Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Eight is Great!

By the time my 8th birthday rolled around, I was pretty good at celebrating, thanks to all the fun parties my relatives threw for me on our road trip. Between that and my request not to have a huge party, Mom and Dad had some thinking to do when it came to figuring out a way to keep it small while still making the day special.

We kicked my birthday off by opening a present the night before. Then we started my big day with a surprise – a huge Wild Kratts sign that said, “Have a Wild Birthday Mitch!” -- and more presents. Next, we headed to story time at the park. The librarian from our school read some books and we played with some friends. Then our friends Eli, Alex, Tessa and their mom came over for lunch, cupcakes and a water blaster battle. We chilled out in the afternoon, watching some of my favorite show, Wild Kratts.

Once dad came home, we headed to Rudy’s for dinner. Then we went home for apple crisp, ice cream, and more presents.

Saturday was my last celebration. We invited three of my friends over: Brody, Jacob and Hannah. We played with sidewalk chalk, water blasters, three big empty washing machine boxes we scored from Lowes, and our bounce house. Brody and I drew food chains – mine was a list with arrows pointing to the creatures that eat each other, and Brody’s was a picture of creatures eating the other creatures that prey on each other in real life.

We ate breakfast tacos and watermelon, then decorated big pieces of dirt cake with lots and lots of sprinkles.

It was a great way to celebrate. It was just enough fun, without being overwhelming.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Friday night Dad and I went with to the Round Rock Express baseball game.

It was a Cub Scout event, so we saw lots of my friends there as well. Dad and I had a good time watching the game. I was right on the left field railing when a ball came sailing toward me. Dad yelled "Watch out Mitch!" and then everyone else in our section yelled "Watch out Mitch!" Fortunately, it missed me by a few inches.

There was a teacher sitting in front of me, and she kept telling Dad how interesting I was. She kept asking me questions about roads, math, and other things that I like. It was a nice way to keep the game interesting.

After the game was over we watched a really great fireworks show. They had some different kinds of fireworks that even Dad had never seen before.

Then came the really interesting part. Once the fireworks were over, everyone started to leave. But the Cub Scouts got to stay! That's because we got to do an overnight campout inside the stadium!

First we brought down sleeping bags, blankets, and our stuff onto the field, and set up our camping areas. I ran all around the outfield, back and forth between the outfield walls. It was really fun to have such a large area to run around.

Then we all had pizza to eat. After eating a giant pretzel during the game, I wasn't even that hungry.

After pizza, we walked around the Fun Zone, looking at all the games, rides, and other activities. I told Dad I was too tired to do anything (after all, it was already after 11pm), but when I walked by the pool and saw all the kids swimming, I couldn't resist! I took off my shoes and shirt and jumped in. I swam around for about an hour, playing in the fountains, running between the pool and the hot tub, and floating on my back. Finally, after midnight, I was too tired to swim and we headed back down to the field.

They were showing a movie on the giant screen above the field - "The Sandlot" - which is about kids playing baseball. Dad and I watched the movie on the screen until we both fell asleep around 1am. 

We woke up around 6am and all got donuts and juice. Then we packed up and headed home. It was great fun, and a really neat baseball experience.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Go Wildcats!

Dad's death defying unicycle ride @ COSI
The next morning we were all sad to say goodbye to our Pennsylvania gang, but we were excited about our next big stop -- Lexington, Kentucky. 

On the way there, we stopped in Columbus, Ohio, where we had a pie picnic, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, with three different kinds of pie. Then we headed into COSI, Center of Science and Industry. We started with a section that was all about water, where we went into a submarine and shot water into large vases. Then we went to a section where we built with big blocks, then a history section that showed what life was like in the 1890s and 1962. We loved it. It showed grocery stores, phones, TVs, toys and all kinds of things. We thought the phones and TVs were especially funny. 

Next we saw the largest collection of Cracker Jack prizes, which Mom thought was interesting, and Dad rode a death defying high wire unicycle. It was two stories off the ground! Turner was very scared for him, and Dad was really brave. We were all relieved when he finished unscathed. When Dad got off the unicycle, Turner said, “I’m glad Dad is not dead!”

The best day of Dad's life
After COSI, we next stopped in Cincinnati for dinner. We first headed to Skyline Chili, where we tried a little bit of all the different varieties of delicious Cincinnati-style chili, then Graeter’s Ice Cream, which we ate by a huge fountain. We agreed it was all very good, and a great idea for a stop. I told Dad I really like that city. To make things even more fun, we rode over the river from Cincinnati to Kentucky in our car on a ferry. Turner was worried about alligators, but we were relieved to get out and look around and see that we were out of alligator country. We all agreed it was more fun than taking a bridge, and it was followed by a fun winding road back to the highway.

