Monday the 31st. What a day... whew.  We are wiped out.  Benjamin stopped by my office for a practice trick-or-treat run just before lunch.  He showed up that time in the Tigger costume, but settled on being a cow for the real trick-or-treating.  Amy took the boys to Main Street to trick-or-treat with the Eads for the third year in a row.  As soon as Ben had some candy in his pumpkin he sat down on the sidewalk and said "Come on Mommy, let's eat."  By the way, Ben calls pumpkins hunkins, it's very sweet.  From there it was straight to Salem's eighth birthday party.  After a very fun party we rode the Halloween Hayride.  Ben was on cloud nine all day long.  Strangers giving him candy and getting to look like a cow made today a very, very good BenBen day.  Jackson was equally as happy once he got out of school.  We cut the hayride short to drive to Claudville where we first visited my old neighbors Debbie and Johnny.  Baby Ella was there and Benjamin had the best time ever playing with her.  She turned two in September and I guess Ben doesn't get to play with kids his own age very often.  When we left his lip pooched out the farthest I have ever seen it.  He wanted "to stay.  Stay with Ella!!!"  We wrapped things up at my parents house where we saw both my sisters and their families too.  As a matter a fact my sister Deana, who just started blogging, posted tonight faster than I did.  That's unfamiliar territory for me!  We carried Jackson from the van to his bed where he slept with a smile on his face.  He woke up just enough to tell us "Happy Halloween."  I'll post more photos later.



Sunday the 30th.  I've got a lot of really good photos from a wonderful day spent in Galax, Hillsville, and Bland Virginia, but if I don't post our jack-o-lantern photos tonight it will be too late.  So I'll work on the other photos later in the week after Halloween is over with and tell you all about our day then.  Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.  The kids will go trick-or-treating on Main St, followed by our friend Salem's birthday party, the Halloween trick-or-treat hay ride, and a last stop visit to my parents in Claudville .  Amy has three really cute Halloween costumes for Ben to choose from.  I can't wait to see what he picks.  He will either be a cow, lion, or Tigger.  Hope everyone out there enjoys their holiday!  (Jackson designed Amy's witch pumpkin just before bed tonight.  We think it looks a little like Squidward.)

Saturday the 29th.  I've got another clip <Two On One (1.7MB)>  from Jackson's  karate class.  In last night's drill, one student is in the middle of the mat with two attackers coming from opposing corners.  The idea is to keep moving while staying on the mat, without running away.  I think Jackson did an amazing job, more than holding his on against two older classmates.  He did a great job of staying on the offensive.  Nice to know that his milk money will be safe.

We carved four out of our five pumpkins tonight.  Ben loved smushing the goo in his hands.  Jackson bought a pumpkin for Grandma Sue and drew a heart on it tonight for me to cut out.   It looks very sweet.  Ben drew his own pattern on his pumpkin, which actually turned out to be a pretty scary jack-o-lantern.  Jackson picked the bat symbol for his and with Ben in mind, I made a cowboy jack-o-lantern.  I'll post photos once Amy has a chance to finish hers. 

We also found out today that our neighbors have moved.  They actually moved three weeks ago when we were out of town and we hadn't noticed.  One of our two neighboring houses is a rental house, which means that our neighbors change every year or so.  We'll miss little Jacob.  He was six and a good buddy for Jackson.  The most polite kid I've ever met.  Hopefully the house will stay empty over the winter.  It's like playing roulette when it comes to getting new neighbors.  We've had one family that we really liked, they didn't last long.  Then two sets of complete and total looney birds.  And then our last neighbors who were pretty nice.


