Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tomato Stand

The girls are staying with my mom for a few days. Today they set up a tomato stand at the end of my parents' driveway and actually sold a few to perfect strangers.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Band Camp

I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a band camp crasher or not, but by Wednesday evening I knew I had to embrace the opportunity. Admittedly I was a bit curious about this whole camp thing too, what the camp itself is like, where Sal stays, what goes on, where it's located, the whole bit.

Seth and I headed over to Steubenville to meet another band director's wife to follow her to camp around 4pm. We had dinner at Bob Evans, where I ended up leaving my phone in the booth (more about that later), and got to camp just before 7.

I hadn't told Sal we were coming out, but I did clear it with Rick so basically everyone but Sal knew we were coming. Seth was super excited to see him and Sal was glad to see us. Seth had taken a four hour hap so I figured he could hang. We were up until 11, first watching practice on the field until it got dark and then watching the kids dress-up night, which was quite entertaining.

Sal's room is cute, and housed in the building shown in this picture, which I took from the camp website. His room is located behind the fourth set of rocking chairs from the left. It's bigger than I had imagined, and he has a bunk bed with a double bed on the bottom which is where we slept. I had taken the pack n play for Seth. We had a little trouble getting him down, but as usual, once he was out he was out for the night. He slept through kids noisily pranking kids outside our room and Sal getting ready in the morning. I had a rough time getting to sleep, but I can handle one night here or there on just a few hours.

Breakfast was at 7am, but Seth was snoozing away so we let him sleep. Sal brought me a cinnamon roll back to the room. Then we got the room packed up and the cars loaded. The kids were to report to the chapel at 9:30 for their performance for parents at 10:15. Rosalind, the head band director, started early at 10am and I might have been the only one who didn't complain. Anyway, we were out of there about 11 and headed to Bob Evans for lunch, mainly so I could pick up my phone.

So yes, my phone. Friday was a bit of a wreck. My head was not where it needed to be. First I had left Seth's diaper bag at home. Fortunately I remembered it before we got too far down the road, at the 40th Street bridge, so I turned around and retrieved it. Then, at dinner Seth pulled items out of the diaper bag one by one and kept shoving things my way. I put the phone on the seat behind me in the booth, and then walked off with it still laying there. I realized it less than 10 minutes away from the restaurant, but since I was following Linda to camp, I didn't feel like I could just turn around and go get it.

I was able to call Bob Evans from the landline at camp and ask them to keep it overnight for me, which they were happy to do. Fortunately, the Saturday morning manager knows Sal since he had her son in choir a few years ago and I had no trouble getting it back.

By the time we got home I was exhausted. Driving home I just wanted to nap. I tried to stay up, but ended up falling asleep short ways on the bed. I laid down and just couldn't get back up. Sal, the guy who'd been at camp all week, let me sleep and got his nap in when I woke up two hours later. What a day. I'm so glad I went. It was so much fun to surprise him, and 5 nights apart was more than enough for me.

I'll try to forward myself a few band camp pictures from Sal's phone and update this post later.

William's Party

My sister had William's 8th birthday party today even though he doesn't actually turn 8 until August 9. My mom wanted to get a couple pictures, which is always an undertaking with this crew. Someday maybe we'll be able to capture everyone looking at the camera, but it wasn't today.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

New School

Our day started out with a bit of an adventure. Sal had to head into Steubenville for a band camp work related thing so I got the kids ready, loaded them into the car, and put the key in the ingnition. Nothing. Dead battery. Fortunately Sal was still at home so he was able to jump my car and follow me to Advance Auto on Babcock. A mere $133 later, I had a new battery installed, and we were on our way.

Since Emmy is switching into Shaler from St. Ursula's and most of the kids in this school have been there since kindergarten there isn't a formal orientation. I really wanted to get her acquainted just to make her feel a little more comfortable about this transition, so I contacted the principal and he met us this morning at 11.

Mr. Rojik gave us a thorough tour of the school, but she won't know who her teacher is for a couple weeks. There is a meet and greet on August 24 that we plan on attending. Emmy was hoping for a female teacher, and lucky for her all of the third grade teachers are. She saw the third grade classrooms, the library and computer rooms, the gym/cafeteria, and the playground.

I think she'll do just fine, and Mr. Rojik welcomed her enthusiastically. We are off to a good start.

I should have taken a picture of Emmy with the school sign or something, but I didn't. Annoyed.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kentucky / Pittsburgh, Day 7


The drive from Louisville to Pittsburgh isn't bad, and this wasn't the first time we'd done it. Basically you drive through the outskirts of Cincinnati and straight across Ohio into West Virginia and then head north. Easy peasy.

We stopped at Dairy Queen for lunch, just for something quick, and you would have thought we were trying to kill the children by feeding them fast food. Oh the horror.

Then we saw an impaired driver, whether drugs or alcohol, weaving across lanes and almost hitting a semi truck and a guard rail. I called Ohio State Police with the license plate and hopefully they were able to catch up with him. 

Anyway, we made it home in a thunderstorm, which was only fitting since we started our trip in a thunderstorm, and freshened up a bit and then headed to Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral. It was a tiring, but satisfying trip. Summer is over.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Alabama / Mississippi, Day 6

We had a busy sightseeing morning. We started at the Helen Keller house, then went on to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, then we drove into Mississippi just because we could, and our final stop was at the W.C. Handy Birthplace in Florence.

The whole reason we ventured out of Tennessee was so that the girls could visit the Helen Keller house. For some reason both of them really enjoyed learning about her in school, and since it was *only* give hours from Knoxville, I figured why not.

We had an excellent tour guide and the girls were both able to answer some of her questions - like how old Helen was when she fell ill.

The house is surprisingly small and we took some time to explore the grounds as well.

Sal was looking forward to the hall of fame, and I thought I could find something that would interest the girls and I. I did not expect to see Alabama's tour bus. Alabama had number 1 hit after number 1 hit in 80s and 90s, and I loved them. We were able to walk through the bus and sit in the driver's seat. It was so cool. To my amusement the girls played airplane on the bus. At least they were entertained and behaving themselves.

I didn't realize how many musicians and artists came from Alabama. When I had inquired about how much time to expect to spend at the hall of fame, I was told "about an hour." We were there about two hours. There was a lot to see.

It was getting to be lunchtime and we had talked about driving into Mississippi just to say we'd been there, and we ended up at Sonic in the Iuka corporate limits, but we saw none of the actual town.

We needed to start heading home soon, especially since we'd be losing an hour prior to getting to Louisville, outside of which we had a hotel. However, I had suggested yesterday that we stop at the W.C. Handy home and Sal was definitely interested. I'm so glad we didn't skip this site.

When we entered we were told a couple from Austria was also visiting. Arthur is probably the world's biggest Handy fan and he sat down at the piano on which W. C. himself composed the St. Louis Blues and played it for us. So awesome. How often do you get to hear a famous piece of music played on the very piano on which it was composed.

Finally we were on our way toward Nashville where we planned to stop for dinner. We exited the highway and ended up on Nashville's main drag. We saw sights probably not appropriate for young children, pedal pubs etc and decided maybe our best option was to get out of Nashville and find some place further up the road.

We saw a Logan's Roadhouse, a chain popular across the South, and decided to stop. The food was good, but our server was clearly in the wrong line of work. He screwed up our order, couldn't keep up with drinks, and just struggled in his duties. It was a frustratingly slow dinner, compounded by the fact that we needed to get to our hotel on the other side of Louisville at a reasonable time.

Eventually we got out of there and back on the road. The miles were flying by when Sal and I spotted a sign for Lincoln's birthplace. We drove a few miles out of the way on a two lane road and ended up at this park just past dusk. We took a picture and then decided to come back at some future point during daylight hours.

By the time we made it to our hotel in La Grange, a free night thanks to all of our road tripping, it was pushing 11pm. The girls were disappointed that we couldn't go swimming, but I think our detour was worth it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Georgia / Alabama, Day 5

Hi ho Hi ho, it's off to Georgia we go. . .or something like that.

When we decided to tack Alabama onto our trip, I started researching a good stopping point between Knoxville and Tuscumbia. Chattanooga came up and a place called Lookout Mountain.

We were under time constraints for our visit since we had to be in Tuscumbia/Muscle Shoals by 4pm for a tour of FAME Studio so we were limited in how much time we could spend exploring Rock City. We also had to eat lunch while we were there.

When visiting Lookout Mountain, Georgia there are three popular options, Ruby Falls, an Incline Railway, or Rock City. Considering time, cost, and appeal we ended up choosing Rock City. At first I associated Rock City with rock and roll music, but I quickly realized that's not what it was about at all.

The area that is now Rock City was the Garnet Carter family estate, and in the 1930s they were looking for a way to make money. Mrs. Carter had mapped out a path, now known as the Enchanted Trail, through huge rocks and outcroppings. She added gnomes and fairytale statues along the way. Convinced people would pay to see this attraction, the family began advertising. As they say, if you build it, they will come, and people are still coming. There's more information here.

We left Knoxville a little later than I had wanted, about 9am, but we arrived in Rock City within 2 hours. It was getting to be lunchtime and I knew there was a restaurant near Lover's Leap, a stopping point on the path so I told the kids to hang tight. We made our way down the trail, some areas were quite narrow and I was wearing Seth on my back and I wondered how we were ever going to fit, but we did. Eventually we crossed over a suspension bridge (there's a solid, stationary rock bridge also available for the less adventurous), and onto the area known as Lover's Leap. Sure enough, Cafe 7 was just ahead.

During the summer on Friday through Sunday, Rock City hosts a music festival. A young woman in a green romper was singing just outside the cafe and was on her last song of a particular set when we entered the restaurant area. I told Sal she had a pretty voice and didn't think much else about it.

We were eating our lunch when a multi-generational family sat down next to us, and the elderly man to spoke to us commenting on how well-behaved the kids were. We came to find out that the woman sitting at the table with him was the singer we had heard, and that she was not only his great-granddaughter, but also a former finalist on The Voice, Amber Carrington. While we don't watch The Voice it was still a fun celebrity siting. Amber graciously agreed to have her picture taken with Sarah and Emmy.

Cafe 7 wasn't cheap, but the food was good and we enjoyed a wonderful breeze and pretty views of the surrounding mountains I can only imagine how amazing this place must look in the Fall. Anyway, I had a BLT that had fried green tomatoes on it. Delicious.

Following lunch we resumed our hike on the Enchanted Trail. Not even five minutes in, we were winding through a narrow passageway and I felt something warm and wet on my back. Somehow, some way Seth peed on me. I couldn't even believe it. I told Sal, who about died laughing, did help me give him a quick change on a bench once the trail opened back up. Seriously.

After that we sped down the remainder of the trail and through Mother Goose Village so we could get back to the car for clean (and dry) clothing, for both Seth and I. Somehow his onesie never made it into the diaper bag so I had no spare clothes for him, and it has never occurred to even pack any in the bag for myself.

Once we were all back in the car, we stopped for gas, which, by the way, is super cheap in the South, and we were off to Alabama.

The road from Lookout Mountain, Georgia to Tuscumbia, Alabama winds back and forth across the state lines multiple times so you're in Georgia, then Tennessee, and a few miles later back in Georgia. All of this is marked with huge signs. It's kind of funny. This goes on for a little while and then you find yourself in Alabama.

We crossed into Central Time and made it to FAME Studio just before 4. Sal got more out of the tour than the girls and I did, I think. They were bored, but they still managed to behave. There was a session in Studio A so we were limited to seeing inside Studio B. The highlight for Sal was being able to touch Duane Allman's amp. Rick Hall founded FAME Studio and his office is included on the tour. Sal sat at his desk like he owned the place, and then the tour was over.

From there we hit Ruby Tuesdays for dinner, at the girls request. Our check was $104, including tip. I about fell over when I saw the bill. After dinner, we realized Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was just down the road. It's not open for tours, but you can take pictures of the outside, which is iconic in and of itself. The history of this studio is interesting, and you'll want to read about The Swampers, which I had heard of previously actually. The Swampers began their career as the house band at FAME Studio and ended up splitting off and created this studio.

At this point the girls were anxious to get to the hotel and swim, which is how we spent the rest of the evening. The hotel didn't look like much from the outside and I wondered if I had made a mistake choosing this particular one, but it turned out to be just fine. The beds were super comfortable and the location was great for our itinerary.