Since then we have had many successful vacations with the only running curse being of the Celebrity Death variety. Sorry, Carrie Fisher.
So, when Steven and I decided to take a little mini vacation this past weekend, it was just that: a little mini vacation. Easy to organize; easy to implement, and by Saturday we were back in town and fetching the kids — success!
On Sunday morning Steven was washing some dishes, then he came into the bathroom and began running the shower. He answered my inquisitive look with, “The water is warm, but not hot . . . I wonder if it just needs time to get back up through the pipes.”
“Is the pilot light lit?” I asked. Our hot water heater is gas-powered, and it’s always made me a bit anxious, knowing there is a little gas flame both in the basement (water heater) and the attic (regular ol’ air heater).
A quick excursion downstairs showed the pilot light was indeed not lit, nor could Steven get it to relight. This led him to the gas meter outside, where ever so slightly we could smell a bit of gas.
So . . . we called the Utility Company Formerly Known As Alagasco, who promptly came out, tightened the small leak, but found the gas is going to the water heater just fine. The water heater was a separate issue.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on research: why it wasn’t working (probably the whole burner assembly and thermocouple), should we replace just that and hope it fixes the problem ($200) versus an entirely new heater (~$600 and up; more with install), how much longer a 12 year old heater can last (not much longer), and self-install versus hiring a company (we’re handy, but are we natural-gas-appliance-installation handy?). By the afternoon we were in the replace-the-whole-heater camp, and we began the process of getting a new heater installed through Lowe’s. Money was paid; we are ready to go!
What a Sunday.
That evening we had a lovely dinner of pork tenderloin and roasted vegetables . . . even though the oven warmed up the house pretty good (“It’s hot in here!” Lydia exclaimed. “Go take a cold shower then,” Steven retorted). We ended the day watching an episode of The Last Kingdom downstairs.
Well, at least I was watching it. Unbeknownst to me, Steven wasn’t paying attention; he kept checking his phone.
He was checking the Nest app . . . watching the temperature in the house climb.
After the show was over Steven finally fessed up to what was going on: the house was at 83 degrees.
Ho. Lee. Shit.
After that, I’m sure I was a most unhelpful wife, roaming around the house while constantly muttering, “I am going to lose my mind,” in between some choice curse words. Steven is better under stressful situations and by 10 p.m. he had the problem diagnosed: a bad capacitor, just a $25 part and easy to fix.
It was a long hot night, but by 7:30 the next morning Steven was in Pelham buying the first capacitor he could find, and within the next hour the air conditioner was fixed!
One problem down; one to go. It was now Monday, we had air conditioning (yay!), and now we just needed to add hot water.
But then . . . my email program started acting up, so a fair portion of that day was spent on computer troubleshooting and talking with their support team. One more thing to fix — add it to the pile.
Monday came and went, but no call from the Lowe’s contractor.
Tuesday came and my email was beginning to behave, but then a weird issue came up with my iCloud account. Once again I was computer troubleshooting. I even ended up on the phone with Apple Support before I was able to resolve that issue.
But still no call from the contractors.
By lunch I was back on the phone with Lowe’s, who had REASONS . . . and so we waited.
Later on Tuesday afternoon I finally get that blessed call from the contractor, only to hear: “Yes, we can be there Friday to evaluate the water heater.” Thus began a great phone conversation between me, Steven, their scheduler, and the owner of the company. We all eventually agreed to blame Lowe’s, but we were still looking at Friday at the EARLIEST for an install.
Meanwhile, Steven and I were learning the Art of the Cold Shower. The kids were surviving on a mix of boiled and cold bath water. At times I have felt like I’ve been mixing a witches’ brew.
Wednesday morning the contractors were on schedule to come by and evaluate the install job. Around breakfast Lydia comes up to me: “Mom, something is up with my phone. I kinda changed my password then I forgot what it was, and now my thumbprint won’t work or anything.”
She then hands me her completely disabled iPhone. Add it on the pile.
