Monday, March 29, 2010

Minnesotans in Kentucky

My folks flew in from Minnesota to visit this past weekend. Crazy as it sounds, the weather's been nicer in northern Minnesota than in Bowling Green this past month. So we were relieved to have at least one day of warm, sunny weather while they visited. In celebration, we headed to Mammoth Cave to hike on Sal Hollow trail. Along the way, we had to make a quick stop on the curvy road we were following and my folks were fortunate enough to witness me puking on the side of the road. Shortly afterward we ate our sandwiches and carried on with the hike we had planned.

Later that evening we made homemade pasta with Andouille sausage. In the photo below my mom and Josh are running the pasta dough through the "extractor" (much like those little Play-doh sets, except this is the grown up version). Saturday night's wind rolled in colder temps and a cloudy sky for Sunday so we had a leisurely breakfast of waffles and then made our way to shop for a grill and a table and chairs for the deck. After stops at a few different stores, we made our choice and officially graduated from charcoal to a gas grill with new "infrared heat" technology. We tested it out with some buffalo burgers and spent some time during dinner discussing baby names. Unfortunately, we did not reach a consensus.

My folks left this morning after dropping me off for work (ensuring that I got there early as opposed to my usual couple minutes late). They left me with their still nameless sixth grandchild warmly tucked in my belly, and will return in two months when the Meltzarp creation will have emerged.

To end, a view of the increasingly larger tummy. Josh took this photo while we were on break from our birthing class, where we were shown videos of babies emerging from their mums. It left me a little freaked out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vernal Equinox

It's been a nice week back in Bowling Green, as the sun has finally begun to make more of an appearance, and the weather's warming. The students on campus have come to life, doing more than hurrying along to class as they stop and play frisbee and sprawl out on grassy stretches (I just hope these weren't the students who were missing from my class last Thursday night!). Better yet, on my bike home for lunch the other day I passed a group playing beer pong out on their porch. It was 1:00 pm, the sun was out, why not? Class? What class?
I find it fitting that as everything begins to grow and come to life again, my belly (and babe!) is following suit. The kicks inside are no longer just flutters, but some serious pelts. One of my amusements of late is sitting and watching my bare stomach ripple. And as I've grown larger, people seem to be getting nicer and nicer. The other day at Home Depot as I carted around a load of mulch, I had about eight different employees stop and ask me if I needed help. As I made my way out to the car, two came running over to assist during the loading process. While I was kneeling down to get a jar of mayonnaise yesterday at the grocery store, a little girl appeared, muttered "I've just got to do this," and gave me a hug.
Josh and I have begun to attend classes that are supposed to prepare us for the birth. I was reminded again of how little space this babe's head and shoulders must squeeze through, and how my internal organs are continually adjusting for the expanding space that this babe requires (now the weight of a head of cabbage, or 3 lb.- whichever is easier to imagine). We worked on breathing exercises and the partners practiced pushing exercises, as they did not want the ladies spurring some early labor action.
Yesterday I went to join my friends Rachele and Scott and their now 4-month-old Mila who were picnicking at the park up the way. I received great instruction on how a Baby Bjorn works, what to check when the babe is unhappy, what different facial expressions might be indicating. It is a whole new language that I am anxious to figure out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Southwest Tour II

The day after our sunny trip to the Grand Canyon, around a foot of snow descended upon Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet). We changed our plans from driving down to Sedona, to heading a bit higher into the mountains to a nordic center, where we rented cross country skies. The conditions were blizzard-like, with high winds and heavy amounts of snowfall. Our tracks were completely covered upon return to our original path, and the only way we knew we were following a trail was due to little orange blazes nailed to trees every fifty feet or so.

After the snowy adventure, we returned to Jacquie's and walked to a bar where Jacquie and Kate enjoyed beers and I had a refreshing Pepsi. Then it was dinnertime at Jacquie's place.

The following day we drove back to Vegas to return Kate to the airport for her flight home to Portland. We tried to convince her to change her flight back, but that whole work thing got in the way.
Jacquie and I then drove north to Zion National Park. Thanks to the National Park Service, I have posted a map to show our route (click to enlarge).

Zion was absolutely spectacular, and in such a remote setting. There were few tourists, but it was apparent that this will soon change with summer's arrival. We checked into a great little hotel in the quaint little town of Springdale on the edge of the park.

We planned a good hike up to Angel's Landing. In the photo above, Jacquie is pointing to where we would soon ascend.

Looking down at the route we had just followed.

And continuing up...

Soon we were in a snowier zone, and the climb was getting a little more precarious.

We reached the last stretch of this trail, which we began to ascend, but as we gripped onto chains and tried to find safe footing on ice, we decided to turn around.

The photo above shows the route we would have taken, which traverses over the narrow point of rock to the cliff in the center of the photo. Once again, this confirmed that our decision to turn around was a good one. The views were plenty nice from where we were too.

If you look closely, you can see the road far down below.

On our way back down, passing through a switchback section called Walter's Wiggles.

One of many Juniper trees along the trail

Jacquie and the beautiful layers of sandstone

View from below the upper falls, where the Emerald Pools lie.

After two days in the park, we had to venture back south to Flagstaff. If you reference the map above again, we made our way down to Hurricane, on to Pipespring National Monument, then followed Hwy 89 past the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Along this route was the infamous town of Colorado City, where a community of Morman Fundamentalists live. We stopped at the mercantile in town and were stared at by women who looked much different from us. They sported long, shapeless dresses, and their hair was braided in a peculiar way. This stop was all the more interesting to me as I am in the middle of the book Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer, which addresses this town in particular, and the practice of polygamy.

In the photo above are the Vermillion Cliffs. Much of our drive through northern Arizona looked this way, with wide open expanses of arid land, and stunning rock formations. There were few cars and hardly a person was in sight. We arrived back in Flagstaff at dusk, ate Mexican food at La Fonda, and the following day Jacquie drove me down to Phoenix to catch my flight home. It was such an adventure of a trip, and reaffirmed that I am lucky to have friends like Kate and Jacquie.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Southwest Tour I

I landed in Las Vegas last Friday and hopped on a shuttle to meet my friends Jacquie and Kate at a giant castle hotel named The Excalibur, which was on the strip next to other out of this world hotels and casinos. The city was a sight, with people gambling and drinking libations at all hours of the day and night, men on street corners handing out "business cards" with photos of naked women, a mini Elvis posing for photos with tourists, scantily clad women dancing on bars, LONG stretch Hummer limousines, and oh so much more. It was so interesting simply people-watching in this city.
I was probably not the type of tourist the city hopes for, as I did not contribute a cent to the slot machines, nor liquor, nor shows for that matter. But I did partake in the eating of overpriced foods and my slumber in the Excalibur was peaceful. Though winning big money would have been nice, I just didn't think it was in my cards, and most important to me was that I was with my good friends.

A number of people walked the streets with these large plastic vessels filled with sweet alcoholic drinks. This mini Eiffel Tower was given up on.

A sight like many in the city

Taking a break for beers. Well... though it appears I have a finished beer in front of me, I actually spent the evening watching the girls enjoy their cold beverages.

Note Jacquie is sporting her Bon Jovi t-shirt, gearing up for the night ahead. Jacquie went to see Jon perform on Saturday night and then we packed up the following morning and drove eastward to Flagstaff, Jacquie's hometown.

On our way out of town we stopped at a Chipotle, a favorite fast food place. Above I thought I'd offer my view of my beer-gut-like stomach with food in lap.

We had a long wait at the Hoover Dam, where they are constructing a new bridge (pictured above).

The following day we made the drive to the Grand Canyon from Jacquie's place in Flagstaff. Though it was my second time seeing the canyon, it was once again such a stirring sight. Over and over we could not help remarking on the beauty of this geological wonder.

We thought it might be good to show proof that this little babe had its first trip to the Grand Canyon, despite the fact it wasn't offered the same views that we had.

Way down below (this was taken with zoom), hikers make their way up a trail.