Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Revisited

Children: Beware!
This is what too much candy does to your body.
Last All Hallow's Eve, the kids were forlorn.  No neighborhood to trick or treat.  No friends running up to argue who had the most candy.  They only had sixty-something retirees living the good life on Fripp Island.  Very scary prospects for the only kids on the island.

Our close neighbors went out of their way to supply the children with special treats for this quiet Halloween.  Anabel, Wyatt and Emma loved this uncommon treatment, but unfortunately, individual loot buckets filled with personalized treats just didn't have enough thrills to please our imitation-blood thirsty kids, so we hopped on the golf cart to hit other homes on the island.  After only two stops, our kids had plastered grins on their faces and microwave popcorn and Jello pudding cups in their treat bags from the surprised residents of the unlucky homes where our trick or treaters knocked.  Watching island residents raid their pantries for our polite children was not how we had hoped to spend our first Halloween away from home.  Greg floored the pedal and slung the golf cart around saying, "This is ridiculous!  We've got to find our own &*%^# Halloween somewhere!"

Then, I remembered our adopted hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina and its real-life  haunted houses.  For the kids' sakes, we stepped out of our comfort zone (having only ever trick or treated the houses in our own neighborhood before) and resurrected our dead evening into one of the best Halloween's ever!

To read more of our ghoulish night, check out my post from a year ago:  Beaufort Tricks or Treats. 

This year, we'll try to conjure the Beaufort spirit for some frights in Hickory Flat.  Ghosts are a scarcity in a neighborhood less than six years old. Without a haunted house in sight, we'll just have to take turns scaring each other. 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moving Memories

It's Flashback Friday!  These posts are from my book-in-progress about our sabbatical year...

Anyone remember Hurricane Irene?

As we unpacked our last box, the radar on the local weather station showed Hurricane Irene heading directly for the South Carolina coast.  We were not off to an auspicious start.

     Relieved and relaxed during the whole journey southeast, we arrived on Fripp Island to insufferable late August heat.  Built in the Charleston style, Greg’s rental home was three stories tall with the kitchen and living room on the third floor for maximum ocean views overlooking the moss-covered live oaks and palmetto trees- Great for enjoying low country vistas, but hard on the back. After the second load up the two flights of steps, it was obvious that we had brought too much stuff.  Our temporary home was only 1600 square feet and the home we left was over twice as big.  Back in Canton, it didn't look like we had overpacked, but being in the smaller home, we gained perspective fast.
     “This is like trying to fit twenty pounds of potatoes in a ten pound sack.”  Greg had a knack for pulling out old sayings that summed up the situation perfectly.  We decided to unload the U-Haul, return it, and sort when our energy returned.  We told the kids to save themselves and go play instead of standing around in a thousand degree trailer learning new cuss words from their schoolteachers.
An hour later, we were thanking God for his tender mercies. A family from Delaware, and our neighbors on Fripp Island, had been following my blog, saw the U-Haul, and walked over to invite us to dinner.  Greg and I declined, as we were sweating like pigs and unfit for company, but gratefully accepted for the children.  After the past ten days of stress, we hadn’t even thought about supper.  We continued to unload while the kids dined down the street when Delaware Mom (Yes, Jennifer, that's my anonymous name for you.) arrived with two heaping plates for us.  Simple kindness is highly underrated.  It was the best meal I’d had in weeks and sustained us till the last box was carried up.
Looking at the massive, swirling grey clouds covering the coastline from Georgia to Virginia on the television screen, I thought, “Have we really moved in only to be forced to move out?” Listening to the reporter, I tried to comprehend the situation.  What does mandatory evacuation mean, anyway?  
Having no experience in Hurricanes, we watched and planned.  Since buying the Fripp house in 2006, we have never had a hurricane threaten our coastline.  The house came with plywood sheeting for the windows, but we had never checked how they fit.  At Lowe's in Beaufort, we purchased an extra case of water and wood screws just in case.  No one in town was panicking which I found very comforting.  Maybe they knew something I didn't.  
During the following twenty-four hours, Irene's path moved eastward and we were unofficially deemed safe from the storm.  Looking at the Category 3 Hurricane on the satellite, we breathed a sigh of relief for us and said a prayer for those to the north.  Anabel was disappointed.  At twelve, a hurricane sounded exciting.  She has no concept of storm damage. The weatherman said to watch out for rip currents and extremely high tides, but the low country area should miss most of Irene's path.  
I said, "Thank, God!"  
Greg and Wyatt said in unison, "Surf Board!"
This has to be the biggest difference between men and women. 
However, both sexes did a foolish thing on Friday: we drove into Beaufort to pick up Greg's Harley.  The power had gone off briefly in the morning and we had a little rain, but other than that the weather seemed like any other day at the beach.  When the repair shop called to say the bike was ready, it wasn't raining at all.  Greg thought it best to go on in, pick it up and get it over with in case heavier winds and rain began.  The kids stayed at home finishing school work while I dropped Greg and headed to the art supply shop and the grocery store.  By the time I exited Publix, I felt the first drop of rain.  I called the house and Greg wasn't home yet.  Should I worry?  Greg was an excellent driver and a smart guy.  He'll be fine.  Driving home, the closer I got to the outer barrier islands of Harbor and Hunting, the worse it became.  Sheets of rain pelted my windshield.  Wind shook our massive two-ton Ford Excursion.  I suddenly became eerily aware that no other cars were on the road.  I should have headed back inland, but all I could think was, “Where was Greg?  Is he home with the children?  Has the power gone out again? Are the kids safe?  How could we have left them alone?  We know you can’t trust the weatherman!”  If this was what the outer bands of a hurricane were like, I can't imagine how scary being hit head-on would be.  I pulled over to call home.  Greg had stopped three times driving back and was wet to the bone, but had made it home safe and sound.  The kids were fine and loved nature’s drama.
I made it home with groceries and new art supplies for the kids.  Evening arrived just as the bands spiraled further northward.  We used our new paints to capture the edge of a hurricane sunset.  To quote American Blues singer, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, “Goodnight, Irene!  I’ll see you in my dreams.” Or nightmares, as the case may be.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Letter Art- Camden, Maine

