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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Short-Lived Adventure

We had some friends from our old church over yesterday. They have two sons, age 7 and 5. Noah played with them while Amanda had tea with their mom. I took Lilly out for dessert and chess since we haven't been able to have our normal Tuesday evening dates lately.

The boys had fun playing together. One of the great joys of Noah's room is the bunk bed. Anytime he has friends over we can expect stuff to migrate up to the top bunk. Yesterday was no exception. After playing in the top bunk with friends Noah made the declaration that he would like to try sleeping in the top bunk. This is something we proposed when Lily was sleeping in his room. We figured that if he slept in the top bunk then Oreo would sleep with Lily in the bottom bunk. However, Noah had a bad cough and we decided not to mess with it. He thought that last night was a good night to try.

I read him his Bible story in the top bunk and we prayed. I told him that if he decided he wanted to get down he should throw down Yoshi (his pillow pet), his pillow, and then climb down. He looked a little nervous when I tucked him in and turned out the light, but I thought he would give it a go.

When Amanda and I went to bed she peeked in on him and found that he was in the bottom bunk. This was hardly surprising. On one hand, it was disappointing because I had hoped he would make it, but on the other it wasn't because I really don't enjoy climbing in and out of the top bunk.

In the morning I asked him about it. He said, "I stayed in the top bunk for at least a second!" I guess it's hard to argue about that kind of dedication, based on how he said it.

We certainly aren't going to press the matter any more. We will see if he decides to go up there again, but I don't expect it to be any time soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Turn

This has been a rough week for health at the Chamberlain house. On Sunday Amanda had a bad head cold that kept her laid pretty low on Sunday and Monday. She felt a little better on Tuesday and Wednesday, but never great. She was finally back to herself on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I felt a little funny Wednesday night and suspected that I was coming down with something. Those fears were confirmed on Thursday. Fortunately, my manager let me go home early. I came home, took a little NyQuil, and then hit the hay. I took my temp around 7:00 and found it to be 102.4. I have a sell order in at 102.8.

I guess if you have to be sick it is better the week before Christmas than on Christmas proper. I'm really hoping that we all are in good health for the weekend and for Christmas.

80s Day

This is spirit week at Northwoods and the kids are in on the action. Noah wore his Ohio State football jersey on Monday and had words with a Michigan fan on the bus. I'm so proud. 


Yesterday was 80s day. Lily wore a side pony and lotsa layers. She also had kind of a sparkly skirt. I think the one thing she lacked was jelly bracelets. Anyhow, Amanda helped them get into the spirit, despite the fact that Amanda has not felt very good this week.

Note the Popped Collar

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Apprentices

We had a very nice day here on Saturday. It started off gray and cool, but it eventually got sunny. I ended up with a two-fer on the day. First, I got the cabinets in the half bathroom painted. Second, I fulfilled Noah's wish by taking him to the driving range. Here you can see the results of one of his better shots. He hit quite a few up in the air and straight. I think when he gets a little stronger he will be ready to play at Knights Play, which is pretty exciting.

video

This evening I took Lily for our regular date at Starbucks. We played chess with our usual time controls. She gets 1:20 and I get six minutes. I slowed her down a bit tonight and gave her some ideas. She actually would have had me if she didn't make some blunders at the end. She almost beat me on time, but I managed to finish it out. 

She is really excited about the idea of playing chess regularly. I think that it would be good for her so she can have something where she is competing. It certainly won't be sports. I may put her in one of the chess camps at Cary Academy. I am hopeful that this is something we can bond over. If nothing else, it's fun to split a brownie on Tuesday nights!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Birthday Extravaganza

It has been a busy, but fun long weekend here. I took yesterday and today off to celebrate my birthday, but the fun began long before that. It started Friday evening. I got my free birthday sandwich from Carolina Cafe for Amanda and then I took the kids to Red Robin for me to eat my free burger. The kids and I finished the evening at Sweet Frog, since we were right there and all.

Saturday morning Noah and I went with another guy at church and his five-year old son to do some work at the senior pastor's house. Our pastor recently had some surgery which keeps him from being able to do any lifting. He had a lot of projects that were left undone, so we came over to haul rubbish, move mulch, move topsoil, clean gutters, etc. We had a great time with that. After I came home for a nap and a shower I got a few Lilly's Pizzas and had the Pierce family over for dinner and cake. A splendid time was had by all.

Sunday we had church in the morning then a family over for lunch in the afternoon (the same family we rode with on Saturday). After that we went to our home fellowship group for a potluck dinner and white elephant gift exchange. That was a lot of fun. That was our fourth time at the home fellowship and I think we are starting to be just members instead of visitors, which is great.

One negative is that I had a cold or allergy attack on Sunday and Monday to where my nose kept dripping. I slept in a little on Monday. I was going to paint in the morning and donate platelets in the afternoon, but I didn't like the idea of having both arms completely immobile while my nose dripped. Amanda and I went to Greek Fiesta for lunch where I got my free birthday meal and then did several errands. I also got a few things done around the house.

My day started with Amanda's homemade cinnamon rolls, which were outstanding. My morning was filled with my flight experience at Burlington Aviation. I got to control the plane on takeoff and did several turns. The real flight was over so quickly that I wish I had savored it more, but it was still a great time. If someone wants to give me about $25,000 I will happily pursue a license and keep up my hours. I'll even fly you around! Otherwise, it's something I can say I've done and I'm happy with that.

