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Friday the 31st.   Check out the Paddle Page for a report on our Kibler Valley run this afternoon.  I've also got a short movie from our whitewater paddle. December 2004 Paddle On The Dan In Kibler Valley (4.8MB)  Can you believe we were able to go kayaking in possibly the coldest water on earth on December 31st?  After I got back from the river, we went to a friend's house for a nice New Years Eve dinner, a delicious cheesecake, and a fun visit before the kids got sleepy.  It was then back home and a long wait for midnight to get here.  Happy New Year everybody.

We had a fantastic year, at home anyway.  Their are plenty of sad things going on in the world that we are not happy about and the election certainly didn't give us much to look forward too.  Jobs are leaving town right and left, but at least things in the Heath household are the way we want them.  Benjamin learned how to do so much and certainly kept us busy chasing after him.  Jackson finished his two day a week pre-school class, had a busy summer, then started going three days a week.  He continues to amaze us with both his intelligence and his sweetness.  For our family, finding a way to keep the children home has reduced our stress level greatly and made each day more enjoyable.  We are an extremely lucky family and are again this year very thankful for all that we have.  Each year continues to go by faster than the last and I am sure that trend will continue next year.  But I am also sure that in our old age we will look back on these years as the best of our life.  With that in mind, we try to cherish each and every one of these crazy, busy days spent chasing the kids around.

Thursday the 30thSamuel and Matthew came over to the house to play this morning.  Benjamin continues to be a little under the weather.  He woke up at four this morning with much the same symptoms he has had for the last day or so.  The weather is great and hopefully will hold out so that Jeff and I can try our new paddling gear out at Lovills Creek Lake tomorrow afternoon.  And while our lives continue in the normal day-to-day routine in Mayberry, it is a strange detachment from the terrible tragedy on the other side of our planet.  The news in the wake of the tsunami continues to get worse, it is without a doubt one of the greatest disasters of my lifetime, with a death toll already more than forty times as great as the 9/11 attacks, yet the shear magnitude of the loss and suffering taking place in Asia makes it a very hard concept to grasp. 


The month is almost over and I am in a rush to get the website ready for the new year.  One project I just finished in time is the Christmas Card Photos page.  You can go there to see all the photos we received in the mail over the holidays.

Wednesday the 29th.  The family spent another morning together playing with new toys before I went into the office at lunchtime.  Amy and the boys spent the afternoon playing at our friend's house across town where Jackson got to  show his seven year old friend Matthew his new Gameboy.  Jackson is making sure that all his older friends know he now has a Gameboy too, I think that has been as much fun for him as playing it.   Matthew even let Jackson borrow one of his games.  Amy then brought the boys home, cooked a delicious apple cobbler, and traded off with me as I came home and she left for work.  Jackson announced that today was one of his best days ever, but Benjamin can't say the same.   His teeth may be the culprit, but the poor little guy has had diarrhea for most of the afternoon and evening and now his tiny hiney is hurting him.  He cries if you pick him up and only wants to lay on Jackson's bed, belly down, with his hiney way up in the air.

Tuesday the 28th.  Today we opened new toys, played checkers, baked in the QueesyBake oven, colored, and enjoyed the day off together.  Then after dinner my friend Jeff and I went to Great Outdoor Provision to shop for paddle gear.  Thanks to lots of Christmas donations to the paddling fund, I am set for our first Winter trip.  I picked up a new Stohlquist A-Sea pfd, NRS gloves, NRS paddling boots, and an  OR Seattle Sombrero paddling hat.  I can't wait to get back out on the water.  Today's photo is from our 2004 Christmas card.  We took it at Slaughter's Tree Farm in Fancy Gap, Virginia.

Monday the 27th. Today we said goodbye to Grandma Sue and headed back to Mount Airy with a van full of toys and bean bags.  The trip home didn't go as smooth as the trip there on Christmas day, BenBen's teeth are still bothering him.

Sunday the 26th. In between the victories by the Steelers and the Cowboys, Jackson, Jimmy and I went outside to play some football of our own.  Even though Jackson was wearing the Troy Aikman jersey his Uncle Alan got him, he's really a Steeler fan like his dear old dad.  That said, the jersey does look very cute on him.  Benjamin didn't appear to feel very good today, we think he has his two year molars coming in.


