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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That October Holiday

So what does it mean when it’s November and I still have posts from September sitting on my front page?  Still not all that excited to blog I guess.  It has now been over a week since some of my Ohio friends came out and we all went haunt hopping.  It’s a little late to review them, and I’m no expert on this sort of thing anyway so I think I’ll just say that it was a good time had by all of us.  Fortunately the threatening rain stayed away.  Sorry you had to miss the last haunt, J and M.  According to C & L it was really good, though whether it be that I was third in a group or just my logical mind drowning out the “let’s have fun” portion I just didn’t get as much out of it.  That said, I though the actors did a good job, especially outdoors (I really wish I had seen the one jumping out at the younger kids but I was facing the wrong direction at the time- apparently their reactions were priceless).  Thanks again C & L for paying for that one.

For work, this week was much better than last for the most part.  The only work-day that had rain was Friday, but I was able to take a full-day sub job that day instead, bumping my one Friday gig to Saturday- yes, the holiday.  Did you all have a happy Martin Luther day?  You know, the anniversary of Luther nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in 1517 (the doors were popularly used as bulletin boards at that time).  Oh, you celebrated a different holiday you say?  Well, so did the kids on Friday.  Unluckily for the teacher I subbed for, her son got sick on party day so I was the lucky one who got to take the job in her place.  It was my favorite grade, 5th, and it was quite easy.  The morning consisted of three tests- didn’t you hate days like that in school?- split by an hour of gym and music.  At least one of the tests was only spelling, so only two of them were big thinking tests.  Of course, I say “at least” for the spelling test as I was a really good speller in school.  I suppose for some it may have been just as rough as the other two.

Lunch time, then the kids were back in costume.  Did I mention this was the one day of the year 2/3 of the class went home for lunch?  All afternoon was party time.  There was a costume parade through the neighborhood scheduled as well, but- you know- rain.  As a result, the parents came to the school and watched the kids march across the stage instead.  Outside of this time the parent volunteers were in charge.  They organized the classroom party- the food, games, and whatnot- while I just helped as needed.  The kids had a scavenger hunt, played cauldron bowling and a scooter-relay with toilet paper mummy-wrapping, created a haunted story web, felt brains, hearts, and whatnot in a box, jumped for donuts on a string, and had cupcakes and water (where was the punch??).  Most of the year in hometown district serving food in classrooms is a big no-no- they even stopped birthday treats last year- but this was one of the few times they still get to eat sweets in class.

Some of the costumes were classic.  There were a few wearing ghoulish costumes including the obligatory Scream mask, some costumes of movie/tv characters like Darth Maul, and a few M&M girls, but there were some stand-out ones including a girl with an overturned bowl of spaghetti on her head (represented by white yarn with brown yarn-ball meatballs), another girl who came as a washing machine with her head under a pile of “dirty” clothes on top, and a boy who came as a vending machine.  Actually, while original, I’m not sure the last one would have won any awards.  The front really did look like a vending machine with real chips, candy bars, and whatnot, but in reality it was what could have been a store demo with straps so he could wear it in front of him.  It was apparently heavy too, as he took the elevator upstairs instead of the stairs.  I hope he had permission, but I felt for him so I didn’t ask.  The washing machine on the other hand was an excellent costume.  I already mentioned the pile of clothes to hide her face, but it also came complete with a box of fabric softener and bottle of detergent taped or glued to it.  The only thing that would have improved the costume was if the round door in front actually opened revealing more clothes.

So what did I do for halloween?  Well, following work on the windy day I…  handed out candy.  Yep, that was it.  I did have a “phantom of the opera” half-mask, so I wore it when I answered the door, but that was pretty much it.  We had our usual half-dozen groups of kids come to our door.  Seriously, is our house on the sex-offender list or something?  Since moving here we have had no more than ten groups of costumed candy-beggars stop by each year.  Nothing at all like or previous location across from a school.  Oh, well.

We did have a 4th/5th grade church party Friday night, but this post is getting long so I think I will save it for a future church post.

Not quite who I’m thinking of…

Hey, I recognize him.  Hmm, a bit younger, wearing pink, and in a wheelchair- I guess I didn’t recognize her after all.  No, I’m not on any sort of drug, illegal, prescription, or otherwise.  The class I was in today, a mentally impaired class, had a dead ringer for a boy who was in my cabin last summer and comes to church from time to time.  No, he didn’t look like a girl, but rather with the short haircut and the familiar face I thought the girl was a boy.  Then I saw the pink jacket and shoes, so I actually asked if the student was a boy or girl.  I didn’t realize at first why the face, not just the haircut but the face, cried “boy” to me, but once I looked closer at her I was like, “Wait a minute, I know that face…”  Well, if not the boy I know, then was she his sister?  Nope.  Completely different last name, and a foreign first name to boot, Preet, unlike his very English name of Danny.

To get on with things, this day was extremely easy for me.  It seemed like whatever I tried to do I felt like I was just getting in the way more often than not, so the usual best thing to do was in fact nothing at all and let the teaching assistants (there were three of them for the six students, usually eight though two were absent) do their thing.  These were primary kids (K-2), so that coupled with their impairments meant they needed the consistency anyway.  Their schedule for the day looked something like this: calendar time, which included singing; writing, which was either cutting and pasting words and pictures or inconsistent script for the higher-level students; an assembly which was a band concert by the area junior high; language lab where they put toppings on cookies (one refused to eat his too, saying the icing on it tasted “yucky”); making ziti for the party in the afternoon; lunch; self-selected reading; party with another class- they had made the dessert to go with the ziti- delicious!; more writing.

Well, I’m about to fall asleep so I will let the post end here.  If you see any errors, it’s because I couldn’t be bothered to fix them.  Tomorrow.  Until then.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to the top then too… 😉