Sean Tells Himself Jokes

So my son was watching the Disney channel the other day, and he saw this clip where two actors appear to be four people.  He thought the idea of “copying” himself would be “so cool.”  I made the mistake of saying it was actually pretty easy to do.  So he made me prove it.  This is the result.

Not bad for 15 minutes shooting and 15 minutes editing.  Another 15 minutes to render it out and upload to YouTube, and Sean learned just how quickly you could make a copy of yourself.  I actually think he’s somewhat disappointed that he didn’t have a real clone of himself to play with.  But he still thought the result was cool.

The Pinewood Derby

My son has entered himself in the Pack 359 Pinewood Derby.  He designed and built himself quite the car, with a little bit of help from his proud poppa.  In honor of his first derby, we made a little video.  Wanna see it?  Here it goes.

We wanted to number the car 42, but found out we’d be getting our numbers at the race.  (We’re 15.)  So in a nod to the number 42, and since he’d decided to paint it gold… well, we named it The Heart of Gold.

If you don’t get the reference, then you’ve never had a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.  And probably didn’t vote for Zaphod Bebblebrox.  Which is a shame.  Cause he’s just this guy, you know?

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare – Almost…

Fair Warning – If you have young children, expect a moment like this.  If you have older children, I imagine you can commiserate. If you’re a helicopter parent, you’ll probably think I’m the worst parent ever, but I think you aren’t all that and I pity your children.  Whatever the case, this was a scary time. But I’ll let you know it has a happy ending.

I’ve not had the best of days.  It started earlier today when I got yet another form letter telling me I wasn’t good enough for an interview, much less a job.  Then I got a call from family, and a family member was near death and we needed to go to the hospital.  Thankfully that had a happier ending and the family member is now stable.  I got home around 4pm, said hello to my 5 year old daughter who was happily watching The Disney Channel.  I needed a nap, or at least a rest, and went upstairs to take a few.  I heard my daughter talk to her Poppi a few times, and I heard the TV.  I got up at about 4:50pm to go get my son from after school care.  As I came downstairs, the TV was on, but the daughter wasn’t there.

I called out a few times, but got no answer.  Poppi came up, asking me why I was calling, and we quickly searched the house.  She wasn’t in it.  Poppi mentioned that she’s been checking on a pair of doves that have moved into the flower bed in front of the house.  So I went out front.  I didn’t see her.  I called, and she didn’t answer.  I looked around the yard, no daughter.

Now I’m scared, and the first thing I think of is the pool in the back yard.  I can’t help but think of last year’s well known case of a radio superstar’s child drowning in a winterized pool not far from here.  I rush to the pool, convinced that I’m going to find my daughter in it, and am thankful that I don’t.  I look around the back yard, calling.  Still no daughter.

I return to the front yard, screaming her name.  No answer.  She’s not in the house.  She’s not in the yard.  She’d just vanished.

Things are now serious.  It’s cold outside, and my daughter hates coats.  I’d already seen her jacket and her tennis shoes in the house, so at best she’s in a sweater and Crocs.  At worst, she’s in an undershirt and bare feet.  As I reached for my phone to call 911, I screamed her name one more time.  I got a response.  It took a minute for my mind to process it, but I heard, faintly, someone say “I’ve got her.”

I ran toward the voice, thinking it was the neighbor.  It wasn’t.  Down at the far end of the road there was a woman walking toward me.  I couldn’t see a child, but she waved so I continued.  Then I saw she was carrying a child.  Then I saw that it was my child.  I ran to her, and took into my arms.  And I got the story.

Seems Molly did go out to check on the doves.  And decided she wanted to see her mom.  So she started walking.  She did have on her sweater (inside out) but no socks or shoes.  She walked three blocks to a major 5 lane busy road in near freezing temps, and couldn’t figure out where to go from there. She basically gave up and stood on the side of that road crying.  Some stranger found her, coaxed where she lived out of her and brought her home.

Now my daughter was well aware of the rules.  She knew she wasn’t supposed to go into the back yard alone, or leave the front yard.  She even knew she had done something bad, but didn’t know how to fix it.  Needless to say she got a stern reminder of the rules, lost the privilege of being allowed to go into the front yard alone for quite a while.  And she’ll be getting plenty of reminders over the next few days.

