Blog Flume

I am a multimedia designer and aspiring writer from Central Illinois who dreams of bigger things. You are entering the hub of my online world. Welcome. Make yourself at home, read some stuff, click a few things, maybe check out my online portfolio. And of course, if you enjoy your stay, please subscribe.

*NOTE* This blog occasionally contains coarse language. Please use discretion when viewing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cleanliness is next to godliness

My wife, Heather, called me at work today and said, "I'm at Target and this monk just walked in." Of course I asked her how the rest of the joke went; was he was alone, or did a priest and rabbi walk in with him?

I also asked if he was carrying around a wooden plank, and if so, how was he pushing his shopping cart. (pie jesu domine, dona eis requiem -SMACK-)

We determined on the phone that it was a legit monk and not a dude in a Ruby's Halloween costume, though we decided he could just as easily have been a friar because we don't know the difference. They seem to have the same uniform.

Then we wondered what exactly a monk would buy at Target, so she kept an eye out for him or followed him around or something. I don't know. We joked about the things he could buy that would be most entertaining, condoms being on the top of the list. Also, sneakers, sandals, razors, rope, a bell, a bookmark, candles, you get the idea.

How does a monk get to Target, anyway? Is there a monastery anywhere near Peoria? I pictured him thumbing a lift from some Amish folk in a wagon. LOL.

Heather called me back after a bit. "A mop, a toilet brush, and Pine-Sol." Well, whaddaya know. They have indoor plumbing at the dirty monkery.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer vacation 2008, part 5


We waken around 7:00 and all get up and dressed. We begin gathering our stuff and I go grab the van so we can hop right in after breakfast. All five of us go to the dining room and have some grub. After breakfast, Ashley, Calliope, Brandon & I hit the miniature golf course while Heather goes to get her fired pottery. Brandon whoops me at mini golf.

After the game, everyone piles into the van & it's off to Swansea. A couple hours later, we're at Heather's parents' house & trading vans again so we can take our newly repaired van home. Of course, though, it doesn't start. I stick the battery on the charger for 90 minutes or so, and we eventually get it started. Heather takes the van to NTB and replaces the battery. Then, we have dinner at Outback with Sharon & the little kids beg to stay a couple more days.

We go along with it and leave Ash & Calliope there with Nana. After a brief trip to the newest metro east Target store, in Swansea, Brandon, Heather & I head home. We finally arrive around 10:30pm and head STRAIGHT to bed. Exhausted!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer vacation 2008, part 4


Today is the day we pick up Ashley from minicamp! We miss him and can't wait to see him, and Calliope has even said she misses him.

We rise at the typical 6:30 or so, take our time getting around and ready for breakfast, and eventually make it to the dining hall about 8:00. For breakfast, I set my sights on bacon, eggs, toast and oatmeal with cinnamon and honey. Milk to drink, as always. Yum.

After eating, Brandon & I take Calliope to her Adventurer Camp, where we learn she will have playmates today. Three other kids are attending this time (she was all alone on Monday). While we take care of that, Heather arranges for us to stay an additional night, so we can do some stuff with Ashley. Afterward, we head over to the Arts & Crafts building so Heather can finish her pottery. While she works on that, Brandon & I shoot some hoops. Once Heather is done, I run up to the parking lot to grab the van & the three of us go to Camp Lakewood to get Ash.

When we open the cabin door, he's hiding under a bed. He's one of the last two boys in his group to be claimed. We give hugs and kisses, see lots of smiles and hear about all kinds of cool stuff he did. After chatting with the counselors a bit, we gather up the last of his stuff and pack into the van. We decide to make a stop at the Trading Post to burn up the rest of his account there (and spend a bit more as well). We get Nerf-type slingshot missiles for Ash and Calliope, as well as a squishy Koosh ball for each. He also gets a Lakewood tee shirt and Brandon and I get a pair of those blaster balls that explode when you smack 'em together.

Back to the room, and we get Ashley a shower (he hasn't had one since Monday) and get cleaned up to grab sissy and go to lunch. I have ham & turkey sandwich with white American on Rye, salad and a couple of chicken rings. After lunch, the kids go down for a nap and Brandon & I take some down-time outside on the dock near our room. We sit and practice the Jew's Harp for an hour or so, goof around on video tape, then take a walk so I can snap some nature photos. It's a gorgeous day, a bit overcast, so the sun's not killing us. Swimming later will be nice since it's not extremely hot like it's been the past couple days.

After nap, at 2:00, comes the rocketry class we signed up for. We build four rockets and walk down past the tennis courts to launch them at 3:00. My nosecone and Heather's stay attached, but Ashley's and Brandon's blow completely off. Fun time.

