Discovering The Soul of Trains.

Last Sunday was our annual trek out to Calera to visit Thomas the Train. But this year, we managed to get there earlier than usual, and it was much less crowded than it has been in the past. These two factors gave us ample opportunity to explore everything else at the location – something we’d never really done before.

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The destination in question is the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. I will readily admit that I have a subconscious avoidance-reaction to any location with the word “Museum” in the title. This can be traced back to my childhood where I, a very efficient and quite impatient child, had to wait on my mother, a person with zero concept of the passage of time (literally – it was a big eureka moment for my parent’s marriage when they figured this out) who greatly enjoyed reading every placard, and observing every angle of the most obscure artifact. Combine this with the fact that I was homeschooled and therefore visited all the museums with my mother and…I have an aversion to the word Museum.

(I’m sorry I was such a naggy kid, Mom. I fully appreciate all your efforts now. But I’d rather appreciate them NOT at a museum, if you don’t mind.)

So that also may be why I’ve never explored the location of our Thomas trips before.

But I can now say definitively that, Thomas weekend or not, every little (and big) train lover needs to visit this museum. Admission is free, and they have some fantastic artifacts of train culture gone by, almost all being open to being climbed upon and explored up close.

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(And very few placards to be read.)

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They have rows of old rail cars, engines, and cabooses to check out,

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and train tracks to (safely) play on – because what kid doesn’t want to play on train tracks?

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(Notice Thomas chugging into the station in the top left corner in the above picture. He’s pretty cool, too.)

They have old railway crossing signs that still function, manual track-changing cranks that really do shift the tracks,

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and really, really fantastic trains. It’s basically the best playground ever for the train-obsessed.

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And all those families who want to get their family photos made on train tracks? This would be the place to do it. (I emailed the museum to see if they allow that, but I haven’t gotten an answer yet. I’ll update if I do.)

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Seeing Thomas, of course, was fantastic as well,

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Along with meeting Sir Topham Hatt,

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getting to buy Thomas umbrellas,

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And some Masters-Level golfing.

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As usual, Thomas got a Hero’s welcome from Noah…and Ali. Because you don’t get too old for your first hero.

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And this year our ride took place on the Double Decker train car, which was pretty much thrilling.

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(And it had a nice view.)

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The train cars used for Thomas’ rides belong to the Museum, and so there are other opportunities to ride on them, as well.

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Since Sunday, Noah has asked me daily if we can go back and visit the trains. He knows he only gets to visit Thomas once a year, but now that he’s discovered everything else out there, he’d very much like to take a daily trek to the train yard, peeking into windows and imagining all sorts of adventures.

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And I have to admit…I kinda want to go back, too.IMG_5512

(Especially if I could figure out how to photograph a sunset behind those trains.)

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored or requested by anyone. I’m just so thrilled that I discovered that I, too, can enjoy museums that I wanted to share it with you. Plus it’s a really fun place to take pictures.

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Cherries, Take Me Away.

My life has been the definition of “train wreck” lately.

Nothing devastating or life-changing – no worries. Just a constant onslaught of sicknesses and injuries and roadblocks and traumatic doctor visits.

The upside is, they often make good blog posts.

Y’all have read about some of them, but I haven’t written about a lot of things because I have a rule for myself – never write about something until you’re on the other side of it – otherwise, it comes out whiny.

And nobody likes to read whiny.

(A rule I clearly broke with my Printing Woes. But hopefully Sukhad added the humor back in for me.)

Anyway. One very special blog reader, Melissa, from Prosser Washington, picked up on the undertones of my rather unpleasant start to 2015. And she commented after this post that she was going to send me some chocolates, thereby solidifying her spot as my Best Friend Forever [That I Probably Won’t Ever Get to Meet].

Because by chocolates, I knew she meant Chukar Cherries.

I knew this because she had sent them to me once before. AND THEY CHANGED MY LIFE.

They’re made in her hometown, and they’re basically the most luxurious chocolate-covered dried fruits and nuts ever concocted. All the combinations are divine, and the flavors they put together are the essence of chocolate fantasies. The last box she sent me contained eighteen different varieties of heaven dipped in chocolate.

After receiving them last time, I also started getting the catalogs. And with each one, I nearly ordered myself another box (to hide from the children and eat embarrassingly fast), but always somehow intervened before I delved into what was sure to become a serious addiction problem.

So when the Melissa mentioned a box of chocolates, I was pretty intensely elated.

The hope of those chocolates carried me through finishing my Kid’s Market preparation.

They carried me through recovering from a sinus infection.

They carried me through the mothering of sick children, blowing their noses on my pants, wiping their boogers down into my shirt, and hacking all night long.

They carried me through falling while running and injuring, bruising, or scraping every joint on my body, and the resulting physical therapy.

I knew that Washington is a long way away and it would probably take a good bit for them to arrive, but the hope of chocolate covered cherries and berries and pecans and hazelnuts in eighteen different varieties carried me through.

Until I got an email from UPS, telling me that they needed to let me know that a package headed to me from Chukar Cherries had a slight problem.

Slight.

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WHAT. THE WHAT.

MY CHOCOLATE WAS IN A TRAIN WRECK.

I read that email three times, and then contracted an unstoppable case of the giggles. If there was anything more fitting for my life at that juncture, I could not possibly imagine it. The chocolate I was receiving because my life was a train wreck got caught up in an actual train wreck and I’m pretty sure the space-time continuum folded in on itself.

I started checking the UPS status of my cherries, waiting to see when they would resurface, imagining a UPS worker walking along the side of a train track, plucking chocolate covered cherries out of the grass and placing them, carefully sorted, back in my trays.

Every morning, I checked. Every morning, nothing had changed. Every morning, I assumed my chocolates had been eaten by the roadside chickens and cows before they could be collected and repackaged.

(Because there are totally roadside chickens and cows next to all train tracks, just waiting for derailments and the resulting chocolate spillage. Right?)

The above email came on March 3. The shipping status of my package did not update again until I received this email on March 9.

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My poor cherries, after having been spilled onto a rickety train trestle spanning a crocodile-filled ravine, were now encapsulated by a snowstorm, shivering their fragile chocolate coating off.

Or perhaps, they were stuck in a Sharknado – after all, it didn’t specify the weather type.

You never know.

Until somehow, they weren’t. UPS fought train and snow and sharks flying through the air and my chocolate dropping off the grid for over five days, and still managed to deliver those precious, life-giving chocolates – just one day after they were originally due.

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When the box arrived, my warm tingly heart burst within me.

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I wish I’d gotten a better picture of that big red sticker – it said “Perishable Goods – Open Immediately.” But I didn’t have time for good photography – I had a package to open. I had chocolate-covered cherries to rescue.

They had been through a lot, after all.

I could relate.

Oh, the bliss of discovering that Melissa, Fairy Godmother of the Blog Realm, had indeed sent me that giant box of utopia again – along with a couple of other precious, blissful, renewing treats.

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The endless array of beautifully coated goodness made up for all of the train wrecks – both figurative and literal.

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And that box of cherries took over where the hope of cherries left off.

They carried me through running a half marathon perfectly fine, and then reinjuring myself the next day during my “recovery run”.

They carried me through not being able to walk for two days, then finding out that I would have to go to Physical Therapy 2-3 times a week for 6 weeks.

They carried me through multiple technological breakdowns – including those blogged and those only shared in Facebook comments.

And they’re still carrying me through. And doing a darn good job of it.

So from now on, when my life starts spinning off-balance like a washing machine whose drum came loose and is shaking the house down with its ear-shattering rhythm, I shall not waver at the thought of ordering myself some chocolate covered cherries – because mothers are best fueled by good chocolate. And Chukar Cherries most definitely balance everything out.

(Even if they have to survive their own train wreck to do so.)

Superheroes on the Run.

Ali has been running with me since last summer, and she’s shown a surprising amount of proficiency at it, along with enjoying it most of the time (that may be due to the fact that we usually run to the candy store, but no matter. We all run for chocolate, am I right?)

A couple of months ago I got the idea that it would be fun to run a race with her. Maybe she’d like the Color Run – what kid doesn’t want to throw paint everywhere?

