Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Utah 2013: Part VI

For previous installments in this series, please see Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and/or Part V.

Our vacation has been a little less action-packed since I last wrote. Part of the reason is that Edison and Peter are doing school in the mornings, but part of the reason is also that we’re just plain getting tired. We’re experiencing vacation fatigue at this point. If I’m being completely honest, I think everyone feels it—not just Melanie, the kids, and I, but Melanie’s parents, etc. I think everyone is looking forward (at least a little bit) to Melanie and me leaving and having life return to normal. That being said, the fun hasn’t completely ceased. Here’s what’s been going on recently:

Friday, August 23rd
Knowing my semester would start on Monday, I had to spend Friday morning finalizing some things for the class I’m teaching. I had to build a website for the course, etc. That’s what I did while Melanie did school with Eddie and Peter. Nothing fun really happened until the evening, when Grandpa put up a tent in the backyard and lit a campfire. The kids loved playing in the tent, which was quite big. We roasted marshmallows and eventually settled down to put the kids to sleep in the tent. Almost immediately, Melanie’s brother Kaleb and his girlfriend Kaya were texting us to see about going out for shaved ice. This had been our plan, but we didn’t know if we would go without kids once they were asleep or what. Seeing as how we weren’t far along in the bedtime process, we took the kids with us. We met up with Kaya and Kaleb at a shaved ice stand in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store. (Plenty such shaved ice stands exist in Utah. I don’t recall ever seeing them in Tallahassee.) At Kaleb and Kaya’s suggestion, we got our shaved ice with a serving of ice cream in the middle. I’d never heard of this. It was decent. The ice cream was macadamia nut flavored, and the shaved ice surrounding it was flavored (on one side) cream soda and (on the other side) boysenberry. The kids split a shaved ice flavored with root beer, cream soda, and cotton candy.

When we returned home, my family ended up sleeping in the tent through the entire night. This surprised me. I didn’t think all three kids would last through the night, and even if they did, I didn’t think I would. I wasn’t very comfortable. Somehow I made it through.

Saturday, August 24th
We started our Saturday with “pancakes on the porch,” as Grandpa called it. Actually, we were up on the deck, overlooking the backyard in which Melanie, the boys, and I had slept in the tent. It seemed a fitting breakfast after doing some rough camping. Eddie and Peter had chocolate chips in their pancakes, which was fun for them. (Creegan wouldn’t go for such nonsense.) We all got ready for the day, and by then everybody was feeling hungry again. We took to one of the eating destinations that Edison has been insisting on, which is Sconecutter. I don’t consider Sconecutter to be an essential Utah visit, but their scone sandwiches are something I’ve never seen the likes of anywhere else. We enjoyed ourselves well enough.

After Sconecutter, we headed to my parents’ for a birthday party. And whose birthday were we celebrating? Mine and that of my older sister, JoAnna. JoAnna’s birthday was actually upcoming, within just a few days. Mine is in October, but they decided to make it a joint celebration seeing as how I’m never around to celebrate my birthday with them. How very kind! In addition to cake and brownies (both of which I sampled), I was given a t-shirt, a pocketknife, some cologne, a reusable water bottle, and a watch. I was particularly excited about the watch, as my watch had broken shortly before coming to Utah. In fact, I literally had intended to purchase a watch on the very evening of this birthday party, having found it rather annoying to go without one. It was such a serendipitously appropriate gift that I asked if I had mentioned breaking my watch, but apparently I hadn’t. It was just good timing, no pun intended. Sadly, I don’t have any photos. Even with birthday shenanigans going on, I failed to take any pictures while with my family of origin. Am I lame or what?

After the party, we brought the kids home and let them hang out at Melanie’s parents’ house while Melanie and I went to Old Navy. I seriously buy clothes so rarely, and I had hoped to pick up a few things. I’m still regularly wearing shirts that I’ve owned longer than I’ve known Melanie. That’s no lie. I always feel it’s indulgent to spend money on clothes, but I figured I’d splurge a little. I actually ended up buying four shirts and a pair of cargo shorts. Three of the shirts are just t-shirts, but that’ll be nice. The cargo shorts are comfy, and the button-up shirt is of a light (perhaps linen) material that feels really good. I’m glad to have them. Upon leaving Old Navy, I had to stop and talk to a 911 operator on my cell phone. You see, my cell phone has a terrible design. I can “lock” my phone so that you can’t call out, but it’s super duper easy to unlock. I keep it in my pocket, and it gets unlocked all of the time. It seems like half the time when I pull it out of my pocket, I discover that my cell phone is not only unlocked but connected to the Internet, using up my minutes on nothing. It’s annoying. Well, since being in Utah, I’ve discovered that it’s also very easy to dial 911—even while the phone is locked! There must be some “security” feature that allows you to call 911 without unlocking the phone, because twice now during this trip I have had my phone dial 911 while it’s in my pocket and still showing as locked. The first time, I was fortunate enough to catch it and end the call before it connected. But when it happened again after leaving Old Navy, I did not. I heard the distant voice of a 911 operator without realizing what it was, but quickly surmised that my phone (still in my pocket at this moment) must have called someone. I took it out and saw that it had called “Emergency.” I disconnected the call as I tried to unlock the phone. A moment later, 911 was calling me back to check on me. Because the phone simply displays “Emergency” as the person who I had called, I didn’t know if it was an official 911 operator or some sort of emergency operator associated with the cell phone provider or something. I didn’t know. As such, I don’t think I always answered things very well. When I told the operator it had been a mistake, she asked me a series of questions to determine that I was not in an emergency situation. She asked me my phone number, what address I was calling from (I had to approximate that), to verify the name of the store that I was at (which I guess she could see on a map or something), etc. At one point she asked, “Do you need the police or medical assistance?” I said no. She asked something like, “Are you answering these questions of your own free will?” I said yes. Being the paranoid person I am, I worried that I wouldn’t sound convincing enough and that the operator would be suspect, but it all worked out. She must have believed me. Phew! We’ll see what happens next time this happens, which could be any moment now. [Author’s note: Less than an hour after writing the preceding sentence, I pulled my locked phone from my pocket to discover the words “Call SOS?” displayed on the screen. Fortunately, I was able to cancel the call before it happened.]

Sunday, August 25th
On Sunday afternoon, Melanie and I had plans to visit my sister JoAnna. She lives about an hour away, and so we had to take something of a drive to see her. It was kind of nice just to be on the road for a while. It was calm. JoAnna fed us Papa Murphy’s pizza, including a very yummy chicken, spinach, sundried tomato, and feta pizza with a white garlic sauce. The kids were able to make their own pizzas with a little kit JoAnna had purchased. Oh, and there was Diet Mountain Dew aplenty, making us all giddy and gleeful. After eating, we spent some time outside on the playground. Thanks to Melanie, we finally got some photographs with people from my side of the family. Sort of.

The visit with JoAnna was pleasant, even as we spoke about the difficulties of life. JoAnna has always been a good confidant and, until Melanie came along, was always my best and closest friend. I’m sad I won’t see more of her on this trip.

Monday, August 26th
Melanie, the boys, and I had lunch with Kaleb, Kaya, and Melanie’s mom at Café Rio. Grinders 13 and Café Rio are the only Utah eateries that I typically hope to hit more than once, and this trip I was lucky enough to eat twice at each. We were a large group and Café Rio is always crowded and loud, so it wasn’t a very social affair for me. I was at the end of the table, with the boys sitting across from me, and I didn’t hear most of what was said. That’s okay. It was fun enough.

In the evening, Melanie attended the combo bridal shower / bachelorette party for my sister Khrystine. Meanwhile, I took the boys to nearby Sugar House Park. Sugar House Park is a rather large park with no less than two playgrounds. We tried both. The kids much preferred the second playground that we went to, which was far less crowded and less slide-oriented. (After getting shocked on a slide, Edison is quite reluctant to go down slides. He’s a paranoid kid.) We were only there for about an hour, and then it was starting to get dark. I drove back to where the bachelorette party was taking place and texted Melanie to let her know I was out there. We stopped at a Redbox on the way back to Melanie’s parents’ house and rented Mud. We watched it after the kids fell asleep—although neither Melanie nor I saw the movie in its entirety. Melanie bailed about halfway through after continually losing a fight with sleep. I was in and out during the last 20 minutes or so. From what I saw, it was a good movie.

To be continued!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Utah 2013: Part V

For previous installments in this series, please see Part I, Part II, Part III, and/or Part IV.

Tuesday, August 20th
We’ve had the same laptop for several years now. It was a low-end laptop at the time we got it, considering which I think it’s had a very good run. Although opinions vary, I’ve been led to believe that a cheaper laptop may only last you three or four years. We’ve gone a year or two beyond that with our current model, and I feel good about that. But lately, it’s really started to show signs of old age. Although we don’t use the laptop for anything fancy, it’s started to run slowly and get hung up on things somewhat often. This has been annoying, but with so much of Edison’s and Peter’s schoolwork needing to be done online, the deteriorating state of the laptop has become increasingly problematic. I’ve seen it coming for a while now that we’d need to buy a new laptop. And now that Edison and Peter are back in school and the laptop is even worse than it was a few months ago, we decided to act now. I did some research online and then went out on Tuesday morning and purchased a new, lower-end laptop.

You’d think having a new laptop would be kind of fun and exciting. Melanie and I aren’t tech geeks by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of buying something like this. Unfortunately, I’m feeling a bit lost. Every new laptop PC I could easily find runs Windows 8, and Windows 8 is radically different from any of its predecessors. Everything is based on the idea of “apps” rather than “programs,” and the setup is geared toward touchscreen interface rather than a mouse. You can still use a mouse, of course, but you can tell that’s not what it was designed for. It is not an intuitive system to me, and I think it’s ridiculous how long it can take to figure out something really basic like how to shut down the computer or how to get out of a program -- er, app. There is no longer a start menu, so the normal way you might try to locate something (like calculator or notepad, two basic programs I actually use quite a bit) is not available. Sure, the new ways of doing things might be simple -- but they are new, and hence, they are not the least bit obvious. It’s a far greater learning curve than I’ve ever had with a new computer, and it drastically dampens any fun I might otherwise be having. I really miss the way I used to have things set up, and some of it can’t even be replicated on this new system. In this regard, the new laptop is very bittersweet.

Alas, turning to happier news, Melanie and I took the kids over to my parents’ home in the later afternoon on Tuesday. It was the smallest crowd we’ve faced yet, and as much as I love seeing people I don’t often get to see, I think it helped to have less competition in the room. I was actually able to interact with people in a more sustained way. We also hit a milestone by leaving our kids alone with my parents for the first time. They (the kids) were totally comfortable with it, which was really cool. Our kids absolutely love Melanie’s parents and have a really great relationship with them. They are fairly closed-off to my parents and pretty much avoid speaking to them. What it boils down to is that they just don’t know my parents. My parents are basically strangers to them. Melanie’s parents, on the other hand, are like their best buds. The reason is simple, really. They have had a lot more interaction with Melanie’s parents. Melanie’s parents have come out to visit us several times, unlike my parents. Melanie’s parents regularly speak to our children on the phone, unlike my parents. My mom told me that she doesn’t want to bother our kids because they don’t seem comfortable around her, and so she tries to leave them alone. But that’s just guaranteeing that my parents will remain forever strangers to my children. It’s kind of sad, to be honest. I imagine my children growing up and not having a clue as to what to say about my parents. That’s kind of depressing to me, but I can’t force things, can I? Anyway, returning to the positive side of this story, Melanie and I left the kids with my parents and went out to pick up dinner from the nearby Woody’s Drive-In. Woody’s is an old carhop, a burgers-and-malts type of place. Utah seems to have quite a few of these places, but I’ve never found anything similar in Atlanta or Tallahassee. Sonic or Dairy Queen is about as close as you can get, but it’s a poor comparison in my mind. The places I’m talking about have awesome food that seems mom-and-pop produced rather than mass-produced. They have tons of shake flavors and a wide variety of food -- not just burgers and fries, but hot dogs, fish, gyros, fried zucchini, fried mushrooms, Reubens, flavored sodas, and on and on. Melanie and I both ate bacon mushroom burgers with fried zucchini. Melanie also had a caramel cashew shake, and I had a raspberry cheesecake shake. Tell me where you can get all that in Tallahassee? That’s right. You can’t.

