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Wednesday the 30th. Click here for a wrap up of this months thoughts and photos.

Tuesday the 29th.  Jackson routinely comes home with notes that he has written to or about Grandma Sue.  He brought this drawing and note home yesterday.  The holidays are hard this year.  If not for the children, I'm sure we wouldn't celebrate at all.  Grandma Sue played a huge role in our Christmas.  Before we had children and when Jackson was little, we traveled to Colonial Heights on Christmas Eve so that we could spend Christmas morning with Sue.  Jackson woke up at his Grandma Sue's house his first two Christmas mornings.  The past three years we let the boys wake up to Christmas at their house, but we setup a live webcam in the living room so that Grandma Sue could watch the boys discover and open their presents.  Once the wrapping paper settled, we loaded the van with their favorite new toys and made the four hour drive to Grandma's house so that we could still be with Sue on Christmas day.  She rivaled Santa every year and when we fussed about it Sue would say "I might not be here next year, so let me do what I want."  We miss Sue terribly and it's so hard not to have her here to share our Christmas with again this year.

Monday the 28th. Jackson carries his chess board with him where ever he goes in hope of finding someone to play.  If you don't know how to play, he'll teach you.  In the last week he has taught his mom, his grandmother, his cousin Caleb, his cousin Jimmy, and his aunt Charla all how to play.  And you can add his uncle Alan and uncle Martin to the list of people he's wrangled into playing with him.  Today at school his teacher asked the students to draw their favorite thing from the holiday weekend.  Jackson came home with a picture of him and I playing chess.

Sunday the 27th. We managed to get our Christmas tree today, even though we found our van broken in the driveway this morning and even though it was cold and raining (our next chance to get a tree would have been in two weeks).  Jackson picked it out and did a super job.  The one criteria for our tree is that it is too big for our house.  As long as it meets that, then it's perfect.  (A big shout out to our friends the Eads for letting us borrow their van!)  Click here to visit our gallery of Christmas Tree Farm photos.

  

Saturday the 26th.  Today we said goodbye to our houseguests after a fun afternoon at Sci-Works in Winston-Salem.  Tonight we visited my sister Deana and brother-in-law Martin to see their new black lab puppies.  Few things are as cute as Labrador puppies and we wanted to see them while they are still tiny.  We had a fun visit, the boys played Deana's Candyland DVD game while Martin and I watched the Hokies beat up on the Tarheels.  Now it's time to turn in for the night.

Friday the 25th. If you want to read more about our holiday or see all of our photos, then please visit our Thanksgiving Page.  For those that don't know, I LOVE Thanksgiving and couldn't imagine a better way to spend it other than with my grandmother and family on the farm in Virginia.  I say that every year and each year I am thankful that I get to say it again.  Hama is the best cook in the world and her chicken and dumplings are the best ever.  We were also thrilled to meet my newest and littlest first cousin Madi Heath.  She is so pretty. 

Amy's brother Alan and his family arrived this afternoon and we look forward to their company this weekend.

My grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day 2005

Thursday the 24th. Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm too tired (and full) to describe our day, I'll do that some other time.  But we had a wonderful day spent with family and friends.

Wednesday the 23rd.  I think I've mentioned that Jackson plays chess now.  Yesterday he taught Amy how to play during Ben's nap.  This afternoon he taught my mom how to play.  He and I play just before bedtime and sometimes manage to get a game in before he goes to school.  We have to watch out for BenBen though.  He'll steal the knights and say "my neigh-neigh."

Tuesday the 22nd.  Goodbye incredible 10X zoom.  Goodbye dear sweet 6 frame burst.  So long aperture, PASM mode, and rechargeable battery pack.  Today.. my DX6490... fell... from ... the ... mantle... and ....  Well, I changed my mind, I don't want to talk about it right now, so let's just move on...  read more.

 

Monday the 22nd. Today I am posting more photos to my nephew Caleb's birthday party gallery.

            

Sunday the 21st.  While Ben went to church with his Papa this morning, Jackson shopped for temporary tattoos with his dad.  Now that's two different ways to spend a Sunday morning.  Jackson was so thrilled with the Darth Vader tattoo he got at Caleb's birthday party yesterday that this morning he filled up a sandwich bag with money from his piggy bank to buy more.  He is currently sporting nine temporary tats.  He put them on himself this evening and they are on his legs, feet, hands, arms, one wrapping around his bicep, and one just over his belly button. 

Amy worked today, so Jackson and I went by ourselves to Hama's house for lunch and to meet up with BenBen.  We also ran into more of my family, as you so often do, at Hama's house and the boys got the chance to play, not only with their cousins from Claudville, but also with cousins Kelsey and Kamryn from Charlotte. 

