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Amy and Ben - New Year's Eve12/31/2005.  Amy thought of a favorite photo from 2005 that I didn't include yesterday.  It's this one taken last March.   Grandma Sue spent weeks that month in the hospital following weeks on a ventilator the month before and Amy and the boys spent weeks with Sue once she came home from the hospital.   Amy took lots of photos each day to send me via email.   Losing Amy's mother in September not only shaped and defined our year, it changed our lives forever.  We leave 2005 behind, not because we are ready to, but because time is relentless in it's march forward and we have no choice.  Sue was such an important part of our life going into 2005 that it's hard to be excited about entering 2006, our first year without her.  We had plans for the evening, but cancelled them, choosing instead to ring in the new year quietly at home with sparkling fruit juice and a bag of leftover fireworks.    


Friday the 30th.  This post completes two full years of not missing a single daily post.  Whew... glad that's over with.  I have to tell you there were a few nights in there that I didn't really feel like working on the website.  There were also a few days where I had to work pretty hard to get connected to the Internet for my upload.  Although the more interesting the place we are at, the more fun it is to post photos, so that's always a conundrum.   Now that I made the two year goal that I wanted to reach, don't be surprised if I go back to missing a day every now and then or maybe take a little mini-vacation from the web sometime when I feel like taking a break.    And speaking of interesting places to post from, today's photo is from Lucaya Beach on Grand Bahama Island.  One reason for posting it today is that the year is coming to a close and I wanted to post one of my favorite shots from the last twelve months.  I like both how the colors work together and the deep thought that both Amy and Ben appear to be in.  The other reason for posting it is because it's a refreshing change from all the Winter/Christmas photos I've been working on.   According to Melody it's 107 in Melbourne Australia today.  How's that for the opposite of Winter? 

I've recently narrowed down the 12,000+ photos we took last year to my favorite 87 sorted by subject.  (That's not a joke.  Between Amy and I, we really took well over 12,000 photographs last year, which is actually down some from the year before)  From each of those categories, I've picked the ones below as my favorites.  What about you, does one of the 87 stick out as your favorite?  I'm not sure which ones Amy would have picked, but I know this one is her favorite BenBen photo ever.

Thursday the 29th.  I've been trying to catch up on Christmas photos and have added a bunch more from Christmas Eve to my Christmas Page.  My sister brought me my new camera today and I'm ready to start taking a whole bunch of new pictures with it, so I need to finish up with my old ones.  We are also catching up on the laundry.  Our washing machine stopped working Christmas morning forcing us to wring out the clothes in it and carry them with us to rewash and dry while away from home.  The repairman came this morning and fixed it in about five minutes.  It was the little switch that detects when the lid is closed  ($40 part, $60 for knowing it was the little switch and for putting it in.)  One thing you can't go without for long in a family with two little boys is a washing machine.  We would be buried in towels alone in less than a week.

Wednesday the 28th. Click  here for our Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up (Wrapping up the past week's thoughts and photos.)

Tuesday the 27th.   Following a big Christmas loop we are back home safe and sound.  Ben was so happy to be back home with his Dora Kitchen.  He danced, clapped and said "I lub my Dora Kitchen.  I lub Christmas!"  Ben's horse Cowboy is setup in the living room so that Ben can watch TV from his mount.  After three days with no television, the boys would have watched C-Span.

Monday the 26th.  Here are a few photos of Jackson playing today, plus a few more photos from Christmas day.  We drove to Amy's mother's house yesterday afternoon and had Christmas dinner with family and friends when we arrived.  We were able to stop by the cemetery just before dark on our way in to town.  Jackson had bought a red bird to put at Sue's grave for Christmas.  He actually found it in August, while shopping for a birthday present for my dad, and thought then that it would be a good Christmas present for his Grandma Sue because she loved birds so much.  It's been nice seeing everyone, yet sad that this will be our last Christmas celebrated in Grandma Sue's house.  Family came over for both lunch and supper today.  The cousins were all able to play with each other, which is always fun when new Christmas presents are around.  Jackson's Aunt Sherry and her boys, Wesley and Jesse, got Jackson a new bike and Ben the biggest toy horse I've ever seen.  Ben has named his horse Cowboy and loves to sit on it while watching movies.  The cable is disconnected and so is the DSL, so I am actually updating the website by standing in the middle of the front yard and borrowing someone's wireless signal.  I don't know where the signal is coming from because I am only able to faintly get it by standing exactly in the middle of the front yard.  (It's cold and windy tonight.)


