The thing about traveling with my dad is no matter what time you got in, no matter what time you went to bed, he’s got a set wake-up time for the next day, which is usually unnecessarily early. And if you’re in separate hotel rooms, he’ll treat you to a wake-up call, often calling even earlier than he said under the guise of making sure you’re up on time.

The thing about traveling with my mom, though, is she’ll wake you up gently, catering the timing based on when you’re leaving and how much time you need to get ready. I guess that’s one of the major differences between the two, and a lot of people would simplify it as a gender thing, but it’s really not–he’s harsh, she’s gentle. I mean, save hotel wake-up calls, childhood was the same. Mom would come in and gentle tell you it was time to get up, Dad would yell and shake the bed and flick the lights. But I digress.

The thing about traveling with my mom, too, is she sets cellphone alarms to funk songs like “Double-Dutch Bus.” So basically, I woke up every day last weekend to “BIP, BOP, BAM, ALAKAZAM!”

I forgot to mention–or I guess I implied it–that we actually stayed in Gettysburg this time. We’re normally outside it. When I was a kid, we stayed about 30-40 minutes away with Uncle Clark. When his house got to be such a mess my dad didn’t want to stay there anymore, we switched to a nearby Holiday Inn. When my dad got fed up with Uncle Clark asking for money and struggling with depression, we stayed in Carlisle, still 30-40 minutes away but in a different area. Finally, this year, he realized staying in the town made a hell of a lot more sense, and it ended up being so, so nice, mostly due to convenience.

We had breakfast at the hotel, then we went out to the Eisenhower Farm for the annual World War II encampment.

My mom got bored. I wasn’t surprised, but I also didn’t blame her–it’s a neat encampment to see, but if you’re not a military or history buff, it all starts to blur together. If my mom goes again next year, I’ll probably go and do something else instead, unless there are guest speakers I’m interested in, but I can’t envision myself going otherwise. I’d still like to take the annual trip to Gettysburg, I just don’t have any interest in seeing the encampment anymore. At least not when you have to pay to get in.

In previous years, we’d go listen to one of the men from the actual Band of Brothers, Wild Bill, who was a bit brash and certainly not politically correct but often entertaining. I met him twice–he signed books for us all and called Paul, who’s 6’4″, “Shorty,” which my brother still calls him. Unfortunately, Wild Bill recently died, so my interest in the speakers took a hit. But my dad had two he was interested in; one has written extensively about the war in Iraq, which my dad was in and has an interest in for that reason, and the other was a paratrooper in World War II who stuck to a Q&A, like many of the guys that age do. In his case, he said he’s told his story often enough that he can tell people get bored with it, so he’d rather stick to taking questions. Which has its advantages, but it’s also tough to follow when you’re not familiar with someone, although you do have the interesting task of piecing it together.

All of us–especially me, my mom, and Paul–were intrigued by a woman in the program who was scheduled to speak about psychological-warfare unit that trained in Gettysburg during World War II. Her talk ended up being my favorite part of the day. It was a fascinating look at the propaganda used during the war and the people recruited to create it, most of whom were artists and writers. I joked to Paul that we might have a future career in propaganda. But it was really interesting. Paul bought the woman’s book, which is currently sitting on our couch, and I’ll share the writer and the name one of these days.

We ended up there for three hours. My mom at one point turned to my dad and said, “I thought you said we wouldn’t be here this long,” and we normally wouldn’t be. We’ve never stayed for three speakers. Two, maybe, but never three.

Of course, we were hungry by then–it was well past lunchtime. Normally, we eat at The Dobbin House, which I’m a huge fan of, but Paul mentioned some time ago that he’d like to try something new. So we all agreed to try the busy spot we’d seen the night before on the way in, Blue & Gray Bar & Grill. And it was awesome. It was more burgers, and I love when restaurants allow you to swap a veggie patty on a burger. I don’t miss the actual meat of burgers, but I do miss the combination of flavors and the creativity some people have when it comes to that, and being able to get a veggie patty means I get to enjoy all of that. I love it.

And I loved the burger I had. I forget what it was called–each burger was named for a prominent Civil War figure, divided into Yankees versus Confederates–but it was a Confederate burger, of course, topped with bourbon-soaked apples. And that’s what I would’ve missed out on had they not done veggie burgers.