We're going to finish up the evening with leftover Lilly's Pizza and leftover birthday cake. I like Tuesday nights because I take Lily to ballet and then hang out in the library and read.

I look back on my 39th year with great fondness. It had its share of pain and tears too, but those have been for our benefit. I really couldn't be much happier than I am now. I certainly am doing much better than I deserve!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Big Carrot



We have found that one of the secrets of parenting is to figure out what motivates the children. Historically, Noah is more motivated by the carrot and Lily by the stick. In other words, Noah will behave with the promise of a reward and Lily will behave to avoid punishment. However, Lily surprised us last night.

We are in the process of painting our downstairs bathroom. For some reason, Lily is really into painting walls with a roller. She didn’t get to do it last week because her behavior sent her to her room on the nights I painted. But last night she was syrupy-sweet throughout dinnertime. In fact, I had to correct her on something and she didn’t flip out. That was a happy surprise indeed.

We painted and she actually did a pretty good job. She probably saved me a good 20-30 minutes of work. As a bonus, she was able to do the low stuff so I didn’t have to get down on the floor! The room looks pretty good, though I still need to paint the trim. I’m not very excited about that, but it needs to happen. She won’t be much help with painting trim, but I do think I will give her a job when it comes time to paint the cabinets. I think she will be able to paint the doors. 

It’s nice that she is a legitimate helper with a household task that I don’t hate, but I don’t particularly enjoy either. We will see how long this lasts as a good carrot for her.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exhiliration

Since we were going to be in NE Ohio for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to do something seasonal that I remember fondly from my teenage years. The Cleveland Metroparks toboggan chutes are open for the season on the day after Thanksgiving. Amanda and I had done this a long time ago with my mom and Ernie and with the McKenzies long before any of us had kids. Amanda is always up for a thrill, so we made the trip out there on the way to visiting my stepbrother and his family in Fairview Park.

The day started out warm, which was contrary to the forecast. I got worried that they wouldn't be running because it was too warm even for the refrigerated chutes, but as the cold front came through the day stopped being Raleigh and started being NE Ohio in late November. 

I talked up the experience and everyone was excited. Lily got nervous when she saw that the pass on her zipper read, "Ride at your own risk." They were pretty scared at the top, but we talked them into going. We all went down together on the first run. It ended with Noah bawling and Lily on the verge of tears. That was Noah's only run for the day. 

I talked Lily into going again with me and she did, albeit reluctantly. She was a little less scared, but still pretty frightened. We went in for some hot chocolate to regroup. Since Amanda is the one who enjoys this the most I wanted to find a way for her to go down, so I talked Lily into going with her. The condition was that I would film her. Here is the result:

video

She was thrilled at the end of this. Then she decided that she wanted to go yet again! In fact, in retrospect her favorite thing about the visit was going tobogganing. We batted .500 on getting the kids into it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Date Night

In an effort to stay connected to Lily I am trying to make a regular practice of going out for coffee after dance class. It didn't work last week when the cafe closed at 8:00, so this week we went to our local Starbucks. As offensive as I find most things about Starbucks (there was an ad on the board asking for meat for the Carolina Tiger Rescue - if you hit a deer with your car give them a buzz!), it is a good place to hang out. We got a couple of hot cocoas, split a cinnamon roll, and played some Mancala.

Lily won the first game pretty handily. I think we tied the next, I won, then we tied. Finally, I won the last game. She had some master plan to beat me, but I foiled it. She is pretty good at that game and is ready for bigger challenges. We need to play more chess and backgammon. I think it's also time to get her into cards. Hopefully she can be the Cribbage partner I have longed for all these years. We will start with Crazy-8s and various flavors of Rummy though.

We had a nice time. I'm finding that it gets harder and harder to connect to Lily as she gets older. I can hardly talk about High School Musical with her, nor do I want to. This has been fun so far.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Family Day

As noted previously, we had a lovely walk in the woods on Saturday. Here are some photos from that walk.

Oreo loves a walk

Mom and her Pook

Imperious Lily

He insisted that we take this photo


This is unrelated to the walk, but as I am including photos I thought I would include this one. Lily's famously long hair needed some conditioning, so Amanda whipped up some goop from a recipe she got from Pinterest or some other online source. She turned yesterday evening into full-on spa time. Here is Lily getting the royal treatment.

Amanda putting a magnet to the toenails

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ghost Writer

Yesterday we had a bit of Indian Summer with highs around 70, so we took a walk in a local park called Hemlock Bluffs. It was a relatively short hike and not strenuous at all. In fact, we think it would be a fun one to do with any visitors.

When we got home Noah wrote up some notes on his thoughts on the hike. Lily took those and expanded them into a story. Here is a reproduction of what she wrote, spelling errors and all.

One day my family and I went on a hike at Hamlock (sic) Bluffs. On the first part of the hike we all stayed together then we seperated. Lily (my sister) went with Oreo (our puppy) ahead on the second part. Later Lily, Oreo and me raced. Lily would choose a spot to start then, find a landmark to stop. Lily would find landmarks like a sign, a tree or a bench. I loved running but, Lily always won with Oreo. My favorite character is Mario. I like to pretend to be him but we are very differnt. My second favorite character is Sonic, he is really fast. So when I'm him I'm really fast but, Lily still beats me. On the last race Lily told me to save my energy for the end because, it was a long race. At the end I asked if I should run fast. Lily said "Noah we're done." Then when we were walking back to the parking lot a ran really fast. I asked my mom "did you see how fast I ran?" "Yes you ran really fast!" said my mom.

