Our Family Trip to S.C. and D.C. – Day 5

Day 5: Driving to D.C.
Emily showed up early the next morning! She helped us pack the car and saw us off. It was so great to see her one last time, even for just 45 min or so.

Back when I was planning this trip, I remembered that one of the space shuttles had been sent to D.C. In trying to find it, I discovered before we left that there are actually TWO Smithsonian National Air and Space museums! One is out in Virginia at Dulles airport, it’s a massive hanger were most of the airplanes – and the space shuttle -are. As we had a packed schedule in D.C., and the Virginia based Air & Space Museum had free parking from 4pm to closing at 5:30pm, I decided our best shot to see the space shuttle was on the way in. All we had to do was leave by 9am, and not have any getting lost or significant traffic issues on the way, and we’d make it around 4:30pm. We were off at 9:23am.

There were 2 possible routes to that Air & Space Museum. One was back up I-77, which we had taken a long way coming in. I wanted to go a different route, to see different things (if there was anything to actually see). I also noticed that I-85 to I-95 route went through Richmond, VA. As we had tightly skirted Columbus, OH, and driven right through Charleston, WV, I thought it’d cool to keep “collecting capitals” on this trip. Amber wasn’t as impressed. I made her stop reading and put on her glasses to see. Between it being a small city, and the capital building’s gold dome being under construction, not much to see. But it was interesting to note how different capital cities can be.

Oh, I should mention the heat now. I’d been watching the weather for Barry, of course, and I’d noticed that D.C. was supposed to get literal record breaking temperatures 2 of the 3 days we were to be there. As in 102° both Friday and Saturday, with Thursday being the “cool” day in the low 90s. All of which is well above my heat threshold of 85°, above which I start to melt (or wilt, whichever word you prefer).

So we’re on our way, trying to cruise on through and make it to the museum on time. Kids are getting extra computer time so I can just focus on driving. Apparently at one of the potty breaks – might have been a gas break too, I don’t remember – we picked up a bug, as in an insect. I noticed it when it was flying in the windshield and my window. Thankfully at my window, so I opened the window and let the bug out! I of course noticed how hot it was outside the car as the air blew in. Had been at the gas station too. But, after a few minutes, the heat beside my face seemed to be spreading, instead of diminishing. I checked the vents, and sure enough: the A/C in the car was no longer working. I tried a couple tricks to let it rest and / or restart, to no avail! We had lost our A/C.

I didn’t tell the girls, just kept driving. I REALLY wanted to see the space shuttle. We’d power through. It wasn’t long before I HAD to crack the windows, even though we were driving on the highway. I told Amber what was going on, and that we were keeping going. Really, what other option was there? I mulled many things over in my head as we drove. We were loosing time. But all we needed was just 15 minutes in the museum. Hey, even if we made it with just 5 minutes to spare, 1 minute! If we could just get our feet in the door, we could run off to lay eyes on the space shuttle while throwing “We’re coming!” assurances over our shoulders to the employees saying the museum was closing. I figured we could then find a mechanic still open and head over there at 5:35 to get the A/C recharged. Or we could just go to a mechanic instead of the museum… No! All I wanted for this day was to see the space shuttle and have Popeyes chicken for dinner.

We drove 3 hours in the heat without A/C. I should have been less, but as we got close, a stray storm from Barry struck! The Sun was blotted out (blissfully at that point), the skies opened, and even the light from the numerous lightning strikes wasn’t enough to let us see more than a few cars ahead of us. Every other stop light was out. I kept pressing on. We were SO close, and there was still time. We could still make it with 15 min left. Then a huge traffic jam / back up. :( The map app I was using said we’d make it with only 1 or 2 minutes – that’s all I needed to try with. I kept up hoping and wishing, and trying to make fools drive and get us through lights. We finally turned down the road to the airport hanger, which no one else was on – YAY! I booked it – safely – to the map destination to find… a parking lot behind a commercial building with a fence. A fence behind which I could see the museum. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! The d@&% app had put us on the wrong side of the fence!!! I found out later apparently the employee entrance gate was right near by.

I cried. I kid you not, I was so stressed and hot and dejected that I all out cried real tears and wailed out loud. Aurora asked if I was sad. She also asked if I was mad. Yes, I’m sad! All I wanted was to see the space shuttle!! (And have Popeyes for dinner.) Why was that too much to ask?!

