Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

We had a great Christmas celebration here. It started off a little rough because Lily had been feeling sick for a few days. She had an earache on Tuesday, so Amanda took her to the Urgent Care. They diagnosed her with a double ear infection and sent her home with a prescription for some amoxicillin. As always, once she started taking the medicine she felt fine. That was good because it would have been a very tough Christmas day otherwise.

 I also wasn't feeling great Monday evening, so we ended up not going to our church's Christmas celebration. We hated to miss it, but we also know that it was going to be a lot of work to attend it. I think by Monday evening the only person with the energy to do it was Noah.

We went to the McKenzies' for the family Christmas celebration on Tuesday. We had a lovely meal with ham, mac and cheese, and various other trimmings. A wonderful time was had by all.

Of course, to the kids all of this is just a warm-up for Christmas morning. My videography was not quite as extensive this year, but I did capture the highlights. Lily had a hard time coming up with gift ideas, so we got her a refurbished iPod Touch. Now she has her own device with a camera and won't have to clog up ours with her "artsy" photos and videos.

Noah got a lot of stuff through my involvement with Amazon Vine. He still doesn't know that his big gift is a series of golf lessons with me. He was happy just to get this basketball hoop. He also got a batting tee and a big net that you can use for hitting balls. He also got a few new games for the Wii. It's pretty nice that the Wii is an old system and the games can be had fairly cheaply now.

We ended the day with some standing rib roast, which came out really good. We kept the meal simple with roast, roasted asparagus, and mashed red potatoes and gravy. Nobody seemed to mind the simplicity. 

Everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Although I tried to do this at dinner, I think that we need to do a quick refresher of why we give gifts. After all, the incarnation of Christ was the ultimate gift to everyone who believes. So as we enjoy our new stuff, we need to remember that:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

I hope that you and yours had as nice a Christmas as we did. Now that I'm off for over a week I look forward to catching up on some stuff and just relaxing a little bit. That and hitting golf balls.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Birthday Trip

We took a trip to Ohio to celebrate my 40th and Dad's 70th birthdays. We left on Wednesday after school and drove to Charleston, WV. We stayed at what has become our favorite hotel in Charleston and had a good night's sleep followed by a lovely breakfast buffet. The whole family enjoyed the pool for about an hour and then we hit the road to Ohio. It's not every day you get to swim in a warm pool while you can see it snowing outside. That did make for a cold run back to our room since the hallways were a bit chilly by comparison.

We had lunch in Marietta and got some coffee drinks for the road. It was in the low teens, so we decided to forego the riverwalk until another time. We got to Wadsworth and had a fun evening with Grandpa and Bubbe along with a great meal.

Friday was kind of a slow morning and then in the afternoon I went shooting with Dad while Amanda took the kids to see Frozen. After that my stepbrothers took me out to dinner, which was really fun. Of course, since this was a 40th birthday celebration and not a 21st we were still in bed at very reasonable hours.

Saturday was the really big day. While Uncle Mark went to the gym to run on the treadmill Aunt Jen took us to the local farmer's market and to the West Point Market. We got some goodies and then went home to get ready for Grandpa's birthday party. The video below was taken before lunch on Saturday.

What started this was Uncle Mark convincing Noah that he had to shovel all of his driveway, the neighbors, and the street (but only to the stop sign). Of course, Noah bought it. He and Lily enjoyed doing the driveway and even made a few bucks. Later that day when Lily saw Uncle Mark snowblowing the neighbor's driveway she exclaimed, "He has a snowblower?!?" She doesn't understand about keeping up when there is just a little snow.

We had a great party that everyone really enjoyed, especially Grandpa. It was fun to have him as the guest of honor and we even got to celebrate on his actual day.

Saturday night was fun because the twin cousins spent the night. They all slept in the same room and I think that everyone got to sleep fairly well. Lily had some trouble sleeping and she woke up one of her cousins to see the clock turn to midnight. The good news is that Lily was able to nap in the car on the way home.

Sunday morning started out a little rough because Noah threw up a couple of times. He didn't have breakfast, but his stomach seemed to settle down because he was fine at lunch and dinner. He also was fine today.

Now it's back to reality, at least for a week.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sick Day

It's been a slightly rough day here. Last night Lily was really congested and complained about some symptoms that sounded like the onset of a bad cold. Today it was confirmed and she stayed home from school. The problem is that Amanda is now starting to show some early signs. Fortunately, it is nothing too debilitating, but Lily is going to stay home tomorrow after having a 102 fever tonight. The good news is that the little Peanut is pretty resilient and doesn't really seem to be too bothered. Right now they're watching The Voice.

This came at the end of a really fun weekend. Of course, Thanksgiving was fun with family and good food. Friday night the kids spent the night with the McKenzies so Amanda and I could go see Catching Fire, which was excellent.

On Saturday they brought the kids back and we all watched the Michigan game, which ended up being much more thrilling than we thought it would be. The McKenzies went home and then there were a couple of naps during the first half of the Auburn game. We all watched the end of the game together over a makeshift dinner and everyone agreed that it was well worth our time to watch it.

On Sunday we had some new friends over from our new church. There is some Polish heritage with Amanda's friend, so it gave me an excuse to make stuffed cabbage. It was a little risky making something new for guests, but between an online recipe and my own intuition I have to say that it came out great. I'm pretty sure the secret was including some good kielbasa from the Meat House. Nothing like a house that smells like cabbage and garlic!

The good news is that Noah and I seem to be OK. I feel slightly off, but I think I'm going to dodge this. Noah seems completely nonplussed. The highlight for him is that we spent time yesterday and today working on a video game. Good times for Pook.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our Little Host

Noah hosted his first sleepover on Friday night. A few months ago we had done a sleepover exchange with Noah's oldest friend Nathan. Noah slept at Nathan's house and Nathan's sister Rachel slept over here with Lily. Everyone had a great time and it was our turn to host the boys.

Nathan and Noah are good for each other. Nathan is much bolder and adventurous than Noah, which is usually good. You may remember that back in the spring the boys were playing outside on a beautiful Saturday and decided to wander off. However, in general this is a good thing.

One of the first things they did was to climb up into Noah's top bunk with a flashlight and tell ghost stories. I can't imagine that they were the stuff of Poe or King, but they seemed to enjoy themselves. There was a very cute time when they decided that they weren't going to wear shirts, so we had two little boys running around the house in their shorts. Eventually, they did go to bed and they even managed to sleep in the top bunk all night. Noah's room was in bad shape Saturday night so I suggested he sleep on the top bunk rather than clean off his bed. He said that he'd try it and I left him up there. I checked in later and found him in the bottom. Good thing I cleared it off for him.

I got the boys some doughnuts for breakfast, which of course everyone enjoyed. They played together for a while as I started organizing our garage. You can actually walk through it now thanks to some new shelves, so that's an improvement. It wasn't much fun for the boys, but they seemed to find things to do all morning.

Overall, I'd say that the sleepover was a success. Noah is definitely maturing as a boy. By that I mean that he and Nathan entertained themselves with making armpit farts among other ways of reproducing bodily noises. I wonder if that is on the pediatrician's list of developmental milestones?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Closing a Chapter

  You may remember that we have had some encounters with not quite wild enough wildlife. On Sunday evening I took Oreo out for his final walk of the night and when I came back I thought I saw a log in the yard. We had a bonfire on Halloween and I thought maybe there was a stick that I missed, but I didn't remember leaving a big one in the yard like that. Then the stick picked its head up. It turns out it was Oreo's old friend the gray fox.
The fox was acting kind of strangely, almost like it was sleepy. It looked at Oreo, but didn't make any threatening moves or noises toward him. Of course, Oreo wanted to do battle. Oreo is nothing if not territorial about his yard and his people. I ushered him into the house and gave everyone the news. It seemed like the fox was just sleeping in our yard.
When I went out running Monday morning I found the fox just like in this photo, though it was still dark. I held out some hope that perhaps it had just gone into hibernation, but as the day warmed up it was clear that the fox had died. If you look at this photo closely you can see that it has its eyes open.
I wasn't sure what to do with this, but fortunately Cary has an animal control department for such things. I was all set to glove up and put this beast in a trash bag, but they are going to get it. They would have come yesterday, but it was a holiday for them too. The good news is that it is finally starting to feel atumnal here with highs in the high 50s and lows in the high 30s. I'm pretty sure that they will get this today, so we will be spared the stink.
Amanda wondered aloud why it came into our yard to die. I think it's because it has had a relationship with Oreo over the years. I'm glad that he emerged victorious. I suspect that there may be other foxes around, but I think that this is the one rabid one that has given us trouble.
It really was a very pretty animal, but I'm not sorry to see it go. I'm also glad that I never had to shoot it, though I was prepared.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Celebrity

First, a bit of background. The mascot for Northwoods Elementary is a koala bear. The goal for every child there is to be a "koalaty kid." Get it? Yeah, we think it's kind of corny too.

The school has a closed-circuit news show called KNN which stands for, you guessed it, the Koalaty News Network. I remember how we had students do announcements in middle school and high school. This is kind of like that, but with TV. Way higher-tech than I remember!

Last year they asked for volunteers for KNN and of course we suggested that Lily do it. She was a bit reluctant at first, but between our encouragement and the encouragement she received from her fourth grade teacher she eventually agreed to do it.

This has been her first month. She's doing weather, but I think that she will rotate to other positions as the year goes on. So far, so good. She was afraid of not reading well and stuttering on the air, but she has done a great job by all accounts.

Unfortunately, Lily inherited my tendency to fear the unknown. This is one of those times when we're glad that we pushed her a little bit. We're also glad for the support of Ms DuPree who encouraged her to do it. Good job to our weather girl!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teacher Conference

I had a conference with Noah's teacher yesterday. It went well. The main thing we discussed was how we see him reading better than his tests would indicate. A lot of it comes down to how they have to assess him. When his teacher said that they were under "Common Core," her voice sort of dropped at the word "core." I commented that nobody's voice seems to go up when they say "Common Core," and she just smiled. It seems that when Lily was in first grade they assessed students orally, but now they have to write. This is not so bad, but it is something for him to work on. He's going to keep reading chapter books though. The trick with Noah is figuring out whether he really comprehends what he is reading. He has no trouble decoding what words are, but he may not be taking it all in.

His other subjects are going very well. He goes to Lily's first grade teacher for math and she said that they love Noah. Noah occasionally talks when it's not appropriate, but overall he is a sweet, well-behaved and well-rounded kid. He's certainly not one of those kids who seems like he eats pop rocks for breakfast.

He is also well-rounded in that he is not just into sports, Star Wars, Mario, Angry Birds, and Wii. His teacher said, that "Noah likes the ladies." He has made friends with two girls - Nina and Jasmine (or Jazzy as she is also known). One day Noah came home with a purple scarf tied around his wrist. That was a gift from Jasmine. Mrs. Griswold said that they had to change Noah's seat because he kept making faces at Nina.

I'm afraid that those big brown eyes are already starting to attract attention. It's all sweet fun now, but in a few years it won't be. It sounds like Noah is starting to be like a guy in an Axe commercial.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend Activities

We had an extremely active weekend and I am very glad to be working from home today after it. We started it off by attending a Halloween party at the McKenzies. Amanda worked hard to get our costumes together and I think that they came out pretty good.

Being Barney and Betty Rubble was pretty easy, though in the future I have to remember how static electricity works as my costume kept clinging to my shorts. Nevertheless, the costumes were a hit.

Saturday morning brought frost and soccer. This was our last game, so I mixed up the players and positions a bit more. Noah was on offense and alertly stayed near the goalie while the goalie tried to drop-kick the ball. He picked up the trash and put it in the net! This was very exciting for us as it was a pure hustle play. We came home in the afternoon and had some grilled burgers before I watched the first half of Ohio State's pasting of Penn State.

Sunday we went to church early and then got ready for the Monster Dash 5k. Here are Amanda and her sisters in their Pink Ladies getups.

The race was an unqualified success for all. The ladies ran through the whole thing. I finished with a PR of 23:46, which made me happy. Then we headed over to Lilly's Pizza to eat and drink some carbs. Brenna spent the night last night, so I took Noah out to Buffaloe Lanes to play some arcade games and earn tickets. We finished with a long browse at Target, which is one of his favorite things to do.

All in all, it was a very successful weekend. Today I have a parent-teacher meeting with Noah's teacher. I am looking forward to what she thinks.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Family Weekend

We have had a fun, but busy weekend with Grandpa and Bubbe coming down from Wadsworth for a few days. It started Thursday evening with a nice dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roasted green beans, and an amazing caramel apple pie. Friday we took them to Adams Vineyards so that we could all get a sense of what Muscadine wine was all about. We had lunch at the NC Seafood Restaurant at the Farmer's Market so that they could learn about Calabash style seafood. It was a huge hit.

Saturday we went to Chapel Hill to check out the Coker Arboretum and to do a little shopping at A Southern Season. The Arboretum is not quite as massive as Duke Gardens, but it is a lovely place to take a walk. I think it would be incredible in the springtime. We finished the day with some good meat from the Meat House and, of course, some great wine provided by Grandpa Gary.

Grandpa and Bubbe are currently on the road to Cleveland and we are having a mellow Sunday morning since we have been going to church on Sunday evenings. Noah slept in until 8:00, which was later than the 7:30 he was directed to. He said he woke up at 7:30, but decided to be nice and stay in his room.

Later I made some pumpkin-spice pancakes with fresh caramel sauce. Everyone enjoyed it but Lily, who made her own chocolate-chip pancakes. She got Noah to help her so that he would be eligible to get in on leftovers. I guess that he was in a certain mode of listening to her because while I was talking to Amanda in our bedroom and Noah was in his room Lily shouted up to him to get his attention. He opened his door and angrily yelled, "What do you command me to do?" Clearly she has him trained well!

Justin is going to come over to play with Noah today. Lily and I are going to go out for some errands and to play chess with my new clock. But right now I'm going to keep hiding in the basement and do some reading.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


The church we've been attending had a retreat for the fifth and sixth graders. Lily has a friend who was going and we made her go. She wasn't very excited about it because she didn't know anyone else and wasn't sure what she was getting into (I blame my genes for this), but she went. They separated the kids into teams and fortunately she and her friend were on the same team.

We dropped her off Friday and she seemed to be keeping her spirits up, despite a general lack of enthusiasm. When I picked her up Saturday she couldn't stop talking about all that they did. She had a great time. I don't think that she made any BFFs there, but she did have a good time.

It's hard to think of Lily as being old enough to spend the night at a church retreat, but she did. We're just glad that she had a good time. Everything we saw encouraged us that it was run very well and that the teaching was very good.

Now if we could just convince her not to wear jeans and boots on an 85 degree day. She did look real sharp though.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Neighborhood Watch

Anyone who knows Amanda knows that she isn't afraid of much. She sees bugs as targets. Snakes are friends. Why? They eat the one thing she does fear - rodents.

She is going to be able to go outside more confidently now because of our new neighborhood watch. Lily found this guy in the tree in the cul-de-sac. I got this shot a bit later when she went back out to take Oreo for his evening constitutional.

I tried to get a little closer, but the owl flew off. Oreo picked up on that and tried to chase it. Good luck flushing a bird that might have tried to eat you when you were a pup.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

10 Years Ago Today...

Roughly 9 years, 364 days, and 22 hours ago we welcomed Lily Helena Chamberlain into the world. I can still remember Amanda waking me up in the middle of the night and the drive through downtown Cary as we went to the hospital. I remember slow dancing with Amanda through labor. I remember transition in the tub. I remember the nervousness of the hospital staff since Lily had the cord wrapped around her neck. And I remember how grateful we were to God that she was healthy.

A lot has changed for Lily over these 10 years as she's grown into a young lady, but some things haven't. From the moment she came out she was looking around and paying attention to the world around her. She has never been afraid to voice her opinion about things either. The good news is that she now has much better hair.

We let Lily celebrate with friends last night. She had her two best friends from school over for a sleepover. We got pizza and they watched a movie. Amanda helped them make tye-dye shirts as a favor from the party. We enjoyed a cookie cake that Amanda and I worked together on. They stayed up until 12:30 and got up around 7:30. We have a wedding to attend this afternoon, so we figured we'd better celebrate early.

Happy birthday Peanut!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Still Our Little Hero

Oreo’s heroics continue. On Saturday he flushed the finch out of the basement. Last night he did something even better.

It was around 9:30. We had the lights off in our room. Amanda was reading and I was drifting off to sleep. Lily was finishing up her electronics time. We heard Oreo’s collar stirring and I commented to Amanda that it was great to hear that she was going to bed when we told her to and that she was taking care of Oreo.

