Our first family vacation

Yesterday morning we returned home from a week at sea with my Mom aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. We visited ports in Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. The Explorer was the largest cruise ship ever to sail out of Seattle, and was also the largest passenger ship to ever visit any port (or glacier) in Alaska. As expected we had a great time, as well as a few challenges along the way, but without question we will never forget our first true family vacation, and I’m so thankful we got to spend it with my Mom. This week was the longest visit she’s ever had with the kids and I think it was good for everyone.

Before I get into the details of our trip I want to pay my respects to Bella. I know Jessica already wrote about her passing but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something. As I’ve said in several posts, the past 8 years have been the best of my life, and the only daily constant for me other than Jessica during this time, has been Bella. I remember when Jessica and I first started dating and her saying to me “I hope you like dogs because we’re a package deal.” I’ve never had a dog as long as I had Bella, and although I frequently complained about cleaning up her poop in the backyard, or vacuuming up her hair inside, the truth is I’d gladly trade it all back to have her with us once again. Her passing taught the kids (Ava especially because she’s old enough to understand) an important lesson about the meaning of life and death. Losing her has been sad for everyone and we will always have a special place in our hearts for her. Love my Bellers.

This past Christmas Jessica got me a present that I’d been talking about wanting for a long time. She found a deal on Groupon to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini 3 laps on a track, and I was thrilled. I booked my ‘driving experience’ for Friday May 20th and marked my calendar. A few weeks later my Mom brought up the idea of us going on the Alaska cruise, which also happened to be on Friday May 20th. My plan was to stay the night at Kristy’s house (because it’s much closer to the ‘track’, which isn’t an actual track but just a big parking lot setup with a bunch of cones) on Thursday night, drive the supercar on Friday morning, then bust a move back to my house up north to pick up Jessica and the kids, then head off to the ship for our vacation. It was going to be a very busy day.

Everything seemed good until the week of, when I started going through the 20 page release form they required me to sign before driving the car. As I read through everything I started getting very concerned. I won’t go into all the details but basically it quickly became apparent to me that the discounted rate Jessica paid on Groupon was just a scam to get me in the door, then all the real expenses would start piling up. They were trying to sell you on all kinds of specialty insurance for different parts of the car that could become damaged, even though your personal insurance still had to be used for primary coverage. Then they warn you that if you rev the engine too high it’s an automatic $2,500 charge to your credit card. Any damage to the car would incur an immediate $7,500 charge just to get started on repairs. On top of it all they expect you to tip the driving instructors 25% of the original cost of the package.

It all seemed pretty sketchy so I went online to read reviews. There were over 100 reviews on Yelp and the average rating was 2 out of 5 stars. Not a good sign. There were a few people who gave it 5 stars, but even they said you’re out there for 90 minutes but only in the car for 5, and only driving for about 2.5 minutes, never going above 40-50 mph. The number of 1 star reviews was ridiculous and after reading most of them I was convinced that the whole experience was nowhere near what I was hoping for and would have been a major disappointment. I felt bad because I knew how excited Jess was to get it for me, but even she agreed that the whole thing felt like a scam. So long story short, I skipped it and just focused on the cruise. We’re going to contact Groupon about a refund since the package didn’t seem very well advertised. I definitely appreciate the thought though, and came out of it with a story none-the-less.

Anyway, enough with all that and onto the good stuff. Although I must admit, the first day of the cruise was definitely our most difficult. We left our house at 10:30 am and proceeded to basically stand in various lines all day. It started with the parking lot (we parked in an offsite lot that shuttles you to and from the ship). There were lots of people and only so many shuttles, so we waited about 45 minutes there. Then we got to the ship and waited in a long line to tag our bags. After that was a long line to go through security, followed by another long line to check in and get our sea passes. By the time we actually got on the ship it was nearly 3:00 pm. My Mom said that of all the cruises she has been on, these were the worst lines she’s ever seen.

Once we got on and got to our rooms we were in good shape. I say ‘our’ rooms because the way my Mom booked it, we had side-by-side balcony rooms with a private door in between them. This turned out to be great because the kids could run back and forth between the rooms. There ended up being plenty of space for everyone, and Jessica and I ended up getting the best of it because the girls insisted on sleeping with Nana every night, leaving us only Enzo to share a room with. One thing that we hadn’t thought about but turned out to be a nice surprise was how well everyone would sleep on the ship. The slight rocking motion was really nice.

