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Friday, July 31st, 2009. We closed out July with a trip to Wet'n'Wild in Greensboro.  This is the third consecutive year that Deana has treated the kids to this trip and each year it gets more fun.  Sharon, Deana, Melanie, Caleb, Isabelle and our crew arrived just as it opened this morning and managed to hit multiple rides before the lines formed.  The weather prediction was terrible, but the day was actually really nice.  It didn't start raining until we were ready to leave.  While at the park, we also ran into friends Edrie, Jacob and Caroline from my paddling club.  Ben and I spent a lot of time together this time and we had a blast.  Jackson and I also rode some rides together, including some really big, exciting ones, like the Edge and the Dragon's Den.  All the kids did a great job of playing together and of keeping up with each other.  We received rain checks as we left and I'd love for everyone to get to go back (photos from the Edge courtesy of Deana).

Ben, Jackson, Nicole, Sharon Lunch break Nicole and Jackson in the rain Ben fell asleep drinking his slushy

Thursday, July 30th, 2009.   Today's photos are from Floydfest last Saturday.  We had the pleasure today of getting to play with Brett at the house this morning.  I was happy to see that he still liked to look for the "ki kat" and play with the balls.  When I came home for lunch he was asleep, snuggled up to Amy on the recliner.  I know that she misses that.  But we also got to play with sweet little Anne Rachel on Monday and Wednesday.   Check out this photo of her and Jackson playing Playstation.  Tomorrow we go to Wet-n-Wild in Greensboro where we fully expect Jackson, Ben, Nicole and the other kids to be both wet and wild.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009.  I turned 40 this weekend, while standing in line waiting for stir fry, at the end of an awesome day with friends and family at Floydfest.  Deana and Martin gave Amy and I the tickets as a birthday present.  I also received many other wonderful presents, ranging from a handmade personalized quilt from Timmesa to cash and a candy cane from my parents and my kids, from a tshirt Will bought me in the FF beer garden to an apple cake that Timmesa made me.  Thank you to everyone that helped make my birthday fantastic, especially Amy.  Below are some pics from the festival.  I liked the Duhks before I saw them and came away as an even bigger fan.  Their set at the workshop stage was simply phenomenal.  I watched Donna The Buffalo in a downpour.  Everyone in the band, other than Tara, continued to play, appropriately jamming for twenty minutes on Mystic Water as rain splashed off the drum kit and dripped from the instruments and amps.  Loved the creativity of Rooster Blues.  The Sadies only have one song that I really like, but man do I love that song, it's one of my favorites that stays in constant rotation.  I also used it on my last kayaking video.  So seeing them play Loved On Look was a big highlight.  It was a really great day spent with many friends and family.  (I'll post photos of them later).


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009.  Jackson spent his weekend at Alan and Charla's house.  This was his first time staying so far away from home.  He said that he would have been fine staying another week.  This week Nicole is staying at our house.  On her first day here, we were able to visit with Amy's cousins Jerry and Steve and their wives Glenda and Debbie who were in town for the afternoon.  It was nice visiting and it has been, as always, nice to have Nicole with us.  Last night while Amy exercised at Westwood Park, the kids and I hit the dirt piles behind the house for over two hours.  We thought that it would be a new experience for Nicole, but she said that not only was it not her first time playing on a dirt pile, it wasn't the biggest either.  We had a blast and came home exceptionally dirty.  Amy and the kids spent all day today having even more fun at Fairystone State Park with Deana, Izzy, Caleb, Jennifer and Maddie.  I'm in Charlotte for the night, but will rejoin the fray tomorrow.

Monday, July 20th, 2009.  Jackson started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's 390plus pages five days ago and finished it this morning.  He read for most of the five and a half hour drive to the beach and on the way back.  I have to give both kids credit for traveling really well this trip. 
We saw Greg Warren of the Pittsburgh Steelers while eating breakfast at the Four Corners Diner on Saturday.  Amy asked him to show her his Super Bowl ring (he has two).  He laughed when Jackson said that he didn't want to see it since he doesn't play for the Cowboys.  On our last day at the beach, Amy and Jackson once again hit the waves.  Ben and I however opted to skip the sand and saltwater that morning, choosing instead to relax at the trailer and to play at the arcade (more new beach photos here).

Saturday, July 18th, 2009.  One of the wonderful gifts that Baby Brett gave us was use of his grandmother Linda's place at the beach.  What a great gift.  We have had the best time and just love everything about it.  It is so close to the ocean, just the right size and everyone is super nice.  When we arrived Wednesday night, there were sand castle buckets and beach towels with all our names on them.  The boys love Brett so much and have enjoyed seeing all the photos of him everywhere we look.  We had yet another blue sky day, despite all the predictions of rain and thunderstorms.  Ben finally wore down and had to take a break from the waves this afternoon.  He was much happier lounging on the couch with a bowl of popcorn watching a Spongebob marathon, although he did go back in for a brief round two.  Jackson on the other hand made the most of his last full day on the coast.  He jumped waves, threw football in the waves, boogie boarded in the waves, body surfed, walked on the beach with Amy, dug holes, became the kite flying champion by going higher than all the other kites in the area and enjoyed every minute of it.  We will all, once again, sleep hard tonight.  Thanks Linda, Grayson and Brett!

Friday, July 17th, 2009.  Photos from day two of hitting the surf here.  It is the year of the boogie board for Ben.  He surfed all day long, outlasting even the surf boarding teenagers.  We capped off last night with two hours at the aquarium, then tonight with dinner at Amos Mosquito's followed by shopping, miniature golf and go-karts.  I think we'll once again sleep hard, then see if we can repeat the fun tomorrow, weather permitting.


Thursday, July 16th, 2009.  Awesome day of hitting the waves in Atlantic Beach(more photos here).

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009.  This is Jackson's report card for last year.  Super, super proud of his performance last year.  (4 is the highest score on the EOG test)

Monday, July 13th, 2009.  For the second straight weekend, we celebrated two birthdays.  This weekend's 2nd birthday party was for Anita's five year old son Jimmy.  Ben slept the entire way up the mountain and for the early parts of the party.  I'm not sure he ever completely shook off being grumpy, but we enjoyed the party, the food and the company.  Amy arrived home early Sunday morning and the boys were very happy to see her.  I drove to Stuart to pick up our tents from Deana's house and stopped by Hama's house for lunch, but Jackson and Ben said that they had rode the roads enough for one weekend and opted to stay home.

Saturday, July 11th, 2009. Camp Darius, aka Seth's Birthday Party/Sleep Over/Campout at Deana's house was a big success.  The boys and I had to leave early this morning so that I could get home in time for a conference call, but we had a great time last night.  The frogs and the roosters might have made sleeping difficult for Jackson and I, but Ben slept like a champ.  The campfire, fishing, swimming, kayaking and playing with Maddie, Will, Autumn, Seth and Issabelle was a blast.  The boys did great and are looking forward to celebrating our friend Jimmy turning five tonight at his party in Meadows of Dan.  Amy meanwhile is spending her second day in a row relaxing on Figure Eight Island's beach.

Friday, July 10th, 2009. Today's photos are from Wednesday night's visit to Deana and Martin's house, who spent the week vacationing in Key West.  We stopped by to eat Chinese with mom who was house-sitting and to over-feed the blue gills in the pond.  We return again tonight for my nephew Seth's birthday/sleep-over campout.  While the boys and I are camping, Amy will be enjoying a much deserved weekend at the beach with Christie and Timmesa.  Amy left early this morning for the coast, so my mom came over last night to stay with the boys.  We also had our friend Matthew over to play last night because Jeff, his dad, was running up Grandfather Mountain, along with our friends Mandy, Sandy and Teresa.  It sounded like quite an accomplishment.  Matthew, Ben, Jackson and I had a great night playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl on the Wii, where Ben came away as the almost unbeatable champion.  Matthew was definitely in second place, well ahead of Jackson and I.


Thursday, July 9th, 2009. Our intention was for RubySue to be an indoor cat.  For her first five months at our house, she seemed content with that.  She spent many, many warm days lying on the back porch in the sun, often in Amy's flower boxes.  She sat in the windows and watched with interest as birds flew by, but that was as close as she got to the outside world.  Then one morning, as I was walking to my car, I saw Ruby Sue dart across the backyard.  Zorro and Emma had either not noticed her or were ignoring her.  I assumed that she had fallen from the balcony and brought her in.  We decided that she would only be able to sit on the porch if we were at home.  A couple of mornings later, I let her back out onto the balcony.  Within minutes she was back in the yard with the dogs and Amy had to save her.  So that was that.  No more back porch.  But the bug had bit her by then.  ALL she wanted to do was go outside.  I didn't even know that she could meow that loud.  She sits at the door and meeeeeoooooows.  So we conceded and let her out the front door.  When she wants back in, she comes to the door and meeeeeoooows.  And as soon as she is back inside, she collapses on the floor and lays there motionless.

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009Our little garden turned out to be a great family project, one that has given all of us more enjoyment than I would have anticipated.  We built it in late May, Ben made a sign that has a picture of us gardening on it, Amy added the gnome, we removed trees that blocked the sun  and, when we return home after being away, our patch of vegetables is one of the first things we check on.  We got most of the plants and the potting soil from my Aunt Jenky's greenhouse in Ararat, Virginia.  Each morning, curious to see what has changed, we each walk out onto the balcony to peak down at our little 6X12 raised garden, which is so full that we have expansion plans for next year.  We planted two types of tomatoes, two types of pepper, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, green beans and sunflowers.  We've harvested six cucumbers, Amy and Ben picked beans this afternoon and it looks like the tomatoes and squash could ripen any day.


Tuesday, July 7th, 2009.  In less than an hour, then again in twelve hours, it will be 12:34:56 7/8/9. 
Thanks to a stream restoration project underway on the Ararat River, we have had a field full of bulldozers, back hoes and dump trucks behind our house for the past week.  I can not over-state how much fun my two boys have had with the giant, super soft piles of dirt that are left behind each day.  Sometimes the piles are taller, sometimes they are more plentiful.  But they are always good for at least an hour of climbing, sliding and jumping.  I'm not sure if it comes across in the photos, but on one of the nights, Jackson was actually making some pretty enormous leaps.  Luckily the landings were all soft.  And Ben has mastered surfing down the biggest drops.  Add to that a quick swim in the river and you've got yourself an old fashioned, all-American boy's mud fest.  Click here for a video from the past few evenings.  (8MBs) It takes a dip in the river, a hosing in the yard and some solid scrubbing in the tub to get them clean each night.  But I honestly cannot think of a better way for a young boy to spend his Summer vacation

Monday, July 6th, 2009. The food yesterday was both wonderful and plentiful, as was the music provided by Rich In Tradition.  I was very pleased when Greg told me that his band would play at Hama's party and they certainly did not disappoint.  Both the harmonies and the instrumentation made for a nice addition to the festivities.

Sunday, July 5th, 2009. Today we celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday.  It was a party, hatched in Amy's mind over six months ago, that was a success due to the many, many people that contributed in so many special ways.   Even the rain didn't dampen the festivities.  Cousins, aunts and uncles started working early in the AM, constructing tents and decorating.  The weather did not deter over a hundred guests from showing up to celebrate Hava and her little sister Hazel's birthdays.  I'll post more photos as the week goes on, but today I'll focus on some of the girls in the family, including one photo that includes five generations of ladies; Hava, Jenky, Sandra, Stacey and Sophie.  (Deana has great photos on her site as well).

Friday, July 3rd, 2009.  On Thursday, Ben went to his pediatric dentist in Winston-Salem (no cavities!), Amy and the boys went to the free movie at the Cinema and then we all celebrated our friend Sam's half birthday at the Eads house.  This morning, when Amy returned from her run, she found Jackson, Ben and I still sleeping.  Super nice having a day off after only a three day work week.  Jackson and I made a late morning trip down the Ararat River, starting at Riverside Park and finishing behind the house.  It was Jackson's first time paddling an entire stretch of river by himself and he did an exceptional job. He has a pretty decent set of river reading skills and enjoys surfing the rapids that he can get back into.  He also liked hopping out for the occasional swim.  And I enjoyed the father/son time.  We found Amy and Ben at the take-out and the boys spent another hour playing in huge dirt piles and in the river.  Following a lazy afternoon, watching the Pink Panther 2, we enjoyed a very nice cookout at our friends Steve and Lorie's house.  A truly nice start to our holiday weekend.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009.  On our first day back from camping, Amy and the boys, along with Deana and Seth, went to Chuck E Cheese and Sci-Works.  Ben later spent the evening and night with Deana and Martin, while Amy, Jackson and I visited the Farmer's Market and explored along the Ararat River.  Amy and Jackson joined Ben in Stuart today for an afternoon of swimming in Deana's pond. 
There were lots of other kids on our weekend camping trip and they all not only played well together, they also did a great job of looking out for each other, which we believe was a result of the wonderful example set by the teenagers.  I have many, many more photos from our campsite, from tubing on Deep Creek and from kayaking on the Pigeon and the Nantahala here.
(Today's photo of me surfing Nantahala Falls was taken by our nine year old friend Jacob, Jackson took the photo of Amy and Ben)