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Where I chronicle a busy, fun weekend, renewing the “daddy” part of my handle

by John on April 20th, 2015

My poor performance at the marathon had been looming over my head for a full week, which isn’t entirely horrible. Because, with the way my mind works, I’ve been figuring out how I can run the distance again, and run it better, and do better, and, you know, actually feel like I ran a marathon. While a very real part of me was talking of “retiring the distance,” I don’t want to have my last marathon have such a sour taste in my mouth1. So I’m already devising running plans so that my next marathon will be stronger. And, injuries aside, it’ll happen in 2015. I might not get to four hours . . . but I’ll cross the finish line strong, with a smile on my face.

While last week was a week of recovery, both emotional and physical, this past weekend was necessary on many different levels . . . even if it didn’t allow me to catch my breath – because, well, what’s “rest” when there is fun to be had?

We’ll start on Thursday. As I mentioned previously, my son absolutely rocked his karate belt test. However, in our school, you don’t receive your belt when you test — the results need to be validated by a third party . . . which means the belt ceremony, where you get the next belt, happens the next week. This happened on Thursday. And CJ, having achieved something he really wanted, got to pick where we went to dinner. He choose a local hibachi grill – you know, the kind where they cook the food in front of you with a little show. CJ loves this place – especially the sake part (for adults, the chef squirts sake from a squeeze bottle from the grill to any willing participant at the table, quitting when they beg out or when the drink starts dribbling down that person’s chin — then, for kids, he does the same, only with water in the squirt bottle — my kids are DANGEROUSLY good at this). So, we went out for a fun dinner. I had sushi, and steak, and salmon.

Hibachi Dinner

Is it really dinner if it doesn’t involve a selfie?

Damn, I love food.

Friday had me at work all day . . . so, well, I guess Thursday wasn’t really part of the weekend, but it really felt detached. After work, I got the kids, got home, made dinner and spent the night watching movies & playing video games and, well, just enjoying being with my kids.

Saturday, forgot to reset my alarm, so my phone started going off at 5am. I tried to reset it — but I have a two-stage alarm. First, there is the electronic alarm that is my phone . . . then there is the physical alarm that is a 50-ish pound shar-pei mix mutt that likes to lick my face. Especially after the alarm goes off. I think I managed to say in bed for the better part of an hour, thinking “Benji will grow tired of bugging me, eventually” but I was wrong. So I got out of bed. I walked him. I got Snickelfritz, and fed both dogs. Then I dressed . . . to run.

I “only” ran 4 miles — and, honestly, I was fighting pain for much of the run — my knees and hip are still dealing with the marathon. And I really don’t know what’s going on with my shoulder, but it’s still not happy. But, I ran. Just for a little bit, I lost myself in the sweat, the “going.” It was splendid.

I had big plans for the day, so I got right back to work after getting home.

First, the kids showered with me, then we got dressed, and then we got out of the door. The National Aquarium in Baltimore beckoned.

My first job out of college was as a software developer for a startup firm headquartered in Baltimore — I worked directly across the street from the aquarium. When work got to be too frustrating, I’d find myself taking lunch at the aquarium — I’d make a B-line to the sharks (avoiding the crowds where possible, completely skipping the rainforest exhibit) and just watch them for awhile. If time allowed, I’d make a second loop of the aquarium, taking everything in, marveling at the colors and the . . . serenity that are fish swimming about.

My kids — well, they’re four and five. Sitting around, looking at fish? Not super high on their priority list. I mean, sure, fish are cool & everything . . . but there is a definite lack of appreciation for just “watching.”

I told Leila the highlights from when I used to visit regularly: the poison tree frogs, the anaconda, the octopus, the puffins (that she insisted on calling penguins . . . I stopped correcting her at some point, though we revisit penguins in just a little bit), the seahorses, and the sharks. Every time I tried to stop to admire something, I got a “Dad, you’re getting distracted,” and she wanted us to see what she wanted to see, which was what I said was cool. Most things, we got a cursory glance of, not much more. But that was expected.


Fortunately, I was able to point out the seahorses . . . watching the comprehension that I wasn’t just “looking at sticks in the water” and was looking at “real seahorses” was pretty cool. The touch exhibit was recently opened . . . Leila was very happy to be able to touch horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, whelks, and stingrays. CJ wasn’t quite brave enough to try.

CJ was quite happy to see a tarantula — but happier that it was behind glass. Leila was disappointed that the poison tree dart frogs didn’t come in pink. The rainforest was a hit, if only because it was “just like the movie Rio 2!” Everyone was hugely impressed with the “nice sharks,” with CJ being especially fond of the sawshark, whom he named Sir Shark.

The dolphins were a HUGE HIT – and the kids even paid attention, a little, to an instructor explaining why porpoises have bite marks2. I considered the outing, despite the breakneck pace through the exhibit areas, a huge success – and an educational success, at that.

