Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Budding guitar heroes

Playing Band Hero at Best Buy, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

This is the only reason my girls tolerate going to Best Buy with me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Cuthbert family

New pajamas for Christmas eve, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We didn't send out Christmas cards this year, so a blog post will have to do.

Our family had a wonderful Christmas. Our celebrations stretched out over several days -- from decorating the house, to the party we hosted with Misty's family, to our church's Silent Night worship, to a staff party for the church, to early exchange of presents with Misty's mom, to Christmas day itself, to a post-Christmas visit with my parents in Atlanta.

Being surrounded by friends and family this season, we're reminded of how blessed we are. We hope that your lives have been blessed this year as well.

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All I want for Christmas is...

Sitting with Santa, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We made our annual visit to see Santa at Brookwood Mall this evening.

Kendall's wish list was no surprise. She told him she wants a "big, big dollhouse" and a princess castle. She's been repeating the same two things for months.

Emily, on the other hand, threw us a curve. She told Santa that she wants a bulldog. This is a request she's been repeating as well, but not as a Christmas gift. She is well aware of the restriction we've imposed that we will not get a dog until she's seven. But apparently, Emily thought she could circumvent the waiting period by appeaing to Santa.

"Santa's not going to bring you a bulldog," Misty told her. "I'm sure he doesn't want to break our rule."

Of course, this caused a brief panic from Emily. "But I didn't ask him for anything else!," she said.

I promised her we could e-mail Santa tomorrow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Emily on stage again

Greenwood Elementary held their holiday music program last night. Emily has been practicing her songs for weeks, which included "Sweet Treats" and "Little Angels." She'll stand in front of the fireplace at home and sing for us, then once she gets through with a song she'll say, "Now with motions!," and add in the gestures the kids do during the performance. It's adorable.

Here's video of the songs from the kindergarten classes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cupcake celebration

Fountain at SoHo, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I am loving my new cell phone (which, by the way, is also my first cell phone)! I took this picture with my phone yesterday afternoon at the fountain in front of the courthouse in Homewood. Within seconds, I was able to e-mail it to have it automatically post to my Flickr page. How nifty!

We hung around the fountain waiting for our friends Kiki and Joe to show up with their daughter. Then, after the kids ran around chasing each other and screaming for a few minutes, we all headed over to SoHo Sweets for their ice cream cupcakes, which were part of the "Sweet on a Cure" fundraiser.

The desserts were huge. They had ice cream sandwiched between two layers of cupcake with a generous portion of frosting on top. The girls didn't come close to finishing theirs, and Misty didn't much care for them (she's insane), so I ended up eating my own plus about half of two more. It was a little more than I needed, but they were awesome.

After eating (and some more running around screaming), we took the kids over to Homewood Park where they could run around and scream in a more appropriate environment. Emily ran into a boy from her kindergarten class and proudly showed off her missing tooth. We let the kids play until it got dark, then headed home for dinner. You'd think that after all their activity on the playground that they'd have collapsed into bed, but no such luck. It was a great day, though.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Tooth Fairy is coming tonight!

It's been a busy morning already. The girls woke up around 6:30 and almost immediately had to alert me to the presence of a bug in their bathroom. As scary as they claimed it was, they both kept going in to sneak peeks at it. I went downstairs to kill it, and found that it was indeed a centipede (this kind), just as Emily had guessed.

When Misty got up, she decided to see if she could get Emily's loose tooth out. It's been wiggling ever since we made our trip to Disney World in early September. Misty got out some dental floss (or, as Kendall calls it, "foff") and proceeded to wrap it around Emily's tooth. After only a few seconds of pulling the floss back and forth, the tooth popped right out.

Knowing blood would follow, we immediately made a big show of celebration, cheering, "Hooray! The Tooth Fairy is coming tonight!" It worked, and Emily wasn't too concerned about the blood. She's really proud of her milestone.

Later today, I'm planning to take the girls out for ice cream cupcakes at SoHo Sweets to celebrate. They're participating in the "Sweet on a Cure" program this week, with 100% of proceeds going to benefit the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geek crowd out in full force at Bottletree (and I fit right in)

My friend Hubie drove down from Huntsville last night to meet me for a concert at Bottletree. I'd had no plans to attend the show at all until he asked me if I wanted to go, but it sounded like fun.

Hubie was initially only interested in seeing the opening act, an 8-bit "Nintendo rock" act called I Fight Dragons. However, it seemed kind of silly to drive all that way for only about 30 minutes of music, so we both stayed to the end and enjoyed the entirety of the concert, which also included the hardcore punk-rap act Whole Wheat Bread, and "nerdcore" hip hop artist mc chris.

I'd seen videos from the last time mc chris was in Birmingham, but being there in person really drove home the level of enthusiasm from the crowd. I'd wager that most of my blog's readers have never heard of him, but let me tell you: the kids love them some mc chris.

A review with photos and videos from the show is posted over in my Get On With Your Nightlife blog, but here are a couple videos I didn't include there.

I Fight Dragons - "Zelda" theme, live at Bottletree

mc chris - "IG-88's '57 Chevy" and "Fett's Vette" (unedited versions)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Trick-or-treating through our neighborhood

Halloween night
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Last night was Halloween. In years past, Misty's mom has come over and handed out candy so that we could go out trick-or-treating with our own kids. However, now that she's at the house every weekday watching Kendall, we're trying not to burden her with requests for even more of her time.

Instead, Misty took the girls trick-or-treating through half the neighborhood while I stayed home to answer the door. Then we swapped roles, and I took the girls out to hit the other "half" of the neighborhood (which was much less than half, because by this time, it was getting pretty cold outside, and their candy buckets were getting heavy). When the girls got home, they sorted their candy into piles of what they wanted to keep and what they wanted to offer up as a sacrifice to the Candy Witch (a.k.a. al.com employees). Don't worry though -- they've still got enough to last them until Christmas.

Usually, we don't get too many trick-or-treaters at our house. I've always assumed that this is because our section of the neighborhood does not have sidewalks, so most parents prefer to stick with the areas where walking around at night is safer. Plus, it's not a very big neighborhood to begin with. Anyway, not anticipating a large number of costumed kids at the door, I initially just let them grab a handful of whatever they wanted from our giant bowl of candy. Then a couple of kids took advantage of my "take what you want" suggestion, reaching in numerous times, and I realized we were going to run of treats if these tricksters kept it up, so I began handing out only a couple peices to each kid.

A little while later, while the girls were back at home changing shoes (Cinderella's glass slippers kept falling off -- just like in the story) and putting on jackets, we had a repeat customer. Misty happened to answer the door that time, and though she didn't realize he'd been to the house already, he told her (after his double dip), "I done been by this house before."

We were running low on candy as it was, and now we had kids coming back a second time? Since I'm a stingy old curmudgeon, I set out to put a stop to it. I made sure to answer the next couple doorbell rings myself, and when I saw that the faces on the porch were the same as those who'd initially instigated the Great Candy Conservation Act of 2009, I told them, "You've already been here," and withheld the prized candy bowl. One kid (who was a bit past the typical trick-or-treating age anyway) tried to play it off with, "Oh yeah... I forgot."

Yeah right. You didn't realize that you hadn't already been to the house with four jack-o-lanterns, orange lights twisted up the columns, and flashing purple bats hanging down from above. It's easy to forget.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Daddy-daughter night out

Emily and Meiko, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I took Emily out last night to see a concert from one of her favorite singers, Meiko. Actually, it was a Jewel concert where Meiko was the opening act, but Emily didn't care -- she was only interested in seeing Meiko anyway, and the short six-song set we got to hear was perfect for a 5-year-old's attention span.

We hung out in the lobby for a few minutes after the performance waiting for Meiko to do a meet-and-greet with fans. Emily ended up being first in line and got her picture made with the artist. We also couldn't resist buying a couple of T-shirts for her and Kendall -- they were pink with a dinosaur on them, and they actually had kids' sizes!

We told Meiko that Emily had a younger sister who couldn't come to the concert because she was only 2, but that earlier that afternoon, when I'd played a video from her City Stages appearance, Kendall had recognized the song within two notes and came running over saying excitedly, "That... 'Under My Bed!'" Of course, the singer-songwriter thought that was adorable (who wouldn't?), and asked us to take a picture of the girls wearing their pink dinosaur shirts and send it to her. Apparently, she's just had them printed and hasn't had the opportunity to see any kids wearing them yet.

It was a short night out, but Emily and I enjoyed it. I'd have been happy to stay for Jewel, but I let Emily call the shots, and she wanted to go home. Oh, well... I've seen Jewel before at Lilith Fair. This time I'll have to settle for the concert review.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack-o-lanterns carved with sincerity

Jack-o-lanterns, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We carved jack-o-lanterns last night. Kendall's is the one one left; Emily's is on the right. Misty did most of the carving and design, though. The girls and I just scooped the seeds and other goop out of the pumpkins.

Last year we carved our pumpkins too early, and by the time Halloween arrived, the faces had sunken in. Surely we won't suffer the same fate this year, having waiting until only two days before Halloween.

After carving, we sat in front of the TV for another time-honored Halloween tradition -- watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lunch time with zombies; brains served cold

When zombies attack, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

During my lunch break today, I headed over to UAB's campus to witness their annual Zombie Walk. It was much more exciting than sitting at my desk to eat.

Here's a slideshow of my photos from the event and also a short video I put together chronicling the zombie attack.

Zombies Attack at UAB

Luckily I arrived back at work with my brain still intact and uninfected by the zombie virus.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Homewood Trunk-or-Treat

With Misty still potentially contagious, I took Emily and Kendall to Trunk-or-Treat at church last night. It broke Misty's heart to miss the event, but we were sure other parents wouldn't want us to risk having her around their kids. She reminded me several times that I was to let the other folks who work in the church office know that she has walking pneumonia.

The girls and I had a fun time. Emily went as Snow White, and Kendall went as Cinderella. The two of them were remarkably well-behaved. They never ran off, and didn't get into their candy without checking with me first. We hung out with the members of our Core group for much of the evening. Emily paired up with Tatum (who was also dressed as Snow White), while Kendall was glued to Ashlyn (who was dressed as Belle). It was cute to see all the princesses walking around holding hands.

I tried to take plenty of pictures for Misty. As we were browsing through them on the Wii later on, Emily alerted us to trouble in the kitchen. Kendall had broken her streak of staying out of the candy, and now had four things open at once and was going to town.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Earning a night out

I had a busy day yesterday. Misty had been feeling sick, so she went to the doctor in the morning. While she was gone, I made breakfast for the girls, cleaned the bathroom sinks, scrubbed the toilet, vacuumed, swept the kitchen floor, and washed two loads of laundry. Then Misty returned from the doctor to report that she has walking pneumonia. I wasn't surprised, since she's had a come-and-go wheezing cough at night for over a month now. She'd been to the doctor about it before, but it never quite got cleared up, and now it was accompanied by a sore throat and fever.

Misty did her best to tune the girls out and get some rest. Sometimes, though, it's like they can sense that you really need quiet, and they respond with the opposite. They came out in the yard with me and ran around playing and screaming while I mowed the lawn.

After a full day's work around the house, it made it easier for me to get away with going out at night to Bottletree to see A Fine Frenzy. I'd bugged Misty for weeks about going with me (she's usually not a fan of live concerts), and I think she would have really liked the music if she hadn't gotten sick. I enjoyed the show, but it's just not the same standing there by yourself.

A Fine Frenzy - 'The Minnow and the Trout,' live at Bottletree

Here are a few more videos from the concert.

After the show, I took a moment to talk to Josh Joplin, who was one of the opening acts with the band Among the Oak & Ash. I'd wanted to tell him that his song, "Camera One," was one I listened to a lot when I was going through a rough time about seven years ago, and it had made me feel better. He thanked me for sharing.

I think it's a wonderful thing about music that even if a song doesn't mean that much to the artist, it can mean a great deal to someone else (which is one of the themes of a Nick Horbny novel I just finished called Juliet, Naked). In this case, the song was rather important to Josh, as he told me, it was a turning point in his career that helped enable him to be doing what he's doing today.

Here are a couple videos from his set.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wild Things, you make my heart sing

Princesses of all wild things, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Since Emily didn't feel well when Misty and I attended the "Wild Rumpus Party" last weekend, we returned to McWane Science Center last night for a "Wild Things Camp-In." Basically, you eat dinner at the cafeteria, see the movie on IMAX, play in the museum after hours, and spend the night there.

I didn't care much for the movie, and neither did the girls (Kendall said it was too scary, and Emily just kept asking, "Can we go play now?" and fell asleep during the last 20 minutes). We did have fun hanging around McWane late at night, though. The girls decorated crowns and got to pet a chinchilla (they skipped touching the snake and hissing cockroach). There weren't too many people there, so it was like having the place to yourself. With no lines, I finally got a chance to ride the High Cycle (it wasn't bad, but I wasn't about to look down).

We didn't make it to the overnight part, though -- as it got later, the girls were getting pretty cranky, and I wasn't quite ready to stay up until the designated lights-out time of 11:30, either. Luckily, all the girls really cared about was playing in the museum, so they didn't object to going home early.

Here are a few more photos from the Wild Things Camp-In.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No willpower

Super-size m&m's XXL
Originally uploaded by bettybl
I've aways wanted a candy jar on my desk to fill with M&M's, but I can see now it would be a bad idea.

Initially, my reasoning for avoiding it was that, years ago, a friend of mine had such a jar on her desk at work. I don't remember what she kept in it, but it was always depleted rapidly by co-workers. I didn't want to buy a bunch of candy just to have everyone else eat it.

As it turns out, my coworkers aren't the ones I should be worried about.

Yesterday while I was at CVS getting Excedrin, I also picked up a big 12.6 oz. bag of Peanut M&M's for myself. Supposedly it has eight servings inside, but I'm not sure it's going to last me half that. So, not only would my unchecked consumption make my candy jar initiative costly, but since each serving of M&M's (which I'm effectively doubling) has 220 calories and 17% of one's daily fat intake, it could also proove debilitating.

P.S. I wish they didn't make blue M&M's.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Date night with Indian food and theatrics

Misty and I had a nice date last night. We ate an early dinner at Taj India where they were celebrating the Festival of Lights for Diwali, then we went to the BJCC Concert Hall to see the musical version of The Color Purple.

Our food was wonderful. I liked it better than Silver Coin, but Misty disagreed (she merely thought it was wonderful). My favorites included the eggplant, naan bread, chicken flavored with apricots, and of course, the desserts. By the time we were finishing, the restaurant was getting so packed that people were hovering over our table. I guess it's a popular destination during Diwali.

Our experience at the theatre was memorable too, if not for the production (which was very good), than at least for the uncivilized behavior of people around us. I could not believe how poorly some folks acted during the show.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

iDon't, but Droid Does

I like this commercial.

Since I own a phone powered by Google's Android operating system, I'm glad to see it getting a marketing push. However, the ad did lead me to question my own phone, T-Mobile's MyTouch 3G. Mine doesn't have a "real keyboard" (though I like this -- the T-Mobile G1 slide-out keyboard seemed clunky and frustrating to me); mine doesn't take 5-megapixel pictures (though 3.2 megapixels is still better than iPhone, and it's plenty for me); mine doesn't have a flash... The MyTouch is only a few months old... T-Mobile isn't planning to release an updated phone already, are they? That would be something Apple would do.

But close scrutiny of the ad reveals the fine print, "DRIOD is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies. Used under license. Copyright 2009 Verizon." Whew! So it's Verizon's new phone. There are two good things about that: One is that I won't be annoyed with an on-the-heels release from T-Mobile. But more importantly, with Verizon also utilizing the Android OS, it brings stronger competition for the iPhone. I'm not anti-iPhone -- they're very cool devices -- but the more attention Android gets, the more apps (and better apps) we'll see available for the MyTouch.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our visit to the pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We drove the girls up to Hayden, Alabama yestday to visit The Great Pumpkin Patch. It was cold and windy outside, but we still managed to have a good time.

We rode the hay ride out to the field to pick out our pumpkins. The girls enjoyed traipsing through the patch and examining each speimen to see if it met with their strict standards. Their standards weren't very high, of course -- Emily wanted to find a big one, and Kendall wanted to find a little one -- it was Misty and I who had to veto a number of selections that had holes or were rotten.

Once the girls settled on their pumpkins, we rode back with and let Emily play on the inflatables for a while. Kendall claimed she wanted to play, but retreated with fear almost immediately. Instead, Kendall opted for a pony ride. She almost backed out of that too, but once she realized Misty could walk alongside her, all was OK. She was so proud to be sitting on that pony, riding around in a circle.

Here are more pictures from our pumpkin patch adventure.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Let the wild rumpus start!

Misty and I attended last night's "Wild Rumpus Party" at the McWane Science Center celebrating the debut of "Where the Wild Things Are" on IMAX. Unfortunately, on our way to the event, Emily started feeling sick and said she thought she was going to throw up. We turned around and brought her to Misty's mom's house where Kendall was already staying (she said she didn't want to see the movie because "Max is mean").

We had a good time at the party, but not nearly as much fun as we'd have had if the girls had been with us. The decorations the museum had put together to coincide with the movie were really cool, and we saw a surprising number of kids dressed up as characters from the "Wild Things" story. Misty and I worked on a scavenger hunt for snippets of quotes from the book -- some of which I already knew from having read it so many times to the girls.

However, the real reason I was there was to record video interviews kids as they finshed watching the movie. It was so noisy in there (especally because there was a howling contest where you could measure your decibel level) that I thought the audio portion would be useless, but it turned out just fine. Here's what I put together.

Kid critics review 'Where the Wild Things Are'

Misty and I didn't stay for the movie ourselves. We didn't feel right about seeing it without Emily. The upside of her sudden illness, though, is that now we're planning to attend next weekend's "Wild Things Camp-In" at McWane -- and I think we can convince Kendall to go too if she hears that she can stay all night at the museum. That should be a really fun time.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Misty's new job

Misty received her first paycheck today from her new job. It arrived on time, and it didn't bounce! For most people, those sorts of things are taken for granted, but in her situation such stability is a relief.

She's now working as a ministry assistant at our church -- a job she was offered mere minutes after turning over her final time sheet along with files and other equipment to her former employer. This new job is such a blessing for our family, and especially for Misty. Every day since she started Misty has come home and told me how much she loves working there.

All of a sudden, she's in a job that offers her health insurance, paid sick days, a retirement plan, paid vacation time, steady hours, and regular pay. She's working with people she already loves and respects (which, of course, is why we go to church there). And she's not taking any of that for granted.

Plus, she has her own office -- which Misty has also reminded me about nearly every day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Goodbye, Disney annual passes; we'll miss you

Last week we made our fifth and final trip to Disney World since purchasing annual passes last September. It's sad to see them expire, and there was much temptation to renew them at a discounted rate with three bonus months, but we held strong to our plan and let them go.

We had a wonderful time at the parks this past week. It was our longest trip yet -- eight days and seven nights. We've been there enough times that we know which things we do and don't want to do. We know which rides or characters you should skip if the line is too long (and we know what too long is). We know the layout of the parks without having to consult the maps. We know where the best places are to get the most out of your dining dollar. We're comfortable with leaving after a few hours and going back to our hotel for a nap. All of that makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable time at a place that, for some, can be more stressful than it is fun.

But best of all, on this trip, we tried out a lot of things we'd never managed to fit in before. We visited the Hall of Presidents (and saw the new addition of Barack Obama -- even Emily gasped in awe when the curtain opened up to reveal all 44 animatronic characters), rode the Liberty Belle riverboat, explored Tom Sawyer Island, rode the Carousel of Progress, saw Finding Nemo the Musical, packed in for Fantasmic (a big let down, if you ask me), and lined up along the street for Spectromagic (hands-down the best parade).

Emily was finally big enough to ride Expedition Everest (she rode it 5 times), Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (once was enough for her), and Mission Space (she loved it). She also had multiple turns on Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Star Tours, and Test Track. She's turned into quite a little thrill seeker.

Kendall, in the meantime, just made it over the height requirement for Goofy's Barnstormer, though she did not enjoy her first mini-coaster experience (she's more partial to It's a Small World).

We met the fairies of Pixie Hollow, the characters from Winnie the Pooh, the cast of "Up," the "stepmothers" (as Kendall calls them) from "Cinderella," and a number of other characters. The face characters (those without costumed heads) really got into their roles and played it up for the girls.

Kendall and Drizella
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
We ate twice at Boma (our favorite restaurant), watched giraffes and wildebeast outside our window at Sanaa, watched belly dancing at Marrakesh (and Emily joined in), watched fish swim by at the Coral Reef, and had a wild time at Whispering Canyon Cafe. The food is always one of our favorite parts of the trip.

Here's a huge set of photos from our vacation.

I'm not sure when we'll get to return to Disney World, now that Emily is in school (they granted her an excused absence, but I don't expect that to continue happening). Plus with Misty's new job starting, she won't have as much time granted for vacations for a while. Nevertheless, our run was a blast while it lasted. I'm looking forward to our next trip, whenever that may be.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Vacation off to a grim start

Misty called me today, very upset, and told me, "I need you to leave work right now. I was just in a bad car wreck." These were grim words that no husband wants to hear, but I was out the door minutes later, headed to pick up Emily from school. Once I gathered Emily (who was in a very cheerful mood), I cautiously explained to her what had happened. She wanted to know if Mommy and Kendall were dead, and I explained that no, they were OK. It was so sad to hear her concern over something like that.

Since we were right by our State Farm office, I stopped in there to go ahead and get things rolling with insurance. I also used their phone to call Misty for an update (because even in 2009, I still don't have a cell phone). She wasn't able to tell me much because she was speaking to the police, but I learned that she'd hit someone else from behind, and she said her car was totaled.

Emily and I got back in my car and went to pick up Misty and Kendall from the scene of the accident. When we got there, the police officer was just finishing up paperwork with Misty, and the car had already been towed. Misty was visibly shaken, but seemed OK for the most part. She said that her nose hurt from where the airbag had hit her, but she didn't think it was broken. Kendall had a cut on her leg, but it wasn't anything major -- it had already scabbed over on its own (how she actually got cut is beyond me). I still haven't seen the car, but the officer shared his opinion that it would probably be considered totaled.

We piled the things Misty had snatched from her car into my trunk, and drove back to State Farm. Since we're supposed to be leaving for vacation this weekend, we were concerned about getting things in order as quickly as possible. Unfortunatly, we learned that our insurance does not cover a rental car (we've added it now, and the cost was next to nothing, but it won't do us any good this time). Now we're debating whether we drive my car (which is even smaller than Misty's) to Orlando or if we shell out the money for a rental.

It's not the best way to start out our vacation, obviously, but I'm trying to look on the bright side. While we're away, Misty has no need for her car, so at least she's not burdened in getting to work. In the hopes that the car can be repaired, the auto shop can be working on it while we're gone. Hopefully, our vacation will also help Misty take her mind off the trauma and stress of the accident. We'll see.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brick by brick: The quest for Lego Vulcan

This was the scene this morning as the girls and I lined up at the Galleria for the grand opening of Alabama's first Lego store. The store has actually been open for a couple weeks already, but today they were giving out exclusive Birmingham-themed Lego sets to the first 300 customers spending $35 or more. Thus, the line you see here.

We arrived early by accident. I thought the store would open at 9 a.m., so we got there around 8:30. A few minutes later, we realized that they weren't supposed to open until 10:00. If I'd realized that, I'd have either come a little later or at least not brought Kendall along. At least we got a good place in line, though (you can see Emily in the picture above just where the ropes start).

Despite being anxious and bored, the girls were both real troopers. The Lego employees brought out catalogs for us to browse through, but most of the time we just waited, peering through the window at all the nifty Lego creations inside.

When the doors finally opened, the flood of customers inside was almost instantaneous. We walked immediately to pick up the set we'd selected, picked up a green base plate to go along with it, and turned to look at the key chains for a moment (I currently have a Lego Spider-Man key chain, but all his paint has rubbed off and he's missing an arm). By the time we looked up though, there were already 30 people in line in front of us -- way more than were in front of us for the line into the store. These folks were fast.

As we joined the line, Emily decided all of a sudden that she needed to go to the bathroom. By this time though, the line outside the store waiting to get in had trippled in size -- I knew if we left now, we were likely to miss being one of the first 300. Praying that she didn't wet her pants, I asked Emily to hold it. She danced around for a while, making the most of the drama, until I finally told her to just wander around the store on her own. "You can go anywhere in the store you want," I told her, "and you can look at anything you want. Just don't leave the store, and don't take anything off the shelves." It worked. Her self-guided adventure distracted her enough to forget about her need for the potty, and the store was small enough that I could always see her.

Lego Vulcan!
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Finally we made it to the counter, paid for our Lego set, and got our free bag of parts to build a Lego Vulcan. Our trip was officially a success.

As we were leaving, we ran into several people we knew. It seems that my friends love Legos too (though some tried to pin their reason for being their on their kids, I knew the truth). Kendall also insisted that we stop by the Disney Store. Emily agreed, even though she hadn't made it to the bathroom yet, because, after all, it's the Disney Store. We managed to make it through there without buying anything, though.

When we got home, I put together our little Lego Vulcan. He's multi-colored instead of all grey like the real statue, but the colors help distinguish different features that would otherwise not show up. Some have asked me, too, if Lego Vulcan's bare butt is showing, like the real Vulcan statue atop Red Mountain. Alas, the answer is "no." But maybe I can do something about that with a few different Lego bricks.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Elementary school dance moves

Emily attended her first school dance tonight. That's right -- a school dance... in kindergarten. It was a fundraiser for the elementary school, though -- nothing too strange. She and Kendall were both really excited about the event, counting down the days until they got to dress up fancy.

When we got there, we ate pizza in the cafeteria and met another girl from Emily's class who was there with her mother and little sister (who was 2, just like Kendall). Once the girls started racing around the lunch room though, we knew it was time to herd them into the gymnasium where the real action was taking place.

Despite the fact that the decorations consisted of a single string of white lights strung across the edge of a stage, Emily stopped short at the doorway and gasped, "It's gorgeous!" If only we'd known sooner, putting up Christmas decorations could have been a lot easier.

Overall, the dance was a pretty low-key event, but the kids sure had fun. There's nothing like a bunch of 5- to 10-year-olds cutting lose on the dance floor with no inhibitions. Misty shot some video because the kids were just cracking us up.

We stuck around for about an hour while our girls danced along to such age-appropriate pop tunes as "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" and "Womanizer." Oh, well -- the kids don't pay any attention to the lyrics, anyway (I hope). At one point, Emily broke away from dancing with Kendall and busted out some wild choreography that made us question just how much sugary soda she'd had to drink. Observe...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flaming Lips concert in Atlanta

Last night I experienced my second Flaming Lips concert -- this time at Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta. The photo above gives a feel for what the atmosphere is like at a Flaming Lips show -- insane. And with tickets in the direct center of the third row, I was right in the thick of it all.

My friend Yancey joined me for the trip over to Atlanta. We hit some heavy rain on the way, so unfortunately we arrived a bit late and missed most of the opening performance by Stardeath & White Dwarfs. We did catch their last song, though -- a cover of Madonna's "Borderline."

Next up was the instrumental band Explosions in the Sky. I'd heard of them before and even listened to a few of their songs on their MySpace page, but seeing them live turned me into a fan. These guys were amazing. I only wish I'd kept my video recorder running a couple more minutes (there was a lull in the song, and I thought it was finished, but they unleashed a fervor of splendid noise a few moments after I hit the stop button).

Before The Flaming Lips took the stage, lead singer Wayne Coyne came out to address the audience. He explained that in order to make possible his usual walk across the heads and hands of the crowd inside his "space bubble," we'd need to cram as many people as possible into the center asile. Luckily, Yancey and I were already right there.

A few minutes later, the show began, and each member of the band emerged from the center of a giant screen and took his place on stage. Wayne then appeared inside the space bubble, and after it inflated, he rolled right across our heads.

Upon Wayne's return to the stage, an army of costumed characters joined the ensemble, the band launched into "Race for the Prize," and a jubliant pandemonium ensued. Streamers launched into the air, confetti rained down, and dozens of huge balloons were tossed into the crowd to bounce up and down. It was fantastic.

I considering making the subtitle of the video something like: "Why my friends need to pay better attention on Facebook when I say things like, 'I'm ordering tickets for The Flaming Lips concert. Anybody interested in joining me?'" Several of my friends bemoaned the fact that they were missing out on the show before it took place. But, seriously, after watching these videos, you're jealous now too, aren't you? You don't have to be familiar with the music to have a good time at an event like this.

Instead of recording a large portion of the concert (like I did at City Stages), I opted instead to simply enjoy myself and soak up the atmosphere. However, I did pull out the Flip camera one more time to record one of Emily's favorites, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song."

Emily was sad that she didn't get to go to the concert with me, but it was a school night (and as it turned out, considering our seats, she wouldn't have been able to see anyway). Yancey and I had a great time, though.

I must commend The Flaming Lips, not only for putting on such fun performances, but also for the general care they show their fans. When we bought our concert tickets, the band gave us three free MP3s of songs from their upcoming album and another three free MP3s of selected B-sides. When we left Chastain Park, they had people handing out concert posters to everyone (which would typically cost $10 or $20). Best of all, in a few days they'll be sending us a free downloadable recording of the entire concert so we can relive the experience again and again. That's a band that loves its fans. And we love them back.

Here's a slideshow of my photos from the concert.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I have a new job: Uncle

Miriam rests atop her mommy, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Yesterday I became an uncle. My brother Jeff and his wife Kim are now the proud parents of a little girl named Miriam.

They never had a clear ultrasound where the baby's gender could be determined with certainty, but some over-the-counter home test they did had them leaning toward the assumption that they'd be bringing a boy home from the hospital. Obviously it wasn't as accurate as Misty's homemade gender-prediction test, where she peed into a cup of Draino. We're glad Miriam turned out to be a girl, though.

What a beautiful baby!

Kindergarten update: The sun will come out tomorrow

When we picked Emily up from school, she was sitting out front with all the other kids. She saw us but didn't get up. Instead she made a face and turned back around. We waited a couple minutes, but she continued to sit there. I was hoping this was because she simply didn't want to leave her new friends. Wrong!

Upon asking Emily how her first day of kindergarten went, she immediately got weepy and said, "kind of horrible."

It seems that their class did not get to play on the playground today (big surpise -- it was both hot and wet from rain). Worse, Emily did not get to look in the classroom treasure chest today (from what I understand, only one student per day gets to pick something from the chest). She also reported that a boy spit at her hair (raspberry) and another boy threatened to rip her leg off during nap time (I don't know what that kid's problem was).

Nevertheless, she's excited about going back tomorrow, so something must have gone right.

Misty and I looked over the syllabus for the class' first nine weeks, and it's all stuff that Emily knows how to do already. I'm not too disappointed by that. At least it confirms that we're doing things right at home, and I know they'll move on to more advanced topics soon enough, once the teachers assess what each student is capable of.

One thing's for sure, though: The girls in Emily's class are going to have to stick together -- there are only five of them, while there are fourteen boys.

After school, we went over to Misty's mom's house where Kendall had been spending the day. Cathy and Aunt Wanda were also visiting, and all of us celebrated the first day of kindergarten with pizza and cupcakes. As you can see, Kendall really got into hers.

Emily's first day of kindergarten

Emily started kindergarten today. She's been very excited about school, and didn't show any reservations about it.

We got to visit on Monday, when she met her teacher, Ms. Veitch, and was able to explore her classroom. It's bright and colorful, of course, and Emily was excited that there was a reading area with big pillows and loads of books, organized by subject (animals, nature, fairy tales, seasons, etc.). She and I sat and read a couple books while Misty got paperwork completed. I was so proud of our little girl -- she was polite to her teacher and friendly to the other kids who came in for orientation at the same time. She's already made friends with a little girl named Abby who'll be sitting at the same table.

Today Emily started off with a good breakfast -- mini blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs, and a homemade fruit smoothie. She got dressed in her new outfit, and put on her clear backpack (which I think looks preposterously large for a girl her age) that Misty spent yesterday decorating up all fancy. We took a few pictures outside the house and then headed off to school.

The road was super-busy, but since I typically leave for work at 6:30 a.m., I'm not sure if it was back-to-school traffic of just regular going-to-work traffic. Either way, it took about 15 minutes to get to school.

We walked inside to where the kindergarten kids will wait in the hallway each day until they're called into their classroom. All the other parents were there too, so it was pretty crowded. When Emily's class was called in, Ms. Veitch showed her where to hang up her backpack each day. She then led Emily to her table where Abby was already sitting waiting and smiling.

Misty managed to hold it in most of the morning, but once Emily got into her classroom, the tears really started to flow. I don't think it's made things any easier that for the past year and a half, Emily's been at home with her. But that's what mom's do -- they cry when they realize that their babies are growing up. As for us dads -- we're crying on the inside.

Here are some more pictures from today's big event. I can't wait to hear what Emily has to tell us about her first day when she gets home.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Lazy Saturday afternoon

Ever the loving wife, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Misty and I went on a tubing trip down the Cahaba River today with Fresh Air Family. We both agreed that it's one of the best events we've attended with the group. The water was the perfect temperature, and the trip was so relaxing.

At a few points along our route, the water rushed over rocks and there would be a sudden drop or surge where you'd smack your bottom on a rock, but most of the time, if you saw those areas coming, you could prepare yourself well enough to cushion the blow. Nothing too intense, really -- the occasional surges were fun. Misty came away with a couple of bruises, and I got sunburned on my arms and legs, but it was well worth it.

I took the risk of bringing along our camera, double sealing it in Ziploc bags. Here's a slideshow of our photos from the trip, or you can view the entire Fresh Air Family group set.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Breakfast in bed isn't always what it's cracked up to be

Misty was delivered breakfast in bed this morning by our 5-year-old daughter. Upon waking her mother, Emily presented Misty with a glass of water and a sandwich made from two pieces of bread with an Oreo Fun Stix and some peanuts inside.

She made one for Kendall, too, who looked at it and said, "What this on my bread?"

"Roll it up," Emily told Misty. "It looks like it would be kind of nasty, but it's actually really good once you start chewing it."

Misty told me on the phone, "She was wrong."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dad gets left behind for a girls-only beach trip

Once Misty was convinced that I'd recovered from my surgery enough to take care of myself, she and the girls left me at home and took a trip to Orange Beach. Misty's friend Jennifer has a condo there, so for a few days Emily and Kendall got to play with her daughters Shelby and Josie.

They called me before they even reached the condo, and Emily was already declaring it the best beach ever (she'd seen the giant Ferris Wheel at The Wharf).

Even though they referred to it as a "beach" trip, they didn't really see much of the beach. Most of their time was spent at the pool and the water park. What little sand they saw came from a few feet at the bay, heavily trafficked with boats. They did find a batch of baby crabs under a pier though, and had fun hunting for more with nets.

Here's a slide show of pictures from their trip. While it's not the best photo in the group, the one below is my favorite because it's Kendall talking to me on the cell phone.

Talking to Dad, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

When the girls got home, they were really sweet to me, asking how I was feeling and being careful not to hug me around my waist. I was glad to have them home -- I really missed them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A night out alone is better than a night at home alone

With the girls all at the beach this week, it's been quiet at home. Last night though, rather than sit by myself watching TV, I went out to WorkPlay to catch Wild Sweet Orange's final concert (of sorts). It was a great performance as usual, and the crowd really got into it.

In addition, it was a real treat to see Duquette Johnston & the Rebel Kings as the night's opening act. I'd seen Johnston perform solo a couple years ago at Vulcan AfterTunes, but never with a band. They're yet another gem in the Birmingham music scene.

Here are a couple videos I shot from the show.

The Rebel Kings - 'Syphilis,' live at WorkPlay

Fans join Wild Sweet Orange on stage for 'I'm Coming Home'

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dancing up a storm

As I mentioned, Misty and I attended a wedding this past Saturday. Our friends Regina and Nick tied the knot at a very cool ceremony at WorkPlay.

Here was the highlight of the evening.

Regina and Nick's Big Dance from Mark Five Productions on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recovering from hernia surgery

Tomorrow I return to work, having come to the end of a week off recovering from my hernia surgery. Monday's operation went well, I suppose -- I wasn't awake for most of it. I do remember at one point my doctor coming into the room and talking to me, and I asked him who he was. It wasn't because I didn't remember him, but because I couldn't see. The nurses prepping me made me take my contacts out, but not knowing this rule ahead of time, I hadn't brought a case to put them in. The nurses solved that problem by giving me a pair of urine sample cups (which they insisted were sterile) in which I could store my contacts. Yes, folks, that's the sort of specialized care you get from St. Vincent's.

Misty was kind enough to film me just before and after surgery, since the girls had requested that I leave them a message. They were expecting something along the lines of the YouTube sensation "David After Dentist," so I tried to humor them.

Ah yes, thank you for that, Misty.

Actually, Misty took excellent care of me for the first few days while I remained mostly stationary on the couch upstairs. It was very comforting to know that she had everything under control -- from doling out my medicine, to refilling my ice packs, to bringing me things to eat. I was told I shouldn't lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee for two weeks, and I'm happy to oblige because it really does hurt when I exert myself to even small degrees.

Monday wasn't too bad. Mostly I was just sore. It felt like I'd done about a thousand sit-ups.

Tuesday was when the pain really set in and I could feel my incision.

Wednesday seemed to be a little better, but by that point I was keeping myself well medicated, so who knows?

Thursday I finally noticed the swelling subside. I was able to remove my bandages, and that pretty much freaked me out, seeing my incisions. The surgeon had explained that I'd had two "tiny little cuts" along my abdomen, but these things are three and a quarter inches long each! Of course, this is also the guy who told me that they'd be knocking me out with the same drugs Michael Jackson had been taking.

When the girls returned home (they'd been staying with Misty's mom) they were both really sweet, giving me gentle hugs and telling me how much they missed me. I showed Emily my incisions, whereupon she did a smooth Keanu Reeves impression with her response of "Whoa." Kendall then ran over and said, "Daddy, show me you blood!"

Taking note of how slowly I was moving around, Emily suggested that I should get myself a cane. "Like Mimi," she said. Ah yes, thank you, my dear daughter. "They have some fancy ones at CVS," Emily explained. She offered to help me pick one out and even to decorate it.

I tried watching some SpongeBob with the girls, but I had to stop because it hurts too much to laugh. It also hurts to cough, blow my nose, or, God forbid, sneeze. I sneezed once and it felt like someone had jabbed a knife into my abdomen.

Every so often, I'm still feeling pinches of pain along my incision, and sometimes I'll feel like I have a cramp on my sides. Most of the time though, the pain just feels like a dull ache in my testicles -- which is the reason I went to get this corrected in the first place. But then I'll check with my boys, and they say, "No, no... It's not us. We're fine." They suggest instead, "Maybe that doctor inserted a second pair of testicles into your abdomen, and they're being slowly strangled by your intestine." "Yes," I realize, "that's exactly what it feels like."

Saturday evening, Misty and I went to a wedding, and it was the first time all week that I'd worn pants. That in itself was an effort. Things went OK, but after a few hours, I felt worn out. Today I felt well enough to drive myself to Sam's to get my car battery replaced. Hopefully by easing into things, I'll be set for work in the morning. If not, I'm sure no one at the office will mind if I just sit at my desk pantless.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A distraction when it was needed most

This one stung a bit
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
With my hernia surgery scheduled for tomorrow it's likely I would have spent all day today worrying about it, were it not for a gracious invitation by Mike and Lori Ermert for our church CORE Group to spend the day at their house on Smith Lake. As such, the event happened to work out as the perfect distraction for me, and our families had a blast.

Our day began with a brief devotional, and Mike, gearing the lesson toward the kids in the group, recounted the story of Jesus walking on water. When Jesus called to him, Peter also briefly walked across the water, until doubt entered his mind and he began to sink.

"What should we learn from this?," Mike asked the group.

"Always wear a life jacket," was the response from one of the kids.

Our mini-service even included Communion. We passed around a plate containing a large wafer, each of us breaking off a tiny piece, just like during "real" church. When it got to Misty though, Kendall, who was in her lap, picked up the whole wafer and began to chow down. So Kendall had her first Communion, of sorts.

The rest of the day was filled with fun -- swimming, playing and eating plenty of good food. Kendall rode a jet ski, and eventually Emily decided she wanted to try it, too. Yet despite the prodding of the other girls her age, Emily was not about to participate in being dragged behind the boat on a float, nor would Kendall allow me to let go of her long enough for me to try it. I did jump off the top of the dock several times though. My excessive splashdowns already made me plenty sore, so maybe I won't notice too much after tomorrow's surgery.

I'm so glad our group got to spend the day together at the lake. I, for one, was getting tired of all the "young marrieds" CORE Groups showing us up with their tales of adventure in their blogs and their photo galleries on Facebook, while the activities of our "married with young children" group tend to gravitate toward the playground. Not today, though. Today we laughed and cheered as Lance Lowery went water skiing, John Lyda did the Moonwalk in midair, and all sorts of other great memories to cherish.

How ya like that, young marrieds?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Two for the price of one

Today was not a very productive day at work. Early in the morning, I headed over to St. Vincent's to meet with a surgeon and schedule hernia surgery. The meeting didn't go as I'd hoped.

As it turns out, I have not one, but two hernias. The one of the right is severe enough that I can see it protruding from my abdomen, the surprise hernia on the left is smaller and hasn't yet worked its way out.

The operation normally takes about 30 minutes, but it'll be twice as long with my "bilateral inguinal herniae." So I'll be out for about an hour. That's scary. Recovery time will supposedly be about the same, but the pain may be greater, and I won't be able to favor one side over the other.

While talking with the doctor, I inquired as to how they'd put me to sleep for the surgery. His response was "Have you ever heard of Michael Jackson?"

I wasn't much in the mood for that, so I responded to his poor humor with my own sarcasm. "No, not this week," I said.

"Well he was taking a drug called diprivan, and that's what we'll give you," the doctor told me. What a wonderful bedside manner this guy has.

"Since that's what supposedly killed him," I said, "I'm not sure that's the best track to go when explaining the anesthesia process to patients."

My surgery is scheduled for a week from today. Oh, and did I mention?... Two hernias!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Living with a hernia

This is a story I've kept mostly to myself for a while, but as it's now played out into something tangible, I thought I'd share it in the hopes that it may benefit someone else going through the same thing.

Several months back, I'd been having testicular pain. Not severe, and not constant -- it was dull and usually occurred only when I walked for extended distances (half a mile or so). Mostly it just felt like I needed to adjust myself (like you always see baseball players do), only the adjustments never had any effect. It went on long enough that I decided to get it checked out. As any guy will tell you, it's not a place where you want to experience even an occasional dull ache. I didn't notice any swelling and couldn't feel any lumps, but I went in for a screening for testicular cancer. My doctor thought it was more likely an infection (not an STD). It's hard to flush out any problems in that area, he pointed out, because of the way it's designed to have minimal blood flow, so something can stick around for a long time. I took some medicine for a few weeks that was supposed to help out. In the meantime, my doctor also set me up for an ultrasound, which turned out all clear.

It was hard to know if the pain had gone away with the medicine, because as I said, it wasn't that frequent or that severe to begin with. However, one day a couple months ago, I looked down as I was drying off from my shower and noticed a bulge on the right side of my abdomen. I'd read that a hernia could cause testicular pain, so I thought that might be what the bulge was. But like a typical male, I put off going to the doctor. It wasn't that I was afraid to go, but I knew we had our Disney trip coming up, and then I'd be slammed at work with City Stages, so I didn't want to be told I needed an operation that would incapacitate me.

Today I finally went to see my doctor about the bulge. He looked at it for less than 2 seconds and said, "Yep, that's a hernia." He explained that it's a weakness in the lining of the abdomen that could have been there since birth. Anything from lifting heavy objects to constipation can weaken the spot further so that the intestines begin to protrude from there. It could have been something I'd done 10 years ago that's only shown up now, he told me.

I'm meeting with a surgeon next week. On the plus side, it's something that I can get fixed at my own convenience, but I don't see much point in waiting around any longer.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Too hot to hike

Kendall in the garden
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Today's hike with Fresh Air Family was very hot. That was pretty much the key factor of the event -- not flowers or trees or wildlife -- all you could think about was how hot and humid it was outside.

We visited the University of Alabama Arboretum for a short tour. It seemed fairly small and not quite as fancy as local places like the Birmingham Botanical Gardens or Aldridge Botanical Garden. However, one very nice aspect was the blueberry bushes outside the vegetable garden. The fresh blueberries provided for a nice snack before we returned to the pavilion for a sweaty picnic.

Fall and spring are much better for such hikes. Otherwise, they need to be earlier in the morning.

Yankee realatives visit the South

My grandmother made her first trip to the South in 19 years this past weekend, driving down from New England with my Uncle Don and Aunt Jane. Misty, the girls, and I planned a one-night stay in Atlanta for the rare chance to visit with this side of the family. It was nice to get to see them, even if it was so brief.

Not much happened on the trip. Well, Michael Jackson died, and we didn't hear about any of that until we arrived late in the evening. It was odd that my mother had heard some major bit of entertainment news before I did.

Since all the beds in the house were occupied, we pitched a tent in the back yard. Misty joked that it was very redneck of us, but it was Kendall's first opportunity to "camp" outdoors, and we felt like it would be much safer to introduce her to it when it was so easy to bring her inside rather than when we're stuck out in the wilderness for a weekend on a Fresh Air Family camping trip. There was no need to worry though -- both the girls were quite happy sleeping outdoors.

We made our usual trip to Ronald Regan park for the girls to play for a while. Unfortunately, it was miserably hot, so we only stayed for 30 minutes or so. Then we went to check out a new park that had just been constructed nearby, but upon driving by we saw that there were very few trees, and we knew that it would feel even hotter there. Alas, our promises that we'd go back next visit didn't make the girls any less upset about leaving without getting to play.

My dad, grandmother, Don, and Jane all went to the Braves/Red Sox game on Friday night. Apparently it was easier for them to get tickets to see the Sox in Atlanta than it is in Boston. For some reason, Kendall was mad that she didn't get to go, but I really don't think she really knew what it was anyway. If she wants to go to a baseball game, I'll be more than happy to take her to see the Barons here in Birmingham (the stadium is close enough to our house than we can see the fireworks after games).

Emily and Kendall both took very well to their northern relatives, especially considering it had been about two years since they last saw them. I wish such visits were possible more often for us.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rounding out the week at the beach

Part three of our family's super-amazing week of fun came with a visit to Santa Rosa Beach on our way home from Disney World. It's always tough to leave Disney behind, so the beach made for an easier transition.

We stayed in our usual condo on Hwy. 30-A. It's really beautiful there. In the past, we've always gone after Labor Day because the rates drop, the temperatures are more bearable, and the beaches aren't as crowded. With Emily starting school this fall though, we'll no longer have that luxury. It was still lovely in the summer, and it's such a family-friendly place that the crowds still aren't a problem, but it was a lot hotter.

As usual, Kendall took to the pool much better than Emily. Kendall is happy to jump right in and sink, come up sputtering and choking when we pull her out, and jump right back in a minute later to do it all again. Emily, on the other hand, prefers to stick to the steps.

At the beach was a different story. Kendall did not want to get out into the water of the Gulf at all, preferring to stick to playing in the sand. Emily is becoming much more brave in the open water though, wading up to her chest to jump in the waves.

We tried a few new places to eat, most of which were wonderful. Despite numerous raves from other guests, I wasn't impressed with the Red Bar. However, Bruno's Pizza was phenomenal -- we had the buffet and I ate until I was "stupid full." Later that night when we ate at the Jimmy Buffett chain Cheeseburger in Paradise, I didn't even order an entree -- just a drink and dessert (both of which were awesome).

We were having such a nice, relaxing time that Misty called the condo owners to extend our stay by an extra night. When we're at the beach is one time when she is constantly in a happy mood. I know she'd live there if she could.

Here are more pictures from our beach trip, and here's a funny video of Kendall dancing...

2-year-old Parrothead dances to 'Cheeseburger in Paradise'

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Milking our Disney annual passes

Last weekend's No Doubt concert was just the beginning of what Misty dubbed our family's super-amazing week of fun. Saturday night, we drove to Disney World, marking our fourth trip there since purchasing annual passes last September.

I won't carry on about it too much since yet another story about our adventures at Disney World would only bore you or make you jealous, but here's the set of photos from our trip.

The first day we were there was during one of the "Star Wars Weekends," so that's why there are pictures of Stormtroopers and Chewbacca and such.

Emily finally gave in and rode Test Track, and found out that she absolutely loved it. She wanted to go again and again (but was only allowed twice, because Kendall isn't big enough, so one of us has to sit outside waiting with her). Emily also decided that she likes Splash Mountain and Goofy's Barnstormer now. At one point on the monorail, she even told a group of teenage girls that if they'd just try some of the scary rides they might find out that they really liked them.

Aside from that Kendall got her first set of Mickey ears, and got to see Donald Duck (her favorite character) twice on his birthday. He was wearing a special birthday pin when he turned 75 on June 9th.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

At the No Doubt concert with Emily

I am the coolest dad. I know because several people told me yesterday.

A few days ago, Misty and the girls were watching a DVD of No Doubt music videos. Misty was gearing up for their concert in Atlanta, for which she and our friend Chez had primo tickets. In the midst of dancing and singing along with the videos, Emily said, "I wish I could go with you, Mommy." It was sweet and sincere, and I love that Emily is excited about any kind of music, so I told Misty I'd check online to see how much lawn seats cost, and if they were reasonable I'd get tickets for myself and Emily.

As it turned out, lawn seats were a mere $10 ($15 after Ticketmaster service charges, but much better than the $90 Misty paid for hers). I ordered a pair, and Emily was thrilled.

When we got to the venue yesterday, the four of us made the long hike from where we parked to the amphitheater. Upon finally reaching the gate, Misty and Chez learned that their tickets, which were being held at will call, were only available from the gate on the other side. That was going to be another really long walk (indeed, it took them about 25 minutes), so Emily and I decided to go ahead in (we'd printed our tickets from online) and find a spot on the grass for ourselves and just hope that our companions would be able to find us after the show.

As we walked to the gate though, we were stopped by a man who asked us if we were big fans of No Doubt. I've been stopped on the way in to concerts with such questions before, so I figured he was taking a survey. I wasn't a big fan, I told him, but I liked the music. Mainly it was my wife who was the uber-fan, I explained, but that Emily had expressed interest in the show at the last minute. After a couple more questions the guy told us that he had an extra pair of tickets in the covered seats and we could have them if we wanted them. He said he didn't want to deal with scalpers and would rather just give them away to someone who would appreciate them.

And did we ever appreciate them! The seats were much closer than we'd have been on the lawn, and Misty and Chez probably never would have found us among the massive crowd at the back. As we sat next to the super-nice couple who'd given us the tickets, they also let me borrow a cell phone to text Misty and let her know where we were.

The concert was amazing, and I'm so glad Emily prompted me to go. She and I had a blast. At one point she hollered into my ear, "Why can't we turn it up this loud in the car?!" I held her up as much as I could during the show as she sang along to all the songs she knew. When I wasn't holding her, she stood in her chair as I tried to keep her from dancing and falling off. All the people around us were very gracious about Emily's presence -- from giving her room to see, to helping her balance on her chair when other people would squeeze by carrying beers. As I mentioned earlier, several people told me what a cool dad I was for bringing my little girl to the concert. But the best reward was in seeing the smiles on Emily's face.

Closer up, Misty had a Flip video camera with her and recorded several clips from No Doubt's performance. Here's the how the concert opened (You can hear Misty and Chez screaming like fools in the video).

Monday, June 01, 2009

Living with a musical prodigy

Emily loves to sing and has always been very creative when it comes to the songs she composes, ad lib. Who could forget classics like "Unicorns of the Night" or her improv lullaby to Kendall?

Last night, as we went for a walk around the neighborhood, she treated us to "five songs" she wrote along the way. The five songs included: "Think Fast," "Whale Ocean," "Sunshine Happy," and "Straight Tree Stump." Yes, I know that's only four songs, but when the creative genius is pouring out, Emily can't be troubled with things like counting.

Alas, we didn't have a video camera with us on our walk, so those five four songs will have a place only in our memories. However, we did manage to capture some of Emily's musical talent the night before. Kendall even joined her as a back-up singer.

Future Pop Stars

Future Pop Stars, part 2

MP3s will be available for download soon from iTunes.