Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life at the "Lakey Lake"

Day 15: Saturday, July 31, 2010
Life at the "Lakey Lake"

Feeling better and happy to be settled in one place for a week, we started off our Saturday at the Lake of the Ozarks right - on the boat.

With Mark a the wheel, our first stop was Gators - a very green and very fun restaurant where Andrew furthered his love of sweet potato fries and also discovered ranch dressing. Big day for him, as it would be for anyone who was trying such a delicious condiment for the first time.

Mark, Jerry, and Andrew wore matching American flag shorts that they picked up at Walmart for five dollars each - but the look was priceless.

Mark's smooth driving over the "lakey lake" (as Andrew calls it) put our sweet little man to sleep not once, but twice...

Mom and Dad took advantage of the sleeping baby whenever they could...

As the night closed in, Mark and April dominated Jer and Sue in the customary game of Sequence. Plans were made for the rest of the week and soon we were all off to bed in the fabulously frigid house (but, hey - that's what blankets are for).

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Cold, Hard Truth

Day 14: Friday, July 30, 2010
The Cold, Hard Truth

Despite our “he's just teething” comments to everyone that has met Andrew in the past few days, morning brought the sniffles to Mom and Dad as well and we had to admit that we might... and we stress might... have a vacation cold. For the time being, however, we chose to slap the word “allergies” on this experience and forge ahead to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, location of April's parents' (Jerry and Sue) summer house.

We said our goodbyes to April's Grandma and Grandpa and packed our family back into the RV.

With wads of snotty tissues crammed into cup holders we found ourselves cruising through a construction zone in western Illinois when we suddenly lost power in the RV and things came to a gentle slow. Thankfully, we made it about two inches outside of the one-lane construction area before we came to a stop. Inspector Mark and April's Dad Jerry (via phone) assessed the damage and determined that if we could get her started again we'd take our trusty Royan Vehicle to the next town for service. Fortunately she started right up (with the “Check Engine” light on). Once at our service destination we were referred to yet another service stop about two hours south. As we got moving again in the RV the check engine light turned off. Elated, April assumed we were on our way and all was fine and well with the world again. Mark felt differently; he snapped off his magnetic sunglasses, assessed the dashboard and stated, “Don't you know anything about electronics? No engine light is even worse! At least when it was on before I knew there was a problem! Now no light! No problem? I don't think so! This is even worse!”

At this very moment one of our lamps fell right off the RV wall...

There are no pictures from this time, for it was very dark... literally.

The sweet musical renderings of Jimmy Buffet pulled us out of our funk as we drove through Mexico, Missouri to the appropriate tune of Mexico... April took to busting a move and Mark and Andrew waved their arms around and danced as best they could from the front seats.

Oooh, Mexico

It sounds so simple

I just got to go

The sun's so hot

I forgot to go home

I guess I'll have to go now...

Another screening of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 transpired and we arrived in one piece in Greenview, Missouri on the Lake of the Ozarks.

Frequent partiers might best know Lake of the Ozarks for the famous Party Cove... but we won't be going there (at least not on this visit... we would need April's sister with us to pull off that sort of partying feat).

Sue greeted us with a welcome offering of cold beers, homemade dishes and best of all - fresh ideas for baby entertainment. First on the list was introducing Andrew to his new life jacket. He wasn't very in to the idea so Dad tried it on first to show that it's not so scary. Once we pried the jacket off of Dad and got it on to the baby we walked him around the boat so he could get the feel of things on the water. Andrew of course went right for the steering wheel!

April's old high chair was brought out, dusted off and provided a perfect perch for Andrew to reek havoc on all that was edible.

He also discovered that whenever he said "Apple Pie" and raised his arms he could get us to do the same - so this went on for several hysterical minutes...

Then straight to Grandma's big bathtub...

Once the baby was fast asleep, we collected on the screen porch to listen to the boats pass by and the crickets sing. Sue who is usually cut off from all things technology while at the Lake also got her first look at the blog. Nothing better than summer at the Lake!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Country Boys and Girls Gettin' Down on the Farm

Day 13: Thursday, July 29, 2010
Just Country Boys and Girls Gettin' Down on the Farm

In true farmer style, Andrew awoke with the sun at 6am and began a full, fun day of exploring his Great Grandparents' farm. After all, there were chores to be done that just couldn't wait...

First, the barn cats had to be fed, and with a new batch of kittens hungry for breakfast, we couldn't keep them waiting. April's Grandpa, Lloyd, showed us the ropes...

Next, off to the gardens (as in multiple gardens) to pick fresh zucchini, summer squash, a few tomatoes, and to pull Arthur the dog out of the strawberry patch.

To ward off any morning breath, Mark was also sure to try some of the homegrown spearmint... In true Andrew style he had to taste anything Dad was eating...

Flooded with questions, Grandpa Lloyd took the time to explain some of his farming secrets...

After a hard morning's work, the boys headed back up to the house to wash up and get ready for supper (lunch)...

Because farm work is never done, afternoon chores included a trip to the Carthage Senior Center, where we were recruited by Grandpa to help him deliver a “meals on wheels” type of program to local needy seniors. While waiting for the meals to be packed up, Mark was asked to play his first “gig” of the trip. Following a round of pure musical gibberish (the piano was last tuned around the turn of the nineteenth century) and a standing ovation, we got down to the business of helping others.

