All Quiet on the Home Front

All quiet on the home front.

Oh, COVID, how I hate thee. Not only have you messed up the last six months, but now you’re forcing me to be quiet in my own home.

School has started for the 2020-21 school year…remember when we were all excited about moving into the year 2020? It was supposed to be the year of clarity. We got clarity, all right! I can see clearly now that it’s going to be another messed up school year! And it’s mostly going to be messed up, because it’s taking place in my kitchen.

Actually, I have to give credit where it’s due. At least our school is trying to get back in the classroom. Our school opted to divide the students in half and they go on alternating days. That means every other day, my daughter will be camped out in my kitchen. Last year, she opted to do “remote learning” in the upstairs game room, but this year, she wants to be in the kitchen. I get it. There’s more light.

But there’s also more noise in the kitchen than upstairs in the secluded game room…and more chance of interruption.

Take today, for example. While our daughter was working in the kitchen, I was in my room trying to get some work done. I recently started some contract work of my own…not full time stuff…just something to keep me busy. I can work on my own schedule, as long as I have my computer, so today I was working in my room with Shark Tank on the TV for background noise. Occasionally, I would look up at the screen, if something seemed particularly interesting, or if someone said something funny. A lot of funny stuff happens on that show.

And then it happened. A guy made a fantastic deal with one of the “sharks,” and I expressed my disbelief…loudly. My daughter promptly texted, “Quiet plz!” I can only hope her high school English teacher didn’t hear my exclamation of surprise…it might or might not have contained an expletive.

So here’s my question: am I actually going to have to be quiet every other day in my house?

For most folks, that likely wouldn’t be a problem…especially if they’re working on a project of their own. But for me, it could be a problem. I’m accustomed to having free reign in my own home. I’m accustomed to talking as loudly as I like. I accustomed to laughing heartily and talking on the phone as I walk into the kitchen. I’m even accustomed to playing music in the living room, which is adjacent to the kitchen, during the day.

I guess all that’s coming to a screeching halt. I guess I’ll take all my phone calls on the patio. I’ll try to keep my voice down and my laughing to a minimum. I’ll try not to walk into the kitchen while laughing and talking on the phone with a friend…like I did today in the middle of my daughter’s history class. I don’t know if the history teacher or anyone else noticed, but I sure got a nasty look from the daughter. At least I had on clothes, right?!? I’ve read about moms who have unknowingly walked past the zoom classrooms in various levels of undress. That wouldn’t happen around here, because I don’t tend to walk around the house unless I’m fully dressed, but I am in danger of dropping an occasional expletive in the middle of class.

Next thing you know, my family will start shipping me out to a hotel on remote learning days. Honestly, I would welcome the opportunity to order room service for lunch. Should I make my reservation now?

All quiet on the home front…this is going to be a tough order. Any other moms of students who are learning remotely want to meet me for a long lunch every other day?

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

We awoke with a jolt this morning. Literally…a jolt.

A little after 8:00 this morning, we experienced an earthquake in North Carolina. While it was centered about 100 miles from where I live in Charlotte, we felt it. My husband and I were lazing in bed when suddenly, the windows started rattling, the bed started shaking from side to side, and we heard a rumbling sound. My husband asked, with an alarmed look on his face, “What was that?!?!” I responded, “I think that was an earthquake.” He didn’t believe me, of course, but I stood firm…”I think it was an earthquake.” Then I took to Facebook, posting, “Anybody else in Charlotte feel a shake just now?” And the comments started coming, starting with a friend who lives a few miles from me, “Um yep! That was insane!” Another friend who lives in a different direction said, “Yes!!! What the heck!?” I turned to my husband and said, “I was right. It was an earthquake. People all over the place felt it too.”

I started checking the United States Geological Survey website (see it here), but for the first few minutes, I didn’t see any report of an earthquake. Finally, a few minutes later…there it was…a 5.1 earthquake in the area of Sparta, NC, which is about 100 miles north of us. Apparently, there was an earlier quake…a 2.5 at 2:00 this morning. We slept through that one.

