January 06, 2012

Be It Ever So Humble...

No matter how many authors, poets, songwriters, or movie producers have said it, and no matter how many ways it has been said, I can truly say that there is, indeed, no place like home.

Our 3 week trip to visit my in-laws was, for the majority, very pleasant.

We enjoyed spectacular weather for the first 10 days of our visit - temperatures in the 50s and 60s, clear skies, gentle breezes when there was any movement at all. We could hear the ocean clearly - waves crashing against the shoreline, the gulls crying, and even, at one point, the sound of many dune buggies, and ATV's on the dunes nearby. We played outside, went for walks, played at the local parks, enjoyed strolling up and down sidewalks shopping in Old Town, which holds several art galleries, antique stores, an awesome place called "All About Olives" (about which I shall wax poetic later on), an "old fashioned" candy store, and ice cream parlor, several great restaurants, a fun toy store, a book store, and an incredible stationery store which carries Jim Shore items, as well as beautiful and quirky cards, notepads, journals, and datebooks...

We got to indulge in Dutch Bros. Coffee almost every day we were there, and had ice cream made with 13% butterfat (I know, I know, you can hear your arteries screaming in agony and feel your waistline expand at the mere mention of it).

We spent a day driving up the Pacific Coast Highway (the 101 for those in the know) to Newport to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which we had practically to ourselves as all the locals and their guests were at the beaches due to the 63 degree temps. We got to know all the creatures, pet star fish, sea cucumbers and anemones to mention just a few...we got kisses from the otters, scared by the octopus and stood in the shark tunnel for a good 20 minutes just watching them laze about, swim around, and ignore the rays in the water. We got good and grossed out by the eels, and were treated to a really cool travelling exhibit about swamps, wherein we met a rather large anaconda, saw several 'gators, and even got to see several different colored poison dart frogs (did you know they came in more than one color??? I wonder if the red one is worse than the yellow one...), and the kids realized for the first time that the "giant" Japanese crabs were actually young and would someday grow up to be twice as wide as BB is tall! YIKES!

We played dare with the waves, walked up a trail to an authentic lighthouse, took a tour, and learned all about the Coastal Lighthouse system...it was really cool!

And then, on Christmas morning, we awoke to a massive rainstorm that lasted until it was about time to send BB and FIL to pick up Grandma T for lunch. We spent the rest of the day eating, watching football and listening to MIL and Grandma snore as they napped in their chairs. FIL spent the entire day playing on his computer.

It was, sadly, at this point, that our trip turned a bit sour...

FIL has completely lost hearing in one ear, due to a cancerous tumor that was removed when BB was in his early teens. Therefore, he struggles to hear on a good day. Add in his 90+ year old mother-in-law (Grandma T) who is in the stage of her life where her voice has dwindled in power, which makes her difficult to hear for those of us with two good ears, and 3 children under the age of 6 who talk fast, don't enunciate and speak in little voices most of the time, and he was miserable! However, he never said anything, and rather than staying in the room with us, asking us to speak slowly or speak up, or use a lower pitch, or whatever might have helped him, he would simply retreat and sit at his desk, in their office, playing Bookworm, Solitaire, searching Craigslist, and surfing through YouTube looking for videos on classic car restoration.

MIL is a control freak. Plain and simple. If she is not in charge, or cannot control some aspect of the event at hand, she is a basket case. She still struggles with her balance and dizziness, as well as muscle control issues. To date, this is a situation that doctors cannot put a name to. And there is no possible way it could be related to the fact that she smokes a pack a day, drinks a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi a day (nothing else, not even water to take her medication), eats white bread dripping butter, slathered with jellies, white potatoes, white rice, and any meat is either covered in gravy or ketchup. Her intake of produce consists of peas, and the occasional cup of peach flavored yogurt. But that is a story for another time. She suffers from many ailments, and rather than attempt to research, learn or experiment with things such as diet changes and simple stretching and light exercises beyond walking to and from the garage for a smoke, or to and from the bathroom or kitchen, she would rather tell everyone how much of a martyr she is. It makes me sad because she wouldn't even read stories to the kids because they "can't sit still and listen without asking a load of questions".

I understand that we totally disrupted their routines and rhythms. I respect the fact that we are energetic, noisy, busy, and that we tripled the occupancy of their house.

However! I make sure that we pick up after ourselves, keep our things as tidy and organized as possible so as not to cause messes or dangerous situations for walking. We unpacked our clothing and used the drawer space provided in the rooms we were given. We made sure our toiletries were put away when we were done, that our bags were never left on counters, and I made sure the bathroom counters and floors were clean each day. We pitched in with setting and clearing the table, washing dishes, helping cook when allowed, spent as much in groceries for 3 days as I would normally spend to get through 2 weeks here, did our own wash at the laundromat so as not to use their utilities (something that was complained about after our last visit), and took Navy showers to cut back on volume of water consumption. I even cleaned the house from stem to stern twice while we were there.

By the 28th, both MIL and FIL were testy and short-tempered. The kids picked up on it, and became cranky and short-tempered. The weather was NOT conducive to long periods of being outdoors, but we ventured out, bundled up, daily, to go walk around flea markets and antique stores, enjoyed a few lunches at our favorite places that the in-laws won't go.

By the 31st, BB and I declared that we would never again go for that long without having something else planned in the middle...a visit to our friends in the southern part of the State, or perhaps a jaunt further up the Coast to Seattle to visit with friends in that area...or just staying at a hotel in another town one or two ports away from them...but never again to stay with them, at their house for the entire time past 15 days.

Due to their health conditions and the advanced age of Grandma T, we know that we will have to travel there for at least one visit each year.

We are supposed to meet up "halfway" this summer for a vacation. Ironically enough, the proposed location is the town in which we stayed on the 2nd night of our trip out there last summer...oh well, at least they are willing to venture forth...

We were treated to several interesting events, including, but not limited to:
  • hearing about the argument between MIL and her sister over Grandma's finances
  • hearing about BIL and SIL's "official" end of marriage
  • listening to MIL spout forth half-true pieces of information on politics, health care, and the world at large
  • watching every. single. episode. of House Hunters.
  • receiving the silent treatment and cold shoulder but never being told why
  • hearing about the "stupidity" of people that fall under both friend and business associate lists
  • having our children scolded and being undermined in our parenting authority by both MIL and FIL at random times
I did know these things would be happening going into this visit. It is, sadly, just the way my in-laws are.

It stinks that they are missing out on building a relationship with their grandchildren. At this stage of the game, my kids want someone who will build Legos, color, drive cars, and read stories to them. They want interaction. Not the kind where you tell them they are sprinkling the colored sugar on the unbaked cookies incorrectly, but the kind where you explain to them what you are doing, and why, and let them "help" in some small way.

Capt was never happier than when Grandpa would let him sit on his lap at the computer and help spell words for Bookworm. Princess wanted nothing more than to help Grandma ready the monthly statements to be mailed on behalf of one of her clients. Littlest One was happiest when someone would help her dress and undress her baby dolls countless times.

It broke my heart when Captain came to me and asked why Grandma was so mean to him...

Anyway, we returned home with more good memories than bad, and were so glad to be home, where we could get back to our routines, and not feel as though we were a burden on our family.

I hope your Holiday was wonderful!

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