Thursday, September 3, 2015

Get to work

After being unemployed for just over two months, I finally received an offer (two actually), accepted it, and started a new job on August 10th. Being forcefully unemployed is quite possibly the hardest job there is. Between applying for jobs, updating your online profiles, applying for unemployment, updating your resume, applying for more jobs, having the kids home 2 out of 5 business days, interviewing, normal chores, home improvements, stressing about money, applying for more jobs, and having more interviews... things are far from relaxing.

But, I hung in there and pushed on through. And go figure - after not hearing diddly squat for almost 2 months, I received two offers within 24 hours of each other. The first offer was from my former employer Blackbaud, who wanted to bring me back on as an Enterprise Senior Project Manager. It was more or less the same job I used to have there, only in a different business unit and a much higher salary. The other offer was for a 9-month contract position with Equifax. Yes, the credit bureau - only I wouldn't be dealing with that side of the house. I'd actually be working for Equifax Workforce Solutions which has recently developed an Affordable Care Act eligibility application. Employers purchase and use the software to help them determine who is considered full time (and who is not) and therefor who they need to be offering health care coverage to.

At first blush, you would think it would be a no-brainer that I'd go back to The 'Baud because it's the "safe" route. But, as I told the recruiter who asked me for the pros and cons of each, I know how the sausage is made. I left Blackbaud three years ago for good reasons, and I have no way of 100% knowing that those same reasons don't still exist. And even though the Equifax job is technically only guaranteed for 9 months, there is potential for a permanent position at the end of the contact. And worst-case scenario would be if Equifax doesn't re-up the contract, then the IT recruitment firm that brought me on has to find me another job.

Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to take the position at Equifax. I know so many people there (former Blackbauders who also left for good reasons), and the money is out of this world. What's even better is that because I'm a contractor, I get paid hourly - so anything over 40 hours each week is time and a half. Cha-ching! I know it's a roll of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler... so taking this type of risk (again) is really not in my nature. It was an extremely difficult decision, especially since Blackbaud had really come up big in the salary department - which was a shock. But Mommy B sat down and made a list of all the pros and cons of each, and at the end of the day the Equifax job just felt "right."

But before I got started, there were a few things around the house I wanted to get done. And by "I," I mean Mommy B. Let me see if I can recount the items that I worked on while I was laid off...
  • Stained our master bathroom vanity and mirror
  • Installed pullouts on the faux drawers on the master bathroom vanity
  • Replaced all the oil-rubbed bronze fixtures with chrome fixtures in the master bathroom - including the two faucets, towel bars, toilet paper bar, and all vanity pulls
  • Replaced the light fixture over the sinks in our master bath - which required an assist from Pops because the idiots who built this house didn't run the electrical wire to a junction box where the fixture would have been.
  • Removed and replaced lattice under our deck that Scarlett had broken
  • Installed heat reducing film on two windows in our master bedroom
  • Painted the front entry way
  • Power washed the entire front porch - including all spindles and railings
  • Repainted all spindles and railings on front porch
  • Hung pictures of the kids in the hallway outside their respective bedrooms
  • Patched a few holes here and there - mostly in Alli's bedroom and our bathroom
  • Installed a new gutter on the far side of the garage roof to prevent flooding in the side yard
  • Fixed a few blinds that were "stuck" and wouldn't open and close
  • Hung a new calendar and key rings in the entry way
I'm proud to say that not once in the 2+ months I was laid off did I take a nap while the kids were gone. Obviously I didn't have time for that given the aforementioned home improvements and contact job searching. I did, however, run the bridge a few times to get reacquainted with an old friend. It had been a few years since I crossed the entire span of the ol' girl, and she still put up a good fight. Well, I think it was mostly the July heat and humidity - but the bridge is no joke either.

Alas, I've been back at work now for three full weeks, and I'm so glad that rough chapter is over with. Now it's time for Mommy B and I to recoup my lost earnings and put some money back in the bank. I couldn't be more proud of how we handled things. Mostly proud of myself for staying disciplined all those years and putting money away in case of an emergency. Going 2+ months without a paycheck would have been enough to put some people onto the street, but we had enough tucked away that it really didn't adversely affect us all that much. We made a few cutbacks (like getting rid of cable), and are probably better off because of it. It was a humbling experience to say the least, but I'm glad it's over. Now Mommy B can seriously say "Get to work," and I'll actually have somewhere to go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spread your wings, butterfly

Today marked another milestone in our books... one that sort of snuck up on us, and one I don't think we expected to make us tear up as much as it did. Alli started pre-K at Jennie Moore Elementary School today. We had talked a lot and weighed options about her doing this program versus one more full year at Chesterbrook. When the school system decided to make pre-K full day this year, we thought, why not? You have to apply and get accepted to the program, and we got her acceptance letter back when we were vacationing in Aruba, and we were thrilled! Alli needed a new challenge after 4 years at Chesterbrook, and we couldn't wait for her to start this adventure. On top of it being a new adventure for her, it is actually a brand new school that just finished construction mere days before the older students started classes last week. Yesterday, half the class attended pre-K, and today was Alli's turn. Tomorrow, the entire class will be there and they will start a normal routine. Although it is far from the normal we are all used to... Including and especially Aiden!

This morning Aiden woke up at 4:45am (yes, you read that right), talking about Jennie Moore. I swear this sweet boy was so excited for his sister, and cares so very much for her. Alli came down a little before 6, ready and excited for her new adventure. We got her dressed in her pink JME shirt, took pictures, and headed out so we could all be there to walk her in. Pictures are worth a thousand words... The emotions, excitement, and even the big hug between siblings were all captured this morning by photo. She was beyond excited, anxious, and a little nervous when initially entering the classroom. For as long as she can remember, any transition into a new classroom at Chesterbrook has at least included familiar faces and familiar surroundings. This was all brand new. We helper her find her cubby, find her name at her desk, and Aiden gave her a big good luck hug. I think that's what truly did me in. He has never been at Chesterbrook without her, that's all he's ever known is his big sister right down the hall. And seeing her so big, in a big brand new school, hoping she will get on the right Chesterbrook bus after school to take her to that familiar home away from home until we can pick her up from work... I was a nervous wreck watching the clock all day and wondering what she's doing. But... Here we are, we all made it. Another big day, in the books. She told us she had fun, said she wants to go back (so that's a good thing!), and that she made some new friends. Our next biggest fear and feat is her wanting to ride the school bus from our neighborhood to JME. And that very well may be a feat we face tomorrow  morning... To be continued on that one. 

The emotions of today ran the gamut... From excited, to nervous, to sad, to proud, to happy... All those things you spend so much time preparing for as parents, yet never truly realize when they are taking place before your eyes. Who is prepared for a 4 year old to spread those wings, take all you've taught her, and learn to fly on her own? How fitting in that the mascot for Jennie Moore is the Monarch... Fly beautifully Alli Ru, we are so proud of you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

So long, Dean-o - Part II

Grandma Great originally didn't want to have any type of memorial service for her late husband at all. At first, she just wanted to have a private ceremony with just us family members and call it a day. But her children talked her into having a full service so that all the folks in Findlay who knew Dean would have a chance to pay their respects. Little did I know that it would turn into... all the folks in Findlay.

I seriously thought the town must have shut down from 11am-1pm that day. Once the doors opened and people began coming in, they didn't stop - for over 2 straight hours. The line of people was out the door the entire time. Since I didn't grow up in Findlay, I had to continuously introduce myself as Mommy B's husband or sometimes even as "Grandma C's son-in-law." However, with the advent of a little social media website called Facebook, just about everyone in town knew who I was. Well, let me rephrase... they knew who my kids were. Mommy B and I honestly felt like Internet celebrities with the sheer number of people who follow the repostings of Grandma C's pictures with the A-team. Many of her friends might not have known me from Adam, but once they knew I was the father of Grandma C's "adorable grandchildren," the association was made and I became as loved as anyone else in the family.

That's the wonderful thing about marrying into this family... they have all treated me like family since the moment I set foot in that small town over 12 years ago. And it wasn't hard to see why - Dean was like that. All the time. He worked at Cooper Tire in the Payroll department for over 40 years. Back in the day before direct bank deposits, he used to walk the floor of the plant and hand-deliver payroll checks to 900+ employees. He may not have always be able to put a person's face to their name, but he could put their face to their employee payroll number. "Oh, there's Sammy... number 35298." In a town that small (especially back in those days,) it's no wonder the whole town showed up for his memorial service. He had probably cut a check to just about everyone in town at one point or another during his tenure there. I've only been to one other funeral in my life, and it was for my own grandmother back in 2006. But I have never felt more like "part of the family" than I did that day.

