Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Thirty (evening)

The last official day of NaNoWriMo 2009! My novel's still not done, but I'm close. I wrote another 905 words today. Microsoft Word says I have 53,334 words, but I validated my word count on the NaNoWriMo website one last time, and my official word count is: 53,406.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Nine (evening)

Added another 1,296 words to my novel today. Still haven't finished yet. I figure another three or four days, and then I'll set it aside. Up to 52,429 words.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Eight (evening)

Decided to keep writing, because my novel's not done yet. I'm up to 51,133 words according to Word, and 51,236 according to the NaNoWriMo website. Just wrote one more scene so far today, another 858 words.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Seven (evening)

I finished today, crossing the 50K line. Microsoft Word said my word count was 50,275. Then I validated my word count on the NaNoWriMo website, and the word validator said 50,366. I won!

On Wednesday, the 25th, I got up to 47,688 words. I wrote 1,730 words that day.

On Thursday, the 26th, I got up to 48,563 words. I only wrote 895 words that day, which made it my worst day of the month. It was Thanksgiving; what can I say?

Today, the 27th, I got up to 50,275 (50,366) words. I wrote 1,712 words today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Four (evening)

I'm definitely winding down. I know I'll make it to 50K, so I'm not pushing myself so hard. Wrote 1,143 words today. I crossed the 45K/90% mark this morning, and then wrote some more tonight after the boys were asleep.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Three (evening)

Wrote again this morning before work, which I'm really glad I did, because I was especially tired today after work. I did manage another 1,734 words, bring my total up to 44,795. I'm so close to 90%; just 205 more words! But I'm done for tonight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-Two (evening)

I wrote in three sessions again today, which is what I usually do on weekends. It's nice to have more time throughout the day, so I can write some, take a break, and then come back and write some more. And I tend to finish much earlier in the evening, so I'm not quite so tired.

Also spent some time today reading the fourth week chapter in No Plot? No Problem! Since I finished reading Stephen King's On Writing, I've been at a loss as to what to read. I'm deliberately not reading any novels currently; I'll do that as a reward for finishing my novel. I think I'll be looking at some novels I like as I go through the revision process. Then I remembered I was reading The Motion of Light in Water by Samuel R. Delany, which is about writing (and other things), so I picked that up again and read a few pages today.

I wrote a total of 1,830 words today, which puts my total word count up to 43,061. I'm at 86%, with less than 7,000 words to go.

"The point is, as Aristotle told us, is what happens to the hero... not what happens to the writer. - David Mamet

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty-One (evening)

I didn't quite make my goal today, only reaching 1,564. My total is now 41,231. I wrote about 700 words this morning, another three hundred this afternoon, and the rest this evening. Just too tired now, starting to nod off, so I'm calling it a night.

"If you are a writer, by definition it seems to me you're pretty neurotic. And the whole writing business is some way of coming to terms with it." - Doris Lessing

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twenty (evening)

Exhausted now... can't write any more. Mostly because I just wasted a whole bunch of time in the forums over at NaNoWriMo.

Wrote 1,970 words today. Total: 39,667. I'm at 79%. I can't wait to cross 40K and truly be on the downhill slope.

"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." - Francis Bacon

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Nineteen (evening)

Another day home with the boys. This flu is really nasty. My youngest seemed to be doing better all day, but his temperature did rise again late this afternoon.

Since he was awake a lot more today, we started watching Christmas movies. We watched The Santa Clause and The Polar Express.

All in all, a good day.

Words today: 1,821
Total word count: 37,697.

I am now 75% done towards my goal of 50,000 words. I anticipate no problems reaching that goal with what I have left yet to write, based on what I've plotted out until "The End."

When I started this, I thought 50K was a lot to write, and I would be happy with that. I still will be, but now the goal has altered somewhat. Now, I really want to finish my novel. I imagine it will get longer in revision, even when I cut out all the bad stuff. But if I keep going at the rate I have been, and write every day, I'll end up closer to 60K than 50K.

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there." - Thomas Berger

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Eighteen (evening)

I was home all day today, but didn't post anything until tonight. I was home with my younger son today, also sick with that flu bug that is knocking everyone out lately. I had three students out the other day, and more than that last week.

Since he napped off and on all day, I got a lot of writing done.

Feel good that I got a lot of writing done today. Feel bad that both of my boys have gotten sick this season. Feel guilty that I enjoyed writing today. As hard as it was yesterday to make those 1,667 words, today was easy. The words just flowed; it was nearly effortless.

I don't feel guilty because I wasn't taking care of my son. I tended to him plenty today, but when he was napping, there wasn't anything for me to do for him. So, I wrote. It's a parent thing, I guess. You feel awful when your children are sick and there's really not a whole lot you can do to make them feel better.

Also finished reading Stephen King's On Writing this evening.

Today's word count: 2,194, which makes it only my fifth best day so far this month. (That helps alleviate the guilt a little bit.)
Total word count: 35,876, which puts me at 71%.

"There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes." - William Makepeace Thackeray

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Seventeen (evening)

The words came hard today. Some days the words just fly onto the page. That didn't happen today, but I kept going until I met my daily word goal.

I think I need to get back into the habit of writing a little bit in the morning before I go in to work. Trying to get it all done in the evening after work is proving to be too difficult.

Today's word count: 1,770
Total: 33,682

I'm 67% done, which means I'm two-thirds of the way there.

"I do not like to write - I like to have written." - Gloria Steinem

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wordle

If you're interested, you can see a wordle of this blog.

NaNoWriMo Day Sixteen (evening)

I was at home today with my son, who is recovering from the flu. Since he spent most of the day on the couch under his blankets, watching TV and movies on DVD, I got a lot of writing done.

This morning, I finished reading the third week section of No Plot? No Problem! and decided to take Chris's advice to heart. Looking at my plot notes, I decided I wasn't even halfway to the end of my novel. And I want to finish with something that resembles my vision of what this book is going to look like when it's done. That is, I want the complete story arcs for my characters that I mapped out.

I'm glad that I took a look at my notes. I had already started skipping around in my novel. The character that I developed first, the one who I thought was going to be my main character, was taking more and more of a back seat. During some of the rough parts of week two, I left him alone quite a bit, and focused on the other two main characters I've been writing about. That helped me get focused again.

I guess that's one of those writer moments that I hear people talking about, when the characters demand things of you. That time when you realize that maybe you're not in control, that the characters you created are really in charge of their own lives and you're merely the scribe.

Anyway, back to today... I'm glad that I looked at those notes again, because I ended up throwing a lot of them out. I had plotted things that my characters simply would not do. I know that now because I understand them so much better than I did a couple of weeks ago. So I trimmed some of that incorrect stuff out. And there were one or two things that I just looked at and thought didn't really fit in this novel at all. I have a more bare outline now, but one that should take me to 50,000 words (or more) and a finished novel (basically). If I can pull that off, I'll be more than happy. I will have really accomplished what I set out to do.

I can always come back to it in December and flesh it out even more. I may put some of those things back in. I'm sure other new things will occur to me over the next couple of weeks as well, that I may or may not fit in by the end of the month. We'll see. Flexibility is definitely a skill that helps during NaNoWriMo.

Today's final word count: 2,931 words, which makes it my second best day so far this November. My total: 31,912 words. I'm 63% done, which puts me almost two-thirds of the way there.

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." - George Orwell

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Fifteen (evening)

This morning's word count: 1,248. I have now crossed the 28K threshold. I'm just a few words shy of having enough words to be two days ahead of schedule.

It's really nice having that buffer of words. I'm still worried about something interfering with me making my daily word goal. I've had students out sick. Fellow teachers have been sick. And now my oldest son has gotten sick. Still not sure if he's going to be well enough to go back to school tomorrow or not. If not, I'll have to stay home with him; my wife stayed home with him on Friday.

And I'm worried about Thanksgiving. I should be able to meet my word count for Wednesday; I have that day off, too. But then we're going out of town to my grandmother's. And I'm doing most of the cooking. So, I'm not sure how much writing I'll be able to get done on Thursday and Friday, especially Thursday. I'm going to commit to getting some writing done both days, but I don't see myself making 1,667 words each of those two days.

I don't want to take a day off. I did that last year, and then one day turned into two and then three... And I pretty much stopped writing entirely. I did write a bit more, but I lost my momentum and never regained it. Don't want that to happen at all this year. Even if I only get down 400 words, then I still wrote something for that day.

Wrote again this evening, putting today's total at 1,971. My total word count is now 28,981. One more word and it would be a palindrome.

