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Monday, June 30, 2008

A day at the Zoo! and Cedar Point, too!

We had a fun filled weekend, which was great because it's my last weekend here in Sandusky with my good friends. I cant believe it's been two weeks that I've been here already. I had a great time with the kids and with their parents :) I'm kind of sad to go, but I'm headed to Chicago tomorrow to visit another friend, go to the Taste of Chicago festival, some clubbin', and a Cirque du Soleil show. I'm looking forward to my next adventure, but first here's some of what my last weekend in Sandusky was like.

On Saturday, we drove over to Cleveland and went to the zoo. One of Alyssa's little friends, the neighbor girl, came with us. Here are the kids taking a camel ride.And the parents of the kids acting like kids!
Up close with the tigers.
The best part of the day came right before the close of the zoo when we were looking at the monkeys. There were these monkeys called Wolf's Guenon. They were running around playing and jumping on the glass right in front of the kids. The kids were just howling with laughter, they thought it was the funniest thing ever. I got it on video and it's really cute, but I cant get the video to load on the blog right now because the internet connection is too slow.
Here is Alyssa and her friend acting scared at the passing shark over head.
And all of us together. The photo was taken by Alyssa's friend, so you'll have to excuse the amount of feet in the pic.
We had a really fun day at the zoo and I've been wanting to go to the zoo anyway, so it worked out great. On Sunday, Kevin and I went to CEDAR POINT! It's been many years since the last time I went to the greatest amusement park EVER. I think the last time I was there was in 2004 during Halloweekends. Here I am in the morning before we left....I was so pumped!
Here are a couple shots before we went in the park. I didnt want to carry my camera all day, so I left it in the car. We were there before the gates opened and had to wait to get in, while people with an early entry pass walked on by. When the gates finally opened at 10am, we booked it to the Top Thrill Dragster. The wait was really short...only 10 minutes. Last time I rode it, the wait was about 2 hours. The Dragster is amazing. It goes from 0 to 120mph in 3 seconds, then travels 420ft in the air. The ride only lasts 17 seconds, but, MAN, what a rush.
After the Dragster, we went over to the new ride...The Maverick. We waited about 30minutes in line before we got on the ride, then we got stuck...yep...got stuck. We were sitting in front of the first hill, just waiting to go up, and waiting, and waiting. Finally, an employee came and told us that the ride was down. We watched as 3 different maintenance men pulled up in trucks and put on harnesses. We waited about 20 minutes before getting the all clear to ride. The Maverick was a good ride with lots of rolls, which I like.

Then, we rode the Millennium Force, the best coaster in the park, and the stand up coaster, the Mantis before having lunch at a restaurant where Kevin's buddy worked. We rode the feet dangling Raptor next. It rained off and on all morning and afternoon, so after riding the Raptor we got stuck sitting under an awning for about 20 minutes while we waited for a downpour to subside. Then we rode the Wicked Twister twice and the Max Air, which I didnt really like much. It made me kind of woozy. We waited in line for the Disaster Transport, but it started raining again and they closed it. Edije brought the kids out and we hung out with them for a few hours playing in the arcade and riding the kiddie rides. We even got Edije to ride a couple roller coasters, which is rare cause she's scared of heights. After Edije left with the kids, Kevin and I rode the Power Tower twice before finishing off the day on the Millennium Force.

It was a spectacular day. If you've never been to Cedar Point, you should go. America's Roller Coast...

Ride on Ride Warriors!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yesterday, I took the kids to the Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. It was a quaint little museum with a fully restored, working, antique carousel. We had a good time riding the carousel and listening to the music box play. Here are the kids riding the carousel. Alyssa picked a sea dragon to ride and Nathan picked a horse that was modeled after an actual military horse rode by one of the great generals in the war. I also rode a sea dragon.
They had Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. I learned that most animals on a carousel are horses and that the ones that are not horses are called the menagerie animals. They had two sea dragons, this pig, and an ostrich.
This horse actually has a tail made of hair. We got to see the process that the old carousel pieces go through for restoration. It was pretty interesting.
This horse was one of my favorites. Pretty, isnt it? I entered into a drawing to win my very own carousel horse. Wouldnt it be cool if I won?
We tried to go to the beach today, but got rained out. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kung Fu Panda and Put-In-Bay, Ohio

