Thursday, January 30, 2014

A snow day in the South

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, watch out! Some people can’t imagine seeing snow in Charleston, South Carolina… especially during those 97-degree-and-humid summer days. Well, it does happen every once in a while… and you better believe people lose their minds when it does. The city completely shuts down, basically. Call in the dogs and put out the fire, we’re hunkering down for the duration. What many people up north don’t understand (because they don’t show it on the news) is that places like Charleston don’t have fleets and fleets of snow trucks equipped with plows and salt… they have boats instead. To make matters worse, people who aren’t from here don’t understand the geography of this town – and that is you have to cross a bridge to get just about anywhere. The Charleston harbor is formed by the convergence of three rivers, making just about every part of town either its own peninsula or island which severely limits your transportation options. When one road shuts down (especially a major one,) all hell breaks loose… and that’s when the weather is good!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when it rains somewhere that has a lot of bridges then freezes overnight, you aren’t going anywhere the next day. Especially when there aren’t any salt trucks coming your way. A good half inch or better of freezing rain followed by sleet made traveling on major roadways damn near impossible. So, basically all of Charleston shut down yesterday. Mommy B and I were notified not to come to work and the kiddos school was closed too. Both being from Ohio, Mommy B and I couldn’t help but laugh. We recalled having 4-6 inches of snow on the ground in Ohio and getting maybe a 2-hour delay. But we shrugged it off and decided to make the best of it.

About mid-morning, actual snow started falling outside, so we decided to bundle up the kids and take them out to see it. If my memory serves me correctly, we haven’t had any real snowfall in Charleston since February, 2010. No, I don’t have a photographic memory regarding the weather. Although, since it rarely snows down here one would think you’d remember each date it happens. The only reason I remember that specific date is because Mommy B and I were supposed to fly to Maui the next day but ended up having our flight cancelled. If you thought driving down here in snow was bad, that’s nothing compared to flying. Anyway, that was also the night we found out we were pregnant with Alli. It was quite the special occasion, indeed.

We all went out into the backyard to see the magic. Alli has seen snow in Ohio before, but I couldn’t recall if Aiden had ever seen anything like it. There really wasn’t any snow on the ground, just a thin sheet of ice on everything. It was probably about 25 degrees or so when we went out, so everything was still nice and frozen. The kids had a blast picking all the icicles off the patio furniture and throwing the piles of sleet at Scarlett, who was having a ball (just like four years ago). We then went out front and scraped a bunch of ice off my car and the mailbox. Mommy B and I even got some pictures and video of them playing around in what is a pretty rare sight for this town. However, the fun didn’t last too long before the kids started getting cold and were ready to come back inside. A little later on, we ventured out to the grocery store to grab a few things we might need for this weekend. Luckily we only had to cross one bridge (yes, just to go to the grocery store) and it wasn’t in horrible shape. That didn’t stop the Charleston drivers from going 25mph across it, but that’s beside the point.

All in all, it was a pretty fun day off. I got a little laundry done and Mommy B got a little schoolwork done, and we pushed our home buying process a little further down the path. The kids got to stay home (not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing to them) and play in weather that doesn’t happen very often around here. We tried to move away from it, but not quite far enough apparently. But hey, I can live with only seeing snow once every four years.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Because why not?

It seems that Mommy B and I are real gluttons for punishment. Even though neither of us have ADD, we can’t seem to “sit still” in life – we’re always changing things around and shaking things up. Life would just be too boring otherwise, right? Allow me to bring youse up to speed on everything we’ve piled on our plates recently. After all, with my metabolism I never did like having an empty plate.

Mommy B is still grinding it out with her schoolwork. She’s only a few months away from obtaining her Master’s degree in nursing, which I’m so proud of her for working towards. It’s not easy being a mother of two small children, taking Master’s courses, oh, and she’s got this little thing on the side called a full time job. She’s almost there, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m optimistic that it’ll all be worth it in the end.

