Monday, January 28, 2013

4 Generation Spread

Taken this weekend, my youngest daughter with her great-grandmother...pretty awesome stuff.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bath Time

     There are times that are universally fun for the girls. Bath time is one of them. They seem to be obsessed with water and so you take a tub full and add some soap and toys and it's just party time. I don't dislike bath time and even if I did, I don't have a choice in the matter. So it is what it is.
     When you are home with a 1 and a 3 year old all day, you'll hear some scary noises. Things thump, thud, slam and smash. Occasionally your ears will play a trick on you'll hear the sound of scissors that are really just two sheets of paper rubbed together. Or you'll hear the front door close and run outside looking for a child who is actually just playing in their room. Trust me, these things happen.
     Even worse, I occasionally hear the older one say things that I am not quite sure I hear correctly and require immediate followup. Phrases like "See Sailor, the cat will fit in the microwave" or "Daddy says it's too high to jump but it's not." Usually I arrive in time to intercept. These are the good ones. On a rare occasion, I'll get one where the damage is already done and there is nothing I can do to reverse it.
     Coming full circle, last Saturday the girls were in the bath. I was enjoying a cold one with a friend and my wife was gone for the night.  Everything was going really well: the girls were safely occupied, I had some good company and the beer was great. Suddenly this all came screeching to a halt. Ruby walks into the room naked, which is already kind of a shocker, and looks at me and says "Daddy, Sailor pooped in the bath tub."
     This isn't quite a moment where your life flashes in front of your eyes but you do kind of get the feeling that your face should be quickly zoomed in on like in the movies. By the time I had registered what she said, my buddy was already laughing hysterically. You think goods friends are there to help. In this case, friends are for laughing at your misfortunes and watching you ineptly try to handle an ugly situation.
     I'll spare you the details of what I saw when I got into the bathroom. The solution was pretty easy and consisted mainly of draining and refilling the tub. It did remind me of a similar story I heard first hand a few years back. A mom was running the bath water while her child stood in the tub. She saw he was about to poop and rather than have him ruin the bath water she caught the poop in her hand.
     I guess I've got to look on the bright side. As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. What's the expression, a poop in the hand is worth two in the tub?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Photodump-Snowpocalypse 2013 Edition

This was last week in Alabama. It started melting the same night and tomorrow the high is in the 50's. Crazy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr.

photo from The Seattle Times
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
     "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 1963

An amazing dream indeed...what can we do with our children to ensure that we are promoting a future free of race based hatred? What can we do to show that diversity and difference are good things? How can we further the causes of inclusion and equality? Is it enough to teach them not to hate or is it better to show them to love openly?

If you are off work today, enjoy your leisure time. Take some of it to think about why you are off and how we can all work toward making the dream as close reality as possible. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fountain/Carousel Update

I found myself at the mall again this week and took the opportunity to check out the latest on the fountain/carousel situation. The carousel is out, less the platform and entrance sign. There is a barrier and visual blockade around the work area but a quick trip to the 3rd floor and I was able to get the shot above. I talked to someone who works there and he said the concrete is supposedly coming but would take the mall forever to get it done. I guess they don't have to rush. I think the restoration time on the carousel was 90 days and I would guess that to be conservative. My guess is that the carousel would be gone for twice that ammount of time. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


The girls are obsessed with the keyboard. I can hardly play it when they are around as it usually gets commandeered for their music making. This model has A LOT of knobs and switches and I think that might be most of the fun for them. Sailor really cannot hear it and not play with it. I think she could do this for hours...which is no surprise because so can I.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Toy Cars

     My Mom is awesome. She was very forward thinking and saved a TON of cool stuff from when I was young for my kids to have. That said, I am pretty sentimental and not always the best at letting things go. It is different for the things that I saved for the kids but when Mom unearths these treasures from my childhood and gives them to can be hard for me to pass them to the girls.
     I've had these cars for several months. I let the girls play with them with supervision and they love them. I had let them each pick one to have but mostly they sit on the shelf above the computer. We've been doing a lot of cleaning out this week and the cars came up. olivia also has some things from when she was young that the girls play with now. She told me that when she sees them playing with them she gets a warm feeling inside and even though they are rough on them, its worth it. Besides, what is the alternative? There's no point in letting them sit, it is far time they were played with.
     For Christmas the girls got a really cool play mat with streets and buildings on it. I think the timing is just right so sometime soon, they are going to get more cars, trucks, construction vehicles, dune buggies, taxi cabs, etc to play with then they could ever imagine. I can't wait to see them in action again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ruby Songs

Every once and awhile we get treated to what we have come to call a "Ruby Song." These are usually stream of consciousness songs about what is going on at the time and incorporates whatever happens for the following verses. I was lucky enough to get one on tape recently. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Galleria's Food Court Fountain