We had a blast this weekend. It's so good to be around some of my friends and to be out in the warm summer air. On Saturday night, we drove over to Toledo for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Cracker Barrel, and the drive in. We saw Kung Fu Panda. I actually had been wanting to see it anyway and the kids really enjoyed the drive in. I love the kids...they are such good kids and just great to be around. I just love hanging around the family. I dont get to see them very often, so it's really nice to be able to spend some significant amount of time with them. Here the kids are at the drive in wanting to show off for the camera, but bein' shy about it. They're too cute.

On Sunday, we drove over to Sandusky and caught the boat over to Put In Bay Island. I had never been there before and had always wanted to go, so I was really excited about going. They go all the time, so they know their way around and what not. Here's the view of Sandusky from the water.

The kids (and I) really enjoyed riding over on the boat. It was a perfectly sunny day with temps at right about 80. I again completely enjoyed wearing a tank top, shorts, and sandals. I just cant get over how great it feels to be able to go outside without putting on 30 pounds of clothes. It makes me realize that I need to live in a place where there are distinct seasons. I enjoy the winter, but I dont want it to be winter 7-8 months of the year.As we rode past Cedar Point, I started to really get pumped for some roller coasters. I cant wait to go. We're planning to go on Sunday. Kevin and I are going to go first thing in the morning too ride the big coasters, then Edije's going to bring the kids over in the afternoon for awhile for lunch and some kiddie rides. Then Kevin and I will hit the big coasters again in the late afternoon/evening. OHHHH...Millennium Force, Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster, Power Tower, Mantis, Raptor, Mean Streak, Wicked Twister...HERE I COME!
We rented a golf cart and did a loop around the island when we got there just so I could see it all. Being on an island and all, we had to stop by a beach and pick up some sand for my collection. Here are the kids and I out by the beach. That's Canada across the way...we were only 4 miles from it!

Next, we stopped at Perry's monument, which is the big attraction on the island. Oliver Hazard(interesting middle name?) Perry is commemorated by this monument for his victory over the British as a part of the war of 1812. We took the elevator that was built in 1936 to the top of the monument. The view from up top was stunning. Below is a pic of most of the village of Put-In-Bay, esp the downtown area. I learned many things while touring the monument, but one of the most interesting and important facts that I learned was that the U.S./Canadian border is the longest standing undefended border. Isnt good to love your neighbors? I think so.

We could even see Davis Bessy from way up there (and from the boat too). This is the nuclear reactor/powerplant outside of Toledo, Ohio. We actually studied nuclear energy in my 8th grade physical science class last year and the kids got really into it. It made me miss them and wish they could see it too.
Next, we toured the Crystal Cave, which is the biggest geode on Earth according to the websites, but the girl who did our tour said that she thought this was for sure the biggest celestite geode, but that she thought there were some amethyst geodes in South America that were bigger. The was not like touring a regular cave, it was like, well, being inside a geode. A HUGE, MAMMOTH GEODE. Dont know what a geode is? Look it up! :) The crystals are made of strontium sulfate and the biggest one in the cave was huge at 18inX22in and weighing in at some 800 pounds. You can see it below, the biggest crystal in the cave/pic. Each crystal is the exact same shape, as are all crystals of most crystalline substances, and had 12 sides(8exposed and 4not). It was very interesting.
Here's the happy family...Kevin, Edije, Alyssa, and Nathan. Kevin, Edije, and I went to college at Bowling Green State University together....it's hard to believe...8years ago! We've been great friends ever since. They are such a wonderful family!
We also toured a winery on the island. They are a medium sized winery and the sample wine that I had was pretty good. They said they sell 90% of there wine on the premises and locally, so you wont likely see there label at the stores anyway.
Here are some of the fermenting tanks that we saw. I learned that the word dry, as in "a dry white wine" means very little to no sugar. If it's not designated dry, that means there is sugar added...alot of it too.
Alyssa tried her hand at the rock climbing wall and did awesome. She reached the top...TWICE. She's quite the little monkey!
We also panned for gems at the gem mining place and filled a little zip lock bag with gems of all different types. We're planning to look through them tomorrow and figure out what they all are. Then, Alyssa and I went into the butterfly house. It was really neat. We saw lots of exotic species of butterflies, mostly from Africa, S. America, and Australia. (Why do you think most of the continents start with A? The Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica? And then there's Europe, which starts with another vowel...hmmm? any thoughts?) The butterfly below was my favorite. I'm not sure what it was called. Our butterfly guide got rained on and ruined. :(
The lady there told us that it's good luck if a butterfly lands on you. I had one land on my purse. Alyssa took this pic.
And Alyssa was able to coax two on to her finger. It even pooped on her...gross! She loved every minute of it though.
Every where we went, there were golf carts. It's the way to get around if you dont live on the island. And not many people do...only 128 as of the 2000 census. We stopped for lunch just has a huge storm was rolling in and watched the storm from the safety of the pizza shop. After is had past, we went to the Chocolate museum for dessert. There chocolate wasnt that great, but the ice cream was! The museum was small, but interesting.
Here's our ride...number 71! What a fun day! Man, were we pooped when we got home. The kids even slept until almost 10 am this morning!
We had a really busy, but fun weekend! I'm really enjoying spending some quality time with friends!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sea Glass and Beach Sand!

I had never heard of sea glass before until Thursday when Edije, the kids, and I rode bikes over to the beach. Edije told me about Kevin's uncle who walks the beach every morning to collect sea glass. Basically, it is pieces of glass that get broken on the beach and tumbled smooth by the waves. We collected some on the beach, so now I have my very own pieces of sea glass. You can read the wikipedia article on sea glass here. Basically, whatever colors of glass there are are what colors of sea glass there can be, but mostly it's green and white. I learned something new!
The sea glass and beach sand will be added to my sand collection in my classroom. I have little jars with sand in them from every beach that I've visited. The sand in each jar is unique. It's very interesting. I put labels on the jars telling where they came from and what date they were collected. This sand is from Huron, Ohio on a Lake Erie beach and is made of fine grained brown sand and little bitty pieces of broken up shells, along with some small intact shells.
From the beach, we could see Cedar Point across the water. I can't wait to go! We are planning to go next Sunday. This weekend we are planning a trip to the drive-in in Toledo tonight and a day trip to Put-in-Bay Island tomorrow. I'll be sure to take lots of pics and keep you all posted!

On my blog post yesterday, I meant to give you a Sunlight and Weather update for the longest day of the year....

Bethel...had over 19hours of daylight with 24 hours of visible light. The temps were in the 50's for the high. They've been having alot of scattered showers and fog.

Ohio...had 15hours 10minutes of daylight with 16hours 18minutes of visible light. The temps have been in the high 70's/low 80's with lots of sunshine.

Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I'm enjoying mine!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Longest Day!

Today was the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. And, of course, the official first day of summer. I took the kids to the pool today and got thoroughly roasted. I definitely have some color now and about time too. We got wore out at the pool and then came home and took naps. It was a perfect day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More summer fun!

Things have been great and I'm having a ton of fun! I am enjoying myself completely. No schedule. No place to be. No timeframes. No expectations. I LOVE IT! One thing that I have consistently found myself enjoying is just the sheer FREEDOM of the open road. Everytime I get in the car, roll down the windows, crank up the radio, and cruise down the road/highway, I just get this amazing rush. It's a sense of freedom that I've been missing while in Alaska and it makes realize that i cant live in a place where i dont have that freedom. Out of EVERYTHING...that is what i missed most. I NEED to be able to hop in the car and GO....where ever I want, whenever I want.

