Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jacob Allen



Today I got to hold Jacob Allen in his hospital room, at just over 24 hours old and 7.8 pounds. He came yesterday via C-Section (planned, he's Gretchen's second). He's such a doll, he made the cutest little chirping noises and was just a happy little boy. I've held quite a few babies in the last few years (a feel a bit like a politician, except I am enjoying it a lot more), but I don't know the last time I held one that was a day old...probably a cousin or two a few decades ago :O). I'm excited that he lives so close. He's one in a long line of babies being born right now to friends. He's a cutie....I can't wait to meet the rest of the little baby boys being born soon...and revisiting the little ones growing up like summer weeds. If any of you ever have a girl, I have a slew of potential little guys to introduce them to when they are say....30 or so :O).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Curriculum Chaos


This is the sort of thing I pass when walking around the house.....I guess Lilly is serious about keeping me at home now that I'm here....which shouldn't be too much of a problem considering the magnitude of the project I just took on. I got a call this week from one of the 'big wigs' in the district to come and look at some new SS materials they bought for the district......she said she'd like me to help align it with what they currently have and integrate it with the LA/R project.....I had no idea how HUGE this project was....and I'm just glad I've already gone on my summer vacation....I have a feeling Max, Lilly and I will be spending a lot of time together as I muddle through trying to put all the puzzle pieces together-I'm a little nervous because it's a project with a big impact that culminates in a really scary presentation. I've done a lot of presentations in the past, but it's a new level with a bigger impact.....with the potential for a lot of groans-I'm just thinking how I would feel on the other end, but on this end, I also see my hands are tied. It's not a matter of creating new material for them-but it's supposed to be about using what they bought (pre-consulting any teachers) with what they already have (that's not entirely popular). It should be an interesting July!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Santa Fe


After all I saw, it's amazing to think I can sum of the places so quickly, but I figured I didn't need to blog about ALL the sites, just the main ones, though I did skim over some very interesting little quirks along the road. I'm now on the last stop before home-Santa Fe. We arrived in Santa Fe to some really horrendous rain. Once we got checked in, we headed down to a place I read about previously called Cowgirl BBQ and Hall of Fame. The atmosphere was fun, and the food was great. We drove around a bit, but most of the shops were closed for the day, so we made an early night of it and went back out to the Plaza that runs along the old Santa Fe Trail the next morning. We spent a lot of the morning shopping and site seeing, and I found a lot of little goodies in the little stores lining the Plaza. Santa Fe is a really cute place (it's the capital city for anyone studying up....) the houses are built of adobe, and there is a lot of scenic locations to investigate. In the pm we drove around some of the other sites, and then the next day we headed on home. Now I have 1100 plus pictures to sort through after driving 4,210.9 miles and I'm looking forward to organizing and scrapbooking all the adventures.....and collecting a few more stories and pictures before the summer is complete.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Aspen


Once in Colorado we spent time in Aspen shopping and then we rode up the mountain in one of these puppies. It was something I wanted to do last time I was in Aspen a few winters ago, but never got around to doing....though I tend to forget that I'm not a huge fan of airborne heights. The view was out of this world, but it was the dangling a few hundred feet in the air, riding 12,000 feet up, swinging side to side part for 10+ minutes that got to me a little. Overall, it was well worth the journey up-we got to the top, took some pictures, walked around in the snow, ate lunch with an incredible view and had a good time. After our ride down we drove to Glenwood Springs to a hot springs fed pool that is two blocks long. The main part of the pool is heated to 90 degrees year round (or rather cooled down because the hot springs is much warmer than that) and then there is a really large area that is heated to 104. We swam for a few hours (or floated and chatted) and then headed back to eat dinner at the river near where we were staying. After two nights in Colorado we headed out towards Santa Fe-this leg of the journey was the most terrifying by far. We ended up going through a few mountain passes, the first one being Independence Pass right outside of Aspen that is closed in the winter due to snow-which it still was covered with, though it was melting, and very interesting to see it rushing down the mountains in seasonal waterfalls. The roads were narrow-so much so that one car was a tight fit-we were fortunate not to pass any other cars on those parts. The speed limits tended to stay around 15 mph, and the drops were sheer....and very....very....very scary! I don't know how people handle this. I was NOT driving, or I probably would have been pushing my car through the 40 mile pass. We passed a ghost town-which was pretty interesting, and paused at the summit. The trip down was less of a story, but I'm NOT a mountain driver....or apparently much of a mountain passenger either.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Yellowstone/Grand Tetons/Jackson Hole