Friday the 28th. Here's the scene.  Ben is in the tub, I've got my back turned getting everything ready for when he gets out.  Ben says "poop."  Yep, "poop."  How many people think he was speaking abstractly and how many think he was sitting in the tub looking at poop?  And how many of you picture Ben sitting in a tub with just water and poop and how many of you picture him sitting in water, poop, and a tub full of Jackson's toys?  I didn't want to exaggerate, so I counted them.  94.  94 tiny lizards and snakes and elephants and all God's other little creatures.  Tonight only the big open mouthed frog didn't make the cut.  93 toys were washed by hand one at a time.  Scrubbing the tub and getting the poop out is no problem. It's scrubbing those tiny antelopes that get you.  Jackson maybe did that three times as a toddler.  Ben does it about once a month and it's meant the end for many a bath toy.  I am hoping that this happens to other families, otherwise I would get a little more bummed out about it.  It does happen to everyone else too, right?

Jackson doing the "Suite Life" waveThursday the 27th. You know how toddlers kick their legs when you pick them up if they are upset.  Well, there is a certain height window where that becomes very dangerous for dads.  You dads out there know what I'm talking about.  Ben just hit that window.

Happy Birthday to my little sister Melanie!  Amy and Ben visited Melanie and baby Seth this morning and also ran into my other sister Deana.  Deana is at the Hokie football game tonight in Blacksburg that I'm watching on television right now.  Amy also took the boys this afternoon to a Halloween workshop at the library.  Jackson spent his evening doing homework and filling treat bags for his classmates.  It was his idea, of course he filled one up for himself too.

Wednesday the 26th. Ben has played cowboy a lot this week.  He asks for the hat, then gets one of his toy horses to carry around.  Ben even called me one day at the office to tell me that he was "Cowboy BenBen."  That was the day Amy took these photos of him.  He also says "Yee Haw, come on neigh-neigh."  Guess what, I've got a clip of our little cowboy baby too. 

Tonight's conversation at the dinner table...

Jackson - "How do you get one of those doo doo dolls?"

Me - "What?"

Jackson - "Wouldn't it be cool to have a doo doo doll of Jeff?".

Me - "Oh, I think you mean voodoo doll."

Jackson - "Yeah, how do I get one of those voodoo dolls?"

 Tuesday the 25th. I ate lunch with Jackson today at his elementary school and it was nice to see him so happy there.  He was in a great mood and seems very settled into the kindergarten routine.  It's gotten very cold lately in the South-East.  We jumped straight from highs in the seventies to highs in the forties way too fast for me.  Amy and Ben bought Zorro his new wintertime bed yesterday so that he could start staying inside overnight.  His bones have never been able to take the cold.  Emma and Cassie love the cooler temps and can't stand it inside until it gets really, really cold.  Amy made a big pot of nice hot vegetable soup this afternoon to help warm us up.  She's also cooked some delicious banana bread this week.  And unlike the soup, the kids love it as much as we do.  They also loved the ghosts we made after dinner from NutterButters, chocolate chips, and icing.

Monday the 24th.  Today I am posting photos from last night's Dinner Club meeting at Ken and Tonya's house in Walnut Cove, NC.  The spaghetti and meatballs were super.  Amy made a new pumpkin dump cake that I thought was pretty good too.  We brought home enough meatballs to make subs for lunch and had just enough cake left over for dessert, yum.  Click here for all the photos from last night.

I used to point out how Ben had a toy lizard in his hand in every photo we took of him.  That stage seems to have passed, but here are five recent examples of how he still holds either a leaf, grass blade, or weed in his hand anytime he is outside.  The first thing he does when he goes outside is find a leaf to hold. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Sunday the 23rd.  Tonight we got together with our Dinner Club crowd in Walnut Cove and had a wonderful evening.  But I'm pooped and will probably have our hands full with the kids tonight because they both ended up with long and late naps today.  I'll post photos and details tomorrow.

Saturday the 22nd.  Hotdog, it's date night.  The boys are at friends for the evening so Amy and I are hitting the town.

Friday the 21st. Tonight was "Turn Your TV Night Off" at Jackson's school.  He has looked forward to it all week.  So we skipped karate practice to turn off the television and spend the evening at the elementary school.  We had a ton of fun.  They had three events; the rock wall, tug-of-war, and hip-hop dance lessons.  Here is a clip from the dance lessons, it was hilarious.  The tug-of-war got crazy.  The adults got involved and I don't know who was pulling on the other end of that rope, but I know they were trying pretty hard.  Lots of laughs.  Then it was home, baths, a quick game of Sorry, and bed.

Thursday the 20th. Earlier this week Amy and the boys painted the pumpkins we bought on our way home from the zoo a few weeks ago.  This weekend we'll carve the pumpkins we picked out this past weekend.  Today's weather was fantastic, so Amy took both boys to Miss Etta's playground after school.  Tonight Amy is working while I am trying to get the boys in bed and asleep before the VA Tech/Maryland game kicks off.  Amy should be home just in time to see the start of the game with me.  I love our Thursday night games.  We've got another one next week against Boston College.  The boys and I spent the night playing one of my favorite games.  I play guitar while Ben plays all his instruments and Jackson sings.  Jackson can really write some good songs.  Tonight he sang songs about sharks, crocodiles, motors (you don't need a motor to blow up a balloon, you don't need a motor to clean up your room), and eating healthy. 

Happy Birthday Mom!


Wednesday the 19th.  Jackson has always loved dress-up.  We keep a huge tub of costumes, hats, glasses, etc... in his closet for him to use as costumes.  He also wears his Halloween costumes throughout the year.    Click here for a clip of him as Superman when he was three or here for a photo of him as Robin when he was four.  This year he is Batman (you don't see a Halloween costume theme developing do you?).  I promised him I would make a comic book starring him,   but since it took all my free time this week just to do these three photos, it might be a while before that project is finished. 

Amy and Ben spent a nice long morning at the playground.  This evening Ben and I watched Jackson's karate practice while Amy worked.  Jackson has missed a lot of karate lately because we've either been out of town, he has been sick, or he has had soccer.  But his last soccer practice is Saturday, so he should be able to get back into the full three day a week martial arts training soon.  I also haven't given a kindergarten update lately.  He is doing great, learning tons, and I think he enjoys it.  Of course he still says "it's TERRIBLE!".  He has only received a cloudy note once and has a zillion kitty notes and dynamite tickets, which he is very, very proud of.  His reward each week for not receiving any cloudy notes is to stay up an extra thirty minutes on Friday night 

Tuesday the 18th. Do you remember when my nephew was born in July and how he had to be admitted to the children's hospital?  His weight was dropping and his bilirubin count was so high.  Well just look at the happy little booger now.  He is so funny.  Seth laughs and talks and is terribly, terribly snuggly.  The little chunk has also more than made up for his early weight loss. 

Gourds - Fancy Gap, VirginiaMonday the 17th.  You can find all of our pumpkin pics, including the one from 2000 when we stuck baby Jackson inside his first Jack-O-Lantern, on our new Pumpkin Patch page.

Sunday the 16th. Did you see the mountains in the background of yesterday's Main Street photo?  Well today we went into dem dar hills and got us some pumpkins.  We also drove all over the place looking for a maize maze but had no luck.  The highlight of the day though was a visit by baby Seth.  We haven't seen our little nephew in forever and he had changed so much.  He was such a happy little guy and I got to give him a bottle.  Another nice day.  Ben was a little cranky (can you call forty-five minute fits cranky?), but a nice day still.

Saturday the 15th. I usually write my posts in my head way before I sit down with the laptop.  Today I already had this much wrote... So how could I possibly be the only parent that didn't know soccer was cancelled today?  I could understand it if we showed up and at least a handful of other parents were there with their kids.  But how could it just be me?  Especially frustrating since I had to push the boys like we were on a cattle drive to get them there on time. 

