23 January 2010

Kaitlyn Kares wrap-up

We've been very fortunate over the last few weeks.

First, semi-retirement ended and I'm able to bring in some ducats. Second, Kaitlyn turned two and we had a great time with great friends. Finally, we just wrapped up the Kaitlyn Kares food drive and, I'm happy to report, it was a rousing success.

For those of you who don't know, Michelle and I decided to do a service project to correspond with Kaitlyn's second birthday. We figured it was something we could do every year around Kaitlyn's birthday and, when she gets older, will realize that it's good to give back.

Over a week's time, we collected food door-to-door in our neighborhood, as well as sponsored a food drive contest at the daycare. Thanks to the generous response, we were able to provide Positive Direction for Youth and Families, Inc., an outreach center and food pantry in east Greensboro, nearly 400 cans and boxes of food.

Friday was our day to drop off all those donations, and it was truly a great experience. We stocked the shelves and talked with the volunteers, led by Mary Todd Allen, the organization's executive director. We learned a lot about the group, including that they've got an adjacent barber shop and beauty salon that helps offset the costs to run the non-profit.

Kaitlyn didn't just lend her name to the project, but she was an asset when we had to stock the shelves 

If you can believe it, we nearly filled the pantry shelves with our donations. We actually had more items than their closets could hold, which gave us a warm, fuzzy feeling

Kaitlyn found time to have some fun, too

These are the wonderful women of Positive Direction for Youth & Families, Inc.

21 January 2010

The Pecking Order, Kaitlyn-Approved

Last night was a rough night. Kaitlyn decided she didn't want to sleep in her crib, so around 1 a.m. she wailed for Mommy. And of course Daddy got up and brought her into bed. And later in the night, when Kaitlyn woke up crying for milk, Mommy got up, went to the kitchen and brought it back into bed for Kaitlyn.

Granted, Michelle doesn't remember a lick of it thanks to the Ambien, but that's not the point of the story.

In the morning (the real morning, not the 1 a.m. wake-up call), as Michelle got ready for work and I lay with Kaitlyn in bed watching Blues Clues, the little one rolled over to Michelle's side of the bed and proudly stated, "Lay on Mommy's pillow."

That's good honey, I replied. Kaitlyn then rolls over toward me, finally coming to rest with her head on the pillow that would be considered "my side."

"Lay on Kaitlyn's pillow," she exclaims.

"No honey, that's Daddy's pillow."

"Daddy lay on Kaitlyn's pillow."

I shake my head and laugh, realizing that my daughter recognizes the bed as Michelle's space, a place that she has fully vesting rights to and I am merely a placeholder. So Kaitlyn has made the unofficial pecking order official. For those keeping track (or more appropriately, for those who hadn't figured this out already): Michelle, Kaitlyn, Boo, James.

Finally: Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes on the new job. Things are going quickly over there and I have a great group of people to work with (and no, they don't know I blog so none of them are reading this -- unless they stumbled upon it somehow). And they're keeping me plenty busy.

18 January 2010

Semi-retirement ends tomorrow

Today is the last day of my semi-retirement, as I head off to my new job with Market America. No, I'm not selling, but rather working on the company's Web site, which I urge you to bookmark and purchase from in order to ensure long and happy employment for me.

Seriously though, I look forward to the new challenges ahead and not listening to Michelle complain about me not doing anything on her list talk about how I need to shower each and every day being a more involved member of society. So the days will be a little longer, a little busier. The nights a little more tiring, a little more hectic.

How will this affect Kaitlyn? Probably not at all, since she'll remain in the same daycare with the same friends at the same price (ugh). How will this affect Michelle? Ridonkulously, considering she'll not only have to not count on me being home to run her errands, but also not be at home in case there's a call from daycare.

She'll likely be the one who gets those calls now, since she'll be closer and now has something like 10.5 years 12 months nine weeks of comp time at work. Plus, she's a government worker, and we all know they don't do anything work on their own schedule sit on their thumbs all day put in so many hours anyway that they can afford to take the extra time.

More importantly, how will this affect Growing Up Kaitlyn? I hope not at all, but it appears I'm going to have to try and set up an actual posting schedule for the blog so that I keep to it. We'll let you know what the final decision on that one turns out to be, but don't fret -- Growing Up Kaitlyn will continue strong.

17 January 2010

In Pictures: Birthday Party, Part II

Now I know why the Big Guy rested on a Sunday.

Yesterday was Kaitlyn's birthday party and it takes a lot of work to pull off a toddler's party. Between the cooking, the planning, the shopping, the cleaning and the hosting, it's no wonder these things drive parents crazy. I'm plum-tuckered.

