05 August 2008

Twistin' the Night Away

Megan & Ian have heard me describe tornado drills in school. They laughed when I talked about hiding in the basement and their grandpa bringing the TV down with him. They even heard the traditional "10:00 a.m. Tuesday" tornado siren test when we were at the Lisle hotel last month. Well, last night they got to experience tornado weather for themselves.

We were all watching a video in the living room when I heard what I thought was rain. It was actually the wind blowing through the trees so hard they were bent 20 degrees with their leaves straining to stay on the branches. That's when Megan and I saw the edge of the storm clouds bearing down. They were beautiful and scary at the same time, though they weren't that creepy green/black. We closed some of the windows, but the kids were having nothing of it. They went down in the basement to watch live TV. The adults restarted the video and waited.

Five minutes later Ian starts shouting, "Tornado warning!" I went down to investigate and sure enough, Will County was included. Megan immediately ran upstairs, packed her suitcase, and went to the basement. (She hasn't come out yet and it's 9:00 the next morning.) The adults alternated between watching live TV to get the alerts and finishing the video. Er, I mean we watched the video until we heard Ian shout about new warnings on the TV...then switched over. The more detailed alerts said the funnel clouds were north of us. But people at the Cubs game had quite a show!


Quote of the Day

Both kids: MOM, there's a tornado WARNING. Why are you staying upstairs?

04 August 2008

Hangin' Around

It's a damp, thunderstorming day--and I LOVE IT! The smell of the rain, the dark clouds against light trees, the deep green of happy plants... (Yes, I know I'm weird.)

It beats the day we arrived. The train from Boston to Chicago was freezing cold, so we had dressed in jeans and long sleeved shirts. Trouble is we wanted to kill time walking around Chicago while waiting for the Metra train to Aurora. But Chicago was 88*F with 95% humidity. Ugh. After drinking air for two blocks, we decided to eat lunch at Potbelly (again) and watch canal boats instead.

The next two days were picture perfect: low 80's, low humidity, and puffy white clouds against a blue sky. We took the kids on a walk through the bean field. We climbed in the hay loft. We made echoes in the silo. And we almost learned to ignore all the houses that had cropped up around the farm.

Fortunately, the church where Kurt and I got married (and where I spent my grade-school years) has been made a historic landmark. I almost got Megan to walk through the cemetery where I used to play. The biggest bonus was getting to walk through the parsonage where I lived. It's between tenants at the moment, so this was the first time I'd been in since we moved in 1980. The whole house was smaller than what I remember. Funny how that happens.

Now I have regular, G-rated quotes of the day below. But Ian gave us an even funner, PG-13, quote. If you want to read it, you'll have to become my friend on Flickr. It's attached to a photo of the event.


Quotes of the Day

Megan: (After we spotted a cicada on a tree branch) OH, I wondered how a tree could make such a loud noise!

Ian: (While walking across the Adams Street Bridge over the Chicago River) Why is the water green when it isn't St. Patrick's Day?

30 July 2008

Almost Done

Well, the month of July has come and gone yet again. We did our last round of touring and visiting over the weekend: four days in a lakeside cottage on Lake Winnipesauke. Well, Kurt and his parents stayed at the cottage. Megan and I made day-trips over since neither one of us can sleep with the resident allergens. Rain was off and on, but the sun shone enough to get in at least one swim a day. Saturday's swim was shortened, though, for Megan and I because a large fish tried to eat our feet!

On Monday I drove up through Franconia Notch to observe one day of a Poetry conference at Robert Frost's farm. I think I was the only meat-eating person in attendance. I was certainly the only one not wearing a stitch of black. Still, it was incredible to be listening to a Norton-published poet lecturing on a peer of Elizabeth Bishop (one of my favorites)...in the barn that Robert Frost used. Kurt watched the kids for the day. I think his mom will have to be available for babysitting before I can even THINK about going for a whole week!