The
End

So that was our time at Hemlock Bluffs as described by Lily. I think she captured the spirit of the thing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Smart Girl

I'm especially proud of Lily today for a couple of reasons. Yesterday the kids received their awards from the Spirit Sprint. Lily got a card to Monkey Joe's (a bounce house) and one for YoLo (frozen yogurt). She found a classmate whose family does not like frozen yogurt, but they do like bounce houses. She traded him her Monkey Joe's coupon for his YoLo. Lily, Noah, and I ate dinner at Sam's last night and finished with dessert at YoLo. It was nice to get six ounces for free.

Lily got her first quarter report card today. Her teacher describes her as a "breath of fresh air." Apparently she not only does her work well, but she also helps her classmates with theirs. She got a 4 in reading and a 3* in every subject but science. Everyone got a 3 in science because they didn't do science this quarter. There are only so many hours in the day, so they use a portion of the day for either science or social studies. Last quarter was social studies.

Her AIG (gifted class) is doing a play based on the story of the Trojan Horse. They are going to act it for the first-graders. They had a choice between acting or using stick puppets, but they chose to do real acting. Lily is going to be Aphrodite. Before I knew that I asked her if she was going to be Helen since she is pretty enough for the role. Apparently she has gone one better by being a goddess.

The good news is that she is rather matter-of-factish about all of this stuff. It doesn't seem to be going to her head too much, as far as I can tell. It's probably going to mine more than hers. That is good in that she is not becoming too proud, but it is stuff when you set excellence as your baseline. Since both of her parents tended to strive for the A+++++ in graduate school, she comes by it naturally.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Overheard

I'm working from home today and the kids are off from school. They didn't get up until around 8:00, which was just fine. Amanda was getting ready for her appointment with Noah's teacher and I was showering while Lily got breakfast together for them. She heated up some pumpkin donuts Amanda had in the freezer and poured them some milk. Shortly thereafter we heard a cry from Noah.

He came upstairs seeking justice. It seems that Lily took his glass of milk away from him. Lily then followed and explained that she heard Noah say, "I got the big one!" Apparently one cup had a little more than the other and Noah was happy to get more. Lily didn't like his attitude, which was somewhat understandable. Noah then said something like, "I was only talking to myself," or, "you weren't supposed to hear that."

This is reminiscent of a time when Amanda and I were watching a show and Noah was supposed to be doing something educational on the laptop. I got up to go to the bathroom and saw that he was watching YouTube videos. I said something to him and he quickly hit the power button. As he did it he said, "You weren't supposed to see that!"

I think we are going to have bigger problems when he gets older and understands more about being sneaky. Right now he is not subtle enough to be sneaky and we will use that to our advantage.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween Photos

After much anticipation (mostly for Noah), Halloween 2012 came and went. Lily recycled another ballet recital outfit, while Noah wanted to go as Boba Fett. I'm not quite sure why he wanted to be Boba Fett, but he really got a lot of use out of the mask this year. Amanda also got him a small Nerf gun in a Star Wars style for him to carry. He had a lot of fun playing with that with Grandpa Jack too.

Our Spanish Dancer and Bounty Hunter

Amanda took the kids along with some of the neighbor kids. I stayed behind to pass out candy. I did make it a bit more festive by getting out the fire pit and making a campfire in the driveway. All the adults who came by appreciated that on a chilly evening. It didn't rain like last year, but it was still pretty chilly.

I'd say the only one who didn't enjoy the evening was Oreo. He hung out on the love seat and barked at everyone who came by. They didn't ring the bell, but they still got into his space. He didn't appreciate that much.

Pinterest represented in the middle

Now is the time to brag on Amanda's artistic flair a bit. She did the pirate pumpkin on the right. She also did the pineapple in the middle. She got the idea for that off of Pinterest, of course. Amanda did the nose for the one on the left, but the rest was all Lily's work. It's hard to be much prouder of my little artist with that.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Fun

There was a little Halloween/Harvest/Autumn festival in the shopping area of downtown Cary on Saturday. Amanda heard about it and wanted to take the kids, so we braved the pre-Sandy bluster and headed down. They had a bunch of little games set up for the kids so that they could win candy. Of course, everyone won candy every time, but it was still fun.

Lily excelled at the game where they had two big blocks of foam painted as dice. The idea was to throw a 7 or 11. It took her a long time to throw an 11, but she did make at least 3 passes. I want to take that girl to a craps table when she gets a little older.

Noah excelled at two games in particular. One was where you had to throw a beanbag through one of three square holes in a piece of plywood cut and painted to look like a 6 foot piece of candy corn. Noah threw one through a hole on his first try. Lily tried about nine times and I think she may have hit the wood once. The other game was one where you were supposed to bounce a tennis ball into a plastic witch's cauldron. Noah didn't know you were supposed to bounce it, so he just threw the ball into the cauldron from about 6 feet away.

We're not sure where it comes from, but the boy is definitely a natural athlete. He also seems to be something of a scholar in that he can already read very well. We just have to teach him how to dance and the girls won't stand a chance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Date Knight

Our local Chick-Fil-A restaurants had a special evening yesterday. They had "mommy-son date knight." They decorated all the restaurants with a medieval theme, took reservations, and had table service. They had crafts and cupcakes to decorate. Noah said it was the "best date ever." That's saying something for him.

