To Dublin and Back Again

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After a trip to London two years ago, I felt like that itch had been scratched. I was not really interested in going across the ocean again. Then we got the news that Georgia Tech, that football team I spend too much time and money following, would be playing their first ever game in Dublin, Ireland. I couldn’t miss this opportunity so off we were once again for a couple days in Dublin and London. Georgia Tech won the game in the final seconds and the city of Dublin was amazing. The day after the football game there was a massive championship game for the Irish sport called hurling. We spent our evenings in pubs celebrating with the hurling fans. They didn’t know our sport and we didn’t know theirs, but no one cared. The Irish people made the trip with their humor and conversations. London was special in its own way, too, as we were able to catch some of the places we missed on our first trip. Our friends from London even joined us in Dublin for an evening and then dinner in London as well.

We came back from London and I wanted to write all about it and then autumn swallowed me whole. We fell into the dual schedule of cheerleading and lacrosse and I lapsed into a writer’s block as I drove back and forth to practices. That, combined with the awful election season, left me without much nice to say and so this poor site has been left without updates for almost six months. As always.

That doesn’t mean nothing has happened. I have been to a bunch of football games which were surprisingly more fun than expected and I’ve watched my girls grow and start to develop unique skills in specific areas, which has been very rewarding. I’ve been to some excellent concerts. I tried to write something about the amazing Paper Route show I saw and how it ties into the manic, emotion-bending times we are all living in now, but nothing good came of it. I’ve have some opportunities to spend time with family and with the Christmas season approaching I am hopeful for some more time together. Maybe the writer’s block will finally start to crumble and I’ll have something better to say.

In the meantime, another autumn has passed and we are now full-on into the Advent season. If I’m lucky, I’ll have another period of “downtime” after Christmas and I’ll have some time reflect on a year that I can truly say has been unlike any other.

Goodbye, playground

Goodbye, playground

When we bought our house it came with a playground. We meticulously went over all the things we wanted fixed and changed with the house before we bought it, but somehow we forgot about the playground. So, after the got the keys we looked in the backyard and said, “Aren’t you taking the playground with you?” The old owners of the house laughed and said, “No! The whole house and backyard is your problem now!” and peeled out of the driveway. (Well, that’s how I imagined that it happened in my head.) So we had no kids, but we had a house with a playground. For a while when we we young it was pretty funny. We, the couple that had no interest in having kids, had an awesome playground. Later, when we decided we did want to have children but couldn’t, it wasn’t as funny. Eventually, though, children did arrive and it wasn’t long before the playground earned it’s keep. “Why don’t you go out and play on the playground for a while” was code for “mommy and/or daddy have had enough.” It was social central, where the girls would congregate and talk even they just idly sat on the swings.

As it does, time passes. The playground began get a lot of rust and started to appear structurally questionable. We decided it was time to have it removed and I told the girls to play on it one last time. They were sad, but as they swung back and forth, I nervously watched as they lifted the legs of the swing set right off the ground. They were too big for it and I really didn’t want to take a trip to the hospital, so it was the right call to have it removed.

I’ve made a lot of posts about the passage of time and how my children are getting older and nostalgia and such, but I’m trying to look at this change from a positive view. The back yard is now empty and full of opportunities. We can put up a hammock. We can put up a soccer net, or as Erin insists a lacrosse net, and we can practice in our own backyard. Maybe we’ll clear out the annoying privet hedges and give ourselves more space. We’re just about to start winter, but I’m already thinking ahead to summer of 2016 and the possibilities for our family.

The Last Day of Summer

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An altogether too short summer ended today. School starts much earlier now than when I was a child. I remember going back to school the week before Labor Day but now it is the first week of August. August is my least favorite month of the year. It seems to drag on forever. It is hot. Football is still a month away (no, preseason NFL most definitely does not count) and yet we are out sweating every evening at cheerleading practice. Now we get to add to all of the hassle of signing forms, remembering to pick art supplies, homework, and all the other fun of school. At least we’re not trying to plan a trip to London on top of everything else this time around. That nearly broke me.

We didn’t do very much this summer which is fine. We enjoyed being lazy for a little while. We sent the girls off to each grandparents’ house for a week and did a little bit of housecleaning and date night dinners. We did a family trip to Myrtle Beach. I shamelessly played a lot of video games with the girls. We laid around on the couches a lot because we could. Now it’s time to get back on the merry-go-round and everything is going to revert to spinning out of control again.

Also poignant at the end of this summer was the end of one of our favorite tv shows. I had to endure a lot of awful childrens’ shows to placate the children when they were younger, but Phineas and Ferb was always a delight to watch. I’ve sung the praises of My Little Pony before, but Phineas and Ferb is on another level with humor, clever plots, and slapstick gags that make me guffaw as much as it entertains the girls. I loved the relentless optimism of the kids and the comedic violence reminded me of Looney Tunes episodes with maybe just a little bit of a gentler touch. The series aired the last episode this summer with the children returning to school. While the final episode was bittersweet, I can’t help feel like the co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh picked a good time to go out before the show become too creatively stale. (Hopefully, they will be returning with a new series in a couple years and I hope it is half as funny as Phineas and Ferb.) The series has left a pretty massive body of work. The girls and I started a marathon at the beginning of the summer watching every episode and we still have a way to go before finishing.

The last episode, though, was a tangible reminder that time continues to march on and on despite whatever we do to slow it down. My friend Sam remarked that when he started the series with his oldest daughter, she was a little older than a toddler and now at the end she is only a couple years short of middle school. I am reminded that this is a tangible end to an era in our children’s childhood and even an end to a little bit of re-living our own childhood.

So here we are in August. Autumn is approaching but I am going to have to grin and bear it through August first. I don’t want to rush the month too fast however as this summer has once again reminded me that the time with our children is all too limited and ebbing away.

