A Trip to Shiloh Battlefield

One of my contributions to our summer “bucket list” was to make the trip to the Shiloh Battlefield.  A few months ago, I started reading A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara about the Battle of Shiloh and realized that it is only 2 hours from us.  (Still haven’t finished the book though.)  And since we might not live in this area of the country again, I decided I wanted to go there before we leave.  For a week or two our weather was unseasonably cool – meaning not 100 degrees! – and we had a free weekend, so I decided we should make a little trip last Saturday.

In the Battle of Shiloh the Confederate Army (the Army of the Mississippi) under General Johnston attacked the Union Army (the Army of the Tennessee) under General Ulysses Grant, with fighting starting near Shiloh Church.  The Confederates almost surprised the Union and made great gains the first day.  However, the Union Army of the Ohio under General Buell arrived and the Union was able to overwhelm the Confederates on the second day.  It is one of the bloodiest battles on American soil with over 26,000 casualties.

Shiloh Church (rebuilt)

This is the first Civil War battlefield that I have been to so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I was impressed.  I knew that I might not be able to read and look around and absorb as much as I wanted to with the kids (and Pat) in tow but it was very easy to figure out the layout of the battlefield and figure out where the different armies were at what times.

I guess Casey was mid-sneeze here
Around the park, states have erected monuments to those who served in various regiments or to commemorate all of the soldiers from the state.  The type of monument that Jack and Casey are posing on above marks the location of headquarters for various brigades or divisions.

There was a Junior Ranger Program for the kids and they had to fill out 8 different activities from their booklets.  Some of them they could do themselves, but by the end Pat and I felt like we were doing homework.  There is a driving tour of the park with different stops and we had to stop at various ones to answer different questions.  I think I was the only one hopping out of the car by the end.

The monument above is the Confederate Monument and was one of the first stops in our driving tour.  It is full of symbolism and was really very interesting.  Thanks to the Junior Ranger Questions for making us stop and learn more about it.  There is a woman in the center who represents Defeated Victory and she is surrendering the laurel wreath to Death and Night (on her right and left.)  There is an infantryman holding a flag as a symbol of defiance to the Union Army and a calvaryman spreading his hands in frustration because they were unable to penetrate the dense woods during battle.  Underneath the women in the center is General Johnston (who died during the 1st day of battle).  The profiles of the soldiers on one side are happy as the Confederates were winning after the 1st day of battle.  Their heads are bowed and defeated looking after the second day when the Union army of General Buell reached the area and along with General Grant pushed the Confederates back and they eventually left for Corinth, MS.

Confederate cannons lined up firing into the “Hornets Nest”
Also on Saturday, there was a special cannon firing demonstration.  There were re-enactors and a park rangers talked through all the steps of firing a cannon and what everyone’s job was in between the 3 firings of the cannon.  The kids both seemed to enjoy watching how it all worked and I learned how it all worked too.

After our walking and driving tour of the park, we headed to Pickwick State Park to check it out.  Pat had heard that we could rent a pontoon boat and we make a half hearted attempt to find the rental area, but it was getting kind of late in the day.  Instead, we found a swimming area in Pickwick Lake and a playground that interested the kids so we went in that direction.  Jack didn’t want to swim – he said to me a few days ago that “I only swim in pools and oceans, not lakes and rivers.”  But Casey had a blast swimming around and I almost wished I had put my bathing suit on…it was nice and warm.  The people watching was very entertaining as well.

A couple hours later and we were back home, filled with new Civil War knowledge and a couple ticks we picked up along the way.  Now that I’ve seen the battlefield, I’m going to finally finish up the book!

