Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blogger Awards and Thanks to Grandma J

So, the last time I updated, I was pondering who to give the blogger award to. And even though a couple of these sights don't even know that I stalk them, I would like to send them some readers (because it's always nice to get a comment from someone you don't know). So, here are my five blogs to recommend:

My first is Not Quite What I Had Planned. I first started following her writings when her daughter was going through chemo and she was writing on caringbridge. Once her daughter finished treatment, she started a blog and has a HUGE following. She's probably already gotten this award and she really doesn't need any other readers (and some of you already read her site), but I love the way she writes and think you will, too.

The second one is another one I followed from caringbridge to her blog. Her daughter also had cancer, but her daughter did not survive. They've been through a lot. Although I've never met her in person, she is a wonderful person who still tries to help others who have children battling cancer. So go on over to Midgets and Moonpies.

The third blog is one I stalk. As most of you know, I do marathons, triathlons and bike rides. I like to read blogs of others who do the same. This girl I found over at www.beginnertriathlete.com. She first started posting there while still stationed overseas and when she got back home, she hit the ground running - literally. Her blog is appropriately titled, The Driven Pursuit. So go on over and thank her for serving our country and then be amazed at what she does.

The fourth blog is another friend of mine who I first met through her son's caringbridge site. Then I met her in person and we've become friends. She's also a runner and one day we WILL run a marathon together. She use to live in Texas but moved to Utah. She has a wonderful family. And she does so much, she makes me look like I have nothing to do. So go on over and Keep Up With The Joneses.

Now for the fifth and final site. And I'm going to cheat a little here and recommend a caringbridge site instead of the traditional blog. I found out about this little girl from a friend of mine. Elizabeth was just RECENTLY diagnosed (like within the last two weeks) with leukemia. Her family could use a lot of encouragement and prayers and I know that you all will know what to do. www.caringbridge.org/visit/sweetelizabeth

Like I said in the beginning, it's always nice to see comments from new readers. And that's where I want to thank Grandma J. She wrote a post that earned her thousands of hits from google and some of those readers even came over to check out my site. None of them wrote any comments, but I did get some more hits. So thanks, Grandma J, for sending readers my way. And if you've found me from some other site, leave a comment and let me know.

Ok, now I'm off to yoga. Ahhhhh......

Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm Glad It's The Weekend

Since I've been such a bad blogger lately, I am a little behind. I noticed in my guest book that Heart Shaped Hedges has bestowed upon me the Arte di Pico Award. Really, she did. And here is what it looks like:

I'm very honored to receive the award, because that means I have at least one reader (ok, I know I have a few more, but not as many as some of you do). Anyway, since I've now been given this award, I'm suppose to bestow the award on 5 other bloggers. The problem is that since I'm so behind in my blogging most of the blogs I read have already received this award. So I'm going to have to do some research to see if any of the blogs I read HAVEN'T been given this award. I know there are a couple, but I want to find 5. I think it's neat when a new person signs my blog, so I want to send people to other people's blogs as well.
In other news, things have slowed down a little, but still not a lot. My daughter had a volleyball game at church Thursday night and a volleyball clinic Friday night. She's hoping to make the school team in the fall, so we are trying to get her all the help we can.
In fun news, my company basically shut down and took us all to see Batman: The Dark Night at the IMAX today. There were a couple of extra tickets, so I was able to take the kids. And while the movie was good and my kids (12 and 9) loved it, it may not be for everyone's kids. There is a lot of violence and some profanity as well. We've been pretty open with our kids about things and have explained from a very early age that TV, movies and video games are not real (yes, at age 3 my son was watching Jurassic Park because he loved dinosaurs and we forgot about the part where the guy is in the outhouse and gets eaten by the dinosaur - it was an early age for the reality vs. entertainment lecture, but it has helped over the years).
Tomorrow we have a wedding to go to. Several years back my husband served as interim youth director for several months after our youth director left. It took a while to find someone we thought would fit with the church, so my husband served that role for a time. One of the young men who was in youth group at that time has since graduated from high school and college, gone off to seminary school, gotten engaged, and will be getting married Saturday night. It's very exciting, but kind of makes me feel old. Where does the time go?
And speaking of time going by, I've got my high school reunion coming up the weekend of August 1-3. People have been posting their pictures on our class web site and that's been fun to see. It will be even better to see everyone in person.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm Here - Really I Am!