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long." - Leonard Bernstein

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Fourteen (evening)

Wrote in three sessions today, one this morning, a brief one in the afternoon, and the last one this evening.

Today's word count: 1,963
Total word count: 27,010
Words remaining: 22,990
Complete: 54%
Average words per day: 1,929

At this rate, I should finish 50,000 words on November 26.

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say." - Sharon O'Brien

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Thirteen (evening)

Was feeling really disheartened after yesterday's lackluster performance.

Not feeling terribly great about today's writing either, but I did make my daily word goal again today. A lot of what I wrote today was my main character thinking. It was a lot of mostly pointless worrying. I can imagine someone reading the book and reaching this point, and thinking, "What went wrong here?" It's all garbage. It's the first true garbage I've written, and about that I'm not happy.

This is probably a good thing. I need to write garbage if I'm going to finish 50,000 words. And at the rate I'm going, I'm going to surpass that before the month is up. For all that garbage is words, and enough words that I feel like I did a good job today, much better than yesterday.

I just have to keep telling myself. Write, even if it's garbage. I keep worrying that what I'm writing is good or not. Mostly I'm happy with it, but I've got to have some bad parts. That's what December's for. And I'm starting to worry that I'm becoming attached to my novel, that I really want it to be good. But, first things first, I have to finish it, and then I can worry about making it good.

Words today: 1,904. Total word count: 25,047. I have officially passed the half-way mark.

"Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted." - Jules Renard

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Twelve (evening)

Not a good day. Didn't write this morning; got something ready for my students instead.

Didn't write at school either. I wasn't able to set aside time today. Spent a big chunk of the day reviewing geometry concepts for tomorrow's math test.

Couldn't even take a little break after work and write. I finally got to meet with my son's teacher, have our parent-teacher conference, and get his report card. (I think next time, for the spring parent-teacher conferences, I'm going to schedule a time for me to meet with my son's teacher, and the parents of my students are just going to have to work around my schedule. I'm feeling a little bitter, can you tell?) And then I had an IEP meeting to go to, which lasted until 4:30. Spent the next half hour trying to get things ready for tomorrow. Dashed out, was a little late picking up my younger son.

He, of course, decided to be difficult this evening. Had to give him a time-out. Was so frustrated with his defiant behavior, that I went out for the evening. Drove over to Barnes & Noble with my NEO, and only managed 1,196 words today. I'm at 23,143.

"I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension." - Norman Mailer

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Eleven (evening)

I think that break really helped. Sat down with my boys and watched Up again. Have seen it three times now. The first time was at Pixar Studios; we have a friend who works there and she invited us to see it. We liked it so much I took the boys to see it again on the big screen. And we watched it again today at home on DVD. It's a great movie! If you haven't seen it yet, you owe yourself the pleasure.

Ended up writing 2,224 words today for a grand total of 21,947.

NaNoWriMo Day Eleven (afternoon)

It's almost 3 o'clock on Veterans Day. Except for lunch out with the boys, and picking up Pixar's Up on DVD, we've been home all day. Now they're getting squirrelly, running around the house and generally being obnoxious. I'm going to take a break now from my novel and try to write again after they're in bed.

Today's word count (so far): 1,643. Total (so far): 21,366.

"The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Ten (evening)

Didn't write at all this morning, which is the first time since I started NaNoWriMo this year that I haven't written something in the morning.

I was playing with a NEO2 from Renaissance Learning. I'm lucky enough to be a teacher who was loaned a set of NEOs for use in the classroom. They arrived last Friday at our school, and though my fellow fifth-grade teacher and I were tempted to each take a NEO home over the weekend to acquaint ourselves with them, we resisted. We, of course, wrote large chunks of our novels instead.

But yesterday, Monday, after our staff meeting, we opened up the boxes and got a look at the NEOs. I used one immediately, typing up some notes from our history text, which I then transferred to my computer and printed out. Couldn't have been easier. I was taken with it pretty much immediately.

Took that one home last night. Didn't end up using it that night, because I was writing my novel on my laptop. But this morning, I used the NEO again to type up some summaries of history chapters that students had already drafted. I really like the eight different files feature. I was able to put summaries of the same chapter together in the same file, which transferred to the same document on my computer. Some students were assigned to summarize the same chapter, so it was convenient to group them together in the same document, which the NEO handles as the same file.

I never had to worry about the work I typed being saved. When I was done with those summaries, I just opened a new file and began work on summaries for the next chapter.

Once at school, I introduced students who had committed to writing to their NEOs. To say that they were excited would be an understatement. They couldn't wait to start using them. I set aside some instructional time this morning, and several of them wrote with me at the big table in the back of my classroom. A handful stayed in during recess; they wanted to keep writing rather than go out and play. An almost equal number of students decided to stay in during lunch recess as well to write; they did eat lunch, but again, they did not go out and play.

Overall, a very satisfactory day. I'm enjoying using the NEO and so are my students. It was definitely a motivator for them to write.

Oh, yeah...I managed 1,980 words today, bringing my total up to 19,723.

"I do not boast about the quality of my work, but I may be permitted to pride myself on the gift of steady application." - Anthony Burgess

Monday, November 09, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Nine (evening)

Didn't write much this morning, only 334 words. I spent some time going back to a previous chapter. I wanted to make sure I had all the characters and details right to start this new chapter.

I realized I now need to start tracking some additional information on chapters I've written. I've created new minor characters, named others, etc. I need to keep notes of these somewhere, probably my plot document. I don't want to go back and read what I've written; I just want to keep writing.

It wasn't even that I was tempted to revise what I had written. Or that I had given my Inner Editor some power to try to escape from his prison. I just spent too much time reading, looking for the info that I needed to keep writing.

I could argue that it was time well spent, that what I wrote because of it would not require any major revision. But that's kind of the point of NaNoWriMo: it's okay to write and have it not be okay. It can always be fixed in December. I have a deadline, and I can't afford to waste any time.

Anyway...

I did meet my daily goal. I added 1,804 words to my story. I am now up to 17,743 words, which means I'm 35.5% done. I passed the one-third mark.

"A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to do it." - Samuel Johnson

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Do You Read What You've Written?

No, except for the last couple of paragraphs I may have written for a scene to get going again. I will stop writing if I get to the end of a scene that has a cliffhanger ending. It's easy to pick that up again, propelling myself into the next scene. Otherwise, I try to stop somewhere in the middle of a scene. I don't really want to face a blank page at the start of a new scene or chapter. Because of where I tend to end scenes I do read a little to get me started again.

I have no plans to read what I've written until the whole book is done. My wife keeps asking me to read it, but I have refused to show it to her until it's done. (She's a little annoyed with me.)

NaNoWriMo Day Eight (evening)

At 7:00 p.m., I was up to 15,939 words. I've written 2,107 words today. Overall, I've had a very productive weekend, totaling some 4,400 words. I'm now more than a full day ahead of schedule. And I'm 32% done.

It feels really good to have that buffer of excess words. So far, I'm not showing any signs of slowing down, but Chris Baty, in No Plot? No Problem!, says to anticipate week two being more difficult. I hope I can maintain this same level of progress. Because I've got enough plot notes in my outline, I should be able to get out at least 1,000 words on a bad day.

NaNoWriMo has $181,487 in donations so far this year. The collective word total is 591,689,307.

"A writer's mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head." - Ethel Wilson

NaNoWriMo Day Eight (afternoon)

I'm stopping now around 12:30. Time for a light lunch. I've managed 1,263 words so far today, putting my total word count at 15,095.

It hardly seems that I've already been writing for a whole week now and have started the second week. I think I'll take a break and read the next section of No Plot? No Problem!. I also need to catch up on the Daily Noveling Briefs that came with the No Plot? No Problem! Novel-Writing Kit. Those should inspire me and prepare me for the week ahead.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Seven (evening)

Around 9 p.m., I stopped for the day, with 2,351 words completed, bringing my total up to 13,832. Was having a rough time of it earlier in the afternoon. Around 7 p.m., when I put the boys down for bed, I had barely passed 1,400 words.

"All writers arrange objects around them in a way that means nothing to anyone except their owner. Then you feel safe and can set out on some sort of voyage of the mind knowing you're going to find your way back." - Redmond O'Hanlon

NaNoWriMo Day Seven (morning)

Have written 1,030 words so far today. Now I'm off to take the boys to their swim class, and then lunch. Plan to have at least two more writing sessions today, to reach at least 2,000 words today, or maybe even 2,500.

Friday, November 06, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Six (evening)

This morning before I left for work I wrote another 656 words. After dinner, I managed another 562 words, bringing me up to a total of 10,901 words. However, I'm still about 400 words shy of today's goal of 1,667. Going to take a little break, maybe do a little reading, and then try to hammer out another short scene.

