Thursday, September 25, 2008

Build-A-Dino and a Pirate Invasion!

Ian turned five years old on September 19th, and his big present from mommy and daddy was a trip to Build-A-Bear to construct a special friend. He has talked about building a bear ever since Gabby went to a birthday party there and came home with one over a year ago.

selecting his 'bear'--a dinosaur!

a kiss for the dinosaur's heart.

Daddy was a bit puzzled at Ian's choice of outfit for his dinosaur, but Ian was super pleased that we were able to shove the dino into the costume :)

Ian decided he wanted a Pirate Party this year (of course, this was after deciding on a Star Wars party, and mommy finding some decorations on sale in March, and--silly mommy!--buying them way back then...ah, well, some day he will want a Star Wars party, right?). We kept the guest list small--only boys this time, and only 4 friends--so it was 5 boys total. A very manageable group. ha! well, at least easier than the crew last year!

The boys searched for clues to build their treasure map, walked the plank, crawled through a bat cave, ate (gummy) rats, and, ultimately, found their gold. The cake proved to be quite popular, as well, much to my delight. I spent many hours this year in the creation of a pirate ship cake, complete with blazing cannon balls on the side, when the candles were lit. Well worth it, since Ian declared this his best birthday ever! One that can only be outdone by, perhaps, a Star Wars one next year...?
Ian with Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper
at the grand opening of Dave and Stephanie's Sci-Fi Toy Store.

Second Grader

Yes, we are still homeschooling. Yes, Gabby is still the only 'official' one being homeschooled. However, I do have some Pre-K (and K) curriculum I am working with Ian on at home...and I do still do back-to-school photos with Gab because she takes quite a few of her hours at the HomeChoice Academy. She was allowed to pick out her outfit herself, again, this year, although I insisted it be for warmer weather since we had been having 90 degree days. Even though they are not allowed to wear hats on campus, I had to say yes to it--so adorable :) Oh, yes, and the purse...ah, a girl and her accessories.

The backpack was a gift from Grammie and Poppy Gove (thank you!) and she was quite excited to have a new one. I am of the opinion that if a backpack is not worn out, a new one is not needed. So, she had been sporting the same one since Pre-K, and it was definitely feeling it's 3 years.

Seriously, though, is there anyone else that finds it just a bit ridiculous that the retailers put the new backpacks with the school supplies? if it were the same as replacing last year's crayons...which, by the way, I also don't automatically buy new ones of either--I mean REALLY! Re-sharpened crayons color just as good as brand new ones. It's like back-to-school means 'throw out all you have taught your children about conserving resources and instead buy them all new versions of products they probably have 10 sets of around the house!' Just my take on it. I did admit (above) that I buy my children a new outfit for the first day...which is certainly not necessary, so maybe it is this same mentality that make some take it all the way with ALL new stuff. And I am in no way denying the fact that I love a brand new box of crayons (that one's for you, Heather!)...just admitting that I am definitely not considered the coolest mom when it comes to back-to-school supply shopping :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

and the emotions are still very easy to recall from that morning in 2001. I think I must have watched TV for 2 weeks straight in the aftermath. Seeing the planes hit the buildings over and over. Listening to news reports projecting up to 10,000 people dead, then hearing the actual numbers slowly roll in. Images of family and friends holding photos of the missing, stories of heroism, some with miraculous survival, but mainly ending in death. So many deaths, all at once, many witnessed 'live' via broadcasts as planes crashed and the towers collapsed surreally on our screens.

I sat on the couch with 9 month old Gabby on my lap that morning and realized that she would never know an America without this horrible act of terrorism. Of course, at that time, we had no way to know if this was an isolated incident, or if terrorist attacks would now continue to happen on American soil. Planes were grounded, bridges were guarded and suspicions arose toward anyone of Middle Eastern appearance.

My brother was in Germany serving as a blackhawk pilot in the Army at the time. What began as four years of service during peacetime, as repayment for his West Point education, ended with him serving two of his remaining years in Iraq and Afghanistan, away from his wife and infant son, and probably in much more danger than I will ever know in my lifetime.

I wanted desperately to travel to New York to help in any way, but with an infant that just wasn't possible. On the first anniversary, I remember wanting to go to Ground Zero for the memorial service. And each time business would take Jeff out to New York, I would wish I could go so that I could visit the site.

Finally, this past May, I was able to do just that.

We walked the waterfront that we had looked across the way at (from the Jersey side) when we had been out there in 1999 for my brother's graduation. (This is where I would insert the photo that shows the Twin Towers behind us, if I could find it!)

Being on the New York side this time, we would not have been able to see the Towers well, anyway, even if they had still been there, simply because of all the other tall buildings along the water. In fact, it was hard to believe we were as close to Ground Zero as we were, there was absolutely no signs of the attacks. But then we rounded a corner, and it was as though all of New York was under construction. Gaping holes where buildings should have been and entire sides of skyscrapers were being resided. The huge cranes visible in the main building area flew American flags from their 'arms', evidence that this was not just an ordinary building project.
The memorial center featured recovered items; clothing, briefcases, wallets, shoes. Particularly disturbing was the helmet of a fireman that died that day. Along with the items are stories, written on the walls, and playing from a television, telling first-hand accounts of those who worked in the Towers and those who lost loved ones.

The outside of the memorial gallery (above) has an enlarged photo of the WTC taken after the attacks as well as a mirrored surface that relects the re-building taking place across the street.

There is an opportunity, before you exit the center, to write your own recollections of 9/11 and post it on the wall.

I cried upon seeing Ground Zero for the first time in person. I cried as I toured the memorial center and looked upon the faces of so many lost that day. and I cried as I wrote out my thoughts that morning seven years ago that so paled in comparison to those whose husband, wife, father, mother, daughter or son walked out that morning never to return, but that are so important to remember...because they are what make 9/11 so personal to me. It is not just a day when bad things happened to people in four planes, and New York, and happened to every person living in America.

I will never forget.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jack Daniels

Whether neat or on the rocks, as a shot or mixed with can drink Jack many just can't drink it where it is made. The distillery is located in Moore County, one of several 'dry' counties in Tennessee.

Just taking a break, playing a little checkers...

Jeff sits at Jack's desk. The safe that 'killed' Jack is located just across from the desk. In a fit of rage, Jack kicked the safe. An infection in his foot resulted from the kick and, he died from blood poisoning. What a great story to advocate self-control.

The smell within the distillery was so strong, it almost felt as though we were able to imbibe! I am not even going to pretend that I remember much about the process. Blame it on the whiskey...that I was smelling. But I do remember that it was interesting and our guide was funny.

We were even able to meet Jeff Arnett, the Master Distiller, who was there signing bottles and chatting with guests. He seemed a very nice, normal fellow considering that his job is to test whiskey all day.

and that, folks, concludes this series of posts on our St. Louis/Tennessee vacation from the summer of '08. (phew) thanks for hanging in there...any of you who did, many thanks! of course, like Rebecca reminded me...this means our vacation/summer is now officially over...until next time...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More vacation pics...almost done, I promise!

We went with Rebecca and Eric and the boys to a mini-water park. Our kids absolutely loved it! There was a shallow play area that still had great slides and water sprays that both Ian and Evie could play in, plus some really big slides and even a small 'river' float area for the better swimmers. Of course, Evie was unconvinced that she cannot swim and kept mommy and daddy on our toes all day as she jumped again and again into the deep area. fearless.

ian must have gone down this slide a hundred times that day.

little mermaid princess.

gabby coming out of one of the big slides.

homemade mini-pizzas back at the VanHorn's --yummy!

We were able to see Shell's mom and brother while we were down there, as well. They gave us a tour of Nashville, and even treated us to a horse-drawn carriage ride! and, although there were many carriages toting tourists through the streets, ours was special...we had the only one with a dog riding the horse during the tour.

the whole gang on the carriage

gabby next to the horse (and dog)

closer than you probably want to be to a horse's backside, but had to show you this crazy dog!

gabby, matthew and evie outside a bar. hey, I liked the dancing horse.

and the truly great news is...I'm not kidding, there is only one more post to go of these never ending vacation photos and blogs. But I can't leave it out. It is our tour of the Jack Daniel's distillery. So, until then...