Saturday the 25th.  Today was without a doubt the best Christmas ever.  Benjamin ended up in bed with us around 1:30am.  Then Jackson came upstairs and hopped in the bed too arond 2:00am.  That meant we all got to wake up together on Christmas morning to discover all the magical things Santa had done while we were sleeping.  Jackson found that the cookies, cake and milk were almost all gone.  The Santa towel he left on the hearth had big sooty boot prints on it and only a couple of half eaten carrots were left on the sidewalk.  Jackson went to the giant Robin buddy first, one of the surprise gifts, and gave it a big hug.  He loved and appreciated each and every gift so much, four is a wonderful age.  He is very proud of his blue Gameboy SP and can't believe Santa gave him a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game to go with the Sonic game.  We asked him if he was big enough for that present and he said "Well, Santa picks who gets all that stuff, so it's really up to him."  I guess that answered that question.  We were not sure what Ben would do this Christmas and were happy that he went right to his toys and started playing with them, especially the foam Sesame Street blocks.  The only bump in our otherwise perfect morning was that when Jackson put his lollipop back in his stocking (he wanted to leave it exactly the way it was and not empty it until last, he was really in a sweet mood) and it accidentally pulled the big heavy stocking holder off the mantel and smashed his poor cold bare piggy against the hearth.  I'm really surprised it didn't break it his toe.  He cried, and I would have too, but pulled out of it pretty quickly when we told him he could give us his gifts.  He was very happy about the things we were getting.  And through the wonder of the Internet, Grandma Sue got to watch all of it, from the kids walking into the living room to the last pieces of wrapping paper hitting the ground.  We had a live webcam setup for her to view and enjoyed getting to share our fun morning with her.  Of course I'm still stoked about getting my new kayak paddle (Thanks Amy!). 


So then the boys just had to pick which presents to take with them and it was off to Colonial Heights and Grandma Sue's house.  The trip went by fast due to the light holiday traffic and we made it in under four hours.  The rest of the day was spent visiting and playing with all of the nieces and nephews. 


Friday the 24th.  We went to Hama's house to celebrate Christmas and had a wonderful time with the Heath family.  The head count tonight was thirty-seven, that's a house full.  Thanks to everyone that got Jackson and Benjamin presents, they enjoyed all of them very much.  And thanks to Benjamin's second cousin Kelsey for doing such a good job keeping up with him all night.  No moss will ever grow under Ben's feet.  We made one stop on the way home to tell Mo Merry Christmas and before rushing back to Mount Airy to get ready for Santa.  Jackson put out his cookies, a glass of milk, a note, and carrots for the reindeer (Ben fell asleep on the way home).  Jackson also laid a towel out over the hearth for Santa to wipe his feet on (he's a pretty neat kid).  All that left was the annual reading of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and it was time to get nestled in for a long winter's nap.


It's Christmas Eve morning!  Jackson started playing with the Terrain Twister his Aunt Deana gave him as soon as he woke up this morning.  We've named it the Ben because of the way it turns the house upside down.  We've also played a game of Battleship, something Mo and Papa gave Jackson.  And Jackson has been taking pictures all morning with the camera Papa gave him.  He says he is a "picture photographer".  Ben meanwhile isn't happy unless his new Sesame Street movie is on the TV.  He also loves getting rides on his new stuffed horse. 


Thursday the 23rd.  The boys spent part of their day a friend's house while Amy prepared for our Heath Christmas get-together.  Jackson and Matthew played Chinese checkers while Benjamin relaxed with Jeff and watched an Elmo movie.  I spent the day at the office and couldn't wait to get home and start celebrating.  My sister Melanie's family, my parents, and my sister Deana, with fianc Martin, all came to the house for a very nice Christmas dinner and present exchange.   The boys were very excited about their gifts, especially Jackson.  He is having a so much fun with Christmas this year.  We stayed up late putting toys together and he still has tomorrow night at Hama's, Christmas morning at his house, and Christmas evening at Grandma Sue's to look forward to.


Wednesday the 22nd. Here is our little Hokie celebrating Virginia Tech's ACC Championship and Sugar Bowl berth.


Tuesday the 21st.  My Aunt Dianna stopped by today at lunch with armloads of gifts.  Jackson couldn't hold still and jumped all around the living room.  Benjamin showed his excitement by walking circles around the presents, carrying his Big Bird ornament, and singing "La, La, La, La, La".  BenBen then figured out what it was all about after pulling a stuffed Big Bird from one of the presents.  He went right back in and came out with Sponge Bob bubble b*th, his other favorite character.  He also got a puzzle, a bank, and more.  Dianna gave Jackson tons of art supplies, an alphabet puzzle, and a Micro Machines stunt play-set, among other things.  All the gifts were just perfect for the boys.    Merry Christmas Aunt Dianna!!

Monday the 20th. On a day that hovered around 10F/-12C, the boys stayed inside with Mo and Papa, while Amy and I met friends Jeff and Timmesa at the new Ruby Tuesday for a holiday outing.  We had high hopes for snow overnight, but alas, not a flake fell.

Sunday the 19th.  Today was a family day spent indoors and out of the cold.  We played Alphabet Bingo, went on Scavenger Hunts, made the 2004 Gingerbread House (click here for last year's house), drew, colored, watched Christmas movies, and enjoyed our day together.

Saturday the 18th.    We spent the afternoon visiting Anita and her sweet baby James on the mountain.  We also stopped at Nancy's Homemade Fudge in Meadows of Dan on the way and picked up some Butter Almond Crunch and Butter Pecan Fudge.   I've been on a diet for the last eleven months that only has a couple of rules, one being no in-between meal snacks or bedtime snacks.  Well, with that Almond Butter Crunch in the house, I broke the bedtime snack rule for maybe only the second or third time this year.  And then I broke it again, and again, and then I broke it one more time. 

Friday the 17th. I took this photo of my niece Isabelle all bundled up to go outside last night at my mom's house in Virginia.  Jackson and Amy's latest creation, Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies.  My review...Two thumbs up!

Thursday the 16th.   First Jackson got to help Grandma Sue decorate her tree.  Then he helped Amy decorate our tree.  Next he pitched in to get his great-grandmother Hama's tree ready for Christmas.  Well that just wasn't enough tree trimming for him, he wanted to help Mo with her tree too.  So we headed to Claudville to make sure it was decorated by someone with lots of experience, him.  And yes, he is wearing a cape.  According to Jackson, it's Elmo Man's night time cape.

Wednesday the 15th. This was the this year's runner-up Christmas card photo.  I'll hold off on putting the winner online until I know everyone has had time to get theirs.

Tuesday the 14th.  Amy, Ben, and Jackson stayed inside on a cold, windy day, but we all ventured out late for an open house at Jackson's pre-school.  We never pass up an opportunity to see Jackson's art work, like this Christmas tree he had hanging in his classroom.

Monday the 13th.  Last night was Dinner Club at Ken and Tonya's house in Walnut Cove.  Maybe it's just me, but I think this month had the best food yet.  I know I say that every month, but this month's was awesome.  There were meatballs, sausage balls, pizza dip, sausage/cheese dip, white chocolate brownies, peanut butter gooey cake, twice baked potatoes, fruit, and those green beans wrapped in bacon that I ate so many of.  Host Tonya conducted a "twas the night before Christmas" Dirty Santa game that was a lot of laughs.  As of this dinner club, the last of '04, we know that in '05 there will be one more McMichael (a boy), one more Davis (a girl), and one more Joyce (undecided).  It may take a bigger couch to hold all the kids for the annual December group shot (see last year)  Trying to get good Christmas tree photos using long time exposure has become a hobby of mine.  Tonya and Ken's tree was very cool and made a nice photo I thought.


Sunday the 12th.  A fun family tradition, the harvesting of mistletoe.  This is the third and last year for this spot by an abandoned farm house in Claudville.   It should have lasted longer, but I've been a little greedy each year and not left enough behind.  It was a great spot because you could reach the mistletoe by standing on top of the van.  But I'll keep my eye out over the next year for another good tree.  After pulling down the mistletoe, we stopped by to check on Hama and to help her decorate for Christmas.  That made Jackson very happy because decorating for the holidays is one of his favorite things to do.  That and eating Hama's pickles.  He said he was pickle fishing as he dug them out of the jar one after the other with his fork.  He also said during lunch "I think Hama's house is like...food land."  How right he is, not even two weeks removed from the hospital and Hama had a big lunch already cooked when we got to her house.


Saturday the 11th.  We met Stanley and Mary Beth in Stuart, Virginia tonight for a Mexican dinner.  The whole family hasn't seen MB and Stan since July 03.  Jackson and Benjamin both got presents that they really liked and we all enjoyed the visit very much.


