Monday, June 30, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 89

Roseann and the girls went swimming while I did the laundry. Becca went underwater (intentionally) with her goggles and snorkel three times. Roseann had asked her to do it five times and Becca said two, so they haggled it out to three times.

The hills are really crazy around Branson and I had enough stress driving the bus around here the first day that I knew it would be worthwhile to give the bus a rest and rent a car for the week, so I went out to do that while the girls stayed and played in the bus. I ended up getting a pale yellow PT Cruiser and Becca and I named it "Petie" (Roseann wants to rename it "TP", because the color reminds her of tapioca pudding.)

The girls had late naps and then we had dinner and went to see The Duttons perform. They blow me away and inspire me every time I see them. They are so creative with how they entertain, using many different aspects of their talents and incorporating video and set pieces and costumes and all kinds of different music and comedy approaches. They are all incredible musicians (each of them is a top notch fiddle/violin player, and most play several other instruments as well) and could easily hold an audience's attention with nothing more than their instrumental and vocal abilities, but they give so much more and really know the meaning of putting on a "show" and providing a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. They've had a lot of kids since we last saw them and were able to work many of them into the act, which we all appreciated, especially Becca and Evee. They made the Top 10 of the TV show America's Got Talent last year and it was funny for Sheila Dutton (the mother) to describe the accolades they got during that run from people like Ozzy Osbourne, Simon Cowell and Jerry Springer. Afterwards we hung out and talked with them for a while about the whole experience and what we've all been up to. Roseann used to work with them and it's been about seven years since we've last seen them, so we had a lot of catching up to do, but it was very late by that point so we had to head back to the bus before too long and get to bed.

Petie, the PT Cruiser...

Roseann saving a tortoise that was in the middle of the road...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 88

We checked in at the KOA where we'll be staying for the next week, then went to church. Roseann used to work here in Branson doing lighting and other work for several of the acts, so we had a lot of people to say "hi" to, including the Duttons and the Hughes Brothers and their families.

I could tell we were in Branson because the first congregation hymn sounded incredibly polished, with everyone belting and doing harmonies. I guess it's hard to stop "singing for the back row" on Sunday when you're used to doing that all week long. During Sacrament Meeting, the Hughes Brothers and Knudsen Brothers (a new group in town that goes by the name "Six" for the number of brothers in their act... that's probably more memorable and pronounceable than "Knudsen") sang an a cappela version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" that was unbelievably powerful and dynamic. All I could say after that was "wow".

Jason and Mara Hughes, who Roseann lived with for a while back in the day, invited us over for dinner, and we had a really good time catching up with them and eating some Hawaiian haystacks while the girls played with their kids. I should also mention that Jason, his daughter Jesse, and several of the other Hughes Brothers provided the spoken character parts for my song "Cowboy Bergaleoukaleopaleous". I've always loved their great contribution on that, which really helped to bring that song to life. We're looking forward to seeing their show and hanging out some more with them this week.

Roseann with Jason, Mara, George, Jesse and Aaron...

The girls playing dress-up with some pretty butterfly outfits...

I was trying to take a picture of Evee but she wouldn't smile long enough for me to get the picture. So I told her to "hold your smile", and she did...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 87

I had two shows today at the Hardesty library in Tulsa. These were my first shows involving the "Catch the Reading Bug" summer reading program theme. I had put together a set list and a script with some bug songs and bug facts, knowing that some of the talking points and transitions would end up being tweaked in the moment once I actually performed the program, for better or worse. Well, the songs went fine (including the first ever full blown performance of "Stink Bug"), but the talking parts and transitions definitely weren't the smoothest. It often takes 2-3 shows of winging it and trying some different things before the right wording comes together for themed shows like that, and no matter how well I might try to figure it out ahead of time, it's still tough to get it just right without actually presenting it in front of an audience. The second show definitely went better in that respect, though there were still some awkward transitions. My next bug song shows aren't until mid-July in Colorado, so I should have everything worked out better by then, especially with these shows to use as a reference. The audiences were appreciative and had fun with the songs, regardless, so it wasn't a big deal, but it's the kind of thing I would have liked to have done better to begin with. I did try "La Cucaracha" again during the second show and it was considerably better than the last time I tried it (see the April 19 journal entry for more about that), but still not really strong enough to keep doing. Oh well... I felt brave to give it a try again, at least.

