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.