Sep 17, 2011

Rock & Roll, WInd & Rain


    Before we felt anything we could hear it.  The rumble was heavy and low.  At first, it sounded like a semi or garbage truck was not following the speed limit in the neighborhood.  When I didn't see any trucks around, I started looking up for a low flying cargo plane.  Then, I felt the ground move.  One of the women I was talking with was sitting on the porch and had tipped her chair back against the wall, balancing on only 2 legs.  As the shaking started, she spastically lurched forward, thinking she was loosing her balance and about to fall over.  The other folks I was standing with, stumbled a bit, like when you're drunk and have trouble remaining in a stationary upright position.  I bent my knees, in sort of a surfer pose to keep my balance and we all looked at each other with really perplexed expressions.
  It only lasted 10-15 seconds, but it was long enough. 

Fault line in my front yard
   It took us a few moments to let the experience sink in and one of the ladies asked,  "What just happened?"  I told the group, "I think we just had an earthquake."  We exchanged a few whoas and questioned whether Virginia really got earthquakes and then went to check on the kids in the back yard.  All of the kids were happily playing with Legos on the back porch and completely oblivious to the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that had just rocked our world. 

  I wandered back over to my own house and did what every other person would have done, raced to my computer and posted on facebook that there was an earthquake!  My goal was to be the "first on the scene" with my reporting and I was successful.  It only took a few minutes and others in my news feed were posting their experiences as well.  

  I also turned on the news.  Sure enough, news reports were starting to hit the air of an earthquake felt in Washington DC and New York City.  It took a little bit before they started mentioning that the rest of Virginia had felt it along with Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and all the way up to Canada.  The epicenter was located between Richmond & Charlottesville and reports of damage started coming in. 

  I tried making some calls, but my home phone and cell were both out of service for about 20 minutes.  I walked back over to the neighbors house to see if they had made contact with their oldest son.  They had just dropped him off at college in Charlottesville 2 days before.  They hadn't seen the TV and I told them they should turn it on.  Right away, Mom ducked back into the bedroom to try and reach him.  I gathered up the kids and we watched some of the news, staying alert for aftershocks.  There were a few, but we didn't feel any of them.


  What an exciting year this has been!  Five days after the earthquake, we welcomed Hurricane Irene.  The hurricane for us, was somewhat of a non-event.  It was an intense and windy rainstorm and not much else.  Not to say that we don't take hurricanes seriously, but we don't live in a flood zone and we were mostly prepared to ride it out.  We have a battery operated weather radio.  I filled gallon baggies with ice and packed the deep freeze.  We had plenty of food as I had just done my big grocery run. 
  We were short on only 1 item: Chocolate Milk.  It seems that everyone under the sun starts hoarding it when they hear of a potential natural disaster!  2 grocery stores were completely wiped out of all dairy products AND chocolate syrup.  I was dreading the thought of being trapped in the house with Lil Bit and no chocolate milk!  I made a trip back to the store for something totally not storm related and magically, it had been restocked.

   Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! 

Big Red demonstrating how strong the winds were
  Handsome and I spent a good portion of the storm standing on the front porch watching the rain.  During the calm in the center of the storm, we drove around the neighborhood to look for damage.  Only a couple of trees down along the fence line and a few roofing tiles blown from their original homes.  We ventured over to a friends house to check for damage.  They evacuated because they were concerned the very large trees in the backyard may not hold up against powerful winds.  Everything was still standing and in good condition.  We went on to Walmart and picked up some soda, chips & beer to ride out the rest of the storm and headed back home.  (Yep, Walmart was still open & busy during a hurricane.)

  When it got dark out, we could see the transformer explosions in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Luckily, we did not loose power.  The lights flickered a few times and the tv jumped but I never had to reset our clocks.  Our little subdivision was it's own little island of light, as almost every home in the surrounding area was dark.  The next morning, we stayed at the house, played and watched tv.  Handsome did work stuff, checking in on his people and making arrangements to get folks back to work. 

Our only storm damage, the tree in the front yard
  Irene was a dud for us personally, but I realize she hit many others very hard.  I hope those affected have the support they need to recover and move forward.  My thoughts are with those who were not so lucky.


Sep 10, 2011

Space, Trains & Fried Chicken

   This summer we sent the kiddos to my parents house for 2 whole weeks!