First Swim Meet

Jack and Casey joined the Crocs swim team this summer.  Last week was their first week of practice and their first swim meet.  Casey was able to go to all the practices last week but Jack also had baseball camp and he only got to a few minutes of practice on a couple of days.  
It’s been a chilly spring here (by Memphis standards) and the water has not been very warm.  But Casey has jumped right in and done everything coach has asked of her.  Jack is a little more hesitant and prefers to be the last one in the water and tries to hang out at the back of the line before he has to jump in again.  I really don’t blame him.  I’ve never really been a fan of cold water.  One of my childhood friends always had a swimming party for her birthday…at the end of May, in a lake, in Maine.  I’m pretty sure I never got past my knees at those parties.  But, temps are forecast for the 90s this week so I have a feeling it will warm up pretty soon.  
So far, I have been completely impressed with what a week of swim team practice has done for both of them.  Four days of practice and then they swam in their first swim meet!
This swim meet was just chaos.  The swim coordinator sent out a bajillion emails about what we had to do to be ready for it.  The kids need to be marked a certain way in permanent marker, before sunscreen/bug spray, in a certain place. They need to be lined up and ready to go for their event, in the right lane, waiting for the beep.  Some events are combined so you have to know if you’re event might go a little sooner.  
But, I figured it out and got them where they needed to be and they were so impressive!  What I did not figure out until the end of the race was that I had been putting their swim caps on them sideways.  Maybe this week it will be easier to get it on if I do it correctly.  
Jack and Casey both swam a 25m freestyle relay and an individual 25m freestyle and it was the first time they had ever swum the length of the pool without touching the lane ropes for help.  They did it both times and I’m still so proud of how well they did!  Casey also did a 25m backstroke and did well at that.  She just needs to work on her rudder control.  
You get a ribbon in every event that you swim and these guys were very happy with their ribbons.  Both of their relay teams came in first!  
Jack got his first full practice in today and he was very excited for it.  He is learning breast and back stroke and is excited to swim those events in the future.  I have a feeling that I will continue to be impressed by my little crocs as the summer progresses.

The Blog Returns with the Beginning of Summer !

I’ve decided not to let this blog die 🙂  So it’s back by popular demand…by the only readers…who happen to be the grandparents of my children.

I was writing about Christmas the last time I wrote.  Fast forward six months…summer vacation has begun!  Pat mentioned a couple weeks ago that he felt like the school year flew by.  I told him it was a little different from my perspective; being the homework supervisor makes for some long weeks.  And I just went through a stack of paperwork 2 feet tall that contained all the hard work of a year of first grade.  I also cleaned out a mailbox of email reminders and notes from Jack’s teacher.

After a week’s vacation in Ocean City, we are back home to start the summer routine, or the lack of routine.  We have a big list on the refrigerator of all the things we want to do this summer.  We have started the summer point system whereby the kids get points for helping around the house and after so many points they get prizes, the big one being a trip to Chuck E Cheese.  I just need to find that piece of paper I wrote last summer with all the things for which they can get a point.

The kids are on the swim team at our country club and started practice this week.  Their first meet is tonight.  Jack has been at baseball camp in the mornings and then gets a few minutes of swimming in after.  Casey is watching a show while wearing her bathing suit as I write…she’s been working very hard in the pool.

But so far, this week at home has been worse than the adjustment to the first couple weeks of school.  These kids are tired!  Casey threw a tantrum last night because I sent her to her room.  I can’t remember if she’s ever thrown a tantrum like that.  Jack got sent to bed without stories.  They both broke down crying at the pizza place because they didn’t have any mini make-your-own pizzas.  (The employees had no pity for my plight.  You make pizzas…can’t you make two small crusts and throw it in a box for me?  Seriously?)

And the questions!  I feel like I have two three year olds right now.  I think they must have stored up a school year’s worth of random questions to ask me.  Casey asked me this morning, “How many heads would it take to fill up the earth?”  What?  Maybe Pop Pop knows the answer to that because I sure don’t.  Are they 8 lb heads?  Adult heads or child heads?

Jack has his own stash of questions but then he likes to argue with you after you give him an answer.  I was telling him that the Arlington Baseball Team (where he is going to baseball camp) won the state championship in 2012.  He, of course, already knew that because he saw the sign at the field and he wanted to know when they would take down the sign.  I told him that they’re proud of it and they’ll probably leave it up for a while.  Then I told him about the high school near our house in Virginia that won the state football championship in 2011 and I said that their sign is still up.

Jack:  How do you know their sign is up?
Me:  I saw it when we drove by the high school when we were in the area last week.
Jack:  I didn’t see it.  Why didn’t I see it?
Me:  You weren’t looking out that side of the car.
Jack:  Oh it was on Casey’s side?  I thought it used to be on my side.
Me:  It’s on different sides depending on which way we are going.  It used to be on your side on the way to school and on Casey’s side on the way home.
Jack:  I’m pretty sure it was on my side most of the time.
Me:  It was probably about half and half.
Jack:  Well you don’t know if that sign is still up.
Me:  I just saw it last week.
Jack:  They might have taken it down.
Me: Okay buddy, you win.

I think we will adjust to this summer business soon.  Next week, we have no camps, just swim team, so I think we can have some fun and get some rest and start crossing some things off our list of things to do!  And I will get to researching the surface area of the earth and figure out how many heads will fit on it.


Maine Vacation: Lighthouse Trip to West Quoddy Head

There are so many great places to visit when we go to Maine but sometimes it can be a bit of a drive to get to them.  In the past when I had driven 18 hours to get to Maine, we didn’t make too many long trips on top of that.  This year we didn’t have as much time to take long trips; we flew from Memphis to Maine but then there was 4 hours of driving on top of a day of flying.

One of our adventures this year was to drive to the easternmost point in the United States to visit the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse and have some lunch in the town of Lubec.  (Despite its eastern US location, the lighthouse is called West Quoddy Head because there is a lighthouse further east on Campobello Island (Canada) that gets the name East Quoddy Head.)  

Jack remembered visiting the lighthouse a couple years ago and he remembered posing in front of the granite that says “Easternmost Point in the USA”.  This year, he became a little camera hog, posing multiple times in front of the sign and directing everyone else to get in or out of the pictures.  It was a refreshing change from the faces he’s been making lately when I take pictures.

Casey rarely turns down an opportunity to pose for the camera.

Jack is also a big fan of getting his photo taken in any type of wooden cutout with a place for his head.

After walking around the lighthouse and checking out the displays inside the lighthouse, we walked down to a set of stairs that lead to the beach.  There were lots of rocks to climb on and rocks to walk on and rocks to throw.

Grampie followed Casey pretty closely around on the rocks.  It’s so hard to watch her climb on them because every time she takes a step she appears to lose her balance and looks like she is going to fall.  She didn’t have any big falls which I thinks was a combination of supervision and that fact that she can climb on them despite how it looks.  She gained a lot of confidence in her rock climbing while we were in Maine but that only made her braver and more likely to fall because she was being silly at times.

We had lunch at a restaurant in Lubec, Maine overlooking the water.  The lobster boats were to the left and the bridge to Campobello Island was to the right.  It was a beautiful day.  The kids and Grampie climbed around on the breakwater and played on another beach.

On the way out of town, we stopped at Monica’s Chocolates to find some treats.  Monica grew up in Peru and bases some of her chocolates on recipes she remembered growing up with her family.  She met us at the door and immediately gave the kids balloons and a chocolate lollipop.  She then treated the grown-ups with some samples.  We all walked out with bags of chocolate and I even found a cute Peruvian necklace to buy.  

It was a great Maine adventure…we drove on some dirt roads, saw a lighthouse, climbed on the rocks, ate lunch overlooking the water and got some Maine/Peruvian chocolate 🙂

Elmo’s Rescue

We are now Tennesseans and survived our move.  We got settled in our new house and a few weeks later headed to the airport for our trip to Maine.  We had a great week there and there are more stories to tell.  But this is just about our trip back to Tennessee.

On our way home from Maine, I decided to schedule late flights out of Maine.  We had to drive four hours to the airport so I figured we might as well make a day of it and I would deal with the consequences of leaving Portland at 6pm and not arriving in Memphis until 10:30pm (which felt like 11:30pm).  
We were feeling a little rushed on our way to the airport but got there an hour before the flight.  Of course there was a long line to weigh baggage and they were making announcements on the speakers that a plane that had just landed was the plane to Atlanta and we should get to the boarding area.  In reality, after waiting 10-15 minutes to check baggage and 10 minutes to go through security, they hadn’t even started boarding yet.  But once they did start boarding, Casey of course decided she had to go to the bathroom.  
We had a layover in Atlanta and had to switch concourses to get to our next gate.  While we were going down an escalator I was trying to tell Jack that we might be going on a shuttle to get to the next concourse.  I said the word three or four times and he couldn’t hear me & didn’t understand what I was trying to say and I was getting very frustrated.  When we got on the shuttle and he heard the announcement that it was called the “plane train”, he just looked at me like I was crazy for calling it a shuttle.  “It’s a plane train Mommy!”
We waited about an hour for our next flight.  I enjoyed some people watching.  Casey acted like she was going to go to sleep but spent 15 minutes trying to get just right with her blanket and pillow, 2 minutes pretending to sleep and then sat up and said, “Good morning Mommy!”  To which I meanly said, “We’re not playing that game.  Either sleep or sit up and find something to do.”
We were among the last people to get on the plane, which was fine because I knew we had three seats together and that all our carry-ons would fit under the seat so we wouldn’t be struggling to find overhead space.  While we were in line, I said, “Does everyone have everything?”  I glanced at all our things and it looked like we had all our bags.
While we were buckling our seat belts, Casey whimpered, “Where’s Elmo?”  I started to panic a little and said, “Isn’t he in your bag?”  A quick look around determined that he was not to be found.  Casey started crying hysterically.  My first thought was that it really was the end of Elmo.  I said, “That’s really sad, Casey.”  Jack chimed in with, “I’m kind of sad too because that used to be my Elmo.”  
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t let Elmo go without a fight.  I asked the flight attendant if I could go search for him and she said I could as long as I had my boarding pass.  I gave a brief moment’s thought as to whether I should just leave my two children on the plane by themselves.  I wasn’t really worried about them but more about whether others would think it strange that I left them.  
I ran down the ramp and out to our seat but Elmo wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  There was a man sitting near our seat and I asked if he had seen Elmo.  He said a janitor had just come by and taken him. I couldn’t see the janitor on the concourse at all.  I wanted to run after him, but I didn’t dare to go away from the plane.   I was so dismayed after running all they way out there to rescue Elmo and I couldn’t even do it.
I explained to the ticket agent what had happened.  She said the janitor shouldn’t have taken it but should have brought it to her, but that was all she could do for me.  
I walked back onto the plane empty-handed.  Casey broke down crying again and it made me start to cry.  She calmed down a little and asked if she could get a new Elmo and I told her she could have any one she wanted.  
Then I saw the ticket agent walking onto the plane and I saw a little flash of red in her hands.  I quickly wiped the tears off my face.  When she got to us, I was so thankful.  She said the man sitting out there had tracked down the janitor and gotten Elmo for us!
I wish I could have run out there to thank him personally but I will never forget the kindness of that man in saving Elmo for us.  