I went to a Fort Wayne Wizards game on thursday. It was a really good time. It was a perfect evening. Temps in the low 70's, sun shining, and a little breeze. I completely enjoyed just sitting there watching, wearing a tank top, shorts, and sandals. I felt like the whole world was lighter, brighter. What a great feeling! The Wizards won!For the next couple of weeks, I'm visiting my friends in the Sandusky area (near Cedar Point...the greatest amusement park EVER). They came out to my house to pick me up on Saturday and we had a cook out and bon fire at my place. On Sunday, we drove to their house and had a Father's Day cookout with his family. I felt blessed to be spending father's day with one of the best fathers that I know. Kevin really does an amazing job raising his two munchkins. And the kids are so cute. I've been spending the days with them while Kevin and Edije are working. I took the kids to the beach on Monday and we had a BLAST. I am finally getting some serious sun and I dont look like a walking zombie anymore.
Oh, it was so good to be in the sunshine on a beach on Lake Erie. I'm lovin' it. The kids and I have been doing some cool stuff and we've got lots of fun plans in the works. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Wondering what YOU can do about the war on terror?
Read this book.
Interested in the situation in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
Read this book.
How can you help defeat the Taliban and Al Queda?
Read this book.
Do you have a passion for educating children?
Read this book.
Wanting to help people who live in poverty?
Read this book.
Discouraged because you think one person can't make a difference?
Read this book.
Do you want to help fight for women's rights?
Read this book.
Want to make a difference in the life of a child?
Read this book.
Wondering about the difference between Shia muslims and Shiite muslims?
Read this book.
Looking for a great cause to stand for?

This is the most powerful book I've read for a very long time. It makes me feel reinvigorated in my attempts to make a difference in the lives of all children, even those whose culture is different than my own. It reminds me that there are great people doing great things and making a difference in the world. Please, READ THIS BOOK!

I don't feel as though I can write a better review of the book than the reviews that are already out there, so here it is straight from www.threecupsoftea.com
If you buy the book from the website, a portion of the proceeds goes towards the building of schools, mostly for girls, in the impoverished regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. To learn more about the Central Asia Institute or to make a donation go to www.ikat.org or click on the link to the right of the page.

Three Cups of Tea:
One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
ISBN 0670034827

"Three Cups of Tea is one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time. Greg Mortenson's dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only a thrilling read, it's proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world."

-Tom Brokaw

"Greg Mortenson represents the best of America. He's my hero. And after you read Three Cups of Tea, he'll be your hero, too."

-U.S. Representative Mary Bono (R-Calif.)

"Three Cups of Tea is beautifully written. It is also a critically important book at this time in history. The governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are both failing their students on a massive scale. The work Mortenson is doing, providing the poorest students with a balanced education, is making them much more difficult for the extremist madrassas to recruit."

-Ahmed Rashid, best-selling author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

Do you know anyone who would be willing to sell everything they own and live in their car just so they could save every dollar for someone else? Greg Mortenson, a great American hero, did just that when he followed through on his promise to an impoverished Pakistani village to build a school for its children, and in the process has found himself playing a major role in one of the most historically and culturally pivotal areas in the world today.

In THREE CUPS OF TEA: One Man’s Mission to Promote . . . One School at a Time (Viking/On-sale date: March 6, 2006) Greg Mortenson, and acclaimed journalist David Oliver Relin, recount the unlikely journey that led Mortenson from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully building schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By replacing guns with pencils, rhetoric with reading, Mortenson combines his unique background with his intimate knowledge of the third-world to fight terrorism with books, not bombs, and successfully bring education and hope to remote villages in central Asia. THREE CUPS OF TEA is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

In 1993 Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water, or shelter he eventually stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.

While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school.

From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time: Greg Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism and terrorism by building schools—especially for girls—throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Mortenson had no reason to believe he could fulfill his promise. In an early effort to raise money he wrote letters to 580 celebrities, businessmen, and other prominent Americans. His only reply was a $100 check from NBC’s Tom Brokaw. Selling everything he owned, he still only raised $2,000. But his luck began to change when a group of elementary school children in
River Falls, Wisconsin, donated $623 in pennies, thereby inspiring adults to take his cause more seriously. Twelve years later he’s built fifty-five schools.