Good grief, where has July gone???? The last time I blogged, we had just gotten home from a special trip with my son and were waiting for my daughter to come home from her trip to Italy and Greece.

Wednesday, July 2nd I tracked her flight almost all day and toward evening noticed it was scheduled to come in almost an hour early. That NEVER happens, but we were very happy as we weren't excited about getting in bed in the wee hours of the morning. So a little after 9pm we headed for the airport. My husband made fun of me because we were the first parents to arrive. I was ready to see my daughter.

Their plane did indeed land almost an hour early, but the leaders did one final meeting outside the gate when they got off the plane so it took them a while to come down the stairs to the baggage claim area where all the parents were anxiously waiting with banners, balloons and flowers. It was great to finally get a hug from her. We had already grabbed her suitcase and made a quick exit to head home.

Once we got home she had to give us our souveniers. I was actually really proud of her. She only bought one cheesy gift and that was for her brother and she actually came home with 15 euros, which is 15 more than I expected her to come home with. She bought her brother some kind of play rat that flattens when you throw it on the ground and then it gets its shape back. She also bought him a t-shirt from the turtle farm and a necklace from Greece. I got a calendar of Greece (showing many of the places she went - and it IS a 2009 calendar), a heart shaped necklace, a ceramic cat from the pottery place in Sicily, and a ring made from volcanic ash from Mt. Etna. My husband got a good luck charm. She also bought both grandmothers a necklace and bought each of the female cousins some jewelry. She also managed to send post cards to everyone on her list, including her orthodontist, ear doctor and eye doctor. I thought she did well. After receiving our gifts, we headed to bed around 12:30am.

I had to work on Thursday and then had a meeting after work Thursday evening. While I was at my meeting, my husband downloade all her pictures. All 600+ pictures. When I got home, I ran through the slide show quickly because my parents had come over to see her. We got some t-shirts from them because they had been to Alaska. Then I washed and packed because Friday, July 4th, we headed to my mother-in-law's house. The kids left Saturday morning with their cousins for church camp. They got done with camp on Tuesday and stayed with my mother-in-law until Friday when my husband picked them up.

In the meantime, I was spending every free moment planning for the Chrysalis that I was in charge of. Chrysalis is a 3 day spiritual weekend for youth in high school. I've worked teams the past few years, but this year I was in charge. There was a lot to do and it was the first time in a long time that I went almost a week without running. But the Chrysalis went well and was a lot of fun.

I got home Sunday and went to bed early. Last night I got on the treadmill and ran 4 miles and it felt good. Tonight is yoga night and I'm ready. Then it's time to get back on track with training and figure out a schedule that works. I'd like to do the Longhorn Half Ironman again this October and am considering the San Antonio marathon in November. But I've got to get back to training if I'm going to do those.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Little Getaway With Our Son

When we found out that my daughter would be spending 20 days in Greece and Italy this summer, we decided that we would take my son on a special little trip. We asked what he wanted to do and at first he asked if we could take a cruise. That would have been nice, but I didn't feel comfortable being out in the middle of the sea when my daughter was half way across the world. If there was an emergency, there would be no way to reach us. So, we told him we'd do a family cruise, but he needed to pick somewhere in the continental US. At first he said he wanted to go to Disney World. Now, I love Disney and wouldn't have minded going back, but told him to think about it. I know at some point that his sister is going to use the "I've been to Italy and you haven't" card. If went went to Disney, he couldn't use the "I've been to Disney and you haven't" card because we went on a family trip to Disney a few years ago. I encouraged him to think of a place she hasn't been.

