Glasses, Christmas Parties, and Allergies

I have officially re-joined the ranks of the (slightly) visually-impaired. About 5 years ago, I had LASIK done to correct my very terrible vision, and it was great. I tested at 20/20 and loved not having to deal with glasses or contacts anymore. However, LASIK does not prevent the continual deterioration of vision that most people experience – it only resets your vision to what it should be. So, after 5 years, I’ve finally come to the point that I need some help with seeing things clearly from a distance again.

My eyes are still not all that bad – I can drive and do most things just fine, but I can’t always read the small street signs or everything on the screen in a meeting. I think they tested me at about 20/50. So, I went ahead and got some glasses, and I’ll wear them as needed. I’m still glad I had the LASIK done, even though it doesn’t “last” forever, because my eyes would be horrible by now if I hadn’t. I may even do it again in a couple of years. We’ll see.

In other news around the Kelso house, we have been busy preparing for Christmas. I decorated the house with some lights this year, and I think it looks pretty good for my first try at it. I’ve never done any outdoor lighting before, and I didn’t totally “Grizwald*” the house (as my neighbor says), but I tried to do it up right.

We had a Christmas party at our house last weekend for our Sunday School class, and I think it was a great success. Almost everyone in the class showed up, and we had good food, a gag gift exchange, and played some games. It was really nice to get to know some of the newer couples. We’ve started to see some good growth in our class lately, and hopefully that will continue next year.

We have a couple more parties to attend this week, starting with a party at my boss’ house tonight, a breakfast at work on Wednesday for the whole department, and then a dinner with the MTUG on Thursday night. After that (probably Saturday), we head to Michigan to spend Christmas with Mary’s dad and some of her extended family. I’m sure there will be more Christmastime gatherings up there.

I really hope we get some snow while we are in Michigan, because I’d like to take Owen sledding. He’s never really seen a heavy covering of snow, and even if he had, I doubt he’d remember it. We haven’t had much snow in Nashville the last couple of years.

The only bummer lately (aside from another quick trip to Boston last week) is that I’ve been suffering from allergies, and it’s worse than usual this year. I’ve got a lot of congestion in my throat and nose, and my voice is about half gone. I haven’t been able to sleep very well, so I’m tired on top of it all. I just don’t feel very well in general. I’ve started taking some stuff for it in the last couple of days, so hopefully it will clear up before we make our trip north.

Other than that, though, I can’t complain. Things are good. We are blessed. Busy, but very blessed.

* This is a reference to the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. If you have not seen it, stop what you are doing and go rent it right now. Really. Get going.

Thanksgiving

Owen and Ivan at the piano at my grandparents' houseWe had a great trip to Florida for Thanksgiving week. It was too short, of course – we always end up wishing we could stay a couple more days – but it was a fun time and fairly relaxing.

We left Nashville on Sunday after church and headed down through Alabama to see my grandparents in Tallahassee. Aside from a construction delay, it was a fairly easy trip, and we got there in about 8 1/2 hours. The only real concern was when we stopped at a Taco Bell to get something to eat, and I heard the employees discussing the fact that they had just moments earlier been robbed at gunpoint! It made me glad we had the construction delay.

We spent the night in Tallahassee, and after visiting with my grandparents through lunchtime and then stopping to see my aunt and cousin at work, we got back in the new van for the rest of our trip. Ivan was not too happy to be back in his car seat so soon after the long drive the day before, but we survived and made it to my parents’ house in time for dinner Monday night.

On Tuesday, we didn’t do much in the morning, but headed down to Lakeside Village for some shopping (mostly by the women) in the afternoon, and ate dinner at BD’s Mongolian Grill. It’s a lot like Genghis Grill, which is one of my favorite places to eat.

My mini R/C helicopterThat evening, we had our family Christmas, since we probably won’t see my side of the family in December. Our kids got lots of toys, which would not have fit in our car (thank goodness for the new van!), and I got a toy of my own – a very small, lightweight remote controlled helicopter. We had so much fun with it that my brother went and bought one (only $30 at Toys-R-Us!) and we flew them both in the garage to the amusement of (just about) everyone.

On Wednesday, we relaxed in the morning (do you see a pattern here?) and then left just before lunch to head over to the Tampa area. We ate lunch in Ybor City at the Columbia Restaurant and it was oh so good. I think just about everyone had the Cuban Sandwich with a side of black bean or Spanish bean soup, and we followed up with churros and guava cheesecake. And of course, the Cuban bread was excellent.

After a great meal, we went to the Florida Aquarium, which is one of my favorite places to visit. As Mary has already mentioned in her blog, I asked about a discount from our Nashville Zoo membership (the zoo being part of the AZA and having reciprocal benefits relationships with some of the other members) and didn’t really expect to get much, but it was a significant savings. I think we paid $15.50 instead of over $50 for Mary, Owen, and me (Ivan got in free). I was glad I asked! The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga only gives us a couple of dollars off, but I think that’s because it’s so close and they expect to have a lot more Nashville Zoo members take advantage of the discount.

Owen surfing with his Uncle KeithAnyway, Owen seemed to have a good time at the aquarium. I tried to get some pictures of him in front of the glass, but the lighting was low and he wouldn’t hold still (you’d think he was a 3-year-old or something). He really giggled when we went by the otters and also at the stingray pool, where they come right up and splash you with their fins.

Outside the aquarium, they have a playground, which is probably a lot more fun in the summer months (they have a lot of water-based activities that were turned off). We did get some photos of Owen running around and playing out there – including riding the surfboard with Uncle Keith.

Happy Birthday IvanOn Thursday, of course, we celebrated Thanksgiving, and Mom and her family did an awesome job as usual. The food was excellent and we had a nice time visiting with everyone – I have several cousins who I pretty much only see once a year at either Thanksgiving or Christmas. After lunch and some helicopter flying we took turns riding my brother’s new scooter. Even my mom and my aunt took a ride on it. The weather, which had been a little cool earlier in the week, was beautiful on Thursday and Friday.

Since all the family was already there, we had a little birthday party for Ivan on Thursday night. He was thoroughly enjoying his cake when my mom decided to give him a strawberry. After all that sweet cake and icing, I guess the strawberry was pretty sour, because he puckered up real good and looked at us all like “what in the world did you just give me?”. Of course, we just laughed and took lots of pictures. After a while, though, he got over it, ate some more cake, and then opened his gifts with a little help from big brother.

On (Black) Friday, I pretty much wanted to avoid any type of retail establishment. Mary had gotten a shirt that was the wrong size, so she went out with my mom to exchange that, but the guys (Dad, my brothers, and the kids) stayed at the house and watched some old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes and played a little cards while the boys napped.

Owen and Landon playing air hockeyThat night, we met up with one of my oldest friends, Shane, and his wife and their two boys. We took all the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and if I could sum up that place in one word, it would be “loud”. Owen seemed to enjoy it for the most part, though. We played a few games, including driving a race car that he enjoyed, and he rode some rides. They also had a kid-sized air hockey table, so I had to run out and get the camera to take some photos of Owen and Landon playing air hockey. They didn’t totally know what they were supposed to be doing, but they knew enough to hit the puck back and forth and had a good time doing it.

Saturday morning, we got up early to start the long drive home. I wasn’t sure how bad traffic might be on the holiday weekend, but I was hoping most people would wait until Sunday to travel home. It moved pretty well until we got into the Atlanta area, where it got very thick and slowed down. Up to that point, we had only stopped once for gas, so we hadn’t eaten lunch yet (mainly because the boys were sleeping and we wanted to take advantage of the peace – those of you who have traveled with kids know what I’m talking about).

We saw a sign for “Truett’s Grill”, with a Chick-Fil-A logo underneath it, so we thought we would check that out and see what it was. It turned out to be a really nice 50’s-style diner that served Chick-Fil-A food and a lot more. The decor in there was incredible – it was full of old cars, both life-sized and scale models, and had a model train running on an elevated track around the whole restaurant (which, of course, Owen loved). I spoke to one of the employees and he said that S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, lived right around the corner and often stopped in there on Saturdays. I would have loved to meet him, but he didn’t come in while we were there. It was a very neat place, though, and I recommend that anyone traveling through or around Atlanta stop in at one of the Truett’s Grill locations (I think there are 3).

We spent a longer time there than we usually spend for lunch when traveling, but once we got through Atlanta, the traffic was light, so we still made it home at a decent hour and got unpacked and put the boys to bed. As much as we enjoyed our time in Florida, we were all very happy to be home.

San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge

Earlier this month, I flew to San Francisco for the Business Objects Americas User Conference, which I have attended almost every year since 2000. It used to be the International User Conference, but starting this year they have split it into two conferences – one in the US and one in Europe. It was kindof a bummer, because I’ve built some friendships with a few people from the U.K. that I didn’t get to see this year.

The Bay Bridge at nightAside from that, though, the trip was a good one. I got a lot of good information out of the conference during the day, and in the evenings we were able to get out and see parts of San Francisco and eat some good food.

The weather was great while we were there, and we did a lot of walking. My hotel was a couple of blocks from the conference center, so fortunately, it didn’t rain much at all and the temperatures were in the 70’s.

The first night, we went down to Fisherman’s Warf, and found a small Italian seafood restaurant. I was already full from the food provided at the conference, but I had some lobster bisque in a bread bowl, and it was tasty. We walked down to Pier 39 where you can see a large gathering of Sea Lions. They smell bad and make lots of noise.

At the top of Lombard StreetEvening number two, we rode the cable car and stopped at the top of Lombard Street, which is “America’s crookedest street“. There were a lot of hills in that part of town, so you can get some good views of different parts of the city while giving your calf muscles a good workout. From there we walked down a steep road to Ghirardelli Square for dinner and ice cream.

Evening number three was the conference party, held at the Regency Center, and it was pretty cool. There were three levels of theaters, with tons of food and different entertainment in each. We spent most of our time listening to a jazz band on the top level. There was a bar made out of a solid block of ice, and they were serving ice cream cones out of it – including mango ice cream. Mmmm… mango…

Kevin, Bob, and MeThe last day of the conference ended just early enough that we could drive out to the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun was going down. A consultant that we have worked with rented a car just for the occasion. I didn’t get any good sunset pictures (just missed it), but there was enough light for us to drive across and up on the bluff overlooking the bridge and the city, and take a few pictures from there before going into Sausalito for some Thai food. Pictured here is Bob, on the right, and one of my co-workers, Kevin, on the left (believe it or not, that photo and the one at the top were taken well after the sun went down). There were two more of my co-workers at the conference, but they elected to leave the conference early and catch flights home instead of staying the last night.

San Francisco from the airMy flight home left from Oakland, and I was fortunate enough to get a window seat on the side of the airplane facing San Francisco as we took off. I got several good photos of the city from the air, and in the closer ones I can find my hotel, the conference center, and many of the places we stopped (the photos don’t quite have the same impact when shrunk down to fit on this page).

Even though it was a “business trip”, it was nice to get out of town and away from the office for a while. I’d love to go back there sometime when I can actually have some time during the day to see more of the city and visit some of the landmarks. And of course, it would be great to have Mary and the boys there to enjoy it with me.

Goodbye Old Friend

Yes, it’s true. I did the unthinkable this month – I traded in my Miata. But I didn’t just trade it in – I traded it in for a minivan. It’s the ultimate sign of conversion to responsible adult (or insanity, depending on how you look at it).

Now, before you picture me driving a minivan to work each day, that’s not what’s happening. Mary is primarily driving the minivan, and I’m driving the Protege5 that I bought for Mary several years ago. When I bought that car, I knew that eventually we would need something bigger, and that the practical thing to do once we had multiple kids would be to get rid of the 2-seat convertible. So, I have always intended to drive the Protege5 at some point. It’s a sporty little car, and fun to drive, so it’s not like I’m suffering. In a lot of ways, it’s better for the commute to work (automatic transmission, more quiet, roomier), and since winter is upon us, I will not miss the convertible for some time.

I’m sure I will miss it at some point, though. I could have kept it if I really wanted to. Mary would have been willing to trade in her car for the van, or we could have kept three cars (I didn’t get that much for the 10-year-old Miata anyway), but I decided it was the responsible thing to do, knowing that I have plenty of time to get another “fun” car one day (my dad just recently bought himself an old Miata).

I really like the van we got, though. It’s a Mazda MPV, and although it’s a 2005, it was still “new” on the lot. I have always said I wouldn’t buy a new car because of the instant depreciation once it becomes “used” (when you drive it off the lot), but since the dealer really wanted to get rid of their last 2005, they gave us a great deal on it, and I basically got it for the “used” 2005 price, but with a “new” warranty (4 years, 100,000 miles).

We did look at a couple of used vans (a Toyota and a Honda), but they were actually more expensive than this one, so it was hard to pass up the deal on a new vehicle. Also, Mary really likes the “Razor Blue” color. It doesn’t have all the high-tech features (powered doors, DVD player, etc.), but it does have a few extras like tinted windows, and every MPV has the third-row-seat that folds into the floor, which is great for trips.

One of the reasons we wanted to get something this month is all the travel we have planned for the holidays. We drove the van down to Florida for Thanksgiving, and it was so nice to have the extra room and comfort on the trip. In a few weeks, we’ll be going to Michigan for Christmas, and I’m actually looking forward to the drive.

The really funny thing is that some friends of ours have an MPV, and also had a Mazda 626. The day after we bought our MPV, they traded their 626 for a Protege5, so not only do we both have two Mazdas, we now have the same two Mazdas. At least they are different colors…

New Posts Coming Soon

A lot has been going on and I’m in need of an update here, so this is my promise to write about the following:

  • I traded in my Miata
  • I went to San Francisco (for work)
  • We went to Florida for Thanksgiving (just got back tonight)

I will write about these things in the next week. Including pictures. Honest.

Clean Desk

For whatever reason, life is just a little more stressful when my desk is piled with stuff. So, yesterday, I spend most of the morning sorting through mail and papers and receipts that have been piling up for the better part of a month. It’s made the rest of the weekend go much more smoothly, I think.

I’ve been very busy as usual, although there’s not much new going on to write about. I have been to Boston again – several times. This week will be two weeks in a row without a trip up there, which is a first in a couple of months. I don’t have another trip on the schedule at this point, but I am going to San Francisco for a conference at the beginning of November. Maybe I can spend the entire month of October in Tennessee. That would be nice.

I did get a chance to walk around downtown Boston a little bit on my most recent trip, and I had dinner at the oldest restaurant in America – the Union Oyster House, which just celebrated thier 180th anniversary. I had Clam Chowder and Lobster. It was good.

Other than the extreeme amount of travel, work has been going very well. I think I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, and I’m dealing with a lot of new challenges lately (or “opportunities”, as upper management likes to call them). It’s really stretching me in some areas, which I think will be good for me.

Since we’re working so closely with people in the Boston area, the company has set up a videoconferencing system that is actually pretty cool. The technology for that stuff has come a long way. We now have rooms in each city with 50-inch plasma TVs and high-quality cameras and audio systems. We’re also experimenting with webcams and software-based video systems, so that we can interact with each other even from our desks.

At home, we’ve been using Skype for videoconferencing, and it works pretty well (much better than Yahoo Messenger, which never really worked very consistently). The video is decent quality with very little lag and a pretty high frame rate. We are able to see my parents and brothers more, and of course, let them see the kids, and they like that. Mary’s sister and brother-in-law in Europe are also using Skype, and we need to get some kind of regular schedule going for Owen and Ivan to see Clay and Thadeus. We recently upgraded our webcam, too, and that has made a difference (for those on the other end, at least).

The weather has been really nice lately, except for the occasional thunderstorm. We had some siding torn off our house in a thunderstorm several weeks ago, and I’ve had a really hard time getting someone to come out and fix it. It’s up along the roofline of our two-story house, so it’s not just something that anyone can do, but it’s a small enough job that no one with the right expertise and equipment seems to be interested in doing it. We’ve got the name of a subcontractor that the original builder of the home uses – hopefully they will be able (and willing) to help us out.

