Wednesday, July 31, 2013

But wait, there's more fun to be had!

This is the last blog entry about my vacation, I promise.

Everyone kept telling us that we just had to check out Cade's Cove, which is part of the expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, we decided to head there on Thursday morning. We took one of my many nephews along (the one who is closest to our kid in age - they get along well). We somehow thought that Cade's Cove was about a half-hour from Gatlinburg, but it was over an hour.  It was a beautiful drive, though. I also learned a new term along the way: switchback curves.  We saw signs warning truckers of "switchback curves ahead" (and advising them to consider an alternate route).  I'm not sure of the exact definition but I assume it refers to a road that basically doubles back on itself (and we definitely saw a lot of that). When my Pop-Pop was still alive, he would drive around in the mountains of West Virginia and would often say, "You meet yourself coming back on these roads, doll."  I thought of him a lot as I attempted to negotiate the crazy mountain roads in my mom-mobile.

While on vacation, I had to do 99% of the driving because my other half gets queasy (his widdle tummy gets rumbly).  So, I drove to Cade's Cove. Part of the appeal is an auto tour, where you wind verrrrry slowly through the park.  This was a challenge for me, because I don't like to drive slowly. And it's not like you can look around too much while you are driving.  It was fun to see all the license plates from other states, though. It makes one feel quintessentially American to be in a National Park in the middle of summer. Anyway, the scenery was beautiful and I did my best not to rear-end the car in front of me.  We kept seeing signs reminding us not to feed or disturb wildlife. The only wildlife we saw was . .. butterflies. Lots of butterflies. And no, we did not attempt to feed them. Because the signs told us not to. On our way out of the park, we did see a black bear hanging out in the treetops. We didn't feed him either.  At about the same time, my sisters sent me simultaneous texts telling me how they had seen a bear right next to our cabin. I was tempted to respond, "Oh yeah? Do you have any idea how many BUTTERFLIES we've seen?!"

But back to the trip into the park. . . eventually we reached Cade's Cove itself, which consists of a visitors' center and lots of old buildings.  We poked around for a bit and enjoyed peeking inside the ancient barns and such. I guess I did not plan the trip very well because by then it was lunch time and we had no food. The visitors' center sold only water and candy bars. However, my nephew could not partake of the chocolate because he has a nut allergy and I was pretty determined to keep him alive during my watch. So, we walked around for a while, watched a guy grinding corn into cornmeal,  and then headed out. My GPS led me astray so we lost an extra half hour going down a dead end road, but eventually we got back on course.  We then drove to Gatlinburg, where we were scheduled to meet my sister and return her middle child to her.  On the long drive, P kept the kids busy by asking them trivia questions about superheroes. I quickly realized I was hanging out with a bunch of geeks. When did my daughter collect all of this random information about obscure comic book characters?

We were starving by the time we got to Gatlinburg, so we ate at the first restaurant we encountered, which was a weird little Italian place. The server looked at us like we were insane when we asked if the garlic rolls had any nuts in them. Again, my nephew wasn't eating a nut on my watch, mister. After lunch, we were supposed to meet my sister at Ober Gatlinburg, which is a huge tram that lugs people up a mountain and deposits them at an amusement park at the top.  The only catch was that my sister and her family were at the top and we were at the bottom. We somehow needed to get my nephew up the mountain. I talked to P and we figured, what the heck, we'll just buy tickets for the four of us and ride up. At about the same time, I learned (via text message) that my sister's fiance had purchased a ticket and was headed down the mountain to pick up my nephew.  It was like a bad sitcom.  So, I returned our tickets and received a refund.  When my sister's fiance arrived, he invited A to join them at the amusement park. Having received a better offer than hanging out with her boring old parents, she dropped us like hot potatoes. I bought her a tram ticket (the guy must have thought I was crazy at this point) and sent her up the mountain.

P and I hadn't planned on having a kid-free afternoon, but here it was! So, we walked all over Gatlinburg.  We went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum (keepin' it classy up in here, ya'll!), Ripley's Aquarium, and the Guiness Book of World Records Museum. P insisted that we take a gazillion photos of ourselves to prove to our kid that we exist even when she's not around.  We also stopped for a margarita and some ice cream (not at the same time, though).  Later, we all convened back at the cabin to enjoy some delicious lasagna that my middle sister made. 