Sunday the 25th. Christmas 2005 - A  lot of presents, a lot of miles, a lot of family, friends, food, fun and a few tears.

Saturday the 24th.   We have a very good friend that went to a lot of work this year to make sure Amy had a very special Christmas.  Amy works so hard to bring happiness to everyone she knows, even this year when it's not really possible to be happy herself, and her friend wanted to give a little of that back to her.   When we got home tonight, Amy found that her friend had placed presents all through the house, at least one for each room.  And I'm not talking about little presents.  Amy got a beautiful handmade quilt that matches our living room, a KitchenAid attachment that she wanted, embroidered wall hangings with the boy's handprints on them, and on and on.  All were very thoughtful and personal gifts.  It was a very, very nice gesture from a very good friend that we are very lucky to have.  I'd also like to wish each and every one of you a Very Merry Christmas.  I hope you all wake to a wonderful Christmas morning.

Friday the 23rd.  I am soooo tired, so I'll keep this short.  We had a very full day.  I'll give you all the details some other day about my paddle on the river.  Jeff and I had quite the adventure.  And as usual I did a terrible job managing time.  We drug ourselves out of the river two hours late and right about the time I should have been leaving for my sister's house in Stuart.  So it was a pretty quick turn-around once I got to the house.  We had a wonderful evening with my family exchanging gifts, eating dinner and playing games.  I'm absolutely giddy over my presents, all of them.  Do you remember the camera that I was in love with and dropped off the mantel?  The one with the 10X zoom and all the other features.  Well, my sister, brother-in-law, mom and dad not only got me a new one, they got me a better, newer model.  Can you believe that?  Y'all should go over to Deana's site and tell her she rocks!  I also got paddling pants for these cold weather trips I've been making and a really nice shirt.  Amy got a new Paula Deen cookbook, which is really like another present for me.  And the kids, it will take them weeks to get through all the toys they got tonight and we are just getting started.  I don't have any photos from tonight because I left our camera at Deana's house.  So Deana, if you are reading this, bring Amy's camera to Hama's tomorrow night, okay?

Thursday the 22nd.  Happy Holidays everyone.  I hope you are enjoying the season.  And I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to Brian, Jenny, and Molly on the new addition to their family, identical twin girls!


Wednesday the 21st.  Click here for our Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up.


Tuesday the 20th.   Today I am catching up on photos from Jackson's martial arts class.  These photos can also be found on Jackson's purple/green page.  To see Jackson's version of the photo on the right, click here.  He's great at creating his own backgrounds.  He tells me exactly what he wants in it.  I do the Google Image search until he sees what he has in mind.  He then tells me what he wants to happen to the photo.  It goes something like this... "I want that ninja to be glowy.  How do we make it more glowy? Yeah that's perfect.  Okay, now I want to paint the background so that it looks like fire.  No, brighter red.  Yeah, that's it. "  and on and on like that.  He's really good at conveying what he has in his head.  Maybe he'll be a director one day.

Poor Amy had to have two hours of dental work done today.  She looked absolutely miserable.  Her cheeks were swollen and she couldn't talk.  I put Jackson in charge of not letting her do anything and not letting her talk.  I was hoping he would realize that what I was really asking was for him to not ask her twenty million questions after I left.  She said he did a good job of taking care of her.

It has been very stressful waiting for the Christmas cards we ordered.  3-5 business days came and went without any cards.  Amy found them today in between our two front doors.  Who knows how long they have been there.  We've only been checking the mailbox.  I don't think we could cut it any closer and still get the cards to everyone's houses by Christmas.  So if you are wondering why you haven't gotten our card yet, they should be there soon.

