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Tuesday, December 26th, 2006. Of all the gifts Ben got yesterday, he probably loves his drum kit the most.  Amy and I are pretty weird in the fact that the noisy kid toys don't bother us.  I look at it as just part of the gig.  I had a drum kit as a pre-teen and always appreciated the fact that my parents never gave me any grief over it.  Another of Ben's favorite Santa gifts is the Booty Shakin' Santa.  He dances, then says "Are you ready for this?" before spinning around to shake his hiney.  Ben pushes the button, then plays his drums while Santa dances.  Our nephews Wesley and Jesse stayed with us on Christmas Eve, which meant that we had twice as many boys for Santa to deliver toys to.  Our living room was packed with remote controlled cars, snow sleds, game stations, super heroes, dinosaurs and more

We had a great time at my grandmother's house on Christmas Eve, visiting and dining with family.  The food was awesome of course and it was fun watching little Maddie and Autumn walk around.  Jackson played the White Elephant game with me for the first time and enjoyed it so much that he's already planning for next year's game.  We got back a little later than normal, but had just enough time to prep for Santa before Sherri and the boys arrived.  We put the carrots on the sidewalk and the milk and cookies, plus Jackson's traditional Christmas pickle, on the hearth. read the rest of this post .  ( More Christmas Photos  HERE. )

Monday, December 25th, 2006. Merry Christmas Everybody!!!  We're rocking out in Mayberry this morning.  (Notice Ben sitting at his drum kit in the background)


Thursday, December 21st, 2006. Jackson is Harry Potter!  I missed Jackson's music program this morning, but Amy and Ben walked up to the school and enjoyed it very much.  Afterwards, Amy went to Jackson's classroom because she planned to take him home early with her.  Jackson's assistant teacher, who is a great buddy of his, bent down to give him a kiss and Jackson, being the six year old boy that he is, ducked out of it.  A filing cabinet drawer was open next to him and when he swung around, the corner of it went into his forehead.  Apparently they had a hard time stopping the bleeding.  The school nurse suggested that Jackson go to his pediatrician for stitches.  That is exactly how our Christmas season is going so far folks.  And I don't even want to talk about what happened yesterday.  But back to today, they were able to glue Jackson's cut together, rather than use stitches.  It's more of a deep cut than a long one.  So now when you brush his hair back from his forehead, you see his cool little Harry Potter mark.  Today's photo of Jackson was from the 10th, before his last haircut.  He was showing off his toothless grin.  I also posted a photo of Jackson receiving his promotion to Ni kyu, 2nd degree brown belt.  Dr. Gayle told him that he will have to take five days off from karate, which is perfect timing since the holidays are coming up anyway.

Hillary, Amy, I and all the kids ate lunch at Chili Verde, then after work we went to see the new Charlotte's Web movie.  Jackson, being the six year old boy that he is, accidentally banged his forehead against the glass of one of those games where you put a quarter in and try to pick up a toy with a robotic arm.  His cut totally opened back up and the blood started running down his face again.  This time we glued it ourselves and used butterfly tape to hold it together.  To close out the day, the kids made a ginger bread house.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006. Today's photo may be my favorite so far from 2006.  I'm not a morning person, but I'll get up pretty early to see views like that.  This photo is another favorite, taken before 7AM at the confluence of the Appomattox River and Swift Creek in Colonial Heights, Virginia.  Click here for more photos and details from my relaxing Sunday morning three hour solo paddle and click here if you want to see my favorite kayaking photos from 2006.

The day started with Amy getting pulled for speeding on the way to the gym.  It was the first time she has been pulled over since she was eighteen and luckily was only given a warning.  Jackson was up before his alarm went off because he was so excited about his school play.  By the time I came downstairs he was already dressed in the clothes we had picked out for the performance.  Ben was excited this morning too, because he had his Christmas party at pre-school.  Jackson's play was awesome and he did a great job.  He was happy that his Aunt Deana came for the performance too.  Our friends arrived later that evening, just as I left with the boys for karate and Amy left to get her hair cut near Stuart, Virginia.  Jackson was promoted to 2nd degree brown belt.  I was very happy for him because I think he performed better at last week's belt test than he has at any test since he was a yellow belt.  We purchased a wall hanging to display his belts back when he got that yellow belt.  The brown belt we put on it last night filled the sixth and final spot on it.  I can't believe he's on his seventh belt now, time really flies by.  When we came back home we found that Hilary had made sausage balls, cookies and cream puffs while we were gone and they were delicious.  The kids got to play for a few hours, then it was time for bed.  So that was our Tuesday.

Monday, December 18th.  It's pretty easy to tell from the golf shots below that Jimmy and Nicole's dad plays golf, but Jackson and Ben's does not.  Nicole got the only two hole in ones on the miniature golf course and Jimmy's swing on the driving range looked awesome. 

We stayed with Amy's brother Alan in Colonial Heights this past weekend and had a wonderful time.  Jackson especially enjoyed the visit.  He loves his cousin Jimmy very much and wouldn't stop hugging him.  And he and Nicole were inseparatable.  Nicole is only five months younger than Jackson and they get along fabulously.  They spent hours jumping on the trampoline together, putting on shows for the dinner guests (they performed as Troy and Gabriella from High School Musical), drawing, laughing and talking.  Alan and Charla hosted a dinner for family and friends Saturday night and we exchanged Christmas presents afterwards.  On Sunday we played some more, packed up, visited our good friend Miss Bertha, drove back to Alan's house to get the things we left the first time, took a Christmas tree to Grandma Sue's special spot, then stopped by Amy's sister Sherri's house.  The boys slept for the first couple of hours of our drive home.  We stopped for a quick dinner once they woke up, then did some shoe shopping for Jackson's Christmas program tomorrow before making the last hour or so of the drive.  We got back home around 9:30.  Today at lunch my Aunt Dianna stopped by for a visit and brought presents with her.  She got both the boys new winter coats, which was terribly ironic because we were looking at coats last night , but decided that we didn't really have time to buy anything other than shoes.  So that was a perfect timing.  Unlike the table I bought Amy for Christmas on Friday.  I bought it over lunch, then walked into the house to find that Amy had already bought it that morning.  That's an example of really bad timing.  But that worked out too, because when Amy returned one of them today, we found out that it went on sale this morning and if we bring our receipt back in, they'll give us the difference in prices.

It's going to be a fun, but busy week, so I don't know how many posts I'll get up.  Amy's friend Hillary and her family will be visiting for a few days during the middle of the week, Amy's sister Sherri and her family will spend a few days at Christmas with us, then Amy's brother Alan and his family may get to visit with us after Christmas.  Amy knocked one more thing off our Christmas to-do-list this afternoon when she took the boys to see Santa at the mall in Winston-Salem.  The boys saw Santa a few weeks ago, but they didn't have their lists with them at the time.  So now they have delivered their wish lists and all they have to do is wait for Christmas morning.


Saturday, December 16th, 2006.  What a beautiful 61F/16C degree December day.  We spent part of it on the driving range and miniature golf course with my brother-in-law Alan, our nephew Jimmy and niece Nicole.   I could get used to this kind of sunny Winter day.

Friday, December 15, 2006. Amy and Ben spent Monday and Wednesday helping my grandmother with her presents and Christmas cards.  They go back this morning to finish things up.  Besides Hama's great company, they've also enjoyed some wonderful lunches during their visits.  Jackson had a couple of great nights in karate this week.  Today's photos are from Tuesday night.  I was very impressed with his throws, he's progressed a lot lately.  He came home from last night's class super proud of the cool scratch he got on his face during a grappling match.  I think it made him feel tough to have a scar from getting kicked in the face.  He wasn't thrilled about it when it happened, but couldn't stop looking at it before he went to bed.  He said wishfully "do you think anyone will notice my cut at school tomorrow?"  It really wasn't that big, I think he got it from the bottom of his partner's foot pad, maybe from the Velcro on it. 

Something I've been meaning to post about is Ben's use of the word "even."  He uses it all the time.  Like if I ask him if he had a good day at school, he might say "Yes, even I painted a Christmas tree."  Or he might say "Mommy and I cooked today.  Even we made cookies" or "Even I played with brother today."  Even it's really sweet and I'll miss him saying it when he stops.

During last night's karate class Jackson would laugh and talk to Ben as he passed by the front of the dojo.  At dinner during our "bad part/good part", Ben's good part was "Brother talking to me at the rotty."  Ben still says "rotty" every once in awhile, but he's mostly started calling it karate, pronounced the way SpongeBob says it, kay-RAH-tay.

Monday, December11, 2006.  Frankie and Jackson are pretty tight these days.  They sleep snuggled up to each other all night, then in the afternoon, Frankie naps in the sunny spot on Jackson's bed.  In this photo, Frankie seems a little annoyed by the bright light.  And what about Jackson's new smile?  He is more than willing to show it off.  His loose top front tooth finally fell out Sunday morning.   And way in the back, is Teddy.   Teddy was my best bud when I was Jackson's age.  As you can tell, he is a little worse for wear.  Teddy survived countless surgeries and is due at least one more, as evidenced by the bandage on his foot.  95% of his fur is gone and he can only see out of one eye, but he's a good old bear. 