When I posted this NaNoWriMo was up to $172,962 in donations and a total word count of 442,507,400.

Wrote some more to finish that chapter. Was still a few words shy of today's goal, so I went back to an earlier chapter to add another scene that I decided belonged there. Finally, brought my total up to 11,481 words. I managed to break 10K this morning and 11K this evening, all in the same day.

"It's much better to be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices through us, than to be a cloistered being trying to find one peanut of truth in our own individual mind. Become big and write with the whole world in your arms." - Natalie Goldberg

Thursday, November 05, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Five (evening)

I'm up to 9,678 words. Every day but one so far I've written at least the average 1667 words that I need to manage to finish 50,000 in a month. I'm 19% done.

"Isadora's desk appeared a random mess, but like a novel in progress it had an inner logic apparent only to its begetter." - Erica Jong



So, I decided to feed two birds with one loaf of bread. I also signed up for National Blog Posting Month to blog about where I am in writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Four (evening)

Broke 8K: up to 8004 now.

"One of the first things you learn as a writer is that you write what you can, not what you want." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

NaNoWriMo Day Four (morning)

Last night, I got my word count up to 6,228. Didn't write as much yesterday as I had the previous two days. I wanted to write more last night. I took a break, and then ended up falling asleep, so I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. I was all ready to write that next scene, but I guess sleep was more important.

Wrote another 624 words this morning. Current word count: 6,855.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Three (morning)

Wrote another 322 words this morning. I'm now up to 5,578. Got to keep going to keep up with those daily goals. Aidan interrupted me this morning, showing me Halloween pictures another parent at his school had taken. Very nice, but you can't write and watch a slide show of pictures on your computer at the same time.

"I think the whole glory of writing lies in the fact that it forces us out of ourselves and into the lives of others." - Sherwood Anderson

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Two (evening)

I am now up to 5,253 words in my novel.

"Only when men are connected to larger, universal goals are they really happy - and one result of their happiness is a rush of creative activity." - Joyce Carol Oates

NaNoWriMo Day Two (morning)

Worked a bit more this morning, adding another 692 words, bringing my total up to 4,262.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day One

Today, I started my second attempt at National Novel Writing Month. We were in Santa Rosa for the weekend, so I brought my laptop with me. The boys woke me up too early, so I started on my novel early this morning. By 10 o'clock I was up to 2,296 words, well above the 1,667 required to finish 50,000 words in a month.

Around 5 o'clock, I was up to 2,846 words, and had to stop. Had a light dinner and then drove back to San Bruno. Wrote for another session before bed and got up to 3,567 words. A good first day. I hope I can write this many words every weekend day. If so, I should have no problem crossing the finish line this year.



"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." - Stephen King

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Field Trip #1

Every year, Aidan's preschool, Hugs Hangout, takes the kids on three summer field trips. Here are some snaps from our first field trip this summer. This was before we went on vacation to Indiana and Ohio.

We took a chartered bus from Hugs Hangout to San Francisco, where we were going to catch a ferry ride over to Sausalito. Here's Aidan mugging for the camera before we got on the ferry.



We rode the ferry to Sausalito and then boarded our bus again to get up to the Marin Highlands, where we were going to have lunch and then walk over to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Unfortunately, after walking all the way out to the lighthouse, we found out we couldn't cross the bridge to the lighthouse itself. The park service uses a lot of volunteers nowadays, and the volunteer for that day had called in sick, so the rangers closed the bridge. But I took a photo of the lighthouse from the other side.



Since we had been planning to spend more time ath the lighthouse, we made an impromptu visit to The Marine Mammal Center. It was very kind of them to let us in for a self-guided tour on such short notice. Afterwards, we headed down to a beach and most of the kids spent time throwing rocks into a pond there.



Then it was back on the bus and back home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Today was our day to travel back home. We just hung out at my uncle’s in the morning, relaxing and little by little packing up all of our things. We packed lighter this time than our last vacation two years ago. Last time, we had to mail some things home to ourselves because we had picked up so many new things. This time, we had plenty of room in our luggage.

Before we left, we took some pictures. Here's Aidan in the corn.



We had no problems getting to the airport and returning our rental car. We were hungry so we stopped outside the terminals and had some lunch. As we realized time was growing short for our flight we headed for the terminal. When we got to the entrance we were redirected to enter through another terminal, the one we had just been sitting near as we had our lunch. We dashed back across the food court area to the other terminal and went to the family line for security. Our time for boarding was getting closer and closer and they were moving really slowly. Luckily, the family in front of us let us go ahead of them. They said their flight wasn’t for another hour. If they hadn’t done that, we would have missed our flight.

As it was, we had to go back to the original terminal we tried to enter and then get to our flight. They were paging us as we got close to the gate. That’s how close we cut it.

Of course, at that point, there were no seats together. Kelley and Aidan were able to sit together, with Liam in front of the two of them and me by myself across the aisle from Liam. Liam was not happy with that situation, and a kind man moved so that Liam could sit with Kelley and Aidan. I had a window seat because the couple I sat next to didn’t want to move from their seats. This meant that I had to ask both of them to move when I had to get out of my seat and help Kelley with the boys, as I did in setting up the laptop so they could watch a movie. And Kelley and I kept passing things back and forth to each other over their heads, but they wouldn’t budge. They didn’t have to move, but I didn’t feel sorry inconveniencing them either.
Then we landed in Vegas. The flight from there was short and we were back at SFO. We quickly gathered our luggage, found a cab, and were home in no time. Overall, it was a much better experience than last time, when Aidan was younger and we were flying in and out of Oakland.

It was good to be home again. We had a great time on vacation, but there’s nothing like being home again when you’ve been away a while.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today our plan was to go into Indianapolis and catch some of the ConocoPhillips National Championship trials at the Natatorium at IUPUI. We had some difficulty the night before finding information on getting tickets to the trials, so we decided to just drive up to the Natatorium and buy tickets there for the day.

Unfortunately, when we finally got there, around 1 p.m., the ticket booth was closed and wasn't due to reopen until 4 p.m. for that evening's finals. Luckily, I had looked at the map of Indianapolis again and had figured out how to get to the White River State Park. We decided to go to the zoo, that way we could get something to eat and entertain the boys until we could go back and buy tickets to see some swimming.

While both boys whined about going to the zoo, they ended up having fun. While the Indy Zoo is on the smaller side, it is a nice zoo with good animal exhibits and very clean. Aidan liked touching the sharks.



We also rode their roller coaster. Here's a shot of the boys in a vehicle like the ones on the roller coaster. You can see the tracks of the coaster itself behind them.



After getting some ice cream, we went back to the Natatorium to get our tickets. Kelley's gotten into swimming in a big way and was very excited to see such great swimmers live. After we got our tickets and went inside, the swimmers were warming up in the pool before the finals started at 6 p.m. I have never seen so many people swimming laps in a pool at the same time - such discipline!



We saw Michael Phelps, even though he wasn't swimming in any events today. There were several girls behind us in the stands who were calling out to him, which clued us that he was down by the water. He finally waved at the girls to get them to quiet, finished talking to his coach, and then walked down to the other end of the pool.

We stayed to see the finals of the women's 100m butterfly and the men's 400m freestyle. We saw Christine Magnuson win the women's event and then Peter Vanderkaay win the men's event. Both will automatically go on to represent the U.S. in the World Championships. The boys were pretty antsy at this point, so we called it a night and drove back to my uncle's house and warmed up some leftovers.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Today was our travel day back to Indiana, half in Ohio and half in Indiana. We had a pretty relaxed morning, having breakfast and then lunch, and slowly packing up all of our things, looking all over Grandma Carole's house to make sure we didn't leave anything behind. We finally got on the road around 3 p.m. and got to my uncle's house in Indiana around 5 p.m.



We had dinner at my uncle's house and just relaxed. It was too cool to go swimming. The weather in Indiana had been pretty much the same as it had been in Ohio; it had rained all day on the Fourth of July here too. Aidan was disappointed that we couldn't go swimming in the pool. It was just about all he talked about.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

We all slept in late today. Even Aidan woke up just before I did around 8 a.m. It was another lazy day. We didn’t really have anything planned. We did want to go swimming in the lake again, but it was still cool and there were a lot of clouds this morning.

Grandma Carole suggested we go to the local flea market, which is open every weekend. Kelley had mentioned how much she liked the funnel cake she had at the Rush County fair, and they had funnel cake at the flea market. Of course, when we got there, we found the funnel cake place was closed. Grandma Carole and I had popcorn, while everybody else had some ice cream. We bought the boys toy cars and called it a day.

