{Image Source: Herbert Spencer}
What do you do when you're in the path of a hurricane of an unknown category that immediately follows a rare earthquake and live in a nearly-century-old house?

You get the f*ck out.

Yes, despite the fact that I spent much of my youth in Alabama and have lived through several hurricanes and tropical storms, we decided to evacuate ahead of the storm. We were waivering on our decision for a while--mostly about how wussy we were being about leaving town for a tiny little Category 1 hurricane--but in the end, we opted to be safe rather than sorry. We cleared the yard, taped the windows*, threw the kids in the car, and got the hell out of town before the interstates were packed.

We probably could have stopped hours before we actually did, but we've been discussing making a trip to Pittsburgh for over a year now, so we just decided to keep heading west until we made it to the Iron City.

Holy mackerel, this place has changed. What was once a blue-collar city has turned in a metropolis full of beautiful parks and classic neighborhoods. It's a city dedicated to the arts with plenty of opportunities to see shows, visit museums, and hear live music. The river region has been totally revamped, and would make even the most seasoned shoppers feel at home. I couldn't believe it.

We ended up staying at the Springhill Suites at Bakery Square, which, yes, gets its name from the plethora of bakeries that used to be in the area. It's an up-and-coming neighborhood, so while the surrounding area is a little sketch, the immediate area is just cool. I mean, Google has its Pittsburgh office there. That should say it all.

We got up on Saturday morning a little bleary-eyed but thrilled to see the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing. Nothing like what we saw on the Weather Channel, which, at the time, was broadcasting footage from North Carolina. 100mph winds, downed trees, the weatherman standing, like a jackass, in the Atlantic Ocean and barely able to stand up straight. We patted ourselves on the back, said, "Best decision EVAR," and went downstairs to eat waffles.

After much deliberation, we decided to go to the Children's Museum. I went there when I was a kid and remember having a great time, and I wanted to share it with my own offspring. Like everything else in Pittsburgh, the place has changed. For the better. Some of the old attractions are still there, like the Garage Works room and the Rat Wall (for lack of a better term), but they added a few new things too. The kids had a blast running around,climbing on things, playing dress-up, launching parachutes, and playing in bird seed. Frankly, it was more fun than a normal weekend at home, and a helluva lot more fun than huddling in the hallway.

After lunch from Giovanni's, naps for the under-3 set, and a dip in the pool for Ana, we set back out into the city to meet my dad's cousin and his family for dinner at the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh. I have to say, I was a little nervous about seeing them again because I didn't remember them at all! The last time I saw this part of the family was 11 years ago at my grandmother's funeral, and I just couldn't remember everyone. Turns out, these guys are awesome. And I shouldn't have had to worry about conversation, because I got a lot of backstory on the family history. The food and beer were also delish. Of course.

We probably could have called it a night at that point, but when we got back to our hotel, there was a beach party in the square. Yeah, I know. The local businesses had all popped up booths, put up a stage, and built a sandbox. They also had free beer (!), so we decided to hang out for a little bit. The weather was beautiful, the kids were thoroughly enjoying themselves, the music was good ... it ended up being the cherry on top of the day.

Sunday, we took a little tour of my grandparents' Pittsburgh: we started with Mass at their old parish, then visited their graves and old home. (All in spectacular condition, I'm happy to report.) We followed this by lunch at Eat'n Park, affectionately called Choke'n Puke, in the South Hills. Sadly, at that point, we had to go home--as much as we wanted to stay, we knew we couldn't avoid the inevitable forever. We could prolong it, however, so we took the long way home. That, by the way, was worth it: not only did we not have to pay the extortionist fees on the PA Turnpike, but we also saw a beautiful part of the country that I've never seen before.

Returning home, we saw that the damage wasn't that bad. Power was patchy, but we had it at our house (yay!), and all of the trees remained standing. None of the windows shattered, and aside from a little water in the basement, we didn't have any property damage. So could we have stuck it out? Sure. Was it more fun to evacuate for the weekend? You betcha.

Did Hurricane Irene affect you? If so, how did you spend your weekend?

*Yes, I know that taping the windows won't keep them from breaking. It's for shatter control.


Guest Bloggin'

{Image Source: Tomorrow is Another Day}
I'm guest blogging over at Tomorrow is Another Day today. This is a good thing because I somehow managed to catch my daughter's cold and want to do nothing more than curl up in bed with the dregs of my coffee and a trashy novel. Not happening--I have basil to harvest and chirruns to tend to--but it's a nice thought.

While you're over there, make sure to visit some of Angela's other guest bloggers and, of course, read through some of her posts. If you like it here, you'll love it there! And then come back tomorrow for an account of how we spent Hurricane Irene.

Oh, and P.S. You'll have to forgive some of the lack of spaces on my post over there! Petra pulled off my space bar a while back and it doesn't always work anymore. When I get going, I occasionally miss a space and I don't always catch it in the editing process.


Fantasy-Land Parenting Vs. The Real World

{Image source: Korean Resource Center}
A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to laze around with a single (as in Single, Not Married, not Single and Looking), career-oriented friend of mine after a luxurious brunch of eggy bagels and strong coffee. It was one of those conversations that flowed easily from one topic to another, never really getting stuck and never coming to loggerheads over hot-button topics, despite the fact that we raised a few of them. You know, one of those mornings that makes you happy that you're friends with the people with whom you are friends.

During one of the conversation transitions, she said, "I can't wait to be a mom. I'm going to send so many cupcakes to school*."

I replied, "No, you won't. Try orange slices."

"No way. I'm sending cupcakes."

"Good luck with finding a gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free recipe then, because that's the only thing that you're allowed to send to school these days."

After a moment of shocked silence, she says, "What? That's ridiculous."

I continued with, "Although, if you're dealing with a classroom with diabetic kids, you might not even be able to send the orange slices. Celery, maybe, but most teachers tell you what to bring on your assigned snack day."

"Your what?"

"Assigned snack day. Each parent sends in a snack--for the entire class, mind you--once a month. The teacher will generally tell you what to bring. Goldfish are okay. So are Cheerios. Pretzels are fine, as long as they're Rold Gold; Utz Pretzels are made in a plant that also processes nuts and gluten."

"But that has no nutritional value."

"That doesn't matter. As long as every child has an allergy-free snack, that's what matters. Oh, and if you have a kid with nut allergies in the classroom, you probably shouldn't send a peanut butter sandwich to school with your child. A soy alternative, maybe. But the teacher will go over that with you in her home visit."

"Her what?"

"Her home visit. When she comes to the home at the beginning of the school year to make sure that your child has an adequate space and the proper resources to do his or her homework."

"You're kidding me! That's an invasion of my privacy!"

Bingo. Welcome to parenthood.

*The conversation has been paraphrased because I can't remember the exact words, but I'm trying to stick to it as close as I can remember.
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