This last weekend, we drove to Illinois to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday. We were just a couple people short of having the whole family together, which is quite a feat in itself. The weather couldn't have cooperated any more if we had planned it ourselves. Overcast and breezy - it was a wonderful escape from the Midwest heatwave.
All the way home after a day of celebrating my grandpa, I talked for quite a while about my favorite memories of growing up with Kenny Lock as my grandpa. I am grateful to have had the experiences I did. Horse shows, cattle sales, grain elevators, state fairs and all other aspects of small town life. What my favorite memories came down to were all about my grandpa trusting us (mostly me and Carrie, in my experience) to act responsibly. Giving us trust and leeway that we wouldn't find elsewhere. Sometimes we lived up to it and other times we didn't. But it shaped who I became. I am so thankful to have those memories to look back on.
My grandpa is still a man who is a pleasure to be near. Stories and opinions galore. I am glad we got to celebrate him.
I haven't had much to say on the blog lately it seems. As one lies around too long, one's mind begins to atrophy... Sophia and I have spent the first few weeks of summer in a very strict routine of chilling and swimming, with an occasional errand. That's been fun, but I've been surprised to find that without a routine, Sophia and I tend to get a little snippy at one another. Actually, it's just been Sophia being snippy and me trying to stay calm about it. Apparently, she's in a bit of a teenager phase, in which she disagrees with pretty much everything I say and can defend in at least five ways every action she takes. Sigh.
This morning, she headed back to Samuel Preschool for a two-week summer camp. They are going to hunt for treasure and play in the sprinklers. She was very excited. I really think adding some structure to our days will help us both tremendously. I'm also pretty sure that it will help the organization of our apartment...
In two weeks, we will be in Seattle for our family vacation. Visiting our friends again. Can not wait! A few weeks after we get back, we'll be moving into a condo next door. Still renting, but renting a much nicer place. It has a little less character in the architecture, but the central heating and air and the storage make up for that little flaw.
All that to say that it's a busy summer around here. Lots of fun and a little bit of learning.
Oh yeah, and 59 days till Kindergarten.
I really couldn't tell you how many times I declared my love for the Big Easy while we were walking its streets.
Thursday afternoon, my mom and dad took Sophia home with them. Our plan was to come back to St. Louis and get about five hours of sleep before leaving at midnight. It's a ten hour drive from St. Louis. But, seeing as we were like children waiting to go to Disneyland (children who can drive), we ended up just staying awake instead. We watched The Avengers at a local theatre, and got onto I-55.
We arrived in New Orleans just in time to eat an early lunch. I'll try not to go into detail about every meal, but it may be difficult. Anyway, first meal was The Gumbo Shop, a favorite of ours. It was great, and everything would just get better from there.
After lunch, we did what we would do for the majority of our weekend - walked and walked. We walked every street of the French Quarter. We strolled down blocks we haven't been on before and we explored all of the busiest blocks as well. I don't know when they did this, but the city has now blocked off several blocks of Royal Street for pedestrians during the day, allowing vehicles down Bourbon instead. Then switching those two at night. This change brought out some fantastic entertainment on Royal. We saw jazz bands, jazz solos, contemporary musicians, street performers, an opera singer and many more. Until the rain washed everyone out for an hour or two. Then another group would start all over again. At night, it was much quieter, especially off Bourbon.
A new walk for us was into a neighborhood called the Marigny, east of the French Quarter. It's a little edgier and local than that neighborhood. The Marigny is home to the jazz club, Snug Harbor, which often hosts Ellis Marsalis. He's been a jazz musician and teacher, primarily in New Orleans, for more than five decades. He's also father to four currently successful jazz musicians. After doing some research on jazz clubs, we bought tickets to his Friday night show. Marsalis led a fantastic jazz quartet. Watching them communicate and perform together was mesmerizing.
Saturday was walking, shopping, eating, drinking, walking. So wonderful. The evening was spent on a tour of the French Quarter with a haunted history group. It wasn't the jump out at you and grab you type of tour. It was a walk and chat about various tragic events in the area that have led to some mysterious occurrences. It was quite fun. There are some stories and histories that I look forward to reading more about.
After our tour, we found another place for great jazz, Fritzel's European Jazz Club. Completely different, but absolutely fun. This group was dedicated to keeping people happy and bouncing. They play a short set so the hostess can rotate a new group in for drinks and tips. They were highly entertaining! And hard to get a picture of...
All of these things don't explain why I love New Orleans. I don't fully understand, so explaining it is pretty hopeless. It's the one city I know that simply fills me up. I'm satisfied in my belly, my ears, my mind, my soul and my heart.
One reason I can name is the people - its residents and tourists both. Mind you, there are some in both categories that aren't easy to love, but, for the most part, everyone is fun to be around. The residents are happy you're there, especially since Katrina. They are interested in your story. They want to share part of theirs, and they're willing to go way above and beyond normal interaction - even if you're not eating at their table or buying their art or coming into their bar. They just make it fun to walk around. The tourists there are a different sort, too. Eye contact is easy to come by and is usually followed up with conversation. We met people from all over the place. We know that because we actually chatted. In lines, in restaurants, just standing around. It's almost like people want to confirm that others are having this same incredible experience. People, in general, are easier to be around in New Orleans. (And it's not the alcohol.)
Another reason that I love New Orleans is our own history here. We started our life together there ten years ago. Highs and lows and lots of life later, it still meets us where we are.
I love this city. Because I think it loves me back.
Last Sunday, the three of us had the most fantastic day at the zoo. We walked from our apartment. And it was a lovely day for a trek through the woods. Sophia so enjoyed leading us down the path. With gusto.
Once we got into the zoo, we just wandered aimlessly. Ate and watched animals. If we felt like resting, we rested. If we felt like skipping an exhibit or spending an extra long time somewhere, we did it. We just allowed ourselves all the freedom in the world. Normally it's too hot or threatening rain or we have other plans in the day to work in. Not on this day.
We even rode the train just for the sake of the ride and the rest.
It was our favorite kind of day together. And a great way to start our celebration of ten years of marriage.
Before school was even out, I had already reached the limit of how many times I was willing to answer the question, "How many days till kindergarten?"
Sophia is very excited about school. I kept telling her that I didn't want to wish away my summer. We are going to have too much fun! That didn't stop her from asking the question, though... I mentioned my problem one afternoon on the playground and a sitter of one of Sophia's classmates had the perfect idea. A paper chain of the same length as the number of days till Kindergarten.
So we did it, and I highly recommend this for counting down a time period of three months or less. Sophia wrote all the numbers (except a few in the 30's that she got bored with), and we both stapled them together.
No more questions. And I can tell you that there are 75 days till Kindergarten starts.