I’ve taken on some new responsibilities at my job as well. My direct manager left the company just over a month ago so now I report directly to her former supervisor. My “new” manager has tasked me with some rather important duties that could get me some serious street cred around the company. I’ve also volunteered to facilitate a Project Management Professional (PMP) study group for folks at the company who are looking to get certified. I’ve been looking for a chance to share my knowledge and experience since obtaining my PMP certification back in May 2013, and this opportunity recently presented itself. Not only will it help me stay up-to-date with my knowledge on the subject, but will also count as continuing education credits to maintain my certification. Not to mention it’ll look good for the company (and me) if a whole group of people get certified thanks to my help. I’m all about giving back…

We also decided a couple weeks ago that we want to sell our house and move to another part of Charleston. We still like the area where we are now, but the public school situation is pretty dire at the moment and likely isn’t going to drastically improve for some time. They’re working on it, but it won’t be up to par by the time the A-Team comes romping through. Plus, we’d like a little more square footage (a.k.a a play/media room) for the years to come. So, we contacted an agent, got the house cleaned up and put the old girl on the market Thursday of last week. We had a showing on Friday and another on Saturday morning, and we had offers in our email by Saturday night. We were basically batting .1000 – two showings, two offers. Holy crap. We’ve been looking at potential properties all along, but nothing was really grabbing us like our current home did when we first walked in. That was, until last night. After looking at probably 15 houses or so (and countless more online), we’ve narrowed it down to two houses in the Mount Pleasant area of Charleston.
We thought it would be best to strike while the iron was hot and put an offer in on a house we saw for the first time yesterday. Real estate is moving fast in this town as we saw first-hand with our own house! After viewing the last few houses, we went back to the agent’s office and stayed until about 9pm last night ratifying the contract on our own house and putting an offer together on the house we want. We’re scheduled to go back to our top two houses this afternoon for one more walk-through, and I’m bringing my parents so they can give us their thoughts. I’ve feigned modesty about my father’s construction background in previous posts, but I’d really like the big man to “inspect” both houses and give us the details. He’ll give us the cold hard truth about each property – if he feels the layout would work for us, if there are any structural issues, if certain things will need to be replaced soon and anything else his decades of experience might expose to us star-struck youngins. So we’ll see how that goes. I knew going in that the home-selling/buying/moving experience is one of the most stressful that a couple will ever go through, and the timing isn’t helping matters much.

In other news, our home computer died last week. The good news is that it isn’t software-related and the hard drive is still intact, but the power cord and DC jack are no longer changing the battery. And as we all know in this modern age of technology that no battery means no computer. The nerds at the repair shop said it would take 3-5 business days to order and ship a new DC jack, then just an hour or so to install it. The whole deal would only run us about $150 and change, but the headache of having to borrow my parent’s computer while Mommy B tries to complete her schoolwork has added another stressor to the equation that we’re trying our best to deal with. Not to mention the fact that the number of emails we’ve been trying to send back and forth to get the housing situation squared away has complicated matters even further.

Before things really started heating up with the house sale/search, Mommy B and I had booked a weekend trip to Maggie Valley, North Carolina so I could take her snow skiing for the first time ever. I learned how to ski when I was in 4th-5th grade, and did it all through high school. Granted, most of my slope time was on the steep crags of Perfect North Slopes just across the Ohio border in Indiana. We’re talking 300-foot verticals here, nothing to be messed with. Well, in a couple weeks I’m taking her to the Appalachian Mountains to get her on some real ski slopes. We’ve booked a cozy little cabin at the base of the mountain (with a hot tub) and are looking forward to spending a couple days on the slopes – all by ourselves. Grandma C has been kind enough to book a plane ticket to Charleston to come take care of the kiddos while we’re shredding the fresh powder. I’m hoping that we can still make the trip in the midst of all this housing drama, so that could be pending.

Our kids? Oh yeah, them…

Alli is still every bit of a nut she’s always been. I know we’ve said it numerous times before, but it’s really like having a small person around the house. She’s extremely articulate and will tell you exactly what she’s thinking and what she needs or wants. I never would have thought that I would have had some of the conversations I’ve had with her and she’s not even three and a half yet. I can only imagine what the next couple years will bring. She has started coming into our bedroom on the weekends and climbing into our bed with us for snuggle time. Well, Mommy B and I wish it was snuggle time because in actuality it has become Alli blabbing to us about anything and everything that’s on her mind. From what she learned in school that week to what she’s going to eat for breakfast that morning to what she wants to watch on TV… the girl is an endless stream of consciousness in the mornings. She’ll still have a meltdown for a ridiculous reason (as most three-year olds do), but she’s to the point now where we can usually talk her off the ledge easily because she understands so much of what we say to her. I swear, being a parent should require a Master’s degree in Psychology. Unfortunately most of the people having kids these days barely have a degree in anything.