Friday was our last full day. We decided to get our butts moving fairly early so that we could enjoy a pancake breakfast at one of the many pancake places in Pigeon Forge. I was afraid we'd choose the wrong one out of the multitude of choices, but it was pretty good. I bought a toy from the gift shop. Yes, for myself.  See photo below.

After breakfast, we went to a place called WonderWorks. It's basically a science museum.  It was a lot of fun and the kid definitely had a blast. After that, P dropped the kid and me off at joint called MagiQuest while he went to a comic book store. MagiQuest is probably more up his alley than mine, but it was really hot out and I chose this over every and any outdoor activity. In a nutshell, you get a wand and then you complete various quests. For example, you have to find a blue gemstone. When you find it, you cast your wand on it and the wand keeps track of your progress on the quest.  The kid seemed to love the whole scene.  Our wands expired after an hour, though.  We had purchased a package deal so we then headed for the other activities within the same building.

The first was a mirror maze.  The teenager at the door handed us disposable plastic gloves to wear, so that we didn't smear the mirrors with our hands.  When we got inside, I was completely disoriented (which is, I suppose, the point).  My daughter kept trying to get ahead of me. Then she would turn a corner and I couldn't find her.  I was having a minor panic attack because at times I could see her reflection in the mirrors but could not actually find her.  After that, I made her hold my hand.  We finally made it out after ten minutes or so.  At one point, I seriously thought they would have to send someone in after us. I was glad not to suffer that sort of embarrassment. Next up was a laser maze.  This involved a darkened room with green lasers strung across a la Mission Impossible. My kid went in first; I was able to watch her progress via a video monitor.  I watched as my teeny daughter deftly climbed over and under the laser beams.  Then it was my turn. I gave it the old college try, but all I could hear was the incessant beeping from all the laser beams I managed to break as my fat ass and I worked our way across the room. C'est la vie, I guess.  Finally, we played some miniature golf on a black-lighted pirate course.

Four our last night at the cabin, my cousin and her boyfriend drove in from Nashville to join us. It was also my middle sister's birthday, so we ate some cake and gave her a few gifts. It was a really fun evening. We stayed up much too late and drank a bit too much, all the while knowing we had to get up the next morning and pack, clean the cabin, etc.

For days I had been harassing my sisters about the need to take a photo of all seven of the kids. I was hoping to get a nice shot for my mom. This was the first time all of her grandchildren were together in one spot.  So, we quickly shoved all of the kids out on the deck and attempted to get a photo. About half of them were uncooperative. Damned kids, I tell you. However, we did get a photo!

Shortly thereafter, we all headed our separate ways. We sent Short Stuff back to Northern VA with her aunt. She'll fly back home on Saturday. A has been quite the jet-setter this summer!  It's actually a good thing she wasn't with us on Saturday. We ended up encountering some hellacious traffic on the drive home. I mean, the kind of traffic where people put their car in park and then get out and walk around.  It was that bad. When we finally arrived at our hotel room, we noticed that the room contained two beds. Having reached maximum togetherness (coupled with the fact that my beloved had a cold), we each selected a bed and went to sleep.

And that, my friends, is the story of our mountain vacation!

Look verrrry carefully. It's a bear, I swear.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gatlinburg, Oh Gatlinburg

I just remembered that I haven't finished boring you with more details about my vacation! In my last blog entry, I mentioned Dollywood.  We did, indeed, visit Dollywood on Tuesday.  We didn't go until the afternoon.  In the morning, my wee baby sister and I (plus her youngest son) went to a craftsman's fair that was going on in Gatlinburg. It was fun. People were friendly. I bought two handmade dog collars.  The lady running the booth told me, "That'll be around $22.00."  I thought, around $22.00? I guess things are just more laid-back in the south.  Even the parking attendant called me "hon" and asked me how my day was going.

One thing we quickly learned on this vacation was that it was not easily possible for all 13 of us to choose a single event or location and then head there en masse. What usually happened was that the three families just made their own separate plans or two families went somewhere together. Or, we sometimes swapped kids. P and I took one nephew to the National Park. My middle sister took my kid on a couple of excursions as well. 

