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Thursday, July 31st, 2008. The Avett Brothers from Concord, NC lived up to the hype and immediately jumped to near the top of my favorite current bands.  I also loved the energy behind Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band and enjoyed Cadillac Sky's performance.  But the Avett Brothers really topped everything else we saw and are just exactly the kind of sound I love.  Their music is creative, driving, intelligent, honest and loud.  Great band.  

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008.  We finally made it to FloydFest Sunday after wanting to go for what seems like forever.  It was Ben's second appearance, as he also went with his Aunt Deana and Uncle Martin on Friday.  We had a wonderful time, with meeting Colleen and her husband Joe ranking as the most exciting highlight.  Amy and I both started reading Colleen's blog, Loose Leaf Notes, in the fall of 2005, one month after Sue passed away.  While it has remained on my shortlist of ten favorite blogs ever since, Amy has a more special connection with both Colleen's book, The Jim and Dan Stories: A Journey of Grief and Faith,  and her blog, reading it regularly for the past three years, which is why the unexpected meeting near the dance stage was not only very pleasant, but also very emotional. 

We also got to visit with my cousin Mark, his wife Sue and their very sweet children Autumn and Will.  We listened to some great bands, climbed walls, played in pirate ships, ate ice cream, painted, shopped and much more.  It was a wonderful day.  Jackson even suffered through the bluegrass and alt-country while only exhibiting mild annoyance.  Ben enjoyed the fact that, as the only one with FloydFest experience, he got to show us where everything was.  He mostly enjoyed the pirate ship and we spent much of our time there.  After leaving the festival, we had a nice dinner on the porch at the Mountain House in Meadows of Dan before driving back to Mayberry.

 

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008.  We celebrated my birthday on Saturday at the river during a break from paddling and playing.  Deana gave me an awesome strawberry filled sheet cake that had my photo on it.  It was delicious.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday as I waited to blow out the trick candles, which have become a staple lately.  Jackson says that in our family, trick candles would be candles that aren't trick candles.  It was a great way to spend the day, paddling with friends and visiting with family before, during and after.  Jackson (technically it was Amy) ran a lemonade stand again this year and actually doubled last year's profits while focusing almost solely on boaters paddling down stream.   Jackson made seventy dollars, then gave his little brother a whopping fifty cents for helping out all day.  More paddling photos can be found here and here.  And on another paddling related note, I was quoted in an article on local whitewater in the Greensboro News and Record.

Friday, July 25th, 2008.  Starting at 4:30 yesterday morning, Amy ran ten miles, her longest distance to date.  She turned around and ran six more miles this morning.  Jackson returned last night after two full days spent playing with family in Claudville and Stuart.

Whenever I pick up my old guitar, Ben runs into the playroom room, then runs back with a musical instrument to accompany me with.  The other day he returned carrying his entire drum kit.  Amy shot this footage of Ben putting some soul in the bowl (2MBs).  Ben is also wearing what I think are his cutest PJs.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008. Jimmy is an avid golfer, walking 18 holes by himself most mornings.  On his last night with us, we hit a local par three so that I could watch him play.  It was also a great chance for Jackson to play his first round of golf.  Jimmy has a great swing and was a big help in showing Jackson how to play.  We had a lot of fun and Jackson wants to go back one night soon.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008.  When I arrived home today at lunch, the boys were slipping and sliding in the front  yard.  It was the slide's third appearance of the summer and Ben says it's the best birthday present he got. 
Jimmy is back home in Colonial Heights and we'll miss him.  I asked him what the most fun thing he did was while in Mayberry.  He said "Swimming in the river."  Excluding the fun they had on the SlipNSlide last week, our boys swam in a lake, a river, a pond and a pool.  Jimmy and Jackson ran with Amy.  We saw Walle and Space Chimps at the movie theater, played many, many games of basketball and a round of golf, made home-made ice cream and blueberry smoothies, played countless hours of video games and basically packed as much into one week of Summer as we could.