There was an earthquake in Charlotte several years ago. I don’t remember the year, but I had just dropped off our daughter with some friends at their club pool. I was driving and talking on the phone when it occurred, so when I heard about it later, I was surprised…didn’t feel a thing. My daughter, on the other hand, said she was sitting on the edge of the pool at the time and felt it.

I have never lived in California, but I have been there countless times. I visited San Francisco in 1989, just days after the World Series earthquake, and there were aftershocks while I was there, but they were all in the middle of the night…I was sleeping and didn’t feel a thing. I don’t want anyone to ever get hurt or killed, but I wish I had been awake when the tremors occurred. I returned to San Francisco soon thereafter, and the same thing happened.

Then, in 2014, I was getting ready to go to Los Angeles with a friend and our daughters. I have been there countless times, but for some reason, I had a different feeling about this upcoming trip. My mother was alive at the time, and knowing what a worrier she could be, I called her and said, “Mother, I just want to tell you…if there is an earthquake while we are in the LA area, you should always assume we are OK unless you hear otherwise.” I went on to explain to her that when lots of people are using their cellphones, it can be difficult to get calls to go through. “We’re tough chicks,” I told her. Later, I laughed and told my friend, Mary Ann, about the call to my mother.

The LA event was held at Barker Hangar, an event venue in Santa Monica. It was a family-friendly event, so we all went. We decided to leave at about 9pm. We had hired a car to take us to and from the event. We had been in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for about ten minutes, when I got a phone call from Mary Ann, asking if we were OK. She went on to explain that she had just heard there had been a 5.6 earthquake in the LA area. I said, “We’re fine. We are in the car, so we had no idea. Of course, I missed it.” When we arrived back at the hotel, everyone there was talking about it. I called my mother and told her, “If you’ve heard there was an earthquake, don’t worry. We are fine.”

So yes, I’ve been in several earthquakes, but I’ve never felt one…till today. I guess I can mark that off my bucket list. I don’t need to do that again.

If only we had been looking at the pool when it happened…that would have been cool, for sure.

An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Lollapalooza With Teens

It’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. My husband and I watched a documentary about it recently and loved it. When naked people were swimming and bathing in the lake, I turned to my husband and said, “Just think…those people are someone’s grandparents now. Imagine watching this and seeing your grandparents!”

I was far too young to go to Woodstock, but I remember seeing lots of “hippies” around when I was a kid in the 70s. When I was around five, every time we saw a “hippie,” we would flash them the peace sign. It seemed like the thing to do.

Now there are lots more music festivals around the country. I’ve been to Jazz Fest in New Orleans…way back when, but I don’t think I’ve been to any other music festivals…till this weekend.

I just got back from Chicago with my daughter. She and a friend wanted to go to a YouTuber concert just outside the city, in Palatine. The concert was scheduled for 11am Saturday, and it was scheduled to end at about 4pm. When she first asked, I said, “No.” But as it got closer to August, I started thinking about it again. My daughter started field hockey tryouts today, so if I took her to the YouTube concert, it could be our last hurrah of the summer. And I bought the tickets, booked the airline tickets, and made hotel and rental car reservations. She was thrilled.

We arrived in Chicago late Friday afternoon, and at the rental car counter, I heard lots of chatter about Lollapalooza, a huge music festival that was going on in Chicago while we were there. I hadn’t even realized it was happening. The girls didn’t dare ask me to take them for any number of reasons…we were staying outside the city; they didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth; and I’m sure they thought I would say “no.” We got our car and made a few stops on the way to the hotel. I had booked two rooms; sharing a hotel room with two teenage girls is no fun. But when I got to my room, I quickly got online and looked for tickets. I purchased three one-day tickets for Saturday from StubHuba trusted resale company, and I got a surprisingly good price. You only live once, right?Then I picked up my phone and called my daughter in their room, saying, “Tomorrow, after you get out of your YouTube thing, we’re going to Lollapalooza. I just got us tickets.” She gasped. “What?!?! Really?!?!” She told her friend, and they squealed with delight!

So Saturday, while they were at their first event, I drove around looking at sights and  had lunch with a friend who had moved from Charlotte to Chicago years ago. We met at a place called Mother Clucker’s Kitchen(who knew people in Chicagoland could cook good collard greens?!?), and we laughed and talked, and she told me how to take the train from Palatine into the city…and back. And as soon as the girls were finished with their event, we did just that…took the train into the city.

When we arrived at Grant Park, I thought it was a little overwhelming…the sights, the sounds, the people! But the girls were completely unfazed. They hit the ground running, telling me they were going to see Lil Skies at the Lakeshore Stage. What?! Huh?!? But they were gone! I looked on the directory and found the Lakeshore Stage and headed that way. To get to it, I had to walk over a slight hill, and when I did I was amazed. There was a sea of people standing in front of me! I couldn’t believe my eyes! At first, I thought I’d never seen so may people in one place, but then I realized I had…in football stadiums, but never just out on a flat surface. It was incredible that so many people were standing together, singing the same song, waving their arms at the same time as Lil Skies.img_6119

After Lil Skies played, I found the girls (thank God for cellphones), and we went to a merchandise stand together, where we shopped, regrouped, and setting up a meeting point and meeting times. They told me which stages they were going to and which artists they wanted to hear, and I sent them on their way. But first, I made sure their phones were charged, and if they weren’t they had to take a portable charger (I always carry one).

I wandered between stages. I listened to different artists. I talked with folks around me…from Deerfield, Illinois; from New York; from South Carolina; from Alabama (the Tua Tagliavaloa jersey was a conversation starter); and a family from California. I watched people dance. I checked out the food vendors but didn’t get anything. I enjoyed the crazy wardrobes and the funny t-shirts. One favorite t-shirt was “Done Adulting For Today.” Indeed!

Did I feel safe? You bet! At no time did I feel threatened or see anyone else who appeared to feel threatened or looked threatening. People were happy. Folks were polite. There was no pushing or shoving…lots of folks offering to take pictures of others, giving each other directions to stages, etc. I did see two or three folks jump the fence to get in near the Lakeshore stage, and I read in a newspaper article there were a few arrests for possession of controlled substances…and one for assault…but I didn’t witness it. And honestly…there were thousands of people there; one assault arrest? Do the math…that’s pretty good.

After the girls had heard the artists they wanted to hear, we were on our way back to our hotel. They talked and talked about how much fun they had and how they couldn’t believe they got to go to Lollapalooza! We then made plans to return next year. I will definitely take friends with me, because it would be so much more fun with friends. And next year, I’ll feel better knowing the girls know their way around.

I feel like this is only the beginning of the music festivals for us now. We’ve already been talking about Coachella. That’s one I definitely want to do, so I hope we can make it happen before she’s off to college. Going to a music festival might sound like a crazy thing for a middle-aged mom, but I wasn’t even the oldest person there…and there were lots of people about my age. I was also a “safe person” for teens to approach; several walked over and talked to me while they waited for friends or tried to regroup. Moms have that affect on teens.

So now I’m already booking our hotel rooms for next year. We’ll purchase tickets for the full weekend next year, and several friends have already “volunteered” to go with us! And next year, I will be prepared with the correct wardrobe. The only shoes I had taken this year were wedges, and I didn’t take any really casual clothes. But next year...it is on!

 

 

 

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Need Gift Ideas for Mom?

Mother’s Day is May 12. Need some gift ideas? What is the perfect Mother’s Day gift?

Ask different moms, and you will get different answers. Some want jewelry. Some want flowers. Some want to spend time with their families, while others would want to have  time alone…in the form of a massage or a facial. Or maybe they just want to be alone.

I’ll tell you what I want for Mother’s Day. I want to have some time with my family over brunch on Mother’s Day, and I’d like to have some time to just hang out with my 15-yr-old daughter with no distractions…maybe check into a local hotel for one night, find some movies or sports to watch on TV, and order room service. That would be a great gift…hint, hint.

On Mother’s Day, every year, we go to brunch as a family at our country club. I make the reservation well in advance and select a table for us on the terrace…the indoor terrace. I don’t want to have to battle the elements…sun? rain? wind? bugs? I’ll stay indoors for brunch, thank you. One year, when the club was undergoing renovations, we had brunch in a big tent outside on the back patio of the club. There was live music, and it was beautiful, but it was a little warm. The food was great. The atmosphere was great, but I don’t like sweating while I dine. I’m glad that renovation is done.

