Saturday, July 28, 2007

The First Four Days

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandmother always went along with us on family vacations. My paternal grandfather died when I was almost 3 years old and with my dad being an only child, he and his family (me, my brother, and our mom) became the focus of her world. She was a wonderful grandmother and was pretty much happy and content doing whatever we wanted to do. She always brought some kind of journal along on our vacations (which we took every year) and recorded the things we did every day. I have now begun this same tradition. I recorded our Wisconsin Dells/Mall of America vacation in 2003 (when B1 was 6 and B2 was 3), then it was Disney World in 2004, Tennessee in 2005, Texas in 2006, and now this year's trip. Since we always travel at the same time of the year, I enjoy looking back and seeing what we were doing on the same date in previous years. This year, I have kept my journal on our laptop. When we get home, I will print it out and keep a hardcopy. So, following are the notes I have kept for the first four days of this year's trip:

July 25, 2007: We left home this morning at 4:08am with Mom and Dad following us. We got on I-70 east and drove until just on the other side of Indianapolis when we stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s. We continued driving on I-70 until we got to Columbus, Ohio and then took I-71 north. We arrived in Cleveland much earlier than we expected, at about 3pm, even with a 1-hour time change. We found a Super 8 Motel along I-90 on the west side of Cleveland and we booked 2 rooms. We then headed back downtown and ate supper at a restaurant called Flannery’s. It was OK but not as good as we expected it to be. We went to the Cleveland Indians baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. The 4 of us girls all wore red Cardinal shirts and we got a few funny looks from the fans there. The Indians won the game, 1-0. We liked the stadium and our seats were in right field, near the foul pole. We came back to our motel after the game and soon went to bed.

July 26, 2007: My hubby and I got up and walked for almost an hour this morning, outside. We came back and got cleaned up and everyone grabbed a little breakfast at the hotel. Mom and Dad headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while the 4 of us headed to Sandusky and Cedar Point. We first found our hotel for tonight and then went to the amusement park We first rode a roller coaster called the Blue Streak. B2 wasn’t too fond of it and I don’t think B1 really liked it either. We rode a lot of other rides all day long today as well as eating both lunch and dinner inside the park. We ate lunch at the Midway Market and dinner at a place called Macaroni’s. The weather today was beautiful though, almost cool at times. We didn’t have to spend a lot of money on drinks. We stayed at the park until closing time, which was 10pm. Then we came back to the hotel, brought all of our things in to our room, wrote out some postcards, and went to bed.

July 27, 2007: Today I got up about 8am and went to the hotel next door (also a part of Cedar Point) and did my walking on their treadmill. Bruce walked outside once I came back and took a shower. Then he showered, and we headed out. We went to the McDonald’s across the street and ate an early lunch, about 11am. Then we headed to Soak City, which is Cedar Point’s water park. It turned out to be a pretty cool place. The lines were not bad AT ALL (maybe we waited 10 minutes at the most) and there were many more slides than we expected. They had 10 regular water slides, 3 enclosed dark water slides, a wave pool, a family slide, 2 lazy rivers, 4 kids areas, and an adult area with a swim-up bar and hot tub (which we didn’t get to visit, by the way!). The best part was (and always seems to be, no matter what water park we are at) the Family Raft ride. It really took us up on the sides of the slide and made us laugh the entire time. I think we rode it 4 times! We stayed from about 11:45am until 8pm. Then we went to a Dave’s Famous BBQ Restaurant right outside the park for dinner. Yum! Came back to the hotel and met back up with Mom and Dad, who are now here with us and will be for the remainder of the trip. Went to bed about midnight.

