Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Thoughts

1. I am obsessed with Pinterest. OBSESSED. I've been wanting to join for awhile and finally bit the bullet. Now I can't stop thinking about things I want to pin. I definitely feel the creative juices flowing. I should send a quick thank you to Emily-my-cousin-who-is-getting-married for introducing me to this fabulous site.

2. My other obsession lately centers around the Fortress. It's a book written by Gabrielle Lord that features a teacher and her students of a one room school house who are kidnapped and taken to the Australian Outback. I read the book when I was in elementary school and loved it. Then I happened to come across VHS (my granddad used to tape HBO movies and give us copies) and I remember seeing the title and wondering if it based on the movie. So I popped it in and it sure was!It was a low budget HBO movie and is scared the bejeezus out of me. But I was very excited the I was watching a movie made from a book. (I was 8 so it was probably the first time that happened.) ANYWAY, since then, I've asked people throughout my life if they've seen or read the Fortress and NO ONE ever says yes. (Even my friend Amy who gave me the book doesn't remember reading it.) Then, a few weeks ago when the Polack and I were in Louisville, I was reading the Courier-Journal and someone wrote in to a tv/movie column and asked about a movie he saw growing up where Father Christmas kidnaps a school teacher. And I was like, I totally know they're talking about the Fortress. And luckily the columnist knew that too. So then it brought up all these memories and I spent the rest of the weekend go on and on about the Fortress to the Polack so much that I'm sure he'll be fine if he never hears that word again. And I've been on the hunt for the book AND the movie. I bought both and read the book in a few hours. Over the weekend, I finally got to watch the movie and it was just like what I remembered, especially the scene where the class has to swim under a rock to get to the other side of the cave. I think I have a fear of drowning because of that movie.

3. I feel like I've already written about my Fortress obsession but I don't see any record of it on my blog. So if you have already heard the story than I'm sorry for repeating myself. And if you haven't heard the story, then YOU'RE WELCOME. (Because it's nice memory of my childhood!) And I'm offering my copies up if anyone wants to borrow them. Just keep in mind that the dubbing of the movie is really bad and I've written to the Amazon seller who will hopefully replace it. I only paid $4 for the movie so I'm not that invested in getting it fixed.

4. And now I totally want Nicklas to read the book. He just finished The Hobbit which he was reluctant to read but we made him because he paid a whopping $7 for the book and I'm NOT GOING TO WASTE MONEY LIKE THAT. He ended up loving it so much that he's moving on to Lord of the Rings. Sometimes you have to push your kids, yo, especially when one forgets to bring his homework folder home all the time and you make him write a letter to his teacher explaining all the ways he can help himself remember. And he gets upset because he's embarassed and he he doesn't want to draw attention about the situation to his teacher. But too bad dude, I don't care that you think second graders shouldn't have to write reports. And then you take away his DS for a week. I'm talking about Seeger now, not Nicklas, though Nicklas just lost his jump drive at school and hasn't found it.

So both my boys are working on being more responsible.

5. I'm going to see Jon Stewart this week and the Polack is hopefully going to see a Tigers playoff game so that has led us both in to conversations about cutting back in other ways so that we can do the fun stuff that keeps us happy. For kicks and grins, we've vowed to not eat out for the whole month of October and to also try to keep our grocery bill down to $100/week. That will be the tough one which is really sad that our grocery bill for a family of 4 hovers around $700/month.

6. I read an article in the local paper about a guy that is vegetarian and grows half of the food he consumes and I definitely wish I was that green thumby although I don't eat nearly enough vegetables, nor do my kids,nor do we want to. But if we had fresh grown veggies, I'm guessing we'd eat more of them so I really, really want to start a garden next year. Except the deer are pretty plentiful around the homestead so now I have to figure out a way to protect the garden from the deer. No one seems to have some tried and true method. Also, I almost hit a turkey crossing the road the other morning when I was taking Seeger to school. I realize that has nothing to do with vegetables but it does have something to do with all the nature I'm experiencing now that I live out in the county.

7. At my age, when many of my friends are going on or have surpassed the ten year marriage mark, it means that friends are also going through divorces. I just learned of two in the last month and I tell you, it doesn't get easier to hear. Every time I find out someone is getting a divorce, I'm always shocked and I always want to know WHY and it's so unimaginable to me. Which is good - being unimaginable - but it always causes me to go through a grieving period because gosh, it must be so hard , especially for the kids. I'm not against divorce, I'm just so surprised by it and it makes me realize you really don't know people like you thought.

