Sunday, August 31, 2008

Everybody Say "Cheese"!

So we've been back for a week now, and the whole car situation is getting closer to a resolution. We're waiting on a guy to get back in town so we can finish checking out his Hyundai Elantra. It looks like an ok deal. 2000, 46k miles. $4300. It's either that or a 2000 VW Passat, 151k miles, $4850. I actually want the Passat for some crazy reason, but Celeste (and everybody else I talk to) tells me the Elantra is the way to go. So we'll see how that pans out.

For the weekend, we went with our good friends, the Thorpes, to the Arthur Cheese Festival! It was a good way to kill the Saturday. We entered Brooklyn into a Cheese Eating Contest for youth 12 and under. Sadly, she didn't win. :( However, she did get a free T-shirt as a consolation prize. I also entered a cheese eating contest, but didn't win either. I was more in it for the culinary delight of eating cheese for a pastime. After the cheese eating contests, we entered a Cheese Curling Contest. This was a much tougher competition. Matt Thorpe was our "sweeper". Celeste, April and I all rolled our 10 lb. Baby Swiss Cheese Wheel down the course, and Matt tried to guide it into the target. Unfortunately, we didn't fare very well in this event either. But no matter. In all the competitions, we got to keep the cheese! So we came home with about 6 lbs. of cheese! We celebrated our cheesy heaven by eating fondue at the Thorpe's house that evening.

It was a marvelous way to spend a Saturday! And the weekend is still not over, thanks to Labor Day! We'll see what other mischief we can get into on Monday...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Nitty Gritty

So, now that we are safe and sound in our home in Illinois, we can share our last grand adventure from our Boston days.

The last week was spent at a friend's house. Celeste babysat their 2 girls along with Brooklyn. When I got home the first day, she looked exhausted and irritated and said to me, "Let's go home tonight." Needless to say, going from 1 little child to 3 in a day wasn't the easiest transition. But the following few days went by without a hitch, and we got all set to head home.

Celeste picks me up from work on Friday, my last day at Kiva (which was a great last day!), and on the way home she suggests we leave that evening to start our treck home, instead of Saturday morning. "We'll get there earlier, and can go to church on Sunday and see our friends. Plus Brooklyn will sleep through an entire leg of the trip." Ok, I said. That sounds like a good idea.

So we packed everything into the car and headed out Friday night. We wanted to see Niagara Falls on our way out, so we drove into a rinky-dink motel in Niagara at 1:30 am to settle for the night. As we pull into our room, there are about 8 miscreants drinking booze and looking real scary sitting around outside the room next-door. I was a little worried about our stuff, but too tired to give it much thought.

The next morning we got up early (thanks to Brooklyn) and got ready for a long trip home, but first an amazing view of the Niagara Falls. It was a really gorgeous view and pretty fun to see. I thought it was going to be much taller than it was, but the volume of water cascading down was impressive. After seeing the falls we happily started our 10 hour journey home. Little did we know then, what a journey it would become!

After only about an hour, maybe hour and a half, the air conditioning started blinking, and it came out warm. I thought that was odd, so I turned it off temporarily. The rear-view mirror was getting all fogged up. I thought that was weird and couldn't explain how it happened. Then the cruise control turned off, and we started slowing down. I tapped the brakes a little and hit the gas. We revved but no tension. The transmission was acting up. Then the check engine light came on. I attempted to brake down to a lower gear and try again, but to no avail. Then all the lights possible on the dash lit up, the car turned off and we coasted with the hazard lights on to the side of the road. What just happened! I saw the temperature gauge, and it was as hot as can be. Oh. I hope we're just overheated. We'll wait for a while, let it cool down, pour some water into the reserve tank, and hopefully be on our way.

So here we are, eating lunch on a little blanket on the side of the road, in the middle of no-where, praying that the car is just overheated.