Tuesday, I got busy trying to fulfill all my promises to the kids. You know, those activities you are sure you're going to do since you think you'll have loads of time. After dropping Kurt off at Manchester Airport, I took the kids to the bookstore for comics & drawing books (for the train ride). We then saw the Pixar movie Wall-E...after getting some Ben & Jerry's in waffle cones. I fished the neighbor's dog's collar out of the stream (Megan had taken him off his leash) before having dinner with our friend from the UK (another house guest of my in-laws...they should open up an inn). By 7:00 I was in my pajamas getting the kids ready for bed early so I could take migraine meds. God bless my mother-in-law for staying up with them and tucking them in!

So today we will close the penultimate leg of our vacation by shipping our New Hampshire souvenirs, taking trash to the dump, picking up the last ears of corn at the farm stand, and waiting for one last family dinner at the trestle table. Illinois, here we come...again;-)


Quotes of the Day:

Megan: (Under cross-examination surrounding the dog collar incident) I wasn't tugging McKabe's collar. Well, I did pull him back when cars went by.

Ian: (To the EBay agent at the pack & ship place) Sorry, I'm not bidding. I'm just browsing a bit.

23 July 2008


Wow. It has been a whirlwind two weeks. So busy, in fact, that I have rarely remembered to take pictures. Me. Forgetting to take pictures!

We've been wading in the ocean at Ipswich (Massachussettes), complete with our traditional take-out lunch at the Clam Box. Kurt and I soothed our futbol-withdrawl by watching Fox Soccer Channel during dinner at a British Pub in Portsmouth (NH, not England). We went to Sanbornton's Farmers Market and Old Home Days. We've gotten together with many friends and family. And we've played in the rain.

I love rain. I don't think I always did, but living in dry California has given me a new appreciation for precipitation. We even braved touring the Squam Lakes Science Center in the rain...without umbrellas! Our friend has been trying to get us there for three years. So this year we vowed to go, no matter what. Her boys knew the place well since they are members, which was great because they showed Ian all the best things to play with. It was laid out nicely like a walk in the woods, punctuated by live animal exhibits with interactive materials in covered buildings. A naturalist was walking around with a broad-winged hawk. The hawk wasn't too sure he wanted to be stared at, but the naturalist had a firm grip on the leather straps tied to the hawk's ankles. (I'm sure there's a name for these strips, but I'm too lazy to look it up.) There was no way I was going to risk my flash going off in his eyes. The bear was the best part. He was just sitting, like on a sofa with a can of pop, and staring at a glass window in the wall. Every so often people would walk up to the window and wave. It looked like the bear was watching the Human Cable Network. (You have to view the picture full size to see it.)

We'll be off to a lake shore cottage tomorrow--without computer access, so you might not hear from us for another week!


08 July 2008

Swim Lessons, Round 2

Some of you may remember posts on our old blog about Megan's lake-based swim lessons two years ago. The highlight of these lessons was not her new ability to get her face wet, but the leech that rode home on her leg. Both kids needed no reminders this year to stay well clear of leech-ridden lilypads that line the swim area.

This year, we signed both kids up for lessons. At $25 per child for a 10 lesson session, who could resist? Especially when it is the same patient and amazing (and young and cute) swim instructor! But this is a small town. We never got any kind of confirmation that the kids were in the lessons, other than a cashed check. So we showed up yesterday and crossed our fingers.

Sure enough, both kids were enrolled. The swim instructor even remembered Megan and promptly said he would test both kids to see if they needed to be bumped up a level. After seeing the classes, I could see why. Megan was a foot taller and 3 years older than all the other kids in Level 2. Ian was even more gigantic compared to the one other kid in Level 1. Thanks to my mom & sister's aquatic babysitting (there's a pool at my mom's apartment complex), Megan & Ian both tested out of the levels I had signed them up for; closing the size gap between them and their classmates--sort of.

We treated Kurt's parents to seafood takeout for dinner afterwards. I'm not sure we got enough food: a pint of fried clams, 3 lobster rolls with fries, a fish & chips, and a quart of chowder--not to mention a pasta salad I made and broiled summer squash spears. Actually, we're swimming in leftovers. So anyone who's hungry is invited to dinner tonight!


