Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vermont, in Conclusion

My blogging about the Vermont trip would be remiss if I didn't mention a few of the very odd coincidences that happened while we were there.

First, as I mentioned, a friend of Keith's family retired last Spring and has been hiking the Appalachian trail. What I didn't mention is that he was very, very close to our location in Vermont. The Appalachian Trail is over 2,000 miles long, only 150 of which are in Vermont, and we ended up in Vermont at the same time as Jerry. How crazy is that? We almost met up for a day with his wife, Sue, who is supporting him as he nears the finish.

Unfortunately, we missed Sue. But we did get to see one of Keith's cousins from New York City. The night before we left for Vermont, Anna posted on her Facebook that she was heading to a wedding in Vermont that weekend. Keith sent her a message and called her to say that we, too, were heading to Vermont. Where might you be?

Anna was close enough that she made it work, stopping by our campsite for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. It was so fun to be sitting in the woods in Vermont, catching up on life. The last time we saw Anna, we were on a beach in Costa Rica after her brother's wedding. It makes me wonder: Where will be meet up next? (Say "London," Fate! Please?!?)

Finally, after the trip was over, I wanted to relive some of it. I went on to our library's website to reserve some Vermont-related books. In addition to a plethora of guidebooks, I saw a book called Vintage Vermont Villainies by John Stark Bellamy II. That's weird, I thought, Isn't John Stark Bellamy II a Cleveland author?

And he was! He wrote seven true-crime books about his original home, Cleveland, before moving to Vermont. Along with the change of scenery, he changed his focus and is now telling the world about true crime in his new home.

We drove 9+ hours away from home, to come across all of these connections to home. This is one of those ways in that it seems like the world is a small place, getting smaller every day. But in a good way.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vermont in Nature

One of the biggest surprises on the trip was how much Eleanor loves being in nature. Granted, she's always loved rocks. Playing with them, eating them, sitting in them, throwing them, putting them in her purse and carrying them around ... you get the idea.

But now I'm talking about down and dirty nature. The lake was just a short walk from our campsite. The first day we were there, Keith and Eleanor walked down to the lake and saw several boys catching salamanders and putting them in a pail. (Only to release them and do it all again.) They asked Eleanor if she wanted to hold one.

She said, "Yeah!," stuck her hand in the pail, and grabbed one by the tail. Keith stood there with his mouth open as the first salamander wriggled away and she stuck her hand back in the pail. Then yesterday, she picked up a worm. A worm! With no fear.

Not squeamish, this one! Nature's slime and gore doesn't scare her. I couldn't be more proud! I hate that I, like the rest of society, fall into stereotyping. Because Eleanor likes to wear dresses, play dress-up, carry a purse, and read, I guess I assumed she'd think slimy things were icky. I'm so glad that she's proved me wrong.

I hope that she is showing us all what individuality the next generation of women will be capable of. I know many mothers who try too hard to avoid "typical" girly things like dolls and pink and frills. But I think that it also has a place in a little girl's childhood, as long as it's not foisted upon her.

Eleanor can wear her pink dresses, have a tea party .... and then run outside to play with rocks, build a fort, and catch worms. Just like she should be able to wear a dress to work, choose her folders because they're pretty .... and be an incredibly competent, successful worker and leader.

Every morning, we went to the lake so that she could sing "Good morning, salamanders!" to wake them up. And every night, at bedtime, we went back down so that she could sing them to sleep and assure them she would be back the next morning. She is such an amazing, caring, observant little person. We had a wonderful time on vacation with her, getting to know her emerging personality. It means so much to me to have the opportunity to show her new places, and to help her realize that she has something to learn and to offer, wherever we might be.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vermont in the Mountains

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we did get out and enjoy the natural beauty of the Green Mountains. Tuesday we drove just a couple miles to hike a part of the Appalachian Trail. A longtime friend of Keith's parents is currently hiking the entire trail, and we wanted to at least see a part of it.

The part of it we saw, however, was straight up and filled with rocks large and small. We gamely climbed, carrying Eleanor, for a little while (maybe a half-hour or so?) because heading back down. I just kept picturing myself falling or losing my grip on Eleanor, and the idea was enough to make me hyperventilate.

On Wednesday, we went to another trail that Keith had found, to the top of Bald Mountain. Even though we were hiking to the top of a mountain, it was actually a much more reasonable trail than the section of the AT we'd been on the day before. I think it was about 2 or 2.5 miles, one way. The trail was relatively broad, very well-marked, and had many switchbacks so that it was never too steep.

We weren't sure if Eleanor would last to the top, but she surprised us once again with her patience and adaptability. What was key on this hike was the we brought 1) her favorite doll, Amelia, and 2) chocolate. As long as Amelia was having fun (and we assured Eleanor that she was, quite often), then Eleanor could have fun, too. And when we stopped, she immediately asked for some trail mix and picked out all of the chocolate pieces, leaving the raisins and peanuts behind. That's my girl!