With Lloyd at the wheel and April managing two food coolers and a list from the backseat, we embarked through the streets of Carthage. Early in the endeavor we encountered a construction related road block that threatened timely delivery of the crucial rations. Mark (who foolishly wore flip flops for this pavement pounding door-to-door delivery route) announced selflessly that he would do whatever it took to make sure the mission was completed – even if it meant fashioning a pair of moccasins out of a roadside sign so that he could nimbly sprint around the blockade. Thankfully, Grandpa Lloyd said that wouldn't be necessary and suggested that we simply re-route in our automobile. With Grandpa's quick thinking, the delivery was only delayed by about 15 seconds. Mark conceded that he probably could not have made moccasins that quickly.

Back at the house, Mark took Andrew for a bicycle ride around the farm, and the gravel roads put the little man right to sleep. Not wanting to wake him, Mark put Andrew and the bike up against a tree and took some time to enjoy the great weather (and the sleeping baby).

As the sun set on our great day, we heading into town to visit historic Navoo, IL for a massive buffet dinner at the famous Hotel Navoo. After one too many trips to the food line, we waddled back to the farm and settled in for some evening entertainment by Mark on the piano. Eager to redeem himself after his out-of-tune-flop at the Senior Center, Mark brought everyone to their feet with his rendition of the blues classic “Kansas City.” His playing was spot on, his vocals were up for interpretation. Either way, there were no complaints from this audience. Rock on, Carthage, rock on...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Olden Days

Day 12: Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Olden Days

Morning in Ottawa brought a cranky baby in full-on teething mode to our vacation. Snot-running, mouth-drooling, upset baby - joyfully coupled with said baby not wanting to let us out of his site. While Andrew tried to take advantage of any opportunity he could get for pain relief (fishing with a snotty hand in Mom's drink for ice cubes, for example), Mom and Dad considered making a commercial for Infant Motrin to show the amazing before-and-afters.

Despite Andrew leaving a trail of snot everywhere he went, we did manage to squeeze in a quick visit to loyal blog followers April's Uncle Bob and Aunt Doris, as well as cousins Tyler and Maddie. After that, we fully committed to adding on a few more vacation pounds by heading out to lunch again - this time with April's friend Michael ("Buzzy"), and enjoyed hearing a fresh batch of his always entertaining stories.

Despite the fact that they've met before and that Drew was wearing a shirt Buzzy had given him, there was some love lost in the transition from Mom's lap to Buzzy's for the photo opp (we blame it on the teething pain more than Buzzy himself). Also, Andrew doesn't seem to like anyone these days if it's not Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, or Buzz Lightyear.

Of particular interest to us was Buzzy's involvement in Seneca's (April's home town) annual Shipyard Days. Seems that once Buzzy got his hands on this festival everything just magically turned to organized. When asked how he did it he replied "Well, I just went on Amazon and bought a book called How to Run a Successful Outdoor Festival."

Bidding farwell to Ottawa, we loaded up the Winnebago and headed to April's Grandparents' farm in Carthage, IL. According to Mark, this was the first time he'd been on a "real" farm.

The views and the weather were breathtaking, and we settled in with a fresh-from-the-garden dinner and a pitcher of sweet tea.

FYI: "dinner" is dinner but "supper" is lunch.

Mark rocked the piano, while Andrew rocked the "Davenport" (can't get enough of this Midwest talk)...

Lawn chairs were opened, well-water baths for dirty, snotty babies were drawn, and we talked about the "olden days" late into the night. As we nodded off in our rocking chairs, fireflies danced around the cornfields and we felt right at home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home is Where the Best Pizza Is...

Day 11: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Home is Where the Best Pizza Is...

We packed up early and left Michigan behind - most likely to the sheer delight of Mimmy and Pippy, as we seem to have damaged a few of their possessions in our wake...

Pippy said that Mark breaks chairs because he sits from 6'3 feet up instead of lowering his lumbering body gently. Even as we heard it crack (and pointed and laughed), Mark buried his head in shame over the fact that he had broken another of this same set during his last visit. Then, as he went out to the RV to flee our teasing, he broke the door handle clean off as well...

Out of Michigan and with clumsy Mark at the wheel (good choice?), we headed to Ottawa, IL (just next to April's home town of Seneca, IL). There, April pulled Mark into her favorite Chinese restaurant, located in a warehouse next to a strip club and a "Brown Bag Video." After the promised best Chinese food he'd ever had, April's Dad asked Mark, "Would you ever have come in to a place like this on your own?" and Mark replied "No, but maybe I would have considered stopping in next door."

After lunch, we took Andrew to one of Ottawa's many parks to run...

Back at April's parents' house, Mark took advantage of the private backyard to practice his moves... guess it isn't so private when the wife takes pictures and later posts them on the web...

Andrew got some work done in the office and also practiced his new move - drinking out of a cup...

Finally, off to the BEST pizza place of all time, Bianchis.

Even though Andrew was exhausted and teething, he managed to put down 5 pieces by himself.

Full of all the best Ottawa had to offer, we headed home to bed in the Steinhour driveway. Tomorrow - off to another Steinhour stop - Grandma and Grandpa's farm!

Snarfs and Snoozes

While driving the 1772 miles home from Bar Harbor, April looked and Mark and said... "What should we call our last blog of the summer?&...