It's great having Mom here and not only because of all the help cooking, cleaning, watching Mark. Actually, I tried, rather successfully, to limit her volunteering efforts. Instead, I took 3 days off to relax and spend more quality time as a family. It was a bit different since we had no car in the morning to go anywhere and it was insanely hot in the afternoon. But we did go to the pool once more. We actually walked there and back!
We also went to the Oak View Plantation here, in Raleigh. It's a nice old plantation not far from us that was turned into a park and a sort of museum. All the buildings are restored and open for visitors (free). There's an old barn, a cotton gin (there's a very nice hands-on exhibit there about cotton growing), the main house, a kitchen with all the period tools and cooking utensils. I also took Mom to the Yeats Mill and, lucky us, they were having one of the corn griding demos. We didn't go on a tour since Mark was getting cranky. But we got to watch from the outside how the miller opened the water gate and how the water rushed into the huge wheel and how it started slowly turning... It probably sounds very boring, but I guess you just gotta be there to appreciate. Besides, the entire place - the mill, the pond, the park around it - is very beautiful and makes you want to linger in one of the rocking chairs.
And we went on a big road trip - to Charleston, SC. Ok, so it's only 4 hours away. But making this trip with a 6-months old that is full of energy and never sleeps - 4 hours seem like 24. I packed so many toys that I could've passed for a Santa's little helper. We actually had to get a bigger car to fit all Mark's gear in it (a stroller, a bag with diapers, food, spare outfits, etc). We got to North Charleston (a very ugly place, by the way, and chocked with traffic day and night) around 5pm, checked in at a La Quinta Inn, soaked our stiff joints in the pool for a little bit and then drove to Hanahan to see my cousin Olga and her parents, Sam and Lydia (Olga's husband, Noah, had to work evening shift). Unfortunately, it was a very short visit and I spent most of it taking care of Mark - feeding, pacifying, rocking him to sleep, etc. So I barely got to chat with my relatives.
The next morning we got up early and drove to the Isle of Palms. What a nice place! We decided that next time we're in Charleston, we'll get a hotel room there. The water was nice and warm, with just small waves. There were no huge hotels to uglify the scenery. Instead, there was plenty of parking, beach access, restrooms, well-preserved dunes, picturesque sea-side cottages, shops selling Isle of Palms branded souveniers and all the nice things that one might want at a sea-side resort town. And I even got stung by a jelly-fish!
Later that morning we drove to the historic Charleston and walked around a bit. What a nice place! We decided that next time we're in Charleston, we'll get a hotel room there. Wait... I think I am repeating myself. Ok, so next time we're in Charleston, we'll have to stay there for 2-3 nights - both at the Isle of Palms and in the historic district. It was getting hot and Mark was getting tired. We were all gettign tired and hungry and all. So we grabbed some Arby's and headed to my cousin's house once more for the final goodbyes. Besides, it was a convenient refueling and diaper-changing stop for Mark.