After I calmed myself down, and had found a parking lot AWAY from the heartbreaking disappointment, I moved on to plan B. I called a local car shop closing at 6pm to see if they’d recharge our A/C if I came over right then. No. I called a second local car shop with the same request. They said Yes!! Turns out they were literally around the corner. Except my fekakta map app put us at some strip mall not even on the same side of the road as the car shop! We made it at about 10 to 6. The shop was great. They stayed open past 6, though not just for me, there were 3 of us customers who showed up throughout the next 45 minutes. VERY Unfortunately though, it turned out the A/C compressor was bad. The technician who tried to recharge it said despite there being absolutely no refrigerant in the lines, there was also not a leak. He tried to put new refrigerant in, but each time the compressor kicked on it immediately shut off and threw the code “no refrigerant”. Well duh. Except the only way to get refrigerant in is for the compressor to be blowing through the lines! Catch 22, ugh. The technician used to work for Honda, so he described all the tricks he tried in order to get the compressor to run, to no avail. He said he went in an could turn everything manually, so nothing was locked, but that something electrical was wrong (he also suspected a problem with the fuse box since my entire dash was hotter than it should be). He said I needed to take it to a dealership for repair. The guys were so nice, and they only charged me $40.

So off to one of the 5 local Popeyes for dinner. (Ah, close to the South still.) Then we made the over warm trip to my cousins Leslie and Spencer’s house. They live in Maryland, close to the D.C. border. When I texted months ago and said we were coming to D.C. in Summer and would like to see them, the responses I got form the two of them were “Do you need a place to stay?” and along the lines of “We’d be honored to host you.” Ah, wonderful cousins are wonderful! We arrived later than planned, due to being an hour at the mechanic’s, and then doing dine-in for dinner instead of eating in the car. But they had a room all set up for us. Nicely done too! The girls each had their own bed for the first time this trip.

Oh, and we drove past some really interesting stuff within a mile of them. Stuff I would have loved to see, if it wasn’t so hot, and if we’d had extra time there.

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Our Family Trip to S.C. and D.C. – Days 3 & 4

Days 3 & 4: We’re On Vacation!
I booked a 3-star hotel about 30 min away from Emily’s house, because the only 3 options near her were 2 1-star motels with sketchy to just bad reviews, and 1 2-star hotel with a possibly racial incident, but also because I REALLY wanted a room that had the beds separated from the rest of the room by at least a divider I could hide behind and use the computer while the girls slept – if not a real wall and door! Which put us 30 min away at least. Then I realized an indoor pool would be way better than an outdoor pool, so lo and behold we ended up with a 2 Queen bed suite at Home2 by Hilton. Y’all, this “room” was amazing! The bed room was the size of a normal hotel room, and then there was a large-ish bathroom, a full efficiency kitchen (with full size fridge, microwave, even a dishwasher! No stove.) with a small dining area, AND another room for the TV, couch, desk, whatnot. The suite was huge! Except for the ugly yellow it was painted, and what I later realized was a recent building being poorly maintained, we really liked it. The indoor pool was partially under glass, and unfortunately on a Sun facing side of the building, so the room was Hot. But it also meant the pool water was a wonderfully warm temperature! There was an average size exercise room, the girls really enjoyed it. Aurora called it the play room, lol! And maybe the best part for me (though the suite and pool were really great too), was the free breakfast: They had normal continental breakfast, plus make your own multi-grain waffle – which Amber had each morning with chocolate chips – and a bunch of pre-made, wrapped up stuff that you could heat up in their toaster or microwave – which is how they got around not being a hot breakfast. Aurora had fruit loops every morning. She loved it ’cause such sugary and artificial cereals are not served at home. The first morning I headed right for the cylinder hot pot with the steaming cereal symbol on the side, because I love fresh oatmeal that I put brown sugar in. I said to myself, “Oh! Yay! Oatmeal!”, opened the top, and exclaimed to myself, “No! Not oatmeal! Grits! Because I’m in the South!” and I laughed! Ah, my preconceived notions based on where I live. I chuckled for a while, had myself some grits with brown sugar, and I really liked it.

Anyway, our first night there was actually Day 2. By the time the girls and I arrived, they were being AWEFUL. I know it’s because they were over tired and hot, but so was I and I just couldn’t take it. They were still up at 10 pm, and I needed them to fall asleep. It wasn’t pretty. But once we had a good night’s sleep, we were all good again.

