Walt Disney World

Day 1 – We got up real early, since our fight was out of Knoxville at 9am.  Parking at the airport was bad, probably because it was Fall break for Knoxville too.  We eventually found a spot and got all checked in.  Olivia was super excited about the trip and this was her first flight.  The flight was short and Olivia did great.  Once we arrived at Stamford, Julie and Olivia picked of the luggage and I got the car rental.  The drive to Disney was hectic, but we made it without issue.

We arrived at the Wilderness lodge a little after noon, but our room wasn’t ready.  So Julie and Olivia changed cloths in the bathroom, and we checked out luggage with bell services.  We took the ferry to Magic Kingdom.  The parade was getting ready to start so main street was very crowded.  We tried to get Olivia to wait on the parade, but she was impatient, so we decided to try that another day.  We went to our first fast pass of the day, Buzz Light-year Spin.  At first Olivia was scared to go in since it was dark, which made me think this might be a long trip if she refused to ride and rides.   She eventually came around, and actually loved the ride.  Next we did the people mover, which surprisingly was one of her favorite rides at of all the parks (probably because it was long and you didn’t have to wait).  Next we walked to the splash pad to cool off, and then went to the Mad Tea Party.  Julie rode it with us, so we didn’t spin it too hard, since she gets sick.  Our next stop was Enchanted Tales with Bell that we had a fast pass for.  This was a lot of fun, but Olivia was getting tired, so she was less out going than normal.

We ate dinner at Beast’s Castle at Be Our Guest.   This was great and Olivia loved it, but she didn’t want to meet beast, so just Julie and I got our picture with him.  We were pretty worn out, so we headed back to the hotel to get our stuff and settle into our room.  On the way out, we met Micky Mouse as town square.  Getting out stuff from bell services was a pain.  After spending 20 minute on hold, I went to the Bell station and got the luggage and brought it up to the room myself.  The room was okay, but not anything special.  Certainly not “Delux” as labeled.  I ordered food and water through Amazon Prime Now, and it was way cheaper than the hotel convenience shop.  We went to bed and Olivia slept great.  I woke up at 9:30pm thinking our neighbors had their TV on extremely load, but realized it was the music for Electrical Water Pageant.

Day 2 – After a good rest we all felt much better.  We planned to meet my parents near Chinese Theater at Hollywood Studios.  Our first stop was Toy Story; my favorite ride.  Next we were going to do Disney Junior Live on Stage, but decided to do the Sofia the First meet and greet instead, since Sofia was the main princess Olivia wanted to see.  After that we did the Star Wars Launch bay, and Olivia had great interaction with the Storm Troopers.  Her shirt has “Pretty Fly for a Jedi” written on it and they were hassling her about it.  She loved it.  Next we waited in line to see Kylo Ren, since Olivia seemed in a good mood, but the wait ended up being too long, and her mood soured.  By the time we god to see Kylo Ren she got scared and had to stay with Gammy.

After Launch Bay we rode Star Tours ride and went to lunch at Mama Melrose, which wasn’t that great.  After lunch we did the Frozen sing-a-long.  Olivia loves to sing, so this was right up her alley.  After that we watched the March of the Frist Order.   Last we did the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  It was dated.  I’m surprised it hasn’t been closed, but Disney has closed so many other attractions in Hollywood studios, I guess they had to keep this one running.   It was a hot day, so we decided to call it early so we could go back to the hotel and cleanup before lunch.  Olivia ate dinner with Gammy and Pa, so Julie and I could have a nice dinner at Artist Point.  Dinner there was great, and it was a much needed break from Olivia.

