Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 New Year Resolutions

So typically, I'm not someone who tries to do New Years Resolution. Part of it is that my memory is so bad, by the end of January, I've forgotten what I'd resolved to do. And partically, because if I state that these are my resolutions, I feel accountable to do them and feel guilty when I slack off. And then I just figure well since I've slacked off these past five days, I might as well just give it up entirely. However, in light of a new year and the fact that I've overcome so many obstacles this year (baby, moving, job change), I can surly maintain at least a few New Years Resolutions. I've also figured, if I can throw some fun ones in... that might help things as well.

1. To work out every weekday for at least 15 minutes! I'm not going to put a weight goal on here, but I figured by constantly exercising for 15 minutes (at least) every day, that that should shed some pounds.

2. To read to Sophie at least 5 nights a week. I'm leaving room for error, because obviously there are some times at night when she is asleep before I put her to bed and/or have a chance to read to her.

3. Go to Louisiana. We are so close to the border it seems like a waste to not visit the state of Louisiana while we are so nearby. And... there is an alligator farm near Shreveport... need I say more?

4. Plan at least one trip back to Kansas to visit family. I know that we visited Kansas a lot in the past few months, but in the course of a year, I think it doesn't sound too unreasonable to find some time in a year to take time to travel to Kansas again to visit family and friends.

5. Successfully make fried chicken! Thanks to Amanda, I know have been given visual and verbal instructions on how to make fried chicken and I plan to try it out!

6. Update this blog at least once a week.

7. Work on my Spanish. I used to be fairly fluent in "present-tense" Spanish, and now I can only remember a few words and phrases. I need to update my Spanish and hopefully become fluent in both past and present tense of the language.

8. Get Ivory to do Pennies for Peace. I'm trying to get Ivory school to do 'Pennies for Peace', which was started by Greg Mortenson's mother. Greg is the author of "Three Cups of Tea". So far I've approached the Principal who seems enthusastic about getting this going so hopefully we can get this thing going.

Hopefully, we'll see how long I can keep up on these New Years Resolutions. I hope everyone as a wonderful new year and may all your surprises or conflicts be blessings in disguise.


Visiting in Ohio

On Tuesday morning we left Nick and Amanda's in Maryland and made our way towards Ohio. While we did get some snow along the way, we were fortunate enough to not get enough to hinder our trip. At least not compated to what we went through to get to Maryland. Our first stop was to visit Brian's Uncle Don, Aunt Millie, Cousin Donny, his wife Tabitha, and daughters Skylar and Lila in Ashland, Ohio. Sophie loved the company of Donnie and Tabitha's two girls and I think little Lila wishes Sophie was younger and not quite able to do as much as she could. Lila was hoping to rock her and feed her, but Sophie loves to be up and running and can feed herself as well. But it was so cute to see the three girls, because Sophie would pay attention to the toys they were playing with and what they were doing and she wanted to join in on the fun. Ashland, Ohio and the surrounding area is know for it's Amish community and in the short two days while we were there we got to see a couple young Amish men and women and their horse and buggies. Before leaving Ashland, we made it a priority to stop and get an Amish white bonnet for Sophie. I plan to have her wear it for Easter.

Our next stop was to visit Brian's Aunt Tina and Uncle Fred in Troy, Ohio, which is outside of Dayton. We only get to stay a day before heading back to Arkansas, but we made the most of our visit as possible. Sophie got to enjoy the company of Aunt Tina's granddaughter- Kamri, who loved to play with her. Sophie feels so grown up when she gets to play with others- particularly older girls. Then, we spent our New Years Eve by going out to eat Chinese food and filling our stomachs until they were so full we didn't want to do anything more but relax and watch tv.

Our trip to Ohio has been short (only lasting 3 days), but we got to see several relatives and show off Sophie as well. She benefited from the trip as well, because Sophie not only got some 'big girl time' from the company of Skylar, Lila, and Kamri, but when she got to Aunt Tina's she found she also had some Christmas presents that needed opening. And she was glad to oblige. However, I think she found Aunt Tina's giraffe collection infinately more interesting at a couple points in time during the visit. Perhaps like her Aunt Tina, she'll want to collect giraffes as well once she gets older.

