Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Continuing to Catch Up

We made it back from Indiana with one day to spare, so that Mark could rest before jumping back into the chaos at work Sunday night. That day, we went to Pappadeuxs Seafood Restaurant to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. We both LOVE that place and the seafood is to-die-for. Since it is expensive, it is a treat. It serves all kinds of cajun-style seafood, as well as traditional. It is always busy and loud and has a fun atmosphere, and the wait staff is excellent. Mark and Ke Xin played at the table.

Ke Xin likes to smile for the camera, but she has a habit of smiling a BIT too much! Is she happy or is she going to bite?

The waitress took an unofficial family portrait for us. Mark hates to show his teeth, even tho the dentist has made them perfect.

Sitting on the edge of the outdoor fountain at the restaurant. Ke Xin was not happy being perched above the patio. Olivia loved it. She's becoming more fearless. Maybe it is the gymnastics lessons.

No sooner did we have our anniversary, than it was time for Mark's big day!!! Happy Birthday!!!! Mark really didn't want to celebrate this one, but we HAD to observe his special day. He hit the big 5-0!! Half a century!!!! But we were kind - no over-the-hill jokes. The girls made cupcakes for him to share at the brewery.

Then they decorated his cake. In the interests of ecomony and ecology, we recycled some of the decorations from Ke Xin's cake. It ended up alittle crunchy, but it was actually very pretty. The girls were very proud.

After vacationing, our anniversary, and his birthday, Mark and Ke Xin were pooped.

Then Ke Xin got a wonderful surprise!!! A birthday gift from Qi Meng!!!!!! She loves Kai Lan and was kissing her new baby almost before we could get her out of the box. Thank you Meng Meng!!!

Olivia disguised as a sweet angel. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes... it's not.

We finally bit the bullet and decided to update the kitchen. In this economy you never know what the next week could hold. If we have to move, we have to update or people won't even look at the house. So, we embarked on a trip to the granite shop and picked out our slab. The picture doesn't do it justice. Mark was in his element. He's a closet decorator.

I'm getting closer to getting caught up!
Next - a trip to the pumpkin patch and a kitchen renovation!

National Museum of the United States Air Force

We stopped at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on the way home from Indiana. Mark had really looked forward to stopping and seeing all the planes. He loves military stuff, so this was heaven for him. I thought it would be "ok", but I figured the girls would get bored. But I was wrong! It was great and the girls loved it! We had to run through it, since we had to make it to Lexington that night, so it would be nice to go again and take our time.

The place is HUGE. It has rockets in it. Standing up! I didn't know what most of the planes were, but they were really neat to see and the displays were very educational. The lobby sports a statue of Icarus, who flew like a bird until he got too close to the sun. Olivia kept wanting to look at the back of him. Then she and Ke Xin would giggle.

There are three huge hangers worth of tiny-to-gigantic planes, helicopters and experimental planes. I like the nose art the best.

There were dispalys you could walk through. That's Olivia on the stairs. She got quite adventurous and wanted to go by herself sometimes.

This is a HUGE quilt - 20 feet x 20 feet. Each square represents all the different AF installations throughout the world. Quite beautiful. It commemorates the 50th anniversary of the USAF.

Olivia takes a ride in the cockpit of a F-4D Phantom II.

I liked Iron Mike, the mascot of a squadron based in Alaska. He had some adventures of his own!

Real rockets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cool!!!!!!!!!

This pic keeps loading sideways, phooey. It is looking up at the top of some rockets.

The girls got quite a workout. They zonked before we hit the interstate. They slept well that night, needless to say!

And we headed for Lexington and our shining beacon in the night - The Spearmint Rhino!
Then, homeward.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finally - The Indiana Trip

We traveled to Indiana to introduce Ke Xin to Mark's family. We needed to go anyway, since we hadn't been back in a couple years. Now that Olivia is in Pre-K, we have to follow the regular school schedule (that sort of snuck up on us...) so we went during her first Fall Break (Sept 21-25). I know it seems early to have an official "break" but the kids have been in school since August 3rd, so... We stuck the dogs at the vet, rented a Honda Oddessy (loved it!) and headed north. We were about 2 hours behind schedule leaving the house, but we made great time heading to Lexington, where we spent the night, and then finished the drive the next day. The girls were great travelers. (I already knew this after surviving a 15 1/2 hour flight from China with no real problems except for a little chaos at meal times.) Plus, renting the van was a huge help. All that room!! We wish we had one, but until the Van Fairy leaves one under our pillow, that will just have to wait. Here are Olivia and Ke Xin as we started the trip.

Here they are after a couple hours. Like I said - they are great travelers!

As we pulled across the state line into Kentucky, it was time for a bathroom break. Mark is friends with the brother of the guy who originated the Kentucky Wildcats logo.

