The Parade

“You didn’t post a single picture of the parade,” complained my husband after reading my last post.

“Honey, we have 200 pictures from that parade.  I really think it needs a post all by itself.”

I’m not putting all 200 (actually 223) pictures here.  Many were blurry or we just couldn’t quite capture the essence of what we saw.  This is just a taste of the parade.  Like anything in life, you have to experience it to really experience it.

Evil stepsisters

Ahem.  Not what I’d want my daughter wearing for Halloween.

The Dread Pirate Roberts

Sleestaks

Back to the Future car

Speedracer

Don’t you think this guy is too old for this silliness?

I think this guy is from Halo.

Nice teeth.

Pretty scary dude.

Ghostbusters

Some of these people looked like they walked off a movie set.

LEGO Darth Vader

LEGO Princess Leia

More great costumes

The boys were drooling

I don’t know if this guy was really tall or if he had stilts.

The time and money these people invest in costumes…

Princess Leia pushes a baby stroller.

Clone Troopers in kilts – a bagpipe band

Some thing from Star Wars

More trooper things

More troopers in kilts

 The parade was at 10 am.  I guess the convention began right afterward.  We moved on to other adventures.  Later that day, in the late afternoon, we were driving around downtown Atlanta.  I guess the convention was on break or done for the day.  Many strange creatures roamed the streets of Atlanta.

Waiting to cross is some very tall Star Wars (?) character

This guy (from Halo?) saluted me as I took his picture

It’s the Old Spice commercial guy.

I saw the Old Spice commercial guy during the parade, but didn’t get his picture.  That last shot was done at least 7 hours later.  Dude spent the day in a towel.  And no, he was not nearly as good looking as the real Old Spice guy.  Not even close.

We went to Mass that evening (that’s what Catholics on vacation do), and I did not see anyone dressed up.  My sister and husband, though, said there was a Jedi knight in a wheelchair.  Obviously, he had been assigned to the Jedi Warrior Transition Battalion.

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Planning Changes

The whole reason we even went to Atlanta this past weekend was because we had gotten free tickets to a Braves game through my husband’s work.  We even had tickets for my sister and her children.

On Friday night, after the kids finally got settled, I lay tossing and turning in bed.  About midnight, just as Bill was starting to doze off, I suddenly remembered – I LEFT THE TICKETS AT HOME!  I was pretty upset (he was upset about being awakened).  And what really makes me mad is that my checklists, the ones I didn’t print out and use, have listed the item: TICKETS.  It’s a generic term, but very handy for all the trips we take where we have prepaid for entrance fees.  Had I used the checklist, I would have seen that and remembered.

I racked my brain trying to decide what to do about this: disappoint the kids?  Disappoint the adults?  Drive 3 1/2 hours there and 3 1/2 hours back to get them?  Cough up the money to buy new tickets?

Bill and I each offered to drive home to get them using my sister’s car, which had better gas mileage.  The only thing was, we couldn’t decide who should spend the day in the car (no fun) and who should spend the day with the grumpy, whiny children (even less fun).  A man in my husband’s unit was coming to Atlanta that day for a wedding, and we asked him to drive over to our house on the chance that we left a door unlocked.  Unfortunately, we were very good about securing the doors.  In the end, we decided to buy new tickets rather than spend the day in the car.

{sigh}

*******

On Thursday before we left, somebody else in my husband’s unit who had free tickets (through the unit) for the NASCAR race on Sunday night in Atlanta realized they had a conflict and turned the tickets in for anyone else to use.  Knowing we were going to Atlanta for the Braves game, we were offered the tickets.  There were only 4, though, and it was on Sunday night.  We planned to come home Sunday night.

I called my sister and asked her if she wanted to go to the race.

“Now why would I want to do that?” she asked.

My sister and I were not raised by a NASCAR-loving Dad.  Dad likes football, baseball, and basketball.  He might sit and watch some other sports if he has nothing better to do, but if the lawn needs mowing, or the porch needs painting or the Sunday sudoko puzzle is not finished, I can’t imagine him watching a car race instead.

So I could understand my sister’s less than enthusiastic response to my offer.  However, I did point out that it was something she had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.

Still, she declined, and I told the unit to find someone else.  (Side note: the race was rained out anyway.)

This little segue does have a point.

*******

In Atlanta, we went to the Aquarium on Friday night instead of Saturday and decided to shuffle the Stone Mountain trip to Sunday.  The big debate then was what to do on Saturday in the window of time where we were supposed to go to the Aquarium.  My sister’s friend was going to the Dragon*Con parade and she asked if we wanted to do that.

Dragon*Con?  What is Dragon*Con?

Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!

And they kick off their event with a parade of everyone dressed up in their costumes.

So I asked her, “Now why would I want to do that?”

And she pointed out that it was something we had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.  And I laughed and reminded her that she didn’t take the tickets for the NASCAR race.

