Sunday, December 27, 2009

Flat Stanley Spends Christmas in Delaware!

Happy Holidays from Delaware!

Boy, has it been a busy Christmas weekend here with Meg's family. More new people to meet and so many neat things to see! I barely know where to start, but I'm going to do my best.

On Christmas Eve, Meg went over to her brother's house to see family there, including her two nephews. I stayed home because I was still REALLY tired from the night before, and Meg said things can be a little crazy when her nephews start ripping open their piles of presents. But I got to meet them the next day, on Christmas, when everyone came to Meg's Mommy's house for something called brunch, which is between lunch and breakfast. I was just glad that Santa managed the trip and left everyone presents!

Meg's nephews are a lot of fun! The little one on the left is Michael, and he's six years old. The big one in all the Philadelphia Phillies gear is Will. He's 11 and Meg says he's a very good baseball player, which is why he likes the Phillies so much. Apparently Philadelphia, PA is not far from Delaware, so they are the closest baseball team to cheer for.

We had lots of food, opened presents, and then the boys went home to play with their new ping-pong table they got as a family gift for Christmas. I took a nap while Meg went over to play with them for a while. Those boys certainly know how to wear you out!

The next day, Meg and her Mommy took me to a place called Grotto Pizza, which is very famous in this part of Delaware. Grotto has been making pizza since Meg was a little kid, and that's a very long time!

Meg misses Grotto Pizza so much that she makes a trip there every time she comes back to Delaware. It looks like the Grotto people know what they're doing, because that sure is a good looking pizza!

Meg also said they make very good Philadelphia-style cheese steak sandwiches, so I got to try some of that too. That sandwich is almost as big as me!

By the end of dinner, we were so stuffed we took half the pizza home and had it for breakfast the next day. I never knew cold pizza could taste so good!

Before we left Delaware to fly back to California, Meg took me on a little tour of Rehoboth Beach, DE and we got to see the Atlantic Ocean!

Rehoboth Beach is where Meg and her friends spent a lot of time during the summer when they were growing up. There is a boardwalk that follows the line of the beach, so people can walk above the sand. It was hard getting pictures of the boardwalk, because parts of it are being replaced because of damage from storms the last few years. I mostly enjoyed looking at the water.

Meg also pointed out a very famous Rehoboth Beach and State of Delaware landmark, the Dolle's sign!

Dolle's sells salt water taffy, which is the souvenir most people take home from Rehoboth when they visit. Unfortunately I didn't get any to take back to Mary in Rhode Island because Dolle's is closed during the winter. I guess that means I'll have to find a way to come back!

And we missed Santa too!

He's probably on his own flight back to the North Pole.

It's been a whirlwind trip, but I'm really glad I came so I could meet some of Meg's family. And once the snow went away, Delaware is a pretty nice place to visit. But I really do want to come back another time, because salt water taffy sounds yummy, especially after more Grotto Pizza...

But first, we have a long trip back to Los Angeles. And the next time I get to write to you, it will be a new year! I can't wait to see what will happen in 2010!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Flat Stanley Hits the Road Again!

Hi everyone!

I'm so excited to be writing to you again because Meg and I are on another trip! That's right, we left Los Angeles today and took another airplane ride. Where were we headed? This time, we're going to a state called Delaware, which is where Meg grew up. We're going to visit her family for Christmas, and I can't wait to meet them! But boy, did we have a long journey getting there!

First of all, we were supposed to leave on Saturday, but there was a REALLY HUGE snowstorm back on the East Coast where Delaware is. They closed the airport we were supposed to fly into, so we got stuck in Los Angeles for several extra days. But Meg said that was OK, because it would be safer to travel after the roads were cleared off. We even went on the computer and saw pictures of Mary and her brothers standing in the snow in Rhode Island, getting their picture taken wearing bathing suits! I thought those were just for summer weather, but I could be wrong. I will have to remember to ask Mary about that when I'm back in Rhode Island.

We left for the airport at 8:30 this morning, even though our flight didn't leave until 1 PM. Meg said the lines would be very long because a lot of people would be going home to their families for the holidays too, so we had to have a lot of patience. Boy, was she right! We waited a long time just to give the airline people our suitcase, then we had to do that security thing and that was ANOTHER long line. Altogether it took about an hour. Meg said it was better to be safe and get there early than have to rush and forget something. Seems like she was right.