Next, we gather laundry (especially Ashley's smelly camp duds) to take to the on-site laundry facility. While Heather gets that started, Brandon, Ash & I have an archery appointment. Calliope comes along to watch.

First round, Brandon hits the target a few times, I hit three of five, and Ash (with the help of the instructor) misses completely. Ashley gets to try again, since there are only two lefties in the group, and he gets closer, again with the instructor's help. Next time up, I adjust my aiming technique and manage to hit the target all five times, even getting two bullseyes. Brandon does about the same. By the last go round, I get four of five bullseyes, with one being in the next ring out, Ashley hits the target TWO TIMES (boy, is he HAPPY!), and Brandon is hunting in the woods behind the targets for a couple of his arrows. LOL.

After finishing our final activity, it's about 5:00. We reconnect with Heather and go to the lodge for dinner. Afterward, it's down to the beach with all of us. There's not a soul in sight, other than lifeguards. I guess right after or during dinner is not a prime swimming time slot. We spend a good hour or so swimming & Ash even goes down the little slide into the water a couple times. Just as we decide get out & run over to the Country Store for some ice cream, an enormous horsefly chases us out of the water. It's freakin' hilarious to watch.

While the rest of the family eat their cones, I retrieve our clean laundry from the on-site facility. Then, it's off to our room for showers, jammies & bedtime for all, even me. Another awesome day. One morning left to go, then it's back to work on Friday.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer vacation 2008, part 3


We wake up this morning around 6:30, as usual. Everyone gets dressed and I bring some clothes in that we had set outside wet, to dry. We gather the dirty clothes together in bags, so we can take them into town to launder today. It is to be an adventure day today, with spontaneous activities instead of planned ones. Well, except for the pony ride. That comes after breakfast.

So we head down to breakfast at our usual 8am. I go for two sausage patties, a scoop of scrambled eggs, two biscuits (one covered with gravy) some OJ and milk. Yummilicious. Then, it's off to the Triangle-Y Ranch for Calliope's pony ride. Whee! Fun! Done.

After the ride, the plan is to head out to the Berryman Trail to see if we can find Heather's old Lakewood stamping grounds, in particular a stretch of creek that she used to stop at during horse overnights, and a general store they used to go to as well when she was a little camper herself. As we were about to leave the ranch, Heather spots Ashley with his camp group, playing in a stream over the hill from the ranch. We park the van and run across the road to hide behind a line of trees and watch him to see if he's having fun. I bring the video camera.

They are playing a game where one of the counselors is apparently a monster called "Crawdad," who like to kidnap children and take them down- or upstream. To quell his hunger for child flesh, they must all band together and beat him silly with pool noodles, while he throatily chants "Crawdad, Crawdad, Crawdad!" Ash is having fun. He's wearing his camouflage jammies for some reason, but he's smiling and having a good time. It makes me happy, but makes me miss him even more. I can't wait to see him again tomorrow. He's gonna be so grown up. Hope he doesn't greet us carrying a cigar and a snifter of brandy: "Hello mother. Good to see you again, father. How've you been?"

So we go for a drive, kinda blindly, through Mark Twain National Forest, looking for a specific but unnamed creek. It's kinda like looking for a needle in a needle stack. A good hour later, the immediate goal becomes getting out of the park and figuring out how to get back to Potosi so we can do our laundry and grab some lunch. By 1:00 or so, we make it back to town and stop at the laundromat to get some clothes in the wash.

Leaving the clothes there to launder, we run to Taco Hell for lunch, hoping it will be better than it is in Illinois. Not really any different. Oh well. Haven't had it in ages, so it was still kinda nice even though it was sucky. So we go back to put our stuff in dryers, then leave it there again & run to Walmart to return a shitty watch Heather got me a couple days ago.

Once we get back to the laundromat, of course only half of it is dry, so we pull out what's done, restart the rest, and run to gas up the van, cuz it's only $3.49 per gallon here. After the gas, we are able to retrieve the rest of the laundry and try one more time for the creek and general store.

We do find a general store that may or may not have been the right one, but Heather talks to the attendant and is told that the creek she's looking for is probably right up the road. She tells Heather as she leaves the store, "I hope you find your memories."

We drive down the gravel road she directs us to, and we find a kickass stream. Brandon, Calliope, Heather & I climb down the bank and hop in up to our ankles. We make our way along with the current and find an honest-to-gosh swimmin' hole, rope swing and all. Calliope has her bathing suit on, but the rest of us give in to the urge and hop in wearing our clothes. Wow. What a memorable experience. I am sooooooo glad we did this today.

Brandon swings out a few times and plops in the stream. Heather and Brandon float on their backs and have a race downstream. Calliope and I chuck rocks into the creek and swim around in the shallower bits. This may not be the right stream, or at least not the right area of the right stream, but it's definitely a fantastic find. It's hard to say how long we stay there, but it's at least an hour.

