A Tale of Two… Weekends

I blog so little these days, it takes nearly two weeks to blog about something.  Might as well catch up by doing a two-fer.  The weekend before last my mother and I visited my nephew in the southern part of this state.  Interesting fact- it takes nearly two hours longer to get somewhere else in the same state than it does to visit my friends two states over!  So much to my brother’s and nephew’s disappointment, we did not leave at 5 or 6AM, but more like 9 or so.  With a stop for lunch, we didn’t arrive until about 4PM (and that’s without a time change excuse).  Well, we spent 24 hours with him in any event.  I’ll get the food places out of the way- during the trip we ate at Friday’s, Sonic, Golden Corral, and Taco Bell.  That’s right- not much difference from around here.  I happen to know there’s a Golden Corral within about an hour from here and Sonic is somewhat closer I think.  Taco Bell and Fridays of course are all over the place around here.

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With that out of the way, the first thing Alex did was take us to one of the nearby lakes to take a ride in his boat- the one that has sat in our driveway for much of the last few years but went with him to school some months ago.  Now that he’s back for the summer, so is the boat…  Anyway, my mother really enjoyed the boat ride, even holding out her arms at one point to take in the wind.  We stopped at a couple points in the lake- twice at a favorite spot for diving off of a cliff (no, I didn’t do it), and once near a (short) waterfall.  We had to get out of the boat for that one.  Here are a couple of pictures of the cliff.  There are actually many bird nests all over the side though I don’t know what sort of birds they are.  I tried to get good shots of the nests, but there is only so much one can do with a cell phone camera.

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Sunday we spent the morning waiting and watching as my nephew worked to receive his first scuba diving certification.  It took about two hours for him to do two dives with his class.  Pics:

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Afterward we were to go on a hike through a swamp area, but the day being as hot as it was (mid 90s!) my mother and I vetoed that plan, so we spent time at a state/national park instead- I already forgot the name- Giant maybe.  He showed us a water tower we climbed up (86 steps). It was a little dangerous toward the top as the tank was actually leaking a bit, making the steps wet.  Next he showed us some interesting rock formations.  What was one of them called?  Devil’s Table I think?  I tell you, there were a lot of motorcycles on the road that weekend.  Over at the park there were two motorcycle groups in the water tower area.  Anyway, after a final stop for some shopping where I bought several bottles of hot sauce, we spent the last hour just chilling at his house following a 5-minute tour of his college (SIU) campus.  I can’t really say for sure it is a lot bigger than NIU, but it is most definitely more spread out on more land.  Park pics:

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So on to the next weekend- as most of you readers know, I visited with my friends in OH.  Well, most of them- JustJ was MIA doing his own thing.  Next time.  Sorry, I have no pics this time, but I had better email C & L the party pic which I have no permission to post here. Anyway, for the first time ever the major traffic backup going there was not in Illinois, but on 80/94 in Indiana just before the toll road.  As well, it was the first time I didn’t have to pay cash even once for tolls.  When I first visited some years ago, my IPass worked only in IL.  Over the past couple of years an agreement was made with Indiana so it worked there, and now this year the final 50 cent cash toll was squashed as it now works in Ohio!

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So I arrived, checking into the Plaza.  I saved a bunch by using Priceline to make reservations, making it only a little more expensive than the M&D down the road.  The addition of breakfast (I don’t think M&D has breakfast?), WiFi, and just the proximity to C & L made it worth it.  However, not so much the original quoted price.  I was a little early for game night, so we went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant that unfortunately wasn’t very good (what did you do with my leftovers I forgot, L?).  Game night however was much better, frustration of the super-player Mary911 on the opposite team for one game notwithstanding.  I learned a new game I can play with my cabin in a couple weeks that night.  I also learned the next day I don’t seem to make a very good mayor- but that’s probably just because it was my first time.  So after several games and goodbyes, I left- not the last one.  Sunday morning I went to church with C & L- a pleasurable experience though we forgot to take a tour of the older kid’s area where their oldest spends her Sunday mornings.  Afterward we changed into more casual clothes and headed out for a certain someone’s surprise graduation party where we met up with most of the people from the previous night and some of my other Ohio friends including Jamiahsh.  More talk, more Mafia, some food and frisbee later (more on the party in another blog) and we went back to C & L’s place to watch a movie.  Dr. No and From Russia With Love on bluray were vetoed, so we watched an apparent favorite of theirs called Book of Eli which unbeknown to me they had just seen a couple days before, and not for the first time!  I admit it was pretty good, especially the end which I won’t mention in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen it.