Mom and me at the Pepper Distillery
A couple hours later, we arrived at our apartment in Lexington. Dad’s friend grew up in Lexington but now lives in Austin, and she generously let us stay in her beautiful apartment for a few nights. We were all very happy to shower and go to bed once we got there.

The next morning we headed to one of Dad’s favorite places on Earth, the University of Kentucky. We went to the Joe Craft Center, which is where the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams practice. Dad had arranged a tour, which he was very excited about. It was summer, so the place was being used by volleyball camps and we didn’t get to see any players. But we did get to see lots of trophies, pictures on the walls, and descriptions of players and teams that Dad remembered from his childhood. Dad also loved talking about basketball with the tour guide. Mom noticed no one in Lexington wears anything that’s not blue.

We next found a farmer’s market and gear store that were right next to each other, where we stocked up on produce and Kentucky shirts, then went back to the apartment so Mom and Dad could nap. 

That afternoon, we met up with Dad’s friend. She and her sister own the building that was probably the first bourbon distillery. It hadn’t been used for anything in 40 years and fell into total disrepair and they are fixing it up so places like a distillery, brewery and restaurants can use it. It was really amazing. First we went to the finished part, which is a brewery and bar, restaurant and ice cream lounge. It was gorgeous and busy. Then we went into the unfinished section. It was CRAZY! It was raining, and there are huge holes in the roof, so it rained right into the building. There was graffiti that said, “A monster,” and puddles and debris everywhere. It was very fun hearing about all their plans while looking at what they started out with and a finished section.

I was super excited about this enormous duck we found
at the Kentucky Horse Park
We kicked off our last day there with a trolley ride around the city. The bus driver and other passengers were very nice and told us little tidbits about different things we passed. After that, we went to Kentucky Horse Park. We rode a horse-pulled trolley around the park, rode ponies, had a picnic, brushed a pony, watched a show where women rode horses from around the world and told us about their different breeds before letting us pet the horses and ask questions, and looked around a huge international horse museum. We all agreed the show was the best part.

Our last big stop was Mammoth Cave the next morning. We did the Domes and Dripstones tour, which was ¾ of a linear mile and took about two hours. We had to take a bus from the business center to the cave, then went down 280 stairs into the cave. The tour guide told us we were 25 stories under the surface. It was cool down there, 54 degrees. It felt very nice. We saw all kinds of limestone formations – stalagmites, stalactites, columns, straws and layers of stone. We also saw cave crickets, which look like huge spiders. We were very brave about them, even when they were right over our heads. At one point in the tour, the guide turned off all the lights and had everyone be quiet so we could experience total silence and total darkness. He said it only gets that dark two places in the world -– caves and deep in the sea. He told us how our brains played a trick on us. Even though our eyes couldn’t see our hands, our brains thought we could.

One funny thing about Kentucky was we met a lot of people from Germany. Dad talked with a guy who was from Munich. His family was doing a five-week road trip all around the country. It made our trip sound short and sweet.

We had a fun stop for lunch. In Nashville, there is a Krystal and White Castle across the street from each other. We got some of each and had a taste test. Turner preferred White Castle, which Mom said was due to his Turner blood (the Turner family is from Indiana, which is a White Castle state). The rest of us like Krystal slightly better.

The rest of our trip was driving time. Our last overnight, we stayed at a nice hotel outside of Little Rock, where we got to swim.

One thing Mom did to make things interesting and to console Hazel, who had a headache, was to sit in the back with us. Mom showed us an app on her phone that she used on the trip, Waze. It’s like a game where you report things you see on the road, like obstacles on the road, police, and accidents. It makes the drive more interesting and helps you and other drivers anticipate what’s happening on the road. Hazel taught Mom about the app she and Turner like on their Kindles, Toca Mini, where they make funny little guys.

The last day of driving we stopped at a place called Buc-ee's to get gas. Mom and Dad were shocked at how big and busy it was. Mom said it was like a convenience store combined with a mall. They did have very clean restrooms, which apparently they are famous for.

Home sweet home
Also on that day, we listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the second time on the trip. Dad downloaded the audiobook, along with a few others, before we left Austin, and we really enjoyed it. Earlier in the trip, we also listened to Pippi Longstocking. Listening to those audiobooks was a great way to pass time, and was a great idea.

We were sad to end our trip. It was nice spending so much time together, seeing lots of family, and doing so many fun new things. It was a great change of pace. But it was also nice to come home to our friends and lots of swimming and other fun we’ll have the rest of the summer.

To see the rest of our trip photos, click here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

More PA pictures

We had too many great photos from Pennsylvania. We couldn't decide which to post, so here are more!

Hazel and Turner loved Grandma and Grandpa's big backyard. Here they are, surreptitiously picking apples.

This was Turner's idea of a 4th of July costume. We all thought it was pretty awesome.

Turner LOVES Uncle Daniel. 

This book was the first present I opened from Grandma and Grandpa. I liked it so much, I didn't want to deal with the rest of my presents.

I loved hiking and swimming at the lake.

This was the 4th of July bubble pit we found. It was great! Turner is the red and white striped blur at the bottom of the photo.

This is Aunt Lauren, patiently waiting for her baby to come out. We missed Sadie Marie by two days, and can't wait to meet her and see Aunt Lauren and Uncle Ryan again at Thanksgiving!

To see all our photos, click here

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We have friends in Pennsylvania!

Our next stop was Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Pennsylvania. We didn’t make any big stops between Atlanta and their house, so we made really good time. It paid off because we had lots of time for dinner, hanging out and saying hello, and catching fireflies before it was time to go to bed. We even had time for Grandma to read us our bedtime story, Rodeo Rose.

The next day we got up at our usual early time. Hazel and I watched our Kindles and Turner dressed up as a cowboy and let himself outside to surprise Grandpa and send him off to work in style. After breakfast and hanging out for a while, we set off for Aunt Lauren’s and Uncle Ryan’s house and lunch at a fun burger joint and Pinchot Park in Dover. We were super excited because we picked our cool cousin Mianna up there too.

Taking a ride on the Uncle Ryan train
After lunch, we started out with a short hike on a muddy trail around a lake, which gave us the chance to watch Uncle Ryan catch a few fish. He caught a big mouth bass, a striped bass and a sunny. They were all too small to keep, and it was fun to watch him put them back in the water. I told him all kinds of facts about the different kinds of fish he caught. Then we swam in the lake with Grandma, Aunt Lauren and Mianna while Dad rested and Mom passed out on the shore. She snored and we all laughed at her. They also had a playground at the lake. I dug a huge hole and climbed in it. It was great. It was a fun and tiring day, but we weren’t too tired to catch more fireflies that evening.

The next day, we got an early start and headed to Washington, D.C., to go to the National Zoo with Grandma, Grandpa and Mianna. We had a really great time walking around, hanging out with everybody, and looking at all the animals. Dad noticed the cheetah looking pretty anxious because it was right next to the zebra. After we walked away and around the corner, there was a loud ruckus. It turned out the cheetah and zebra were talking to each other. Once we got back, we were excited to see Uncle Daniel. Turner stuck to him like glue. Then we had yet another very late night with the lightening bugs.

We had lunch at the FHW with Pop and Mom Mom!
The next day we slowed down and took it easy. We spent some time hanging out with Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Daniel in the morning, then headed to the Famous Hot Weiner with Mom’s grandparents, Mom Mom and Pop. It was nice to see them. Hazel really liked hearing what it was like when Mom Mom was little. I liked talking with Pop and Uncle Ryan about Cub Scouts. Turner liked hearing about all the family members he is named after.

We spent the rest of the day back at Grandma and Grandpa’s taking a nap and playing outside, which we really enjoyed the whole visit. We liked running around in the grass with the dogs, Bruiser and Lucy, and playing with the apples from the trees. Aunt Lauren sent us a furniture box, which we colored and played with outside. We pretended it was a clubhouse for a while, then I tried to mount it on a wagon that we’d been riding around all week. I told Mom that when I grow up, I want to live in a house like Grandma’s, in the country.

Grandma swam in a lake with us!
We had a great day on the Fourth of July. We took it easy in the morning because it was raining and we knew we had a big night ahead of us. We schooled Grandpa in Wild Kratts, then headed to the Tropical Treat for ice cream. Turner and I got butterfudge sundaes. Mom got a huge raspberry ice cream cone. Dad and Hazel each tried to conquer a banana split (Dad succeeded and helped Hazel finish hers). We all shared so we got to taste everything. It was a great time!

That rain stopped that evening, so we headed to the York Revolution baseball field for fireworks with Aunt Lauren, Uncle Daniel and Uncle Ryan. The fireworks were exciting, and we all agreed that the grand finale is our favorite part.

Mom took too many pictures of us.
Grandpa didn't mind, but we did.
Sunday we really took advantage of our last day with all that outdoor space. We played with everyone outside and in a pool Grandma and Grandpa picked up for us. The pool had a slide, which Hazel, Turner and Mianna really liked. Then Grandma surprised me with a birthday party! We had ice cream cake, which I requested. Then she and Grandpa gave me a whole bunch of presents. I was very tired and the first thing I pulled out of my birthday bag was so interesting, I got sucked into it and had to look at the rest later. The party was a great way to end our visit. 

