Happy 5th Birthday Ava!

It’s been a very busy holiday weekend for us, including lots of family time and Thanksgiving, but nothing could outshine our sweet baby girl’s 5th birthday. It’s a bit hard to believe that Jessica and I have been parents for a half decade now, but when I look at Ava and see how grown up she already is, it all kinda makes sense. Although her birthday was on Friday, I wanted to wait until the end of the weekend to write because I knew we’d be busy, and of course, we were.

Things started up for us on Thanksgiving. We all headed down to Kristy and Madi’s house that morning and basically just spent the day hanging out, cooking, watching football, and eating of course. We were joined by Uncle Jim, Aunt Brenda, and Kristy’s friend Edgar. Madi did a great job keeping the kids busy, and at this point I think it’s fair to say she will someday soon be a great babysitter. She really keeps them inline, and most importantly, they listen to her. She had some fun games setup for the kids, including a dinosaur egg hunt in the backyard. Breaking open their eggs and finding the baby dinosaurs inside ended up being a highlight for both of our girls.

Jessica, Kristy, and I spent most of our day in the kitchen together, and it was perfect. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite day because it’s all about the 3 F’s: Family, Food, and Football. As I’ve said before, I tend to associate memories with food, and this day will be no exception. Dinner turned out great, even though Ava and Elise couldn’t stop talking about what they would, and would not, be eating. To their surprise, Madi made sure they tried a little bit of everything on their plate, and not surprisingly, they liked most of it. I certainly didn’t need a second helping of dinner, but forced myself to eat it anyway, and was basically comatosed afterwards.

The only bummer that day was poor Enzo, who was having an adverse reaction to the liquid amoxicillin he was taking for an infection in his tonsils. The medicine was giving him bad diarrhea, so he was a bit out of sorts all day. He was such a little trooper though; I was proud of him for hanging in there and making the best of it.

We all stayed the night at Kristy’s, but of course we had a bit of difficulty in the middle of the night. The 5 of us were in Kristy’s room, while she and Madi were in Madi’s room. At about 4:30am, Enzo woke up asking for a bottle of milk. Jessica went downstairs and made it, then he got in bed with us to drink it, and (hopefully) fall back asleep. About 5 minutes after finishing his bottle, the poor little guy started throwing up all over Kristy’s bed! So now Jessica and I have to hop out of bed, start stripping Enzo down, and removing all the sheets and covers from the bed. Soon I found myself at 5:00am trying to separate a comforter from a duvet cover (at least I think that’s what it’s called), and not surprisingly I found myself struggling a bit.

We all eventually got back to sleep for a couple more hours, then woke up around 8:00. At first Ava didn’t realize what day it was, but when we said it was her birthday she lit up with excitement. The night before, Madi, Kristy, and Jessica decorated the downstairs for Ava’s birthday, so when she went down there to see everything she was absolutely thrilled.

Jim and Brenda came over that morning, and soon thereafter we all enjoyed a “Grandpa Elmer breakfast”, which is simply chocolate cake for breakfast. I had brought a little stringed instrument called a Merlin with me, so that morning I figured out how to play “Happy Birthday” on it, and did so while the rest of us sang to her before having cake. After cake we spent time opening presents and playing around the house for a couple hours.

That afternoon the 5 of us drove our car, and Kristy & Madi drove their car, down to the Seattle waterfront. We had a nice lunch at the Fisherman Restaurant, then afterwards we all went on the big Ferris wheel, which is right outside the restaurant. It was my first time on the wheel, and although I’m a bit scared of heights, I still had fun. Of course the kids loved it, and that was most important.

After the wheel we had to split up. Kristy took Madi to Pike’s Place Market for the first time, while the rest of us went home to prepare for Grandma and Grandpa, who were flying in that evening. A couple hours we got home, Tom and Amy arrived, so we spent the rest of the evening catching up and preparing for Ava’s party the next day.