Monday the 19th.  Amy and Ben spent the day with Hama helping her get ready for Christmas.  Ben loves it at his great-grandmother's house and always looks forward to trips there.  Amy makes a mean chicken pie and, to go with it, Hama sent the rest of the sweet potato pie from yesterday with her.  Delicious.   Below are a few more photos from our visit to Hama's yesterday. 

If you wonder why I call my grandmother Hama, I don't really have an answer.  Supposedly it's a name I came up with as a toddler.  All my other family calls her Grandma.  Her real name is Hava.  I wonder if I was a really smart two year old and created a cross between Hava and Grandma. 

When I name files or pages, I don't include apostrophes.  So a photo gallery of Hama's house would be named Hamas_House.  It took me a while to figure out that having Hamas peppered through my website might explain all the hits I get from the Middle East.

Sunday the 18th.   We had lunch today at my grandmother's house.   Jackson went to church with Papa and we met up with them there.  We also got to meet Autumn Heath.  She has the prettiest light blue eyes and chubby little cheeks.  Amy adored holding her.  It was also nice seeing Mark, Autumn's daddy and my first cousin, and his wife Sue who recently moved back to the area from Charlotte.  Baby Seth, our nephew, came later and that always makes for a fun day.  He is the happiest baby ever.  Today's menu at Hama's:  Salmon cakes, pork tenderloin, gravy, corn bread, Mexican corn bread, black eyed peas, homemade biscuits, mashed potatoes, corn, and sweet potato cobbler.  Mmmm, mmmm good.


Saturday the 17th.  You know that break I was talking about yesterday?  Well I got one this morning.  I had a blast getting out in the kayak and paddling a local river.  I was on the Ararat early, it was cold, and it was fun.  You can read more about it and see a few photos on my paddle page.  It was a great day all around.  Amy didn't work, so the whole gang was together.  We made cookies and played games.  Jackson and I hung a birdhouse in the woods he made during the fall.  We strung some lights outside.  Amy got her break to do a little Christmas shopping.  Yep, all around great day.  And congratulations to all our friends that went to Appalachian State! Div1-AA National Football Champs.

Friday the 16th. When Amy and Jackson came down the stairs this morning I told them that school was cancelled for the second day in a row due to ice.  We went to bed thinking it would be a two hour delay.  One of the two was very excited about that news, the other one, not quite as much.  Jackson likes card games, board games, chess, telling stories, and about a hundred other things that requires two people.  He does not like playing by himself.   He is totally bored by his Gameboy because you have to play that by yourself.  I love that about him, we didn't let him watch a minute of television until he was a year and a half.  We have always been very interactive parents.  I'm glad that he would rather talk to you than watch television.  But sometimes... sometimes you just need a break.  Just a little one.  If Jackson says something and you don't respond to him, he will say it again and again and again and again until he gets one.  My theory is that he could do that for days, but we've never tested it.  Sooner or later you have to give in.  I think it stems from our habit of repeating everything he said as a toddler to help develop his speech.    So it's probably our fault, and like I said, I love him like crazy, but geez, that boy could talk the ears off a wooden Indian. 

Being very resourceful, Amy pooled her resources with our friend Timmesa, letting her kids and our kids  play together.  And as an update to yesterday's post... I've figured out that Ben adds bear to momma when he wants something.  It ups the cute factor and gives him a much higher chance of getting his way.  For example... "Can I have some more, peeez? <pause and look up with big brown eyes> Momma Bear."

Thursday the 15th. Amy played a game with Benjamin one day where they climbed under the table and pretended to be bears.  He has called himself Baby Bear and her Momma Bear ever since.  Sometimes I'm even Daddy Bear.   It's very sweet to hear him say "I lub ooh Momma Bear", "You alright Momma Bear?", or "Momma Bear wanna seep with Baby Bear?" 

Wednesday the 14th. Click here for our weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up.