While the weather got better, it was getting warmer and the sky was beginning to have some blue in it and some white fluffy clouds, we just went back home and napped.

For dinner, Kelley had some chicken and dumplings that Peggy had made for her and brought over the day before. Carole made me some spaghetti with puttanesca sauce.

We caught up with The Next Food Network Star and watched tonight’s new episode, as well as Iron Chef America.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Another lazy morning. Grandma Carole was putting together a Fourth of July dinner and needed us out of the house for a couple of hours so she could finish preparing food and doing a little cleaning before company started arriving. Kelley wanted to go back to Lake Cowan and swim in the lake some more, but it wasn’t that warm and rain had been forecast.

We ended up driving to the mall in Beavercreek and taking the boys to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Liam got a Jack Russell Terrier he named Barky, and Aidan got a scruffy puppy he named Alicia. He was very particular that she was named “Uh-lee-see-uh” and not “Uh-leash-uh.”

We got a bite to eat at their food court, and got into a photo booth for some fun family pictures. Kelley got her eyebrows threaded. On our way out, we stopped at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and bought some ice cream for the boys and some dark chocolate for Kelley and me.

By this time, it had started raining. It was an unusual rain. Every other time it’s rained out here, whether in Indiana or Maryland, it’s been a storm that passed quickly. There was lightning and thunder, some rain, and then the storm moved on. This was different. This was just rain, drizzling all day, with no thunder or lightning.

While the rain put a damper on the fireworks, it certainly didn’t stop us from eating or having a good time. I snacked on too many chips and salsa, and then ate two Boca burgers and some vegetarian baked beans. I didn’t have any room for corn on the cob. I ate way too much!

The kids played with sparklers, and we and the neighbors shot off a few fireworks, but it seems the next door neighbor, who has a reputation for a big fireworks display, is waiting for better weather. We’re hoping it won’t rain tomorrow night and he’ll shoot off the rest of his fireworks then.

Aidan ran around all evening with his “cousins,” the kids in Grandpa Jack’s extended family, while Liam mostly stayed inside and watched TV. He did play with them a little bit, but wasn’t really interested in the fireworks. He wanted to see them but thought they were too loud and went back inside.

Kelley and I both nodded off watching The Food Network downstairs in the family room. Grandma Carole woke me up because Liam had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch in the living room, snuggling with Barky. I got him and Aidan upstairs into bed, and then woke Kelley up to go to bed. I stayed up for a while longer reading, then went to sleep myself.

Friday, July 3, 2009

This was our travel back to Ohio day. We stopped at The Fractured Prune to get donuts and coffee. I couldn’t bring myself to drink more of that bad hotel coffee, so I waited until we got to the donut shop. We drove west from Baltimore, which is pronounced by the locals as “Bawl-a-mer,” on interstate 70, then north into Pennsylvania.

Even though I looked at a map online and got directions, I got lost trying to find Maggie’s Mercantile. I finally found it – and it was worth the unnecessary detour and the frustration of not finding it initially.

I ordered barbecue tofu, chicken with wild rice, buffalo chicken, curried lentils, and mock tuna salad. Everything was vegan, organic, and delicious. We were both especially pleased with the mock tuna salad, which we ate with blue corn tortilla chips. In fact, we liked it so much we bought some more to take with us on the road. I also ordered two different flavors of their soy ice cream: pecan brownie and ginger cinnamon. Both were great, though I must say the ginger cinnamon was inspired!

The rest of our trip was uneventful. A couple of stops for gas, bathroom breaks, and something to drink, and then we were back at Wilmington.

It was really good to see the boys. I missed them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Slept in after our late dinner last night, then drove over and picked up Jen at her house. We drove to Hampden to eat brunch at the Golden West Café. At Jen’s suggestion, I ordered a Toddy, cold-brewed espresso, simple sugar, and soymilk; it was awesome! I ordered their vegan burrito, made with soy chorizo, beans, and salsa fresca surrounded with a green chili sauce – it was delicious! I’m eating so well in Baltimore. We also ordered the sweet potato fries with cinnamon and sugar.

They had two vegan cakes on the dessert menu: Carrot Cake and Coconut Lime. They were out of the Coconut Lime, but they had a Cherry Chocolate Cake. I was stuffed from my burrito, so I got the cake to go and another Toddy so sip while we walked around the neighborhood.

We walked around The Avenue there in Hampden, checking out a few shops here and there. I bought a used book on the American Revolution. Kelley bought a couple of dresses.

Then we drove over to Fell’s Point, where we did more of the same. Kelley didn’t find anything, but I bought two CDs at Sound Garden: Verve Remixed 4 and Jazz Impressions of Japan by Dave Brubeck.

We dropped Jen back at her house after finding some ice cream, and then we drove back to our hotel. Kelley took a nap. While I read, I ate most of my Cherry Chocolate Cake. It was quite good, nice and rich. Then I napped.

We went out for dinner at P.F. Chang’s by ourselves to give Jen and Joe some family time, then we went back to their house. We talked and talked until one in the morning.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Slept well, had bad hotel coffee, showered, then went to meet Joe and Jen at Hopkins. Jen had moved to a new floor, so we saw where she works now and went over to see Joe in Photography. Before Joe had to leave for another Hopkins location for the rest of his workday, we went for good coffee. I got a soy latte - and I didn't have to pay extra for the soymilk, which never happens!

Jen had to finish up some work with Dr. Nguyen, who we talked to for a bit first. He's the nicest person, and we caught him a litle off guard, because he wasn't expecting a visit from us. We walked around Hopkins for a while, seeing the new building for The Wilmer Institute, while Jen was finishing up her work for the day.

We went to the One World Cafe for lunch. I had a vegan Maryland Crab Chowder, which was one of their soups of the day, and a Philly Steakless Cheese Steak, which they veganized for me with some soy cheese. It was a great lunch. We spent quite a while there just talking to Jen, catching up with her with everything that's been going on in her life, particularly all the changes since she and Joe got married.

Then we headed back to her house in Towson, where Joe soon joined us. We talked for quite a while, until about 8 o'clock, when we finally headed into Baltimore for dinner. Jen and Joe took us to this fabulous Ethiopian restaurant, Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, where we had the best meal. Both Kelley and I love Ethiopian food, but we haven't had any for quite a while now, which I think made this taste that much better. While we were eating, a big thunder and lightning storm let loose right on Baltimore. Some of the lightning was very close, and the rain was pouring down for some time. It let up by the time we finished dinner, so our timing was lucky.

Addendum: I had forgotten about it, but we saw a billboard for Maggie's Mercantile while traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I looked them up on HappyCow to get directions. I want to stop on our way back to Ohio. They're at 1262 Route 711 South outside of Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. The posting on HappyCow says that Donegal is the name of the stop on the turnpike that most people will take to get there.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aidan woke Kelley and me up around 6 a.m. today. He wasn't feeling well; he also said he had a nightmare about a wolf. I couldn't get back to sleep so I just got up and turned on the coffee pot; Grandma Carole gets it ready each night so all we have to do in the morning is turn it on. I tried sitting downstairs in the family room to read What Really Matters, but then Jack got up and turned on ESPN. I finally gave up and sat outside on the deck on the swing. It was actually cool out. I just read and sipped my coffee until Kelley got up.

Had some cereal with banana and blueberries this morning for breakfast. While I ate, I pulled out the maps to plan our route. I must have had a print-out from Mapquest or something two years ago because I don't have any notes in my travel journal.

Went upstairs and packed everything up for our drive to Baltimore, then went downstairs to read. At one point, I got tired, set aside my book and even took off my glasses. Kelley thought I was sleeping, so she let me be. Unfortunately, I never did actually fall asleep - and we got a late start for our very long drive. We didn't leave until 10:30 a.m., and didn't reach Baltimore until 8 p.m.

It was a pleasant enough drive through Ohio and Pennsylvania - but long!

Stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Cambridge, Ohio for lunch. Took a picture of Kelley using her cell phone (the only picture I took all day) sitting in one of the rocking chairs out front of the restaurant, which she sent to a couple of friends.

I put together some music for our trip. Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" came on while we were in Pennsylvania, but The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone" didn't play while we were in Ohio; it came on in Maryland.

Checked in to the Ramada, then went over to Jen and Joe's house for dinner. Joe grilled up some vegetable kabobs and some corn on the cob. Delicious! It was good to see them again. We looked at some of their wedding pictures after dinner.

