Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kid Free Weekend in Louisville

selfie to kick off kid free weekend!
Several years ago, when Steve worked at KBR, he secured a large job in Kentucky for Louisville Gas and Electric.  It was a job that would cost about a billion to build, and would take several years to complete.  Though he is no longer with KBR, he maintained great relationships with his co-workers there, as well as LG and E.  So when the plant celebrated their third successful outage, they threw a big party and invited Steve.  Since he worked hard on this for a couple of years, his working relationships slowly turned into friendships.  I have heard so much about these folks for years, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to join him and meet everyone.

Steve, Becky and us at KY State Fair
Steve was up in Louisville the week before the party for business, so I flew up Friday morning after I got the kids off to school.  As soon as I landed he showed me around the historic Seelbach Hotel (where we were staying).  The hotel is located at a prime spot in downtown Louisville, within walking distance of much.  In addition, the hotel has a lot of history and stories particularly from the 1920s, which Steve has heard from the hotel historian.

That afternoon we met up with Steve and Becky for a cocktail before heading over to the state fair for a concert.  We listened to several country artists perform, and decided to walk around the fairgrounds and check out all of the excitement.  We wandered through the buildings, seeing many huge cows.  When we stepped outside, we stumbled into a nice gentleman who offered us a ride on his golfcart to the large arena where Saddlebred horses were practicing.  He explained that World’s Championship Saddlebred Horse Show was going on over the next couple of weeks, and that over 2,000 horses from across the world were competing for more than $1 million in awards.  He also slipped in that he was a horse trainer for William Shatner.

We watched the horses practice for awhile, admiring their beauty.  Then we decided to walk inside the building that housed the temporary stalls for all of these magnificent creatures.  We stopped to pet many of the horses, and eventually spoke with a man who owns Grey Ridge Stables.  He was kind enough to talk to us for over 30 minutes, explaining all that goes on at these shows and his history.

After we left the fair, we returned to our hotel to park the car, and then we walked a block away to grab a late dinner and hit one of the guy's favorite bars in the fun "4th Street Live" area.

We stumbled back to our room around 1AM, and slept in the following morning (enjoying something that we NEVER get to do anymore with three young kids).  We finally rolled out of the hotel around lunch and walked to a pizza spot for lunch, and then explored along the riverfront.  We even made it halfway across the beautiful pedestrian bridge that takes you to Indiana.

After a cold beer back at the Seelbach Bar, and a shower...we were ready to go to the party (the reason for our weekend stay).  I finally met all of the guys Steve has talked about and their spouses.  Following dinner, we all walked to a fun bar that has a mechanical bull.  Everyone talked a lot of talk, but it ultimately ended up only being only a few of us who rode the bull (myself being one of them).  It looked like fun, but after a couple 360's on that thing, I was nauseous and regretting my choice.  Thankfully I didn't get thrown, but just stepped off of it during another one of the crazy spins.

former train bridge turned into pedestrian bridge

Sunday morning, we met one of Steve's friend and his wife for lunch and then hit the road for the drive back to Birmingham.  I don't know what I expected of Louisville, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a nice clean city, with cool old buildings downtown that are getting restored, a lovely waterfront view and what appeared to be a family friendly area.  I definitely look forward to returning, hopefully for a horse race at Keenland (in nearby Lexington), or if we are lucky enough...the coveted Derby!

the devilish red eyes say enough

Monday, August 10, 2015

NOLA - Check!

W eating smoked oysters
At the beginning of every August, when camps end, the weather is god awful hot and the kids are bored with their friends….this mama is READY for school to begin!  Thankfully
Homewood schools go back early, August 12th.  We planned one last hoorah to New Orleans the weekend before school went back to just offer something fun and different for the kids.  In addition, Kris lives there with her family, so we had fun visiting with them. 

Friday, after a back to school breakfast at the school, we packed up and drove down to NOLA.  The kids all traveled well and we arrived mid afternoon.  After getting checked into our hotel, we took the children to the rooftop pool to burn some energy.  Kris, Paul and their girls met us there.  After an hour of swimming, we headed back to our room to change into clothes before heading out for dinner at Drago’s.  Steve adores their smoked oysters, and I wanted some fresh seafood.  It was a little chaotic with six children under the age of 8, but we survived.  Afterward, we headed back to the room to hit the hay early since we had a busy Saturday planned.

They hope to see some alligators!

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to shower and grab breakfast before heading out on our swamp tour.  The tour was located about 30 minutes away on a popular swamp.  We had a large pontoon boat with a cover, which provided a little shade and plenty of good vision for the alligators.  It was very beautiful out there with all of the trees and wildlife; however I could never live there as some folks do.  During our two hour tour we saw about 8 alligators, some of which we fed so we could see up close.  The kids (and us) had a ball!
come here lil alligator....
"Do you have a snack for me?"
"Yum, a hotdog!"
not the same 'Sugar Shak" that we are used to...

After the swamp tour, we drove back to NOLA to grab lunch.  We met Kris’s parents there so I could say hello and then we went to walk through the new house that she and Paul are building.   Before we headed to Mardi Gras World, I wanted to take the kids to a cemetery.  I think they are so beautiful and unique in NOLA, and I wanted them to see it for themselves.  Having never been to a cemetery at all, they had a lot of questions, but they were not scared.

Since it was blazing hot, we decided we needed a cool treat!  So we were off to Hansen's for some of their historic sno-balls!  We each got one, and sampled each other's.  This place has been around since 1939, and is still in its original location....one that is VERY small without air conditioning.  The lines are always long for the shaved ice and flavored syrups, and now I know why.

Girls all dressed up!
After our delicious dessert, we went to the Mardi Gras World to learn more about the history of Mardi Gras, with balls, floats and the specific parades.  Though I think the kids liked sampling the king cake and seeing some of the new floats for Mardi Gras 2016, I don't think they got as much out of it as we did.  The 20 minute video that played at the beginning was very informative.

Walker was petrified of tiger

Jackson Square
That night we ate dinner with the Viguerie's at their yacht club, and then we headed back to our hotel.  Like Saturday, we had another full day planned with beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde, walking around the French Quarter, visiting the New Orleans Aquarium and finally.... riding the famous street cars.

23 years of friendship with this girl!

beignets were a hit!
Walker's 1st visit to an aquarium, which he LOVED!
They loved the street car!
Thank goodness this man came with us!!

As you can see, we really packed it all in during our quick weekend in NOLA!  The kids had a ball, and I'm thrilled we could really concentrate on them seeing and learning about the city, and what makes it so unique.  The theme of the trip was "Everything New Orleans."  Of course, it was wonderful visiting with Kris and her family, and they were terrific hosts...helping me put it all together and doing much of it with us.  Maybe next time we will time our visit around Mardi Gras so they can experience NOLA in a whole new way!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Swim Season Comes to a Close

Uncle Dan supporting kids

Birmingham Swim League was a great way to keep our kids in cardiovascular shape all year, but by mid April both kids were starting to burn out from swimming every day.  I hated quitting before summer swimming started, since I knew they would add some time to their events, but the end of the school year is so busy and they really wanted a break.  In addition, Preston was playing baseball three nights a week, so he was burning the candle at both ends.

silly selfie
Since long course swimming officially starts mid winter for BSL, it really was the perfect time to sit out.  Thankfully, both kids were able to get official times for 50 yard free and back, and cut time with their normal 25 yard strokes before our leave of absence. 

B with her relay
Skip ahead a few months....when Homewood Swim season started.  Both kids were happy and excited to swim again.  They love their summer coaches, and have a ton of friends to swim with, which makes it even more fun.  The break did them well, and they came off the blocks strong!  They both gained a little time at their first meet, but they did better after that, especially Preston.

Bennett hit a plateau mid summer, which didn't seem to bother her at all, but Preston did well.  He hit his best 25yd free score early (6/23/15) with 19.98 seconds and shaved a little more with his back and fly the following weeks.  And with his young age group, he was able to qualify for the Senior County Meet, and swim all four strokes, in addition to the 50yd free and 100 IM.  It was his first IM, and he definitely was tired at the end, but he made it without getting disqualified (something we are so proud of him for doing).  He ended on a bang, and was even the third highest point scorer in his age range at the Sr Cty Meet (for which he received a trophy).

P at Senior County Meet


swim family (sans Walker)

Kids with Coach Brittany

The night after the big meet, the kids attended the end of the summer party and awards ceremony.  The swim team had rented out the whole pool so the kids and their families could night swim after they received their awards.  Both kids were pleased with their trophies, and Preston also was awarded "Outstanding Swimmer" in his 6 and under age group.

We are so proud of our kids, especially after seeing so much improvement over the past year.  The 3-4 times a week they practiced for a whole year really paid off for them.  Not sure if swimming will become a sport they choose to participate in forever, but we sure are happy with the skills they have acquired thus far.