Monday, July 13, 2015


Thursday morning, we got going early, said goodbye to Uncle Ben, Aunt Jen and Annabelle, and set off to drive to Bubbe's house. We were sad to say goodbye to our Florida family, but super excited to see Bubbe.

We were all super excited to say hi to Bubbe when she got home from work, then she made a delicious spaghetti and meatballs dinner. Then she surprised us with movie night. We watched Rio 2, and laughed our heads off. It was fun watching a movie together.

Friday morning, we met our new cousin Lizzie first thing in the morning. Mom liked holding her, and we all liked looking at her teeny tiny toes and big cheeks.

That afternoon, we headed to the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. It was a nice alternative to the heat, and gave us a chance to look at gigantic dinosaurs, rocks and minerals, old bikes, cars, and planes, and lots of other science things like how sound, light and weather work. We also panned for gold and dug for fossils. It was a really cool museum and we were glad Bubbe took us there. On our way home, we stopped at the Varsity for lunch, which is always good and reminds us all of Papa.

Bubbe and I looked for gold
Friday night, Aunt Laurie, Uncle Jonathan and Lizzie came back and we had a nice Shabbat dinner. Bubbe had all kinds of good food -- brisket, artichoke casserole, rice and noodles, kugel, and salad.

After dinner, Bubbe surprised me with a WildKratts birthday cake. It was delicious. Then I got to open some presents. There were even some for Hazel and Turner. I'm getting used to all of these birthday parties.

During dinner it started raining and there was a big gust of wind. We saw some leaves really blowing across the yard but didn't think much of it until Aunt Laurie and Uncle Jonathan called on their way home to say a lot of branches and trees were in the road, and their power was out. They came back to spend the night, and we watched the news, which showed some trees had fallen through some people's houses. We were grateful nothing happened to Bubbe's house.

Practice picture-taking
The next day, we headed out early to have our photos taken together. The photographer was very nice, and we cooperated the whole time, which shocked all the grownups.

After pictures we came home and had a big waterfight out in Bubbe's fun yard. All the kids were using squirters until I figured out that I could use the hose and really get everyone wet. We also ran through all of Bubbe's sprinklers.

That afternoon, Mom and Aunt Laurie celebrated by going to get massages, and we stayed with Dad and Bubbe. We went to a birthday party for one of Bubbe's friends. That evening we got more time with Bubbe, when Mom and Dad went out to dinner to celebrate their 9th anniversary. They ate at a French Vietnamese restaurant they really liked, and said they had a good time.

Back at the house with Bubbe, we made our own pizza. One of the pizzas worked out and one didn't. So we had a buffet of spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese and the pizza that worked out. We topped it off with ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

Sunday was another day full of amazing food. Bubbe impressed us all with her culinary prowess. She made a great brunch with blintz casserole, bagels, hash browns and a huge, gorgeous fruit salad. Aunt Laurie and Uncle Jonathan joined us for the feast, and Lizzie was mad she couldn't try any of it.

I was brave about getting x-rays
Then we went to a puppet show with Bubbe. The show, at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, was based on "Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type," a hilarious book we all really like. The puppets were amazing, and it was a very funny show. We all laughed and at the end, they explained what all the puppets were. It was loads of fun.

Afterward, we went to the cemetery to put rocks on Papa's grave. We talked about him, and ran around, which Bubbe said he really would have liked.

Bubbe cleaned Turner's teeth
Monday, we headed to Bubbe's office to get our teeth cleaned and x-rayed. Hazel and I were very brave about the x-rays, and we all did a great job getting our teeth cleaned. Dr. Taylor said Hazel and I look like we probably will not need braces. Turner is going to be another story. Then we had lunch at Chik-fil-a with Bubbe.

Monday night we had dinner with her at a fun place called Farm Burger. It was a nice way to say goodbye to Bubbe, Aunt Laurie, Uncle Jonathan and Lizzie.

Click here to see all the photos from the Atlanta leg of our trip.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Off to Sunny Florida

Even though we were up extremely late the night before, we woke up at our usual time the next morning. We had breakfast at our hotel, then set out to explore a little more. We walked to the French Quarter, which gave us a chance to show Dad and Mom how tired we were, especially Turner and Hazel. We walked through Jackson Square, where we saw lots of artists and some palm readers, then found a bathroom and an ATM before giving in to the heat and humidity. We rode the streetcar back to the hotel and hit the road, which gave Turner, Hazel and Mom a chance to catch some ZZZs.