Now what really upset me is where my mind went.  The very first thing I thought is that someone had taken her.  My little girl had been abducted.  I was scared out of my mind, a feeling of total helplessness and terror.  Why was I still looking instead of calling 911?  Some evil abductor had my little girl!  I know that stranger abduction is rare.  I know statistically it is unlikely to happen to anyone you know, much less your own child.  But that is exactly where my mind went.

I’d like to blame the media, and the over exposure child abductions get, but I can’t.  I think it’s preprogramed in a parent to assume the worst.  I can remember being upset at my own parents who, to my young eyes, over reacted to my being late.  I think I’ve been given a preview of the teenage years.  And a big dose of payback for what I put my parents through.

But will it take away my “free range” mentality?  You may remember that something similar happened with my six year old son at a shopping mall.  In that case, it increased my belief in free range parenting.  My son had a problem.  He was lost.  He couldn’t find me or his mother.  So he came up with a (wrong) plan and put it to work.  Again, strangers came to my aide and he was quickly found.  So why does this one feel different?

Maybe it is the willfulness in the way my daughter broke the rules.  She’s lost my trust, and rightfully so.  She thought she had a good idea, just like her brother.  But the bad ideas started when she went outside barefoot.  It’s not the first time she’s gone outside in less than ideal conditions barefoot.  I doubt it will be the last.  In fact, the picture on the left shows her footprints.  In snow.  Where she played.  For a good 10 minutes, with me asking her “aren’t your feet cold?”  So no, her running off down the street barefoot really doesn’t surprise me.

I don’t think this will turn me into a helicopter parent.  I do think the leash will be tightened on the girl.  She’s not going to enjoy the freedoms of yesterday for quite a while.  But at the same time, wasn’t the plan to instill in my daughter the confidence and independence to take on life without having to run interference for her?  Well, she certainly showed just how independent she can be.  She’s going to learn, at least for a while, just how much independence can be lost when we make bad choices.

As I write this, my daughter is snug in her bed.  The day ends with my WHOLE family safe.  Including the one in the hospital.  So ultimately, it ends on a positive note.  I think my heart has even slowed down.  A little.

Vestigial Appendages.

It would seem that the doctors disagree.

I find doctoral politics amusing.  I’ve watched two unfriendly cardiologists differ strongly in opinion over a patient, to the point of ignoring each other’s good points just to stick to the diagnosis they feel is correct.  I’ve watched my sister-in-law go through the pain of medical school, and can easily see how someone who survives that could get a god complex.  Not that I think that’s the case today.  But I’m putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

At the Emergency Room, we were given a diagnosis of viral infection.  The treatment for such for my boy’s swollen right testicle (a phrase I’ve yet to tire of saying) is, well, nothing.  Oh there are the usual…  get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluid…  But really, no magical medical cure.  Being a virus, we don’t have much to combat with.  It hasn’t caused untoward symptoms, other than the obvious swelling of places best not swelled.  No fever, no sickness, no milky discharge (another fun phrase).

So with the diagnosis of infection, the treatment is restricted movement and time.

Today, the urologist gave us an entirely different diagnosis.  Torsion of an appendix.  Not the one on the intestine that we are so familiar with, and I am currently doing without since an appendectomy in 1983.  But like the appendix of the intestine that caused me great pain in 6th grade, this appendix is inside the scrotum and can also become infected.  Additionally, it can undergo torsion, getting wrapped up by the various tubes and such found in the scrotum, and lose its blood supply.

In the past, this was a surgery.  Today, it is left alone… left to die and heal without invasive procedures.  It seems the body can heal itself, at least in this case, faster than the body heals from surgery.  A few days discomfort as opposed to a few weeks.  So,with this new diagnosis, what is the treatment?

Restricted movement and time.

So I don’t really care what the doctors diagnose.  The treatment, and in fact the timeframe, are identical.  Do nothing, keep a six year old boy still, and let time heal.  Now, how I’m supposed to keep a six year old boy still for 7-10 days…  they had no answer.

