Saturday, November 27, 2010

Art is everywhere

This afternoon, Misty and I took the girls on an art-filled outing. It wasn't intended as such -- it just turned out that way.

We had lunch at Bottletree, which, if you don't know, is decorated with an eclectic assortment of artwork. I finally tried the "Viking Funeral" -- a plate of sweet potato fries smothered with their award-winning chili and pimento cheese (which Misty says is the best ever). It easily lived up to the praise I'd heard from others.

After lunch, we had some time to kill, so we headed over to the Birmingham Museum of Art for a bit. The girls breezed through the rooms and weren't too interested in most of the art on display. However, they were quick to spot a kids drawing area where they could post their sketches on a bulletin board. That was a big hit.

Finally, we went to the movies where we saw "Tangled," in which Rapunzel painted scenes from her dreams on the walls of the tower in which she was imprisoned. It was a beautiful movie, but it didn't quite resonate with me like other recent Disney animated films. Misty and the girls loved it, though.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas decorations: Check (well, almost)

Oh, Christmas tree, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

While other poor suckers were stampeding for Black Friday sales or watching some silly football game, we spent the day putting up our Christmas decorations.

The girls have been looking forward to this for a while and were very enthusiastic about helping -- so much so that Misty continually had to tell them to stop because they were handling breakable ornaments, pulling out too much at once, or simply putting things in the "wrong place" (Misty has a very structured system to how she likes to decorate the tree, and it is not to be trifled with).

With as much staying-out-of-the-way as possible for me, the job is complete (inside, at least -- outdoor lights are another story). Thanks to Misty, our house looks beautiful and festive, with Christmas decor everywhere (the picture above doesn't begin to tell the story).

And those Black Friday deals we "missed out" on? We compared prices online this morning and did some shopping that fared equally or better, price-wise -- and we didn't have to stay up all night, hunt for parking spaces, or cram ourselves into a huge crowd.

A nice change of pace for Thanksgiving

Cousins group portriat, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Do you know how difficult it is to get five kids to smile at once? It's easy -- so long as you don't have a camera pointed at them. Pull out a camera though, and suddenly they're determined to put on a sullen expression and a stiff pose. And no ammount of coaxing will get them to look in the right direction.

Since we wanted group pictures of the kids at Thanksgiving, Misty's solution was to stand behind me and act like a fool, hoping they would look her way and crack a smile. I don't know what she was doing back there, but it worked. We wound up with a few really good shots.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal in Cullman this year was great -- in large part because this is the first time I can remember when it was just family. The kids had fun playing together outside. They jumped in the leaves and pulled one another around in a wagon. The rest of us were able to relax and socialize.

Maybe the best part of all though, was that since my parents were in New England, we had no plans to go to Atlanta the next day. Not that I don't enjoy visiting them, but since we're staying in Alabama, we were able to take home leftovers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A tough day for the family

I attended a funeral today for the son of one of my co-workers.

Actually, Brian is more than a co-worker. He's a long-time friend too -- one I've known for about 17 years. We lived in the same dorm building at UAH. We both majored in communication arts and had many of our classes together -- including the dreaded CM 431, where we wrote and defended our theses. We were in PRCA together. He drove me home safely the first time I was ever drunk (something he has delighted in reminding me about for years -- if only I could find a picture of him from back when he had his big mane of hair). I started working at, and when a new internship opened up there a few months later, I pointed Brian toward it and our editor-in-chief scooped him right up. We've been among the steadfast members of the company, working together for over a decade.

Brian's daughter Taylor is about a year older than Emily. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had their second child in September -- a boy they named Keith. I only met him once, when they brought him by to visit the office one afternoon, and he was a sweet little baby.

This past Thursday night, we got a call at home from's office manager telling us that Keith had died. He'd stopped breathing and was rushed to Children's Hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. He was just over two months old.

The funeral was not what I expected. Brian and Elizabeth seemed to be holding up amazingly well, but I have no doubt they're a wreck on the inside. My guess is that with Taylor to consider, they have to be strong for her sake. Seeing Keith's coffin didn't even effect me that much -- it was so tiny, it just didn't seem real. Instead, looking at Taylor was what made me choke up.

I can't conceive what it would be like to experience the death of one's own child -- probably the most horrible thing ever -- but it seems even worse with another child in the picture. Not only are you going through torment that you wouldn't wish upon anyone, but your child -- the one you want to protect from all harm -- is experiencing it too. Thinking about my own girls, you may as well cut one of them in half as take away the other forever. They're inseperable, even if they don't act like it all the time.

It may sound odd, but I don't grieve for Keith. I know he's OK. It's Brian, Elizabeth, and Taylor that have my prayers. I hope they can find strength in their faith. From what I know of them, they will.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A busy and rewarding weekend

We had an awesome weekend leading up to the week of Thanksgiving.

To start off, Misty and I celebrated our 7-year anniversary a few days early on Friday. I dropped off the girls with their grandmother and met Misty at the movie theater to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. We loved it, but we're glad we didn't bring the kids -- and not just because we wanted a night to ourselves. It's a very intense movie with non-stop peril (and a nearly naked Harry Potter and Hermione). Following the movie, we had dinner at Carrabba's where we enjoyed dining without having to take multiple bathroom breaks or plead with anyone to please stay in their chair.

Saturday Misty and I went for a morning walk through an adjacent neighborhood, then we headed out to Wylam to help our church serve an early Thanksgiving dinner to the community through Acknowledge Outreach Ministries. Afterward, we picked up the girls, finally relieving Misty's mom of her 24-hour marathon babysitting duty. In the evening, we went to a dinner at church which included a Q&A with marriage specialist Joe Beam.

Sunday morning, all the regular Sunday school classes were combined for another lesson from Joe Beam. He talked about how we've become accustomed to worshiping the created God, rather than God the creator -- or, in other words, that we love God when He fits the picture we've painted of Him, but become angry or doubtful when He doesn't.

When church let out, we rushed down to Montgomery to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, where we saw their production of Peter Pan (which Emily and Kendall helped me review). We had a great time, and all of us loved the show. There was a cast meet-and-greet afterward with champaign, cupcakes, and lots of other goodies. Kendall had a glass of "Sprout" (aka Sprite). As we watched a blue moon rise (at 5 p.m.!), the girls enjoyed running around in the field in front of the theater, pretending to be Wendy and Tiger Lily.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

7 days of dessert

Cookies at Culinard, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I've been eating a lot of dessert over the past week.

For Birmingham's 2nd annual Sweet on a Cure event, where local restaurants offered 100% of the proceeds from select desserts to benefit cancer research, I ate a different dessert every day and wrote about it on

Misty made an amusing observation that while she participated in Race for the Cure, I ate dessert for the cure.

Here's a roundup of my adventure in deliciousness...

Day 1: Cantina - Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Day 2: Brannon's - Truly Scrumptious Cupcakes
Day 3: Jim 'N Nick's - Lemon Pie
Day 4: Culinard - White Chocolate Blueberry Cookies / Rojo - Chango
Day 5: Silvertron - White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Day 6: Famous Fred's - Baklava
Day 7: Frankie's Market Cafe - Banana Pudding

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The holidays are here (whether you're ready or not)

We attended the Galleria's Christmas lighting ceremony last night. Unfortunately, it was a big buildup for little reward.

As expected, the Galleria food court and the balcony surrounding it above were jam-packed. We wound up with a decent spot to stand and watch, but we couldn't hear very well. It was as if the microphones weren't turned on for some of the performers. We could hear that they were speaking or singing, but we couldn't tell understand any of the words. Also, the event had promised "snow," but that turned out to be a bust -- just one little area was involved, and you couldn't even see it from where we were. The kids weren't really interested in sitting still for the whole thing, but we stuck it out.

On the fun side, Misty got us each gingerbread cookies to eat while we watched. They were really good. Afterward we rode the carousel (which has the regular animals swapped out with reindeer for the holidays) and ran into some friends from church. We also got to meet the missionary family our church sponsors in Burkina Faso, Africa, who were visiting for the week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day of fun with Dad

Racing at Railroad Park, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Since was off work for Veterans Day, the girls and I devised a day of fun activities.

We started off with a snack at Culinard Cafe while we waited for Misty's mom at the doctor's office. Once we dropped her back at her home, we went out to explore the new Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. We played on the playground, watched some kids skateboarding, threw a frisbee back and forth (Emily caught it three times! She was so proud), and listened to a couple of guys play bluegrass music. Next we headed to the McWane Science Center where we played in "Just Mice Size" and checked out the model train exhibit. We finished up with lunch at Rojo where we ate on the patio under their year-round Christmas lights.

I'd hoped to take the girls to the Veterans Day parade, but lunch lasted longer than I'd expected. They wanted to keep going to the zoo and Wald Park playground afterward, but it was time for a nap.

Here are a few more photos from our outing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The exclusivity of railway travel

On our way home from tonight's free mini model build at the Lego Store (where the girls each built a Thanksgiving turkey), the subject of trains came up.

I mentioned that I'd never ridden on a real train before -- only little trains like those at the zoo or Stone Mountain -- but that it's something I'd like to do one day.

"Well, you can't, Dad," Emily said. "Only hobos."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thou shalt not trick-or-treat on a Sunday

Misty alerted me today that one of our neighbors had posted the following comment on her Facebook wall:

Our neighborhood posted a sign saying we're to Trick-or-Treat tonight from 6:00-8:00. I suppose tomorrow night we will have barricades set up at the entrance of our neighborhood with lil' old cane-wielding ladies standing guard.

That cracked me up. The thing is, the sign telling us that Halloween would be moving from Sunday to Saturday wasn't posted until Saturday morning. I spent more than 20 minutes on the phone with our neighborhood association president, explaining that you can't wait until the day of the event to let people know that it's happening (never mind the absurdity of moving Halloween in the first place) because people have already made plans.

As it turned out, trick-or-treaters at our house were about evenly spit between the two days. I really didn't care when kids wanted to come by -- I just didn't want to be told (at the last minute) when mine were allowed to participate.