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Monday we did not do the Memorial Day event as was originally planned due to C & L’s wise prediction of how the little ones would fare.  Instead, we took a trip out to Defiance to do some go-karting, Mexican buffet eating, and dollar-store shopping.  I just realized that one of the stores we went to, Big Lots, has at least one location near me- I just passed it today.  I will have to check it out some time.  Just as we finished at Big Lots/pet store the sky burst open into a huge downpour and we headed back.  We hanged out at the house for a bit before I sadly had to head home.  The torrential downpour started again and continued for a short bit into Indiana before finally clearing up.  Since there were leftover sandwiches from the party the day before I didn’t have to eat out on the way back, but I did get something at Dairy Queen (half the price of a full meal for a small Blizzard!).  I also did something sort of foolish and bought one of those new flavor Mountain Dews I’ve been meaning to try.  By the time I made it to Chicago I was practically dying from holding too long if you know what I mean- and I had just gone an hour or so before at the DQ stop!  Well, as it turned out this was God’s plan, as after I stopped at the oasis just past Chicago, barely able to walk to the restroom, I was approached by a frantic young woman about having been lost and now nearly out of gas long before reaching her destination of Rockford.  I helped her out by swiping my bank card and giving her $25 of gas, more than she asked for or probably needed to get to Rockford.  Not a big deal in the scheme of helpful things, but a victory for me (praise God!) in helping people out- something I often don’t even see until it’s too late for me to do anything about it.

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Random youtube video that has absolutely no bearing on the above post, but I found interesting:

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Site update

I finally added a link to Mare-Mare’s site under friends on the right, and she’s right at the top of the list too (nothing to do with alphabetical order or any such nonsense like that now… 😉 ). Maybe now I will remember to visit her site more often. 😛

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An aluminum weekend

Sing with me… “Friday night I crashed your party, Saturday I said I’m sorry…” Okay, so I was actually invited but then the song doesn’t quite fit.  Oh well.  Anyway, this story starts before Friday, actually earlier this week.  I was given advice to see what represented a 10th wedding anniversary.  So I did a web search and found this site with information on anniversaries.  We all know about silver and gold wedding anniversaries, but the years leading up to them are rather short of the glamour silver and gold bring, with things like paper, cotton, leather, and wood.  10th anniversary is tin or aluminum, so I got the idea to purchase them some snacks in tins.  Well, apparently stores only sell snacks in tins around Christmastime- they were nowhere to be found.  I finally found something kind of lame at Meijer, but it was in a tin.  I would be giving them another gift along with it so I figured as long as the idea got across the tin would be fine.  Next day, I had a job in 8th grade and I noticed the teacher had a tin in his room- full of puzzles.  Ding- of course.  Games and puzzles can come in tins, and my friends are wild for games! So, back in Meijer after school I found some options in domino sets (double 6, 9, and 12), and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader Disney edition.  I leaned toward the dominos, but decided to check Walmart across the street first.  Good thing, as their domino sets were half the price of Meijer’s!  But wait, they had several more items in tins including a classic game set, a couple of jigsaw puzzles, and a Phase 10 card game.  It took me awhile to decide what to get, but C & L know what the final selection was.  So, I wrapped them up, found a half-day job for Friday AM, went to bed, couldn’t sleep, canceled the job at about 4:30 after only short bursts of sleep, went back to bed until 9:30, then got up, finished getting ready, ate, and headed to Ohio, stopping only once for gas and a snack (what a sentence, whew!).  Once I finally gave the gifts away later in the evening C guessed something about me wrapping the gifts in tin foil and I had to kick myself for not thinking of it.  Well, the paper was the color of tin anyway.

