Silver Linings

Dauphin Island, AL
View from my mom’s back porch on Dauphin Island, AL

It’s the start of Spring Break. Normally, me and the boys would be driving down to Dauphin Island where one of my moms has a house. She’s not on the ocean side, but has a lovely spot on a canal of sorts. We spend the vast majority of our time on her pier catching trash fish. But occasionally we catch a red drum or a sheep’s head and that “what if” factor keeps us fishing well past the time when normies would have headed home and gone out for BBQ (unfortunately, the only BBQ place on the island burned down two years ago).

We will be staycationing this Spring Break, much as you are, no doubt. We had planned a trip to another, more populated island, but canceled it also. This #covid-19 is no respecter of plans.

My three children have been surprisingly adept at keeping themselves entertained. My wife has a lot to do with it, but even as we speak, they are down on the trampoline while mom and dad work.

Even my oldest, my usually slightly sullen 16-year old, has come out of his “mandatory cool” vibe and been more tolerable than usual. CareerMom and I theorize it has a lot to do with having to be apart from his friends where he “has” to be a certain person. Without them to live up to, we like him a lot more.

This #pandemic has not been kind to many for sure, but I can’t help but celebrate a few outcomes. We’ve come together as a family again. We’ve been so busy the last few years shuttling kids back and forth to sports that we’ve hardly spent any time just, together. I find us laughing more. We have “family movie night.” Everyone just seems to be getting along better and as a father, fewer things make me happier than hearing my children laughing, together.

My daughter, the creative one, and I, have built homemade bird feeders. I walk around the house and find fun little doodles like this:

We’re actually enjoying each other and having a good time. Barring the grocery store shortages and the deaths, I’m not hating this period.

Plus, I have this going for me:

Stay well everyone. Stay sane. Take long walks early in the morning.

Find your place.

Knowing when ta fold em Part 2

Well, despite the craziness of the first couple of days of the vacation, the remaining two days were fairly uneventful. We didn’t get much sleep at night because both boys appeared to come down with a cold (which I now have). The wind and waves were almost unbearable down on the beach, so we spent most of our in-water time in the pool. The island wasn’t in a real touristy area, so off-island excursions were pretty much out of the question. In short…we were stuck in the house for the remainder of the week.

But here are some notables:

  • My wife’s youngest sister woke up to a roach crawling in her hair
  • My oldest son got tired of one of the other boys and his older sister taking his train and he pushed the boy and took his stuff back. (even while I was admonishing him, I was mentally patting him on the back)
  • There was no shortage of making fun of all the lazy people using the elevator to go up or down one flight of stairs
  • My wife’s oldest brother’s wife feels no qualms about breastfeeding in public. I, however, feel no qualms about getting up in the middle of a conversation with her and leaving the room when she starts it
  • I caught no more fish. In fact, the waves were so bad, I couldn’t even get out in the surf to cast adequately far
  • I put a shrimp in my bathing suit pocket whilst fishing. I forgot it was there and when we got home, I washed it and dried it. Stunk up the whole load.
  • Not once did my wife and I get to walk on the beach together
  • On Sunday, one of the in-laws lost his wedding ring within 5 minutes of getting in the ocean. His wife, subsequently lost her diamond engagement ring in the pool two days later. Is that weird or what? Speculation abounded about the whole thing, especially considering she put all of about 20 minutes search time into it, while others spent hours taking apart the pool filter, and looking around the perimeter of the pool in the sand.

Otherwise, the trip was fine 🙂 We decided to leave Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m. and actually hit the road at 4:19. God must have felt pity on us, and he put the boys to sleep for nearly 5 hours of the trip home. I actually got to hold a conversation with my wife in the front seat of the car. A novelty that one!

Back at home, things are slowly settling back to normal. Our youngest is sleeping better again, although both boys still have snotty noses. All in all, it’s really good to be home. And I’ve already put my foot down and said that next year, our core family is going somewhere by ourselves. Then the next year, we may team up with one of her sibling’s families and do Disney. We’ll see.

The Beach Beat Me. I Give Up!

There are times in your life when it just doesn’t pay to be right. This beach vacation has been one of those times. I’m sitting here on the 4th floor of this massive house while most everyone else is on the beach playing. I’m here, not because I’m being anti-social, but because as always happens, when everyone else is having fun, you have to watch the baby. The baby is asleep, but with three baby monitors going around (and only 2 available frequencies), when you hear a baby crying, you can’t be sure it’s yours. So rather than having to trek back and forth to and from the beach to see if the screaming you’re hearing over the static, wind and waves, is actually your child, I’m opting to sit in the A/C and blog.

