Like many families, ours is a family on the go. We go out to meetings, out to run a few errands, out to do carpool, out to a soccer game, out for back to school night, out for this and out for that.
Go, go, go!
Our free moments are few and far between, so when they come along, we don’t want to spend time fiddling with the car seat or sitting in traffic. In addition to our hectic schedule and on the go lifestyle, our family is recently up one baby and down one income, since my wife is home with our newest arrival. We think about our spending differently these days, along with lots of other American families. The combination of a tighter budget and an over-committed weekly routine can make family outings stressful. So when the final project in the SONY Digi-Dads assignment asked us to take a family outing and record our experience using some of the great SONY equipment on loan to the Digi-Dad participants, I had to pause. I had to plan.
As I thought about what would be a fun family outing to pursue, I quickly realized, what I really wanted to do is to stay home, play in the backyard, cook a nice meal in our kitchen, and just relax. So what we planned was a Powell Family Porch Picnic and Star Party.
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Granted, the summer’s in Austin might be hotter than a preacher’s daughter at a church retreat, but come October, there is no finer weather in America than in Central Texas and I intend to enjoy it. Thus a meal on the porch with associated athletic activities is about as fine a way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening as I can imagine.
To kick things off, the boys and I tossed bit of football, even though one boy is only 4 months old. It’s never too early to introduce the finer points of pigskin. Mack Brown likes ‘em to start learning early.
From there, we quickly increased the competitive flavor of our leisurely back porch picnic. You see my wife is extremely talented in the fine art of hula-hooping. I think she won many an award during her younger years on the professional circuit and to this day, she amazes people with her flawless manipulation of the hoop.
She was, hands down, the best I had ever seen!
That is, until she gave birth to our son, Walker.
The boy is a prodigy. His gyrations suspend the hoop as if an anti gravity machine were attached to his belt buckle. I swear he was born to hoop. You just never know what talent will come your way through the family tree.
When he and his Momma duel in a hoop contest, it is a sight to behold. Remember Cowboys v Steelers in the 70’s, Lakers v Celtics in the 80’s, Ali v Frasier? It’s kind of like that.
My daughter Ella is a beginner on the hula-hoop, which makes her my perfect hooping companion, because I am an awful hooper. She twirls the hoop for a moment and it hits the ground. I fare no better, but usually use more colorful language upon failure. We cheer each other on just the same.
I’m pretty jazzed because I captured both the beauty and the bumbling on video using the snazzy SONY HDR-XR500V handy cam. As I mentioned in previous posts, I love this piece of equipment. It is compact, takes great video, has amazing sound quality for a handheld and sports an awesome stabilization feature. The night vision feature is cool and produces crisp, non-grainy images even in the darkest of shots. The housing is durable and the LCD touch screen is about as user friendly as they come. In fact, I was able to master several of the more sophisticated functions sans the owner’s manual, which is good, because I rarely refer to owner’s manuals.
Tonight, while we threw the football and worked our hula-hoop magic, the dog played with us and tried to steal snacks from the picnic table, the sun set before our very eyes, and the brisket baked in the oven. I know that oven baked brisket sounds like blasphemy but we were short on time and long on hungry mouths to feed.
We turned on our favorite tunes, opened the screen doors and simply delighted in one another’s company. Our faithful babysitter Molly joined us (she loves brisket), took turns holding the little dude and teased us for listening to grandma and grandpa music. We did not spend a moment thinking about whether or not we were running late, we didn’t have to load the car or put every one in a car seat and we didn’t have to buy any tickets. We took a few toys out of the garage, walked into our backyard, and we were reminded of how much fun it is to be together.
As the sun went down, we set our picnic table and enjoyed BBQ brisket sandwiches. Now, before you start to think that this all sounds like a perfect evening, let me be clear: it’s not all fun and games with little ones. In other words, we had a few meltdowns. Ella saw the buns and thought we were having hamburgers. Her tears and whiny voice communicated that the brisket was NOT a happy surprise. Walker’s tears came when he realized that the sun had set and we wouldn’t be able to throw the football anymore because it had gotten too dark. But darkness meant it was time to star gaze and what better way to end meltdowns than with distraction.
We began the star portion of the party by bringing out the SONY VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC to the back porch. We fired up our wireless connections and used the google machine to search star charts to see if we could identify specific stars. The SONY P is a miniature and fairly powerful lap top computer designed to compete with its inferior category cousins the Netbooks. Indeed the Vaio P is a full-fledged computer, sporting a 2.0Ghz Intel processor and running on the Window 7 operating system. It sports a one button, quick boot option, has a built GPS System and offers built in Verizon wireless mobile broadband, which allows you to connect to the net anywhere there is cell service.
Initially I was skeptical of the VAOI P because I had a hard time increasing the size of the font and manipulating the track ball. But my wife immediately fell in love with unit and encouraged me to break out side of my techno comfort zone and give it a chance. After spending some QT with the little fella, I admit I grew fond. The VAIO P is super sleek and incredibly portable, weighing only 1.4 lbs and easily fits into both brief cases and backpacks. It is much more portable than any laptop I have used. While the track ball takes some getting used to, the keyboard is quite large and typing is easy for such a compact unit. If I were 10 years younger, single and still looking to score chicks I would definitely take it to bars with me as it does increase your coolness factor. But I am old, boring and flirt with an 8:30 bedtime, which reminds me.
It’s a school night in our house, and that means that we have a bath, followed by a story and bed. Our young ones can be mighty cranky if they don’t get enough sleep and so we work to follow a bedtime routine that includes an 8 o’clock in bed ultimatum. One of the perks of staying close to home was the fact that we were able to set up the telescope and look at the stars while keeping our school night schedule.
I’ll tell you something funny, though. We set up the telescope in the woods behind our house, and while we were back there, I stepped in some rotten pumpkin (twice), that had been left to the elements after Halloween. It was disgusting. We looked at the stars, talked about the planets, cleared the table and headed for the tub. On her way to the bath, Ella told me that her favorite part of the night was when I stepped in the rotten pumpkin.
The not-planned-or-orchestrated-or-purchased-pumpkin-moment was the highlight of the night. But isn’t that great? In our busy lives, filled with activities and opportunities for our children, they remember and treasure the simple and relaxed moments together.
On any given day, when I am driving from one place to the next, looking at my watch and thinking about our schedule, I am reminded that my life is busy.
On this day, when I stayed home, threw the football, ate BBQ, stepped in some rotten pumpkin and gazed at the stars, I am reminded that my life is full.
This post is part of series called the “Sony DigiDads Project” by Sony Electronics where a group of dads, including C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear. If you want to know more about this project, head on over to my first post (link to post) about it or visit the Sony Electronics Community.