame. Anyone wanna play with me? I have invite codes...
The children are coaching Breeden on how to properly counter elements. Some people might find this adorable. Not me, of course. I am immune to that sort of thing. But *some* people.
We spent the final weekend in DC, with Harsh. He's moved out to Bethesda, and I kinda love his new neighborhood. We had originally intended to spend Sat afternoon and all day Sunday at various Smithsonian institutions, but we were wiped by the time we got there, so we decided to hit the zoo on Sunday and just hang out for Saturday. This... turned out to be unexpectedly entertaining.
Chaz decided to draw. She loves drawing, and recently she's gotten into drawing ducks. Now, she started drawing ducks for us, and some had hair, and some did not, which, in Charlotte's mind, was how to distinguish boy ducks from girl ducks. I--not for the first time--pointed out that this was nonsense, and, in fact, ducks did not have hair, neither boy nor girl ducks, and that in reality this was also a poor way to distinguish gender among the human population as well.
Charlotte insisted that girl ducks have hair.
I decided, rather than continuing our long standing argument, I would appeal to Harsh, in his capacity as a Scientist, and therefore a figure of Authority on matters such as the physical characteristics of species. He answered that it was a complicated question, because while, no, ducks did not technically have hair, they did enjoy a good wig, so they often SEEMED like they had hair.
I objected to this obvious fallacy, with the position that if a duck had hair it was far more likely to be an alien life form than a sentient duck that had purchased a wig.
This story just gets sillier. Hold on.
Anyway, Chaz produced several wig wearing ducks for Harsh, and some space ducks for me, before she decided the ducks needed weaponry. Accordingly she drew daggers and swords for our ducks, as well as drawing me a truly spectacular Picasso Man to wield the nuke she gave me.
Don't ask. Apparently in Charlotte's world we go from swords to nukes. There's nothing in between.
At some point Chaz declared we would be battling our ducks (and Picassos), at which point Harsh and I, not being fools, realized that we needed to make some specific requests. Harsh wanted a nuke of his own, but Chaz refused and only allowed him TNT, which she said he could craft into a nuke if he wanted to. I don't think Harsh has ever played minecraft, because he didn't seem to get it. She told him it was no problem, he could craft the nuke as soon as he made himself a crafting table. When he asked how one did such a thing, she said he'd need four wood. Then she drew him trees, which she said he could blow up with TNT to get the wood to make the crafting table to craft the nuke.
Harsh pointed out that she could just draw him a nuke.
She didn't think that was necessary.
Things... got a little ridiculous from there. Elliot also joined in. By the time we were done, people were equipped with (in no particular order and with no particular logic):
A dolphin wizard in a bathtub of sea water
An elephant, complete with palanquin for bearing ducks into battle
A laser cow space station
A laser space station, no cow included
A nuclear wizard duck that farted napalm
A flying T-rex
And Liono, leader of the Thunder Cats
That's probably not a complete list. Honestly, I can't remember it all. At any rate, eventually we started "playing." There are no rules, and very little structure, and I think (although I can't be sure) that the ultimate purpose is to be as silly as possible.
Which is how people ended up firing poop lasers and making a giant turd column that extended all the way to the core of the earth.
Seriously. I'm not sure I'm capturing the sheer level of amazeballs that this was. Maybe you had to be there. But trust me. It was great.
Also, I got to have Harsh's recipe for Butterbeer, which is possibly the pinnacle of my beer experience thus far in life.
The next day we went to the zoo, where Elliot managed to get stung and require medical attention, Harsh asked a magical question of a lovely woman named Deja and she made us a giant pretzel covered in vanilla soft serve, and no one picked a fight with a lion. Not for want of urging on the part of SOME of the party, however.
And that's it! The next day we came home. It was a very long trip, but we survived, and the kids were honestly troopers. Today is gonna be a bear, because Charlotte had reached the end of ALL HER TOLERANCE, but we're gonna take it easy and I have faith that normal life will resume eventually.
Now, what have all of you been up to?