I think the best way to do this is just to give a day by day of the events, sprinkled with my own brand of insight along the way. Do enjoy…

We got up Saturday morning, skipped the gym and instead, packed the car. We have one of those car-top carrier things and it holds nearly as much as the back of our little SUV. It’s been really hot, so rather than let Ethan run around at the beach, we went to Monkey Joe’s, an indoor inflatable play area that he likes. Stayed there perhaps an hour and Ethan was done. Like me, he’s not much of a crowd kinda guy and once the birthday parties started up, there were just too many folks. So we left, grabbed a sub at the nearby Quizno’s and hit the road. Oh, and note to Quizno’s: Getting rid of the little bag of Cheeto’s in the kid’s meal, and instead, making the cookie twice as large, isn’t really what parents want for their kids.

The drive started out OK. Both boys were happily occupied, but then somewhere around the 3 hour mark, Aiden developed a new sound. It’s something between a poopy push, and a closed-mouth groan “Unnnnnggggh, Unnnnngggghhh…” and this went on just about until we got to Florence, SC, (2.5 hours total). Nothing poor Megan did in the back seat helped. I even had her (gasp!) break the law and take him out of the car seat after promising that I would not wreck and that if I did, I’d be sure and kill us all so neither of us would go to jail for involuntary manslaughter for having our child out of his car seat (I swear, safety groups telling me that a car seat is the best thing for my child on an 8-hour car trip can just kiss my butt!). It helped a tiny bit…but not much.

Finally got to our hotel that Megan had gotten using “Perk Points” from work (these are points they get for being good little corporate boys and girls). The inside of the hotel was better than the outside, and we got two rooms; one for Megan and Aiden and one for me and Ethan. After unpacking in the rain, Ethan and I went and played in the pool for a while. Got out…showered and then we all headed over to the nearby Outback Steakhouse. Everything was hunky dory until the food came and Ethan announced he needed to go poop. The timing is really amazing. Every night, at home or on the road…never fails. While she’s gone, Aiden starts his weird noise again and then just starts screaming, so when they get back, I call for a to-go box and head outside.

Let me stress that at this point, I’m pretty much OVER IT! I’ve listened to this noise for nigh on 3 hours now and it’s not helping my mood.

We get back to our hotel room and I pretty much immediately head over to my room for some R&R. Go get Ethan and we go to bed. We sleep good, Megan…not so much.

Next morning, we get up, have some breakfast and hit the road. We have roughly 3 hours ahead of us before getting to the beach and this morning Aiden is having none of it. The “noise” starts up again almost immediately and doesn’t stop. On top of that, Ethan is repeatedly saying, “It’s taking a long time, It’s taking a long time…” YES, WE ARE WELL AWARE OF THIS FACT.

By the time we get to the beach house, I am once again in a pretty foul mood, but fortunately, most the family has bowed to religious peer pressure and headed out to the local church (Catholic…no thanks!) where it turns out, the service was outside in the sweltering heat. Oh…that’s rich!

We get the swing set up in our room and try to put Aiden down for a while, but he was not happy. So, I let Megan deal with him whilst I unload the car. Finally got everything unpacked and Ethan and I headed out to the beach while Megan tried to calm Aiden down. That afternoon was fun. The waves were kind of high, but Ethan mostly likes running up to the water’s edge and then out-racing the waves as they come in. He ran his tail off and I got a sunburn. Yaaay!

Dinner that night was done by Megan and me, and her brother and his wife. We did burgers and chicken and I had my mouth set on a chicken breast sammich, but by the time we ate, they were all gone. Oh well. After dinner we cleaned up and by then it was probably about 8:30, so we headed down to our room to put the boys to bed.

Let me paint the picture: One king sized bed, which as it turns out, had a vinyl-topped mattress pad on it. Now, whoever came up with this particular brand of hell should be shot. It crinkles when you move, and it doesn’t breath…so you feel like you do when you’re sitting under the barber’s apron..sweaty all night! Now yes, I could have removed it, but then my phobia’s kicked in and I thought, “What if there are bedbugs? Do I really wanna sleep on the same mattress as countless others who did Lord knows what on it?” So I left it there.