Day 3 – We did a family run to the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds early in the morning.   We met my parents at Epcot, and rode Spaceship Earth first.  Then we did the Finding Nemo ride and Turtle Talk with Crush.  From there we did the Character spot and got to meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.  After that, we did the Pixar Short Film Festival.  My parents wanted to do some stuff on their own, so we split up before lunch.  We walked over to the international side so see if we could find any princesses for Olivia to meet.  The Frozen ride was closed down, but we were able to meet Anna and Elsa before Lunch.  For lunch, we had reservations for Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.   Olivia got to meet several princesses while we ate lunch.  She wasn’t in the best mood, so it was less enjoyable.  Overall, it was pretty pricey and we wouldn’t go there again.  After lunch, we had fast passes for Test Track.  By then Frozen Ever After ride was working, so we headed back there to wait in line.  The wait was 90 minutes, so my parents decided to walk around while we waited.  The ride was fun, but not worth the long wait.

I had dinner reservation at Teppan Edo.  We were so full from lunch I tried to cancel it, but Disney said no Bueno, and wanted to change me $50 to cancel, so we decide to eat there and just not order much.  My parents had enough walking around so they decided to call it a day before dinner.   We said our goodbyes since they were leaving the next day.   Julie, Olivia, and I walked around some to kill time before dinner, and we grabbed a German beer, while Olivia watched the miniature trains for like 30 minutes.  Teppan Edo was fun and Olivia enjoyed watching the girl cook.  After dinner we started to head out of the park.  We ran into bell on the way out.  She was just finishing meet and greats, but she said Olivia could hold her hand and walk through the French village on the way out.  That was pretty magical.

Day 4 – This was our big day at Magic Kingdom.  We got there nice and early since we have breakfast reservations at Cinderella’s Castle.  Olivia good to meet Cinderella before breakfast, and then a few others during breakfast.  This meal was more enjoyable than the character meal the day before.  After breakfast, we did the Journey of the Little Mermaid ride (not to be confused with Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Hollywood studios).  This ride was meh, but we didn’t have to wait.  After that Olivia and Julie rode the barn stormer.  We had a little free time, so we did the train ride around the park, since Olivia asked to that.  After the train ride, we had fast passes for Peter Pan’s Flight ride.  Then we met one of Julie’s friends Miller and her daughter to ride the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.  I didn’t think Olivia would go for the bigger rollercoaster.  In fact I didn’t even book a fast pass for it at first, but when I showed her a video of it, she got really excited, so I ended up working a fast pass in.  She did in fact love riding it and never got scared.   After the Mine Train, we met Rapunzel and Princess Tiana in the Fairytale Hall.  Olivia had the best interaction with Tiana.  I think she was less intimated by her than the other princesses, since she hadn’t seen her movie yet.  We went back to the hotel to rest.  I worked out while Olivia and Julie took nap and snacked.

We went back to the park around 2pm intending to watch the parade, but Olivia was more interested in riding more rides, so we did the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Next we rode It’s a Small Word, and then watched Mickey’s PhilharMagic.  From there, we fast passed Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, and walked through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.  We still had time to use before dinner, so we took the boat to Tom Sawyers Island.  This was a great way to escape the crowds and Olivia got to run around and explore all the features integrated in the island.  She would have spent hours there, but we were getting tired and had dinner reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern.  The restaurant was all-you-can-eat, which I didn’t realize when booking.  That isn’t really our style, but it was still good.  If I had it to do again, I would choose somewhere quicker to eat, so we could spend more time enjoying the park.  After dinner, we had time for one more ride until the park closed for the Not-so-haunted Halloween party.  Olivia wanted to do the Tomorrowland Speedway, but the line was line an hour long, so we decided to do the people mover again.  After that the Halloween party started, and we left as all the people in costumes were entering the park.

Day 5 – Our last day was in Animal Kingdom.  We had a reservation for Tusker House for breakfast, so we got to enter early.  I was amazed that there were already hundreds of people were waiting in line an hour early to get into the park (I assume to get in line for Flight of Passage).  The breakfast was okay, and Olivia liked meeting all the characters. After breakfast Olivia got her face painted.  We did Kilimanjaro Safaris next , and then Kali River Rapids, since that is what Olivia was excited to do.  At this point the park was insanely crowded, and I think the days of park going with crowds were starting to wear on me.  We had fast passes to Na’vi River Journey, so we did that next in the new Pandora Area.  The line for it was over an hour.  The ride was okay, but we definitely would not have done it if we didn’t have a fast pass.  We walked past the Flight of Passage ride, and the wait was already 4 hours long!  Olivia wasn’t tall enough for that ride anyway, so it wasn’t on our agenda.

