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.