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.