After that we walked to the Boneyard for Olivia to free play some.   Next we did Kali River Rapids again, and then watched the Finding Nemo Musical.  I could have done without the musical.  I expected it to be a different story than the movie, but instead it was the exact same thing I’ve already seen countless times, so I was quite happy when it was over.  We had planned to see the Lion King show as well, but by this time we were ready to head back to the hotel and rest and pack up.

Day 6 – I was ready to go home, and I think we pick an appropriate number of days to stay.  The trip home was uneventful.

Overall it was a good trip, but Olivia was a handful more often than not.  It will be a few years before we go back.  I am glad we went at this age for her though, because the princesses and make-believe still have all the magic for her, which won’t have the same affect when she is older.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to see a full eclipse.  I had given up on the idea as not being feasible, until I read about the upcoming eclipse 6 months ago.  I knew Olivia and I couldn’t miss it.  I did some research to find the closest point of totality, and I came across Sweetwater, TN that was having an eclipse festival and was only 2.5 hours away.   I mentioned to Julie that I was taking the day off to see it and wanted to take Olivia.  Julie wanted to come too.

Thankfully she was able to get the day off.  I am glad she did come, because Olivia was a handful.  We left the house at 8am and got some coffee.  The trip down took an extra 30 minutes because 40 was backed up in west Knoxville due to accidents.  We arrived around noon in Sweetwater.  The parking space I reserved was right off the interstate and easy to find.  Supposedly the lot was sold out, but there was plenty a space; we were one of the last to arrive.   It was crazy hot, 95, no clouds and high humidity.    They had air conditioned buses taking people downtown for the festival.  We decide to head there, since they had stuff for Olivia to do.  We let Olivia do all the bounce houses, until she wore herself out from the heat.  Rather than stay downtown for the eclipse, we decided to head back to the car to watch it, to avoid getting stuck there in the aftermath.

Once back at the car, we quickly setup the canopy we brought to get out of the sun.  I mean it’s good that it was sunny that day, since we had unobstructed view of the sun, but man was it hot.  At that point, the eclipse had started, and using our glasses you could see the moon just beginning to move in front of the sun.  I put an elastic band on Olivia’s glasses so they would stay on and she could peek around them.  She looked at it once, but the darkness of the glasses bothered her so she didn’t see anymore.  Over the next 45 minutes Julie and I could see the moon gradually move in front of the sun, until the was just a speck of sunlight shining through.  It is remarkable how even with 95% of the sun blocked it is still pretty bright outside.

Once the moon move fully in front of the sun it got dark expect for the horizon.  It was like the sun was setting in 360 degrees.  The actual eclipse, in the words of Olivia, was “cool”, both figuratively and literally.  The temperature dropped 15 degrees.  The katydids got real loud, since they thought it was night.  Olivia finally came out from under the shade and got to see the spectacle.

The trip home was a challenge, since everyone else was also doing the same.  It took us about 4 hours for what should have been a 2.5 hour drive, but we made it home safe at 7pm.  For me the best part was it puts things in perspective.  No matter our problems or how much we screw things up, the universe will still go on doing what it’s going to do.  I think it was a great shared experience for everyone.

2016 Video Games

Here is a brief synopsis of the video games I played this year:

A Bird Story – I got this one to play with Olivia. It’s a short adventure role playing game.  It was really more of a story than a game, and manage to tell its story successfully without dialog.   Olivia really enjoyed it.

Big Pharma – This game you get to run a pharmaceutical company. It sounded interesting, and I guess it was, but it was really only worth a few hours of play.  Most of the gameplay was optimally designing the manufacturing processes, and once I got the gist of that, I lost interest.

