Wednesday, November 28th, 2007.  If Amy was the one updating our site, it wouldn't have taken three days to post about our new oven and refrigerator.  She only had to wait ten years to get them.  The photos don't really convey it, but you wouldn't believe what a difference they made to the kitchen.  Jackson is happiest about the crushed ice and water dispenser in the door.  There are lots and lots of new features that Amy's happy about.

We've got so many ornaments.  Jackson said that it would take two days to get them all on the tree and he was right.  The boys went separately today to get their 2007 ornaments.  Ben picked out a Batman ornament and Jackson got a Star Wars one that lights up and says three different things .  Click here for our Christmas Tree gallery.

   

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007. Today's photos are from our visit with Amy's brother's family on Friday and Saturday.  We spent lots of time in the yard playing Friday afternoon, but then Jackson came down with a fever that evening.  So Saturday was spent, for the most part, inside.  At one point, Jackson, Nicole and Ben were simultaneously logged into their respective Webkinz accounts on three different laptops in the dining room.  Their virtual pets were playing together in a virtual room while they all sat together in the same real life room.  How crazy is that?  The boys love their cousins and clung to Nicole in an attempt to keep her from leaving.

Monday, November 26th, 2007.  We left Sunday dinner at my Mom's house in Claudville and drove straight to Slaughter's Tree Farm in Fancy Gap, Virginia to find our Christmas tree on a cold, windy overcast day.  Click here to visit our Christmas Tree Farm photo gallery.

This marked the fifth Christmas Tree we've picked from Slaughter's Tree Farm.  Below are photos of all five of those trees.

 

I'm sure that taking the lights off the tree last year, then leaving them in a big ball seemed like a wonderful idea at the time.  But eleven months later, it doesn't seem like the brightest move.  It took Amy, Jackson and I all day to untangle them.  Jackson and I are putting the lights on now while Amy is at the store buying replacement strands for all the ones that didn't work.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Friday, November 23rd, 2007.  Another wonderful Thanksgiving spent at Hama's house.  Ben again rode his four wheeler all over the yard, trying to run over anything that would run away from him.  For much of the time, he did this while waiving a sword with one hand and eating turkey with the other.  The photo of Ben and his cousin Seth sharing the four wheeler puts Ben's size into perspective.  Seth is a full two years younger than Ben and almost the exact same size.  Jackson played basketball with his cousin Caleb.  I won't give his dunk secret away, but the photos are not altered.  Jackson could have done that all day long.  Amy ran five miles earlier that morning, so she opted to stay in the house helping Hama rather than chase the kids around the yard.  I ate enough to keep me full for two more days.  The photo of the cakes are, in order, Amy's white grape juice cake, my sister Deana's chocolate cake and my sister Melanie's apple cake.  After lunch and after everyone else left, the boys rode with their Papa to his farm and helped feed the cows and donkeys while Amy and I spent the afternoon visiting.  It was a small crowd this year, but the food was, as usual, perfect.  Click here to visit our Thankgiving Page.

It should be a busy and fun weekend.  Amy's brother Alan and his family arrived this afternoon.  Both of our boys have been very excited that their cousins Jimmy and Nicole would soon be arriving.  We'll probably drive to West Virginia and visit with Amy's aunt and uncle and maybe even pick out our Christmas tree.

Monday, November 19th, 2007.  If you want to know what it looks and sounds like out on the lake before sunrise in November, then you can watch this video from the Sunday morning's paddle (15MB).  If you want to know what it feels like, then stick your hands in a bowl of ice water while you watch it.  I hit the water at 6:30, in the dark, and spent lots of time coasting along in the cold, watching turkeys, beavers, ducks, geese, hawks, songbirds and a deer.   The deer was a buck that walked down to the water while I happened to be shooting video It's too dark to see him on the clip, but you can hear him walking through the leaves.  I had pulled the camera out hoping to catch a beaver's tail slap, but my fingers were too cold to switch the camera to video mode.  The beaver had slapped the water and moved on by the time I finally had the camera working, so I decided to video for a few minutes just to document what the lake sounds like early in the morning.  In those few minutes I caught a second beaver swimming further away, the deer walking along the shore and the geese taking flight and leaving for the day.   Not long after putting the camera back up, I spotted six turkeys across the cove and in honor of Thanksgiving, I paddled over to watch them walk along a narrow strip between the wood line and the water.  On my way back to the take-out, I sat and watched two hawks sharing a tree until they both decided to fly away.  It was cold, but the water was flat with no chop, and I enjoyed the two hours I spent on the lake.  (More photos here)

       

Friday, November 16th, 2007.  My sister Deana gave the boys ninja costumes last weekend and sent us the above photo.   Yesterday, Jackson finished all his homework in time for his hour and a half karate class, which he followed up with an hour of basketball practice, getting home past bedtime, needing to eat supper and take a sh*wer.  But tonight, there's nothing to do.  No homework, no practice.  So we're all settling in for a movie night in the playroom.  I put a few clips together for Jackson's dojo's website last night, one of the beginner class and one of the advanced class, in case you're interested.  At the end of the beginner video you can watch Jackson lay some of his brown belt Jujitsu moves on his buddy from 2nd grade who is just starting karate.  Jackson's found it fun to sit in on Benjamin's beginner class because it's pretty low stress, he can work out with friends and he gets to impress the white belts with things they haven't seen yet.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007.  What I like about this photo of Ben getting ready to side kick is how Jackson and his friend Jake are watching with such anticipation.

Four Wheeling - Woof Woof (6MB)

Monday, November 12th, 2007.   With the start of school, soccer, karate and other things, we let too much time pass without visiting my grandmother in Claudville.  So on Sunday, on our way back from picking up the boys at my Sister Deana's house, where they had spent the night, we stopped by for a visit and for lunch.  Jackson practiced riding his bike,  Ben rode the four-wheeler all around the yard until the battery died (click here for the video) and both played with their cousins who were also visiting.  Both boys managed to sword fight the entire time as well.  My sister gave them and their cousins Ninja costumes on Saturday.  Jackson stayed in his until we made him take it off Sunday night. 

Amy and I enjoyed our break on Saturday.  We went shopping, out to eat, visited baby Eli in Winston-Salem, then came home to watch a movie.  Jackson also had a basketball screening this weekend and seemed to enjoy playing.  His first practice is Thursday night.  Amy moved his goal to the driveway and he now likes to shoot baskets when he gets off the bus each afternoon.  Let the new sports season begin!

Amy's TreeFriday, November 9th, 2007.  Today's photo is of Amy's Mother's Day Tree in the front yard.  The two photos were taken exactly two years apart.  One of the things that made Amy sad when we thought we were moving, was leaving her tree behind.

Thursday, November 8th, 2007.  The incredible drought we are having in North Carolina has made this a tough year for local paddling.  But it finally rained a week and a half ago, allowing myself and many of my paddling buddies to get out and play close to home on a beautiful October day.  To take full advantage of the rare water, I actually paddled two rivers that day, Big Creek in neighboring Stokes County and The Mayo in Rockingham County.  The morning run was on a small, hard to access creek that has been at the top of my to-do-list for two years.  It has two fun class III rapids and a long stretch of scenic class II paddling.  The afternoon was spent playing on the Mayo's class III Boiling Hole and S Turn rapids.  The water only lasted for a couple of days, so the rain dances are already back on.   If you want to watch videos from either run, click here for the 12MB Big Creek video, here for the 40MB version, or here for the 13MB Hold The Mayo video.  You can also find many more details and photos here and here.

   

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007. Now that the soccer season is over, Jackson again has time in his schedule for Martial Arts.  He started back last week.  The big news though is that Ben started too.  At four and a half, we decided it was okay to let him start the Beginner's Class.  Doesn't he look tiny?  We think the top photo looks like he is at a dance.  Ben really had a good time.  He even got to grapple with his brother, who did a great job of letting Ben pin him.  Ben's just too cute out there, so expect lots of karate photos over the next few months.

Watching the Beginner's Class prompted me to look back through the photos from Jackson's first days in karate.  Two and a half years after those first months in the beginner's class, only two of those students, Jackson and one other, are still studying.   It takes a lot to hard work and patience and I'm proud of him for sticking with it for so long.   I also decided to finally get around to posting a video of Jackson battling his way to a 1st place medal in freestyle fighting last March when he was six.  Click here for the video - Push It (8MB).  Those boys had a toe to toe Rocky type slug fest.  Jackson didn't bring anything off the mat with him, he definitely gave %100 and left it all out there.  Both of the other competitors in the video are friends and study in the same dojo.  What I notice in the video is Jackson is almost always moving forward.   Except for the part where he thought he heard someone tell him to stop.  He turned around to look, which got him into trouble.  Shortly after that he was slammed pretty hard onto the mat and cried as he got up.  He was also hit hard in the face during one of the matches, although it's not on the video.  He never let it slow him down though.  Those kids are pretty amazing.  The video only shows a small part of the matches, they go on for much longer.  I would pass out if I tried to go at that pace for that long.

   

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007. For the first time in a very long time, we spent both Saturday and Sunday around the house.  Amy and I knocked some things off the to-do list Saturday morning, played in the front yard, then headed off with the boys for an adventure walk that took us through the woods, across the corn field, along the river and back through the playground at Jackson's school.  We brought Emma and Cassie along with us, but Zorro had to stay back at the house, resting on his pillow.  The weather change hasn't been kind to his joints.  This photo of Jackson and Zorro in the front yard reminded me of this one four years ago.  Zorro looks the same, but Jackson sure is growing up fast.

   

Monday, November 5th, 2007.  I keep a page on the website chronicling Jackson's Milestones and this weekend he crossed off one of the really big ones.  Amy and I both remember our first bike ride without training wheels and I bet Jackson will too.  He did that yesterday, going solo on two wheels for the first time.   (Video of Jackson's 1st time on 2 wheels 4MBs)  For whatever reason, we don't get the boys out with their bikes very often, almost never really.  And Jackson's never had any interest in loosing the training wheels.  But on Sunday, after getting up leaves and cutting the grass, I loaded two bikes for each boy, a skate board, a scooter, a battery powered 4wheeler and a battery powered motorcycle into the van, plus a few basketballs and a kick ball.  Amy and I unloaded all that on the blacktop at Jackson's school.  After Jackson took a few laps around the school on his old bike, with training wheels, I told him that I wanted him to try the bike out that his cousin Jimmy gave him, without training wheels.  I said that I would hold him the whole way.  He said "This isn't one of those times where an adult says that, then turns loose, I crash and never trust you again is it?"  I told him no.  So we made one or two passes with me holding him.  Then I let go with one hand.  Jackson thought I had let go with both hands.  He was excited that he did it, so he asked me to let go again on the next try.  And on that one, he went solo for the first time on two wheels.  He then did it again and again and again.   He said "this is AWESOME."  We eventually stopped because it was time for Ben's nap, but he wanted to go back to ride some more.  So he and I ran by the store to get a better helmet, then went back to the school.  This time, I only needed to help him for the first few feet and could then watch him peddle across the blacktop totally on his own.   From there we went to the bike trail, so that he could ride much further.  He loved it.  I on the other hand was exhausted from chasing after him all day, so we took another break.  We stopped by the house, picked up Amy and Ben and went to a park for some kick ball, which turned into a game we called "tackle ball".  Ben liked tackle ball a lot better because it didn't have any rules.  Click here for a video of Jackson's First Bike Ride (1.8MB) when he was Ben's age.  Ben wanted nothing to do with the bikes yesterday and preferred to tool around on the battery powered four wheeler.  He loved that though and yelled the entire time he was on it.