Aiden is slowly but surely expanding his vocabulary. More and more words are making their way out of his mouth, even though he certainly knows what he wants to say. He’ll point and pull and drag you to whatever it is he needs or wants. He’s still a Stage 5 clinger, and he’s definitely into his Terrible Two’s early – just like his big sister was. Don’t give him something he wants, and it’s bad head and big crocodile tears… instant crisis. His latest trick is to nod or shake his head when you ask him a yes or no question. It’s pretty encouraging to see his development take form in something like that – where he not only understands what you’re asking him, but also knows the proper non-verbal response to get the desired result. I know their school has taught them baby sign language since they were infants, but seeing him grasp this more adult-like non-verbal communication is pretty impressive for a 21-month old.

I’m sure I’ll say this again numerous times before the deal is done, but I’m so thankful to have my parents just down the road during this stressful time. As anyone who has ever sold and bought a house (while having small children and a dog around) knows, there is so much that goes into prepping, showing, viewing and closing that it would be darn near impossible to do without help around. My parents have been so accommodating for us the last few weeks – running over to the house to quickly straighten things up and take Scarlett with them so the house can be shown, or to just babysit the kids while we tried to look for new houses without having to drag them along. I know they love spending time with their grandkids, but we’ve had to have them available at a moment’s notice for weeks now, and I’m sure they’ll be glad when the process is complete as well. We’ve talked about the moving situation with them and they understand that now really is probably the best time for us to make this move. Of course, they probably think we’re crazy for doing it now anyway… because, why not?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas vacation

Goodness, where to begin? Over the past few years, we’ve alternated going back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year was the year to spend Jesus’s birthday in the wintry North. That’s right Followers, we once again packed up the family truckster and trudged our blood-thinned selves north of the Mason-Dixon Line to spend Christmas with what’s left of our families in the Buckeye State. This was actually panning out to be a pretty good trip as we had quite a few things planned while we were back home.

First was a stop in Cincinnati to see what was left of my family. Since my parents don’t live there anymore, we stayed with my uncle and his wife whose kids are grown and gone. We got to see another uncle and his wife and (mostly grown) kids, as well as gorge on some famous Montgomery Inn ribs after spending nine hours in the car. The kiddos did amazing on the whole drive up, which made things much more enjoyable for Mommy B and I. We stopped a couple more times than usual, just so they could get out of their seats and run around a bit… and so our big girl could use the potty like she always does. But the extra stops made it totally worth it. Anyway, Alli fell asleep in my cousin’s room without issue (she’s always been our good sleeper), and Aiden slept for a few hours before deciding he didn’t like his accommodations in the Pack ‘N Play and commandeered our bed. It rained pretty hard that night, so that didn’t help matters much. He woke up every hour, couldn’t get comfortable, and tossed and kicked us as much as possible. Needless to say the three of us were rather worn out the next morning. However, that wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying the festivities we had planned for that day.

We drove a few miles north of Cinci and met Grandma C to exchange cars. That’s right! She took the kiddos the rest of the way to Findlay while Mommy B and I headed downtown to catch a Bengals game. As luck would have it, they were not only playing at home that weekend, but their opponent was none other than Mommy B’s longtime favorite – the Minnesota Vikings. The weather was as pleasant as it could possibly have been for a week before Christmas in Ohio – mid 50s and partly cloudy skies. We got the best of both worlds – Mommy B got to see her Purple People Eaters live and in person (which she’s never seen before) and I got to see the Bengals put a stomping on the visiting team. Thanks to an early 30th birthday present from Mommy B’s father, we were able to enjoy all the action from the 14th row on the Bengals sideline. It was by far the best game I’ve ever been to, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with anyone else.

After the game, we headed towards the Dayton area so Mommy B and I could meet up with some friends from our past lives. Unfortunately Mommy B’s friend wasn’t feeling well that night, so she got to play 3rd wheel with me and my friend. Turns out, this particular friend is moving (back) to Charleston this fall. Small world we live in. After dinner, we headed back to the Cinci area to spend the night with my Best Man – Big Worm. Yeah, we’re big on nicknames around here. We hadn’t seen him and his wife in a long time, and we were excited to meet their new baby girl. Even though we were tired from the night before, we stayed up late catching up with them as though we had never been apart. He’s the reason Mommy B and I met in the first place, so the least we could do was spend as much time with them as possible. The next morning he treated us to a homemade breakfast… a small payback for all the homework I helped him with back in high school.

Then we headed over to meet the jeweler where I bought Mommy B’s engagement ring. As she mentioned in a previous post, a few weeks prior one of the prongs somehow got bent back and her diamond went missing. We were there to pick out a new stone for her ring and ended up having them all sized and soldered together. She actually ended up getting a “nicer” stone than the one I had picked out for her back in 2008. A small consolation prize, I know… but she’ll get over it I think. After that was all settled, we headed up to the great white tundra of northern Ohio as we watched the mercury drop. We arrived in Findlay a couple hours later and decided to make one last child-less stop for lunch – Steak ‘N Shake. It was just as horribly-glorious as I remember it.

After being reunited with the kiddos, who come to find out had already seen all the family members in town, we settled in for a nice Christmas holiday. We spent the next couple days staying indoors relaxing, opening presents, and stuffing our faces with all the typical homemade Christmas food. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep – I think the bears are on to something here. Speaking of sleeping, Grandma C somehow managed to get the kids to sleep in the same room together! We’ve never really tried something like that (because we never had to), but Alli claimed a twin bed and Aiden took a new liking to the Pack ‘N Play. She simply put them both to bed and firmly told them it was time to go to sleep. After a few minutes of “talking” to each other, the cold got to them and they passed out. And they slept like bears too… not waking up for 11-12 hours at a time.

The kids were naturally much more into Christmas this year, especially Alli. She was more than happy to help her little brother “open” his Christmas presents and show him how to use them. However, there was one present that Aiden didn’t need any help with. That would be the toddler-size Dyson vacuum cleaner that Mommy B’s dad got for him. Holy cow, you should have seen this kid’s eyes light up when he saw the box. It was like watching a younger version of a Christmas Story. We don’t even have a Dyson vacuum at home, but he sure as hell knew what it was. We magically obtained a few C-size batteries and he was off to the races. Grandma C had the cleanest carpet in the neighborhood with Aiden around that week! I couldn’t complain about my presents either, as Grandma C had picked up eight (yes, 8) six-packs of Great Lakes Christmas Ale for me to enjoy during the holidays. Obviously I wasn’t going to drink it all while we were there, but I made darned sure it all fit in the car on the way home.

After having Christmas at Grandma C’s house, we went over to the Great-Grandparent’s house where the kids were spoiled even more. They were also total hams – hugging on and playing with everyone as if they had seen them every day of their lives. Once again, no Stranger Danger there – which I guess is a good thing (for the time being). Alli played all over Great Uncle Tim, and Aiden found Grandma Great’s Dirt Devil and spent the rest of the evening cleaning the family room. The next couple of days were pretty lazy, but that’s the point of vacation, right? Grandma C and Mommy B took Alli to see her very first movie in a theatre. They saw Frozen, which apparently is very good even though it’s target audience is probably a little older than Alli. But, she’s always been ahead of the curve. Mommy B tells me that she was absolutely enthralled – she sat in her seat (with her popcorn of course) the whole time and watched the movie as intently as any three-year-old possibly can. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to share this experience with her, but I thought they could all use a three-generation “Girls Day” so I stayed home with Aiden and we watched football. Well, I watched football and Aiden vacuumed.

The week had come and gone, and it was time to head south again. We packed all the Christmas presents (and my beer) into the car and aimed to make the entire drive home in one shot. Again, we took our time and made some stops so the kids could get out and run around a bit. This probably didn’t make some of the gas station attendants very happy, but if they’ve ever been on a long trip with small kids, they’d understand. After 13.5 hours of driving (including two delays for construction), we pulled into our driveway around 11:30pm that night. We were hitting the maximum amount of time allowed in the car for the kids, as they were getting a little cranky at the end before falling asleep. I won’t mention the fact that the gas light came on as we were about 30 miles outside of town and no, I repeat, NO gas stations were open directly off the highway. Oops. We coasted into Summerville and were able to gas up without waking the kids, but it had Mommy B in a mini panic attack. But, Dad-E saved the day and got everyone home safe and sound.

All in all, it was a great trip. We got to see family and friends that we hadn’t seen in a while, and the kids simply could not have been better in the car. After our last trip home (in which Alli threw up in the car twice just as we were getting back to South Carolina), I was worried that we might be in for another trainwreck crazy adventure. But since they’re into longer movies now, our lives are much easier. I’ll take 5 Toy Stories over 20 Elmos any day. My mother has always told me that they get easier to travel with as they get older, and the A Team proved her right on that one. I’m so proud of how much they’ve grown and how well-behaved they are – most of the time, that is. I’m also thankful for the amazing family we have – both here and back in Ohio. They love our children so much and it shows in how they act towards them when we visit. In fact, even though Grandma C was worn out after the week we spent there, she’s already planning her next visit down here so Mommy B and I can have a weekend without the kids! We’ll call it our joint 30th birthday weekend away – and I’m taking Mommy B to the mountains of North Carolina to teach her how to snow ski. I know we’ll miss the kiddos while we’re away, but I know they’ll be in good hands with the best family members anyone could ask for.