Stellaris – This is a space 4X game by Paradox Interactive. Paradox is my favorite development studio.  I love 4x game and science fiction, so I was really looking forward to this game.  I played it through once.  It just didn’t have as much character or depth I would expect.  I haven’t play it since.

hearts_of_iron_iv_packshotHearts of Iron 4 – This is another one by Paradox interactive. It is a grand strategy World War II games where you can play as any country during this time period.  The previous two games are a couple of my favorite games, and it one was no exception.  This latest version plays more streamlined, so each game doesn’t take forever to plan and execute.  This is especially welcome when a particular strategy fails, you can start over and you haven’t lost the 20 hours you put in already.

Secret of Magic Crystals – This is a game where you breed and train magic horses. I got this one to play with Olivia.  She liked it, but it was not intuitive.  I spent more time looking up on the internet how to play this than my other way more complicated games.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak – Ground based Real-time Strategy game.  It wasn’t as good as the space based Homeworld games, but the story was entertaining, and gameplay well-polished.

Doom – I’m almost finished with the one. Best Doom.  It actually has a story, well-designed levels, and still retains the arcade like feel.  I love the fast action shooter sensibility, since most shooters I’ve played the past many years have been more tactical than run and gun.  It is a freeing experience.  I did not play this one with Olivia.

Civilization 6 – I was not a fan of Civilization 5. This put the fun back into the game.  I’ve played this several times through an enjoyed it.  I still think Civilization 4 is a better game.  The victory objects are not well balanced and I hate the religion victory.  On the first play though I was going for a Science victory and won a culture victory on accident.  On my forth game I was dominating science, culture, and expansion, and then I suddenly lost without explanation (I reload from an autosave, and determined I lost due to another civ getting a Religion Victory).

Darknet – My first VR game. Here you have “hacking” computer systems using 3-D model representations of networks.  It was worth the $6.

Gunjack – My second VR game.  You play a stationary turret gunner defending rouge mining operations in space.  Very arcade style with 20 levels.  It was fun, but not a lot of play time.

Cruis’n with a Toddler

Last week we took Olivia on her first cruise.  We did a Carnival Cruise out of Charleston that we had previously done several years ago.  Since the ship didn’t leave until 4pm Saturday, we drive out that morning, and got there around 1pm.  Embarking is always a long process.  We spend an hour getting parked and to the terminal.  Checking in took another 45 minutes.  It would have been longer, but thankfully we had priority check-in.  On the ship, we checked out our cabins and got a quick bite to eat.  Before the ship left port, we attended the safety briefing, which I’m sure no one understood, since it was over a poor loud speaker with a heavy accent.

EPSON015The next day we were at sea.  We signed up Olivia for Camp Ocean, which has planned activities for the little ones.  She seemed fine at drop off, but after 30 minutes, we got a call that she was crying and would not calm down.  So she spent the rest of the day with us, or rather we spent it with her.   I don’t remember much else from that day, but I do know she didn’t sleep well that night.

Monday, we arrived at Nassau.  I read online that the Hilton there had a private beach and was in walking distance to the port.   Online they said it was $65 a person for a day pass.  The clerk at the front desk told me it was $95 a person, but when we decided to leave, it suddenly became $65, so we stayed.   The beach was nice and food and drink was included, so we all had a good time.  We could even see the ship from across the port.  It took Olivia a little while to fall asleep that night, but she did sleep better.

TuesdayIMG_20160327_113439397, we arrived at Freeport.  I booked us an excursion for a “Beach Getaway”.  It was to a private beach about a 30 minute bus ride from the port.  The beach was nice and the service was pleasant.   The ocean is so clear.   Olivia enjoyed playing in the sand, and Julie played a little bit of volleyball.  Back on the boat, we tried taking Olivia back to Camp Ocean, but she was having none of that, so we found a quiet place to play cards until dinner.   I was super tired, so Olivia and I went to bed and Julie and her Mom stayed out for the evening show.

Wednesday, we were at sea again.  Olivia still was not interested in the Camp Ocean.  We did try to take her to a towel animal puppet show, but she kept saying she want to leave and once we left, she wanted to go back to the show, and once we were back at the show she wanted to leave again.  We left and she wanted to go back, but we did not.  That afternoon, the waves started to get choppy, which made them Julie sick, so they spent most of the rest of the day in the room.  We worked on packing up, and then Olivia and I went to dinner by ourselves.  The next day disembarkation went fairly well.  It helped having a two year old in a stroller, so we got to use the special exit.  We made it back home find, but it was an exhausting trip.

2015 Computer Games

Here are the games I have been playing lately:

  • DefenseGrid2PAX03Sid Meier’s Starships
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth
  • Defense Grid 2
  • Endless Legend
  • Democracy 3
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Total War: Rome II
  • Rise of Nations
  • Sanctum 2

Mainly I have been playing strategy games, since they tend to be more relaxing, and you can stop and pick them back up for short play sessions.   Sid Meier’s Starships is primarily a high level 4x game with some turn based space combat mixed in.  I liked it but the lack of depth doesn’t give it much replay-ability.  I had high expectations for Civilization: Beyond Earth, but it doesn’t impress me too much.  It is still very similar to Civ5, with a very different tech “web”.   I haven’t played it enough yet to really know how much I like it yet; I still need to explore combat more than I have.  It took many games for me to start liking Civ5 (I still like civ4 better).

I loved Defense Grid 2.  As the name suggested, it is a defense based RTS.  I get a kick out of building up my defenses and then letting the simulation do all the work, while I optimize.    Endless Legend is a 4x fantasy strategy game very similar to endless space.  It is okay but I only played through 2 games and I doubt I will get back to it any time some.

Democracy 3 is pretty interesting.  It isn’t a typical strategy game.  You take the role of a world leader and you strive toward your goals by manipulating policies.  Policies have many trade-offs and it is a delicate balancing game to meet your goals while keeping people happy.  I think it pretty worthwhile from an educational perspective to see some of the overall governmental challenges.    Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighter based on DC comics characters.  I had to break out my Xbox pc controller so I play this button masher.  I’m a little old for fighters, but the story was interesting, so I played through the story portion pretty quick.  I’m tempted to get the new Mortal Kombat now once it drops in price.

UBjUa2wI played through one campaign of Total War Rome 2.  It is similar to what I remember the first game being.  Playing as Rome it seems that once you reach a critical mass the rest of the game is just playing through the inevitable domination of Rome.  There are certainly challenges, but there is never any danger of losing the game.  Rise of Nations campaign incorporates a Risk strategy game with RTS with some civilization mixed in.  It is quite enjoyable.   Sanctum 2 is similar to Defense Grid 2 expect it is a first person shooter.  You still have to build a defense grid, but then you also participate in the defense from a first person perspective.  It’s fun to incorporate the two.

Smoky Mountians

IMG_7687Julie, Olivia, and I spent a long weekend in the Smoky Mountains last week. We rented a cabin in Pigeon Forge for three nights. We drove down Thursday, did some outlet shopping, and checked into our cabin. The cabin had an indoor pool in the basement, which surprisingly Olivia did not care for very much. She seems to be somewhat scared of pools now. She, however, loved the arcade system in the loft, and want to constantly hit all the buttons.

Friday we drove into the park and hiked the Cove Hardwood Nature Trial. It was only a mile, but the forest was pretty, and it was a good test to see how well Olivia did in the baby backpack. She did fine and loved it. Next we drove to Clingmans Dome to see if it was open; it was not, so we headed to the Grotto Falls trails. This was also closed, so back to the cabin we went to play in the pool for the afternoon. We ate dinner at Elvira’s Café. It was good, but Olivia spilled milk all over herself, so that added some stress to the dinner.

SIMG_7689aturday we decided to hike the Rainbow Falls trail, which is 5.4 miles out and back with a 2000 ft accent, so definitely a more challenging hike. We started early to avoid the crowds. Carrying Olivia up wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but 2.7 miles with a steep accent in muddy soil makes for a longer hike than you would expect. We made it a little more than two miles out until Julie needed to turn around. She had already run earlier so that with the hike had worn her down. Olivia fell asleep on the way down, and is was quite funny to see her slumped over in the backpack. When she woke up she had to say “hi” and “bye” to everyone we passed on the trail. I think they got a kick out of it. When we got back to the car, Olivia was still in good spirits, but Julie and I were beat and covered in mud. We headed back to the cabin to clean up. Once we cleaned up, Julie took Olivia to a playground close by, while I soaked in the hot tub on our deck. We ate dinner in the cabin, and went for a stroll around a local park complex.