July 28, 2007: Today we all got up and got going by 9:30am. We had a quick breakfast and then headed to Cedar Point. The girls went with Mom and Dad today so my hubby and I could ride our hearts out on all the roller coasters and everything else that the girls won’t ride! We went on lot of stuff! We rode one coaster that is over 300 feet high. That one had the longest wait, which was just over an hour. Everything else we rode was pretty reasonable as far as wait time is concerned. B1 even rode the “Tower Power” ride with me, which was a big surprise! She liked it enough that we rode it twice. It’s a ride where they shoot you up 260 feet and then drop you back down that same distance. She’s still not so sure about the coasters though, but at least my hubby will ride those with me. We avoided the upside ones though, but there were plenty of others to make us happy. One of them was similar to Space Mountain at Disney World. I wanted to ride a coaster called "Top Thrill Dragster" but the line was always over 1.5 hours long. We met Mom and Dad and the girls for dinner at 6pm and then after that, they left and came back to the hotel and swam. My hubby and I stayed but didn’t end up riding anything else much. We bought some souvenirs and had an ice cream snack. We came back to the hotel by 9pm. Tomorrow will be a long driving day towards Cooperstown.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nice Surprise

Today for lunch, we met a few friends at our county fair, held in Highland, IL. When my husband was younger, he fell in love with the pizzas that are served at this fair, and now our entire family loves them. I chose, however, to run through McDonald's drive-thru first and grab myself a sald. I guess I decided to be "good" with my food intake today since I know I ate way too much last night at Ponderosa. Anyway, I ordered an Asian salad with grilled chicken and Sesame Ginger salad dressing. I love salads anyway, so it takes a lot for a salad to be "ruined" for me, but much to my surprise, I really liked this salad. I have been label reading lately and was shocked to read that 2 TBS of Kraft Catalina Light has only 1 gram of fat as opposed to 2 TBS of regular Hidden Valley Ranch, which has a whopping 14 grams of fat! That's quite a difference. The dressing I ate today had 2.5 grams in the entire package. But the salad itself contained lettuce, snow peas, red pepper, soy beans, mandarin oranges, carrots, and maybe one or two other ingredients. I also usually have to have two packets of dressing when I go to McDonald's, but today only allowed myself one, and it was the perfect amount. I now have a new favorite when I go to Micky-D's with my kids!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Season is Over

Well, B1's softball season is done for this year. We lost today, 2-1. I could ramble and ramble for awhile about my opinion of the umpires and such, but what's the point? They played well and they all tried hard so that's what counts.

Tonight is night #2 of the Homecoming in our town. This has been a tradition since way before I was ever thought of, as it is in many small towns in this part of the state. When I was growing up, we never took our family vacation until after the homecoming. My parents were of the mindset that if we (the kids) were part of a ball team, then you stay around until the season is over. Seems that always happened around the time of the homecoming, so then we stayed through the homecoming. Now, I guess I am of the same mindset. Funny how traditions start that way.

Both of our daughters will be riding a float tonight in the parade. I also remember how exciting it was to be asked to be on a float, almost like an honor or something! You get to see everyone, and they get to see you! You get to practice your wave and throwing abilities with the candy! I see a lot of what I used to love about the homecoming coming through in my was and now is for them very exciting to see which rides would be available to ride on each year; you wonder if your favorite food stand will be in its usual place, and just how many people you may see who have had a bit too much to drink!

But for me, the best part of the Homecoming has always been the anticipation of what was going to happen the following week.....VACATION! This year is no exception as we leave for our 13-day adventure on Wednesday, the 25th!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Illinois Amish Country

First of all, for those of you interested, B1's softball team got rained out tonight. There is still the possibility of two games left. The first of those will take place now on Saturday morning at 10am. If a second game is necessary, I believe the date that has been set aside is AUGUST 6!!! Yeah, like 2.5 weeks away! The reasoning behind this makes some sense, but I personally think we should just play 2 games on Saturday and get it over with. We could play at 10am and again at maybe 6pm to give the girls a break in between games. But anyway........once again, we'll see what happens.

