Thursday, June 25, 2009

Claire's Visit to Iowa

Cousin Claire arrived into Chicago on Monday afternoon. She was flying as an unaccompanied minor, so after going through security, I was able to go right to the actual gate to pick her up. Unheard of, and so fun! I miss that! We drove back to Fairfield from Chicago, and then we dropped our stuff off at my house. Claire got to meet Avery, and of course he was freaking-out excited! Andrew cooked us dinner that night, and then we went out to the country to see the lightning bugs. There are no lightning bugs in California! I don't know if it's the humid weather, or what, but the lightning bugs are absolutely thick. It's like a glittery wonderland out in the country. When we got back to my house, we looked through a packet of pictures and letters my Aunt Twila (Claire's grandma) had sent. It was so cool to read letters my mom had sent them when I was little. I also love seeing anything with her handwriting. We ended the night with playing a little Guitar Hero.

We slept a little late the next morning and then had pancakes for breakfast. I had to work at school for a bit :( before our day started, but when we got around, we headed to Eldon to the American Gothic house. They have a new visitor's center, and it's very nice. I learned a lot! We stuck our heads through the cut-out in the center, but that was mere practice for the big event.
They actually provide costumes, so you can dress up and go stand right in front of the house. Even though it was about a million degrees outside, we had so much fun doing this! :)

After one last picture in the foyer, we headed back out into the oppressive heat.

We went through the cemetery, and Claire saw where her great-grandparents and her great-great-grandparents were buried. Then, we took a short jaunt around the square. It was so hot, but that didn't stop us from visiting the Chocolate Cafe!

Claire & I stopped home long enough to grab a snack and let the dog out, and then we were off to Iowa City. We had a rest stop at the Cheese Factory in Kalona, and Claire got to see an Amish family in a horse and buggy. In Iowa City, we drove around and saw all the sites, and that's when the dark gray clouds started rolling in. They were low and pretty scary. The wind was blowing like crazy. I called Andrew to make sure there weren't any tornado warnings, and we headed to the mall. By the time we arrived, it was pouring, and I mean POURING. We ran from the car, and we were totally drenched by the time we made it inside. Some of the stores in the mall even closed because of the weather. I'm not sure what is up with that, but oh well! We purchased the ever-important Iowa Hawkeye shirt for Claire and just walked around the mall a little. We picked Matt up from work and had dinner at Hu Hot.

Driving back to Fairfield in the rain is not my normal idea of fun, but it's somehow a lot more tolerable when you're looking at a full double rainbow! It was stunning, and until the sun went down, Claire had maybe the prettiest sunset I'd ever seen to light up the sky. The sky was lavender, peach, and fuchsia. I'd never seen anything like it. It had cleared up enough by the time we were ready to see more lightning bugs, and then we went home to crash.

Day 2 of the Iowa Adventure started with crumpets. Claire finally got to taste them, along with English marmalade. Next stop: the Jefferson County Fair. Nothing says Iowa quite like that! Claire finally got to see pigs, and they were clean too... that's a rare thing! We stayed long enough to look at all the animals and the exhibits. We headed back to school so I could put the finishing touches on closing up my room. Claire was very helpful, and I really appreciated the extra set of hands. We met Andrew for lunch at Revelations.

We changed into our grubbies and headed out into the timber to hunt for geodes. I'd never done this before, as long as I've lived in Iowa, but the Jefferson County naturalist (Love ya, Therese!) gave me some good tips. I thought it would be fun for Claire and I to try. It ended up being WAY easier than I thought it would be. We found some beautiful geodes and a couple of big ones that we couldn't crack.

After showering and changing, Claire got to meet Emma & Jack (Jason & Suzanne too), and then we went out to my dad's farm. He got to meet Claire, and he helped us crack open those last 2 geodes. One was especially beautiful. We went back into town to have dinner at George's, and then it was back to the Jefferson County Fair. Andrew's son Zach was singing in the Bill Riley Talent Show, and I wanted to be sure and hear him. He sang in an a capella trio, and they did a great job, earning 3rd place! One last visit with Andrew, one last viewing of the lightning bugs, and one last Guitar Hero challenge finished off Day 2.

Unfortunately, Claire is leaving Iowa today. Boo hoo. I'm so glad she got to visit though. Actually, she had been to Iowa before, but since she wasn't even born yet when Kelly, Steve, Cameron, & Kate were here for Mom & Mike's wedding, it doesn't count. Now she's really been to Iowa. I hope it will be the first visit of many.

Love you, Claire!!!! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guest Post

Today I'm guest posting on Frank's blog while he's out of town. I have no idea if his readers give a crap about what I have to say. I tend to just blah blah blah about my life, but it was very nice of him to ask me. Check it out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coming Soon!

August 14 is the day. I'm both excited and leery of the movie of The Time Traveler's Wife. I am pretty much obsessed with this book. It's definitely on my Top 5 Favorite Books list. I just don't want them to screw up the movie. I know it can never be as good as the book, but I'm still hopeful. I can't wait to see it!!!


I haven't counted my blessings lately... it's far overdue.

* I'm grateful to have patient, talented friends around me during this rehearsal period for Children of Eden. I've been a little, ahem, difficult. It all stems from stuff inside me that I know I should deal with, but I've let my frustrations and unresolved issues with others make me cranky with those who don't deserve it. I feel contrary a lot of the time, so thanks, Dee Ann & Jeri, for not killing me... yet. :)

* I'm blessed to be a teacher on summer break. I'm finally catching up on some sleep. Summer is a recharge time, and I know I'll be ready to energetically attack the new school year in August.

* I'm loved. I have wonderful friends and family. And now, with Andrew, I seriously have it all. :)

* I have journeys and adventures planned this summer with family and friends. It's all kicking off next when Jeff gets here. The summer will be full of fun. I'm really looking forward to it.

* I'm excited to start a new chapter in summer jobs. Instead of remediation, I'll be doing two different classes of enrichment. My middle school class on technology starts next week, and I'm going to do an elementary puppetry and theatre games class in August. I can really see the enrichment classes developing into something big, particularly at the middle level, where we haven't tried it before. I'm excited and grateful for the opportunity!

* I'm not kidding. The skunks are worth the price of admission to Children of Eden next week. Every time I see them, I smile. They are so freaking cute, I just want to squeeze them. Our two tiniest cast members in skunk suits... they're irresistible. You need to see them (and the rest of the show as well)!

* I know we've had a lot of rain, but I'm grateful for a June that isn't Africa hot. It's been pleasant, and I've loved it. We have July and August for steamy Iowa weather... I'm going to enjoy beautiful June while it's here!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Yes, it's a Post about Earwax

Earwax is weird and gross. It smells funny. And, as I unfortunately found out while chewing on some random pen in a hotel outside Chicago about ten years ago, it tastes terrible. Does anyone know why we have earwax? I seriously don't know. Enlighten me, please!

So (as you might have read in the previous post), my ears have been plugged, and I haven't been able to hear well for over a week now. Let's just say rehearsals for my show which opens in less than a week have become a little unnerving. I don't know if I'm on pitch half the time! A few days ago, my jaw started hurting pretty ferociously too (I could barely touch the outside of my face yesterday without wincing), and I'd felt dizzy on a couple of occasions. These symptoms all added up to what I feared was an inner problem. Or a tumor. That's where my mind goes, you see.

Today, I finally bit the bullet and went to see about it. Turns out it was earwax. I had some industrial flushing with a pretty massive silver syringe, and aside from thinking my brains might start oozing out my ears too, it wasn't too bad. Not painful at all... just sort of uncomfortable.

OK, I know this is gross. Substances produced by our bodies are rarely pleasant (have you ever noticed that?). But I'm flummoxed by this earwax thing. How can something so lame cause me so much pain? Weird. And gross.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Random Thoughts

* My ears have been plugged for over a week. What's up with that?

* Lunch w/ Shannon yesterday. She's going to kick butt and take names at Interlochen in a couple of weeks! Plus, we ate at Revelations. I haven't been there in ages. Feta Florentine wood-fired pizza... mmm!!!

* First dress rehearsal tonight for Children of Eden. The music is really good. I'm not kidding. I'm always teary during the last number. Beautiful. I'm looking forward to performing it next week.

* Why can I seem to get NOTHING done this first week of break? I have a huge list I need to accomplish before Jeff & Claire come. I hate my procrastinating ways!

* I just ordered a green leather case for my Kindle, Harrison Ford. I can't wait for it to get here. I'll just feel a little better with him protected. There was an adequate, standard, boring cover, but I spent the extra $10 for the green leather case. It has attitude. I don't know that green is Harrison's color, but it is definitely mine!

* They've switched e-mail programs at school. I had several e-mails on there I needed to respond to, and now they're all gone. If you're waiting to hear from me, please e-mail me again.

* Jeff & Duane invited me to New York City for the weekend. I can't go, and it's bumming me out to no end. I'd miss two rehearsals and my first day of middle school summer enrichment. I just couldn't make it work this time. Boo hoo!

* I have the best boyfriend ever. Yes, I know that's random, but did you see the title of this post?

* I seriously need to give the bushes in front of my house a haircut. And I need to clean out the gutters. I have a little maple forest growing up there.

* The Dance & Drill sponsor is letting me borrow the "body bags" for camp and for elementary summer enrichment. The kids are going to go crazy for those things!

OK... enough rambling for today. I'm going to get busy now. No, really, I am. I mean it. See? Here I go... really. I'm going right now...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


OK. Skype is my new favorite invention. I talk to my best friend a lot, and we e-mail too. But there is just something extra special about seeing her while I talk to her. It's really like being with her! Today, she had her girls on her lap. Elora was trying to grab the microphone, and Olivia was making silly faces. It was so great. Neither of them love talking on the phone too much (although Olivia is starting to), so this is a way to see them and know them and love them a little more. I LOVE SKYPE!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Tony's!

I love love love the Tony's! It's my favorite awards show, by far. Despite the sound being total crap last night, the Tony's were awesome. Here are some of my favorite moments...

always funny when the set takes down a rocker...

I have to see this show!!!

Neil Patrick Harris was great... loved his 11 o'clock number...

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I just said goodbye. I hate the last day of school. It makes me so sad. Here's a song that brings up the same feelings... it's not about school. It's actually about a mom, but it goes to the same raw place inside me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Know It's Been a Long Time...

The last month of school is always insane. I know I've been neglecting my blogging. So much has happened since I posted my JibJab card from Tracy on my birthday. First of all, I had the best birthday ever!!! I had tons of e-mails and Facebook birthday wishes. I woke up to birthday wishes from Andrew and even a birthday song from my dad. I had so many wonderful surprises. I had flowers at school from Uncle Ben and Aunt Twila, and at home, I met the UPS man at the door. He had a box from I was thinking, "Oh boy, someone ordered me something off my wish list." Wow. I had no idea. When I opened the box, my California cousins had surprised me with a Kindle!!!!!!! Maybe you remember my previous post about how much I coveted Frank's & Diane's Kindles. Well, now I have my own. Harrison Ford and I are very happy together.

Could my birthday possibly get any better after that? Well, yes it could! I went over to Andrew's, and when I walked in, I saw the biggest, most beautiful bouquet of purples, blues, and greens. It was stunning. He'd met with Patti at Symplicity and picked everything out himself. It was beauuuuutiful! Then Andrew said, "I didn't get you a card. I wrote you something instead." Um, okay?!?! He'd written me the most amazing letter. I won't give you all the details here, but it was so honest and from the heart. It made me feel like the most special and luckiest girl on the planet. I was totally bawling when I got done. And as I was pulling myself together, Andrew comes into the room with a hanger with plastic over it. He said, "I know it's risky buying a woman clothes, but when I saw this, I just thought it would be perfect for you." I took off the plastic and found a suede jacket underneath! I've never had a suede jacket before. He chose it because he thought the color would look great with my hair and that it could be something I could take to Alaska with me this summer. So thoughtful! Here's a picture of it. I ran into the bathroom to look at it. It fits like it was made for me. Andrew was so cute and impatient. He said, "Is there something in the pocket?" Sure enough, there was a box in the pocket. Inside the box was a gold heart pendant with an emerald in the middle. The emerald is both of our birthstones. He chose it for that and to go with my emerald ring. I was floored. Everything he chose and did was so thoughtful and so wonderful. I couldn't keep the joy in. I was bawling again. The night was topped off with a phone call from my little brother who never forgets my birthday. It was seriously the best birthday ever.

