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Wednesday, March 28th, 2007.  Amy and I celebrate nine wonderful years of marriage today.  Our recent 80 degree weather reminds me a lot of the day we got married.  It was SO hot that day and no one had their air conditioners running yet.  Everyone was dressed for typical March weather, so there was a lot of sweating going on.  But at least it didn't rain and we had a beautiful day.  Speaking of hot, Amy and I are celebrating our spicy marriage with some spicy Thai food tonight since our friend Timmesa volunteered to hang out with the boys.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007.  Jackson is a super reader.  Each night for homework we read a chapter from his "chapter book", plus one "AR" (advanced reading) book and complete his spelling assignment.  And once a week he reads a library book just for the fun of it.  Typically Jackson reads the AR book with Amy and completes his spelling work before I get home, then Jackson and I read his chapter book sometime between dinner and bed.  He usually picks out interesting books and I enjoy listening to him read them.  In today's photo from last night, he was reading a third book from Patricia Reilly Giff's Polk Street School series.  Those books about Emily Arrow, Dawn Bosco and Richard "Beast" Best have been some of our favorites this year, topped only by Horrible Harry and the Green Slime.

Monday, March 26th, 2007.  Spring has sprung in a big way around here.  The birds are singing, the trees are blooming and the weather is fantastic.  The boys and I capped off a bit of work in the yard Saturday morning with some frog hunting and exploring in the woods around our house.  Amy and the boys planted flowers Sunday morning and I cut the grass for the first time this year.  We then met my family at the movies to see TMNT3 for my sister Deana's birthday.  I didn't get to see all of it because Ben told me he needed a break.  He said the robots, monsters and turtles were too scary.  So we sat with my brother-in-law in the lobby until everyone else came out.  From there we went to our house for home-made ice cream and cake.  We had a cake made with Deana's baby picture on it.  From there it was to the gym where I got my last indoor roll practice of the year in.  Amy and the boys came over to watch and to walk some with my mom on the indoor track.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007.  On Tuesday, while driving through the Critz area of Patrick County, Virginia, I saw my first American Bald Eagle.  I've wanted to see one ever since I was a boy.  So when I spotted what appeared to be an eagle high in a tree far off the road, I immediately turned the car around and went back.  I had to extend beyond my camera's 10X optical zoom and took today's photo using digital zoom.  My eyes aren't what they used to be, and I wasn't sure about what I was seeing until it eventually took flight.  In the air it unmistakably looked like an eagle.  I was very happy later, once the photos were downloaded to my PC, to see that it was in fact, my first American Bald Eagle sighting. 

On the same day that I spotted the eagle, Amy and Ben joined Jackson for lunch at his elementary school.  Another mom came to school to eat lunch with her daughter.  While they all sat together at the head table, a discussion began around the subject of milk.  The little girl said that her daddy really liked milk.  Amy told her that Jackson's daddy did too.  Jackson said "what are you talking about?"  Amy told him that she was telling his friend that his daddy liked to drink milk.  Jackson said "Actually, he really likes to drink beer." 

Great.  Can't you just see that as the title of a children's book? . My Daddy Likes To Drink Beer.  The other mom then said that she brought Ginger Ale to a kindergarten class party last year.  When she began filling the cups her daughter asked "Are we making one of daddy's drinks?"

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007.  For another view of the same scene at the Coffee Break in Stuart, VA, you can visit my sister's blog.  We met for lunch before my nephew Caleb and my niece Isabelle's basketball games.  Jackson loved cheering for both of his cousins.  He ran from gym to gym and up and down the sidelines encouraging everyone to "hustle."  The games were held in my old high school gymnasium.  It was the first time I had been in the gym in close to twenty years.   As we walked into the school, I pointed out to Jackson my 8th grade home-room.  It was in that Spanish I class that I met one of my oldest friends, Stanley.  Coincidentally, after not seeing Stan in over two years, he and his wife Mary Beth, another PCH grad, joined us for dinner at our house on Sunday.  Another friend from my high school years, who like Stanley made up a third of my wedding party, Anita, also came to dinner and brought her son Jimmy along to play with Ben.  And a friend that I've known even longer than Stanley or Anita, one that I've known since kindergarten, Tonia, rounded out our mini-high school reunion.  Only Amy and Tonia's husband Ken broke the PCHS trend.  We had a blast.  Amy's steak 'n cheese and barbecue chicken hot subs were awesome.  We all took turns playing each other in Nascar2007 on Jackson's PS2.  I played Anita and Stanley in air hockey and Tonia played Jackson.  We laughed a lot and enjoyed the evening very much.  As the night was winding down, Jackson brought his mini-Stratocaster out of his room and asked Stanley to sign it.  I quickly replaced the strat with an old classical guitar the boys have, but did let Stanley autograph it for him.  Jackson has enjoyed Stanley's band's music for years and, much to Stanley's embarrassment, considers him a bona-fide rock star.