Getting Ready to Move

I was looking forward to the kids being out of school so that I could get ready to move without having any obligations of being anywhere.  Every day I’m trying to do a hundred things around the house and the kids are playing around me, sometimes even helping in their own way.  But it seems like for every one thing I accomplish, they pull out 5 toys and leave them around the house.  So even though I am getting things done and checking them off my list(s), it looks like nothing is getting done.  Today I finally cleaned up all the toys and what a difference it makes.

We are 4 days, 1 birthday party, 2 play dates, 1 dinner get together, 1 church picnic and a few dozen to-do list items away from the day the packers arrive.  (And then I have new to-do lists of what to do while they’re here.) Plus we need to pack/segregate the items we are bringing in the car with us.  I have tried to find a balance of me working around the house and taking the kids to do fun things but they are getting a little cranky.  And I am ready to be done getting ready!

I’m trying to prioritize items by what I really need to do versus what the really organized, somewhat OCD me wants to get done.  When I get ready to go on vacation, I have to have my house really clean before I can leave it.  I love coming home to a clean house.  So getting ready to move out of a house…it’s even worse.  I’m trying to leave it clean for the renters because I’ve realized that my cleaning standards are pretty high and I’ve worked too hard the past few months to then pay cleaners to do only a few extra things.  It’s the “I-own-a-house” version of a room inspection at Norwich.

We have done some fun things though –  a day at the beach for an air show and the Blue Angels, a morning in downtown Norfolk to see the parade of ships, Casey’s Little Gym show, and playing with neighbors and friends.

Funny Summer Memories

Last week, we were driving somewhere and it was dark.  I don’t even remember where we were going but we really don’t leave the house much after dark so it made Casey comment about all the pretty lights.  She wanted to know if there were pretty lights all over the world like this.  I told her there aren’t this many streetlights all over the world…places like where Grammie & Grampie live in Maine don’t have many lights.

This developed into a conversation about the fact that there aren’t many houses by Grammie & Grampie’s house because the two buildings on either side of their house are not houses.  One is my dad’s extra garage.  It used to be a fire station and it is still fire station red.  Jack wanted to know why there were desks and chairs in the upstairs of the fire station and I told him that it used to be a school house before that.  They were kind of fascinated by that for a minute or two and then backtracked a little bit.
Jack said, “There was a fire station when we went to that nut party.”  What?  Nut party?  I had no idea what he was talking about but I hoped I hadn’t missed out on a fun-sounding party.  A nut party and a fire station?  After I composed myself I asked him what he was talking about.  “You know, that one at the school where we used peanuts and then we got to pick out prizes at the end?”  
Ohhh.  It made sense to me at that point.  It was called the Peanut Fair and it is part of the International Festival when we visit Maine in the summers.  We pay a couple dollars for a bag of peanuts and the kids go around and pay a peanut for each game they want to play.  After they play the game they get a coin or two and at the end they “buy” prizes with their coins.  It’s a pretty fun time for the kids.  
And yet there is no fire station near across the street from the elementary school where the Peanut Fair was held.  There is a big garage across the street that kind of looks like a fire station.  And that just makes me marvel at Jack’s memory.  The fact that he remembered some random building in Maine that looked like a fire station to him and then brought it up six months later.
And because I didn’t post any pictures of the peanut fair this summer, I might as well do it now.

Maine: Mornings on the Beach

I think we’re back to normal around here since returning home from our trek to Maine.  Everything is unpacked and mostly put away.  I’ve put our pictures on Facebook and Shutterfly.  Now I should write a little bit about it.

The kids had a great time on the beach in front of the cottage this year.  Another year older means they can climb on the rocks better and explore more and find more treasures.  Casey did really well climbing around on the rocks although it’s better to not watch her.  If you watch her, it looks like she is going to fall at any given point.  She doesn’t seem to have any intuition that would guide her toward the flatter rocks or a simpler path.  And she wasn’t interested in me trying to explain that it would be easier if she went for the flatter rocks.  She’s a girl that’s going to blaze her own path.  Luckily her path didn’t inflict any serious boo-boos this year.

Both Jack and Casey were fascinated by every item that wasn’t a rock and some items that were rocks.  They collected and collected and collected.  No one ever returned from a trip to the beach empty-handed.  To me, the best treasure is the sea glass…the sea glass that has been rubbed smooth by the tide and rocks and sand over many years.  Jack and Casey collected every bit of glass they found and were working on being able to tell the difference between the sharp (not ready) glass and the smooth glass.  They found mussel and clam shells, broken pottery, periwinkles, scallops, urchins and crab shells.

One day when the tide was low, there was a little crab hanging out on the beach.  Casey likes her crabs to be already dead so she screamed and panicked about the little guy who was at least 10 feet away from her even as she was backing away.  I decided that taking her out in the lobster boat wasn’t going to work this year.  I thought she might end up swimming trying to get away from the crabs and lobsters in the boat.

The night before we left for Maine, I spread out all the treasures in a couple of boxes and told them to choose their favorites for their summer collection.  They each had a bowl and filled them up with various things that I haven’t even looked over yet.  The rest went back to the beach, probably to be collected again next year!      

Golf Camp and Children’s Museum

It feels a little like winter here except we’re stuck inside because of the heat instead of the cold.  Jack had golf camp last week from Monday to Thursday and was outside for most of the time.  He was very glad that there was an unlimited supply of lemonade to cool him.  He was also very excited about the “twisters” that he got to eat for a snack.  I’m pretty sure those were Twizzlers.  He helped himself to five of them and was pretty pleased with himself.

On day 2 of golf camp, Jack got a blister but that didn’t stop him from hitting all his balls on the driving range.  He looked pretty pathetic dragging his golf clubs across the course by the end of camp, but we fixed him up with a bandaid and he was fine.

Overall I think he had a great time at camp.  They played a lot of fun games and hit a lot of balls.  He was the youngest boy there but he knew what he was doing and listened well to his instructors.  The golf pro at the course had seen him out there with Pat before and knew that he would be fine.

On Thursday when I went to pick him up, he was playing tag with some of the other boys…in the 100 degree heat!  I had planned to go to the pool in the afternoon but after the awards ceremony I knew that he was completely drained from the heat.  Too bad that doesn’t mean he’s too drained to fight with his sister.

To get out of the house on Friday we headed to the Portsmouth Children’s Museum.  It’s been closed for renovations for about two years and this was our first trip back since the grand re-opening.  The kids had a great time…trains, bubbles, arts & crafts, science, shopping market, fire trucks, a miniature house.  I don’t think they could ask for much more.  What’s even better is that I remembered by camera and managed to get some decent shots.

Using a rope to pull himself up


Maryland Crabs

While we were in Ocean City last week, we went to Hooper’s so the guys could get crabs one night.  Jack was also very excited about getting crabs.  He kept saying, “I love crabs!  I can’t wait to have crabs tonight!”  This is the same child who doesn’t like chicken or hot dogs or bananas or jelly on his pb&j.  But he was thrilled about going to get crabs.

As soon as the waitress brought the mallet and the tray of crabs, Jack was ready to start pounding away.  Unfortunately the art of actually getting the crab out of the legs requires a little more finesse than Jack possesses.  Much to my surprise, he did eat a couple of bits of crab and said that he liked it.  I think it was just taking a little too much time for it to get in front of him.

But when Daddy and Pop Pop were done with their crabs, Jack and Casey did a fine job pounding the bodies to bits with the mallets.  And that made for one of the most fun meals they have probably ever had!