Unlike our museum trip, me carrying Eleanor the entire time was NOT an option. Keith and I took turns on the way up (although he carried her more than I did), and she did do some hiking and jumping off big rocks.

I was so shocked when the deciduous trees gave way to evergreens, and then the evergreens thinned out and we found ourselves at the top. I didn't think we would ever make it all the way!

There was white sand on the trail at the top; I assumed that this was placed there to maintain the trail, since there were few trees and enough sunlight to be worried about weeds covering over the trail. No matter how it got there, it was Eleanor's favorite part of the mountain top. I'm not sure if she ever even looked up, she was so focused on playing with the sand and throwing rocks.

The only nap she got that day was on the way down the mountain. I carried her for a short while as we started back down, but then handed her off to Keith and she fell asleep. In the picture above, she's passed out on his shoulder, and she remained that way until almost the bottom of the mountain.

I did think, on the way down, that she had the right idea. She stayed awake for the exciting hike up, but then got to miss out on the anticlimactic hike back down, past everything she'd already seen.

On the other hand, hiking down the mountain was one of my most peaceful times on the whole trip. Now that Eleanor's talking, she doesn't stop talking much. Or telling me to talk and entertain her. So I did enjoy the absence of conversation as we hiked down, hearing instead the crunch of our shoes on dried leaves, bird song, and the rustle of the wind in the trees.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vermont in the Rain

Our Vermont trip was fabulous. It was 9-10 hours in the car, one way (including gas and food stops), and Eleanor was amazingly patient. We had a few testy moments in the car, like when she kept putting her foot on my drinking straw. So I moved my drink out of the holder to get it out of her way ... and then Keith accidentally knocked it over with his elbow.

But only a few bad moments in 20+ hours in the car is not bad at all, I think.

We got to the state park where we were staying late Saturday afternoon. We stretched our legs and set up camp. We had brought some hot dogs to cook over the fire that night, figuring we'd do a bigger shopping trip once we'd been in town a day or so. Pretty much we just settled in and soaked in our reality: We were on vacation in Vermont!

I was very proud of myself: I brought nothing "useful," other than a baby blanket I'm knitting. I brought no work-related materials, no computer!, no cards I've been meaning to write, no books I should read. Just fun books, a puzzle book, and a word game.

Sunday was another laidback day. We went to the Bennington REVOLUTIONARY WAR Memorial (speaking of which, I had incorrectly put "Civil War" in my earlier entry, which makes no sense. Either you were kind enough not to call me out on it, or as inattentive to detail as I am;) Sunday evening, it started raining about 7 o'clock and didn't really stop. So we were stuck in the tent with Eleanor, which meant we ALL went to sleep about 8 o'clock. I woke up many times throughout the night, and every time it was still raining.

The rain continued on into Monday. We put off any plans for hiking, canoeing, etc., and instead went to visit the Park McCullough House (Victorian mansion) in Bennington. It was a perfect rainy day activity, and another first for Eleanor. We've taken her to museums in Cleveland, but we've never taken her on a museum tour, where there's a group of people trying to listen intently to a guide.

Again, she surprised me with how well she behaved. Did I get to listen to every word that was said? No, of course not! Eleanor and I spent a lot of time on the fringes of the group, whispering about something in a nearby room, so as to keep her entertained and relatively quiet. I caught snippets of the tour guide, but at least I did get to see everything and read a few informative placards along the way. Keith offered to take her for a bit, but Eleanor was not okay with that plan, so she and I stuck together.

And I was much more relaxed about it than I would be back home. Because it was vacation! We got lost on the way there, trying to see a few covered bridges on the drive. But it was okay, because we're just on vacation!

I do love vacation. By mid-afternoon Monday, the clouds were clearing away and we were looking forward to more outdoor activities. However, the firewood was soaking wet. Both Keith and I tried to get the fire going and it would not happen. So we ended up at a pizza parlor for dinner. We went back to the campsite, and went to bed pretty soon after. There's not much point in staying up when there's not a fire to enjoy.

But that was okay, because we were still on vacation!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Reading: The Princesses Have a Ball

I was pretty embarrassed that I couldn't even come up with one more summer reading book off the top of my head. What have I been doing these past few months? Except I know I have been reading; I just drew a blank.

And then I remembered. Most of my reading has been children's books! I tend to go straight for the babies/toddlers section of board books, but often times Eleanor will surprise me by picking books out of the older kids' bins.

Even more surprising, she actually sits through them and likes them! The Princesses Have a Ball by Teresa Bateman falls into this category of a surprising Eleanor favorite.

