Monday, April 30, 2012

Life is Bunk

Though it’s been in the works for quite some time now, Melanie and I finally broke down and bought a bunk bed for Edison and Peter. They’ve been sleeping in the same small beds for a good chunk of their lives now, and it was time for an upgrade. For safety reasons, we’ve assigned Edison to the top bunk, though we’ve promised Peter that when he turns five, they can switch.

Moving Eddie and Peter into the bunk bed will help Creegan. He can now inherit Edison’s bed. (Peter’s bed, which was a converted crib, was partially broken and threatening to fall apart.) Creegan spent many nights in our bed during his first year or so of life, but nowadays he sleeps in a playpen. He seems content, but I’m sure an actual bed will be much more comfortable. It’s simply a matter of deciding when to commit to having him sleep in a bed that he can get out of by himself. That’s not a decision to take lightly.

Melanie took the kids shopping for some twin-size bedding and let them choose their own sheets and pillowcases. As you can see in the above photograph, Peter selected Transformers. Edison opted for Spider-Man (as pictured below).

The bunk bed is only a few days old, but the kids love it. They get excited to go sit on it or climb on it. Peter continually asks us if he can go be on the bunk bed. We’ve told him over and over that he doesn’t need to ask, but he’s long been a fan of asking permission to do things he should feel free to do. Is that a middle child thing? Does he simply feel like he doesn’t have any authority to do anything whatsoever? It’s kind of sad. Even when we explain that he doesn’t have to ask to do certain things, he very likely will continue to seek permission to do those things. Maybe this will have some very beneficial consequences when he’s a teenager. For now, it’s alternatively amusing and annoying.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dead Man Walking

In less than two weeks, I’ll start teaching again. That sounds way too soon. I don’t even have a copy of the textbook I’m using. They make you decide on a textbook months in advance, and then they don’t get you a copy of it until the last minute. How am I supposed to be planning for this class? Good question. The book I selected was recommended to me by someone who specializes in the relevant subject matter and who believes it to be a more approachable book than many others. With limited time and resources available to me before I had to commit to a textbook, I followed this person’s recommendation. It sure would be nice if I could get an idea of what the book looks like now.

This summer overwhelms me because it’s sort of like the beginning of the end, whether that end is completing my Ph.D. or becoming an utter failure. There is so much that should be happening between now and December that I can scarcely comprehend it. So much metaphorical distance must be traveled that it doesn’t even seem real to me. I know what’s supposed to happen, but I don’t feel connected to it. It’s like knowing the capitol of North Dakota. I can recite the proper facts, but it doesn’t feel like it has anything to do with me. It doesn’t feel strange or foreign or weird—it just feels irrelevant somehow. I guess that’s not a good thing. Or maybe it is. Maybe it’s a subconscious psychological tactic to prevent myself from having a nervous breakdown. It’s possible, because even writing this post is filling me with anxiety. Better wrap it up and go back to peaceful oblivion.

Before I go, I’ll say that I have no idea how much blogging I’ll be able to do once May arrives. I’d like to post a few things between now and then, but I doubt I’ll have the time or the mental capacity to blog much thereafter. I feel like a little boy standing in line to go on a roller coaster or into a haunted house or something. All is calm at the moment, but I know everything’s about to change. I’m scared. Part of me wants to run and hide. I’m venturing forward because I feel like I can’t turn back—I’m pretty much at the front of the line now! But I’m not really sure I want to do this. I want it to be over, and I’m not 100% convinced I’ll make it out alive. Somebody hold my hand!!!

Correction [made Wednesday, April 25, 2012]: I don’t know how I got confused, but I don’t actually start teaching until one week later than I thought when I first posted this. That means I’ll start teaching in just less than three weeks. That’s still very soon, but I feel immensely better about it! Let the procrastinating begin!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beached, Part 3

The beach trip came to an official end over 24 hours ago. I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. It truly felt like the trip was just getting going when it came time to pack up and vacate the premises. Coming back to reality is a bit heartbreaking. Melanie, Eddie, Peter, Creegan, and I were all incredibly happy during our stay on St. George Island. I dare say it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.

To soften the blow of returning to normal life, I thought I’d devote the first part of this entry to the unpleasant experiences of the trip. Not everything about our vacation was perfect, and focusing on the negative may help alleviate the sadness that returning home has brought upon us. So, here are some things that I didn’t like about living in the beach house:

The water. No, not the ocean, but the tap water. It tasted terrible, and seeing as how I drink a lot of water, this made it difficult to remain sufficiently hydrated during the trip. Melanie’s youngest brother, Kaleb, was even diagnosed with dehydration after going to an emergency room during our vacation. At that point, Melanie’s family stocked up on Gatorade, but I’m not much of a fan of that. I stuck with water, using lots of ice to keep it as cold as possible, which seemed to improve the taste.

Illness. Not only did Kaleb (and his girlfriend, Kaya) end up in the emergency room during our vacation, but in total, 19 of the 21 people who would stay in the beach house ended up with some sort of short-term flu. To be fair, Melanie and our sons all battled the flu just before going to the beach house, and it could be argued that we brought the bug with us. Yes, some of my family had vomited mere hours before we headed to the beach house. I felt strange during our drive to the beach house, but I never puked. I’m one of the two people that were magically spared. Only Melanie’s brother Brent also avoided vomiting, diarrhea, or both. Every day of the trip saw someone new puking and laid low, but it generally passed within about 12 hours or so. The illness was short-lived for each individual, but a persistent presence during the trip overall.

The biting flies. Or whatever they were. During certain times of the day, being out on the deck of the beach house brought relentless itchiness as tiny, nearly-invisible flies of some kind would land on and subsequently bite you. These guys really were tiny. You’d feel the bite, look down at your arm, and see the tiniest black dot, almost like a piece of ash. If you didn’t feel the pain, you wouldn’t even notice them on you. You couldn’t even see the things in the air to swat them away. Not that it would do you much good, there were so many of them. You’d walk out on the deck, and within a few seconds, it’s like a dozen miniscule pins are being stabbed into various parts of your arms and legs. They were horrible.

Other sources of itchiness. This didn’t become a problem until my last day at the beach house, but ever since then, I have felt incredibly itchy, almost like I have a rash. It’s everywhere. My legs, back, arms, hands. Something irritated me, and it hasn’t gone away. I’m not sure what. On our final full day at the beach house, I went more deeply into the ocean than I have before. I can only assume that the salt water has somehow irritated my skin. Also, the top of my left foot got severely sunburned and itched like crazy as a result. But that has subsided. Now it is just the mystery irritation.

Sand. Not the sand that stays on the beach, but the unavoidable sand that gets brought back to the beach house with you. You’d do your best to wash it off, stopping at the outdoor shower before heading into the beach house. But the effort was made largely in vain. No matter what you did, a shocking amount of sand would always make its way back into the house with you. With children especially, this meant that some of it always ended up in the beds. Not a night went by that I didn’t sleep with at least a thin layer of sand beneath some part of my body.

Maintenance issues. There were many things I loved about the beach house. But we ran into a few problems as well. A few days into the trip, the ceiling fan in Melanie and my bedroom stopped working. I absolutely love having a ceiling fan on while I sleep, so this was a bummer. The wireless Internet connection was spotty, which made it quite difficult to watch streaming movies or TV as some of us tried to do a couple of times. The water heater sprung a leak while we were there. Some paneling fell off of various things, from the front of the dishwasher to a sliding glass door. And, by the time we were leaving, the fridge was barely keeping anything cool. Its performance had gradually deteriorated during our stay, and it was getting to a rather worrisome state at about the time our trip was over. If we’d had even 12 more hours to remain in the beach house, the fridge would have become a serious problem.

Creegan’s lack of sleep. Like clockwork, on every other night of the trip, Creegan struggled to sleep. He would cry and cry and cry and cry, and he was super particular about how you took care of him during these fits. Melanie couldn’t hold him when he got into these moods, it had to be me. And I had to hold him in a very particular way, or he just went nuts. He wasn’t sick or in pain or anything, he was just being spastic. I could handle this for only so long before I felt ready to throw the kid in the ocean. Waking in the middle of the night and not being able even to sit down with the kid … it’s highly irksome. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could actually lay him down once he went to sleep, but you couldn’t. You couldn’t move a muscle. Even if he was asleep, you had to just stand there, holding him in his preferred way, or disaster would ensue. It was very taxing. He has never been this bad before, so I’m hoping the trend doesn’t continue here at home.

And there are my complaints. But guess what? I still wish I were there at the beach house. I’m still sad it’s over.

As noted in my previous post, Friday was our last full day at the beach house. Melanie and I took it pretty easy that day, which was quite nice. There isn’t even that much to say about the day. One activity that the kids were quite fond of was initiated by Kaya. While on the upper deck, she got the idea of feeding the birds that would frequently fly by. She took out some bread and started tossing pieces into the air. Quickly enough, a flurry of gulls were circling overhead and enjoying the free meal. Kaya would even feed them pieces of bread directly out of her hand. The kids thought this was awesome, of course, and enthusiastically joined in. Even Creegan thought it was great, although he favored dropping whole slices of bread from the deck to the sand below. The birds merely provided a nice ambiance for his bread-related fun.

In the late afternoon, we took to the beach for the final time as a family. Melanie got Eddie out on a boogie board, which was really fun to see. As soon as he was back on the shore, I traded Creegan (who almost always fell asleep on someone’s shoulders if we were out by the water) for the boogie board Melanie had been using, and then I went out with Edison. It was fun for me to get out further into the water than I had been before. Eddie and I had fun pretending we were drifting on a piece of our cruise ship, which had sunk. We were having a great time, until a slightly big wave splashed a little too much in Eddie’s face and freaked him out a bit. He was then quite upset with me for taking him out so far, although I don’t think I took him any further than Melanie had. Still, it put an end to our play time and he spent a good amount of time moping after that. I tried to coax Peter out on the boogie board, but he wouldn’t have it.

Friday night ended up being a pizza night. Each family unit had taken a turn making one of the dinners during the trip—Melanie and I made Easter dinner, which included turkey, funeral potatoes, and croissants; William’s family made broccoli and cheese enchiladas on Monday night; Kaleb and Kaya made fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread, and grilled asparagus one night; etc.—but Friday hadn’t been assigned to anyone. Melanie’s older brother, Mark, was the last to arrive at the beach house, flying in late on Wednesday afternoon for a three-night stay. He volunteered to buy pizza as his way of contributing to the meals. And so he and a few others went to BJ’s and brought back some pizzas. The pizza was quite good, far better than Melanie and I had remembered from when we visited the same restaurant a few days earlier. My favorite was the bacon pizza. I never would have thought about bacon as a solo pizza topping, but it was super good. I stuffed myself silly.

Creegan went to sleep quite well on Friday night, which was wonderful because it allowed Melanie and me to spend our final night hanging out with family. When it was finally time to go to bed, Melanie and I took one last stroll out to the beach. We hadn’t gone out late at night before, and it was really cool. It was so dark out that you couldn’t really see where the water began until you were practically standing in it. Seriously. It was almost creepy. But the sky was amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many stars.

While I had originally hoped to do something fun on Saturday morning, there really wasn’t any time to do so. Melanie and I got up, packed, and did some minor cleaning, as required by the rental agreement. The beach house is actually a private residence that the owner rents out when he can, so it’s not like a hotel where they do all of the cleaning up for you. Still, the requirements were minor and easy enough to satisfy. Packing up the van was the most difficult part. I thought we’d be coming home with substantially less than we had taken, since we had initially supplied quite a bit of the food and other household products. But somehow there was a ton of food and supplies left over, and Melanie and I took much of it home with us. Our van was only slightly less crowded than when we had first headed to the beach house.

Being back in Tallahassee doesn’t feel terrible. It feels normal, but the beach house felt special, so it’s sad by comparison. It’s surprising how much warmer it is being away from the water. I miss the wind. I miss the cool air. More than once, I actually felt a little chilly while at the beach house. When we got back to Tallahassee and were almost home, I saw a sign that said the temperature was currently 90 degrees. It’s hot. The ocean isn’t close enough to keep us cool, only humid. It’s quite a downgrade.

I’ll finish up here with a couple of photographs that I’m stealing from Kaya. She took some cool panoramic photos with her cell phone. The first was taken from the upper balcony on the front of the house, and so it does not overlook the water. The second was taken from the lower deck behind the house. You can see the boardwalk that we used to get to the beach, the green hill that somebody in our group dubbed “the turtle,” and on the far right, the deck where we all spent some of our time lounging.  Both pictures look much better if you click on them to enlarge them.

And that, sadly, is the end.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Beached, Part 2

Quite sadly, our beach trip is almost over. Today is the last full day we will spend at the beach house I first introduced in my previous post. In many respects, it feels as though we’re just getting started, so it will be sad to say goodbye.

Aside from the obvious rest and relaxation, we’ve enjoyed some fun activities and excursions over the last several days. On Tuesday, everyone staying at the house drove to a nearby lighthouse. I’ve never been inside a lighthouse, and I still haven’t. The powers that be didn’t allow babies inside the lighthouse, due to the fact that in order to get to the top of the lighthouse, you have to take not only stairs but also a ladder. I volunteered to sit out with Creegan so Melanie could go with Eddie and Peter as well as the rest of her family. They got some good photos while they were up there.

Eddie and Peter with Grandma and Grandpa in the lighthouse.

On Wednesday, Melanie, Eddie, Peter, Creegan, and I broke away from the rest of the group and did some things by ourselves. We went to lunch at a local pizza/sandwich shop called BJ’s. We shared a classic pepperoni and black olives pizza, and we tried an appetizer of fried macaroni and cheese. The pizza was pretty good, with a pleasantly crackly bottom crust and an exorbitant amount of mozzarella. The fried macaroni and cheese was ho-hum, though made immensely better by dipping it in the yummy ranch dressing that accompanied it. I think we expected something a little fancier, made with homemade mac n’ cheese, not fried Kraft dinner, which is what it was. The boys didn’t eat much of anything, though it didn’t help that they were distracted by BJ’s game room, which included several coin-operated video games as well as air hockey and a pool table.

Later in the day, Melanie and I took our kids to the beach resort’s clubhouse swimming pool. The beach house we are renting is in a private community, so this pool is open to everyone around us. There were only three people in the pool when we arrived, but they left soon thereafter and then we had the pool completely to ourselves. Seeing as how we’re right by the ocean, the swimming pool might not be as popular as it otherwise would be. I myself recognize the surface-level silliness of going to a swimming pool when the ocean is right beside us, but we wanted to try it out and we actually looked quite forward to swimming without getting all sandy. (The sand gets a bit tiring.) The pool was a bit on the cool side, and we didn’t stay for terribly long, but we had fun.

On Thursday, Melanie orchestrated a group birthday party for all of the kids. It was literally a birthday party for every non-adult in the house, regardless of when they happened to be born. This allowed all of the cousins to be a part of each other’s birthday celebration. Our kids have recently discovered and fallen in love with the game Angry Birds, so we had an Angry Birds themed party. Melanie set up a kind of Angry Birds game where kids took turns throwing a ball at and trying to knock down some Angry Birds designed balloons that had been taped to the wall. Kids also played an Angry Birds-inspired variation of pin the tail on the donkey, with an Angry Bird instead of a donkey and a pair of eyes and a beak in lieu of a donkey’s tail. There were also some Angry Birds art activities, and to top it all off, a wholly non-Angry Birds-related piñata. The piñata proved very difficult to break, as we didn’t have an adequate stick with which to whack it. Eventually, kids were just punching and kicking the thing. Finally, Grandpa manipulated the piñata so as to weaken its structure, and then Uncle Tom gave it a good beating until its entrails rained down on the blood, er, candy-thirsty children below.

The birthday party featured a gift exchange. Eddie sports the superhero cape he received from Uncle Brent and Aunt Shanda. He loves it.

In the afternoon on Thursday, a couple of Melanie’s brothers splurged on renting WaveRunners. Everyone who was interested was given a turn to ride one. Melanie took Eddie with her brother Mark. I was going to take Peter when they got back, but Peter chickened out in the end (which didn’t surprise me one bit) and the provided life vest didn’t even fit on me. The one-hour rental period was about to expire, as well, so fate made it perfectly clear that I wasn’t meant to be riding a WaveRunner at this point in my life. I made peace with that. I was happy that Melanie and Eddie had gotten out on one, and I was happy that Creegan was able to remain uninterrupted in the nap he was taking on my shoulder. With Creegan on my shoulders and the brightness of the sun all but completely obscuring the image on my digital camera display screen, I had no idea what kinds of pictures I was getting of Melanie and Eddie on the WaveRunner, but they turned out better than expected.

And that’s that. Today is the final day, and I have no idea what lies before me. There aren’t any concrete plans in the works. That’s probably a good thing. The last day of a beach vacation should be one of calmness.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beached, Part 1

Lately, I’ve been waking up to this:

That’s the view from the top deck of the beach house I’m currently staying at. Melanie’s family rented the beach house for a week, and we’re living here until Saturday. This marks the first time in three years that Melanie’s entire family of origin has been together under one roof. Her older brother, Mark, won’t be here until tomorrow, but everyone else had arrived by Sunday afternoon. Melanie and I were the very first to arrive, living a mere two hours from St. George Island, where the beach house is located. We’ve visited this island before, and we’ve also visited the fairly nearby Alligator Point Beach, but it’s a whole different experience to stay in a rented house right on the shore. We’re having a ton of fun.

A more direct, southward facing shot taken from the same deck as the photo above. You can see the boardwalk that leads directly to the lower deck.

The beach house features five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, two living rooms, a sun room, a kitchen and ample dining space, and both an upper and lower deck. The house is on stilts, so the “lower” deck is still a bit above ground. Underneath the house is a double carport and an elevator that goes into the house (which is fortunate when you’re trying to bring in lots of luggage, or groceries, which would need to go to the top floor, where the kitchen is located). Being the first to arrive, Melanie and I got first dibs on a bedroom (although we left the master suite for Melanie’s parents). Our room leads directly onto the lower deck via a large sliding glass door. If you have the curtains open, you can lie on the bed and stare out at the water. It’s gorgeous. The view from our room is all but indiscernible from the view offered in the picture immediately above.

Creegan heads back toward the beach house after spending some time at the water.

One of my very favorite activities thus far has been lounging on the deck chairs and spending some time with a good book. With kids in tow, Melanie and I haven’t been afforded as much of this kind of downtime as we’d like. But when we get it, it’s exquisite. There is a constant breeze, and it’s generally nice and cool. The waves offer some pleasant white noise, and you’re greeted with a beautiful postcard view every time you glance up from reading, which I personally feel compelled to do after every few paragraphs, just to enjoy the scenery once again.

Eddie enjoys the view from the upper deck.

Even when I’m not reading, I like to be on the deck when I can. I have eaten my breakfast on the deck every morning since we arrived. As I munch on my cereal, I watch the dolphins making their morning commute. For the first several hours of the day, you’re more or less guaranteed to spot a pod of dolphins continually bobbing above the surface. Sometimes one of the dolphins makes a good leap through the air, eliciting delight from all us human spectators.

Peter and Eddie on the beach, trying to pick the perfect digging spot.

As if being here weren’t luxurious enough, the accommodations are quite plush. Literally. The king size bed Melanie and I are sleeping in is super comfortable, and the pillows are wonderfully marshmallow-like. Even the deck chairs are shockingly comfy. Though they appear to be made of hard wood, they feel about as relaxing to sit in as almost any chair I’ve ever sat in. You feel like you can really sink into them.

Beauty abounds.

Despite our being away from home, the Easter Bunny was able to find us and left a basket for Eddie, Peter, and Creegan to discover on Easter morning. There weren’t any other children here at that point, so Melanie and I enjoyed some nice, peaceful family time that morning. The egg hunt was saved until Monday morning, when a handful of cousins were able to join in the festivities.

Creegan loved the baby doll in his Easter basket, even though he later chucked the baby from the lower deck in an attempted infanticide.

Peter checks out one of the fun items in his Easter basket. The green item still in his basket is a squirt bottle, one of which Creegan and Eddie also received.

Creegan stuffs his mouth with Easter candy on the upper deck. I haven’t tried that white chair, but the green chair in the leftmost part of the frame is super comfortable.

There are many other fun things going on, but I’ll save those for a future post. For now, I’ll leave you with a few more photos from our first couple of days here. Enjoy!

See ya!!!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Everything Old is New Again

Melanie and I are now officially a two-car family. Want to see a picture of our newest automobile? Here it is:

Sorry, what’s that? The car looks familiar? A little too familiar, even? Well, yes, it does. As it should. It’s the black ’99 Toyota Corolla we drove prior to buying a minivan approximately 18 months ago. Yes, it’s the exact same vehicle, with the same VIN and everything. You see, we never got rid of the Corolla. We planned on selling it. But, as you may recall, life got incredibly hectic about the same time we purchased the minivan as a replacement for the beloved car. Emergency surgeries, etc. When we transferred the tag from the Corolla to our newly acquired van, we purchased a temporary tag for the former. That gave us a 30-day window in which to sell the car. It didn’t happen, and with everything else going on, it became all too easy to stop thinking about it. And so, the Corolla sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

Four weeks ago, we bought another temporary tag for the Corolla, thinking it about time to sell the thing. We actually had a couple of prospective buyers, but nothing panned out. As time went on, we started toying with the idea of keeping the car. We’ve never been a two-car family, and although that has set us apart from most other families of a similar size and socioeconomic status, having two cars has always seemed largely pointless to us.

Well, we’ve changed our mind. This morning, we drove to the tax collector’s office and registered the Corolla with a new permanent tag. Here are some of the reasons why:

First, the Corolla is actually a much, much better car than the van. Anyone who’s been a regular reader of my blog knows that the van has been a continual source of frustration for us. Not only is the Corolla simply a better quality vehicle, it is one year newer and a whole 30,000 miles younger. It is unlikely that the Corolla will poop out on us as soon as the van will.

Second, the Corolla is much cheaper to run. Even if we use the van frequently, I figure we’ll save a decent amount on gas simply by utilizing the much more fuel-efficient Corolla whenever and wherever possible.

Third, it will be greatly psychologically comforting to have the Corolla readily available to us should the van ever fail us or need one of its oft-demanded repairs. I understand that public transit could come in handy in situations like these, but who are we kidding? Another car of your own is much preferable to choreographing your life around public transit—especially since last summer when the bus system in Tallahassee became much less efficient for someone like me due to a restructuring of routes.

Fourth, having two vehicles makes it much easier to sell one, which means that reclaiming the Corolla poses little to no risk to us. If we decide to turn around and sell it 30 days from now, we’ll be out eleven months’ worth of car registration costs. But that’s really not a big deal to us, especially since we’ve learned that the Corolla is worth several hundred dollars more than we had supposed when we first planned to sell it. Additionally, we won’t have to worry about lining up a replacement vehicle before we can sell off one of our cars. We can simply go back to being a one-car family, and we can stay that way for as long we like.

Fifth and finally, we secretly hope to sell the van rather than the Corolla. The three car seats we currently use can all fit into the backseat of the Corolla, but only barely. We tried it, and the boys look so cramped and crowded that I’m sure Melanie and I would regret stuffing them all back there, for our own sanity’s sake if not for the boys’. The tight fit also makes the buckling of seatbelts incredibly difficult, and the boys wouldn’t likely be able to do it on their own. I could barely manage to get them buckled in myself. That’s something Melanie and I would tire of right quick. Thus, we don’t feel prepared to abandon the van just yet. But someday, we will. The larger the children get, the smaller the car seats they require, so it may be that upgrading even one child will make the Corolla much more feasible as a family car. We’ll definitely reevaluate things when that time comes.

One perk that donned on me only after we’d committed to keeping the Corolla is that it will come in incredibly handy this summer, when I teach five days a week at a fairly early time. With the Tallahassee bus system as it currently is, relying on public transit would make it rather difficult for me to get to school in time to teach my morning classes. But asking Melanie, and thus Eddie, Peter, and Creegan, to drive me to school every morning would be not only grossly unfair to them, but undoubtedly highly stressful for me. One thing I don’t handle very well is feeling rushed. Having to get the whole family out the door every morning is not going to help matters. For the good of the entire family, it is better that I drive myself. If we only had the van, this would leave Melanie stranded at home every morning, incapable of participating in playgroups or planning her own morning-time activities. Having both the Corolla and the minivan absolves us of such a predicament.

And that’s how and why we’ve ended up with a second vehicle. It’s a new second vehicle, but an old first vehicle. So, perhaps that just means that the minivan is now officially our first second vehicle, while the Corolla has become our first vehicle for the second time. But would the Corolla have been a first vehicle back when it was our only vehicle? Hmm, maybe not. So, maybe we’ve just now ended up with both our first second vehicle and our first first vehicle, assuming two vehicles are required in order to have a first vehicle at all. I’m not sure which option makes the most sense. I’ll have to think about it for a second first.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Melanie's Birthday

Monday was Melanie’s birthday. We had a good time, despite the fact that I’m battling my first-ever sinus infection. The infection is much more painful than I would have imagined, and I’ve had plenty of moments when I can do little more than sit still and wish I felt better. That being said, I was quite pleased with how nice of a day Monday ended up being. We started the day fairly normally, with Melanie and Eddie (and Peter) doing school. I got ready for the day and wrapped Melanie’s gifts. Relatively soon thereafter, Melanie opened her gifts. I gave her a CD (The Shins’ new release Port of Morrow), a book (Everything is Beautiful by Katherine Center), and a DVD box set of Flight of the Conchords (the entire 22-episode series). To top it all off, I surprised her with a Kindle Fire. It was a much more extravagant gift than we usually give to each other, but that’s precisely why I wanted to do it. Melanie told me shortly after Christmas that she was interested in a Kindle Fire, which is something I had never known. I wished at that point that I could have given her a Kindle for Christmas, but of course it was too late. I’ve kept it in mind for her birthday ever since, convinced it is my husbandly privilege to spoil my wife every now and again. Heaven knows her birthdays (and Christmases) are typically much more humble than this. So, in my mind, Melanie was long overdue for a genuine treat like this one. It’s just a shame she’s only had ten minutes of her own to spend on the thing. Eddie and Peter, on the other hand, have already devoted hours of their lives to it. Typical.

For her birthday lunch, Melanie chose Chick-fil-A. This is a somewhat humorous choice, only because Melanie and her friends often have play dates at Chick-fil-A, and so it seems like a very un-special place to go. Melanie almost talked herself out of it, convinced she should do something more unusual or fancy. But, in the end, she couldn’t deny her craving for a spicy chicken sandwich. I’m glad she committed to what sounded good in the moment. She and I both have a tendency to overthink things, so being truly spontaneous is always a bit of a challenge for us. The kids were quite happy with the decision. They spent most of their time in the play land, which at 1pm on a weekday, they had all to themselves.

After Chick-fil-A, we went to Best Buy. Melanie picked up the CD Torches by Foster the People, a band we’ve both become quite interested in lately. Once again, the kids have profited more from Melanie’s birthday than she has. Eddie and Peter have basically taken over this CD. They are both big fans of the song “Pumped Up Kicks,” and they insist on playing it over and over again as they sing along. Melanie’s hardly had a chance to listen to any other song on the CD.

From Best Buy, we moved on to Donut Kingdom. Creegan started acting all happy and excited when we pulled into the parking lot. I think he recognized the place, which is probably a very bad sign. Honestly, I don’t think we go there all that often, but if a baby knows the place … well, I suppose that says something. After everyone ate a donut, we headed back home. Melanie spent some time on the phone with her side of the family while Eddie, Peter, and I played video games. Creegan played with pots and pans and whatever else he likes to do. Eventually, the kids spent some time playing in their room, and Melanie and I watched an episode of Flight of the Conchords. We’ve seen the entire series once before, but it’s all the funnier the second time around. When it came time for dinner, we opted for some quick and easy Papa John’s. We tried a specialty pizza called “The Big Bonanza,” which featured a bizarre medley of toppings: beef, ham, tomatoes, onions, barbecue sauce, and jalapenos. It was actually quite good (especially the half without onions, for my sake).  We also tried a so-called chicken cordon bleu pizza.  It was so-so.

And that’s that. It may not sound like much, but it was nice for us to spend the whole day together as a family. I didn’t set foot in our home office the entire day. No schoolwork, nothing. I even canceled my usual Monday afternoon office hours. Of course, doing simple things like that can make a day feel very special. And it did. Not only for Melanie, but for me. And how couldn’t it? I got to spend my entire day with the most wonderful birthday girl ever. Truth be told, she was the best gift of the day!