Monday, October 28, 2013

The Beach

     If I had to choose a home away from home it would easily be Perdido Key, FL. When it comes to childhood memories of summer, if my mind doesn't land on Camp McDowell the only other alternative is the Gulf Coast. Every summer of my childhood, we took a trip to the beach that included all of our small family: my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my cousins. Over the years there was not much of this area that we did not explore. I became familiar with the ins and outs of this beach city and the ones surrounding it. 
     Before we discovered the beaches of Perdido Key and the quaint surrounding community, we vacationed at the Gulf State Park. I remember them less clearly but in my head they were more or less hotel rooms with a great view. There was also a poolside snack bar that had great nachos. Unfortunately these structures were largely destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and torn down.
     I don't know exactly when it happened but at some point my folks decided to buy a beach property and the vacations moved to a building of condos called Ocean Breeze West. These were much nicer accommodations and much less crowded than our previous locale. Our unit was formerly the leasing and sales office, ground floor with an excellent view and easy access to the sand and surf. In a word, it was paradise.
     Over the years, I watched businesses come and go. One year a store front would sell us stunt kites and the next we'd be enjoying pizza coming out of the same door. There was a group of retail shops down the street called Colors named for the loud, tropical paint schemes on the buildings. At times we would get beach towels or inflatables from stores there or play mini golf. It always seemed to struggle. Ivan was the last nail in the coffin, though someone rebuilt on the property and it seems to be doing well.
     I could do a huge series of posts about my coastal favorites and all the things and places I love about this area but I will spare you and get to the point. A couple weeks back we had our first family beach trip to Perdido Key to give the next generation some memories of their own. Off season beach trips are much more comfortable, affordable and everything is less crowded. No lines and no waiting is important when you have hungry or excited young children.
     The surf was rough at times but the water was still warm enough to swim. Over the course of our stay we built sand castles, flew kites, walked casually and collected shells, ate great seafood and took the girls to see some of the attractions. No trip would be complete without stops at staples like Lambert's, Souvenir City and Adventure island. On the last day the temperature took a dive so we enjoyed the views and sounds from the couch with the sliding glass door open.
     As always, leaving is difficult but we managed to jam a lot into our stay. Packing the car, I could feel the occasional sting of sand blown through the air and smell the salt water just yards away. Driving out, we crossed the bridge that connects the island to the rest of the world and took in our last views of the gulf. Hopefully this is the start of a tradition that will continue for years to come. One of the greatest gifts I can give my children is the joy of memories and experience that my parents gave me. These were some of the best times of my life, times I will never forget. Hopefully one day, my girls will see the sand and feel exactly the same way.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Letter to Santa

So the "letter" had actually been around the house for a while but was more or less misplaced with all of the toys and other drawings. I guess in Ruby's head, since she couldn't write out what she wanted she would just draw a picture. No, she doesn't want a giant creepy is a trampoline. I found an address on the net to send it to that supposedly sends something back close to Christmas but we'll see how that plays out. Until then, we are waiting  for the Holiday to arrive. The next big jump will be the arrival of the elf on the shelf next month. I've already had to start thinking of places to put her. Last year it got to be a little challenging and a couple times we forgot to move her. It was interesting at times to say the least.

Monday, October 21, 2013

More With Less

Since we moved both the girls into a single bedroom and made the spare into a playroom, we struggled a bit with how to get the most out of the space. This is the third configuration of furniture and toys and in my opinion the best. While I was gone for a weekend trip olivia took it upon herself to undertake the project alone. We did discuss my thoughts and she merged them with her own to create the best of both concepts. I am really happy with how it turned out. The space for play was opened up and we were able to move out a lot of the items and stuffed animals that were not being used anymore. I still think there is a bit to lose yet and I am hoping the purge will come before the holidays. Every Christmas we seem to need more space. Funny how that works.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Year Two

Just for those of you keeping score...hard to believe, isn't it?
Tomorrow will be the two year anniversary of the start of this blog. I appreciate everyone who gave it a fair chance and those of you who still read and everyone who has started reading along the way.
As has become tradition, I am going to take it back to where it all started. Here it is: the first Sidecar post from two years ago.

"It’s a daycare bill and it is larger than your mortgage. It always has been…but now it is even bigger. You look at it and it seems to swell in front of you as if your anger is feeding it, making it grow like some evil creature from a black and grey b-movie.

So you shift, do less for yourself so you can give more to your kids. This is the core of being a good parent. Then you have to ask yourself if you can keep this up, scraping by paying someone else more than your pickup truck is worth each month to watch your children.

There are people who have jobs that pay enough money to cover all their bills and they never have to worry about debt or their expenses. I don’t know any of them personally but I have heard they are out there. We are not these people. We budget everything to the penny, try our best to flex and hold our self control so we can make it stick and most times we succeed. We’ve tackled a mountain of debt making it into a molehill and we manage…or we have managed…until now.

My wife makes more money than I do. There, I said it. It is kind of liberating. It is also sad that in 2011 it merits mentioning. Maybe it is just the South…or our parents. All the same, if you are a man in the south making less than your wife is something you should not do along with wearing pink, being a nurse, or staying at home with the kids.

That said, here we are. Night after night we stare at an excel spreadsheet. It is looking up at us plain as day. It might as well be waving a sparkler and shouting Yankee Doodle Dandy. I am working just to keep my children in daycare. We will do better financially if I leave my day job and stay home.

So what do you do then? You tell your boss you are out and you go home. This is where I find myself. Did I mention that I had never even held a baby until I started dating my wife, I am extremely skittish around bodily fluids and feces and I hate the sound of babies crying?

Am I insane? Perhaps a little.

This is going to be a learning experience for me, learning to juggle two girls with two different sets of needs: my oldest, deep into the terrible twos and a six month old just getting into solid foods. I ran this by my closest and best advisor, my mother, who cautioned me that caring for two children is a lot of work and I should not make the decision lightly. Basically I got the impression that she thought I was nuts.

Most people without kids probably envision sitting on the couch all day watching TV. The truth is you are dealing with changing or feeding a screaming six month old while the older child fights with the dog or the cat or gets into every danger you thought you had so carefully safeguarded. You pick up toys, wash spit-up pajamas, clean furiously and get yelled and cried at…all day. Maybe when they nap you have the TV on but if you are smart…you sleep yourself.

So this is where we are and what day my day to day life will soon become. This is my place to rave, rant, share and ask your advice. Enter your e-mail up top so you’ll be notified about updates. I encourage you to be an active participant and share your own stories. I need something to read, I’ve got nothing to do all day now anyways, right?"

Monday, October 7, 2013

Back Yard

I've spent a good bit of time in the yard the past couple weekends prepping it for more tolerable outdoor weather. This past weekend we had some friends over and all the work paid off. The time I like my yard the most is when it is full of playing children and laughing friends. Hopefully we'll have a few more opportunities in this brief window to enjoy it before the cold comes and we'll have to more or less hibernate waiting for the warmth to return.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Counting Down

We have a family beach trip coming up soon. The girls were going crazy asking when we were leaving so olivia made them a countdown calendar. Every night before bed they each get to put a sticker on the current date and then they count the days left until the trip. This has been an excellent method to curb them from continually asking about the trip. It is getting closer and all of us are getting stoked. I think after this one runs it's course we might have to do a new one for Christmas.