By mid-morining the installers were here and having a look at the water heater. The dude says everything looks good, should be an easy install, but the next step in the process is they have to submit changes to Lowe’s, then we have to approve those changes in cost, then we can schedule the install.
At 3:30 p.m. I get the call from Lowe’s: the apparently easy install still required a 25% increase in price, and I AM DONE WITH THIS.
By 4:00 p.m. we had cancelled all of the Lowe’s horseshit and found a different installer who, though the price was still higher than Lowe’s original (and complete bull) quote, could install a new water heater on Thursday morning.
Then I was tackling Lydia’s phone, which now required a hard reset and restore. Apple’s logic is something else, man: “Type in your password wrong six times? RESET ALL THE THINGS.” At one point I was again on the phone with Apple Support because neither my nor Steven’s computer was seeing her phone at all . . . and it turned out to be a bad charger cord. That was embarrassing.
Well, that pretty much bring us up to speed. Lydia’s phone is now fixed (“You’re the bestest, most awesomest mom ever!”), and the running theory is we will have a water heater installed by lunchtime tomorrow.
The . . . End?
July 8, 2018
by Carrie Comments Off on dewey is a great organizer
Once again, this has been a year of changes for Lydia. The physical changes have not been quite so dramatic as last year, but they are visible just the same. The slow but inexorable turn towards teenagerdom has been at the forefront, especially the past three months or so. As “Mom,” I have found out:
– I am no longer funny.
– Wearing a dress is torture if one has woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
– Brothers are super annoying.
– It’s a personal affront to still need a booster seat in the car, safety be damned.
– Some days, everything sucks, nothing is exciting, why are we even doing this?
I am now hyper-aware of how I was as a teenager . . . a horrible prickly ball of moodiness. Oh god. Damn you, karma!
But most of the time we’re doing okay, and life chugs along.
Another year, another grade completed: Lydia finished up fourth grade at the end of May. Overall, school went very well. We both really got a kick out of history. This year history covered the years 1815 to the present, and that long, anticipatory lead-up to World War One was great fun. Math has also been clicking along, though I’ve found her math brain is completely different from mine (and more like Steven’s). She prefers algebra-type stuff to the more visual math like geometry.
And then there’s reading. Last year I talked about how great reading was going, but no . . . that wasn’t great. I didn’t know what great was. This year was GREAT! Tremendous, even. Last fall she fell in love with a story about Pegasus, a no-pictures, multi-chapter, 400+ pages (each!) series of books. She was plowing through these books and I was beginning to wonder what was going to happen once she finished them all — there are only six in the series — but then . . .
Cats? Clans? Wars? Growth through strife? Over 50 books in the series?
Soccer is still a big part of Lydia’s life, and it’s about to become even more so. Last fall Lydia played again with the YMCA, but this past spring we switched to the Birmingham United Soccer Association, or BUSA for short. BUSA is more involved and competitive than the YMCA, and I figured she would either hate it — and that would be it for soccer — or she would LOVE it, and soccer would continue to be a Thing for years to come.
Well, I foresee a lot of soccer in our future.
At the end of September, we took our yearly beach trip. Despite the windy, cloudy weather, both Lydia and Sam were on Cloud 9 — there were shells to be found, pools to swim in, and hot chocolate to drink.
We also traveled to Tennessee to observe the solar eclipse in August. The best vacations are the kinds I can count as a school day.
One afternoon Lydia looked over at me and asked, “Mom, how old to I have to be before I can stay at the house by myself?”
Hmm. I hadn’t really thought about that. “Well, I don’t know, Baby. You’re probably old enough . . . maybe we’ll try it sometime. Just don’t burn the house down.”
And so we tried it. Sometimes Lydia stays at the house while Sam and I go to the store or a doctor’s appointment, and so far the house has stayed intact. Every time Sam and I get back I find Lydia and exclaim, “Yay, you didn’t burn the house down!” She just rolls her eyes at me. Remember, Mom is no longer funny.
Now if we can only get Sam mature enough so they can BOTH stay at home alone . . . then Steven and I can go see all the movies and eat all the sushi we want without having to cater to what they like. Our Master Plan is almost complete! Mwahahahaha!
Last year for Lydia’s ninth birthday, she got her very own bonafide cell phone. The phone came tethered to a lot of rules and stipulations. Now that we’re a year on, I am pretty pleased with how mature she has been with it all. In fact, it is rather convenient to be able to call her or send a text message when she is out and about in the neighborhood.
It is also handy when she’s stuck on a math problem but Sam and I are out on an errand. She is very well-versed in gifs and emojis now.
This series of texts is everything that is good in this world. I love this.
Lydia is still fairly outgoing and she has a wide gaggle of friends. Most of them are older than her by a few years, and they all enjoy playing Roblox together. For those of y’all that don’t know, Roblox is a game that you can play on your phone or a computer, but it’s more like a portal to a bunch of different games, all equally silly and inane . . . you know, stuff you would’ve loved when you were ten. They all Facetime together and go in these games where they can be animals, run a bakery, or go to school. Yes, school! They go to classes, sit through lectures, and have homework in this school game. For fun!
Kids these days, man.
Back when I was pregnant with Lydia oh so long ago, I would imagine what she was going to be like. I wondered if she would be willing to listen to musicals with me, and perhaps even sing along with me in the car. What would her voice sound like? Will she be a tomboy or super-girly? What will her interests be? Am I really ready for this parenting thing?
The last ten years have been quite the journey, one that I have been privileged to take. All those questions and more (so much more) have been answered, but the answers aren’t what matters. It’s the discovery.
I am eager to discover more with my little taco . . . even if she rolls her eyes at me sometimes.
June 28, 2018
by Carrie Comments Off on kitchen complaints, episode eleven
My least favorite meal of the day is breakfast, especially on weekday mornings. The kids are hungry, ornery, and prone to make messes. They can take FOREVER to eat their meal, and they love to push each other’s buttons.
If I was in charge, I would ban breakfast.
Yesterday morning was another usual weekday breakfast, and Lydia was being especially contrarian.
“The largest planet is HB100546b,” Sam informs everybody.
“No it’s not. It’s VY Scuti,” Lydia retorts.
“Biggest planet, not star,” Sam counters.
“You said ‘star,’ ” she continues.
Ugh. Time to end this. “Lydia, why are you always arguing with your brother during breakfast? Leave it be.”
“I do not always argue,” Lydia grumbles . . . and then it hits her.
“. . . oh.”
June 23, 2018
by Carrie Comments Off on June 23rd, 2018
A little over a week ago Sam turned eight years old. Old Man Sam!
Sam’s birthday falls right on the cusp of changes: his birthday heralds in the beginning of Kid Summertm and our annual changeover from one grade to the next. Now, Kid Summertm doesn’t really mean much in this household — we keep trucking through school — the biggest difference is the occasional 10:00 a.m. doorbell ring when one of Lydia’s neighborhood friends is looking for her. Both kids go up a grade at the beginning of June, so right after Sam turned seven last year he began 2nd grade, and he polished that off just a few weeks ago at the end of May. We have a third grader, folks!
Second grade was filled with some trials and tribulations. Focusing and general concentration is not one of Sam’s strong suits so we began some medication to combat some of his ADHD symptoms. Lydia had great success early on when we began to treat her ADHD, but Sam gave us yet another lesson in Every Kid Is Different. Some medicine that helped his ADHD symptoms gave him horrible side effects in the anxiety department, and other medicines that did not cause anxiety also did not alleviate the ADHD issues. Trying out all these different meds was a slow-growing process: many of them have to be started (and stopped) ever so slowly, giving me PTSD flashbacks of titration labs from college chemistry. All the while we were titrating on or off a medication, Sam’s schoolwork suffered.
By March, Sam’s doctor and I figured we were perhaps putting the cart before the horse by treating the ADHD first, anxiety second. So we switched tactics by treating the anxiety with a low dose of Zoloft. This also took time and tweaking. At first he was taking it at bedtime, and in the morning he was a right ol’ crab.