We also brought up a single mattress for Ethan and we rented a crib for Aiden, but instead of a regular mattress in it, it came with a Pack-n-Play style mattress, which is about as thick as my thumb and about as comfortable as lying on plywood. I padded it as best I could, but was unable to recreate that “at home” feel. I prayed it would suffice.

Luckily, Ethan went right to sleep, but Aiden did not. At first, we just thought the trip in the car seat had messed him up, but in retrospect, I don’t think he felt good. He’d been healthy for 4 months, then the day we leave for vacation he gets sick. Go figure right? We knew from earlier that there are three baby monitors going, and we were picking up each other’s kids crying, so we pretty much had to stay in the room with the boys. Unfortunately, there was no bedside lamp-so no reading-and we couldn’t turn the TV on because then Aiden would focus on it and wake up…he’s just like that. So, it’s an early 9 p.m. (on vacation) and Megan and I are lying in bed. She was tired anyway so it wasn’t as bad as it may seem.

But wait, there’s more. Our room was on the third floor, unfortunately, also directly under the kitchen/dining room area upstairs. Which means that every time one of Megan’s family walked through the kitchen (which was constantly) or someone scooched their chair on the tile floor, it sounded like a herd of elephants in our room. Now maybe it’s because I read spy novels and stuff that I know how to walk quietly (let the balls of your feet hit first…not your heels), or perhaps it’s because when I was growing up, I preferred to have the house to myself in the morning so I’d be as quiet as possible; whatever, but Megan’s family (herself included) are heel walkers. They are stompers…so much so in fact that it made the recessed lights in our room vibrate. We finally went up and asked people to be a little quieter, but that’s like asking trailer park residents to move away from the river…wasn’t happenin’! Finally, about 10:30 things quietened down and we had both boys asleep. Aaaaghhh, maybe now we can sleep.

Phhhhhhhhhheeeeeesssssshhhh…..BAM! Fireworks! The next door neighbors decided to put on a fireworks show, which not only kept us from going to sleep, but also woke Aiden up. This went on for about 30 minutes. Finally got Aiden back down, settled down to sleep.

Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!….someone set off their car alarm! At this point, I had to laugh…it was really all I could do. As it turns out, I got 2.5 hours of sleep that night due to Aiden not sleeping, and Megan got about 1.5 hours of sleep for the same reason.

The next day, I had a fishing trip scheduled. Needed to get up at 5:30 but when the time came, I told her, “I’m not going…I’m exhausted.” She says, “Honey, it’s the only thing you wanted to do on this trip…I’m going to be upset if you don’t go.” Whatre ya gonna do? I went fishing.

Due to my father in law driving, we were dead last to arrive, which also means we got the front of the boat, because veteran boat fisher-people know that the back of the boat is the calmest, while the front of the boat pitches and moves around a lot more. The trip was scheduled from 7-12:30 and it took us nearly 2 hours to get out to the first fishing hole. Along the way, we saw a dolphin jump once (big whoop!) and drove through a nasty rain squall that soaked everyone on board. Unfortunately, the wind also whipped up and I heard one of the mates tell someone, “Ya’ll were only supposed to have 10 mph winds, but this is more like 25 mph.” It was getting nasty out there.

Got to the first hole and started fishing. Now if you’ve ever seen the TV show, “Deadliest Catch,” then you’ll appreciate how bad the waves were. The swells and wind were getting so bad that it was next to impossible to fish because you had to hold onto the boat rails to keep from falling overboard. I started getting a little motion sick, so I opted to put my pole up for a while and head to the back of the boat till my tummy settled. Famous last words…

An hour later, I’m sitting in the middle of a bench seat in the back, staring at a spot on the wall trying to ignore how sea sick I’ve gotten. But, I have company. My brother in law is right beside me. He said “I’m hyperventilating trying not to puke. And my hands and feet have gone all tingly and I feel like I’m going to pass out.”

My bladder finally gets the best of me, and knowing it will be very tough because of the motion of the ocean, I head to the bathroom to pee. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. On the way back, I kept walking right past my seat and headed to the back where nobody was fishing and I fed the sea my Pop-Tart and coffee. I was the first to throw up…but Oh…I was NOT the last. I threw up again about an hour later…by then it was all dry heaves. By the end of the boat ride, I counted at least 8 others. The only people not puking, were the ones smart enough to take Dramamine before leaving.

Needless to say, the next 3.5 hours were possibly the worst I’ve ever lived through. I didn’t talk…I didn’t move around…I didn’t dare close my eyes and try to sleep. All I did was lie there and try not to puke any more.

The boat finally docked and it was a quiet bunch of us (6 of us “men” went) on the way home. Walked into the house and they took one look at us and knew it had been bad.

That’s it for today….I’ll try and finish this off sometime this weekend.

For Vacation…Can we just stay home and sleep?

July 4th on a Wednesday. There should be a law that says, “If a holiday involving two of our country’s favorite pasttimes, drinking and fireworks, falls on a day that does not allow our citizens to sleep in after the next day, this it should be moved to accomodate such a time.

Since no story-like words will adequately represent this blog like the bare hard facts will, I present them to you bare bones:

6:00 Oldest son up at butt-crack of dawn. Get him settled on the couch with juice and cartoons. Drink coffee, fetch things for eldest son…try to enjoy some quiet time on the porch while it’s still cool out.
7:45 I go to gym while wife stays home. Youngest son still sleeping.
8:45 Get home, pretty much same situation except youngest son just woke up (treat!)
9:15 Head out to meet local family at park for a morning of wild youngin’s and bagels. For them, this is breakfast. For us, it is a mid-morning snack.
11:30 Whew! It got hot. Coming home.

12:00 Wife takes computer desk (spare) over to youngest brother’s house as they just moved in and computer is on the floor due to now spare furniture.
12:30 I coax youngest son into a nap; playing trains with eldest.
2:30 Wife comes home after dropping off desk and grocery shopping for the “week from hell” (AKA: vacation at the beach with in-laws). Continued train playing. I also complain of not feeling well and being tired.
3:00 In an effort at sloughing off tiredness, go outside and chop wood for the oh-so-frigid Atlanta winters to come when the sun enters a significant cooling period (eat it global warmers!)
5:45 Start “surf n turf” dinner on grill (kabobs with skrimps and lobster tail) (p.s. it was not my best effort, but hard to grill beef and seafood on same grill and keep it all hot for serving)

AH, the real fun begins!

7:30 Youngest son ready for bed. Wife puts him down whilst I bathe eldest.
8:15 Eldest son watches some “Thomas the Tank Engine” (a nightly ritual…that or “The Wiggles“)
8:45 Wife and eldest son leave to go watch fireworks. I stay home with young one.
9:45 Both return elated. Eldest son goes to bed.
10:40 After listening to neighbor intermittently shoot off fireworks, finally go out shirtless, “Bill! How many more do you have?” Bill’s reply: “We’re done.” I mutter, “Goddang right you’re done a**hole.”
11:30 I just fell asleep when youngest son wakes up. Wife tends to him.
3:15 Youngest son wakes up again, I get up. Find he’s totally soaked head to toe in urine. Diaper is soaked, so is bed and clothes. Stick bottle in his mouth to keep him quiet while change him, then try and change bed sheets. Stupid crib bumpers tied in knots (all 18 of them, and it was NOT my doing). After successfully untying a few in the dark (because heaven forbid you turn the lights on and wake the baby up for sure!) I finally get out the scissors and cut the Goddang things. Know wife will be furious, but since this is the second child’s crib bumpers I’ll have done these to, don’t claim ignorance of my frustration.

Let me explain here for a second for those who think my actions a little “over the top.” When you put these crib bumbers in, you in effect, trap the mattress in the crib and the only way to get the mattress out, is by removing the bumpers. Now, you can remove the mattress without removing the bumpers, but believe me A) not in the dark and B) not without significant effort and swearing. I know they are supposed to keep little one’s feet and hands from getting trapped in the slats, but they also offer a suffocation hazard (so hah!).
I also have significant doubts as to whether or not a 4-month old could have that much pee from the 11:30 feeding. Suspect she just didn’t want to bother changing him. (Oh and…not the first time this has happened).

4:00 Lying in bed trying to go back to sleep and wife gets up to pump. WTF?!! You mean, I got up, tended to the baby, got all pissed off so that I can’t sleep, only to have her get up a couple of minutes later anyway to go pump? Now I’m really jazzed. The only thing that can possibly calm me down now, is watching Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate some psychic bad guys on late-night TV.
4:30 Bow to pressure and turn off TV. Don’t immediately fall alseep. When do, dream weird stuff about the curly haired kid from “That 70s Show” giving me a car. Very odd.
6:00 I hear “thump thump” and realize it’s past time to get up. Find oldest son wide awake despite having gone to bed later.

My day starts. And you wonder why I don’t look forward to weekends anymore.