We headed Northwest from SD, I wanted to make sure I could check North Dakota off my list of places. I'm sure I'll head back there someday, but I don't know when, so I wanted to hit the state while it was close at hand. From ND we went through Montana. It was really interesting to see how UNPOPULATED so many of the places are in the middle of the country after living in the suburbs of a big city birthing more suburbs all the time! It was a long drive (14 hours before all the stops). We stayed in West Yellowstone at a cute little hotel complete with wooden banisters, grand stair cases and animal heads on the wall (which seemed to be the theme from SD through NM). The weather report was predicting up to 6 inches of snow for the first full day, and the temperatures were dropping. Realistically, I knew this wasn't unusual for June, but I'd still gambled and mainly packed for warm weather activities, so it was a chilly couple of days. We didn't get the 6 inches of snow, though we did get some snow flurries, and lots....and lots....of rain. To summarize some pretty spectacular National Park activities-we saw all the typical things (Old Faithful and all her steamy friends, mud buddies and little spit fire cousins) and we also encountered a TON of animals-the babies were out in full force given the season. We personally saw 5 bears, a couple ton of buffalo (including an hour long traffic jam and some close encounters) and their cute little babies, a moose and her baby 'cow', elk, a bald eagle and her nest, a litter of coyote puppies, a fox, and a lot of deer and their babies (on the roadsides). The animals were my favorite part. The first two days were really rainy and cold, but by the third day as we headed through the Grand Tetons to Jackson Hole things cleared up for the morning, though there was a pretty steady downpour in the afternoon as we shopped around Jackson Hole. The pictures I got weren't too fabulous, but the memories are, and the lack of great shots gives me a reason to head back soon!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

South Dakota


...after leaving Chimney Rock we headed out through the Black Hills (they looked more like mountains to me) of South Dakota-it was truly gorgeous scenery. The drive was lengthy, but interesting, and after arriving in Keystone, SD-a really cute little western town where we spent two evenings I decided to head over to Mount Rushmore 'just to see it.' I planned on driving by-but ended up driving into the park-where it just so happened they were going to have their evening lighting ceremony, which I had thought sounded pretty interesting when we were researching each site before the trip. We grabbed a quick dinner at the restaurant at the monument and then headed out for the story behind the monument, and the selection process that went into decided whose face would be carved in stone. It was pretty cool, and I was actually more impressed with Mount Rushmore than I thought I would be. I was looking forward to seeing it because it seemed like it was something 'worth visiting' once, but it was a lot larger, and a lot prettier than I thought-I had also heard previously that it was built in that particular location to draw people to the area, and I think the whole area has enough beauty and charm to tempt people without the monument, but the monument was really cool too and is an extra bonus. The next morning we headed back up to the monument for another look, and we took a trail under the monument to get some unusual views, and we got a little exercise via stairs before heading out towards Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse was interesting because it's a work in progress, but other than that-it was a little too pricey to really do more than 'glance' at it, so we headed back towards Keystone, by way of Custer State Park. We took the 'short loop' through the park and bipasssed the area that the animals were supposed to be grazing at that time, but we happened along a small cluster of buffalos-which was pretty exciting. To my knowledge I had never seen a buffalo before (except on the occasional menu option)-and we weren't expecting to see any on that day. After the buffalo we ran across a 'donkey jam' 25+ donkeys had stopped traffic and a lot of people had hopped out to pet the wild donkeys. Monkey see-monkey do=Holly and I joined the herd and petted the donkeys and their cute little babies. They seemed more interested in food and kept sticking their heads in the windows of the cars looking for some snacks. We headed back to town through winding mountains (some might call hills?) sheer drops, one lane tunnels and one really breathtaking view of Mount Rushmore from a distance...and some rain). Once back in town we ate, shopped, rested, ate and then slept to begin the journey again the next day.

He Had It Coming

I interupt this trip report to bring you some news from 'day to day' life. Today I marked one of the 101 things I wanted to do off my list (I think I've previously mentioned that I made a list awhile back with trip locations to visit (or revisit), movies I wanted to watch, books I wanted to read, and restaurants etc I wanted to go to-both big, and small). One of the locations on my list was the Old Mills Restaurant at Fair Park in Dallas. It's only open on select days, and it's not a restaraunt you hop on down to any ole time given it's location in the middle of a bunch of museums downtown, AND when I go to Fair Park for the fair each fall-I'm too busy eating fair food to eat there. BUT TODAY I finally ate there-and it was some great homecooking! I had the best chicken fried chicken (granted-I don't eat a lot of it) and gravy I've ever had. The rolls were great too (usually the bread is the place I start when ranking a restaurant). After lunch Mom, Lois, Holly and I headed on over to see the musical Chicago-this is a great season for summer musicals in Dallas, and I hope it's not the last of the ones I get to see this year. It was really cute, and for those of you who have seen it before-"Cue my exit music now...."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska


We started out the trip heading north into Oklahoma. On a spur of the moment we decided to eat at the lodge at Lake Murray, Oklahoma. Each member of the family has a different perspective of the quality of food, and service the lodge provides, but we all agree the memories are all great, and the view is terrific of Lake Murray, it was a mini-vacation to revisit a favorite vacation spot before heading onward. We drove on through Oklahoma City, and this turned out to be the vacation of unusual bathrooms. Maybe it was the 3 female ratio in the carload that provided for more frequent bathroom viewing opportunities, but we passed through some interesting ones, I wish I could remember them all, just 'in case' you ever need a reason to stop, but the one we hit up outside of Oklahoma City was pretty special, glittery purple sponge painted walls, ceilings and floors, and glittery purple puff paint grout lining the silver fixtures. After the bonus scenic detour we headed on to Wichita, KS for the night, where Kelly put us up for the evening....along with the 8 cats, 2 currently living in her apartment (Simon and Oscar) and 6 wild kittens outside. 2 apartment cats who made homes on her porch this winter upon their birth have now given birth to 4 more kittens (which were originally placed for 'safe keeping' by Mom in Kelly's chimnea. I got to play with kittens, and fortunately the rest of the journey ahead was too long for me to convince myself I needed all four of them.....we headed out in the morning towards Nebraska and Chimney Rock. I didn't have very high expectations, I mean, I wanted to see it, I'd stopped there enough times on my Oregon Trail game as a child, but it was just 'something to see.' What I didn't expect was how beautiful Kansas and Nebraska are, and how very cool it was to see the sites that so many had seen on the westward move, including the wagon train tracks they left in their wake. On Sunday morning we caught a wagon train to Chimney Rock. Holly and I even 'drove' the wagon for a bit (I wish I could insert the Little House on the Praire theme song right here). It was a lot of fun, and something I would definitely recommend. We crossed pastures and made it all the way up to 'the rock' where we were allowed to climb as high as legally allowed by the state. It was a lot better view than the one we later had from the visitory center. After an unsuccessful attempt to find Scottsbluff (we 'found' it, we just couldn't 'find' the way to the top) we then headed for Keystone, SD....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

There's no place like home....

Pet
I've made it home again! I just got in a little while ago, and I've completed uploading all my pictures.....and there are a LOT! I'm going to work on getting them into slideshow format soon, and then I'll blog an 'event by event' account for all both of you who still read my blogs ;o). I had a really amazing time, and I saw a lot of really fabulous sites. Most of the adventures I'm going to have to retain in my memory because we were met with a lot of rain (and snow!), and some pretty cloudy photo taking days, but despite the clouds, the site seeing was fabulous. I hit 6 new states I had never been to, I met a lot of animals I had never seen before in the 'wild' and I've added some 'must revisit' places to the long list of places I love! And so the story telling will begin soon.....In the meantime, let me leave you with one of the 'gifts' I brought back for the dogs. I found this 'educational toy' at the pet store in Santa Fe. There are three squeaky bees you put in the hive (after you put them in your dirty laundry to make them 'appealing' to the dogs, which we had plenty of by the end of the trip!) and the dogs work to get the bees out of the holes. Max has already mastered the bee retraction process....I guess he's advanced!