If you’ve never been on one of these ships they’re basically like little floating cities. They have everything. There’s a street-style promenade with a bunch of shops, various bars and restaurants, swimming pools and hot tubs, a theater, conference rooms (which is where the Card Player Cruises poker room is located), a casino, an ice rink, a Flowrider for surfing and boogie boarding, sport courts, rock climbing wall (which Jessica scaled with ease), video arcade, chapel, and more. It’s crazy. At first it’s somewhat daunting, but before you know it you know your way around everywhere. One thing that was funny was that as soon as we got on the ship it felt very similar to the ship we sailed on with my Mom to Mexico back in 2010. As it turned out, this ship was the sister ship to the one we’d been on before, so the layout was identical.

We set sail Friday evening around 5:30, then spent all day Saturday at sea, before arriving in our first port, Juneau, Alaska, on Sunday morning. Juneau was the only stop of the trip where we’d be doing an official ‘excursion’, which in our case was whale watching. Since we didn’t think Enzo would get much out of it, we decided to leave him with Nana for the day and spend the day with the girls. As we rode the bus to the docks where our boat was located, we learned about the history of Juneau. I was surprised to learn that Juneau, which is the capital city of Alaska, has only 33,000 residents, yet is the third largest city in the United States (based on square mileage). The other two largest cities are also in Alaska. There are more miles of hiking trails in Juneau than there are paved roads, and as we learned from our guide on the boat, there are only 3 ways into Juneau: by boat, by plane, or by birth canal. There are no roads leading in or out of Juneau.

The whale watching excursion definitely ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. The funny thing was that for several months now Ava has been saying she wants to see Orcas, but to be more specific, she wanted to see a baby Orca. We weren’t sure what to expect when we got on the boat, but our guide soon explained that we would be seeing humpback whales. A slight bummer but certainly not a big deal. On our way out I was chatting with the guide and I mentioned that my daughter had been hoping to see some Orcas, but that I’m sure the humpbacks would also be amazing. He paused for a minute, then leaned in and whispered to me “Don’t tell anyone yet but we’re in for a surprise today. We’re heading out further than normal so we can see some Orcas.”

I kept my lips zipped, then soon enough the boat slowed down and our guide (or ‘Naturist’ as they call themselves) told us the news about the Orcas in the area. We all headed out to the deck and literally within a minute or two we started seeing them. The best part was that it was a whole family and Ava got to see her baby Orca several times. She was going completely nuts and screaming the whole time; everyone was getting a huge kick out of it.

After viewing the family of Orcas for a while we turned around and headed to another area to check out the humpbacks. They too are amazing, and because our guide Brendan was so knowledgeable, we ended up learning a lot about the differences between them. We also got to see a glacier while we were out, so it was a pretty incredible experience. On our way back the captain told us that last year, out of over 100 days in the whale watching season, they only saw Orcas on 15 of them. It’s definitely something we’ll never forget.

After the whale watching we went into downtown Juneau to enjoy some snacks at Tracy’s Crab Shack. We were seated outside at these big picnic tables surrounded by people from all over the place. There were a bunch of New Yorkers at our table, then at the table next to us were people from Alabama that kept yelling “Roll Tide!” A crow landed on the pier and one of the New Yorkers excitedly started yelling because they thought it was an eagle. It was quite entertaining. We actually did see several eagles that day in Juneau, but this crow certainly wasn’t one of them.

The next day we woke up in port at Skagway, Alaska. It was much more of an old-timey frontier town. There was a 19th century steam engine, and lots of people dressed up old west style. It’s not a very big town so the 6 of us walked around all day. We did some shopping, had a nice lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company, and found a great little local park for the kids to play at. The snowy mountain backdrop was gorgeous and everyone had a really nice day.