Backing up just a little, I arrived at 3:45 and checked into the motel.  $25 per night- even better than the amazing $29 C told me on the phone!  Not too many frills, but I wouldn’t be there except to sleep so I didn’t care.  I finally arrived at the theatre around 5:40 and discovered several people were already there and I didn’t really need to delay at the motel as long as I did.  I saw C’s mom for the first time in a long time, as well as the rest of the family and friends there.  Once they started it was short but emotional.  One of the two (I won’t say which, though most of you readers already know!) broke down while reading which only added to the powerful sincerity of what s/he said.  Then it was off to the reception across the street where I had my second meal of the day (I skipped lunch) and, well I’ll just skip ahead since this part is already in my friends’ blogs.  We all had a good time.  When we went to their house afterward, they graciously allowed the few of us to stay for a short time and we had a fun few rounds of a Tribond game before we all retired for the night.

The next day they gave me some options for a fun, family activity- drive an hour to the Toledo Zoo or even longer to an animal park.  Umm…  Since I drove four hours the day before and would drive four hours again the next day, the animal park was really a no-go.  The zoo might have been an option, but I had seen the zoo just a year before around the same time of year so we finally decided to go to town.  It wasn’t bad.  The important part was just hanging out together, so it really didn’t matter much what we did.  The kids enjoyed some playtime at Menards, and then we went to a couple other places, including a few runs of go-karting (their eldest was visibly upset when she was asked to sit out first since not all could go at once, but I think she got over it after going twice in a row.  Everyone- including us adults as we had to watch their youngest who couldn’t ride- rode two out of the three runs) before having dinner at a pizza buffet.  Since it was a Chuck-E-Cheese style (somewhat) place I wasn’t expecting much from the pizza, but it was actually pretty good.  Not Gino’s East or Giordano’s good, but for sure better than Dominos or Little Caesar’s.  They even took requests, so I jokingly asked for something with jalapeños, and they actually obliged- not an unusual request I guess.  Well, when they have peanut butter and jelly pizza I guess nothing’s unusual!  The kids had their fun at the games there, and then we rented a blu-ray movie to watch through my computer on their HDTV.  Unfortunately, due to draconian copy protection and software issues it took some time to get the movie going, but we were glad when we finally did.

Hmm.  This post is getting a little long so I think I will chop it here with a:

Last performance of the year

Well this weekend was a special one, for more than one reason.  First my friends from Ohio came out and visited.  Thbey came out to see their family and then came over here for the “nightcap” before they headed back.  It took us a bit to decide on where to go for entertainment.  For a very populated area I couldn’t think of much in that line.  There is a lot of outdoor entertainment during the warmer months, but it was cold and wet so that was out.  Indoor water park down the street?  Too expensive.  Laser tag?  Kids not old enough.  So we settled on Chuck E. Cheese.  We got there and it was so packed that people were making their own parking spots at the side of the building.  Fortunately some people were leaving so we got a spot.  Inside, C bought a bunch of tokens which the older girls used for the most part.  A couple of times C would raid the cup of tokens, but the two girls used most of them.  There were a couple of rides, some skill games, a video roller coaster, and video games.  The favorite seemed to be the Nickelodeon race game which basically stole borrowed heavily from Mario Kart.  The younger of the two could not reach the accelerator when she played, so her older sister did that job for her while she steered.  I didn’t get to talk to C and L much at this time, but it was quality time with their two oldest.  Following CEC, we went to a local hot dog joint, down the street from me actually, and had us some good food.  There is where we were able to talk, that is between young C spitting up and some issues that crept up with the girls eating.  From there they dropped me off (we all went in one vehicle), changed the baby, and they were off for home and I was off to part 2 of this post…