I feel the urge to take off, so we can get back for dinner, so we take off just as another family is showing up to our "secret swimming hole." Ten minutes after we leave, the rain starts. We get back to our room & unpack the clean clothes in enough time for dinner. I get chicken pot pie and green beans, lots of water again, and celery with peanut butter for dessert. After eating, we manage to beat the storm back to the Arts & Crafts building, where Heather plans to finish her mug. However, they are closed, so we decide to go to a barn dance instead.

The dance is fun. Heather & I do the Electric Slide & three or four other country line dances, the kids join in for the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance, and we finish with the Cha-Cha Slide. When we leave, it's about 8:30 and the storm is in full force. Instead of going right to our room, we grab a couple of games at the front desk and take them to a lounge for all of us to play.

Calliope, Brandon & I play "Lucky Ducks" while Heather runs to the room to get our snacks. Upon her return, Heather, Brandon & I play Boggle for six rounds while Calliope draws a picture. I win. 54 to 43 to 21. Boo-ya!

Finally, back to the room for beddy-bye. And here I am, last one standing, at 11:30 pm, wrapping up this chapter of my blog for you. Done now til Part IV. Talk to you tomorrow.

Summer vacation 2008, part 2


Up at 6:30, and I take a few pics of the sun on Lake Sunnen. We need to kill some time before our scheduled breakfast, and I decide to do some blogging. Thus is born Part I. We head down to breakfast a bit later-- for me, French toast, cheesy omelet, hash brown casserole, milk and cappuccino.

After breakfast, we all take Calliope to Explorer Camp (shhh- it's for 4 and up). She's the only little explorer today. One of the counselors is Daniel from last night's Musical Canoe adventure. Then, Brandon & I have the Alpine Tower to conquer at 9:30am. A three-sided tower with all the choices in the world as far as how you climb. We climb simultaneously, but I reach the first platform first, about 20 feet up. Brandon chose climbing up the side of the inclined cargo net- pretty hard. I wait for him a bit, then begin my climb up the inclined telephone pole with rock wall holds. Then I get to a straight vertical pole & have to climb up it. My muscles begin burning and my fear of heights is REALLY nagging me. I make it to about 40 feet and perch myself on a single cable, hugging my telephone pole to save my life.
Brandon hasn't really left the platform yet, my muscles are spent, and I realize I'm not gonna make it to the top. I wait it out a few minutes as Brandon climbs below me, but it's no use. I have to rappel down.
Brandon continues his climb and eventually makes it to where I was. I snap photos from the ground of his ascent. From there, he stutters, but keeps on truckin' all the way to the top. 50 FEET UP! Wow! Nice job, dude!

Only 10:00, and already it's HOT! We are drenched in sweat. We go back to the room to rest a bit & I practice my Jew's Harp a little. Brandon goes swimming for a little while, but I'm not movin'. Heather has run into town to get some more supplies, so Brandon & I chill a bit & check out some YouTube vids.

Once Heather gets back, we all go get Calliope and head to lunch. I have two bowls of chili and some milk. Then, it's off to Arts & Crafts to paint some pottery. Calliope makes the ugliest damned ice cream cone I have ever seen. Black ice cream? Really? Yuck. I go for a tiny chiminea, Brandon paints a monkey, and Heather begins work on an enormous mug.
We run out of time, because Brandon & I have the Summit Zip at 2:00. Heather is the only one not finished, so she places hers on the "unfinished" rack and we go back. Brandon & I do our afternoon zipline & then some rifle shootin' while Calliope lies down for a nap & Heathehr hangs out in the room.

Zipline was cooler this time vs. two years ago, cuz we got to race. They put in a parallel zip. So I climb up first, then wait for Brandon. We sit next to one another on the platform. It's FRICKIN' HOT! 3, 2, 1, Go! 30 feet up, 500 feet long. Awesome run, and Brandon wins. We get it done just in time, because at that point they begin shutting down the more strenuous activities due to the heat. The temperature today reaches 102, with a heat index of 116. Luckily, we have a less strenuous activity scheduled next- riflery.

So we drive partway down and walk the rest of the way to the rifle range. We take the second round for our turn and take a seat at the guns. It's hot, man. I have my glasses off and the safety glasses on, plus we have our ear protection-headphone-thingies on & the sweat is dripping down into our eyes while the goggles fog up from the inside. Aiming carefully, we let fly with our guns. Brandon hits the target all five times, including one bullseye. I manage all five bullseyes (again, just like two years ago), with two in the same hole, Robin Hood-style. Found something I'm evidently good at, despite the shitty vision. Perhaps I should hit the firing range sometime.