Quote of the Day

This is a joint one, said while the kids were hiding in the garage and spying on the Amerigas man when he came to fill the tank. The man was having a typical plumber's "wardrobe malfunction."

Ian: Look! His underwear says, "Fruit of the Loom."

Megan: It should say, "Fruit of the Moon!"

04 July 2008

In New Hampshire at Last

On Monday (30 June), we left De Kalb and meandered to our hotel in Lisle. First stop was Sycamore so I could show the kids the first place Kurt and I lived as a married couple. We drove along Lincoln Highway/Roosevelt Road/State Highway 38 until we got to the Fox River in Geneva. Ian wanted to eat in the Geneva Diner, so I've apparently sold him on the idea that non-chain places are best;-) We stopped briefly at Wheaton College, hoping for ice cream--but settling on a tour of the science building where Kurt & I studied. We finished our journey when the rental car agent dropped us off at the Lisle Hyatt.

The kids loved the Hyatt. Our room was on an end and included a 180 degree view of the Morton Arboretum, the I-88/IL 53 interchange, and suburban woods. It also had a pool. And pizza. And an in-room movie with popcorn. Oh, and a breakfast buffet with croissants and french toast. Megan said it was better than Disneyland (or at least better than what she's heard from her friends). It was certainly cheaper and more relaxing!

On Tuesday (1 July), the hotel shuttle took us to the Metra station. We rode in to Chicago's Union Station with everyone going to the Taste of Chicago. Instead of going to the Taste, we shoved our luggage in a locker and walked to the Hancock Building. Along the way, the kids learned about canal drawbridges, construction tunnels, homeless people, scam artists, busking musicians, the Great Fire, and the Chicago P.D.'s jaywalking-prevention methods (i.e. embarrasing people into compliance by calling over the loudspeaker their description followed by an order to get in the crosswalk--both kids were glad WE weren't jaywalking). I splurged and paid for us all to go the the top of the Hancock Building. I showed the kids where Kurt proposed, though the bench is no longer there. In fact the whole place has been renovated and kitted out with all kinds of activities and an audio tour. Ah, progress.

By Wednesday (2 July), we were on the train to Albany, NY. I'm sure at some point I will write a longer post specifically on train travel. But for now let's just say it is a crazy adventure, not for the faint of heart. After a fitfull sleep and a Lake Erie sunrise, we treated ourselves to breakfast in the Dining Car. We also celebrated Ian's birthday with lunch in the Dining Car, thanks to the terrific wait-staff that must have enjoyed the large tip I left at breakfast. (They gave the kids free Haagen Dazs ice cream in honor of Ian's 10th, then Megan drew them a thank you card.) We arrived in Albany 2 hours late (apparently not that bad) and caught the connecting train to Boston (held for our arrival). The Boston-bound engineer must have had a hot date, because we bounced and jostled like churning butter and arrived in South Station a mere 30 minutes behind schedule!

Yesterday (3 July), we slept and slept and slept. We washed our clothes. We went shopping for necessities we hadn't brought. And we had a real party for Ian's birthday: Star Wars cake & decorations + Indiana Jones presents. Lucas Films Ltd. would be proud.

And today (4 July), we scouted out a tree house location in Grampa's woods. It helped that Grampa was off of work for Indepence Day. The kids have preliminary sketches and Grampa has already begun clearing the site. Apparently Ian is about to drive the tractor for the first time to haul logs away, so I'm going to go. Gotta film this!


Quote of the Day

Megan: (Looking at water towers poking above the suburban woods) What is that row of bubbles out there?

Ian: (Waking briefly at 3 a.m. on the train) I'm not having fun.

29 June 2008

Back to School

Early Saturday morning we left Michigan, drove through the construction in Indiana, and arrived just after lunch in DeKalb, Illinois. Along the way we searched in vain for postcards. Cracker Barrel didn't even have any. I talked to the clerks and they said the last two years no one has bought them. So beware to those of you who collect postcards: 1) get them now while you still can & 2) protect any from Michigan & Indiana because they are now limited editions!

