Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch -- 2009

Wow it was cold. Something happened over the days leading up to this year's pumpkin patch excursion. Summer ended in a torrent of rain and went directly to winter...do not pass GO...do not collect 200 dollars... It had to be 40 something when we went, but we needed pumpkins to carve, so sacrifices must be made.

We showed up with another family of friends and the kids spent quite some time running around, riding the train, jumping in the big jumpy thingys, playing in the teepees, and rummaging through the gift shop. The gift shop had cute places set up to take pictures of the kids on pumpkins and hay bales and such. It's surprising how hard it is to get a picture of all the kids together. The shop also happened to be the only place warm. I wonder how their "shaved ice" booth's sales were this year? Hmmm...That had to be a lonely gig for the 15 year old employed to sell the stuff.

Ok, this is the part of the post where I get really lazy and post pictures instead of writing anything creative or funny.

Ooof...Lift with your legs...That's the advice right?

Wheeeee! Thump!!

Can't talk...eating taffy...mmmmfff...

Attack of the killer Sunflowers? Much more fun than a movie by a similar title.

I love the laugh...

I was driving to work the next Monday morning and kept hearing a "Thump" when I made turns. When I got to the parking deck to investigate, I found our pumpkins sitting happily in the back where I had forgotten to remove them in the effort to get the cold kids into the house after the trip. I wonder if I can get a tax credit on my car as a produce transport vehicle?

Aiden stole my hat and thought it was great. I thought the photo opportunity was better.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The End of Daylight Savings

Every year, around this time, I dread what I have come to call The Darkness. Otherwise known as the end of daylight savings time. For some reason the powers that be decided to make Alabama part of the central timezone, and this has the effect of turning most of the useful part of the day...into night. This is when the coming winter, that already curtails my outdoor fun, has the added dis-incentive of being pitch black at 5pm. Once this happens, the only outdoor activity after work is tied to whether or not I have batteries charged on my bike's God Lamp.

Since I have moved here, I have handled the late fall and winter's seemingly constant nighttime with different methods. Some more effective than others...

2004 - Working 90 hours a week...Who cares, it's going to be dark anyway.

2005 - Watch DVR'd football on the couch and eat...lots.

2006 - Go out with friends and watch sports at a local restaurant regularly, and eat...lots.

2007 - Jeez...It's still dark and cold. I'm tired of this...Maybe if I eat a lot, and pay a bajillion dollars for the NFL Ticket on Direct TV, it will go away.

2008 - Last year, I realized my pattern of "Hey, the sun just set at 4:30pm, time to go get fat!" wasn't helping my Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I started attempting to do more healthy things. It's demoralizing to have to re-lose 10-15lbs every spring only to have it show up instantly at the end of October again.

Just what are they saying for Saturday? How ominous is that??? Click on the image if you can't make out what the Weather Channel had put on their forecast just for me...

2009 - This year I have a plan, and I'm going to do something different. With the darkness that sets in starting tomorrow, I plan on spending the winter making myself more active when it is light, and more active in general. That way I don't have to work so hard to shed pounds and the accompanying bad mood come spring. (I'm sure Brenna just rolled her eyes wondering how I could be "more active in general")

When the time changes, it is light at 5:30 in the morning around here. I am going to attempt to move my patterns to fit the sun as often as I can. I have to have more daylight and more activity outside, and I plan on being out in it whenever I can, no matter the temperature. I'm sure they have invented these nifty things called warm clothes by now.