When we got to the airport, I was a little confused because the signs all said "Alaska."

I thought we were going to Delaware, and I don't think Alaska is on the East Coast! Were we in the wrong place? No, Meg explained. Alaska was the name of the airline that was taking us to Delaware, and when they started their business they mostly flew people to Alaska, but now they're much bigger and they go lots of other places. I still don't completely understand that, but I've learned that Meg knows what she's doing when it comes to traveling.

Even though the weather was supposed to be very bad when we landed, the sky on the way to Delaware sure was pretty.

When we finally arrived in Washington, DC it was already dark, and we had almost 3 more hours to drive until we finally got to Meg's Mommy's house in Lewes, DE. Meg wanted to get on the road as fast as possible so we didn't take any pictures at the airport, but that was OK with me. I've seen plenty of airports with her, and they pretty much look the same.

We did stop on the drive there in a town called Bridgeville, DE. They make something called "scrapple" in Bridgeville, and Meg laughed when she saw the Rapa Scrapple sign, so she just had to stop.

I asked her what scrapple is, and she said it's sort of like a meatloaf that you eat for breakfast. But Meg says she doesn't eat it, and when I asked why, all she said was that I really didn't want to know what was in scrapple because it's not very appealing. I think I'll take her word for it.

By the time we finally got to Lewes, it was past midnight...that means it's already Christmas Eve! I can't wait to see what Christmas in Delaware is like! Hopefully the weather doesn't keep Santa away...

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Story 2009: Part 2-Meg vs. The Mall

I hold a long-standing belief that if you're going to give someone a gift, you should expend the effort to make it special. I've never liked the idea of just buying something for someone, no matter who it is, that didn't have a story or some meaning behind it. I've been that way since I was a little girl. Every gift always started with the same thought - "This would be perfect for *insert name* because...." The stories are what make gift giving special.

My theory is part of the reason I hate THE MALL.

The whole idea of a shopping mall is that everything is so generic and accessible that you can find something agreeable to just about anyone. Granted, you may have a mall near you with some "specialty" shops, but they tend to be weird collections of stuff no one wants anyway. Or they cater to strange little boys that wear black eyeliner and nail polish and still play D&D. I've always wondered how those places manage to pay the rent every month.

Yet thanks to a series of hiccups in my master life plan this year, coupled with the latest whopper from mother nature, the mall is exactly where I headed today to finish my Christmas shopping. Since I won't arrive at my Mom's until 1 AM on Christmas Eve, my local Delaware shopping plan isn't happening, and I REFUSE to pay hundreds of dollars in expedited shipping to on-line companies to guarantee my gifts arrive in time. So I'm carting everything with me. And because we all know the airport people that search your unlocked bags are thieves this time of year, everything needs to fit in my carry-on. I am not a happy girl.

As if this wasn't challenge enough, I have other things to worry about in the Creative Gift Problem (CGP) department...

  • CGP #1 - 11 year old nephew who has too much of everything already.
  • CGP #2 - 6 year old nephew that wants what the 11 year old has.
  • CGP #3 - A brother who is a musician and just really wants very expensive guitars from Santa.
  • CGP #4 - Sister-in-Law who has so much jewelry from years of marriage to thoughtful brother that anything sparkly seems redundant.
  • CGP #5 - Mom. Enough said on that one. I think everyone can relate here.

Now a reasonable person would probably just throw up their hands and buy gift cards and assume the recipients would forgive them for their lack of creativity. If you've been paying attention so far, you know I'm NOT going out like that. Not having SOMETHING to open is completely unacceptable. There has to be a solution here, and I'm determined to try to find it...AT THE MALL.

So I after a little dose of happiness watching the Kings practice in El Segundo, I ventured out with no real plan in my head. This is another thing I NEVER do! Shopping without a plan is ill advised for two reasons: 1) I like to spend money and 2) I have no patience milling around with hundreds of other people that have no idea what they're trying to find. But since I was overloaded with CGP's, I figured the best strategy was just to walk around and search for some inspiration.

In the end, I came out with all but one gift purchased (and no, I'm not telling you what I bought!), exhausted but hopeful that I could still make this less-than-ideal gift giving scenario work. I will admit, I also chose to accept that this Christmas would be one where I didn't have the "perfect" gift for everyone, but everyone got something nice.

At least I can blame it on Mother Nature.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Story 2009: Part 1-Man vs. Nature

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, amid the vast pool of knowledge I accumulated at great cost to my parents, I learned about the elements of narrative conflict. And somehow they conveniently came together today to throw one huge monkey wrench into Christmas 2009. If you're not instantly recalling the elements of narrative conflict, you know how to use Google. Or you can simply read on and it will start to make sense.

For starters, I'm not going to lie. Traveling during the holidays is NOT my favorite thing to do. I always love going to visit my family, since I only manage to do it a couple of times a year. The PROCESS of doing it is another story. No matter how much patience you have, holiday travel will fry your nerves. You're surrounded by people that DON'T have your patience, DON'T know what they're doing most of the time, and DON'T have any respect for the other people they're irritating. I have a long standing theory that there should be roads built especially for long-haul trucks, since they don't mix well with cars. In my perfect universe, there would be separate airports for those people that meet all the DON'T criteria. When the world revolves around me one of these days, I'm gonna make it happen. Dealing with idiots during holiday travel is an example of the narrative conflict known as Man vs. Man.

I can see the light bulb going on over your head.

But lo and behold, before I even had a chance to confront the Man vs. Man beast, another type of conflict began yesterday at 6:51 am courtesy of an e-mail from my mother titled "FYI - SNOW." This would be an example of Man vs. Nature, just in case you were curious. As my luck would have it, the biggest snow storm in 25 years was predicted to hit Washington, DC the same day I planned to fly there on my way home. If I could get there, there were no guarantees I would be able to navigate the roads in my mid-size rental car.

As I watched the weather forecast deteriorate Friday evening, and endured a fitful night of sleep, I woke to yet another conflict - Man vs. Self. I started worrying about my ability to make the trip, what would happen if I got stuck, etc. I watched the sun rise on another temperate day in CA, and finished packing to leave for the airport. Just to be safe, I set text alerts with the airline in case the flight status changed.

So exactly how did all this dramatic conflict resolve? Mother Nature won. Washington got hammered with almost 2 feet of snow, the airport was closed, and my flight was canceled. I found out before I even had to leave for the airport thanks to the blessings of technology. So I called the airline, was EXTREMELY nice to the reservations person (knowing they must be having a bad day at work) and got re-booked on a flight....Wednesday. Four days from now.

At least the roads should be clear by then. But now I have a new conflict to deal with....Man vs. Christmas Gift List. You see, I had a great plan to do the rest of my shopping in sales tax -free Delaware. Time to unpack and get to work on Plan B....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Zinc Your Pups"

Right now I'm sitting at the dining table, listening to the Kings game on the radio and addressing Christmas cards. The Kings game is stress relief, while the Christmas cards are part of the stress sandwich that is my current to-do list. I love the holidays, but fighting a cold with this much to get done just sucks. With that in mind, here's a short list of some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain at the moment.

  • Envelope glue just tastes awful. Someone needs to come up with cherry flavored envelope glue. If they can add cherry flavor to make cough medicine taste better, why can't it work with envelope glue?

  • I can now confirm the Vicks-on-your-feet-with-socks trick works! Why, I have absolutely no idea, but I don't care. I'm breathing with more ease than I have in days, which is all that matters to me at this point. I was having a conversation with my girlfriend Denise about Vicks, which Mom always put on my nose when I was sick growing up. Denise has a term for it -"Zinc your sniffer." So I've decided putting Vicks on your feet should be referred to as "Zinc your pups." An old boss of mine always used to tell me her "Dogs are barking" when she was on her feet in high heels all day, but "Zinc your dogs" just doesn't have the same ring as "Zinc your pups."

  • I'm up to two Starbucks drinks a day. This is not good. The extra caffeine may have me thinking I've got more energy than I do. This is known as a dilemma, both because I love Starbucks and the extra energy. Or maybe I just need that sweet pepperminty flavor to stay in the holiday spirit...

  • I could ALMOST live on Progresso chicken noodle soup, Zone Perfect dark chocolate almond energy bars, and chamomile tea if my life depended on it. I like where it's putting me on the scale! Maybe I should write a diet book....

But my most disturbing thought is questioning if I am actually feeling better? Or is the adrenaline kicking in as I realize I still have a BOATLOAD of things to do before I get on a plane Saturday?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Back on the Sauce

Apparently I became delusional this week and mistakenly thought I was feeling better. So I stopped the drugs, tried to get back to a normal schedule, and then the beast came back and bit me in the ass. Or maybe it never really went away. For some reason, at least once a year I manage to get a cold that lingers so long I start referring to it as "The Crud." I'm functional and don't miss any work, but for at least a month everyone I talk to comments that I sound congested and not like myself. My frustration led to the following Facebook status update.

Meg Jarrell is back on the sauce...unless anyone has a better cough remedy than Robitussin....

As you all know, I LOVE social media activity in general, and Facebook in particular. I have a small group of people I regularly (as in every day) chat back and forth with, but a whole host of other friends that I hear from so seldom that I have no idea whether they even care about what I post. They may even find me annoying.

But the awesome thing about the social media world is you can always count on people to offer their opinion, even when it comes to matters of suffering and sickness. In fact, these are the times the best thoughts come out in people. So I was cheered and encouraged by some of the alternate cold remedy suggestions I got.

  • Bourbon. If you drink enough you won't care if you're coughing.

  • I know it sounds weird but tonight, put vicks vapor rub on the bottom of your feet and put socks on. It will take away the cough.

  • That Vicks thing works!!

  • The Vicks thing really does work. I like Delsym for coughs (12 hours to boot)

  • None of the cough syrups have enough active ingredient to help. Mucinex pills have mega doses of the same thing and really work.

  • Jagermeister.

  • Try Bigelow's Ginger Snappish tea with a spoonful of honey. Also get a vaporizer -- makes a HUGE difference!

  • 1 part bourbon, 1 part honey, 1/2 part lemon juice. Warm and serve.

OK then. I'm off the pharmacy AND the liquor store, and hopefully I can kick this thing once and for all. And although I'm scratching my head a bit on the Vicks-feet thing, I'm desperate enough to try anything at this point. Plus it's clearly winning in the cold remedy popularity contest.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eight Rounds...and a Knockout!

My Kings have been playing some great hockey lately (except on Saturday afternoons), but nonetheless I felt a twinge of anxiety in the pit of my stomach on the walk to Staples Center tonight. We were about to face the Phoenix Coyotes, who have been playing their own good hockey so far this season, and they've always been a tough team to beat for us, especially here in LA.

We did have a couple of things working against us tonight. The first was a hard fought win last night against the Conference leading Sharks in San Jose. The game went to overtime before we put it away, and it was an emotional win for the entire team. Forwards Teddy Purcell, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown finally ended their scoring droughts, and Drew had a simply AMAZING night with a goal, an assist and the honor of #1 Star of the Night. As incredible as it all was it took a lot of energy, and I had visions of our letdown after a superb win against the Pittsburgh Penguins back in November where we basically didn't show up at the next game. On top of that, the Coyotes are a division and conference rival, and have always given us a tough time no matter how good or bad they're playing as a team. Needless to say, there was a lot at stake tonight.

It certainly took a while, and the game was far from what I'd call solid, but the "right" Kings squad showed up tonight and we got the win. It took 8 rounds of shoot-out play, and Drew scored a beauty in round 7, then Justin Williams finished it off and we finally got to celebrate. In addition, the Kings became the first team in the Western Conference to reach 20 wins, and we're only 1 point away from both San Jose and Washington for most points in the NHL. Who would have thunk it! I LOVE THIS TEAM!

And because many good things in my hockey world tonight involved the number 8, my "Opposing Team Hottie of the Night" is the Coyotes #8 - Right Winger Scottie Upshall. Why is it all the hot NHL men wear #8? I don't know, but I love it!

Now it's time for the boys (and me) to rest up for our next game on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars. GO KINGS GO!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Decorating Gone Awry

When I moved this summer, I cleaned out a lot of junk, but also rediscovered some cool treasures I had hidden away for a time when I could actually use them. One of the things I "found" was a neat set of hand-painted plates with cocktail themes.

I bought them at this great little boutique in the Pearl District of downtown Portland, OR shopping with my friend Tanya a number of years ago. I always envisioned using them as the centerpiece of a kitchen decorating scheme since they have hip, contemporary colors. When I was unpacking, I left them on top of the fridge, thinking I would find some plate hangers and put them on the wall in my little kitchen to brighten it up a bit.

OK, so I moved in June and hadn't gotten around to this yet, but for some reason a weekend I spent sick as a dog, hopped up on cold meds seemed like the right time to take on this little project. Although the more I looked at the kitchen, the more I decided against hanging the plates there, because I wanted them to be more visible. The wall next to my dining set would be perfect, and I could organize them in a square of four. Genius!

With the plate hangers located, I grabbed my hammer and nails. To make sure everything was even, I did paper mock-ups the same size as the plates, measured the wall, figured out the exact center and correct formation, marked the wall where the nails would was perfection. Then I grabbed a nail and started hammering. And THIS HAPPENED....

I didn't think about the fact that this wall of my apartment is right next to the elevator shaft, and is therefore made of plaster over CONCRETE. Doh! That's not gonna work! So now I have to come up with another place to hang my plates, AND I have an ugly mark on my wall. Oh, the humanity!

For my alternate plate location, I decided on the entryway wall, and I'm pretty pleased with how they look.

As for the hole in the wall, I covered it temporarily with my John Mayer "Secret Show"poster. It looks kind of bland hanging there by itself, but I couldn't stand the ugly mark on the wall.

So, anyone have good decorating ideas that involve things you can only hang with tape? My wall needs your help...

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Thought Locker - Post-Thanksgiving-Holiday Sickness Monday Blues Edition

  • You know how people always tell you when you're having a tough time, "Just sleep on it. Everything will look better in the morning." Sometimes that works. Sadly, today it did not.
  • When I woke up at 4 AM from 8 hours of drug induced coma, my first 5 minutes of consciousness included these thoughts, in no particular order - "I should get up right now...if I get up now I'll be a zombie by 2 pm....didn't get the laundry done last night...what the hell am I going to wear I have clean pants or do I have to shave my legs?...crap! Addie's birthday is Thursday and I haven't sent a gift yet...where is that Pottery Barn Kids catalog....ugh, I can't breathe....*cough, cough, cough* now where is the Kleenex....haven't ordered Christmas cards yet...wonder how much I'll have to suck up for rush I really only have 3 weeks until I leave for Christmas?...hmmm, I'm in Irvine Tuesday for a meeting, so I COULD go see the Kings-Ducks game at Honda Center....arrghh that might be pushing still feel like crap....screw it, I'm going back to bed."

  • I wish there was a way to download the feelings you have during the best and worst moments in your life and save them for later. That way, when you're having a pity party along the lines of "I've never felt this sick in my life" you can go back to that previous time, relive the feelings and compare them to what you're experiencing now. It would really help me know whether I'm truly on the brink of death or not that sick and just complaining too much.

  • I just smeared Chap-Stick on my nose. Even with lotion-infused tissue, I still look like Rudolph and I can't stand it. My regular moisturizer isn't helping, so it was time for plan B. No idea if this will actually work or not. Then again, maybe supermodels have been keeping this a secret for years and were just too embarrassed to tell anyone it helps.

  • One unexpected benefit of cold medication containing anti-histamines is the temporary elimination of my oily skin. I normally would have blotted and re-powdered the shiny spots a couple of times by now, but I'm dry as the Sahara.
  • Sometimes there just isn't enough Starbucks in the world to make it better....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

When most people think of Thanksgiving, similar images come to mind - visiting family, everyone seated around a huge table, an enormous turkey and all the trimmings, and football and parades on TV. For me, the majority of my Thanksgivings the past dozen years or so have always looked very different. Since my family is all back East and flying is expensive, I usually get home for only one winter holiday, and Christmas has always been my choice for obvious reasons.

To compensate, I've done some very creative and different things for Thanksgiving, from potlucks with friends to frisbee and a Thanksgiving spread on the beach in Malibu my first year here in CA. This year, I agreed to help a dear friend. Nadine and her husband were going back to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with John's family, and she needed someone to watch the house...and be bossed around by one very large and spoiled dog.

Meet Bailey.

You're probably thinking he looks pretty innocent, but he's a 150 pound Great Dane-Mastiff-Pit Bull mix with a jones for doggie treats every 30 minutes and the ability to train people to bend to his every whim. Nadine and John have 2 other dogs, which were staying in the kennel because they're a lot to handle. Bailey is special, because he had a stroke about a year ago and is just now completely getting back to all the things he used to do. Because of that, Nadine preferred not to subject him to the stress of staying away from home, so I got to dog sit. In exchange, Nadine left me a complete turkey dinner in the fridge, and I got to spend 4 days and 3 nights parked in front of John's 62" hi-def TV watching NHL on the Fly and re-runs of cable movies. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Little did I know at the time I accepted the job, but Bailey did not plan on letting me lounge around on the couch. My job, as I quickly discovered, was to wait on HIM.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon after work to get instructions on the care and feeding of Bailey. It seemed pretty simple:
  • Feed him once in the morning when he gets up, and once in the afternoon between 4-5 PM
  • Several scoops of dry dog food in the morning, then the same amount of dry or 1/2 can wet food and half the amount of dry at night
  • Refill water throughout the day as needed
  • Make him go outside and pee before bed
  • Any other time he needs to go out, he'll stand by the back door
  • Small treats whenever during the day
  • One major treat after dinner every night
I had managed to get sick upon my return from Virginia the weekend before, so luckily this didn't seem like much to do. I would have plenty of time to rest and recuperate on the couch. Lots of naps. This is good.

So Nadine and John left, and things were fine with Bailey and I until it was time to go to bed. Nadine let me know he normally comes upstairs and sleeps on the doggie bed next to their bed, where I would be. As I got ready for bed, Bailey parked himself by the window next to the front door...and pouted.

I couldn't get him to come up the stairs on matter how hard I tried. So I left the hall light on and figured he would make his way up eventually. Not a chance. I knew he was looking for Nadine, and I felt inadequate, knowing there was nothing I could do to reassure him and we would just have to make it through the night the best we could.

He started barking every 20-30 minutes until 2 AM. If an ant moved outside, he barked. I know he was thinking that movement had to be the sound of Nadine and John's car. Bailey stayed downstairs. I got no sleep.

The next morning, I came downstairs around 6:30 am and let him out. He seemed happy to get some food, and I gave him a treat, hoping it would cheer him up a little. Then I went to Starbucks for my breakfast sandwich and coffee. I sat down in front of the TV to eat it, and Bailey sat in front of me, staring as I took each bite of my sandwich. I gave him the last bite because I felt guilty. I think he smirked a little.

Then I thought it would be fun to take some pictures to e-mail Nadine, to show we were doing OK. This look pretty much says, "Look lady, you seem nice and all, but you're not my real mom. I'm going to tolerate you because you're feeding me, but we're not best buddies. And please stop coughing on look sick."

A little while later, I'm taking a nap and feel a paw on my arm. Then a nose in my face. Then a howl. I slowly got up from the couch, thinking Bailey needed to go outside. I opened the patio door, and he stood there. I walked outside to see if he would follow me. He sat down facing the fridge, which is next to the door (and the treats are in the fridge). I walk back to the door. "Do you need to go out Bailey?" Silence, chops licked. "Do you want a treat?' Tail wags. I open the fridge door, and produce a treat, which he inhales, barely chewing. I walk away and he follows me. I sit down on the couch, and he sits in front of me. His paw comes up to rest on my arm. I shake his paw. The other paw comes up and I shake that one. Repeat with the first paw, followed up a "woo-woo" howl and a head turn back to the kitchen. I get up, go back to the fridge and produce another treat. BIG MISTAKE. He has now trained me to produce treats on command, which I continue to do every 30 minutes, until Mom and Dad get home.

NOW we are buddies. And I am Bailey's slave. Who says dogs aren't smart.

And my turkey dinner? He got some of that too.... Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flat Stanley's Visit to JMU

Hello everyone, Stanley here again! Whew!!! What a busy weekend we had in Virginia! I was planning to write to you more often as things were happening, but there just wasn't time. So many people to meet and things to see! So now Meg and I are back in Los Angeles, and I finally have some time to tell you about my trip.

