We survived our first real American road trip.
Sure, we did plenty of traveling in China and actually did a flight that more than doubled our journey to Pittsburgh. However, this was Alexander’s first carseat-strapped long distance trip where he was facing backward– in heavy clothing– and on his way to meet plenty of people he’d never seen before. (Given Alexander’s height and weight, he’ll probably be in a carseat until he’s 15, so I hope he gets use to it!)
On a related note, pardon the long delay in posting about our adventures, but Christmas preparations, tree decoration, and other Advent-related events have slightly delayed my “free” time for writing.
But back to Pittsburgh. Though Alexander was less than enthused about the first evening leg of our journey to Toledo because it was a lot of driving in the dark, he did quite well overall. He loved the hotel, and I’m sure that we’ve increased his immune system given everything he wanted to touch and explore. We tried to limit the germ smorgasbord, but once a kid has come in contact with a hotel room floor, it’s pretty much all over. (That combined with the fact that he survived a domestic China flight– he’s got the immune system of a champion by now!)
The visit in Pittsburgh was a whirlwind. Alexander loved his first Thanksgiving meal, mostly because he got a lot of attention and a commemorative bib.
The following day, amid playing with toys and his step-cousins and taking a nap, he entertained more visitors, friends, and family who were eager to meet him. My grandmother was most excited to meet Alexander on Thanksgiving, and she noted somewhat comically that though he’s not a little baby, but a really active little boy! His new-found skill of running around and crawling surely contributed to that. Though we sadly didn’t take any photos of it, Alexander’s Aunt Lisa presented him an early Christmas gift of a beautiful quilt constructed out of my dad’s old denim. Alexander was understandably more excited about the box it arrived in, but we were all really touched by both the artfulness of the quilt and the love she put into it! Someday I’m sure he’ll be thrilled with it as we were, but for now, it provides him a new challenge of something to wing out of his crib at naptime.
A few more holiday photos….
Bright and early Saturday morning, we were back on the road headed for home. Since we spent our time while in PA at my dad and stepmom’s home in Vandergrift, we decided to drive through my hometown on the way out. Though it was difficult emotionally, we stopped by my family’s parish cemetery to visit my mom’s grave site.
There are some moments in your life that will always remain crystal clear and vivid long after the emotions fade and memory makes the surrounding events hazy. For me, stepping out of our warm car and walking through the fresh snow with Brian and Alexander has left an indelible mark. Standing there with Brian and our son who is too young to grasp the importance of that spot was just overwhelming. This past year has been one of such hope and joy, but with all good things comes the inevitable sadness of pain and loss. No matter what your own spiritual or religious beliefs are, the loss of a loved one is something that often surfaces when you’re going through major life events. Though Brian and I talk about and pray for our deceased mothers with Alexander, I think the concrete truth that he won’t grow up with the vivacious Grandma Nancy and Grandma Colleen who shaped our own lives and parenting styles really hit home. I contemplated not writing about this, but the profound feeling and tears we both shared that morning outside in the cold was an important part of our journey back to Pittsburgh.
So as not to leave town on a sad note, we stopped for breakfast at a farmer’s market restaurant nearby, which happened to be one of my mom’s favorites because of its proximity to the area’s largest greenhouse/nursery. We enjoyed large farmers’ breakfasts and were even surprised by a visit from Santa Claus. Alexander, who enjoyed the tractor decor (he’s a big farm animal and tractor fan) was not the biggest fan of the big man in red. After the shock and trauma of the unexpected visitor to his highchair, Alexander spent the rest of breakfast on the lookout just in case he came back!
We also stopped by Homer Laughlin, home to the famous Fiesta ware. My historian of technology self loves this place, as getting to see an active and very busy factory full of kilns and wheels is just amazing. I didn’t think to take any photos, but outside of the facility behind high fences are mounds and mounds of broken dishware and fragments. It’s just stunning to look at! We braved the “Seconds Room” with Alexander strapped to me in our carrier in search of a few new pieces for friends (and a few for us as well). The warehouse full of precariously stacked dishes, plates, and platters is something else, and I think we were lauded for maneuvering through the maze of breakables with our little handsy-guy firmly under wraps. (Side note– adorable toddlers make for great distractions for other bargain-hunters. While ladies were clearly distracted by Alexander’s antics, Brian was able to snag some awesome pieces for our friends!)
The remainder of our trip home was fairly uneventful. We stopped halfway again for another night in the Toledo burbs, and accidentally had to deal with the town’s Christmas parade cutting off just about all access to our hotel after Mass.
The up-side was that we discovered a fantastic Mexican restaurant within walking distance of our hotel which we are definitely returning to next trip. If you’re ever in Maumee, check out La Fiesta! We also stopped at the infamous Christmas Tree Shops in Mishawaka so I could get my fix of discount Christmas decor. For anyone not familiar with CTS, it’s a love/hate store ubiquitous in New England, and hopefully spreading throughout the country. I usually request stops at several Shops when we visit our dear friends in Boston, and they (the ladies) are always happy to oblige my request.
We returned home happy and tired on Sunday afternoon. Since it was officially Advent, we bundled the little man up and went outside for our Griswold-esque house lighting ceremony. Brian gave me the drumroll, Alexander gave me a yawn, and thank goodness, all my extension-corded madness was a success. Christmastime was finally here!