I’ve spoken with some of my friends about how they would spend their ideal Mother’s Day, and here are some of the answers:

  • Sleep in. Breakfast (with hot coffee) in bed. Go for a mani/pedi later in the day with friends.
  • Have friends over with their families to swim in the backyard pool and cook out.
  • Spend the night in a hotel alone the night before and then brunch with the family.
  • Go to an afternoon movie with some other mom friends and go out for dinner with them afterward.

And when I asked my friends about Mother’s Day gifts, almost all of them said no gift was required…but it’s nice. That’s how I feel.

If you need some Mother’s Day gift ideas, here are a few I’ve found in my shopping adventures over the past few months:

  • Good Measure Cocktail Recipe Pitcher. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say this is pure genius. Like to make summer cocktails by the pitcher? Well, you need this pitcher to help make them just right! I got one for myself and then purchase another one as a gift recently. I think they are great! In fact, I might get mine out and use it today. Get it at Amazon here.
  • Bathrobe. I know…it sounds boring, but no one wants to buy themselves a bathrobe. Get her a really good quality one…maybe one from her favorite luxury hotel? If she doesn’t have a favorite luxury hotel, then you can find a great one here. the-ritz-carlton-waffle-terry-robe-rtz-404-01_lrg
  • Live Plants. If she is into gardening, you might get her some live plants to add to her garden. If not, most people enjoy having some live plants indoors. Personally, I would love it if I came home from brunch and my husband planted a few tomato plants for me on Mother’s Day. Last year, he planted them, and I took care of them, and it turned out to be a great combination. We had tomatoes galore! Nobody loves homegrown tomatoes more than I do.IMG_3414
  • Patio Furniture. This doesn’t necessarily mean a whole patio of furniture, though mine needs replacing now. My mother had a favorite chair on her patio. I’d like to have my chair on the patio. (But I also need all the other seating to be replaced.)IMG_3413
  • Photo book. I’ve been a prolific Shutterfly.com customer for years, and if I had been smart over the past 15 years, I would have asked my husband and daughter to make me a custom photo book on the website for the past 15 years. In fact, I will be asking them to do that this year. You can make photo books on Shutterfly.com here.
  • Jewelry. I don’t need a lot of jewelry, but some moms are really into the jewelry. If she has a Pandora bracelet, they make Mother’s Day charms. Tiffany.com has a Mother’s Day gift guide, with prices for jewelry starting at $135…and you know they are quality gifts.IMG_3416
  • Baked By Melissa. I’m a sucker for these bite-sized treats. If you’re not familiar with them, you can see them here. They have special Mother’s Day gift boxes…just order online and have them shipped directly to Mom! And they are delicious.

Don’t forget…Mother’s Day is May 12. Make brunch reservations and order gifts now. You’ll be ahead of the curve, and you won’t find yourself scrambling for a way to honor Mom on the big day.

Mother/Daughter Fun

I was talking with a friend in carpool today about my recent vacation with my 15-yr-old daughter. We met my friend, Jennifer, and her 15-yr-old daughter in Los Angeles for several days. Jennifer and her daughter used to live in Charlotte, but they moved to Ohio about 11 years ago. Luckily, we still get to see them at least once a year, when we go on a mother/daughter vacation with them.

While I was talking with my friend in carpool today, she said she had never gone on a vacation with just her daughter, and she didn’t know how her husband would feel about it. I said, “Call it a mother/daughter vacation, and it takes on new meaning!” And it’s true! There’s nothing wrong with a little special mother/daughter bonding time, right? My husband never seems to mind. Of course, he is probably grateful for some peace and quiet around the house. He’s probably thinking, “Don’t let the door hit ya in the …”

We’ve been lots of places on mother/daughter vacations…Los Angeles, New York, Upstate New York, Vermont, Maine, Puerto Rico, and more. Every trip is different, but my goal is always to have lots of opportunity for us to share some fun and chat too! For example, it’s fun to shop in Los Angeles, and it becomes a shared experience. On our last trip there,  Jennifer and her daughter introduced us to a new store, and it turned into an all-morning shopping experience! My daughter found a few things before heading to the fitting room, and I just kept finding more stuff for her to try on! We chatted as we shopped, and then we went to a nice, leisurely lunch…another good chat opportunity. When we’re home, going out to dinner or lunch with me doesn’t sound so appealing to my daughter, but on vacation, it’s fun, because we can try new restaurants and new cuisines.

