Fall Break – St. Louis

Last week the kids had a week off from school for fall break.  We didn’t have any big plans at first but then we decided on a few days in St. Louis.  I figured I might be ready to get out of the house by Thursday!

We left Memphis Thursday morning and made it to St. Louis for lunch.  Then we went to the City Museum.  This museum made me wish I could be a kid again.  I don’t think I could have imagined a playground better than this.  I can’t even come up with the words to describe it but it was a really fun combination of tunnels, slides, hidden passageways, and ladders.  We stayed until closing time and the kids weren’t anywhere near bored.  We almost missed a whole section of the museum (with a 10 story slide!) that was in a cave like area that we hadn’t explored yet.  When we left, Casey said it was the most awesome place she had been.

View of city from top of City Museum

On Friday, we explored downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch.  We couldn’t go up in the Arch because it was shutdown with the government but it’s pretty amazing to just look at it from within the beautiful park surroundings.  You could also walk right down to the edge of Mississippi River which turned out to be pretty fun for the kids.  They were pretty happy to throw sticks in the river and play in the random bits of sand.  Even I was excited to actually put my hand in the mighty Mississippi.

At the base of the Arch
Touching the Mississippi River
Getting ready to build a raft a la Tom Sawyer
Had to find a bigger stick than Jack’s
Red fountains near stadium
Next we toured Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  I wouldn’t say this was the kids’ favorite part, but it was fun to check out the dugout and all the posh places people with the good tickets can hang out.  We learned quite a bit of team history and St. Louis has a lot of pride in their baseball past.  

We originally wanted to go to St. Louis in the summer and catch a Cardinals game while we were there.  (Pat generally likes to plan our trips around sports events.)  Since it was post season, we didn’t think we were going to catch a game this trip.  But…turns out the Cards made it to the NLCS and the first game was in St. Louis on Friday night.  After our stadium tour, we could see fans starting to stream into the city with their red shirts.  And also after our stadium tour, Pat wanted to see this game more than ever.  There were scalpers on every corner but Pat was able to get two pretty good tickets for him and Jack through the Cardinals ticket site on game day.

We headed to the St. Louis Zoo in the afternoon but the kids were tired so it was a quick trip.  They seemed to have plenty of energy for the pool after though.

Baby elephant bum in the middle

I promised Casey that she and I would go on a date and go shopping if Pat & Jack went to the game.  She had fallen in love with a cute little Cardinals shirt and skirt in the team store so I told her we’d find an outfit on our date.  Even when it was possible that Pat could get four tickets, Casey wanted to go on our date instead.  We went to Trader Joe’s, World Market and then Target.  Casey loved looking at all the clothes and I loved some of the bargains we found.


Pat and Jack ended up at the longest League Championship Series game ever!  They didn’t get back to the hotel until 1am…but they had a blast.  Pat said there was an 11 year old boy beside them and he and Jack became fast friends and helped each other stay up so late.  It was an awesome experience for both Pat and Jack.  Jack wanted to know if we could fly to Los Angeles to watch Game 3.

When we left town on Saturday morning, Casey was crying she was so sad to leave.  Our hotel turned out to be great – the Drury Inn Union Station.  It had free breakfast and dinner, was only a mile from downtown and was right beside the beautiful Union Station.  We could see the old train tracks out our window.  (Also, I was impressed that our room had windows on 2 sides…we had a great corner room.)

On our way out of town, we stopped at Grant’s Farm and saw some Clydesdale horses, fed some camels and enjoyed the tram ride around the park.


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.  

Mother’s Day Weekend

After the Crayola Factory on Friday, we had more fun events to keep us busy.  We visited Uncle Matt and Aunt Kelly.  The kids played loudly until Brady finally woke up from his nap and could go out to play.  We went to a huge castle playground that we had visited last time we were in the area.  It’s about 8 kid-sized stories tall and you could get lost in there.  Last time we were there, Casey did.  She stuck to the smaller areas and played with Brady most of the time.  They had some monkey bars that she could reach all by herself and she swung across them without any help for the first time.  She was very proud of that.  She couldn’t wait to get home and try it out on the monkey bars in the backyard.

For dinner we went out to my father in law’s country club with Pat’s parents and Matt, Kelly and Brady.  We had a great dinner.  The table was beside the door so we could let the kids go out and play on the patio when they got restless.  Which was every 5 minutes or so.  The chocolate milk that we ordered for Jack and Casey came in a huge glass with whipped cream on top and I think that may have fueled their inability to sit still.  Brady is 20 months old and I forgot how fast a 20 month old can be.  My chasing skills were a little out of practice.  One minute he’s running toward the street and the next he’s running towards a set of stairs.  