Oh yeah – my kid.

“I don’t mind running with you, Mommy, but I don’t really want to get all messy.”

Fair enough.

So the next logical conclusion was to run in the Superhero 5K – it’s part of the Mercedes Marathon Weekend, so we would get to run the day before Chris ran his first marathon. It seemed right – nay, familyish – to all run in the same weekend.

(Except Noah. Who made it quite clear that he had no interest in running with anyone for any reason.)

So we signed up and, since it was a Superhero race, began modifying our Lego Movie Halloween costumes into running clothes.

(Because I did not wear leggings as pants to my Church’s trunk and treat. Nobody wants to see that much trunk to get their treat.)

I also felt a little weird putting makeup on for a race, but WyldStyle is not the type of girl that would leave her hot pink lipstick behind just because she might do a little running.

Plus, those freckles weren’t going to paint themselves.

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The whole family got up early for the race (seriously – we had to wake Ali and Noah up at around seven A.M. – they had no idea people woke up at that time of day), and then Chris and a sleepy Noah dropped us off a block away in the very windy, cold, and flirting-with-rain morning.

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(It was 42 degrees, for those Northerners who would like to mock us.)

We hurried to the Boutwell Auditorium to warm up before the race, where a photographer found us and told us to pose like superheroes245453_185443168_XLarge

Apparently Ali’s superhero needs to pee. Or is a superhero ballerina. Or both.

Within minutes, we heard the call to the starting line. We headed outside and were once again met with the wind. As we jumped in place to stay warm, it began to rain.

Ali looked at me with her giant, frightened eyes and said, “Why is it RAINING, Mommy??

As if there’s a good answer to that question.

Being that I am not enough of a homeschool Mom to go into The Water Cycle three minutes before a race begins, I promised her it would quit soon, prayed that I was right, and got back to my jumping in place.

It turned out that I was indeed right, and the droplets ended soon after. It was still the coldest Ali had ever run in, so there were occasional complaints about breathing in the cold air.

And the frigid breeze.

And the wet roads.

She also wanted to hold my hand while running as much as possible.

But yet, somehow, every time she saw a photographer, she smiled, looked straight at them, and quit holding my hand or looking like she was being tortured with frigidity.

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She’s a natural-born racer.

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Or at least a perfect poser.

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Chris and Noah situated themselves strategically at Railroad Park, where they would see us pass by twice. My Mom met them there to cheer Ali on in her first race.

Although Chris did not go to the trouble of rekindling his role as Lord Business, Noah was absolutely Emmet.

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They finally spotted us, and Ali continued her trend of looking like the happiest person on the race course.

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Like seriously – you can hardly tell that she’s begging me to let her walk right at that moment.

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Noah cheered for us coming and going,

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then immediately left the scene to go slide down his favorite hills.

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Ali and I proceeded onward, walking some and running most, her asking me to count down the hundredths of the miles until the end of the race.

But the last stretch made it all worth it for her – they were watching for bib numbers and called her name from the loudspeaker, then we received our medals and they made a huge deal over her doing so well, and THEN we even got free blue Powerade.

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I’m pretty sure the blue Powerade was the tide turner, and maybe the fact that we were done running.

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But whatever it was, she was thrilled, had forgotten all of her complaints, and informed me that she wanted to do another race in three weeks.

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…and then we went to the coffee shop for Strawberry Cake.

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Because all Superheroes need to be recharged, whether they ran or not.

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That afternoon, I had a mini-parent-panic attack when I realized that we left twelve minutes before the awards ceremony, that Ali’s time would have qualified her to place second in her age group in last year’s race times, and that they did not mail trophies.

If my personal racing newbie status disqualified my daughter from getting a trophy AND hearing her name called out at an awards ceremony, the Parent Guilt would never leave me.

I refreshed the race times page like a stalker as I heaped shame upon myself for not fully reading the race material.

Finally, the results posted.

And it was with a huge amount of relief that I saw my daughter was one place away from getting a trophy.

Ali Race Stats

I heaped huge congratulations onto Ali for her fourth place finish, and onto myself for not robbing my daughter of a trophy.

And all was right in the world.

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