Mortenson and award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin have written a spellbinding account of his incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived an armed kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. Yet his success speaks for itself. This year the schools will educate 24,000 children.

About the Author:
Greg Mortenson, is the director of the Central Asia Institute. A resident of Montana, he spends several months each year in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

David Oliver Relin is a contributing editor for Parade Magazine and Skiing Magazine. He has won more than forty national awards for his work as a writer and editor.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Stormy Weather!

We had another massive storm move through yesterday. At least one tornado touched down in the county (Did you know Alaska doesnt have counties? They have boroughs). I dont know what it is about Van Wert, but it seems to be tornado city. It seems that whenever a storm moves through, it produces tornadoes right over Van Wert. When I tell people that I'm from Van Wert, they often respond with, "oh, yeah, the town where all the tornadoes go".

Yep, that's the one!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Peonies, Clover, and a Hot Day!

Here is a picture of the peonies that I promised. Here in Van Wert, they are everywhere. Just about every house has some planted. They are the towns flower and the reason for the festival and parade this past weekend. They are a bushy flower that has a very short bloom time of just a couple weeks, but during that time they are very pretty. They are big and heavy and tend to droop after being rained on. There are at least 40 varieties. To read more about the peony, click here.
My front yard is being taken over by clover. It has always been there in patches, but now it is covering a major portion of my front yard. I have tried using lawn treatments to get rid of it, but it just seems to be getting worse. Can anyone out in blogland help me? How do I get rid of this stuff?It was 90degrees yesterday and HUMID. Even this squirrel thinks it's too hot to move. He just laid himself out on this limb and didnt move for at least an hour!
You know, squirrel is an interesting word, one that has always fascinated me...is it one syllable or two?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Peony Parade

Yesterday was the Peony Parade. The Peony festival and parade are a big deal in Van Wert. People come from all around to enjoy the festivities. The peony is a type of flower that blooms all over town and the county. I will try to remember to take a pic of our peony bushes and post it for you to see. The parade coincides with the blooming of all of the peony plants. Here is me and Nan at the parade.The parade was led by none other than our snazzy new D.A.R.E. car. The rest of the law followed blared their sirens and horns.
Here is an old fashioned fire engine being pulled by a pair of beautiful horses.
No parade in the midwest in complete without several floats pulled by shiny green and yellow tractors.
A bowling ball and pin were an interesting addition to the parade. Those outfits had to be terribly hot inside. It was about 80degrees and HUMID.
Some queen or another being pulled in a beautiful carriage by two gorgeous white horses.
More horses and a make shift float made of hay bales.
Here is the Peony Queen, "Queen Jubilee", and her court. The last girl is the queen and and the second to last girl is the runner up and the representative to Vantage Career Center (the school I used to teach at). The peony queen contest is a pretty big deal and a long standing tradition with the first queen having been crowned in 1932. Each school in the area chooses a representative to participate in the pageant. The girls are awarded scholarships for doing well in various areas of the competition including talent, essay, interview, most congenial, etc.
What's a home town parade without lots of horse drawn buggies?
Another queen with her massive crown and sporty car.
In addition to the sleek new cars, there were lots of classics.
Here is Vantage Career Centers float. I really miss teaching there. I have seen several of my old students since I've been back and it's so good to see them.
A banjo and fiddle player. YEEYA!
Mom's boyfriend pulled one of the floats with his big rig and Avery got to sit in the front and throw candy. He looked like he was having a great time.
The hamburgalur passing out candy to the kiddies.
How bout some big machinery? Yep, there was some of that too.
This parade is a perfect example of life in a farming community in Ohio. It's been years since I've attended the parade and I did enjoy it. Below are a couple of videos that I took. The first is of a group that played bagpipes. The second is of some other wacky clowning type band that played. My grandmother really enjoyed them. It was good to sit out with her spending some time enjoying life.

As a testament to the current state of the economy, a huge group of locked out workers of a local plant walked in the parade. There were probably about 150 of them. They gave out the yellow balloons and carried a banner which thanked the community for its support.