And then, later in the day, I remembered that I too knew that we didn't have soccer today.  We skipped this weekend because of the festival.  I knew that.  My memory, yeah, not so good.  It was really too windy early this morning for the boys to be outside anyway.  It was a much better morning for going to the movies, so we all went to see The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.  It lived up to everything I had heard about it, very funny movie.  Lots of written puns for the adults and plenty of laughs for the kids.  The short before the movie was really funny too, but when you add that in with all the previews, it was way too much time to keep a toddler entertained.  The popcorn ran out about thirty minutes into the movie and that is when Ben decided he was tired of sitting around.  He and I hit the lobby and missed the second half.  Jackson, Megan, and Amy got to see it all though and enjoyed it very much. 

A small carnival was setup outside the theater for Autumn Leaves and Ben kept saying "I wanna ride the train, peeeeez!"  So I bought the tickets, got the camera and let him pick his car.  As soon as his butt hit the seat he raised his arms and said "I'm done."  We did get to use the tickets on the ferris wheel once Jackson got out of the movies and that was fun.  Later in the day we all went back to Main Street for some funnel cake and Yu-Gi-Oh cards.  Jackson bought his first ones yesterday, then filled a baggie with money from his piggy bank to buy more with.  It was a really nice Saturday.

Friday the 14th. Mayberry has two festivals in the fall, Mayberry Days and Autumn Leaves.  Mayberry Days, which takes place in September, hasn't been around as long, but grows tremendously each year drawing from the scores of TAGS fans out there.  It's also my favorite of the two.  Autumn Leaves has been around forever and is your typical street festival.  You can see everyone at this festival, including folks that I think only make it to town for this one event each year.  Seriously, you can see it all at Autumn Leaves.  I'm not sure why, but colorful cowboy boots and cowboy hats seem to have some link to Autumn Leaves.  The bib overalls I understand, kind of goes along with a fall harvest theme.  But where the country and western connection comes in, your guess is as good as mine.  That being said, we love the street festival food and always make a point to eat there a couple of times each year.   Today I met Amy and the boys on Main Street for lunch.  It was a nice breezy afternoon and we ran into more friends and family than I could list.  Good times.  Well, except for having to keep up with a five year old on foot in a crowd of thousands and trying to keep the toddler from screaming because he's trapped in a stroller and wants to get out to touch everything you walk past.  And trying to get the stroller through the crowds.  Especially when Amy had them both by herself.  Yep, Good times.

  Friends Timmesa and Samuel

Thursday the 13th. Whoo hoo, let's all do the hokie pokie.  Tech just signed Beamer to a seven year contract.  We get to kick butt all the way through 2012.

Wednesday the 12th. Tonight all the teachers from Jackson's school raised money by working at McDonalds.  Jackson's teacher worked the drive-thru so we rode through and picked up a few happy meals.  Jackson also told me that he got a book order today.  I said "another book order?  Wow, you get a lot of those."  He replied "Yeah, they must be trying to make lots of money.  I heard Miss E say that they were paid down a little this year."  I asked "Paid down?"  Jackson said "Yeah, they were paid down and now don't have enough to run the school.  Maybe paid down like twelve bucks, I think."

Tuesday the 11th.  We had hoped Jackson could return to school this morning, but the poor little guy just felt miserable.  He has no voice, a terrible cough, and even threw up once.  Ben has had a bad cough and no voice since Thursday, so Amy called our pediatrician who said to bring them into the office.  For Jackson this broke an almost four year stretch of not going to the pediatrician for a non-checkup visit.  They are now on all sorts of antibiotics and decongestants that we know we will never be able to get into Ben.  I spent an hour before work this morning hopping from store to store trying to find chewable cold pills since both boys agree that the liquid cough medicine is terrible.  They loved the chewable Tylenol medicine for their fevers, so we thought that would be the answer for the cough medicine too.  No such luck.  Both boys made the same gagging sound and spit them right out, apparently these don't taste so much like candy.

Update:  I put a scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice cream in a cup, then squirted in the antibiotic/steroid cocktail with just a little milk.  Mixed it all up, then sat down in the floor across from Ben.  I pretended to drink it and didn't say a word except "mmmm, good milkshake."  Ben ran over and said "I want milkshake peeeez."  He drank the entire thing without letting go of the straw because he was afraid I would take it if he did.  Might be the last time it works, but I was very proud of myself.  Of course I have no idea what happens to the medicine when you mix it with ice cream, but hey, it's in him at least.

Monday the 10th.  Everyone go over and visit my sister Deana's new site Friday Night Fish Fry.  She's brand new to the blogosphere and I'm sure would appreciate a quick hello. 

Jackson stayed home today and rested inside on a dreary looking day.  His cough sounds terrible, poor kid.  I rented The Trumpet and The Swan for him to watch this afternoon, but the highlight of his day was pulling a prank on his mom.  We bought a fake mouse at a Halloween store yesterday and hid it in the cabinet last night hoping to scare Amy.  He's just discovering practical jokes and something tells me we'll be seeing lots more from him.  Jackson was crazy about the Halloween store.  He, Amy and Jesse stopped there on their way home Saturday night to get his Batman costume (very cool one too).  He made me go back with him the next day.  He literally, not figuratively, skipped through the store.  Blood, fake cuts, automated zombies pulling their guts out... gross, scary, and sick.  He loved it all.  He even tried talking me into buying him fake blood.  It's like he grabbed the lever on the boy meter and decided it was time to move it a notch higher.  Isn't there a way to lock that thing down?  And to think I was trying to distract him from noticing the creepy display at Spencer's as we walked past it in the mall a few weeks ago.

Sunday the 9th.  Since we are coming up on Halloween I thought I would post a few spider photos that I had lying around on the hard drive.  My sister Deana took the really nice one at her breakfast table.  I took the close-up photo this weekend at Amy's mother's house.  I spotted the web in the trees early one morning while riding my motorcycle and decided to pull over and snap a photo.

We are back home in Mayberry after a weekend in Colonial Heights.  Both boys are now sick with very raspy voices.  Ben was up from midnight till five this morning.  Amy got to enjoy all of that time, I only joined in for the two till five shift.  <yawn> Hopefully both boys will feel better in the morning.

Saturday the 8th. Amy and Jackson are out celebrating our niece Nicole's birthday at a Japanese steakhouse.  Ben and I are staying in because he has been under the weather for the past few days.  He just fell asleep, my nephew Wesley is playing Tony Hawk online with his PS2, and I'm going through my photos from yesterday's park and play fun on Lovill's Creek.  Click here for more details about that.  Ben has been pretty miserable with a cold for the past few days.  He was up at four yesterday morning and six this morning... yawn.  Our boys' normal temp is a high 96 and they very rarely run a fever, but Ben has one now.  Thank God for the melting Children's Tylenol tablets because he wasn't having anything to do with anything liquid.

Friday the 7th. Amy was supposed to go with Jackson on a field trip to our local Boy Scout Reservation today, but it was rained out.  So they decided to honor the class pet, Patti, and proclaimed it Guinea Pig Day.  Apparently Patti got the spa treatment today with lots of pampering.  Amy enjoyed getting to spend time with his class for the first time.  Today's photo is pretty self explanatory.  Ben is eating quesadillas and broccoli with underwear on his head... what else needs to be said about that?

Thursday the 6th. Last night we had ice cream and honey buns for dessert.  Except Ben kept calling them hiney butts.  We would say "do you want a honey bun?" and Ben would reply, "I want a hiney butt" or "I want some more hiney butt."  That cracked Jackson and I up and we laughed about it a lot.  I know, I know.  Real mature.  So that is what Jackson and I called them this morning at breakfast.   No shortage of jokes there.  "Hey, do you like your hiney butt warm or cold?"  It's the type thing that will probably stick too, we'll still be calling honey buns hiney butts years from now.  Jackson set most of our vocabulary when he was two.  We still call Little Debbie oatmeal cookies mushy cookies, things that are sour are pow, Sprite is Papa's Pop, sippy cups are cuppas, orange juice with pulp is juice with hair in it, and it just goes on and on.  At restaurants I will without fail say "He would like Papa's Pop....uh, I mean Sprite.  One of Ben's most unexplainable ones is luckaluck.  He calls popsicles luckalucks, as in "I wanna luckaluck peeeez".  And anyone that hears him do it immediately starts calling them that too.  All of Ben's cousins know what a luckaluck is.  Crazy.  What kind of words has your family made up?  Or is mine the only one that does that?