The next thing we knew we heard the door slam, Lily run up the steps, open our door, and start yelling, “A fox! There’s a fox! And Oreo chased it! And he’s gone!” This was of course accompanied with tears. It seems that Lily took Oreo out for his final business. As we often do in the evenings, she did this without a leash. The problem is that there was a fox in our driveway and Oreo chased it away.

I immediately threw on some clothes, put on my sandals, grabbed the big flashlight, and went outside. Poor Lily was in hysterics because she thought Oreo had run away. But just as I started asking her about it we heard the jingle of his collar and he came running back to us from between two houses a few doors down from us on the cul-de-sac. We also heard the fox bark a couple of times and then the sly devil slowly came down toward the street. I quickly ushered Lily and Oreo into the house.

Lily was pretty scared because the fox was back in our driveway and then skulked under our neighbor’s car. After a few minutes I took Oreo back out because I wasn’t sure that he had done what he needed to do. The fox had disappeared and Oreo was able to take care of business.

Once again, Oreo saved the day. The fox is pretty comfortable with people, but he didn’t like having Oreo chase him. I’m not sure what Oreo would do if he caught him, but clearly the little guy wants to protect us. There were no signs of a struggle on Oreo, so I don’t think that they had any contact. Oreo was pretty excited after all that. I guess it makes sense since he doesn’t often get to do what he was bred to do.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our Little Hero

Noah got a call from his friend Justin to play, so I took him over around 4:00. I came home, made some chai, and went down to the basement to putter a bit on the computer while Lily and Amanda read. I was very surprised to hear a loud bird call coming from the hall leading upstairs. I thought that it was Lily trying to play a trick on me until I saw a brown finch fly around the bottom of the stairs. It must have come in through the crawlspace when I had the door open this morning. Now it was stuck in the basement, confused, and likely scared.

I ran through my options. I didn't like the idea of going after it. I considered shooting it with my BB gun to put it out of its misery, but thought better of that. I opened up the outside door to the basement and tried to goad it into coming out. It was perched on the door leading inside, so I figured I'd go around and knock on the door.

I explained the situation to Amanda and Lily, who were very surprised. Lily wanted to come down to see it. Amanda made some comment about Oreo and that gave me the idea to bring him. It was time to put the half Cocker Spaniel in him to work.

He was very interested in the bird. He ran up the stairs to check it out. I turned off the light in the stairwell and turned on the lights in the basement to coax it out. It found just about every corner of the room until it eventually made its way out with Oreo about one step behind the whole time.

Since I am not a hunter I never thought that Oreo would be good for much more than snuggling on the couch. Today he saved us from what could have been a very messy situation.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Two Things

Amanda took Lily to a Jars of Clay concert yesterday evening, so I thought I would take advantage of a YoLo coupon to treat Noah (and me) to some yogurt. As I got in the car to pull out of the driveway I noticed some trash that I had to take to the dump. This was from the blinds in the upstairs bathroom that I replaced several weeks ago, but needed to throw out. Since we were going right by the dump I grabbed them and put them in the back of the car. We stopped at the dump for a minute and then went to Sam's for gas.

While driving I found the Durham Bulls game on the radio. I asked Noah if he wanted to listen to the Bulls game or to music and he chose the ballgame. That's my boy!

We went to Sam's and I left the radio on for him while I pumped the gas. When I got back in the car Noah announced, "I have two things to tell you, Daddy." This of course piqued my interest so I asked him what they were. He said,

One - he (referring to the Bulls' play-by-play man) said "dig into reading," which is the program I'm doing.

Two - there's a lizard in the car.

It seems that I brought in a small lizard with the trash. Noah wasn't too nervous about it, but we definitely didn't want it in the car. I don't know as that we ever got it out either. I will find out more when I come home this evening and hear about the family driving around in the van.

What really struck me was how he told the story. It seems like in the last few months he has made some great leaps in his verbal communication skills. We always expected stuff like this from Lily since she was such a good talker from the beginning. Noah, however, struggled for a while and didn't sound so bright when he was really little. It's nice to hear him becoming more articulate.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Kids

I don't think that anyone who knows us would ever need genetic proof that these are our children. Yesterday was a good case in point. As a reward for riding his bike without training wheels Noah got 3 days of unlimited electronics He used one day on the ride home and he used the second day on Tuesday. Amanda and I wanted to watch a show, so I left him in the basement playing Wii after dinner. When I took Oreo out at 9:00 I realized that Noah was still downstairs since nobody put him to bed. He was happily playing Wii. Takes me back to those summer evenings when I'd play video games until I could barely walk.

Meanwhile, Lily was engrossed in some 500+ page book that she started yesterday evening around dinnertime. Amanda and I turned off the lights at around 9:30 so I could sleep, but she stayed awake reading. I awoke with a start at 10:30 when I heard her saying Lily's name pretty loudly. I remember the last thing I said to Lily at 9:00 was, "don't stay up too late reading." Apparently she didn't heed that because Amanda noticed light in the hall and when she investigated she found Lily still reading at 10:30.

I also have caught Lily reading in bed with a flashlight. It's tough to punish a child for a thirst for books, but we also have bedtimes for a reason. It's a mixture of pride and frustration when she keeps breaking these rules.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Newfound Freedom

After a year or so of trying Noah finally rode his bike without training wheels. I understand that Lily was instrumental in helping him overcome his fear and just do it. He still needs a little help getting started, but overall he is doing great.

We are going to celebrate with some yogurt at Sweet Frog tonight.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Birthday Boy

Today is the big day. Our Pook turns 6! I made the drive to Raleigh this morning to get us some Krispy Kreme doughnuts and when I got back everyone was already awake. We had Brenna spend the night for fun and for her to help with the party. Everyone enjoyed Krispy Kreme, Noah opened his presents, and then they went off to North Cary Park for the party.

Swordfighting on the Wii

The theme of the party was "Jedi Academy." Everyone was greeted with a name tag and the title "Padawan." They were then presented with a light saber (half a swim noodle with duct and electrical tape to simulate a handle), which they got to decorate. 

They then had their training with the light sabers. This consisted of keeping a balloon in the air with their light sabers. After that they had to find Yoda to complete their training. This was a scavenger hunt with clues hid around the park. Lily and Brenna were key for this part, particularly in guarding Yoda on top of the climbing rock. Noah said that this was his favorite part of the party.

After that the boys dueled with the sith lords. In this case, they were Lily and Brenna who sported double-sided red lightsabers (whole swim noodles). Word is that Noah's friend from church Abel was the best at dueling as he really got his blade moving fast. They all had a great time with that.

Next, they had a pinata of Darth Vader's head. I guess it didn't last too long, but everyone had fun with it. I'm not sure who dealt the fatal blow, but everyone enjoyed the little treats inside.

Finally, they had pizza and cupcakes. It ended with the presentation of their diplomas as "Jedi Master." They also got a T-shirt with the jedi logo on it. 

As you might imagine, Amanda is pretty tired now. Noah is enjoying his unlimited Wii. I'm working from home and fighting the urge to play Wii with Noah.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

Noah had his kindergarten celebration today. He did all the same songs as Lily, but without as much gusto. We sat too far back to get decent footage of "Thank You." He did do a little hip action, but nothing like Lily. Still, he did sing all the songs and did the hand motions pretty much in sync with everyone else. 

This is a photo of Noah getting his "diploma" from Ms Snoots. He is the second Chamberlain to spend a year in her class. We are hoping he ends up with Mrs. Turner next year. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend Activities

We had a fun, but very busy weekend here. On Friday night I took Amanda out to see Star Trek in IMAX 3D. I was a little skeptical since I'm more of a traditional Star Trek fan, but it was quite good. Seeing it in 3D was really something. I spent most of Saturday painting. While Noah and I listened to and watched the Indians game the girls took a long walk with Oreo. Later, we went to see the finals for the NCAA Division II baseball tournament. There we saw the University of Tampa whoop up on Minnesota State. There were fireworks at the end, which Noah didn't think too much of. We got to see a few unique things at this game:

  1. There was about a 15 minute delay because some of the lights went out.
  2. We got to see a great dogpile when Tampa squeezed the last out
  3. Some of the fireworks went off sideways and started a small fire in the landscaping behind the right field wall
Overall, it was a great time. Noah and his friend Nathan hung out and didn't watch much baseball. Nevertheless, they had fun. Lily and Rachel enjoyed getting their faces painted too.

A "selfie" Lily took in the car

Lily's flower just before demolition
Of course, this made for a late bedtime, but it was worth it. Everyone slept in this morning. We had breakfast, had a fine time at church, and then came home. I did more painting and the girls took another walk. Noah stuck with the whole game even though the Indians got bludgeoned today (final score 11-3).

Amanda suggested we have a family movie night, which we all embraced wholeheartedly. We watched the Karate Kid. Noah got really excited when Daniel landed the fateful kick on Johnny's chin.

I'm glad that I have the kitchen ready to be painted when the painters come on Wednesday, but it was still a lot of work. I did the trim to save us a lot of money. At their suggestion, I did it before they put color on the walls so I could be messy with the paint. I still have to paint the doors in the kitchen hallway, but I have made terrific progress. I think I'm ready to go back to work tomorrow so I can rest.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Holiday Weekend

We've had a good weekend here. Hardly restful, but good. On Saturday Noah and I ran some errands in the morning. Then in the afternoon Lily went to a friend's birthday party where she got to hang out with some of her best friends from school. Noah, Amanda, and I went to a small party where folks gathered to pray for some people who are adopting a child from Uganda. As we were coming home we got an invite from Nathan's dad to go see the UNC vs NC State playoff baseball game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. We certainly couldn't pass that up! We all had a great time.

After church on Sunday we had some lunch and hung out while watching the Indians' game. Then we met Nathan's family at the USA Baseball complex to watch Grand Canyon University take on St. Edward's. Why would we go to this game? It was free and the weather was beautiful. We had a really nice time.

Today we started off by getting Amanda a new bike. This was a long time coming because her old bike is not in good shape. We hit the local Goodwill where Amanda found lots of clothes for the kids. I also found a tweed-like jacket for myself. I'll take paying $8 over 325 pounds any day!

Amanda and the kids hung out while I went to Durham to donate platelets. When I got home I fired up the grill and we had marinated beef tips from the Meat House. That's hardly everyday food, but it was good for a holiday meal.

Tomorrow is a big day on the home repair front. Our oven has conked out, so we decided to replace it. We are getting a new range tomorrow and Amanda is looking forward to using a convection oven. We also take our car into the shop to get the collision damage repaired. I am interested to see what kind of car we end up with.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 9 - Journey's End

All good things must come to an end. We were ready to come home. We missed the kids and we also were very tired from all that we saw and did. Fortunately, everything went very smoothly. We got up early, got our stuff packed, and got to the airport in plenty of time. The only negative was that Amanda was missing a sock. Hopefully it turns up in our luggage.

We got to the airport in good order, which was good because the British version of TSA was very interested in the stuff we were bringing home. Apparently a duffel bag full of tea and food doesn't scan well. I felt like a fool for putting the HP sauce in our carryon, and it had to be confiscated. Even with all the extra attention I got I still much prefer their airport security over ours because I felt like theirs actually had value.

Once we got through the screening we had an extremely long walk back to our gate. I'm not sure that we could have had to walk any father and still be in Heathrow. We got some breakfast, boarded our plane, and had a smooth journey to Charlotte where we picked up our connecting flight for a smooth journey home.

It was great to get back. Lily jumped out of the car and gave Amanda a big hug as soon as she saw her. Noah was not quite as effusive, but he and Lily both greeted us warmly. It was wonderful to come home to the house being kept so well. We are extremely grateful to Jack and Melanie for making this trip possible.

Now it's back to reality for us. As I type this at 5:58 AM I've already been awake for 2 hours. I woke up at around 3:45 and couldn't get back to sleep since my body is still 5 hours ahead. I'm sure that we will adapt quickly enough though.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 8 - Oxford

I awoke around 6:00 and took a run through Hyde Park. It was a lovely run, but as with all things London it ended up being longer than I intended while I worked to find our hotel. I did eventually find it and after getting cleaned up we headed out to take the train to Oxford.

Unfortunately, it was chilly with intermittent rain in Oxford. That still didn't make the buildings any less old or beautiful though. We went through the Bodleian Library, checked out some bookstores, and had lunch at the Eagle and Child. That is the pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to hang out with their group known as the "Inklings." I enjoyed my venison sausage with mash, but Amanda's salad was a bit lackluster. Nevertheless, it filled us up for the rest of the day.

We bought tickets to tour Christ Church College, which was of course beautiful. We had to leave and come back to see the great hall. Their hall is what inspired the great hall in the Harry Potter movies. It didn't disappoint at all, though I recommend not going in front of a group of 12 year-old French girls if you can at all avoid it.

By the time we got back to London Amanda was really pooped. She hung out in the room while I went off to find us some dinner. I got us some Middle Eastern food, which we both enjoyed. I had fun watching the FA Finals where Wigan Athletic upset Manchester City. I really had no rooting interest other than seeing an upset and it is always fun to watch football (soccer) here. I also tried to watch some cricket, but I don't have internet access in the room and I still find the game somewhat inscrutable. Now we're down to reading and blogging while we finish up our time here in the UK.

Day 7 - Cheddar

Hilary made us the "full English" breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, tomato, mushrooms, and baked beans. The beans are really the key to making it the full English. We then set out to walk. We took a really nice walk to the Cheddar Gorge where we toured Gough's Cave. It was very much worth seeing. We did a bit of shopping in the village, including a stop at the cheese shop. In case you're wondering, cheddar cheese really was invented in this village. Eating the cave-aged cheese is almost worth the trip in itself.

After that we headed up to Wells. We got to see their beautiful cathedral. It's amazing to see these buildings where the newest parts are still older than anything we have in America. After our tour of the cathedral we went back to the cottage, collected our bags, and then had a short driving tour of Bristol. We then had a train ride to London without incident. The only difficulty was finding our hotel, but once we knew where to look it wasn't a problem.

We finished the evening with a meal of cornish pasties. All in all, it was a fine day.

Day 6 - Travel

This was a pretty simple day, though not completely without incident. Fortunately, the easiest part was our drive from Oban to Edinburgh. As always, I was very grateful for Google Maps. I don't think that I broke any traffic laws and I do know that I got my full deposit back on the car. I call all of this a huge success.
We caught a bus from the Edinburgh Airport to the city center (centre, if you prefer) where we were dropped off at the train station. We boarded our train and enjoyed our first-class trip until we stopped at Newcastle. Our train was killed because the lines were delayed due to someone being hit by a train south of York. With the help of the nice lady in the first-class lounge we found a different train and headed to our destination at Bristol.
We were met by Amanda's friend Hilary who took us to a great Indian restaurant in Cheddar. We enjoyed a lovely meal and then went back to her cottage for bed. It was not a very exciting day, but it was a load off my mind for us to get through all of that smoothly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 5 - Kayaking

Today was our last day in Scotland and we decided to save kayaking for it. I started the day with the "Full Scottish Breakfast." For the uninitiated, this included a poached egg, a slab of bacon (more like Canadian bacon), half a tomato, some mushrooms, a potato scone, a sausage link (think a "banger" when you get bangers and mash), black pudding, and fried haggis. I also chose to get our host's homemade porridge.

Breakfast was certainly an experience. Porridge is very good with cream and whisky, though I don't think I want to make a habit of drinking an ounce of whisky at 8:00 AM every day. Amanda also thought it was good, but not something we would go out of our way for. The black pudding and haggis both looked like large sausage patties on my plate. I really liked the black pudding, particularly with HP sauce. The haggis was good too and it was much better with the sauce.

Having thereby fortified myself, I set out to our adventure of the day - sea kayaking. Compared to Amanda, I am a kayaking neophyte. I understand the idea, but don't have her experience. I went into this with some trepidation as I really hate being soggy The good news is that this place set us up with dry suits. These were not particularly comfortable, but they weren't horrible either. I was surprisingly OK with having my legs in the kayak cockpit with the spray skirt on top.

We were out for about 5 hours, though we had a few breaks, including a protracted one for lunch. We ran into some weather too. Amanda came extremely close to capsizing once, and our instructor told us that it is fairly common to have someone go swimming. I thought I came close a couple of times, but really that was just nerves and I was fine.

Overall, it was quite intense. I had never kayaked in the sea with 20 MPH winds blowing rain sideways creating 6 inch waves, but now I can say I have. I'm not eager to do it again, but it was worth it for what we saw. If you don't mind putting on an extra layer and getting your hair mussed by the rain then Scotland is a treasure. If you do mind those things then stick to Paris. The Parisians are rarely mussed.