We got up early Friday morning to have breakfast with Mary's grandparents Al and Judy. Then Mary's Mommy Jennifer had to go out and run some errands before we left, so Meg and I stayed behind to visit a little longer. Then we loaded up the car and got on the road to a place called Harrisonburg!

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University (JMU), where Meg and Jennifer went to college and became friends! They were both in a very big marching band called the Marching Royal Dukes, and they were having a reunion with some of their old band buddies. How fun! Meg and Jennifer had also not seen each other for a very long time, so they spent lots of time in the car talking about who they would see and what everyone was doing.

Harrisonburg is a really pretty place. The fall colors on the trees were beautiful, and Meg said that they're even more amazing along Skyline Drive, a road through the Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. We didn't have time to go there this trip, but maybe I can meet someone in Harrisonburg I can visit that can take me there!

Our first stop was Downtown Harrisonburg.

The area we stopped in is called Court Square, because the county courthouse is right in the middle of the intersecting streets. Harrisonburg is a city located in Rockingham County, which is one of the counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia (Meg said that was my little geography lesson for the day).

But more importantly, Court Square is where we were meeting some of Meg's friends for lunch at a place called Jess' Quick Lunch.

Jess' is famous for the chili dogs, and they're really good...and really cheap! A dog, french fries and a soda was less than $5. MUCH better than that expensive lunch at the airport yesterday! I could have eaten about a dozen of those chili dogs, but it probably would have upset my tummy, so Meg stopped me at two.

Then we grabbed Meg's friend Michelle, who I remembered from her visit to LA with HER STANLEY! Hopefully I get to see him later! Michelle flew from New York City (where she lives) to Richmond, Virginia, which is about 2 hours away. She borrowed a car from her Mom and Dad and drove in for the weekend. So many people from so many places!

Anyway, Meg, Michelle and Jennifer took me "Krogering," which means grocery shopping. It's called that because the store is named Kroger, but when the girls were in college they used to call it Krogering.

We went to pick up sodas and stuff for the weekend, and also to do some shopping for a good cause. The current JMU students were collecting food for the local food bank, so people less fortunate could have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Wow, that's right...Thanksgiving is next week! I LOVE macaroni and cheese, so we got lots of that, as well as some canned vegetables.

Then we went over to Bridgeforth Stadium, which is on the JMU campus, for band practice. It's been a long time since Meg or any of her friends marched, so they definitely needed it! Don't tell her I said that though...I don't want to hurt her feelings.

Jennifer and Meg were both in the drum line, although for some reason Meg was going to try to toss a flag in the air. I think drums are much cooler, thank you very much!

After we practiced, we had time to watch the REAL Marching Royal Dukes, and I was very impressed! They have over 450 people out on the field, so they're really loud, but the music was really good too! I couldn't wait to see more at the football game tomorrow, but it was getting dark.

Then we went over to the music building to learn a little bit about the history of the band. I also got the see The Sudler Trophy, which is awarded to the best college band in America. JMU didn't win it while Meg was there, but they did it a few years after, and everyone who was part of the band up until that point got a commemorative pin. That's a pretty amazing award since there are lots of bands at colleges everywhere!

That was the end of the first day at JMU, and the girls stayed up REALLY LATE talking, but I went to bed because I knew Saturday would be even busier!

Saturday morning, everyone had to get up early again for MORE practice! They sure do take this band business seriously at JMU. I guess that's why the band is so good. But when I saw this awesome pile of leaves, I just had to jump right in! I've always wanted to jump in a pile of leaves, and it was just as fun as I imagined.

After practice, we took a walk around campus. It's really pretty, and all the buildings in the main part, which is called The Quad, are made of something called Bluestone, which is only found in this area. This building is Wilson Hall, which is the main administrative building on campus, and located right in the center of The Quad. It's the most photographed building on campus, so if you see a postcard of JMU, Wilson Hall is probably on it!.

After lunch, we met back at Bridgeforth Stadium, and I ran into Michelle's Stanley! I was so excited to see him, we thought it would be fun to do a picture together inside the Duke Dog's mouth. Duke Dog is the JMU mascot, and he looks pretty scary, but don't worry...this is only a statute and he doesn't really bite! It's a good thing, otherwise we'd be in BIG trouble.

Then it was time for the football game! It was so sunny and nice out, which made it even more fun to watch.

We sat up in the stands with the band until it was time for everyone to go on the field and do what's called a Half-Time show. It's called that because it happens in the middle of the game, while the players are taking a break.

We could even turn around and watch the game on a big video screen behind us! This could be really useful if you had someone very tall sitting in front of you and blocking your view, but we were lucky so I could see from either direction. I really love football!

So JMU won the game, the band was great, and Meg had fun with all her friends. I was very sad that we had to leave the next morning, but Meg said she would get to come back next year. Maybe I can find a way to visit her again, because JMU certainly was fun!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flat Stanley Goes to Virginia (and Learns About Flying)

Hi everyone! Today was an incredibly busy day, and Meg and I spent the entire day traveling across the country from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. We're headed to James Madison University, where Meg went to college with Mary's mommy, Jennifer. They are having a little reunion with the Marching Band, and I am very excited to see what that's about. But first, let me tell you everything that happened on the way there!

We had to get up VERY EARLY this morning for our flight out from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The first thing I learned today is that every airport in the world has a 3 letter code. When we checked our suitcase with the airline, they had to put a tag on it with the right code to let the baggage people know where to send it so it would be waiting when we got there. Since we are headed to Washington DC's Dulles International Airport, you'll notice the white tag on our suitcase says IAD.

Then we had to go through a security process, with metal detectors and X-rays and all kinds of cool stuff to look inside the little suitcase we were taking on the plane. I wanted to take pictures of that, but Meg said the airport people get very upset because security checks are very serious and you have to pay attention. I want to make sure I get to Virginia, so I did what Meg told me.

Once we got through security, it was time for breakfast. Luckily, they have a Starbucks store here at the airport so Meg could get her favorite coffee like she does every morning. But they didn't have her regular breakfast sandwich, so we found a different one with egg and bacon on yummy sourdough bread. It cost $13, which sounded like a lot of money to me. Meg explained that food is very expensive at the airport because you don't have a lot of options and they can pretty much charge whatever they want. At least the sandwich was good, and we were sure hungry!

Then we went to the gate and waited until they were ready to board the flight.

When they were ready to load the plane, the nice people at Southwest put up signs so we would know which line to wait in. We were in A, which boards first, because Meg travels a lot and the people at Southwest like to let their best customers get on the plane first.

Once we were on the plane, the flight attendant encouraged us to read the safety instructions for the plane, so we would know what to do in case of an emergency. Our plane was a Boeing 737, so they have instructions for this specific plane and put the number on the cover to make sure you have the right ones.

There are a lot of things to know about planes, so I liked that they included pictures. I think I understand it, but I sure hope nothing bad happens during the flight because that would be scary. Meg said we would be fine and I believed her. After all, she travels a lot so she should know.

Once the flight got underway, the nice Southwest people came by and gave us all kinds of snacks so we wouldn't be hungry during our trip! I can get used to this flying thing!! The Chips Ahoy cookies were my favorite.

After a few hours, we arrived at a place Meg called Chicago, which is a large city in the state of Illinois. Chicago is so big, it needs more than one airport to get people there, and the one where we landed is called Midway.

Meg explained that we were not going to stay here long, because we still had to get to Washington and we were just stopping for a break here. Another plane was going to take us the rest of the way. But I had enough time to have a little fun here in Chicago.

Soon it was time to go to the gate to get on our next plane. Boy, am I glad to be traveling with someone as experienced as Meg! There sure is a lot involved in this flying thing.

I do hope the weather is nicer in Virginia than it is here, because from what I know about marching bands, they don't like to get wet.

One the second leg of our trip, Meg was really tired and decided to take a nap.

I was way too excited to sleep, so I decided to look out at the clouds since we had a window seat this time.

Finally, we arrived in Washington, DC., the nation's capitol. Our suitcase was waiting for us just like Meg said, so those magic airport codes really do work!

Then Meg made a phone call to Mary's grandparents, who live near the airport. They came and picked us up, because we are staying with them tonight and driving the rest of the way to JMU tomorrow. While we were waiting for Mary's mommy Jennifer to arrive, we went to dinner. Boy, was I hungry after such a long day, and I like seafood!

After a big dinner of crab cakes, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and hush puppies, I could barely keep my eyes open! Time for bed. Tomorrow....JMU!