Saturday, August 27, 2011

celebrating 11 years (and a few days)

This weekend we received two anniversary gifts: a hotel stay minus the kids and a zucchini.
Our 11 year anniversary happened in July. As per usual lately, we celebrated late, as in yesterday. Jill's mom and dad came for a visit and paid for a hotel room and watched the girls on Friday night and Sat morning. Jill came up with this plan: ride bikes after dinner on Fri to Tuscola (home of the outlet mall!) and ride home on Sat.

We were quite excited for this adventure. We put on much reflection and used our super lights on the bikes upon our 8pm departure.
Why is riding at night fun? Almost no traffic, nice temperatures, almost no wind. We saw zillions of stars. We rode the 25ish miles in about 2 hours. Look how relaxed and happy Jill is upon reaching the outlet mall.
After some sleep and a big breakfast (and purchasing gifts for the girls at the mall's toy store), we were back on the road again. We could see the corn and beans under the bright blue sky, but it was rather warm and the wind was against us. There was almost no traffic -- this is central IL after all.
While we were resting in the shade of a tree, a local named Bill came out to chat with us. And he gave us the giant zucchini shown above.
Lunch was at the Philo tavern in the center of the universe. Rib eye sandwich for me and a bleu cheese bacon burger for Jill. Yum.
We arrived home around 2:30 to Clara napping and Janny drinking milk.

The girls did great without us. Clara went to sleep without much complaining, and Janny slept through the night. The gang all visited the sweet corn festival which we missed completely this year. We'll get around to eating sweet corn soon enough.

Monday, August 22, 2011

... and one more from the trip

I was struck down by a vengeful cold yesterday. Rather than show pictures of me lying on the bed, floor, or couch, how about some photos from CA? You bet!

My dad emailed me some photos from our Jeep trip on the Rubicon trail. In so many words, I said that it was a beautiful place, and here's some visual evidence. This is at the top of Cadillac Hill. The white stuff in the background is snow.

This is Spider Lake, a short hike off of the trail.
This is a minor example of why you shouldn't drive a Prius on the trail. And this was nothing. It does suggest the reason we drove about 1 mph on the first day of the trip.
Since Jill and I took some time to settle down (I hope that we have done so now, but we'll see), my parents stored some of my childhood valuables at their house. This trip seemed like a good time to claim my valuables. This list included an A's hat (actually my 16 year old team hat from our 29-0 season. That was a good team -- I was a 2nd stringer.), an official NFL football from the Pete Rozelle era, and the best of my baseball card collection.
I have a few more small piles and the complete 1985 Topps set (the McGwire usa card is from that set), but this is pretty much the best I got. As for Luis Polonia, my friend Todd had a birthday party at an A's game and we got to meet him. I think he (Luis, not Todd) spent some time in the pen later in his life.

I spent all of my allowance on baseball cards from 1987 until around 1991. This roughly corresponded to the peak of the baseball card collecting era. Smartly, I did become more interested in older cards near the end, and those haven't bottomed out completely. I learned a valuable lesson from this seeming waste of money -- that 'investments' don't always increase in value. Of course, this didn't stop us from buying a townhouse in New Mexico just before the peak of the housing craze. Fool me once...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

long lost friends

Despite our infrequent travel to CA and our notoriously poor keeping-in-communication skills (thinking of you guys in New Mexico, or not currently in NM as the case is with several of you), I'm happy to report that we had some fine visits with old friends.

2 thoughts from these visits.
1. Friends are generally quite happy to see you again despite long periods of no contact.
2. All friends we visited are married with kids. What's strange to me is how normal this felt. How hard is it to find a good person to marry? How hard is it to have and then raise children? Somehow, we all ended up in about the same place. **

Fred and Judy's family (not shown), friends from college, are still lighting up the Bay Area. Kenn and his wife Anne and baby joined us for dinner as well.

Eleanor was Jill's roommate in grad school. Now she's married and has a cute kid!
Andy and I go back to 6th grade, my best friend growing up. Funniest quote (not exact wording due to poor memory) of the trip came from Melanie, who has known Andy longer than I have: 'Sometimes I look at Andy and wonder why in the world I married that 13 year old.'
We just squeezed in a lunch date with Emily and her boys on our way to the airport. I must have met her in 7th grade, and we had many classes together through high school. Occasionally, I saw her in college too.
We took off one of the walls of Clara's crib so that she wouldn't hurt herself while climbing out. We found her on the floor under her bed in the morning. Twice we have had to rescue her in the middle of the night due to awkward positions, but finally we seem to have figured out a way to contain her wild sleeping while allowing wakeful escapes. We think.

** We do have friends in other conditions: single, widowed, divorced, and married w/o kids. We just didn't happen to visit them on this trip.

Friday, August 12, 2011

family vacation

We're back in Urbana after our 2 WEEK vacation to California. A whopping 5 years had passed since our previous visit. And we hadn't seen my sister's family in about a year and a half because we missed the annual Park City vacation due to Janny's impending arrival.

The trip was fantastic. Firstly, our families really are a blessing. We enjoy spending time with them, even a lot of time. Mom, dad, sister, bro-in-law, and cousins all helped take care of our kids, allowing us to take it easy.
Cousin Anna enjoyed holding Janny, and despite the expression in the picture, Janny enjoyed the attention.
Sister Lisa came with us to New Brighton beach for some quality ocean time. Yup, we were all wearing sweaters in late July. We weren't sad to take a reprieve from the 'heat dome' that was oppressing the midwest.
We loved watching Clara play with the big cousins. She learned lots during the vacation, including how to climb out of a pack'n'play (which translated quite well to climbing out of her crib at home). Some additional words/phrases include 'hiiiiilllllllll' (whenever we drove down my parents' driveway), 'pool madu', 'pond madu', 'doggie madu' ('madu' is water), 'tookie' (cookie).
Lots of people have told us that Clara looks like this grandma.
Dad and I went 4 wheeling on the Rubicon trail with the Jeepers Jamboree. I left the camera with Jill, so I'll have to borrow some photos from him to post later. Quite the adrenaline rush! Dad had told me that the Jeep can handle being tilted at 30 degrees to the side no problem. Beyond that, tipping over is likely (handy tip: if the Jeep is tipping over, don't reach hand towards the ground to stop the fall. Broken bones result). We frequently approached this limit while also being pointed up or down a steep hill or rock. Throughout the first day, I completely tensed up when going over big obstacles. Eventually I consciously relaxed my tensed muscles, realizing that being tense couldn't help in any way.

I drove some, enough to scare myself and to develop some confidence. The Jeep is a manual transmission, which I haven't driven in years. The most tricky places were manned by spotters, good for pointing the way and bad that someone saw my poor driving skills up close.

The most memorable experience was changing a wheel on Cadillac hill (probably 15-20% grade) due to a sheared valve stem. Big thanks to the guys behind us that told us to use a strap to compress the suspension -- much less lift is needed to get wheel of the ground.