Anyway, tomorrow we embark on the 12 hour trip back to Camden, Arkansas. If all goes as planned and the snowy weather doesn't prevent us, we'll have all day Sunday for church and to relax and bum around after a fun-filled vacation. Thanks Nick, Amanda, Don, Millie, Donnie, Tabitha, Tina, and Fred for such a wonderful reception and helping us to have such a wonderful time!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow in Gettysburg, PA

Today we made our way north to Gettysburg, VA and to Thurmont, MD. At Gettysburg we were able to bring Oscar with us since it was an 'auto tour', where you basically hop from spot to spot and plague to plague from the comfort of your car. Since this all happened during Sophie's nap time, she wasn't exactly the best traveler today during our tour of Gettysburg. However, when she was good and we took some time to let her stretch her legs, she went directly for the snow. She loved the snow. Without fail, every time we let her out of the car to walk around, she went directly for the snow, picked it up, looked at it, and put some in her mouth. It was cute. (Don't worry the snow wasn't brown or yellow... I made sure to check).

Next we went to Thurmont, MD which is where Camp David is located. Or at least, the town closest to where Camp David is located. Even the town citizens do not know the exact location of Camp David. In Thurmont there is a cafe known as the Historic Cozy Inn & Restaurant, which has served meals to presidents in the past. We ate there for lunch; however, the food wasn't as good as I was expecting. In the resturaunt they also had a 'Camp David Museum' where we went that showed newspaper articles about the president when they were at Camp David, and how Thurmont, MD was chosen for a presidential retreat. Overall interesting, but not something I would exactly recommend to others unless you were in the area and needed something to do.

Tomorrow we plan to finish up our adventures in Washington DC and then head west to Ohio to see some of Brian's family. While there we will most likely not have access to a computer or internet so tomorrows blogpost may be the last one until we return to Arkansas on January 2nd or 3rd.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2 More Smithsonians

Today we went out to the final two Smithsonian museums on our list- the Holocaust museum and the Air & Space Museum. Unfortunately the Holocaust Museum would not let us take pictures inside, but we saw piles of personal affects of the concentration camp prisoners, pictures taken by U.S. soldiers, and other items from concentration camps like a railroad car they were stuffed in, the bunkbeds from Aushwietz, etc...

Then we went to the Air & Space Museum. There we saw equipment provided and constructed by NASA.

The Spirit of the St. Louis flown by Charles Lindenberg across the Atlantic Ocean.

Predator Drones...

WW2 aircraft...

... and then the Wright Brothers airplane.

They also had where you could do flight simulators, but we ran out of time and it was so crowded that we decided against it, and Nick decided to perhaps do it another time with Amanda.

Santa Comes to Maryland

Even though there wasn't a fireplace, Santa made his way to the Barton household and to Sophie. After Sophie's first birthday, Sophie has figured out how to unwrap presents. Santa brought her a tea set. She's enjoyed playing with it pretending to drink from the cups and also pouring "tea" for Uncle Nick and Aunt Amanda. Also, she was very kind trying to help Aunt Amanda and Uncle Nick with the unwrapping of their gifts as well.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas as well!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Preparing for Santa

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the apartment
Uncle Nick and Daddy played games from a compartment.

Aunt Amanda, Mom, and I baked cookies with chocolate chips
And I hope Santa will find me since I made several trips.

I'd been to Virginia, Mount Vernon, and Washington DC
And now I'm near Baltimore and I hope he can find me.

Mom assures me he will and points to the tree
She promises I'll find a package that says "Sophie"

Before I head to bed, I look and I search, but I can't find Bunny.
A possession so dear and important it can't be bought with money.

So Mom, Dad, Aunt Amanda and Uncle Nick all look down low
and eventually find him outside of the car laying in the snow.

I hug my sweet bunny so I make sure he gets warm.
And off we head to the bedroom to sleep before the morn.

Mom reads Bunny and I the story of Anne of Green Gables
Then kisses me 'goodnight' and places the book on the tables.

As I drift off to sleep with 'Bunny' beside me.
I pray I will find a gift from St. Nick under the tree.

I'll pray for my mom, dad, grandparents, uncles, and aunts
and for Jesus who was born in a stable with animals and plants.

And lastly for Santa to find me and think I've been good.
I've tried so hard to be all that I should.

So I've said my prayers and I hold 'Bunny' tight.
All I need tell you now is "Merry Christmas" and "Goodnight"

Visiting Mount Vernon

Today we made our way to the other side of the Potomac to visit George Washington's plantation- Mount Vernon. In addition to the house itself, which we were unable to take pictures on the inside of the house, we were able to see the grounds. The grounds included the smokehouse, stables, carriage house, slave quarters, greenhouse, and George Washington's grave.

Afterwards, we attempted to spend some time in Arlington. But we only really made it to JFK's grave because our legs were SO tired from our walking around the grounds at Mount Vernon. Perhaps if we have some time, we'll return to Arlington Cemetery. Plus... after spending all day in the cold weather, it felt good to just return to a warm house. Besides... we didn't want to get back too late, because as everyone knows... Santa Claus is coming tonight and you need to be in bed when he comes.