Anyway, our little family plus my middle sister and her family headed to Dollywood on Tuesday afternoon. When we got there, we were advised that if you arrive after 3:00 p.m., you get to come back for free the next day. Apparently it is a well-known secret in the area, although there is no mention of it on the website.

Let's see. How shall I describe Dollywood?  Well, once you've been to DisneyWorld, other theme parks automatically rate lower on the awesomeness spectrum. It is just really hard to top Disney.  Dollywood markets itself as the "friendliest theme park."  Now, I don't know whether or not they took the tram drivers into consideration when coming up with this marketing plan.  Because, really, nothing makes your day like having a tram operator scream, "DON'T LEAVE NO PERSONAL BELONGINGS BEHIND!" at you. If you really want to be treated poorly at Dollywood, be sure to bring a stroller. The drivers save up most of their fury for parents. We happened to sit in the row right behind the stroller area. We watched each parent being eviscerated in turn as they attempted to load the stroller into the tram. "THE HANDLES MUST FACE THE OTHER WAY!"  "SIR! YOU CAN'T MOVE SOMEONE ELSE'S STROLLER!"  They keep their microphones on at all times so that everyone on the tram can hear their helpful guidance. And keep in mind that all of this happens in the parking lot, before you even get into the amusement park.

Other than that, though, the park itself was pretty nice. Lots of, um, interesting people there. A was able to ride most of the rides. She is currently 47 inches tall and some rides had a minimum height of 48 inches. Assuming she can squeeze out one more inch over the course of the next year, she should be in good shape for roller coasters for next summer. It was a hot day and we rode several water rides. I was determined to ride the wooden roller coaster, so my sister watched the kid while P and I rode it. We left the park just as the fireworks were getting started. This time it was my sister and her fiance who bore the wrath of the tram driver because they had the handles facing the wrong way on my nephew's stroller. It was a fun day, though. And thank God we didn't "leave no personal belongings behind."

On Wednesday, the three of us went to Pigeon Forge to engage in some touristy stuff.  We ate lunch and then went to a go-kart track.  They had kiddie ones that short stuff could ride.  Then we rode the bigger go-karts.  I rode in a single kart and P got a double so that he could ride with the kid. We were all having a blast until our daughter was stung by a bee while she was on the ride. This was her first bee sting, so I guess it's at least noteworthy that she made it eight years with NO bee stings.  An employee brought us some anti-itch cream for the sting.  We iced her arm and then applied the goop. A few minutes later, she was just fine. She wanted to ride the bumper boats.  I wasn't too keen on doing it, but I felt badly about the bee sting so I took one for the team. I should add that the each bumper boat comes equipped with a built-in sprayer so that you can soak all of the other people. Some little snot shot me in the side of the head for about three minutes straight.  So, I was soaked but the kid had fun.

Later in the evening, my sister and her family returned to Dollywood (taking advantage of the free return passes) and took my kid along. I had reached Maximum Fun for the day.  Instead, I volunteered to watch some of the younger kids while everyone else went out. I may as well confess it right now: yes, I drank on the job.

I'll regale you with more Gatlinburg tales in my next blog entry. And that's a threat promise!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Road trips and pancakes and whatnot

We made it to Gatlinburg in one piece. We left home Friday afternoon and then dropped dogs off all over the place before hitting the road for the long haul to Gatlinburg. We had a hotel reservation in Louisville. However, I somehow failed to realize that we'd have to switch to Eastern time. Derrrrr. Sometimes I focus on the wrong details. Anywho, we arrived at the hotel at 2:40 a.m. (EST). And, as luck would have it, the only rooms left were those with a king-size bed (I was hoping for two queens). My husband and I love our daughter more than words can say, but we are fairly unenthusiastic about sharing a bed with her. Search my blog for terms like "the beast of a thousand knees" to see previous entries about the world's most active sleeper.

We lived through the night (my husband got the worst of the kicking) and then drove to Lexington for lunch with my sister-in-law. Then we finished the drive to Gatlinburg. The drive went smoothly until we got to Pigeon Forge. If you haven't been, Pigeon Forge is like a tacky beach town, but without the beach. Lots of mini golf, gift shops, and pancake establishments. Don't get me wrong - I'm totally planning to drive back there and partake of the tacky. I just didn't feel like sitting in traffic like that. It took about an hour to go ten miles. On the bright side, we had plenty of time to take a look at everything. We passed a knife store and I briefly had a fantasy about buying some knives and taking out the 5,000 drivers in front of me, one by one. Traffic makes me surly.