Meanwhile, I took Lily out to eat some fried shrimp. We split a large meal and it was still way too much food. I'm pretty sure that I could have easily fed Noah with it too. We finished with yogurt at Sweet Frog, which is always a hit. I tried to talk her into pie at the restaurant, but she was set on yogurt. That's my girl!

Amanda and Noah even got back later than we did. That's how much fun they had at the restaurant. I heartily endorse any promotion that they have. I plan to take Lily the next time they have a daddy-daughter date night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best...mommy...ever

Amanda let Noah choose what he wanted his pumpkin to look like this year. He chose Mario (of course). Although Amanda had a rough day today with gloomy weather, catching up on laundry, and coming down from vacation, she carved out this pumpkin for Noah. You can see the results and the template from which she started below.


Do you see the resemblance?



Amanda is hardly Ms Crafts, but she did this and she did a fine job. The only negative from all this is that she sets the bar pretty high for herself. I'm not sure that Noah really appreciates this as much as he should, but someday he will. I'm pretty confident his future wife may not appreciate this ("my mom used to carve Mario out of a pumpkin").

Lily has already said that she wants something much simpler. Amanda is very glad to hear that! Lily seems more interested in harvesting the seeds to toast. She went through all the goo and pulled out all the seeds. That should be fun.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Savannah Travelog

Amanda had wanted to visit Savannah, but it didn't seem like a good idea to go on our actual anniversary. We thought the weather would be nicer in October and we were right. It was beautiful when we arrived on Friday. Once we got checked-in we took a walk to do some shopping and get a sense of what the town was like. We stumbled upon a great tea room where Amanda found a new favorite tea. After that we went to Tybee Island for the sunset. We finished the day at a local pub where Amanda had a lamb burger and I had bison. It was a splendid time all around.


We started our day on Saturday with a kayak trip near Wilmington Island. It was some work paddling against the tide, but we were up to the challenge. Sadly, it was not particularly scenic, but it was nice to get out on a beautiful morning.

We came home, ate a very quick lunch, and then hustled back downtown to do a walking tour related to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It was more narration than walking. The narration was fascinating and the guide seemed to truly enjoy the subject. It seems that he is reading the transcripts of the four trials just to get more information. Conveniently enough, the tour ended by Mercer House where "the incident" occurred and which was a block from where we were staying. Amanda rested while I went to get more tea. After I got back I met a locksmith from AAA who extricated the keys from our car (oops on me!). We got cleaned up and then headed out for dinner.

Based on the reviews, I really wanted to eat at the Olde Pink House (incidentally, it was a Jim Williams restoration project), but we would have had to eat at 5:00 or at 9:00. Instead, we ate at Vic's on the River. We had a wonderful meal and got our server to take our photo. She suggested we go out on the balcony. I suppose we could have taken more time to frame up the shot, but this still came out pretty good. You will note that I got some sun whilst kayaking and walking. Silly me for not thinking of a hat as each year my forehead seems to grow.

On the Balcony at Vic's

Sunday we took a walk around Forsyth Park and then drove out to Bonaventure Cemetery. We are not big into cemeteries, but this is indeed a really nice spot. Finally, we went to City Market to do some last-minute gift shopping and to get some lunch. We had an uneventful drive home and were happily reunited with the children and Oreo.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Our Writer

Lily got a writing assignment back with a 4. To the uninitiated, that is the highest grade one can get. She got 3s for using great words and for using conjunctions, but otherwise she got all 4s. Here is a transcript of the story. I transcribed it as closely as I could so you can see how she really writes.

Oreo My Puppy

When I got home from school I was a little excited because I could be getting a dog. I really wanted a dog and my parents said they would get me one as an early birthday gift. My dad's mom and stepdad died and my dad's mom left my dad with alot of money, so they decided to pretend it was a last gift from them. We might get a dog named Toot I couldn't wait to see if we got him!

When I finished everything I had to do (homework) my mom wanted to show me something. It was a puppy! As soon as I saw him I said, "yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! YES!" But then my mom said someone else was coming before us. I started to feel really worried then my mom said, "There is still a chance." I looked at the time. "Mom! It's five fifty." "Hurry then." said my mom then I went to ballet class.

When my ballet class was done, my family picked me up. we got Zaxby's for dinner and went to the house. The people met us outside. When they opened the door, the puppy slipped on the floor, greeting the people. The people talked with my parents about the puppy's belongings, and then the puppy came to me first with my brother and parents. He chose me! Then my parents said yes, they would get the puppy. when we were in the car ride to the house we came up with the name Oreo because his face looks like one.

On the ride home I talked to Oreo. I kept looking at him because he looked so cute in his crate. We (my family) brought a towel in case Oreo was carsick he was. At first he was doing fine, but then I noticed he threw up. then, I noticed he threw up again. This time it was white. I asked my parents why it was different. The replied, "he had an empty stomach so he just spit." 

I thought it was the best day ever. I realized I was super worried in the beginning but, in the end everything came out alright. But my puppy chews everything! EVERYTHING! I love him though he's so cute. Oreo was the best birthday gift ever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

First of the Season

We are experiencing the harsh contrasts that can come with autumn weather here. Yesterday was a gorgeous day, but today has been rainy, gray, and in the 50s. We were supposed to have a church picnic today, but it has been postponed. It was a good day to hang out in the house.