8. My parents divorce was THE BEST THING that happened to my family. My parents were miserable and that filtered down to me and my siblings so I'm glad it happened and now that my own friends are shocking me with their divorces, I wonder if my parents' friends and family members were shocked by their divorce. I can't imagine they were but then again, I was in the thick of things. It's been 20 years and I'm sure mom and dad look back amazed at how long they lasted together.

9. Wow, this post really has been pretty random. And long-winded. Hopefully you didn't have too much difficulty in understanding my train of though. To keep things even more random, I'm ending on thought 9, NOT though 10. I'm crazy like that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Best and Worst

Seeger's worst - when playing Road Blocks, he couldn't build anything
and he doesn't know why
Nicklas' worst - Monday
Mike's work - 11 steps to building a grill
Natalie's worst - so much to do at work
Seeger's best - being hone with everybody and family dinner
Nicklas' best - got a lot of homework done
Mike's best - watching how far Nicklas got on his homework
Natalie's best - finished some big projects which created some relief

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leonard Springs Nature Park

No Random Thought Thursday today because I have an even better post for you. Over the weekend, I saw a blurb in the Bloomington Herald-Times about an upcoming environmental education class called Caves Among Us at Leonard Springs Nature Park. It was listed as a free event for families, sponsored by Bloomington Parks and Recreation.

What? A free class? A family event? One that involves caves? Hells yeah, sign us up!

The Polack and I haven't done a lot of exploring of Bloomington parks. I keep saying we need to make the rounds of each one to see what it has to offer and then we can rate it for my fellow blog readers. (The two of you who live in Bloomington would appreciate it, right?) We've lived here a year and have only been to Bryan Park, Griffy Lake, and Cascades. How very bad of us. (Hanging head in shame.) So this opportunity was the perfect event for us. I knew there was a park off Leonard Springs road but I had NO IDEA HOW COOL IT IS. Let me just tell you IT. IS. AWESOME.

So last night, the educational specialist and group of about 10 of us started a one mile trek around the park. Here's a before shot.

This is the first of two caves at the park. Unfortuantely, due to White Nose Syndrome, we weren't able to go in to the cave.

We were shown a topography map of it though. I was really surprised at how big it is, compared to the small entrance.

After the first cave, we made our way down a very steep set of stairs to the second cave.

This is Shelter Cave. Nicklas doesn't look nearly as excited as he was because we actually got to go in this cave. Normally, people aren't supposed to go in but because we were with a parks and rec employee, we were granted access.

Seeger's not sure about going in!

He was quick to grab the Polack's hand and he wouldn't go to far in. It was too dark for him. Nicklas on the other hand, well he went as far as he could.
Here's a picture looking out from inside the cave.

After we left the cave, we went down a lot more steps. We could hear running water and as we rounded a corner, we saw a cool waterfall. Here is a photo of the boys at the bottom of it. It's much bigger than this and it was very beautiful. I will get an awesome photo of it the next time I'm at the park.

About a quarter of a mile into the hike, we come upon the wetland area. In the early 1900's, this used to be a reservoir for Bloomington. Unfortunately, it was built on top of a heavy limestone area. Limestone is soft and it causes water to leak through (which is how caves are formed) so the City couldn't keep up with demand. IU was not happy about the lack of water and threatened to move the University to Indianapolis. Of course Bloomington didn't want this to happen so they created another reservoir, north of town, and this one became abandoned.
Bloomington City Utilities owned the property until is was turned over to Parks and Recreation in 1998. Here's a view from the top; we're standing on top of the dam.

After another half mile (and a stop at the toilet pit for Seeger), we made it back to the park entrance. It was an awesome evening and the four of us had so much fun. We will definitely be bringing family and friends to Leonard Springs Nature Park so that we can share the beauty of southern Indiana with everyone who will let us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted; Vacation, Had To Get Away

How about a little bit of Go-Go's to start this overdue post? I've been meaning to blog about our recent family vacation but I never feel like I have enough time to sit and dedicate myself to a super long post. I finally decided to do a bit at a time and even if it takes me a week to get through writing this, at least I'll finally finish it.

At the beginning of August, after moving into our new house and emptying our savings, we went on a family cruise to the Bahamas. Cuz, that's how we roll. It actually involved more than the cruise. Melissa, my sis-in-law, and I have been trying for two summers to find a weekend when our two families could spend a weekend at Lake George. The calendar Gods finally aligned and it ended up being the weekend before our family cruise. And just to make things more chaotic, we threw in a side trip to see a Tigers game in Detroit. We all met up Friday evening before the game to have dinner at the Elwood Bar and Grill just outside Comerica Park. We had heard family stories about $2 beers and wanted to check out the place. I'm not sure the rumor is true - my beer was $4 - but the food was good and view was awesome and the company was spectacular. Here's a semi group shot.

I'm bad about paying attention to baseball games. So when Seeger wasn't hanging out with cousin Ben, he and I ate popcorn together.

Nicklas DOES pay attention to baseball games. He stopped long enough to sorta smile at the camera. He loves going to Tigers games.

After the game Friday night, the group made the two drive to the Lake. We arrived pretty late that night but I think everyone enjoyed waking up and putting on their bathing suits right away on Saturday. The kids spent the entire day in the water. They stopped long enough to eat and take a pontoon ride. Matt and Melissa were excited to go on their first booze cruise. The kids liked driving the boat with Uncle John.

Here's my brother with his dog, Spots.

Aunt Kathy and Seeger.

The kids even went swimming AFTER their pontoon ride. My boys have never spent so much time in the Lake. Luckily it's more fun to swim with cousins. It's a proven fact, one I've verified with my own cousins.

We had a wonderful time together and decided that the cousins needs to spend more time together at Lake George. Afterall, it's one of the happiest places in the world.

Matt and his family left the Lake Sunday afternoon. Matt and Melissa were working part of the week before driving to Florida for the cruise. The Polack and I were planning on spending Sunday night at the Lake and leaving for Florida early Monday morning but when we realized we had left one of our suitcases in Bloomington, we made the trip back and slept in our own beds that night. We got up really early Monday morning to start our drive. We weren't out of Indiana yet before Nicklas started to feel car sick so just outside Louisville, we found a Huddle House that was open for breakfast at 5am.

We made it to Bob and Patty's, cousins of the Polack, late Monday night. Tom and Bobbie were already there and so was Aunt Judy. On Tuesday, we slept in, went shopping, went swimming, and ate an awesome meal of BBQ ribs. I thought I had a picture of the family dinner but I can't find it. Boo. It was a nice relaxing day. I didn't get to play Blokus but Seeger made me take a photo of the design he made with the game pieces.

Since the very beginning of the trip planning for the family cruise, I told the Polack that I wanted to take the boys to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It's the reason we drove to Florida a few days early. We were able to spend two days at Universal Orlando. Here are the boys, entering the City Walk.

We got to the park pretty early because I knew the Harry Potter lines are really long. Really, really long. I thought it would be best to get there as soon as possible, hoping to avoid some of the people traffic. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. We had to wait for about 50 minutes to ride the Forbidden Journey (the ride inside the castle). Luckily, that was our longest wait. After the castle, we rode Flight of the Hippogriff, the smaller Happy Potter roller coaster. Here's a photo of the boys waiting for the ride.

It was pretty crowded in the Harry Potter land so we opted to skip the 30 minute line for butterbeers and we headed to the rest of the park. On the way out, I took some photos of Hogsmeade. Universal did an amazing job in creating the Wizarding World. I definitely understand why this is such a popular attraction.

Here are some more photos of our day at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The boys at Jurrasic Park.

Here we are in Dr. Suessland. I love this park of the park. It's very Suessical and fun for younger kids. I still made the boys visit, even if they don't appreciate it.

Outside the Marvel Comic area.

Nicklas loves roller coasters so he was excited about riding the Hulk. By late afternoon, the line was only 5-10 minutes long so he rode it about 10 times. Here he is after conquering the coaster.

Later that day, we decided to head back to Hogsmeade to see if it had calmed down some. The butterbeer line was short so we got one to share. The Polack and Nicklas thought it was too sweet but Seeger and I loved it.

Our last ride of the night was the big Harry Potter coaster, Dragon Challenge. Nicklas rode it three or four times. It was a great coaster. We also did some shopping in Honeyduke's and Ollivander's. I had told the boys they could pick out one souvenier. Nicklas chose to buy a wand from Ollivander's. Even though it's Narcissa Malfoy's wand, it's still really, really cool. Seeger chose to buy some dinosaur's figurines from Jurrasic Park. It was a great day!

The next day, we decided to check out the other park, Universal Studio's. The park was a lot less crowded and we easily did everything it had to offer. Seeger doesn't like big rides but he definitely enjoyed the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster. He rode it at least 15 times. We would talk him in to riding other rides by rewarding him with the Woody coaster.

Mike was cast in the Disaster! ride.

I didn't take nearly as many photos at Universal Studio's. We really enjoyed the ET ride and Men in Black. The boys loved the Simpson's and laughed several times. I liked the Mummy coaster. Seeger was a little freaked out by Twister. We had to keep reassuring him that it was all special effects. It sure brought up a lot of weather related questions.

We had been to Universal Studio's before so we were familiar with most of the rides. However, we hadn't ridden the new coaster, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. The Polack went to ride it with Nicklas while Seeger and I waited.

Here's a photo I took of the coaster. I definitely didn't feel like I needed to ride it. But as usual, the Polack talked me in to it so Nicklas got to ride it again, this time with me, while the Polack stayed with Seeger. It was super awesome. You get to choose which music you want to hear as your riding the coaster. They film you the whole time so you can buy a video of yourself on the ride. I'm sure my video was pretty entertaining as I was jamming to No Doubt the whole time.
By the time we returned to Bob and Patty's that night, the cousins had arrived. The kids where so excited to be together again. The next day, we headed to Cocoa Beach to watch a NASA rocket launch before boarding the cruise ship. We went to the beach but unfortunately, we didn't let the kids go swimming. They really wanted to get in the water but we only had a little bit of time and we didn't want them sandy and wet before boarding the cruise.

We let them put their feet in the water. It was torture not letting them get completely wet. I felt awful about it.

We waited and waited for the launch but it kept getting delayed. Finally, we left for Port Canaveral. On the way, we saw the rocket so everyone pulled off to the side of the road to watch. Mike took this photo from the car.

Finally it was cruise time! Here's a photo as we're arriving to our rooms.

Our first meal on the ship was lunch. We were hungry!

Nicklas said those french fries were the best he ever had.

Here are the cousins with Patty, checking out the ship.

Nicklas loved being in the top bunk.

Here's the Polack in our tiny room!

The cabin is great for family time, but not so much for couple time. At least I got some kisses from the boys.

The second day of the cruise, we were headed to Nassau. Tropical Storm Emily messed with some of our plans so we didn't get there as soon as we were supposed to. The ship did a pretty good job of entertaining us. So did Ben! Here's a photo from Bingo time.

We finally made it to Nassau. I loved walking arond and seeing the old Bahaman architecture. It was overcast most of the day and it rained some but luckily, we never got wet.

Here's the straw market. A little too close crowded for my comfort.

Here are the kids as we are heading back to the ship. Our ship is the first one in the photo. We chose Royal Caribbean and we have a rock climbing wall. The other ship is Carnival and they had a water slide.

In front of the straw market.

Some random shots...

Here is a photo of the kids, hanging out in Bob and Patty's room.

Nicklas and Anna did an awesome job on the rock climbing wall. Anna made it all the way to the top to ring the bell.

Goofy cousins.

Swimming at one of the pools. I have another photo of the boys posing in front of the pool but I like this one better.

Here is a photo of Nassau as we are departing from port.

The obligatory towel animal. The boys loved this. We were hoping for more but only received one during the cruise.

We were supposed to go to Coco Cay on our third day of the cruise but unfortunately, the storm prevented that from happening. We were very disappointed about not getting to spend time at the beach. We still had fun on the ship, especially at dinner. The kids loved being able to order anything and everything off the menu. I loved multiple desserts!

I tried escargots for the first time. I enjoyed it but I think I'd love anything with that much butter on it.

More photo's from dinner...

That's it for my photos. Whew, this WAS a long post. I still don't have a camera so all photos were taken with my iPhone. I definitely didn't take as many photos as I would have with a camera. I also didn't get any group shots with the rest of the family. We didn't all do everything together all of the time - which is the nice thing about a cruise - but we definitely did lots of things together. I wish I would have captured more of those moments. There were 14 of us on the cruise and it was great to spend so much time together. It was a wonderful vacation and we're looking forward to the next time we can spend time with the Turner family.