Thursday, November 30th, 2006. Today's photo is my favorite from last Sunday's photo shoot. I know it's just because I'm his parent, but I think Ben is at a terribly cute age and size right now. Today's other photo is from a picnic we had outside the library yesterday following Ben's story time. Amy packed enough food for all three of us and we met during my lunch break. I like the picnic collage because it shows a very big part of Ben's personality. You may notice that in two of the photos he appears to be focused intently on something off camera. Ben is very, very suspicious of strangers and extremely shy in public. Two city workers were blowing leaves on the library grounds and Ben would not take his eyes off them. If it's an option, he'll peer like that from... (read more).
Wednesday, November 29th, 2006. Ben has been so happy about having his own gi. He told everyone he saw over Thanksgiving that he had his very own white belt. Jackson is even more excited about his school's Christmas program because he got a speaking part. He's already memorized it and last night he started doing it with his Elvis accent. Sometimes I think his Elvis impersonation sounds a little like Betty Davis. Both of our boys inherited a strong appreciation for Elvis from their mother.
Other news is that Ben finally has a new song. We were all very, very tired of Ice Ice Baby. His new song is Taking It To The Streets by the Doobie Brothers. Although I think he listens to the Taylor Hicks cover and Jackson already says he's tired of it.
Monday, November 27th, 2006. Jackson asked me tonight if I wanted to hear one of the songs from his upcoming 1st grade Christmas program. If you want to hear it too, all you have to do is click here (3.5MB).
Sunday, November 26th, 2006. We started the day making snowflakes out of coffee filters, making paper airplanes and playing with remote controlled cars in the driveway. After that we went to my mom's house for a wonderful lunch with family and our good friend Sharon. The weather was great and all the kids enjoyed playing outside. We ended the day with another wonderful meal, this time in Walnut Cove with our Dinner Club friends. My sister Deana setup a backdrop and took photos in between lunch and dinner. Deana gave me copies of the photos she took and I took several myself, so I'll probably post lots of them a little later. It was a really nice day for the whole family.
Friday, November 24th, 2006. For details and photos from our awesome Thanksgiving, you can visit our page dedicated solely to Turkey Day. My sister out-classed me with her camera this year and has some great photos on her site, including this really good one of Ben. This afternoon the boys went to see Happy Feet with their Aunts Deana and Melanie. Then when I got home from work, we drove across town to enjoy a delicious anti-Thanksgiving barbeque dinner with our friends Jeff and Timmesa.
Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006. Today's photo is of Ben's 3-5 year old Pee Wee Karate class. You can really tell in this photo how small Ben is for his age. One of Ben's habits is to pull on his top lip. He does it ALL the time. I think it's interesting that in this photo, half the class is doing it. Tuesday was the first time that I got to watch a whole class. Those little kids doing karate are about the cutest thing I've ever seen. It's impossible not to grin while watching them. I reorganized our Karate Page by adding a White Belt page for Ben and a new Brown Belt page for Jackson. You'll find more photos of both boys on those pages and can find more from their classes at the Mount Airy Martial Arts website.
Click here for a clip from Ben's Pee Wee Karate Class (3MB).
Monday, November 20th, 2006. On Saturday, while Amy was at work, the boys decided to mail their mom a letter, so off to the post office we went. When we got there Ben seemed surprised that he recognized the building. He looked around and said "Hey, Mommy takes me here all the time!" He did the same thing when we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant Friday night to meet friends. He said "Hey, Deana and her friends take me here all the time!" I guess Ben is a man about town.
Sunday, November 19th, 2006. We had a busy week that included lots of running around on Amy's part. On Tuesday, she had to take Ben with her to drop Jackson off at school at 7:30, then pick up our car at the mechanic's before dropping Ben off at pre-school at 8:30, go back to Jackson's school to volunteer as a reading tutor at 10, pick Ben up at 11:30, get his lunch and nap in before Jackson got home at 2:15, take Jackson to a dentist appointment at 3, get Ben to karate by 4, then Jackson to karate at 5. I didn't show up until 6:30, just in time to help squeeze dinner and b*ths in before bedtime. And that was just what she did on Tuesday. She was running around all week getting repairs made to our car while I was out of town working. Amy also took my grandmother to the doctor one day and visited her on another.
Jackson was presented his brown belt on Tuesday and Ben got his first gi. Both were very excited. Ben is really, really cute in his little size 0000 gi with all the cuffs rolled up. I'm proud of how hard Jackson worked during October. He spent Ben's naptime today learning the last part of Seisan kata that he didn't have yet. Today was spent around the house which was a nice change of pace. Yesterday was fun too, we went to my nine year old nephew Caleb's birthday party. Let's hope things slow down a little for us this week.
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006. I had the best time paddling Sunday. Blue skies, warm sun, clear water, cold air, big boofs off little rocks, and an 8 point buck on the river bank. You can read more about it here if you want and see more of the photos.
Sunday, November 12th, 2006. When Jackson left for a sleep-over at my parent's house Thursday night, he was crying because he had changed his mind about going. Friday night he was crying because he didn't want to come home yet. He, my dad and my nephew Caleb started their day with a pancake breakfast at our cabin. They were later joined by Ben, Izzy and Seth in my grandmother's garden to dig potatoes.
On Saturday the boys spent their day working outside again. It was leaf raking day at our house. I dread that job more each Fall, although the boys are a little more help each year. I remember raking leaves with Jackson when he was Ben's age. It's amazing how much he's grown up since then. He looks so big in today's photo.
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006. Just look at those big brown eyes. My sister Deana took this photo of Ben on Sunday.
Tuesday, November 7th, 2006. When paddling lakes, I like to be on the water either when the sun comes up or when it goes down. That's when the wildlife is the most active, the lake the most photogenic and the world the quietest. I also like to paddle flat-water during the cold months, focusing on white-water during the warmer half of the year. So this was my first time out to Lovill's Creek Lake since April. I reached the dock a little later than I had planned, with a sky already looking like this. My favorite photo from the evening shows how dark it was by the time I neared the far side of the reservoir. During the paddle back to the dock, I watched the moon rise over the dark horizon. I wouldn't have stayed so long on the water, but I completely lost track of time watching the families of beaver swim around the small island in the reservoir's far right corner. I have no idea how many beavers were actually there, but at one point I counted six above water at the same time. While I focused on a baby beaver working its way around the island's edge, two adults silently closed to within feet of my kayak before scaring the life out of me with their splashing tail slaps. I floated for probably fifteen minutes without putting my paddle in the water while the beavers swam to and fro, occasionally circling my boat. It was too dark to get a focused photo. The few I took look like blurry photos of the Lockness Monster. During the Summer, while enjoying the thrills of white-water, I forget why I enjoy paddling flat-water so much. But I was instantly reminded Sunday night as I glided silently through waters reflecting the November sky's brilliant colors and the silhouette of Canadian Geese flying above their new Winter home.
This morning, after taking both boys to school and before I went to the office, Amy and I were able to vote together (DEMOCRATIC!!!!), eat breakfast at Snappy Lunch on Main Street and do a little grocery shopping. Following that, Amy went to Jackson's school where she now volunteers as a reading tutor once a week. She also got to eat lunch with Jackson before picking Ben up from pre-school.
I hope everyone else here in the US made it to the polls today!