The weekend following my birthday weekend was the culmination of a lot of sneaky planning. The California Cousins (minus one) and I surprised Kate by me showing up in California to see her play! It was so fun to surprise her. Andrew drove me to the airport that Friday afternoon. After a harrowing experience in Denver of almost missing the last connecting flight to LAX, I arrived in Southern California. They had blindfolded Katie on the way to the airport. Claire did a great job keeping the secret, and she jumped out of the car to greet me at the loading/unloading area. We opened the back door and Kate took her blindfold off. She screamed bloody murder and jumped into my arms, wrapping her legs around me, screaming like a banshee the whole time. After a reprimand from security, we were off. It was so good to see them. I hadn't been to California since Claire was a baby, not even a year old. She'll be 14 in November! Ridiculous! Kelly drove us back to Long Beach, and we talked and talked until we were all exhausted. I slept like a baby in the guest house, and I could barely believe I was in California!

Saturday morning, we drove to Pasadena. The Rose Bowl was having an open house, and Kelly was taking a shift as docent for the tours as part of her work with Pasadena Heritage. As a Hawkeye fan, the Rose Bowl is pretty darned near close to Heaven. I toured it all... the pressbox, the locker rooms, the grounds... everything. The tour ended with Kate, Claire, and I having hot dogs and lemonade on the field. Yes, the field. Of the Rose Bowl! I'm serious! It was unbelievable!

After the Rose Bowl, the girls and I did some shopping in Old Pas and put our feet up at the condo in "the Castle." It's a stunning building constructed in the early 1900's, quaint, cozy, and perfect. We met up with Cameron & Steve (back from hunting wild boar), Cameron's girlfriend Kristen, Kristen's mom, and McLeod family friends Ted & Brad for dinner at a Cuban restaurant. Delicious! Then it was time for the play. It was a production of Cheaper By the Dozen, and Kate played the oldest daughter, Anne. She was fantastic. You'd never guess this was her first play. Some of the kids in the show were definitely tainted by the "biz" in Southern California. They were pretendy and muggy. Kate hasn't picked up any of those bad habits. Her performance was honest and truthful... from the heart. I was so proud of her and so proud to be in the audience of her big theatre debut. When we got back to Long Beach, I had one request. I asked Steve if I could ride the Segway. It was so fun. That thing corners on a dime! That's something that I definitely won't have a chance to do again for a very long time.

We looked through a lot of old family pictures and laughed and talked until we were all ready to drop. Claire did drop, as matter of fact. :) I had to leave first thing in the morning. It was a quick trip, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I was so blessed to get to share time with the McLeod clan. It was a fantastic little getaway.

The school year is in that frantic, crazy sprint to the finish. All the GOAL trips are done. 6th grade went to Nauvoo, 7th grade went to Hannibal, and the 8th grade just got back from their overnight to Des Moines. It was hard to raise money for the trips, but the kids did it all. We didn't even need to rely on our corporate sponsor who had offered to help if we didn't make our goal. I think it really gave the kids ownership of their trip. I hope they all had fun. This Tuesday is the 8th grade Assignment Journal reward trip to Adventureland. I know the kids will enjoy that, and as a member of the 8th grade team this year, so will I!

I've perfomed a couple of times recently. The weekend before my birthday was Faculty Follies, and that went well. It was fun singing with Suzanne. We sang "What is This Feeling" from Wicked, but we changed the words a bit to make it have an Iowa vs. Iowa State theme. I was also in a couple of other numbers. One was touching, and one was an original work by Fred Hucke about being a teacher. It was a fun afternoon.

The day after my birthday, I performed in a Fun-Raiser for Way Off Broadway. I felt totally under-rehearsed, and I had an absolutely rotten cold, but I faked it, and I think the night went really well. It was fun being back on stage with Stephen, Ryan, Margaret, and all the gang. Sean McCall came down from the Old Creamery Theatre, and Stan Brown was back from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I got to sing "Unworthy of your Love" (with Stephen) and "Evolution of a Song: Company" again. I love love love singing those two pieces. I hope that wasn't the last time. It was such a fun night, and I hope we raised a lot of money for the summer season.

Right now, I'm heavy into rehearsals for Children of Eden, the FACT summer show. It's a retelling of the Adam/Eve & Noah stories. Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Pippin) wrote the music, and it's very fun to sing. I'm one of the storytellers/narrators, and I love singing all the close harmonies. We open Father's Day weekend, so I'm starting to panic, but I think it will be a great show.

Things are going great with Andrew. Every day I ask myself, "What did I do to get so lucky?" He's wonderful, and I'm disgustingly happy. I'm blessed. This is the last week of school, so it's going to be a crazy week. The year has been full of challenges, joys, obstacles, and successes. I can't believe how it's flown by. Maybe after this week, I'll have some more time to blog. Maybe... ;)

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