Eventually, we arrived in Gatlinburg and took some steep, winding mountain roads to the cabin we'd rented (along with my sisters and their significant others). It was great to see everyone and to have all of the cousins together in one spot. I have one nephew I hadn't even met yet (my wee baby sister's youngest son). We have 13 people in total. Fortunately, the cabin is pretty spacious and we all fit in it comfortably. A is sharing a room with her 14-year-old cousin (and, apparently, asked her cousin, "Since you're 14, you already have boobies, right?") We warned A not to kick her cousin too much at night. L is pretty skinny and we're afraid that A might break her bones and whatnot.

For our first full day in Gatlinburg, we didn't do much. My middle sister and I went to a grocery store in Pigeon Forge. Between the rain and the traffic, it actually took several hours.  On Monday, a bunch of us went to the Smoky Mountains National Park and then walked around in Gatlinburg for a while. We took a sky tram up a mountain. We ate ice cream. Typical vacation-in-the-mountains stuff, I guess. So far, the main observation we've made about Gatlinburg is that it is possible to get married, get a tattoo, and eat pancakes - all in the same day. Seriously, what's with all of the pancake joints? Periodically we shake our fists at the sky and shout, "If only I could find some way to get a pancake!"

Today, we are planning to go to Dollywood. Don't judge.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm leaving on a . . . freakishly long car ride

I'm frantically packing for our trip to Gatlinburg, so I haven't been getting much done. When I do have a few spare minutes, I waste them on Candy Crush Saga. Those candies aren't going to crush themselves, people. Also, I just want you to know that I can stop any time. On "Intervention," the family members of the addict always read the same form letter that starts out, "Your addiction has affected my life negatively in the following ways."  So now I just keep picturing my worried parents, siblings, and friends trying to stage an intervention for me. They'll take my phone away and then vow to hold their bottom line. "She can't come over any more if she doesn't get help."

We've also talked of staging an intervention for my mother regarding her fixation with slippers. Like most people, my mother has two feet. Unlike most people, she has about a hundred thousand pairs of slippers. I know I bear some of the guilt for having supported her addiction by giving her a Kohl's gift card for her birthday every year. It's just that I hate to see her all strung out if she doesn't get the slippers.

I mention her addiction only to draw attention away from my own sordid issues.

Anyway, between the packing and the complaining about the oppressive heat, I haven't had much to write about.  One of my oldest and dearest friends visited last weekend, so we got into a little bit of trouble around town.  We took my daughter on a leisure cruise (on the polluted river that runs through the middle of the city). So, there was that. When the cruise was over, my daughter ran up to the captain and flung her arms around him and buried her head in his mid-section. You know, as one does. When we first boarded the boat, we learned that there was a charter group that would also be on board. "Maybe it is a family reunion?" I asked my friend.

"Well, I think they're about to meet the newest member of the family!" he responded, gesturing to my irrepressibly friendly daughter.  During the cruise we had to remind her a couple of times not to crash the party on the lower level (which turned out to be a retirement party). 

It was a fun weekend. I feel so fortunate to have friends who are willing to travel great distances just to hang out with me. Unless, of course, they are just coming to see the friendliest kid on earth, which is also a distinct possibility. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The one where the boring, straight, middle-aged, Midwestern lady throws a pretty good party

For the past few weeks, I've been working on a Pride-themed service for the Unitarian Universalist church I attend. Although most communities hold their Pride celebrations in June, our local festivities are held in July (apparently our city likes to wait until you can fry an egg on the sidewalk and the humidity reaches epic levels and THEN plans an outdoor event). I serve on the Sunday Services Committee for the fellowship, so I have a hand in planning some of our services. At a meeting held during the winter months, I floated the idea of having a Pride service the day after the Pride festival. I volunteered to coordinate it, and then I volunteered my friend Karen to be my co-facilitator.  I caught her during a weak moment . . . at happy hour on her birthday.

Once I'd decided to coordinate the service, the next task was to find speakers. I was hoping to find two or three people who would like to share their personal stories. I was turned down more than once. And really, I definitely get it. If someone asked me to speak about my sexual identity and how I choose to express myself, I would probably get a little balky too.  Eventually, we landed two speakers. My friend Karen found one, a very nice gentleman who runs a local design/marketing firm. I found the other through a friend.  I emailed my friend Jennifer and said, "Hey, you seem to know a lot of interesting people. Do you know anyone who might be willing to speak during a service at my church?"

I asked her because she's a roller derby chick and they, as a whole, tend to be a pretty diverse group. She connected me with a friend of hers (they play in the same derby league) who was not only willing to speak, but also grew up as a Unitarian Universalist. Perfect! She was willing to share her story as a transgender person.

I worked with the fellowship's music director to select hymns for the service. I checked out "And Tango Makes Three" from the library.  It horrifies and saddens me that parents around the country have tried to get this book taken out of libraries. If the story of two male penguins raising a baby penguin isn't the sweetest story ever, I just don't know what is.

Karen and I selected some readings and meditations for the service. I also took an excerpt from a recent NPR article to use as a hand-out at the service. As the service date approached, we pulled together the finishing touches and then just kept our fingers crossed for a good turn-out. Attendance at our church can be pretty spotty in the summertime.

Well, let me just say that I could not be happier with how the service went. We had good attendance and quite a few new visitors, too. The speakers blew everyone away as they shared their stories. In their voices we could hear that the enduring pain of being "other" was still very close to the surface for both of them, but the message was so very powerful. It's not a choice. Be kind, be open, be who you are. The derby chick even stripped off her baggy clothes to reveal that she was wearing her skating gear beneath (I tell ya, those derby girls sure do keep the fishnet makers in business). Everyone just loved both speakers.  We have a tradition that allows members of the congregation to offer a response to the speakers.  I walked around with a microphone and was thrilled to see how engaged everyone was, how so many people were eager to share their thoughts. As an added bonus, my friend Jennifer brought along another friend of hers, who just happens to be a cross-dresser. I must say that his ensemble was pretty memorable - a sequined dress and zebra print shoes (with matching clutch, naturally).  And you know what was more awesome?  After the service, my daughter didn't say to me, "Mom, why was that man wearing a dress?" What she said instead was, "Mom, did you see that the sequins were silver one one side and black on the other?!" I'm surprised she didn't ask him where he bought it.

I can breathe a sigh of relief now that I've got this well-received service behind me. I struggled a bit with how to present the service in terms of the LGBTQ community and how I would want them to perceive it. I would feel awkward/uncomfortable to have a gay or transgender person say to me, "Thank you for accepting me," because really, why wouldn't I? I wouldn't want an African-American person to thank me for not being a jackass racist. And yet, I suspect that the speakers at yesterday's service have run into so many douchecanoes in their lives, so many unwelcoming environments, that perhaps there is an element of being pleasantly surprised when they encounter a community that celebrates and embraces diversity. I have a friend who once lost a job simply because she is gay. As I recall, as she was leaving she heard a former co-worker say something like, "Good, the dike is gone."  I mean, really. Who raises their child to behave like that? 

Initially, I wrote a personal reflection that I was going to read at the service. I feel fortunate to have been raised by parents who said things like, "We don't care if you date someone who is black, brown, purple, male, or female, just as long as they are good to you."  I didn't realize what a blessing this was until I was older. I hope I didn't disappoint them too much by only dating white boys (and eventually marrying one). 

Eventually, however, I scrapped what I had written. Why?  Well, you see, I can hold my husband's hand any day, anywhere. There were no roadblocks to our marriage. We adopted a child together (a feat that is extremely difficult for same sex couples).  I can be as indignant about inequality and oppression as I want, but the fact remains that I don't know what it's like not to be able to hold my guy's hand in public. I don't know what it's like to have to filter everything I say because it might fall upon the ears of someone who doesn't approve. So, ultimately, I decided to leave the message fully in the hands of those who have lived it. And I am so grateful to the wonderful people who took a chance and participated in the service.

I might just belong to the coolest church ever.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mom! Look what I can do!