In Puerto Rico in the summer of 2017, we bonded over climbing a waterfall and exploring a bioluminescent bay. At night, we always played games together…Scattergories, Spot It, Pictionary, etc. Great fun…and we made some awesome memories together.

But sometimes a vacation isn’t possible. Maybe there are time constraints, or it’s just not in the family budget. Maybe you need to have some mother/daughter bonding time near home, and that’s fun too. There are some things we can do without having to go on “vacation”:

  • Have a staycation together.  There’s something special about staying in a hotel and ordering room service. There are some great hotels for that in the Charlotte area. Our two favorites are the Ballantyne Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, but there are lots of options out there. Most cities and towns have relatively inexpensive places nearby, if that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t want room service. Maybe you want to order takeout through PostMates or bring in your own food? When we go for a staycation, we check in as early as possible. Sometimes we just hang out in the room and watch movies or football games together. Sometimes, we go down to the pool or spa. Sometimes we go out for dinner. But we always order breakfast through room service. Even a one-night staycation is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my daughter.
  • Thrift store shopping together. This is a total bonding experience, because thrift store shopping is no fun alone. It’s a lot more fun to dig through all the merchandise with someone else. And when you find something absurd or interesting, it’s fun to turn to your daughter and say, “Oh my! Did you see this?” We love thrift store shopping. My daughter has purchased some of her very favorite t-shirts at thrift stores in the Charlotte area, and you know how teens love t-shirts. At the Salvation Army Family Store, located at 1011 Central Avenue, we have found some great items. Also, one of my very favorite pairs of pants, some cute stretch cotton camouflage jeans, came from Buffalo Exchange, located just down the street at 1521 Central Avenue. I get more compliments on those camouflage jeans, and I paid about $9 for them.
  • Binge watch a series together. Different people enjoy different series, but I have friends who have loved watching Gilmore Girls with their daughters. I will propose it to mine, but I’m not sure how much interest she will have. We used to watch iCarly, Zoey 101, and Drake & Josh together. And later, we would watch Pretty Little Liars together. Neither of us watches a lot of TV these days, but maybe we should schedule a TV marathon. Lots of series are offered on Amazon and Netflix. Find one you will both enjoy. Maybe we should revisit some of those old shows! My husband occasionally leaves town, so next time, I’ll let my daughter pick a series, and we can watch that and eat popcorn and Sour Patch Kids to our hearts’ content!
  • Spend time outdoors together. In Charlotte, we are fortunate to have the US National Whitewater Center nearby, but most cities have some sort of outdoor activities. Atlanta has Stone Mountain. Find an activity that would be fun as a mother/daughter duo or with another mother/daughter. We’ve done the Whitewater Center with friends several times, and it’s always fun! We love zip lines and ropes courses, so this is right up our alley. If you’re anywhere in the southeast, it’s pretty easy to get to Abingdon/Damascus, Virginia…bike the 17-mile (downhill) Virginia Creeper Trail together. It’s a little over three hours from Charlotte, but easily done with a one-night hotel stay in the area. And there are lots of inexpensive hotel options in and around Abingdon and Damascus. Or spend a night in Asheville, NC, and visit the Biltmore!
  • Take a class together. I have friends who have taken cooking classes or exercise classes with their daughters, and they loved it. If you live anywhere near a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, it’s likely they offer one-day cooking events or classes. Just taking a quick look at the Sur La Table website (click on the name of the highlighted business), I see several upcoming opportunities, but you must sign up in advance. Same with Williams-Sonoma…check the website. Learn to cook a new dish or set a beautiful table! Cooking’s not your thing? Maybe try a spin class at Cycle Bar or Flywheel. Or learn how to knit together at a local yarn store. In Charlotte, my favorite is Charlotte Yarn on East Boulevard. If you don’t want to take a class together, maybe you take an afternoon to teach your daughter a skill you have or teach her how to cook a favorite family recipe.

So, if you can do a mother/daughter vacation, I highly recommend it. If not, maybe you just find some bonding activities to do. I love knowing I’m making memories with my daughter. She will be leaving for college in just 3 1/2 years, and I want to make sure we’ve done as much as possible before she flies the coop!

 

 

 

 

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Alabama Theatre and Faye Dunaway

My daddy had a great sense of humor. He also loved wordplay. He was a great storyteller. He had vivid memories of his childhood, and we loved hearing his stories.

When I was a teenager, something came up in a family conversation about Faye Dunaway, the Academy Award-winning actress. Daddy said, “Faye Dunaway went to my school.” I must have looked at him like he had fourteen eyes, because he reiterated that she had gone to his elementary school in Florida.

Because he was a jokester, I thought, “Oh, I get it. He went to school with someone named Faye Dunaway, but not the real Faye Dunaway.” For YEARS, I thought it was a joke. I don’t remember talking about it a lot…just that once or maybe twice.

Years later, when I was in my late 20s, I was reading People Magazine one evening after work, and there was an article about Faye Dunaway. I started reading it, and there, in the second paragraph, it said she went to school in Bascom, Florida. That’s where Daddy went to elementary school! I picked up the phone and called him.

I said to him, “I’m reading an article about Faye Dunaway, and she really did go to school in Bascom!” He responded, “I’ve been saying that for years.” “Well, I know, Daddy, but I always thought you were kidding, saying someone NAMED Faye Dunaway went to your school.” We shared a good laugh at the confusion.

By the same token, I had some confusion with something Mother said for years too.

Mother grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama, area. When I was a little girl, she told me she used to go to the Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham for the Mickey Mouse Club on Saturdays. She made a big deal in telling me about the giant organ that would rise up out of the floor of the theatre.

auditorium

Interior of Alabama Theatre. Photo from Alabamatheatre.com. The theatre was home to the country’s largest Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club at one time. It was also the first air-conditioned public building in Birmingham.

I didn’t tell Mother at the time, but when she said that about the organ rising from the floor, I thought she must have been mistaken. I honestly thought her memory must have been playing tricks on her, because who ever heard of an organ rising up out of the floor?

It just didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t argue with her. I just thought her little girl brain had been tricked into thinking the organ came out of the floor…some sort of optical illusion or something.

Then, in my late 20s, I read Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. Well, since Fannie Flagg is from Alabama, I’m guessing she must have visited the Alabama Theatre, because in the book, she mentions the organ. She mentions how the organ rises up from the floor!

So Mother’s memory wasn’t playing tricks on her, after all! I promptly called her to tell her what I’d read. She said, “I’ve been telling you about that organ for years!” I confessed, “Well, I know, Mother, but I thought your memory was playing tricks on you!” We had a good laugh over it.

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Photo of Big Bertha, The Mighty Wurlitzer, from Alabamatheatre.com

To see more about the Alabama Theatre and the organ they call Big Bertha, The Mighty Wurlitzer, click here. The theatre has an interesting history, and the organ was one of only 25 of its type ever built.

It makes me wonder what I’ve told my daughter that she questions. Maybe she keeps it to herself that she thinks I’m talking out of my mind when I talk about a childhood memory.

Let’s take, for example, the time I caught a really big catfish in the neighborhood lake. When I was a little girl, we would go cane-pole fishing down at the lake at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood. Sometimes we would catch catfish and take them home for Mother to clean them and fry them up, and sometimes, we had no luck at all. One time, I caught the record catfish…a record for us, anyway. It might have been five pounds. As soon as I caught it, we took it home. My brother and I had catfish for dinner that night.

Maybe my daughter thinks I was confused about how big that fish was.

Maybe she thinks I’m crazy when I tell her otters lived in that neighborhood pond. They did. I saw them from the school bus window one morning. Everybody had been talking about them for weeks, and finally, I saw them surface.

Maybe my daughter thinks I saw a dog swimming through the pond and thought it was an otter.

I didn’t go to school with anybody famous. None of my friends have become famous (yet), so I don’t have any stories to tell my child about “I knew him when.” I don’t remember anything like The Mighty Wurlitzer from my childhood, so all I have is the pond with the catfish and the otter.

I haven’t even been to see The Mighty Wurlitzer rise up out of the floor at the Alabama Theater. But in December, I plan to make a trip to Birmingham. Every year, the Alabama Theater shows classic holiday movies on the big screen. I’ll go, and when I see The Mighty Wurlitzer come up out of the floor, I’ll think of my mother and laugh about how I thought she was confused…just like I think of my daddy every time I think of that famous photo of Faye Dunaway (click here to see the iconic photo taken the morning after she won the Academy Award) at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Chicago! Chicago! (Epic Road Trip, Part 3)

For years, my friend, Mary Ann, and I talked about going on a “crazy road trip.” What we really want to do is drive Route 66. My friend, Neill, wants to go too. We haven’t figured out the particulars yet, but if we take all the kids, we’ll have to get a big ol’ Partridge Family bus, which actually could be pretty fun. I think I’ll look into that. I wonder if anyone rents Partridge Family buses? (And before you think I’m wrong there, “buses” IS the plural form of “bus”. “Busses” would be the plural form of “buss,” which means a kiss.)

Three years ago, Mary Ann and I loaded up her three kids and my one kid in a Ford Expedition, and we took a different crazy road trip, saving Route 66 for another time. It was a kid-friendly, casual clothing road trip…totally about seeing Americana. I’ve written before about the fun we had on the first two legs of the trip, and here is Part 3. Every part of the trip was exciting and fun. Every part of it was not perfect, but sometimes, that’s what makes the best memories.

In my post a few weeks ago about Part 2 of our epic road trip, I told you we made it to Chicago safely. We made it there in pouring rain, but we must have brought the sunshine with us, because the rain stopped soon thereafter.

We had only planned to be in Chicago for roughly 36 hours, so we hit the ground running. We checked into the hotel, and as I said in Part 2, our room looked out on the John Hancock Center, making it easy to find our way back from anywhere in the city!

We stayed at the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile…not a luxury hotel, but perfect for a family stay, as every room in the hotel is a suite. It is conveniently located near good restaurants, Lake Michigan, tourist spots, and luxury shopping (which we were not doing on this trip). To see the website for the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile, click here. The rates were good, and the staff was incredibly helpful. I wrote one of my most raving TripAdvisor reviews about this hotel, because the employees there are helpful, courteous, and friendly. You can see my review and the manager’s response here. (Scroll down to my review, titled “Wowed by the service!”)

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We let the valet take the car (he came down the street in the rain to get it when I waved to him) and had the bellman bring everything up to our suite, and then set out on our first adventure in the city. After traveling all day, we had four hungry kids on our hands. Since this trip was casual, we needed to go somewhere that would welcome us casually dressed and with four kids in tow.

The concierge recommended Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen on Walton Street, which was just a few blocks from the hotel…an opportunity to stretch our legs after being in the car all day. The food was good, and the atmosphere was perfect for our motley crew. Located in the Magnificent Mile area, this restaurant was most accommodating for us. If you’re in Chicago and looking for a casual dinner place in the Magnificent Mile area, this could be the place for you. See their website hereMary Ann had the Tennessee Hot Chicken and said it was “OK,” but I had the Backyard Burger and thought it was fantastic. Even more special was the service. Our waiter, Taylor, took the time to write down the kids menu for us, since there wasn’t one available. We would definitely return with kids!

We turned in early that night, but the next day, we wanted to cram in as much activity as possible, because it was the only full day we had in Chicago.

We got up and starting securing reservations/tickets for the things we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to see as much as possible in one day, so we opted for an architectural tour by boat, a two hour bus tour of downtown, and a visit to the top of the John Hancock Center.

Everything started great. Our first order of business was the architectural tour by boat. We all loved it. Not only did if offer beautiful views of the city, but it also offered an opportunity for the kids (and adults) to see how the system of locks works from the river to and from Lake Michigan…fascinating for all of us. We highly recommend this tour, which you can book here.