…Drama.  This was my cast’s weekend to perform so I had to be at my church at 3:30 for rehearsal.  Between making a DVD for another friend in OH and the visit this mornig I had no time to shower so I dragged my grubby self over to the church.  We found out that the learning center where we perform was in use so we rehearsed in the room next door.  I gave the two giggling kids some candy (4th and 6th grade) and we were slowly able to get through the lines.  We then did it with blocking a few times.  Through all this time the guest author (there is a different “guest author” every week) never showed up.  Steve, the children’s pastor, didn’t know anything about it so I gave the director a call and he was surprised that he hadn’t shown up.  I hung up and a few minutes later Steve got a call from him and it turns out he wouldn’t be coming, so Steve would have to fill in (again…) for the night.  The one who was supposed to be there would be there for the Sunday performances.  Now, because Steve is the kids’ pastor he had many other duties to do so we still didn’t get to rehearse with him.  This may or may not have contributed to what happened next during the performance.  Bear in mind that I am an experienced actor and rehearsal had actually gone fairly well, especially line-wise by the time we got to the performance.  I did my puppet part well, but when I walked out to do my live character, I started off fine but then I forgot my lines!  How…?  Anyway, I at least stayed in character and the others tried to cover until I was able to recover a few lines later.  I almost missed my puppet entrance after that because I was mad at myself.

Today’s performances went fine though I am happy to say.  There was a line flub by the kids in the first performance today, but mothing like my flub last night.  I will miss this drama for the next two months.  We will be off for the holidays.  Next week is the last one until January, but it is a different cast so I am done until that time.  Hey, more time to memorize for the next one, right? 🙂

Bored

One thing about my life is that I don’t easily form relational ties, as in friends.  This does make it easier to live on a substitute teacher salary since I don’t go to social events, but it does make for a boring life.  I have strong ties with my church,  particularly children’s ministry, but  outside of that I don’t do much.  I occasionally visit with friends I have made, particularly those now in Ohio, but making new friends?  Really just acquaintances I only see at church and usually nowhere else.  Is it any surprise then that I am still unmarried?  Anyway, when I’m not teaching I am usually on the internet or watching TV.  Tonight I came home, surfed the net, watched a few episodes of Everybody Hates Chris, a hilarious weekly comedy loosely based on the teenage life of Chris Rock, and am using the internet again to write this.  Unfortunately this is how just about every night looks.  I have filled nights in the past with more schooling and musical theatre, but it has been awhile since either one so now I am just reflecting.  I pray to meet someone I could eventually call my wife, but that requires social work on my part which just doesn’t seem to happen.  I really should make sure to get out tomorrow night to singles group at my church.  It is a prayer and worship night, but it is followed by fellowship.  Unfortunately I am in my mid-thirties and still socially-challenged.  I often say really stupid things among people I don’t know (and sometimes with people I do!).  Also, after this month the singles ministry is breaking for a month to revamp the ministry somehow.  I do know I filled out a questionnaire on this about a month ago so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Well, enough about this.

Today I had 5th grade again, only this time it was an ELL (English language learner) class.  Mostly Hispanic, but other nationalities were represented as well.  This was at a school where I have had problems before, so I wasn’t expecting it to go as well as in my home district, though I tried to not act as if that were true.  Expectations are important.  I don’t know if this is a true story or not, but in one of my classes in college we learned about a new teacher who was hired to teach a class, and one of the first things she noticed were numbers by their names.  These numbers were in the lower to mid 100’s, but all starting somewhat above 100 (120 maybe?  I don’t remember).  She assumed these to be IQs of the students, so knowing that smart kids would easily get bored with a standard curriculum she prepared a challenging and engaging curriculum which over the length of the school year tremendously grew her students.  She ended up with a very successful class with top grades.  After it was over her principal (I think) asked her how she was so successful and she pointed out to him the IQ numbers for the students which made her try hard to keep them challenged so they would better learn.  To this the principal replied that he was very happy with her teaching, but those were their locker numbers not their IQs.

Anyway, the day actually did not go as badly as I had feared.  Sure, there were a few incidents involving a desk falling on the floor and a couple of boys getting hurt by slapping and punching each other, and also some strong-willed kids, but they did their work and they learned.  In the end it wasn’t a case where I just wanted to be done with it like some days.

Tomorrow: 7th grade language arts