Half a week in Ohio. Half a week in Michigan. 100% awesome.
Warning: Long entry is long.
Even though we left California at 9:00 AM we didn't arrive in Ohio until about 11:30 PM, thanks to the time change. This meant that the extent of our meet and greet was congregate at baggage claim, drive to hotel, and then everyone was tired except for the two of us. While my family left and went to bed, Aaron and I stayed up until about 3:00 AM EST (12:00 AM PST) watching Cartoons.
To swiftly acclimate to the time change we got up at 8:00 AM EST (5:00 AM PST). We were dog-tired, but we made the complimentary continental breakfast on time! Every day in fact. We'd wake up at around 8:00 AM, hop in the shower and then meet my grandfather in the lobby for breakfast. Usually waffles and bacon. Sometimes bagels, donuts, or eggs and sausages. Always cappuccino.
On Sunday (after only some four hours of sleep) my mother, Lena, and I met with a wedding planner about dresses -- dropping Aaron off at the nearby mall so he wouldn't peek. Unfortunately we didn't realize the nearby mall was essentially a Macy's and a food court, so he got bored and wandered over as I emerged from the dressing room. Don't worry, I wasn't in the gown I'll be walking down the aisle in.
I did not realize before this experience that you actually require another human being to get in and out of wedding dresses. It's a task that's pretty much impossible by yourself. Thankfully I'm not bashful, so getting nude eight times in front of some stranger wasn't a big deal.
The method used to get in to one of these huge dresses (that weigh on average ten or so pounds a piece) is referred to as "The Dive." Basically the bride-to-be puts her arms up over her head while her bridal assistant holds the dress up. Then the bride-to-be bends forward as if she were about to dive into a pool, and the bridal assistant tosses the dress over the bride-to-be's head. Then the bride-to-be stands back upright and the bridal assistant fastens the gown up behind her.
The way you get out of one of these dresses is called "The Shimmy." Here the bridal assistant unfastens the gown and gently tugs the fabric down while the bride-to-be wiggles and shimmies out of it. Much easier, but challenging in heels as you don't want to tear the dress in your attempt to escape it and while in the dress you cannot get to your feet to take the heels off.
I tried on about seven or eight dresses total. Mostly dresses chosen by my mother and Lena, a couple chosen by my assistant because she just wanted to see me in them. I prefer traditional to contemporary, so I didn't see the dress there, but I discovered my dress size and got ideas that I can take to a tailor for custom work. Which made it a valuable experience.
We also had Lena try on several bride's maids dresses. Since all of my bride's maids are about her size/hair color/complexion, she made a fantastic model. We decided my bride's maids will be in red dresses and the maid of honor will wear black. After a lot of searching we found a breezy dress that falls just below the knee with a little belt. No sashes around the middle, as sashes are for fat chicks to hide that they're fat and all of my bride's maids are slim, and no fabric bunching around the middle for the same reason. The dress is form-complimenting and classy. You could really wear it again, which is nice.
That color scheme will carry over to the groomsmen and such -- because matching is important. Too many Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat weddings these days. Not to sound rude or anything, but it doesn't matter what so-and-so's favorite or least favorite color is. It's your wedding. They're obligated to wear whatever the #*$^ you tell them to. You don't need to compromise with anyone except your fiance. Too many people forget that trying to people please. But I digress...
After the bridal shop we went back over to the tiny mall we had originally left Aaron at and hit the food court for lunch. Then it was off to my mother's house, where Aaron would meet my mother's husband Brook for the first time. Seeing how people react to Brook is always an interesting thing, because it's like walking into a house owned by a cartoon character. Fred Flintstone or something, though instead of dinosaurs the house is full of dogs. Four unruly dogs who are encouraged to be as loud as they please.
Monday we had a BBQ at my mother's house with the family. I spent the afternoon hanging out with my nephews. We introduced them to a toad in the pool, played T-ball like bosses, and ate a lot of cake. Aaron helped get the meal ready, which was a nice change of pace for my mother. Who is usually left to tend the kitchen by herself because I cannot cook, and Brook is about as helpful as a rock.
The highlight of the day was how we procured the toad for the pool. You'd think it only takes one person to procure a toad, but this was not the case.
There is a pile of logs for the chiminea out in the far end of the yard where wildlife always hangs out. Deer, birds, groundhogs, skunks, toads, frogs, snakes, you name it. So I wander back there looking for a toad, because if there would be a toad anywhere, that would be the spot.