But we decided the boys would enjoy it, and that’s where we headed on Saturday morning: to a parade for science fiction and fantasy aficionados.

The Georgia Aquarium

I had a jam-packed schedule of events for our trip to Atlanta.  I’m not saying it was planned to the minute, but I did have an estimate of how long I thought the various activities would take.

Funny thing about plans…

My sister was joining us in Atlanta (also staying at Kris’ house), and I called her after we arrived to see how much longer she would be.  The idea was to go to Stone Mountain that evening where there was a laser show.  Fortunately, she asked so many annoying forward-thinking questions about things like where we would eat dinner, that I went to the website and realized that they did not, in fact, have a laser show on Friday evening, their Labor Day weekend beginning on Saturday, not Friday night.

Change of plans.

I looked at the different places I wanted to go, and saw that nothing was open on Friday night, except for the Aquarium, which, to our great luck, was open until 10 pm on Fridays through the summer, and included a cash bar and live band.  My kind of party.

Barb had eaten at a place called Mary Mac’s Tea Room on a previous trip to Atlanta, and she called a friend of hers who lived not too far outside of town and had him meet us there.  Food was great.  They put us at a huge round table, which is so much better than a long rectangular one. 

After dinner, we headed to the Aquarium.  The place was lively, but not crowded.  No line at the door for tickets, not too crowded getting in to see the exhibits.  I did not appreciate this nearly as much then as I did the next day when I passed the Aquarium several times.  Each time we went by, the courtyard was packed with huge masses of people shuffling forward to get a ticket.  Thank goodness there was no laser show at Stone Mountain the night before.

Walking to the Aquarium.  Everybody way in front; Mary lagging.

I’ve been to plenty of aquariums, and this one was just fine.  It’s the largest aquarium in North America, so it pretty much had everything. 

In with the fish.

Fish-eyed.

We didn’t see the dolphin show, but we did watch them in their tank.  One came up to Jenny and stared at her.  They really are neat.  You wonder what they are thinking.

She kept trying to hide.  Drove me nuts.

Petting the anemones.

I really liked going into the penguin exhibit.  You have to crawl, which is no fun, but in one part there are places you can stand up and be at eye level with the penguins.  The best part of this was being outside the tunnel and watching the penguins watch the humans pop up.  I imagine they thought the humans were pretty neat, maybe even wondered what the humans were thinking…

Fish tunnel.

Pretty big dude.
Uh, Mom, I think I’m a little too close to these guys.

Even though we left the aquarium late, we still had to tell certain children to settle down and go to sleep. 

My favorite part.  SIT and watch.

I am not a Boy Scout

If you are on a tight budget, but would still like to take a vacation, I strongly recommend finding a friend who has children and who would also like to take a vacation.  Then swap houses.  It does not matter where the friend lives, or where you live.  It doesn’t matter that there is “nothing to do” in that area.  Middle of nowhere, no cultural venues, no recreational opportunities?  No problem.  As long as the friend has toys, your kids will be perfectly happy to stay put.  Pack a good book and a laptop (for yourself) and chill out for a few days.

Friend and blog reader, Kris, was so very kind and offered us her house when she learned we were coming to town.  Kris and her family were heading out of town for an annual family reunion, so we showed up as they were heading out.  Kris has only met me once, and I’m not sure which of us is crazier.

My only moment of panic came when she asked me to take care of the pet geckos.  During the day, the light to the tank needed to be ON, and at night, the light had to be OFF.  That was all we had to do, but it still had me worried I would mess up.  We left yesterday and she wasn’t coming home until today, so I stressed out a lot wondering if I should leave the geckos in the dark or the light.  I finally asked the neighbor to come over in the morning to light them up.

I’m just happy she didn’t have fish.  I have killed every fish I have ever had.

My children would have been happy had we just stayed at the house and allowed them to play with the toys and the Wii, and watched movies.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for them, they have parents who have little inkling to sit around and do nothing when there is a whole city out there to explore.

And so we dragged them all over, spending very little time at the house.

*******

Last night, as our trip was nearing to an end and Bill was lamenting not having brought appropriate footwear for all the walking we did, I concluded that I really need to spend a full day – 12 to 14 hours – to properly get my family packed up and loaded, and to get my house put in order.

“If I’m only going to spend half that time to prepare for a trip,” I told him, “the job will only be half-@$$ed {ahem}.  And if I’m only going to spend 3 or 4 hours to pack up, then the job won’t even be half-*****.  Basically, I did a quarter-***** job preparing us.”  Now, the footwear issue is not my fault.  A grown man wants to pack boat shoes for a sightseeing weekend, that’s his problem.  The kids all had shoes appropriate for walking.  But there were other items forgotten, that I would have remembered had I used my checklists (pre-made, stored on the computer) and/or had 15 minutes of peace and quiet in which to just think about what I was doing.