Sunday we had planned to go to Dollywood, since it was opening weekend. However, after considering that adult tickets were over $60 a piece and really we only want to spend a short time there for Olivia to ride the kiddy rides, we decided against it. Instead we went to the “Smoky Mountain Deer Farm & Exotic Petting Zoo”! This ended up being a lot of fun feeding and petting all the different animals and Olivia could walk around and explore at her own pace. After that we headed home.

Reading while Driving 2014

Here is what I have been reading lately:

The Hot Gate (Troy Rising, #3) Ringo, John
Citadel (Troy Rising, #2) Ringo, John
Live Free or Die (Troy Rising, #1) Ringo, John
Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1) Meyer, Scott
Claws That Catch (Looking Glass, #4) Ringo, John
Manxome Foe (Looking Glass, #3) Ringo, John
Vorpal Blade (Looking Glass, #2) Ringo, John
Into the Looking Glass (Looking Glass, #1) Ringo, John
Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy, #3) Robinson, Kim Stanley
The Pagan Lord (The Saxon Stories, #7) Cornwell, Bernard
Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories, #6) Cornwell, Bernard
Green Mars (Mars Trilogy, #2) Robinson, Kim Stanley

The Mars Trilogy is about the first colonists on Mars and follows them as Mars becomes an independent planet from Earth.  The novels are entertaining because each character has their own unique perspective of what Mars should become, and you get to see how that plays out as they deal with the many problems that have to be solved, when living on an inhospitable planet.  It also feels based in harder science than most SF, since many of the real life limitations in colonizing Mars come up in the book.

Bernard Cornwell Saxon Stories are very similar to his Warlord series minus the supernatural elements.  It follows a fictional Saxon lord as he serves King Alfred during the Viking invasions. The books are formulaic, but it is an engaging formula, and you get a good sense of what life was like in 10th Century Britain.

18616975Off to Be the Wizard is about a guy who stumbles on a large file, while browsing a corporate server, that happens to have all the statistics for everyone.  When he edits his stats, he finds that reality alters to match, so effectively reality is a computer program that can be altered with the file.  When the authorizes catch on that his bank account suddenly increased, he is forced to retreat to medieval England and pose as a wizard.

I have been eating up John Ringo’s books.  They aren’t high literature even by science fiction standards, but they are a blast to listen to in the car.  The Looking Glass series main premise that Higgs Bosons can open up portals to other worlds that also have Higgs Bosons.  Portals start randomly appearing when UCF campus is destroyed by a huge explosion from a physicist experimenting.   Of course, the second portal to open up starts out pouring hostile aliens, which could best be described by the enemies in Doom.  These aliens are generated by an organism that controls curtain portal pathways and is bent on eliminating all other competing life.  The rest of the series is about the conflict that ensues, and uniting the galaxy against the common foe.  The Troy Rising series starts out in modern day where a large ring comes into the solar system that allows connections to other similar rings in other solar systems put in place by an unknown very advanced race.  The portal system allows trade with other space fairing species, but also allows hostilities. Earth is quickly subjugated by a race through threat of orbital nuclear bombardment, and must make tribute with all precious metals mined.  The first book is about Earth gaining back its independence and the next two is about maintaining it as other species try to stop Earth from gaining a stronghold in their area of the galaxy.   Both series are fun because they start in modern day and generally the good guys come out on top.

2013 Year in Review

2013 was the year of the babies.  John and MK’s daughter, Slone, turned one, and they are expecting a baby boy next year.  Chris and Felicia had their baby girl, Nila, and moved into a new home in Johnson City.   My sister found out that her and Justin are expecting a baby boy April next year.  Chris and Shonda are expecting a baby next year as well.  Julie and I too had a baby girl this year.   I also ran my first and only marathon and finished an Olympic length triathlon.