It didn't take him long to decide where he wanted to go. Our family LOVES roller coasters and amusement parks. In fact, if we had lots of money and no jobs, I'd no doubt be a member of the Roller Coaster Enthusiast Club (or whatever it is) and would travel all over visiting the various parks. We've watched the coaster specials on the travel channel before and had seen Cedar Point. We also have friends who are originally from Ohio who have said Cedar Point was awesome. And that, my friends, is where my son wanted to go. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

Being the type A person that I am, I started researching Cedar Point on the Internet. Sandusky is located on the north coast of Ohio about half way between Toledo and Cleveland. You can't fly into Sandusky. So I checked into flying into Toledo, Cleveland, and Columbus just to see what the rates were. Toledo was the highest and Columbus was the cheapest. I also did research on what else was in those cities that we might like to experience. I ruled Toledo out real quick. But Cleveland and Columbus both offered things we would like. Ultimately I decided we would fly into Columbus, drive to Cleveland, spend a few days, drive back to Columbus and fly home. This is what the trip turned into:

Wednesday, June 25th

We woke up this morning at our normal time, but instead of heading to work, we headed to the airport. Even though we booked our tickets before the charge for checked bags started, we decided to do only carry on luggage for this trip. We each had a small rolling suitcase. My husband and son had those drawstring backpacks and I had a normal backpack (since mom's always have to carry extra stuff - like the tickets, snacks for the plane, etc). It was a bit of a challenge with the 3oz limit on liquids and the one quart size bag per person. I wear contacts, so I had to put an extra thing of lens solution in my son's bag, but we managed.

When we landed in Columbus, we got our rental car and headed to Cleveland. We took our TomTom with us and I had addresses for everywhere we needed to be, so we were good. We were amazed at the height of the trees and the farmland we saw. Real farmland. Working farmland. Not just lots of empty land. We got rained on a bit, but not much. (The forecast for the entire trip was 40% chance of rain - more on this later).

We arrived at our hotel, which was actually in Independence, checked in, let my son swim for a bit, then went to grab some dinner at the Winking Lizard. The Winking Lizard was kind of a sports bar. After a certain hour, no one under 21 was allowed unless they were with a parent. My son was ok. The 18-20 year olds that kept trying to get in were not. And they weren't happy that my son was allowed. Ha! We sat in the dining part rather than the bar part, and the vacation started. We ordered some beer-battered onion rings for an appetizers and then proceeded to eat too much food. My son even got dessert. Ugghh. We were all so stuffed that when we got back to the hotel I made myself go to the gym and get on the treadmill. And it seemed easier running on that treadmill than my one at home. What's up with that? After the run on the treadmill, it was time to sleep. We had a big day the next day.

Thursday, June 26th

We woke up and ate the free breakfast at the hotel. It was just fine for us. They even had hot chocolate for me. Then we set off for Sandusky and a full day of roller coasters. It wasn't a bad little drive - about an hour (but we are use to that here). We were very excited as we approached. We got there just a little before opening, but it gave us a good place in line.

When the park opened, we headed straight for the Milennium Force. After a 310 foot climb, you head down at 92mph. Wahoo! That's my kind of ride. Then is was on to the Maverick, the Iron Dragon, the Mantis, the Wicked Twister, the Raptor, the Corkscrew, Maxair, and the best of all - the Top Thrill Dragster.

The Top Thrill Dragster takes you 420 feet into the air, pretty much straight up, at 120mph and then plummets you down the other side, pretty much straight down. The ride lasts a whopping 17 seconds. Awesome! I was afraid my son would be scared, but he loved it.

In between all the rides, we did manage to eat lunch at Johnny Rockets and then ride the Space Spiral and Giant Wheel to let our food digest. We also let my son play a few games and win a stuffed animal for his sister. I didn't get to ride the magnum XL-200 because it was closed. I guess that just means we have to go back. We didn't really think the park was crowded and it wasn't as hot as it can get when visiting an amusement park here in the middle of summer. We were able to ride all we wanted to ride by about 5:30. And it's a good thing we did, because the wind really picked up and you could tell a storm was blowing in (the park is on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Erie). We decided to leave and find a place to eat. After burgers (veggie ones for me) and fries the past two meals, I needed salad. We found an Olive Garden and had some yummy food. Then we headed back to Cleveland.