As part of all the schedule rearranging, I had been unable to get my medical school application finished. And it NEEDED to be finished, so as not to apply to med school too late to be taken seriously. Monday morning (that’s Day 3), I spent writing a new start to my personal essay and re-writing the rest of the essay. I had a remote advising appointment on Tuesday morning, and I was supposed to send my drastically changed personal essay Monday morning to my advisors to give them a day to read it. I hadn’t had time before that morning to work on it. I didn’t get it read-worthy enough done until just after 1pm on Monday. The girls got to watch a LOT of TV that day! Which they loved. Normally they have a 2 hour per day limit on screen time. But hey, we’re on vacation! Though Aurora was baffled, because the hotel only had cable / satellite, and we only have Roku (streaming) and DVDs at home. She couldn’t understand why we couldn’t “pause it” or “go back”! Commercials were a brand new thing too, and apparently not one either child much liked.

So I finally get my essay finished after lunch, and housekeeping shows up to clean the stuff that wasn’t clean when we checked in the night before (the night desk attendant had emptied the kitchen garbage for us, but everything else had to wait until full staff was on shift). So the girls and I head down to the pool even though Emily and the oldest 5 of her 6 children haven’t shown up yet. The plan was to family swim at the hotel’s pool that day, then head over to a fast food restaurant with an indoor play structure for dinner and hopefully us two adults getting catch-up best friend time while the kids played. It worked out pretty much that way, just started later than expected. We still had over 2 hours in the pool! What turned out to be a salt pool, not chlorine! I had felt weird when we first got in, like the water was compressing my chest. Then I noticed my breasts were more floaty than usual. I wasn’t sure what was going on, until I accidentally got water in my mouth, and it tasted wrong – it tasted salty! Emily confirmed it when she took her present youngest out to use the potty.

The pool was 3 foot deep at its shallow end, and 5 foot deep at its deepest. Aurora was tall enough to stand and have her whole head out of the water in the shallow end! She loved it. Amber was able to touch with head out of the water to just past the 4 foot mark. All the kids had a great time in the pool! Even us parents had some fun. Emily did not allow her kids to splash, but the two oldest tried to get away with doing it anyway. So finally I broke free from my kids, and showed those two how splashing is properly done! And how wave splash making is also a great defense against being splashed! Hehe. Dinner and play worked out as planned. I don’t properly remember, but I think the girls and I also did a just the 3 of us family movie night that evening too. It was a good day, despite my PMS. And I was super looking forward to breakfast the next morning.

Day 4, Tuesday, we were supposed to go to a jump gym or bounce house with Emily’s entire family. After all, I wanted to see her husband, Jericho, too! (I had see the 2 year old on Sunday, Day 2. The little flirt!) We had planned all indoor activities for our visit with them, because we Northerners just melt in this Southern heat. Turns out, they struggle with the heat too. !All these people are crazy to live down here in this! I said that many times, but I added to Amber that I expect they call us crazy the same way living up North in all that snow in Winter!

I had my remote advising appointment to review, and hopefully finalize, my personal essay at 10am. And we didn’t quite finish! 2 of my 3 advisors were present, and they wanted to finish too. So they offered me their lunch hour to cover the rest of it. So great! Emily and I made contact, she to tell me that she was having difficultly getting her family up (as in awake) and going. I to tell her that I needed more time because I was having an impromptu second advising appointment at noon to finish my essay – and that it REALLY needed finishing. She understood the importance for me, and I think she was relieved to not be the cause of delaying the day’s plans. So my kids got more TV again, no one complained once I promised we’d make it to the pool at some point that day! After the advising was done, we went to the pool, just the 3 of us, for just over an hour. Then it was time to get dried, dressed, and off to see Emily’s family.

We all got out to the trampoline place, only to find their hourly admission rate was 80% more than stated on their website, AND you HAD to buy their special trampoline socks for use on their equipment, you couldn’t wear your own normal socks – which were NOT included in the hourly admission rate. For a group of 12 people, that was prohibitively expensive. We expressed our displeasure to the desk staff (without swearing at them), and left. We decided to go to the Museum of York County, because the children’s museum was closed due to a water main break that had flooded its first floor! No one was overjoyed for it, but it was our only option. Turns out, as Emily put it, we should have just planned on this museum for the day! It was great! We show up, and they are running a NASA 50th anniversary of Man on the Moon event – that day! The former administrator of NASA was on premises, and they had a guy who brought a moon rock for people to touch! Also, NASA stickers. :) Then, the museum had a room for “explorers” with dress up gear, a log to crawl though, a tree to climb inside the trunk of, up out onto a tree fort, AND with a rock climbing wall!! After that we saw some natural history exhibits, a taxidermy exhibit of real, and large, animals. Lastly we found a children’s play room, and a dark of night animal exhibit! The kids had a great time. Oh, parents too :)