Once we backed up the dose time to dinner, the mornings got better, and Sam’s general anxiety lessened. Ever so slowly, we added in a low dose of another medication to combat the ADHD . . . and it’s working. It’s not perfect, some days are still tough, but Sam, his doctor, and I are all content with the level we’re currently operating at.
Most importantly, these changes have helped Sam’s schoolwork.
Perhaps I’m oversharing and you don’t really want to know the ins and outs of Sam’s medication exploits, especially on a yearly update. They’re supposed to be fun and nostalgic and celebratory, right? Perhaps you even judge me, tut-tutting me putting my young son on all these meds . . . drugs . . . CHEMICALS! That’s okay. I judge me, too. Every day I re-evaluate these decisions and my motivation for making them. Every day I doubt.
Then I see Sam, who is so dang happy he figured out that math problem IN HIS HEAD that he gives me a high-five so hard I can still feel it 30 minutes later. Oww oww oww.
Maybe it’s more than anyone really needs to know about the steps we take to help regulate Sam’s mental state, but it’s a part of him and a part of his year. It’s hard, he struggles, he overcomes. It’s important.
In Sam’s seven-year update I remarked on how well he was doing in OT and even mentioned he might be doing well enough to qualify out soon. I am happy to report that he did continue to improve with OT and in September he had his last appointment with “Miss Donna.” As part of her thank-you-for-everything gift, Sam hand-wrote her a note. He gave her that along with a Godzilla. It was sweet; we all cried.
In August, we traveled up to Tennessee with Grandma, Papa, Kevin, and Stephanie to witness the Solar Eclipse of 2017. I had been looking forward to August 21, 2017 for many years — that upcoming date has been listed in the Almanac since I was a kid. For the day of the eclipse, we camped out in a park in Gallatin, Tennessee with quite a few thousand other people. The City of Gallatin did a great job with the organization of their event, so there were ample food trucks, port-a-potties, and little cardboard church fans emblazoned with the date.
Us adults sweated in the shade while the kids played on a nearby playground.
As the time of the eclipse drew nearer, subtle changes began to happen: the sun, while still incredibly bright, began to feel less intense; the filtered shadows cast on the ground by trees began to look crescent-shaped; and us humans began to almost buzz with excitement as the minutes crept nearer. Then suddenly . . .
Darkness, in the middle of day. A swell of hooping and hollering rose over the park as thousands applauded the moon. Crickets began to chirp and bats, thinking it was dusk, began to fly around. It was surreal. Then a few minutes later, the sun was back, and that was that. The kids loved the experience, and we are all looking forward to 2024.
Here is a video of Sam and Lydia talking about their experience:
The next month was September and we took our annual beach trip. This year we did things a bit differently: I had a class to teach down at the beach, so we turned that work engagement into our vacation. Instead of our usual condo stay, we were in a hotel room. This worked out fine for us, but after many years of condo beaching, it’s weird to eat out every night instead of cooking for ourselves.
The weather was not our friend either. Every day was extremely windy. When we were out on the beach, it was akin to being sandblasted. The kids were not deterred, however, and were able to have some good beach time.
After we were back from the beach, Sam next began to anticipate Halloween. He even talked me into putting up the Halloween decorations the second week in September. Since Halloween leads into Thanksgiving, and then into Christmas, that means for a third of 2017 we were in holiday mode in the house.
Once Halloween finally arrived, Sam decided to be Godzilla again . . . but with sais.
Throughout the entire year, Sam continued taking drum lessons with Mr. Wes. He continues to improve and he loves drums more and more. Every once in a while, he lets me come in the room and make a video of what he is working on:
Do you notice how he’s all like, “Hey guys, and welcome to another video!”? This past year, Sam (and Lydia, too, for that matter) has gotten into the whole YouTuber scene. He loves to watch these nutty videos of people on YouTube doing crazy stuff. There’s one husband and wife duo Sam loves, and all they do is play Minecraft together. Then there’s Dr. Squish, who messes with slime, putty, and opens up squishy toys to see what’s inside. There’s also some guy named Rich who plays with dinosaur toys. They are all overly animated in their speech and are constantly telling you to SLAM THAT SUBSCRIBE BUTTON!
