Spring Tour '09: Raleigh and related stuff

The road to Raleigh included stopping for a snowball lesson in South Carolina (mentioned here)

Also, we stopped for lunch at a TGI Friday's near Charlotte. The walls were full of memorabilia and other conversation starters, as these restaurants always have, but one thing in particular caught my eye. Sputnik. A slightly older version of my Toshiba Satellite laptop was stuck on the wall next to Marilyn Monroe, a bunch of Star Wars stuff, and a giant plastic fish. Um, it's from the late '90s, people. And mine still works. Is that funny?

Our friend Heather from college hosted us in Raleigh, since she has a lovely and spacious house with only 2 small children so far (and they hardly take up any room). She and her husband both work during the day, so we planned to visit with them Wednesday and Thursday evening but spend all day on Thursday with my sister Joanna and Kent's cousins Nicholas and Travis.

Kent and I had set off from Baton Rouge by ourselves on Tuesday, with Jack planning to fly to Raleigh on Thursday and arrive midday. Wednesday evening, we got to Heather's house, and John, her 2 1/2 year old son, immediately started bubbling over about playing with Kent and showing Kent all his toys. When we were there for Christmas in 2007, John was younger and wasn't sure what to do around a baby, and he hit Kent in the head with a rattle, so this was a welcomed change. He was just SO very excited to have a kid to play with in their fun playroom upstairs, which has a gate so they're super-safe.

Normally, when Kent and I go to playgroups or the park, he drags me around by the arm the whole time and is very concerned if I'm not right there with him — he's just a cautious kid, and I'm okay with that, even though I'd sometimes like to be one of the moms who gets to sit on a bench and chat with the other grown-ups. When Kent was playing with John, though, I watched him get so excited about playing that he forgot to worry where I was, possibly for the first time ever. He had a great time. This freed me up to catch up with Heather and Casey and snuggle their baby girl, Grace, who's 4 months old and has just gotten to the stage where she giggles uproariously when tickled. You know I totally took advantage of that. Almost all the kids in our playgroup are boys, so I haven't been around many baby girls. I needed to be around a baby girl. Grace, in her pink footies, was happy to oblige.

After the kids were in bed, Heather and I chatted about her funny first graders and her challenges as a working mom. The two of us spent a lot of time in college just talking in her room or walking around campus, but it was so different to be two moms whose kids were asleep and whose husbands were somewhere else, just catching up like old friends do despite the extra complications in our lives.

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of Heather's family. Dumb. I was having too much fun.

Thursday brought an awesome visit with Joanna's family. They had Dunkin Donuts munchkins and coffee awaiting us when we arrived, and I forgave Nicholas and Travis for blowing through all the powdered sugar munchkins before I got there. We played around the house, Kent fooled me into thinking he was going to take a nap and then didn't, and then Travis napped while Kent and Nicholas played outside and dismantled what was left of the snowman from earlier in the week. Nicholas was hacking into this very dense, dirty snowman body with a shovel, and Kent was carrying the snow chunks around to different parts of the yard. I could have watched them carry on like that all day. Alas, my tummy began to rumble, and I knew we needed to eat before I got Jack at the airport, so we set off for lunch at a yummy pizza place.

Kent was so tired and cranky during lunch that he didn't eat much and got pretty testy toward the end. I was just glad that I got to eat during all of that, because I was afraid that Jack was going to call from the airport and say he was there, and I would have only had three bites of lunch. We all finished our lunches, and then Kent and I took off toward the airport. He was asleep before we even got to the beltline. Yay. We picked up Jack — Kent slept through the drive past the airport, which I know he would have loved — and then we all headed back to Joanna's house.

Our next adventure with the boys was Marbles Children's Museum, a fairly awesome place to spend an afternoon. They have six or seven huge play areas with different kinds of toys, from dress-up and role-playing toys, to a pirate ship with a bunch of different levels and pirate gear, to a place where you can build cars out of plastic bits and race them against each other, to a giant hockey arena where the kids can slide around on their socks.

Nicholas shows off his great hammy smile while adorned in firefighting gear

Nicholas teaches Travis how to drive an ambulance

Kent and Jack get "stuck in the peas" in the ballpit designed to look like peas and carrots (we kept yelling, "You're stuck in the peeeeeeaaaaas!" to the boys to make them crack up while they were in there)

Travis, Kent, and Jack enjoy the peas and carrots, even though Travis kept getting stuck (hence his expression of distaste)

It was getting late by the time we were ready to go, so we had to bid farewell in the parking deck. Nicholas practically fell apart when he realized we weren't going to come home and play superheroes with him, but we told him we would have loved it and we'd definitely do it next time. Everyone exchanged hugs, including all the little boys. Kent has just started hugging other kids, which is totally sweet and makes me melt even when it's a random child I don't know, so the sight of him hugging his little cousins, who we NEVER get to see, was wonderful.

We headed back to Heather and Casey's that evening for dinner, then put our kids to bed and stayed up talking for a bit before we went to bed ourselves. The next morning, they all had to go to work/Grandma's house again, so we said goodbye and then hung out at their house for a few more hours until we left for Winston-Salem. We popped out for coffee and pastries at a great bakery down the road, then bought some prepackaged Indian food at the grocery store for lunch. We figured that leaving the smell of Indian food lingering in their kitchen was the best way to remind Heather and Casey that we had been there. Or something. I hope they got rid of the smell, because I'm pretty sure they don't eat Indian food.

We drove west toward Winston-Salem, and we had a far-too-brief visit with some other college friends, Dan and Jen, and their one-year-old daughter Katie. We were at their house in Kernersville for all of an hour and a half, even though we haven't seen them in about four years. This is the result of too much stuff crammed into too few days. They live only about 15 minutes from my grandmother in W-S, though, so Jack and I made mental notes to visit them more often whenever we're in NC. Katie and Kent eyed each other a bit, Kent played with some of Katie's toys while the grown-ups chatted, and then their rambunctious, sniffy dog Obi welcomed Kent to the family. I felt so sad that it had taken us this long to visit them.

Next post from Spring Tour '09: Winston-Salem, the zoo, and more photos...

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We had sooo much fun with you guys! I wish there was a summer tour, a fall tour, and a winter tour. We may have to get just powdered sugar and chocolate glazed munchkins next time.
I can't believe we didn't take any pictures either! Mommy brain strikes again! Glad you guys all got home safely. I see you didn't mention the part where I ran into your car! Please let me know what you decide to do about that. I still feel terrible about it.
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