Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Austin visits the STL

Austin has finally gotten some time off from the Army, and came up for a weekend visit. We were so excited to have him come for a visit, even though he is sporting a cast, and it definitely slowed us down! As soon as we picked him up from the airport we headed to the Arch. There was a hike from the parking lot to the actual arch, and Austin had to stop for water....

I forgot my camera, so these were taken with my camera phone, and the quality isn't quite as good. Either way, we kept taking pictures! Here's Austin and me at the Arch.

Austin and Mark at the Arch...

The "pod" that takes you up to the top of the Arch....

Austin and me inside the pod...its a tight fit!

Austin at the top of the Arch....

Later that evening we went out to a wonderful Japanese restaurant for sushi. Austin can eat quite a fortune in sushi, and this night was no different. This place, Tachibana, specializes in authentic Japanese sushi, and we had several types that we had never had before. Mark and I had tried to find it one other night and had ended up at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant, but this time we were finally rewarded. The booths are closed in with Japanese seating, although the little old lady hostess INSISTED that Austin had to sit in a chair with a back due to his cast. He said, "Yes, Ma'am," and did as he was told. Good soldier!

Mark and me...waiting on the sushi.
We then went home and watched a very sad Georgia football game. The next morning we headed to Grant's Farm, since we figured Austin could ride the trolley ride.

Here's the gate to Grant's Farm, with some very pretty ironwork.

The fence that surrounds Grant's farm is made out of rifle barrels from the Civil War. I can't remember the exact number of barrels, but it was in the thousands.

When we got off the trolley we rented a wheelchair for Austin. He was a pretty good driver, considering he's had very little experience!

Grant's Farm has lots of animals, and lots of opportunity for pictures. Here's a few....

We also watched the Animal Encounters show, which featured animal tricks. Here's an indigo macaw doing gymnastic rings....

And a trio of parrots doing an imitation of the Budweiser Clydesdales carrying the wagon...

There is an area of Grant's Farm that has a lot of historic horse drawn carriages. Here's Austin in front of one of the Budweiser wagons.

After Grant's Farm, we decided a drive through Lone Elk Park would be good. This is a huge county park which features elk and bison. We had almost completed our drive through the park without spotting anything bigger than a squirrel when we finally started finding the big critters!

After the drive through the park, we had a wonderful lunch at Schlafly's Brewery. Austin and Mark apparently whetted their appetite on the bison they had seen since they both ordered bison burgers. I opted for a smoked turkey sandwich, but we all thought the food was great!

Then we headed to Mark's lab in Barnes Jewish Hospital so that Austin could tour the lab. There were some mice actually in the lab (unusual since they are usually housed in a separate facility), and Mark gave Austin a pretty good lesson in storage diseases and how they affect the mice. This particular mouse is a twitcher mouse, which simulates Krabbe disease in children. We also watched a mouse with Batten disease have a seizure while we were there. Interesting stuff....although heartbreaking to see the actual children with these diseases.

Unfortunately, Austin's visit was way too short. I will see him again next month when I head to NC for the MPS Board meeting, and he is coming up to Raleigh for the weekend. I'm looking forward to that!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lobster Boil Party

Sunday was spent out at the farm with Mark's grad students, lab technicians and families enjoying the day together. Driving down the driveway I spotted this very cool spider web and went back to get a picture. The sunlight wasn't right, but the spiderweb was awesome!

As everyone started arriving, they grabbed fishing poles and headed to the pond.

Adarsh and Riley are trying to catch a big one....

View back towards the house from the dam.

A boy and his dogs....

The lobsters were cooked over an open fire down by the lake. Everyone wanted to hang around and watch the progress.

Elizabeth, Gretchen, Rob and Angie just hanging out...

The Klenke's were able to join us!
The lobsters are done!
Headed to the picnic table....


Mark gave a lesson in how to handle whole lobsters. From the looks on their faces, several aren't sure they are going to try one out.

Chelsey had an interesting approach to the lobster eating....
Just enjoying the day....

After the lobster fest, it was time for a hayride! Load up the wagon...

Hoping everyone is going to fit....
Off we go!

We had a great hayride through the field, down to the river, and back through the wooded areas. It was a very good day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Can't Keep Up!

Okay, so this blog idea was pretty cool during my leisurely summer...now the expectation is there, and school is here, and life is quite a whirlwind! I keep intending to update, but the further behind I get, the longer I know it will take to update, so I put it off a little longer....not a good plan!

Update #1:


I've known for awhile and have tried hard to keep her request for it secret, but now I have permission to blast it to the world! She had her second ultrasound today and this kid looks as long and lanky as his/her papa...check out the legs!

Here's one of him/her sucking his/her thumb....sonograms are amazing these days!

Her due date is March 27th, which seems so long away, but I know the time will fly! I have to find a new, cool name for Grandma....suggestions so far have been Noni (Italian), and Abuela (Spanish)....any others??!


Good news was first, so now the bad news. Austin managed to break his ankle while doing field exercises last week. He went back to the doctor today and got a hard cast. It sounds like things will heal without surgery, which is a blessing. He is going on leave tomorrow for two weeks, including a trip up here for a visit. He has been in a lot of pain this week, and I know the cast will slow him down. Unfortunately, it probably won't keep him from deploying in November. Please, please make sure you are registered and vote to end this war!


I wish I knew how to ship the rain back to GA!! St. Louis is 22" ahead in rainfall from an average year, and is on schedule to have the wettest year on record. I wish we could share it with the Bulldog country! There was 5" of rain in 5 hours last Sunday morning and we managed to sleep through the entire thing. When we went out driving, roads were closed due to downed trees and flooding, including the interstates! The Mississippi and Meramec rivers are as high as they were in June, which was pretty significant. One of the culverts at the farm has washed out twice this summer...fortunately, Mark didn't dedicate too much time to repairing it the first time!


School is continuing to go well. It has been crazy, and I feel very behind in things, but day to day it gets a little easier. I went to open house last week and learned that Sperreng is actually the fifth highest rated middle school in Missouri based on test scores. I feel very lucky to have landed where I did! Our principal is a hoot, she is possibly the most chirpy (chirpy-est?) person that I have ever met. My middle schoolers are pretty intelligent kids, and some of them have a wonderful sense of humor. We are bonding well and enjoying our days together. I have been writing to my kids from Gainesville and getting letters back, thanks to my wonderful replacement, Kimberly. I love being able to continue our relationship and seeing their writing and spelling improve. I still miss them!


This weekend is the annual Lab Lobster Boil....it will be my first. Mark invites all his lab students and their families to the farm for freshly boiled lobster ordered direct from Bar Harbor. We will spend the day at the farm, having hay rides, fishing and probably picking ticks off each other (actually, we are stocked up on bug spray!). I'm looking forward to it! Pictures to be posted later!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Team Time!

Sperreng Middle School operates on the team basis, meaning that the children are grouped into teams and taught different subjects within the same team. Our team is 7A, and this team is based on all the students having a year of Spanish. Here is the picture that was taken for our website. I'm finding them to be a pretty well oiled group, and I'm glad to be a part of this team! We even manage to go out to breakfast at times, since our planning times are the first two hours of the day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Japanese Festival at Missouri Botanical Gardens

This weekend is the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Mark and I went on Sunday morning, as well as half the populaton of STL! There were lots of Japanese exhibitions, costumes and activities throughout the gardens. We still think our favorite activity there is to feed the HUGE koi in the pond in the Japanese Gardens. They are incredible!

Here is a view of the pond looking back towards the Japanese gardens. It is such a beautiful place!

This is the Climatron, which houses plants from different environments.

There is an ongoing display of sculptures by Niki throughout the garden. Here's one of my favorites.

The reflecting pools contained these HUGE Victoria lily pads, along with globes from the glass artist Chihuly. The lily pads were six feet or more in diameter. This is the first time I've been there when they were growing in all their glory.

Later that evening I was craving a good hamburger, so we did a web search for the "best burger in STL" and ended up at Blueberry Hill, a landmark restaurant in St. Louis. The hamburger was perfect, and we hung around and played a few games of darts afterwards (of course I lost, but it was fun!). Chuck Berry started his career at Blueberry Hill and still plays there on occasion, but so far I haven't been able to get any tickets. Here's a picture of the restaurant taken from their website.