Addendum: Called Grandma Carole to let her know we arrived safe and sound and to check on the boys. Aidan was feeling much better. They went to the park today and fed the ducks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A very lazy morning. I was the last one up today. We had definitely decided to go back to Cowan Lake State Park with swimsuits, towels, and goggles. We also were going to grill up some hot dogs and Smart Dogs for lunch. So we spent the morning just lazing about. I watched a little television to catch up on the news. I also spent some time reading What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America by Tony Schwartz.

The four of us swam in the lake, then we had our picnic lunch. Jack and I had a heck of a time getting the gas grill to stay lit because of the wind. We finally moved the grill to another picnic table near some trees that blocked the wind. Hot dogs always taste better when they’re grilled. Eating outdoors also somehow makes food taste better. On top of that, we were hungry after our swim. I quickly downed two Smart Dogs and about half of another that Aidan didn’t finish.

After lunch, Kelley went back in to swim some “laps” by herself. I got a couple good shots of Grandma and Aidan playing and being sweet on each other.



We got to the park around 11 a.m.; before we knew it, it was nearly 4 p.m. and we decided to head for home.

Showered and relaxed some more. We had plenty of leftovers from the other night for dinner. Sat outside on the deck on the swing as the sun was getting ready to set, Kelley with her glass of wine and me with a Cherry Coke. It was much cooler today, which made sitting outside much more pleasant.

Going to try to go to bed earlier tonight because we’re driving to Baltimore tomorrow. Grandma is keeping the boys for us – we’ll be back on Friday, in plenty of time for the 4th of July. Grandma is planning to take the boys to King’s Island on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Slept really well. We had a nice queen size bed with a feather-top mattress. Slept in until 8:00 a.m. The boys were already awake, and Grandma was busy making them breakfast. Liam was already playing his PSP.

Aidan was much more interested in getting in the wading pool Grandma and Grandpa got for the boys. And he was pretty soon asking Grandpa Jack to go for a ride on his mower. He likes it because he can actually steer it, sitting just in front of Grandpa.



We went to Cowan Lake State Park and had a picnic lunch. We sat close to a beach and ate lunch. There were plenty of trees for shade and a constant breeze coming right off the lake. It was only in the low 80s so it was pleasantly warm.

We strolled down to the water, which was also quite warm. We’re thinking of coming back tomorrow with towels and swimsuits. Earlier, we had discussed going to Caesar Creek State Park to go swimming in the lake there, but we may just come back here.

There were also a lot of sailboats on the lake as well. By the time we left there were many more boats than when we arrived and quite a few more people swimming as well.



We went back to Grandma’s house. Kelley, Aidan, and I ended up taking naps. Liam, of course, played with either his PSP or his DS or both; I don’t know – I was napping.

We drove out to Beavercreek, just outside of Dayton, to eat at the Golden Corral. Peggy and Don treated us to dinner, which was most generous of them. On the way home, we stopped at their house and Don drove us around their property. Don, Jack, and the boys sat in the Gator, while Peggy, her granddaughter Kaya, Carole, Kelley, and I sat in the wagon/trailer attached to it. They have acres and acres, including some woods on the back of their property. It was an amazingly red sunset we saw as we headed back to their house, with the fireflies coming out over the soybean fields.

Before we knew it, it was dark. We got back to Grandma’s around 10:30 and it was definitely time for bed.

Addendum: One of the things I’ve noticed in both Indiana and Ohio is the lack of fences. I noticed this in Rushville as we drove to the fair, and it struck me again as we drove through Wilmington this afternoon. There are fences, of course. Some businesses have them for security reasons, and there are fences to keep animals penned in. But there are very few fences separating one person’s property from another’s. In fact, when you see a house with a fence, it seems odd – out of place. It makes you wonder what kind of people live there.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Aidan was the first one up, as usual. I woke up to Aidan and my uncle talking. I hadn’t gotten halfway through my first cup of coffee before Aidan was asking to go swimming. He remembered we were leaving to drive to Ohio today so he knew if he was going to go swimming it had to be in the morning. My uncle said we’d have breakfast, clean the pool, and then he could go swimming.

Little by little, everyone else woke up. My aunt made Aidan a ham and cheese omelet. Apparently, he greeted her with, “What are you making me for breakfast?” when she woke up. Oh, she’s a kind and generous soul, and really good with kids!

I came inside from the back porch to write and to post yesterday’s journal entry online from my laptop. Just as I was finishing, Kelley told me Aidan was already in the pool. She went to put her suit on to take the first shift with him. I made some oatmeal for my breakfast so I could relieve her in the pool. She wanted to shower so we could get started on our drive to Ohio.

I checked with Liam one last time, to see if he wanted to go swimming before we left my uncle’s. He didn’t swim at all; he stayed inside watching Nick. I went out and played in the pool with Aidan for an hour or so.

My uncle showed me a lot of old pictures from a photo album his great aunt had put together before she died. He had scanned them and was showing them to me on his Apple. He had a lot of pictures of my grandfather, his father, as a child that I’d never seen before. He said he’d burn them onto a DVD for me. I’ll have to take notes so that I remember everybody on that side of my family. I’ll have to put together a family tree for my mom’s side of the family.

I showered and then helped Kelley pack up our stuff in the car. Finally, around 1:30 p.m. we got on the road to Ohio. Both boys fell asleep in the car and didn’t wake up until we got just past Cincinnati. We made great time and soon enough we were at Grandma Carole’s house. It took us about two hours but it certainly didn’t seem that long.

It’s almost all highway, and traffic was light. We didn’t have a single slowdown. And it’s such a pleasant drive. There are so many trees and everything’s green, so different from summer in California.

The boys were excited to see Grandma Carole and Grandpa Jack. Grandma, of course, had surprises for the boys, a Nintendo DS for Aidan and a Sony PSP for Liam. Aidan was so excited; he knew he’d eventually get a DS when he was a little older, but he didn’t think he’s get one so soon. Liam was beside himself; he’s been inseparable from his PSP today.

We had a nice dinner. Peggy, Jack’s sister, and her husband, Don, had dinner with us. Carole made a pasta dish just for me. Also had a nice salad and fresh corn, right off the cob.

Jack also rented a golf cart so that we can drive around their property and neighborhood. Aidan talked several of us, Grandpa, Grandma, Peggy, Don, and me, into taking him for a ride. He just couldn’t get enough. No sooner did we park the golf cart just outside the garage than he was asking to go again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Well, that storm came through last night. There was quite a bit of thunder and lightning, some of it really close. We, except for Liam, also got woken up in the middle of the night by another storm that passed over us. It came from the west, again getting real close and then passing over. But even after it passed us by, we could see lots of lightning north of us. It was too far away for us to hear the thunder but the lightning was plenty strong coming in through the windows.

It was much cooler this morning as we sat on the back porch drinking coffee. The rain cooled things down nicely.

We had definitely decided to go to the fair tonight, so we didn't plan to do much today except to relax and swim. We all had breakfast and just took it easy in the morning. We drank coffee and talked for some time on the porch. We talked school and education with my aunt, and my uncle and I had a good talk about family.

Right around noon, my uncle pulled the cover off the pool. We checked the water level on the pool. The patch seems to have held, and the amount of water in the pool seems to have gone up as much as the rain gauge showed, three-quarters of an inch.

We swam for a while with t-shirts on because the boys and I got sunburnt yesterday. We took a break from swimming and had a late lunch, and then got back in the pool. We showered and got dressed.

Aidan was really cranky this afternoon. We haven’t asked him to nap at all this vacation. While Liam was playing Rayman: Raving Rabbids which I had bought at Wal-Mart when we discovered my aunt and uncle had a Wii, I sat on the couch with Aidan. He snuggled up to me and within five minutes had fallen asleep. I nodded off myself for a while. Eventually, I extracted myself from underneath him, my arm asleep, so I could eat a little something before we left for the fair.

My aunt got back from the tennis clinic she's been teaching this week. After she unwound for a bit, we all got ready to go to the Rush County Fair.

My uncle had gotten ahead of us after we parked the cars and had started toward the fair entrance. My best moment of the day came shortly after that. Aidan and I caught up with my uncle. Aidan grabbed his right hand and then I grabbed Aidan’s right hand. The three of us just walked together like that for a short while, three generations together. It was a perfect moment. It made me truly appreciate my uncle Holly, and it made me miss my dad so much my eyes filled with tears. (And my eyes welled up again writing this in my journal, and again when I typed it up for the blog.)

The boys had a great time. My uncle bought them wristbands that let them ride the carnival rides all evening long. They had a blast. You can see how much fun Aidan had on the motorcycle ride.



