Monday, July 30, 2012

North Litchfield Beach - pit stops!

As we said goodbye to the beach and ventured back through the back roads of SC, we came across a pit stop where the "El Cheapo" gas station advertised "butt meat" and "liver puddin." We felt that this was too good to pass by so we stopped for boil peanuts and to tank L up. The boiled peanuts were slightly below average, but the diversity was high as the clerk was from India. For lunch we stopped just past Columbia where we frequented the chipotle (for K's dietary restrictions) before we hit up CFA.

Our chipotle bathroom experience was memorable as I ventured in solo with Luke and Ava Marie.  As we were in the men's, the men went first followed by Ava Marie.  The scene that unfolded was memorable.  Luke having done his business now proceeded to the sink to wash his hands while Ava Marie climbed up onto the commode and clung precariously to the seat which was not designed for an almost three year old.  Watching her dexterity on the lid, I failed to notice that Luke had applied liquid soap all the way to his elbows as if scrubbing in for a surgery.  I immediately stepped in and began to ration the liberal amount of hand soap that Luke was applying, out of the corner of my eye I watched Ava Marie shift to the side of the seat where she could better stabilize (smart!) in order to concentrate at the task at hand.  Having positioned herself, she began vigorously applying herself.  At that moment Luke, feeling satisfied that he had sufficiently washed his hands and elbows discovered the jet powered drier.  The moment his little fist punched the drier into action, I knew that we were all in trouble!  The sound reverberated with a deafening roar off the concrete floor.  Her concentration completely derailed, I watched as Ava Marie's hands instinctively shot from their Vulcan grasp to cover her ears.  She rocked precariously and decided it would be best to keep one hand engaging the seat and the other covering an ear.  As she doubled over to escape the sound, she let out a screech joining the jet powered drier.  To resolve the problem, I immediately began barking orders into the tumult!  "Ava Marie, it's ok!  Luke, don't touch the drier!"

Once relative calm had been reestablished and Ava Marie had been coaxed to proceed, we began to wait.  As Luke's bathroom break was complete, he decided it would be a good time to exit.  I  explained in earnest to Luke that we had a no kid left behind policy and that he had better not open the door.  We would hang out till his little sister was finished.  I saw in his minds eye that his hands could use a little more drying, I emphatically told him no.  I began to wander how much of the proceeding tumult could be heard by the very patient man outside, who I imagined was contemplating how using the ladies would impact his manhood.  For good measure, and the sake of my fellow man waiting outside the door contemplating gender suicide, I beseeched Ava Marie to hurry.  Formative instances like these are probably why most don't like to be rushed in lieu.  As we waited, I found myself asking Ava Marie for the third time "are you done yet?"  Finally she nodded and we headed toward the sink, while I kept my eye on Luke who was hovering by the door and who I feared would attempt a quick escape.

Thinking again of the unfortunate man who was waiting for us to vacate, I quickly dashed some water over Ava Marie's hands omitting the application of soap.  Maybe it was being second to use the commode, maybe the ear shattering dryer, maybe her daddy asking her 5 times if she was finished, but at the omission of hand soap Ava Marie came undone!  We made a quick, but not to quiet exit.  Luke pulling me toward the exit and Ava Marie pulling me back toward the bathroom.  I managed a dignified nod to the obviously relieved gentleman as we exited to continue our 900 mile journey home.

North Litchfield Beach - third times a charm!

I was dreading the 17 hour ride with three kids under five from Benton IL through ATL through Columbia to Litchfield Beach.  Surprisingly the two night transit went quickly with the help of sunflower seeds and two portable DVD players - I think I got stickers and a picture book when I was young. We've come a long way!

 Our third "beach" vacation in 4 years, we appear to be keeping pace with our kid production. We established an am beach rhythm with the kids. The kids got more adventurous each day and were the adult's entertainment. Luke was inseparable from his "cutlass" pirate sword from uncle J and aunt S. Ava Marie has started to respond to adults by saying "uh-huh, uh-huh!" She was not quite as bold as her big brother in the waves but was not shy at working grandmother's puzzle. L hated the beach crying (more of a high pitch squeal!) and pulling his feet up everytime he would touch the sand or water, but as consolation - like his granddad - he discovered watermelons and loves them.

