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Monday, October 31st, 2011.  Happy Halloween!!  Ben dressed as Ben Roethlisberger and hit Main Street and my office before assuming his role as the hand below the bowl of candy.  He and Jackson joined forces with Jessica and Jack next door to create an awesome spooky front porch for handing out candy.  Jessica hit them first with silly string, then Jack emerged from a coffin, then when they stuck their hand in the candy bowl, Ben pushed his hand up through a hole in the bowl and grabbed them.  Jackson spent weeks planning the event, then at the last minute accepted an invite to go to his first haunted house with friends.  Unfortunately there was some miscommunication, as they actually planned on going trick-or-treating.  So he was caught in shorts, no costume, no bag, trick-or-treating in the cold for hours, when he hasn't been trick-or-treating in years.  And the whole time he new he was missing both the haunted house and the fun at the neighbors.  Pretty tough night for him.  So when he got home, he and I drove over to my parents which had been a tradition prior to this year.
The rest of us had a great night though, especially the visits with SKV, ECV, AR, Nolan and Joe.

On Saturday we hosted a 40th birthday party for my little sister Melanie.  Jackson caught the tail end of it as he was at a big halloween party just up the street at his friend Jack S's house.  Sunday brought us the end of the fall baseball season, but I'll wait and post about that later. 
 

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.  Jackson received his first Middle School report card today and had all As.  As always, we are very proud of him.  And those that were following his progress a few weeks ago on his book report, you will be happy to hear that he received a 100.  In other good news, our neighbor Joe stopped by both yesterday and today.  Those were the first visits to our yard that he has made since he started his treatment a month ago.  Joe has finished the initial 28 day course of medication and is on a brief one week break before continuing his path to being cancer free.   I have to tell you, not a day goes by that I don't pull onto our street and think about Joe,  because before he was diagnosed with Leukemia, I always looked forward to rolling down my window and yelling "Hey Joe!!!" as I drove past.  Joe was always outside working or playing with Mark, but over the last month, he has been able to venture out very little.  Which is why we get so excited whenever we do see him outside. 
Today's photos are from just after I returned from my trip to New England.  The neighborhood kids were helping Jessica paint her bedroom door.  For some reason they all walked around the door in circles afterwards resulting in a bunch of blue feet.  Another thing to note in the photos are the shower caps on my boys.  I know them well and when I saw the shower cap on my hotel room's bathroom counter, I thought "oh, the kids will just love these."  Sure enough, the shower caps trumped all the other things I brought back, including the Boston Red Sox ball for Ben and the Red Sox table tennis paddle for Jackson.  They thought they were hilarious and wore them that entire weekend. 

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011. I updated our Pumpkin Patch page with a few pics from this past weekend.  The boys picked up their jack-o-lanterns for the second year in a row from our good friends at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. 

I also have photos from another seasonal tradition, making candles at our town's Autumn Leaves Festival.

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
. Since my last update, Jackson has played three baseball games and Ben two.  Jackson's team is still looking for their first win, but I think it has been a mostly positive experience for him and it has been a good opportunity for him to learn and progress. Plus, following a couple of defections, his good friend Simon joined the team.  The last game was pretty brutal though.  More of Jackson's photos here.
 

Ben's team split their last two games and have a 3-2 record.  Ben continues to improve and learn as well, recently making some big strides in catching the ball when his glove is turned over.  But the thing I have been most proud of is his maturity in understanding his role this season as a young player on the team.  His demeanor in the dugout has been exceptional, and that was the one thing I was most worried about going into the season.  (photos by Jackson, Deana and myself) (more photos for Ben are here)

 

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011. Two weekends ago, Ben and I went on our first parent/son Cub Scout camping trip at Camp Raven Knob with Pack 538. What a great weekend.  Ben was really looking forward to the trip and I think he very much appreciated the father/son time, as well as the time spent running around in the woods with his buddies.  I posted lots of details and photos from the weekend here.  I was really proud of all the things Ben accomplished at camp, but none more so than when he made it to the top of Raven Knob during our Saturday afternoon hike.  Jackson has endurance, but Ben is more of a sprinter.  He had to dig deep to find the stick-to-it-ness needed to reach the summit and I think it was a good life lesson in hard work and reward. 

 
Jackson is taking Life Skills as one of his encore classes.  The big assignment during the first grading period was to take care of a "grass baby", then turn in a baby book at the end of the project.  Jackson scored 114.  Below are examples of Jackson's documentation.

Video of our Raven Knob hike (part 1)
Video of our fun on the grapevine - Raven Knob hike (park 2)
Tuesday, October 11th, 2011.  I am back from a week long trip to New England and am ready to catch back up with a few posts.  A lot of things have happened so far this month.  I'll start with Ben entering the Academically Gifted program at his elementary school.  This is a very small group of students and something we are very proud of.  We put an enormous amount of stress on academic achievement and the importance of staying challenged.  Ben has seen and heard us discuss the value of Jackson participating in the CAP program at Jones and at the Middle School, so he understood and appreciated the opportunity and challenge this affords him.  
Some of today's photos are from Read For The Record Day.  Amy has been reading little Nolan Llama Llama Red Pajama for weeks and went to Ben's school to read it to the entire 2nd grade class.  Hopefully I will be able to post daily this week and document many of the other things going on with our family and in the neighborhood.