My search was, however, not fruitful. It was a muggy 104 degrees in Ohio that day and most wildlife was taking refuge from the heat. In the case of toads that means they're underground. Just as I'm about to give up the quest, there's movement in the grass. Right where my foot is headed! I step down toe-first and try to balance on just the ball of my foot -- but having not planned to do such a thing I'm steadily pressing back towards my heel. Losing my balance. I'm not going to fall, mind you, but whatever has moved in the grass has put itself into the back of my sandal. If I step down fully, I'll squish whatever it is! Both gross and tragic.
Lucky for everyone Aaron was right there to grab my arm and keep me steady. Tragedy averted. I take my foot carefully out of my sandal and realize the toad had found us. I scoop him up and introduce him to little Bill and Jaidar. When he hops out of my hand into their pool (not chlorinated) and starts swimming around, they squeal in glee. I explain to them how toads are our friends and eat mosquitoes and other bugs we don't like having around. Basically that they should be nice to them. After a while I tell them he's got to go back to his toad house and re-release him into the wood pile from whence he came. They ask me if he has a toad family. I say yes. Jaidar decides it's good I took the toad home, because his kids was probably hungry for dinner.
Tuesday we went to the Cleveland Zoo with Lena. It was a sunny 97 degrees, which meant sun screen for all. Except Lena, whose *gypsy skin would protect her from the harmful rays. Though mercilessly humid and hot, we had a magnificent time. We saw the sea lions perform and a couple of black bears fight. We saw a leopard try to cough up a hairball (terrifying a nearby woman), and baby rhinoceros. Amongst many, many other things.
*Gypsy skin should never be relied upon.
The funniest part of our visit actually stemmed from the tram ride down the great hill that houses the primates and aquarium. While waiting for the tram to arrive, Aaron bought me a slushie. Blue raspberry, naturally. It was delicious. It was so hot that by the time the tram came for us, it was almost gone. So while seated on the tram, waiting for it to move, I decide to polish off the rest of it. Mostly so that I don't have to keep carrying it around. The people ahead of us have a little girl who keeps asking me where her penny is. Like I pick pocketed it or something. By this point there's not even any slushie left. I've just got the straw in my mouth, clamped in place between my teeth so I'm not expect to talk to the people ahead of us.
Now, granted, there is a "No drinking or eating on the tram," sign posted in the cars -- we hadn't even moved yet while I was actually drinking, and by the point where we're doing less than 1 mph on a completely smooth road, I'm just biting the straw. Nonetheless the tram driver is looking at me in his review mirror rather than the road ahead of him (because that's putting safety first) and announces over the intercom not to drink on the tram. So I lower the cup and just hold it in my lap for the remainder of the tram ride down. Going a dangerous 3mph.
At the bottom of the incline, once the tram comes to a full stop and we exit the vehicle, the tram driver approaches us and begins chastising me about drinking on the tram! Claiming he had to tell me more than twice to cut it out and about how painful it is to be poked by a straw. At first none of us know what the hell he is ranting about, so we kind of just wander off. Even so, he continues talking after us like I'm some kind of juvenile delinquent. I'm assuming my looking underage has sparked this, because no grown adult would dare talk to another grown adult in that way.
I only wish we had realized what was going on sooner so that I could've made him feel like the ass he is. By declaring I am both a competent adult AND deaf. Therefor asking me to do anything over an intercom is pretty useless. Even though he did only tell me once, not multiple times like he apparently imagined. His crappy dead-end job must have just really gotten to him by the bottom of that incline.
I can't complain about it too much though as it did not ruin our adventure at the zoo like he was probably hoping it would, but instead provided us hours of amusement. Even now, whenever I do something risque or borderline against some rule or another, we all joke about how 'that guy' is just going to appear to chastise me about it. roffle-mao.
Doo doo dododo.
I had both freeze dried icecream for the first time as well as Panera Bread that day. Mmm... Panera Bread...
That night was my party at The Liz. Most of my friends no longer live in Ohio or have too many kids to go to the bar, so the turnout was modest. Between some silly drama and people without transportation it was even more modest than it otherwise would have been, half the turnout sitting in another room. But we had fun. 40 cent wings and booze for all!
Wednesday I had an appointment at Rejuvenate Spa. Not much exciting to talk about a spa visit, but that night Aaron prepared artichoke heart lasagna for us all, dazzling everyone with his culinary expertise. Afterward we went to see a movie. Thor. Pretty good, though the romance seemed premature and thus awkward.