My mom and I wanted to do some shopping. The original plan was to do a bit later, in part so Paul could just stay in his hotel room and not get dragged along, but we opted to do it then since we were in town. My mom found a Polish pottery store and already tackled most of her Christmas shopping for people like our godmothers there with some really pretty, hand-painted tea sets. Paul picked up a dish for his mom he’s saving for her birthday.

My parents did some exploring the night before–which is when my mom first saw the Polish pottery store–and showed me a neat handmade-soap store, so I bought a little stock. Paul’s so fed up with my handmade-soap purchases. I’ve got a small stockpile right now, which’ll all be used eventually, but he always tells me I don’t need more. I mean, he’s technically right, but I’m not gonna be in Gettysburg for another year! Which is how I justify most soap purchases.

In the meantime, my dad was in a cigar shop, so the rest of us went back to feed the meter and discovered that my dad had misread the pricing/times, so my mom decided to tell him that she’d gotten a parking ticket when she hadn’t. She kept the gag up the whole day, and I still don’t think he knows the truth.

Our last stop was a clothing store, where I found cute lace boot socks and my mom found a new purse, plus more gifts.

Then we took Paul to Devil’s Den, since it’s basically a field of big rocks and he loves big rocks. After he worse himself out there, we went back to the hotel to debate whether or not to go on a ghost tour. My mom and I were pretty worn out from all the walking, but after a little downtime, we had it in us to do the ghost tour of just over a mile. Paul opted out and hung out in his room, chatting with friends and his sister.

I went with my parents to get frozen yogurt at the new-ish and brilliantly titled Treat Yo Self. Last year, it was a cupcake cafe, and this year, the business has expanded to include yogurt. I’m not sure if it’s under new ownership or just got a makeover and name change, but it’s cute. Tiny for froyo, but it gets the job done.

The ghost tour was fun, and it was one of the best parts of staying directly in town–we didn’t get worn out and drive out of town only to get a second wind. We were able to just get up and go.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any ghosts. Just college kids traveling to and from parties, and apparently, the tour guides alter the routes during the school year due to past experiences with being yelled at and seeing some nudity. But it was a fun tour.

We had Paul call and order a pizza for us as we made the walk back and picked it up on our way, then devour it with everyone in our hotel room. I went right to sleep, and I was even dozing off before Paul had left to go back to his own room.

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Maybe about a week and a half ago, my mom and I went to see Echo and the Bunnymen, which you can read all about in my review of the show for AXS, but suffice it to say we had a good time.

Lately, going to concerts with my mom, at least on a weeknight, means driving from work–which is closer to Pittsburgh, where the concerts are–for over an hour to my parents’ house, only to drive back out to the same area in one car with her. She prefers this because it means neither of us makes the drive alone, but I do wish she was more comfortable just meeting there. But whatever. It’s fine.

She got my dad to make us dinner, we at quickly, and we headed out. And then I took the next day, a Friday, off and spent the night at my parents’ house. I spent Friday doing my laundry for free, mostly, and then ran some errands–I got a much-needed oil change for my car and finally made it to a Verizon store to replace my smashed iPhone. Because I don’t give a shit about having the newest iPhone and would rather save myself some money, I got the oldest model they still sell that would still be a step up from my old phone. I had a 4S; I bought a 5S. Even though some people have worn out their own 5Ss and are upgrading to the newest model, the 5S is new and different enough to excite me. The case I ordered online hasn’t come yet, which makes me very nervous.

I was hoping/intending to spend more time at my apartment that Friday–we’ve been told we’ll probably be working mandatory overtime for the rest of the year, and even though I only average an extra hour a night, it’s surprising how much of that free time that hour kills. I haven’t read in weeks, and I was hoping to get to it that Friday, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I packed for a planned weekend trip to Gettysburg and killed a little time with leisure until Paul came home, and then we went out to dinner before we hit the road.

The drive was pretty uneventful. I was a little drunk for the first part of it thanks to our trip out, and we drove down through Maryland to avoid paying the ridiculous turnpike fees. It helps that driving through Maryland is also only 10 minutes longer.   The only thing we did was stop for gas.

For the record, and I know I’ve said this before, but to me, a good indicator of a couple’s compatibility is how well they travel together, especially driving long distances. We’re pretty excellent at it.

We got into Gettysburg around 10 or 11. My parents had left earlier in the day. It was the annual World War II weekend, and in the absence of Uncle Eric and Pap Pap, my dad talked my mom into going. Every year, they both say they’re going, and every year, neither can make it, yet my dad books hotel rooms for everyone anyway. The advantage this time was that it meant Paul and my dad had their own rooms and my mom and I shared one–she didn’t want to stay with my dad, who is a terrible roommate and travel companion, and of course they’re not comfortable with Paul and I being unwed and sharing a hotel room. Or at least my dad is. I’m not sure that my mom cares, what with us living together anyway and all. Regardless, I don’t push it. We can stand to sleep in separate rooms for a weekend.

My mom was pretty funny to room with, though, because she was reveling in not sharing the room with my dad. She loved having clean, dry towels, and I joked about not having to smell the Lysol he sprays everywhere when he first gets into a hotel room.

Since it was late when we got in, we pretty much got our room keys, carried our stuff in, and went to bed, parting ways for the night.

It’s Time to Talk About Paul’s Mom

Over the five years Paul and I have been dating, I’ve often talked about his mom and said, “I think something’s wrong with her.” For the most part, when people heard that, I think they thought what I really meant was, “I don’t like her, and I don’t understand why she says and does certain things.” But I meant exactly what I said. At the very least, I thought she had no coping mechanisms. I saw it in the way she unraveled at the tiniest stressor–no problem or obstacle was small or manageable. Every problem was met with a fervor, a panic. To make that worse, she constantly finds something wrong with something, anything. The way I’ve often put it is if there isn’t a problem, she’ll go looking for one or create it herself, and Paul’s suggested she just doesn’t know how to be happy and exist in a calm, peaceful environment.

Almost a year ago–last November, just before Thanksgiving–she had some sort of breakdown. Paul’s siblings hadn’t mentioned anything until it reached its tipping point, but she’d been acting strange and erratic for about a week, saying a lot of really bizarre things. It culminated in her packing some things in the family van, waking the kids up on a Saturday morning, and saying they were moving to the mountains. When one of them called their dad, who was working, he played along and told them to pick him and he’d drive, and instead, he drove to the hospital. They concluded she had a mild UTI, which can make people act kind of strange, although that normally happens more in older people. But it seemed like a reasonable answer, and they’d done head scans and found nothing. Paul, however, insisted the UTI wasn’t the culprit. At the time, I brushed this off as his cynicism, but looking back, especially now, I think he just instinctively knew.

Someone–I believe their family doctor–did refer her to a therapist, just in case. She went for a few sessions but found reasons to dislike the therapist, the way she does with everyone, and ultimately decided in March she didn’t need to go anymore. Paul was livid–she said she knew what she needed to do now and didn’t need to go anymore, but we both knew that’s how therapy works. We also knew she hadn’t been telling the therapist everything.

She never really got back to her “normal” self. Sometimes, she seemed alright to me, but Paul knows her better and insists she wasn’t. He said she’d seemed distracted, and sometimes I did notice she just wasn’t as engaged–one evening we were over and got to talking about the book Siddhartha and Buddhism, and normally, this kind of discussion would trigger an outburst from her packed with comments about reading about other religions being against Catholicism and concerns that we were thinking of converting, but she didn’t say a word.

I can’t remember when things started getting bad again. Details would trickle in from siblings. One afternoon when we were over, Emily told us about their mom giving her a bunch of old jewelry–which made me worried that she was suicidal–and she gave each of the kids a sealed envelope and told them not to open until she said to. There was just a dollar bill in it.

We’d sent one of the siblings to a friend to talk to as a confidant. They never met in person and still haven’t, but given this friend’s experience both professionally and personally, we thought they were a good resource. We still firmly believe this. But this friend heard some things they found very, very concerning, things from the kids’ childhood that are considered emotional abuse and neglect. It was big enough that this friend seriously considered reporting it to CYS.