We had lots of police-people telling us to STOP.  Good advice.

More on things left behind later.

Poor kid, dragged hither and yon.
Finally, a good place to stretch out and relax.

Being unprepared also had the detrimental effect on the general mood of the trip.  The kids would have been grumpy no matter what (is it just my kids?  Tell me it’s not just my kids who aren’t very good at doing new and different things, breaking with the routine or walking 5 miles over the course of a day, for 2 or 3 days in a row).  But normally, I am not a grumpy person and my joy and enthusiasm is, if not contagious, plenty enough for all of us.  But if I’m stressed and aggravated, then that mood certainly is contagious.  Poor Jenny, who really has a very hard time rushing and being spontaneous, was so upset when packing that she said she just wanted to go the next day.  She knows, if I don’t, that it’s much better to take the time to do it right.

My normal, happy self.

Sometimes it’s contagious.

He has his own brand of happiness.

Advil for Breakfast

Storming Atlanta

We’re just back from a weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.  It’s been about a year since Bill and I did this kind of trip: wake up early, stay up late, walk walk walk, and walk some more, see this, do that, mandatory fun sort of vacation.  I brought back 682 photos, of which I will only post a tiny fraction.  The great thing about digital cameras is that you can take 682 pictures and be happy with a few dozen good shots.  The kids moaned and whined the entire trip…well, everybody whined a few times, some whined more often than others, and when you have 6 children (and 2 occasionally grumpy adults), there’s always somebody whining.  All that walking, much of it with an extra 30 lbs on my back or shoulders, means I had Advil for breakfast.  More posting to follow after I take a shower and start the laundry.

Better than Crossfit

Family Tent Camping: Having Fun

It was my intent to go camping near the beach so we could just hang out and not rush home.  I have yet to take my kids to the beach or pool this year and have one of them say they’ve had enough before I say it’s time to go.

Unfortunately, three things conspired against this plan.

One, we didn’t get out the door very quickly.  We’re working on organization.  It takes practice.

Two, we brought the dog.  Our dog has had heat stroke more than once, so we have to be very careful with her.  Our tent spot was more sunny than shaded, so she was already getting hot while we pitched the tents and ate lunch.  Then we had to walk a sandy path to get to the water.  Loose sand is extremely hot, and the poor pup’s paws were on fire.  Then we got to the cool water, which was great, except that the waves freaked her out.  She tried to attack them.  We tried taking her a bit deeper and past the breaking waves, but she seemed to be gagging.  I took her up on the beach, but it was too hot.  I took her back to the water, and she attacked the waves. 

Finally, we went for a walk.  She really calmed down then, but I soon realized it was because she had swallowed so much salt water that she felt ill.  She threw up twice on the beach (and once in the van on the way back to camp), and also had some diarrhea.  Back at camp, she drank a gallon of fresh water, but refused food until we returned home.  She burrowed her wet body into the sandy soil that made our campsite, and was absolutely miserable the whole night. 

Dog attacking waves.

Calm dog walking on beach, pre-vomit.

The camera scares her, too, so she really wasn’t liking me at all at this point.
So happy to go home, that she doesn’t mind discarded crocs on top of her.

Next time, I think we’ll kennel her.

It was nice, though, to have her around at whatever time of the night when I awoke suddenly thinking there was some person or creature scratching at the side of the tent.  I scared Bill half to death when I shook him as I called out, “Who’s there?”  It was just Peter rolling around and kicking the wall of the tent making it move.  Immediately after waking Bill, I had a moment of clarity and said, “It can’t be anything or the dog would bark.”  Both she and Bill wished I would have thought of that before waking them up.

The final thing that prevented a fully enjoyable time at the beach was the thunderstorm that rolled in.  We had left our tents open to prevent heat build-up, but that meant rain would get in.  I’d rather have a hot tent than a wet tent, so we had to get back before it poured.

Peter, balancing

Peter, deciding that balancing was too dangerous

Dead wood + water = lots of fun for kids

When I was down beside the sea…a plastic spade they gave to me…

This is Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island.  It’s cool.
Shrimp boat heading out to sea.  St. Simons Island in the background.

Shrimp boat in the sound with mainland Georgia and a thunderstorm behind it.

Almost a nice picture.  Wish I had snapped a few more.

In her own world.

These little white pebbles all up and down the shore are baby clams.

Cruise ship, driftwood, thunderstorm.

Extreme fishing.  Lightening, what lightening?

Brief respite before it started to rain.

What they were doing when I said, “It’s raining!  We have to GO!”

We’ll try this again, soon.  Maybe we’ll go down on a Friday afternoon and set up camp and Bill can meet us after work.  We’ll leave the dog, so we won’t have to worry about her getting hot, sick or scared.  And we’ll leave the tents closed up so that we don’t have to hurry back when it starts to rain.  There’s nothing we can do about the weather, though.  This time of year, there’s almost always a chance of thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon.