Thursday, September 28th, 2006. Behind our backyard and a small stand of trees lies a cornfield, then the Ararat River. The cornfield also lies behind Jackson's elementary school. The middle school, Jackson's soccer practice field and the future H B Rowe Environmental Park all can be found one mile upstream. Go another mile and a half upstream and you will find Riverside Park. Plans are underway to create a greenway along the banks of the Ararat that will connect those three points with canoe access points at each location. This will all take place following a stream restoration project that will use bio-engineering to halt the current erosion taking place at an alarming rate on the Ararat. As a side effect, the Ararat will be slightly deeper with faster water flow, creating a more consistent paddling experience. Yet the end result should be a natural looking river that will not appear to have been touched at all. And did I mention that the corn field will be converted into four soccer fields?
So am I in favor of this project? Let's see, not only will Mayberry finally have soccer fields, they will be a stones throw from Jackson and Ben's backyard. We will be able to walk, bike and stroll from our house along a beautiful greenway through the woods to our favorite playground (boardwalks will be built to span the areas that follow alongside steep banks.) Currently we have to load the bikes up in the van and drive to our existing greenway on the other side of town (I took the photo of Ben there last night.) In four years from now when Jackson goes to the middle school, we'll be able to walk there if we choose. The property value in our neighborhood will increase significantly. They are cleaning up a river that I paddle and will put a canoe access point right in my backyard. The plans I've seen are wonderfully done, I have no complaints (unless they decide to pave it rather than use gravel). And who knows, it might one day lead to us finally getting the sidewalk we've always wanted. It's actually pretty strange that it positively effects us in so many ways. I don't expect it to all be complete for another few years, but we are very excited.
Monday, September 25th, 2006. I switched the television channel yesterday morning to the VH1 Top Twenty countdown. A Red Hot Chili Peppers video was playing. Jackson said "I kind of like that song, even if a bunch of old guys are singing it. That one guy without any hair looks really old." Yeah, I feel kind of old too, now that I realize Flea will be to Jackson what Keith Richards is to me. You know what makes me feel young though? The fact that I still jump onto the back of the grocery cart on the way to the car and ride it rather than push it. I wonder how old I'll have to be before that's not fun anymore?
We had a great time at the fair Friday night with my sisters and dad. Ben rode the train, drove the jeeps and rode the big yellow slide with his Papa. Jackson enjoyed some of the fastest rides he's been on to date. He also rode a couple of rides with a good friend of his that he ran into and won a toy snake with his Aunt Deana and Uncle Martin. We missed Amy though as she was attending visitation at the funeral home across the street.
Saturday started early with Jackson's soccer game. (read the rest of the post.)
Friday, September 22nd, 2006. We've got a busy weekend planned and I'm sure I'll have lots of photos, starting with tonight at the fair with my dad, two sisters and their families, but for now I'll just post these two photos of Ben from yesterday.
Thursday, September 21st, 2006. Last Summer I decided to see how long it would take for someone from each of our fifty states to drop by lifeinmayberry. And I've gotten really tired of waiting for someone from Idaho, North and South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming to visit. Nice people from each of the other 45 states stopped by a long time ago, a very long time ago. But those last five have proved troublesome. So if any of my regulars are planning on traveling to any of those places, do me a favor and visit lifeinmayberry while you're there. All I need is the postmark so that I can move on. Thanks.
Internationally, in the last year, folks have stopped by from Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, England, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guam, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia And Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Wales, Uruguay, Viet Nam and Yemen. That's 53 countries, not counting the US. Who would have ever thought that someone from Serbia And Montenegro would visit before someone from Vermont did?
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006. This photo of Ben and I, as well as this photo of Jackson, appeared in this week's Mayberry Confidential, the weekly insert in our local paper for the Surry Arts Council. Both photos are also on the Council website's photo gallery. I really like the one other photo of our gang from that same performance of Snow White at the amphitheater up the street, because I don't know if there is another non-posed photo of our entire family together in existence anywhere.
This week our little town will be flooded with TAGS (The Andy Griffith Show) fan clubs as we once again celebrate Mayberry Days . Personally, I enjoy Mayberry Days much more than the even larger Autumn Leaves festival that takes place a few weeks later. The county fair is also in town and we have a picnic at the playground with Jackson's karate school following his soccer game at the park.
Amy and Ben took advantage of our nice cool weather by walking to Story Time at the library this morning and by having a picnic this afternoon. Once Jackson came home from school, they went to our favorite produce stand in Cana at the foot of the mountain to buy Honey Crisp and Golden Delicious apples. Jackson is doing so well at school. We love to hear him read. Tonight he excitedly showed us how he can "read with expression!" His first report card was excellent and we are very proud of him.
And lastly, a very dear friend of Amy's passed away this morning.
Tuesday, September 19th, 2006. It's been one year without Grandma Sue and we still miss her more than you can imagine. We've now been through every holiday and every season without her, looking at each one through her eyes. We paused after everything good that happened and thought "wouldn't Sue have enjoyed that." Ben is now riding the tricycle she bought Jackson and he often reminds us of his Nana Sue. Jackson cried after school started because he missed Sue. I think it was one of those times that he could feel her absence. I'm so grateful for all the times Sue stayed with us. The boys meant so much to her and they miss that very much. I miss our friendship. I miss writing my posts with Sue in mind. Always being careful what I wrote because I knew she would be the first to read it. I don't know if I'll ever get out of the habit of doing that. The one thing I can't describe is how much Amy has missed her mother. No one has ever loved anyone as dearly as Amy loved Sue. Amy has the ability to love deeper and feel things more sincerely than anyone I've ever known and I know I have her mother to thank for that. As the boys say each night in their prayers, God bless Grandma Sue.
Monday, September 18th, 2006. We had an absolutely fantastic weekend. It started Saturday morning with Jackson's team winning their first soccer game 2-0 and continued when we arrived in Kibler Valley on a spectacularly beautiful September day. There were too many fun moments to cover in one post, but the photos will give you a good idea of how nice it was. And with twice as many cameras snapping pics, we have lots of good ones.
There were so many nice moments, like the mother doe and fawns outside the kitchen window Sunday morning, like relaxing on the bank of the Dan River, or seeing the kids have fun in the river and playing "ellefun" with Ben under the huge walnut trees (we chased the leaves as they blew in the wind. Jackson adored having his best buddy Matthew with him all weekend. After eating cinnamon buns for breakfast, Jackson and I took an early morning paddle in the canoe. I said "Hey Jackson, we're paddling in our pajamas." Jackson came back with "Yeah, it's fun AND comfortable." On Saturday night, the kids all crashed from exhaustion one by one, allowing the grown-ups a chance to enjoy a few adult beverages and campfire music under an incredibly starry sky late into the night.
We were getting our firewood from a brush pile at the edge of the woods in the far corner of the field next to the river house. Once the sun went down, it got dark really fast. Low on firewood, Jeff went into the house to look for a flashlight. With no one looking, I ran off into the darkness across the field and hid in the woods behind the brush pile. Jeff couldn't find a flashlight and walked across the field slowly, enjoying the quiet sound of crickets and the river, along with the view of the mountain's silhouette against the night sky. That was Jeff's state of mind when he leaned into the wood's edge to feel around for dry wood. And that's when I made the scariest bear-type sound I could muster. To Jeff's credit, he didn't scream or run, but he did back up quickly while saying something. Neither of us know exactly what he said, but we suspect that the counselor in him instinctively started talking the bear down. I fell out of the woods laughing. It had been a long time since I pulled a prank like that. We had so much fun all weekend. It was a nice reset for everyone.
You can read about the kayaking part of the weekend here and see all of our photos here, plus I have a video of me playing here.
Friday, September 15th, 2006. Today's rainy day photo from Wednesday certainly doesn't reflect our current gorgeous weather. It was so nice this morning that Amy and Ben spent their entire day strolling around town. They started with a stop by my office, then walked to the bank, actually they walked to two banks, and to Miss Edda's playground. I found them in Ben's favorite spot, the train store. After lunch at Barney's, they completed their stroll and I went back to work. After dinner tonight we took the boys and their bikes to the playground at Jackson's school and played until it was time to call it a day. This weekend, after Jackson goes to his first really real soccer game, we will make our third visit of the year to our friend Jenny's river house. This time our friend Jeff is renting it for his wife Timmesa's birthday. They were supposed to join us when we rented it for Father's Day, but things didn't work out. Hopefully this weekend everything will be as perfect as the weather. I can't wait to light that campfire and get those marshmallows roasting.
Tuesday, September 12th, 2006. Jackson had his second soccer game last night. It was his first under the lights as the game didn't end until eight pm. That's usually the time we tuck the boys in for the night. Jackson said the game was at 6:30, I thought it was at 5:30. So I rushed home, Amy had the boys and the team snacks ready, and we flew to the soccer field. We got there around 5:35. I told Jackson to run up to the field by himself and told him that we would catch up. After getting Ben out of his car seat, I ran up the hill carrying a cooler, snacks, a soccer ball and Ben only to find that we were an hour early, not five minutes late. That made for a long night at the soccer field for me, but a fun one for the boys. Jackson got to spend time playing with his team mates before the game and Ben got to play in the big pile of sand used for the baseball field's infield to his heart's content. I even saw him making snow angels once. We didn't get home until after bedtime, but had to rush Jackson through the sh*wer and Ben through the b*th before we could put them in their beds. More soccer photos here.
Tonight Ben went to the first night of his Creative Movement class. The best I can tell, Creative Movement translates loosely to Interpretive Dance for Toddlers. Amy was surprised to learn that she couldn't go into the room with him, but Ben didn't seem to mind. It was in the same room that he had music time in. He came home very excited and showed us all the dance moves he learned in class. He slithered like a snake, hopped like a frog, marched like an elephant and jumped like a kangaroo.
Sunday, September 10th, 2006. Photos from Jackson's first Pee Wee soccer game can be found here. His second game is on Monday night. Both games are scrimmage and will not count in the season standings. His first really real game will be next weekend. He, along with the rest of his team, did great. Papa, Amy, Ben and I had a lot of fun cheering for them. Today we visited Hama, Papa and Mo to celebrate Grandparent's Day. Amy and the boys made truffles to give as gifts.
Tonight Jackson put price tags on all his old toys and sold ten of them to Ben. I'm not sure who got the best deal in those transactions, but it made both of them really happy, so it was fine with me.
Friday, September 8th, 2006. I took today's photo while driving through neighboring Stokes County.
My grandparents had a tobacco farm, like the one in today's photo, right up until my grandfather was in his mid-seventies and for much of each Spring and Summer as a kid, I worked on the farm. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my grandparents, loved having my own money and didn't mind most of the work, like dropping (planting), chopping (tilling the soil and burying weeds with a hoe), and topping (cutting off the blooms so that the leaves get more of the nutrients). But priming, oh man did I hate priming. I mean I really hated it. But, even though I didn't realize it at the time, it taught me a very valuable lesson about what hard work is. Everything is relative and a long, hard day at the office may seem like a hard day's work, but if you've ever started a day bent over in a tobacco field just as the sun rose, absolutely freezing because your clothes are soaked from the dew pouring off the broad leaves, only to finish the day when the sun goes down, still bent over with a pain in your back that feels like it will never go away, exhausted from the heat, black with tar and nauseas from the nicotine poisoning you got as a result of the morning dew soaking into your pores, then you know what a hard day's work really is. It's been twenty years since I put in that kind of work day, but as long as I remember what it was like, then I'll know that a hard days work doesn't have anything to do with what you can do from behind a desk.
Thursday, September 7th, 2006. Jackson's fever did break Wednesday morning, but he started vomiting around that same time. He felt better by bedtime though and went to school this morning and soccer practice this evening. His first game is Saturday morning. When we got home from practice, Ben climbed onto the couch and said he "was freezing." I took his temperature and sure enough, he had a fever. The fever climbed a few more degrees before the Motrin brought it back down. He later drifted off to sleep on the couch under his blankie.
I forgot to mention that we went to our friend Landon's three year old birthday party on Monday. It was one of those rare days that I accidentally left the house without a camera, so I don't have any photos, but everyone had a good time, especially Ben.
Tomorrow morning Jackson has Grandparent's Day at school. Only grandparents can go to the program and he is very excited about it. Hopefully both of my parents will be able to go and maybe my grandmother. Hama was sick over the weekend, so it will depend on how well she feels tomorrow. That's probably where the boys picked up their virus from. We visited with her on Sunday after our afternoon at the cabin. When Amy visited her last night, she still wasn't feeling %100, but a little better.
GO STEELERS!!! Time to go watch us kick some Dolphin butt.
Wednesday, September 6th, 2006. Today's photos are from various days over the past week, including Virginia's visit and Sunday afternoon at the cabin. We had a lot of fun at the cabin roasting marshmallows and catching frogs, tadpoles, newts, minnows and crawdads in the creek. Ben will pick up anything. He thinks it is hilarious for a newt to run all over his arms and legs because he says it tickles. He'll hold worms, grubs and spiders. Apparently he isn't susceptible to 'the willies.'
Jackson told us yesterday morning that he thought he had strep. On a rainy morning following a three day weekend, I assumed he just didn't want to go to school. I even gave him the lecture about crying wolf. But at school he visited the nurse, because he said he felt bad. I don't think the nurse believed him either and told him to check back with her after lunch. At lunch Jackson threw up. Poor kid. Amy picked him up and he felt bad all day and all night. He has kept a fever and went back to bed this morning after getting up. Hopefully it's just a bug, but if his fever doesn't drop this morning, Amy and Ben will take him to his doctor.
Saturday, September 2nd, 2006. Doesn't it look like a spaceship is hovering over downtown Nashville in the above photo? I passed through Nashville, Tennessee yesterday just long enough to snap a few photos, enjoy a cold beer and listen to some smokin' hot rockabilly on Broadway Street. Fortunately I cut my sight seeing short and arrived at the airport super early because cancellations due to Tropical Storm Ernesto created ridiculously long lines and crowded south-bound flights. While I was out of town, Amy had a nice surprise visit from her friend Hilary and Hilary's daughter Virginia . Jackson and Virginia, as usual, played together fabulously. The boys didn't want Virginia to return to Richmond. Today has been low key with only a brief shopping trip at the train store on Main Street. I think we are heading back downtown tonight to see Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties.
Friday, September 1st, 2006. Today's photo with an electrically lit storm cloud in the background and a window reflecting my laptop's glow in the foreground was taken somewhere high above approaching Tropical Storm Ernesto. If all goes well, I'll be able to tell Amy and the boys "good night" in person this evening and maybe on the way home I'll be presented with another light show.