We came back and Amanda had a long soak in the tub. To give you some perspective, her arms hurt while folding clothes for our packing to go home. I don't feel particularly sore, but I do feel weary from the wind, rain, and salt air. We finished the evening with a quiet meal at a restaurant recommended by our guide. I very much enjoyed the local beer I had along with my fish and chips. Amanda had steak pie with a glass of Shiraz blend. All in all, it was a great day.

We hate to go home. I told our host that we had to leave before breakfast and he packed us a lunch that would impress Grandpa Jack. We have rolls, sandwiches, water, crisps, 2 oranges, and 2 apples. I think we're ready for our next adventure - the trip down to Bristol on the train.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 4

Today we enjoyed the complete opposite weather from yesterday's. It was sunny, dry, and in the mid 60s. We started the day with a little drive to the Isle of Seil. There isn't much on the island, but there was a spectacular view from a little area called Easdale. I do feel like I'm starting to get the hang of diving on these roads though. I think the biggest key is not to get too uptight.

After that we came back to the room and walked into town. We thought that we could catch a ferry to the Island of Kerrera (pronounced as if it doesn't have the er at the end "Kay-ra") from downtown, but we found out that we had to walk about 2 miles south of town. By the time we got there Amanda was dead tired. We also missed the last ferry that ran at 12:30 and had to wait until 2:00 for the next one. I took the opportunity to walk back to the hotel and get the car.

The goal for the Island was to see Gylen Castle and to have tea at the tea gardens. What we didn't realize was that both were at least another 2 miles from where the ferry dropped us off. We pressed on and eventually found the tea room. It is an incredibly beautiful spot and we did have tea with a very late lunch (we had Lara Bars to fortify ourselves earlier), but it was not a British Tea. It was still a nice time though. The hike to the castle was rather muddy and sheepy, but it was worth it. I've come to realize that our modern ideas of castles are probably very Americanized because they did not have much living space at all. I think that the view may have made up for it though.

The hike back was easier because it was more downhill, but it was still quite long. We were very happy for the car to drive back to the hotel. We got cleaned up and then had a nice meal at a local seafood restaurant. As you might imagine, this is a great place for seafood.

Now we are enjoying the view from our room with the windows open to give us a lovely sea breeze. Westward facing windows are pretty, but the room was pretty hot. No central A/C here, for obvious reasons.

As I finish this we can hear bagpipes playing in the distance. I'm pretty sure that makes our Scotland experience complete. Tomorrow we go kayaking in the sea. That should be an adventure too.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 3

I woke up excited to take a run this morning, but was a little disappointed to be greeted with a driving rain. I decided not to let that deter me, so I laced up my trainers and hit the streets of Oban. This was a helpful way to quickly get the lay of the land.

Amanda and I had a lovely breakfast where we both had yogurt, fruit, and granola to start. We continued with scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. It was a great way to start the day.

We then set out to explore Oban together and do some shopping. i really wanted to get a sweater while here and I found a few candidates out of the many choices. I have been told that I'm not ready for a plaid deerstocker cap, but I know that my day will come eventually. I also saw a couple of great tweed jackets, but not £350 great.

After shopping we went back to our room to gather our stuff and get ready for a scenic drive. We spent 10 miles on a one-lane road along a raging river. We didn't see very many other folks on the road either, which was nice. After that we got lunch at an inn that was highly-recommended on TripAdvisor. It did not disappoint.

We continued our scenic drive back home and then walked back in to town to finish up our shopping. I did commit to a nice fleece-lined cardigan sweater. We also made reservations for kayaking on Wednesday. After that we went to check out a place for Amanda's benefit - Aldi. If it was not in a glass jar I certainly would have picked up some lemon marmalade for 95p. We did get some goodies that would be considered premier in the States, but they are just food at Aldi. We only wish that clotted cream would keep on the plane ride.

Finally, we went back out on the town for dinner. Amanda had fish & chips while I had fried squid. Both were good. We stopped at a restaurant/pub for dessert. Amanda had chocolate cake and I had sticky toffee. Again, both were excellent.

The weather today was, well, authentic. It was in the low 50s and it rained off and on all day. The rain here is like the rain you get in the mountains. It is not a driving rain with big nasty drops, but rather it is a mist of varying intensity. As I look out the window I see it is back to intense mist. We did see a tiny patch of blue sky when we walked to dinner, but that was it. We are undeterred though. If we wanted sunshine we would have taken another cruise. Instead we got to see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. A little rain/mist can't spoil that!

Day 2

I managed to stay awake until 8:30, which was very difficult. I kept feeling like I was going to drop off when we were riding the Metro. We survived though.

I didn't get up until 7:30, which is amazing for me. I really needed the sleep. Amanda got up shortly thereafter. We got cleaned up and then hit the town. We started with a walk to Luxembourg Gardens. On the way we found a boulangerie where Amanda got a chocolate croissant and I got some pastry called "pepito." I thought it had poppy seeds in it, but it was instead some kind of cheesy filling with chocolate chips. Both were really good. We enjoyed these in the park and then walked around a while. We saw the classic fountain where kids still race sailboats. It was pretty amazing to take in this garden that you see in movies.

After that we walked to the Palace des Invalides, which was something built for wounded veterans in the 17th century. We decided not to get in the queue to see the chapel, though I'm sure it was amazing. Amanda didn't have much interest in seeing the French Army museum either (insert French military in the last century joke here).

We walked over to the Champs Elysees where Amanda found herself a scarf. Turns out that many Parisians wear them, straight men included. We got back to the hotel, gathered our bags, and then took the Metro to pick up our shuttle to the Beauvais Airport where we got our flight to Scotland. Flying Ryanair is a lot like flying Southwest in the States, with the addition of many opportunities to buy things in-flight including scratch-off lottery tickets.

We got our car at the Edinburgh airport and hit the road. Driving was not trivial here, as you might imagine. My biggest problem was getting used to how narrow the lanes are. I kept clipping the curb on the left side of the car. Fortunately, Amanda was a pretty mellow passenger. A more nervous passenger would have really unnerved me. The constant rain didn't help matters either.

We pulled in to our B&B at about 9:00 PM and were delighted with the hospitality of the owner. We love our room too. The most difficult part of the journey is successfully behind us.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Day 1 - Paris

Bonjour de Paris! We pulled into the gate around 7:30 local time, which is 1:30 AM to our internal clocks. Amanda slept more on the plane than I did, which was good for her. I got a couple of hours, but they were not great hours of sleep.

We got settled into our hotel around 10:30 and then began exploring the city. We started with croissants and cappuccino at a local boulangerie. We then began navigating the Metro to get our real lunch. The only snag we found with the Paris Metro is that you have to manually choose which doors open. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing all day.

We had an incredible meal for lunch. For starters Amanda had pate de foie gras and I had a tort made with a variety of veggies. Both were excellent. In fact, the pate was one of the few foods where you feel like your life won't ever be quite the same after eating it. For our main dishes Amanda had lamb and I had duck. Both were also excellent. If you are heading to Paris please let us know and we will set you up with this place.

After lunch we started sightseeing. We started with waiting in a long line for the Eiffel Tower and then a long climb up the stairs. It wasn't that hard, though it did take a toll on our legs. After that we walked to another Metro station where we caught the train to get to the Arc de Triomphe. I always wanted to see it and I'm glad I did, but I didn't want to see it enough to wait in line. I just took photos from the sidewalk across the street from it.

We walked up and down the Champs Elysees a bit, which was fun. Amanda thought about looking at necklaces at Cartier and I thought about looking at pens at Mont Blanc. Neither of us was very serious about this, of course. We then went to the Mariage Freres tea store, which was kind of overwhelming given how tired we were. We did pick up a couple of tins that we look forward to enjoying.

From there we took a relatively short walk to Notre Dame. We were there just as Mass was starting. The pipe organ does add a certain gravitas to the proceedings for sure. They even do incense for just a regular Saturday evening Mass.

From there we walked across the river to our side of it and got a fairly simple dinner of quiche. We both got desserts that we really enjoyed and now Amanda is soaking her aching legs in the tub. I am tentatively planning on taking a job around the Jardin du Luxembourg tomorrow, but we will see how it goes. I do think that I got a good sense of what the city is all about. It is certainly fun, but I think that I prefer Rome.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Our Little Juliet

Since the kids had good report cards this past quarter we decided to do a little celebration evening. We went to Ruckus for dinner and YoLo for dessert. We wanted to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful day, but we were stuck inside because there was no room for us. Nevertheless, we had a lovely meal and everyone enjoyed dessert afterwards.

Lily's friends were lurking when we came home and they had a fun time hanging out. We are getting a new wrinkle in the pack of friends though - there are some local boys who have started trying to ingratiate themselves into the pack. Fortunately, Lily doesn't think much of these guys. Her friends tried to have some fun with her before the boys came by chanting things like, "Lily likes Jordan," which Lily vehemently denied.

As the evening wore on it was time for Lily to go to bed. I called her in, but shortly after she had gone up to get ready I heard some funny noises like something was hitting the house. Oreo also started to bark like crazy. I opened the front door to find two boys in the yard, one of whom had some small sticks in his hand. Katie and Sarah were closer to the driveway. Lily was talking to stick boy from her open window. It seems that Lily offered to pay the boy a dollar if he could throw a stick through it.

We had a talk about this in the car today. I acknowledged to Lily that it was nice to have the attention from the boy, but that she needs to understand that he will misinterpret it. He probably thinks that Lily likes him now or at least that there is a chance of it. Never mind how ridiculous the idea of dating is in 4th grade, but beside that she was starting to make some ripples in their little social sphere with this. Of course, she just wanted us to drop the matter rather than discuss it. She also was very embarrassed when I told the kids that they had to leave our yard because Lily had to go to sleep. 

I don't think it's the last time her dad is going to embarrass her...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Field Trip

Lily and I had quite the day today. I got up at 4:00 and she got up at 4:15. I took a shower and then made us omelettes to prepare us for the day ahead. We got to Northwoods at 5:30 and were on the road at around 5:50 for the trip to Wilmington.

Our first stop was to Masonboro Island. However, before we could take the boat over the kids waited in line to use single-toilet bathrooms. That took quite a while, as you might imagine. The boat ride was fun for everyone, though extremely cold. I would estimate that the boat traveled around 15 kts, so combine that with a morning in the mid-50s, no sun, and some breeze on its own and you have some chilly children. The adults all stayed in the cabin.

The island was a lot of fun. There were three stations set up. One was to learn about the various life that is on the island. The next was to try catching some crabs, which was wholly unsuccessful since it was too cold. The last was to gather shells, but in a focused way. All three stations were quite educational.

After that we headed over to Ft. Fisher and the NC Aquarium. We had a picnic lunch which was unpleasant due to no-see-ums and fire ants. We breezed through the aquarium and all the girls had a good time. The gift shop was of course the main attraction. 

We then got back on the buses and went to see the USS North Carolina. This was the main attraction for many of the kids, even one of the girls in our group. Unfortunately, we were really pressed for time so we had to hurry through it. Lily was a little nervous standing on the grating in the engine room. Unfortunately, by the time we finished touring below decks we didn't have time for the bridge or CIC. We plan to go back as a family.

We rode for a little while and then stopped at a McDonald's. This was a pretty rough experience since they were out of ice cream with no way of making any. I tried to salvage it by buying apple pies for the girls. I hoped that the kids would all crash on the ride home, but only a few did. Fortunately, most were quiet as we watched Rio on the ride home.

Lily, Lauren, Kathryn, and Madeline

Everyone said that they had a great time. I know that I did. I also know that I am very, very tired now.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lost and Found

We have had a busy weekend so far. We decided that it was finally time to replace our old TV, so I took Noah to Target to take a look at what they had. We ended up with a 47" Vizio floor model that we're very happy with so far. As I type this Amanda and Lily are happily watching "The Voice" through Amanda's laptop on the TV. However, the process of getting to this point was not without its bumps.

First came the shopping experience. Noah wanted to look at toys, which was fine with me. However, he forgot that I was talking to the TV guys. He got scared about it and I found him crying and scared. This happened once before at Sam's Club and I always feel terrible when it happens. He played Lego Star Wars on their XBox 360 the rest of the time I was working on my transaction.

Next came the breaking down of our old stuff. Our old TV was very nice when I bought it in 1996, but it has become something of a dinosaur. What it hasn't lost over time though is mass. I had Amanda help me take it out of our old TV armoire and as we took it out the plastic just disintegrated under our hands. She ended up dropping her end and the TV literally fell apart. It was as if the plastic had turned into marzipan. This ended my dream of putting the TV in the basement.

Noah, Lily, and I later went with Noah's friend Nathan and his dad to the NC State Red White game. We had a good time there except for them being out of food by the time we arrived. After we got home I asked Jeff if he would mind helping me get the old TV to the dump as well as some other miscellaneous bits that we had leftover from all our construction. We left Noah and Nathan playing in the yard, which Amanda knew about.

When we came back I found Lily in the backyard dragging Oreo by his collar back to our house. I asked her about Noah and Nathan's whereabouts, but she didn't know. It turns out that they weren't in the house. We started to search for them and I found them being escorted by a local mom. I thanked her for her help and then we started to interrogate the boys.

As you might imagine, it was not a very fruitful discussion. Apparently they were helping Lily retrieve Oreo the other time he got out and then decided to "go exploring." We explained again that they were not to leave the area around our house. It was much scarier than the time at Target, to be sure. Fortunately, it ended well for everyone.

I think that's enough excitement for now. My next post will likely include some photos of our redecoration in the bedroom and bathroom.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

As we were preparing to celebrate Resurrection Sunday yesterday Lily started talking about how she had a surprise planned for us this morning. All we knew was that she was going to make some breakfast, but we didn't know anything else. After the kids found their baskets Lily asked that we all stay upstairs until she "rang the bell" (which ended up being a wooden spoon in a saucepan).

We came down to an appropriate Easter song playing on the laptop. Lily made pancakes, but she made the chocolate chips spell out "He is alive." She had the table set and everything out for us. Really it was a very good job.

The next step in her breakfast education is to teach her how to make bacon. As a great lover of the salted meat she is very excited about this prospect. After that Amanda is going to teach her how to make her signature scones. 

The weather today is rainy and cool, so it is not good for any egg hunts outside. Since we don't get back from church until around 1:00 and since that is when the Burns family goes down for Sunday naps, we are going to have a later dinner today. The plan is ham and various fixin's. The good news is that Lily and I will have egg salad for lunch today with our decorated pagan fertility symbols...I mean Easter eggs.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Party Time

The kids had fun Friday evenings. Lily got to go to her friend Grace's birthday party which was also a sleepover. It started with the girls going to see Oz. Then they came back for pizza and cupcakes. I don't know what else went on, but Lily said that they didn't get to sleep until 1:15. The girls wanted to make it past midnight and they did. I wonder if the energy of pre-adolescent girls could change our nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, Noah spent the night at the McKenzies' because Amanda and I attended our church's membership classes that were on Friday evening and Saturday morning. He had a great time watching Ohio State beat Iona in the NCAA Tournament with Uncle Bill. They went out to Bob Evans for dinner and he very much enjoyed his pancakes.

As you might imagine, Lily was a little grumpy Saturday evening. She decided that she wanted a bath instead of a shower, which was fine. Amanda went out with a friend in the evening, so I had the kids to myself. Noah and I played a video game and when I put him to bed at 8:00 Lily was already sound asleep. Apparently Amanda found her asleep in the tub at around 6:30 and sent her to bed. She explained that it is dangerous to fall asleep in the tub, though I'm pretty sure Lily would have woke up. Nevertheless, our little Peanut was all tuckered-out. She did much better yesterday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Talkin' T-Ball

Noah had his first T-Ball practice yesterday. We are doing Upward T-Ball at Colonial Baptist Church. This is the same church where I went to seminary. I applied to be a head coach, but was rejected because I refused to take a lifelong vow of abstinence from alcohol. I did make the cut to be an assistant though. Noah's friend Nathan's dad is also an assistant, which is good because he actually played some baseball. The head coach seems like a good guy too, so I think we will have a good time.

We only had six players show up for the first practice, which was understandable because there was not a lot of notice for it. There are two other boys and one is the coach's son. We also have two girls, one of whom may have never thrown a ball before. We're working on it though. Everyone seems to have a great attitude and as coaches we're trying to stay upbeat.

I thought it was funny to see the pile of kids in soccer and basketball, but that didn't quite prepare me for watching six kids go after a ground ball. We're working on "I got it!" but we know that it is going to be a process. Fortunately, we have a few practices before our first game.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Buy a Car

Our van was starting to have a strange burning smell coming from the engine. It also had about 83,000 miles on it and I figured that we were approaching the time of four-figure maintenance. From the beginning we wanted something smaller, but it wasn't available. Since we are coming into a little bit of money I thought that this would be a good time to look into a Mazda 5.