Tuesday morning our ship sailed up to an area called Endicott Arm so we could view the Dawes glacier. All I can say is I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was beautiful. One thing that really stood out to me was the color of the water. It was this crazy shade of greenish blue, but it was so crystal clear. There were all of these little glaciers floating in the water that had obviously broken off the the main glacier. Then the whole backdrop was entirely mountains. There’s no shore or flat ground either; it’s literally water right up to the base of the mountain, which is covered with green trees, and topped with snow. It’s how I imagine New Zealand to be. We saw tons of waterfalls where the snow runoff was heading back to sea. I’ve heard people say several times that Alaska is beautiful but until I saw it with my own two eyes I didn’t really get it. It honestly is an amazing place that everyone should have a chance to see at some point. I took a bunch of pictures but they don’t really do it justice; there’s just something about being in the middle of it that can’t be replicated, or explained.

We spent all of Tuesday and Wednesday at sea and kept busy with all of the ship’s attractions. The kids loved going up to the arcade and the girls now love playing air hockey together. It’s funny because when you’re out at sea like that it’s really easy to lose track of time. Consequently they change the sign in the elevator daily so you know what day it is. We did some family activities like art projects and dancing, we saw an ice show, but the main activity for us was ‘mucking’ chips for Nana.

If you don’t know what that means, basically the poker room is open whenever you’re at sea, and the house (Card Player Cruises) gets a little piece of every poker hand that gets played, in the form of chips. It’s called the rake, and it’s standard operating procedure for all card rooms. It’s how they pay their expenses and make a profit. As you can imagine, at the end of the day the house has raked in a lot of chips, and those chips need to be sorted and racked, or as they call it in the poker world, mucked. Well, the kids fell in love with it and insisted on helping Nana muck chips each day. So we would dump out these big buckets of chips, gather up a bunch of empty racks, and start mucking. As you would expect, Ava was in charge, and made sure that only she got to muck the red chips, which were of course, the highest in value. If your rack accidentally included a chip of the wrong color, Ava would call you out for having ‘dirty stacks’, another poker term she picked up on this trip. It was most entertaining.

Ava was also a huge hit with all the people on the cruise. To be fair, all 3 of the kids were, but Ava really ate up the attention. We would get on an elevator with a bunch of strangers, and as if on queue, Ava would announce “My name is Ava. This is my little sister Elise, but she’s a little shy, and this is my brother Zoey.” Everyone got a kick out of her, but there were also a few instances where she refused to listen to us and ended up getting in a bit of trouble. The worst of it was at the formal dinner on night 2. To her credit though, she was overly stimulated by everything going on, and couldn’t help but be on 10 the entire trip. I don’t know how she does it, but that kid just goes and goes and never slows down. She would usually outlast us at night and still be up before us the following morning. That’s just my Ava P. She’s like the Energizer Bunny (another musty stale reference from my childhood that they won’t understand by the time they read this).

One thing that I really enjoyed about the cruise was how friendly the entire staff was. Everywhere you go you’re greeted by a staff member and they’re always so genuinely nice. You end up meeting people from all over the world, but one that I absolutely cannot go without mentioning is Vanessa, our room attendant. There was an instant connection between her and our kids, and we just loved her. She has a 6 year old daughter back in the Philippines, and because of her work schedule, she goes 6 months at a time without seeing her. I cannot imagine. She was completely in love with Enzo and kept joking about packing him up and bringing him home with her. She also continuously joked with the girls about bringing her a baby Orca while we were out, so I went into a gift shop in Skagway and bought her a toy stuffed Orca from the kids. She was just the best all week long and really helped make the trip special for all of us.

We also met quite a few of our fellow cruisers on the boat who were from Australia. As it turned out, the Explorer started out a month earlier in Sydney, Australia, before heading to the Pacific Northwest as it’s new home. As I’ve said before, Aussies must be the friendliest people on Earth. I spoke to so many of them on the boat and they were all great. It just reaffirmed to me that we absolutely must visit Australia at some point in the future.

The last stop of the trip was in Victoria, B.C. on Thursday. I’d been there once before with my Mom, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Brenda, but that was about 20 years ago, so my memory of it wasn’t great. We had a nice day exploring the city, eating lunch by the water, and taking a nice long walk back to the ship. They were preparing for a yacht race (going on today actually) so there were lots of pretty boats to look at. Victoria is also the city of Orca’s and everywhere you go you see Orca-related art. The girls just loved it.

That night we had the Card Player Cruises farewell party, as well as a goodbye parade put on by the ship on the Promenade. It was a busy week, and yet it flew by so quickly. Before we knew it we were scooting off the ship Friday morning as they prepared to do the same voyage all over again with 3,000 fresh faces. They will continue doing this exact same trip until September. The timing worked out nicely for us though, because we returned home on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, meaning I had a four day weekend at home to look forward to before returning to work on Tuesday; a mini vacation in it’s own right.

By the time we got home we were all ready to get back to our routine, as well as enjoy a home cooked meal and a night in our own beds. I was especially anxious to get home and play guitar; it’s been awhile since I’ve gone a full week without playing and I didn’t want to get too rusty. The main focus of this weekend is potty training for Elise. She did really well with it on the ship, so we went shopping yesterday afternoon to pick out special underwear for her. As expected, there have been some accidents, as well as the occasional outburst (by parent and child alike) but we’ll get through it just like we did with Ava. In Elise’s case we’re doing this a full year earlier than Ava did, so it won’t be easy, but we know she is ready and up to the challenge.

Before I go I just want to say thank you again to my Mom for making this trip happen. If it wasn’t your insistence, we never would have gone, and I’m so glad that we did. As I said in the title, this was our first family vacation. Yes, we’ve traveled together as a family before, but always to visit and stay with family. Although there certainly was a family aspect to this trip, it was still our first time going on a true vacation together. It’s something that we’ll never forget and I hope she enjoyed it as much as we did. Here’s some of our favorite photos from the trip.

Just before boarding the ship for the first time

Formal night dinner with Nana, night 2.

Elise being a good girl at formal night

Looks can be deceiving because this was not exactly Ava’s best night. Memorable though.

Like a boss

Nana having fun with the girls

Setting sail on day 1

Visiting the bear chair in Juneau

Getting started with the muck

Visiting one of the many Orcas we found in Victoria, B.C.

On the docks in Juneau

‘Hanging’ out in Skagway

The little monster

On the lookout in Alaska. Elise kept using her binoculars backwards.

Mom climbing the rock wall. When she rang the bell at the top Ava yelled out “Mommy I’m so proud of you!”

Playing with the selfie stick in Victoria

At work with one of my little helpers

Lunch in Skagway

Bella Rudd

On September 24th, 2004, a litter of mixed pups was born at the Little Waif Shelter in Woodinville. I was called up about 2 weeks after they were born and told a little bit about them. I had been in communication with the lady that ran the shelter for a few weeks now and had been eagerly waiting for this call to come in. The mother of the pups had been abandoned and appeared to be a German Shepard mix. After seeing the puppies they concluded that they would be declared Labrador and German Shepard mix. There were 6 in the litter and all were healthy. I was going to be the first potential parent to meet the pups and I would get to select which one I wanted first.

I met them all a few weeks later for the first time. They were all of course, completely adorable and I had never before been so close to so many baby pups. I sat in the pen with them all for a while but I knew before too long which one was mine. She was the most beautiful of the bunch (hence her name) and she was both playful and independent. She also was the only dog that didn’t whine when you put her down. Something that I loved at the time and also something that she would be notorious for later.

Just before Thanksgiving I was able to pick her up. I was over the moon excited and remember driving there to get her and forgetting to bring a leash with me. I was forced to carry her to and from the shelter and my apartment and we got a lot of attention. She was so cute! The first few months were rough living in an apartment. We lived over the water and didn’t have much of a yard, plus, to get out you had to walk all the way around the first floor and back around the building to get to any grass. With a puppy that’s potty training, I soon decided it wasn’t going to work. I found myself moving to accommodate my dog and it started a shift in my life. I was taking care of someone other than myself, something that depended on me. I was finally growing up. I was 24.

On Thursday of last week she left us. She died at home. We are unsure as to the cause but believe that she ate and chocked on something that was not edible.

She was a great dog. Aside from the shedding and the peeing (yes both very annoying), she was awesome. She cleaned up anything that was dropped on the floor. She was gentle and patient with the kids. She always allowed poking, pulling and hitting as forms of endearment from the kids. She greeted you with enthusiasm EVERY time you walked in the door. If you were in the bathroom a long time you sometimes got the same greeting. She really didn’t require much. She just loved to hang out and sleep near you. She was annoyingly hyper when meeting someone, but after 10 minutes or less she was fine. She loved to play games, and by play, I mean destroy. We called her the fun hater because she wanted so desperately to play games with you that she would jump all over like a mad dog, squeaking and acting a fool. She always barked to let you know someone was coming but she never went overboard unless something was actually wrong. I always felt safe when Michael was away knowing that Bella was such a great watch dog. She was a lover and all she really ever wanted was a bite of whatever you were eating and to be near you. As near to you as you would allow her to be.

I am stunned at how much I miss her and how empty the house feels without her soft round self asleep on the rug. With her passing goes a chunk of my life, 1/3 of it actually. She watched me grow up, helped me too. She was by my side through 8 moves, countless roommates, boyfriends and jobs. She literally witnessed me fall in love with my husband. She came over to Michael’s apartment with me nearly every time I was there. She loved to sit by his sliding glass door and look out onto the backside of Queen Anne and watch the comings and goings of the Puget Sound. She rarely moved from her spot once she got settled.

In this pain is a sort of waiting for her; to hear her scratch at the back door. Remind me that I need to let her back inside with us all. I know she isn’t coming home again, it hasn’t completely set in though. I hear the neighbors dog bark and I instinctively want to call out, “Quiet, Bella.” I woke up this morning and thought, I wonder if Michael has fed the dog yet.

No pets are not humans; but they give and take love, and they are loyal friends. R.I.P. Bella. You were my first girl and I will never forget you.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
– Vicki Harrison

Four eyes are better than two

First and foremost I want to start this off by wishing my wife, my Mom, my Mother-in-law, my sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends (basically all the Moms in our lives) a very happy Mother’s Day! It’s a special day that you all very much deserve, so I hope it’s a good one. Normally I’d be spending this morning making a nice brunch for Jessica, but this year is a little different. Jessica will be working brunch at El Gaucho Bellevue while I spend the day with the kids, then tonight we’ll do a nice dinner at home. Yesterday I stopped by Central Market (which is the really nice grocery store in Mill Creek) and picked up fresh Kusshi oysters, dungeness crab, jumbo prawns, scallops, and calamari. I’m looking forward to treating her to a seafood extravaganza this evening.

To explain to the kids a little bit about the character of their mamma, Jessica received a phone call from Tony, the GM at El Gaucho Bellevue, asking for a favor. Although she normally only works Wednesday and Thursday nights, and of course he knows she is a Mom, he had to ask her if she was willing to work Mother’s Day brunch. They already had over 600 reservations on the books and basically needed all hands on deck. He also promised her that she would be the first one to get called off, should they end up over-staffed. Without hesitation she said yes, and later on decided that even if she were given the opportunity to get called off, she wouldn’t take it. It’s too good of a shift to pass up, and we’re going on vacation in a couple weeks, so working made sense. Yesterday she got another call from Tony saying they actually could get by without her and offered her the day off, which was cool because he stayed true to his word, but so did she, and declined his offer. That’s classic Jessica – always putting what’s best for our family ahead of herself. Obviously we’re quite lucky to have her and greatly appreciate everything she does. Happy Mother’s Day honey, as Ava would say, we “love you around the volcano.”

Although I won’t get to spend Mother’s Day with my own Mom, I’m very much excited to be spending a week with her on the Alaska cruise, which is only two weeks away! We’re all getting very excited for the trip. The girls seem to really understand that we’re going on a trip with Nana on a big boat and we’re going to see all kinds of exciting things. I know this is something my Mom has been looking forward to since she presented the idea several months ago, and of course getting this week with her grandkids will be something she never forgets. Hopefully this will suffice as a delayed, but unforgettable, Mother’s Day gift.

Finally, speaking of Grandma’s, Amy and Tom left earlier this week after a nice long visit. Amy was here for 2.5 weeks, and Tom joined her with us for the final week of the stay. We always enjoy spending time with them, and they always provide so much help with the kids. It sort of dawned on me that first night after they left while Jessica was at work that I hadn’t made dinner for the kids, or given them a bath, or barely even changed a diaper for that matter, in two weeks! They really take on the kids head first when they’re here and it gives Jessica and I a lot more free time, so we appreciate it very much. As far as I know they’re in Germany right now. Tom had to go for some work he’s doing with a company based in Colorado, and Amy went along with him to visit her niece Lauren, who lives with her family in Frankfurt. Lauren’s husband John is an officer in the Marine Corps, so they have already had an opportunity to live in some pretty exciting places. Randomly they were stationed in San Diego at the same time we were there, which is when I got a chance to know them.

Regarding the kids, everyone is doing really well. Ava is such a little helper these days, and she really seems to thrive when given a task. Maybe you need her to run upstairs to grab something, or keep Enzo busy while you change Elise, whatever it is she is always eager to help. She also likes helping with things that you don’t really need help with, like vacuuming or making dinner, but I usually do my best to find some way for her to help. She definitely understands that she is the oldest of the kids and seems to thrive in that role. She’s also doing well at school and looks forward to going every Tuesday and Thursday.

Earlier this week Jessica and the kids met up with my sister Dana at the Snohomish Aquatic Center. Everyone had a blast and Ava couldn’t stop talking about it all night. She’s still unwilling to go completely underwater based on an incident we had at the pool last summer, but we’re getting there. She definitely loves to go swimming, but I think we need to get her into lessons ASAP. Jessica said Elise was absolutely fearless in the water (much like her Daddy) and Enzo, who unexpectedly went under a few times, always popped right back up and kept going. All night Ava kept saying, I want to go back to the pool with Auntie Dana and Anna.

Speaking of my niece Anna, I guess we know who the star athlete in the family is. Anna, who is 15, has been playing soccer as long as I can remember. She set a goal as a very young child to become a soccer star and get a college scholarship out of it. Her dedication throughout this whole time is beyond impressive, especially to someone like me who tried so many different things growing up. Her ability to stick with one thing and become great at it is so inspiring, and I hope my kids take notice of it. We really need to take them to one of Anna’s games sometime soon. In her last game, Bellevue High (Anna’s team) won by a score of 13-2. Anna scored all 13 goals.

Elise is doing great and growing so fast. Based on one of my recent posts when I talked about Elise and how sweet she is, Jessica said I need to be careful because I seem to favor her a bit. At first I felt bad when she said that, but then thought about it some more and agreed with her. I do favor Elise, but not because I love her more or anything like that. Obviously my love for all 3 of the kids could never be compared. The reason I favor Elise is simply that at some level, I think she needs it. Being the middle child is rough, and let’s face it, she will always be Ava’s younger sister. At this point I think it’s fair to say that Ava is always going to have a big personality; she’s the life of the party and people are naturally attracted to her. Like her Mom, Ava is going to be the ‘cool kid’ in school (something that I definitely was not) and so I can’t help but worry about Elise feeling like she is always in Ava’s shadow. I hope they both understand this when they get older. In many ways Elise’s personality is closest to my own as a child, and in all honesty she needs a little more coddling than Ava. I have to be careful with it though because she recently said to Jessica that sometimes she gets sad on purpose because she knows that when she is sad Daddy will pick her up, take her outside to ‘search for tigers’, coddle her, etc. She’s a smart little girl so I have to be careful in how I reward her. It’s too bad this parenting thing doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. Not to worry though, it’s just part of the dynamic when you have three distinctly different little personalities all forming in the same household.

Enzo is doing great lately and continues to prove his fearlessness on a regular basis. He hasn’t needed any breathing treatments in about two weeks and seems to be fully recovered from the bug he had. It’s a good thing he has his little Star Wars helmet because Jessica caught him the other day barreling down our driveway on Elise’s scooter with the biggest smile on his face. Thankfully she was there to catch him before he bit it going over the curb. I just love how he’s only 15 months old and is already riding scooters! He recently had a checkup and has finally come back down onto the charts; he’s now at 98% for height in his age group. He’s such a little boy too. I guess I’ve gotten used to having girls so Enzo’s insistence on climbing everything in sight is new to me. If you come to our house now you’ll see the dining table out near the middle of the kitchen, because that’s the only place we can put it where Enzo isn’t able to climb up on it. He just loves to climb on things and stand there with this little grin on his face because he knows he got away with something. He’s also doing really well with his vocabulary. He’s even starting to string a couple words together and make his own little sentences. As I’ve said before, the girls deserve plenty of credit for his advancements with walking and talking at such a young age. He’s such an awesome little dude and has completed our family in ways we never could have imagined.

Regarding the title of this post, Jessica has been asking me for at least the past few years to go get my eyes checked. I’ve always resisted because I have good vision and can easily read tiny print, or things that are far away. However over the past 6 months I’ve been noticing that my eyes feel really fatigued at the end of the day. It makes sense considering I’ve basically been starting at a computer screen for the past 5 years. So finally this week I went to see the optometrist to get my eyes checked. They did all kinds of tests including blowing a puff of air into each eye to test your eye pressure, taking pictures of the back of my eyeballs, and doing all the typical stuff where you read random letters at various sizes. I have to admit I was feeling cocky throughout the tests because I was able to read the smallest letters they put in front of me without too much difficulty.

At the end of the tests the doctor explained to me that I am far-sighted, meaning I can see things well at a distance. To me that just means you have good vision, but it doesn’t account for the constant fatigue I’d been experiencing. As he explained, I’m good at seeing things far away, but not as good at seeing things clearly up close. To compensate for this, I’m using the muscles in my eyes that are normally reserved for seeing far away, to see things up close. Those muscles aren’t meant for seeing up close, so they end up getting worn out, and that is what I’ve been experiencing. He said I would benefit greatly from wearing glasses whenever I’m on the computer, and that it also wouldn’t hurt to wear them when watching TV or driving. I’m certainly not required to wear them when driving, but at the same time it wouldn’t hurt.

So I swallowed my pride and said okay, let’s get glasses then. I tried on quite a few pair and finally ended up choosing something I really liked. I felt a little guilty because the ones I selected are Ferragamo’s, and they weren’t exactly the cheapest pair available, but they were definitely my favorite. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance I had to my Dad when wearing them. I was a little nervous to tell Jessica what I’d chosen, but she was totally cool about it. I joked with her that I’d always wanted a ‘pair of Ferragamo’s’, but always figured it would be a pair of shoes, not glasses.

When I first put them on yesterday it was crazy. The best analogy I can make is it was like going from regular TV to high definition, although by the time my kids read this they won’t know what the hell regular TV even means. To put it another way, it was like going from an analog world, to a digital one. Everything snapped into such a level of focus that it honestly made me dizzy for a second. I remember walking around at the grocery store right after getting them and feeling slightly off balance; not because the prescription was wrong, but because I wasn’t used to this level of detail and clarity, and it was playing tricks on my mind. It was really weird. I also felt like random strangers were looking at me differently, which is obviously all in my head, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve been wearing them constantly since then and have basically gotten used to it. When I got home the girls saw me and giggled. Ava says “Daddy you look funny” and Elise says “Daddy why are you wearing Mommy’s glasses?” It was pretty cute.

Finally, during Amy and Tom’s stay, we got all new carpet upstairs. Unlike the visit when they helped us with the wood floors downstairs, this time we had a professional installation company come out to do the work. We went with a nice carpet as well as a nice padding underneath it, and all I can say is that it’s lovely. I’ve never had brand new carpet before, but it feels so nice to walk around barefoot on. I’m just as excited about this as I was with the new wood floors downstairs. At this point the only rooms in our house that don’t have brand new flooring are the two upstairs bathrooms.

We got to do another band practice on Friday and things are better. I was under the impression that the house was empty while we practiced, so I was slightly self conscious when finding out at the end that Dana and Anna were home the entire time and heard everything. Oh well, gotta get used to people hearing you at some point, I just wasn’t expecting it. We’ve added the song ‘Cold Shot’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan to our repertoire and are having fun with it, as well as all the others. I’m struggling with ‘Texas Flood’ the most, but we’re getting there, and most of all, we’re having fun in the process.

Here’s just a few recent pics, but something tells me we’ll have plenty more to share after our vacation. Plus I’ve got that whole Ferrari/Lamborghini thing going on the day we leave. Lots of good stuff coming up in the very near-term, including a visit from Grandpa Rick shortly after our vacation. Until then, Happy Mother’s Day!

The little climber, doing his thing

Grandma and the girls at Mommy’s birthday dinner

Jessica wanted a selfie after I picked up my specs.

Fun at the park with the girls while Zo stayed home with Grandma & Grandpa