I also introduced the kids to the tollway oasis concept. We ate lunch at the Lincoln Oasis that straddled all lanes of I-80/I-94 just inside the Illinois state line. Well, I ate lunch. The kids ate massive pretzels. Ian also made a 3 year old friend in the play structure while Megan played with her camera phone. By the time we reached DeKalb on I-88, the kids were entirely sick of having to stop and pay tolls. Megan thinks the California toll bridge concept is much better: stop once and pay through the nose rather than stopping many times to pay some coins. Neither of them appreciated the corn fields we drove through or the neat thunder-head cloud formations on the blue sky's horizon.

Two of my former graduate school professors at NIU graciously offered to put us up at their house. Fortunately they have two extremely nice teenage children that my kids enjoy playing with. After a long visit, we went over to my advisor's house for pizza supper. It was great to catch up, relaxing on their screen porch in the cool breeze. We kept the kids busy watching the Olympic trials & Disney channel on their new home theatre system until 10 p.m. Once back at home base, we slept with the windows open and listened to a soft rain sift through the maple & elm leaves. Ahhh, real summer weather.

Today (on a Sunday--it pays to know people with keys), we toured the biology building. The kids played scientist, helping to hatch fly eggs and looking at sand and salt under binocular microscopes. We also met the snakes, frogs, and turtles on the "special" (i.e. extra-locked) 5th floor. I then showed the kids the lab and greenhouse where I did part of my research. "Dr. Carl" also showed the kids dragonfly nymphs. I sent Ian on several secret missions to keep him busy so I could be "home" for a little longer. Megan was more eager to poke around and chat. We'll make a scientist of her yet!


Quote of the Day

Megan: (after I got too excited about being "home") Are my friends here? No. So this ISN'T home to me!

Ian: I'm going to write a letter to the Michigan senate that says, "Give me postcards or give me death!"

27 June 2008

Northern Tooth Fairies

I don't care what anyone says about Western species being able to withstand harsh conditions, the Northern Winged Tooth Fairy is the hardiest species of all! Ian lost a tooth at dinner last night. My uncle treated us to dinner at The Depot (a nice diner in a converted railway station) and Ian lost his tooth in a mozzarella stick. I carefully put it in my purse, then carelessly forgot about it. Ian didn't forget. Late last night he got the tooth, put it inside the sock he'd used that day ("because I didn't have my tooth holder"), and put it under both his pillows. Sure enough, Michigan's tooth fairy not only braved his stinky sock, but gave him two quarters for his tooth!

It's still steamy here and hard to do much outside but feed mosquitoes. We did manage to play at the park for a bit this morning. The kids actually remembered the park from our visit three years ago. The occupational therapists must have done their job, because Ian only spun in the tire swing for 30 seconds. Three years ago I had to spin him for 15 minutes several times each trip!

I think we're finally going to eat the fish the kids caught tonight. My uncle & his wife & my grandmother's husband went fishing again yesterday and caught enough to actually make a meal. We tried to teach both kids to eat fish and chips before England. Megan loves it now, but Ian will only eat fish with honey. My grandmother says no one is putting honey on fish in her house. So we'll see...

Thanks for the comments and emails. I love hearing from you all. By the way, you have until Monday to post your comment-entry for the joke/poem contest about the cabin in a cage. Jason, so far you're in the lead!


Quotes of the Day

Megan: (After being "persuaded" to help me fold laundry so we could go on an outing) Hey, helping really does make this shorter! (I hope the lesson sticks...)

Ian: (After noticing all the expired parking meters at the Internet Cafe three days in a row) If I were a Lansing police officer, I would hide here and make lots of money giving tickets!