It's one I thought I wasn't going to like. I cringe every time I'm confronted with princesses. Or pink. Particularly pink princesses! I don't want Eleanor to grow up with a narrow conception of how woman are supposed to act, and believe that she should be waiting for a prince on a white horse to come and rescue her and make all of the difficulties in her life go away.

So a book about princesses isn't one that I would have chosen. But she did, and it turns out that we actually both liked it a lot. The pink is minimal, and the surprise ending is cute.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Reading: David Sedaris

I'm also currently reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

I'm not normally the type of person to read 12 books at once. But Sedaris is an easy writer to pick up and put down. If I have a lot of time and energy, I'll read the Shakespeare book. If I only have a few minutes and want a quick break, I'll read Sedaris.

That sounds like I'm putting him down (literally and figuratively!), but I'm not! I mean, maybe I am literally from time to time, but not figuratively. He's a wonderfully funny writer and I really enjoy his work.

Whenever I read Sedaris, I'm reminded of when we moved from Dayton to Cincinnati. When we lived in Dayton, we always had to go out of town for concerts, etc., because bands would choose either Dayton or Cincinnati ... and that pretty much meant they chose Cincinnati.

Until we moved! Then, within the next month or so, we had to drive up to Dayton TWICE to see a show. First was a reading by David Sedaris and then it was a concert, but I can't remember who ..... anyway.

Dayton, David Sedaris? Really?!? And there was this very annoying person sitting behind us who wanted to prove that he GOT Sedaris like no one else did. So he'd try to always start laughing a little ahead of the curve, and laugh louder and longer.

I think Sedaris could write an excellent, scathing essay on this type of person. Or perhaps I should, and send it to him?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Reading: Shakespeare

I thought while I was on vacation, hopefully doing a lot of napping and summer reading during Eleanor's naps, I'd set up some posts in advance. (I know; it's a miracle, compared to the last few months! Remember that time when I posted 3 times in one day because I was so behind? That was craziness!)

I decided to write a few blogs about books I've been reading lately. The first one to come to mind is The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups by Ron Rosenbaum.

My mom loaned me this book years ago and, even though the premise seemed interesting, it gathered dust on the shelf. But I found it again a few weeks ago, started reading the first few pages, and got hooked.

If you like Shakespeare and enjoy finding out about some of the information behind the plays, you would like this book. The information isn't really about Shakespeare himself, but about Shakespearean scholarship and some of the academic arguments that have arisen over the years, because of our obsession with the bard and his work.

Did your attention wander off during the last paragraph? This book is not for you. But if it piques your interest, I suggest you pick it up! It's well written and relatively easy to read, for the somewhat heavy matter it sometimes covers. This one is definitely coming with me on the trip.

Friday, August 13, 2010


We're leaving tomorrow morning for a 5-day camping trip in Vermont! We haven't ever gone on vacation as just our small family: me, Keith and Eleanor. But now we're rectifying that! The summer classes are over, Fall semester doesn't start for a few more weeks, and we're hitting the road!

Keith and I spent our childhoods going on family camping vacations, and we're really looking forward to doing the same with Eleanor. We'll be staying at a state park, tucked into the middle of a national park, so there will be plenty of woods, fresh air, campfires, and beautiful starry nights.

My family was also big on visiting historic sites by day, sitting around the campfire at night. We will be honoring that tradition as well, with a Civil War battlefield nearby, as well as a preserved Victorian mansion and more.

Keith's family favors 10-mile hikes, but that might have to wait until Eleanor's a bit older.

I'm looking forward to telling you all about it when we get back!

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Concert: Laura Stevenson & The Cans

As I mentioned, we went to the Maps & Atlases show last Friday. There were two opening bands, and since no show ever starts on time, even though we got there a half-hour after the posted start, we still stood around for a while until the first band started.

But they were worth the wait! If you like Regina Spektor, I think that you would enjoy Laura Stevenson and the Cans. She has a beautiful voice and the lyrics (what I could make out at a live concert anyway) seemed thought-provoking.

She also grabbed my attention by issuing a challenge to the audience. From the beginning, Stevenson joked about many more songs to come, and all with titles that she would be sure to inform us about. However, only a few songs in, she got to a song without a title, which they had been calling "Cool New Song" for some time. She told the audience that, if anyone had a suggestion, they were welcome to come up to her after the show.

So, of course, I took the challenge personally. One lyric that stuck out to me was about "breaks your heart harder than I could" (or something similar), plus parts of the song were very mellow and others were much more rocking. I wasn't brave enough to approach her at the show, but I emailed later and suggested the name "Harder" for the song.

I composed the email and sat for a few moments with my finger over the enter key to send. My heart was racing. Was I really going to do this? But then again, what did I have to lose?

So I did send the email, and got a response less than a day later:
hey! thank you so much for the suggestion!! i really like it! i'll
run it by the folks.
I was so excited! I emailed back and asked her to let me know if they did end up choosing that as the name, because it would make my day. I looked for the song on YouTube and found it as "Cool New Song" from March 2009, so she wasn't kidding about being unable to find a name!

