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7.22.16
Julie left for a few days to attend a conference yesterday, so it's just Will and me hanging out for the next couple of days. I usually plan some special outing for him on the rare occasions when I'm at home and Julie is traveling, but our weekends have been so full recently that I'll probably keep it pretty low key.

We may go out to see my mother tomorrow, however—we moved her to my sister's house on Tuesday because 1) my sister was able to get her appointments with actual doctors out her way to try and figure out what's going on with the pain in her back and 2) my sister and her husband both work from home and don't have any children, so they have more flexibility in their schedules to take her to appointments, etc.


7.21.16
On Sunday we finally gave in to the cultural phenomenon of the moment: we tried Pokemon Go with Will.

Pokemon was just outside of my cultural moment—I was away at a boarding high school and then at college when it got big with younger kids, and although it has several aspects that make me think I would have been really into it had I encountered it at the right time, it has no real nostalgic pull for me. But Will has some of the same collector-y inclinations that I do, so I decided to download it to my phone and try it out for a couple of days.

And it was harmless, slightly addictive fun, so we loaded a copy onto an old iPhone for Will to use (and Julie loaded it onto her phone as well), and then we all took a trip up to campus (which has a gajillion Pokestops) to teach him how to play. We also had a few ground rules: he's not going to play without one of us, and when we're walking around together looking for Pokemon and Pokestops, we're not going to look at our phones—we'll only look at them when the game alerts us that something of interest is in range.

Unfortunately when we got to campus the Pokemon Go servers were experiencing an epic meltdown, so after 30 minutes or so of waiting for them to come back online, we headed home. But they came up later in the afternoon, so we took a quick walk to Will's school and back, and although there were no Pokestops along the way, we did catch about 10 Pokemon each.

I don't know how long it will hold his interest, but we're always looking for ways to get him outside and get some exercise, and this defnitely motivates him. I don't think we'll do it every day—I typically don't get to pick him up until 5:30 or so, and I have to start working on getting dinner ready not too long after we get home—but if we go out for a half hour walk a couple of times a week after work/school and a longer walk on the weekends, that should be enough to keep him engaged with it, get him outside a little more, and not be too much additional screen time.


7.20.16
On Saturday morning I ran the BeltLine Westside 5K with a few other alums from my college (I'm one of the co-chairs of the community service activities for the Atlanta chapter, and this was one of the two events that I'm responsible for), and then rushed back home to get ready for Will's friend birthday party, which started around 10:30.

We had it at Glow Galaxy again this year, which is also where he celebrated his fourth birthday and where he's been to a few parties for other kids in the meantime. He started talking about it a few months ago and I figured he would be on to something else by the time we got around to making reservations for his party, but he never wavered on this being his preferred venue, so we reserved it a month or so in advance.

We had a great turnout, probably 20 or so kids total split evenly between preschool/soccer friends and elementary school friends. We got him a jellyfish cake from Publix, and they did a terrific job with it—several smiling jellyfish in an undersea scene. Will loved every minute of it, although he was exhausted by the time they finished playing and got to pizza and cake.


7.19.16
Poe is settling into the household very nicely. She's gotten so much bigger—she probably weighs three times as much as she did when we got her amonth ago—and she's still very friendly with Will (and everyone really—she hates to be alone, so if she's hiding somewhere in a room you don't want her to be in, you just walk to a different part of the house and she'll pop out of her hiding spot and run after you).

The other cats are slowly warming up to her, mostly due to her relentless and somewhat clueless attempts to play with them. There was lots and lots of hissing and growling early on, but she was undeterred, and now Junie will actively seek her out for playtime and Oliver will at least tolerate her. When I come home from work now I often find them all asleep on the bed together—they're not curled up, but two weeks ago the moment Poe would come into a room the other two would scatter, so sleeping adjacent to her is a big step forward.

She's got such a great little personality, very different than any other cat we've owned, and a nice complement to Junebug and Ollie. We still miss Sargie a ton, but the house doesn't feel nearly as empty as it did in the first few days after his passing.