Brandon & I make our way back to the room where Calliope is still napping. We regale Heather with tales of our exploits & chill out for a bit. Once Calliope wakes, we all go out to the beach. Calliope & I build a sand castle and we all do some lake swimming. As it nears dinner time, we start to head in. We gather our stuff and come in for showers before going up to dinner.

I have a big salad with cottage cheese, chicken 'n dumplings, tater tots and corn, with Mountain Dew to drink. After mealtime, which of course was delicious, we come back to the room and pop "Robots" in the Mac, lie on the beds & kinda let Calliope have the run of things for a while. Come 9:00, Brandon & I head out for our final event of the day, the Moonlight Zip.
We go in a group of about 15 on a dark hike about 100 yards into the woods, to the site of a zipline. Here's the deal: You hook in, take off running down a pitch-black hill, and eventually the ground disappears out from under you. You zip over a valley for about 300 feet and rise up on the zip cable. Your only illumination is the stars in the sky, through the treetop canopy. Gravity brings you back down the line to your starting hill, where you go to the top and then run down to do the same thing over again. Three times each. Very cool, very enjoyable, worth the 90 minutes and $20 each we invested in it.

Then, back to the room where the girls are in bed. We take turns showering (still friggin' hot as hell out there) and hit the sack. Aaaahhhh......

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer vacation 2008, part 1

Leave Peoria and head to Belleville to visit with Heather's parents. Get some work done on the van while we're there (since like the ONLY mechanic we trust lives there. -- FOSTER'S AUTOMOTIVE -- They do GREAT work.)
Have dinner with her folks that evening at Hometown Buffet in Fairview Heights. Tolerable food, as usual. Heather & the kids are in bed that night by 8:30. Brandon & I stay up shooting the breeze another hour.

Get up at 4am after a crappy sleepless night. Bed sucks, pillow sucks, hot as hell in that room of the house, cat hair in the air, ACHOO! Get the family in the van & leave around 5am for Missouri. Stop at 6:00 for breakfast at the Waffle House- YUM. We try to get breakfast there at least every other time we come down here.
Back on the road. Arrive at Trout Lodge in Potosi, MO around 9:00. We can't check in yet, so we pre-register and head to the Country Store to schedule our events. First event: Summit Cilmb & Rappel. Brandon & I begin gearing up at 10:00. Brandon goes first. Here are the details:
1. Climb 15 feet up a telephone pole to an attached log. Walk up the log, which is inclined, about 25 feet log with a rise of maybe an additional 5 feet, to another pole.
2. Hook into a new safety line, off the belay, and cross 20 feet to the next pole, walking across two WOBBLY cables (20 feet up, remember). It's called "Tired Two Legs."
3. Hook into a new safety line and cross about 10 feet on two parallel 2x6's, edge up.
4. Hook into a belay line & climb the next telephone pole an additional 10 feet up to cross a vertical rope 'X' that's about 20 feet long. The top rope & bottom rope cross in the center, where the top becomes the bottom & vice versa.
5. Off belay, on new safety line. Climb into the center of a rope web & rappel down thru the center from 30 feet.
Brandon does great. I... cheat, kinda. On "Tired Two Legs," I just decide to leap off the pole and see how far my body weight and momentum can carry me before I have to use my legs. I make it 3/4 of the way, then finish strong.
For step 4, I begin climbing out on the rope with my eyes closed, then about 4 feet out decide to go for the leap again. I pull myself along with the top rope until I can use both ropes again comfortably. Screw that stupid 'X'.
After that, lunch. Fried chicken, roast beef, mac n cheese, mashed taters, green beans, LOTS OF WATER.
Then we all go tie-dye some tee shirts together. Lots of fun and we all did a different pattern. After that, it's time to take Ashley to register for his overnight camp at YMCA Camp Lakewood. We get him to his cabin to meet his three counselors- Schizo, Violet and Mischief. I make up Ashley's bed and we get him all settled & give hugs & kisses & take off back to Trout Lodge.
Brandon, Heather, Calliope & I make a run to WalMart for supplies & then come back, register for new events at the Country Store. After that, we come back to the lodge & get checked in to our room, where we unpack. Soon after comes dinner. Yum. I love the food here. I have baked pollack filets with curry rice and taters au gratin with iced tea.
The four of us hop in a canoe after dinner & row across the lake to campfire, where we sing songs along with a guitar-toting Aussie camp counselor. On the last ditty, "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)," I whip out my Jew Harp and twang along. Lots of grins round the fire.
Back to the room, where Heather & Calliope shower. Brandon & I head out for a moonlight hike at 9pm, for an hour. When we get back, a quick snack of trail mix, plus a shower, then... BED! Finally! What a fantastic day, though.

More to come.