25 June 2008

Landing Near Lansing

After a very long day of airplane and car travel on Monday, we arrived at my grandmother's house in central Michigan. The kids looked at the Sears Tower and Hancock Building of Chicago through the windows, sad that we weren't going to visit them. Of course 30 seconds after merging onto the freeway Ian announced that he had to use the bathroom. But it was 3:00 and just about time for commute traffic so I made him wait until all the merges and splits were over. I'm glad I bought hand sanitizer. Ian almost refused to go where I stopped because the sink had been ripped out!

Indiana was uneventful, but full of construction. At the Michigan border we stopped at a lovely visitor center complete with an accessible playground. It had all kinds of swings, even for big kids that have mobility issues. There was also a wheelchair ramp that led onto a large middle section of the play structure. We also raced around the birch trees back to the car...Megan won the foot race, but Ian won the "following directions" race. Ah, keeping the peace:-)

My uncle took us out fishing yesterday. Ian had never been before. I was too cheap to buy a license, so I was the official hook-bater & line-straightener. Ian caught three blue gill (only one was big enough to keep) and Megan caught one. They also caught tons of damsel flies, dragon flies, and spiders that enjoyed resting on their lines and bobbers as they flew over the water. I thought everyone would sleep early, but alas--we're all still on Pacific time.

This morning we wanted to find an internet cafe (we did find one which I'm typing from), so we attached the search to seeing the State Capitol building. It's a nice building. We found the rotunda on the 3rd floor. Ian and I looked up (but not down). I chose not to look while Megan leaned over the rail to look both ways. We lucked out that both Senate and House were in recess (the kids thought that was funny). So we sat in both galleries while I explained what happened in each room. We made our way down two levels and made noises from the bottom of the rotunda to hear the acoustics. And now we're sitting on Michigan Ave. (in Lansing, not Chicago), eating pizza and typing to you while hiding from the rain.


Quote of the Day

Megan: (When some of us were leaving the lake to get lunch) I'm not leaving this lake until I catch a fish.

Ian: (With the first little fish he caught) Can I keep him as a pet?

22 June 2008

One State Closer

We locked up the cabin and turned RIGHT at Hwy 108 for the first time--up the mountain instead of down toward home. The drive looked familiar until we passed Columns of the Giants. From there the road became as curvy as the entrance to Yosemite, just much less travelled. We wound up 3000 feet of elevation in 20 minutes. Then went down almost as rapidly, to the smell of burning brakes from the Mercedes wagon in front of us. At 9,500 feet we saw the tree line and a few patches of snow (our water source until the rains start again). On the other side of the mountains, the forest-green scenery switched to sage-green with large flat meadows. Gorgeous.

We were never officially welcomed to Nevada. We just knew we had made it because the gas pumps didn't have fume-collars and the mini-mart had slot machines. Ian was absolutely transfixed. I left him at the donut counter watching 3 people throw their money away while I picked up snacks. We also drove through the state capitol, Carson City; at which point Megan had cell phone reception and called all her friends! 30 minutes and a bit of freeway later and here we are at the airport hotel washing up and about to sleep for a 5 a.m. departure.


Quotes of the Day

Megan: (going around hairpin turns in the Sonora Pass) You can look, Mom. We won't go down the cliff. The trees will break our fall.

Ian: Ah, Nevada. Home of the slot machines.

20 June 2008


we got robbed on a wagon.The guy was weird. he told us to keep everything. which is very weird. he didn't see my purse. -C ya megan

From an Internet Cafe in Sonora, CA

(Yes, they do have an internet cafe in Sonora. Better than Rocklin!)

We're off to a roaring start. After a cinnamon-roll breakfast at Alicia's Sugar Shack, the kids and I went to Columbia State Historic Park. We'd been once before, but the last time was ten degrees hotter and four times as crowded. We rode on a mud wagon: so named because the lack of windows and doors allowed all the mud on the road to plaster the passengers. We were robbed by a bandit wearing a red kerchief...or we were almost robbed. He wasn't interested in our cameras or a lady's silver purse, so he told the driver to get us "yappin' Yankees into town to do some diggin'."