7.18.16
My mom was supposed to spend last Monday with Will and then head to my sister's house to spend a day or two with her before returning to Myrtle Beach, but as her time with us went on, she was increasingly complaining of a pain in her back. I could tell it was really intense by Sunday afternoon, but she insisted not only on letting us do the Skyline Park outing for Will, but on coming with us. Sunday night the pain wasn't any better, and on Monday morning she asked me to take her to the emergency room.

Luckily Emory Hospital is only a two minute drive from our house, so I was able to get her there quickly. The ER wasn't at all crowded, so they got her into a room within 20 minutes, but it was another two hours before a doctor came to see her. She had already self-diagnosed herself with a UTI (she was an RN), so after hearing her symptoms the physician concurred and sent her home with a prescription for antibiotics and some painkillers. She was feeling slightly better on Tuesday, so Will stayed home with her instead of going to camp.

We hoped she would be feeling better within a couple of days, but the pain was still persisting, so I took her back to the ER first thing in the morning on Wednesday because her pain was not lessening. This time they ran a CT scan, and my mom self-diagnose herself this time with a muscle spasm. They were still concerned about the UTI, so they gave her a stronger kind of antibiotics and more painkillers, and she was back home with us again that afternoon.

She still wasn't feeling any better by the weekend (if anything, she was worse), so on Saturday we took her to the ER again, and this time she was more insistent that they figure out what was going on, so they moved her to a different wing and kept her for another CT scan and 24 hours of observation. We went to visit her that afternoon (after getting her checked in to the ER, we had Will's friend birthday party) to take her some food and her phone charger and just hang out with her for a while, but the doctors hadn't really figured anything out at that point.

By Sunday they were leaning towards the muscle spasm theory, so we brought her back home with some lidocaine patches and muscle relaxants and let her rest for a bit. We'll see if these work, but I'm getting concerned that we don't really know what this is or how to fix it, and we don't have the ability to do anything to help solve it other than keep taking her back to the ER every couple of days because they won't refer her to a specialist in a clinic who could figure it out. We'll see how things go over the next few days, but I'm not seeing any real improvement in her pain level, and I'm very concerned that there's something else happening that could be a much bigger deal.


7.15.16
For Will's actual birthday on Sunday, we had a pretty low key morning, with donuts for breakfast and Panera for lunch (we let him pick whatever he wanted, and that's what he chose). After lunch my sister and brother-in-law came over to do his presents, and we gave him a cookie with an icing shooter for his cake.

After a little bit of quiet time in his room, we headed out for the main event of the afternoon: a trip to the newly opened rooftop hangout, Skyline Park, which features carnival games, a giant slide, and a mini-golf course, all with a great open-air view of the Atlanta skyline. Will was very excited about how you get up there, though—by riding a giant freight elevator. Before the park was open, we would sometimes see the mainteance staff using it to haul their gear between floors, and Will was always fascinated by it but was of course never allowed to ride. I think if all we had done was ride up and down the elevator a few times he would have been happy.

The carnival games and mini golf cost extra, so Will and I did the mini golf while my mom and Julie found some shade (it was very hot and very sunny that day), and then we did a couple of the carnival games, eventually winning two stuffed dolphins for Will, one pink and one green (I actually got very lucky and won the ring toss game where you throw a small plastic ring and try to get it to land on the neck of a bottle, which I've never done before in my life).

The slide was free, so Julie and I went down that with Will a few times each, and then let him loose to go down as much as he wanted. Because it was so hot and you had to climb up two sets of stairs to get to the top, we figured he'd give out after a few cycles, but he kept going and going—he must have gone down that slide 20 times while we were there.

For dinner we went back down to Ponce City Market and the adults had chicken and biscuits from Hop's Chicken, but Will insisted on going back to a sandwich shop on the other end of the hall that we've eaten at a few times before. But it was close to closing time, and all they had left were turkey Cuban sandwiches, which he claims to hate. So I just told him it was a turkey and pickle sandwich and didn't mention the pork tenderloin and swiss cheese, and he ate it happily.

After dinner, Will and I made one more trip up the elevator so he could ride the slide a couple more times, and then it was home to get ready for bed. It was fairly low-key for his actual birthday, but because his birthday this year is getting spread over three weekends (my parents and brother gave him presents last weekend, and we have a party at Glow Galaxy for his friends next weekend), it felt appropriate, and it was still a really special and fun day for him. I can't believe he's six already—it feels like he just got here, and I know the rest of our time with him will fly by just as quickly.


7.14.16
Saturday night for dinner my mom and will stayed home to have movie night and pizza while Julie and I went out to dinner just the two of us, which we don't get to do that often. We ended up being able to get a reservation at the Iberian Pig on the square in Decatur, which we've heard good things about but never tried ourselves.

It's a tapas place, so we went with the waiter's recommendation and started with four dishes to share: mac and cheese, venison carpaccio, huevo con trufo (braised pork cheeks with poached egg and black truffle pate), and the lomo de cerdo (pork tenderloin with crispy onions and chimichurri). We were still a little hungry after that, so we ordered the shrimp escabeche, a spicy shrimp dish, to finish off the main part of the meal. All of the food was good, but the mac and cheese was pretty forgettable and the huevo con trufo was pretty rich and heavy. Our favorites were definitely the pork tenderloin and the venison carpaccio.

We decided to also try the desserts, which was probably a mistake (or rather, it was probably a mistake to order that final shrimp dish knowing that we wanted to try the desserts). I got the churros and a black coffee, while Julie went for the flourless chocolate cake, always a first choice of hers if a restaurant has it on the menu. My churros were light and crispy and went perfectly with my coffee, and Julie had no complaints about the cake.

We left feeling very full and satisfied, but next time I think we'll stick to four shared plates and try to have at least one lighter seafood or vegetable dish among our selections. But the restaurant had a great atmosphere, and the food was all terrific, so we will be returning.


7.13.16
The Friday after July 4, my mom came for a visit to celebrate Will's birthday, which was this past Sunday. She got here just before Will got home from camp, and as a special surprise, we took him to the restaurant at the local private airport where we went to celebrate his last day of kindergarten. It was pretty hot, but we sat outside on the deck anyway so Will could see the planes taking off and landing better.

On Saturday morning we surprised Will again by taking him to an early showing of Finding Dory at Phipps Plaza, which has one of those theaters where everyone gets a leather recliner. We let him get whatever snacks he wanted even though it was still mid-morning, and he chose a bag of sour gummi Life Savers, which he ate an astonishing amount of.

He really liked Finding Dory, and I thought it was pretty good for a sequel I wasn't sure needed to be made. He's always been in to sea creatures, especially jellyfish, so he was primed to like this one (he's seen Finding Nemo tons of times, of course), but one of his camps just visited the Georgia Aquarium a couple of weeks ago where he got to see the whale sharks and belugas there, so he loved those two characters in particular.


7.12.16
On the morning of July 4, I ran Atlanta's famous Peachtree Road Race 10K for the first time. Julie dropped me off a few blocks from the starting area about an hour before my wave was supposed to kick off (I was in wave K), and I slowly made my way to the starting area, trying to take in the magnitude of it all (around 60,000 people participated in this year's race).

The race itself was brutal. I've run one official 10K before, and in recent weeks I've run four routes of five or six miles (my normal route around the neighborhood is four miles), but my training regimen has been very sporadic with all my travel over the past couple of months, and I'm definitely slower than I was this time last year. It was also incredibly hot, muggy, and sunny, even for Atlanta in July, and there were a couple of moments where I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish the push up one of the three major hills without having to shift down into walking mode (I've never stopped running on a race, even if my running has been slower than I might be able to walk).

I was so happy when it was over, and even though I had a 25 minute walk through Piedmont Park and back onto the streets to pick up my t-shirt and get to the closest metro stop, that was the perfect amount of time to have a nice cooldown, because I was completely soaked with sweat. And I was pleasantly surprised with the organization—despite the huge turnout, things flowed really smoothly both during and after the race, and I was back home by around 11 (Julie and Will came to pick me up at a metro stop about a mile from our house).

I usually don't wear the t-shirts I get from running races—they're just a personal, private trophy collection that sits in a corner of a shelf in my closet—but I earned the Peachtree one, and I proudly wore it on July 4. It was fun seeing how many other people were wearing theirs as well—I got a nice little tribal feeling of connection with them, which might be a motivating factor in me signing up for this race again in the future.


7.11.16
I haven't written much about the Braves this season, because one look at their record tells you all you need to know about them, but I felt the need to mark this occasion. This past Saturday, the Braves reached what will inevitably be one of many negative milestones to come out of this abysmal season: they recorded their loss number 58 with just over half the season left to play.

Why is this number important? It's the same number of games they lost in 1993, when they won the division by winning 104 games, finishing only a single game ahead of the San Francisco Giants (this was back before the realignment when the Braves were still in the NL West). And if you do the math, this is even worse than it seems: if they perform as poorly in the second half as they did in the first (and there's no reason to believe they're going to get substantially better), they will end up losing a ridiculous 116 games.

They're already the worst team in baseball this year, and pretty likely to stay that way, but the only team in the modern era to do worse than this was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who finished with 119 losses. But there's every chance that the first half of this season could be better than the second half for this awful, awful team, which means this year's Braves have a real shot at being the worst team in the history of Major League Baseball. What a way to celebrate the opening of a completely unnecessary brand new ballpark that will take them outside the city of Atlanta since they moved here 50 years ago.


7.8.16
I ran the Peachtree early on the morning of July 4 (more on that later), and my brother left while I was away to start his long drive back to Ohio, but my parents were still in town, and so my sister and brother-in-law joined all of us at the house later in the afternoon for dinner before heading to Decatur for fireworks.

I really like the accessibility and low-key nature of the fireworks in Decatur—they're about a 20 minute walk from our house, and unless you're trying to get a spot on the square, it's not really all that crowded, and they're a pretty long, impressive show—but every year they change the parameters of the viewing area, expanding the no-viewing zone in a pretty irritating way.

Two years ago we watched them from the top of a parking deck across the street from the parking deck where they set off the fireworks, but last year that was closed off to the public. So we moved down to the street that's about a block from the fireworks deck, and then that was closed off this year. We still found a nice spot not too far from that location that had a great view and wasn't crowded, but it's just annoying having them slowly expand the no-spectator zone each year.

My parents left the next morning, and we started to settle back into more typical work and home routines. We've still got my mom coming to visit next weekend for Will's birthday, and Julie has a conference later in the month, but I don't travel again until the end of August, and I'm looking forward to a relatively normal existence for the next several weeks.


7.7.16
For July 4 we had some family in town: my brother, his girlfriend, his girlfriend's grandson (who is living with them and who they have full custody of), my dad, and my stepmother (who is my brother's mother). My brother and his group stayed with us, while my parents stayed in a nearby hotel.

They all got into town on Thursday when I was still in Chicago, so Julie and Will hung out with them until I got back on Friday night, and on Saturday we all went downtown to let the boys play in the water park in Centennial Olympic Park. I took this time to walk over to the Georgia World Congress Center to pick up my number and registration packet for the Peachtree, and then we all went to have lunch in CNN Center before taking a ride on the Skyview ferris wheel.

Sunday was a trip to the Fernbank Museum, dinner out at a burger place, and then cake, ice cream, presents, and sparklers to celebrate Will's birthday before that part of the family went back home. It was a busy couple of days, especially on the heels of my last conference trip of the summer, but it was good to see my brother and his clan, and I really appreciated them making the long drive from Toledo to come visit for a few days.


7.6.16
My second trip to Chicago was longer than the first (four days as opposed to three), but it somehow felt shorter. I didn't get to see my Chicago friends this time, and I spend most of my social time with the other folks from my office who were also attending this conference. I led a session on the first day, did two six mile runs on the lakefront in preparation for the the Peachtree (which I ran for the first time this year), and went out drinking one evening with coworkers, closing down the bar with them. It was a good visit, but it felt a little superficial and hurried compared to my last trip with no trips to the Art Institute and no connecting with local friends.

There was a period in the mid-90s when my mom was in Chicago so often for work that they got her an apartment there, and one of the times when I went to visit her we went to a Thai restaurant called Star of Siam, which was the first place I ever had Thai food. I try to go back whenever I'm in Chicago, and this time my hotel was only about four blocks away, so I walked to it and had dinner there twice, once alone and once with a couple of coworkers.

The solo trip was interesting. I used to have a huge fear of doing things in public by myself, like going to concerts or movies or eating in a restaurant, but I'm much more comfortable with doing things solo now (I actually prefer to see movies by myself, and I've gotten very comfortable with going to concerts without a companion), so instead of ordering takeout and taking it back to the hotel, I decided to eat in the restaurant and peoplewatch.

While I was looking at the menu, I decided to be extra-brave, and resolved that if I saw anyone else dining alone, I would introduce myself to them and ask if they wanted to join me for dinner and conversation. As fate would have it, about two minutes after I had decided to do this, a man was seated at the table next to me who appeared to be alone, so I got my courage up and asked him.

He was indeed alone, but after thinking about my offer for a few seconds, he turned me down, and then proceeded to spend his entire meal staring at his phone three inches from his face and indiscriminately shoving items from his plate into his mouth without looking at them or engaging with anyone or anything in the world around him.

I get that there could have been any number of reasons that had nothing to do with me why he would not want to join me for dinner, but I don't understand going out to a restaurant just to stare at your phone—if that's what you're going to do, just order takeout and go back to your hotel. I spent my meal looking at the people at the tables around me, figuring out their relationships to one another, eavesdropping on their conversations, and watching the wait staff go about their complicated dance, and although it would have been nice to have someone to talk to, it was still better than eating alone in my hotel room while watching tv.

And even though my offer of companionship wasn't reciprocated, I'm still pretty proud of myself for taking that step. I'm an introvert by default, and when traveling I also turn into a bit of a misanthrope, so it was a pretty big deal for me to go out to eat by myself and to take the first step of reaching out to another solo traveler. Despite the fact that it didn't go anywhere this time, I'm still pretty likely to try again if there is a similar opportunity in the future.


7.5.16
As much as we loved old Sargie, we usually don't wait too long before we get a new cat when one of ours passes away because the house just doesn't feel the same with only two cats. So on Father's Day, a week after Sargie died, we went to visit local shelters in search of a new cat to join our little family.

The first place we went had a big room with lots of cats who had been taken from a rescue house where the owner was no longer able to care for them. We weren't opposed to getting an older kitten or a cat—there were no real kittens in this bunch, but there were a few who were still in their gangly teenage phase—but we just didn't find a cat who felt like a good fit. We've always instantly known before when we've found the right cat, so we moved on to another shelter.

This second place was very disorganized—they hardly paid any attention to us even after we had been there waiting patiently for someone to talk to for 45 minutes, and they didn't seem to have any idea of which cats had already been adopted and which were still available—and so we were pretty disappointed when both of the first two kittens we had a connection with turned out to already be adopted.

But as we were getting to know some of the other kitties, a little black kitten with white paws, a splash of white on her chest, and a tiny little bit of white on her chin came out from a hiding spot somewhere and charmed us. She was very sweet and easygoing, and she had a very loud purr. After spending a few more minutes with her and confirming that she had not already been adopted, we filled out the paperwork and took her home.

She's been with us for just over two weeks now, and although the other two cats are still pretty much keeping their distance from her, she is undeterred by their standoffishness, following them around and body tackling them when she is playful. She's incredibly sweet with Will and really likes being around us; if she gets under a bed or couch and you want her to come out, all you have to do is leave the room and she will immediatley bound out of her hiding spot to follow you.

It took a few days to find the right name for her. The choices I came up with were Ripley, Newt (both from Aliens), Tonks (from Harry Potter), and Poe (after one of my literary idols who also happens to be responsible for the name of my favorite NFL team, the Ravens). I was really pushing for Tonks, but Julie and Will both preferred Poe, so Poe it was.


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