During our family picture foray we encountered a white crab - not sure if Ava Marie or the crab will ever be the same.  Both freaked out! The crab tried to escape while Ava Marie shrieked at the top of her lungs (even though daddy was holding her 4 feet off the ground). Fortunately no one had to go to the ER . . . swimmer's ear (1st year), stingray (2nd year) . . . K and I enjoyed two late night walks on the beach and went shopping while grandparents watched the kids . . . should probably watch your wives and husbands too!


Monday, May 21, 2012

A Time Gone By - St. Louis (Marriage Conference)

This was our third marriage conference in four years. We had to laugh, maybe God was trying to tell us something? The ride from Benton to St. Louis is pretty and relaxing - the green of the corn field would be interupted by the bronzed yellow of the wheat and then the green would resume. In stark contrast East St. Louis is one of the more impoverished places I've ever seen - almost ghostly.

We arrived at the Millenium hotel a day early. The hotel had several things going for it: close the arch, a great view, and a swimming pool. In the morning K went to see her good friend Lisa while I went for a jog to the other side of the Mississippi river and through the park at the base of the arch. Constructed in the 60s the arch brings to mind the ability of modern engineering and at times a cheesy sci fi movie (the skin of the arch is metal and it is a little random :)

After a little exploration which took me from the basilica on the river up through a string of parks and hotels and after the lady at the kiosk shut down my request for more informational fliers, K and rendezvoused and ate at a fun Italian restraunt cadi-corner from the court house and then hoofed it 10 blocks to Union Station in the heat . . . Our dogs were barking!

Union station was like being imported into rouring twenties. All of the opulence of the robber baron's and the grandure of the industrial revolution seemed to be encapsulated in this grand old building. When we arrived the porter informed us that on our return we could take the metro. Wish I would have known this before we walked the 10 blocks. We wrapped up our time in St. Louis at the arch (I napped and K read). All in all St. Louis is a quiet, medium size city that looks back to a time of prominence in our nations history.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Real World - Wilmore, KY

The man was wearing a pair of cut off jeans, a black v-neck tee from the early 80s, and a well worn pair of fabric crocs. He got out of his cherry red mini van and in tow was a young girl. As I watched him in the reflection of the gas station window pane, I thought to myself, "whose that dorky dad?" Katherine did not appreciate as I shared my thoughts as she wondered where that left her being married to me - the dad in question. We were in rout to our sister's graduation in Wilmore KY when I caught a glimpse of myself in the windows of a gas station.

It had been 9 years since we had last been in Wilmore. Four worlds removed (Benton, Dallas, Atlanta, and Lafayette) and three kids later, we could only remember bits and pieces of our last trip. A bed and breakfast with a double bed, squeaky springs, situated next to a railroad track were some of my faint memories of our last trip. As I watched "aunt" Becs graduate (way to go Aunt Becs!!), I reminisced on my past graduations. Like our first visit to Wilmore they are a little fuzzy . . . My high school gym, open houses,and anticipation of college; the Purdue marching band, Elliot Hall, and a sea of graduates, wondering what the next step would be; Prestonwood, my professors, the commencement speaker that encouraged us to stay close to Christ and His Word, pictures with Luke in my cap, and again wondering where we would go next . . .

The time in Wilmore was filled with CFA, a giant play ground, slumber parties with "aunt Becs, cartoons (we don't get any tv), and happy reunions with Grandmother and Granddad. I did manage to get one run in around Asbury College, bringing ever closer to home the fact that I have "graduated" from the fairy tailed halls of academia and find myself mid stride in the "real world" that the honorary speaker warned the graduates they were facing.  A world where my highlights now consist of watching Ava Marie have her hair French braided by grandmother, helping little Hadden fall asleep on the car ride home, or navigating the playground with Luke leading the way!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Rocky End to a Smooth Start

By dawn we were at the GA line, breakfast in Chatanooga, lunch in Nashville, and around 3pm we were in Illinois. All in all we fared well on our 10 hour drive, but were wiped out by the time we joined the Auten's for dinner. Arriving to our suite we found it filled with snacks and goodies; a reflection of things to come - Rock on!

The weekend was a blur. Saturday was spent being surveyed by three different groups in three hours - highlight was being on stage with K answering questions from the church body and sensing that the deacons were on the same page with an attitude of ownership that I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by! These things always have the potential of being rocky, but we both felt the Lord allowed a very smooth and "easy" Q and A time. Saturday night the gym was filled for the Valentine's banquet. Two hours later we left with faces hurting from smiling and laughing so hard (though we had already commented that our grinners had been hurting from all smiling we had done in the morning :). This church loves to laugh and had a ball with their slightly sacrilidgeous "church ladies" who MCed then roasted their "young" pastors (me included) in a not so newly wed game. I'm not throwing stones (small rocks), but these ladies didn't pull any punches! Girldles, worst habits, IQ comparisons, breath ratings . . . suddenly remembering now that the mid-west culture is very much say it how it is! Good times!

Sunday morning, I woke up exhausted! My introvert batteries were screaming - by noon, I must have shaken 1,000 hands (the church ran 450 + at the services). Conversations varied from background to the weather - one lady informed me that she had longjohns on (see above concerning mid-west culture :). I was completely innondated by names . . . there are 5 Kays in the choir alone. The vote was 99% in favor of calling us - going to need a rock for my collection. I chalked up the 4 "nos" to the church ladies. After a celebratory lunch we hunted for houses - came away thinking we will need to be patient. By Sunday evening I was depleted and a little nervous; this would be by far the largest crowd I have ever preached too (350+). I broke out the rocks which got a good response. K said that I was a little fuzzy in the middle of the message, but all in all I delivered! In other words, "You Rock!"

Monday we began the trek home - 45 minutes from a home a semi threw a small rock which zinged the corner of our windshield. I watched as the nick grew from a dimple into a 6 inch crack - meaning it would have to be replaced. Amazing how the little things in life have the greatest potential to drive you off your rocker!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gate E16

My Rock was waiting for me as usual at gate E16, but this time my rock would return with me. By my calculations this is my sixth or seventh trip to DFW during the last two years with AL. I acquired my rock shortly after transitioning to Apartment Life to memorialize a dream that God had called me to put on hold - as usual I struggled and God blessed despite His initially disenchanted servant.

Running parallel with my own journey, I had had a plan for this rock two years ago that didn't come to fruition. My memorial stone was to ride home with me in my carry on bag until the TSA agent informed me that I couldn't carry on small boulders onto the plane. Having become emotionally attached to my igneous friend, I couldnt abandon him (yes, this one is a male) so I placed him strategicly in the DFW airport landscaping at E16.

By coincidence one of the themes for our staff meeting was rocks of remembrances. As I wrapped up my presentation to the senior leadership, I brought out my rock and shared how God had been faithful during my two year season with AL. I then requested that my rock be shipped to GA where it can be joined with the rest of my rock collection as we prepare to make the jump to S. Illinois.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seven reasons to study James

1. One of two books of the Bible written by a brother of Christ - imagine always being compared to your older brother who happens to be the Son of God! :)
2. Likely the first book penned out of the New Testament corpus ("wik" it).
3. Short and straight forward - 5 chapters.
4. Luther called it a "right strawy epistle!"
5. Addresses problems we face today - trials, dysfunctional people, and our own pride.
6. 60 imperatives packed into 108 verses; a plum line realigning our lives & bringing God's economy in focus.
7. Called "Proverbs of the New Testament"

The Crossroad's class will be launching into the book of James over the next few months. In an attempt to chew steak (see previous post), if you would like to get more out of the God's Word please consider taking the following challenge (SBX style)!  We will be starting next week with James 1:1-18 (pages. 22-26).

Tall - read James 3 times in a week
Grande - work through the James study (prior to Sunday) - see link "James study" on the right side of blog under Crossroad's Bible Study
Venti - James study + memory verse - see table of contents in study material

Fillet Mignon or Gerber "baby" food?

Every Sunday morning American Christians get up and enjoy one possible two doses of the Word of God.  While this intake of God's Word is designed to be a compliment to a week filled with self study of God's Word, it is highly probable that for many this might be the only intake of God's Word. 

To those that I have had the privilege to teach I enjoy likening the homily/lesson of pastor/teacher on Sunday morning to Gerber baby food - it's easily consumed, delivered by another, and there has been no effort on the part of the receiver in the preparation - in short they are consuming what has been "pre-chewed" by someone else!  Imaging eating baby food all your life - the growth would not be impressive (convicting?)! 