Friday, June 27th

We slept in a little bit this morning, ate the free breakfast at the hotel and then headed off for the "A Christmas Story" museum. For those of you who have seen the movie, the actual house where the movie (at least the outside scenes) were filmed is in Cleveland. I found that out during my Internet search of things to do in Cleveland. That movie is one of my husband's all time favorite movies and we couldn't go all that way without stopping there. I felt kind of silly pulling up, wondering if we would be the only ones there. Nope someone else was already there and another person pulled up shortly thereafter. A couple of more people made it in time for our 10:30 tour. Before the tour, we visited the gift shop and museum. The museum has some neat things, but flashes weren't allowed. I can turn my flash off, but the pictures don't turn out well, so no pictures. At the house during the tour, however, flash was encouraged. We got some great pictures of and in the house, including the infamous leg lamp! Then we went back to the gift shop. I knew we wouldn't get out of there empty handed. We each got a shirt. My husband and son got the "tongue stuck to the lamppost" shirt, I got the generic boring shirt, and we got my daughter the "fra-gil-e" - it's Italian shirt. It seemed appropriate since she was in Italy.

Our next stop was suppose to be the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. We got there, went inside and saw that they wouldn't even let you take cameras (or cell phones with cameras) in. You had to check them. Ummm. Not going to happen. I don't mind not taking pictures, but I'm not going to leave my camera with you and I'm certainly not leaving my cell phone with you when my daughter is half way across the world. The Great Lakes Science Center was right next door and we figured my son would have a better time there anyway. So we went next door. We caught an Omnimax movie about Mars which was very interesting and then spent a few hours going through the exhibits and hands-on activities. I think he had fun. While we were right there, we also walked over to the Cleveland Browns stadium for a picture. Then we headed downtown.

Our activity for the evening was a Cleveland Indian baseball game vs. the Cincinnati Reds. We found parking next to Progressive field and then found a place to eat dinner. After dinner it was back to the field to watch some batting practice. My son got a ball. Once they opened the rest of the stadium, we headed to our seats. And then we found out the game was going to be rain delayed due to impending weather. We got up under the sheltered part and waited. We even bought those lovely, expensive panchos to wear. The game started an hour late. It did rain off and on throughout the game, so I'm glad we had the ponchos. We got to see a great catch in centerfield, a home run, and Ken Griffy, Jr. play for the Reds. Cleveland won 6-0. And I did just like the songs says and had some peanuts AND cracker jacks. We got back to the hotel late and went to bed.

Saturday, June 28th

Woke up this morning and ate the free breakfast again. Then we checked out and headed to Columbus. Our first stop - the Columbus Zoo. We had heard this was an awesome zoo and we were not disappointed. This is Jack Hanna's zoo for those of you familiar with Animal Planet. There were some great animals and the zoo is really laid out well. I was taking lots of pictures. I was excited because we were getting close to the gorillas (which is one of my favorites) and I got the "battery empty" message. What? I had charged it the night before knowing that I'd want a full battery today. Not sure what happened, but no more pictures after that. It took us a few hours to see everything. We stopped on our way out for a funnel cake and then headed to our hotel to check in.

When I booked hotels, I got input from my husband and son (as well as from hotels.com and tripadvisor.com). My son wanted an indoor pool at this hotel and that's what he got. And it's a good thing. I took him down to the pool and you could see from the windows a storm blowing in. It poured! And the wind gust were probably 40mph. But once it blew through, it was gone and that was a good thing. Because we had plans for the night.

Our Saturday activity was a Columbus Crew major league soccer game. My son LOVES soccer. He has jerseys of some of his favorite players and he was excited about this game. The atmosphere was awesome. When we pulled up there were many tailgaters. And almost everyone had on yellow (Columbus' color). I felt out of place and was tempted to buy me a shirt. I passed on a shirt for me, but we bought my son a jersey. We had great seats. 7th row at midfield. We could see the players up close. And we were sitting around a lot of season ticket holders. Nice. The lady next to us even gave my son a nice Columbus Crew drawstring backpack. And Columbus pulled off the win. Fun times.

Sunday, June 29th
Got up early this morning and headed back to the airport for our flight home. And then it was laundry, pay bills, wade through the 100+ emails I had, etc. I knew we were home. We had a great time. We called my daughter, who was in Rome by now. She was still having a great time, but did sound a little homesick to me. I asked if she wanted us to call again or just see her Wednesday night at the airport when she gets home. She said she would see us when she gets home. So tomorrow night at 11:30pm her flight will land (if it's on time). It will be good to have the family all together again. Even if it will be for only a couple of days (the kids leave Friday for church camp with their cousins).