Even though the Steelers lost in overtime, my Hokies are back in the top five and in the driver's seat for a second ACC title, plus Tony won the Championship.  Not a bad sports weekend.  And not only did I get to eat Hama's FANTASTIC sweet potato cobbler today, but the weekend started with one of Amy's scrumptious pumpkin cakes and ended with half an apple cake still hot from our friend's oven (thanks Timmesa!).  Not a bad dessert weekend either.

 

 

Caleb's 8th Birthday PartySaturday the 19th.  Today we celebrated our nephew Caleb's 8th birthday at a party in Claudville, Virginia.   Isn't he handsome?  And isn't his sister Isabelle a pretty little thing too? I took the photo of her during a walk that Izzy, Jackson and I went on.

Friday the 18th. To answer our most frequently asked question (do you really live in Mayberry?) and to have a one stop shop for photos of our little town, I created the Mayberry Gallery.  I've been working on it for some time and just now finished scouring through the past five years looking for photos of downtown.  Anyway, if don't already know the answer to the question or if you just want to see the photos, then click over to check it out.  Speaking of Mayberry, Amy, Ben and I ate lunch with my mom at Barney's.  I'm quickly getting hooked on the Barney Burgers with all those grilled onions and bacon.  Mom watched Ben this morning at our house while Amy worked on Christmas ornaments with Jackson's kindergarten class.

Thursday the 17th.  Jackson and I have spent our night playing with the new remote controlled flying saucer that his friends Dylan and Patty gave him.  That's the great thing about having boys.  I get to play with all their cool toys.   And I've got a new karate video from Wednesday night, Benjamin is the one in the background making all the bickity bickity boo noise.  (3.4MB)

Wednesday the 16th.  Click here for a lengthy Wednesday Wrap-Up.

Tuesday the 15th. Before I had my own children, I wasn't the type person that noticed other people's kids in a store and said "oh, look how cute."  Now I do that all the time, but the one thing that I have always thought was over the top cute, even way, way back to pre-parent days, is a little boy with cowboy boots on.  You know, the kid in the mall with a red cowboy hat and cowboy boots on walking on his heels.  So when Jackson was two I bought him a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas  (the ones that Ben has on in today's photo.)  And since Dad was in charge of dressing all us boys on Saturday morning, Jackson and I dug through our closets to find our cowboy boots too.  We then ran out to run errands and walk on our heels through stores. 

Saturday was leaf day for me and the boys.  Jackson has started taking his own photographs and while I raked leaves, he walked around the yard with the camera.  He took photos of his tree house, me, the sky, the trees, bugs, the dogs, and everything else he saw (you have to love digital cameras).  He told me that he wanted to be a photographer when he grew up.  By Monday that had changed to the guy that tells everyone what to do at the zoo.

           

Monday the 14th. The photos below are from our quick stop in Blacksburg yesterday. 

     

And these photos are a few more from our visit with Amy's sister's family.

  

Sunday the 13thToday's soccer photos are of our nephew Wesley.  We drove to Roanoke, Virginia this morning to watch Wesley's traveling soccer team play in a weekend tournament.  They won the game and finished in second place.  It's hard to believe that we haven't seen Wesley play in six years (he was ten then!).  He played fantastic.  I did a terrible job of getting the good action shots.  I was a half second behind all his best moves (that ball moves fast).  It was a beautiful November day, the boys loved being on the soccer fields and enjoyed cheering for their oldest cousin.  After the game we had a picnic lunch at a nearby park with Sherri, Wesley, and Jesse before leaving.  We had just enough time to swing through Blacksburg to do a little Christmas shopping on our way home.  I love visiting VA Tech where Amy and I both went to school, especially in the fall.  It's fun seeing how much has changed and to see the things that haven't changed at all.  Hopefully we'll get back soon when we can spend more time and maybe visit some of our old friends that we never see anymore (if you guys are out there, HEY!). more photos on Wesley's page ...

  

Saturday the 12th.   Last night Amy said "WHAT?  Ben gets his first haircut and you post kayaking photos?"  She had a good point, Ben getting his first haircut is a big deal, a huge deal, it's gigantic.  It's another milestone, but I wanted to wait until I could put a little clip together (no pun intended).  And here it is... Ben's First Haircut (2.7MB)  Our thinking was that the only thing we might regret is getting too much cut off.  If we later thought we didn't cut enough off, then we could turn around and go back again next week.  So with that in mind, we went for a baby step, just cutting length off the back.  Benjamin did great, we were really surprised

Friday the 11thPaddling in the dark, early in the morning, when it's 30F/-1C usually means you'll have the lake to yourself.  And if you're lucky, it also means that you'll get to watch the sun land on the Blue Ridge Mountains through the rising mist and glide past the only remaining residents of the lake, the beaver and the wood duck, unnoticed.  I can't think of a better way to start the day.