As you may recall, I started going to yoga pretty regularly about 2 1/2 years ago. I really enjoy it. No matter how fat/ugly/horrible I feel before class, as soon as I walk into the studio, I feel great. More than that, I somehow convince myself that I even look pretty good, too! Yoga pants are kind, I guess.  Also, there is only one mirror in there.

Some days, I go to class and feel like I'm just as uncoordinated as I was on the first day. Other days, I feel strong and flexible. On those days, even the balance poses come easier to me. However, there are a couple of challenges that have been causing me much vexation.  One is that I can do a headstand but lack the core strength to pull away from the wall.  So, being a slave to the wall frustrates me a bit. The other is my inability to pull myself into a full wheel.  I have tried a thousand times. I think there are two reasons for my failure to get myself completely off the floor into this back-bending posture. One: poor upper body strength.  Two: I kind of, sort of, weigh a little more than might be ideal for this pose.  However, I continue to try.

In class Tuesday night, the instructor had us do the bridge pose twice. This one I can do without a problem. Typically, on the third round, the students are invited either to do another bridge or to go for the wheel. So, I gave the wheel yet another try.  However, this time I tried putting a bolster under my spine to give me just a tiny bit of a lift. Whaddya know - it worked.  I raised myself up and let my head drop back.  My lower back was all, "Are you sure about this?" but I felt strong and confident. And thrilled!  The instructor applauded my wheel and told me the bolster was a great idea (and assured me that it's not cheating at all).

When I got home, I made my husband take a photo of me. He refused to get up from the couch in order to take it from a reasonable angle. Hence, an uncomfortably close shot.  I didn't have the bolster at home but was still able to get the job done. Oh, and that's not a smile on my face. It's more like a grimace.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hey, they didn't have Crocs in medieval times

We took A and her friend to a Renaissance Fair on Saturday. I had never been to one, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The closest we've come is when we went to Medieval Times on our honeymoon. I still laugh when I think about the hostess telling my husband, "I'm processing your credit card, m'lord." Anyway, I had jumped on a Groupon deal for the Renaissance Fiar and it all seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a four-pack of tickets so that's why we invited a friend for the kid. Plus, when she has a friend along, it distracts her from asking me and her dad quite so many questions.

Fortunately for me, most of the festivities were held in the woods. It's tough for me to be out in the sun all day (in as much as it might kill me and all). So, I was grateful for the shade. The first thing we encountered inside the gate was a camel. The camel was raising money for a local animal shelter. We donated a buck and he kissed both girls. I never know if I should be supporting this sort of thing or not. He seemed to enjoy the treats and his caretakers seemed very nice.  Junior seemed to be well cared for but at the same time, I'm not sure if he really belongs in the woods somewhere in the midwest, you know?  I don't know. Later in the day we saw some horses performing and I wondered about that, too. I guess my main beef is when an animal is obligated to do stuff that isn't natural for that animal. A bear riding a bicycle for example. Just about everything that happens at the circus. That kind of thing. Maybe having a camel as a companion animal isn't the worst thing.

Throughout the woods, there were all sorts of booths and things to do. We learned about birds of prey and there were even some dog booths (Otterhounds, Greyhounds, and Scottish Deerhounds). My kid was thrilled to see a reptile rescue there.  What's funny is that the people who run the rescue have started to recognize my daughter from all the events we go to. They basically just hand her a snake now. No questions asked.

After leaving the reptile area, we grabbed some food to eat - fried cheese curds and spiral cut potatoes. I'm not so sure they had those during the Renaissance. I also noticed a vendor who was wearing Crocs. I don't know who that guy thought he was fooling. We also watched a couple of shows and made a pass back through all of the booths. A and her friend attended a "knighting ceremony" for kids. They each met with the queen and were awarded the title of Lady in Waiting. The queen gave each girl a little colored stone.

We decided it was about time for us to head home and let the dogs out. The fair was about an hour away from our home and the dogs had been stuck in the house for several hours already. Just then, a guy dressed in period costume came over and told us we shouldn't leave the knighting ceremony because the queen was going to explain the gift after she was done knighting the rest of the girls and all of the boys.  He made it sound like we were in danger of offending the queen. I looked at the line and realized we'd have to stay for quite a while in order for the queen to get through all of those kids. "We have to get home and let the dogs out," I told the man.

"Oh, what's five minutes?" he asked. I smiled and tried to decide what to do.  I turned to my husband so that we could confer and figure out what to do.

"I think we're gonna have to make a break for it," I whispered.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY, MOM? WE'RE GOING TO MAKE A BREAK FOR IT?!"  my daughter piped up at the top of her lungs, with the guy in tights just an arm's length away.  Kids, I tell ya.

Anyway, we did make a break for it. stopping once for ice cream on the way home. The girls both bought parasols and fairy dust at the fair.  I wasn't sure if the friend's mom would be thrilled about the purchases, so I made a mental note to let her know that it could have been worse. Catapults were also for sale at the fair.

So, that was our Saturday, full of knights and horses and junk food. On Sunday, we went to a Pow Wow. My daughter brought her new parasol, of course. She and I stood on a hillside and watched the Grand Entry, which is when the veterans and the dancers are introduced and brought into a big circle. Before you know it, there is a swirl of feathers and bells and bright colors. It is really something to see. I really wish my heritage called upon me to wear a dress with tiny bells attached to it.

While I snapped a few photos, my daughter complained about the heat incessantly. I guess the parasol is not as wondrous as she thought.  I bought her a lemonade. She spilled it two second later. I told her she owed me four dollars and that I would add it to her tab. Eventually, it started to rain, giving her something new to complain about.  So, we headed out. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer's Rollin' Right Along

Who do I need to talk to about making sure that Independence Day never falls on a Thursday again? Dragging myself into work the next day was, well, a drag. I guess I could have taken a vacation day, but I have a vacation coming up so I don't really have the extra hours. My need for leisure exceeds the allotment, I guess you could say.

Our 4th of July wasn't too rowdy (the most important detail about the day is that I completed several levels of Candy Crush Saga). I got up and went to yoga class at 8. When I got home, the power was out so, realizing that my time-wasting options were more limited than usual, I did some gardening. After lunch, the kid and I did a little shopping and then headed to a pool party at a friend's house. Well, she swam and I sat by the pool and ran my mouth and drank some Mike's. I didn't swim. I had already taken a shower after yoga class and I'm way too high-maintenance to shower twice in a day.  Plus, me in a swimsuit?  No one really needs to be subjected to that.

Later, my sidekick and I headed downtown for the fireworks. We parked at a friend's house and walked a few blocks to a decent viewing location. P had to work so he wasn't with us. As usual, my daughter started asking about the grand finale as soon as the fireworks started. We got home at around 10:50 and I went straight to bed because I had to be up at 5 for work. Happy birthday, 'merica.

In case you wondered how I am expending my precious vacation days . . . we are headed to Gatlinburg in a couple weeks. I have never been to Gatlinburg, or even Tennessee for that matter.  There will be thirteen of us in one cabin (fourteen if my teenaged niece brings a friend).  The crew will include me, my husband, both of my sisters, their significant others, and a whole slew of kids. We'll either have the time of our lives or we won't be on speaking terms again until Christmas requires it. I'm certainly hoping for the former. 

We chose Gatlinburg because it is a drive-able distance for all of us. One little bonus is that we'll pass through Lexington, KY, which is where P's sister lives. So, we'll stop and have lunch with her before proceeding to Gatlinburg.  I've been poking around some various tourism sites to see what's what in Tennessee. We make fun of Dollywood, but the thirteen of us are actually thinking of going. The national park appears to have some great ranger programs and whatnot for the kids.

Personally, I'm not sure I can resist going to the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum. As kids, we went to the one in Myrtle Beach. P and I went back there on our honeymoon, too. I still have the print-out from the fortune-teller machine advising us that we were incompatible. I'll bet if we broke up tomorrow, after 21 years together, that machine would be all, "See?! I totally tried to tell you!"

Anyway, we may need to limit some of our touristy activities because of vacation budgets not being unlimited. Plus, with such a large crew, we have to think carefully before planning an excursion. I'm guessing there will be some days where the adults will just shove the kids outside and lock the doors. Another added bonus related to driving vs. flying: we can bring our own alcohol and plenty of it.

I'll leave you with a photo from my garden, since I'm blathering on about summer. I am not much of a gardener. In fact, I suck at it. But, every so often, I plant something and it actually comes back the following year.  Thank you, stargazer lilies, for humoring me.