We'll see how all this works when I actually get around to setting the alarm...beep beep beep...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Fine Lunch Hour

As I sat behind my desk on a fine Wednesday with 70 degree temperatures and clear blue skies, I was suffering from too much Excel work and a serious lack of out-door time in my windowless office. I wished that I had a poor enough work ethic to suddenly "come down" with some wickedly foul and violent sickness. (i.e. play hooky for the rest of the day)

The morning dragged on with budgeting analysis and other wildly exciting activities, and as lunch approached, the phone rang. It was my wife, who seemed decidedly more excited than I did. She was on her way over for lunch. But not only was she on her way to meet me for lunch, she said she wanted to go ride the motorbike. She already had her helmet, jacket, and 2 Subway sandwiches. The dark pall that was hanging over my day lifted (cue the angelic music here) with the opportunity to hang out with her sans kids, and I was (and still am) pleased that she was excited about riding the new bike.

I changed into my commuting clothes and met her in the parking lot of the office. We threw the sandwiches in the new top case that I added to the bike and roared off for the hills. We twisted and turned through all the hilly back roads, which are surprisingly accessible from the office, and stopped at the top of Coosa mountain. The big overlook was a perfect place on this sunny day and we quickly munched on our sandwiches and looked off across the ridges of the Appalachian mountains. It was great to be out of the office doing something that I don't normally get to do on a Wednesday afternoon, and we had an equally fun time on our return trip to the real world.

The small things and activities make life really great sometimes...

but they do make it hard to go back to work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yard work is getting better...

During the only dry day we seem to have had in months, I had a few hours to complete a dreaded task, or at least a task I procrastinate over quite often. I had to mow the yard. Now, this was made more difficult by the lack of gasoline in the garage and my lack of sleep the night before. Concerts are great, but they kill you for the next day's activities.

I gathered the minuscule one gallon cans together, made the trip to the gas station, and I got what I needed to get the jungle that was once a nice yard under control. Grumbling to myself about having to do this and how expensive hiring someone to do it would be, I grudgingly trudged around the front yard for a lap or two while pushing the noisy and smelly mower. Grrr...

Then something great happened.

Bryce wandered out and asked to help. Looking around to see where the hidden cameras were, since this must be some to-good-to-be-true joke. I warily said, "Sure." I had helped him push the mower around in the past when he was much smaller, but now NOW was the real chance, and I took it! I showed him where the powered wheel lever was, and I went through the instructions about how to kill the engine if anything seemed out of control. Not that much gets out of control at walking speed, but hey, it's better safe than sorry, and I really didn't want to mow.

Bryce was beaming because he realized that I wasn't going to hold the mower with him but was going to actually let him take the reins and do it himself. I was thinking about how this is exactly how Granddad would have done it. He wouldn't worry about missed spots or taking too long and wasting a little more gas to go back and touch up. It was a chance for my oldest to do something that older kids and grumbling adults do. I told him what I wanted him to do and how best to get the job done, and I went and sat down on the front steps to watch him have at it. I certainly wasn't going to totally leave him, but he didn't need me to help. Up and back he went and he really did a great job. It's easy to forget how he isn't a "little boy" anymore even though I see him daily.

In the end, he learned something, we had a great father/son hour or so, and...

I got out of mowing the yard...

This is the obligatory shot of Ansley while Bryce was mowing...

I'm wondering when she may pick up the mantle of yard work as well? What do you think my chances of that are??? :)

You Bought a What?

Yep, I finally did it, and I didn't have to make up some story for my wife about how it followed me home! Can I keep it??? Not to say that I wouldn't if it came to that...

After putting money away for a couple of years to finance my laughably early mid-life crisis, I bumped up my life insurance and bought a motorcycle. I haven't owned a bike in over 10 years, but the time seemed right and I was really looking for something that didn't involve pedaling so much. I needed some sort of change, and what's better than deciding to get something that can be equated to an instant roller-coaster ride without a Disney-esque line to wait in?

It's a Suzuki VStrom DL 1000, and I have driven it quite a bit and covered the distance from Atlanta to Birmingham on it's inaugural ride. It feels great and handles like a dream on the mountain roads too. I have some plans in the works to equip it with some hard luggage and take it out to Texas to ride with my Dad before it gets too cold. Well, cold for a southerner, so if you're from Michigan or some other similarly permafrosted locale, I don't want to hear it. A 45-50 degree winter day IS cold...end of discussion. If you think those temperatures are fine warm riding conditions, you can keep them for all I care.

I laughed when I thought, "Now my garage is complete." I have all the two wheeled entertainment than I can hold in there, and if it will stop stinking raining, I'll get more chances to use my toys! (Note that I didn't say "all the two wheeled entertainment that I need..." There's always a "need" for some other kind of mountain bike or something...)

I woke this morning to yet another line of storms that dumped a few more inches on the saturated southeast, and the news had bright red warnings about "Flash Floods". For all the media hubub about it, they may as well have put out a PSA about how we all need to wear those arm floaty things just to survive the day...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Six Gap 2009

As an annual tradition, when I don't have a broken bone of some sort, I took on the challenge of Six Gap again this year, and the ride started off like it has for the past 4 years in a row. In a rush... I swear, I tell myself, somewhat belatedly, that I will never get there at the last minute again every year, and every year I have a repeat performance of just barely making it for the start.

There must have been a record group of riders this year because the parking lot was closed out about 45 minutes before the start. I then had to drive around in the dark, find a place to park my car without it sliding into a ditch, get all my junk out of the car, and then ride off to the start line, ride back to get my helmet, ride off to the start line, ride back to get my gloves, etc...

With the amazing number of riders I decided to just cut in line and start with the first 100 or so riders. The fast riders. The riders that would proceed to hammer for the next 5+ hours and finish the ride with smiles and energy left in the tank. I knew that I wouldn't hang with them, but with the crashes of this year, it was safer to ride at their back in order to avoid the 2,000 other people that I would end up passing during the first miles and the climb up Neels Gap.

Riding with the real "horses" of the group was pretty fun, and we covered the first 20 miles in under an hour. It's a pace that I never dreamed possible on the Six Gap ride. Climbing the first hill was as fun as it was getting there. I was feeling pretty good, and I was happy since I have had such minimal and interrupted training this year. I basically trained for the ride with 9 weeks of watching Heros in my basement for 6 hours a week and then riding 75 miles on Saturday mornings.

Then, as in every year, the ride did something strange. Sometimes it's rain, sometimes it's cold and windy, sometimes, you have really really annoying mechanical issues. I would have traded for the rain. Honestly... One part of my bike that I apparently hadn't tested or even noticed over the past few thousand miles I had spent riding decided that it was time I noticed. As of mile 25 of 104 miles, my left pedal bearings began to fail. At first it was just a little squeak...cute really...like having a sweet little bird nearby... I knew, when this foolish "glass is half full" thought went through my head that the chirp wasn't going to be cute after listening to it for 5 more hours.

It only took about 20 minutes before the chirp became a more pronounced, and angrier sounding, Squeeerrrrk every time I turned over the cranks... I stopped at the first aid station and desperately searched for someone with some grease to spray into the pedal. It didn't work. In fact, it may have made the disgruntled bearings...uh...disgruntleder? After listening to the sound for about an hour, I had to turn up my iPod and try to drown it out. As the miles and hours went on, I felt good, but my pedal didn't. It was finding a way to resonate through the carbon frame of the bike and amplify itself. I swear I could feel it in my hands with each turn of the pedal. People I passed would ask, "Is that you?" I felt like replying, "My bionic knees need oil. Otherwise I would be passing you." Well, I felt like saying all sorts of stuff, but nothing funny came to mind until well after the moment had passed, so I just squeek-squawked on...

The foggy morning gave break to a beautiful day, which was great considering how the evening had gone. Here is a shot of the storms that were rolling through from evening to the early hours of the morning.

And a shot of the following morning from the top of Hogpen Gap.

Thank goodness, I didn't have torrential downpours coupled with the wounded moose that had taken up residence in my pedal. Ah, see my negative view of things does have a shiny moment every so often...

The hogpen climb, where I discovered last year that "not training" is not the same as "tapering" prior to a endurance event, went by and I felt pretty strong. I know I was moving more slowly up the climb than I have in years past, but it wasn't bad. I stopped for some cookies at the top and bombed down the descent at over 50 miles an hour. Descending is so much fun on a road bike. You can travel faster through the turns and switchbacks than most any other vehicle on the planet, and I didn't get hung up behind a single car so I could really let it go and enjoy the ride.

I was feeling good and then I saw the devil...and she is way more attractive than the Sasquatch I saw last year. Now that I look at the picture, it is apparent that the devil doesn't need to touch the ground when heckling riders. Unfortunately, the sighting was a harbinger of the miles to come.

After a while I did wear out, and that coupled with the pedal that now had decided to make it's presence apparent to everyone in a 50 mile radius made for a very difficult, and decidedly un-fun finish to the ride. The pedal had changed from squeek, to Squaaaarrrrk, to SQUUUUAAAAAAAARRRRRK!!, to a YYYYEEEEAAAAAWWWWWRRRRK! that echoed off the mountain sides and couldn't possibly be drowned out by my iPod without serious hearing damage. Other riders would just shake their heads at my caterwauling equipment and ride on by or make a point of going much slower in order to get away from me. I just kept my head down and pedaled my demoralized body ever closer to the finish line. There was a song on my iPod at one point by Modest Mouse. "The Good Times are Killing Me." Yeah, that is as apropos a tune as I could come up with at that moment.

The final miles of the ride are a hideous collection of rolling hills that brought me, as they had last year, to a pace that would rival most snails for speed just to top them. Over and over I climbed as fast as my legs could go, which was slower with each successive hill but finally I found the finish. I had decided at one point that I was having no fun. I had not really had fun for over 2 hours and I was telling myself that this was my last Six Gap ride and I just needed to finish. I was so disgusted with the broken pedal and my overtaxed and under trained legs that I left the bike in a disassembled pile in the back of my truck for a week, but during the course of that week something happened.

I forgot something. I forgot how much of a painful experience it had been. I forgot that I didn't have fun, and I found something too. I found a magic number. 3. That was the number of days it took for me to decide to do it again next year, and I am already thinking, "I'm sure I'll be faster..."

I know now how women decide to have a second child. Time has a great way of washing away the awful bits of some experiences and leaving only the good.

But, I'll be darned sure to replace my pedals before I go again

Friday, August 28, 2009

Noccalula Falls

Last weekend we took a road trip up to Noccalula falls outside of Gadsden, Alabama. It was one of those semi-cool and invigorating days where you finally notice that the humidity isn't the standard 105% and the temperature is finally slightly cooler than the surface of the sun. Those latter two weather attributes tend to describe most days (and some nights) during the Alabama summer.

We sat down to get a family picture while waiting for the train to tote us around the park for a quick sight seeing tour. Since I couldn't find a fence post or railing to get a true family picture, here is the best one I could get, with me safely behind the camera...out of sight.

Doesn't Bryce look enthused... What is it about 7 year old boys that make them unable to smile naturally? I see it everywhere...

Aiden loves the trains and was thrilled to pile in with his siblings. The giggling and wiggling crew of kids and the already tired parents took the train all around the park. Then we got off at the stop nearest to the little zoo which seemed a good place to start. While the kids looked at the animals, and we hurriedly chased the kids, I realized that they were using an advanced "divide and conquer" strategy against us. I wonder if they get together and write out plays on a big dry erase board in their rooms before we take them on trips like this. Someday I know I'm gonna find a board under the bed with tons of X's and O's with dotted lines around an amazingly accurate depiction of the park.
During this period of chasing them and yelling, "Stop! Don't touch that!" or "Eeeew...Don't put that in your mouth!" this children's "Learn to Read" story popped into my head. I think it's better than "See Spot Run" for sure...


Aiden was a boy.

He liked to run.

Aiden ran a lot.

He ran from a rooster.

He ran from a floppy lama. (and another chicken)

He ran from an Emu.

(I'm seeing a pattern here...running from birds? There has to be some rare ornithological complex that I can find to explain the behavior)

But, Aiden didn't run from the bunnies!

The End...

In fact we had to keep him from climbing in and joining the bunnies...

Yeah, I know I promised not to write any more children's stories after Squiddy, but I couldn't help myself.

While Aiden busied himself with running from all the pseudo-wildlife and birds, he fell and got the second large bruise on his forehead of the week. I'm sure that family services will be visiting our house soon.
Before the kids were completely worn out, Brenna and I decided to go and see the falls, so we bribed them with food and started off. We hiked down the trail and through the canyon to reach the waterfall. The canyon was filled with enormous boulders and old oak and poplar trees reached up the 30-40 foot cliffs on either side of the river. The river was fed by the pool at the base of the falls and looked very inviting even though the warning signs were posted about not swimming. We haven't had much rain in the past week, so the flow over the falls wasn't all that impressive, but it made quite a roar against the overhanging rock ledge as we walked. There was a recessed rock shelter behind the falls where we sat and ate lunch.

I used a timed exposure to make the water look like it had some movement to it rather than freezing it in time with the standard automatic settings on the camera. If you click on the image, it will expand to a much larger size.

My last image here is pretty random, but we all stopped to look at the colors. I had no idea that peppers came in that many hues.

I wonder if they were hot? I should have surreptitiously picked one. Oooooh...what a rebel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Pets!

I came home yesterday to a very excited couple of kids, meaning Bryce and Ansley. Aiden is always happy and excited, but we're not sure what its about most of the time. They had a surprise for me and had covered it with a hat so I couldn't see. When it was time for dinner, they told me to close my eyes, which didn't really matter since they had covered the surprise with a hat and my X-ray vision isn't working well these days. They whipped the hat off this unknown object with much fanfare I'm told since I had my eyes closed during the event. I then opened my eyes and found out, that we have two new pets. Small pets. Small swimming pets. With legs.

Water Frogs!

I'm sure there is some story of, "Hey Mom! Look what followed me home...in this plastic cube filled with rocks and water. Can I keep it?!?" Eventually, I'll hear that part of the tale of the two frogs, and I will certainly post it so everyone can enjoy.

During dinner Bryce and Ansley were all atwitter with excitement over the new members of the family. I, on the other hand, was rolling my eyes at Brenna since I didn't want to have to explain life and death to young kids when these things kicked the bucket...or whatever it is that dead frogs do. I was then informed that these frogs will live 3-5 years. Apparently the people writing such information haven't seen the statistics on pets that reside in my house. Oh well...

I asked what they named their frogs and promptly heard, "Sally!" from Ansley. Bryce hesitated and then shouted out, "Stealth Fighter!" Some time must have passed as I un-crossed my eyes from laughing because Bryce was staring at me quizzically. I looked at him and asked where he got the name. He matter of factly said, "I named it after a plane."

Again laughing...

Well, that's it. Those are the official names, so I have devised a quick aide for all of us when we look at them. I would personally hate to be called by the wrong name, and I'm sure the same goes with water frogs.

This photo may also help the kids identify which is Sally and which is Stealth Fighter because they seemed to not really know either...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Off to School!

It's official, we now have two kids in school. Ansley was up bright and early for the bus ride to her first day at school. Now, if any of you know Ansley, you know that Ansley is the antithesis of "bright and early". She is more of an "Aw heck, let's stay up all night" kind of girl. In other words, 9am is a good time to begin thinking about opening the "peepers" and rolling out of bed to start the day. She begins her day the way a diver comes up from the deep murky depths of the ocean. Very slowly and carefully. Lord knows we wouldn't want her to get the bends by jumping out of bed too quickly...

I have yet to figure out how we ended up with two boys that find 5:30-6am a natural time to wake and how my daughter sleeps through all the ensuing ruckus. I wonder where she gets that...hmmmm...

But to memorialize the events of her first days of school, I captured this image of her standing up, with eyes open, dressed, and ready for the day at 6:56 this morning.

And off they run...

Will wonders never cease?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

4th of July

This 4th of July we went up to our usual stomping (splashing) grounds at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, GA, but this year was different. I had one of my best friends come up and join in the festivities of family, fireworks, cycling and skiing. Now, when the two of us get together, general mayhem inevitably ensues. This year, we kept the mayhem to a minimum because Rick came bearing gifts that would leave a grin on my face and bruises on my feet. No, these types of results are not considered mayhem at all...seriously...

The addition to the water ski war chest? A barefoot boom.

Just days prior to travelling up to the lake, I got the go-ahead from the doctor to "lift some light weights" after breaking my collarbone into several pieces in March. I figured, "It's water? How can you get hurt with water?" With that, I decided to try to get back to skiing. Now this is pretty funny based on my past 4th of July water skiing performances. (i.e. 2 ER trips due to wake boarding)

I put all the negative thoughts regarding my old injuries out of my head, and climbed out on the boom. Before we took off, Rick taught me how to execute a quick tumble turn, gave some other vague instructions about hanging on for dear life, smiled mischievously, and hit the gas. I was immediately skimming across the water on my belly with white spray flying and the engine roaring.

At around 3,000 mph...I'm guessing here... he yelled "GO!", which was surprising since I have never heard any instructions from the driver of the boat in all my years of skiing. Being 5 feet from the boat is really cool.

I rotated onto my back and pulled myself around on my rear which was comfortably covered by the most unattractive pair of neoprene padded shorts imaginable. Unattractive, that is, until you are screaming along just under the sound barrier while hanging from a bar off the side of a Mastercraft. Then these shorts take on the aura of something Versace would have easily sold for thousands of dollars on the Paris fashion show scene. As a side note, Rick didn't seem to like the stylings of these fabulous shorts and developed a serious aversion to wearing them properly while rocketing across the surface of the lake...BUT...we won't go into that to protect the innocent.

To finish the story of my first attempt at barefooting, I planted my feet after tumbling around and I felt the pressure on the soles of my feet. It was amazing! I had enough speed to actually get my weight out of the water on about 1/3rd of each foot. I stood up and was up and going! The water hammering on my feet did produce a bit of pain, but it was so cool to try a new style of skiing after years of slalom, wakeboarding, wakeskating, I was up over and over again no matter the pain. I love learning to ski new ways.

Not bad for my first try if I do say so myself...

I took Rick for a tow and he showed us some really good "Feet Skiing", as Bryce would call it. I must say Rick really is good at this stuff! It's great to have him as coach.

Another benefit of a Barefoot boom is teaching kids to ski. The coach/driver can be right next to them and talk with them as the boat takes off. We got Bryce up for several hundred yards and Ansley even tried it too. Ansley would just giggle as she was pulled along. It was wonderful to see the family and friends enjoying the water.

I will post more kid pictures once I get the camera's memory card back from the lake house where I managed to leave it, so stay tuned for a second post!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Camping and then some...

It's not that there hasn't been enough interesting stuff going on in our lives to produce the inspiration for a post; there just has been almost too much going on. It's hard to be motivated to write anything family related, random, humorous or otherwise when one is falling asleep on the couch at 9pm. Certainly no writing gets done in the mornings because two very noisy and active boys are up at 6, and that's about the only time my brain seems to be functioning.

Ok...enough with the excuses. On with the silly family story!

It was a fine 96 degree day here in Alabama. I got on the bicycle with some of my teammates and rode just shy of 60 miles, and when I got back to the house...and napped...the idea of camping in the back yard came into play. We looked at the Internet to see if we were going to actually melt if we decided to sleep outside, and lo and behold, the temperature was going to drop to 88 (31 C) around bedtime, so SURE!

It's strange how living in the south distorts one's perceptions of what is a comfortable sleeping temperature...

Bryce and I set the tent up in record time in order to finish ahead of the routine evening swarm of mosquitoes. For Father's Day, I received a fantastic 8 person tent that actually sleeps my entire family. Once it was completely assembled and anchored down, the kids promptly went back in the house, literally filled a suitcase with stuffed animals and made a zoo in the tent. Part of this menagerie, naturally, were the mosquitoes that they let into the tent by going in and out of it for the next 2 hours. Telling them that they should leave the tent flap closed was completely lost on them.

Or the mosquitoes had extracted enough blood from them to make them loopy and oblivious to my sage advice...

Aiden loved the tent...

Now, I don't camp much, but back in my younger days, I would have thought that even using a sleeping pad was not "roughing" it enough, but now I wasn't about to sleep with 5 people in one tent without certain amenities. I hooked up two high speed fans in the tent and put two inflatable queen sized mattresses in it. Yeah...that's more like it.

At the end of the night came a fun display of lightning bugs, of which the kids caught quite a few, and then I pulled out the surprises... Glow sticks, or chem-lights, or whatever you call them. The frenetic swirling and twirling ensued and produced a scene that I haven't witnessed since clubbing in my younger days. The music was thumping through the outdoor speakers and the kids danced in the back yard. I think that I need to reiterate that we were actually camping. I wouldn't want you to get confused by the fact that we actually now seemed to have the entire house in the back yard.

Hey, it's just like being inside...only hotter and with more bugs! Wheee!

These are some 20-30 second exposures of the backyard "club scene".

Well, after being awoken at 4, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, etc...I got up at 5 and went inside. Hence me having a moment to write up this post. I hope you enjoyed the foolishness and potentially take it as a warning if you value sleep! Now I have to go ride a bike, take the tent down and get ready for our afternoon entertaining 6 kids. 3 of which belong to some of our best friends who happen to be in Vegas without the children...obviously.

To say I envy them is an understatement of some unfathomable order of magnitude.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tampa – Friends, Pets, and Kids

Bryce and I made a big father son trip to my old stomping grounds in Tampa. I must admit that I was also getting a big benefit out of going since I was able to reconnect with several friends that I don’t get to see often enough. Email and phones are great, but they just don't cut it when it comes to hanging out with people.

We took off from the office on Friday, and drove until around 2am…well, I drove whilst Bryce napped in the back. Fortunately XM radio had all the baseball games I could stand to listen to in order to keep me occupied.

Bryce loved the tower in Rick's boat. It's a jungle gym coupled with a boat! What could be better!!!

The plan was to show Bryce something that he didn’t get to do much. He really enjoys fishing at the lake every summer, and this would let him see something larger than brim and the offhand bass. We did as much as we could with the limited time a 7 year old can focus, even on really interesting stuff like tarpon.

Rick caught bait fish that were already larger than anything Bryce has caught in the lake. That was a bit of a new concept for Bryce, and he was wondering what size fish we would catch when the bait was that big.

After a stop at Egmont Key for some snorkeling and jumping off the old fort walls, we started to motor to another location. That’s when a group of tarpon rolled near the boat. We hooked up a bait fish and scanned the water for the group. After a search, we found the group of tarpon again and tossed a line near them as we drifted with the motor off. They were decent sized tarpon based on the shapes in the water, but you wouldn’t know how they got so big if you judged them by their eating patterns during our attempts to hook one. They didn’t seem hungry at all. I swear that Rick hit one in the head with one cast and it didn’t do anything. Of course, maybe that’s how they got big. They ate things that didn’t include a barbed hook! We also ventured out to Beer Can Island and had some fun in the water there. This island is the infamous location of a boat explosion last week where someone didn’t bother to run their blower while a generator was running in the engine compartment. Everyone survived, but some people were in pretty bad shape. The stench of burned up fiberglass and some boat parts were still on the shore when we walked by the site.

The day we had to make the arduous journey home was initially planned as another fishing outing, but a steady rain decided to get in the way. What was the solution for the day? Bryce and Rick went out to ride the wave at Adrenalina, and looked like they had a blast. Here is a short video of their exploits.

It’s seriously hard to do, but there was one big guy there that made it look easy. Honestly, there is always someone that makes it look easy...and then you try it.

Another part of the weekend was the collection of pets that have taken up residence in Rick and Jodi's house. 1 large semi-hyper dog, 1 chihuahua (or saber toothed squirrel perhaps), and a cat that has some feline identity issues. Bryce couldn't leave them alone, and they loved the attention. I could see this being a problem...meaning I might end up with another mouth to feed.

It was a great trip and I am seriously tired now. I think I’ll go to bed early for a change…

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Mom would have said NO!

On one of our days in Mexico…

Yeah, yeah… I’m way behind on writing anything, but I just haven’t been into it with the broken bones and the office workload.

On one of our days in Mexico we decided to pack up the crew and head to Xel ha for a day of looking at animals, swimming, and goofing around. We weren’t sure what to expect, and the first raft ride we went on was really weak. Eric and I were looking at each other and laughing a bit over the lack of anything, including tour guide dialogue, on the tour. It was pretty half baked, but fortunately for all, it got better.

We went through several aquariums and saw loads of fish and sea turtles, which the kids really liked. Regarding the title of this post, here is one moment where I looked back and saw Bryce climbing through the display turtle shell. NO! There, I said it…a bit belatedly at best. It was hard to say it when it was happening because I was laughing.

Nope, I’m not going to get a gold star for my parenting on that one…

After lunch at the beach restaurant, the kids played in a salt water pool that had several schools of fish in it. The kids splashed around and tried to catch them for half an hour. I have no idea how they can work that hard for so long. Again, I should have probably said that they shouldn’t have been disturbing the fish, but honestly I didn’t care. NO! There I got that one out of the way too…

The highlight of the day was the cenote. We donned our somewhat poorly-fitted life jackets and waddled over to the entrance to the river. Two things we noted at that point but only one was of immediate concern. The water was in the 70’s since it was an underground spring-fed river which, for us tourists, is cold. I don’t care what you say. When you are used to 120 degree showers, 88 degree pools, and warm ocean waters on hot days, being in a cave in 70 degree water is chilly. We all stood on the precipice trying to decide what to do or who to push in first as a sacrificial offering to the cold. I opted for the “rip the band-aid off method” and dove in. As you can see, everyone else aside from my partner in crime, is still there on the steps when I fumbled around and got the camera shot.

The other part we realized was that we were going to be swimming in this underground labyrinth for an hour. We figured that they must be overstating how fast we would get through, so off we went. We floated and swam through tunnel after tunnel, and it was really a cool experience…quite literally at times…
Bryce and Ansley both had their goggles and snorkels, but within 3 minutes, they were off and Mom and I were carrying them. By the end Eric had lost his, and unbeknownst to me, I had dropped Bryce’s to the bottom as well. I had to take off the life jacket and dive to the bottom which was most likely only 12-15 feet, but in semi-darkness and with large jagged boulders littering the bottom perhaps it wasn’t the best of ideas. I could hear my Mom in my head…you guessed it… NO!

The funny thing was that I was diving down and looking for Eric’s mask when I found Bryce’s.
Thanks E!

We all finally, and thankfully, found the end of the river and clambered out. On the way out of the park, Bryce wanted to go look at the hot chicks that we had seen on the way in. I of course said… YES!

What? A bunch of baby birds in an incubator wasn’t what you were thinking?