Canada, Oh Canada | Part 1

Guess who gets to cross a destination off of her Passport Picks list….. Me! Last weekend K and I took a short anniversary get-away trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada! Our little Midwestern town is exactly 5 hours from the tourist trap and neither of us had ever been, so I booked us a trip! (I love the deals I find on Travelocity!)

Niagara

We left home Saturday morning and made it across the boarder and into Niagara Falls by noon. I made reservations for a 1pm brewery tour and we were a little early, so we decided to walk around the corner and check out a small Parisian cafe (unintentionally discovered on our map app). Um, SUCH a cool little find! We were a little bummed that we already had lunch plans because these crepes belonged in the Louvre; they were so masterful and decadent. We settled on some coffee and people watching.

Cafe

We paid our bill (after some currency anxiety- more on that later) and headed back across the street for our tour & some lunch. I will pause right now to say this: We did not have one bad meal in Canada. Everything was so delicious, everywhere we went! Bravo, Canada!

Taps

At 3pm we could check into our hotel so we headed down the street to the Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls. They weren’t kidding- it looked like we could dive into the falls! So awesome!

I’ve learned over the years that K has differing vacation expectations than me. He likes to take time to lounge in the hotel room or nap or watch a TV show. I like to go go go because there’s so much to see and do! That being said, we relaxed in the room for a bit before I dragged him out again.

Oakes

That afternoon we headed down the Falls Incline Railway (a vertical cable car) and browsed the gift shop, watched Niagara’s Fury, and walked along the falls, snapping a million pictures.

(Niagara’s Fury is a short movie and moving platform with sounds, water, lights, etc. that explains how the falls were carved out by glaciers.)

IMG_1309. . .

IMG_1308. . .

Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls

. . .

American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls
American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls

. . .

IMG_1314

To appease my hubby we headed back to the room to relax before dinner. I actually fell asleep and he browsed the internet for facts about Niagara Falls. We topped off the night with some dinner at My Cousin Vinny’s and the illuminated falls.

Vinnys

Some interesting facts from K about the falls:
– Collectively, the falls dump 750,000 gallons of water per second
– There are actually three waterfalls- the Bridal Veil Falls is a smaller waterfall next to the American Falls
– The American Falls were stopped in 1969 for several months
– The only person to survive an unintentional trip down the falls was a 7 year old boy (his boat had overturned)
– 2% of the world’s fresh water can be found in the Great Lakes and MOST of it goes over the falls

Check out Part 2!

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? (Which side?) Where would you travel to on a long weekend? Don’t you love when you accidentally discover the perfect little cafe or restaurant??

-Louise

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My Full Heart

Two years ago at this time (10pm) I was freshly married and dancing amongst our fabulous wedding guests. I had no idea where I’d be two year later. I definitely can’t complain.

Right now I’m camped out on our couch, snacking on a delicious yellow cake (with chocolate frosting) baked fresh by my wonderful mother-in-law. I’m watching Once Upon a Time in hopes of catching up by next Sunday, and I’m hearing my two beautiful pups chomping on bones. Funny enough, Kyle just walked through the backdoor after a half-day of work. I don’t know if my heart could be happier right now.

On Saturday K and I left for Niagara Falls (Canada side) and we returned home this afternoon around 1. We were met at the door with wagging tails and puppy kisses. It was a short trip, but a perfect one. This evening I rode with my mom to a neighboring city and spent some time perusing Target and getting dinner with her. It’s been a wonderful day.

My heart is so happy and grateful and full and excited to start Year #3.

-Louise

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey

A Letter to My Children

This week I’ve been inspired by Rebecca’s post as well as The Letter Link-Up with mr. thomas & me.

I’ll start by admitting that I have some irrational or silly fears. These include horses, my dogs being sprayed by skunks, dinosaurs (yes, I know they’re extinct but what if they WEREN’T?), and someone living in our attic. The last one I have checked multiple times with a knife in hand; our house is old and it creaks.

One of my not-so-irrational fears is how my children will see themselves someday. When I was younger I had self-doubt. I doubted my intelligence, my personality, my weight, my looks, etc. I was very mean to myself (which sometimes led to me being mean to others) and very uncomfortable in my own skin. Terms related to anxiety and depression were tossed around and at one point I thought about running away.

I hate that I once felt that way. I know it pains my parents to now known all the issues I was going through. I love my life now and it makes me sad that at one point I hated it.

That being said, I have this fear that my children might feel this way one day. I will literally do everything in my power to help them avoid those feelings.

Dear Future Kiddo,

You aren’t a thought yet, so I don’t know if you will be a girl or a boy, but it doesn’t matter- we will love you regardless. I hope that you are healthy. Honestly, that’s the only thing I will hope and pray and plead for… You can be bald, tiny, big, whatever. I just hope you’re healthy. And if you’re not, we will figure it out and manage all the same.

Let’s move on.

You are coming into a very turbulent world. This world has a lot of good in it, but it also has bad. The world is filled with money problems, violence, hate, and more. There are babies having babies and children without food or homes or role models. I won’t shield you from these facts- we will talk about them and try to understand them and thank God that we are fortunate enough to be comfortable. I hope that you will learn to extend a helping hand to those that have less than you.

You will have friends and even family members that let you down. It’s your job to forgive, because you will also let people down. No matter what you do, though, your dad and I will always have your back. You will make mistakes and you will have to pay for those mistakes, and you will be in the wrong and we will have to discipline you, but we will always love you and stand by you.

Your dad is going to instill in you the importance of hard work, honesty, and practice. Boy or girl, your dad is going to stick you behind the drumset and coach you. If you hate it then we’ll find something else to work at. You don’t have to be the best, but you should strive to be better than you were yesterday. Not everyone gets a trophy and sometimes you will lose. That’s life. Losing makes winning that much sweeter. That said, winning isn’t everything. Sometimes you won’t be appreciate or recognized for something awesome that you’ve done. Your worth isn’t defined by others- you are always good enough.

Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t compare others to you. Everyone is different and we all have strengths and weaknesses. Spend your time lifting others up, not putting them down. You are a human. A creature. A creation of God. This puts you on the same playing field as a king and a homeless man. You share the same air as a dog and a lion. Everyone deserves mercy and compassion. Respect your neighbors and your pets and the environment- you can’t live without these things.

This next part is very important.

You can tell us anything. Anything. You don’t have to tell us everything, but you can tell us anything. If you are feeling sad for no reason please tell us. If you are attracted to the same sex please tell us. If you are struggling in math please tell us. If you are drunk at a party and all your friends are drunk please call your father. (DO NOT get in a car with other drunk people.) If you are in jail, please call us. If you are addicted to heroin, please tell us. Your problems, fears, struggles, joys, triumphs are ours, too.

I will apologize now because your dad and I will mess up. Probably a lot. But we will love you and we want you to love you, too.

– Future Mom

Maybe someday when we’re ready for kids I will revisit this letter (and probably cry).  Right now it was just something on my mind.

What do you tell your children as far as self-esteem goes? What do you want your future children to know?

-Louise

The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me

NASCAR: Bristol, Tennessee

Sorry about the hiatus. That was unintentional. Things got a little busy around here & I rarely post on the weekends, but I’m back now so yay!

This weekend my family took a trip to Bristol, Tennessee for the NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway. This was our fourth year going, I think. We typically drive down on Saturday morning, watch the races on Saturday afternoon & Sunday, then drive home Sunday night. (It’s a 5 or 6 hour drive, plus some stops for food/leg stretching.)

This year my dad invited my grandparents to join us so my mom booked a room for Sunday night so the schedule wouldn’t be as rigorous. My grandparents didn’t end up going, but since the race was delayed by rain on Sunday until 7pm, it was awesome that we got to stay and watch. Last year when it was delayed by rain we had to leave since we all worked on Monday morning.

This year my parents, my brother, K, and friends of my parents’ piled into my dad’s excursion and made the trek. (My brother’s girlfriend was planning on coming, but she came down with a cold last week.)

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. . .

The baby brother & I
The baby brother & I.

We had beautiful weather on Saturday, but the bigger race is on Sunday and that’s when the big rain clouds were due to move in.

(We sat in the sun for +5 hours on Saturday and I have 0% sunburn (or tan) to show for it because I’m terrified of getting skin cancer. I don’t tan well but I fry like an egg, so I just 50 spf myself and call it a day!)

So Sunday called for 100% rain and I prayed and prayed that God would give us a window of dryness- even just 2 or 3 hours to get half the race in. If they make it halfway it counts and if not they reschedule the whole thing.

Around 2pm they started the rain and got in 22 laps but the clouds opened up and the red flag was thrown for moisture on the track.

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Rain, rain… go away!