 

Friday, July 18th, 2008.  "Camp Jimmy" continued yesterday with a tour of Main Street that included stops at the pet store, the sporting goods store, the candy store and the bookstore.  While at the bookstore, Jackson went to the counter and asked if they had a copy of The Legal Limit.  They told him they were sold out, but that they could order him one.  Jackson said "No, that's alright, because the author is actually my uncle."  Last night we went to Deana and Martin's house to feed their fish and swim in the pond.  We had lots of fun and stayed until dark. 

Earlier in the week, Amy and the boys picked up the best blueberries you've ever tasted at the local farmers market.  They disappeared in a hurry, so Amy called the farm to see when they would be back.  Since they already had plans to be in town, they made a delivery of four containers full of delicious blueberries right to the house yesterday.   So I think we've got blueberry smoothies in our near future.

                Fun around the dock 

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008.  The boys took one of today's photos while Amy was away from the van helping my grandmother yesterday.  The other photo was from the pool today where the boys were joined by our friend Samuel for an afternoon of fun.  The four boys and Amy spent the morning enjoying the free movie and a big bag of popcorn at the downtown cinema.  Then tonight, Jackson and Jimmy joined me for my paddling club's monthly meeting and a quick side-trip to the Martinsville Speedway.  We arrived back home late and I believe the boys are tired from their long day.  Ben and Amy were already asleep.  So far Jimmy's visit is going great and everyone is happy that he's here.   I know his family has to miss him, so here's a video of how he and Jackson spent their free time between the movies and the pool.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008.  Amy and the boys met Alan, Nicole and Jimmy in Mebane yesterday and successfully completed the transfer of another cousin.  This time it was our nephew Jimmy that got to change vehicles and complete the journey to Mayberry.  After a quick stop to pick me up at the house, we enjoyed a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Chile Rojo.  It was the first time I've seen Jimmy since Christmas and I am amazed at how much he has grown.  He's a full fledged teenager now, with a deeper voice and slimmed up physique.  We spent most of our night shooting basketball, with Jackson and Jimmy shooting well past dark.  Amy was up, bright and early, running in preparation for next month's half marathon.  Then later she and the boys took my grandmother to Stuart to run some errands before her upcoming trip out West.  Amy said that the boys were extremely well behaved and a big help.  While they were in Stuart, they visited my mom who is house sitting for Deana and Martin, who are away on their whirlwind book tour.  And of course, while there, the boys swam, paddled, fed the fish and played with the dogs.    Once I came home from work, while Amy cooked a fantastic dinner, I played Jimmy and Jackson in an epic hour long basketball game.  Now that we're full and cleaned up, it's time to settle in for our one tv night of the week.  We became big WipeOut fans back when Nicole was visiting us.
Today's photos are more from our weekend at the lake with the Eads family.  Jackson and Matthew had a lot of fun jumping off the dock.  I was impressed with how well Jackson handled the swim back and forth from the shallow swimming area and the lifeguard commented that both boys were doing better than most their age.  Diving off the dock was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Another thing the lifeguard told us was that it was eighteen feet deep at the diving board and fourteen feet deep off the side of the dock.  She said that if you could swim down that far, you'd probably find a whistle and some sunglasses, but that she only knew of three or four people that had ever made it to the bottom off the diving board and that she couldn't make it.  Well, that was enough of a goal for me.  The fourteen foot depth was easy, although all I ever found was a bunch of seaweed.  And when I finally made it down eighteen feet and touched the bottom, trust me, I didn't waste any time looking around in the dark, my butt started swimming right back up to the surface.

 

Sunday, July 13th, 2008.  We just returned from a weekend at Claytor Lake where we were guests of our good friends the Eads.  Jeff's brother Thomas stopped by on Saturday night and took everyone out for a spin in their dad's power boat.  The boys LOVED it, especially Jackson.  Ben sat in my lap and kept a pretty tight grip on me.  He also fussed at Amy for leaning back near the rear of the boat to take a picture.  But he liked it too.  We roasted marshmallows, played Yatzee until midnight, slept in a tent, cooked out, went swimming and diving at the park.  It was just a super weekend, cut a little short by thunderstorms today, but that gave us a chance to play some more fun games at the camper before heading home.

