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Magical Midwest Mystery Tour 2011*
How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

Song Lyric of the Day:

You can have a lot of fun in a New York minute / But there’s some things you can’t do inside those city limits / Ain’t no closing time / Ain’t no cover charge / Just country boys and girls gettin’ down on the farm

Tim McGraw / “Down on the Farm

Rich and I just took our first vacation since our “babymoon” to Denver and Breckenridge last February, our first as a family. We decided that since our last visit to his extended family was October 2007 and we now have Miss Baby, a visit was long overdue. So at the start of this month, we made arrangements for family members to house- and pet-sit, packed up Little Mo, and hit the road.

Our first day on the road, Saturday, was primarily spent driving to our determined halfway point: a hotel in Champaign, Ill. Seeing as how Coraline’s longest car trip at this point was the two-hour drive to and from Chattanooga the weekend before, we weren’t sure how well she’d handle being in the car. She ended up doing better than we expected, mostly sleeping, but fussing every now and then. If she got too fussy, we’d find a safe place to stop and stretch our legs, and whoever wasn’t driving that shift would hop in the backseat with her. By the time we got to our hotel, Rich and I were dead tired, and Coraline was raring to walk and explore. She — and we by extension — slept terribly that night. It was Coraline’s first time sleeping anywhere besides her crib in her room, we were in a strange place, and the crib was like a little jail cell on wheels with its cold, white metal bars. Oh, and I was paranoid about bed bugs (for naught, thank God), which also contributed to my lack of sleep.

Book Hat

"Are we there yet?"

Sunday we drove to Des Moines, Ia., for the night. We checked into our hotel, which was about two blocks from Rich’s Uncle Gary’s house. We then headed to his house, where Gary cooked us a divine dinner and we hung out with him for a few hours. He was but the first of many relatives Coraline would meet that week. Then it was back to our hotel room — much, much smaller than the one the night before — and a night of lackluster sleep thanks to Coraline’s discomfort and the biker bar we didn’t know was around the corner until we got in bed and heard all the engines revving.

Monday morning we hit the road again, this time headed to Ames, Ia., to see Rich’s cousin Tom and his wife, Erin. From there, we followed Tom and Erin to Roland, Ia., to Tom’s parents’ house. Here not only did Coraline meet her Great-Uncle Dick and Great-Aunt Linda, she also met her second cousins (and Tom’s siblings) Pete, Nick, and Anna. We enjoyed a great cookout on their deck — built “like a brick shithouse” according to Uncle Dick — while Coraline enjoyed walking around and getting kisses from their dog, Tucker. The most meaningful visit this leg of our trip was seeing Rich’s Grandma Lee, Coraline’s great-grandmother, at her assisted living facility. Grandma Lee is now 97(!) years old, and unfortunately did not remember who I was. She did, however, remember who Rich was, and she’d been shown enough pictures of Coraline in association with Rich that she knew who she was. Coraline loved her Great-Grandma Lee, almost as much as she enjoyed walking into the main hallway and making friends with every resident and nurse who passed by.



Tuesday morning we headed to Sioux Falls, S.D., to Rich’s cousin Jenny’s house. In addition to Jenny, Coraline met Jenny’s husband, Neil, and their kids Hope, Liam, Cameron, and Griffin for the first time. Coraline especially took to Griffin, 5, we think in large part due to the fact that he not only looks a lot like her cousin Elliott, but he has a lot of the same mannerisms as Elliott. And the same crazy energy, to boot. (I even accidentally called him Elliott a couple of times. Not that he noticed.) That night, in addition to a wonderful home-cooked meal prepared by Jenny and Neil, Jenny’s brothers Jason and Jaz came over, along with Taia, Jaz’s wife. Coraline did well other than crying a bit when she met Jason. To be fair, she’d just woken up from a nap and there were suddenly three new people in the house who weren’t there a few hours before.

Wednesday morning we packed up (yes, again) and headed for Alta, Ia., to Rich’s cousin Kurt and his wife Leah’s farm. Coraline got off to a bit of a shaky start with their 16-month-old, Hanna, but by the next morning both girls were getting along great (and Hanna was more willingly sharing her toys), with Coraline adoringly following her big third cousin around the house. Coraline also enjoyed meeting Marv, Kurt and Leah’s dog. Rich and I think she enjoyed having temporary pets on vacation since she loves our dogs and cats so much. Wednesday night we had dinner at Rich’s Aunt Diane and Uncle Bruce’s farm in Storm Lake, Ia. While there, Coraline got to meet her Great-Grandpa Edwards and her Great-Grandma Arlene for the first time; she also met Rich’s cousins Kyle, Kris, Kerry, Susan (Kerry’s wife), and Matthew (Kerry and Susan’s son). Leah and Hanna were also there. That night ended up being Coraline’s first really good night of sleep on our trip.