Two Smithsonians & One Station

Again Brian, Sophie, and I trekked around DC around the National Mall and finished the 3rd floor of the American History Museum. While there we saw military uniforms

We saw Abraham Lincoln's hat and personal articles.

Ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, and Archie Bunker's chair.

Then we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where we saw...

Dinosaur bones

Bones from the Ice Age

A Giant Squid

Metor rocks

And the Hope Diamond!

Then we went to Union Station for food!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

American History Museum & Tower

Again on Tuesday we trekked out again in the snow and slush of Washington DC. But we learned from our mistake last time and spent most of it indoors at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Post Office Tower. On our way there we saw the Capitol building and the Smithsonian Castle.

In the Smithsonian American History Museum we saw...

A naked George Washington

World War 2 Memoriabla

Dresses and jewelry worn by the First Ladies

History of Americans' Favorite Toys

And Julia Child's Kitchen and a Nuclear Reactor from the 1950s and the power board used in the Manhattan Project. However, we only saw 2 of the 3 floors, and spent probably 2 hours in the museum itself.

Afterward we headed to the Old Post Office Tower for lunch. It had several souvenior shops and a food court, but also you could go up the 12 stories and to the outside of the tower and look out at the surrounding DC area. So we took the elevator up 9 stories.

And checked out the DC area.

Oneys Come to DC

After spending 6 years of college studying political science and then 3 years teaching political science to college students, I've finally gotten a chance and see our capital... and capitol... of and in Washington, DC. It was still cold and some of the streets and parking lots were not completely clean, but we persevered anyway. Even little Sophie managed did pretty well trekking through the snow... even though she actually didn't have to walk through it.

Here are some pictures and places we saw on Monday.

The Vietnam Veteran Memorial

The Washington Monument & Reflection Pool (which didn't have much of a reflection since it was all iced over on account of the weather)

The Lincoln Memorial

The Korean Veteran Memorial

And lastly, the World War 2 Veterans Memorial.

After that we started getting too cold and we returned to the car. We did not get to go to the White House or the Capitol building (requires a signed letter and appointment provided by your Congressman/woman 60 days prior to your trip for tours), but we were able to see it from afar.

The Jefferson Memorial was also further away and therefore we also only saw it in the distance.

With almost a week left more of our vacation in DC, we plan to see as much as we can in all the places that DC has to offer visitors.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One & A Half Nights at the Honda Hotel

Let me first begin by telling everyone that 48 hours after we began our trip from Arkansas we are finally at Nick and Amanda's in Maryland! This trip to Nick and Amanda's was to take us 19 hours according to Mapquest, and so we left Camden a little after midnight and started heading north to Little Rock and then east through Tennessee. We did check the weather before leaving and saw that some snow was predicted for Friday evening, which was no problem because according to Mapquest, we would be in Maryland by 6pm and hopefully devoid of the bad weather. In Tennessee we started getting rain, which wasn't too bad and we were making excellent time... so again... we felt no worries. And then we entered Virginia. And as of now I'm going to rank Virginia as "worst place in the U.S". Maybe I'm being dramatic... but allow me to explain what happened.

By 2pm we've entered Virginia and we are getting snow. But we think "It's just snow. We are from Kansas we can handle snow", and we can. It's the other morons either from Virginia or driving through Virginia that can't handle it. In my Honda Accord we pass several semis, trucks, minivans, and other vehicles that couldn't cope with the road conditions and either wrecked or slid off the road due to the ice. So the traffic has moved to a crawl so that way tow trucks and the police can try and clear the roads. By 6pm we are only 60 miles into Virginia and again, traffic is getting worse as well as the weather and lo and behold we are stuck on I- 81. And by stuck I don't mean we managed to get our vehicle stuck in the snow or ice, but stuck in a long line of vehicles that literally cannot get off the interstate because the traffic and wrecks are blocking the exits. And at any exits that people ARE able to get off at the hotels there are booked solid. We called the State Police for Virginia who said that there were several wrecks up ahead and that police were doing what they could, but perhaps they'd have to get people out of their cars and take them to a shelter for the night. I asked them if they had in fact then closed I-81... they said 'no'. "Seriously?! You guys are that stupid!? Is what I'm thinking"

Fast forward to 3am, we finally manage to get off at an exit (thanks to police I guess) and we start looking for an alternate route to Maryland. We eventually decide to head east towards Richmond and then north to Washington, D.C. That concluded our first night at the Honda Hotel. It was awful! Because anyone who has spent the night in a car knows that there is no bathroom, room service, or beds. Oh.. and there is no heat either unless you leave the car on. So... by this time we are grumpy due from lack of sleep and hungry. But... we press on because we are only 6 hours (in normal road conditions) from Nick so we figured we could get there before the evening at least.

So we move through snowy and poorly plowed roads and headed to Richmond. We reach Richmond by 11am. Not bad we think because it is only 3 hours to DC and we should have good roads. And the roads are pretty decent, we are just dealing with lots of traffic to DC. Then... it starts to snow again. And again, we see people who apparently cannot drive in snow. Again, we are stuck on I-95 barely crawling on the interstate and it looks like we'll be staying another night at the Honda Hotel. By this time, Washington D.C. has gotten accumulative 3 feet of snow and a 'State of Emergency' has been declared for Virginia and Maryland. Again, to get an update on traffic and weather conditions we call the State Police. They tell us that the department of transportation isn't doing anything, but that wrecking crews are out because 2 vehicles carrying tractor trailers wrecked ahead of us. So again... it is 9pm and we've been sitting on the interstate going nowhere since 6pm. Then at 11pm we call again, still no movement, we call the State Police. There response... "Oh yeah, the Dept. of Transportation decided that since they already had traffic stopped for the wreck (which was cleared by now) they decided they should probably try and plow and sand the roads". Great! By midnight, traffic finally begins to move again. And by 1am we've safely made it to Nick and Amanda's.

So our 19 hour trip to Maryland ended up taking 48 hours. Included a one and a half night stay at the Honda Hotel. And 3 feet of snow. Needless to say, our vacation has proven interesting and I do not seek to repeat the experience with the traffic.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sidebar Ads Provide Entertainment

As you've probably noticed, I've allowed Google to post ads along the side of this blog. In return for granting that privilege, any time someone clicks on one of those ads I get a penny. (Yeah... I'm not holding my breath and hoping this blog will support me or my shopping habits). Google randomly searches words used in my blog postings to find ads that may coordinate with my blog postings... and the result has been hilarious at times. The headlines of the ads that I've posted here are some of the actual 'headlines' of the ads that have appeared along the side of my blog. The sub-heading... are those I've added, because I thought they were funnier than the actual sub-headings themselves. It's become a kind of game the past few months to see what kind of ads I'll get and add my own 'Smart Alick' remarks to them. Here are some of them:

Rat Traps- Bubba done said these here things work and sho nuff one came in and I done got him fur lunch.

Rat Traps- Provides tangible and sometimes temporarily twitching results!

Get Nebraska Merchandise- Because you don't have anything better to spend your money on!

Get K-State Merchandise- because it's funny to walk around Lincoln, NE dressed in purple on game day!

Get Education Grants- because you DEFINITELY aren't going to qualify for a scholarship!

Guaranteed Drug Rehab- tie their entire 'stash' to a rottweiler with rabies and see how long it takes before your addict gives up and realizes it's not worth it.

Stop Drinking Alcohol- because last time you woke up naked on your boss' yard.

Nebraska Travel Packages- because there are only a few cheaper places than NE to go for your honeymoon.

Be Unique this Christmas- actually try and remember to get your wife a gift by the actual date of this year. Homemade gifts made the day of or the day before do not count!

Anyway, I thought I'd share this little game with everyone and hopefully it will provide laughs or future entertainment for any readers! Feel free to add any of them you've completed and wish to share to the comment box below the post!

Lockheed Martin Christmas Party

Today Brian, Sophie, and I went to the LM Christmas Party at the bowling ally where we all went bowling... Sophie too! Of course, Sophie needed a little help and instruction from Mom and Dad, particularly with lifting the ball. She did quite well throughout the afternoon and knocked down quite a few pins! I think she's ready to take on Grandpa Lloyd!

And it wouldn't be a Christmas party if Santa wasn't there. So Sophie also got a second opportunity this week to hang out and sit on Santa's lap. However, she didn't seem to ask him for much. 'Course that might have been because she had her pacifier in. You'll also notice, Sophie made sure that 'Bunny' came with her to see Santa Clause. You know... just in case 'Bunny' wanted to ask Santa for something also.

Then we had "Sparky" the fire department dog come to visit everyone. We took Sophie to see him and she was terrified. She didn't cry but she trembled and moved away from his hand when he moved to touch her with his paw. She didn't want to have anything to do with Sparky. She was sure that there had to be something wrong and mean about a dog that was THAT big. She made sure to keep an eye on him while he was there, but she didn't want to go near him or for Sparky to touch her. It was quite cute and funny.