They rode the bumper cars three times in a row.



We all rode the big ferris wheel together. Finally, we all got something to eat or snack on: hot dogs, ice cream, funnel cake, popcorn, and lemonade. Finally, around 10:30, we headed for my uncle's house.

It was both a relaxing and busy day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slept in until about 7:30 a.m. It's already warm; it must be in the 70s. Got some coffee and sat outside on the screened-in porch out back. Liam was playing Wii and Aidan was around front with my uncle. Kelley remarked that this was what she was looking forward to, sipping coffee and watching the corn grow. An altogether pleasant way to start the morning.

Spent quite a while in the pool with the boys. Seeing the boys swim here really shows how far they've come with their swimming lessons. They love being in the water and are absolutely fearless; it's great to see. They spent a lot of time just jumping in from the wood deck.



Helped my uncle put a patch on a hole in the bottom of the pool. Now we have to wait 24 hours for the epoxy to set. We'll swim again tomorrow afternoon.

The boys stayed home with my uncle, while Kelley and I went to pick up some things at Wal-Mart. We wanted to get some new swimming trunks for Aidan and a couple of tank tops. We also picked up some food, soymilk and such so that I'd have something to drink and eat. We also had a late lunch at Chili's.

We were thinking of going to the Rush County Fair tonight, but a thunderstorm passed through while we were out shopping. It didn't rain on us out at Greensburg, but a couple of the roads near my uncle's house still had puddles in them as we got back. Don't really want to get caught outside in the rain at the fair. Maybe we'll go tomorrow night.

We sat outside until about 10 p.m. just chewing the fat, as the number of fireflies waxed and waned. We could see a storm system coming in from the east. We couldn't hear any thunder, but we could see some lightning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Got up at three in the morning. Our taxi was late. Apparently, when Kelley called last night they didn't record our reservation. It didn't matter, because we were in line at Southwest at SFO before they were even open. Kiosks started turning on and a few people got out of line to get their boarding passes. We moved up and soon the agents were there and we checked in our bags. The agents don't do much because Kelley punched all our info into the electronic kiosk. All they do is put the tags on our luggage. So much for customer service; I guess that's the part of the price you pay for cheap fares.

The flight to Denver was great. The plane was only half full. There was hardly anyone around us. Aidan took a window seat next to Kelley while Liam took a window seat across the aisle and I sat with him. Both boys colored in their Cars coloring books. Before we knew it, we were in Denver.

We grabbed something to eat at the Denver airport and then boarded our flight to Indianapolis. The boys were a little more antsy at that point, so we broke out the laptop and a DVD. But again, the flight seemed really quick. Liam wasn't even able to finish watching Bolt. Aidan, meanwhile, had fallen asleep.

They've got a nice new terminal at the Indianapolis airport. We found the rental car desk, walked across to the garage, found our car, and then drove right out on the highway. Last time, we had to take a shuttle to the rental car parking lot. I had a hard time getting out of the airport to the highway, and then ended up going the wrong way on the highway to get to my uncle's house. This time, it couldn't have been smoother.

Of course, we stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Shelbyville. We were all starving at that point. I had the beginnings of a headache. We were all less crabby after eating.

When we got to my uncle's house, they were all in the pool. We quickly unloaded the car, put on our swimming suits, and joined them in the water.

Both my cousins were there. Rebekah's home from college, and Michael was there with his wife, Brooke, and their three daughters. My uncle's first wife, Marcela, also stopped by. It was good to see so much of my extended family. We sat around and just talked until it started getting dark and the lightning bugs came out. Then it was time for sleep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 (The Day Before)

Finished getting the boys and myself packed for the trip. Just have the usual last-minute things that we'll take care of in the morning. Otherwise, we're ready to go, and eager too.

Liam and I got our haircuts today. Short hair will be nice in the hot and humid midwest. The less to deal with, the better.

I don't know if we'll have time or not, but I would like to see the Serpent Mound. Our Ohio guidebook describes it as "in northern Adams County, 19 miles south of Hillsboro on Rte. 73." I've seen pictures of it in history books, but would like to see it for myself. I did find one website for the Great Serpent Mound of Southern Ohio. For some reason, I couldn't access the ohiohistory.org site.

I wouldn't mind seeing some nice covered bridges. Apparently, there are some in Greene County, and the "Greene County Convention and Visitors' Bureau has produced a brochure detailing a way to take in the bridges by traveling about 50 miles. The route starts in Yellow Springs and ends south of Xenia."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Before the Trip (2009)

This time I'm thinking about some of the things we didn't do last time, such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, and the Indianapolis Zoo. All three of which are in the White River State Park.

Not in the White River State Park, but also sounding really interesting is the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which has an on-going exhibit of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, as well as a new exhibit on King Tut that is opening on June 27.

One thing that interests me over in Ohio is Fort Ancient State Memorial. As the Moon Handbook for Ohio describes it: "The artifact-rich displays cover 15,000 years of American Indian heritage."

I want to see what else we might do in Ohio, between Cincinnati and Wilmington. I'm interested in seeing some of the mounds built by Native Americans in the Ohio Valley.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

We finished packing and got on the road back to the airport. We couldn’t find Aidan’s last “binky,” his pacifier. We had managed to lose two or three of them on this trip already. But we didn’t have time to buy a new one for the trip home. We thought he’d be okay on the flight back; boy, were we wrong.

It was an awful flight. Aidan got fussy and was inconsolable without his binky. We tried distracting him and trying to get him to sleep, but nothing would work. Everyone around us was annoyed, and I don’t blame them one bit. Kelley sat with him first, while I sat with Liam, and then we traded off. The woman sitting in the window seat next to Aidan tried to help by talking to him, but the novelty of that soon wore off and he just cried and cried. Probably the worst part was the elderly man who sat in the aisle seat behind us who kept offering “advice” on child rearing. He was really insulting, basically letting us know in his passive-aggressive manner that we were bad parents and had done a horrible job raising Aidan. It’s the worst flight I’ve ever been on.

We were so frazzled getting off that flight at our layover in Las Vegas that we forgot the portable DVD player. I went back to the plane to look for it when we realized it was missing, but passengers were already boarding it for its next flight. No one had turned in the player, so somebody got a nice, free gift at our expense.

The short flight back to Oakland was uneventful. Aidan, by now, was cried out. And it was over so quick; no sooner are you up at cruising altitude then you’re descending for the landing. Kelley, thank goodness, had already arranged for a car service to get us home.

Addendum: My aunt called us about a week later and told us where she found his last binky. It was in the freezer. She has one of those side-by-side refrigerators. Aidan, apparently, had opened the freezer and put his binky in there. That particular binky, by the way, is still there.

The good news was that was the last of the binkies. He never got another pacificer after that one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Our last full day in Indiana; we fly home tomorrow. We talked about seeing some more covered bridges. My uncle said he knew of five in Rush County. Here’s one that we drove through and then took pictures of on the far side.



It was a lazy morning, but by noon we were actually heading out the door with a box full of stuff that we were going to mail home. We stopped at the post office in Milroy and bought some tea for us and some apple juice for the boys; it was hot.

When we got back to my uncle’s house, Liam was taking a nap. He had told my uncle he hadn’t slept much the night before and was tired. We then got Aidan down for a nap and used my uncle’s computer to print out our boarding passes. Well, sort of.

I had no problem printing them out for Kelley and the boys, but mine would not print out. I got a message that said I had to get my boarding pass from a skycap, the check-in desk, or one of those self-help electronic ticket kiosks.

A call to the airline confirmed that I in fact had to drive all the way to the Indianapolis airport to get my boarding pass. Apparently, my name had been flagged on a “do not fly” list and I had to confirm who I was. We drove to the airport, showed them my driver’s license, and the agent printed out my boarding pass. A huge waste of my valuable time. There are too many Richard Walkers out there, and apparently one of them is some kind of security risk.

We had dinner at a Golden Corral, but it was not as nice as the one we ate at in Ohio. We should have listened to my cousin and eaten at the buffet restaurant she worked at.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Woke up, had some coffee then started scouring the house, looking for toys, stray socks, and anything else we need to pack. Our vacation is winding down. We’re starting to think about getting everything packed for the flight back to California. We all have things we bought or were given that we need to find room for.

The boys have little remote-controlled Zip Zap cars, Lightning McQueen and Sally from Cars, cars from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Gameboy, a portable DVD player, and two dogs from Build-a-Bear Workshop, Rascal and Scrappy. Luckily, we just need to pack for the road trip back to my uncle’s house, but we’re already discussing mailing some things home to ourselves.

