Rob's mom, my dear MIL, recently suggested that we take Jack on a short train ride like Chloë did in September for her 10th birthday trip up to D.C. He is a fan of all things that go, especially if they have wheels and engines an' sech, so she rightly figured he would get a big kick out of it. To get the best prices, we had to go on weekdays, which meant Rob couldn't go along. So, I invited Jenny From the Block and her kids, M & G, along for our train trip to Richmond last week. Here are G and Jack playing Legos in the Newport News train station as we waited for our turn to embark. We got there waaaay early, so there was lots of time for that. Oops. I had counted on lots more traffic.
It was a splendid idea. Jack was positively giddy with excitement, and I think I heard the words, "Thanks for taking us on this train trip, Mommy," about 47K times in those coupla days. Not that I got sick of it, mind you. He was a born grump, so to make him really happy is one of my greatest pleasures.
Well, we were all pretty excited, truth be told. I'd love to take a cross-country train trip, with sleeper cars and the whole bit, some day. How fun would that be?!
It was hard to keep the kids confined to their seats, so fortunately they were free to get up and walk around, because they all wanted to watch the world go by as the train flew from Newport News to Williamsburg and then our final destination. (It was a very short trip, but the train tickets were cheaper than the gas to drive there, I swear!)
It took us a minute to figure out where to go for the proper bus, and I almost got into a smackdown with a woman at a different stop across the street, who was not listening to what I was telling her while I was busy not listening to what she was telling me. Heh. Eventually we got it sorted out and, thanks to her help and that of the actual bus drivers, we soon (not, more like two hours later) ended up at the hotel I'd gotten super-cheaply on Priceline. Woot!
While we waited for the bus, we watched more trains go by. I forget how many cars they counted, but this was a super-duper long one!
The hotel was mostly pretty nice, with respectful and attentive staff, but there were a few snafus, like the fact that they wanted a $50 deposit - which I didn't happen to have - and weren't going to waive the policy even though we'd already paid for the room (Jenny saved the day, thankfully), and the pool being closed for our entire first day, even though that's what the kids really wanted to go do most of all. So when we got in our room, finally, Jenny and the girls played cards on her bed, the boys played Legos some more, and I took a wee nap.
For dinner, we went across the street to the Chick-fil-A, because we wanted to let the kids burn off all their energy in the play place. They made friends with a gorgeous, statuesque young girl who is destined to be a model, from the looks of her. She was down-to-earth, though, and really enjoyed playing with our unsocialized, homeschooled kidlets. ;)
Jenny treated all the kids to ice cream after dinner, at the same place. Oh, there, you can see Chloë's necklace from her beau, S, can't you?
Before long, it was time to head back to the hotel and start getting ready for bed. Chloë & M both had "cute" sayings on their jammies, so they were all happy about that and posed for this "I'm Snow Cute as a Kitten" picture together. Then, after they had all brushed teeth, gotten their respective medicines and jammies on and found places to sleep, Miss Jenny read the five of them a bedtime story. It worked like a charm! I timed it: by 9:28 PM, all of them were sleeping soundly. Meanwhile, here it is 0420 right now and my daughters are still wide awake. What is the magic formula? A stricter bedtime routine, and a story. We used to do it. I think we will be starting that again, after this night. Ridiculous!
The following morning, we had a leisurely breakfast in our room (we'd both packed plenty of food) before heading to the finally-reopened pool for what was supposed to be most of the day. Um, hmm, seems they forgot to make it warm and not crank up the air conditioning in the pool room at the same time. We all froze! Even Jenny and I, and we didn't swim! Still, they braved it for as long as they could stand it, petering out one by one to wrap up in towels on the lounge chairs. Sophia's the second-youngest and yet the only one who could really swim. She was pretty dang cute swimming around with the other four hovering around the stairs together!
Oh, a funny: Sophia decided they were going to play spa, and she was giving all of the other kids massages on their chaises when an employee walked through the courtyard where we were. She jokingly asked if she could make an appointment for a massage, too, and Sophia didn't skip a beat before taking over to an imaginary sign and pointing out that it read, "For kids 10 and under only!" Just like that. There was no sign, let alone one saying anything about 10 and under; she's just quick with the humor like that. Love that kid!
To warm up the kids, Jenny decided to take us all next door to the restaurant, which was plenty warm, and treat us to lunch there. The décor was really cool and gave me some ideas...
Since we were in a "fancy" restaurant, M and Jenny decided we had to drink from our cups with our pinky fingers up and speak in British accents. Everyone but grumpy-boy participated, so it was a bit of a giggle-fest there for a minute. We were having a good time - even Jack, though he'd never have admitted it.
After lunch, we tried the pool again, but it was still too cold, despite the Engineer's best efforts to warm it up for us. So we went back up to the room, where Sophie and M took a "hot tub" together. M told met they were pretending to be two elbow macaronis cooking in hot water, which I found to be particularly amusing!
For dinner, we had the hotel shuttle drive us sort of across the street to the Steak 'n' Shake for a dinner of, um, ice cream milkshakes. Yup. That's all. Even I got in on that one, knowing full well it would make me sick to my guts. (And it did.) The cool part was I saw a Mattaponi Indian's truck, which I know it was because it said something about "Custalow Landscaping," and that's the last name of pretty much all of the Mattaponi tribe. I tried to find the owner, so s/he could pass a message on to Ol' George for me (remember our field trip to the reservation?), but I couldn't determine who it was. And, you know, I didn't want to assume too much. I did ask one darker-skinned man, but he was from New York and recognized me as a fellow New Yawka by my accent, too. Weird that I still have enough of a Hudson Valley accent to be recognized, though I haven't lived there since I was six! Anyway, blah blah blah.
The next day, our shuttle driver drove us to the bus stop we needed, after we checked out at noon. Time to get home again. We waited a while for the bus, so the kids checked out the mushrooms growing all around and had a quick lesson from us moms about different kinds of fungi. Hey, it's always schooltime 'round these parts.
Finally, we caught our bus, and no transfers this time. Only, the driver pointed out the wrong place for us to take a "short cut," and it turned out to be a really LONG cut, which wasn't terribly fun with all the baggage we were lugging around. Super annoying. And we couldn't find a bathroom soon enough for poor Sophia, who had a little accident and had to change in a dark stairwell during our trek to the right location. Thank goodness I'd brought a pack of wipes with us to clean her up well!
We eventually made it to the real, newer Richmond Amtrak station, which is actually quite nice. We found a parlor-type room unoccupied, so we claimed it for our rambunctious crew. We had a three-hour wait for our train! There was no place to stow our luggage and go wander around town, and neither of us had the energy to take it with us, so we sat and "needled," while the kids played various games with each other. It worked out okay; we were even eventually joined by a brave college student who we nicknamed "Anime Freak," because, well, that's what his shirt said. Shout out to Anime Freak!
I knit while Jenny crocheted, and then we made our way over to the platform when our train was called. There was another 20 or so minutes of waiting time there, where two elderly women glared at us, sniffed the air repeatedly and generally disapproved of our mere existence. Jenny later sent me this link on Pinterest for those women. Hee. When it was time to board, we lined up the kids between us, with a mom on either end as we'd been doing throughout the journey, and walked past those two snobby women. I couldn't resist. I smiled cheerfully at them and said, loudly, "Thanks for all the disapproving glares!" before marching past them with the rest of the gang. Anime Freak caught up to me and said, "Nice job! I hate people like that." I wonder what side the rest of the travelers were on?
For the rest of the journey home, it was pretty uneventful as the two mommies kept needling and the kids kept needling us to entertain them. Ha. No. So they busied themselves somehow, and we soon reached Newport News once again. Jenny had driven us up there, so as she drove home, I entertained the kids with that "A my name is Alice" game. M really liked that; she and Chloë played it between themselves about three more times while the younger three children dozed and chillaxed.
All in all, it was a pretty swell time. The seven of us survived each other, public transportation, the state capital, and non-child-friendly old maids. Win.