I was worried for the kids, anticipating a full-blown meltdown. But I didn’t give a single shit about how Paul’s mom might’ve felt had it happened, especially because given some of what was learned, I think she’s known the whole time that she’s a bad parent. At the very least, she’s been aware she was doing something wrong–she actively tried to hide it, and Paul’s dad only very recently became aware of the extent of what was being said and done every day while he was at work. I kind of feel bad for him because of that. He’s getting a lot of shit dumped on him at one time right now, but at the same time, I still blame them both for Paul’s depression. Not because they caused it–although I think his mother was a factor–but because they failed to recognize it in him as a teenager despite the obvious signs and they failed to do anything about it. I resent them both for it.

The report didn’t happen. Our friend got some outside opinions, and they felt it could do more harm than good and suggested to leave it up to the kids. Paul left it up to his siblings still living at home, since they’d have to deal with it, and they decided not to do it. But the fact that it was a very real possibility seemed like a huge wake-up call. They realized the extent of what their mother has done. Even for me, it’s bizarre to call it emotional abuse, but that’s exactly what it was and often still is. I mean, even as adults, the woman’s children are afraid of her.

As a side note, a friend almost reporting your boyfriend’s mother to CYS would wreck plenty of relationships, romantic or as friends. But it didn’t. At all. We all came out unscathed. It’s like it never happened.

But now, I wonder how much of Paul’s mom’s behavior over the years could’ve been mental illness the entire time. In the midst of the discussions of emotional abuse were discussions of just how bad her mental state’s gotten. I don’t want to go into detail because it’s her business, but after Paul’s dad told their family doctor everything, he concluded she could be a high-functioning schizophrenic. He can’t actually diagnose her, so he has referred her to a psychiatrist. Her appointment should be this Wednesday.

Paul told her long before her breakdown last year that he thought she should see someone, and she took it as an insult. But when a similar statement comes from a doctor, she listens, and thank God for that, at least.

All this as set-up for a visit we made two weeks ago.

Obviously, Paul spent a lot of time on the phone with his siblings and dad. In fact, one night before he talked to his dad, I actually said something needed done and that I felt like I was the only one taking all this seriously and pushing for her to get help, and I don’t even like the woman. And sure enough, I overheard him on the phone getting pushy with his dad, insisting it was enough excuses and just acting like it would all go away and it was time to actually do something. So Paul decided he wanted to go out one night for dinner during the week before “everything goes to shit,” though I think there’s a chance that it was a shit visit before everything gets better. All depends on her now.

The visit was bizarre. When we got there, she was just sitting on the couch. Paul talked to her while I talked to his sister Emily. But it became really clear really fast that something is very wrong with their mom. She was incredibly disengaged. She spoke very little, and when she answered questions, it seemed like doing so required a lot of effort from her. She spent most of the evening sitting on the couch, looking very deep in thought but saying almost nothing, even when we meandered toward subjects she would normally have very strong (and uninformed) opinions on.

The worst part? The fact that she is so disengaged made it one of the best visits I’ve ever had with the family. I like her better this way, at least to interact with her, because she’s nicer. And don’t get me started on how bizarre and cruel it feels to say you prefer a person’s personality when they’re very obviously mentally ill.

The schizophrenia theory has us all thinking. Paul’s thinking back to things she used to say when they were kids that were a bit off but not alarming and wondering if it was schizophrenia the whole time, especially considering she’s too old for it to be coming on just now. Our theory is she’s had it for a long time and something happened that made it worse and harder to hide.

As for my personal reflections, I’m wondering what part mental illness may have played in all these of years of resenting her. Has she been such a mean person because that’s just who she is, or is what I’ve been interpreting as narcissistic meanness been related to potential schizophrenia? And now that this has all come up, how do I go forward? I’ve vowed to not tolerate any abuse from her, but I feel like I’d be cruel to snap right back at her and be as harsh as I truly want to be sometimes. I can’t in good conscious be nasty to someone who’s mentally ill, especially if she’s behaving in certain ways because she can’t control herself, but I also can’t just let things slide anymore. Both mine and Paul’s therapists told us to set boundaries with her–mine are pretty clear, I think Paul is still trying to draw his, with the exception of ceasing visits if she’s not getting help–and my therapist often asks if she’s getting help herself, but I struggle with how to make those boundaries clear now. I don’t believe in handling her with kid gloves. I actually think a huge factor in everything is that she’s been allowed to get away with a lot over the years because so few people challenge her, and she cuts them out when they do. Which ironically I think puts me, as well as Jacob’s fiancee and Julie’s boyfriend, in a really good position to be the ones to speak up because we don’t like her anyway and she can’t just get rid of us. If she tries, our respective significant others probably aren’t gonna tolerate it. But as much as I don’t believe in being gentle with her, I also don’t think extreme, careless bluntness is the answer, either.

