Fun For the Whole Family - A Long-Ass Post With No Pictures

We had a great time seeing Tom, Laura, Henry and Biscuit in Kansas (and of course, spending time with Mom and Dad, too). We got to the Nashville airport early, early, Thursday morning and got on a flight that had maybe 40 other passengers on it. We landed and met up with Tom, Laura and Henry, got our bag from the conveyor and then headed to the mini-van. Mom and Dad’s flight landed in a second terminal which required a short drive. Their flight was on time as well, and after grabbing their bags, we were on our way to Leavenworth.

Our first stop was the Santa Fe Depot – a train station turned restaurant – where we all enjoyed a late breakfast, and my dad harassed the waitress about “Yankee Biscuits”. It was good chow, and great coffee. I also got to watch Henry eat a pancake, which was awesome. He currently has 4 teeth and 2 more on the way, and has started enjoying solid food.

After breakfast, we headed to the house. There, we were greeted by Biscuit, the Yellow Lab – she’s six, and has unlimited energy. She also loves attention and sheds as though her life depends on it. We’re big pals, and she was even happier to see me after I gave her a present – a red stuffed lobster with rope legs – instant classic!

Henry and his parents liked his reggae CD (the works of Bob Marley done as instrumental lullabies), and Laura and Tom were excited about their new pancake molds – seeing as how Henry’s a recent pancake enthusiast.

Thursday was mostly spent chilling out. We relaxed, caught up – listened to music and napped. We watched Henry demolish some meatballs, green beans, yogurt, vanilla wafers… the kid can eat. He’s probably in a growth spurt, but it was fun to watch. He’s also starting to speak a little. He definitely says Dada and Dad. We’re working on Mama. He said it a few times, but you know, Mama is a pretty critical word in the kid vocabulary. As much as Henry likes to eat, I’d say his favorite activity is moving – he crawls like a maniac, and he’s just thisclose to walking – he pulls up and edges along tables, doors, windows… I’ll be curious to see what happens when he takes off!

That evening, we had some great barbecue – if you’re ever in the Midwest and you see Burnt Ends as an option on the menu – run, don’t walk, to order them. They’re wonderful.

That night, we stayed up late talking, laughing and dissecting our lives.

Friday was the big day – Henry’s first birthday. Matt, Tom and I went to their grocery store, Dillon’s to get some steaks for the big dinner. I think you all know that I’m pretty frugal, so when I saw the steaks Tom had chosen, I first winced at the cost, then drooled at their grandeur. I think you know, I love red meat, and these were beautiful specimens. All hail the KC Strip!

They put me in charge of balloons, and I have to say, I did a bang-up job – Henry loved them and they were very festive.

After naptime, we loaded up the minivan and headed to the Leavenworth Carousel Museum – there are two working carousels there - one from 1913, the other from 1950 – both Parker Carousels. I could give you at least three paragraphs on the history, but instead, I’ll tell you our experience.

I got inside first and bought us tickets for the tour – which includes a free ride. The docent, who must have been at least 75 was delighted to see us and ushered us in to watch a movie on the history of the museum. She left and closed the door.

About 3 minutes in to the movie, Henry made a noise or two, and Tom quickly excused himself and the baby (pretty slick, Tom). And it went downhill from there. The movie was highly reverential in tone, and just as we thought we had gotten to the end, the narrator said, “But before you ride the carousel, there’s so much more you need to know!” At which point, Dad sighed audibly, and I got a case of the cackles. Some people giggle. Not me. Thankfully, our fossilized tour guide wasn’t in there to hear me. Of course, she probably heard me anyway – I’m what’s known as “loud”.

After the movie, everyone was ready to cut to the chase and get on the carousel – I could tell that the docents were bummed. Well, here’s the thing – had it been just me and Matt, we’d have taken the tour. But the rest of the family was ready to ride. So, except for Dad (who pled possible motion sickness), we climbed aboard. There are some excellent pictures, which I’ll post later. Since the two jackrabbits (the only two known remaining CW Parker Jackrabbits, mind you) were occupied by a mother-son duo not with our group, Matt and I got into this spinny thing (think Tea Cup), Mom grabbed a horse, and the birthday boy and his parents got into a chariot. The damn thing cranked up and went around like a centrifuge – not a leisurely ride, by any stretch. Also, the organ which played music wasn’t working, but before we knew it, the ride was over, and everyone was getting the hell out of dodge. Laura blamed it on Henry. Matt was able to sneak a look at the freak show exhibit – two shrunken heads and a “mermaid” – half chimp, half fish. He also talked to one of the older gentlemen who ran the ride itself.

Look, I’m all for taking pride in what you do, but I also believe it’s OK not to take yourself (or your volunteer gig) so seriously.

In retrospect, maybe I should have just gotten tickets for the ride, but how would you know? Good times. Special thanks to Melissa Etheridge, native Leavenworthian for making that museum possible.

Our next stop was a tour of the base, which all but Dad had done before. If you ever have a chance to peep Fort Leavenworth, it’s kind of amazing. It’s like a completely self-contained city in the middle of a city – their own dentist, veterinarian, movie theater, PX and Commissary, and on and on. My favorite part is going through officers’ housing – the houses are pretty and there are a lot of international folks there, and they hang their country’s flag on their residences. So that’s really cool.

We stopped at the Frontier Museum on base where we saw old stagecoaches, covered wagons, uniforms, etc. My favorites were some drawings that an Indian drew for General Custer. They were very interesting and kind of violent, but looked like a kid had drawn them. Think
“Napoleon Dynamite draws the Battle of Little Bighorn”.

Friday night, we ate steaks, blew out some candles and opened some presents. We stayed up talking and laughing. And singing Dixie. Badly. And slowly (long story).

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Lawrence, KS – where KU is located. We had a good time rolling through campus – in retrospect, I should have taken Laura up on the offer to have my photo taken in front of the Sigma Kappa house (gorgeous) but maybe next time. Lawrence itself is a great, groovy, granola college town. We hit a killer toy store where I bought Henry a book and myself a head massager; an even better fabric store (where I bought…nothing) and finally hit a little European market where I got Matt a few German treats and some soap that smells like pine trees. At the last place, I started talking to another shopper about what a neat town Lawrence was. Her reply, “Yeah, but it’s still Kansas.” I know what she’s saying, but also, so what? I think Kansas is pretty nice. Wholesome, all-American, grassy.

That evening, we had dinner out, gave Mom her Pug coasters for Mother’s Day and capped off the evening with a viewing of Marley & Me. Which by the way folks, is not the feel good family event of the year. Mom cried, Dad left before it ended. I enjoyed it, but it obviously reminded me of Lola's mortality.

Sunday morning, Tom took us to the airport at half past early and we took another flight with 30 people also headed to Nashville. By 9:41 AM, we were at the house unpacking.

It was whirlwind, but completely awesome.

Photos to come soon!