Saturday we had Ava’s party at Chuck E. Cheese in Bellevue and it was great. In addition to Grandma and Grandpa, we were joined by Auntie Dana, our next-door neighbors the Schreiber’s, Solana and Ronin, and our friends the Palmer’s. The kids spent a couple hours playing games and collecting tickets, then we all sat down for a snack, followed by photo time with Chuck E., cake, singing, and presents. One of the highlights for Ava was getting to go inside the ticket booth, which is a glass booth filled with game tickets. For 30 seconds she got to stand in there while lots of air was blowing tickets all around her. The objective is to grab as many tickets as possible, so that you can trade them in later for a prize.

Before I move on, I want to say thank you to everyone we saw over the weekend for all the birthday gifts, and for making time for us. It was a very special couple of days for Ava and I’m sure she won’t forget it. Looking back on my own childhood, I definitely remember my 5th birthday party, so I wanted this to be special for Ava, and it certainly was.

Sunday was a pretty busy day for Tom and I. My Acura and Jessica’s van both needed some work, so we worked together all day on them. The van work was pretty minor, but in the case of my Acura, the check engine light was on and when I connected the reader, I found out it was my knock sensor. In most cars the knock sensor is easily accessible, but of course in my car it’s down inside the engine block, meaning we had to disassemble the top of the engine (intake manifold, throttle body, fuel rails, and injectors) just to get to it.

I had gone out the night before and purchased a new sensor, plus some other tools we thought would be necessary, but once we got to it, what we found was surprising. As it turned out, the sensor was fine, but the wire connecting to it was basically gone. A little more investigating revealed the reason – a damn rat got inside my engine and chewed through the wire. It was obvious because there was rat poop inside there and the remains of a nasty little nest.

While purchasing the new sensor the previous night, I had also tried to purchase a new wire, and I went to 2 auto parts stores, but neither of them even carried it. They told me my only options were to special order it from the dealer, or find one at a junkyard. Neither of those options seemed viable due to time restrictions, so I crossed my fingers hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

I have to give major credit to Tom because once we saw what the issue was I figured we were just out of luck and I was going to have to take my car into the dealer for the repair. However I was wrong. Tom came up with an idea to remove the wire fitting from the sensor, then cut out the other connecter that it plugged into, rewire it on our own, and solder the whole thing together. We went back to the auto parts store to return the sensor I had purchased, then went to the hardware store to purchase a soldering iron and a spool of wire. We ended up getting everything soldered together, secured with heat shrink, and protected with a sheath. The whole thing worked perfectly and I was thoroughly impressed.

Afterwards we put the top of the engine back together, reconnected everything, and it was good to go. The check engine light was off and the car ran perfectly. This was by far the most in-depth repair job I’ve ever done, and obviously there’s no way I could have done it without Tom, but it was a great learning experience.

As usual, the long weekend went by in a flash, and tomorrow it’s back to normal for me. This should be an interesting week at work, as we’ll be moving to a new building. I’ve been at the same desk in the same building for nearly 2 years, which is crazy considering in my 2.25 years at Amazon I had 5 different desks. I’m ready for the move though and even more ready for December, which is a slow time of year for us. October and November of this year were the two busiest months I’ve ever had at Microsoft, so we’re all ready to dial it down a notch.

Before I go I just want to say how proud I am of Ava. Of course I’m extremely proud of all three of them, but this one is about Ava. You’re growing up so fast I can hardly believe it. You’re smart, funny, talented, beautiful, and most importantly, filled with love. You’re also our little trailblazer, and I know you’re going to have a few tricks up your sleeve for us in the future, so I hope we’re ready. I can’t believe you’re so close to Kindergarten! Thank you for being such a good big sister to Elise and Enzo, and thank you for always being my sweet baby girl. As you would say, I love you around the sun, and around the volcano. Happy 5th birthday sweetheart – I hope you never forget it.

Getting ready to grab those tickets!

A little Thanksgiving fun

Elise enjoying some bread at Ava’s birthday lunch

Okay so maybe I was a little nervous on the wheel…

Happy Thanksgiving!

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