Many times I hear Sam talking to himself while he’s playing, and when I listen to what he’s actually saying, I can tell he’s pretending to record his own video. “Hey guys, welcome back to another video with Saaaaaaaam! Today . . . we are going to be looking at THIS. COOL.GODZILLA!”
And as inane as a lot of this stuff on YouTube is, Sam has also become fixated on some videos that has taught him more about space than I ever knew. Sam can tell you about all the planets, and I mean ALL ABOUT the planets, from how many moons they have, to the moons’ names, how long they take to rotate, what kind of volcanoes they have, and on and on and on. He can tell you about the dwarf planets and where they are in the solar system. The biggest stars ever discovered? He knows. How black holes work? He can tell you! Ever heard about the theoretical Planet Nine? I have — from Sam.
Suffice to say, space and the universe has become one of Sam’s Things.
And now we’re back to June. Sam’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, so we went out on our special day with him on Friday the 1st. This year we took him to Alabama Splash Adventure, a water park in Bessemer that began life as the ill-fated Visionland. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the place: clean, fun, free drinks, and multiple attentive lifeguards.
In years past, going out for your special birthday day meant it was just us parents and the birthday kid — the other, non-birthday kid got to spend the day with Grandma (which is always a day well-spent). But Sam is a sweet soul, and he told us he wouldn’t have as much fun at a water park if Lydia wasn’t there to experience it with him. So, for his special birthday day Lydia came along, too.
Lydia is more pragmatic and isn’t planning on returning the favor a few weeks from now.
The next day was his birthday party on his Actual Birthday. And the theme?
Do you even have to ask?
A Godzilla birthday for a Godzilla Sam. All the Godzillas (and some people) came to celebrate!
So what’s next for Godzilla Sam? Well, I’m sure he plans to get more Godzillas to add to his collection (because 30-something just isn’t enough):
He will stay in the pool as long as he can (and make the biggest waves ever):
He will expect another six inches of snow right before Christmas (and be very upset when it doesn’t happen):
And through it all, Sam will ask his most important question: “Yeah, but is it the biggest/best/tallest/most awesomest EVER??”
May 27, 2018
by Carrie Comments Off on like it never even happened
Sam was having a bad day this morning. He was trying to play a new game on his Orange but it was frustrating him, and it eventually led to a bit of a meltdown. A meltdown so early in the day can bode ill for the Williams household.
I began a valiant effort to turn his day back around by suggesting he could make a video about all of his Godzillas. Sam sometimes fancies himself a YouTuber and is known to emit phrases such as, “Make sure you SLAM that like button!” or “Hey guys, welcome to another video!” I had been resisting the Godzilla video because I knew it would take up a lot of time . . . and gigabytes!
Suggesting the video idea to Sam got him in a better mood quickly, and so we made our video. He talked for thirty-two (32!!!) minutes about all of his Godzilla toys. He detailed each one, explained what he liked about them, and then arranged them for the camera. Very cute stuff.
Later this afternoon, I began the arduous task of editing the video in iMovie on my phone. I was able to cut that 32 minutes down to just 16, and I even added little text notes and flairs. It was now Super Cutetm.
But when I tried to save the video out of the iMovie app, it was fussing at me, saying it needed more hard space. Of course it does! There’s a 32 minute video on my phone, along with a 16 minute one! So I cleared up some space, shifted things off here and yonder, but no dice. It just wouldn’t work.
So I thought, “Well, the iMovie has the 16 minute file, so I don’t need the 32 minute one anymore!”
And then iMovie deigned to tell me how it worked — it still needed the original video to make that saved cut. And it is GONE.
Gone gone gone.
So Sam is in a good mood . . . but I’m pretty pissed at myself.
May 16, 2018
by Carrie Comments Off on fly you fools
So I forgot to do my little dinky birthday post cat meme thing last week. First time I’ve missed it in years. Whoops!
Well, I was a bit busy that day.