Anyway, at the moment, the weather is very nice, so I think I’m going wrap this up and take the family out for some ice cream.

The Monthly Update

On Monday, I’m headed back to Boston for the fourth (I think) time since the acquisition. My main objective for this trip is to get to know a particular developer there who has started reporting to me, but I’ve also got some other meetings and business to take care of while I’m there.

The Java devleoper that I recently recruited (here in town) started this week, and he’s picking things up well. I think that once I get all of these guys comfortable and familiar with me, we’ll be able to do some great stuff as a team.

So, having said all that, work is going pretty well – I guess you could say much better than I expected.

In other news, I finally have an office at home again. If you’ve read Mary’s blog, you know that we’ve been working on getting a wall and doorway put up to enclose the “formal living room” that we never really used very effectively. Now I’ve got my desk (which is actually just a couple of folding tables) and several computers set up in there. I would like to get some decent office furniture for that room, especially since it’s right by the front door, but I’m having trouble finding something I like for the price I want to pay (which is very little, of course). What I don’t want to do is buy something cheap that will wear out quick and that I’ll hate in just a couple of years, so I’ll just keep using my tables until I find a good deal on something worth keeping for a while.

Our Sunday School class is growing slowly but steadily. I’ve started teaching from a marriage series from Focus on the Family, and I really like it so far. On Wednesdays, we’ve been going to a class that is based on the Five Love Languages book, and that’s been good, too.

Let’s see… what else has been going on? MTUG had a fly-in this month at Lawiki Airfield. The weather was much more cooperative than last year, and we had a pretty good turn out. There was even a reporter there who will be writing an article in some newspaper next month (I can’t remember which one).

I think I’ve just about decided what I want to do about the whole flying thing – I’m going to train and test for the Sport Pilot license (which can later be upgraded to a Private Pilot license). That will give me a lot of options as far as what I can fly, but initially I’ll probably try to get something small like a Quicksilver (probably one of the MX variants). So, when will I do all this? I’m still not sure. But at least I’m starting to formulate a plan.

Speaking of “sports”, it’s football season again! Woo-hoo! The Titans looked terrible last week against Denver, but fortunately, it’s still the preseason. Even if they can’t put together a winning season, though, I’m looking forward to watching some football. Since the company I work for is now based in the Boston area, I can at least root for the Patriots in the playoffs…

Anyway, that’s the short list of what’s going on in my world. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something – if I think of it, maybe I’ll post again later.

Upgrade

I have upgraded the software that runs our blogs to the newest version. This version has several new features, with which I’m not completely familiar, but I’ll take some time to figure it out over the next few weeks if I can, and some things may change slightly as I do. This version is cosidered “beta” software, which means it’s not fully tested and may have a few bugs. If you have any trouble with leaving comments or anything, please let me know – there’s now a handy e-mail form built in, which you can access by clicking the little icon next to my name at the top of each post.

Vacations

We’ve had two vacations over the last three or four weeks, and it seems like it’s been much longer than that.

First, my parents and grandmother came to town to visit us, and I took about 4 days off. As always, we were very busy and wore ourselves out. Here are some highlights:

  • We visited my dad’s cousins Don & Brooke and spent a beautiful day out by the little river that runs through their property.
  • We went to see the movie “Cars“, which everyone loved. Owen sat through the whole thing very attentively and when it was over, asked if I could play it again.
  • We had Ivan dedicated at church, with grandparents (and great grandma) proudly watching.
  • We ate at several restaurants, including Famous Dave’s Barbeque (a family favorite) followed by ice cream at Maggie Moo’s.
  • Dad and I test drove a 2006 Miata and a 2006 RX-8. I’ll take one of each, please.
  • Mary and I took dad to a Sounds game, complete with a big band concert and fireworks at the end.

Before their visit, we went ahead and bought an extra mattress and switched Owen to a twin bed so we could move the double bed that we borrowed from the Fadelys into the room that was formerly my office but will now be Mary’s sewing room and part-time second guest room. That way, we had two guest rooms and the boys could stay in their room, and I think that made it a little more comefortable visit for everyone. As far as my office goes, we are trying to get a contractor to come put up a wall downstairs to enclose the small room in the front of the house for an office. Until then, I’m just set up in our bedroom, which has a little bit of extra space in it.

The following week was 4th of July week, so I only had to work 4 days and we had a great holiday with the Fadelys and Buttons. We bought some fireworks and shot them for the amusement of the kids (really – it was all for the kids). Owen even got to hold some sparklers and seemed to really enjoy them. He’s been talking about fireworks ever since.

Last week, we were in Michigan, and I won’t go into all that we did there because Mary has already written extensively about it. It was a great trip and the boys traveled very well. It was great to see Owen playing with his cousins and remembering those special times when I got to visit with cousins that lived far away.

Now it’s back to work and at least a month or so before I’ll have any time off again. I’ve got to get back in the habit of going to bed and getting up early and all that. Maybe I’ll get back into the habit of blogging a little more regularly, too.

Sorry

If you want to know how many people read your blog, just don’t post for a while and see who complains. Yes, I know – it’s been over a month. I’m sure Travis will get a little gratification from that fact, since I gave him a hard time when he let his blog go for a month. Of course, his has gone a lot longer than that by now, but this isn’t about him, is it?

So now it’s time for the obligatory “I’ve been busy” post. Here’s a few highlights of the past month:

We had a great Memorial Day. I kept meaning to write about it, but every time I start to write a blog entry, I feel like there’s something else I should be doing. The basic plot would have been this: Usually when there is a holiday from work, I take some time to relax, but I also take advantage of the extra day to get some things done around the house or run some errands or something. This time, however, I did nothing of the sort. I had an actual genuine holiday with no responsibilities at all except to spend time with family and friends. It was a much needed break. The Fadelys came over and we let the kids play outside in the sprinkler and they had so much fun. For weeks afterward Owen was talking about sliding into the pool.

Work has been going pretty well. I’m starting the process of recruiting for a Java developer, so that’s a little new. I’ve recruited once before for an intern position, and that guy still works with me (now full-time) after several years and is doing very well, so I have a good track record to maintain. I’m still not totally comfortable with this new company, but there are still changes to be made and opportunities coming in the future. We’ll see how it turns out.

We’re going to change our Sunday School class just a little bit. I’ve been talking to the pastor that is over the SS department, and we’re going to remove the “newlywed” label from the class and make it a little more broad. I think there are people that would like to come to a marriage-oriented class, but haven’t felt comfortable coming to ours because they don’t feel they fit in the “newlywed” category. It will still be the class that they recommend newlyweds go to, but it will be open to a little wider audience.

Yesterday, I went to a men’s ministry breakfast, and then went over to the church playground (where we had Owen’s 2nd birthday party). Mary had the idea that she and several friends should rent the playground for (the day before) Father’s Day and let all the dads play with their kids. It was a pretty good time, and Owen had a blast going down the slides. Afterwards, I drove down to the Murfreesboro area for a MTUG fly-in, but unfortunately, it was far to windy for ultralights, so there wasn’t much activity. We might reschedule it for another date.

As alluded to above, today is Father’s Day. We haven’t really done anything in particular, except to go to church and relax at home in the afternoon. Lately, I’ve been trying more and more to make a point to make Sunday a day of rest. We might go out somewhere or do some activity, but I don’t do a lot of “work” around the house or try to be too productive. I just go to church, enjoy the day, and spend time with my family. I think that’s the way God intended the sabbath to be. I did remember to call my dad today (as opposed to Mother’s Day, when I forgot), and we are going to turn on the webcams when the boys wake up from their naps.

We have 2 vacations planned in the next month – one week off at home while my parents are in town, and one week up in Michigan with Mary’s family. I will try to be more regular about posting from now on, and I need to get the camera out some more. Mary has been taking pictures of the boys pretty regularly, so you can check those out on their blogs.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.