Friday, July 11th, 2008.   "Stop it or I'll make you listen to Country Music!"  - a threat I used, successfully, last night against the boys who were fighting in the backseat.
Happy Birthday Seth!  Our nephew turned three today.

Thursday, July 10th, 2008.  My brother-in-law Martin Clark's latest novel, The Legal Limit, was released this week and is receiving fantastic reviews, like this one by the LA Times.  Amy and I just got our copy and look forward to reading it.  Martin's friend Ben says that if you're looking for a new Summer read, you should check it out.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008.  On Sunday, after all my paddling buddies had packed up and left the valley, we settled in for yet another day of fun and relaxation.  We started the day by meeting Ugubian JD Tutwell, then shot ball and chased butterflies on the basketball court further up stream, and on our return, found our friends the Joyces waiting for us at the river house.  We had invited them to spend the afternoon with us and knew that they would enjoy the river, especially Landon.  We gave him the task of reinforcing our dam and he took to the job like a pro.  Jackson adores Eli and loved it when he was able to make him laugh.  Jackson also made many more of his floats down the stream, this time with his goggles on looking for fish.  Ben started the day playing with his buddy Landon, but in the end, seemed to enjoy spending time playing with Ella.  After convincing Mike to put on my kayaking gear, I set my boat at the top of a ten or twelve foot bank into the river.  Mike got situated in the kayak and said "So what do I do, lean back?"  I said "Yeah, sure," and gave him a push over the edge.  It's only your really old friends that you can do stuff like that too.  I actually thought that he would flip at the bottom, but he handled it like a pro, much to our chagrin.   I later let Jackson make the same seal launch into the river.  He paddled around for a few minutes, then went straight for the rapids.  I think Jackson and I are going to have lots of fun on the river one day.  Click here for the video of his launch.  (8MBs)

   

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008. On Saturday, we hosted a potluck dinner for friends from my paddling club at our favorite spot in one of our favorite destinations, Kibler Valley.  Thanks to the contributions Amy and everyone else made, things went smashingly and everyone had a great time.  Personally, I mostly paddled, played with the kids and ate, so I had it pretty easy.  The hardest thing I had to do was jump back in the river with Jackson after having already changed into dry clothes.  But trust me, that water is cold, cold, cold.  It didn't bother Jackson though.  He would float through the rapids in his PFD, then run back to do it again.  And again.  And again.  There was paddling, delicious food, great company and spectacular scenery.  It was truly nice getting to spend such a fun day with my family and with so many of my paddling friends.  And being at the river house gave us a chance to tell a lot of people what a special person and friend Jenny was.  We have yet to introduce someone to her river house and not have them comment on how wonderful and special it is.  Many more photos here.

 

Monday, July 7th, 2008 Deana and Martin again hosted this year's Independence Day celebration, this time at their house.  Most of the afternoon was spent at the dock, with a cookout following.  After a great meal, we waited for dark to arrive and for the rains to stop before watching a fireworks display over the pond.

  Amy, Martin, Jackson Jackson

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008.   Amy is sick, sick, sick.  She's been that way since sometime in the middle of the night.  I feel so bad for her.  I think the boys were as good as could be expected today, but I hate that she had to watch them while she felt so bad.  At the same time, we were afraid that if we sent the kids off to someone else's house, we'd get more people sick.  Not a fun day though.  I think Moms have it 100 times worse when they get sick.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008.  We celebrated our friend Samuel's half-birthday tonight at his house with the coolest half spread of food.  Everything was cut in half, even each individual grape.  There were half hamburgers, half watermelon slices, half cookies.  You name it, there was half of it.

Today's photos are of Jackson and his new haircut.