But, on the way in, CJ saw a huge sign with a Lego figurine on it . . . and he really wanted to see it.

And, to be honest, I kind of wanted to see Port Discovery as well. I had never been.

Now, there was some kind of major running event going on in Baltimore when we arrived — but it really didn’t affect us heading into the aquarium. I think the very large beergarten near Port Discovery was tied to said event. But maybe not. What I do know is that, as we approached Port Discovery, there was a VERY VERY long line of 20-50-somethings and very loud music. But, I think this, actually, worked to our advantage . . . as nobody there was actually heading into the children’s museum, but waiting to have their ID checked for some beer event. And, while a beer event sounded great on the hot day (it his 85F/30C), it’s not the most child-friendly decision I could make. So, long line of people waiting for beer meant less of a crowd in the kids’ museum.

The kids played with Legos. They climbed intricate treehouse-type structures, they slid down slides, they experimented with water flow, they blew bubbles. They, basically, played at a huge toddler park (I may have climbed said treehouse-type structure, as well . . . because, well, I’m me – and CJ wanted help, half-way up).

When we had seen all that could be seen there, we started working our way back home . . . when CJ asked about the zoo.

And we didn’t really have a timetable to abide by. So we went to the Baltimore zoo.

Kids with a Lego Dragon

In retrospect, this was a parent mistake — but not a huge one. If you were to ask me for advice in planning an adventure to Disney, the first thing I’d say is to “schedule downtime.” There is no need to be doing something active at all times — it’s a recipe for child (and adult) meltdowns. This . . . well, it kind of made for a minor meltdown. First off, the kids had been going strong since 7am, and I mean GOING STRONG. Things were in constant motion. It was a hot day, and the sun was blaring — I put sunscreen on them, but, well, the sun still takes a lot out of you . . . especially when the winter has been brutal and the kids, simply, aren’t used to sweating when walking about outside. The Baltimore Zoo has a significant walk between the entrance area and the first exhibits . . . all of that made for some grumpy.

On top of that, it was a mid-April day, and there are some animals, that prefer the hot, that the zoo keeps elsewhere, until some time in May, just because freezing, in April, happens. But, because of the temps, many animals that would normally be about were hiding in the shade. Essentially, there were a lot of what appeared to be empty exhibits to the kids.

And my kids were done.

I reminded myself that I workout because I want to be able to carry my kids. So, I picked both children up. They rested their heads on my shoulders. And I walked them back to the car. We drove home. The zoo, sure, we could have skipped . . . but the kids did get to see real penguins (though I’d argue that puffins were cooler). They saw zebras and giraffes and polar bear and rhinoceroseseses. They had a good day.

Not unexpectedly, bedtime was quite easy Saturday night . . . we watched The Lego Movie (because, hello, we had been playing with Legos most of the day) and the kids, kind-of, put themselves to bed.

Sunday woke with a dog walk, because, well, Benji is relentless. Then I made lunches for the week. Then the kids were dressed. We went to church and did the church thing (heck, CJ even spent a significant portion of the service sitting next to me at the organ), then I went to watch a show. Duffy has been helping backstage for the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which is just a delightful three-person show, and I really wanted to see it. So the kids went with my in-laws and I watched a show.

CJ with Daddy at the Organ

It’s very rare that I sit in the audience and enjoy a show . . . I’m far more-used to putting on a show. But I had a blast, and the cast & crew of the Oyster Mill Playhouse should be very proud of themselves for a truly high-quality production.

Then, it was time to rehearse, once again . . . because, well, it’s what I do. I’m playing bass in a production of Schoolhouse Rocks, Live! next weekend, which meant that Sunday night was the cast sing-through. There were minimal costumes, next to no dancing, no dialog . . . but, I can already tell this show will be fun. So that’s that.

But now we’re at Monday — I’m exhausted (and am looking at a week of work & rehearsals — little else), but, well, I’m feeling much better than I was, at this time, last week. So there’s that 🙂

1 In all of the negativity with my last post, there was a very real positive from the run . . . see, with the online blogging & everything, it’s easy to forget that there are real-life people involved, sometimes. A good friend of mine ran the half-marathon, and she stuck around to cheer me at the end. And, well, even if I was hating life as I crossed the finish line, it’s always great to see a friend and to be cheered on. Thank you, Kris, for sticking around. It was unfair of me to make it seem that everything about that day was horrible.
2 In a display of dominance, a stronger dolphin will bite another dolphin, essentially to say “I’m stronger than you.” When a new dolphin appears in a new group, the bite marks (or lack thereof) will explain how this dolphin fared amongst his/her previous brethren. My kids asked why dolphins would make the bad choices of biting each other.
One Comment
  1. Hey, I saw that Shakespeare show in London! Paint an inch thick!

    Later, a close relative became very good friends with one of the creators. It’s a small world, after all.

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