Saturday, May 31, 2014

Moving in Motion

Crunch time is upon us. Sometime during the next two to three weeks, Melanie and I will be moving back to Utah. We’re not entirely certain of our moving date, as crazy as that sounds. Melanie’s dad has insisted on coming out to help us, but he has some work obligations, the dates of which aren’t quite set in stone themselves. Since his dates continue to fluctuate a bit, so does our moving date. As this point, we are quite confident that three weeks from today will be the absolute latest day of departure for us. Possibly, it will be two or three days earlier. But it’s unlikely to fall outside of that timeframe. Soon enough, it will be a reality that our time living in Florida is forever a memory. It’s mind-boggling to me. And heart-boggling, too.

Some good news to report, all of which relates at least somewhat to our preparing to move:

  • Edison finished out his school year. He’s done with second grade. Holy moly. He got straight A’s during his most recent semester. Melanie and I have been incredibly impressed with how well Edison’s done with school, especially with his transition from virtual school. Eddie is already mourning the loss of his schoolmates. Poor kid. I myself was in second grade when a good friend announced he was moving. I remember bawling about it on the spot and embracing this kid, right there in the middle of class. I wrote about it in my journal that day, noting what I was going to miss about this person, the things that he would do and say. It’s amazing how emotionally sophisticated children can be. I worry about Eddie during this time of transition. He’s such a sensitive (and anxious) soul. He’s not the kind of kid that will take kindly to change, let alone major upheavals like moving across the country. Thank goodness we’re moving toward family rather than away from them. Hopefully, this will be the last major move of Melanie’s and my life. That’s my goal right now, anyway. Yes, we might move around within the general Salt Lake City area, but hopefully that’s it. Sigh. Okay, sorry, I’ve kind of dampened the “good news” aspect of this, haven’t I? Let’s move on (no pun intended)…
  • Melanie received some wonderful news yesterday. As a part of applying for teaching jobs in Utah, she had to have a background check. She was originally told that, due to reasons having to do with us currently living outside of Utah, her background check might not clear until the middle of July. That has prevented Melanie from taking some necessary steps in applying for jobs. But her background check has now cleared! This is terrific news and will be extremely beneficial to us! Melanie can now officially apply for teaching positions with Utah school districts! What’s more, we’ve now learned that she needn’t go through the more complicated “alternative licensure program” in order to be licensed again to teach in Utah. Because she previously had a license, she can simply renew or reactivate that license, and it’s apparently a much, much simpler process. We are stoked!
  • Melanie and I have decided to get rid of several big items before we move. The couches we bought early on in our Tallahassee life are in quite crappy condition now. They were cheap, so I guess that’s how it goes. We’re also leaving behind a kitchen table and chairs, a big dresser and mirror, our computer desk, our minivan, and perhaps more. Don’t worry, though. Melanie has kept herself busy acquiring new pieces of furniture for us to transport across the country. She’s picked up a few freebies from friends that fortuitously happen to be fleeing Florida about the same time we are. Two semi-close sets of friends have departed Tallahassee within the last couple of days, and we know a couple of other people who will be leaving within the next year or so. I guess that’s how it goes in a college town, but this really does seem like a time of change in the circles in which we run. I guess that makes it as good a time as any for us to leave.

And that’s my update for now. Who knows how many opportunities I’ll get to write over the next month. I like to chronicle major events as they happen, but it’s hard to do so precisely because they are major events and so require more of my time. We’ll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Night Terrors

For approximately eight years straight, I’ve suffered from persistent night terrors. Their names are Edison, Peter, and Creegan.

To be fair, only Creegan is a serious problem nowadays. But he’s well past his third birthday, and he has gone maybe one or two nights without pestering us. I probably shouldn’t complain—after all, gone are the days when he would repeatedly drop kick me in the face while I slept—but lately, he’s coming in earlier, and earlier, and earlier. On a good night, he’ll spend maybe three hours in his own bed before coming to ours. Half the time—probably more—he comes in before we’re even asleep! We have little stamina for putting up with his hissy fits if we try to get him to go back to his own bed, and heaven knows we’re not interested in accompanying him back to bed as a kind of compromise. (If we offer to take him back, he’s much, much more likely to go.) Even if we do take him back to his bed, he’s likely to return to our room within an hour or so, and sometimes within 10 or 15 minutes. The problem is, I am so damn sleep deprived at this point. I accept some of the blame for that. Maybe I should be going to bed earlier than I do. But no matter when I go to sleep, even if I’m lucky enough to be asleep before Creegan comes calling, he’ll likely wake me up multiple times in the night. Either he’ll keep returning to our room, or if he stays in bed with us, he’ll interrupt our sleep multiple times anyway. For example, he’ll often start grunting in protest at some time during the night when he’s sleeping next to us. He doesn’t seem to be having bad dreams. He just acts like he’s pissed off. So he’ll grunt and jerk his body, like he’s not comfortable and he’s incredibly upset about it. He’ll just keep going and going. If you tell him to quiet down, he gets mad. There’s no real solution, it seems. And I’m just not a good sleeper anymore, so these interruptions can sometimes be extremely detrimental. Even if I get him back to sleep fairly quickly, sometimes the mere waking up leaves me too wide awake (and annoyed) to quickly return to sleep myself. I’ve sometimes laid there for 30–40 minutes after getting Creegan back to sleep, just waiting for my own sleep to return. I’m lucky to get six cumulative hours of sleep a night, and never more than one or two (if I’m very lucky) in a row. Is it any wonder I nowadays have almost constant headaches?

Okay. That’s all I have to say. Just needed to gripe.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Artsy Fartsy Family

I like to think I’ve got a creative family. My kids are much better artists than I am, age difference notwithstanding. I’m especially surprised by Creegan, who has obviously benefited from having older brothers who spend a lot of time writing and drawing. Creegan can draw quite decently for being a 3-year-old, including writing letters. He’s known most of the letters for months now, and he was telling me the numbers on the classroom doors at church the other day (including numbers 10 and 11). Anyway, I thought I’d take this time to show off a little bit of artistry from my family.

I’ll begin back in March. Eddie, Peter, and Creegan went to a pottery/glass store, chose some objects, and painted them. They were then baked (or whatever it is), sealing in my kids’ coloring and making the objects nice and shiny. Eddie made a little mug, Peter chose a light switch plate, and Creegan decorated a little ceramic truck (to nobody’s surprise). Here are their creations:

A closer look at Peter's light switch plate.

Being in traditional school, Edison has had more artistic opportunities than the rest of us. His class recently learned about Andy Warhol and made self-portraits inspired by Warhol’s work. Eddie also had the opportunity to decorate a cake for Mother’s Day. Below are photos of these creations. I assume I don’t need to explain which is which.

(Speaking of creativity, I should note that Melanie is co-creator of those two delightful boys beside her.)

Another somewhat creative endeavor took place just last week, when we tried a new-ish burger place in Tallahassee. After hearing some good things about it, we decided to try BurgerFi. It was good, but way more expensive than I anticipated. Anyway, BurgerFi has some creative offerings, and the kids enjoyed getting ice cream sundaes and expressing their creativity by choosing which toppings would be included. As you can imagine, that ended up being just about every candy topping that was available. (BurgerFi was out of Gummy Bears—thank goodness.) Here are some photos that capture the mutual creativity of BurgerFi and my three blessed children:

In the foreground are BurgerFi's creative "urban fries," which are topped with Parmesan and herbs as well as a drizzle of garlic aioli.

Notice Melanie's burger?  It includes maple syrup-drizzled bacon, hash browns, and a fried egg.  Isn't that special?

I’d hate to leave myself out of the mix, so here are some drawings I have done. The first is from a few months ago, drawn on a napkin after dinner.  (I should mention that the two images on the napkin have nothing to do with each other.)  The next drawing was inspired by Eddie telling me that it wouldn’t be good for someone who really needs to pee to hear the song “Let it Go” from Frozen. This particular drawing was amended by Eddie and Peter. Peter drew the word bubble that says “I need to pee,” and Edison added the word bubble with the hard-to-decipher “Oh, I should have never said that.”

What a gas, eh?

Friday, May 09, 2014

Melanie Turns Much Older Than Six

The last time I wrote, I wrote about Peter’s sixth birthday. But even earlier than that, I had promised to come back sometime and write about Melanie’s birthday, which took place a month before Peter’s. In the spirit of “better late than never,” I’m now writing a brief blog about the delightful day that was Melanie’s birthday.

The birthday girl herself.

Just as Melanie would do with Peter’s birthday presents, she arranged her own birthday presents on the dining table so that when she awoke they would be there for her. Yes, Melanie did this for herself. She did all of the decorating for herself. Yes, I guess that makes me a jerk. But I’m not all bad. Just stay tuned. Here’s the photo of Melanie’s gifts on the table, with two excited boys standing nearby:

Because it was a school day, I drove Edison to school in the morning. This actually worked out nicely for me because I could stop at the store and pick up some fun extras. I bought Melanie flowers. I know roses are traditional, but I always go for what looks the neatest to me, and very often that is something other than roses. In this particular instance, it was carnations.

I also picked up something fun for breakfast from the Publix bakery. Melanie knew I was doing this, and she told me what she wanted. They didn’t have exactly what she was asking for, so I got her two things that seemed to be at least in the general ballpark. One was a pizza-like flatbread with mushrooms on it. The other was a pizza-like bagel with pepperoni. They’re not meant to be served warm, which almost seems strange to me, but they weren’t for me so who was I to complain? I also picked up an ice cold Fountain Dew (which is what I affectionately call Mountain Dew when it’s available on tap. Diet, of course.)

Later in the day, Melanie opened her presents from her parents and from me. Mine weren’t on the table, but I had plenty, and the kids helped pass them out (and adopted some as gifts coming from them). Per usual, Melanie was treated to movies, music, and a handful of books. When it came time for dinner, Melanie opted for Coosh’s Bayou Rouge, a nearby Cajun restaurant. I don’t really remember what we got, other than some cute photos.

Right next to Coosh’s is Gigi’s Cupcakes, a highfalutin cupcake shop. We hadn’t ever tried it before, and Melanie decided she wanted to. So, we stopped in and each chose a cupcake. If I remember correctly, Melanie got a “chocolate salted caramel” cupcake. I got a “blackberry cobbler” cupcake. Eddie and Peter got “double stuff” cupcakes (basically like Oreo cupcakes), and Creegan got a “wedding cake” cupcake because it was the most plain looking. (He always wants things plain. He doesn’t even like frosting on cake very much.) In my opinion, they were decent cupcakes but too sweet and with too much frosting, and hence not really worth the bloated price tag.

Creegan said this was his "happy face" and insisted on pulling it for the picture.  It makes me laugh.

And that’s about all I can remember to say about Melanie’s birthday now that it’s been several weeks. The end!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Peter Turns Six

Peter celebrated turning six last week. For some reason, it feels like a big deal to have my middle child be this old. I realize he’s still young, but wow. It’s kind of mind-blowing.

As is typical, we let the birthday boy call the shots on his birthday. Peter was eager to open presents as soon as he woke up. We had told him he couldn’t get up any earlier than 7 a.m., so I think he and his brothers bided their time in their bedroom waiting for the clock to hit 7 before storming into Melanie and my bedroom and demanding we get up. They were actually awake a bit before then, keen to get started on the festivities. I admire their discipline, all things considered.

Per usual, Melanie did some thoughtful decorating the night before so that the birthday boy could awake to celebrative d├ęcor. For the first time, Melanie created a candy bar poster like the kind her own mother used to do for her and her siblings on their birthdays. Basically, the poster consists of a personalized message where candy bars affixed to the poster serve as words in the message. So, for example, you could say, “Your SNICKERS make us smile,” where the word “snickers” is actually made with a wrapped candy bar. You get the idea. Sometimes you cross out part of the candy bar name in order to get the right message. It’s fun. You can’t read the message too well in this photo, but here’s what Peter saw on the living room wall when he came out of his bedroom on his birthday morning:

Peter’s birthday presents were also arranged on the dining table, like so:

We had also strung streamers on his doorframe after he’d gone to sleep. We have a photo of what it was supposed to look like, but apparently the streamers fell sometime during the night or something, so the effect was lost. What a bummer. Here’s what it was supposed to be:

As for actual gifts, Peter received a couple of books and a new, bigger scooter (and helmet) from Melanie and me. Peter’s maternal grandparents sent him some Hexbugs and other doodads that he quite liked. Earlier in the week, we had let Peter buy a plush version of the Angry Birds character Bubbles (the inflated, “fat” version of the character). With his own funds (primarily a $3 birthday voucher from Toys R Us), Peter also bought the non-inflated version of Bubbles. Fun stuff.

For breakfast, Peter wanted Village Inn. This has become the go-to breakfast spot for birthday boys. Eddie and Peter both got the “funny face” pancakes. So did Creegan, but we asked them not to make it look like a face because Creegan didn’t want any part of such shenanigans. After breakfast, Peter wanted go back home and spend time playing Kindle. His wish was our command. This ate up a few hours of the day. Because breakfast had been kind of late, we ended up not really having a lunch. Instead, we had an early dinner at Peter’s second requested restaurant of the day: Jason’s Deli. (Cute side note: Creegan believes the restaurant is called “Jason’s Belly.”) After our second and final meal of the day, we went home and had birthday cake and ice cream. (The boys had already enjoyed some complimentary ice cream at Jason’s Deli, but what did that matter on a birthday?) A close friend wasn’t able to come over due to illness, but we had a good time nevertheless.

Village Inn for breakfast.

