Hana did very well on our big summer road trip. We traveled about 3,500 miles in eight days. She slept quite a bit in the SUV or amused herself with toys. We are making it an annual tradition to attend the SOFT (Support Org. for Trisomy 18,13, and Related Disorders) Conference Picnic and Balloon Release. First, we drove to Toledo and had Hungarian food at Tony Packo's. It was the first restaurant we've ever seen with signed hot dog buns. Hundreds of celebrities have their "buns" on the walls.
We stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which was very cool. Next, we visited Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania. We toured the civil war battlefields and saw the huge cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. We also had lunch in an historic tavern.
We kept going east all the way to Virginia Beach, Virginia. We enjoyed walking the beach, but Hana was scared of the water.
We headed west again for the conference in Roanoke, but made a few stops on the way. We went to Colonial Williamsburg, but didn't make it in time to tour the buildings. We strolled some of the streets, where we ran into a founding father.
We also toured the College of William and Mary, including the oldest college building still in use in the United States. When Hana looks back at these pictures, she's going to think we never took her out of that backpack. But, she really does love the view from up there and was so comfortable, she even fell asleep in it.
We stayed in Richmond one night and had the best barbecue sandwiches ever. It was actually Texas barbecue at a place called Alamo. We also tried North Carolina and Virginia style barbecues. We really liked the No. Carolina style, which had a lot of vinegar in the sauce. Next, we visited Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello in Charlottesville. We also hiked the area around the natural bridge not far from Roanoke. Everything in Virginia seems tied to history. We saw George Washington's initials carved into the rock when he surveyed the bridge.
Speaking of history... we also visited "Foamhenge". It's a life size replica of Stonehenge made out of foam. You never know what you may find along the road.
We had a wonderful time in Roanoke at the SOFT picnic. There are many families we know from contact online and it's great to see them in person. This was only our second year, so we're still getting to know people. It is always inspiring to see kids who are long term survivors with trisomy disorders, some in their teens and twenties. I really wish we would've been able to take Mieko to a conference. We were supposed to go a few years ago in Chicago, but a hospitalization kept us home. It is always touching for me to meet someone who remembers Mieko and followed her life online or watched her videos. The big event is the balloon release for all the children who've passed away.
This year, we released the balloons from beautiful spot on the mountainside overlooking Roanoke. This is always such a moving event. I put together this youtube video, if you'd like to see it, here's a link:
Baloon Release 2009
I hope that we can continue participating in the balloon release every year. We would like Hana to grow up with this tradition. We see other siblings who come every year and they have such a sensitivity towards children with disabilities. We would like Hana to get to know the special kids and maybe feel closer to her sister.
We had time for a couple more stops on the way home. We visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We enjoyed hiking and seeing several waterfalls. We even saw a bear, though it was in the brush several feet away. But, it was still exciting for us.
Lastly, we spent some time in St. Louis. We saw the gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. It has one of the largest displays of mosaic art in the world. More than 40 million tiles were used and thousands of colors. Shawn thought it was more impressive than Notre Dame.
We also went to the St. Louis zoo, probably the best free zoo we've ever seen. Hana had her first carousel ride. She also really liked the goat yard.
Since we've been home, Hana has been in constant motion. She's either crawling, climbing, pulling herself up to stand, or walking along the furniture at all times. How do kids get so much energy? She had her 9 month check-up and weighs almost 19 pounds. She's also eating finger food now like Cheerios. She really has fun picking up the little o's when she's not tossing them from her high chair.
Hana loves being around other kids, especially older ones. She squeals and laughs a lot. I took her on a play date at the Como Zoo with the babies of some of my colleagues at WCCO-TV. All five of them were born in Sept. and Oct. of last year. It was a lot of fun to see them interact, though most of the time they did their own thing. I'm going to try to get Hana involved in more group activities, since at home it's just her and the kitties. I think her buddy Jordan needs a break from getting chased.