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Monday, March 28th, 2011.  Happy Anniversary Amy!  I love you.  Today's weather is a far cry from the 88 degree, sunny day we had 13 years ago.  We woke this morning to find the ground covered in white.  The kids even had a two hour delay at school, on the only day they have to go all week.  Because Amy is baby-sitting her normal hours this week, Ben will spend some quality time with his Aunt Deana tonight and tomorrow, which should give him a little more freedom and fun. 

Yesterday, we celebrated my sister Deana's birthday at our house, complete with beach cupcakes that Amy made, a controversial game of "pin the tail on the donkey" and several rounds of fierce ping pong competition, where Martin and Jackson served court for the majority of the afternoon. 

 

Thursday, March 24th, 2011. We had our 2nd baseball practice tonight, only it was about 35 degrees colder than our 1st one.  Jackson had practice today as well.  He had a one-on-one session with Coach Spainhour at the high school.  It seemed to have gone well and Jackson is working really hard to improve his fundamentals. 

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011.  I have been anticipating Ben's transition into the "sports kid" for some time.  He has almost exactly followed Jackson's path in that area and as he approaches his 8th birthday, just as Jackson did at that age, will now only wear sports related clothing.  For the 1st year and a half of school, he would only wear a shirt that had a super hero on it.  Now it has to say Nike or something about sports.  Yesterday he bought a red Under Armour baseball t-shirt.  Jackson gave him his pair of red nike shorts to wear with it, since they are now too small for him.  And because Jackson takes such super good care of his things, the shorts still look like the did on the day we took this photo three years ago. 

I have always preferred the classics when it comes to reading.  My theory is that if a book is still being read 100 years after it was written, then it more than likely is worth reading.  Jackson recently read Moby Dick in his CAP class and it occurred to me that he managed to read that one before I did.  So call me Ishmael, because that is what I am now reading.  Jackson keeps a couple of books going at a time, whatever he is reading for school and whatever he is reading for fun and he goes through them at a frantic pace, especially the ones he really likes.  Currently that is Hunger Games, which was highly recommended by our neighbor and avid reader Jessica.  Deana recently dropped off a stack of books for Amy, because she was out of her own reading material.  I think her last read was Water For Elephants.  Now that everyone is reading electronic versions of their new books, the idea of sharing copies is quickly, and regrettably, becoming a thing of the past.  And our youngest reader Ben jumped up another reading level at school.  Although still in 1st grade, I think he is now at the level he is expected to be at around the end of 3rd grade, so he is doing quite well.  He reads fantastically and is on some pretty thick chapter books at this point. 

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011.  After work, Ben and I joined his Tiger Den on a tour of the Mt Airy News.  Amy and I passed each other just briefly as she headed out to her MAJWC meeting.  Following dinner, which Amy had waiting, Ben and I took advantage of the beautiful weather by working on his catching and hitting.  He was on fire tonight, catching pop flies, throws to the left and right side of his body and balls thrown over his head.  After that, he joined Jackson and our neighbors Jack and Jessica in a game of badminton that lasted until dark.  I sat in the back yard playing guitar and sipping on a Corona, watching them play.  It is a fabulous time of year for sure.
I was reminded at bedtime that I wanted to post this before I forget it.  When Ben says his bedtime prayers, instead of "May Angels watch me through the night",  he says "MY angels..."  I like that, although I am sure it is one of the things that will disappear quickly.

Monday, March 21st, 2011.  I am posting a few more photos from yesterday's game.  You can find more here.  Surprisingly enough, this was Amy's first time watching a game in Cassell.  When I went to Tech, it was all about the basketball, but things had shifted to football by the time Amy made her way there.  The tickets were general admission, so we arrived a little over an hour early and sat 6 rows back from the court.  The boys did great considering the fact that we were in the gym for over 3 and a half hours, especially Ben.  We were planning on eating lunch after the game, but I wasn't sure how well he would hold out when the game went into overtime, but a giant Snickers bar got him through till the end.  We received free t-shirts as we walked in the door, toured the Hall of Fame during halftime, bought some popcorn and yelled as hard as we could.  Jackson twice single handedly managed to get the crowd to do the "Let's Go Hokies" cheer.  We drove downtown following the game and found Mike's (my favorite) closed.  Amy didn't think the boys would appreciate The Cellar (her favorite), so we hit The Hokie House.  All in all, other than the Hokies not getting the hard fought win, it was a superb day. 
On Saturday, we built a new raised garden bed, mowed the lawn for the first time and played about as many sports as you can pack into a day.  The boys played volleyball, badminton and kickball next door and basketball at our house.  Ben and I also played soccer, baseball and ping pong at our house.  On Friday, Jackson' s friend Everett came over to play basketball in the driveway, at BHT's Fit and Fun night and at the gym till it closed.  After dropping Everett off at his house, the boys went back to shooting basketball in the driveway under the lights.  It is all ball all the time around our house right now. 
We had our first coach pitch practice tonight.  Hopefully it will come together in time for the first game, I am always a little worried during the chaos of those first practices.  On a bright note for Ben, while on the mound, he threw his glove out and made a fast snag when I tried to hit a ball past him to center field. 

Jackson, now and thenSunday, March 20th, 2011.  We spent a fantastic day on campus at Virginia Tech.  We started this morning with a 2nd round NIT tournament game at Cassell Colliseum.  The Hokies lost in overtime by 2 points, but they played great and we were very happy to see Malcolm Delaney play in what turned out to be his final collegiate game.  Our nephew Caleb joined us for the day and we enjoyed showing him around campus, since he might very well end up a Hokie himself one day.  We started things with a stop at the Hokie House for lunch, then hit Squires, the campus bookstore, Jackson's favorite, the drill field, Burruss Hall, McBride Hall, as well as a few other stops, like free frozen ice on Main Street in honor of the 1st day of Spring.  Click here for more photos from Blacksburg.

Our nephew Caleb

Friday, March 18th, 2011. One Sunday following church, we invited some of Ben's friends and their families over.  The Lindsley and Bansfield clans joined us for a fun afternoon of ping pong, foosball, Wii and a bunch of games the kids made up on the fly, including massausage and an alligator game of tag. 

In pet news, Ruby Sue is now two.  I woke from a nap on the couch this past weekend to find her and Amy relaxing in the recliner.  I happened to have a camera next to me, so I snuck a quick photo.  Sadly, Jackson's goldfish Forest, who had been with us for a little over a year, passed away.  And Ben's goldfish Patrick, who only recently joined us, died as well.  Both were won during the Jones Intermediate School Spring Fling.  So our fish bowls are currently empty.

To further catch up on recent happenings, on a monsoon of an afternoon, Amy and the boys were locked out of their van in Winston-Salem.  Our good friend Brooke and her family came to the rescue, but on the way to their house, Ben threw up.  I picked up the family at the Joyce house, then stopped by Krispy Kreme to cash in a few free donut coupons.  Ben threw up twice shortly after I took the photo of him in his little Krispy Kreme hat.  He slept on the way home, but continued to be sick for the rest of the night.  Amy fell ill two days later.  On a more positive note, Ben played Sink the Skunk in a 1st grade presentation at the monthly PTO meeting.  He also attended a baseball camp at the Mt Airy High School.  And I included a photo of a book report drawing he made that was displayed on the halls of his school.

Thursday, March 17th, 2011.  Ben wanted to make a cherry pie on President's Day in honor of George Washington.  We didn't get around to it on that day, but when he brought it up again a week later, I drove to the store to get a can of cherries.  He and Amy then baked what turned out to be a delicious pie. 

With warm weather finally arriving, the boys can frequently be found shooting basketball on any one of three different courts in our neighborhood.  And just as Jackson did just before he turned eight, Ben is now transitioning from toys and superheroes to all sports all the time.  He now watches Sports Center with Jackson in the mornings and spends all of his free time playing on the Nerf hoop mounted on his bunk bed.  He never plays with his toys anymore and has started choosing athletic wear over shirts with super heroes on the front.  Between the two boys, some sort of ball is in constant motion at our house.  Ben's Coach Pitch screening was last night, which means that we are now playing a lot of catch in the yard and hitting balls.  Believe it or not, it took us 4 hours to screen and draft the teams.  Jackson, for the first time ever, is taking a season off from organized sports.  He is instead, focusing solely on improving his basketball skills in the hopes of playing year round ball.  We will miss soccer this Spring, but it is nice that Amy and Jackson will be able to attend all of Ben's baseball games.

 

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011.  In preparation for a Tiger Cub hike that I would be leading, Ben and I went to the HB Rowe Environmental Park to map out a trail and to collect leaf samples.   It was a fun way to spend time together on an otherwise dreary Saturday.  We later identified the leaves Ben found and made the list for a scavenger hunt.

Two days later, Ben's den of Tiger Cubs and their parents hiked through the woods, following the map and collecting the items on the list.  Ben said that he enjoyed our first hike more.  He was disappointed that I was leading the group and unable to help him find the items on the list.  But I thought it went well and the scouts seemed to enjoy the hike.   The cubs then went to Pizza Hut to eat, trace their leaves and discuss the weather. 

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011.  Over the past two weeks, it has seemed that Spring has begun to arrive.  The kids are playing outside and the grass is starting to turn green, thanks to two really large rains.  One afternoon, while the kids were shooting arrows from their bows next door, little Joe busied himself in a muddy corner of the garden.  He transported the mud and the water and was very involved with his project.  One by one the older kids were drawn into his game, until finally, they were all making mud pies, mud cones, mud spas, mud soup, mud baseballs and more.  I didn't have the camera out when Jackson and Jack decided to see who could get the muddiest.  Jackson had mud caked in his hair and on his face.  That part was fun.  Getting hosed down with cold water in the yard, not so much.  

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011.  So just as Ben was accepting his 1st place trophy on one side of town, Jackson was about to tip off his championship basketball game.  Ben and I slid in the door right after they announced the players.  Jackson's team started nervously and fell behind 0-4, but then quickly turned it around with an 8-0 run in which four different players scored, including Jackson.  Click here for a video from that section.  They went on to win in dominating fashion, just as they did in Thursday night's game, only this time, all 7 players scored.  It was a great team effort with a suffocating press defense and balanced offensive attack.  I couldn't have been more proud of either boy.  Jackson's coach, Jon, took the entire team out for lunch at Pizza Hut.  Amy spent her afternoon reading in the sun on the back porch, I played guitar on the front porch, Jackson played basketball with our neighbor Jessica and Ben played video games.  That evening we ran out to buy Ben new shoes, then watched Open Season 3 followed by Virginia Tech against #1 Duke.  We just knew that as good as the day had went, things would have to continue, and sure enough, the Hokies won.  What a perfect day. (photos courtesy of Deana)