Thursday we were supposed to meet with not only my grandfather but also my mother for breakfast at the hotel. Even though it was her idea, my mother was late, and then later canceled. Being a slow poke. Instead the three of us ate, returned to our suites to pack, and then hit the road for Michigan.
Upon our arrival we met up with my cousin Dean and waited an hour or more for my mother to arrive. Then we also met up with my sister Holly and my niece Riley for Coney dogs. So, so delicious. Afterward we returned to Dean's house (where we'd be staying) for drinks with my uncle Paul. But mostly Aaron and I just played with Riley on the tire swing and taught her how to draw. Dean made excellent Mexican food.
Friday we went to downtown Wyandotte. One of my favorite places in all the world. Originally my mother had convinced us that it was only ten dollars per person to get into Greenfield Village, so we were going to go there, and even did. Only to realize it was actually almost thirty-five dollars per person to get into Greenfield Village. So we called to be picked back up, four minutes after having arrived, and instead went downtown. Which, in my opinion, was better anyhow.
There we walked along the pier of the river, toured Bishop Park (where my sister Holly and I as kids had buried a piece of coal hoping it would one day become a diamond), and strolled the shop-lined streets. We met up with Holly and Riley again after stopping for icecream at Stroh's and headed to the Wyandotte totem pole. There, there is also a fountain.
Back in the day, this fountain collected about a foot of water and the founts stuck up like steel poles about a foot above the water's surface. This made it terribly dangerous to play in, looking back. But that never stopped us. There were even signs telling you not to get in the fountain. Those never stopped us either. As soon as we'd see the police car pull into the lot of the nearby Big Boy's, we'd just run off.
These days the fountain is a much friendlier place. They removed the bowl, so the water no longer pools, and they covered the founts with brick so that you were less likely to trip over them or impale yourself on one if you slipped and fell. There are even signs encouraging you to play in the fountain now, albeit at your own risk. So of course, that's exactly what we did.
It's chilly on the water front, and easy to forgot how hot it is elsewhere, and how sunny it is. In other words, while having a grand ol' time in the fountain: Aaron and I both wound up sunburned. In funny places. Aaron on just his forearms with a bright white watch band where his watch shielded him. Me on my chest and arms, but the cut of my sundress left a funny white V on my collarbone.
We had a great time though, so it was totally worth it.
That evening Aaron and I bought pizza for everyone from some little Italian place my grandpa loves. While waiting, we played pinball with my grandpa. Once we had our fill of pizza, we had German chocolate cake with Caulder's vanilla icecream to celebrate my mother's birthday. We tried to watch The Fly, which everyone was claiming would be on that night, but it never did air. So we went to bed Vincent Priceless.
Saturday we were to go to my uncle Paul's house with my mother and my grandfather. But my mother wasn't ready yet... so we went with my grandfather to my uncle's house and my mother went to see her friend Barb and would meet up with us afterward. Much to my amusement, The Fly came on right as we were leaving. Wouldn't you know it?
My uncle Paul is like some animal whisperer. He's got birds, squirrels and even a duck that all eat from his hand. Wild animals. Some of which shouldn't even be there. Why is there a mallard family living in his yard? There's no reasonable body of water nearby. They have to fly about a mile to the river. Yet there they are, momma duck sitting on eleven eggs right under his gas meter.
We were hoping they'd hatch, since they were well overdue to do so, but they didn't while we were there. I actually got news yesterday that they finally did so, and now my uncle has ducklings running all over his lawn. That's got to be adorable.
My mom arrives an hour past go time (which I called) and then we begin our journey back to Ohio. No king suite this time. We'd be staying in my old bedroom at my mom's house. In my tiny twin bed. With Neelix. On our way back though, we stopped at the Beef Jerky Emporium. The kind of place you could probably only find in Michigan. There we bought all manner of succulent beef jerky. Garlic, peppered, honeyed... It made a great travel snack both in the car and on the plane the following day.
We arrived in Ohio around dinner time, so we grabbed a bite to eat at the Fun Buffet. It used to be a Perkins, now it's a Chinese buffet. A surprisingly good one with a large selection. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that most ethnic food is better in California than it is in Ohio. If you can even find it in Ohio. Probably because California isn't 95% white people. :P
We didn't have much time for anything once we made it to my mother's house since we had to be up at 3:00 AM to catch our flight back home. Lena stopped by for a bit, but then it was all business. Packing and collecting odds and ends from my old room that I'd like to have in California. We didn't wind up in bed until after midnight. While Aaron and Neelix had no difficulty sleeping, I didn't catch a wink. There just wasn't enough room in the bed for all of us. I basically laid there until the alarm clock went off. Then I got up like some kind of zombie and got ready.