One of the things I want to address eventually is her clinginess with Paul. It’s strange. It’s like she thought her kids would live at home forever, and it’s like that’s what she wants. When she sees Paul, she hugs him for an awkwardly long time, and I can’t just say, “Hey, quit hugging your kid, it’s weird,” but like I said, we still need to establish boundaries. She struggles with the fact that we just can’t go over and have dinner during the week, nor can we spend every weekend with them. I’m not sure if she doesn’t understand the reasons why, which include life and other commitments and friends and family, or if she doesn’t care. Especially now.

In short, I just don’t know what to do, but I guess that’s why I pay a shrink.

The accidental theme of the day about two weeks ago was “places that used to be churches.”

About two weeks prior to that, Brandon had tagged me in a Facebook post about David Duchovny playing a show in Pittsburgh. He recently released an album, and I found out later–when it was too late, actually–that he was also appearing at a convention, so my guess is he either had the convention scheduled and decided to toss in a show or vice versa. As a huge X-Files fan, I had to go, even though I’d only heard the album’s single one time. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Doesn’t matter when you get to see Fox Mulder.

The interesting thing, though, was seeing where people know him from as I posted my pictures over the next few days. Some people know him as Mulder, others know him from Californication, which I have yet to watch.

I’ve mentioned before how the apartment is packed with recycling. It’s tough to get rid of around here–the building doesn’t collect it and I can’t bring myself to just throw it all away, and the place I used to take it between home and work cracked down on non-township residents using the place. Whenever I go somewhere, I look up if there’s a nearby drop-off. If we’re going to Terra’s, I put some in her bin. If we’re going back to Fayette County, I take it to the local Penn State campus. If we’re going to the city, I take it to a big drop-off spot, so we grabbed a couple bags to take. And then when we were on our way, I thought maybe I’d better double-check the hours. And of course, that’s the one weekend when they were closed to hold a big fundraiser. Of all weekends we were actually heading there with a car full of recycling.

I didn’t want to just not take anything–we’ve done that way too many times, normally because we can’t make it in time because of traffic or something, hence the overload. So I started looking for somewhere else we could take it, and I found one.

Turns out it’s actually better than our original place. It’s much easier to get to–it’s only a few minutes off the parkway, instead of having to cut through the city and backtrack to wherever we were going in the first place. So it’s gonna be our new spot, hopefully saving us time. I’m planning to take more today.

It was actually so easy to get to that we were ahead of schedule. Whenever I eat before a concert or something, I like to go two hours in advance–it allows you plenty of time to get there, park, eat, then get to your next destination. We had maybe a full extra half-hour, and we set of for Church Brew Works, which we’ve been meaning to try ever since Paul and his dad had some of their beer at a Geibel auction a few years ago.

It’s a really neat place. It used to be a church, obviously, and in some ways, it’s still set up like on–the center aisle is clear, and big, wooden tables and chairs flank the sides, plus a full bar on the left. In front, where the altar would’ve been, is where they brew the beer.

I wasn’t really hungry–I think we’d eaten leftover pizza for lunch or something, I don’t remember. But I was conflicted over whether or not to order pasta, since it’s my weakness, but I made a smarter decision and went with their Veggie Spaghetti. It’s zucchini “noodles” in a beet marinara with vegetarian mushroom and lentil “meatballs.” And it was awesome. It’s kind of exactly what I need out of a meal–vegetarian-friendly and enough like pasta that I feel like I’m eating pasta when I’m really just eating vegetables and therefore eating healthier.

Paul had pumpkin soup and Oktoberfest pierogies with bratwurst and sauerkraut in them, and we ended with a tiramisu dessert. He had a couple of their beers, I had the Oktoberfest special German sangria that was pink and delicious. It tasted like sweet white wine and peaches.

The thing is, it’s what some would call frou-frou food–delicious but in expensive, small portions. Now, this is actually fine with me because I’m quite willing to pay a lot for something really good, and I prefer more reasonable portion sizes. But when you’re Paul, who’s 6’5″ with a huge appetite, it just doesn’t work unless you order a lot of stuff or eat before you go out to eat. Which, admittedly, he probably should eat more anyway. He liked the food, but because of the price and portion sizes, I don’t think he was too happy. And then there’s me, who’s been kind of craving that Veggie Spaghetti the last few days.

We were still really ahead of schedule. I had to drive since Paul was a little drunk (plus in a bit of a mood, not related to the restaurant or me), and we drove the few minutes from Lawrenceville to the Strip District, found parking, and walked around to kill some time. Unfortunately, not too much, since most of the stores close around 5 or earlier and we walked about as far as we reasonably could–we got to a point where we were almost beyond the string of restaurants and stores.

We stopped at McDonald’s, in part because I really had to pee and in part because Paul was still hungry and wanted a burger. And then we waited in line for a while, then we stood around Altar Bar–a church turned concert venue criticized for its poor sound system–and then David Duchovny came on and we had a good time for a little while.

Friday Five: Mood

  1. When did you last spend kind of a long time in an unpleasant mood? A few weeks ago, I spent the bulk of a weekend stressed out and worried. I’m going to discuss it more in detail soon–mandatory overtime is just sucking up my evenings–but for now, I’ll say this. It’s become very clear that Paul’s mom isn’t just a mean, selfish woman. She’s emotionally abusive, especially when it comes to her children. It’s weird to think of it that way, but the bottom line is more than one of her kids is afraid of her and there’s no way you can sugarcoat that or call it anything other than what it is. A friend of ours, who shall remain nameless, learned the extent of it and was concerned about it enough that there was a very, very real and serious possibility of calling CYS since two of Paul’s siblings are still minors living at home. The source of my stress and worry was what would happen to those siblings if CYS was called and investigated, not in the sense that I thought they’d be removed from the home but because I was afraid Paul’s mother would have a complete meltdown and start screaming at all of them, demanding to know who said what to whom. Which kind of proves the point that she’s emotionally abusive, but hey.
  2. When you’re in a bad mood, what are strategies you employ for either dealing with it or shaking it? I kind of power through it and generally go about business as usual. I’ll talk to someone about it–either Terra or Paul, depending on who/what the cause is, and if it’s really bad or really difficult, I’ll call my therapist or make an appointment. I’ll also write about it. This blog is pretty good evidence of not necessarily what I do when I’m in a bad mood but how I handle problems. And, of course, there’s always music.
  3. What’s a meal you enjoy only when you’re specifically in the mood for it? I usually have to be in the mood for Mexican. In a fun flip, Asian is one of my favorites that Paul has to be in the mood for and Mexican is one of his favorites that I have to be in the mood for.
  4. When you’re in an especially foul mood, how are those close to you most likely to detect it? You’d probably be better off asking them, but I think I get a little more quiet and withdrawn, even snippy depending on the situation or who I’m with. Paul’s pretty good at sniffing it out, and unfortunately, I present the same symptoms if I’m really tired. A huge one if I’m in a foul mood as a direct cause of another person is I won’t look directly at the person.
  5. What external forces seem most to influence your mood? Other people. I get really irritated with people who are mean and disrespectful, and it just puts me off to the point that I get grumpy. It doesn’t have to directly deal with me or people I care about, but that will make it worse. There’s also work. I work for a closed-captioning company, and there’s nothing like having to work overtime on some show you hate. Especially on a Friday when you’re hungry. Not that this has happened to me or anything…

Friday Five: Procrastination

  1. What haven’t you framed yet? A signed art print of Neil Gaiman’s poem “The Day the Saucers Came.” It’s my favorite of his, and the print is still in its tube up in the closet, waiting to be framed and hung.
  2. What haven’t you thrown out yet? My cupcake wrapper from breakfast, the plastic from the box of new iPhone, and various tissues around me–I called in sick today to let my body fight off this cold.
  3. What haven’t you repaired yet? I have a pile of some clothes that need minor sewing repairs.
  4. Whom haven’t you called or emailed yet? Hmm. I think I tackled all the important ones. After forgetting about it for months, last week, I finally got around to calling about the completely unnecessary identity protection that was costing me an extra $15 a month and canceled it.
  5. What haven’t you seen yet? Pretty much any movie that’s come out over the summer, even back as far as spring. I really want to go to the movies soon, but no way am I spending one of my free days inside a movie theaters as long as the weather holds out and is nice enough to go outside or up to the mountains.

I never thought I’d have so much fun at Kennywood with someone else’s baby.

A few weeks ago–up at camp, I think, actually–Terra invited Paul and I to tag along for a Kennywood trip with her and her brother’s family, so of course we did it. Aside from a day to do something fun, I was glad to have the opportunity since I haven’t been to the park in maybe two years and didn’t think I’d actually make it this year.

I was a little concerned about the weather–despite hot, sunny days up to this point and in the forecast for the near future, the weekend weather was terrible, at least by comparison. Instead of sunny days in the 80s and 90s, we got clouds and rain with temperatures in the 60s. Which, as it turns out, is kind of perfect amusement-park weather because no one else bothers to go.

The only bad thing about it was that it was too cold to ride the water rides, which are some of my favorites, and one of the bigger rollercoasters was closed. I’m not sure if that was related to the weather or not, since it wasn’t storming or anything. But otherwise, it meant a relatively empty park with pretty short lines–any other time you go, the rides have signs posted indicating their wait times, and for the more popular rollercoasters, this is usually an hour or longer. You end up spending most of your day standing in lines, really, but that wasn’t an issue here.

We started the day getting some food and hanging around Kiddieland with Terra’s sister-in-law, Tina, and her parents and little baby Betty Jo, which was fine–watching Betty on the rides was kind of fun. But Terra and Tina’s mom kind of infamously don’t get along. She sounds very similar to Paul’s mom, really. Her hatred for Terra mostly started because when Betty was born and they all went into Tina’s hospital room, Tina handed her off to whoever was closest. And that was Terra, making her the first person in the extended family to hold the baby, which is apparently a huge no-no for Moo Moo, as they call her. And it’s just gotten worse from there. She also hates her mother, mostly because she’s jealous of the relationship she and Terra have. When Tina told her Terra was coming, she said she didn’t know who she was, and there’s been many a time where she makes it a point to quite obviously ignore her. She seemed nice enough for the hot minute we were with them but I’ve heard enough–including from Tina, the couple times I’ve been around her–that I know better.

So Paul, Terra, and I split and rode the big-kid rides for a few hours. And because of that awesome no-lines thing, we tackled basically everything we wanted to ride pretty quickly. The only ones we skipped were one rollercoaster where every rider must have a partner and one where Terra and I both sort of lift up out of our seats and don’t feel comfortable enough to ride alone or with each other, and obviously Paul could only go with one of us.

It did start to rain a bit, and we caught back up with Tina, who by then was joined by Terra’s brother, Dom, plus Tina’s oldest son while the youngest was running around the park with his friends–we were there for his birthday, after all, and watching teenagers cheer over getting money in a birthday card is hilarious. We pretty much stuck with them for the rest of the evening. We stuck to a pavilion to have cake, while Moo Moo and her husband left due to the rain to the disappointment of no one. The adults tackled a few more rides before taking Betty through Kiddieland again, which was still hilarious–she has these huge brown eyes and amazing facial expressions, so it was fun to watch her sort of try to figure out what to make of some of these rides. Overall, though, she seemed to have fun.

She loves walking on her own, so we mostly let her do it. But she got into some shenanigans when we stopped in the park’s Johnny Rocket, when she decided to pull out sugar packets and thrust her hand into glasses of water to fetch the lemons from them. She made a bit of a mess. Plus the menu was disappointingly limited, and they probably hated us since it was so close to closing.

We were there probably until around 7 or 8–everyone was ready to keep on truckin’, but there was still a drizzle going and Terra and I were started to get too cold to really enjoy anything anymore, so with that, we headed out.