Sunday morning we got up very early so we could walk in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Mother’s Day Walk in Philadelphia.  We were walking to support Pat’s Aunt Kathy and another family friend.  I can’t remember the last time I had to wake the kids up before 7…and this was way before 7.  We sweetened the deal with a train ride to the middle of Philly.  Jack claimed it was his very first train ride…very different from when he went on the subway last year.

All of the breast cancer survivors were standing on the top of the steps at the Art Museum and it was very impressive to see them all up there.  They descended the steps and met up with their families and then everyone set out on the walk.

We had a couple of umbrella strollers for the kids.  The one Jack chose to ride in was a good 15 years old and sometimes the wheels didn’t always roll the way they should have.  I have to say how impressed I was with my husband who pushed this stroller the whole time, while hunched over, and not once did he curse…or tell Jack to get out and walk.  I didn’t tell him but that show of patience felt like a really nice Mother’s Day gift for me.

It was amazing to see the huge crowd of people wearing pink to support finding a cure for breast cancer.  It was also a little overwhelming to see how many people were touched by it and it’s only one kind of cancer.  I’m very glad we were able to meet up with family and make it to the walk this year.

After the walk we took the train back and packed up our car.  Pat’s Aunt Kathy invited everyone back to her house after the walk and we spent a great afternoon in her backyard.  The kids played, we got to visit with everyone we probably won’t see for a couple years while we’re in Tennessee and there were tables and tables of delicious food.  It was a great get together.

Casey picked up on Pat and Matt calling Pop Pop “Bernie” as in Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s and started telling everyone, “My Pop Pop is Bernie!”  She got a kick out of making everyone laugh.  Maybe you see the resemblance too…

Picture from last Easter.  In full disclosure, those are Jack’s sunglasses

After a stop at Ikea for a few pieces of furniture to take to the new house, a stop at the airport to drop Pat off, a drive through Widener University to find gas, 4 stops for the kids to use the bathroom, we finally arrived – exhausted – at our house.  At one point Jack fell asleep using a balloon for a pillow.  And they both fell asleep 10 minutes before we got home.  It was a great weekend and I’m so glad that we made the trip!



My Hurricane Irene Story

In case someone ever says, “Where were you during Hurricane Irene back in 2011?”

On Wednesday night, I read that some stores were already out of water as people were preparing for the hurricane.  That made me anxious that I hadn’t been preparing early enough and I didn’t sleep well.

On Thursday morning I was able to drop the kids of at a drama camp at our church and head to Walmart to get all the necessary hurricane supplies.  Some food, but not a lot in case we lost our power.  A couple jugs of water…there were only about a dozen left on the shelves.  I decided it wouldn’t hurt to pick up some flashlights.  And then a lot of other things that put my total way over $100!  I was also buying birthday presents for some upcoming parties and other random things that Walmart entices you to buy.  Oh, and a new doorknob for the back door.

I came home and spent all afternoon cleaning the garage.  Because you can’t put all of your outdoor things in the garage unless it’s well organized and clean, right?  Or is it just me?  Am I the only one fanatically cleaning her garage as part of hurricane preparedness?  Then I worried that after all this work, it would get flooded or damaged somehow and it would all have been a waste of time.

Last weekend the doorknob to the back door broke so that’s why I bought the new doorknob.  I figured it would be a good thing to have a doorknob instead of a hole back there when the hurricane came through.  I finally got that installed (such as it is) around 8pm, just as it was getting dark.  I still hadn’t cleaned up the back porch so I worked on that in the dark and practically got eaten alive by the bugs out there.

As of Thursday night I hadn’t decided if I was staying here or leaving.  I had everything I needed to stay and I had a friend’s house in Fayetteville to go to if I decided to leave.  It was such an agonizing decision for me.  I really wanted to be here to defend my house, whatever that might entail.  If it looked like it was going to flood, I wanted to be able to move things to higher ground.  I was a little bit worried about trees falling.  The really big ones are pretty far away but it’s possible they could reach our house.  All of a sudden it seemed like we had way too many windows, too many possibilities that a window could be broken.  I also didn’t want my kids to be scared out of their minds.  I knew that if I stayed calm, they wouldn’t be afraid but I didn’t really want to take any chances with them.

I kept telling myself I would make a decision after the next storm update, hoping that Irene would stay as far east as possible.  After cleaning the garage/outside of the house, I did all the laundry and cleaned the inside of the house.  I heard that if your house is clean, the hurricane doesn’t bother with you.  Right?

Friday morning comes along.  House is clean, inside and out.  If I’m staying I need to clean the tubs and fill them with water and fill a few more jugs with water.  If I’m leaving I need to leave.  I do nothing.  I can’t decide.  I really want to stay in my house but I’m not 100% sure that we’ll be safe here and the last thing I want to do is endanger the kids.  I’m not worried about losing power but I’m worried about trees falling and windows breaking and holes in my house that aren’t supposed to be there.

The morning drags on with my indecision.  I don’t think I’ve talked on the phone as much as I did on Thursday and Friday, hemming and hawing with friends about what to do.  One of my neighbors leaves.  Another tells me horror stories about her uncle who was in a hurricane.  Pat will be on his ship the whole time and he really wants me to leave.  My mother-in-law doesn’t tell me she wants me to leave, but I can tell that she does.

Mid-morning I went to the bank and got cash.  Then I went to Target to see if they had Diesel 10.  Diesel 10 is a train that Jack has been bugging me about for days.  He really needs it.  My life would be a lot easier if he would just stop talking about it and I decide that Diesel 10 is part of our hurricane prep.  It’s not in the store, but at least he’ll stop talking about it now…as long as I go right home and order it on the internet.

Finally around noon, I decide to leave.  But it’s a little to late to head to Fayetteville.  It looks like the storm has already arrived there.  I call around and get a hotel room in Richmond.  I really don’t want to have to drive too far since I’ve left it so late.  My neighbor was staying at a hotel in Glen Allen, a northwest suburb of Richmond, so I switch to a hotel near her.  Pat comes home to help bring the rest of the outdoor items inside before he has to head back to the ship.

I throw a bunch of things in the car.  We drive to Richmond.  We take a different route than most everyone else is taking.  It’s slow in parts but I think it was better than the interstate.  The hotel is adequate.  Not super nice but it will work.

Glen Allen turns out to be really nice.  We can walk to a shoe store and a Marshalls.  There is a brand new town center only a couple miles away.  We meet our neighbor and her daughter out for dinner.

On Saturday morning, the storm starts to whack North Carolina but we still have a little time before we get some rain.  The kids and I pass an enjoyable morning at Hobby Lobby.  This place is awesome.  Everyone who writes a crafty blog has written about some great deal or great something that they’ve gotten at Hobby Lobby and I was so excited to go there.  It’s like Michael’s and Joann’s and Garden Ridge all rolled up in one store.

We each picked out a Christmas ornament.  They had such a great selection and the kids passed so much time while they tried to pick out their favorite one.  So now we have our 2011 Hurricane ornaments.  We wandered through all the aisles.  I bought some fabric and tulle.  The kids tried to get me to buy every toy they saw.  There were a lot of things they “needed.”  It was a great trip to Hobby Lobby.  I just wish I had a list of all the supplies I needed for all the crafts that I’ve come across in the last year that I thought I wanted to make.  It was kind of a letdown to be there and not have any project in mind or any supplies that I knew I wanted.

We grabbed some lunch and headed back to the hotel.  I thought we might go out again for dinner.  Irene thought otherwise.  Turns out that Irene was pretty rough on Richmond too.  I could see some young maple trees blowing in the wind from my hotel room.  I had the tv on most of the day watching the coverage.  At one point 75% of Richmond had lost power.  Luckily, we did not.  The kids did well.  There were no good kids’ channels.  Cartoon Network is awful.  They played with their Legos and some new stickerbooks I thought to bring with me.  They played with their new flashlights and pretended they were lightsabers.  (A lot less crying than with their real lightsabers.)  They jumped on the beds.  It was a long afternoon but not awful.

I fanatically checked facebook all day to see how people were doing.  The local news was also updating often and other people were posting their pictures on the news facebook page.

By Sunday morning, it was sunny and breezy and the storm was gone.  We went to a church in Glen Allen that was only a few minutes away and then headed home.  Thankfully there was no damage to our house and our whole neighborhood looked pretty good.

And that’s my really long story of Hurricane Irene!  In the end it turns out that Richmond wasn’t much quieter than home but we felt safe and secure in our hotel room and we didn’t lose power and we had a nice little adventure out of it.  Jack and Casey really like hotel rooms so it didn’t phase them a bit.  I was secretly glad that I got to experience a little bit of the storm but that nothing catastrophic happened either home or in Richmond.