While waiting on lobster rolls (YUM!) at a sidewalk cafe called Fresh in Camden, Maine, we played a street art game with our kids.  We tried to find as many letters as we could capture with our camera using only the objects we could see from our table. (This was one of the many travel games we played to entertain the troops last year.)

Needless to say, the beautiful fall day inspired our imaginations.

Here is one of our compositions from our Letter Art: Can you guess what it spells?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Ben Franklin Institute - Ultimate Field Trip

Flashback Friday!  Fridays are for remembering people and places I forgot...

 The Ben Franklin Institute was hands-down the best museum we visited all year (and we visited a lot!)  Parents and kids alike agreed it had the most interesting hands-on exhibits and experiments.

We began in the Earth room (not sure if this was the official name of this room, but its exhibits were all about the Earth so...).  We tried experiments with global warming, erosion, the atmosphere, and weather, which led us to Franklin's famous investigations with lightning and electricity.

Greg shocked at the many hands on experiments.
Ben, ever curious, stood in the rain with a kite and key on a string and shocked himself and his son repeatedly for science.  His discovery of the electrical relationship between lightning and the earth led to one of his inventions, the lightning rod.  At the Institute, they have recreations of his famous electricity work and even have a tool that allowed us to shock ourselves just like Ben.  Turned out, being shocked hurt just like I remembered.  Thanks, Ben.

Coincidentally, the room next to the electricity room was the human body room.  We went straight through the gigantic heart to see the damage we might have done with our repeated shocks.  (Luckily, no permanent damage was found.)  We did test every part of our bodies from stamina and muscle function to brain challenges and sensory skills.  We loved this room!  The Institute further enhanced our visit with scientists and teachers set up throughout the room assisting and explaining each area of the body.  Wyatt loved the brain studies and Anabel loved the emergency room doctor simulation.  Emma's favorite was the open heart surgery demonstration... there was a patient laid out on a operating table with his chest open to a video screen showing an actual heart surgery.  Pretty cool!

The aeronautics room contained demonstrations of flight with simulators available for an additional fee. The experiments with air showed us how lift and thrust affect flight.

This ultimate family field trip museum offered IMAX movies, planetarium shows and many classes to further your education and enjoyment of science- the exact things Ben Franklin loved.  Our only problem with our visit was there wasn't enough time to do it all.  As we left the museum for our walk to Independence Hall on a beautiful fall day in Philadelphia, Wyatt begged to return to the Institute.  That was an easy promise to make.  We can't wait to return to Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute.