Monday, November 27, 2006

Make room for baby!

That title could actually be interpreted in several ways. Amy's beginning to "show" in what I keep telling her is a very attractive way (I'm sure all the husbands and fathers out there will back me up on that) as her body makes room for a quickly growing little boy. Oh, did I fail to mention that? We found out last Tuesday that our second child will be a little boy! We're very excited for Sydney to have a little brother, and her awareness of what is going on is very cute. She knows and will tell you that Mommy has a baby in her tummy, and then she'll tell you that she has one in her tummy too. I'm guessing this is natural. Every daughter wants to be just like Mommy, after all. She's not quite so certain when you ask her if she's ready to have a little brother, though, as that word is still new to her and I don't think she is quite sure what it means yet. She may never be sure...

The actual intent of the title, though, was a reflection on all the household activity we have seen since Thanksgiving. Since Thursday, we have:

  • moved the kitchen table and chairs to a sibling's home for use until we have room again (in some yet-to-be-determined future house),
  • moved the dining room table into the breakfast area and covered it for use as our main table,
  • moved the desk and office furniture (along with three computers and hundreds of cords and cables) to what used to be the dining room,
  • installed two new ceiling fans with light fixtures in Sydney's current and future rooms,
  • run new electrical, phone, and ethernet wiring in the attic for all the changes, and
  • purchased a new toilet.

Oh, that last part doesn't have anything to do with the second child. It's just a coincidence that the master bathroom's toilet tank cracked open last week. What a surprise that was! We decided to replace the whole thing rather than trying to track down a replacement tank for the old high-volume/low-efficacy toilet we have had for years. The new toilet is supposed to "just work", though I won't be trying to flush two dozen golf balls or two hundred feet of toilet paper to validate the manufacturer's claims. Sydney, on the other hand, might just...

Anyway, it has been busy, and I owe many thanks to Amy for helping when I would let her as well as some well-timed back-rubs and to my father-in-law for the use of some of the necessary tools and his serving as a sounding board and advisor on the electrical work I had to do. It's nice to get a second opinion before cutting into the house's electrical system and having a reasonable confidence that my changes won't burn the house down...

Now we just have to repaint the old office and set up the new furniture that will be coming in the next few weeks and months to make it Sydney's new room. Oh, and move all of the books from the shelves in that closet to other locations yet to be determined. But hey, having gotten as much done this weekend as we did, I can actually believe we could be done well before the baby arrives and needs Sydney's old room for his nursery!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sydney’s Halloween costume

We're a bit late getting photos transferred from the camera and posted, but here is a Halloween photo of Sydney dressed up as a butterfly. The costume was lovingly created by Amy and Memere:


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wrong approach?

Just stumbled across this CNN story about Jesus dolls being refused as a donation to a toy drive. I can't really say I'm surprised at the refusal by the Marine Reserves' program. In addition to the reasons listed regarding giving toys to children of other faiths, what happens if you give it to someone who considers it idolatry? Not to say I agree, but there was certainly plenty of heated talk of "graven images" when Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" came out a while back, and I would think this could hit a sore spot even in the homes of some Christians.

But all is not lost. All they have to do is sew little leather jackets, give them tattoos and donate them as Colin Farrell dolls. Am I the only one who sees the likeness???

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An end to the trip that wouldn’t end (?!)

That title may seem impossible, but so should my story, so I'll let it pass...

When we last saw our tired traveler (i.e.- me), it was 11:30pm and he was stuck in San Antonio for the night with no help from the airline except a toll-free number to call. Since security wanted us out of the gate area, I went to a pay phone by the ticket counters and called said toll-free number to ask how I was going to get to Point B from what would by now be about point D.

After a few minutes of typing and searching, the agent on the phone told me that my flight was scheduled to continue from San Antonio at 6:10am and arrive in Dallas at 7:00. While this seemed perfectly logical, it was also the kind of information that would have been nice for them to share with us before we got off the plane since it basically meant we didn't have time to find a hotel and get any meaningful rest before heading back to the airport in time to wait in what would surely be a monstrous line at the ticket counter and the security checkpoint.

By the time I claimed my bag (actually a small backpack with a few cosmetic items they don't allow on aircraft anymore and the previously mentioned church clothes) and found a seat by the American Airlines ticket counter, it was pushing midnight. Getting a rental car seemed impractical given how tired I was. I didn't think I'd survive the drive. I heard a great many people on the phone looking for hotel rooms and apparently having success. I decided against this, though, for the timing considerations mentioned above.

After settling in to a chair and attempting to get comfortable, I saw a ticket agent arrive at the American desk and start helping people figure out connections, etc. Some number of people later, someone walked by and told those of us seated nearby that they were providing hotel rooms after all. By that time it was past 12:30, and I still decided to stay put.

Another handful of people later, someone mentioned that our flight was no longer at 6:10, but at 9:20! I tried unsuccessfully to get on an earlier flight which by that point was booked solid, but the three hour delay changed the whole sleeping-in-a-chair picture by enough to make me want a bed to sleep in, so I got in line and got a voucher that said it was good for one hotel room for one night plus taxes. After waiting for a shuttle, getting to the hotel, and waiting in line at the reception desk, it was just passing 2:00 in the morning. Then the manager on duty at the hotel informed those of us waiting for a room that there had been some miscommunication with American Airlines. When the airline called for rooms, they were apparently told by the hotel that there would be a $47 charge for each room, and American Airlines told them that the passengers would be paying that charge. So, what exactly is the purpose of this printed voucher for a hotel room?

I decided to go ahead and plunk down the money for a room rather than try to get back to the airport or sleep in the hotel lobby, which I'm sure they would not have appreciated. By the time I got an email off to my co-workers telling them I would be very, very late the next day, I climbed into bed at 2:30. Four hours later, I rolled out of bed feeling like the object of a cruel joke and headed back to the airport.

Sure enough, the lines were long and people were short-tempered, but I made it to the gate in time to wait for my flight. We ended up taking off not at 9:20, but at something approaching 10:20, and finally touched down in Dallas near 11am. My in-laws had, by that point, made three well-intentioned but fruitless trips to the airport due to the total inability of American Airlines' information systems to deal with such a messed up flight in a timely fashion as well as my inability to call from the plane. They generously made one more trip for me and deposited me, tired and grumpy, at home.

Fortunately, my return flight to Nashville the following Friday was perfectly uneventful and on time. Otherwise I might be in a padded room by now. I'm certain that is not the worst travel story ever, but it is the worst mess I've ever been part of, especially given that in theory it was a non-stop, 2 hour flight...

Feel free to share your travel nightmares in the comments!

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The trip that wouldn’t end…

Recently I decided to take a page out of my brother-in-law's playbook (probably a bad sign right there) and help Amy and Sydney drive to see friends in Tennessee. I would fly back home for the week, and then fly back out to meet them and help drive home. Amy and Sydney would stay in Tennessee for the week, but I could not take time of from work, so that was the bright idea we came up with.

We left last Friday afternoon and drove as far as Memphis before stopping for the night. We then drove the rest of the way to her friend's house on Saturday. All in all it was not too bad a trip, despite getting a late start and hitting rush-hour squarely in the brake lights. (Envision getting 10 miles in an hour and fifteen minutes.)

I was tired from the drive to Tennessee on Friday and Saturday as well as the excitement of seeing friends and keeping up with a sleep-deprived Sydney. As a result, I was glad to get on the plane and settle in for the trip back home from Nashville. It is a quick 2-hour hop from Nashville to DFW, and I was traveling lightly with just my laptop, the clothes I had worn to church that morning and then changed out of, and a few cosmetic items I didn't have duplicates of at home like my toothbrush and deodorant. Everything else, including the rest of my clothing for the trip and even my contact solution, I left with Amy so I could be baggage free.

A little over an hour into the flight, we started banking significantly. From previous experience I knew it was not a good sign. Sure enough, the captain came over the PA system and explained that we were going to have to hold for a while because storms were surrounding the airport and there was only one narrow corridor for planes to approach. Traffic was stacking up and it would be a while.

About half an hour later, the captain explained that we had used up the fuel we had for holding, and we would be diverting to Austin to refuel. Again from previous experience, I knew this meant at least another hour delay. Since our flight had been scheduled to arrive at 9pm before the half hour holding pattern, this all of a sudden meant my father-in-law who had offered to pick me up was going to have a late night. Sure enough, about an hour later we (and 10 other American Airlines aircraft) had been refuled by the folks in Austin and we took off again headed for Dallas. About 15 minutes later, the captain announced that due to all of the diversions, traffic was really stacked up and we were again having to hold short until we could be squeezed in. Another round of groans, and another half-hour of circling. We were then cleared to proceed to DFW only to be told 5 minutes later that another line of storms was shutting DFW down for at least an hour. This time we diverted to San Antonio!

Once on the ground in San Antonio at about 11:15pm, the *engage sarcasm* OH-so-helpful ground personnel *end sarcasm* told us four things. First, the crew had passed their allowed duty time, and was being forced to get some rest before going anywyere. That I can understand, if not gladly. Second, there was "a convention" in town and they were not able to find any hotel rooms for us. In the entire city. Of San Antonio. This is not a small town we're talking about here! I'm highly skeptical. Third, airport security was making it clear that we had to clear out beyond the security checkpoint and could not stay in the terminal area. Fourth, they handed us a little slip of paper with several paragraphs of information and an 800 number to call "in the morning" to see about being re-ticketed. I don't know what the slip of paper said, because it was entirely in Spanish...

Summary: Welcome to San Antonio! We have no place for you to go, but you sure as shootin' can't stay here! Call us in the morning and we'll see what we can do to get you where you wanted to go. Goodnight!

I'm getting worked up writing this, so I think I'll have to keep you waiting for the rest of the story. Rest assured, though, it gets better. Or perhaps I should say worse...