Since I'm deaf, I can get people gate passes to accompany me to my gate so long as I'm otherwise unaccompanied. So Aaron and I checked in separately, so my mom could hang out with us for a little while longer at the airport. Check in didn't go smoothly for me though. I had Neelix with me, all 22 lb. of him in a plastic carrier. He was over the weight limit to be brought on as a carry-on, so he needed to be checked. The guy behind the counter looked at the carrier several times, and it was on the weight scale the entire check in procedure. We even told him he needed to be checked when we got there.
Right from the beginning I knew it was going to be ridiculous when he claimed there was no pet record attached to my flight information. We had talked extensively with the airline about Neelix's travel plans several times. So for there to be no record of this on file was a little irritating. Thankfully the guy would still let him board.
He wouldn't however fill out the correct paperwork about it. Rather than the checked luggage/live animal forms, he filled out the carry on/live animal forms. Then said, "Just try to carry him on, if he won't fit they'll check him at the gate." Which sounded to me like bullshit, since it's a live animal and required all manner of paperwork to even get on the plane. I seriously doubted they'd just simply check him at the gate under any circumstance.
When I vocalized my doubt, the guy looks again at the carrier and says, "That can't go on the plane. Its gotta be a soft shell!" Like suddenly Neelix would not be able to travel at all. We knew better however, having talked to the airline directly about the cat and his weight and being told explicitly how to proceed. The vet records, check-up ten days before the scheduled departure, exact measurements of the HARD shelled carrier. All of it. So once again we tell him that he's got to be checked because of his weight and size.
The guy is clearly frustrated at us, even though it's his own fault, and goes about filling out the right paperwork this time. This means he has to completely void the last transaction, including the fee to check my other unrelated baggage. Finally, we're ready to proceed.
Neelix and his carrier have to be thoroughly inspected before he can get on the plane, so they make us remove him from his carrier right there in the middle of the busy airport. Neelix is a laid back cat, luckily, so he kind of just stands there looking around wide-eyed. I imagine if he were any other cat he probably would have tried to bolt, and then there'd be a wild cat chase through the airport.
At last we're underway. We eat breakfast with my mom at our gate and then board the plane. Though we left at 6:00 AM EST, we arrive in Sacramento at 11:00 AM PST, thanks again to the time change. So by the time we touch down in California, it's still morning, but we're exhausted.
Neelix is waiting for us at the luggage claim, but one of our bags is missing. Aaron loads the remainder of our luggage and Neelix on to a cart so that I'm able to move it all myself, and then goes in search of our car while I deal with the airline about the missing bag. The car has been camped in airport parking the entire week, though we can't remember if it was in D lot or C lot. Or maybe E lot...
Everyone keeps commenting on my dog. I have to tell everyone that Neelix is a cat.
I file a claim about the bags, answer all manner of question to prove the bag is mine (even though I've got ID and my name is on the tag the airline put on there) and then they take down our address so that they can deliver the bag once it gets to the state. They didn't tell me which state it got left behind in, but something tells me it never left Cleveland.
We finally get home only to run out of energy by 1:00 PM our time. We sleep until around 11:45 PM, when the airline delivery guy wakes me up trying to find our place. I give him directions and go outside to meet him. Bag is accounted for, with all belongings safely in tact. Hurray! I then immediately go right back to bed.
We wake up for about an hour or so at 2:00 AM, but go back to bed in hopes of rising at a more decent hour. 6:30 AM will have to do. It was definitely easier to adjust to EST than it was to readjust to PST.
Neelix loves our place. He's claimed the lazy boy as his own, and enjoys the balcony. He even uses the enclosed litter box without a fuss which is something he would not do at my mother's house. While Intruder wasn't thrilled with his arrival, she's slowly but surely getting over it. They haven't had any spats or anything, Intruder just hisses and he leaves her be. Neelix is too chill to cause any true conflict.
The plants were fine for the week unattended, as was the snail, which is good to know. In a few weeks we'll probably head South to visit Eileen. I imagine that Neelix and Intruder will do a good deal of bonding in our absence.