About an hour later, we called 911 to get a tow-truck to pick us up. The car did indeed cool down, but that didn't fix the problem. When the tow-truck guy got there, he looked at it and said the timing belt was thrown. So that's why it isn't starting. He also thought something like the water pump probably broke and that's what threw the belt. He called a few garages in the nearest town, but no one wanted to work on Saturday. Even if they did, they certainly didn't want to work on a timing belt. That's serious stuff. So he started taking us to his shop in Ripley, PA. Well, we weren't sure we wanted to wait until Monday to get things fixed, so he called up Firestone in Erie, PA. They said they would look at it! Hurray! Well, Erie, PA was about 40 miles away. That turned out to be a $275 tow. Yikes!

So it's now about 1:30 pm or so, and Firestone gets the car and for $99 will do a 2-hour inspection to see what's wrong. They tell us we better hope it isn't the timing belt, because when that goes, it usually does major damage to other things. Luckily, the Firestone was located in a Mall Center. So we got some real lunch in the food court, and went to a pet shop and looked at clothes. It was rather relaxing given the stressful turn of events of the day. About an hour later, Firestone calls us back. They said we were lucky, because it was just the water pump and timing belt. Just like the tow-truck guy said! Yeah! But, to fix both things was $800. What! Celeste pushed them down to $700 and we said, OK. Fix it up and we can continue our trek home. To kill time, we saw Iron Man at the dollar theater nearby. It was fun to see the movie, and it certainly killed the time and made us forget our miserable day. At least at 6:30, we would be on the road, and that much closer to home.

We returned at 6:30 and they tell us they made a mistake. There's more damage to the car than they thought. It seems the internals of the engine are messed up. That's a 9-hour inspection, which would cost $500. And if something IS wrong in there, it'll be $1500 and a week to get the parts fixed! You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Well, we had to start talking options, and Firestone was closing. We needed a hotel room. I must be grateful for the kindness of our Firestone guy, Joe. He was so nice and helpful during the entire ordeal. He offered to drive us to a hotel. We checked some hotels nearby the Mall, but everything was booked solid. One of the hotels told us about a hotel downtown that had availability. So we went there and got settled for the night. A wedding party canceled, so there were available rooms, and they were discounted from the regular $120/night. Only $99/night. We reserved a room for 2 nights, just in case.

The hotel was a godsend after an awful day. It was large, they had a pack-n-play for Brooklyn. They had free internet access. And a King sized bed. It was heaven in the midst of our personal hell. We went through our limited options, and decided to rent a car one-way and just finish the drive on Sunday. An 8-9 hour trip, and we'd finally be home, where we have friends, and connections and resources. So I reserved a car for $200 that night. Since the rental place was at the airport, the hotel called us a cab, and paid for it. That was another great thing about the hotel. (Plus it made Celeste feel better, like we really only paid $80 for the night).

Sunday was as you would expect. We picked up the rental, drove to Firestone, transferred our things to the rental, said goodbye to our Camry, and hit the road. Firestone was very generous and only charged us the initial $99 inspection fee. Our drive home was uneventful, and very normal. Just how it should have been. Celeste pulled the last leg from Indianapolis to Champaign. We were all weary of being in the car, and especially so close to home. But Brooklyn felt it the worst, I'm afraid. Celeste shed tears of joy, relief and frustration as we pulled into Winfield Village. We were all so exhausted from the horrific weekend, but all so glad to be home.

The worst part of the tale is that we just had $450 worth of car repair done to the Camry in July. So when we finally got home, we returned $1200 poorer, and missing our only car. So our next big adventure is buying another car.

I have to put at the end of this tragic story, how grateful we are that we are alive and well. So many things could have gone much worse. We are grateful that we are back home, that we had money in savings to absorb this impact, and that we have friends and family who are loving and supportive. And some day, we'll see what God intended us to learn, and how we were to grow through this whole thing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Are we there yet?

We'll update you all about our final week in Boston and the trip home as soon as we get home. It might take us a little longer than planned however...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Barrand Grandparents

So first things first. Everyone is clambering for details on the pregnancy, so I'll give 'em to you. Now when people said details, I figured the mechanics of the thing were pretty familiar with most, so we'll skip that part. Celeste is about 7 weeks pregnant and should be due April 6th or so. I say "about" and "should be" because we've been a little confused by it all. Let me explain...