Friday, March 16, 2007.  Today was rainy and cold, so Ben and Amy stayed home to play inside.  They had Saint Patrick Day plans at the Circle School, but playgroup was cancelled.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007.  I spent Sunday paddling the North Fork of the Mayo River in Henry County, Virginia and Rockingham County, North Carolina.   It was a beautiful sunny warm day and I had an awesome time.  Below is an excerpt from my trip report, which can be read in its entirety here.

The only person from SRVCC that I knew would be meeting my friend Jeff and I at the Boiling Hole was Sammy.  So we were pleased to find Cat, Eric, Bob, and Joe waiting for us too.  Ed pulled up next and told us that Dale and his son Joey would be making the Sunday morning paddle on the North Fork as well, but were running late thanks to this year's earlier Daylight Savings Time.  We saw Dale briefly at the put-in and he caught up with us a little further downstream.    I had paddled with Sammy and Cat last August on the New River and had paddled with Joe on New Year's Day.  I knew Dale from seeing him on the river and from rolling sessions in Mount Airy.  I knew Bob's name well from the SRVCC message board, but it was my first time meeting him, as well as Eric and Ed.  It was a great group and made for a very enjoyable paddle.  (many more photos and the continuation of this post can be found here.)

Sammy

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007. On Saturday, Jackson competed in the 5-7 year old advanced division at the 1st Annual Mount Airy Martial Arts Sport JuJitsu Invitational Tournament.   I can't say enough about how proud we are of how well Jackson performed.  He put as much into each match Karate and competition as he possibly could.  We always tell him that it's the effort that makes us so proud, not the medal or trophy.  He went from start to finish in each match with tremendous unrelenting energy.  He later told me that he felt like throwing up during one of the rounds.  He cried twice, once from a hit in the face, but didn't pause at all.  He just kept on the offensive with tears running down his cheeks.  Amy and others watching from behind him didn't even know he was hurt.  The competition in his age group couldn't have been any tougher either.  Jackson wasn't the only one that gave his all.  The kids from Jackson's dojo are really amazing.  They work hard all year long and it shows during tournament season.   Jackson placed 1st in Sparring, 2nd in Kata and 3rd in Grappling.  It was his first 1st place in anything ever and he wanted it so bad.  He really, really wanted it.  And he's been on cloud nine ever since.  He was also happy that everyone in my family was able to come and watch.  It was his first tournament since last May, so I'm glad they were there to cheer for him. My sister Deana took most of the photos of Jackson.  I'm too big of a wreck when Jackson spars to take photos.  I did turn the video on though, so maybe I'll post some clips later.  I have the video of him performing Naihanchi in the kata competition online already, you can watch it by clicking here (3MB).   It was also the first tournament hosted locally and I thought it was a big success.  The parents and adults that worked to organize and orchestrate the tournament did a fantastic job and we appreciate all of their hard work.  I've posted Jackson's pics on his Ni Kyu page, but put most of the other photos taken by myself and by my sister Deana on his Sensei's website.  And for even more photos, my sister has a slide-show on her site.

   

Thursday, March 8th, 2007.  On Tuesday, between school and karate class, Jackson got a haircut.  Don't bring it up with him, don't tell him it looks good.  Just trust me on that, you don't want to bring it up. 

Months of playing CARS on his PS2 turned Jackson into quite the little race fan.  He even watched Sunday's Busch series road race in Mexico City all by himself.  Consequently he is now a Juan Pablo Montoya fan.  He says "Juan Pablo Montoya, I like saying that, it sounds so Spanish."  We bought NASCAR 2007 this week and Jackson loves it.  So do I.  He was disappointed that they didn't have Juan as an option, but he quickly settled on Denny Hamlin.  I race as Tony Stewart.   It's been fun watching Jackson get excited about sports.  He's so enthusiastic about auto-racing and Hokie basketball that he has trouble containing his excitement.   He jumps up and down yelling constant updates.  When you're only at lap twenty of a five hundred mile race, that can be cute or slightly annoying, depending on how you look at it.  I'm sure he'll learn soon enough to pace himself, but for now, every basketball rebound is a huge victory worth celebrating or a crushing defeat.