Amanda rightly thought that today would be a good one for a fire. We are continuing to burn our neighbor's (now somewhat punky) wood. Fall is here, at least for now.

I wouldn't be surprised if we are sweating while trick-or-treating though. Raleigh is like that. In Ohio, you plan a costume to potentially fit over a full-body snow suit. In Raleigh, you avoid heavy fabrics.

Noah's Day

Noah had a very good day yesterday. We went to soccer in the morning and he did very well. He seems to do the dribbling drills about 50% faster than the other kids. At the end of practice I asked his coaches at what age they start working on headers and they told me that it depends, but that Noah was definitely ready. They then described him as being "very athletic." I told them that I envision him being a midfielder who gets things set up for the offense and they agreed. They said that he has a good sense of space. I think he gets that from me. My problem is that I can't make my body put the ball (soccer, football, basketball) where it needs to go. Noah doesn't seem to have that affliction.


After soccer we picked up Brenna, who spent the night. We came home and visited with some friends from our old church and then went for a hike at Umstead Park. Noah really enjoyed himself and even decided that he wanted his picture taken on this tree. I think that this came out pretty good, though I'm no expert.

He requested that we take his picture

Finally, at the end of the day he got to play some electronics. This is pretty much an ideal day for Noah. Perhaps the only improvement would have been if we went to a sporting event of some kind or went bowling.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Drawing

Lily was playing with her friend Katie yesterday and they decided to have a competition where they would each sketch Oreo. This is what Lily produced.

Oreo, if you can't tell

You never would have thought it a few years ago, but Lily seems to have some talent for drawing. I don't think she is going to be in the National Gallery anytime soon, but she is doing well with this. What's even better is that she really enjoys it. Can't ask for more than that!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rockstar

You may recall that Noah had some mousse in his hair for school pictures on Friday. He still had it in his hair while we were running errands on Saturday. Lily took advantage of it to spike him up a little bit. You can see the results below.

Channeling his inner Morrisey

One cool dude

He has decided that he kind of likes this, so Amanda is going to get a cheap bottle of gel and give his hair a little body when appropriate. It's kind of neat to see how Noah is starting to have more of an opinion about how he looks. He is not particularly vain or anything, but he definitely is starting to get some ideas.

Friday, September 28, 2012

School Photos

Today is a big day at Northwoods. It's time for everyone to get their individual photos. We probably won't buy any because we have our own photographer who does a great job. However, there are people who might buy the annual yearbook (yes, a yearbook for elementary school), and we want the kids to look good for them.


Today is PE day for Noah and he first dressed appropriately for that. He had on a sleeveless top and was ready for action. Amanda sent him back upstairs and asked Lily to pick out something good for him. She chose one of his great aloha shirts. Then Amanda took it up a notch by putting a little mousse in his hair. You can see the results below.

Looking Slick

Hopefully they will do the photos for kindergarten early in the day. Fortunately, unlike his dad Noah does not play with his hair much.

Latchkey Kids

The kids showed a bit of independence yesterday. Amanda had plans to go kayaking on the Neuse with friends and knew that she would be back late. She arranged with a friend for Lily and Noah to go to her house. She told Lily and Noah this, but they forgot. They took the bus home (normally they get picked up) and then came home.


You can imagine Amanda's shock and horror when they were not where they were supposed to be. Fortunately, we had the back door open and they were home having a snack. While we certainly would not make a practice of doing this (at least not for 3 years until it is legal), it is good to know that our children can survive in a pinch. That is, as long as they can reach the pretzels in the pantry and the cheese spread in the fridge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Star Student

I got held after class when I picked up Lily from ballet tonight. I was a bit nervous because I couldn't imagine what it could be about. It turned out that her teacher wanted to tell me about how well she is doing. It seems that it is really starting to "click" for her.

Lily is in a class with some girls who are 11, and it has stretched her like we hoped it would. Apparently, she is doing the little things well like pointing her toes the right way. Miss April said that she is 'like a flower in a field." High praise indeed.

We are rating certainly proud of her since she has worked hard over the years. I don't think we need to reserve our tickets at the Carolina Ballet right now, but this is still great to hear.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Reader

I took this video on Sunday afternoon after we came home from church. This is the introduction to Genesis in a study bible intended for children age 5-9. As far as I know, he never saw this page before. Please forgive my poor camerawork when I leaned in to help him find his place. Although it's hard to understand him, I think that this is pretty impressive for a five year-old who has only been in kindergarten for a couple of weeks. Of course, I'm a little biased too.

video

Sunday, September 23, 2012

(Some Scary) Stuff

We have had a little bit of a scare the past few days, though we didn't know why. Noah has been throwing up and we didn't get it. We're used to Lily throwing up for various reasons (though she hasn't pulled that trick in a very long time), but this was weird for Noah. We thought it was because he was gagging while coughing. It turns out that we think it may have been linked to this. The good news is that he has been fine today, though his appetite is still not 100%. Nevertheless, I don't think we need to take him to the pediatrician.

We tried a new church today. I knew that it would stretch the kids because they were with me for the whole service (I prefer the term "gathering.") It was just me because Amanda is in Pennsylvania for a funeral this weekend. Lily was sort of dreading sitting through a sermon. I really knew she was in a bad way when she wouldn't join in singing "Mighty to Save," which is one of her (our) favorites. I gave her the bulletin to take notes on the sermon and she really got into it. In fact, she was gushing about how much she enjoyed it by the end. Noah didn't enjoy it nearly as much, as you might imagine. My plan is to get each of them special notebooks that they only use on Sunday mornings. I think that will help. Also, I sweetened the pot this week by offering an extra 30 minutes of electronics if they behave. We won't do that every week, but it was a good start.

After that we went to Sam's Club. We had lunch, which was interrupted by Noah's need to use the facilities. Lily took him while I hung out. After that he had a better appetite, but not what he normally has for a hot dog. At the end of our shopping he wanted to look at the Wii games, as he usually does. He did that and Lily and I started looking around too. Apparently he lost track of us because when I went to get him he was gone. I then heard them paging me over the PA and I found him standing there crying. He was very glad to see me. I think we've done well with that being our first really lost child at a store in 9 years of parenting. I don't remember ever getting paged for Lily and certainly never for Noah before. I don't think he was too traumatized by it though.

We came home and I got some Crock-Pot dinner going while they changed clothes. We took Oreo for a walk on the Black Creek Greenway, which was a nice time on a beautiful day. After that we took him to PetSmart to get his flea control medicine. I am writing this at the end of the 90 minute electronics-a-thon. It's almost time for dinner anyway.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Take a Hike


After all the tumult of the past few weeks we wanted to do something fun together as a family. The weather was very nice yesterday, so we took advantage of it with a walk at Umstead State Park. There is a creek with some big rocks where the kids like to play. Amanda had bought picnic supplies at Trader Joe's and baked some homemade bread for the occasion. We packed up and headed over, though the kids' attitudes were a bit lacking during our preparation.

Taking a break on a tree God seemed to design for it

Once the five of us got going we had a good time. Oreo seems to really enjoy hiking, so that's a plus for the little guy. His only problem is that he gets a little tentative on the small bridges that have gaps between the planks. Who can blame him for that?

The hike went well, except that the kids got some blisters. Noah had new Crocs and they irritated his ankles. Lily had old Crocs that were a little too small. Nevertheless, they had a great time playing in the creek. The only negative for me was having to carry Noah back up the hill on my shoulders. When we got back to the van he had the nerve to complain that his butt was sore. As for me, my neck is still feeling it a little bit.

But, despite all the complaining and the blisters, I have no regrets over taking that walk. We really try to take advantage of the nice weather we get in the spring and fall here. We hope that these little walks in the woods will become fond memories for the kids.

The Big News

I had made an allusion to some "big news" in a previous post and have already received an email inquiring about it. I'm afraid that in this case "big" does not necessarily mean "good." The news is that we need to leave the church that we helped to start. I didn't want to publish a blog post before our church family heard the news.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that I don't think I should ever have been ordained as an elder when I was. I think that I have been growing in my role as an elder, but I also think that we did it too soon. We were in a rush and it was a mistake.

Another is that I disagree with our remaining elder (Jerry had disqualified himself a week ago) on some things that will cause too much friction. I don't think he is going to move on them and I am not willing to give in on them anymore. I ignored these differences for too long.

The biggest is that through a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications it would be very difficult for Amanda to sit under Rob's leadership going forward. There is forgiveness, but it takes time to rebuild trust. We don't have that kind of time while serving together.

We hate the fact that this may mean the end of Sovereign Christ Church. We love the people there and don't want to see them hurt. However, I think it is better to do this now than after we add another 10 families. We plan on going to First Baptist Church Durham after this. I think we need to just attend and participate at a church for a little while to recharge our batteries.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Soccer Night

We had a wonderful confluence of events last night. NC State's men's soccer team started the season 6-0 and was ranked 14 in the nation. They were hosting top-ranked Maryland last night. When I found out that admission is $5 for adults and free for anyone 17 or under, I had to take the kids.

State started off strong by scoring at the 4:37 mark, but then Maryland woke up. We got to see penalty kicks on both sides, which was fun. In the end, the local eleven fell 3-2. They put up a valiant effort, but were clearly outmatched by a superior team.

For the most part, we had a great time. I took the kids to Sweet Frog beforehand, which is always popular. We arrived in time to see the players finish their warmups, which Noah enjoyed. The kids made a lot of trips to the drinking fountain during the game, but other than that they seemed interested in what was happening. And, to top it all off, we didn't get a ticket where we parked. I didn't think we would, but I do get a little nervous parking on college campuses.

I would take them to more games, but they are often on school nights. The next thing Lily wants to see is a Cary High football game. I'm still going to push soccer though. That's the sport I want Noah interested in playing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Open House

It's been a very hectic two weeks for us with some big news, but that will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, I want to update you on the open house I attended tonight at Lily's and Noah's school.

We started with a PTA meeting. The only real positive I can say from this is that I got to see what their new principal looks like. She's definitely not as dynamic as Dr. Chisnall. But then again, she's not from New Zealand and doesn't start by saying, "G'Day parents and caregivers!" in a thick Kiwi accent.

My first session was with Lily's teacher Ms Dupree. I have a feeling that Lily will learn much from her. Ms. Dupree seems to be something of a neatnick, which is just fine with me. Lily could use more of that in her life. For example, she has various teams in her classroom for the chores that come up. Since the school can only afford vacuuming once per week, Ms Dupree has a team called "bits and pieces" which picks up all the whatnot from the floor and throws it out. I can imagine why this is necessary. I am excited for the things Lily should learn this year and I hope that the annual field trip to Wilmington works out because I want to go. She said that last year there were 14 parents who came on the trip with 23 students.