I planned on getting one used. Carmax had the color we wanted, but it was a fleet rental (danger!). It had 40k on it and they were asking about $16k for it. As a lark on Friday I started looking for new cars and found that the MSRP was $21,400. I filled out a few web forms to see what kind of deals we could get.

I was first contacted by a gal in Goldsboro at Frema Motors. She got some information about our existing van so she could give me a proposed trade-in value. While she was working on all of that I got a phone call from a dealer at Capital of Cary. He gave me the old "The MSRP price is $21,400 and the invoice is $20,400, so we're probably talking around $21,000." Shortly thereafter I got an email from Frema with a price of $17,271. Needless to say, that got my attention.

I explained that before we did anything for sure I wanted to test drive one and see how all the features work. We also took our van to Carmax to get it appraised there since we got more than I expected for our Camry. I also emailed my contact at Capital of Cary to let him know what she bid. He did the traditional, "Wow, how can they do that? We need to put our heads together here..." He came back with an offer of $16,979. I had promised the gal from Frema that I wouldn't take a local offer if there wasn't a significant difference (her exact words were, "don't show someone there my offer and take theirs for $50"), but I considered $300 significant. We test-drove what we thought would be our car that evening, but I wanted to wait until they gave us a number for taking our van. That evening I emailed my contact at Frema to let her know that she was underbid.

The next morning I received a call from Goldsboro before I heard from the folks at Capital. The general manager there told me that he would beat the offer I had by $500. At that point I stopped haggling and agreed to the deal. They delivered the car to our house as well, which was nice. We signed the paperwork at our dining room table and then I took the van to Carmax to get our check for $6000.

In the end, I got a new car for $500 more than what I would have paid for one used at Carmax with 40k miles on it. We got the color we wanted (the dark red in the link above) with gray interior. I'm kind of partial to red and gray, after all. All in all, I could not have been happier with my experience. The moral of the story is that you want to have two dealerships courting you. It is definitely a buyer's market.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Long Night

Our Friday night was one of those nights that come with the territory of being parents. First, I got paged for work at around 10:30. This was not too big of a problem as I went back to sleep very quickly thereafter. But then at 11:45 we heard Lily in the bathroom. She came to our room saying that she had thrown up. When Amanda got up to check on her I asked if she needed help and of course I was hoping that she would tell me she didn't. Unfortunately, she needed help.

Lily not only threw up, but it was all over her bed in a puddle. It was on her sheets, her bedding, and her dog. Amanda started getting the laundry going while I gave the dog a mini-bath. It was pretty gross having vomit all over his head. Of course, he didn't mind!

Lily wanted to snuggle with Mommy, which I fully supported. Our bed is probably big enough for the three of us, but I decided that it would be better to take my chances elsewhere. I climbed into Noah's top bunk and then had to make the bed in the dark. I had stripped the sheets when Noah threw up and we never remade it. That was interesting. I eventually settled down and went to sleep.

My phone went off again around 2:45, but I was able to settle back down after that. Nevertheless, it was not a good night's sleep. I waited in bed until Noah started to stir and then I brightly said, "Good morning, Pook!" He wondered, "What are you doing in my top bunk?" with a big laugh. That made the night all worth it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Noah's Busy Weekend

Noah had himself quite a weekend. On Friday we did date nights. Lily and I tried the Doritos Locos Tacos while Amanda and Noah went to Pizza Hut. They went to YoLo, which is our closest frozen yogurt place. Everyone had a great time.

Saturday started with an 8:00 AM basketball game. Noah had easily his best game of the season. By my count, he had 12 points and 6 rebounds. He would have had 2 more, but his teammates' shots didn't touch any iron.

Amanda hosted a tea party for the ladies in our church's home fellowship, so Noah and I made ourselves scarce. We went to the cheap theater to see Wreck-It  Ralph, which was a lot of fun. We killed a little time afterwards at the game store, had dinner at Chick-fil-A, and then killed a few more minutes at Five Below. We then met his best friend and his dad to go to the Hurricanes game, which they won 6-2. It was fun to see them score 3 goals in the first 9:32 of the game. When asked later what his favorite thing was about the game he said that it was "getting ice cream."

Sunday was less remarkable, though he did enjoy joining Lily and me for a trip to the hardware store to get some paint samples. The local hardware store has free popcorn, so that was fun.

Unfortunately, it seems that the weekend caught up to him. Amanda discovered that he threw up next to his bed last night, though he doesn't remember it. He hasn't eaten this morning, but seems to be more or less OK. He has had to miss school, but I think he will be fine by tomorrow.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fun Friday

Yesterday was a wonderful confluence of early release and beautiful weather. Unlike today when it has been in the high 30s and snowing, yesterday was in the low 60s and sunny. It worked out well because Lily finally got to enjoy her birthday present. Amanda bought a Groupon for horseback riding at a local farm and Lily went with her friend Grace. This is a photo of her upon her return.

Riding High
Amanda was a little nervous for the girls only because the group coming back had a nervous rider who fell off her horse. Lily and Grace did not have that problem and Pancho behaved wonderfully for Lily. She decided that she has developed a taste for horseback riding. To quote C-3PO, "we're doomed!" Speaking of C-3PO, we began a Star Wars marathon last night. Amanda had dinner plans with friends, so the kids and I watched Star Wars while eating pizza, popcorn, and cupcakes. It had been about a year since Noah saw Star Wars and it was time for a refresher. We watched The Empire Strikes Back today and I plan for us to watch Return of the Jedi on Monday since we are all off for Presidents' Day.

The day was also fun for Noah because he got to hang out at his friend Nathan's house during the day. It is great to see how well they play together. There is rarely any fighting and they just enjoy hanging out and doing boy stuff like shooting baskets on the inside Nerf hoop, playing outside, and playing Wii.

Obviously it won't be like this every time, but this was how to run an early release day. As Grandpa E used to like to quote, don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

International Night

Tonight was the second annual international night at Northwoods Elementary. We would not have gone, but Lily was in a play about the Trojan War. This was something she did in her AG (gifted) class and they decided to bring it out for international night. Forgive the choppiness, but I didn't realize that she was in back-to-back scenes.

Lily seems pretty natural playing Aphrodite, doesn't she? All the kids did a great job, particularly the young man who played Paris. 

After the play we were treated to some dancing. Lily's friend Adele from the bus stop did Irish dancing. It takes some courage to get up on that stage by yourself, but she did it and she did a great job. We got everyone clapping along with the music too. After that Noah and I ducked out to try playing some New Zealand dodge ball in the gym. It's always fun to talk to Coach Cuffe.

We hit the various tables where folks set up boards talking about their countries and we got to sample some food. I'd say personally the highlight was the homemade baklava. It was neat to learn a few things about the various countries. I also suggested to the Dominican Republic folks that under their country's exports they should add "shortstops."

I suspect that they will do this again next year. I really wanted to take the kids to chess night at the local game store instead, but I'm still glad that we went to this. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Social Weekend

We just finished a very social weekend. It started on Friday with the Daddy-Daughter dance at Lily's dance studio. Lily and I started the evening with dinner at Firewurst, which we both enjoyed quite a bit. However, after dancing a while I started to regret the wasabi slaw. We did some line dances (Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, Cha-Cha Slide), a little waltz, a little swing, and some popular songs. I got to learn some moves that Lily and her friends made up for the newer ones. I think Lily was surprised that I can move a little bit. We had a great time.

We started off Saturday with Noah's basketball game. It didn't start until 10:00, but we had to be there at 9:15 for team pictures. I gave the girls a break and they didn't arrive until just before the player introductions. Plus, they had to run an errand for a birthday party Lily was to attend on Sunday. Noah played much better. He pulled down two boards and brought the ball up the floor a couple of times. Unlike most 5 year-olds, he understands that he is supposed to pass when he gets in trouble. That was encouraging.

After basketball we went to Uncle Eric's birthday celebration lunch at a local restaurant. Right after that we stopped home to let out the dog and then met friends from our old church at the NC Museum of History. That was fun, but by the time we were done we were all very tired.

Sunday started off with church as usual. We came home, had a quick lunch, and then I took Lily to a birthday party. I was told that there would be a "fashion show" from 4:00-4:30 and the birthday girl's mom encouraged the other parents to attend. I told Amanda about it and she picked up Lily. There were a few snags though:
  • The show didn't start until closer to 5:00
  • It lasted about 45 minutes
  • No other moms came
Nevertheless, Amanda survived and Lily had a great time. It was good that Lily went because apparently this girl likes Lily and it meant a lot for Lily to come (her mom's words). We wouldn't necessarily know that from the stories we've heard in third grade, but things can be complicated among 8-9 year-old girls. It encourages us that girls want to have Lily around. I think she is more popular than she thinks she is, but that is just fine.

This week is ramping up already with activities for me planned every evening. More to come later.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Long Night

We had a pretty rough one last night. It started at 9:45 when I got a page from work. Since I was not asleep that wasn't so bad, but it did keep me up a little bit later than I intended.

Then at around 1:00 or so we heard Noah crying. I ran to find him going to the bathroom to throw up. I got him cleaned up, calmed down, and back to bed. We heard him crying again around 2:30 and Amanda took that one. She brought him back to bed with us. Sleeping with him in the middle of the bed is not so great, but we managed. He woke up and threw up again around 5:00. Fortunately, he gave us some warning and I got him to the toilet. It breaks your heart when your little one asks, "Why can't I feel better?"

Noah is going to stay home from school today. I'm going to suggest bonus electronics to take his mind off his tummy. If that doesn't cheer him then he is really sick.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Raleigh Landmarks

Noah and I ran some errands after the ice melted. I wanted to check out a bookstore on Capital Blvd, so we went up that way and checked out that Sam's Club. It's always interesting to see a different Sam's and we enjoyed a few good samples.

After that we went to the Snoopy's Hot Dogs on Hillsborough St near downtown. When I saw that they were open until 3 AM on the weekends I realized that most folks get Snoopy's after a night on the town rather than as lunch with their 5 year-old son. Noah and I really enjoyed our dogs (brown, not red!) and sweet tea though.

I like taking Hillsborough St home and took the opportunity to check out the bowling alley across the street from NC State. They have managed to make retro very kitschy. The young man working at the counter told me that they like to tell people that they "get to keep score" rather than "have to keep score." I want to take Noah there one of these days so that he can see how it used to be. Plus, they have some good video games.

We hit the Indian grocery store to get some spices for a meal Amanda wants to make and then Aldi for our last stop. Being at the Indian grocery store is like stepping into another world for us. The music is in another language. I can't read some of the labels. Amanda sends me for a spice that I can say, but I have no idea what the packaging looks like. Last time I was proud of finding what we needed without having to ask, but I succumbed this week and asked a young man working the register. Visiting that store gets a little more expensive than it should be because I like to try stuff too. Noah got some date bars that were sort of like dry fig newtons, but with dates. Good stuff. I also like getting curried snacks.

As we were leaving Aldi I asked Noah if he wanted to take a nap when we came home. He said he didn't, but I said I did. It was a lot of stops, but it was also a lot of fun. I'm finding that Noah doesn't like to run errands anymore unless there is a treat involved. A few dogs and a cup of sweet tea is a small price to pay for his companionship.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ice Storm

Unlike last week, we finally had a real winter weather event today. The kids went to bed on Thursday knowing that their school day would be 3 hours shorter, but they ended up getting dismissed 4 hours earlier than normal because the weather came in more quickly than expected. Basically, the county was trying to avoid what happened in 2005 when an inch of snow turned commutes across town into 8 hour drives.

I left the office at around 11:00 because we also were dismissed early. This was good because Amanda had lunch plans with a friend and I didn't want her to miss them. I waited in the freezing rain to pick the kids up at the bus stop, but by the time they arrived it had stopped. The kids and Oreo were glad for that. I got a fire going in the fireplace and got some work done while the kids hung our in their rooms.

The second wave hit around 2:00 with some legitimate ice. I had never seen a forecast for "ice pellets" until I moved to this area, but I certainly saw them. I salted the steps and driveway, but it was hard to stay on top of the ice because it came down so wet. As of right now we have about an 1/8 of an inch of ice on the driveway and on the road.

The only real negative to this is taking Oreo out. He doesn't mind the ice and in fact I think he kind of likes it. He keeps stopping because he wants to bite at frozen leaves, bits of dirt, and blades of grass. I'm not sure what we're going to do in the morning because walking on our road will be difficult with the ice. He may have to adapt to going in a different spot. The one thing for sure is that I am not going to have Lily walk the dog in the ice.

Noah's basketball has been canceled tomorrow. Unlike the locals, we did not manage to restock our milk before the storm hit, so we will have to improvise a bit at breakfast. If that last sentence doesn't make any sense then you've never lived in the South.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Basketball Jitters

Noah had his first game for Upward Basketball today. We had to be at the church by 7:30 for an 8:00 game, which was fine. It beats being in the huge line we saw waiting to get into the gym after us. Noah had a lot of fun in the room before the game chasing his friends around. They also gave them colored sweat bands. The idea is that you guard the guy on the other team who has the same color. It's a great idea, in theory.

They start off the game with player introductions. Noah's team was at home, so the visiting team got announced first. They ran out through an inflated tunnel. The other team loved it and everyone ran out. Obviously, they were giving the kids some sense of being a part of something like this:

I was hoping to hear, "At guard, from Northwoods, three-eight...number four...Noah....CHAMBERLAIN!" They didn't ham it up quite that much, but they did make sure that every kid got announced.

Noah didn't exactly revel in the moment. I took video, but I don't want to post it here. He slowly came out of the tunnel rubbing his eye. He didn't like the tunnel. He didn't like that he couldn't see me. He kind of hung out at the end of the tunnel while the next teammate was announced. Eventually he made it to his court and got in line. I had to go out and comfort him.

They split the game up into 6 6-minute periods. Of course, the clock is continuous. They do a brief devotional at halftime that everyone hears. Every child plays for half the game. Noah wasn't really into it. This is similar to what happened with soccer. He practices well, but when the game starts he has to take it all in. The only time he touched the ball was when he was supposed to receive an inbounds pass and the kid threw it off Noah's face. But then again, he wasn't in the mix much either.

It's just the first week and I'm sure he will improve over time. He's got the skills, he just needs to get comfortable in the game. I'm afraid he gets this from me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Great Blizzard of 2013

We had a winter weather event here in North Carolina last night. The day started with the temperature around 50 and rainy. It got colder and colder through the day so that by the time I took Oreo out after dinner it was in the low 40s and pouring (he worked fast). By the time Amanda and I went to bed it was sleeting pretty heavily.

We woke up this morning to...about an inch of snow on the grass and some ice on the deck. I don't think it ever got below freezing last night either. It was 33 at 5:00 AM, so I went out for a run. I hit a couple of patches of ice, but it was mostly just cool and wet.

Lily and Noah were excited because last night they called a 2-hour delay on Wake County Schools. It's easy to play the arrogant Yankee talking about how Southerners can't handle snow, but I think that was wise. I'm just glad that they didn't call school off completely because there is a Teachers' Workday scheduled for next Tuesday. The kids (and Amanda) don't really need a 5-day weekend.

They played out in the snow a little bit. Lily and Katie had a very small snowball fight. I was glad that today was my work from home day so I could be around for some of this. I put them on the bus around 10:20 (after Lily warmed her gloves in the dryer for a minute) and off they went to their very short day at school.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Good Report

King Solomon once wrote:

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
(Ecclesiastes 7:1 ESV)

According to this, it is good to have a good reputation. Of course, it is easy to get caught up in appearances and the Bible has a lot to say about that too. But I think what he is saying is that it is really good to be thought well of by others.

Amanda got this from Lily's teacher:

Lily is an absolute joy and pleasure to teach.  I love having her in class.  She is so so smart, but at the same time is very much still a precious little girl.  I love talking with her and hearing her stories. 

This warmed our hearts to read this. We want for her to be a blessing to others and it looks like she is for Ms. Dupree. I suspect that there are plenty of other kids who do not bless her, to say the least. So I'm taking this as an opportunity to brag on our little girl.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The bedtime routines have been a little messed-up lately with various changes. However, one thing that doesn't change is how cute the kids are.

Noah's Favorite Jammies
This morning I had a funny conversation with Lily as she was taking Oreo out for his morning walk. She has been a trooper in getting up early and doing this regularly.

Me: Good morning, Peanut! How are you?
Lily: Uhhh...I'm OK.
Me: What's the matter? Didn't you sleep well?
Lily: I slept fine. It's just annoying having to get out of bed.

I think we've seen a pretty clear expression of the Pierce genes here. She still went out and took care of Oreo's business, so I have to commend her for that.