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Going through the lock

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Chicago Skyline

After disembarking, we made our way to the nearest restaurant with a menu we liked. That restaurant was Sweetwater Tavern and Grille on Michigan Avenue…kid friendly. We all tried fried cheese curds for the first time there. Surprisingly, I had never had them, even though I’d spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 80s and early 90s. We unanimously declared them delicious! We also ordered beignets, and these two gulf coast girls who grew up eating beignets gave them two thumbs up! You can check out the Sweetwater website here. To try fried cheese curds in the Charlotte area, you can visit Culver’s just off Carowinds Boulevard in Fort Mill. Check out their website here. If you decide to visit, go on an empty stomach and try their Butterburger and fries too. Then, top it all off with their frozen custard or a shake…all delicious.

After lunch, the bus tour took us on another architectural expedition…all very impressive in downtown Chicago. We purchased tickets and boarded the bus tour very close to the boat dock. Anyone can point you in the right direction. We visited the world-famous bean and Navy Pier before heading up to the John Hancock Center. The observatory there is now called 360 CHICAGO and offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan. When we were there, the TILT, an added attraction at the top of the center, wasn’t working, but we loved all the photo ops we had. This is a must-do, and if TILT is in working order while you’re there, you have to do it too. Check out the website and purchase tickets here.11221940_10207249962952203_752868439303655523_n

And this is when things got wonky….Mary Ann wanted Garrett’s Chicago-Style Popcorn, which I hear is amazing but I didn’t want to stand in line (over an hour!) for popcorn. You can see their website here. I knew my daughter wanted to visit Sprinkles for some cupcakes (click here) while we were there, so we split up, and Mary Ann took her kids to Garrett’s while we went to Sprinkles. We had planned to meet up for dinner, but my daughter wanted to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cafe, while Mary Ann had a special place in mind for some Chicago-Style pizza.

In the midst of all this, Mary Ann’s daughter broke her flip flop and had to have new ones. Fortunately, when that happened, my daughter and I were in a cab headed for Dylan’s. We missed out on that “fun.” Since the American Girl Store was nearby, Mary Ann went there and paid a terrible sum for some flip flops for her daughter. It has been three years since this trip, but I feel pretty sure Mary Ann is still making her daughter wear those flip flops to get her money’s worth out of them…never mind that half her foot hangs off the back of them now!

So, while Mary Ann and family picked up a Chicago-Style pizza and brought it back to our suite, Milly and I enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs at Dylan’s. She also ordered a mocktail called the Pink Cloud Lemonade…fun presentation and delicious! You can see their website and menu here. I should probably thank Mary Ann for letting me try the Chicago-style pizza and the popcorn after we got back to the hotel.11063784_10207249651824425_7273607532132704225_n

After a crazy busy day, it was time to pack up and turn in. We had another busy day ahead of us.

The next morning, we got up, checked out, and started our drive to Sandusky, Ohio, where we would be meeting friends from Columbus, Ohio, at Great Wolf Lodge. Of course, Mary Ann and I can’t drive straight through. We absolutely could not drive through South Bend, Indiana, without stopping in at Notre Dame. While there, we visited the stadium for some photos and shopped in the campus bookstore. We also got some photos with “the dome.” If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you won’t like this: we also pretended to take photos with the “girlfriend” of former Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. See below. She’s standing between us…haha. Also, it was a road trip, so we were wearing comfortable attire…don’t judge.10438925_10207256465434761_5891661285876443717_n

Upon leaving South Bend, we traveled a little north, just so the kids could say they’d been to Michigan, and then we continued on to Sandusky, where my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter were waiting for us at Great Wolf Lodge! For information about Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, click here. It doesn’t get any more kid-friendly than Great Wolf Lodge, and fortunately for us, they also have a bar!

Great Wolf Lodge was the perfect place for us to relax for the night before our big trip home. The kids all played in the water park, and the moms all relaxed next to the outdoor pool.

The next morning, we were homeward bound…but we took a little detour to a small town in Pennsylvania…for a funny reason. Read about that later in the final post about the road trip…coming up soon.

We highly recommend a trip to Chicago with your family. Our stay was so brief, it was just a teaser, but we will be going back.

Maybe one day we will make that Route 66 trip too. Know anyone with a Partridge Family bus?

Happy Trails!

Kelly

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