After the second show we packed everything up and met Monty, Lisa and Evalyn for some pizza and for more conversation, both of which were quite good. We drove four hours from there to Branson and got there very late, so we went right to bed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 86

We all ended up sleeping until almost 9, which is unheard of for the girls... they're usually up at 6:30 or 7, regardless of when they went to bed the night before. I guess they needed to catch up on some sleep, as we've been staying up pretty late this past week at Brent and Cheryl's. It was pouring rain out, and unfortunately, with the limited time we had from sleeping late, we couldn't take advantage of the beautiful indoor pool and spa that the RV park had.

So we left the RV park and drove over to Chris Wiser's house. Chris is the singer and organ player for the Sugar Free Allstars, a two-piece band (it's just Chris and the drummer, Dr. Rock) who released a super cool kids' album earlier this year that is one of my favorites. Being that Chris is an amazing organ player with some classic organs on hand, I hit him up to play some organ parts for "How to Move a Monster" for my next album. As I expected, he recorded some incredible stuff, and the hard part will be choosing what to use from among the several takes he did.

We drove from there to Tulsa and stayed at an RV park, hanging out to work on our computers and make some phone calls before going to bed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 85

We drove a few hours to Oklahoma City and met up with Monty Harper and his family at a library where he was doing two shows. We missed the 2 pm show but he had another scheduled for 7 pm, which we figured was a more likely one for us to catch. Monty is a really terrific children's music singer/songwriter, and Roseann and I had a great time talking shop with him and his wife, Lisa, while the girls played with Monty's 7 year-old daughter, Evalyn.

We went out to dinner at a local joint called Tator's, where they advertised "Eat Here and Win Free Gas". We weren't sure if that was a contest or not. Before Monty's show I was able to get in a quick interview with him for my blog. I used my new Zoom recorder, and I really wish I had that for all of the previous interviews I did on this tour.

Monty's show was fantastic and we all enjoyed it a lot. He has a great way with making sophisticated lyrics and music, put into songs that are very memorable and fun. After the show, we went to a nearby RV park and did some laundry and caught up on some internet stuff before going to bed.

Monty performing, with help from Evalyn...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 84

I had a show this morning at one of the Dallas libraries that happens to be in a large mall, so the show was out in one of the mall courtyards. It was a really young crowd, mostly toddlers and very early preschoolers... lots of strollers parked around the perimeter... so I had to adjust my show a bit for them, but it turned out to be a good show.

We stopped for lunch at a Burger King so the girls could have some Playland time (well, and so we could eat, too), then we went to Brent and Cheryl's where I plotted out where we'd be staying for the next few days while Roseann and Evee took a nap and Becca watched the Dinosaur movie with Cheryl and Daniel. Becca also played for a while with Audrey. She's been doing very well playing with Audrey this whole trip. Evee, on the other hand, being a 3 year-old who just came out of the 2 year-old phase, kept getting a little frustrated with Audrey's more limited communication and couldn't quite relate. Of course, Becca has a lot of experience playing with a 2 year-old from when she was 4 and Evee was 2, so she already knew how to deal with that. I'm sure Evee and Audrey will be great friends next time they meet in a year or so.

Brent came home and we had a yummy chicken dinner while Brent related some really interesting stories about some of the cases he deals with as a liability claims adjuster. He and Cheryl had meetings to go to at the church (Cheryl's only ended up being 5 minutes and his over 3 hours...), so the rest of us got to hang out. Evee requested to play the Lion King game again, so I broke that out and played it with her and Becca while Roseann and David went to hit golf balls again. Roseann said she got more consistent, but her fingers were pretty sore.

When they got back, we all played a game of Apples to Apples and waited as long as we could for Brent to get back, but it was already incredibly late by that point, so we had to say goodbyes and thank yous to everyone else and head out. We had a really wonderful time together with everyone there and look forward to seeing them again at the family reunion next year, if not sooner.

We stopped at a Walmart so I could drop off the videos I had rented the other day... I didn't want to leave town without remembering to do that... and as long as I was there I decided to pick up a few groceries. Well, after having everything checked out, I realized that I forgot to bring my wallet in with me. So I had to run back to the bus and get that, then run back in to pay and grab my bag of stuff. But then when I got back to the bus, I realized that there should have been two bags of stuff. So I had to run back in to get the other bag, then back to the bus again. Did I mention that the whole time it was POURING rain? Yup, that was the fun part.

Becca and Evee with a new friend at the Playland...

Becca playing ball with Audrey...

Playing Apples to Apples...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 83

We headed out at about 10:30 this morning, and as we left the RV park we got beeped at a few times by other cars. Now, that happens quite a lot with the cartoon wrap, but usually people also wave or give a thumbs up or something, so we were wondering what was going on. Sure enough, at the first stop, someone pulled up alongside us and told me that our power cord was dragging on the ground. D'oh! I had commented earlier this trip to Roseann, wondering how often that happens, where people pull away from an RV park without remembering to unplug their cord. It was bound to happen to us sooner or later, I suppose. Thankfully, the cord and the power outlet were fine.

When we got to Brent and Cheryl's, Roseann and Cheryl went to a toy store where Cheryl had previously found some of Zeke's glasses (and noses). He seems to lose them an awful lot, so it's good to have an ample supply of them on hand. The girls and Daniel and I played the Lion King game that I had found at a thrift store recently. There isn't much "game" to it, really, but it has some cool components and the girls are big Lion King fans, so they really enjoyed playing, and we got in another game later in the day. Daniel and I also played a game of Mykerinos, which is a favorite of mine.

I went out for a while to a computer store to pick up something for Becca's laptop, and the girls all hung out and played (Becca, Evee, Audrey) and talked (Roseann, Cheryl, Crystal). When I got back I spent some time playing on their Clavinova (we've gotta get one of those for home!) and came up with a follow up part to a little piano melody I started working on years ago.

We had some pizza for dinner and after Brent and David got back we sat and talked for a while and played a game of Encore, where you draw a card that has a word or subject and have to go back and forth as teams to sing a piece of a song with that word or subject until someone can't think of one. My team, with me, Brent and Daniel, took a big lead, but the team of Roseann, David and Cheryl came back to win in dramatic fashion.

We went back to the RV park and put the girls to bed, then watched the movie Jumper, which had a cool premise but didn't really deliver much beyond that.

Playing the Lion King game...

That should be enough glasses for Zeke, for about a week or so...

Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 82

We stayed in the bus this morning and the girls worked on their computers. Becca got another dollar from the Tooth Fairy but was hoping that it might be $1.25 considering that we are in Texas now instead of Louisiana. Mommy had told her that she had only received 25 cents from the Tooth Fairy when she was little, and Becca knew that Roseann grew up in Washington, so she assumed that the going rate might be different from state to state. We had to explain to her about "inflation".

We went shopping and ran some errands, then went over to Brent and Cheryl's before dinner time. After dinner, we had family home evening and Becca gave the lesson on temptation, using the story of when Jesus was tempted after fasting in the desert. She needed a little coaching, but did very well. She loves to share things she's learned about and is a great teacher.

After the lesson, we played some parlor games. The first was sort of like musical chairs, except one person stands in the middle of the room and says something that they've never done (i.e. "I've never flown in a helicopter", "I've never been to Europe", etc.) and then anybody who has done that thing has to get up and switch seats, leaving someone else standing in the middle. That was a lot of fun, and the girls really loved the frantic running to a new seat, even though they didn't always understand what they were supposed to be doing. Evee, for example, got up and ran to a new seat when someone said, "I've never been married". The second game we played involved someone picking a subject that had several (but not too many) possible answers and then writing their own answer on a piece of paper. They would then walk around the room holding a squirt bottle full of water and everyone would give an answer. Whoever guessed the answer they had chosen, or repeated an answer already given, would get a squirt in the face.

It was late when we left, so the girls went right to bed when we got back to the RV park. We finished off our laundry and watched the movie Flawless, which was okay.

Becca gets a dollar and a lesson on inflation...

Getting in position for the "I've never" game...

Evee about to squirt Cara for guessing that her Pixar movie choice was Toy Story 2...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 81

The girls played on their computers this morning while Roseann and I watched the recent film version of Oliver Twist. It was about as good of a version as they could have crammed into 2 hours, but it couldn't really compare to the BBC miniseries version from 1999 that we've watched twice now. That has to be one of the best drama depictions I've ever seen, of any kind.

We made some pancakes for breakfast and then Roseann pulled Becca's other loose tooth out. Again, it came right out with no pain.

We met up with the rest of the family at church and only realized as we got there that we should have stopped at Brent's house first to drop off Tiggy. I may not have mentioned this before, but with the heat as high as it is, we don't ever leave Tiggy in the bus for too long without turning on the generator to run the AC. Of course, that burns up gas (slower than you might think, but still, who wants to use up extra gas these days?), so whenever we have another option for Tiggy we gladly take advantage of that, and he has been quite comfortable staying in Brent and Cheryl's laundry room while we've been over there. So we went into sacrament meeting, where Crystal and David gave some great talks on faith and gratitude, and then I turned off the generator and Brent and I shuttled Tiggy to the laundry room and came back for the rest of church.

After church, we went to their house again and played together with the girls and talked for a while, then had dinner. After dinner, I played a game of Tier auf Tier with Evee and Daniel. Evee can't really follow game rules too well yet, so we don't really bother with them... but she loves stacking the animals on top of the alligator. Daniel asked me for some guitar tips, as he is planning on getting a guitar soon, so I brought my acoustic in and showed him a few things, then David broke out his harmonica (he's very good at that) and we jammed on some tunes. Roseann brought in Louis (aka Charlie), our dog puppet, and he sang along and kept the girls entertained. That always cracks me up, too, especially when he sings "Under the Bridge" or does a low gravity walk for "Walking on the Moon". We had some yummy German chocolate cake that Cheryl made and then I played two games of Mr. Jack with David. Mr. Jack is a great 2 player deduction game, sort of like chess meets Clue, and though David had never played before, he managed to capture me twice before I was able to escape.

I should mention that a couple days ago David and Crystal's 2 year-old daughter Audrey got some nasty bites on her legs. Everyone's best guess was that they were spider bites, and we've been very worried because they look like they could have been by a brown recluse spider, which is a really nasty one. She's never really acted like they've bothered her, but the thing with a brown recluse bite is that there may be no symptoms for a day or two, and then... I don't even want to say, but they can be very damaging. They took her to the hospital last night and gave her some preventative medicine, just in case, but she seems fine and today the bites looked a lot better, which is very comforting. If they were brown recluse bites, they would likely only get worse and she should have had some more pronounced symptoms by now, so it looks like she'll be alright.

In other health matters, my sore throat is still lingering and now Evee seems to have some kind of whooping cough, so we may have to get her looked at for that.

Becca's 2nd lost tooth...

Evee playing Tier auf Tier...

Becca wanted to take a picture of me and Evee...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 80

I did a show this morning for the stake primary in Plano, which Brent had helped to set up. I did my "Say Yes!!! to Life" assembly show, with some of the same basic principles expanded to include more specifically gospel related references, which the kids in attendance would understand. We weren't sure what kind of audience to expect, as the show had only been confirmed and announced earlier in the week, but there ended up being about 200 people altogether. A lot of parents brought their younger preschoolers and toddlers, and I wasn't sure how the assembly material would work, but we had the elementary aged kids sit up front, as they would at a school, and had the younger kids stay over to the sides with their parents. I was also worried about doing an assembly where there would be a lot of talking points, as I had been up half the night coughing. But any worry was for naught, as it all worked out really well and the show went great.

We went to Brent and Cheryl's afterwards and I got caught up on some internet, which we haven't had consistently for a few days... there were lots of bills to pay and e-mails to reply to, etc. Roseann made some alligator meat that we bought in Baton Rouge for dinner. Daniel was hesitant to eat any of his favorite reptile, but Roseann convinced him that since "you are what you eat", he could actually gain some of the attributes of an alligator by eating some. She was just being silly, and being a teenager, Daniel knew better, but it worked, anyway, and once he tried a bite he went back for all of the biggest pieces. After dinner, Roseann and I played Pandemic with Brent and Daniel (we actually won both games, but the first was on the "easy" level) while the girls played Don't Break the Ice and Tier auf Tier and watched a movie with Audrey.

Becca and Evee with Baby Jane...

Friday, June 20, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 79

We drove to Plano, stopping for lunch on the way. We checked into the RV park, then went to Brent and Cheryl's, where we immediately jumped into some heavy conversation (we picked right up from where we left off last time we were here) and had a great dinner.

After dinner, the girls stayed and played with Audrey and Crystal and Cheryl and David took me and Roseann out to a golf driving range. Roseann had never done that before, but she had a very natural swing and did quite well. I hadn't hit any golf balls in probably ten years or more but was surprised at how well I did. Oh, there were some flubs and wormburners, but some really far shots, too. My hands were starting to hurt by the end of the bucket, so I'm expecting some blistering tomorrow. It was a good workout, though, especially in 90 degree weather!


As we were getting closer to Brent and Cheryl's this afternoon, Becca wanted to write them a letter. She made it a picture/text kind of thing, and here's the translation of the picture below... "Dear Brent and Sharel (sic), My [tooth] [fell] out! Well... Mommy got [tweezers] and pulled it out. (I did not [cry].) Did 1 of your kids [teeth] [fall] out? Y [] N [] Did yours [fall]? Y [] N [] Love: Becca"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 78

We drove out to Many in the Sabine Parish this morning, where I had two shows. The first was at the Sabine Theater, where a big crowd filled in most of the seats. They had some minimal lighting available, but no tech person, so Roseann got to run the light board and spotlight, which she used to do professionally for a number of acts in Branson. My nagging cough got the best of me in the middle of "No Big Deal" and I had to finish the song just doing the dance movements and trying to at least squeeze in the line "all that stuff is no big deal" when it came up. It was a good song for that to happen, though, as the dancing kept everyone with something to do, and Invisible Jill filled in with some of the chorus vocals, and I had to laugh afterwards and say, "no big deal".

The second show was at a small branch in Toledo (er, Louisiana, not Ohio). The kids were really great there and it was a particularly fun show to end the Louisiana trip on. Between the shows, we had some yummy snow cones (with cream added... delicious!) that the library had offered all of the kids and then we went out to lunch with Rebecca, our contact there, who was very nice. Heck, everybody in Louisiana was really nice, and the hospitality of the people there was terrific.

We drove back to Texas to stay at an RV park in Tyler. On our way we listened to some classical music, which Becca has been getting into from her "Hit it, Maestro!" LeapPad book. When "Toccata and Fugue" came on, Becca recognized it and said, "Hey, that's Botch!" We got a good laugh from that. She also correctly identified the next piece as Handel, which officially makes her more knowledgeable about classical music than me. Her favorite is Beethoven (me, too). She'll play the 5th and 9th Symphony segments from the LeapPad over and over again.

When we got to the RV park, we took a walk down to a pond and the girls found some nice obsidian rocks on the way. The park manager's black lab puppies greeted us a little too warmly... they were only being friendly, but they had just been in the pond and jumped all over us and shook themselves off right next to us. Mmmm, wet dog... We came back to the bus and had some dinner and went to bed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 77

Roseann took Tiggy out again first thing in the morning to see if the kitten was gone yet. She was worried about it trying to follow us, and sure enough it had climbed onto our back wheel axle and we couldn't get it out and needed to leave for my show. Roseann tried coaxing it out with Tiggy walking nearby, but it wouldn't budge. It was safe in the position it was, so I started driving slowly away, and then, realizing that it was moving away from Tiggy, it jumped out. Roseann signaled me to stop while it was walking under the RV towards Tiggy. When it was not in danger of getting squished, I pulled farther away from it and Roseann raced in with Tiggy. It was kind of sad and strange to be trying so desperately to escape from a cute little kitten.

But anyway, we drove out to Winnsboro where my show was. They really went all out there with decorating for their summer reading program with a pretty elaborate Hollywood theme. The audience was terrific and the girls had fun dancing to a Hannah Montana CD they played after the show.

We drove a few hours from there back to the RV park in Marthaville with the nice lake, where we had stayed on the way to Baton Rouge. We had dinner and did some computer stuff, then went to bed.

Tiggy concerned about his kitty friend...

Becca showing off her Tooth Fairy prize...

A drive-through liquor store?!?!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 76

I did two shows for the Concordia Parish today, first in Vidalia and then in Ferriday. Both shows went very well, but I was worried during the first show, because I still have a cold with a sore throat and some sporadic coughing, and Zeke managed to catch the same cold (the very same cold... imagine that) and started coughing during his introduction. I was worried that I might start coughing during a song, which would be bad, but once I started singing that kind of smoothed everything out and I was fine.

As I was setting up for the second show, Roseann used some tweezers to pull out Becca's loose tooth. Becca was very excited to come in and show me. You'd think people with missing teeth wouldn't smile so big.

We went back to the same RV park and did some laundry and went swimming. The girls were in their floaty fishes and Becca tipped over and went under briefly. She was very upset, but it gave us the opportunity to teach her about holding her breath underwater. I went back to the bus with Evee while Roseann worked with Becca for a while, and she definitely made some progress, staying under long enough to open her eyes to see how everything looked under the water.

I was taking Tiggy for a walk when Roseann noticed a cute black kitten roaming near the bus. Tiggy noticed him, too, and was very eager to meet him. I guess Tiggy is okay with young cats, just not so much with older ones. The kitten was immediately taken with Tiggy and wanted to follow him everywhere. Roseann noticed before we went to bed that the kitten was sleeping on the picnic table outside our bus, waiting for Tiggy to come out again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

2008 Spring/Summer Tour - Day 75

Well, Tiggy must not have had enough playtime yesterday, because he kept us up again last night. Arrgh...

I had my last two Baton Rouge shows today, at the Central library and the Greenwell Springs library, and both had really great crowds. It's been a terrific string of shows here, and Pabby has put us on rotation to return again in three years, so we'll look forward to that.

We drove back to the main library to say goodbye and thanks to Pabby and were met there by Farmer Miner, who travels around to libraries with his potbelly pig, Daisy. The girls were very happy to meet her.

We stopped for dinner and bought some frozen alligator meat to make over at Brent and Cheryl's house for everyone later this week. Then we drove to a nice RV park in Vidalia, right on the banks of the Mississippi, and went to bed for the night. It was actually nice to have a drive of a few hours again, as Roseann and I get to have some deep and lengthy conversations and catch up on listening to some CDs.

So... who did I miss??