Wednesday the 5th.  Jackson has been in school since August 16th and this morning was the first time he had to walk to school in the rain.  Apparently the rain has been holding out for International Walk To School Week.  We have discovered that the mornings go much smoother if just Amy walks with Jackson to school, but yesterday I promised Ben that we would join them today.  He has gotten really good at saying "peeeez daddy, peeeeeez."  It's a hard thing to turn down.  So we joined them under the umbrellas, along with our six year old neighbor who ran out just in time to join the caravan.

I would also like to once again express our gratitude to everyone who has sent cards or notes of concern, as have we continued to receive them.  I'm not sure if things will ever feel normal without Sue here to talk to and share our life with, but perhaps one day we'll get used to a new normal.  Sue was a part of so much we do, that we rarely go more than a few minutes without a reminder that she is no longer with us.  Many of the things Amy enjoyed most, just aren't very enjoyable right now.  All of Ben's pretend phone calls are to his Nana Sue and if he adds anyone to his God blesses each night, it is her.  And sometimes, just for a moment, after running off the school bus, Jackson forgets that his Grandma Sue isn't waiting inside.

Tuesday the 4th. Today's photos are from Grayson and Jason's wedding this past Saturday.  The wedding was beautiful and the reception was perfect.  Great music, the food was incredible, the weather couldn't have been better, and the new couple were very happy.  Is anyone else as in love with the mashed potatoes in the martini glass thing as I am?  We've been to two receptions this year that have done that and I am all about standing in front of an unlimited amount of bacon bits and cheddar cheese with a glass of potatoes in my hand.  I was kept busy with the camera because everyone wanted to be photographed with our friend Megan, who was maybe the prettiest bridesmaid ever.  Read More / More photos...

Monday the 3rd. I don't know how many of you want to hear a description of tonight's soccer practice and scrimmage, so I'll just add this link to Jackson's Soccer Page.  On that page you will find lots of photos from both this season and last season (and maybe a wee bit of bragging).  I love watching those little guys and girls play sports.  I honestly have a great time watching the games and it's fun when you get to cheer for both sides.  Today's photos are from Saturday's practice.  And even though I haven't gotten around to posting photos from Grayson's wedding on Saturday, I have posted a few photos of one of the beautiful bridesmaids on our friend Megan's page .

Sunday the 2nd.  You'll have to wait a little longer for photos from yesterday, because we went to the zoo in Ashboro today.  And that means lots more photos.  We went to bed talking about how today would be the first day in about a month where we had nothing to do all day, no plans at all.  Then the first thing Jackson said this morning was "How about we go to the zoo today?"  The weather was perfect and who could argue against such a good idea.  So Amy packed up some PB&J sandwiches and we hit the road.  The entire family had a great time, as usual.  Click here for more details from this trip to the zoo and for photos from past trips. Of course everyone slept all the way home which meant that neither boy could go to sleep at bedtime.  As of ten, Jackson was still awake.

Saturday the 1st. We had a busy day.  It was a good day, but it's late and I'm beat, so I'll wait and fill you in tomorrow.  I took over three hundred photos today, so I should be able to find a few to post tomorrow.  For now I'll just post one that I took of Ben at the soccer field.  The short story for the day is that Jackson had a sleepover buddy last night, then soccer this morning.  We dropped the kids off with my parents this afternoon, then went to a wedding and an awesome reception.  It was nice to get out and laugh a little.  I was especially glad that Amy was able to have a good time.  And the Hokies beat the Mountaineers, YEAH!  Now everyone is back home and in bed.  I'm right behind them.  Talk to you tomorrow.