The boys each took last rides with Grandpa Jack on his mower, and I pushed them on the swing set down by the lake.

We said our good-byes and got on the road around 2:30 p.m. It was a quick drive – and a quiet one too – both boys fell asleep in the car.

Back at my uncle’s we just relaxed, telling my aunt and uncle about our trips to Ohio and Maryland. Liam, of course, was playing Crash Bandicoot on my cousin’s PlayStation.

As the sun set, we sat in the backyard and watched as the lightning bugs came out. Liam finally joined the rest of us outside, and the two boys chased and caught some lightning bugs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Today is our last full day in Ohio. We drive back to my uncle’s in Indiana tomorrow.

We went for a drive to see an old covered bridge outside of Wilmington. Even falling into disrepair as it is, it was still worthwhile to see. And it ended up being a good place to take pictures.

We drove around the countryside for a bit, then headed back to Grandma Carole’s. After naps and dinner, we went back to Peggy and Don’s again. The boys loved riding in Don’s John Deere Gator. And he took us back into the woods again to play on the rope swing.

We also went next door to Peggy’s son’s house. Laurie and Randy have a beautiful home. Randy is a carpenter and he built the house with help from family members. As Laurie described it, it’s her dream house, where she’ll grow old and die in.

They were excellent hosts, and served us ice cream. Laurie provided me with lots of fresh fruit, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, and cantaloupe. We were there until 10 p.m., then decided it was time for us to head home and get some sleep.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Before our long drive back to Ohio, Kelley wanted to go to the Fractured Prune. It’s a donut shop where they make your donuts fresh to order. They start with a basic cake donut, which the proprietor said was just flour and water, but I’m sure there’s egg in there somewhere, so I’m pretty sure they’re not vegan. You tell them what glaze you want, like maple or mocha, and then what toppings you want, like coconut or chopped peanuts. They are delicious – and yes, I’ll do some kind of vegan penance.

We did take I-83 north from Baltimore toward Harrisburg, then we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading west. It was a beautiful day. We drove with the windows down, enjoying the fresh air. The sky was blue and filled with white, puffy clouds. The drive back was far more enjoyable than the drive out just because of the weather.

We probably looked foolish to anyone who noticed us taking pictures out the open car windows as we made our way on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but we were determined to try to capture how beautiful the landscape was. We even mentioned how photos don’t do justice to the real thing, but we snapped away anyway.

We stopped at what will probably be our last Cracker Barrel this trip, in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. I brought my journal in to fully record something I’d noticed earlier on their menu: turnip greens, green beans, corn muffins, hashbrown casserole, and pinto beans are made with meat as a seasoning and “are not strictly vegetarian.” This appears next to their description of their Country Vegetable Plate. I think I’ve had my fill of Cracker Barrel.

The rest of our trip back to Ohio was uneventful. It was good to get back to Grandma Carole’s and see our children again.

Addendum: While we were in Baltimore, Grandma Carole had taken the boys to Paramount’s Kings Island, an amusement park not too far outside of Cincinnati, and to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Both boys got dogs instead of bears.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

We slept in after our busy day yesterday. We wanted to go to the One World Café, after our disappointing breakfast yesterday. We had been there before, the one time I came with Kelley to Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was a bit of a drive as it’s near Johns Hopkins University, which is not near the hospital, but well worth it.

One World Café is not strictly vegetarian, but menu items are marked with a “V” if they are vegan. I ordered the Vegan Pancakes. You have a choice of fruit as well, blueberries, bananas, or strawberries. I ordered bananas. To drink, I ordered the Organic Peanut Butter Smoothie. It was all delicious. And such a pleasure. Having a decent vegan breakfast can be quite a challenge when you’re traveling. I was ready to order more pancakes just on general principle, but they were so filling. It was a most satisfying meal.



We then headed over to Jen’s apartment. We hung out there a while, drinking coffee and talking about movies and books.

We had discussed taking a Duck Tour. These are tours in those amphibious vehicles they used on D-Day. But a friend of Jen’s cautioned us not to, so we skipped it. We were just going to walk around Fell’s Point and the Inner Harbor. And before too long, a Duck Tour came by. The people onboard waved at us and quacked at us with their little duck kazoos. We busted up laughing. In the right frame of mind, I’m sure it would be fun, but not for us that day. Later in the day we saw a Duck Tour in the water. Again, they waved at us and we could hear the music they were playing, the Village People’s “In the Navy” and “Rubber Duckie” from Sesame Street. We didn’t need to take the Duck Tour to be amused by it.

Before we got out of Fell’s Point, Joe took me to Sound Garden, a music shop. Kelley and Jen looked at clothes and jewelry while Joe and I browsed music. I ended up buying the latest CDs by the Barenaked Ladies and Diana Krall.

When I mentioned wanting a little something sweet to eat, we stopped at Whole Foods, where I found a couple of vegan chocolate chip cookies. I also got an Odwalla Soy Smart Chai. In fact, we all picked up some sweet treats at Whole Foods, which we ate there. I’m spoiled by the Whole Foods in the San Francisco Bay Area, which offer a number of vegan sweets, but it was slim pickings in Baltimore. Still, it was just what I wanted at the time.

From there we strolled around, just taking in the sights. A couple walking by offered to take a picture of all four of us, so here we are.



Kelley and I are always impressed with the architecture of Baltimore. One, the amount of brick is astounding. You almost never see brick used in earthquake-prone California. And the number of old, classy-looking buildings is just impressive. Baltimore is a great looking city. We saw an old all-brick power plant which now houses ESPN Zone and Barnes & Noble, among other shops. For us, it was just so unusual to see such old buildings used that way. In California, I suspect the developer would have knocked down the power plant and put up something modern.

As the afternoon wore on, we made our way back to Jen’s place. Again, we relaxed a bit then went out for dinner. There is a really excellent sushi restaurant in Towson, Sushi Hana. There was plenty of vegetarian sushi, so I had no problem having a delicious, delightful, and satisfying meal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, July 20, 2007

We slept in at the Ramada. It was nice to have a king size bed and have the air conditioning running all night. It was still 85° at 10:00 at night in Baltimore.

We drove over to Jen’s place near Fell’s Point, and then walked down to a local hangout, the Sip & Bite Restaurant. It’s really a small diner. It has a lot of character, but the food was just okay. I had a salad, a lettuce and tomato sandwich, and French fries. There were not a lot of options for vegetarians, let alone vegans. I suspect it’s one of those places that locals love more because of its funky charm than its food.

Jen then went with her boyfriend, Joe, to see his son’s play. But first, she dropped us off at Johns Hopkins Hospital. We went to say hello to Dr. Nguyen, who essentially saved the vision in my wife’s right eye. He got her into a study where she could get Avastin, a drug approved for colorectal cancer, but which shows great promise for treating conditions like “wet” macular degeneration. I won’t go into details here, because that’s not the point. The one time I went with my wife to Johns Hopkins for one of her treatments, Dr. Nguyen was back in San Francisco, where his wife is from. Ironic, isn’t it? I usually stayed at home with our children, while a friend of my wife’s would accompany her across the country for her hospital visits. So, while she spoke extensively about Dr. Nguyen I had never met him. Well, now I have. We stopped in the Wilmer Eye Institute, and Dr. Nguyen made time for us in his very busy schedule. By all accounts, he is a brilliant doctor and researcher, but my impression of him was that he is one of the warmest, kindest, most sincerely compassionate doctors I have ever met. He spoke with the two of us for quite some time, asking about my wife’s condition, updating us on some current research, and even sharing a recommendation or two for eating and sightseeing in Baltimore. I was glad to have met him finally and to share my gratitude for all that he has done for Kelley. He will always be an exceptional doctor and great man in my book.

We walked back from Johns Hopkins to Fell’s Point, which we walked around for a bit, then down to the harbor where we caught a water taxi over to Fort McHenry. We considered going to the National Aquarium, but it was such a beautiful day, sunny and warm without too much humidity that we decided to go to Fort McHenry. We ended up spending quite a while there. We went on a walk with one of the National Park Service rangers who gave a fascinating talk on the history of the fort. I knew it was famous for the flag still flying that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner,” but was unaware of the rest of its history, including during the Civil War and as a hospital around the time of the First World War

As a teacher and as someone who loves history, I learned a great deal, including details about the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 with which I was mostly unfamiliar. But I think just about anyone would find a visit to Fort McHenry worthwhile. You can take a water taxi there, as we did, or you can drive because it’s on a peninsula.

Once we got back to Fell’s Point, I wanted a snack. I was going to need something to tide me over until we went out to dinner for tapas. We found Liquid Earth, which I had looked up on Happy Cow and VegGuide.