When moisture stops a race NASCAR will release statements saying when they hope to resume racing. We were convinced they’d have to call it and reschedule it for tomorrow when the weather was supposed to be more favorable. Despite our doubt, we hung around the rainy track all day, decked out in ponchos, rain pants, hats, and rain jackets. Finally, around 4pm, NASCAR made the announcement that they hoped to resume around 6:30pm.

Around 6 they started drying the track and they were back to racing around 7. I must admit, it was a d*mn good race- it was worth waiting around for!

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Soaked & tired but ready for some racing.

Bristol hosts a night race in August and a day race in Spring, but this year we got to see a night race. Those are the best. My boy Kasey Kahne didn’t win this year, but all the Hendrick boys had a pretty great run. Matt Kenseth won the race after a few cautions, another red flag for rain, and a green-white-checker finish.

I love the hills & mountains of VA and TN.
I love the hills & mountains of VA and TN.

We started for home on Monday morning and obviously had NASCAR radio playing the whole way. One of the hosts was talking about how the race conflicted with a memorial service for his brother and he was worried he’d miss the entire race. They left for the service after the first rain caution/red flag that afternoon and as they climbed into the car around 6:30pm to return home he turned on the radio and heard them say they cars were ready to start running again. Obviously he was relieve and said a little thank you to his brother up above.

This story made me smile since I’d been asking God for the exact opposite thing. Turns out I got to see the race and the radio host didn’t miss a second. I’d say that guy upstairs knows what He’s doing.

Great weekend, great people, great racing, and a grateful fan 🙂

-Louise

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey

I Hate Spring

Hate is a strong word, but spring is my least favorite season and I’m beginning to remember why…

Spring

While I’m grateful to store the snow shovel and bask in the warm-ish weather, I still have some major complaints about this season. Honestly, I’d be good with a week of spring, a week of summer, and then 10+ weeks of fall!

Here’s my beef with April Showers & May Flowers:

| Thunderstorms |
Honestly, I used to love thunderstorms and I guess I still do, but the tizzy they throw my dog into is exhausting. Yes, we have tried XXX (insert suggestion here) and I really do appreciate the advice, but we have done the Thundercoat, anxiety medication, sleeping pills, covering her crate, etc. and the only thing that calms her is being held- and she still sits there shaking. Also, she’s +65 lbs. When we travel in spring I always worry about the weather at home because of my poor puppy. UGH.

| Muddy Paws |
I keep my house fairly tidy. I’m not a neat freak and you will definitely find dust or dog hair, but from March to June there’s also the chance of mud. Our dogs go outside and run around in the yard (usually right after a rainy day) and then bring that outside filth inside. Honestly, I don’t care about dirt, but when that dirt is wet I get a little fussy. I love that my mutts have fun in the yard and I’m not that squimish. Will my future children track dirt inside someday? Yes. Will my future children eat dirt? Probably. I just think that my carpets look better without the giant brown paw prints all over them.

| Contrary Weather |
Seriously, though? Make up your d#*% mind, Ohio. It gets a little better toward summer but March is a crapshoot. (Off topic: Where did that word come from? Now I need to look into it…) We might see snow, we might see sun, we might see a tornado. Whatever, weather. I’m done with you. Layers for days.

| Bugs |
If I’m being honest, this is my biggest problem with spring. I have found 1 or 2 random bees in our spare bedroom trying to get out the window. I found a creepy-crawly in the office last week. And our bedroom always attracts a few ladybugs. Like, WHERE THE HELL DO THEY COME FROM? I hate bugs. Hate hate hate. I’ll play in the mud, hold a snake, catch a bat… but I flippin’ hate bugs. Ugh, I’m already over it.

| Humidity |
Honestly, I shouldn’t complain about this one because the static electricity in our house this winter was torturous. I just hate how the humidity brings out the smell in things (am I the only one that notices this?) and makes everything feel sticky. Ick.

 

Ok, that’s it. I’m done complaining for a while. I love that we get to experience all the season in Ohio- I just prefer the colder ones.

(According to the internet, crapshoot is “craps shoot” which comes from the chance game of Craps, which involves throwing the dice without being able to predict the outcome.)

What’s your favorite season? More importantly, what’s your least favorite season? Do you enjoy thunderstorms?

-Louise

Weekend Recap: WGI Percussion World Finals

I meant to write about this last week, but I couldn’t find the words and it ended up being a hectic week so I never got around to it. Now I’m feeling a little more confident and ready.