Celeste thought she might be pregnant about a month ago so she bought a 3-pack pregnancy test. She took one that night and it came up negative. A few weeks went by and when she was late, she took another one. In despair, she tossed it away. Another negative. Finally, this past week she started feeling a bit queasy and wonky, just like she did with Brooklyn. So she took the final test and again, negative. Confusing but sad. She really wanted to get pregnant soon. Later that same day, when I got home from work, we were browsing the blogosphere, and we happened upon the Nye's blog. And we found out that Julie was pregnant! And topping off the blog post was a picture of the positive test results. Celeste says to me, "Wait a minute. Two bars means you're pregnant?" So she runs to the trash, finds that morning's test, re-reads the instructions, and sure enough, she was pregnant. Turns out, Celeste had been looking for a plus sign the whole time, but they weren't plus sign tests.

So there you go. Exciting news! And on top of that doosy, we had Celeste's parents here for the weekend! So it was a great time all around.

Celeste took them to Concord on Friday morning, which they all loved. It's such a fun place. Celeste's Dad commented that the fascination lies in being able to connect a monumental, cataclysmic change in world history with a physical place. Indeed! In the evening when I joined the group, we ate out at Gregory's House of Pizza. It is this delicious pizza place close to the house. We have gone there almost every Friday since being here in Boston. It is really tasty and reasonably priced. To commemorate our devotion to the place, I bought a T-shirt!

Saturday was filled with Boston tours, by foot. Grandma and Grandpa went off in the morning to catch the Freedom Trail while we stayed home and Brooklyn napped. Then we joined them downtown at Fenuil Hall for some delicious food and a tour of the North End. It was really great. The food was superb, and the North End was interesting. It is practically Boston's Little Italy, it is home to the Old North Church and Paul Revere's House. The church steeple housed the lanterns that signaled "one if by land, two if by sea".

This officially concludes our Bostonian adventures....for now. We've only got one week left here and then we're driving back to Illinois to start my final semester of school! It's been a fantastic summer. Celeste and I commented how this ranks the third best summer since we've known each other. Let's have a Huzzah for Boston on the count of three.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

You say you want a revolution???

This week I read Breaking Dawn- It was a good finish to the series. But two things really bothered me. 1.The name Renesmme! Ugggh! 2. What Jacob got stuck with for life.

We went to the Museum of Fine Arts and these were my favorites....



Van Gogh

Brad and I went the a Major League Soccer Game. I actually enjoyed it! Me, who is sooo cultured! The Boston Revolution was playing against the Chicago Fire. Boston lost, so we claimed the Fire (being from Illinois),and everything was happy.

I putting up this video from last week, cause some may have missed it. And I think it's too funny to be missed. Besides its my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Baillio Grandparents

So Grandma and Grandpa came to visit for about a week. It was an interrupted week though. They came on a Tuesday, left on Thursday, came back on Saturday, and left again on Tuesday. We did so much fun stuff while they were here. It was precisely the kind of week reserved for Grandparents.

We ate out several times, including more seafood! Celeste and I went to 2 movies. Grandma and Grandpa babysat while we saw "Get Smart" one night, and "The Dark Knight" another. Both were good movies. "Dark Knight" was a bit dark/depressing, but it was good. I still think that "Batman Begins" is my favorite Batman of all. As a group, we hit the town on Sunday to see a little bit of Boston. We saw Harvard Campus and took the ferry ride around the north end. It was a fun Bostonian day. We also headed out to Old Sturbridge Village on Monday. It's like visiting Nauvoo, only better. It's another "live museum" where people dress up 1800s and play the parts of people from the time. My favorite parts were the 19th century school lesson, and the "Punch and Judy" show. They were both so interesting and fun to experience.

Well, I'll be short(er?) on words this week, and fill in the details with some pictures.