But we’ll do the best we can.  Just like with the infection, the torsion means that with the swelling comes a slightly elevated risk of testicular torsion, which is quite serious and does require surgery.  So while keeping the boy still, I also have to make sure that any pain he may feel is not testicular torsion.  Any doubt, and we rush back to the hospital.

So yea…  I get to sit on the boy for a while.  It’s about driven me insane tonight.  I’m quite at my wits end with this “treatment.”  But we checked again tonight, and the swelling is going down, even as the redness increases.  The localized fever seems to be decreasing as well.  So, time is healing, I suppose.

I do want to say this.  The boy has had his privates on display for various pokes and prods for 5 days now.  He’s not gotten upset over it yet.  I’m not saying he liked it, but that he has dealt with it… with as much grace as a 6 year old boy can.  No tears, no screams, just a “please be gentle” and a few uncomfortable winces.  I’m proud of him for his stoic nature.

The Case Of The Expanded Testicle

My son has been complaining of a pain in his groin.  When asked to show where the pain is, he indicates his upper inner thigh and along the front of his hip.  It started hurting last Wednesday, and by Friday he was actually asking to go to the doctor.  Only this was, it only hurt when he wasn’t having fun.  Kids running around acting crazy?  No pain.  Kids sitting around not doing anything?  PAIN!

Friday night we put him in a hot bath, which has helped the last couple of days when he was hurting at night.  I wanted to give him ibuprofen since it is also a muscle relaxant as well as a pain reliever, but we didn’t have any child safe so I ran to the store.  When I got back, he was in the tub and I noticed it…  his right testicle was larger than his left… and it was red.

Okay, this is serious.  This could be a sign of testicular torsion which is really serious.  Testicular torsion requires surgery, and quickly.  If not repaired within 8 hours, it is highly possible the testes will have to be removed.  That’s pretty serious…  half neutered at 6 years old!

So I snatched him up and ran him to the hospital  The nurses were afraid of the same thing.  (On a side note, that was nice.  I was half afraid they’d laugh me off as one of “those” parents.)  They rushed us back, the doctor saw us in minutes.  He explained the concern, including the possible impending emergency surgery, and scheduled us a rush ultrasound.  He was worried about not getting the ultrasound quick enough.  He explained the concern, said he didn’t think it was torsion, but had to act as if it was.  He put the on call urologist on stand by for emergency surgery and ran off to push us through the ultrasound system.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve had a few ultrasounds.  I know you mothers have too, and you know that they gel you up and press that big wand into you.  I wouldn’t say they press it hard, but I think firm is a fair description.  Now I’ve even had an ultrasound of my testes done.  And with “healthy” testes… or at least testes not in pain… that was physically uncomfortable.  (The emotional discomfort is a whole other blog post.)

So imagine, my male friends, that someone just kicked you in the nuts and decided to cover them in cold snot and press against them with a stick.  That’s pretty much what they did to my son.  Okay, they didn’t kick him in the nuts, but he had a SWOLLEN TESTICLE that was tender to the touch.  And they covered it with the magic ultrasound jelly.  Then pressed against it, firmly, with a long wand.

I cried just watching it.

Male Reproductive SystemLuckily, it wasn’t torsion.  It is most likely epididymitis, which is an infection of the epididymis.  Which, to those of you who don’t remember your male sexual organ anatomy, is the long, tightly coiled tube that collects sperm prior to ejaculation.  It isn’t uncommon for males to get this viral infection, but usually in adults it either runs its course in a couple of days with mild discomfort, or is brought about from venereal disease.  (I’m hoping my six year old isn’t that advanced.  His urinalysis bears out that he was not.)  In rarer cases of adults, but more frequently in children, the epididymis can swell quite a bit with the infection.

It can be quite painful, and any unusual movement of the scrotum can bring on bouts of sudden pain.  Hence the reason it only hurt him sometimes.  He could run around for most of the day with no problems, then move just right and he is crying on the floor.

So what do they do about it?  Absolutely nothing.  It is a virus, it has to run its course and the body has to defeat it.  He’s not even running a fever.  He feels fine, or as fine as a child could feel who feels like someone is kicking him in the nuts on occasion.

So we get sent home in the wee hours of Saturday morning with a dose of Lortab and instructions to keep him still, make him get lots of rest, and see your pediatrician and a urologist as soon as possible.

Saturday he spent most of the day laying around.  The Lortab really sent him into outter space, and it didn’t wear off for nearly 18 hours.  He got a little feisty Saturday night.  Sunday he was almost normal, except a time or two he would hurt himself.  Okay, when he put the infant’s riding toy on the slide, and attempted to ride it down I probably should have stopped him.  But hey, it was his testicle, not mine.

Sunday night was pretty painful, and he ended up asking for some medicine.  Ibuprofen was given, since I didn’t want to make him loopy for school the next day.  Monday morning he went off to school armed with a P.E. excuse and instructions for his teacher to keep him as still as possible during recess, while acknowledging the impossibility of that request.  (Amazingly, she found some library books on dinosaurs he hadn’t read yet, and that worked!)

I started calling doctors and managed to get him in to the pediatric urologist Tuesday afternoon.  I got him in to his pediatrician Monday afternoon.  Dr. Klemm is a fantastic doctor, and I’d highly recommend him to all you parents, but he isn’t taking new patients.  (Dr. Klemm, if you google your name and get this and I’m wrong, let me know, cause YOU ROCK.)  Dr. Klemm didn’t treat this lightly.  Of course, this is the man who told me that my son was so sick with pneumonia that we needed to rush him to the hospital, in fact they already had a bed waiting and the only reason they hadn’t called an ambulance for him is that we can get him there faster, so go already… and he did so with such sweetness and kindness that it was almost as if he was asking us to tea.  So despite his reassuring tone, I could tell he was taking this very seriously.

When he checked my son’s privates out, I almost passed out.  What was a significant swelling on Friday, was today a monster swelling ball of redness.  And, before going into the doctor, my son was already walking gingerly.  Upon seeing the massiveness that was my sons right testicle, I understood why.

The ginger walking continued the rest of the day.  Tonight, his swelling is even a bit bigger.  Not much, but if this goes on…  I was hoping that Dr. Klemm would give him some magic shot and all would be well!  Oh, don’t bother with that specialist tomorrow.  Instead, Dr. Klemm called the urologist and consulted with him.  Again, another reason I know that this is serious despite the calm and reassuring tone of Dr. Klemm’s voice.

So in the morning I get to take my son back to the hospital.  He has another ultrasound scheduled.  Since the swelling has increased, so has the risk of testicular torsion.  If he has sudden onset of increased pain, trouble urinating or a few other symptoms that I’m too squeamish about to discuss here (and really, have you read this post?  If I’m squeamish, it has to be bad) then we’re to rush to the ER and expect almost immediate surgery.

After the ultrasound, and come on, at a good bit swollen and he nearly couldn’t take it.  Now his right testicle is swollen like an overripe tomato, this should be fun.  We have an appointment with the urologist at three.  Again, to show how serious this is, the urologist has had an emergency surgery pop up.  He called all his appointments for tomorrow and canceled the entire afternoon…  except us.  He rescheduled us.

So tonight, as I write this, I’m worried for my son.  It is hard to deny activity to an active six year old.  He’s getting cabin fever something fierce.  Yesterday in the nice sunshine, he just had to go outside, so he pulled out a chair and just sat in the sun.  For an hour.  Cause it was nicer than sitting inside, staring at more TV.

And because he is in pain.  No parent wants their child to be in pain.

And because he is in danger of a serious complication, no matter how relatively small that danger is.

I know I’m acting like a baby over this.  I know friends who have kids who by my son’s age had already had dozens of surgeries.  I have friends who have kids who have long term medical issues that won’t be resolved for years, if then.  I even have, as said as it is to say, friends who have lost a child.   And I’m concerned with a little testicle.  But it is my son’s testicle, and I’m devastated.  To the point of barely being able to function.

So if you read this before Tuesday, send me positive vibes.  If you don’t, follow my twitter for updates on him, and I’ll post here later in the week.  Reality is that rest and time are the cure.  And hoping nothing happens that cause torsion.  So we’ll be watching and waiting.

On a completely unrelated side note, the article on epididymitis includes the usual treatment of bed rest.  The link for “bed rest” takes you to “bed rest during pregnancy.”  I don’t know how to word this, or show this, in a way that I can submit to, but let’s be honest… linking to an article about bed rest during pregnancy when discussing an infection that only happens to men?  FAIL!

5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, I was getting ready for work.  I needed to drop my son off at daycare yet, and hadn’t made it out the door, when the phone rang.  It was Mimi, and the news was that the baby was on the way.  This caused little excitement, because the baby had been on the way once a week for the past month.

So I asked how sure Mimi was, and this time the water broke.  That’s a pretty sure sign that the baby REALLY was coming (or so I’m told) so we kicked it into high gear.

The son got dropped off at Nana’s, we headed to the hospital.  On the way, employers were called.  Arrangement had been in place, and as we rushed to the hospital, we activated them.

Once at the hospital, we rushed to the proper floor… asked about the birth mother…  and she WAS NOT THERE!

In a panic, we called Mimi.  Where was she?  Did she need a ride?  Did we need to go get her?  I had a vision of the birth mother stuck at her apartment giving birth RIGHT NOW and no one was there.  Mimi made some calls and assured us that wasn’t the case.  She was on her way.

Hours later, days from the way it felt, the birth mother arrived, and all sorts of things went haywire.  We gave the hospital our paperwork, showing we were the legal guardians of the baby as soon as it arrived.  The social worker refused to take the paperwork, saying she didn’t need it.  We were angry, but as long as we could be there for the birth, we didn’t want to rock the boat.

But it quickly became annoying.  Nurses would ask the birth mother what she was naming the baby.  She’s politely point to my wife and say “Ask the mother.”  Nurses openly scoffed at us, ignored us, and refused to accept us as in any way legitimately part of this baby’s family.

We tried to give the social worker the paperwork.  Again.  The court order, telling the hospital to treat us like the parents.  They refused to even read it.

Babies come the way babies do.  We were given the baby and a room next door to the delivery to meet with family.  I wasn’t in the room for the delivery, which trust me I’m fine with, and didn’t know at the time but the birth mother had problems.  She was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  Because the birth mother gave us the baby, and we took it next door, the nurses were reluctant but fine with it.  Not because the baby was ours, but because the birth mother approved.

For the next hour, while they worked on the birth mother, we thought things were better.  We got to hold our baby, we got to show our baby off to people who came by to check on us.  It ended abruptly.

We were taken upstairs to the maternity ward, but we were not given the nifty armbands that let us get the baby.  We weren’t given the room we had arranged for.  We weren’t given access at all, the baby was taken and slipped behind the glass, and we were banned from its life.

Again the birth mother came to our rescue, instructing the nurses to give my wife an armband, and let my wife do the first bath.  All our access to the child that was legally ours was granted us only at the insistence of the birth mother, who the hospital continually pushed to not allow us access.

When the birth mother, who didn’t understand what was going on, told them emphatically no.  That we were the parents, and our medical wishes were the ones that mattered, the hospital took it upon themselves to act.  Ignoring our paperwork again, the head nurse of the hospital maternity ward called us into a private meeting.  The purpose, to throw us out.  To educate us on the “law” and how we had no right to be there.  None.

Now one of the reasons we took the legal tactic we did was because my wife wanted to attempt to breast feed.  She’d been on hormones and using a pump and was ready.  Now the hospital was kicking us out, ruining that chance and that experience for my wife.  I was NOT happy.

Prior to the meeting, I called my lawyer, who went into high gear.  I went into the meeting angry, but fully expecting to be kicked out of the hospital.  Once that had happened I was going to go to my lawyer and demand we file suit and sue the hospital into the stone age for denying my wife access to our child.  I sat in the meeting as the head nurse lectured us about how it was going to be, and how we had to leave, and not come back until the day the baby could go home.  And then ONLY if the birth mother wanted us to.

I glared.  I stammered.  I did deep breaths to hold in my temper.

And the phone rang.

The head nurse took the call, and the social worker picked up with the lecture about how it was GOING to be.  The nurse tried to stop her as she stammered “Yes sir” over and over again on the phone.  She almost frantically tried to silence the social worker who ignorantly and arrogantly prattled on about how she new the law, that our order wasn’t valid, and the courts clearly hadn’t written it.  That there was NO WAY we had any legal right to our child.

The head nurse finally managed to shut the social worker up and handed her the phone.  The head nurse sat silently, all but glaring at us as the social worker went through a similar “Yes sir” session on the phone.  We stared back at them.  No one talked.

The social worker hung up the phone and looked at the head nurse.  She shrugged, and looked at the table.  The head nurse took a deep sigh.  She informed us that they had no rooms currently available but that we would get the next one.  We could see our child at any time, simply ask the floor nurse.  We were welcome to stay in the room we were in now, and could have guests and the baby in that room until a regular room was available.  She then got up and walked out.

What happened to bring about the change is unclear.  Our lawyer faxed the order over to the lawyer for the hospital.  That lawyer read the order and wasn’t happy with the advice he’d earlier given the social worker.  He was pretty upset, as I understand it, that the social worker didn’t immediately fax the court order to him.

In the end, we got the baby and the room.  And we walked out of the hospital not owing them a dime.  Neither us, nor the insurance, got billed for that birth.  Nor did the birth mother or her medicad.  The entire bill just… vanished.  The social worker came by later to apologize.  We never say the head nurse again.  We did get called later by the hospital to join a committee to review their adoptive parent procedures.  We declined, we were far to angry still.

So that’s the exciting story in the middle of the happiest day of my life.  I’m still bitter at the hospital about that, but later learned that the law had changed and we were the first Huntsville couple and one of the first in Alabama to adopt under the new law that allowed us to have custody the second the baby was born.  Huntsville Hospital was completely caught off guard by us.

But in the end, we had a healthy baby girl.  The drama was forgotten and the joy of that new life was ours.

Happy Birthday, my little groundhog…

Sleeping with the Fishes

This will be old news to those of you who follow me on Twitter.  And if you don’t follow me on twitter, or FaceBook, you really should.  Cause, you know…  I’m all Web 2.o like that.

So this is my post about the trip I took this past weekend to the Tennessee Aquarium. I have a soft spot in my heart for this Aquarium, and it means I may be biased toward it, but I’m clearly not the only one.  The Aquarium is continually rated one of the top Aquariums in the country, and is currently rated as the very best. So while my sentimentality is purely emotional, it’s good to know I’m emotionally attached to the best.

The Tennessee Aquarium is in Chattanooga, TN right on the Tennessee River.  Opened in 1992, the Aquarium initially showcased the river flora and fauna of the Tennessee River, making it unique in not relying on fancy and flashy ocean fish to bring in tourists.  The centerpiece is the massive “Nickajack Lake” tank showing the fish of the large lake downstream from Chattanooga.  It’s a beautiful tank with giant catfish, paddlefish and other fish found in that natural resource.

In 2005 they added a new building that was dedicated to tropical fish, including another massive tank for sharks and sea turtles and the like.  Not quite as big as the whole “River” building, the “Ocean” building is nonetheless an excellent example of bringing people to nature.  It houses a beautiful butterfly house (although I personally think the one at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens is better), a sting ray petting pool (with stingers removed, of course) and penguins.

This trip to the Aquarium was a Cub Scout trip where we planned to spend the night in the Aquarium.  The program is called “Sleep in the Deep” but I prefer calling it “Sleeping with the Fishes.”

My boy and I met up with the Pack and headed over to Chattanooga Saturday afternoon.  We arrived right at 5:30 and went into the Aquarium for the evening.  From the moment we arrived until we were shown out the next morning at 9am, the staffers at the Aquarium kept us moving and gave us a most enjoyable tour, letting us do and see things most tourists never get the chance of doing or seeing.

Our guide, Miss Jill, kept us moving and well informed for our entire stay.  She was great with the kids, and answered the adult’s stupid questions (and the kid’s incredibly intelligent questions) with skill and care.  She took us first to the penguins, which had already gone to bed.  This was my first surprise of the evening, my boy wanted to know if they had any Macaroni Penguins.  Trying not to laugh, I told him to ask Miss Jill.  Half because I didn’t want to laugh at my son and half because I wanted to see how Miss Jill handled silly questions from six year old boys.

Imagine my surprise when not only did Miss Jill not laugh, but told him they had 11 adult Macaroni Penguins and a baby one.  Really?  Macaroni Penguins?  Really?  Yup.  There really are Macaroni Penguins, and they are quite pretty.  I asked my boy how he knew about them, and he answered (predictably) “Diego saved one.”  Score one for Noggin (or Nick Jr. or whatever it’s called now).

From the Penguins we went to the top of the Ocean tank.  Not the top tourist level, the actual, behind-the-scenes top, where the divers go down to clean and the caretakers feed the fish.  Along the way we saw a real Shark Cage that had been used in filming some documentary or another.  It even had “real battle damage” from a great white shark.  The boy, who loves sharks, thought that was cool and impressed Miss Jill by announcing “That’s a shark cage.  It was invented by Rodney Fox after he survived being attacked by a Great White.”  For your information, that’s 100% accurate!  That’s my boy!  Definitely smarter than his dad.  

After visiting the top of the tank, we went up to the stingray petting pool and the butterfly house for a while, until a great 3D IMAX movie and then dinner.

This would be my one complaint of the night.  The Aquarium is spread out over about 10 buildings.  The “River” and “Ocean” buildings are right next to each other and the IMAX theater is across the street a bit.  It was cold.  Real cold.  Dinner wasn’t till 8pm or so.  And to GET to the theater with all those hungry scouts they marched us through the cold and right by two FABULOUS restaurants.  Oh the cold!  Oh the smells!  They nearly had a revolt!

But we managed to make it to the theater and enjoy the movie.  And dinner of Pizza.  And the cold walk back to the Aquarium.  And then… all the fun of the rest of the night.  Seeing the kitchens where they fix all the food (including meal worms and rats). Petting Sturgeon (Side note, the Tennessee Aquarium is actively raising and releasing sturgeon into the Tennessee River, reintroducing a species that had gone extinct!!).  Petting snakes (NO THANK YOU!) and then, after a full evening it was time for bed.

Now our bedroom was perhaps the COOLEST PLACE EVER to lay out a sleeping bag for a night.  At the bottom of the Ocean building is a cave like structure UNDER the big tank.  We were surrounded by water and fish and sharks and just about any other cool sea creature your can imagine.  Sharks glided by us all night long.  Sea turtles played over our heads.  And while it was dark, their ghostly shapes kept us company all night long.  When the tank lights came on at 6am, we were greeted by amazing scenes of trigger fish and tuna swimming by.  It was fantastic.

So if you have a group going to Sleep in the Deep… or Sleep with the Fishes, I can’t recommend it enough.  It is a fabulous trips and you get to see behind the scenes at one of the truly great places in the Southeast.  Heck, I can’t recommend the Aquarium high enough, and just visit if you can.

On a final note, I have to share a video, because it just was the highlight of the trip.  I’ve been going to the Aquarium since 1992.  And since then, they’ve had river otters.  And all I’ve ever seen is the otters sleeping.  Maybe one of them take a quick dip, before going back to sleep.  But this time, we got to feed the critters.  And they are as cute and fun as you’d expect.  So here’s a parting video of the fun we had feeding the otters.

Apple Comes To The Rescue

I don’t know if this is a “Apple” thing, or just a human thing.  But I can’t imagine being in a “Microsoft” store and having the same thing happen.

The day after Christmas I went to the Apple Store.  I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and wanted to use it.  I took my 6 year old son with me, and he headed straight to the little table in front of the Genius Bar where Apple had set up a couple of iMacs with games.   My son seemed happy, so I started looking over the software and other low end items I could afford with the card.

It should be said that the place was fairly packed with people spending their Christmas money on iPods, iPhones and accessories.  I couldn’t find any must have item on the software wall, and was moving to the iPhone accessories…  but my son wasn’t at the computer.  I looked around the best I could and he wasn’t in the store.  I’m about to freak out, when I go up to the Genius Bar and had them page him.

No luck.  Now I’m pretty upset, and I head out front where it was a bit quieter and called the wife to get her to come down to the store and help.  As soon as I’m out front, a group of about 10-15 people joined me.  All had their iPhones out.  “Send me a picture,” the first one said.  “I’ll help you look.”

You read that right.  10-15 people I did not know stepped outside, all wanting me to text or mail or bluetooth them a picture of my son, and they were all ready to go looking for my son around the outdoor mall.  I pulled up a recent photo and was getting numbers to text the picture too, when one of the women asked “Is that him?” and pointed down the way.

There was my son returning from the other end of the mall.  He saw me and ran and grabbed me.

Seems he couldn’t find me and thought I’d left.  He knew his mom was down on the other end, and thought I’d gone down there to her.  But he couldn’t find the store she was in, and was coming back to the Apple store to try and me.

These strangers and their iPhones were ready to come to my aid and find my missing son.  I was moved beyond words.  I’m sure they think that I’m an ungrateful git for not saying more, but the relief was overwhelming.  Needless to say I had a long talk with my son explaining that I would never leave a store without him, and that instead of leaving himself he should have gotten help in the store.  He understands that now.  (In fact, he’s done that in the past, but I think the loud crowd scared him and he felt “safer” out of the store.)

So while I was EXTREMELY nervous for a while, it all turned out great and I saw just how wonderful iPhone users can be.

I do want to stress something, though.  At no time did I think my son had been “taken.”  I didn’t feel the need to rush and grab a cop, or call them, at that time.  I was worried, more worried that he’d fallen in the lake at the mall or stepped into traffic, than that he had been abducted.  For one thing, he’d scream bloody murder, and for another that just so rarely happens.  My fear was finding him before he got so scared or worried that he got hurt.

In fact, he was nicely calm, and taking care of himself.  While he made a “bad” decision, I’m ever so happy he made a decision and acted on it, instead of being unsure of what to do.  Yes, it meant he wandered the length of an outdoor mall all by himself, but he acted.  He made a plan and went with it.  Find Mom.  Can’t find Mom, go back to where Dad was.  Overall, not a bad plan.  Just not the best.

And I got the chance to see how many people still give a damn.  And that was worth the worry.

5 Years Ago Today

Man, I’m brain dead today. I haven’t been able to think straight cause I’ve got a bit of a stuffy nose and the meds make me feel all loopy and stuff. But I’ve also been kinda just not thinking. Immersed in a book, as it were. And I gotta tell you, it feels good NOT to think.

Sometimes I think we all think to much. Not enough smelling of the roses. Not enough quiet contemplation. I’d forgotten how nice it is to sit in a comfortable chair and lose yourself in someone else’s story. Or to just actively not think about stuff.

I suppose if you’re new age, that’s called meditation. Or maybe it’s old age, but I really think I need to try to get to that point daily. Cause, while all my problems didn’t go away, they don’t seem as insurmountable anymore. And I get to look at them fresh. Or at least, fresher.

So yea… I’m brain dead today. And yes, I’m loving it.

Stop and Go Traffic

Wow.  NaBloPoMo has made a huge difference here at Running Wolf.  I’ve noticed a significant increase in traffic since starting writing daily.  I suppose that’s the point, but I’m surprised anyway.

I’ve also seen a surge in traffic at Beyond The Boards, but I suppose having something controversial and a bit gossipy helped over there.  About the only place I’m not seeing a surge of traffic is Geek Palaver, but it’s new and we haven’t quite figured out what we’re doing over there yet.

As a result, I’ve gotten a few people who’ve commented in person about a post or two.  It’s been interesting to find out who’s reading the blog in real life as opposed to the (very) few comments I get here.  Not sure if that means I need to be careful what I write about or not.  In typical reckless abandon, I’ll probably not worry too much.

It’s been a fairly good weekend.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with the rugrats, having them to myself both Friday and Saturday night.  That was, for the most part, fun.  There was the one fist fight, but I ended it without bloodshed.  And with real fights being pretty rare, I’ll chalk it up to my having feed them really good ice cream earlier.

I also got to hang out with some pretty amazing people over the weekend.  The cast and crew of Christmas Belles had enough drama offstage to compete with the drama onstage that no one could blame them if they didn’t want to hang out together away from the venue.  But they overcame the drama and put on their show and hung out for some good fellowship and karaoke.  I didn’t know many of them, and not being a part of the show they didn’t need to include me, but they did and I’m glad.

So a good weekend.  I’m about to go to bed early for a change, then it’s back into the job hunt.  We’ll have to see how that goes next week, but I’m sure it will provide plenty of fodder for the various blogs.