Tuesday the 13th.  I really like this photo of Jackson with his guitar.

Jackson was awarded Purple/Green belt status last night at Mount Airy Martial Arts.  We are, of course, very proud of him.  I finally decided that I had too many photos on Jackson's karate page , especially for dial-up users, so I divided them up into separate pages for each of Jackson's belt ranks.

Monday the 12th. Today's photo shows Amy and the boys on their way home from our Christmas card photo session yesterday.  Inspiration finally struck, so we rolled right out to take our 2005 photograph.  Amy and the boys are also in front of Floyd's Barber Shop (for those of you that still don't believe we live in Mayberry.)  If you look into the window on the left, six mornings a week, you can see pork chop sandwiches being fried inside Snappy lunch.  I'm glad our Christmas card stress is over with and all we have to do now is sit back and wait for Snapfish to send them to us in the mail.

Sunday the 11th. I honestly have no idea if anyone else gets their own mistletoe, or if they get real mistletoe at all for that matter, but for me it's another Christmas tradition.  As a boy it was my job to get the mistletoe we hung above the entrance to our den.   In those early days, I collected mistletoe with buckshot and a 4-10 shotgun.  I stood underneath giant oak trees and took aim at nests of green perched high above in bare oak branches.  Over the years my methods have evolved into a much less violent harvest... read the rest (more photos)

Saturday the 10th.  Deana and Martin's party last night was a lot of fun.  Thanks to being the designated driver, I feel great today (I know lots of people that don't!).  Deana has some photos on her blog.  These two are the only ones that I have that wouldn't embarrass anyone.  I would show them, but I know that what goes around comes around.  At some point Jeff was coaxed into playing a few Christmas carols.  Of course no one could remember the words to any of the songs.  All you would hear was Jeff playing, then a dozen people suddenly blurting out "FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA."   I wish I had more pics because Deana and Martin's house was decorated beautifully.  We had a great time, it was nice seeing old friends and it was also nice meeting a few new ones. 

Today, while Amy worked, the boys and I went to the Stanley Family Christmas gathering in Ararat, Virginia (my paternal grandmother's side of the family).  Following that, the boys and I went on our annual mistletoe hunt and were very successful.  I have more details and lots of pics from both events, but I'll save them for their own posts, maybe tomorrow.

Friday the 9th. Our kindergartner, the one that we have to pry out of bed every morning at seven, had his first two hour delay due to weather this morning.  He was up at five.  Yep.  That's the way it works at our house.  He also just said as I was typing this "Okay, I don't have on underwear.  Oh wait, yeah I do."

I got my camera back, so here are the photos from our tree trimming night at Hama's house. 

Ben spent his morning with Papa, Amy helped Jackson's kindergarten class make more Christmas ornaments, my mom stayed at our house tonight to watch the boys so that Amy and I can go with friends to my sister's Christmas cocktail party in Stuart, Virginia.


Thursday the 8th.  This is how a phone conversation with Amy ended today... "yada yada GOTTA GO BEN JUST PUT JELLO IN HIS HAIR!"<dial tone>.  The funny thing is that there isn't anything unusual or noteworthy about that.  It's pretty much same old same old.

Jackson finished his belt test last night.  He didn't feel well and has a bad cough.  He actually wanted to leave the class, which is rare, because he said his chest hurt.  But he stuck it out and did well I think.  He knew all six required Jujitsu sweeps.  Read more and see more photos...

Wednesday the 7th. Click here for our Wednesday Wrap-Up.

Tuesday the 6th. Today's photo is pretty self explanatory, but I will add this... As fast as the tree moved, Ben moved almost as fast.  And you would be surprised how fast a two year old can move when a pine tree attacks them.  Ben was long gone by the time the third photo snapped. 

Tonight the boys decorated their great-grandmother's tree in Claudville.  Jackson is a stickler for tradition and since he remembered decorating it last year, he wanted to make sure he was the one to do it again this year.  Earlier in the evening Jackson got his hair cut at Amy's salon for the first time since his first haircut ever.  I would post photos, but I left my camera at Hama's house.

Monday the 5th.  Jackson's cousin Jimmy gave Jackson his old karate sparring gear this weekend, which was great because it was something Jackson really wanted and it saves us from having to buy it.  While Jackson checked out the gear and tried it on, Ben stood in the wings pleading "when my turn?  when my turn?"  So we suited our little tough guy up so that he could go a few rounds with his uncle Alan.  One tip... if you see Ben biting his lip, look out, he's about to unload on you. 

Jackson completed the Isshinryu half of his belt test tonight.  He will test on the Jujitsu portion Wednesday.  Jackson has practiced very hard outside of class and I think he did well tonight.  The test for purple-green is a hard one for him at five and, even if he doesn't pass, I couldn't be any happier with his effort.

(If one more telemarketer calls while I'm trying to get my kids to sleep, I'm going to climb through the phone line and take them out, I'm not kidding either, I'll do it.  I'll use some of Jackson's moves on them if I have to.)

Sunday the 4th.  On our way back home to Mayberry we made a Dinner Club pit stop in Greensboro at Brian and Jenny's house.  Very exciting to see Jenny who will have new little identical twin girls in just a few weeks.  That means we are really looking forward to the next time we see the Hunts.  Brian's famous chili was a perfect choice for a cold rainy night.

Saturday the 3rd. We are in Colonial Heights this weekend to decorate Grandma Sue's house one last time for Christmas.  Many sad moments, most moments are sad, yet at the same time, it's nice to be in Sue's house and to get it ready for Christmas like we have so many times before.  Our plan is to still come to Colonial Heights on Christmas evening, so it will be nice for the boys that the tree and a few other decorations will be up.  Before Sue passed away, we thought that if that ever happened we would not be able to walk back inside her house again, that it would be too hard.  So we are surprised to find a certain level of comfort in being here.  Maybe it makes it easier that we have spent so much time here over the years when Sue was in the hospital.  That makes it a little less shocking to be in the house without her being here I think.  Soon enough the house will be gone and it will be one more part of our loss.  For Amy it will mean that she cannot go home again because she will no longer have a home to go to.  Of course we'll continue to visit Colonial Heights, but it will not be the same as going back to the house Amy grew up in.  For the boys, who have enjoyed so many trips to their grandmother's house, and who knows how many that has been, it will be an end to a very important part of their lives.  So now, while we still can, we will pull out Sue's decorations so that we can spend time with them and our memories here, in Grandma Sue's house.

Friday the 2nd. Santa gave Amy two ornaments last year.  One ornament represented her joy of cooking and the other looked exactly like BenBen.  Jackson's first ornament that really meant something to him was Buzz.  He loved that ornament and it spent as much time off the tree as it did on it.  He was replaced later with super hero ornaments, but Buzz still holds a special place on our tree.  This year Jackson didn't want another super hero.  He chose a Santa ornament.  It could be that he is a very festive five year old or it could mean that he's sucking up to Santa.

Thursday the 1st. Now that it's December I can start sharing some Christmas Tree photos.  I also created a Trees of Christmas Past gallery.   Amy and I both had colored lights as kids.  Do you remember those giant painted light bulbs that warmed up to around a thousand degrees?  We wanted to let the boys have the fun lights too, so we switched from white lights to multi-colored ones when Jackson was three.  We had enough lights then, but I think we are getting fatter trees lately.  So we bought three more strands and when that didn't look like enough, we bought three more strands.  Now it's perfect.  Our ornament collection continues to grow.  Amy and Jackson both love ornaments and we pick out a handful of new ones each year.  Many of our ornaments are the ones Amy has had since she was a little girl, others are ones that we have added over the last eight years, but they all mean something.  Many are handmade and many were gifts.  Pulling them out each year brings lots of wonderful and warm memories.  Amy and Jackson like to place all the ornaments in just the right spots.  Ben, he likes to sit on the couch and kick them with his feet.  Ben is causing a little bit of Christmas tree stress this year.


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