Favorite Movie:  This is the End

Favorite Book Read: Terror by Dan Simmons

Favorite TV Show:  Game of Thrones for the 2nd year

Favorite Album: Best of Tchaikovsky – I hardly listened to any new albums this year

Olivia!

IMG_0164I am now a father.  My daughter, Olivia Mae Bittinger, was born October 24th 2013, 5:35pm.

The evening before, I was playing soccer at the indoor facility in Unicoi, when I got a message from Julie to call her soon.   Her due date was a week and half away, so I called her as soon as I saw the message.  She thought her water had broken but wasn’t sure.  We just went to the doctor that afternoon, so I asked her to call the doctor so see if we should come in to the hospital or not (and if I should leave my soccer game).  The doctor wanted her to come in, so I rushed home and rinsed off, and we drove to the hospital.

At the hospital, they performed three test to see if her water broke.  At least two have to come back positive to be sure that if did break.  One came back positive, one was negative, and one was inconclusive.  The residents contacted Dr. Looney, and he came in and did an ultrasound to see how much fluid was still surrounding the baby and most of it was gone, so her water had in fact broken.  At this point it was about midnight, and they started to induce Julie, since she wasn’t having strong contractions yet.  We both tried to get a few hours of sleep, which is pretty hard after all the excitement and people coming in and out of the room the check.

IMG_0160Early that morning, Julie’s contractions started to get stronger and sleep no longer became a possibility.  After several hours of hard labor, and little progress, Julie decided to get an epidural.  This was quite an ordeal, since Julie was feeling like she would pass out, while they were trying to get the epidural in.  Even I was getting stressed out from the intensity of the situation.  Once they got it in, though, everything got much better, and Julie was able to get some relief and rest.

After many more hours of labor, around 5pm, it was finally time to deliver.  It is impressive how fast the doctors and nurses get everything setup once it is time to deliver.  Julie did great pushing, and in no time Olivia was born.  It was amazing to see her head pop out, and fully realize there’s a new person coming into the world.  After the doctor cleared her airways and checked her out, I got to cut the umbilical cord.  Olivia weighed 7lbs and 10oz and was 19.5 inches long, and she was beautiful.

We spent Thursday and Friday night in the hospital to get used to breast feeding and for Julie to recover, and we took Olivia home Saturday morning!

Watauga Lake Triathlon

IMG_1526Last August I did the Watauga Lake Triathlon.  It is an Olympic length triathlon with a 1000m swim, 35k bike ride, and 8k run.  I started training for it soon after my marathon in April.  My biggest weakness is swimming, so I began swimming once a week, starting at 500m and increasing 100m each week until I could swim 1000m without stopping.  I biked about once a week as well, mostly doing 15-18 miles starting at my house and riding to Holston dam and back, which is a pretty hilly ride.  I’ve gotten used to always riding with Julie, so it was harder to get motivated this year to ride, since Julie is pregnant.   The running part I had down, but I still ran a couple times a week with Weatherly to keep in shape.

IMG_1552The day of the race Julie and I woke up at 5am, since the drive was well over an hour away.  We got there okay with some minor detours and checked in.   Williams and his friend Matt were already there and getting set.  I was worried about the lake water being cold, but it actually felt warm to get in, since it was a cool morning.  The swim went better than I expected.   I was able to maintain steady stroke the whole time.  The worst part was having to spend energy avoiding other people and getting swam over.  Of Williams, Matt and myself I was the first one out of the water, but that lead didn’t last long.  I switched to my bike, and Matt and John passed me pretty soon.  I felt pretty good on the bike, but had to stop several times.  The first was when I thought I missed a turn, the second was to check on the guy in front of me when he wrecked, the third was when my front breaks came off my wheel.  I did finally make it back to the transition area in one piece though.  The run was much harder than I expected and very hilly.  I ended up passing Matt the last half mile with my hamstrings cramping up, and I finished under my goal time of 2:45.