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!

Friday, April 15, 2011


I expected Savannah to be more like Charleston. While they had similarities, Sothern city ports with lots of history, Savannah was unique in it's own right.

Three things that stood out:
- Savannah is the second busiest port in the US (who'd a 'thunk' that!).
- General Sherman decided not to burn the city as a Christmas present for Abraham Lincoln. The city was not destroyed because the 12,000 confederate troops gave up their positions in the face of Sherman's 34,000 federal troops. There were 16,000 residents of which 8,000 were slaves!
- You can track the arrival of denominations to America by the churches that emanate from the harbor as the city grew: Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Catholics and Baptists.

Two things you should know:
If you like history the trolleys and squares are a must!
River Sreet is reminiscent of San Antonio's river walk (more energy, less romantic) - you want to board here or near one of the squares.

One thing you shou ld avoid:
Savannah can be very humid, you want to miss the hot season.

Honorable Mention:
Tybee Island is nice if you are interested in light houses or a family friendly beech getaway.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Who is J.K. Polk, will be no more asked!"

This declaration by Andrew Jackson, whose political capital propelled James Knox Polk to the eleventh Presidency of the United States, seems ironic as Polk for all intents and purposes is one of the forgotten presidents of the modern day. Yet Polk's influence on the executive office is arguably the strongest prior to Abraham Lincoln and the civil war.

Upon assuming the Presidency Polk declared, "In any event I intend to be myself, Presidents of the United States." This proved to be helpful as Polk would find big egos and agendas in his contemporaries such as "Old Fuss and Feathers" (Gen. Winfield Scott), Santa Anna - the resilient Mexican dictator, Gen. Zachary Taylor - the 12th President, and Sam Houston - the father of TX.

Polk's agenda was clear: resolve the joint occupation (w Britain) of Oregon - "54'40" or fight", acquire California (Mexico), reduce the tariff (there was no income tax at the time and this was the federal governments main revenue stream), and establish an independent treasury. In short, Polk was successful.

Under the promise of a one term Presidency, Polk would expand the geography of the United States by 38% (if counting Texas, Oregon Territory, and California). After one term Polk, whose political ambition had always been the Presidency, was happy to leave. Polk would die shortly after leaving office, many historians agree that his early demise was due to the strain of the Presidency. - The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America: Polk - Borneman