Once back to town we toured the fire house, bought sasparilla sodas, watched the lady blacksmith, then attended a street performance by jugglers. Kevin-the-Juggler was the same guy from last time, but he had a lovely sidekick this time. He must be making enough to add to his act:-) We were certainly rolling when he pulled out Mini-Mischief, a pantless baby doll dressed on top like a samurai. Kevin proceded to juggle Mini-Mischief (who screamed and complained) along with two bowling pins. Kevin also stood atop 2 trunks and a rolling balance board to juggle three knives...long curved knives. Ian was treated to juggling lessons after announcing to everyone that he had put $5 in the tip basket!

We finished by panning for gold in the cheap trough. No way I was going to pay $12 to guarantee my kids strike it rich. No guarantees for the miners, no guarantees for my kids learning about the miners!


Quotes of the Day

Ian: (While Kevin was pretending to struggle with cutting juggled apples with juggled knives) "Don't get stressed!"

Megan: (In response to all the comments Ian made loudly to Kevin) "Could we just leave him here?"

19 June 2008

And We're Off!

36 hours after we expected, we are finally starting our summer trek. We are going to the cabin tonight and spend a long weekend swimming and raking pine needles. Then Sunday we will drive through the Sonora Pass into Nevada on the way to Reno. Please note, the pile of carry-on luggage is all the kids and I are taking for our 7 week adventure. Not bad, huh?

Gotta go load the car,

Quotes of the Day

Megan: What do you mean you're not taking your laptop computer?!?

Ian: We're going to Reno? Let's stay at the Silver Legacy Casino!

17 June 2008

A Fine Kettle of Fish

Or: The best laid plans of mice and men go out with the baby's bathwater.

We were supposed to take the train this year. We were supposed to leave tomorrow. The kids and I were going to take a leisurely three days to roll along the countryside, drawing cartoons and listening to iPods all the way to Chicago. Then we were going to spend three days touring my favorite American city before taking another train to Michigan (and laugh at the construction-bound car traffic). Please note the past tense verbs in this paragraph.

In case you haven't heard, Iowa is flooded. Due to the flooding on highways and rails, there was no way between Omaha, NE and Springfield, IL -- at least not in a fashion that Ian (or I with Ian) could handle. So my ambling, low-stress, dream trip has morphed into a rushed, high-stress, nightmare trip: last minute plane tickets, a rental car, and the total lack of Giordano's pizza. Of course my misery is nothing compared to the victims of this disaster. So I'll stop whining now and briefly mention the last two adult-only trips I took in the last month.

The first was a 16th anniversary trip to the cabin with Kurt - no kids. We were pretty lazy most of the weekend, but we did find a lovely 5 mile trail in the South Grove of the Calaveras Big Trees. Kurt had never seen any giant redwoods prior to that. I discovered how much better it is to hike with trekking poles. SO much easier on the knees.

The second trip was with my mom for a belated Mother's Day celebration. We rented a sporty little car and drove all over Gold Country. We felt the cold of a glacier under shale. We ate a picnic overlooking a deep gorge. We even took the narrow road by a rusty sign that said "Mark Twain's Cabin." We weren't really sure what to expect, but we definitely didn't expect to find a cabin in a cage. I know there's a poem (at least a limerick) locked up in it somewhere. If my brain ever finds the key, I'll be sure to post the results.


Feel free to insert your own "Cabin in a Cage" joke or poem in the comments section below. Best one at the end of June gets a prize!

14 June 2008

Hi. Mom is letting me

Hi. Mom is letting me blog this summer, too! C ya- megan

Setting up mobile blogging

Since we will be on the train without computer access for large portions of our trip, I've set up mobile blogging. This means that whenever there is cell phone coverage, I (or Megan) will try to send short posts with pictures from our camera phones. The pictures will be lower quality than what I'm used to attaching, but it will keep all of us from having to play catch up after 3 days or so. Please excuse any misspellings or choppy sentences that may arise. My usual long posts will resume once I have access to a computer again.