Category Archives: life events

Biloxi Vacation

Getting our feet wet...

Getting our feet wet…

Brooke wanted to go on a little vacation this year, but wanted to go a bit early in the summer to avoid being far away from home when she’s closer to her due date.  She was also thinking this would be a good time to take Meg to “see the ocean” and experience a beach, as we likely won’t be going very far next year with a newborn.

Thus, she looked into a few options and we decided to head down toward Biloxi, MS, a place neither of us had been to before, but close to the ocean (or “gulf,” technically).  This was a relatively short trip, as we spent two days driving, and two full days actually at our destination.

We got up last week on Wednesday morning relatively early, leaving just after 6:00 am.  We expected a 9+ hr drive, based on Google Maps, most of which would be a straight shot down I-55 towards New Orleans, cutting off on US-49 at Jackson, MS.  Unfortunately, Google didn’t understand that US-49 is filled with small towns and stoplights, so our 9+ hr trip became an 11 hr trip…grrrr…  Meg stayed entertained for most of the trip, with an assortment of books, stickers, and movies, and thankfully was able to sleep for a few hours that afternoon.  In total, the trip down really wasn’t all that bad, despite the traffic lights.

Technically, we stayed in Ocean Springs, which sits northeast of Biloxi.  Our hotel was maybe 10-15 min from the nearest public beach, so we checked it out Wednesday night.  After a long day in the car, though, we grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant and headed back to the hotel to go to sleep (even I was asleep by 9:30…).

Fillin' my bucket...

Fillin’ my bucket…

The next day, we drove to Gulfport, where we boarded a ferry to Ship Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  After an hour (and a brief dolphin sighting), we crossed the island to the Gulf of Mexico side, where Meg played in the sand for 4 hours.  The high was in the low 80s that day and, while it was quite comfortable out on the beach in a swimsuit, it wasn’t quite warm enough to get into the water.  Then again, as Meg can’t swim yet, we probably wouldn’t have been out there much, anyway.  Still, she had a good time dipping her toes in and letting the waves chase her.

There was also a Civil War-era structure, Fort Massachusetts, to see.  It’s amazing that building has survived so many hurricanes.  There were displays of pictures showing how buried everything got during Hurricane Katrina, suggesting it was quite an undertaking to restore it yet again.  Still, it was an interesting bit of history to see while on the island.

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Fort Massachusetts

After we were done at the beach, we went back to the hotel for a few hours. Meg fell asleep in the car on the way back, and then fell asleep again on her bed once we got back to the hotel.  Once we finally convinced her to get up, we went to a good seafood restaurant in Gulfport and filled up on plenty of fried fish.  Pretty sure I ate enough to never eat again.

The next day was rainy, so we didn’t do all that much.  We still took some time, between showers, to hit the other portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, closer to the bayous.  This was your typical national park visitor center-type exhibit, complete with a video describing the history of the area, and some child-friendly activities.  The bayous were cool to see, but we didn’t observe much wildlife.  We had a good time getting Meg to help us search for alligators, though.

By Saturday, it was time to leave.  As we weren’t about to try and take US-49 again, we looked at the alternative route to I-55 by way of I-10…and as that route takes us right by New Orleans, we opted to stop in for breakfast at Café du Monde for beignets, and Central Grocery for muffulettas.  I was just in New Orleans for the annual Society of Neuroscience meeting in 2012, but Brooke hadn’t been there since our honeymoon back in 2005 (pre-Katrina).  As expected, everything was wonderful!

The rest of the ride home was mostly uneventful, though the amount of time in the car and the constant proximity with her parents had finally worn on Meg.  This was a looooooooong 11 hr drive home…but, we survived.  :-)

It was a good trip overall!  A nice little excursion for a few days, seeing new places and having new experiences.  Though Meg likely won’t remember this particular trip, we can at least point to the seashells in her fish bowl and say “you found those down in Mississippi when you were three.”

A Big Sister and Her Little Brother

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We went in for an ultrasound yesterday (we’re just about 20 weeks along now) and found out that we’re going to be having a little boy this September!

Personally, I was rooting for a boy this time.  I’m a bit biased, having come from a family with two siblings, one boy and one girl, so I’m used to the dynamic between a “brother and sister,” as opposed to a “sister and sister and sister” as Brooke has (and based on the text message I received yesterday after delivering the news, Brooke’s Dad seems pretty excited to finally have a little boy to play with!).  Brooke’s just happy to be having another baby, though I suspect she’d like to have another girl someday.

In the coming weeks/months, we’ve got to go through Meg’s baby clothes and see what all we’ve got to work with.  We were pretty specific in asking for “gender neutral” baby clothes and, for the most part, I think that’s the majority of what we’ve got, at least up through the 3 – 6 mo age range.  After that, Nana and Mimi were more than happy to shift Meg’s clothes options over to the “girl” side of the ledger.  Still, I think we’ve got enough clothes to get started with, we’ll likely receive more in the form of gifts, and we’ve got plenty of time for Brooke to grab some more stuff “on the cheap” when she’s out for her nearly weekly thrift store excursions.

For the past few weeks, we’d been asking Meg which she would prefer: a little brother or a little sister.  I think “little sister” was the answer she gave most often, but “little brother” came up sometimes, too.  I think she’s ready to be a “big sister,” but clearly doesn’t know what’s coming.  We’ve been struggling these past few nights to get her to stay in her bed once we hit bedtime, as she’s apparently finally figured out that she can get out of her bed, open her door, and leave the room.  We keep having to sit at the top of the stairs to make sure she doesn’t try to escape.  And despite the fact that she’s gone to sleep 1-2 hrs late these past few nights, she’s still gotten up early (and was playing with puzzles this morning when Brooke walked in).

Granted, we’ve got a few months to figure this out, but our patience is running thin already, and we’re still getting a full night’s sleep…

Ah, parenthood. :-)

…and one more thing…

Guess what…

Remember that picture from yesterday? I strategically cropped out what was written on the shirt. :-)

Brooke’s pregnant again! No idea what the gender is yet (boyboyboyboyboyboyboy…), but the due date is September 21st, 2013 and all is well with Mom and baby.

Well, maybe not with “Mom,” as much.  She’s taken to a bit more “morning sickness” (read: all day sickness) than she did when she was pregnant with Meg, but hopefully as the first trimester draws to a close, that’ll start to subside a bit.

Still, we’re excited to add to the family!  And Meg’s excited to be a Big Sister. :-)

Meg Turns 3!

What a difference three years makes!

What a difference three years makes!

Meg is three today!  I thought it would be nice to put up the “comparison shot” just to show how much she’s grown in the past 3 years.  I can still see some similarities in the two pictures (especially in the nose), but she’s pretty different now!

We had some folks over for a birthday party on Saturday – a “Fiesta”-themed party this year.  Meg is very much into Dora The Explorer, so while we didn’t want to specifically theme it around that bastion of consumerism, we still wanted to make it center on her interests.  That, and a “fiesta” theme work swell for margaritas and Mexican beer.

Brooke devised an activity for the kids to do (we had 3 other toddlers in the house that day, among 20 people in total…full house!!) where the kids went “on an adventure” (like in a Dora episode…), going “over the lake,” then “up the ‘stair’ mountain,” then “dancing,” then finally to a box of “treasure” including maracas and stickers for them to all play with.  We also had sombreros available for the kids (and certain adults).

Overall, a good party for her, methinks!  She doesn’t quite get that her birthday party wasn’t on her actual birthday yet, but we’ll get there.  Spreading it all out over a few days is likely a bit confusing, as she probably thought she was now three on Saturday instead of today.  Oh well.

Still, Meg got a dollhouse this morning, opened a few more small things, and we’ll go out to Uncle Bill’s Pancakes tonight for dinner – that girl loves her pancakes. :-)

Happy birthday, Margaret Jean!

Projects

Beer...

So, my little sister is getting married in July and I offered to make a contribution of homebrew to the festivities.  She’s going to design labels for them and will make them available as people leave the reception, rather than making it available during the reception, which would require us to deal with some logistical hurdles…and make a lot more…

Regardless, I picked two of the better varieties I’ve made before.  The Cream Ale batch I made was light, highly drinkable, and can be enjoyed by folks with a range of tastes, including those with only a taste for yellow fizzy water (e.g. Bud Light).  The Chinook IPA is something quite a bit different, as it is a hoppier pale ale.  It probably won’t suit as many tastes, but will still allow for some variety between beer styles.  Kristen’s fiancé, Jake, who has also started homebrewing recently, will make a batch of something “in the middle,” so perhaps something like a honey brown, for example, or a wheat beer.

In total, we should end up producing around 20 gal of beer which, assuming we actually got that volume (and we won’t), would net 213 bottles.  Not too shabby.

Part of doing the brewing now, though, is to ensure the beer is actually somewhat decent.  I’ll bottle it in early-March, and it can then condition and age into April.  If it isn’t great (or at least good) by April, then I can brew some more and still have it ready by mid-July.  I don’t want to take any chances in beer quality here: I don’t mind drinking my own batches I’ve screwed up, but I wouldn’t want to impart them upon others.

Still, this Saturday, I’ll brew 15 gal of beer, all in one day.  I’ve done two batches in one day before, but this will be the first time I attempt three.  Mom and Dad are going to drive in to help out (and by “help,” I mean entertain a certain almost-3-year-old so I can focus on making 15 gal of beer).  The forecast says that it should be 47 F and partly cloudy, so likely a pretty good day for some outdoor brewing.