But it was a very nice party thanks to all that work. Michelle's anal retentiveness organizational skills came in very handy; she's a list Nazi maker and likes to crack the whip take initiative. It's a good thing I ignore her and do my own thing take direction well and can multi-task.

Anywho, here's what you've been waiting for:

Kaitlyn's first guest arrives. Soon to follow: Kaitlyn realizing guests are nothing more than deliverers of presents

Party activity: finger painting. After-party activity: cleaning up finger painting

The kids' going-home-from-party gift was a handprint done with the help of the wonderful Kylie (left), who helped the kids during arts and crafts time at the party

After arts-and-crafts time, the kids -- both big and small -- had some outdoor fun while Daddy cleaned up inside.

Two kids enter, one kid leaves: the fathers were taking bets on which child would win each battle. I bet on Kaitlyn because, well, she's built like a linebacker

Oh yeah, time for cake and presents. And by the way Daddy: Get this stupid hat off me

Kaitlyn could care less about the card, considering there's a Yo Gabba Gabba toy in front of her. On a side note: Everyone who purchased a toy that makes noise/sound will be receiving a drum set for their child's second birthday

As you can tell by the looks on Mommy's and Daddy's faces, another Yo Gabba Gabba toy that makes noise was opened. I am actually pointing Kaitlyn toward the puzzles out of camera range, attempting to distract her. It didn't work

So there you have it, Kaitlyn's birthday party, in pictures. I don't think there's anything else. Oh wait, that's right:

The final product. I have to admit, I'm not completely pleased with the look. I completely understand why people charge the amounts they do to decorate cakes, though. I had these grandiose plans for decorating, but soon realized that I didn't have the tools for the intricate work or the know-how to accomplish some of the detailed parts.

The good news was that no one spit out the finished cake because it tasted poorly. It actually tasted pretty good. Michelle even gave it her stamp of approval, no small feat considering her cake-snobbery.

14 January 2010

In Pictures: Birthday Party, Part I

We're preparing for Kaitlyn's birthday party this week and we're t-minus two days from the festivities. While Michelle is running around like a chicken with her head cut off organizing per usual, I am taking this opportunity to make up for my lack of initiative over the last eight-plus months of semi-retirement.

I am making her cake.

And we're not talking about some run-of-the-mill cake here, either. I had the bright notion a few weeks ago that I would pull a Duff and trick out this birthday cake. You see, we had a little snafu with last year's cake (purchased) and I wanted to make sure that this year's cake would do us proud. Plus, I'm pretty anal-retentive creative, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

This year, Michelle decided on a Crayola-themed party. You may recall the trip to New Jersey and the Crayola Factory late last year, which Kaitlyn loved. So wouldn't be friggin' sweet if we had a big-old box of Crayola crayons as the cake? Heck yeah it would.

I found some ideas online. Some people are really creative. Some people have too much time on their hands are great artists. Some people really need to take a class have big hearts. I wanted to take it a step further -- fondant.

Anybody can ice a cake with some out-of-the-can Betty Crocker. But wouldn't it be friggin' sweet to build a cake, making the homemade butter cream icing and fondant to give it that Ace of Cakes feel? Heck yeah it would.

So I found a great recipe and ran with it. It's a messy proposition, from start to finish. And not just the fondant. The whole cake building process is pretty intense. It is ... well, just take a look for yourself:

The remnants of my cake-shaving experiment, part one. And that's homemade fondant. I would have taken a picture of the fondant-making process, but then the camera would just be one big lump of marshmallow.

The cake-building process is getting into its nitty-gritty stages. More remnants. And by the way -- I made a great tasting cake, if I do say so myself

Yeah, I know you're impressed with my fondant color mixing skills

Yeah, a covered cake. Hells yeah. And that recipe makes a helluva lot of fondant, so if you're planning to use the recipe, I would highly suggest making only one batch. And by the way: If anyone's looking for some extra fondant, just give me a call. 

Yeah, this is AFTER the first clean-up session. Told you it was intense. 

So you're going to have to wait another couple days to see the finished product, since I'm still working on it. Plus, I want the returning visitor pageviews to pump up my analytics.

13 January 2010

The Day That Changed Everything

Here we are, two years later.

I never knew what to expect when that day came. There was plenty of questions heading into January 13, 2008. Were we ready for this? What would the future hold? How could we overcome all of the doubts and internal struggle?

Who ever knew waiting could be so difficult? Who knew that rest was so unrestful? Anxiety set in sometime around 2 p.m., when the tension could be cut with a knife. By 4 p.m. it was almost time to see what the future would hold, questions be damned.

We pushed ourselves to the limit, we prayed and we hoped. We sweat, we laughed, we cried, we even said a couple bad words during the ordeal. We had some times where we didn't think the end would come, but then finally we saw the finale later that evening, and it was beautiful.