Okay, now about my trip on Wednesday to Amish country. What a cool experience! I of course have seen Amish people while on family vacations all over the country. However, I have never seen them in their own "comfort zone" if you will. We drove through Arcola, IL and then on a 2-lane highway towards Arthur, IL. We stopped at two places along the way. The first place was a craft sort of store and no, there were no lights in the place. I especially looked at the ceiling to make sure I wasn't imagining things. I did see a gas fixture with mantles, similar to the gas light that is in my front yard, but it wasn't burning while we were there. We then stopped at a grocery store and most of the items there were not brand name. Even their snack aisle contained potatoe chips and tortilla chips that I had never heard of. Many of the items were packaged locally and closed with a simple twist-tie like we use on bread wrappers. I noticed too that all the establishments have places where a horse might be hitched. These are things you just don't see every day and it was really cool to experience. We ate lunch at R&I Restaurant in Arthur, which I'm guessing from the way it appeared is a townie restaurant. We got a few strange looks as we entered but no one actually stared at us. There were several Amish people eating there as well. The food was very good and very cheap. I had a grilled chicken breast sandwich, a side salad, and a diet coke for only $5.26. You can hardly eat that cheap at McDonald's! We then browsed in a few stores in Arthur which were not run by Amish people and eventually made our way to the outlet mall in Tuscola. I made more purchases than I set out to do, but I feel that all were warranted. My hubby might not so much agree.

I really enjoyed seeing the Amish children running around their yards, playing. They had bicycles, dolls, doll buggies, etc. It's sad that our own children don't play the way they do. It was also very interesting to notice how so many of their homes look very "pieced together." I assume that as their families continue to grow, so must their homes. You can tell by looking where more and more parts have been added on. I think there was one home that looked as if three houses had been built but then eventually they all connected! We passed several horse-and-buggies on the roads and saw many Amish people on their bicycles on the roads. I also loved seeing all the clothes hanging on their clothes lines, blowing in the wind of what was a beautiful day.

After I told my family about my experience, my oldest daughter was interested and curious about the Amish people. I told her that I had seen a book in one of the stores we were in that I almost bought for her. She enjoys learning about different cultures and people and always has many questions about it. I thought that she might enjoy the book better, however, had she been there to experience it herself.

For the past two years, for Mother's Day, we have taken my hubby's mom on a day-long "mystery trip." We don't tell her where we are going to try to make her guess, which is fun for the girls as well as us. Last year, we went on a riverboat ride on the Mississippi, then drove up into northern St. Charles County in Missouri and across the ferry into Illinois, down the river road for a stop in Grafton to eat at the Finn Inn, and on home. This year, we did a train ride to Springfield, IL and saw many of the Lincoln sites. I am thinking now that next year's trip will involve the Illinois Amish Country.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

B1's softball team won their playoff game tonight, 3-2! It was a pretty exciting game. She pitched the first two innings, allowing both of the other team's runs. Then two other girls came in and pitched and did wonderfully to carry us through the game. B1 played first after she pitched and she does a really good job in that position. Next game: Thursday night against the #1 team. If we beat them, we would have to play them again on Saturday since the final tournament is double-elimination and they have not lost yet while we have lost once. Keep your fingers crossed...........

I am going with two girlfriends to Tuscola, IL tomorrow to the outlet mall there. It's not huge like the one at Lake of the Ozarks but for central Illinois, it will do just fine. We also plan to go to the Amish country in Arthur and Arcola, IL. We will pass right by my college town, Charleston, on the way and it will kill me not to drive through there and go to Jimmy John's for a sub! I absolutely love the Big John with extra mayo! Those sandwiches are probably where most of my college weight came from.........seriously! The Jimmy John's store in Charleston is the ORIGINAL one and even though we have them much closer to home now, there's nothing like going back "home" to the Charleston store for me. Oh, the memories..........

We are also having our new bedroom furniture delivered tomorrow, while I am not home! But I think I have instructed my hubby about exactly where everything should be, so I'm sure he will do just fine. I look forward to tomorrow evening when I get to "move in to" my new dresser. Thursday the new living room carpet is being installed. Our house is completely torn up right now and looks terrible but it will be great when we are through! B1's new bedroom in the basement is coming along as well. She and her dad painted some of it today so she is getting very excited about it!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Finally a win!

B2's softball team finally won their first game this season tonight by 5 runs! Unfornately, it was also their last game of the season, but at least it ended on a good note. She had been struggling at the plate almost all season but finally these last few games, she has come around. Tonight, she went 3-4 so that was awesome! Also, tonight B1's team played in the playoffs. She wasn't so lucky. They lost by 3 runs and are now on the verge of elimination. The next time they lost, they are done. If they would happen to win their next 3 games, they would be the champs. Next game tomorrow night. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hair hair everywhere


We got a new dog in April. Our other dog, a miniature dachshund named Barney, who we had for 12 years, died on Feb. 12. He had diabetes for over a year and it finally got the best of him, shutting down his organs. Anyway, in April, one of my students was looking to find someone to adopt her dog. I took one look at the flyer she had made up and decided that this dog was for us. She is a Shiba Inu (which is actually a Japenese breed of dog) named Xin Zi Guo Mei. Yeah, that's right, Xin Zi Guo Mei. I think it's a Chinese name because the student is Chinese. They called her Shinza for short and so we decided that would be her full name in our family. We brought her home on April 21.

On April 28, after exactly one week of living in our house, she promptly decided that she needed to explore her new neighborhood and took off down the block as we tried to let her into the house. She was gone for 11 hours and I was scared. I called the former owners to inform them about what had happened because I wondered if she might try to find her way back "home" (or at least to the home she had known for almost 4 years). But eventually, 11 hours later, she came back to her new home. We spent a lot of time during the day searching for her and did actually see her at two different times but were unable to coax her back to our house. I had left at about 6pm to go to prom and my husband called me at about 8pm yelling into the phone "we got her, she's home!!!".

This dog sheds so much more than Barney ever did. I guess he did shed, but we certainly didn't notice it so much because he had little short red hairs. Shinza has longer hair and about a month ago, if you gently grabbed her coat, chances are that you would get a handful of hair. I think the shedding has slowed as of late. I hope so.

I really shouldn't complain. She is a very sweet dog and I have fallen in love with her. She loves to be petted and she loves to play ball and frisbee in the yard. At night, if my hubby and I don't go to bed at the same time, she will lay on one side of our bed until we are both there. Then I guess she thinks it's simply too crowded to try to fight for a spot! She is a nice addition to our family. However, I have found that it is difficult to go into a store and buy merchandise with a Shiba Inu on it. A dachshund was EASY, but not this breed. I am able to find some stuff on e-bay though, so that's good. I still miss my buddy Barney though. He was my first baby and will always have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Some people can be so RUDE!

I am currently enrolled in a graduate class through Rockford College. I am, however, taking the class at a site in southern Illinois. It's a week-long class and we meet every day from 8-5, although the instructor has let us out early every day so far (smile!). Anyway, the class consists of 27 teachers of all different varieties (pre-K, elementary school, middle school, high school, regular ed, special ed, etc.) and today, two of the women who teach at the same school couldn't have been more rude. They sat in the back of the room (which isn't super-big, by the way) and basically carried on their own conversation while the instructor was trying to talk. The instructor is an extremely nice man who I don't believe would have it in him to ask them to be quiet. BUT HE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO! We are all teachers for Pete's sake and we should know what it is like to try to talk while someone else is talking. UGH! What's more, do people not realize how to put their cell phones on silent mode? I don't understand how a room full of adults can have their phones going off constantly. How can we expect our students to behave the way we want them to when we don't model that behavior ourselves?

Monday, July 9, 2007

The first one!

I am Beth, just another midwestern gal who is trying to do things right for her family. I am happily married and the mother of 2 beautiful daughters. I am lucky because I have a job that I love at my former high school, teaching the subject that I was always best at: math. I have recently gotten into reading the blogs of others and felt a desire to begin my own, so here goes! I welcome any comments that any of you might have.