Now, does she actually like the suggested title, or is she just trying to win another fan? Of course, I'll probably never know. But I do think it's an effective strategy, and even if she hated the idea I appreciate the gentle dismissal.

I didn't post that particular song above, because the sound quality didn't do Stevenson justice. Instead, I posted a song "Nervous Rex" that is already available online. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maps & Atlases with Bonus Percussion!

So you know how I said that the percussion on "The Charm" blew me away at the Maps & Atlases concert last week? This is EVEN BETTER! More snare!

Yourstru.ly Presents: Maps & Atlases from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Monday, August 09, 2010

In Concert: Maps & Atlases

I briefly mentioned Maps & Atlases in early May, the last time we saw them in concert. I love it when a good concert falls at the right time. My first concert ever was REM. I had just finished my junior year of high school and taken the SATs AND ACTs in one week. One week! And then I went to my first concert and it was amazing.

In May, I had just finished the Winter semester when we saw Maps & Atlases. This time, the Summer semester ended on Wednesday, I finished my grades on Friday afternoon, and the concert was Friday night. Even better, it was a concert for old people! There were two concerts at The Grog Shop that night, and Maps & Atlases was the early one, from 6-10pm. We could go to the concert AND get to bed on time. Best night ever!

Maps & Atlases was, again, completely awesome. I posted the above video because one of the best things about them is the fact that they experiment with how to make music with their instruments. You would think it's a pretty straight-forward proposition, until you watch.

This time was nice because their first full-length album just came out in late June, so this show was the first time we had actually heard most of the songs beforehand. I enjoyed "The Charm" on the album; I was sucked in by the artful pause in lyrics when he sings, "I don't think that there's a sound that I hate more than the sound of your voice ..... when you say that you don't love me, anymore."

But played live, this song was amazing. The overwhelming percussion just blew me away, and now I'm addicted! I've listened to "The Charm" many, many times since Friday night, and when I'm not listening, I'm humming it to myself. This video starts with "Will" and "The Charm" comes in at 1:35. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Toddler Portrait

Keith took this picture a few weeks ago, when we were visiting a friend's house. Doesn't it look like a posed portrait? I think it's something about the light and the focus.

We've never actually had her picture taken professionally. I think that was part of the point of splurging on a really good camera before she was born. I like all of the candid shots; I think they capture her personality better than a studio session would.

Other parents: Am I going to regret this later? Should we be getting professional pictures too?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Lead Free!!!!

I'm not a big exclamation point person, but I thought this situation warranted it.

Eleanor had her 2-year check-up the other week; this was the last time they would be checking on her lead levels. She had her check-up on Thursday, and Friday afternoon the doctor's office called us to say that all of her levels were normal.

I may have done a little jig. The nightmare is over! We can move on!

There's only one small lead abatement project left that is in process. The 2 doors in the living room are currently being stripped and repainted. But compared to everything else we've already had done, that's small potatoes.

On an unrelated note .... this is a picture taken in the backyard by our friend, Melissa. It makes me laugh because sometimes I think every single picture of Eleanor should be blurred like this. Every picture of every toddler, ages 2-4, should be blurred. Or passed out asleep. It's so hard to catch them still!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Camping Past and Future

I've had a lot of late nights recently, for one reason or another. One night I might have grading, another night I might just be staring at the ceiling for no good reason. It's unfortunate because I'm definitely an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person.

But here I am, past my bedtime, determined to write up a quick blog post before another day goes by without one. I don't want August to be another month like July; 3 posts in one day to meet my self-imposed quota! How embarrassing.

Eleanor LOVED camping, which wasn't much of a surprise. I was surprised that she told me she didn't like the fire. "No flames," she said on the first night, preferring to go to sleep in the tent instead. Of course, once we were in the tent she lifted her head and told me, "Uncle Josh like the flames. No sleep in tent! Go outside!" I overruled her, and once the protests were over she quickly fell asleep.

Now we have our big camping trip to look forward to: Next week, Keith, Eleanor, and I are going on a 5-day trip to a national park in Vermont. Keith and I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I envision all of the hours of naps she'll (hopefully? maybe?) be taking, when I don't have any housework, errands, coursework to do. Will I read? nap? write? The possibilities are endless!

Eleanor is starting to realize that a big trip is coming, and she's excited, too. I would say that, at this point, her top 10 things about camping are:
  1. S'mores
  2. sleeping in the tent
  3. cookies
  4. bouncing on my parents' camper mattress
  5. chips
  6. hiking
  7. breakfast cereal in a box
  8. eating at the picnic table all the time
  9. juice
  10. S'mores
Are you noticing a pattern here? So much to look forward to!