Monday March 29, 2004 11:57 PM
6th year, 1st week

Isaiah has celebrated his fifth birthday in a fine style this week- all this week. Not only were the events numerous and boisterous, but Uncle John was here all week to take part in a large portion of the festivities.

He had decided at some point in the past (I don't remember exactly when) that this year he wanted to have a pirate party, so it's been pirates and pirate-y things all week long.

Monday was Isaiah's actual birthday and he had a party at preschool. So Ruth and I (mostly Ruth) spent a couple of hours or so on the previous Saturday afternoon making treat bags for all Isaiah's classmates. She used a stencil kit someone had gotten Isaiah as an early gift to trace and cut out 24 tropical island scenes. The scenes consisted of a palm tree (2 parts, trunk and fronds) a stone-colored hump for an island, and an "X" to mark the location of the implied treasure.

That Saturday blessed us with marvelous weather, so Isaiah and I went to the park. Ruth and Gideon decided to stay home since it was a little windy and Ruth spent the time of our absence cutting out the abovementioned palm trunks and fronds. On the way to the park I remember Isaiah saying at one point "Maybe there will be some new friends for me to meet there!". He really is a delightful little fellow and a joy to be around. Most of the time.

We had a good time at the park and we did actually meet a new friend. There was a woman there who had brought not only three or four kids, but a big black dog that was almost big enough for Isaiah to ride. It turns out that the dog's name was Lucy and evidently Lucy liked me.

She kept coming over to me to get her head patted or ears scratched. This wouldn't seem so odd, except for the fact that in order to come up to me, Lucy would drag the woman holding her leash along with her. What made this woman think she was in control is beyond me, because despite the fact that the woman was not petite (she was by no means overweight, but probably as tall as me and not slight of build), when Lucy wanted to come see me, Lucy came to see me despite what her person wanted to do.

I, of course, would oblige Lucy's wishes and pat her head or scratch her ears and explain to the woman that it was no big deal, that I like dogs and have one at home. The woman began to get annoyed a bit after the third time, but I didn't mind petting Lucy and I figured anyone dumb enough to take a dog they are not strong enough to control to the park deserves to get drug around.

I took some pictures of Isaiah at the park with the firm intent of emailing them to Grandpa Roger that evening, but we all know the terminus of the thoroughfare paved with good intentions, don't we? I still have not sent the pictures I took that day or any of the subsequent ones taken last week with the same firm intent. All I can say is, please be patient, Dad. I'll get around to it.

When we got home, Ruth was still cutting but getting closer to completion. She had done a fine job with everything but was having some difficulty with the small Maltese Xs she wanted to use to mark the treasure spot, so I cut 24 ½" square Xs and glued them on the islands. I wondered why we were going to so much trouble for something that would probably get pitched soon after they were taken home by Isaiah's classmates, but they sure did look cool and Ruth said the boy's teachers were very impressed even if no one else was.

Wednesday Isaiah's preschool class met at a local bowling alley to spend the day on the lanes. Isaiah bowled a 67 which is pretty impressive for a five year old. I'm fairly confident that I would have a hard time beating his score. He was unpleasantly surprised to learn that trophies were not going to be awarded though his disappointment was mollified when Rupie who, along with Uncle John, met Ruth, Gideon, and Isaiah at Pizza Hut for lunch, said she would give Isaiah one of the bowling trophies she'd won years ago when she bowled on a league. When I got home Isaiah proudly showed me "his" trophy. I told him that was grand and did not mention that since the plastic figure standing atop the prize was wearing a skirt, it was a girl's trophy. After all, he'd won it fair and square and I didn't want to hear him cry about it being a girl trophy.

Since John was in town, Thursday night was (as is the tradition when he's in town) Brass Door night. The Brass Door is a restaurant in Carrolton Illinois that serves all-you-care-to-eat breaded pork chops on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Ruth's dad is usually teaching on Tuesday nights, so we always go on Thursdays.

If you ever plan on visiting this place on either of the two pork chop nights, I suggest you make reservations. If you don't you will be waiting a while. It's not fancy and it's in a small rural town, but the food is good and the place been around since Cotton was a monkey. Folks come from miles around and don't mind waiting in line. We drove about forty minutes to get there and I was glad that Ruth's folks had made a reservation. They were already there and seated when we arrived and we walked right passed what appeared to be every bit of thirty minutes worth of folks waiting as we made our way to the table.

Just a few minutes after we sat down, the food started coming. I didn't overdo it this time. I think I only ate about three pork chops and two half-plates full of mashed potatoes. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Isaiah. He was pretty good and we all had a good time. I let Ruth drive home though cause I was getting a little sleepy.

Friday night was Isaiah's family pirate party. Dinner was chicken fun-jitas, not because pirates ate fajitas, but because Ruth likes to make'em and the gang likes to eat'em. Additionally, authenticity can be highly overrated. I have no desire to dine on months-old salt pork and hardtack with wormy apples for desert (if you're lucky). Lots of things are cool about pirates, but the diet is not one of them.

When I got home from work, the dining room had been converted to a South Sea island complete with a parrot suspended from the ceiling and a palm tree in the corner with a treasure chest, doubloons spilling out, at its base. There was a skull and crossbones on the little garden flag stand out front that usually displays something with chickens or flowers or something on it, and there was a one-eyed pirate taped to the front door to keep the riff-raff from getting away.