It became very clear to me as I watched the steady stream of people make their way through the line of family members that Dean had influenced so many lives in his 79 years on this earth. But not just touched them, I mean really impacted them. I couldn't count the number of stories Grandma Great recalled about how she and Dean had met the person she was talking to. The woman has a memory like a steel trap. Gee, I wonder where my children get it? Every one of them talked about how much Dean smiled, and how much he loved and was so very proud of his family. I know how much a smile means to people. If you were to look back at my wedding pictures and examine the group of groomsmen I had assembled, you'd find that they're all very different from one another. However, the one thing they all have in common was that I kept them around because they made me smile. A smile is infectious, in the best way possible. And that's exactly how Dean lived his life - with a smile on his face and a laugh in his voice. In 12 years of being around Dean during family gatherings, I don't think I ever once saw him upset or down.

Once everyone finally made it through and we had shaken and/or hugged them all, it was time to begin the service. The whole family sat up front, with myself to the right of Mommy B, who was to the right of Grandma Great. To get things started, two retired military members walked in, picked up the folded flag from the table, gave it a slow salute and officially presented it to Grandma Great. Then as one headed to the side door, the other lifted his head and said "Prepare yourselves for rifle fire." The side doors opened and in walked another man with a set of bagpipes. He began playing "Amazing Grace," which made everything all too real, all at once. Once the song concluded, three rounds of seven rifles all fired in unison, to which a trumpet then chimed in to conclude the military honors. By then everyone in the front row was reaching for their second tissue. I still get goosebumps even now thinking about it.

The family's pastor then began telling stories that the family had shared about Dean. Everything from sibling rivalries to children's memories of their father to wisdom passed to grandchildren. Some of the stories I knew, some I didn't. Dean was one of five children, and all the siblings look exactly alike. Each time one came into the room I could spot them from a mile away. Everyone had some good laughs recounting some of Dean's funnier moments. The pastor went on to remind everyone that Dean had lost a considerable amount of weight by joining Weight Watchers, completely transforming his body within a couple short years so that he could have as many more years as possible. And through it all, there he was... smiling from ear to ear. He may not have had the easiest life nor the longest, but he had the best by the way he lived it. That was my biggest takeaway from the experience, and I vowed to try to live my life by it from that day forward. And don't think I'm ignorant to the coincidence surrounding that statement especially given my current (un)employment situation.

To wrap things up, Mommy B was to read a poem to the audience. I told her I would accompany her up to the podium and read it for her if she was too distraught. But, she made it through like a trooper - her voice only faltering on the last two lines. The pastor said a few more words and the service was over. We all wiped what tears we had left and said goodbye to those who were still there. There were quite a few people I was happy to see had made it - Grandpa Ron, Mommy B's best friend Jamie drove up from Dayton with her son, and all of Grandma C's friends that I've gotten to know pretty well over the last decade. They were all heartbroken at the fact that Dean was actually gone, but held firm in their belief that he was in a better place now. Probably walking Jada.

We packed up a few things and went over to Grandma Great's house to eat our emotions away thanks to all the homemade food everyone had dropped off the day before. We spent the rest of the afternoon sharing more family stories about Dean and stuffing our faces with all the comfort foods you come to expect when someone passes away. Since it had been such an emotional day, we called in an early night and went back to Grandma C's for some much needed rest. The next day was Grandma Great's birthday (July 3rd), so we went over to Uncle Tim's house and repeated the process from the day before of eating ourselves silly. Not to mention that a couple of us added some beers to the mix as well. We even had some ice cream cake for Grandma Great, so that she could celebrate her 79th birthday in style. That morning while Grandma C let me drive her Harley-Davidson Road King all by myself, Mommy B had dug into her closet and found the letters that Dean had written to her while she was away at college. She brought her favorites to the cookout that afternoon, and we all laughed until our faces hurt at the content of said letters. It was the second time hearing them for me, since I was typically present when they arrived at Mommy B's apartment. But it was even better hearing them all these years later... proving once again that Dean could always make you smile, even after he was gone.

We flew home on Saturday and were supposed to get into Charleston just in time to hop in the car, drive to my parent's house, and head out on their boat with the kiddos to watch the fireworks in the harbor. Well, little did we know that some seriously bad weather had moved into the Charleston area that afternoon, and things were not looking good for that evening. After having our first flight delayed, we completely changed airlines in hopes of getting into town on time. Well, that flight was then delayed to the point where we were likely going to miss our connecting flight to Charleston. We landed in Atlanta and I hauled ass to our gate and was relieved to see that the airplane was still there and the door was still open. However, because we thought we weren't going to make that flight, we had our original airline confirm us on a later flight so we could at least get into town that night. We tried calling them back to have them switch us back to the original flight (that was literally 30 yards away with the door still open), but they were unable to get the computers to match up. So there we were, watching our flight get pushed back and take off without us - taking with it our only hopes of watching the fireworks with our kids. Talk about being down in the dumps.

Well, come to find out, the weather had gotten so bad in Charleston that my parents pulled the plug on the whole boat outing anyway. They simply did not want to take the chance of heading out onto the water in bad weather with our children while we weren't around. So Mommy B and I sat in the Atlanta airport and had some drinks to help pass the time. Obviously we weren't missing any festivities back home, so we tried to make the best of the situation. All we could do at that point was smile, because we knew that's what Dean would have done. We eventually made it home and the rain had cleared out a bit which made our descent much easier. And best part was, the next night's weather was amazing and our neighborhood put on a fireworks show of their own - just a short golf cart ride away.

Needless to say we were glad to be back home and done with what needed to be done. I'm certainly glad we made the trip to not only see the rest of the family, but pay our respects to someone who certainly deserved it. Dean will definitely be missed by those that knew him, and luckily he has passed on some things that he'll always be remembered for. Fortunately for me, many of them are present in my wife. She got his flat feet, infectious smile, and a heart that was made to love. As a nurse, she treats everyone like they are part of her family - because she genuinely cares about them as such. As a wife, she has always been there to help me up when I'm down because that's what best friends do. And as a mother, she loves and is so proud of the children we are raising together.

So long, Dean-o... we're really going to miss you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So long, Dean-o - Part I

To compound the stress of being laid off, Mommy B's grandfather Dean passed away a couple weeks ago. His health had been rapidly deteriorating for a few months, so it was a good thing Mommy B took the kiddos up to Ohio to see him back in April. On one hand I wish I had been able to see him one more time before he passed, but on the other hand I'm kind of glad I didn't see him in the state that he was in at the time.

It was Tuesday, May 30th, 2015. I was getting the kiddos ready for school so that I could come home and get back on my job searching. Before I got the kids dressed, I noticed I had a missed call and voicemail from Grandma C. As I listened to the message, my heart sank. She informed me that her father had passed away in his sleep early that morning and she was headed over to the nursing home at that moment to take care of everything. My eyes welled up and suddenly the world seemed a bit darker, like a light had gone off somewhere in the house but I couldn't tell where. I wiped my eyes and continued to get the kids ready for school... but everything felt different. The kids weren't listening to me and wouldn't do what I asked (then told) them to do. Suddenly, I lost it. All the emotion from the past couple weeks came rushing up and I blew my top. I screamed at the kids... louder than I've ever yelled at them before. It scared the pants off both of them and they began to cry, which rarely happens. I'm probably lucky the neighbors were already off to work so they couldn't hear how loud I was. In retrospect, how stupid was that? Did I really think the kids were going to hear anything that came out of my mouth after that? Did I really think that was going to teach them a lesson?

After I finished scolding them for whatever it was, I stormed out of the living room and into our bedroom to get myself changed. After I had a few moments to think about what I had just done and how dumb of a thing to do it was, I went back into the living room and sat down on the floor in front of the couch where they were both still sobbing. With tears in my eyes, I held my arms out and told them how sorry I was for yelling. Still a little wary, they both came and timidly gave me a hug. I had them sit on my lap and I tried explaining to them that I wasn't mad at them and I had just gotten some bad news and that was what I really was upset about. They both seemed to accept that and told me that they didn't like it when I yelled at them. I replied by promising to never yell at them like that again. I swore that from that point forward, I would do my best to never yell at them that way again. As their tears and sobbing subsided, I gave them big hugs and kisses and reminded them that I loved them more than anything in this world. After we all wiped our tears away, we picked ourselves up off the floor and got on with our day.

After dropping the kids off at school, I came home and promptly called Grandma C. She told me they still didn't have all the details ironed out at that point, but they were going to have a memorial service for Dean in Findlay, Ohio on Thursday at 11am. I told her I would immediately start looking for flights for Mommy B and I. I had talked with my mom the previous week about Dean's declining health, and she said that if things got really bad (which they now had), that she and Pops would watch the kids for us. She said the last thing we would want is to have to worry about the kids while going through all of that too. After some serious searching online, I was able to find some halfway decent flights from Charleston to Detroit that didn't cost an arm and a leg. We would fly into Detroit Wednesday night at midnight (then drive an hour and a half home), then fly home on Saturday afternoon just in time for the 4th of July fireworks in the Charleston harbor on the boat with my family. That would give us plenty of time for the memorial service and a whole day to hang out with Mommy B's grandma on her birthday before we came back home. Once the flights were booked, I called my mom to let her know the plan and called Mommy B so she could put her notice in at the hospital. Luckily for me, I didn't have anyone to report my leave to.

We flew to Detroit by way of Washington, D.C. late Wednesday night and actually made it into Detroit around 11:30pm. Grandma C and her friend Tom picked us up and we made the dash back to Findlay - only stopping for some wings and a beer on the way. It was close to 2:30am by the time we finally hit the sheets, and we knew we were going to have to be up in a few hours to be up, showered, dressed, and somewhat presentable by 10am. It had been a long day, but we were both glad we were there.

After what felt like a short nap, we drug our butts out of bed and put on our dreary, black clothes. Although we looked formal, it was pretty evident we were headed somewhere somber. A McDonald's patron even commented to Mommy B and I while we were waiting for a bite to eat for breakfast... He pointed to a group of younger adults who were dressed in tattoos, tank tops and pants halfway down their butts and said "You two look so nice, all clean cut and everything... and then you have this over here," thumbing in the direction of Findlay's future police blotter stars. I held my poker face and replied, "Thanks, but we're on our way to a funeral." My tone probably read more like "I appreciate the compliment of being held to a higher regard than common white trash, but I'm in no mood for comparisons at the moment." We grabbed our McMuffins and walked out, hoping that a little sustenance would help alleviate the pit in our stomachs.

We arrived at the funeral home where Uncle Tom and Grandma Great had just arrived, as well as Uncle Tim, Aunt Trisha, and Mommy B's cousins Zach and Paige. The whole clan was there, minus the patriarch. It was the first time Mommy B or I had seen the rest of the family since Dean had passed away, and the tears certainly proved it. Uncle Tom was already wet-eyed and Mommy B began the waterworks when she hugged Grandma Great for the first time. After hugs all around, we went inside and prepared ourselves for the service - with Uncle Tim and Aunt Trisha hooking up a laptop that had a streaming collage of pictures of Dean. At the front of the room was a table that held a tri-folded American flag (Dean was a former seaman in the Navy in the mid-50's) as well as the urn that held Dean's ashes. Surrounding the table was more vases of flowers than I could count, as well as two large poster boards that contained more pictures of the family - all staring Dean. After making small talk with the family, the first of the visitors began arriving to pay their respects. Little did I know what I was in for...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Good Done (not so) Great

My apologies for neglecting you, Followers. As most of you have probably learned by now, any time there is a big lag in between posts, it's usually because lots of stuff is going on. Of course, that's usually the case around here more often than not.

As many of you know, I started a new job back in March with a small tech start-up here in Charleston called Good Done Great. I thought I had finally found "my place" in this budding tech town - I was brought on board to help build this company with my talent, skills and experience in project management. I was going to "get in early" and ride it all the way to the top. And with stock options waiting in the wings, it was only going to be a matter of time until my big payday arrived. Well, that dream fell disastrously short of everything I had hoped for.

It was Thursday, June 4th. The following Tuesday, June 9th, Mommy B and I were scheduled to fly to Aruba for 5 days sans kids. We were going to meet our good friends from college there, sans their kids as well. I get on a video conference with my interim manager (my direct manager who hired me quit a few weeks previous - which should have been a sign) and I thought we were just going to discuss how my onboarding had gone and how I was ready to take on the new projects they said were going to close for months. Well, another screen popped up and it was the president of the company. I knew right away that this conversation was either going to be really good... or really bad. Unfortunately it was the latter. The president told me that the Sales team hadn't been able to close the deals in the time frame they had anticipated when they hired me. This meant that there was no "new business" for me to be assigned to, which basically meant they were paying me to not do my job. He said that they could no longer justify keeping me on without having a client for me to bill my time towards. While I reassured them that I'd been keeping busy documenting their processes (which they didn't have before I got there), I also asked if there was any other role there I could assume until the deals closed. They both said that unfortunately there just wasn't the work coming down the pipe and there was nothing anyone could do to speed up the process. That afternoon was to be my last day at Good Done Great. In turn, they reassured me that this was not a reflection on my performance or anything personal, and that they would both act as references in my job search moving forward. I was to turn in my laptop by the end of the day and not to bother coming back in on Friday. I thanked them for the opportunity to work at such a "cool" place and wished them the best of luck in the future.

I've lived in this town long enough to know that there are just sometimes you have to take your lumps and keep your class, because making a scene or getting all upset would damage my reputation to the point that getting another job would be very difficult. So, I swallowed the lump in my throat, ignored the pit in my stomach and took the remaining hour of the day to collect my belongings and say my goodbyes to everyone. Needless to say, they were all stunned at the news. They had no idea that the company was in that bad of shape financially that they couldn't afford to keep me on a little while longer until some deals came through. Well, come to find out, they let another person go the next day... so it sounds like they were hurting for our paychecks back all along. I don't hold any resentment or ill will towards the company - I realize it's a numbers game and often times the last one hired is the first one fired. All that being said, I certainly got my first lesson in joining tech start-ups - you never know what can happen!

I came home that night and told Mommy B the news. She actually was more upset about the situation than I was. After putting the kiddos to bed that night, we talked about what to do about our vacation the following week. I promised that I would send out as many applications as I could while we were still in town and given how slow people are to respond here in the South, we might as well skip town and enjoy ourselves. I figured that there would be little to no response that week anyway, and there was no point in me sitting around staring at the computer (and my phone) waiting for something to happen. Plus, I didn't want to disappoint our friends who had been looking forward to this trip just as much (if not more) than we were. So we decided to hell with it, let's go to Aruba and get drunk on the beach all day. I'll try to post about that trip soon.

But here I sit - out of work for over a month. The job search and application process has been nothing short of disheartening. I applied for unemployment the week we got back and just received my first check yesterday - so stupid. I've sent out over 15 applications/resumes to various technology companies in town, and have barely gotten a sniff. Maybe my resume needs polishing, or maybe this town is so small that you really just need to know someone to get in. Personally I think it's the latter. I just don't understand how after reading the job description and requirements, you think it's a great fit and send in your application, all you get is... crickets. Nothing. NO RESPONSE AT ALL. Don't companies realize that by ignoring people completely, you end up really pissing them off? And they forget how small a town it is too - their reputation is upheld by word-of-mouth opinions. There was one company I applied to and they reached out to me in less than 12 hours... so why do other companies take weeks or just never write back at all?

Did I mention how frustrating this process was?

In the meantime, I've been trying to take advantage of spending more time with the kids. It is summer time after all, so that just means more time at the pool! Alli is taking private swim lessons (thanks, Tatsy!) nearby, so she doesn't wear any floaties any more. Aiden has gone a couple times, but I think next summer will really be his time to shine. We've spent some time out on my parent's boat and have been to the beach a couple times. Uncle Tom is coming to town tomorrow for the week, so that'll be a great time for them to ditch daycare and hang out with he and I instead.

The job front finally started looking less bleak this past week, as I finally got some nibbles for a couple applications. First interviews (aka the idiot test) are in the books, and I'm looking to get some more scheduled next week. Stay tuned for more as the saga continues.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

T & A - Part II

I'm going to try my best to recount the events of the last two weeks, but you'll have to forgive me if there are gaps in the story. You'll see why in a moment.

The afternoon following Aiden's surgery wasn't too bad as he was still somewhat out of it and would fall asleep at random times for various amounts of time. He felt good enough at one point to go for a golf cart ride around the neighborhood, so I took that as a good sign. He wasn't having much as far as food or drink since his throat was still so raw and I'm sure his stomach was probably full of anesthesia medicine. That night was a little rocky for his sleep routine since he had been out during surgery, some more that afternoon and he was still out of sorts in general.

The next morning, I took Alli to school before I headed to work while Mommy B stayed home with Aiden to help him recover. From what she told me throughout the day, he was doing awesome. He just wanted to play outside and have fun - so Mommy B took him to the park that morning. He ran around and played just like he normally does, and even though he didn't eat much of anything, he did ok with staying hydrated. The biggest thing we were worried about was having to bring him back to the hospital due to dehydration to get an IV, which is a common occurrence after a T&A. Overall it seemed like he was full steam ahead on his road to recovery, even though typical recovery time is anywhere from 10-14 days. However, that night was another rough one as he was up constantly throughout the night. We weren't sure what was causing him to wake up, but luckily it wasn't too hard to get him back to sleep pretty quickly.

I stayed home with Aiden on Wednesday and "worked from home" so Mommy B could take a break and go back to work. Well, as luck would have it he was now feeling the full effects of what had just happened to him two days earlier. He got up for the day and could barely talk. He basically just mumbled and pointed to everything he needed - which wasn't much. He wouldn't eat a thing, and would barely touch and fluids I tried to coax him into drinking. His throat hurt so bad that he wouldn’t even swallow his own spit. I spent the majority of the day wiping drool from his lip and pulling saliva out of his mouth because he wouldn't swallow it on his own. Not to mention he was also running a low-grade fever. I tried explaining to him that the more he drank, the better he would feel - even though it hurt. This also made the task of administering any medicine darn near impossible. I kept trying to talk him into it, and he just wouldn't even try. At one point in the afternoon I was so worried that his fever would go even higher and we'd end up back in the hospital anyway, I pinned him down and tried to get some medicine in his mouth… unsuccessfully. He spit it all back out and became a blubbering mess. I was right back in the Operating Room - but again I'll spare you the details.

Mommy B finally got home from work and had picked up some fever-reducing suppositories on her way. We concluded that the only way to get his fever down without him drinking anything was going to have to be the hard way. So that night after we gave them both baths, Mommy B did the dirty work and was able to get some medicine in him. It definitely seemed to help, but he was still up a few times throughout the night. I could be mistaken, but I believe this is when he started complaining that his "belly hurt." We could only conclude that he was probably still working some of the IV drugs through his system and he hadn't really eaten anything of substance since Sunday night. So each time he woke up throughout the night and complained about his belly hurting, we just told him that he was probably hungry. He obviously didn't understand that part of it, but managed to get a little sleep here and there.

Thursday Mommy B stayed home with him again and I went back into the office. He did a little better for her that day, but still wasn't eating anything. He did much better for her with drinking, so that was good. She was able to get a little more medicine in him that day to at least keep his fever at bay. After another night of crappy sleep, Tatsy took over and stayed with him on Friday while I took Alli to school. She was so cute - asking when Aiden was coming back to school because she missed going into class with him. I even poked my had into Aiden's class and told his teacher not to expect him back that week. All the kids asked me where Aiden was and if he was feeling better yet. I told them that he was definitely better, but wouldn't be back until the following week while he healed up some more.

Memorial Day weekend was finally upon us, and I was holding out that he would turn the corner that weekend. The complaints about his belly hurting were becoming more frequent, and they continued throughout the long weekend. The weather could not have been any nicer in Charleston that weekend, and it killed us all to have to be cooped up inside while Aiden healed. I think the person who wanted to be inside the least was the poor kid himself. He was doing better during the day, but he still wasn't eating a whole lot and hadn't had a bowel movement since the night before his surgery. The weekend came and went without seeing any family and barely making it outside to enjoy the weather. One day while Aiden was taking a later afternoon nap, I grabbed Alli and took her to the pool. There was nobody else there (since everyone and their Ohio mother were at the beach) so we basically got to swim around all afternoon by ourselves. It was a nice change of pace and I'm sure Alli appreciated getting out and about a little bit. During this whole process, Aiden had been getting in the habit of not only waking up in the middle of the night/morning, but also coming all the way downstairs and wanting to get into our bed. Around this time, we let it happen because the poor kid sounded like he was in serious pain and just wanted to be next to his Mommy. As a result, I often found myself sleeping on the top bunk of his bed and even taking a shower in the play/guest room bathroom so as not to bug him and Mommy B using our master bathroom. Another sad side effect of the last week is that the kid has lost a ton of weight. He was never that chubby to begin with, and now he looked like skin and bone. We can see just about all his ribs and his arms look like little noodles hanging off his torso. It physically hurts me to see him like this, but I have to keep telling myself that he'll put the weight back on soon and it'll all be a distant memory.

Monday night had arrived and it was time to get back into the routine. We agreed that even though he was only eating little bits here and there, he was acting well enough during the day to go back to school. We were hoping that this would accomplish a couple things - 1) get him back to his normal schedule, 2) get him playing and active again so he wouldn't think about things as much, 3) hopefully get his digestive system kick started. He had had a single bowel movement in a about a week's time, so I'm sure there was more in there that needed to make an exit. Well, since Mommy B had to get up early that morning and head to work, I decided to get up with him throughout the night and try to get him back to sleep on my own. After falling asleep at around 8pm, he woke up at 9:30pm, 12:30am, 2:30am, 5am, and was up for good at 7am. Each time he woke up crying and writhing around in his bed in pain, complaining that his belly hurt. At that point we tried to explain to him that he probably was stopped up and needed to poop in order to feel better. Well, this wasn't happening in his mind… so all I could do that night/morning was rub his back until he fell back asleep. Even though we were all dragging that morning, I took them both to school on my way to work. He was actually somewhat excited to get back to see his friends, and they certainly were excited to see him. He was a little clingy at first, but luckily his teacher was able to come over and peel him off me without too much trouble.

The rest of the week basically continued much the same way. He would do great at school, but would still wake up 3-4 times per night complaining about his belly hurting. It felt like we had a newborn in the house again, as everything became a blur and Mommy B and I were too tired to do much else. Towards the end of the week, he was finally eating somewhat normal portions again but still hadn't had a decent bowel movement. At this point Mommy B and I were growing concerned that almost 2 weeks had come and gone and he basically had one small poop to show for it. We were worried that his nightly troubles were because he was constipated and had become too scared to try because of how much it would hurt. So Mommy B got some laxatives to give him in hopes of softening things up so that it wouldn't hurt so much to go. Well, they didn't work - at all. I've never seen that happen before, to anyone. Here we were, pumping this kid full of food and laxatives and nothing was coming out. Mommy B and I just looked at each other and said "When he needs to go, he'll go."

The weekend rolled around and even though he still hadn't pooped, he seemed to be feeling much better overall. We decided to spend Saturday morning at the beach before Alli had a birthday party to attend that afternoon. On Sunday we spent most of the late morning and early afternoon on my parents boat, taking the kids on their first tube ride of the season. Due to the timing of it, by the time we got home it was too late to try to get Aiden to take a nap… so we just let him ride it out for the rest of the day in hopes that it would make him sleep through the night for a change. He was extra cranky that evening - mostly because Mommy B and I tried every tactic in the book to get him to try and sit on the toilet. We failed miserably, and eventually made him so sad about the whole thing that he cried himself to sleep on Mommy B's shoulder in the rocking chair at 7:30pm. She was able to get him into bed without waking him up while I put Alli to bed. Mommy B and I went to bed that night dreading what could lie before us that night/morning as we tried to rest up for another week of work, even though she had Monday off.

I rolled over at about 5:45am and realized that I he hadn't woken me up at all. I quietly got up, showered and began shaving when in walked Mommy B with Aiden in her arms. He had slept from 7:30pm until 6:30am the next morning! It was the first time he had slept all the way through the night in two full weeks! We couldn't believe it, and couldn't believe how much better he was that morning. He had a great day at school, and seemed to be just about back to his normal self - except for the no-pooping thing. Mommy B and I were cautiously optimistic that we'd get another full night of sleep since we had chalked up the night before to him being completely exhausted. But, I was shocked this morning when he didn't wake up until 6:45am - having slept a full night and never once mentioning his belly hurting.

I think it's pretty safe to assume that we're finally out of the woods. Knowing that we voluntarily put ourselves through this hasn't helped the guilt-factor either. But, I'm confident that the worst is behind us and Aiden is finally on the road to recovery. He's eating like he used to (a.k.a. stealing most of my food in the mornings) and back to his usual dirty "little brother" tricks with his sister. The biggest moment I think was when he jumped into the water on Sunday and began swimming around. I hadn't seen a smile on his face that big in what has felt like forever. It truly brightened my heart to see my Mr. Smiles again. And I will say that each night I've gone into his room to check on him before I go to bed myself, his breathing has sounded much better.

I'm not going to sugar-coat things - it's been two full weeks of hell. We haven't slept much over the past two weeks, and couldn't be looking forward to our upcoming vacation any more than we are. We've had to do things lately that we thought we'd never have to do (like kick a small child out of our bed or practically force feed him popsicles and ice cream), and things we thought we'd never have to do again (like convince a small child that it's ok to use the potty.) It hasn't helped that he's our "forever baby" and probably milked the attention for all he could get, either. There have been many tears shed in that time - some out of sadness but more out of frustration. I don't like always being the "tough parent" and it made me the bad guy on more than one occasion. There was a point when Dad-E was simply not wanted and only Mommy B would do. Talk about feeling helpless… night after night, while Mommy B drug her tired butt back upstairs to calm her sad child. But that all got washed away this morning when he came down stairs, hopped into my arms and said "You're a good daddy."

Aww, thanks Bubby.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

T & A - Part I

Frequent Followers of This Space have heard us talk about Aiden's sinuses before. Unfortunately, I passed along my terrible sinus issues to my son and he seems to be headed down much of the same path I went down as a kid. Folks might recall about a year ago that we had to take him to the Emergency Room after he got sick and spiked a high fever. That trip (and sickness) set in motion a series of events that have led us to where we are this week. After that ER visit, we went to an ENT doctor to get a consult on what he thought about Aiden's condition. During that visit, I played the doctor a recording I made on my phone of Aiden trying to sleep a few night previous. It literally sounded like a 65-year-old overweight man with sleep apnea on the other end… and so the ENT doctor said we might want to consider having his tonsils and adenoids (a T&A) removed at some point to alleviate some of his discomfort while he's sleeping. I had the same procedure done when I was 5, so I was familiar with what he was talking about. I was at a point where I was getting sick every six weeks and that frequency was drastically cut down after I had mine taken out. So even though I cringed at the thought of sending my young son "under the knife," I held out hope that poor Bubby would be better for it in the long run. I knew it wasn't going to be a magic bullet (lord knows it wasn't for me) - but I was willing to take the gamble that having it done now would provide him with years of improved health like it did for me.

So after getting a second opinion a couple months ago, we decided to pull the trigger and get his procedure scheduled. Mommy B worked her magic at the hospital and made sure that he had the best people on the case - the best surgeon, best anesthesiologist and best nurses (outside of herself, of course) that would be on staff. It's good to have connections, yeah? We scheduled his procedure for last Monday, May 18th. Since he wasn't allowed to eat anything the morning of his surgery, Mommy B kept him up a little later the night before and let him snack on whatever he wanted just before bed time. We tried to explain to him all that weekend that he would be "going in to see the doctor" on Monday so they could "fix his nose," as he said. I told him that it would actually be his mouth/throat they would be working on, but it would hopefully help him breathe better after he was all healed. I have no idea how much he understood, but he seemed to be OK with the whole thing - especially getting to stay up late and snack that Sunday night.

The big day had finally arrived, and both Mommy B and I were dreading it. Mommy B had the day off, and I had taken the morning off as well to be with them both. So we made a plan that I would take Alli to school like normal, then have Mommy B and Aiden pick me up at the local tire shop (the new Pilot got a nail in the tire that weekend - perfect timing, huh?) on their way to the hospital. So while Mommy B and Aiden played at the house in an attempt to keep Aiden from wanting to eat something, I took Alli to school. When we got in the car, I told her it was a very important day for Aiden and asked her what she wanted for breakfast. Whatever she wanted (and was open,) I would take her there. She asked if Chick-fil-A was open, and I told her that it was. She then asked if they had French fries there. I replied by letting her know that they probably didn't have the waffle fries ready that early in the morning but that they would have hash rounds instead. She seemed satisfied with that answer, so that's where we went. As we munched on our morning chicken, I did my best to keep a smile on my face to ease any apprehension she had about what was happening to her "little bro" that day. I kept telling her that Aiden wasn't with us like he normally is because he was having surgery that day… and that she was going to have to be extra nice to him that afternoon since he wouldn't be feeling well. I also told her that Aiden wouldn't be going to school that week while he recovered, so there would be a few days where I would be taking her by herself. Again, I have no idea how much she understood about the situation, but she got the point that Aiden wouldn't be feeling well for a few days so she would need to "be the big sister" and help us take care of him.

I dropped Alli off at school and informed Aiden's teachers that it was the big day and to not expect him to be back at school that week. After I dropped off Mommy B's car to get the tire patched, she and Aiden scooped me up and we headed downtown to the hospital. After getting checked in, I thought I'd walk Aiden around (in my arms, of course) the hospital a bit while we waited to head back to the holding area. Well, much to my surprise, they brought us back almost right away. I was hoping that was a good thing and we'd get this thing over with sooner than expected. And sure enough, the kid who was scheduled in front of Aiden didn't show for some reason, so they told us that Aiden could get bumped up and take his place. This worked for us - less time the poor kid has to go without food!

After playing with a few toys and the iPad we brought, the anesthesiologist came back and said they were prepping the Operating Room and that Aiden could take some Versed to "relax him." This is a very common drug that they give to kids before surgery - it basically gets them drunk so they don't freak out when they are wheeled away from their parents to head into the OR or when the anesthesiologist puts the gas mask on to put them to sleep. I knew this would be absolutely necessary because there was about a snowball's chance in hell that Aiden would just let some stranger in a strange place wheel him away from us without losing his mind. So he took his "medicine" and about 15 minutes later we could see that he was starting to feel the effects. I got some of it on camera - it was hilarious to watch. Just picture a blackout-drunk person trying to figure out an iPad, slurring his words, head bobbing back and forth. Yeah, he was feelin' good at that point. And quite frankly, I think it helped both Mommy B and I to laugh given the current situation. I asked Mommy B how long this stuff lasted, and she said sometimes about an hour, depending on the kid.

So there we sat… and sat… and sat. We had thought they were going to come and take our little drunk child away any minute so we could go begin our nervous wait in peace… but that didn't happen. Then, my second-biggest fear slowly became a reality - the drugs began to wear off before they knocked him out. And what does any completely wasted person do when they start coming down? They start crying and getting upset - and combative. Here we were, in the middle of the holding area (with adults sitting on either side of us) having to try and comfort our now screaming, crying child. He just wanted to "get out" as he said, as he kept pointing towards the door we had come in. The sobs grew longer, the screams grew louder, and he started wiggling out of my arms… anything to get away from the current situation. Still, no anesthesiologist in sight to come take him to surgery. Needless to say, Mommy B and I were growing very anxious about what to do.

Finally, after what felt like forever, the nurses said the anesthesiologist was on his way. At that point, Aiden was inconsolable and was a blubbering mess. We were basically right back to where we started - the "good part" of the drugs had worn off and now he was even more scared and confused than he had been when we first got there. Mommy B had told me that morning that they typically don't let the parents come back into the OR with the child to minimize the drama - for all parties involved. Unless, the child is freaking out and a having a parent present will actually help the situation. Well, that would be us at this point. Since Mommy B does this for a living and might have had a nervous breakdown doing it to her own child, Dad-E stepped up to the plate. The nurses brought me a gown to put on while Mommy B got one last hug from her teary, scared, confused little boy. As soon as I was dressed, the anesthesiologists led the way out of the holding area.

With Aiden nestled into my shoulder, I calmly rubbed his back and told him that we were finally getting out of there. What he didn't realize was that we weren't leaving the hospital, but rather going down the hall into the OR instead. As we walked, he seemed to calm down a bit which I thought was a good sign. However, as soon as we turned into the OR, he took one look around at the room with no doors and people dressed in weird outfits (scrubs) and began to cry again. I knew that time was of the essence, so I quickly laid him down on the operating table while they began to pump the gas into the mask.

I promised Mommy B that would spare her the details of the next few moments before he zonked out, and I'm going to do the same for y'all. It was by far the hardest thing I've had to go through as a parent. Everyone keeps trying to reassure me that he won't remember any of it, especially as he gets older. Each time I reply with, "I know he won't… but I will." It is something that I'll never forget as long as I live, and I told Mommy B that I would shoulder that burden so she didn't have to. As Aiden began to close his eyes, I told him that I would see him when it was all over and would be there when he woke up. The nurses then led me back to the holding area, where Mommy B was waiting so we could embrace each other and let the tears go. They pulled the curtain around us and told us to come out when we were ready. I told myself that morning that I wasn't going to get all overly emotional about things and I had rationalized it as just a "minor surgery" - I mean, it's not like he was going in for brain surgery or something, right? Well, after all we had been through that morning, the Dad in me kicked in and I turned into a ball of mush. As strong as Mommy B was, she knew exactly what I was going through having seen it almost every day in her own job. We each tried to reassure the other that he was in great hands and that everything was going to be fine… that it would all be worth it soon once he was all healed up.

After a few minutes, we dried our eyes, collected our belongings and the nurse lead us to the waiting room. I checked a few work emails and Mommy B had a muffin - her first real food of the day as well. Before we knew it, the anesthesiologist came in and let us know that they were all finished and Aiden was in the recovery room. Everything had gone perfectly and he had been a real trooper. Mommy B and I each let out a sigh of relief - our first deep breath of the day. As he led us to the recovery room, he apologized profusely for the bad timing of the Versed application. There had been an unforeseen delay in getting the room prepped for Aiden's procedure, which was the reason for the delay in bringing him back. I just shrugged it off since there was nothing they could do about it at that point, and things were already burned into my memory by then.

We walked to the back of the recovery room to find our little man with an oxygen mask on still passed out from the anesthesia. They told us not to touch him until after he wakes up and that they had kept him pretty deep under since he had been in such rough shape getting put to sleep. While he was still sleeping, the surgeon came back and told us that the procedure went as good as it possibly could have. He also said that while Aiden's adenoids were pretty big, his tonsils were massive. He does 20 of these procedures a day for kids as old as 17, and Aiden won the "biggest tonsils of the day" award. Well, lucky him! We thanked him for taking such good care of our baby boy and he let us get back to waiting for Aiden to wake up. He started to come around a short time later, and as you can imagine he wasn't in the best mood. They gave him a little more morphine to help with the pain, which made him fall asleep on Mommy B. He woke up a little later and just wanted to get the IV out of his hand and get outta there. I completely sympathized with him, so I tried to get Mommy B to work her magic again and get us going. They eventually let us go even though he didn't drink anything, and I could tell he was so relieved to be heading out finally. He fell asleep again in the car and basically stayed that way for most of the ride home.

My mom had been nice enough to pick Alli up from school and take her to run some errands so we could get Aiden home and situated. He actually felt good enough later that afternoon to go on a golf cart ride with Mommy B and I, which I took as a good sign. He had a little ice cream and whatnot to sooth his throat, but really didn't want much else. It had been a pretty emotional day for everyone, and even though Mommy B was going to stay home the next day with him, I didn't want to go back to work. And little did we know that the day of the surgery was only a fraction of what we'd be dealing with…

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Switching it up

Another month has gone by, which means more changes around our house. Like I've said time and time again, we never sit still and are always up to something. We're always switching things up and moving things around.

A few weeks ago I started a new job - and it's been wonderful. I'm still in that stressful time where I'm trying to learn as much as possible so that I somewhat sound like I know what I'm talking about. Any time you change jobs (even if it's still in the same profession/industry) there is still so much to learn at the new place. I now work for a small technology start-up in downtown Charleston called Good Done Great. I wasn't initially jazzed about the name, but it's growing on me. The best way I can describe working here is that I imagine it's what it probably felt like working for Google before it took over the world. Everyone has their own laptop, wear whatever they want, do whatever they want (i.e. - work when they want), and I never have a boss looking over my shoulder or watching the time clock. My manager has basically given me free reign to take initiative with my own onboarding, and has thus been pleased with the results. Things are so laid back but very dedicated at the same time. We work hard and are good at what we do, but never take things too seriously not to have some fun along the way. Being involved with a company that is this "young" provides me with the opportunity to really make my mark somewhere and be able to contribute in a meaningful way that could potentially shape how the company operates in the future. There's a lot of potential here, both for myself and the company as a whole... it's a very exciting (albeit nerve-wracking) time at GDG.

Just this last week, Mommy B and I also decided it was high time to trade in our 2007 Honda Pilot to get something newer. We did some research on a few vehicles we were interested in, even having a couple shipped here through Carmax. Well as fate would have it, we fell in love with another SUV... a 2012 Honda Pilot. Same exact model as the one we already had, just 5 years newer and about 107,000 less miles. I'll be the first to admit it was a little bittersweet taking the ol' girl into the dealership to trade it in, especially when they told us that they only use cars with that many miles for parts. You mean my babies and I are going to be the last people to "ride" in that car? Well, that got real. I have to say, it felt a little bit like finally putting an old farm mule out to pasture. She had been by far the best car we've ever owned and had been so reliable... and as much as I didn't want to see her go, it was just time to do it. But, we got a "younger" model just like her - and Mommy B and I are hoping that this one will be just as good to us.

This past month has basically been a blur for me - a new job combined with kids' birthday parties every weekend has me running ragged. There was seriously one weekend it felt like we were basically just going to birthday parties for two days straight between Alli and Aiden's friends. Then another weekend was Aiden's birthday party at the fire station. He just happened to have a ton of boys in his class, and needless to say they all had a blast playing on the fire trucks, shooting the hose at cones, spraying yours truly with Silly String, and of course, devouring pizza and cupcakes. I will say this though, that boy cleaned up on the birthday presents. He has some very cool friends' parents... if you catch my drift. I'm talking Legos, Hot Wheels, Play Doh, action figures galore - the list goes on and on. Not to mention that Mommy B and I decided to get him (well, both of them, really) a 7-foot trampoline for the back yard. They couldn't even wait until I had the whole thing built before they wanted to start jumping on it. Luckily I was able to finish it the next day and they've been playing on it ever since.

But as any parent with small children knows, it marked the beginning of the Terrible Three's. So many people talked about the Terrible Two's, but not our kids. The three-year-old age has been much worse than the two-year-old range, by far. And as if Aiden knew that by turning three he had a license to be a butthead, he sure embraced it. He's been more whiney than he's ever been, won't stay in his bed like he used to, and fights with us on just about everything. What makes it even more worse is that Mommy B and I can't count the number of times that his teachers tell us how mellow he is and what a great listener he is at school. There's nothing I hate more than when a parent talks about how great and well-behaved their kid is at home but the minute they go somewhere else with other kids they turn into a little monster. The whole time they're talking I'm thinking to myself, "Yeah, right. I saw your kid at the playground last weekend... I know better." Only with our kids it seems to be the opposite - they are well-behaved for everyone else, and are just little monsters for us! Well, I guess I'd rather have it that way than the other way around. I don't know how they flip the switch like they do, but it sure is frustrating. This has made our nightly routines a little more exhausting than normal, but we know that it's just a phase and he'll come back around sooner or later.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Brittany's grandfather's health has been in a steady decline the last couple of weeks. Things actually have gotten bad enough to the point of having to move him to a nursing home so that he can have people around constantly monitoring him. Since we hadn't seen the extended family in a while, Mommy B's nursing instincts kicked in and she decided that she needed to go back to Findlay to spend some time with her family. Since we don't know at this point if her grandfather's health will improve or not, we thought it would be a good idea to have the kiddos go along with her. Not only so the kids could see that side of the family again, but also so they could hopefully bring some smiles and sunshine to their great-grandparents who are going through a rough time at the moment. It's rare to have great-grandparents around at all, and we want to take every advantage we can so they can see each other as much as possible. Hey, that's what the savings account is for, right? So at 6am this morning, I drove the entire family to the airport and had to hold back my tears as I hugged all of them goodbye. Since I'm still rather "new on the job," we thought it would be better for me to stay behind to take care of Scarlett and keep busy with work (also to save on the price of a fourth plane ticket.)

While most people's first reaction is, "All right! Bachelor weekend for you!" That's not how I feel. I couldn't help but think about what it would be like if something were to happen to the plane. My entire family would be gone - just like that. I tried not to let those terrible thoughts creep into my head as I hugged them all goodbye and tried to drive home without crying. I opened the door to the house and even though the dog was there, it hadn't felt that empty since the day before we moved in. I went upstairs to their rooms and made their beds, just so they wouldn't have wrinkly sheets when they get back in a few days... it just seemed like the right thing to do. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for the good news. Mommy B let me know that they landed safely and the kids were absolutely wonderful on the plane - not a single meltdown. It made me so proud that they actually behaved for her, for once.

I've been around Brittany's family for about 12 years now, so you can safely assume that I wish I was up there visiting as well. It hurts me beyond words to know that it's not going to be a fun trip for Mommy B, and I won't be there to comfort her in her time of need. Her grandfather was one of, if not the biggest, male role models she had growing up - and seeing him in his current condition isn't going to be easy for her. The man was there for her as a child when her father wasn't, helped raise her through those rough teen years (even helping her pay for her first car), paid for her college tuition in full, and most recently walked her down the aisle to give me her hand in marriage. Cue lump in throat.

I'm going to try and stay busy by spending some time with my family as well, just to keep my mind off things up there. So while I do have the next few days to myself, I'm not going to enjoy it as much as everyone thinks I'm going to. Call me a "Papa Bird" if you want, but I rest easier at night knowing my babies are safe in the nest. While I know Grandma C and the rest of the family will take good care of them, it's my job to protect my family as much as I can from the cruel, harsh world out there. But you know us, we're always switching it up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Training Wheels

It's fitting that today I put the first set of training wheels on Alli's bicycle and tomorrow I start my new job.

I've had the last few days off (technically being unemployed) in between quitting The MIL Corporation and starting my new job at Good Done Great. I was able to get a few things done around the house and get a few errands handled that required me to not be working while everyone else was (i.e. - DMV for the golf cart permit and Social Security Administration office to get a replacement card mailed to me). The kids got to sleep in a little bit each day and lounge around in the mornings instead of having to run out the door before traffic gets bad, so they got a nice bonus out of the deal.

On Friday of last week, Mommy B found a bicycle that someone was selling online for cheap and we thought it was just Alli's size. The weather was gorgeous all weekend so naturally all Alli wanted to do was ride it. However, it didn't have training wheels on it which meant Dad-E had to hold the back to keep it upright while Alli tried to learn to pedal and steer. Needless to say, my back is killing me and Alli probably got more frustrated with me having to try and keep up with her. Regardless, she wanted to get back at it and go further and further each time we went out. I promised her that the first thing I would do on Monday after I dropped them off at school would be to purchase and attach training wheels on her bike so she could ride by herself. Given how smart she is, I think she knew what that meant... freedom!

So sure enough, after dropping them off at school this morning I went to Target and purchased one of the last sets of training wheels they had. I came home and put them on her bike, greased up the chain and other moving parts, and made sure that everything else was in good working order. I picked them both up from school and told Alli that I had a surprise waiting for her at home. I'm pretty sure she knew what it was, but she was still over the moon excited to see her bike with a shiny set of training wheels on it when we pulled into the driveway.

We strapped up her helmet and helped her navigate out to the street, then it was off to the races... and she didn't look back. Well, except to see if we were still watching her. I had a feeling over the weekend - she was trying SO hard to get the bike to go on her own, I just knew that the minute those training wheels were on, she was going to be gone. And boy, was I right. She rode that thing all the way through the neighborhood, with Mommy B close behind. Now all she needs to learn is how to stop.

And here I am, about to embark on a new journey, a new chapter in my life... just like Alli did today. Riding a bicycle by yourself is a huge milestone, almost like walking as an infant or getting your driver's license as a teenager. It can be a scary world out there, especially when you are starting something new for the first time. I know that I'm going to need some help from my new colleagues as I begin to navigate the unknown streets of tech startups... and I have feeling it'll be much like having training wheels on myself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


As I mentioned back in January, Mommy B and I are planning on taking more frequent, "smaller" trips this year so that we can include the kiddos and not break the bank. Well, we took our first one this past weekend... only the kids weren't invited. Don't worry, we have plenty of fun planned for them in the coming months. We decided to book a one-night stay in Savannah, Georgia with my younger sister (Aunt Bacon) and her boyfriend Gentry. The two of them have only been dating for a few months so we wanted to take the opportunity to get to know him a little better while taking a short break from real life. And the fact that I have a new job waiting in the wings gave us all the more reason to celebrate.

Saturday morning rolled around and I decided it would be in everyone's best interest to take the kids to SkyZone - or as they call it, "the jumpy place" - to get some energy out before turning them over to my parents for the rest of the day and night. So I packed them up in the car and took them to the indoor trampoline park while Mommy B did our weekly grocery run and packed an overnight bag for the kiddos. The kids loved jumping around with each other and with some of the other kids - but they mostly just ran around as fast as they could without tripping and falling. After everyone was good and tired, we headed home just in time to meet Tatsy at our house who then scooped up the kids and took them over to their house.

For the first time in a long time, the house was eerily quiet without any kids around yet both of us still there. I'm sure the dog was very confused. Once Bacon and Gentry showed up, we piled into her car and headed down the coast. The car ride was filled with good conversation and plenty of laughs - a staple in our family.

We arrived to clouds and some rain with the temperature hovering right around 50 in Savannah. We checked into our hotel room and immediately went searching for late lunch - food, another staple in our family. We basically walked into the first bar/grill we could find and ordered some adult beverages right away. While our food was being prepared, we loosely mapped out our evening's festivities. We had signed up for a haunted pub-crawl that began at 8pm, so we had about five hours to kill beforehand. The consensus was to walk around for a bit right after lunch then head back to the hotel to take it easy for a little bit before we ventured out for the evening. After a mediocre lunch of bar food and a somewhat rude server (he was basically running this dive bar by himself on a Saturday), we walked down River Street and took in a few of the shops and ordered some drinks to go. For anyone that hasn't been to Savannah, "to go" means the bartender will pour your drink into a plastic cup that you can then walk around the streets with. Kind of like Las Vegas, minus the casinos... and desert. We made our way back to the hotel and crashed on the beds for a bit to rest up for the evening's events. But it basically turned into a grown-up giggle-fest. We all took turns trading jokes and making each other laugh - even though Mommy B and Bacon were trying their darnedest to take short naps. This even included Gentry playing a song on his phone from inside the bathroom. Welcome to the family.

I decided that a nap wasn't going to happen, so I got up and started getting ready. Eventually the rest of the group joined me while I played music and sipped a Red Bull. Before we left Charleston and knowing about Savannah's open-container laws, Mommy B had stopped at Walmart and purchased four plastic "yard" cups with shamrocks on the bottom for us to use that evening. At first, I gave her a hard time because I thought everyone was going to make fun of us for celebrating St. Patrick's Day too early... little did I know that those cups would end up being the joke of the night. We finished getting ready, grabbed our cups and headed out the door. We took a picture by our room number so in the event things got really out of hand, we would at least have visual evidence of what room we were staying in. Lessons learned from Grandma C...

The meeting spot for the pub crawl was only a block away from our hotel, so we decided that we would head out a little early and get some drinks next door. While still in the lobby of the hotel, we were asked by two separate groups where we acquired our St. Patty's Day cups. We laughed off their curiosity and told them they could find them at Walmart for $3 each. On our way out the door, I had an idea - each time someone asked us where we got our cups we should take turns making up the craziest story about where to find them, and at the end of the night we vote on who had the best "fake" story. It was unanimously decided that's how the night would go.

We met up with our pub-crawl group and began our drunken trek around Savannah. The stories the guide told were great, but I really wish we could have actually gone into some of the haunted buildings he spoke to us about. Just standing outside being told about how "haunted" the building was didn't really do it much justice. However, with our large yard cups filled to the brim and plenty of inside jokes to go around, we had a great time. In almost every bar we went into, someone had to ask about our cups. We would tell them that we found them in this off-the-map, hole in the wall bar called Shenanigans. It was "like 10 blocks over and 3 blocks up... pretty far." We didn't even know if there was a bar in Savannah with that name, but we made it sound legit to everyone who asked. At one point during the pub crawl, a drunk guy walked up to us and interrupted our guide's ghost story to inquire about the cups. Now that we had the group's full attention, I told him the same story we'd told the rest and he bought it without even questioning us. I turned back to the group and told them that I had just completely made up that story, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Even the tour guide applauded our quick-wit and had the group raise their cups to give us a "Cheers!"

We eventually made our way to the Wild Wings where Gentry was able to meet up with some friends he knew from his home state of South Dakota. As we walked in the door, a woman at a nearby table again inquired about our cups. Gentry blurted out "Shenanigans!" as we walked past her. The woman immediately pulled out her smart phone to access the maps feature and said, "Shenanigans, got it!" We hadn't eaten any dinner yet, so we decided that some late night munchies were in order. As we started plowing through our food, the in-house DJ started playing all our favorite hits from the 90's... all mixed together that had us in an endless nostalgic trance. We took a few videos of ourselves singing along to the songs that we hadn't heard in almost 20 years, yet still somehow remembered the words to. Well, most of the words.

That basically capped off our evening as it was nearing midnight. We tried going up the street to a karaoke bar because we had been promised that Gentry knows how to carry a tune. However, it was crowded with too many other white folks who thought they could sing. So after watching all the moms sing "Let It Go" in unison and about half an hour of waiting, we decided to just head back to the hotel. We made it back safe and sound with all of our belongings, which was a good sign. Once back at the room, we realized that we didn't have any bottled water. So Bacon and Gentry went down to the lobby and returned about 10 minutes later with about 8 bottles of water in their arms. They said, "Well, no one was around at first so we just grabbed these out of an open case that was there. We went to leave money on the counter for them, but then an employee showed up and said, 'You know those are complimentary, right?' So we took our money and came back up. Here ya go." Shenanigans.

We woke up the next morning not that much worse for wear, and treated ourselves to the complimentary breakfast in the lobby. Bacon was amazed to find an automatic pancake maker there, where all she had to do was push a button and a minute later two pancakes plopped out onto a waiting plate. It's the little things in life. After stuffing ourselves, we packed everything up and drove two hours back to Charleston in the rain. The kiddos were napping when we arrived back at the homestead, and Tatsy told us they were so good for them the entire time. We had received a few pictures from her throughout the course of the evening/morning showing us what a good time they were having without us. It's such a good feeling to know that we can both be away from them from time to time and trust they are being well-behaved. The more they are exposed to situations like that, the better off they'll be in the future if we decide to go away for longer periods of time. And of course, a big THANK YOU to my parents who volunteered to watch them for us while we spent some time acting like kids ourselves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More changes

I'm so sorry for neglecting the blog for an entire month. I promised myself I'd be better at posting updates, but you know how life gets in the way. That's a good problem to have, I guess. Speaking of keeping busy, we basically have at least one thing planned for the next four months. But first, let me get caught up on things.

My parents finally closed on the loan to begin building their dream home. As with most home construction projects, they have already started on the foundation and are quickly working their way up. I was off work for President's Day so I took the kiddos over to the lot to watch the concrete trucks come pour the footers. They loved every minute of it - walking around in their mud boots, watching the big truck pump liquid concrete out into the trenches dug in the ground. We went back about a week later and the workers were already putting up the cinder block foundation. I can't wait to see it all take shape and get completed, I have a feeling it'll really be something special.

I took a half day off from work a couple weeks ago because I had a job interview that afternoon, so Mommy B and I decided to do a little "shopping" for ourselves that morning. The first thing we wanted to do was replace the carpet in our master bedroom. It was the original carpet from when the house was built in 2004, and I know the previous owners had small kids running around on it for all those years too. So I did a little research and we met at Carpet Wholesalers in North Charleston to check things out. Within 30 minutes or so, we were walking out having purchased and scheduled our replacement carpet installation - it was such an easy experience. We walked in, told the guy what we were looking for and compared a couple styles and before we knew it were signing the paperwork. They came to our house a couple days later, moved all the furniture, ripped up the old carpet and padding, put down the new and put everything back the way it was... all within a couple of hours. We knew we had made a good decision when that afternoon I caught Aiden sitting on the floor in our bedroom pulling his shoes and socks off. I asked "What are you doing buddy?" He looked up and said, "I want to feel the soft carpet!" The two of them played in our bedroom in their bare feet for the rest of the evening - it was adorable.

Another stop we decided to make that day was at a couple of golf cart distributors. A neighbor of ours had put theirs up for sale the week before, so we took a test drive to see what it was like. The guy had done some work to it - raised body kit, big tires, speed chip, etc. So it was in pretty decent shape, but when I stomped on the brakes to test them out I became extremely concerned. Let's just say it's a good thing it wasn't at an intersection with oncoming cars. So Mommy B and I decided to shop around and see if we could expect the same type of performance from other used golf carts. We weren't really dead-set on making a purchase that day... just wanted to do some research for if and when that time came.

So we pulled into a place off Highway 17 that we drive by all the time to test things out. Less than an hour later, we had purchased ourselves a 2009 EZ-GO RXV in Mommy B's favorite shade of blue. Once again, it was one of the easiest experiences of my life - we walked in, told the guy what we were looking for and he showed us the carts that matched our criteria. We took one for a test drive and noticed that not only was it plenty fast without any modifications necessary but also stopped on a dime. I was sold. We then went back to the shop where the salesman showed us a few of the add-ons we could have added to the cart before it was delivered. So we had two seat belts and a safety bar installed on the back for the kiddos, as well as two armrests/cupholders on the back as well. They also tossed in a rear view mirror and ensured that the cart we received had brand new batteries. They told us to give them a couple days and they would drop it off at the house... so I spent the rest of the afternoon after my interview cleaning out the garage. The guy called me the next morning and said it was ready. I came home from work that day to our new (to us) golf cart sitting in the garage with the kiddos playing on it... just waiting for me to get home so they could go for their first ride. They have loved every minute of it... especially Aiden, asking me all the time to go on a ride.The weather hasn't been great for the last couple of weeks, so we haven't been able to use it quite as much as we would have liked. But we know the spring and summer will be here soon and will be getting plenty of use out of it going to and from the pool and playground in the neighborhood.

In an effort to help fund these latest "splurges", I've decided to quit my job... and get a new one! That's right folks, after over two and a half years at The MIL Corporation, I've decided to accept an offer at a small software start-up here in Charleston called Good Done Great. Not only will I be making significantly more than I currently am at MIL, but they have also included 3,000 in stock options along with my salary package. This will be a great opportunity for me to bring my Project Management knowledge and experience to a small company that is looking to define their processes and form some kind of structure that they can use for their software implementations. I'm very excited to be joining such a cool company at this stage of the game. I have the opportunity to make a very big impact there and hope that my years of experience will suit their needs well. My last day at MIL will be March 10th, the day before my 31st birthday. I don't start at Good Done Great until March 17th, so it looks like I could be getting more stuff done around the house with a few days off to myself... we'll see what Mommy B had on her project list!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting the new year started

What better way to start the new year off but to wrap up the end of last year. Mommy B and I decided to take the kiddos up to Concord, NC and meet Grandma C at Great Wolf Lodge the day after Christmas. This allowed Grandma C to break up her long drive from Ohio and spend some quality time with her babies. For anyone who doesn’t know what GWL is, it’s basically a huge indoor water park/resort... complete with wave pool, slides, arcade, mini bowling alley, and restaurants.

One would think that when you’re taking two small kids to a place like that, how could things not be fun, right? Well, it was a mixed bag. I started getting sick the day we drove up, which I knew wouldn’t bode well for the remainder of our stay (a whole one night). When we first went into the pool area, Alli wasn’t really having it. The numerous “sprayers” on each of the toys somewhat frightened her which made her somewhat avoid things altogether. Aiden seemed to be enjoying himself, so that basically meant that Mommy B stayed in the pool with Aiden and I walked around the rest of the hotel with Alli. That night, they had fun going to “story time” and watching “snow” fall in the lobby with Grandma C. While the kiddos stayed up late in their pajamas, Mommy B and I hit the “grown-up slides” for some fun of our own. Even while battling my impending illness, we had a blast reliving our youth sans kids. We made our way back to our room just in time to help put the kids to sleep, which ended up backfiring as we suspected it might. Alli and I tried to share a pull-out couch in which we could feel almost every individual coil spring… and I felt every single kick of hers. Mommy B tried to get Aiden to fall asleep in the bunk beds with little luck, and she ending up sleeping in four different places throughout the night.

We arose the next morning red-eyed and dragging. I felt pretty terrible, but the kids seemed to be in pretty good spirits. I took the kids to get doughnuts for breakfast while Mommy B rested. I recall telling the lady behind the counter we needed half a dozen doughnuts, a sandwich for me and a coffee for Mommy B. When we got back to the room, Mommy B asked the kids how many doughnuts we got for them. Alli replied, "We got 6 doughnuts, mommy.” I’m not sure if she actually knows what “half a dozen” means or not, but she figured it out. She continues to surprise and impress us on a daily basis. We tried heading back to the pool and this time Alli finally got her sea legs and Aiden wanted held. So once again, Mommy B played in the pool while I walked the other around. Overall, I think the kids had a pretty good time – and Grandma C got us a gift certificate to go back again! I have a feeling that if we call our good friends who live right down the road and have them join with their kiddos (and I avoid getting sick), it’ll be an even better time.

Grandma C then followed us back to Charleston to stay until New Year’s. Also news to us while we had been gone, my brother was coming to town at the end of that week. He’s been deployed in the Navy for the last nine months, so I was looking forward to spending some quality time with him on New Year’s Eve and having the cousins see each other again. Since Mommy B and I had taken most of that week off, we spent lots of time with the kids while I battled a low grade fever and a cough. It was a lot of fun getting to see more family and taking some time off work to spend it with those who are most important.

Our plan for this year is to take a few more “smaller” trips to make more memories with the kiddos. Even though it won’t involve the kids, Mommy B and I are already signed up for the same Marine Corps Mud Run that I participated in back in October – only this one is in April. Along with a return trip to Great Wolf Lodge, we certainly have a few small things planned out so far… with more to come, I’m sure.