Wednesday, August 21st
I had to spend some of the earlier hours on Wednesday working on a syllabus for the fall semester. You see, I’m teaching Symbolic Logic again. They offered it to me, and even when I told them I’d be out of town for the first week of the semester, they said the job was mine. The department chair is going to fill in for me during the first week of school, but it’s mine after that. This is a really great opportunity, and I’m excited about it. I TA’d for this course in the summer, and it made me desirous to teach the course again, even before I knew it was a possibility for me to do so. The hard part is that I’m going to have 48 students, rather than the 17 or so students I had when I previously taught the same course, and I won’t have a TA to do all the grading for me. Still, I don’t think teaching the course will require much prep time, and that’s a huge bonus. I’ve already got a nice set of PowerPoint slides I can utilize. It’ll be nice.

One of Melanie’s and my very favorite parts of our Utah trip last year was what we dubbed our “super date.” We left early in the morning and didn’t come back until after our kids had been put to bed by Melanie’s parents. This year, we went on what you might call a “super duper date.” At my mother-in-law’s suggestion, Melanie and I actually went on an overnight date. We left around 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and didn’t get back until 8 p.m. on Thursday night. It was quite lovely. We started off by heading to Ruth’s Diner, where we enjoyed eating dinner al fresco. A bee started harassing Melanie near the end of our meal, which was kind of a drag, but it was otherwise extremely pleasant. We then headed downtown to the Broadway Centre theater and saw a movie. Being at the Broadway once again made me think that Salt Lake City is like Manhattan when compared to Tallahassee. Not just the culture of having a theater geared toward independent film, but seeing the bustle of the slightly upscale restaurant attached to it and the general sheen of the peripheral nightlife. Many would scoff at the notion that SLC offers something of a nightlife, but compared to what Tally offers, it’s something else.

After the movie, we headed to the city of Bountiful, which is about 10 minutes north of SLC. Melanie and I had hoped to stay in a hotel downtown, but we couldn’t find anything that wasn’t substantially more expensive than what we could find elsewhere. We actually got our hotel room via, with one of those "last minute deals" types of things. Basically, they tell you the general area in which the hotel is located and how much the room will cost and then you decide if you want to accept the deal or not, all without knowing the actual hotel at which you’ll be staying. Once you accept a deal, they reveal which hotel you’ll be staying at. We stayed at a Country Inn and were extremely pleased. We were given a spacious king suite, and it was less than we’ve paid for a hotel room in years. Not much at all, really. It was awesome. I don’t know if people will find it pathetic or not, but we quite enjoyed just kicking back in an oversized bed and watching Househunters without having to worry about kids interrupting us. It was blissful. By the time we went to bed, it was something like 2 a.m. The room was dark, and we were able to drop the thermostat to whatever we wanted, which kept the room quite cool. Yes, it was very, very lovely. Not that it amounts to much, but here are a few photos of the room:

Thursday, August 22nd
The super duper date continued. I woke up shortly after 8 a.m. and got ready for the day. It felt great being in bed, but I knew I wouldn’t fall back to sleep very easily, and I worried I might actually feel worse if I did fall back asleep and have to wake up again. I also get antsy whenever I feel like I’m wasting time, so up and to the shower I went. Melanie woke up a little while later, and we got our stuff together to check out. We had hoped to catch breakfast somewhere bakery-like. I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy, because I expected us to eat out for both lunch and dinner. We also planned on going to a couple of movies, and I assumed we’d get popcorn at least one of those times. As it turns out, we ended up skipping breakfast altogether. Not that we wanted to, but it’s what happened. You see, we had spent some time the night before figuring out what our first movie of the day would be. We discovered a movie theater not too far from our hotel that had early showtimes. It was a theater we’d never been to before, and that made it seem fun to go there. And so we had a showtime all picked out. By the time we were checking out of our hotel, however, we felt that we had better go straight to the theater. And so we did, hoping that the theater might actually have something light that we could eat. (This isn’t an outrageous hope, given that many of the new theaters of this particular brand offer a variety of food options.) Sadly, the theater didn’t offer much beyond the standard fare. Feeling starved, we ordered popcorn and a couple of drinks. That was our breakfast.