Thursday morning, we went with Grandpa Edwards and Grandma Arlene to a couple of nearby parks with Coraline, then enjoyed lunch with them at The Villager retaurant (I waited four years to have those onion rings again — totally worth the wait). Later that afternoon we packed up and headed to yet another relative’s house. Although we only packed up a fraction of our stuff as we were going to come back to Kurt and Leah’s house the next day. This time, we headed for Rich’s Aunt Janet and Uncle John’s house in Jackson, Minn. Which, while a beautiful area, is so in the middle of nowhere our cell phones didn’t work. Coraline enjoyed seeing Janet and John’s chickens, whose eggs Rich would enjoy for breakfast the next morning. We enjoyed yet another delicious, home-cooked meal (we were SO well-fed on this trip) that night. And, as I’d anticipated, as soon as Aunt Janet saw Coraline’s “operator” pose when bedtime rolled around, she exclaimed, “Carol!” — Coraline inherited that trait from her grandmother, Janet’s sister. Coraline had a hard time falling asleep that night, we think because it was the sixth straight night in a new location. Once she went down, though, she slept through the night.

Wiped out

Coraline passed out on Janet and John's couch Friday morning

Friday morning it was back to Alta, where Rich helped with the preparations for his Aunt Diane and Uncle Bruce’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration to be held that night in the farm’s Morton building. I did my best with baby wrangling, but Hanna was not having it — I fell firmly into the “stranger danger” zone as far as she was concerned. That night, a bunch of friends and relatives came to the farm to celebrate Diane and Bruce’s big night. We lucked out in that Rich’s Aunt Joan and Uncle Ed came from Des Moines, making it so we got to see them after all. Coraline handled meeting everyone like a little champ — she was practically a pro at this point. We enjoyed one last night with a lot of family members before hitting the hay. Saturday, it was up and on the road for our first day of driving home. We stopped at the same hotel in Champaign, where Coraline once again went nuts exploring. Turns out she has a fondness for playing on luggage carts — who knew? That night, Rich and I took her down to the pool, but she was so tired from being on the road all day she didn’t want to swim. Which worked out since a comically large, albeit not comically obnoxious, family was running amok in the pool area while we were there. So it was back to our room for the night, the last one before we would be back in our own beds at home. As it is, I ended up holed up in the bathroom blogging so I wouldn’t keep Rich and Coraline up while I wrote my 9/11 10th anniversary post.

Sunday’s drive was nice, uneventful, and long. About an hour before we got home, Rich and I had basically become delirious and were making weird, off-color, and just flat-out bizarre jokes about anything and everything. We could not get home fast enough at that point. Once home, Coraline seemed to rejoice in seeing her pets and toys again, although she had a hard time falling asleep that night, probably because it was a big deal to re-acclimate to her own crib and room again. Rich and I, however, did not have any problem sleeping in our own bed that night — after 10 days and 2,532.8** miles, it turned out to be our best night of sleep yet.


Needless to say, I took a lot of photos on this trip. I’ve compiled them in a slideshow. And maybe, one of these days, I’ll have enough time to go in and add descriptions to all of them. But after reading the post above, you shouldn’t have any problem putting two and two together.

*I called this post Magical Midwest Mystery Tour 2011 since we were never in the same place two days in a row. It got to be a game, me calling home to check in and my parents trying to guess from where I was calling on any given day.

**The Elantra got up to an impressive 40.1 MPG average on this trip. Which made us all the happier that we bought it before this trip.

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Uncomfortably Lucid

Song Lyric of the Day:

The moon is shining on your face / And I finally think it’s found its place / Cuz maybe baby / I just wanna do you, do you / Do you wanna do me, do me? / Underneath the moonlight, moonlight

Dylan / “In the Moonlight (Do Me)

I’d really hoped to blog over the weekend — I almost never do that anymore, save for the occasional Eye Candy post or Photoblogging. My vacation posts were a special occasion, of course.

Even though it’s now Tuesday, I still feel like I’m coming down from the weekend. Rich and I were more social this past weekend than we’ve been in a long time. It all started Friday night when we got dressed up and enjoyed the S&W Grand sneak peek downtown.

Rich and yours truly in front of the S&W’s grand staircase.*

Saturday morning, we enjoyed a tour of our new office building, which is still under construction. (We’re told we’ll be moving there early Q2.)
Behold the new building, a mockup of our future cubicles, and the third-floor space where my department is scheduled to reside:

Saturday afternoon, I was off to a showing of Paranormal Activity (SO glad I never sleep with my foot out from under the covers. If you’ve seen it, you know why.) Saturday evening, Rich and I hosted Samantha and Michael and baby Stephen for a belated birthday celebration for Michael. We cooked chicken cacciatore and oven-roasted root vegetables and played a lot of Rock Band. Hearing his aunt and uncle and dad “playing” instruments while his mom gamely sang (ahem), baby Stephen was motivated to crawl a couple of feet. Probably to try and leave the room to escape the musical cacophony.

Sunday morning Rich and I hit the Alcoa Greenway for a bike ride. What did I get out of that bike ride? An overwhelming desire for very padded pants. Like baboon-ass-padded pants. Late Sunday afternoon we were off to Rich’s parents house for a delicious dinner; we also took Caleb along to visit his cousin Happy, whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time.

Last night we hosted one of Rich’s college roommates, his wife, and their adorable 17-month-old daughter when they came by the house for a visit (they were only in town for about a day and a half and I’d never met them before).

And all those activities are why this old woman is tired and needs a nap.

*I’m trying really, really hard to let myself be photographed a bit more. Because I always hate the way I look in photos, I’d much rather be on the operating side of the camera. I allow myself to be photographed about as often as a rare, purple, singing, pizza-eating bird that lives deep in a wild, yet-to-be-discovered jungle. Maybe even a bit less.

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Our New Norm

Song Lyric of the Day:

Put up your dukes, lets get down to it / Hit me with your best shot / Why dont you hit me with your best shot / Hit me with your best shot / Fire away!

Pat Benatar / “Hit Me With Your Best Shot

A typical evening at home:Behold the action ears.

Soon to be added to my Flickr album, which I finally got around to updating tonight with pictures of Troubadour and another batch of Uruguay pics. Still waiting for Vimeo to finish loading mylatest dog-puppy video.


Filed under flickr, puppy, uruguay, vimeo

Back in the Saddle

Song Lyric of the Day:

These are crazy days but they make me shine / Time keeps rolling by / All around the world, you’ve got to spread the word / Tell them what you heard / We’re gonna make a better day

Oasis / “All Around the World

The saying is true: You need a vacation from vacation. After just over a week home, we’re all finally getting back in the groove of things. When I say all of us, I’m including the cats and dogs in that. Caleb and Snoops are still recovering from days on end of playing with cousins and chasing cats, respectively, while the cats are thrilled to have us (okay, me) around again.

Rich and I are back on the fitness wagon, doing our best to stay faithful to our individual workout regimens. I’m starting to blog again. I got the first set of vacation photos uploaded to Flickr. I backed my laptop up and finally installed Mac OS X Leopard. I’m gearing up for my annual email blitzes to raise funds for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life (donate here). I finally made Brent his welcome home lasagna. And, to top it off, I went on an organizational bender this weekend the likes of which would’ve made your head spin.

Which is why I’m already looking forward to the weekend. I need to catch up on sleeping in.

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Wednesday Randomosity

Song Lyric of the Day:

Some may say I’m crazy / I may say that’s true

Chrisette Michele / “Work It Out

I know our trip to Uruguay is just around the corner, but, God, it cannot get here soon enough. I need a break. From everything.

I’ll Finish … Someday
I am the queen of the unpublished post. It’s a direct result of working on a computer all day, day in and day out. By the time I get home most nights, I don’t even want to look at a computer, much less log on. So I’ll start a post, get tired, and leave it saved and unpublished. And I don’t even remember the last time I uploaded pics to my Flickr account. Because lord knows, I have a lot of new ones to add.

Walking & Getting Nowhere
Rich and I bought a treadmill last Friday after work. And it’s the most fun piece of exercise equipment we’ve ever owned (built-in fans, stereo to plug the iPod into). Whereas I was ready for a heart attack after 10 minutes on the stationery bike, I can power-walk on this baby for a half hour and barely break a sweat (and burn 130+ calories per session). Of course, the treadmill scares the bejesus out of Caleb. He smiles and then barks his head off as he slowly backs away and runs back upstairs. Snoops could give a rat’s ass, as is her naturally cool disposition. The treadmill is in the Florida room, which is nearing completion thanks to Rich and the invaluable help of his dad, Doug (and a nice assist from Ken the other day). We’re aiming to blow the room out and get everything finished as soon as we get back from our vacation.

Raise What’s Left of the Flag for Me
I’m listening to the Flogging Molly album Whiskey on a Sunday as I blog this. And wishing I were in an Irish pub enjoying a sing-along. Must go back to Irish Times soon… Man, how awesome would that be if Flogging Molly played Knoxville? Hey, I can dream.

Left to His Own Devices
Caleb started his own blog the other day, The Amazing True Tales of Caleb, the Pitiful Bull. And he’s already kicking my ass with updates. Go figure.

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