I like to say, Gerber is for baby, but the end game is Fillet Mignon - much better!  The goal is to grow up and  learn to "chew" your own food!  Those that learn to "chew" God's Word for themselves (2 Tim 2:15) will find that the "pre-chewed" doses of God's Word that were once their only sustenance as "babes" in infancy becomes a delightful dessert or to complete the word picture the "icing on the cake" after a nice steak!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Georgia Christmas

Thanks to the imminent arrival of baby # 3, for the first Christmas in seven years we didn't feverishly pack up and make the pilgrimage to Indiana. We did observe the traditional Christmas Eve service, followed by "Chinese" take out, and the opening of our Paschal pajamas. Thoreau aptly observed that "Every child begins the world again!" and for us this meant "birthing" a new GA tradition. After opening gifts on Christmas morning we drove across the street to Waffle House - the only establishment open 24/7 365 days a year. It was packed!! Once we had downed waffles and chocolate milk we all came home and played with our new toys till nap time. Very nice!!

Editor's note:
daddy broke out in a severe rash the next day - no more crab rangoonies:(
papa and grandma and uncle S and aunt J got leveled by 48 hour flew bug:( - we avoided the plague :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The ABCs of Thanksgiving

A - Apartment Life: employing me, stretching, ministry focused, and hardly ever boring
B - Benton and Babymoons: an unforeseen development at an opportune time
C - Crossroads Life Group: launched in the fall, provides opportunity to use my spiritual gift
D - Doughnuts: kids love 'em & the Kroger near us makes a mean creme filled long john
E - Elam Ministries: a unique opportunity to ministered to and be ministered by the persecuted church
F - Fall: Georgia's falls are the most spectacular I've ever experienced: colorful and long
G - Generations: Nanny, the GGs, Grandparents, the Carpenters, Campbells, & the Williams
H - History: listened to a lectureship on Rome (50+ lessons); I love history!
I - iPad (and iPhone): love them
J - Jack: my new boss, a gifted leader and valued friend
K - Katherine: my very pregnant wife - still need a name!
L - Ladies Ministry: seeded the idea to read through the Bible in a year
M - Monty: joined the PCBC choir and learned that I am a first tenor who loves choir
N - No commute: 0.9 mile commute and access to anything we need within a 3 mile radius
O - Operations and Strategy: skill sets that I've been able to leverage in work and church
P - Presidents: have read several great bios this year
Q - Quality time: errands are a joy, Saturdays are fun, and horizons are ever broadening
R - Radical Group: deepen my commitment to share my faith and has strengthened my walk
S - Simpsonwood UMC Retreat Center: prayer mornings are savored here
T - Tents: Luke and I have taken several adventures plus our Labor Day trip with PCBC friends
U - Uga-mugas and Noggin-noggins: just too affectionate to annoy me for too long
V - Vacations: Two new places: Savannah and Asheville
W - Weekends: finally learning how to enjoy them - work in the morning and then R & R
X - Chi: the Greek letter x which stands for Christ who is and continues to transform my life
Y - Youngblood: the unique middle name of my friend Tyler: PCBC, Radical, Turkey, Crossroads
Z - Zoos: my family loves the zoos, especially panda bears and lions

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Not your Average Joe!

God has blessed me with quality friends! I first met Joe in the Fellowship class of First Baptist Dallas where my wife decided that he and I should be friends. A long shot at best, as Joe is a pretty low maintenance guy and had room for only a few select friends. Well time passed and I began to co-teach the Sunday school class, Ella was born with GBS, Joe and I began to run, and our friendship began to deepen. Joe is a servant extraordinaire and has done lots to love on our family ranging from bringing us dinner the night K went into labor with Luke to buying my son his first basketball hoop a year later.

We share the common values of sports, frugality and practicality, and our mid-western roots. Joe sold me the nicest car I've owned to date and the only car that's ever been professionally detailed - an act of kindness that didn't go unnoticed! This last weekend Joe (and his bride!) flew our entire family into Dallas so that our families could be together. That's just Joe! Cheer wine, the Rangers, McDonald's play lands, and a sweet fellowship of old friends declaring God's faithfulness over the last two years highlighted our time together. If memories are the fabric of friendship this was a good one to add to others: running in the cold around white rock, visits to the ER, pre and post-delivery meals, moving parties, Snuffers, Nobu - the first time I ever tried Sushi; why not start with the best, Fogo de Chow (loved the lamb!) a cruise of a life time, a cane (the elephant - strength and consistency two qualities Joe possesses), a handshake, a hug, a smile, a friend to connect with on Sunday mornings, a call to catch up, and many random acts of kindness and love along the way . . . Joe is a lot of things, but one thing he is not is average! Thanks Joe!