It is described in the Moon Handbook for Maryland and Delaware as “a deluxe juice bar that serves vegetarian and vegan sandwiches for lunch and dinner daily.” It is vegetarian and the menu includes a handful of vegan sandwiches. I ordered the T.L.T., which was vegetarian “bacon,” baby greens, tomato, and Nayonnaise on whole grain bread. It was quite good and such a delight after the dearth of vegetarian options so far on our trip.

I also had a smoothie, the Oxymoron, which was strawberries, bananas, two shots of chilled espresso and milk blended with chocolate syrup and ice. Of course, I got it with soymilk, and it was delicious!

My sandwich and smoothie hit the spot and I was all set until our late dinner.

After we hung out at Jen’s place for a while, we drove back to the hotel to freshen up. Then we piled into Jen’s car to head out for dinner. It took us forever to find a parking place. Apparently, there was some event called ArtScape going on and parking was at a premium. The lot and garage across from Tapas Teatro were both full. It must have been forty-five minutes to find street parking.

The tapas were worth the wait. There were a small number of vegetarian options, but they were all excellent. They had a Mediterranean mix of green olives, which were exceptional, asparagus, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. They had a special that night of mushrooms, which also were delicious. I also ordered gazpacho; it was good but not remarkable.

We were going to go dancing at The Depot, a club across the street near the end of the block. The play 80s music on Friday nights, but we were disappointed to find they were having a couple of live bands play that night, so no dancing for us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We didn’t leave Wilmington until 10:30, getting a later start than I would have liked.

We stopped in Zanesville, Ohio at a Cracker Barrel. Unfortunately, they stop serving oatmeal at 10:00 so I had lunch, the usual Vegetable Plate. The sweet potato casserole was really good, basically mashed sweet potatoes with some orange juice and pecans.

We then continued east through Ohio, crossing a little splinter of West Virginia, and then into Pennsylvania. Before long we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Very strange concept that: paying to drive on a road. You enter through a toll booth, picking up a ticket, and when you exit the turnpike, you go through another tollbooth and pay for the privilege of having driven on it. There are no toll roads that I know of in California. We’re used to paying tolls for crossing bridges, but you pay $4 or 5 before you cross the bridge.

In Ohio, there were rest stops off the interstate. Once on the Pennsylvania Turnpike there are no rest stops. They have service plazas, where you can find restaurants and gas stations. Luckily, they also had Starbucks. Venti iced chai lattes with soymilk were a godsend to us on the road.

I had originally planned staying on the turnpike all the way to Harrisburg, then heading south on 83 into Baltimore, but we turned south sooner, following 70 into Maryland, which brought us into Baltimore from the west.

We found our hotel in Towson, a suburb north of Baltimore without any problem, then drove into the city proper to see our friend, Jen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today my mother-in-law had plans to take the boys to a park in the town of Wilmington.

I was feeling pretty awful and stayed home to rest. The boys had a great time swinging on the swings and feeding the ducks at the park.

My allergies are really bad here in Ohio. I think it must be all the trees. My allergies were slightly worse in Indiana than at home. I’d get stuffy overnight, but didn’t really have any problems during the day. But now in Ohio I feel like a mucus factory. And I have a sinus infection which finally caught up with me today.

I felt much better after my rest, including a nap. Of course, I’ve been taking generic Benadryl every four hours. It helps relieve some of the symptoms without too much drowsiness if I take just one pill. If I take two, the regular dosage, it really dries me out and makes me sleepy and sluggish.

For dinner we drove northeast from Wilmington to eat at the Golden Corral. It was a decent buffet and I found plenty to eat. Of course, they had a salad bar. One nice touch was the pine nuts; you don’t often see those at a salad bar. They also had vegetables like baby carrots, steamed cauliflower, green beans, and corn. Their steak fries weren’t too bad either.

Earlier in the day I caught last week’s episode of Top Chef which I missed because that was the day we flew in to Indiana. I also made myself stay up to watch today’s new episode.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We took it easy again in the morning, and then did a little shopping so I’d have something to grill for dinner.

In the early afternoon, we headed over to my mother-in-law’s husband’s sister’s house. They’ve beautifully restored the house on their property. They own several acres, some of which is currently corn fields and quite a bit of woods.

We rode back toward the woods in a trailer hooked up to a John Deere Gator. We got a tour of some of the woods, stopping at one point to swing on a rope swing hanging from a tree over the trail. The boys had a good time; my youngest asked for another turn every time someone got off.

Then we unpacked the truck and set up the propane gas grill to cook some burgers and dogs. I ate a Boca burger and two Smart Dogs, as well as a lot of fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, red grapes, and strawberries.

When it seemed that the rain was not going to let up, we headed for home. In fact, we hit some really heavy rain on the way back to my mother-in-law’s house, as well as some lightning and thunder.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We drove over to Waynesville, a small town like Metamora with antique shops and such without the canal and railroad tracks. Many stores were closed because it was Monday, and the Celtic store we were going to had gone out of business. Very disappointing.

After that we stopped at Caesar Creek State Park. We hadn't planned a picnic lunch for that day, but we should have. Many people had brought picnic lunches and many more were playing and swimming in the lake.

Addendum: Grandpa Jack wasted no time in getting Aidan to ride with him on his lawnmower.



As much as Aidan loves to be outdoors, Liam loves to be indoors. Especially since Grandma and Grandpa bought him a GameBoy. We could barely tear him away from it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today was another travel/transition day. We spent the morning at my uncle's, relaxing, talking, and packing. We hoped to be on the road to my mother-in-law's in Ohio by 11:30, but it was more like 1:30

It was a quick, pleasant drive southeast from Rushville towards Cincinnati, then northeast from there to Wilmington.

We arrived safe and sound, though we got a little lost. The directions we got from Google were not helpful. We missed a turn and ended up seeing far more of Wilmington than we needed to. I'd be curious to see if Mapquest would give us a similar route. The way I originally mapped getting to Wilmington would have worked better, but I still needed directions on how to get to their street address, which Google adequately provided.

We were greeted warmly and introduced to my mother-in-law's husband's youngest brother and a sister and their respective spouses. We sat around snacking, and then had a delicious spaghetti dinner. My mother-in-law cooks up a mean spaghetti sauce which I have only adequately been able to duplicate. She also found me some vegan Italian sausages and some meatless meatballs, so my meal looked just like what everyone else was eating.

Addendum: It didn't take Aidan long to go exploring. He loves to be outdoors. My mother-in-law's property extends quite a ways back from their house. They live in a community of houses that share a man-made lake behind all their properties. There was also a swing set back there for all to use. Here's Aidan on that swing set. You can see their house in the background.



I missed Wednesday’s new episode of Top Chef, but tonight I made sure I caught the most recent episode of Next Food Network Star.

My mother-in-law doesn’t have a computer, so I won’t be voting this time around. I’d be happy with either Amy or Rory. I think both will have an interesting show.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kelley, my wife, went with my aunt into Rushville this morning to shop rummage sales. Luckily, she didn't buy much, and what she did was definitely a bargain.

After that, we headed to Metamora. It's a small town southeast of Rushville. It has a number of antique and gift shops. My cousin knew of a good fudge shop, so we went there. Kelley bought fudge, the boys got ice cream, and I had popcorn. I also bought a small jar of strawberry rhubarb jam, which I'm eager to try.

They've restored part of a canal in Metamoa. You can ride in a boat pulled along the canal by horses. We went on a train ride; part of the railroad there has also been restored and volunteers run the whole operation. Stephen, our conductor, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, volunteers there a couple days a week. His talk was very informative. The boys enjoyed the ride in the caboose and climbing into the engine after our thirty minute trip.

Here's Aidan with one of the horses that pulls the canal boats.



We also spent time feeding the ducks in the canal. You can see the watermill in the background, which we also checked out.



We dropped the boys off back at my uncle's house, and Kelley and I drove into Morristown. This is the town I lived in before my family moved to California in 1976. We parked just down from the last house we lived in; we lived in three different houses in Morristown. From there we walked around town a bit and I took pictures. It's remarkably unchanged, as I remember it. It has been thirty-one years, so my memory may be a little hazy, but the town has changed little in that time. Shops have changed, of course, and there was a few new homes, but much of the town looks much as I remember it.

We walked down main street, Highway 52, to where the school is. Here's a picture of the Kopper Kettle. A friend's mom worked there. I remember stopping there once on the walk home from school. We walked down an alley that ran behind the restaurant, and she gave us some fried chicken that we ate as we walked the rest of the way home.