We welcomed the outcome with open arms, knowing that the game had changed and destiny had touched her hand on our shoulders. We didn't know exactly the path we would now take, but we knew it was paved in gold and we would be winners when we finally came to its conclusion.

Now, two years later, we can take pride in the fact that we persevered through it all. We can say that, even if we made mistakes over the last two years, we still are on the right path. We still have our future. We still have that day.

That day led to so many things. It led to parties and celebrations. It led to lessons learned and dreams imagined. It even led to some bumps and bruises that will help shape us for what the future holds. And boy, what does that future hold.

I can always look back on that day, that one fine day and think, This is what it was supposed to be. This is how it was supposed to happen. God smiled that day, and he was happy. Happy that a touch of His hand had given us all something so special. Something so real.

I sit here and smirk, thinking back to that day in the hospital room and watching it all unfold in front of me. And finally, at the end of the day, I sat back in my chair and exhaled. I knew this part was over, but the hard part was just beginning. Did I know how it would happen, or ever if it would happen so fast? No. Did I care? Not in the least.

I just relished in that moment. That moment: New York Giants 21, Dallas Cowboys 17.*

*Oh yeah, Happy Birthday Kaitlyn. You came into this world on the same day that Eli Manning came into his own. And if you turned out to be a boy, there was going to be some serious discussion regarding names. 

12 January 2010

Dora's forgotten twin

09 January 2010

Help me decide. Leave a comment.

One dozen golf balls received as Christmas gift and returned: $16.31 on gift card

One package of Huggies pull-ups for Kaitlyn: $16.31 off gift card

Okay, here's the deal: I was recently presented with this conundrum while visiting my local Walmart. The golf balls were returned, as I was fully intending to purchase the brand I normally play. I also needed to look into purchasing pull-ups for my daughter, who is growing exponentially and will soon be headed to the two-year old room at daycare.

So there I stood, in the diaper aisle of Walmart, wondering whether I needed to use the gift card on the diapers for my daughter or put them toward a dozen brand-y new golf balls for my own selfish pursuits. It's truly a lose-lose: Buy the diapers, lose your manhood. Buy the golf balls, lose your fatherhood.

So America, I let you decide: Manhood or Fatherhood. Now, a few ground rules: First, Kaitlyn doesn't truly need the pull-ups. This is sort of an experiment before heading into the two-year old room. So it's not like I'm depriving my daughter of essential things to live to buy golf balls. Second, the golf balls I would have bought would require additional money out of my own pocket.

So tell me, America: Manhood or Fatherhood?

08 January 2010

Lessons for the next time I'm semi-retired

If you couldn't tell, it's been a little dry here at Growing Up Kaitlyn. I mean, I noticed I hadn't posted since January 2, which is quite a while here in the blogosphere. But with good reason.

As some of you (that would be the family) know, my semi-retirement officially ends on January 19. I have accepted a position with a company here in Greensboro and will be back in the working world. Which is most definitely a great way to usher in 2010, but it also opens the door to a litany of other questions:
  • What happens when Kaitlyn needs to come home early because she's sick?
  • You mean I can't drive up to daycare some random afternoons and poke my head into the window and see my little girl sleeping?
  • I have to shower each and EVERY day?
These are just a couple of things that have run through my mind in the last few days. More than those things, though, I've been listening to Michelle complain about the things that I haven't accomplished since semi-retirement began. You know, the honey-do list that continues to grow each and every day.

But those small complaints (believe me, she's happier than anyone that semi-retirement is coming to a close) have led to larger internal complaints and disappointments. I wish I actually made her Halloween costume like I wanted. I wish I had taken her to the Natural Science Center more during the summer months. I wish I played more golf and lowered my handicap. You know, real internal struggles.

You always reason with yourself in the moment on why you can't do something. Its was cheaper and easier to buy a costume off the shelf. I was doing some consultation work and looking for a job. I had no money. All those arguments sounds great at the time. But looking back, it really doesn't cut the mustard. I should have done those things and more because, well, there aren't more important things.

Nothing's more important than seeing Kaitlyn in her cupcake costume that you made for her. Nothing's more important than hearing Kaitlyn say she wants to see more animals. And nothing's more important than indexing a 5.0 and winning some ducats from the slops at the course.

All I can do is move forward now and hope that I learned my lesson. More time next time. Granted, we're all hoping there won't be a next time like this time, but next time.

02 January 2010

Happy New Year. Can I go to bed now?

First, Happy New Year everyone. We ushered in 2010 snug in our bed after doing a pseudo-midnight toast at Aunt Nicole and Uncle Rich's place with the other 'rents. I'm sure we have pictures, but I can't find the camera and I'm too lazy at 6:45 a.m. to get up. Without further adieu:

Five Goals for the New Year: