Last week, Alden and I headed to Kansas City, I to immerse myself in basketball and Alden to spend some time with her grandparents.
Robbi and Kato drove us to the airport and we said our farewells.
Robbi gave Alden a small red suitcase for her birthday.
But Alden didn’t seem to understand what it was for.
From the window of the plane, Alden enjoyed pointing out the trees, cars, and “duckies,” down below. The kid must have better eyesight than her dad.
Safely arrived in Kansas City, we went to visit Grandpa John at work. It was employee appreciation week, so Alden got a balloon.
Did she feel appreciated? I cannot say. But moments after this photo was taken, she learned some hard lessons about helium and how it defies conventional expectations about the role of gravity when one lets go of a balloon string in a parking lot. Teachable moments, I say.
After work, Grandpa John took Alden for a walk.
And Grandma Judy made some incredible cupcakes. First she sculpted tiny ladybugs out of marzipan.
A closer look.
Then she used a special frosting attachment to place green grass atop each cupcake.
The cupcakes were so beautiful, I took about 40 pictures of them. But you probably only need to see two.
Or maybe three.
Or surely no more than four.
With Alden’s second birthday party in the books, Dad and I drove east to St. Louis for the Midwest Regional of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament.
This was the view from our seats.
We got there early, and had a look around. The games were being played in the Edward Jones Dome, an enormous stadium that is the home field of the St. Louis Rams (that’s a NFL football team for those of you not in the know). Anyway, a football field is a lot bigger than a basketball court, so instead of using the entire dome, they just use one end of it, and put up a bunch of bleachers in what would be the middle of the football field.
Here’s a movie that shows what it looks like when you try to play basketball inside a football stadium.
We saw two exciting games on Saturday. First we saw upstart University of Northern Iowa (Jayhawk-slayers) fight a good battle with Michigan State before ultimately coming up short. Then we watched a scrappy Tennessee team edged the favored Ohio State.
The next day we decided to balance basketball with culture, and started our tour of St. Louis by walking the beautiful campus of Washington University, with its flowering pink trees.
And its terrifying, gangly rabbits.
Next we paid a visit to the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
The Basilica is known for having a lot of mosaic.
Millions of pieces of tiny tile grace almost every surface of the place.
There was also some rather nice stained glass.
We walked around the trendy bars and galleries part of St. Louis and, though we were tempted, did not use Hortense Place as a through street.
We stopped in a trendy furniture store and I almost bought these stacking red plastic bins for Robbi.
Until I was informed that they cost $3,400.
Humbled by the high-end grandiosity of St. Louis, I admired, but did not contemplate purchasing these wonderful glass sculptures.
Thoroughly cultured, we returned to the Dome on Sunday to watch yet another game, in which Michigan State edged Tennessee to advance to the Final Four.
Alden and I are now back in Chestertown, our attention firmly directed toward this coming Saturday evening, when our Duke Blue Devils will take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia for a spot in the national championship game. I love Duke, but never expected them to get to the Final Four. For the first time in a number of years, my fierce loyalty has been rewarded by a chance to do fairly well in my bracket.
Those of you still watching the standings in the Idiots’Books Bracket Challenge will note that Robbi is still on top. But notice also how my sister, mother, and I (all devoted Duke fans) have suddenly pulled in just behind her. If Duke wins Saturday night, Robbi’s reign will come to a crashing end. Alden, who doesn’t understand how the standings work, still thinks she’s in second place, behind only Uncle Roji, and certain that she will find a way to beat him in the end.
The girl is all heart. Pancakes everywhere beware.