Monday, November 6th, 2006. What better way to spend a nice crisp Fall afternoon than horseback riding through the woods. On Sunday we visited my sister Deana and brother-in-law Martin, who were nice enough to saddle two of their horses, Spirit and Freckles, for Amy and Jackson to ride down to the creek in the valley below their house. I was very pleased with how well both Amy and Jackson did. It was Amy's first time on a horse, ever, so I'm sure she was a little nervous, but I couldn't tell it if she was. And I really expected Jackson to get scared, but he didn't at all. It's been a long time since he's been on a horse. Ben on the other hand wanted to stay very far away from all the horses. Martin's horse Ruby didn't like being left behind and made several dashes across the pasture. While pausing to watch her sprint back and forth, I told Ben that I like horses that run. He said "I don't like any kind of horse!" He later added "I want a baby horse, one this high (holds hand about a foot off the ground), that walks reeeeeeaaaaaaalllly slow." I was also impressed with Deana. She switched places with Amy for the ride back, but took off in such a fast trot with Spirit that I didn't have time to take a photo of them. I had to hike straight up the hill hoping to cut the corner and catch them before they got back to the house. By the time I made it to the top, I was too winded to hold the camera steady, so I still didn't get a good photo. You can read Deana's post about the day here.
We also visited my grandmother and had a wonderful lunch of salmon cakes, mashed potatoes, green beans, fried apples, homemade biscuits, corn bread, turnips, sawmill gravy with pound cake for dessert. Once we got home, I snuck off for a little late evening kayaking as the sun went down. Later, I fell asleep with the kids, leaving Amy the only one up to watch Desperate Housewives. (More photos here).
Friday, November 3rd, 2006. When Jackson took today's photo, he laughed and said "oooooh, I caught you kissssing!" I should post a collection of Jackson's photos one day. He gets the best pics of Ben. After six years of almost no photos together, Amy and I are now starting to get a few here and there, thanks to Jackson.
Exactly a week after these photos were taken during a family outing to Meadows of Dan, Virginia, the rarest of rare events occurred. Amy and I got to spend a few hours without the kids. Just the two of us. We spent those hours driving aimlessly through the mountains, enjoying the quiet. We made a stop in Floyd, home to one of our favorite bloggers, Colleen. While browsing through the stores in Floyd, I was reminded of the Sunday afternoons Amy and I spent in downtown Blacksburg before we were married. At Cafe Del Sol, Amy tried a couple of different coffees while I enjoyed an AnchorSteam next to the infamous scrabble boards. When you have kids, you are so used to being in hyper-drive, that you have to force yourself to slow down when you are away from them. It's a hard thing to do. On our way home, strictly by chance, we found ourselves driving past our friend Anita's house, so we stopped in for a quick and fun visit. We then made one more stop, in Stuart, Virginia to eat dinner at the Mexican restaurant before picking up the boys at my parent's house. A very nice day indeed.
Wednesday, November 1st, 2006. Here's the quick run down of Halloween '06. Ben started things off with a party yesterday morning at his pre-school where he did all sorts of fun things like Monster Bowling. From there it was straight to Jackson's 1st grade Halloween party, followed immediately by trick or treating on Main Street with our friend Sam, where Ben, who by this point had morphed into Thomas the Tank Engine, ran into many of his pre-school buddies. According to Amy, the candy the kids were eating had started taking effect around this time. But we were just getting started. Next up, following a quick supper at our friend's house, was the house-to-house trick or treating where we managed to cover three completely different neighborhoods, with strategic stops to see friends and teachers. Ben was back to being the Red Power Ranger for this part of the day. He loved many parts of Halloween, mostly the candy, but he hated all the scary stuff. He stayed on the street with either his mommy or daddy whenever we got to a house that had monsters or scary decorations. He wouldn't even go to the "Pirates of the Ben" house. That house was amazing. They had a full size pirate ship wrecked in the yard. It went into their house with the mast coming out of the roof. Jack Sparrow was outside drunk (pretend drunk, I think), letting the kids get candy from the full size treasure chest. It was seriously awesome. I wish I had better pics. At one of our friend's houses, a guy was in the front yard dressed as Leather Face from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They had huge torches flaming through the tops of their jack-o-lanterns. Ben sat in the van trembling and crying. He said, very sadly, through the tears streaming down his cheeks, "Evewything is too scary!!" I'm SCARED!!!" And when all the trick or treating was wrapped up, we still managed to get to Claudville in time to see all of my family at my parent's house. We got home around nine, lit the jack-o-lanterns, brushed the candy off the boys' teeth and all immediately collapsed. (photos here)