As this day was Emily’s birthday (and my half birthday – we’ve mentioned that makes us perfect best friends), and my present to her was to be a family portrait, I made all of her family snuggle up together in front of the fantastic space background the NASA event had up and took their pictures. Emily has long lamented to me (only) that she doesn’t have any picture of herself with her kids. Years ago I Paint cropped her head onto her husband’s body in a photo wit her four oldest, before the last 2 were born, and that was the best she’s had. It’s been difficult to get a family picture with her, because Emily has pretty much refused to have her picture taken since the car accident that left her in the ICU for almost a week. But, as I’m her legit best friend, she acquiesced for me. Love you, Emily!

We went back to Emily’s house for dinner, tv time, and what little bonding time we had left in this trip. Emily bought the girls each a slushie on the way – they were huge! And they were the small size! I had some of each of theirs instead of one of my own. Another thing the girls loved, as I haven’t been allowing any since I quit my job to go to school and have had no income. Aurora also enjoyed that it turned her tongue blue! Which reminds me, we also got Wendy’s frosties on the drive down, Day 1, and Dunkin Donuts’ donuts on the drive down, Day 2 – more things we haven’t had in over a year due to lack of money (except the one time that weekend in Chicago when frosties were 50 cents each – I got us 2 to share). The only treat I think we didn’t get on this vacation that we’ve been missing since I’ve had no job is Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins.

Emily and Jericho bought a window A/C unit on the way home too. Jericho and I installed the thing as we staved off children scavenging pieces of it for toys, while Emily looked on and lamented “Why can you two work together so well, and he and I can’t?” I tried to give her a helpful answer, but all that came out my brain and mouth was, “Because we’re not married.” Jericho left for work. Emily and I fed the 8 kids and ourselves. We talked in her room, watched some TV with the kids, and had an impromptu dance party for the last 10 minutes or so of our visit. Then the girls and I were off back to the hotel for bed.

Another good day. I was sad while packing up that night after the girls were asleep. I wanted one more day and night. I almost extended our stay at the hotel, but I knew the girls and I had other fun waiting for us in D.C. And, of course, Emily didn’t have the next day off work, so I wouldn’t really get to see her anyway. But, I had breakfast still to look forward to!

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Our Family Trip to S.C. and D.C. – Why? When? and 1st 2 Days

Why? And When?
Last December I realized my best friend Emily’s kids had never met my kids, and I decided this needed to be fixed. I also hadn’t been down to visit them in South Carolina since her wedding, which was Nov 2011!

The plan was to go the last week of June. And since we’d be driving, might as well go to Washington D.C. too. Amber had been asking for a little while, she wanted to see the country’s capital. I knew the risk of heat (and hurricane) in that month, but it was the earliest Amber and I supposedly had off at the same time, and it would not run over Aurora’s birthday party either.

Then, it turned out I had to do another half semester in my MEDPREP program, which supposedly ended that last week of June. However, I found I had no time to study and take the MCAT as expected, and so had to move taking that test to July 10th. Which meant our trip had to be moved to the middle (third) week of July.

As the time neared, I followed the news on tropical storm / hurricane Barry daily. Didn’t seem like it was going to impact our trip, we should be in and out of S.C. before any of the rain hit.

The first 2 days – Driving to S.C.
Okay, so off we go! Saturday, July 13th. As it was a driving vacation, we didn’t have to leave at a set time. I planned to do the drive from MI to SC in two days, giving the kids something outside to do each day before driving. In Ann Arbor, the kids played at Dad and Colette’s while I finished packing. Then we attended the AADL’s Summer Game Spectacular, and left for vacation right from there! I hadn’t been able to find anywhere between Columbus, OH, and Charlotte, NC, with something for the kids to do the next morning before driving again, so we ended up starting the drive without a destination for that night. Figured I’d just drive and see how far we got before bedtime. About 1/2 hour out, I started calling ahead to hotels / inns 1/2 hour away. No availability. So I called 1 hour ahead. Still no open rooms. Eventually I asked one of the hotels I called, what was happening that all rooms were booked up? Apparently it was Ohio Brew Week… ugh. I finally found a motel with 1 room left, and it had two double beds. I was suspect, because we’d had a pretty bad experience in a cheap motel driving back from Boston a previous Summer (literally stuff growing on one of the mattresses). But it was my ONLY option at this point. It was also more expensive than I thought it should be, at $85 which turned into $92-ish after taxes, especially for a 2 star motel on the side of a highway in nowhere Ohio. But, last room in the area, so I took it. Thankfully, it turned out decent!! Hometown Inn. The “double” beds turned out to be Queens. The family that runs it was really nice and helpful. Thankfully the room was a non-smoking one. The AC was strong! The room was clean, the except the carpet, the beds were decent and well kept. And no bugs! The décor was 1980s-ish. Clearly an old motel, but definitely well kept. Even had Wifi.

We slept well, and were off the next morning. Aaaaand I took a wrong turn somewhere, and we ended up on “the scenic route”. It was supposed to go to the same freeway we wanted, but we lost 30 to 45 minutes driving country foothill twisting roads. We did get to see the quaint, charming old town of Pomeroy, OH, and a very pretty and impressive white bridge connecting OH and WV which we used to cross the large river. Then, all of a sudden we saw the WV AEP Mountaineer Power Plant right up close! The main stack was impressive, looked like we were going to drive right up to it! Lastly, we got to see the Ohio River Racine locks and dam, which we actually stopped at to see how close we could get.

Turns out driving long distance on a Saturday and a Sunday was pretty good for traffic reasons – no rush hours, and no returning-from-Up-North backups! So long as no one does anything stupid while driving. Unfortunately, someone did, and we ended up stopped on the freeway, 2 miles behind a car vs motorcycle accident that shut down the freeway for several minutes. We got trapped on a long bridge, over a deep gorge, with a high divider between the two directions, 18 miles from the WV / Virginia border. We were there for almost half an hour. I was a little proud of myself for not freaking out, didn’t even start to little bitty panic!

All in all, we were hours later than we should have been getting to Emily’s house, and about an hour late for planned dinner time. But we made it!

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Dreamt of Mom, Finally

Monday night / Tuesday morning I finally had a normal dream with Mom in it. This would technically be my 3rd time dreaming on Mom since she died. The 1st time was the very vivid dream where she had white spirals of proteins coming out of her eyes and I failed to get her to the hospital in time to keep her from dying. The 2nd time may or may not be considered “Mom”, since it was one of those dreams where someone you know responds to and it going by the name of someone else you know, and all of you think that person really is the other person. You know, like when your coworker appears in your dream and you go “Hi Aunt Bonnie” and she responds, and everyone in the dream (including you) thinks this person who looks like your coworker is your Aunt. I had one of those 5 or so weeks ago where an acquaintance I know showed up and everyone called her Marjory and I called her Mom and in the dream that was who she was even though she didn’t look or act like Mom. So now, finally, I have dreamed of my Mom. For real. No drama.

What prompted this post is I just now FINALLY found a video with Mom in it. I had lost all hope of a video with Mom. But I have one. It’s of Mom reading to Amber and trying to play with her. To see her again. Hear her voice. *sad smile* I’m just glad I can watch it without breaking down.

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MCAT Prayer Request

MCAT tomorrow (7/10). If you’re the praying kind and feeling so inclined, here’s my prayer request:

That while taking the MCAT, I read and interpret all the questions correctly, my logic and problem solving is top notch, my memory works amazingly well, and the non-CARS questions are all on things I know.

If you want to shorten that, you can just pray I get a 514 or better on the MCAT. ;)

Thank you.

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What is a better term for

What is a better term for “know-it-all” that does not carry negative connotations with it? Something that doesn’t make you think “smart aleck”, “wise guy”, “smarty-pants”, or “smart @$$”.

I’m looking for a term to sum up the following:

I love knowing things. Whether its fun factoids, useless old trivia, or actual important information. I’m inquisitive and nosy, and much of the time I want to know the whys. I like to investigate my why questions, especially when they push up against my instincts. I’ve found it enjoyable to teach others, to help bring them up to my level of knowledge in a way that helps them learn. And I’ve found it’s much easier to learn more myself if I admit when I don’t know things.

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TNTNBO

(Too Nice To Not Be Outside)

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Girl Scout Astronauts

Apparently I made a mistake when I applied to be an astronaut in 2012/2013 by not mentioning I had been a Girl Scout!

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Just a reminder

Just a reminder:
I am not Superwoman / girl.
I am Wonder Woman.

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Mother’s Day 2019

A little late in posting, but still worth the smile.

Amber made breakfast in bed for me for Mother’s Day. :) The girls each frosted their own cupcake for me at Meijer the day before. And I got homemade cards as well as a store bought one. A good start to a good day.


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