My Little Lion is Four

I'm all for having birthday parties for kids under four as long as it's economical and we're all honest that the party itself is for the adults. I'm also a little wary of a 4 year old getting 30 presents - a bit overkill if you ask me. I mean, "happy fourth birthday" and to make sure that you are well on your way down the road of materialism and being consumed by stuff here are 30 gifts . . . probably need to save that for a later blog post :). With that said, Luke's birthday party was great! Both sets of Grandparents came down from Indianapolis and Uncle David joined us to help us celebrate this momentous occasion. Highlights included the Lightning McQueen birthday cake, a pirate hat, the "storming Nortons!" (my own title), and the grandparents! K and I gave Judah a set of Lincoln logs (again, probably more for daddy) and our old digital camera - hoping to get the artistic juices flowing early. The gala was held at the park a mile from our house and was replete with lightning McQueen accessories (paper plates and napkins), hors d'oeuvres (a veggie tray), and an amazing entree (PIZZA!) Throw in a lightning McQueen balloon and this party was a true success coming in just shy of the $50 mark.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"I'm Not Complaining, But...

I'm hungry, tired, and my arms don't work. [pause] Well, at least I wasn't complaining until I got into the car," declared my 29 week pregnant wife. I grinned; all I had asked for was a little internet research on the iPhone. The kids were subdued in their seats fighting off sleep in attempts to hold out for lunch. It had been a full morning at the pumpkin patch.

The tractor ride into the pasture where the kids fed a small herd of cows was a big hit. Shout out to the wife for finding the discounted coupon! Our adventure had proven successful for the alpha-male, but economical, hunter who had bagged a decent size pumpkin for $6. We're planning to have Papa carve the pumpkin next weekend . . . I have not so fond memories of my hand being forced into the pumpkin guts! (oooo! It makes my spine tingle) Thanks dad!

The highlight for K and me was watching the kids chase the free ranging chickens (Ava Marie actually cornered a couple). I could see Mic in Rocky II grinning and saying out of the side of his mouth, "Greasy, demon lightning speed!" (Go watch it, it's a classic). K would like to have a gaggle of chickens as we cycle through eggs like none other, she would also like a cow for milk, a cow for meat, a churn for butter, and garden for greens. Ok, so I exaggerate with the churn. I myself would like anything that I could grow for a profit (economical and a capitalist). I'm thinking watermelons in the summer and pumpkins in the fall. Could pay for the kids education. Note to self: talk to granddad about watermelon and pumpkin growing. I digress . . .

Luke grinned with delight when the miniature goat grabbed a mouthful of his jacket . . . Ava Marie just squealed, but couldn't quite pluck up the courage to touch the goats. Oh you could tell she wanted too. Probably refrained because she thought they were trying to eat her brother.

All in a a great time! Though I think K would find parallels in her chasing the kids and the kids chasing the chickens. Sure hope we get her arms fixed!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's all about me?

The night before I left for my three day business meeting in Dallas, my wife asked, "Are you excited?!" I replied, "Yes!" But as an exemplar of woman she felt the need to push a little more on my pithy male response. What are you excited for? "The flight," I answered, but I wasn't sure why? Typical male!

So the next morning I did a little study and this is what I found. I like waking up when all is quiet and dark. I enjoy grabbing a Dunkin Doughnut's coffee on my our long transit to the airport. I was pleased when I found parking close to the terminal and delighted when I went in to the Delta Sky club and realized that I could request to be shifted from the middle row to an isle seat. Enjoyed going to the Delta Sky club, very bourgeoisie! I loved watching the Monday morning commuters hustling through the airport to catch flights (people watcher - thanks mom!). I was a satisfied customer when I discovered that I had been given the isle seat right behind 1st class. I, I, I . . . why do I love flying, I guess because it's all about me

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Benton "Babymoon"

We ditched the kids for a long weekend and headed for Lake Rend near the quiet town of Benton, IL. Benton is a small town of 7,000 an hour over the Southern Illinois state line. Our journey to Benton took us through Metropolis, an exit with a handful of gas stations. It was well worth the stop as it affirmed what K and I had always expected -that we were super-heroes.

Once in Benton we enjoyed the local couisine (at Seasons we had bread in a pot), saw a train that Judah would have loved, roamed the Walmart, and took in the stars.

Benton's town square was quaint with an interesting twist. Vehicles entering the square have the right of way?! It was surreal and remind me of It's a Mad Mad World! Just for fun I drove around the square on several different occasions the last time I made it around three times before my pregnant navigator told me she had had enough!

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Bobby breakfasts," Bonfires, Boats, and Bees

I believed I was a car camping afcianato but when our campsite-mates pulled up in two vehicles, unloaded three coolers, a griddle, a colman camping stove, and "the oven" (a Weber grill in which biscuits could be cooked - awesome!), and declared two simple words - "Bobby breakfast!" - I knew that we were about to transcend to a level of tent camping that I had never dreamed possible! I had also never seen anyone stand on a picnic table to sweep it off before putting down a table cloth.

We rustled up scrumptious breakfasts ranging from pancakes to biscuits and always including sausage, bacon, and eggs, found a perfect spot for the hammock as well as three treasure troves of wood nearby to keep our fire stoked with large oak and pine stumps. Coupled with a half bottle of liquid fire, our fire was quickly ignighted and smores were patiently perfected (by those who have or have considered industrial engineering in their pasts). We swapped stories of snakes, near death experiences ("we ran over Bobby!"), and past lives (college seems so long ago). Sounds perfect - did I mention it was stinking hot and humid?!?

As our five collective kids swarmed over the campsite, highlights included sweeping the dirt, playing with toy trucks in the dirt, riding bikes through the dirt, and just playing in the dirt. Did I mention it was hot and humid? Ava Marie looked like an urchant by the time breakfast was over, glorious chaos. Fortunately there were showers and the lake where, not surprisingly, Ava Maria prefered the sand over the water.

I coaxed Luke out onto the tube and he couldn't decide if he was having the time of his short- lived life or if he was scard to death. When Wallace would whip me off of the tube Luke would yell, "Get my daddy back in the boat!" and he clapped happily when my tour behind the boat was done. I personally think you get one shot at rolling an innertube after which your arms are too pulverized to successfully roll in the next runs. Unfortunately, the draw strings on my trunk weren't cinched on my first pass which meant that I had seconds, while being dragged underwater behind a boat underneath a fifty pound tube, to chose to keep my modesty versus completing my roll. Since I am too modest to tube buck naked in broad daylight I let go. I was really proud of Luke's courage to face his fear and tube with his daddy!

We arrived back at the campsite to find that Katherine and "the bump" had packed the entire tent - "way to go Kramer!" Following this highlight, Luke and I caught a moment of tranquility hanging out in the hammock (pun intented) before all turmoil ensued thanks to a yellow jacket ("bee") stinging him on the finger. Five minutes toward home both kiddos were sacked out in their car seats thanks to Benadryl, a missed nap, and an amazing camping trip with the Reynolds and eleven other PCBC family friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My "pretty-princess" is two years old!!

Time flies and I no longer have a baby girl! Ava Marie turned two on the twenty-sixth! To celebrate this grandious (that's a fancy name for "great" ~ Fancy Nancy books) occasion she got Chick-fil-a - pronounced "Chick-fuw-a" - for lunch and pizza for dinner (sure sign mommy and daddy are running a little behind in life:). After poking at a couple of sprinkles she spurned the cupcakes that her momma had lovingly made.

The highlight of the evening for Ava Marie was opening gifts. The lowlight of the evening for Luke was watching his little sister open gifts. The play kitchen was the big hit of the night and the following morning it precipitating several time-outs with siblings sitting side by side looking mournful. The little people house (dad and mother) and the turtle book (pa and ma) have gained momentum as the novelty of the kitchen has worn off. Aunt Julie/Uncle Sherwin gave a pretty fan and the gg's chimed in with a check. All in all the "pretty-princess" had a fabulous (that's a fancy name for "wonderful" ~ Fancy Nancy books) birthday. Daddy rocked his little girl to sleep, thinking that she is growing up way too fast!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Asheville, North Carolina

As I loaded up the "froggy" potty, I tried to remind myself again that my paradigm of vacation has been drastically redefined. You would think this would come easy as I lugged up all the loot that accompanies 2 kids and a pregnant wife. The day dreams of silent mornings with a cup of coffee on my chest blissfully lost in thought with my Bible by my side, wondering through the other world estate of George Biltmore listening to a fascinating audio tour, taking a romantic walk each evening around the lake, or devouring three books has been indefinately suspended for the next 20 years. Sadly, vacation is no longer all about me!

While we did enjoy coffee each morning while the kids decimated Granddad's pancakes, wondered the Biltmore Estate - two of five floors before the kids could take no more, enjoyed several family walks around the lake with a running commentary coming from the doublewide stroller, and managed to read 91 pages of an adult book and a half dozen "little people" books, vacation was very much an "us" event and not entirely a "me" occasion. Couldn't my self-centeredness die on another field of battle? Shout out to Granddad and Grandmother who joined us and for whom I am developing an ever deeper respect. They have the opportunity to have "me" vacations but instead choose to join "us" and thereby bring a little redemption back to the "me" side of things. Thanks Grandmother and Granddad (though we know you come for "them" and not for "us":)!

Highlights of our "us" vacation:
Throwing rocks into the stream at Montreat
Feeding trout at Mount Pisgah National Park
Swimming at the pool and playing in splash fountains at Black Mountain
Seeing "the ducks, goose, and geese" at Lake Tamahawk (notice the water theme)
The "castle"
Watching PBS cartoons at our "vacation home" - if it was "me" we'ld be watching Masterpiece theatre murder mystery instead of Curious George and Cat in the Hat
Sophia's aquiring of jellie beans through froggie potty successes - as I lose control over the definition of vacation, she gains contol over her bladder!
Bubbles and puzzles - grandmother's favorite was Sophia turning 360 degrees when told to "turn" the puzzle piece
Judah's broom horsie rides after dinner
Sophia's mastery of the stairs

Highlights of the "me" vacation:
Rhododendron Cottage which had a stone fireplace and screened in porch (w/ fireplace)
The Biltmore - the grounds were amazing; next time the lodge replete with fly fishing and bicycling
Eating: My Father's Pizza (casual), Maddison Inn (had a chef), the Biltmore (wonderful buffet), the Corner Kitchen (quaint and romantic), and Phil's BBQ Pit (awesome name).
Jogging around the .55 mile Tomahawk Lake; obviously not easy in light of above
Dominos in the evening which has absolutely no strategy as Katherine who doesn't have a strategic bone in her body was the family champion and I never came close to winning
Grandmother's cooking, grenadine (which has 4 tspoons of sugar per serving), and preztle m&ms
"wrestles," "readings," cuddles, answering a barrage of questions, and watching Grandparents with grandkids
Visiting my 47th state!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Makes Texas so "Grand" Anyway?

Having moved from Texas to Georgia, I am amazed by the floral array of Atlanta's spring and the lush greens that its wooded terrain affords. Despite the beauty of Spring in Georgia, I find myself looking forward to my brief jaunts back to Texas for our companies' senior leadership meetings. Though my kids are Texan by birth, I never thought I would become attached to this vast, wide open state where the hotels proclaim their Texan pride from the back of their room doors, but flying in to Dallas Forth Worth airport coupled with the view from my hotel room window, I found myself missing the wide open spaces and ambiance of Texas.

Bidding $65 on price-line had landed me at the Grand Hyatt rising up out of the middle of DFW's vast series of runways. With soundproof rooms, a pool on the roof, and a view that would make any Texan proud (you can see Dallas and Fort Worth from the roof) the Grand Hyatt afforded me a first: the unique opportunity to watch a huge airport wake-up while ironing my shirt. They say "everything is bigger in Texas!" I guess the 'Grand' Hyatt lived up to its name.

Whale Sharks are Lucky!

With uncle S, aunt J, and "m," in toe, we zipped out of church to experience the Varsity (local eatery next to Georgia Tech) and take in the Georgia Aquarium. While post church Sundays are not prime time for people under four feet to be active, we relied on van naps and were prepared with a smorgasbord of snacks.

The Varsity gets an A for history but a much lower grade for food - three hours later the term "grease pit" was being used and the adults were feeling the side effects. Fortunately those under four feet were oblivious, I supposed if the adults had the luxury of car naps we wouldn't have complained either!

The Georgia aquarium - the world's largest - was impressive. It boasts three whale-sharks, several manta rays, sharks (hammer heads included), and beluga whales; but the museum was very crowded. Ok, it was extremely crowded and for a border-line introvert who likes to take a nap on Sunday, it was a little overwhelming. The silver lining was Luke enjoyed the whale-sharks, sea otters, and sea horses. Fortunately I enjoy living vicariously through my three and a half year old; not sure Ava Marie was quite as impressed.

A staff member shared that the whale-shark's throat (it's really a sifter - it eats through its gills) is the size of a quarter. I suspect all of the adults in our crew were jealous of a whale-shark as it couldn't have made the same mistake we did by eating at The Varsity!