There was also more than an hour and a half's worth of work remaining to get the place ship shape before people started arriving at seven when I got home from work at five thirty. Ruth and I were both scurrying full-throttle for the whole time between my arrival and that of our guests. Fortunately, Isaiah was with Rupie so we could devote almost all of our energy to creating the illusion that the place was actually cleaned up instead of just having had a great deal of junk quickly hauled upstairs.

As soon as we were done (as done as we figured we were going to get) at about six forty-five I went upstairs to sit under the ceiling fan and don a different t-shirt since I'd broken a pretty good sweat running up and down the stairs and shoving the vacuum cleaner across three rooms. Of course, this plan didn't work quite perfectly. When I came back downstairs, refreshed, dry, and in a clean shirt, Ruth handed Gideon to me so she could do some task that required two hands. The very second after I'd finished uttering the words "Please don't barf on me, Little Dude" to the child I held against my left shoulder, the same child barfed on me. A lot. So as soon as Ruth finished what she was doing, I handed Gideon back to her and went back upstairs to find another clean shirt.

When I came back down the first guest was arriving and the party was on. Everybody had fun, the fajitas were a hit, and Isaiah had a great time. Uncle Mike and I spent most of the time in the living room checking out all of Isaiah's Mega-Blocks dragon sets. These are almost exactly like Legos, but the blocks make castles and keeps, the people are all wearing plate-mail armor, and each set comes with a dragon. I think if we assembled all of the sets Isaiah has at one time, the resulting realm would cover most of the living room floor.

Once we finally got everybody run off, we were more than ready for bed. Especially considering that the next day would be another big one.

Saturday was not only the day of Isaiah's friends party, but that evening we had the last play of the children's theater season at SIUE where Ruth's dad teaches and of course, we can't go to a play without going to Panterra's Pizza afterward for some good food and a few games of Hydro-Thunder, Isaiah's and my favorite video game.

The sun arose early Saturday, but I didn't. I think I came downstairs around nine thirty or so and discovered Ruth working on breakfast and Isaiah going around singing "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum". I guess he was getting the pirate spirit.

After breakfast, the morning evaporated in a sequence of errands and destinations all of which were necessary to get the final few things we thought we'd need. We got back home about twelve-thirty and after a quick lunch of grilled-cheese sandwiches, it was one o'clock and we only had an hour to finish getting the place re-prepared and as much tidy-er as we could get it. After all, it's one thing when the family is coming over and an entirely different thing when friends are coming over who do so once or twice a year.

Once again, it was a close thing but we got it done. Isaiah and all his guests had a fine time and everybody had fun. Ruth had made a cake that looked like a treasure chest with doubloons and gold spilling out and everybody was impressed with it. Someone was so impressed with the cake that they left a chocolate icing handprint on the wall.

Kroger was out in the back yard to keep the mayhem down inside the house during the party and she kept up her yiping racket the whole time, but at one point she was making a more insistent and alert kind of noise as if something were there. I just happened to glance out the window at that moment and saw a white-tailed deer running through the ravine at the end of our yard. I shouted to the others and all the parents at least got a glimpse of it (the kids didn't care). I don't know where it came from or where it thought it was going since the ravine I mentioned, though it seems to be a small bit of wilderness, is bound on all sides by backyards and homes, but it was neat to see.

The party was over at four pm we were all ready for it to be over. Isaiah wasn't tired, but he was ready to start playing with all the loot he'd scored over the course of the week. For the next hour and a half or so, Ruth napped and Isaiah and I built robots out of Legos with the set I'd given him Monday morning. Then it was time to get ready and leave for the play.

The play was Riki-Tiki-Tavi which I've never read, but I fondly remember the animated version that used to be aired annually on TV when I was much younger. Isaiah enjoyed it immensely as did we all, including Gideon. He's too little to have any idea what all the noise and action was about, but he liked looking at all the moving colors on stage. The play was very well done, and as I said we all enjoyed it. On the way out Isaiah and I discussed checking the local libraries for the book and hopefully the video.

The evening's final destination (other than home and bed) was Panterra's Pizza. This is a tradition after our plays. We always come here for a large with pepperoni and hamburger and a few games of Hydro-Thunder. I sure hope they never replace that game cause it just wouldn't be the same without it. It's a boat racing game, in case you hadn't gathered, and it's pretty fun. You pick a course and select a boat and then race against a gaggle of computer-run opponents.

Isaiah always wants to "drive it myself" and I always say "No, I'm going to drive- and no, you can't work the throttle." This time, though, I made him a deal. I told him that if he'd just sit on my lap and let me drive the first game, I'd let him drive "all by yourself" the second game and he agreed.

He did the best job of not messing with the controls while I was racing that he's ever done. I actually came in sixth which I don't think is too bad since I only play it once every other month or so and I've always been pretty crummy at video games. So I was feeling rather magnanimous and actually let Isaiah (mostly) drive like a total five year old.

"Hey, Man, don't yank the wheel back and forth like that- you're just banging the walls of the channel. Drive it down the middle to go faster."

"But I want to bang the walls!"

He did, too. He ran into everything he could including a tour boat, a killer whale, and an iceberg. Every now and then I'd grab the wheel and steer us straight for a ramp to send us flying through the air, but for the most part I let him do his thing.

He came in fourth.