Ben had his little buddy and cousin Seth come by yesterday.   They rock and rolled to Farmer Jason and had a great time playing together.  When I came home from work I found kids all over the neighborhood out enjoying the warm Spring-like afternoon.  I found my own family outside too, chasing bubbles in the wind.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007. On Dr Seuss' birthday, the boys made Cat In The Hat hats, watched Dr Seuss movies and read stories like The Foot Book. 

On March 4th, Amy traced everyone's feet and made cards commemorating the only day that tells you what to do, March Forth!

Over the weekend we did a lot of drawing with Jackson's art kits.  Ben drew a monster that he was especially proud of.  He kept telling us that it was his "monsterpiece."  Amy was the one that figured out he had combined monster with masterpiece to describe his picture.

Yesterday I posted about how Jackson follows school rules.  We think he even went both years of pre-school without a time-out.  Which means that in just seven months, Ben has passed his brother in the number of times he's been in trouble.  Jackson's classes always seemed to be filled with other little brainy, quirky kids.  Ben's class on the other hand is full of little bull ridin', bear shootin', bad guy fighting %100 red blooded boys.  And Ben loves it.  Jackson waits to be invited into a game, where as Ben jumps right into the middle of whatever is going on.  When he enters his class, the other boys look up and yell "Ben!!".  And when he goes to time-out, he usually has his buddies as company.    He'll later explain that he went to time-out because "me and Luke and Grant were shooting tigers."

And that's another thing.  We fall in the zero tolerance camp when it comes to gun play.  We don't allow the boys to play with toy guns, not even water guns, because we want them to understand that A. killing isn't a game, ever, and B. that when they see a gun, they don't touch it, ever.  It's just one of our personal parenting decisions.  Jackson is totally with us on this and always has been.  Ben on the other hand doesn't quiet agree with our gun philosophy.  If we tell him that we don't shoot, after he picks up a stick and starts pretend shooting pretend bad guys, he thinks we just don't understand what he's doing and says "no, no, no I'm just shooting a baaaad guy, a baaaaaad guy, not a gooooood guy."

Monday, March 5th, 2007.  The gym Amy belongs to is hosting a Survivor competition.  It's been fun keeping up with the tribes and who is getting voted off each week.  I think the interesting dynamic is that, unlike the television show, when you vote somebody out of this game, you might find yourself next to them on the elliptical machine the next day.   On Saturday we all went to The Vineyard to watch their toughest challenge yet, scaling a 40 foot climbing wall.  Everyone on the ground tried telling the climbers what they needed to do to reach the top.  But from what I gather, things aren't as easy as they look when you are clinging to a wall 30 feet above the ground.  Amy is keeping up a Survivor bulletin board display at the gym, so we took lots of photos of her gym buddies, like Rita and Sandy, for her to post this morning (you can see a few of the sixty she printed here.).  When it was over, Jackson took a turn at the climbing wall.  I think he would have made it if the pegs weren't impossibly far apart.  Today's photo is of our friends Will and Christie.  Will and Christie make up one of two sets of married competitors.  In this photo, you can see Will peeking around the corner to cheer on Christie.  Jackson cheered for Will the whole time.  He would yell "Go Flaming Pumpkin Guy" because when we visited their house at Halloween, Will had two flaming jack-o-lanterns in the front yard.  On our way back we stopped at a McDonald's play-land for lunch so that the boys could do lots of their own climbing before we got home. 

Jackson had a great day at school.  He won the monthly calendar contest and for a prize got to go to the teacher's lounge to buy a soda with his teaching assistant's money.  He was then allowed to keep the bottle on his desk all day and drink out of it whenever he wanted.  Jackson loves little things like that.  He loves being student teacher, student of the month, getting golden apples, trips to the treasure box or any type of reward.  He's seven months into first grade and has yet to "drop an apple", which is what happens when you break a rule or get into trouble.  Only one other student has managed that feat and Jackson considers himself in stiff competition with her.  She's the only one in his class that has read more advanced reading books than him.  He says she's better in math too.  To be honest, I think his relationship with her is a little love/hate.

Thursday, March 1st, 2007.   Jackson likes his hair.  Jackson likes his hair a lot.  And he likes his hair exactly the way it is right now.  Amy and I on the other hand are campaigning heavily for a haircut.

It's cold, wet and rainy tonight.  Ben is under the weather.  He told me his neck hurt.  I told him he had a sore throat.   When Amy came home from work Ben told her "my throat is sword."  I'm in a bad mood because VA Tech is loosing to UVA.  Jackson had an awesome night at karate class.  He's hustling really fast and continues to get stronger.  Plus he's really enjoying himself.  He has his first tournament of the year on March 10th at Pro-Health here in Mount Airy.