Friday the 10th. A fun day that included time spent with lots of family and friends.  Our niece Isabelle spent the day at our house playing with Amy, Ben and Jackson.  Jackson asked her to bring some "dress-up stuff" and she did, lots of it.  They re-enacted her last visit to our house where Jackson dressed up as Superman and Izzy dressed as Scooby Doo.  Brooke and Landon also paid us a very welcome visit.  Landon has grown up so much since the last time we saw him.  He also had a whole new bag of tricks.  He was growling like a bear, beeping like a car, and telling us goodbye, plus pointing out the parts of his body.   Friends watched the boys while Amy and I met our friends from Behavioral Services for dinner at the Bonefish Grill in Winston-Salem. 


Thursday the 9th.  Today was not such a pretty day, so Amy, Ben, Jack, Timmesa, and Sam all went to Sci-Works for some indoor fun.  Later in the afternoon Mo stopped by to visit the boys.

Wednesday the 8th. What a beautiful day,  sunny skies and seventy degrees.  Of course my motorcycle wouldn't crank, which put me in a grumpy mood, but it was still nice to have warm weather.  This time last year we had already been through our first snow.  Amy took Benjamin to have his picture taken this morning at Kid Shots and he did great.  I won't say what the theme was, I'll wait until the photos come back, but I will say that he looked very sweet.  Later in the afternoon Amy, Jackson, and Benjamin went to the playground and enjoyed the warm afternoon.

Tuesday the 7th.  On a cold, rainy, foggy day, Jackson bought us two Nutcrackers to decorate the mantle with.  One big one and one little one.  He told Amy that he had talked to his daddy about them and they were very important.  When I got home at lunch a confused Amy told me that story and Jackson said "Yeah Daddy, now how do we get the caramel popcorn and the prize out?"  Ah ha, you see, about a week ago Jackson had me tell him what Cracker Jacks were.  

Monday the 6th.  Our Christmas tree passed the number one most important test, if it was any bigger, it wouldn't fit.  Last year we got a tree that would fit and I don't think Amy was ever very happy with it.  This year we had to trim the top to keep the angel from bumping her wings against the ceiling.  Jackson hung the last of the ornaments before going to school this morning and as I walked away from his classroom I heard him telling Mrs. Golding about all his favorite ornaments. 


Sunday the 5th.  We picked out our Christmas tree at Slaughter's tree farm in Fancy Gap, Virginia (Frank Beamer Country!) again this year.  Jackson only has one thing to say about it, "We got the biggest one they had."  We got back down the mountain just in time to go with Megan to Main Street and watch the Mount Airy Christmas parade.  Jackson, like his mommy, loves the holiday decorations and they both had a fun night hanging ornaments.  Surprisingly Benjamin totally ignored the tree, we all thought he would just terrorize it. 


Saturday the 4th.  Go Hokies!!!  ACC champions and Sugar Bowl bound, how sweet it is.  We were also delighted today by Megan's visit.  Our five year old neighbor Jacob stopped by to play with Jackson.  Tonight after work, Amy took the Christmas Holiday House Tour with friends.

Friday the 3rd. In the spirit of the holidays, I've created a new Christmas Page to celebrate our ghost of Christmas Past.

Thursday the 2nd.  Ben and Jack had friends Sam and Matt over for a day full of fun.  After dinner, Amy took Benjamin and Samuel to Mr. Mike's train store and to the Good Life for ice cream, while Jackson, Matthew and I went to see The Incredibles.  When we got back to Matthew's house we were very excited to find Jeff, Timmesa, and Megan back home.  Megan looked wonderful and happy to be in her own house.  And rounding out all the good news, Hama is back home and healthy.

Wednesday the 1st.  It's been an eventful twenty-four hours.  Hama's catheterization found a second blockage yesterday that was repaired with a stint this morning.  The stint she had installed four years ago was also replaced.  She is recovering fine at Forsyth Hospital in Winston-Salem.  Benjamin caught my stomach virus and was sick last night.  Luckily his eighteen month checkup at Dr. Gale's was scheduled for this morning.  Outside of the virus, he is in good health and has gained five pounds since his fifteen month checkup.  But of the greatest concern is that our very dear friend Megan is at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem following a prolonged seizure last night.  We hope that Megan's recovery will be fast and return her back home safe and sound.