This morning I woke up early (for me anyway), jumped in the van (the kayak was already loaded), drove just across the Virginia border, and (in the dark) set my Dagger Element in Lovill's Creek Lake for the first time since my nephew Jesse visited in July.  I love paddling early in the morning and late in the evening...  the wildlife is active, the lake is empty, the mist is rising, and the photographs take themselves.  The photo of the kayak in front of the sunrise is my favorite kayaking photo in a long time, especially since I didn't have to edit it at all.   I edit all my photos, with a crop or contrast adjustment if nothing else, but I couldn't find anything to do to this photo.  Of all the photos I've ever taken, this one, also taken at Lovill's Creek Lake, is my all-time favorite.   It's been my desktop background since last March. (more photos...)

   

Thursday the 10th.  Jackson loves The Thing costume because it completely freaks me out.  About %50 of the time I pretend to be scared when he walks around the corner.  The other %50 of the time he actually does scare the bejeebers out of me.  Jackson has probably already gotten more use out of those $1 costumes than he has the Gameboy he got for Christmas last year.  Since the school's are closed tomorrow for Veteran's Day, Jackson is having a sleepover with his buddies Samuel and Matthew

And since tomorrow is Veteran's Day, here is the link to my Papa Welbert's page.   He might be the only true American hero I've known.  Of course he said that it was more about being brainwashed than about being brave.  He said that as an adult he looked back on how he would run into situations where bullets were flying and the ground was exploding and know that there was no way you could get him to do it again.  But he said that at the time,  the Army had him so gung ho you couldn't hold him back.  He would have taken on anything.  All I know is that the boys in WWII faced more and showed more bravery before they turned twenty than I will in a lifetime.   He went to see Saving Private Ryan when it came out and said that the beach landing and the battle in the town near the end were pretty close to the real thing, but the rest he said was just fluff.   Another story he had was about a guy that was always calm and brave, nothing rattled him, a real man's man kind of soldier.  Then one night they stopped in an old farmhouse for the night and the guy lost it.  He started panicking and they couldn't calm him down.  They finally had to put him in a room by himself.  That night a shell hit the side of the house he was in and killed him.   He was the only one injured.   Papa Welbert thought the kid knew he was going to die.  He didn't share a lot of stories from the war, but oh man did he love it when he got to talk to another WWII vet.  They could talk for days.  It didn't matter if the guy had been in Europe, Africa, or the Pacific.  They all shared the same bond.

Wednesday the 9th. First off, I need to make a correction.  I got our new beta's name wrong last night.  Jackson named her Finnpy, not Finnly.  He has a knack for naming things.  He doesn't think about it, it's more of the first thing that pops into your head type thing. 

Second, Ben got to go to his first story time at the library this morning and enjoyed it very much.  Story time was special for Jackson and Amy because it was one of the first things they started doing after we sprung Jackson from daycare.  I'm glad Ben is now getting to share that same experience.

Ben at the library                              

 

Tuesday the 8th. Jackson doesn't like change.  When he was Ben's age he would talk to the old b*throom floor after we had a new one put in because he was worried that it couldn't breath.  But we did get a new beta today and her name is Finnly.  He picked out a very nice red one that seemed like it wanted a bigger home than those pint sized things they live in at the pet store.

Monday the 7th. Today's photo is of Amy's little Mother's Day Maple Tree.  The idea will be to take similar timeline photos of it over the years.  That is if it makes it.  I accidentally killed the first tree Jackson and I gave her.  It was a cute little willow tree.  For this tree I've made a rule that I can't touch it.  If I don't touch it I can't kill it.  And speaking of trees...  they are absolutely beautiful this week.  Brilliant golds and oranges all over town.  Even a little crimson and burgundy mixed in.  Spectacular for November.  Sort of makes up for the dull October.

Tonight, following karate, Jackson and I went to see Sky High at the Downtown Cinema.  Jackson ran into a friend from school on the way in, so he got to sit with a buddy.  It was the second time Jackson had seen the movie, but the first for me.  I'm a big fan of watching movies at the old cinema on Main Street.  I remember watching For The Love of Benji and The Apple Dumpling Gang there when I was a kid. 

On the way out I broke the news to Jackson about Double.  We walked up Main Street and looked in the Aquarium Connection's window and talked about getting a new one tomorrow.  He was pretty matter-of-fact about it and I thought things were going well, but then we got home and the reality and the sadness of it hit him.  Or maybe it's just that he didn't want to cry until he could lay on his mommy and do it.  Tomorrow we will hike down to the river and give him a proper send off, letting him float off to sea with a bouquet of fresh cut flowers.

While shopping with Ben this morning Amy found Halloween costumes on sale for $1 (originally $26), so she bought Jackson three Fantastic Four character costumes and Ben a king costume for our dress-up basket.  They loved dressing up in them this afternoon making it a well spent four bucks.  Ben puts The Thing mask on and says "ooh scaawy."

Sunday the 6th. We came home from a weekend in Colonial Heights to find that poor Double had swam his way to fishy heaven.  I guess that's what you run into with a pet fish.  But we feel bad for Jackson and are trying to decide how to break the news.  Do you do the Cosby thing and make a big deal out of it or not?   I think we are going to play it by ear.

Today's photos are from our niece Lexi's soccer game on Saturday. 

   

Saturday the 5th.  I'm too depressed about the way the VA Tech/Miami game is going right now to post anything.  Let's hope things turn around soon.

Friday the 4th. Today's photos are once again from this past Sunday.  We were at one of our favorite playgrounds, but the leaves were more fun than the slides.  Amy got the first minutes to herself in probably two months today.  She tried to take Ben shopping earlier in the week, but he wouldn't let her try anything on, then when she got home she found that nothing she bought fit.  Doubly frustrating.  So we finally managed a baby sitter, my parents, and she was able to go to Winston-Salem by herself and shop in peace.  It took her awhile to get used to shopping without an octopus attached to her hip, but she eventually figured out how to do it.  Then it was back home in time to get Jackson off the bus before taking him to the dentist where Jackson got a sealer applied to help prevent cavities.   Amy said that he did absolutely fantastic, so it only took fifteen minutes.  whew...

 

Thursday the 3rd. Today's photos are from the Main Street portion of Monday's trick-or-treating.  Do you see the pretty little girl dressed as the devil standing next to Jackson?  Her name is Alaina and she is in Jackson's kindergarten class (and you didn't hear this from me), but he thinks she is cute.   She had told him that she was going to dress as batgirl which really had him excited.  If you look at the photo closely you can see his shy grin and a little twinkle in his eye.  Coincidentally, or maybe not, it is a small town, a photo of Alaina trick-or-treating made the front page of our local newspaper.  We showed it to Jackson at dinner on Tuesday.  He looked at it for a minute, then dropped the paper, and fliply said "I think they should have used the photo with me in it."

Amy's friend from Petersburg, Sendella, who now lives just up the road in Galax stopped by to visit this morning with her one year old son Evan.  He and Ben had a nice time playing and Amy enjoyed the visit.  Sendella also brought us a pan of her delicious spaghetti with Mac-Daddy meatballs and pepperoni.  Yum.  Whenever Amy said "Sendella" at lunch Ben would say "bippity boppity boo... Cinderalla".

Today is Jackson's half birthday and ever since his buddy Samuel had a half-birthday party a couple of years ago, he has expected the same.  Samuel had one for good reason, his birthday is right after Christmas.  But Jackson just thinks that everyone has one.  Jackson said that he wanted pizza and Rice Krispy squares, so that's what we took with us to Sam's house for a small party.

 

Wednesday the 2nd. First I would like to say congratulations to Mike and Jennifer.  I have a brand new first cousin.  Her name is Madeline Heath and I cannot wait to meet her. 

Today's photos are some of the boys and I from over the weekend.  Three photos from a playground in Hillsville that we visited Sunday morning and one of Ben and I jamming early Saturday morning.  When I pick up the guitar Ben runs into his room to get one of his instruments so that he can play with me.  The cute thing is that he watches me and tries to stand just like I do.  He also watches my foot and tries to tap his the way I do.  Saturday morning we were playing American Woman when I decided that we should pull out the Strat and do it right.  After taking it out of its case and blowing the dust off the amp, we cranked it up.  The boys were so tickled with that.  They... read more

                                   

Tuesday the 1st. Traveling north of Mayberry for forty-five minutes on I-77 leads you to the tunnel that will take you under Big Walker Mountain.  It takes 45 seconds to pass under the mountain, Jackson counted.  And when you emerge on the other side you are greeted by the expansive and unbroken views of Bland County.  This part of south-west Virginia is as pretty as it gets.   Amy's mother, Rebecca Sue Muncy Mills, was born here, so was her grandfather, Andrew "Duce" Muncy.  Her Great-Grandfather, Charles Perry Muncy, Sr was born there as well and graduated from Amy's alma mater, Virginia Tech.  As a matter of fact, Amy's family goes back another three generations in Bland to 1776, the year we declared our independence from Great Britain, the place Francis Muncy left in 1651, working his way across the Atlantic as a needle boy on a grain ship.  

On Sunday we visited Bland and our first stop was to... more story, more photos