Because we hit some traffic and some of us were so grouchy, we skipped our planned trip for the day but the Florida welcome center was pretty fun. We found an astronaut, orange and grapefruit juice samples, and an alligator tried to eat Mom. It was more exciting than we expected.

I found a frogfish!
The most exciting part of the day though, was when we arrived at our destination – Aunt Jen and Uncle Ben’s house. We got there in time to play with Annabelle and have pizza before bed. We needed some sleep because we had a big day ahead of us.

The next morning, we woke up and were quiet so we wouldn’t wake up Annabelle. It gave us a chance to play with our Kindles and for Mom and Dad to sleep in a little.

Next, we headed to St. Andrews beach. We started looking for creatures and quickly found a frogfish. I caught it in my clear container with holes in the lid, looked at it for a while, then carefully set it free. Later on we found a hermit crab and did the same thing with it.

Uncle Ben + a gaggle of kids
We had a blast playing with Annabelle, digging in the sand, looking for shells and swimming in the waves. We all went home exhausted, but Uncle Ben and Aunt Jen revived us with an amazing dinner.

The next day we went to a city called Seaside with Aunt Jen, Uncle Ben and Annabelle. We walked around, had lunch and snow cones, and Mom and I jumped in the waves for a few minutes before heading back. Hazel’s arms were a little pink that day, so we needed a bit of a break from the sun.

Our last full day in Florida, we headed back to the beach again. Dad and I spent a lot of time on the ocean side of the beach, which had bigger waves. Then Mom and Turner joined us and Mom found two more hermit crabs. Then we joined everybody for more time digging and swimming on the calmer side of the beach. As we were leaving the beach, we stopped at Alligator Pond to see what we could find. Sure enough, we found an alligator! It looked at us from where it was floating in the water, and Turner couldn't believe it was real.

Aunt Jen made me a great birthday party!
We wrapped up our visit with yet another delicious dinner made by Uncle Ben, and he and Aunt Jen surprised me with a birthday party! She made me a delicious chocolate cake with chocolate icing, as I requested, and I was pretty surprised when she brought it out and everyone started singing.

Uncle Ben, Aunt Jen and Annabelle gave me a book set I was really excited about, since I knew I could read it in the car on the rest of the trip. I couldn’t stop smiling when they gave it to me, and I said, “Now I’ll never be bored again!” 

It was a really great visit, and we especially had a great time with Annabelle. We all liked making her smile and giggle, and reading with her

Click here to see all our photos from the Florida leg of our trip.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hitting the road to Louisiana

On June 20, we kicked off this year’s road trip. We got up bright and early in the morning, hopped in the car, and hit the road.

Louisiana has a weird way of welcoming visitors
Our first big stop was in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We had a great picnic lunch, then the real fun began. Before our trip, Dad scouted out lots of cool stops for us, including this great park that had a fantastic playscape that had sections that looked like a treehouse, a pirate ship and a castle, and also had a seesaw, which we all really liked, and low monkey bars that Hazel had fun on. The other side of the park had a splash pad, which was perfect for such a hot day.

After a couple hours there, we headed on to our overnight destination, New Orleans. After unloading the car and checking into our room, we headed out on the town. 

Fun at Millennium Park
We walked a bit and to a New Orleans streetcar. It looked just like the trolley from Daniel Tiger. It was fun riding on it. 

We took the streetcar to the French Quarter, where we walked along the Mississippi River. We saw lots of things, including an aquarium with a huge outdoor bird section and a steamboat. There were lots of people on skateboards and bikes. I almost ran into some of them, and they yelled, “Stop! Stop!” at me. After I moved out of their way, I laughed and yelled to Mom and Dad, “This place is crazy!” They thought that was pretty funny.

Walking around New Orleans
Then we had dinner. The menu was pretty exotic, and we all had the chance to try alligator for the first time. We agreed it tasted better than we expected.

After dinner, we were surprised by a Pride parade right in front of our restaurant. We saw lots of fun costumes, and people in the parade gave us lots of candy and fun bead necklaces.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde
When that excitement ended, we walked through the neighborhood to a famous restaurant, Café du Monde. Mom had coffee and we all had their famous beignets. They were delicious; we especially loved eating (and wearing) the powdered sugar.

By that time, it was very late so we took the streetcar back to our hotel so we could get a good night’s sleep before continuing our adventure. Mom asked me if I liked the city and I told her, “It’s pretty good but also pretty stinky.” We all felt like we kicked our trip off to a good start.

Click here to see the first leg of our trip, in Louisiana.