Then there was trouble. Everyone got sick. Except my mom and Paul’s dad. But after a couple of days of R&R we were back at it. Paul, Phoebe, Estelle my mom and me all piled into our rented SUV to see a historic plantation. With a big house, a separate kitchen (lest a fire burn the whole house down), a well house where old timers tried to keep dried and fresh foods slightly cooler, slave quarters, live farm animals still on hand and actors dressed in period clothing to show us the ropes, it was really a neat experience. But I’m still glad that our future farm will have a few more creature comforts. At least I hope so.
Eating out with four grandparents, two jet-lagged parents and two girls under three had its ups and downs. Ups: food comes in many different flavors here! And you can eat dinner as early as you want! Downs: Even if you start early, it’s not always easy to get the whole crew into car seats and off to a destination that’s actually found in the GPS. But we did our best with BBQ near the hotel and ice cream in downtown Charlotte.
Then on to something more fun for the kiddos, the Lazy 5 Ranch outside of Charlotte. Paul, Phoebe, Estelle, my mom and me all rode along in a horse-drawn wagon, stopping to feed animals large and small from all over the world (deer from Japan, cows from India…) with one warning: don’t feed the zebras! Noted.
Paul’s parents rode through the park in their van, with Wade comfy inside. The weather wasn’t really the best on our day in the wild; sunny but very cold with a nippy breeze. As our driver only half-jokingly said, “The coldest spot in North Carolina? Right here.” But we bundled up and had so much fun feeding everyone that it was well worth it.
Paul’s parents made it to North Carolina before we did — with a van full of toys, snack and activities! If it sounds like Phoebe and Estelle were in for a fun trip, um yes. They were.
First a visit to one of Charlotte’s big attractions: The Billy Graham Library.
Then on to dinner. And when I say ethnic food, I mean Mexican. Paul and I were thrilled to dig in to fresh guacamole, made table-side, and so was Estelle. But if it seems like Phoebe isn’t enjoying the meal here. Um, she isn’t. Actually Paul’s dad had already taken Estelle outside for some fresh air and quiet time…for everyone. Jet lag rears its less than beautiful head!
We were off to North Carolina, to find out if this was the right place for us to move when we’re done in Rome this fall. (And we think it is!) This meant a week in Charlotte and two to tackle the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas. House hunting, exploring, eating, shopping and enjoying…that was the mission.
When it came to getting there, Phoebe was right about one thing. She kept saying, “It takes a long time to get to North Carolina, five days an a half.” And it did feel that way at times! But long as it was (about 20 hours) the trip actually went smoothly, especially for two kids under three plus a pregnant lady along for the ride. (Everyone groaned when they saw us coming onto the plane but the little guys did great! Hardly a tear, whine or problem along the way. I’d like to thank Cheerios and the other thousand crackery snacks we brought along…and continue to find in every nook and cranny of every purse, bag and pocket, days later.) For this journey, we took a van from the apartment, a plane to Philadelphia, another to Charlotte and ended up at a hotel where Paul’s parents were already checked in (they drove up from Florida to join the recon mission and pitch in with babysitting). Here we go!
Estelle and Phoebe go to a “nido”, a nursery school, down the street from us where the twins of my OBGYN also attend. It’s very cute, full of kiddos from 6 months to 3 years. They do activities, music classes and have a cook who makes fresh breakfast, snacks and lunch every day. Everything is in Italian and these two are the only Americans, which is alternately cute and tricky (especially when the poor teachers are trying to explain special supplies I’m supposed to buy for class projects…) Everyone is loving and kind, taking good care of our girls every morning while Paul and I work. They also throw a little party for you when you turn one…