We stopped the first night just south of Lexington. We stayed at a very nice Days Inn which was, surprise - right next door to the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen's Club!!! WHERE do they get names like that??????????? The club was clean and quiet on the outside, so we didn't care. Later, as I went out to get more stuff from the van, I passed two female hotel guests with clear plastics cups full of liquid with little stir sticks. I assumed they must have been visiting the club. But Mark said - no! - places like that do not allow unescorted females inside! Right... Next thing you know, women will be wanting the right to vote, and drive, too. HA! They'll allow anyone inside who has money to spend. Mark is so sweet and old fashioned. We discussed the name of the club and agreed that "Peppermint Hippo" would be much more appealing.

It was raining the next morning as we set out for Grandma's house.

Mark was excited to be getting closer to home and his mom. Since I drove the day before, he drove the second day. Unfortunately, we found out that I needed to drive, since having to turn around to attend to the girls (mostly Ke Xin) made me seriously car sick. We took a break at a local Kroger until I felt better, and then I drove again. Much better!!

We made good time to Grandma's house. After our hello's, we headed to the local saefood place for dinner. Uncle Ned got to meet his new neice. Aunt Beth was there, too, but I didn't get her picture at the time, and we didn't get to see them again. Phooey! Ke Xin took to everyone very well. She knows she's with us, but she's comfortable being with others as long as we're near.

Grandpa Bun, Olivia, Ke Xin and Grandma Helen.

Grandma Helen is petite, so we wanted to see how fast Olivia is catching up to her. Halfway up Grandma Helen's back!!

Ke Xin loves to imitate everything she sees, so she had to be back-to-back with someone, too. Looks like she has a ways to go before she catches up to Daddy...

Sfter dinner, we were tired and the girls were keyed up, so we went across the street to Mark's old elementary school and the girls played on the playground. They loved it! Of course the equipment has been upgraded since Mark's day. We meant to come back each night, but we ended up busy all the time.

Monday we hung out at Grandma's house. Mark was able to catch up on all the hot local gossip. One of his cousins sons plays music professionally. Jason Mowery has toured and recorded with Keith Urban and Big & Rich, among others. He's currently with John Fogerty. He's THE celebrity of the family.
The girls played with Lucy, the dachshaund. Ke Xin even tried to take over Lucy's bed.

At lunchtime, Ke Xin had to do the "olives on my fingers" routine. The tomatos were homegrown - delicious!!!

Ke Xin had alot of fun with Grandma and Grandpa. She combed their hair, and pretended to put contacts in everyone's eyes (copying mommy), etc. Grandpa Bun played This Little Piggy with her and she squealed every time.

Olivia doesn't look ANYTHING like Grandma Helen, does she? I've been saying she's the spitting image of her grandmother from the beginning, but Mark wouldn't listen. Even he sees it now.

Uncle Dave called at the end of the day to tell us it had flooded back home. He had damage at his home and office and people were cut off from their homes when roads and interstates had flooded. Kids were stuck in their schools! A dam broke near cousin Ivey's horse farm and her horse, Phoenix, had to literally swim out to dry ground. Unreal!! No damage at our house, since we live at the top of a hill. Smart thinking Daddy! Grandpa Howard and Grandma Sally had come home from vacation a week early - just in time to get stranded in their house in a flood the very next day.

Tuesday we headed to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. It is a GREAT zoo!! It has won several awards and we just love it. We took Olivia there the last time we visited and we knew we wanted to go back with Ke Xin. We worried it was going to rain, but were pleasantly surprised when it just stayed overcast and dry. It was warm, but not sweaty, so it was perfect! Plus, almost no one else was there!

We stopped to watch the seals being fed first. Ke Xin thought it was great, as did Olivia. Everything is sized for kids, so it was easy for them to see everything. And the place isn't so big that you get exhausted trying to visit all the exhibits.

Next we rode on the skylift which takes you over the African exhibit. We weren't sure how Ke Xin would do, but she was fearless and had a ball. Olivia loved it so much, she and Mark went back before we left the park for one more ride. Here's Mark and Olivia...

Mark's sister, Dianna, and her family came along with us for the day, so it was extra fun! Here are Uncle Wayne and Cousin Matt...

Aunt Dianna and Cousin Sam (the artist)...

And Bun and Helen...

Beautiful birds...

And a lion who was relaxing right up against the viewing window!! I know Ke Xin didn't know what a lion was, but she was not comfortable being there. Good survival instinct!! Olivia loved it and kept trying to get the lion's attention.

Then the lion got up and turned around and Ke Xin REALLY didn't want to be there anymore. She was OUTTA THERE! The lion was so beautiful!! His mate was up on the hill, taking it easy.

Mr. Buzzard... (Happy Halloween!!)

Feeding tjhe giraffe was a highlight. Olivia loved it. Ke Xin wasn't too sure. Their necks and tongues move like snakes. They don't like to be petted, they just like to eat.

Helen got more info from the handler...

Here's how it looked from the ground. They are SO big!! Good thing they are friendly!

There were three new baby wildebeasts...

Ke Xin and Olivia had fun with the African drum display.

Sam, Wayne, Helen and Matt...

Aunt Dianna drove the international-super-stroller. It goes everywhere!

Sam, Helen and Bun taking a break as we headed into the Australian exhibit. As you can see, Indiana is Pepsi country. Coke? Coke-what?

Cute tropical penquins...

They have a little train to ride at the zoo. It makes a big loop around a pretty pond. The girls thought it was great.

Ke Xin wanted to keep going!

They have a few open fountains/misters and there was no way to keep the girls out of them. I think the last time we were there, Olivia spent almost the entire visit soaked.

Riding the bronze tortise.

One of the volunteers who works with the tortises is an older woman. She could have talked about them forever. But she was very sweet and she loves the tortises ALOT. Her friends make fun of her for spending so much time at the zoo, but she can't understand how they can spend all their time playing bridge, so I guess that makes them even. I'd rather be at the zoo! The tortises are Norbert and Perdue. Norbert is the male and Perdue is the smaller female. They have been at the zoo so long that no one employed at the zoo now knows how they got their names. They are REALLY old. They are very bonded to each other. They check on each other during the day and sleep with their shells touching at night, in their special barn. While we were talking, Perdue went to check on Norbert.

She made much faster progress than I expected and soon she was with him. The volunteer apologized for them being so muddy. They wash them frequently, and she said they shine like the bronze statue when they've had their baths.

The Orangutan display was the only one I really didn't like. Unless there was more to it that I didn't see, it was basically a cement pit with vines and stuff. The bottom was full of about 1 foot of water. It made me think of Willie B., the silverback gorilla at the old Atlanta zoo, who had lived in a cement cell for 20 years until the zoo was completely remodeled and he got a real habitat with land and trees and mates. Here's the male orangutan, vegging out on a branch with a sheet of paper over his head, like a homeless person. The green background is painted on the cement walls. The female was wading around in the water below, pushing pieces of soaked cardboard around. Depressing.

Matt rode with Olivia on the carosel. Very pretty! And surprisingly fast!

Ke Xin missed the entire Rainforest exhibit. She zonked in her stroller. But that's ok - a rested toddler is a happy toddler.

Exit pictures. Olivia with the scarecrows...

A picture of me, just to prove I was really there...

Olivia took this shot. It would have been really good if I hadn't closed my eyes! Argh!!!

After the zoo, we headed to dinner and to meet Joe, Dianna's oldest son. He actually had to work that day - gasp! We met him at Mark's most favorite spot ever - Pizza King!!!!!!!! Pizza King is big in Indiana, and they have delicious pizza!!!!!! Their building was built back in the 70's and they put in this cool window. It is huge! It makes you feel like you're in an old church.

This is Joe, at home. He's holding the family bird. I can't remember his name! But he is one happy bird!! He is a gorgeous Eclectus. You can tell how happy a bird is by the condition of his feathers. And this is one happy, friendly bird.
No visit to Fort Wayne is complete without a stop at Coney Island! They sell hot dogs. They have sold hot dogs for over 100 years. In the same location. People line-up down the street to get these dogs and the chili. We got there after the lunch rush was over. They never write your order down, they just remember everything (like The Varsity in Atlanta).

Here's the interior. Always busy. When you leave, you can go out the front door, or out back thru the kitchen. Really!! Helen always giggles about their teeny-tiny bathrooms. She thinks they converted the coat closet.

After loading up on hot dogs and chili, what can you do? Top it off with ice cream!! Bun and Helen know the best ice cream place in Indiana! The girls dug in...

And left nothing but a soupy mess behind... Olivia was very proud.

Back to Grandma's house to "get down" with the organ in the spare bedroom! Ke Xin loves music and loves to dance!

Bun, Ke Xin and Lucy...

The Meyer/Myers Gang...

We got to spend one evening with Mark's buddy, Chris, and his family. They are so nice! Huge Notre Dame fans. And then it was time to go... We ate breakfast with Bun and Helen at a tiny little restaurant that cooked the most awesome omeletes!! We were stuffed! We headed for the Air Force Museum (next post) and then home. Here's one more shot of me to prove I was there.

When we saw the glow of the Spearmint Rhino, we knew we were near our hotel...

As we left the Lexington area, we stopped at an Art Store/rest stop in Berea. I took a liking to the handcrafted turkeys (but not to their handcrafted price).

We stopped and ate lunch on the way home from Lexington, trying our best to make it home in time to get the dogs out of the vet's and save a days boarding cost. In the end, we made it with 10 minutes to spare. It didn't help when we had to make an emergency pit stop on the side of the road for Olivia. We'd JUST left the sandwhich shop/gas station when she declared she HAD to pee. Sigh... She didn't seem to mind the facilities! Ha! I gotta post this kind of stuff before she grows up and kills me for doing it!!!! We'll probably end up in therapy as it is...

The end! Next post: The Air Force Museum!