Taking it all the way back to 2005 when I was introduced to Kyle drumline.

drumline 1
FIGURE 1

I know that when I say “drumline” I often hear, “Oh, like the movie?” Nope nope nope. Forget everything you may have “learned” in the movie because none of it applies here.

When I joined band as a high school freshman there were two required activities: marching band in the fall and concert band in the winter/spring. In addition, students were encouraged to try out for the musical extracurricular actives: drumline and color guard.

Since I was already a budding new percussionist (formerly a saxophone player), I chose drumline.

With the exception of later dating K, being a band kid and joining drumline are the best decisions I made in my teen years. In October 2005 I attended drumline auditions and made a spot as a marimba player.

Four years later, as a freshman in college, I decided I wasn’t ready to give up music just yet and auditioned for an independent drumline called Matrix. (High school drumlines are “scholastic.” Independent lines are not affiliated with or financial supported by a school system.)

Additionally, there are different levels of difficulty. World is the “advanced level.” Here’s a visual aid:Chart 1My high school was scholastic A. (Later on they moved up to open class). Matrix is an independent world group. Drumline is a competitive pageantry sport and you compete against other lines in your class.

I hope you’re still following along here…

Matrix 2010
Matrix 2010

So this weekend was the end of the season. It was the Superbowl of drumline. After the last few months of competition all the lines come together and compete against those in their class for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

It takes a lot to get to this point.

Drumline members spend their weekends rehearsing in schools, churches, and any other buildings they can borrow/rent. (High school drumlines rehearse throughout the week and on weekends.) When I was a vibraphone player at Matrix we would show up to a school/rehearsal site Friday night, rehearse until 2am, sleep, wake up at 7am and rehearse from 8am to 2am with two one-hour food breaks, then sleep, wake up Sunday, and rehearse until 5pm. At that point we packed up and drove back to college/home/work/wherever.

So before I continue, here’s a video of one of my favorite shows from 2010. It’s a drumline called Pulse Percussion from California- they’re also an independent world group.

Drumline shows are composed of arranged music and drill. This means that someone writes this music for the drumline and then members learn it very quickly, memorize it, and learn the drill to move across the floor. The goal is to execute this perfectly. There is a battery (the moving drums) and a front ensemble (the mallet instruments and rack equipment that doesn’t usually move).

Additionally, shows have a theme or title. The uniforms, show design, props, floor design, etc. center around this theme. If you can come out doing something no one else has done before you also get some serious points.

In 2013 Matrix did a show called Covered. To this day it is my hands down favorite show. I love the music and the drill and the energy this show creates. If you skip over the videos, at least watch this one.

Matrix used real paint in this show, which made the  crowd go nuts every time. (Get it? “Covered”??) Additionally, you might recognize music by Skrillex. (This year Matrix used some music by Drake and Beyonce.) The goal is to make an impact and to do it well. Everyone in that show is a crazy-talented musician.

There are different circuits for drumlines to compete in (depending upon their location), but the biggest world-wide circuit is World Guard International (WGI), based out of Dayton, Ohio. That’s where world finals are and that’s where K and I were this weekend.

|| Side note: Drumlines make up a large percentage of Kyle’s clientele. During these show weekends he spends a lot of time connecting with customers and meeting new people. I go because I love it. This is my 10th year straight at Percussion World Finals. ||

During world finals the best place to be is in the lot. (a.k.a. the parking lot of UD Arena.) This is where you can get up close and personal with the drumlines before they make their way into the arena for competition. The drumlines run through their warm-ups, different chunks of the show, and the entire show while fans crowd around them and watch. The energy in the lot is so, so good. The better the drumline, the bigger the crowd, the better the energy. (Can you tell energy is a huge thing here?)

I wish I could go into more detail, but this is already a novel and there are way too many routes to go from here.

The last two videos were independent world lines, but here’s my high school line (scholastic A) in 2011. K was the main instructor during this year. My baby brother is the tallest snare drummer. And yes, they’re hanging drums from the “swing sets.”

I didn’t even touch the surface, but this sums up my weekend, at least. I’ll leave you with a picture of the gorgeous Dayton weather from the lot on Saturday and a (shaky) link to my Matrix show from 2010.

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Have you heard of indoor drumline? Did I leave out anything crucial to your understanding? How on point is my band nerd status today? Are you ready to pack up and head to Dayton for World Finals next spring?

-Louise

Meet the Canine: Enzo

I like to save my favorite posts for Friday! Today I’m joining the link-up with Erin from TexErin-in-SydneyLand for Meet the Canines.

Without fur-ther ado (get it?), I hand the reins over to our youngest, Enzo.

Hey, folks.
Hey, folks.

Mom has given me strict instructions to introduce myself and then answer a few questions about my likes and dislikes. Under no circumstance am I to get off topic or talk about things that I just remembered like the kibble I left in my dish to eat later since my breakfast was interrupted by a rabbit in the front yard where I never get to play because the backyard is fenced in and… Wait. I think I’m getting off topic.

My name is Enzo Bugglesworth, but they call me Enzo-Bug for short… Anyway, I am a year and a half old- mom & dad adopted me when I was 9 weeks. People says I’m a “mutt” but my vet is convinced I have some weimaraner in me and my grandma calls me a whippet and the rescue said I was a collie mix. Regardless, I’m super fast and I don’t like being yelled at.

Ok. I think that’s enough. Time for some questions!

Step into my office and we'll begin this interview.
Step into my office and we’ll begin this interview.

What’s your favorite activity that doesn’t involve eating?
Eating things I’m not supposed to. I don’t do it often, but my resume boasts 3 blankets, a down comforter, the ugly pillow in the living room, and two TV remotes. So delicious. Wait…. not involving eat? Dang. Probably licking my sister’s face when she least expects it.

This is my sister, Lylee.
This is my sister, Lylee.

What’s your favorite dog treat?
Carrots. This is not a joke. I love carrots. Also, whipped cream. Sometimes I see mom and dad eat that stuff and I wonder why they’re eating dog food.

What’s your highest level of education?
I have completed beginner, intermediate, and advanced training. Mom is also working to make me a licensed therapy dog. I don’t want to brag, but when I’m paying attention I’m pretty smart. (Which happens 4% of the time.)

Graduation
Graduation from Puppy School! Mom was so proud.

Who is your best friend?
I mean, Lylee is my other half, but outside the family I enjoy a good game of chase with my friend Ernie the dachshund.

Action shot!
Action shot!

I also made a new friend last month; her name is Dr. Bones. She’s a year younger than me and she’s got some terrier in her, but I feel the start of something special there.

Would you like to have children some day?
Mom says this is impossible. I say if you can dream, it you can do it. But mom still says it’s scientifically impossible. Plus I’m not allowed to hump things which apparently has a direct correlation with puppies? I do love human children, though. I’d like to have a few of them around the house someday.

Do you have a favorite TV show or movie? Favorite band?
I prefer the music of my people. It starts with a soft growl and erupts into a horrendous yowl/screech. I think dad really enjoys that, too. He yells with me when I really get going. As far as TV goes, nothing puts me (and mom) to sleep like a NASCAR Race. My favorite movie is obviously Ghostbusters.

Tell us the story of your adoption.
This was the best day EVER. Before mom & dad took me home I lived with a foster dad, golden retriever, and my biological brother, Tanner (who was renamed Zedd). They were great but everyone kept talking about a “forever home.” I met mom and dad in a small room in the headquarters of Paws & Prayers. Mom liked Tanner because he had spots on his nose, but I really laid the cuteness on thick with dad and won that sucker over. He also liked my white racing stripe. (Stripe was my original name!)

They didn’t take me right away because they were also planning to see a boxer at another rescue so they left for a bit but pretty soon they were back (empty handed)! Another young couple also decided to adopt Tanner that day! Mom scooped me up and didn’t let me go until we arrive at my new home! Of course they bought me a nice leash & collar, food bowls, and a new sweater. On the drive home mom & dad tossed around names. They almost settled on “Nitro” when dad suggested Enzo, after the Enzo Ferrari. Yep, I’m named after a Ferrari.

The deal breaker was my soon-to-be-big-sister Lylee. She was very aggressive at that point and she had to approve me before it was official. Mom set me down in the driveway and dad brought Lylee out. Mom had been praying about this moment alllll morning so I did my best to sit still and let Lylee sniff me out. I was very brave, if I do say so myself. After a few seconds she decided I was ok and it was official!

Adoption Day!
Adoption Day! Dad’s pumped.

There you have it! Mom says I am one of the best dogs she’s ever owned. Although the pee spot in the spare bedroom this morning might have her reconsidering…

Stay tuned for a Lylee link-up someday soon!

-Enzo & Louise