As Melanie rightly points out, Utah has a strange habit of making dirt-colored buildings. Isn’t being a desert good enough without having to make the buildings look like dead earth, too? We don’t get it.

The rest of our day didn’t go quite as I’d expected it, either. I’m amazed at how little time it felt like we had, all things considered. After the first movie of the day, we returned to Salt Lake City proper and went to Grinders 13 for lunch. I was happy to hit them for a second time during our vacation, because I love them so much and they have two equally delicious sandwiches that rival for my affections. I had the pot roast sandwich this time around, which was not quite as good as it should have been, I think because the guy making the sandwich originally forgot to put on the gravy and then just gave me a cup of gravy after the fact that I could add to the sandwich myself. It wasn’t mixed into the sandwich in the way it would have been, and it made a difference. Still, it was good. After lunch, Melanie and I slowly meandered back toward the south of side of town, briefly stopping in at a grocery store to pick up a few things, and then heading to yet another movie theater. We bought our tickets, then quickly dropped in at a nearby Target to kill a few minutes.  We then headed back to the theater and watched our second movie of the day. (In this case, we saw Kick-Ass 2, with Melanie being one of only two females in the theater, I believe. BTW, Utah movie theaters list Kick-Ass 2 simply as Kick A 2. How quaint!) By that time the movie ended, it was 6:30p.m. How is it that our super date last year seemed so much longer than this super duper date? Who knows. At this point, Melanie and I drove to our final date destination, a new pizza place we’d heard good things about called Pizzeria Limone. Melanie and I both chose a pizza that was olive-oil-based and marinara-free. My pizza had fresh basil, thinly sliced pear, prosciutto ham, and crushed pistachios. Melanie’s also had fresh basil, but featured thinly sliced lemon and red onion. I must say, Melanie’s was better. The lemon really made it taste fresh and lively.

By 8 p.m., we were back at Melanie’s parents’. Eddie, Peter, and Creegan excitedly ran to Melanie and hugged her aplenty. Eddie gave me a hug. Peter and Creegan barely looked at me. I had to special request hugs from them. After talking for a few minutes with our boys and Melanie’s parents, we put the kids to bed. Despite the wonderful break we had been afforded, I almost immediately lost my patience with my children and they were soon expressing that they hated me. It was rather depressing, to be honest. Melanie and I are hoping that next time around, we can get away for two nights. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Utah 2013: Part IV

For previous installments in this series, see Part I, Part II, and/or Part III.

Saturday, August 17th
On Saturday morning, we drove to Heber City—which is very close to the famous town of Park City—and went on a 90-minute train ride via the Heber Valley Railroad. Melanie’s parents and her brother Tom went, too. While it was sometimes stressful to drive my father-in-law’s oversized truck through the windy roads of Emigration Canyon, it was nice to see a part of Utah we haven’t seen in years. The scenery was enjoyable, and although it did take a full hour to drive to Heber City from Melanie’s parents’ house, it didn’t feel like it. The train ride itself also felt much shorter than 90 minutes, although it did indeed last that long. The train cars all had windows that were rolled down, which created a nice breeze as the train rocked and swayed along the track. In the middle of the train ride, two young women came into our train car and put on quite a show, fiddling with each other right there where everyone could see. It was impressive how well they kept up with each other. I think the older folk really enjoyed it. I’m not a big fan of fiddle music myself, but the performance kept things interesting. In other news, Grandpa bought kettle corn for us, and Eddie and Peter both took a few photographs during the ride. Early on, I had to use the train restroom, which was a tiny compartment with an open window right at waist level. The window didn’t look closable from what I could tell, so basically you had no way to use the restroom without baring yourself to anyone out in the world who happened to see the train go by. Luckily, the train doesn’t usually pass by anything other than nature, so if you really gotta go, you’re probably okay. But it’s a little unsettling. Here are some pics from our trip to Heber:

Driving back from Heber, we stopped in downtown Salt Lake City to satiate our hungry bellies. I know I write about food on here often, and it may seem like our vacation is way too centered on eating. But if we’re going to be eating something like 80 meals over the course of our stay in Utah, a place that has much food that we love and miss, I figure we ought to be taking advantage of that. And so we have been. On this particular occasion, we had lunch at one of my favorite Utah pizza parlors, Litzas Pizza. You wouldn’t think pizza would be the most expensive meal of the trip so far, but it was—by a long shot. Melanie and I split a small pizza with pepperoni and black olives, while Eddie and Peter each chose his own miniature pizza. Creegan asked for spaghetti instead, but hardly ate any of it when he saw that it didn’t have meatballs, which it turns out is what he really wanted. We also enjoyed their garlic bread, flavored sodas (I was naughty and had a non-diet vanilla Coke), and in Melanie’s and my case, salad. Two standout features of Litzas’ salads are the beets (yum!) and the Roquefort dressing (double yum!). I enjoyed myself immensely.

It was only a few hours later that we were meeting up at my little sister’s dorm room for a dinner party. Saeed, her fiancé, has been touted as a great chef by everyone in my family who has tasted his food. It was now Melanie’s and my turn to do so. I can’t tell you much about what we ate because it was all traditional Persian food, but whatever it was, it was very tasty. There were lots of vegetables and spices (of a non-heat-producing variety) involved. Most of my side of the family had been invited to the party, so this marked my first time during this trip to see my one and only brother, Steve. Over the last several years, Steve has been something of a spiritual seeker, so we enjoyed talking about religion together. I also got a chance to visit with Aurora, one of Khrystine’s good buddies since high school. She’s always been a very nice person, and it was good to see her too. For whatever reason, we keep failing to take photos when we’re with my family. However, Melanie did snap a few photos when she took our boys outside to a nearby playground. Behold the cuteness:

Eddie laughed when he saw this photo.  He said, "Look at Beegy, pointing at the clock like a wise man!"  I'm not sure what that means, but it made me laugh. 

Sunday, August 18th
It was yet another family-oriented Sunday. Melanie’s brother Brent and his wife Shanda had arrived in town from Seattle with their three kids—Abbie, Owen, and a new little girl still biding time in Shanda’s womb. They had arrived in the middle of the night a day earlier (Friday night going into Saturday morning). We had seen them a little bit on Saturday night, but Sunday was the first day we got to visit with them to any significant degree. To mark the occasion, Melanie’s brother Mark and his wife Trina came over for a big family dinner. With that many people in a house, it can become somewhat hectic, but it was nice to spend the day more or less at “home.”

Monday, August 19th
Eddie and Peter officially started school on this day. Because they are both students of virtual school (which has some significant differences from homeschooling, although not everyone appreciates that), we were able to get them going on the school year despite our being out of town. Admittedly, it started off a bit roughly. Grandma’s house offers too many distractions, and as it’s been months since Eddie’s had to do school and Peter is just starting Kindergarten, both of them will need time to readjust to a more structured lifestyle. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that within a couple more days, everyone will be in the swing of things and school can be a largely positive experience. (Today, Tuesday, things did go much more smoothly, for the record.)

Brent and Shanda insisted on a lunch date with Melanie and me. In the afternoon, we left our kids behind and went on something of a double date to La Hacienda. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we discussed religion and I loved it. Brent especially seems to see things very much as I do. Over the last eight or nine months, I’ve had the fortune of connecting with people with whom I really click in this department, and it’s exciting to me. It’s invigorating, and it makes me wish those people weren’t so spread out, geographically speaking. Commiseration works wonders for one’s emotional wellbeing. I’ve been pleased that, multiple times on this trip, I’ve been able to connect with people in ways that make me feel an abundance of love towards them. Don’t get me wrong; discussing religion isn’t a prerequisite to feeling love for a person. But such discussions often result in people baring their souls (no pun intended)—voicing their desires, expressing their disappointments, etc. It is a subject that, for many, matters a great deal and so is spoken about with great sincerity, even if one is expressing frustration or uncertainty. I like connecting with people in this way. It’s edifying.

On Monday night, Melanie and I took the kids to a Salt Lake Bees baseball game. This has become an annual tradition for us. We always opt for general admission “seats,” out on the grass just beyond left field. The weather was perfect for a game: breezy and cool. I loved being there. The game was a bit slow, however. Knowing the kids were already pretty exhausted, we decided to leave at the end of the 5th inning. That took nearly two-and-a-half hours, which seemed outrageous. Alas, we enjoyed the time we were there and had no qualms leaving relatively early in the game. We enjoyed a hot dog while at the game, which came free with our ticket as part of their family night special. I watched maybe six or seven plays and spent most of the rest of the time anxiously watching Eddie, Peter, and Creegan engaged in horseplay. As always, our first stop at the game was the playground. Here are some pictures from the night:

Notice that Edison has lost a tooth since his last open-mouthed picture.  The tooth came out on Sunday night.  Fortunately, the Tooth Fairy was able to locate us despite our being out of town.

Because we stopped at the restroom on our way out of the stadium, and because we got delayed when I dropped our truck key down between the back seats into a very difficult to reach crevice, we didn’t get home until 11 p.m. or so. Still, we very much enjoyed ourselves. I’m sad to know the rest of this trip will pass ever so quickly.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Utah 2013: Part III

For previous installments, see Part I and/or Part II.

Tuesday, August 13th
Melanie and I spent a few hours at an LDS temple. The nearest LDS temple to Tallahassee is about four hours away in Orlando, so we don’t often get to go. I won’t dwell on this here, but I found it a very rewarding experience with numerous insights. I hope to go at least one or two more times before leaving Utah, where LDS temples appear almost as frequently as McDonald’s.

Tuesday evening, I had a date with one of my best friends since high school: Matt. I met up with Matt at his house at 5 p.m. We did some brief catching up and then took to a nearby theater to see The Way Way Back. I enjoyed the movie, which happened to be in the exact same auditorium as the movie I saw with Matt last year during my trip to Utah. (Methinks the indie movies get relegated to the back corner of the theater.) This particular theater features a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which offers 1,000s of beverage possibilities. I had a vanilla Diet Barq’s, just because it sounded good. After the movie, Matt bought me dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. ‘Twas an incredibly generous thing to do. At Matt’s fervent suggestion, I tried a ribeye steak for the first time in my life. It was extremely good. He also ordered us some “Wild West Shrimp,” which come with “spicy cherry peppers” and are topped with melted garlic butter. I very much enjoyed the entirety of my meal, and the company was good, too.

Fun fact: This day marked the 14th anniversary of Melanie’s and my first kiss together. Wasn’t it sweet of me to go on a date with Matt to celebrate?

Wednesday, August 14th
Melanie and her mom went to get pedicures from Melanie’s (and my) sister-in-law Trina. That left me at home with the kids for several hours. Having a chill morning allowed me to write another blog post, which is how my previous blog entry came about. But the rest of the day ended up being something of a wash. Melanie and I had tentative plans to go out to a movie on our own, to have something of a date night for the first time since our arrival in Utah. But plans just kept getting tweaked, to the point where I spent much of the latter half of the day just waiting around, wondering when I’d get a chance to leave the house. I never did. I honestly left the house only at one time, when I took out a dirty diaper to drop it in the trash. Admittedly, I was rather bummed about that. Especially when you’re on vacation, it seems like a pity to see a day pretty much go to waste. Understandably, there are no photos to be had for this day.

Thursday, August 15th
Thursday was a great improvement over Wednesday. We wanted to do something that would get our kids out of the house, and so we decided to visit the downtown Salt Lake City library. (The downtown library is just one reason that Salt Lake City seems like New York City when compared to Tallahassee.) Our kids had fun exploring the various alcoves that the kids’ section of the library offers. We spent a little bit of time there, then took a see-through elevator ride to the top floor and went outside on the roof of the library for a few. We then decided to bail and go get some lunch. We drove a couple of blocks to Crown Burgers, another wonderful Utah eatery, and had a great meal. It was great not only because the food is tasty but because even the kids did a great job eating and seemed to enjoy their time there. Here are some pics from both the library and Crown Burgers:

On the way home from the downtown Salt Lake City area, we stopped for gas at a Shell station. Edison noticed a button that had a sign reading “Emergency Shut-Down.” He then said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that said ‘Emergency Shit-Down’?” Melanie and I laughed and then took a moment to explain that this is a word that many people don’t like and consider to be a not-nice word. I assured Eddie that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and I acknowledged the arbitrary way in which some words are considered acceptable even though they mean the same thing as other words that are not considered acceptable. I was actually extremely pleased with how I explained things. I think I did a good job of not making Eddie feel bad and of letting him know that it’s a social thing and not something inherently bad. I’ve been wondering when I would need to address the issue of profanity, because I’ve heard it slip from Eddie a few times in the last little while, and I know he’s picked it up from media. I haven’t really confronted it before because it hasn’t been a problem or something that I wanted to emphasize and thereby cause hurt feelings. And I really do recognize that profanity is totally a social construct and therefore not exactly a “real” thing to worry about. I think it’s largely a matter of politeness to avoid such words, and I think that came across in what I said to Eddie. I feel it was a positive experience overall.

Thursday night, Melanie went to a play with her mom. They saw Tarzan at the Hale Centre Theatre. I took the boys to my parents’. I ended up having an enjoyable time. Khrystine and Saeed came over yet again. I didn’t know I’d see my little sister so much during this trip, so it’s been cool to me that I’ve had so many opportunities to visit with her. My family ordered Jimmy John’s, and all three of my boys ate way better than I expected them to. You never know if they’ll just eat one or two bites of something or if they’ll go to town and end up requesting more. In this case, both Eddie and Peter kept wanting more. Luckily, Creegan didn’t eat all of his own sandwich, so Eddie and Peter got the scraps. We ended up staying out later than we probably should have, but it was a good day. Here’s a quick pic of Melanie, all dressed up to go out with her Mom:

Friday, August 16th
One of my goals in coming to Utah was to see a lot of movies. I wanted to hit the theater quite often, since Melanie and I would have easy access to totally free babysitters. I also wanted us to go a few times as a family, since the theaters in Utah can be sort of fun. Though it had only been a few days since going to the drive-in, I suggested going to a movie on Friday morning. We took to the nearby Jordan Commons movie theater and saw a 10:55 a.m. showing of Turbo. There were only a couple of other small groups in attendance, so the theater was largely empty. We had a good time, although I thought the movie was mediocre. This theater is owned by the same group that runs the theater I attended with Matt, so it also features a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Even though a normal Coke Zero sounded really good to me, I found myself thinking that I had better use the Freestyle machine because, hey, it’s special. So I got a cherry vanilla Coke Zero. It was decent enough, but I really would have preferred a normal Coke Zero. Stupid human psychology and the feeling that you can’t pass up something special! Regardless, the kids enjoyed themselves. Peter has pretended to be Turbo, the racing snail who is the main character, several times since we saw the film. I guess that says something about it.

Later in the afternoon, we joined Melanie’s parents and her brother Tom at Melanie’s paternal grandparents’ house. They live about 20 minutes away, not in a true rural setting but comparatively so. The property is large and fun for kids. One of Melanie’s cousins was there, along with his wife and three small children, so that gave our own kids some playmates. We roasted hamburgers, hot dogs, and even some marshmallows for smores. Melanie’s dad also brought along a 4-wheel ATV. Most of us took turns driving it, taking various assortments of kids along with us. As I was pretty much the last one to go for a ride, my kids had already moved on to making their smores, and so I took along Melanie’s cousin’s four-year-old son, whom I had not even spoken to prior to the ride. He didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t know me. He never wanted us to stop driving around. I told him he had the special job of catching my head if it got knocked off when I tried to drive through the trees. Fortunately, he never had to do that. It ended up being a really fun time for all. Well, except for the fact that during our backyard fun, a deer got hit right in front of Melanie’s grandpa’s house. The kids never realized what had happened, but most of us adults had excitedly pointed out a pair of deer jaunting across the field just moments before. Only one of them managed to survive a full minute beyond that. I felt bad for both the deer and whoever was in the vehicle that struck the deer. Nothing good came of that. Here are some pics of only positive moments from the evening, including one pic of the two live deer leaping along:

To be continued!