     In case you didn't know, I am and have always been a really big mallrat. I think it stems from the fact that when I was growing up, malls were a bustling hotbed of youth activity. There really wasn't much in Birmingham for kids to do and the mall had a book store, music store, an arcade, a movie theater, Spencer's, a Taco Bell, etc. We spent a lot of time hanging out there and with the exception of the Great Silly String Battle of 1995, nobody ever asked us to leave.
     Though in recent years it has been suffering a steady decline, the Riverchase Galleria has always been my favorite local mall. Opened in 1986, I remember taking a field trip there when I was in elementary school. Before adding the Sears expansion, the mall had an impressive 1,200,000 square feet of floor space and four anchor stores. The presence of the Wynfrey Hotel and the Galleria Tower office complex made the Galleria one of the largest mixed-use projects in the southeast. After the Sears expansion, the complex grew to 1,570,000 square feet and became one of the top ten largest mixed-use projects in the entire country.
     The City of Hoover was quick to see what the tax income from the retail giant could do for the city. They shot themselves in the foot by encouraging new developments instead of working with existing structures. The result was a series of new strip and outdoor malls that have had a severely damaging effect not only on the Galleria but also the City of Hoover. The Galleria is no longer the draw that it once was. The newer establishments are more attractive to tenants as well as shoppers. The result was a lower number of big businesses and anchors in the mall and strip mall ghost towns in the city.
     Last year, mall management started on a $60 million dollar redevelopment. This includes a facelift for aging parking decks, relocation of the food court elevators, the revitalization and sale of the Wynfrey hotel and the addition of a new anchor: Von Maur. Included is a facelift for the mall's 19th Century Dentzel Carousel, which is what brought me to posting.
     If you don't live in Birmingham or haven't lived here long you aren't familiar with or can't remember what the Galleria used to be like. Let's start with the ceiling: it is entirely glass skylights. As a visual and architectural wonder, this was a huge attraction and part of the appeal of the mall. Each of the cross members is fitted with a full row of neon lights. They span the mall in three colors depending on the section: red white and blue. There are the giant light towers in the food court with giant radiant white sections at the top and multiple lights up the side of the main tower. Unfortunately, the neons are no longer in use, nor is the full potential of the light towers. The biggest shame, is the absence of the food court fountain.       
     The food court at the mall is open and expansive, especially vertically. At the center court there was a large and impressive fountain. From a ring around the center, ribbons of water were directed to the middle and occasionally a tall stream would erupt upwards. There were tiered sections around the fountain where you could sit and watch it while eating. It was pretty awesome to see and I remember always thinking it was one of the coolest things about the mall.
     Traditionally, the carousel was only in use a few months for the holidays and the fountain was there the rest of the year. I guess at some point management decided that as the fountain cost money and the carousel made money, the fountain would be shut down and the carousel would stay. The effect was that the carousel lost it's uniqueness and appeal and the food court's vertical expanse would never again see the awesome burst of the fountain.
     I was hopeful that as the carousel would be taken down that maybe the fountain would be making a return. I saw this as a hopeful moment, a chance for mall management to capitalize on what could be a potential harm: the lack of the carousel. They could have used the brief return of the fountain as a draw for people like me, people who remember the fountain and it's appeal and who would like to see it again and for their kids to see it too.
     Alas, this was not to be the case. As the carousel was taken down, I talked to a representative of the mall who not only confirmed that the fountain would not be making an appearance but that the entire ring that surrounded it would be filled with concrete. It's a sad day in my opinion and proof that the new management of this retail establishment lacks long term vision. Malls normally have a lifespan of around 20 years and at nearly 30 years, the Galleria is pushing hard with the $60 million redevelopment to beat the odds.
     What they seem to be missing is that to keep the mall vital, you will have to bring back the "wow" factor. Birmingham is not the same city it was in 1986 and the Galleria is now far from the only game in town. People can shop anywhere. What they can't see is that they need to give people a reason to shop there. These draws are often not the retail stores themselves but the things that surround them. This includes things like the fountain.
     I am hopeful but realistically pessimistic for the future of the mall. Let's see what 2013 brings. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

Gift Trifecta

Sometimes things just come together. Sometimes separate items work almost too well as a unit... and it is awesome when they do. We received all of these gifts on different occasions but this is really the first time we've made the most of all three of them. It is great when you can enjoy something as simple as a cup of espresso and know it was all because people can be so thoughtful and giving.

Thanks to Miss Janet, Josh and Kellet and Sutton. Also big thanks to everyone else who does the little and big things for us that enrich our lives in so many ways. We appreciate you and your gifts, material and otherwise.