Jason's Belly for dinner.

Cake and ice cream aplenty for dessert.

Melanie made smiley cupcakes to remind us of our smiley boy, and also to have another option for guests who decided to get sick rather than show up.

And that was that. A simple but fun day celebrating a boy that always keeps us smiling. Happy birthday, Peter!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The End of an Era

With very mixed emotions, I hereby announce that my family and I will be moving back to Utah within the next two months. Even though Melanie and I have been toying with this idea for a while now, it still doesn’t seem completely real to me. It’s hard to fathom that I really won’t be living in Tallahassee anymore, and it’s equally hard to imagine being in Utah and not having a plan to leave within a few weeks’ time. It has been eight years since we lived there, and it has been six years since we moved to Tallahassee. Our kids don’t know anywhere else as home. This is a big deal. It’s also a heartbreaking deal. It’s also an exciting deal. And from a practical standpoint, it’s most likely a necessary deal. But “big” is a simpler description, so I’ll just stick with that. This is a big deal.

You may wonder why we’re doing this. (I’m pretending I have people who read my blog right now. Just play along.) Have I finished my PhD? Did I land some awesome job in Utah? Did my rich, estranged uncle die and leave me his Utah estate in his will? Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is “no.” But there are good reasons for moving on. First of all, Melanie and I can’t sustain our way of life without something changing in the employment category. My stipend doesn’t cut it, and we don’t want to take on more debt. Add to that the fact that Melanie has long been wanting to get back into teaching elementary school. Now, it may seem that if Melanie gets a teaching job, the problem with my insufficient stipend disappears. Well, sort of. In principle, perhaps. But Melanie will have it much easier getting a job in Utah, because that’s where all of her connections are. Plus, that’s where she would like to teach. And where we ultimately think we want to live. (Crazy, I know.) So there is a strong incentive to move to Utah and start that process of securing Melanie in a Utah-based teaching job and getting settled in the area now. Why wait? There isn’t much of a reason to. If we’re not relying on my stipend, I can finish my PhD from anywhere. And if we were to stay here in Tallahassee, we’d have the issue of needing to put Creegan into childcare if Melanie got a job. We’d much rather have him hang out with his grandparents, which is something that can happen in Utah. So, as it turns out, the real question is not, “Why are we going back to Utah?”, but, “Why should we stay in Tallahassee?”

Well, I can think of some damn good reasons to want to stay in Tally. And that’s what breaks my heart about moving away. Trust me, I’ve got mixed feelings both about leaving Tallahassee and about living in Utah. They are two sides of the same coin, but both sides have their own unique pros and cons. There are many reasons that I will mourn our departure from Tallahassee. We love Eddie’s school, and we’d be thrilled to have Peter and eventually Creegan go there. We have made excellent friends, and that circle of friendship has grown a lot lately. We have independence here, which is extremely beneficial from a psychological standpoint. And despite the terrible heat and humidity during much of the year, the weather can be quite pleasant during months when it would be terrible elsewhere. As if to tease us, Tallahassee has been unseasonably cool this spring. It has been crisp, gray, and rainy for the last few weeks—my favorite type of weather. As I type this, looking out my window at lush green trees dripping with the residue of intermittent rain, I can barely tolerate picturing the snowstorms I will be putting up with for several months each year in Utah. I know this is for the best, but man. I can get really depressed about leaving.

I really do have a lot of anxiety about moving back to Utah, and part of me really does fear that I will regret it and feel miserable. I’m hoping that’s not true, though. I’m hoping once I’m there, Utah will slip back over me like a comfortable and familiar (even if imperfect) glove. There are definitely things I look forward to, and I know that on our last two visits, I felt certain that I wanted to return to live in Utah. I really do believe—or at least very adamantly hope—that the pros outweigh the cons. I look forward to much about being there, even as I fear feeling like the last decade or so of my life has been one prolonged U-turn. I do worry about feeling like I never really progressed, or like I’ve failed, or something like that. In some ways, these fears are absurd. When I last lived in Utah, I had one child, a newborn. I didn’t have any graduate degrees. I wasn’t as clear on what I wanted to do with my life as I am now. I have learned a lot about myself since I left, so it’s silly to view this as going back to square one. That makes no sense at all, rationally speaking, and yet those are the kinds of feelings I’ve had. I guess that’s to be expected. Big life changes are kind of like the hands that shake up our psychological snow globes and get our thoughts and feelings swirling all higgledy-piggledy.

See, even writing this has helped me feel a little better. I have good friends in Utah that I will be excited to see. Family. More cultural/intellectual events to partake of. A helluva lot more good food. I think I can be okay.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…