  Usually, we would fly down to Texas but ticket prices are a bit too high this year.  Instead, we agreed to road trip to the halfway point and exchange the prisoners children.  One of Handsome's childhood friends was in North Carolina for a family reunion so we stopped in Greensboro and spent a day visiting at the Zoo.  Handsome had to go to New Mexico for work while he drove back to VA, the boys and I made the trip from Greensboro, NC to Hunstville, AL on our own.  We took our time and stopped at kid friendly places along the way.  I was super impressed with how well they did in the car.  Whoever invented the portable DVD player is MY HERO!

  So we meet Nonny, PopPop and my sister, Ringy, in Huntsville.  We get about 4 minutes of sleep and PopPop, Ringy, the boys and I get up early to go to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  It was a total trip down memory lane for the grown ups in the group.  The three of us went to Space Camp a few times as part of a science club called Young Astronauts.  My sister and I as members, my Dad as an advisor and chaperon.  The boys enjoyed checking out the Space Shuttles, Rockets and displays.  I think their favorite part of the day was watching people in the Neutral Buoyancy Tank play catch underwater.   

Lil Bit, Big Red & a Rocket
Lil Bit as an Astronaut
Big Red using Astronaut Gloves
Ringy & Mommisaurus Rex

  The next morning, I headed back to NC and the rest of the crew went on to Texas.  The boys were thoroughly spoiled and didn't seem to miss home at all.  (Big Red tried to talk me into letting him stay permanently and since his return has been trying to convince me to send him back.) 

  I leisurely drove to my Great Aunt's house in NC and got a full night's rest!  I did some Urban Exploring and I suspect she thinks I'm a little strange for wanting to venture into the places that I do.  She's a great sport though and watches out for me while I do my thing.  (the photos of that adventure will be a post unto itself)

  When I finally made it home, the quiet was blissful.  That feeling wore off the next day and I wandered around my own house feeling lost without my family to yell at tend to.  I had grand plans of catching up on laundry, working on my business plan, and doing all of the things it's not feasible to do when you have to arrange childcare.  No such luck.

  I was so excited when Handsome came home to have another human to talk to!  My plans for the following week were postponed because "The Office" asked if I could come in again.  It worked out pretty well since I didn't have to worry about finding a sitter.   A highlight of that weekend was managing to make a little bit of dough by having a yardsale the Saturday before heading back down to collect the munchkins.  I sold all the toys they would have "suddenly rediscovered" if  they had been around.  bwuhahahaha! (that's my evil Mommy Laugh)

  For the reverse exchange we met in Chattanooga, TN.  I was not impressed.  The place was sort of a dump and there was no real difference between the nice side of town and the scary side.  It was Big Red's birthday so we rode the Incline and planned to visit an amusement park.  The weather wasn't cooperating so we had a tasty fast food lunch, followed by some cake and then went back to the hotel to open presents and relax.

View from the Incline

Rockin' the Birthday Glasses
Makin' his Wish!
Officially 6 Years Old!
   Cake and fast food didn't hold us over for long so I used the hotel's business center to surf the web for some dinner.  I was hoping for something cool that Big Red would enjoy for his birthday.  I found a riverboat dinner cruise, $40 a person = no go.  A family friendly comedy dinner theater, no shows on Sunday,  The Chattanooga Choo Choo - sounded awesome, but also closed.  It seems that everything is closed in Chattanooga on Sundays!  I changed up my game plan and started looking for "Mom & Pop" type places.  After reading a few reviews, decided to check out a little place named Bea's.

  By far the best part of Chattanooga is Bea's Restaurant!  It's a little family owned diner with a unique spin on the traditional buffet.  Large round tables hold 8 people and in the center is a giant lazy susan.  Once you're seated, the waitress brings the food to your table and places it on the lazy susan.  As fast as one dish is getting low, they bring more!  We loved the concept and the food was AMAZING!

The best Mom & Pop Diner EVER!

Fried Chicken to die for!
Stewed potatoes and salad

Lil Bit ate till he dropped

  The peach cobbler was magnificent and we all left stuffed beyond reason.  We spoke with the owner for a few minutes as we paid at the register.  The restaurant has been in his family for 60 years.  The recipes are his Great Grandmother's and he's had the good sense to not mess with them.  The idea of the lazy susan buffet started as a way to serve local factory workers on their lunch break good, filling food in a short amount of time.  In it's own way, Bea's was the original fast food joint!  Loved it, and anytime we pass nearby, we will be stopping in.

  Stay tuned! I plan on writing about my urban exploring adventure, the earthquake, Hurricane Irene and the beginning of the school year!