Starting when Lydia turned five, Steven and I began a tradition: we would take the birthday kid out all day on their actual birthday, just the three of us. It didn’t matter if it was a weekday, weekend, or National Doughnut Day, we would go out and do whatever that particular birthday kid wanted. Chuck E Cheese? Sure! McWane Center? You bet!
I love this tradition. It’s up there with Pumpkin and backyard bonfires.
But it never occurred to us that we could have it for ourselves, too. Part of the problem is Steven’s birthday: his day is completely sidelined by Lydia’s. My birthday is part of The Gauntlet. So we get overlooked.
Until this year. For me, at least.
This year my birthday was on a Wednesday, and Steven takes me out for the entire day. So that’s why there wasn’t a birthday post. I was indisposed.
Early that morning after dropping the kids off we go to the new TopGolf place in downtown Birmingham. It’s like bowling, but golf! The aim is to hit golf balls way out in this green space that’s littered with targets to hit. You’re positioned in a big awning space open to the outside, and while you’re golfing you can also order up food and drinks.
Now, I’ve never swung a golf club outside of putt putt before, and I am feeling completely ridiculous with the first few — or twenty! — swings. Half the time I completely miss the ball! Once I get more used to it I don’t feel quite so silly and I’m able to hit some targets. In between shots, we feast on chicken and waffles along with some mimosas. Steven gets ridiculously good by the end, consistently hitting the farthest target. I like the kind of golf where you don’t have to walk around all the time!
After TopGolf it is nearing lunch, so we head to the Avondale Common House. I’ve eaten there many times before but it is a first for Steven. I’ve been wanting to take him for a while. I enjoy my salmon poke bowl and Steven is also pleased with his Rueben sandwich. If you ever go there, look up at the ceiling. It’s my favorite part!
Next it is time for the most outlandish event of the day: zip-lining. Now, I am neither outdoorsy nor a big fan of heights, but this was actually my idea. I’m not sure why I was willing to sign up for this . . . perhaps I’m trying to prove I’m not too old yet.
So, at 2:30 p.m. on May 2nd, 2018, I am perched on the edge of an 80 foot high tower connected to a hundred foot long cable, gussied up in all sorts of heavy climbing gear, cursing my earlier self using all the best drumline language I know.
Steven has already flown down. I was supposed to go on the line parallel to him, but my brain, despite all the safety harnesses and double-triple backups that I knew were in place, won’t let me shove myself off the platform. So here I crouch.
“You can do this!” Steven hollers from the ground. “It’s great!”
“It’s fine,” Paul Rudd #1 assures me. We had three Official Park Zip-lining People with us, and two of them looked like Paul Rudd à la Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The third guy looks like the tall skinny dude from In the Loop (though most of y’all know him from Silicon Valley or The Office). “People get nervous all the time. You can go when you’re ready.”
Paul Rudd #2 and the In the Loop dude are at the other ends of the line. “Woooooo! You can do it!” screams Paul Rudd #2 over the radio.
And here I crouch. While I am sitting there, I know, I KNOW, that I will eventually jump. I know I will do it. But knowing I would jump versus actually jumping are two different things.
Overriding that part of your brain that is solely intent on keeping you from spectacularly killing yourself is really difficult. Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.
“Jump, Carrie,” I think to myself. “Do it. Jump. Jump. Jump.” And each time I think, “jump,” I fully intend to do so. “Jump. Jump. Jump, fool!”
And I jump.
I’m falling, I’m flying, and hey, I’m not dead! The trees blur past me on either side, and streams of drumline language pour out of my mouth as I race down.
“Wooooooooo!” scream everybody from below.
“$&@#%€¥ $& @£%#!!!” I holler back.
On my next jump (we get to go twice each), I don’t hesitate, so Steven and I are able to fly down together.
I am also able to hold back on the language the second go-around.
After hearing our tales from the day, Lydia is super jealous about the zip-lining part. Unfortunately for her, she needs to gain about 15 pounds and four inches before she can have her own little freakout experience.
Sam is content to keep his two feet on the ground.
Thankfully, neither of them know much drumline language yet.