We had a fun weekend.  One of Jackson's six year old friends from karate invited him to a birthday party at the movies on Saturday.  Ben and I joined them and watched Deck The Halls.  Very funny movie, I laughed a lot, a whole lot.  By coincidence, a nine year old karate classmate was having a party in the room next door, so there were a lot of little karate-ka running around.  That night we continued the partying at my sister's house as she hosted a "game night" get-together.  On Sunday, we returned to the movies with Amy and watched Un-Accompanied Minors.  "That's going to hurt when I pee!"  is the quote our boys brought away from that one.   We liked them both, the boys give the edge to Un-Accompanied Minors while I preferred Saturday's flick.   Both were family movies, but Jackson did lean over a few minutes into Deck The Halls and say "What does cross-dressing mean?"

Friday, December 8th, 2006.  I pulled today's photo from a video I shot of Jackson Tuesday night, sparring with a very tough little black belt just hours before he got sick.  Jackson is finally better and went to school today, where he got a 101 score on his spelling test after missing the past two days.  This afternoon he went shopping with Amy and Ben at the mall and on Main Street.   I joined them after work to buy their ornaments at Hallmark.  They each get to pick out a new ornament each year.  Jackson went with Batman again.  That makes four of the cape crusaders on our tree.  Ben picked out the number 4 ornament to go with his series of puppy ornaments marking his 1st, 2nd and 3rd Christmas seasons.  Our tree is all fun colored lights and ornaments with meanings.  Many were Amy's from her childhood and the rest we've accumulated since we've been married.  There are handmade ornaments and photo ornaments.  Virginia Tech, superhero, Sesame Street, and Buzz Light year ones.  Santa playing guitar, angels, chefs, kayaks, baby's first Christmas, our first Christmas, time capsules, pine cones, chili peppers and snowmen.  Jackson told me that we had more ornaments than limbs on our tree.  I thought he was speaking metaphorically, but he wasn't.  We really don't have any branches left without an ornament on them.  And that was before we bought the five new ones tonight!

Thursday, December 7th, 2006. Friday night, after spending the day shopping on Main Street for Christmas gifts and on the mountain for a Christmas tree, we watched The Polar Express with a school full of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade pajama clad students.  After the movie, Santa dropped by to ask the kids what they wanted for Christmas.  Jackson and Amy got in line (a very long line) while Ben and I played at the other end of the library.  Ben would only  peek at Santa from a distance.  Once Jackson made it to the front of the line and had his conversation with Mr. C, we started for the door.  That's when Ben began sobbing because he hadn't told Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  He said he wanted me to "just sneak up and tell Santa."  So Amy, being the wonderful mom that she is, got back in line again.  This time, she was in the back of the line, which was still a very, long line.  About 30 minutes later she finally made her way back to the front.  And to our absolute amazement, Ben sat down and actually talked.  He smiled the entire time and told Santa he wanted a Hot Wheels Radar Gun and a Bull Dozer.  If I didn't have the photo to prove it, I wouldn't believe it myself.

Jackson was sick again today, but hasn't thrown up since 9:30 this morning and seemed to feel better tonight.

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006.  Today's photos are from Sunday.  Apparently Ben needed to catch up on his sleep Sunday evening and missed a lot of the tree decorating  fun.  He did later wake up and get to hang a few ornaments before bedtime.

Jackson is still sick.  He had a rough night and continued to get sick throughout the day.  We feel very lucky that no one else has fallen sick yet.  Let's hope that Jackson feels better tomorrow and that the rest of us continue to escape the virus' wrath

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006.  We had another successful mistletoe hunt this year.  In fact, we didn't have to go any further than the same country dirt road and the same tree we climbed last year.

I've posted a few photos from Sunday afternoon below.  Following a delicious lunch and dessert, we helped Hama decorate her Christmas tree.  We're sticklers for tradition and were more than happy to help out for the third straight year.   Jackson says "it's a tradition!"

I would post more, but we just found out that Jackson threw up in his sleep.  It looks like he'll be staying home from school tomorrow.  He and Ben were sleeping together for the first time in forever and he fell asleep so happy, the poor little guy.  Ben is now back in his bed, Jackson is in ours and Jackson's covers are in the wash.  We've been on a pretty long wellness streak, so I guess we were overdue for something like this.

Monday, December 4th, 2006. Ben is asleep on the far left in today's photo.  The guitar on the left is Jackson's.  He left it there when he was finished playing with it.  And in the center of the photo is our Christmas Tree.  We've been running non-stop for days and hopefully I'll fine time soon to catch up on everything, like getting the tree on Friday, movie-night at Jackson's school, my dad's trip to the hospital on Saturday and return home Sunday morning, dinner Saturday night at The Village Tavern with Amy's office, the boy's night with their Aunt Deana, putting up my grandmother's tree on Sunday, getting mistletoe, feeding my dad's cows, Amy and Ben's day in Claudville today and how we miraculously managed to decorate our tree during little tiny breaks in the action.  For now, I'll let you watch a very funny clip of Ben dancing  to a XM techno-dance channel just minutes before I expected him to go to bed.  He loved it when we found that channel and made me put the remote down.  He ran to his bedroom and returned with his drum and a castanet.