Blue balloons 

The Observer, taking the stairs to our second floor office as a sop toward our health, saw a large bouquet of blue balloons tied to the stair rail. "Congratulations!" they read. We knew immediately what the stairwell balloons meant: It was a girl! It was a girl because Iriana's Pizza (directly beneath The Observer's office on the first floor) had agreed the evening before to store pink balloons and blue balloons out of sight while a couple would cut a cake that would tell them whether they would have a son or daughter a few months from now. From the beginning: The couple had their first date at Iriana's. Later, the man proposed to the woman at Iriana's, an event for which John Iriana baked a heart-shaped pizza with an arrow through it and put an engagement ring on the arrow. Now, the couple is pregnant, and they wanted to spend another important moment of their life together at the pizza restaurant. They asked their ob/gyn to put the results of an ultrasound revealing the sex of the baby in an envelope and keep the results a secret. The mom-to-be gave the envelope to a friend who bakes fancy cakes; if she baked it with pink-colored batter they were having a girl, blue of course meant a boy. The mom-to-be gave John Iriana the cake, heavily iced in yellow and pink fondant, and two sets of balloons, pink and blue, to be presented to the table that evening after the couple sliced into the cheery icing to get to the cake inside. The Observer knows this because we are naturally nosy and, getting our afternoon pick-me-up tea, saw the pretty little cake and just had to ask the mom-to-be why she was bringing it to a pizza restaurant. And that's how we knew, seeing the blue balloons forlornly still tied to the rail in the stairwell the next morning, the batter was pink and the baby a girl. John Iriana thought he might put the balloons to use: He had a friend in mind who would be startled to see them tied up in front of his house. Sometimes a pizza restaurant is more than just a place to get a pie.

Speaking of pizza, this Observer has been eating a fair amount of it lately, as his better half is halfway around the world — Rwanda, to be specific. She's traveling for the hunger relief organization she works for, doing important work that will undoubtedly save lives, unlike yours truly who spends the bulk of the work week in front of a computer, putting down word after word that will hopefully be useful for a week or so before becoming birdcage liner or packing material or whatever afterlife newsprint goes on to.

So The Observer and son are on their own for a bit. Of course, we've had plenty of help from The Observer's mother and the in-laws, who came down to Capital City last weekend and then brought the little one back up to Fayetteville with them, for a week with his grandparents and their friends. This means your Observer has been on his lonesome for going on four days now, which is the longest amount of time he's spent solo in several years.

Now, we know what you're thinking: "Freedom!"

Right?

Uh, kind of. More like: "Boredom!"

The last few days have found us just kind of shuffling around the house, then around town, trying to remember what it is we do. Or rather what it is we did, in the days before marriage and family. We straightened up the ol' casa, put some things away. There's some work to be done out in the yard (later on, of course). We went out to get a new pair of shoes, one of those errands that had been necessary but neglected for some time.

(Side note: Why is it so incredibly hard to find a size 12 in anything? Surely it must be the most common men's shoe size, because while there's no shortage of sizes 8.5-11.5 and even quite a few 13-plus, size 12 shoes are exceedingly scarce — at least at the four or five places we looked. We know what you're going to say and yes, we've considered buying shoes on the Internet. But we're old-fashioned and like to try something on before we commit to buying it.)

Anyways, The Observer is going up to Fayetteville this weekend to fetch the boy, and Mrs. Observer is due back early next week. We can't wait to go pick her up at the airport, head back home and then get dinner at the Oyster Bar. Things will be back to normal, and that's just how this Observer likes it these days.

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