The Blur That Has Been Fall

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A week before Adriene and I left for London, my laptop died. The power supply completely failed and I was without a laptop. So, I mailed it off to get fixed and left for London and everything since then on a technology level has been a complete mess. When I returned home, the laptop arrived a couple days later, but apparently it had been used as a basketball on the way home because the screen was cracked. I sent it back to technical support and let them know this was not satisfactory and I wanted the screen repaired for free. After two weeks of doing I don’t know what, they informed me they didn’t have the part and at that point I told them to just send me back the laptop and refund all repairs. So, I got my laptop repaired for free and it only took four weeks and one cracked screen to get that done and in the meantime all of my internet usage was on tablets and tiny computers with tiny keyboards.

I say all that to say that trying to compose anything on touchscreens and tablets is enough to drive a man mad, so while I felt like I built up some nice momentum here on the site this summer it all came to a screeching halt and I haven’t written anything in a couple months. At the same time, I have been so busy trying to catch up at work and keep up with my kids’ activities that it’s not like I had much time to try and peck (and curse) something on a tablet touchscreen anyways.

What to say about London? A month now in the rear-view mirror and it seems like a dream. It was an alternate world that we lived in for a week and now that we are back it seems like it canters along at it’s own pace, totally oblivious that we were ever there. The whole order of our day was totally altered. We never sat in a car and we stood in crowds the entire week. At one point, Adriene saw a fatigued expression on my face and said, “You’re tired of being around people all day, aren’t you?” I did admit that I longed to sit at my desk at home and look out over our (people-less) pond and trees in the back yard. But it was amazing, it really was. Some old friends that live in London swooped down and took us off for unbelievably good Turkish food, Indian food, and so much beer I can’t even begin to say which one I liked best. By the time we got familiar with the city, I had sat in the dark corners of Stamford Bridge and watched a match from one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world and then later taunted Stoke City fans when Niko Kranjcar hit a free kick for QPR in the dying moments of the game. We listened to Georgia Tech play football in an alternate universe where it was daytime on our phones at night in the pub. Adriene saw the Hogwarts model castle used in the Harry Potter films and we saw the Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s oldest chess sets in existence, thousand-dollar (sorry, pound) shoes at Harrod’s, and just like that we were home again where everyone drives on the right side of the road and we have 700 channels on our TV.

What a return, though! The girls signed up for cheerleading this year and I have to say there is nothing funnier than watching first grade kids play football. They are kinda like weeble-wobbles with their shoulder pads that stick out on both sides and helmets as big as their shoulders. They don’t tackle each so much as they run into each other. Games are almost always decided by a comedy of errors, almost always because there is one kid bigger and faster than the others and no one can tackle, or even catch him. The girls have had mixed opinions about cheering at the games, mostly because of the varying weather conditions, so we’ll see if we do this again next year. However, this fall it has consumed our weeks and our weekends and we’ve had to squeeze normal activities into the hinterlands of our weekly schedule. It has been fun and exciting, but I’m not sure I will be that sorry when it’s over. When it is over, it is time to get ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The children are happy. There is always something to look forward to.

This post is like the final piece in the puzzle of catching up this fall. I feel like the last couple of months have been a blur, but things seem to finally be returning back to a more normal pace of life just in time to start ramping up for the holiday season and more adventures to come.

(I know some people love vacation photos and for other people it brings back horrible memories of sitting at someone’s house while they show slide after slide on a screen, BUT if you’re the sort that likes vacation photos, here they are.)

Happy 39

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I’ve developed a habit of having some pretty awesome, amazing, epic birthday weekends and they are almost always unplanned, they just seem to happen. This year was no different. The week started off a little stressful with a work deadline to meet but Halloween night, while the girls were out trick-or treating I was handing out candy at the door and wrapping things up. That cleared the decks for the weekend so I didn’t have any work issues to worry about.

Adriene left on Friday to drive up to North Carolina to meet some of her friends for a weekend to celebrate our friend’s last chemo and radiation treatment. We are so excited for her that she has fought a hard fight this year and it looks like she is emerging the victor. However, that meant I was on my own for my birthday. Adriene even protested a little when invited for the weekend, “but that’s Jeff’s birthday” and Alisa replied, “tell Jeff I had cancer.” Well then. No matter, my girls and I went out for dinner (they insisted on something “fancy” for my birthday and I suppose Macaroni Grill counts as fancy, at least in their minds) and then on Saturday we drove out to visit my parents. I left the girls with my parents and went downtown for Homecoming at Georgia Tech. I’m glad I arrived early as I had time to visit with old friends, some I hadn’t seen in several years, and also wander around campus to take photos of all of buildings that have changed so much since I was in school. The game was pretty exciting as well as Tech won a hard fought game over Pitt. Sunday was fun as well as we visited my parents’ church and enjoyed a potluck lunch that reminded me of so many lunches at church during my childhood. Also, the girls spent large amounts of time outside in the incredible weather, which makes everybody happy. They even slept in to a decent time when we fell back an hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time. If that isn’t a birthday gift right there, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are a year short of 40. My mom insists the forties are much better than the thirties and I’m inclined to believe her. I used to post a lot about how difficult life had become during the first years of having babies and then toddlers, but the last couple years I can definitely feel the slow easing off of difficulty as they get older. I had the girls to myself for the last two weekends and it is noticeably less tiring than two or three years ago and there are so many more laughs and jokes now.

I love these epic birthdays and I love that they seem to come out of nowhere. I also love how they set up Thanksgiving and Christmas as the year begins to wrap up. The 40th birthday has a lot of work to do to live up to these last few birthdays.

My photos from Homecoming and the football game are on Flickr for your perusal.