Gotcha Day – 6th Anniversary

It’s February 1st so that means that Gotcha Day has rolled back around again. I can’t believe how quickly 6 years has passed. It seems like only yesterday we were in Russia to bring our little guy home and now our little guy is not so little anymore. Below is our annual stairwell photo comparison of then and now with links below it to past years. Happy Gotcha Day Liam, we love you!

Gotcha Day – 5 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 4 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 3 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 2 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 1 year anniversary photo

Mapping Monopoly

monopoly_carAs much as the classic game Monopoly was a perennial favorite at family gatherings when I was a kid (and I look forward to the day when my son is old enough to start learning to play) I have to admit that I never gave even a moment’s thought to the properties arranged around the board. They were just abstract things that you needed to own plenty of if you wanted a chance at winning the game.

I suppose that way down deep, I might’ve had some vague notion that the Monopoly squares were named after actual locations but I never had any notion of where that was or what those locations might really look like. Well sure enough, the properties up for grabs in the game are indeed named after real locales in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey and Nick Carr at Scouting NY recently paid a visit to those sites represented on the Monopoly board and showcased the images from his trip.

Now that I’ve seen some of the real locations that correspond with the places on the board, it gives the game a little different perspective on those deeds you buy and leverage in the game. Knowing about the Absecon Light lighthouse makes Vermont Avenue that much more appealing. And here’s a glimpse of the real version of the highly-coveted Park Place:

The real Park Place from Monopoly

Does seeing the real locations that the Monopoly properties are based on give the game a different feel for you? Does this make you wanna dust off the old classic and play it again?

Know When To Fold ‘Em

When we began car-shopping recently to replace Dede’s Honda CR-V, I suppose it was only natural that I’d catch the new car fever too, even though there’s nothing wrong with my trusty Element aside from it being 10+ yrs old and lacking in all of the techno-goodies, conveniences, and creature comforts of the cool new vehicles.

It was while I was half-looking for a suitable replacement, however, that I was very inspired by the EcoModder “Buy a Trailer Instead of a Pickup Truck” thread that I just stumbled upon. The argument that a trailer (and hitch) added to an existing car can give you almost all the functionality of a truck without the lower fuel efficiency—or hefty new car payments—really appealed to me. Even as much as this seemed like a great idea, I had all but dismissed the whole thing as impractical since I don’t have any space to park a trailer. But then several pages deep into the thread, I read a comment about the Haul Master Folding Trailer at Harbor Freight and I was hooked!

So the next thing I knew, I was at Harbor Freight:

Haul Master Folding Trailer - Boxes Loaded

Loaded up at Harbor Freight

Who would’ve guessed that a couple of unassuming (but heavy) boxes would hold an entire trailer?!

Haul Master Folding Trailer boxes unloaded

Boxes unloaded into the garage

Liam and I set about getting the pieces unboxed…

Haul Master Folding Trailer unboxed

Parts staged and ready to go

Then we started putting the puzzle together:

Haul Master Folding Trailer assembly

Assembling the trailer

It went together fairly quickly with Liam manning the power tools!

Haul Master Folding Trailer assembled

Liam rocks the cordless driver!

Once it was all assembled, I called in favors from Pete for bearing lube and Fred for some wiring assistance and it was ready for the decking. Ironically tho, I needed the trailer to get the plywood home! So with the help of a very overworked but friendly guy at the U-Haul store, I added an inexpensive Class 3 (chosen for size and flexibility more than weight capacity) hidden trailer hitch to my Element. Then I hitched up the trailer for its maiden voyage:

Haul Master Folding Trailer hitched up

Hitched and ready for the maiden voyage

After I primed & waterproofed the plywood with truck bed liner paint and attached, the trailer was complete:

Haul Master Folding Trailer completed

Decked out and finshed!

Perhaps the coolest thing is that once the trailer is folded (made much easier thanks to Corky’s clever how-to “rope trick” video), it only occupies an unobtrusive sliver of space in the front of the Element in our garage:

Haul Master Folding Trailer stored in the garage

Folded and stored in front of the Element

Once I started Googling around about this folding trailer, I discovered there are quite a few forums dedicated to building and customizing (sometimes extensively) these for a limitless array of uses:

And there’s tons of cool stuff to accessorize the trailer at Harbor Freight and RedTrailers.com.



Of course, the whole time we were working on this, Kenny Rogers’ “Gambler” was the song that stuck in my head. But Dede’s theme song for this project was different—she kept singing that line “Trailers for sale or rent…” While I’m confident that what was going thru her mind was the classic Roger Miller version, I really dig Josh Turner & Randy Travis’s rendition of “King of the Road”.

Virginia Beach 2013

We just returned from a fantastic 10 day vacation to Virginia Beach! We flew into Washington DC and stayed a couple of days with our friends Chris & Teresa and then we all drove to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. It was very hot and humid but the park was not crowded at all. Liam rode all the rides they would let him on, including the Loch Ness Monster (his first roller coaster).

The next day we drove to Virginia Beach and spent the next 5 days there. Our hotel was right on the beach and Liam loved playing in the ocean! We visited the Virginia Aquarium and took a ride on The Lost Pearl. Those pirates really work at entertaining the kids!

On our last day at the beach, Troy and Rachel drove down to meet us. We’ve been following each other’s blogs for years, but had never met in person. Their son Daniel and Liam hit it off famously just like we both had predicted they would. It was so nice to finally meet. Thanks again for making the drive down!

What wonderful memories and it was so nice to spend time with Chris, Teresa and Anna again!
Click the link below the picture to view more pics of our vacation.

Liam on the beach

End of First Grade

First grade is officially over!

There were a few bumps along the way but for the most part it was a great year. It was Liam’s first year at a private school and the transition took some time but after he learned the ways of his new school it all worked out. I’m so proud of how far he has come this year. I can’t believe all the things they teach in first grade! It is so fast-paced compared to when I was in school. He is an excellent reader and speller. His reading vocabulary tested at almost 6th grade level! I think that’s pretty incredible for a kid who didn’t even speak English his first 2 years! Below is a picture from the award ceremony, where he received an “A” Honor Roll award and a picture with his first grade teacher and his extended day teacher.

I’m sad that my little guy is growing up so fast but I look forward to 2nd grade and new adventures. For now, however, he will be chillaxin by the pool for the summer!

Award for

His 1st grade teacher Mrs. McDoniel

Extended Day teacher Mrs. Ford

Liam chillaxin by the pool

Soccer 2013

This year Liam played soccer for the first time. The jury is still out on whether he liked it enough to play again. I enjoyed it much more than T-Ball because it is faster paced and the season ends just as our temperatures start hitting triple digits! Yesterday was the final game for the season and the kids were very excited about getting trophies. Liam is so proud that he carries his trophy all around the house with him.

Liam’s 7th Birthday

We celebrated Liam’s highly-anticipated 7th birthday this year by doing something different and having his birthday party at a private gymnastics facility. We thought it was an original idea but now it seems like everyone else is doing the same thing this year. It’s a welcome relief from the jumper/arcade/pizza parties and I sure do prefer the private parties to being mixed in with the crowds at the public facilities.

Liam’s chosen theme for this year’s party was Batman, which made it pretty easy for us to put together. Instead of the traditional 1/2 sheet cake, we did a cupcake cake (a bunch of cupcakes iced together to look like a cake). I made the mistake of not asking what color the icing was going to be so we ended up with lots of blue faces at the end of the party. Note to self: only do white icing from now on!

The kids (and a few of the adults) had lots of fun jumping on the trampolines, walking the balance beams and tumbling on the mats. It’s definitely something I would do again!

I can’t believe my baby is now 7 years old. The last 5 years have just flown by so quickly that I know I’m going to wake up one of these days with a teenager on my hands and I’m just not ready for that! Until then, here is my sweet baby boy having fun at his birthday party.

Liam jumping off of the balance beam
Liam on a trampoline
Batman cupcake cake

Gotcha Day – 5th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that it has been 5 years already since a scared little boy and a couple of scared parents instantly became a family. For those of you that might be new to our blog, we celebrate Gotcha Day each year with a few traditions; a cake (there are 5 candles but 2 are blended together in the photo)…

a few presents…

and a comparison stairwell photo.

It’s always shocking to look at the stair photo and see how much he has changed. Below are the links to the past stair photos if you missed them the first time around or if you just want to see them again. :-)

Gotcha Day – 4 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 3 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 2 year anniversary photo

Gotcha Day – 1 year anniversary photo

Christmas 2012

We had a wonderful Christmas but it felt a little strange this year not having Nanny Karen in town. We hope that she will be back with us next year.

Liam just managed to keep himself off the naughty list and got both of the Santa gifts he wanted: an Imaginext Batcave and a Lego Batman airplane & Joker helicopter set. The only thing missing was a white Christmas, tho we did have a cold one.

I’ve enjoyed my time off from work and Liam & I’ve both quickly become very accustomed to sleeping in late each morning, so it’s gonna be tough going back to real life again!

I’ll leave you with a few pics from Christmas:

Liam tub Santa

A Russian “Onion Dome” Christmas ornament

Sprinkling out reindeer food on Christmas Eve

(And making quite a fashion statement with the Agent P hoodie and Lightning McQueen slippers!)

Playing with the awesome Imaginext Batcave

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and I’m looking for 2013 to be a great year for all of us!

Thanksgiving 2012

Wow, I am so behind, two holidays have already come and gone since my last post! I’ll start catching up with Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving week our original plans were to meet up with some friends in Orlando for a week of Disney fun. On the morning we were to leave, I woke up feeling dizzy and could barely walk because the room was spinning so badly. I worked my way into the shower only to make things worse. As soon as the water hit me, I started throwing up and couldn’t stop. Rob took me to the doctor’s office and I’m still thinking the doctor can fix me and we can make our flight in 3 hours. Boy was I wrong!

His diagnosis was an inner ear infection and he gave me a shot for the nausea, antibiotics and steroids. He told me there was no way I could fly with my ear infection. Rob broke the news to Liam and he was so sweet about it and was just worried about me and not missing the trip. Best kid ever, more worried about his Momma than missing Disney!

I was out of it for the next few days. My ear was not feeling any better by the weekend so I went to an urgent care center. The doctor there confirmed that I had an inner ear infection and just needed to give the meds time to work.

On Monday, I returned to my regular doctor and told him it had been a week and my ear wasn’t any better and I had finished all my meds. He gave me different steroids to take and told me it would take time. I just knew something wasn’t right because I have had ear infections before and this one wasn’t the same.

I scheduled an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor and couldn’t get an appointment for 2 weeks. Luckily, a week later, the ENT office called and said they had a cancellation. The doctor examined me and told me that I did not have an inner ear infection. His diagnosis was sudden sensorineural hearing loss. What? He said that it was unfortunate that I hadn’t been diagnosed sooner because the best chance of recovering my hearing was within the first 72 hours after it occurred. I was now 14 days out and he said he wouldn’t even treat me if I was 21 days out. He also said that it is common for general doctors to misdiagnose this as an inner ear infection because it is not that common and has all the same symptoms.

Over the next week, I did 3 treatments of cortisone injections thru my eardrum into the middle ear. Yeah, it was as pleasant as it sounds. None of the treatments had any effect on my hearing and I had to persuade the doctor to even do the 3rd treatment. I figured I had nothing to lose doing all 3 treatments. In the end, the treatments didn’t help but I would’ve always wondered had I not done the 3rd one.

He is not certain what caused it, my blood tests and MRI did not show anything, but his best guess is that it was some sort of viral infection that I had that attacked my ear. I now have only about 10-20% of hearing in my left ear and constantly hear a high-pitched hissing in that ear that is called tinnitus.

A few days before Christmas they made a mold of my ear for a hearing aid fitting. He is hoping that the TransEar type hearing aid will allow me to regain my ability to distinguish sound direction again. It should be ready for me to test sometime after the new year.

I still can’t believe this happened and I hold out hope that my hearing will return on its own one day. In the meantime, I hope that reading this post will help someone else if it happens to them. If you ever wake up dizzy, throwing up and have problems with your ear, RUSH to the emergency room and request an ENT. The faster they start the treatments, the better chance you have of regaining your hearing. If anyone reading this has had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSD), I would love to hear about year experience and outcome.

Up next…Christmas post!