I went to Noah's teacher for the second session. He has Ms Snoots, who is the same teacher Lily had. Ms Snoots spoke well of Noah. I asked her about his reading since he's been able to read independently for over a year now. She said that he has already read all of the end of year books. She semi-jokingly said that she wants to send him over to first grade to have him read to the students there. I asked if he causes any trouble when he finishes his work early and she assured me that he does not. That is good news considering I spent a good bit of my elementary school at a desk isolated from the other children. In fact, if I recall correctly, my first-grade teacher threatened to cut out my tongue.

It sounds like the kids are fitting in well and doing fine. They are good students, which is what we want to hear. It sounds as if they are blessings to their teachers, which is even more important.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dog Walking

One of the ideas that Katie and Lily had this summer was to start a dog walking service. This was used on their promotional materials for "Divas Dog Walking." They are definitely divas.

It takes all kinds
So far, business has been rather slow. They do get to walk a little dog in the neighborhood called Ella. To give you a sense of perspective, Oreo kind of towers over her. I think they charge $1/walk and they split the proceeds. Lily is nothing of not a saleswoman.

Average Kid

Noah had his well-child appointment today. He is 43.7 inches tall (up from 41 last year) and weighs 42 pounds (up from 39 last year). This puts him in the 56th and 53rd percentiles, respectively. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health.

When I asked him about how his doctor's appointment went he said, "Great! I didn't get any shots!" That is a good attitude about it for a 5 year-old.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Canine Closeup

Lily asked that I post this photo of Oreo. She is proud of it and rightly so. If my company's internal directory ever allows photographs I may try to use this one. I think she took this the day after we got him.

One of Lily's best photographs ever

Staggered Entry

Today was the big day. The day Amanda has waited five years for. The day Noah almost started kindergarten. Although the problems surrounding after-school busing are becoming quite the local firestorm, the mornings seem to go OK. In fact, the bus was a little bit early today. Unlike on someone else's first day of school, Noah never hesitated getting on the bus.

Noah boards the bus

Forgive the blurriness of the photo. You can only do so much with an iPhone and a moving target.

I asked how Noah's first day was and he said, "Great!" He got to meet all the teachers for the specials, but was disappointed that they didn't play any sports in PE. He will soon enough though.

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

Lily poses with the annual sign - is it me or do her legs make her look like something out of the 50s?

Today was the first day of school for the traditional calendar in Wake County. However, Noah goes in on Wednesday for "staggered entry." Wake County uses Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as days to evaluate the incoming kindergartners to decide placement in classes. You can think of it as a kindergarten combine. The way I put it, they identify the boys who drink Kool-Aid straight from the pouch, the girls who are extremely shy, the aggressive kids, the loud kids, the cut-ups, etc.

Lily of course knew the drill, though things changed a bit with the bus. Now we are at the end of the route instead of the beginning. Also, we get the bus on our side of the street instead of having to cross Thorpe. This is good except the waiting area is not as nice. At any rate, all went well this morning.

This afternoon was another story. Wake County is trying some new bus routes this year and it was a disaster. Lily's final bell is at 3:45, but her bus didn't leave until 4:53. She didn't get home until 5:45. I suspect that the school system is getting an earful about this today, as they should.

Amanda had prepared a lovely tea to surprise Lily, but it didn't work out very well. Amanda was going to make risotto since that is Lily's favorite, but after waiting at the bus stop for an hour she didn't have the time or energy to stir for an hour over the stove. We ended up going out to eat and had a nice time. I'm just glad for an excuse to eat frozen yogurt!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

View from the Top

Here is a photo that I stitched together. It was totally worth the hike.

View from the bridge

Vacation Photos

One of the reasons why this blog has been quiet for so long is that we were on vacation the last two weeks in July. We got a free trip to North Myrtle Beach thanks to some work that one of my co-pastors did on a house there. It was nice to spend some time with the other elders and their families for a few days. You can see that we got busy in the sand.




We got back from that trip on a Friday and then on the following Sunday we went to stay at a cabin in Boone. Here are some photos from that trip. I believe that this waterfall is simply called "The Cascades."




This was taken on Grandfather Mountain. This was an expensive day because they charge $18/adult and $8/child. We decided we wanted to get our $52 worth out of the day, so we started off with a hike up the bridge trail to the famous "mile-high bridge." The bridge itself is really not that high, but overall you are still a mile above sea level. We hiked back down to the car (only about .4 miles each way) and then drove down the mountain a bit for a picnic. I think that this photo was taken after our picnic. The view was quite stunning.



After that, we decided to do more hiking after a potty break. We drove up to the top and tried to do a loop. Once we figured out where we had to go we started on the very strenuous Grandfather Trail. We didn't get to the part with ladders, but there was some climbing up and down involved. The kids were troopers. However, about halfway through it started to rain. Amanda and the kids found some shelter while I ran back up to the very top to get the van. We finished all of this with a trip through the nature museum and a stop at the sweet shop for some fudge.


On Thursday we went to Linville Falls and Linville Caverns. These photos were taken from various overlooks around Linville Falls.




Friday, August 24, 2012

Unhappy Puppy

Oreo had his "procedure" today. The vet said he did very well. While he was there he had his last baby tooth pulled and also got microchipped. It was kind of a matter of changing the water pump while you have the timing belt off.

This is a photo of him in his crate with the collar on. Sadly, this collar will be his companion until around Labor Fay. The poor guy hates it, but he will adapt. That's what is beautiful about dogs.

He is awfully mellow tonight. I hope he is back to his old self. It is pretty pathetic now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fox News

We've had a little excitement outside of our house lately. It's amazing the things you learn about your yard once you have to walk a dog at 9:00 PM every evening. One evening we found a little toad. Oreo picked the poor little guy up, but I think he ended up being OK. Last Wednesday was not quite so innocuous.

We were watching our friend's dog Piper, who is an 11 year-old corgi. Earlier in the evening I had noticed a small gray animal scoot under our garage. When I took the dogs out for their final walk before bed we found that very same animal in the bushes next to our front steps. Piper sniffed at him, Oreo barked at him, and he "barked" back, as much as a fox is able to bark.

I turned my back on it and took the dogs into the yard. Based on its lower parts that I saw earlier I figured that it was a young fox. Since foxes are supposed to be so sly I figured that it would run for it when it had the chance. Instead it decided to climb up to our porch and curl up on the welcome mat.


I was then presented with a conundrum. I knew Piper could make quick work of this thing if he wanted to, but he doesn't really have a killer instinct. Oreo would just bark at it. My fear was that it would feel cornered on our porch if I let the dogs just run up there. I got a piece of wood from our woodpile and threw it up on the porch in hopes of scaring it with the noise. Instead, the fox grabbed it with his teeth and pulled it closer ("Oh look! A toy! Thanks!")

 I ended up letting the dogs approach it and the fox slinked down the side of the steps and went off into its little den. I haven't seen that fox since.

However, last night as Oreo finished his business he perked up his ears and started barking at something in our neighbor's driveway. That something was a much larger gray fox and it barked back. They exchanged a few barks and I realized that it would be best to take Oreo inside, which made Oreo very upset.

I had picked up some pellets at Wal-Mart on Saturday and it looks like I may have occasion to use them. One is not supposed even to fire an air rifle in Cary, but I am not about to pay for an exterminator to come out and deal with this. I have a small backyard and a shovel.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Home From the Beach

Amanda and the kids got back home today. It's great to have the house alive again. When I was at Lowe's yesterday I found myself being very chatty with the ladies who cut our window shades (I had to go twice). Things are back to how they should be here.

Everyone seemed to have a really good time, though Amanda tells me that Noah kept whining about getting home. It's nice to know that I was missed. Now it's back to real life for them. I think Amanda is looking forward to getting back on a regular sleep schedule. Her friend really needed to talk, but is not a morning person. Consequently, Amanda had some late nights by our standards. She should be fine in a day or two though.

The really good news here is that a cold front is coming through. The heat index this morning was 91 degrees at 6:15. Since I made it out yesterday I decided not to push running in this. It's just brutal. It was particularly brutal at church yesterday when I had to preach with a broken air conditioner. Our folks hung in there well, but it was still pretty rough for all concerned.

Dogma

It's been an interesting week here. Amanda took the kids to the beach to visit with an old friend of hers from Florida. Oreo and I were alone for a few days and then on Friday we got an 11 year-old corgi named Piper to dogsit for a week. He is a great dog, but he is not too fond of Oreo. He is perhaps too patient with Oreo's overtures for play. He really needs to snap at him once to get his attention, but he won't do that.

One thing Piper loves to do is play ball and tug-o-war. He has a rubber ball that is a mesh he can grab very easily. He may not be a jumper, but he is certainly a puller. He gets pretty animated during this game and does a lot growling, which is fine. The problem is that Oreo gets scared and responds by barking in his ear. He doesn't seem to mind that too much either, but I certainly do.

At any rate, the visit is going well overall. He is a very mellow dog, which stands in sharp contrast with our little furball. Oreo is pretty mellow for a puppy, but he's definitely more energetic than the old man of the house. Hopefully he will learn to relax around Piper. Right now it reminds me of when Lily would spend the night at Brenna's house and Brenna would keep her up all night (not that Lily really minded).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting Our Kicks

The kids were particularly difficult yesterday, so I took them out after dinner. I had a couple of errands to run that I didn't think would be particularly fun for them. After all, I was not about to take them bowling after misbehaving during the day.

First, we went to Rapid Refill Ink. The black toner cartridge I got from them had a problem with the fuser that was smudging all our printouts. They were gracious about giving me a new one, which I appreciated. The kids did pretty well there, for the most part.

After that, we went to REI because I wanted to look at some sandals. Amanda has made it clear that my Birkenstock-style Bass sandals have seen their day with regards to fashion, and she won't be seen with me wearing my toe shoes. One of the younger men at our church really likes his Chacos sandals, so I figured I'd try some on and then buy them at Amazon. It turns out that REI had them on sale, so I got a good deal.

Meanwhile, the kids really wanted to try on some toe shoes. Amanda is currently the lone dissenter in the house with respect to toe shoes. The salesman was very gracious in finding them in the kids' sizes. The kids thought that they were great, but I am not about to spend $60/pair on shoes for kids. I'm sure that plenty of folks do, but we are not that crunchy.

It's nice that the kids ended up enjoying themselves. That was not necessarily my goal, but it worked out well. And Amanda was really grateful for the quiet.