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Congratulations AMY!!!!  2 Hours and 32 Minutes in the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon on an extremely hot and humid course.

Saturday, August 20th, 2008. As you can tell by the photos, Ben and his cousin Seth probably enjoyed today's water fight more than anyone else.  With Amy and my brother-in-law Eric both out of town, Deana and Martin invited my gang and Melanie's crew to her house for dinner.  We got there early and were in the middle of a full-on water fight when Melanie arrived.  The boys ambushed Caleb first, then all the kids got involved, even spraying Papa when he got there.  But Seth and Ben were the last to put down their weapons.  Unfortunately, I pretty much rained on the rest of the parade by later telling Ben that if didn't stop arguing with me that we would leave.  He stormed off, then spun around to spew out another mouthful and that was it.  I lost my temper (it wasn't our first go-around today) and told him that we were leaving.  We only have a couple of discipline rules in our house and one of those is that we %100 of the time back up our threats, even when we don't want to, that way the kids know that if we say something, we mean it.  That worked early and well with Jackson.  I'm not sure if it will ever work with Ben and his temper.   Just like Jackson learned fast, we did too, because we learned a long, long time ago to think through our threats first, because we don't want to say something if we don't want to follow through with it.  That's where I blew it tonight.  I should have never told Ben that we would leave, because then Jackson had to leave too.  And Deana had put a lot of work into dinner.  So I felt really bad.  But hopefully it will be one of those things that he will stop and remember the next time he and I are in a similar situation.   Jackson was really sad that we left, but perked up within minutes, which in turn upset Ben because I think he wanted everyone to stay grumpy with each other.  Jackson spent the entire ride home, as he usually does, talking.  This time it was about the future and hover cars.  Ben looked at him and said "Aren't you still sad!  Why aren't you acting sad!" 

By the time we got home, Ben had finally calmed down enough to think through what had happened.  As a result, he was an angel the rest of the night.  He ate a great supper (Deana sent us home with food), took a great b*th, then, after calling Amy to wish her goodnight, went to bed on time and immediately drifted to sleep, holding his mom's stuffed bear Leroy.  All in all, even with the big showdown between Ben and I, we had a good day.  We played a lot at the house, got haircuts, bought our hermit crab bigger living quarters, went shopping and watched college football.  I don't think it's going to be a spectacular year for the Hokie Nation, but maybe we'll have some bright spots to get us through.  Today we lost to East Carolina.  

Friday, August 29th, 2008

"104 days of Summer vacation,
then school comes along just to end it.
The annual problem of our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it

from the theme song to Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon on Disney Channel that I love.  Today's photo is from how the boys spent their last day of Summer vacation, playing at the pool.  Amy is off and away on her Girls Weekend in Virginia Beach with Timmesa and Christi.  They arrived safe and sound this evening and are out to eat right now with her sister Sherri.  Papa picked up Ben from pre-school this morning and my sister Melanie picked up Jackson from his school this afternoon on her way to pick up Caleb and Izzy from their school.  After leaving the office, I picked the boys up in Claudville and came home to start our three day weekend with a movie night and snacks.  It's going to be interesting to see how Ben and Amy handle their separation over the next three days, because those two are almost attached to each other.  Ben sometimes reminds me of one a little Koala bear holding onto his mom.  He's already asleep tonight though, so it's smooth sailing so far.  Papa did say that he threw one of his tantrums with him this afternoon and stayed mad for about an hour.

Thursday, August 28th, 2008. The first week of school, so far, has been a big success.  Jackson was initially disappointed that all of his friends are in different classrooms.  But he has enjoyed getting to see them at other points during the day, like at recess and lunch.  Both boys are happy with their new classes, teachers, schools, classmates, etc... and Jackson's only complaint has been the change from being the first kid off the school bus to being the second to last kid off the bus.  His bus ride is now around thirty minutes, but he's adjusted to that fairly well too.  Last year Jackson was in an experimental room-sharing environment, where the top performing students in 2nd grade were grouped together for certain subjects, like reading and spelling.  His spelling tests last year were unbelievable, I'll have to scan one to show you what I mean, but he stepped up to the challenge, developed tougher study habits and by the end of the year received perfect scores on most tests.   He had some pretty serious homework as well that required him to put lots of time in at home reading..  But it was good for him because it taught him what he needed to do to accomplish difficult tasks.  I think he learned some valuable study skills.  I had already predicted that because of last year's workload, the jump to third grade might be easier.  It turns out I was right.  He couldn't believe it when he got his spelling list.  He could already spell them all.  He said it was like going back to 1st grade.   His workload, so far, is much lighter as well.  We would prefer that he stay challenged, but we're also happy that he's happy.  I'm sure that every year will be different and I'm really glad that he likes his teacher.  He's been on a roll in that department 

Nine of the twelve children in Ben's classroom are boys, so he's having a blast making new friends.  He told Amy that he wanted to set an alarm clock so that he wouldn't be late for school. 

Amy leaves tomorrow for the big race weekend.  Everyone wish her luck.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2008. I really like the photo of Ben with his Aunt Deana's horse Spirit.  He even let his uncle Martin's horse Ruby tickle his belly with her nose.  That's a big deal for Ben, because he's pretty apprehensive with animals.  After watching Star Wars - The Clone Wars at the movie theater yesterday, we went to Stuart to feed Deana and Martin's fish and baby chickens.  And to eat dinner with my mom.  Today was Jackson's last day of Summer vacation and we spent it around the house and at the pool, although Amy did run eight miles early this morning in preparation for next weekend's half marathon. 

We were all very sad over the weekend that our good friend Sharon lost her pet of fourteen years, Dotty, on Saturday.  Sharon had a good friend in Dotty and we know she'll be greatly missed.  Today also would have been Grandma Sue's 68th birthday.  We made a birthday cake in her honor and before cutting it, Ben asked if we could go outside and sing Happy Birthday on the front porch where she could hear it.  It's hard to believe that Ben is now the same age Jackson was when their Nana Sue passed away.

Thursday, August 21st, 2008. You can view all of our beach photos hereOur last morning was spent in the pools, our afternoon on the road and our evening at my sister's house in Stuart, Virginia celebrating my dad's birthday.  Before we left town though, we made one last stop (actually three) to find Jackson a turtle.  We were unsuccessful, but he did buy a hermit crab.  It's our first and he's turned out to be a really fun pet.  Jackson takes him out to the sand box for exercise each day where he climbs to the top of the sand toys.  Amy makes sure his sponge stays wet and Jackson baths and feeds him.  It only took one night to learn that we need to take him to the far side of the house before going to bed.  Who would have thought a little crab could make that much noise?  We should have named him "Click-Click" instead of Leonardo.

Since we've been back, Jackson has been back-to-school shopping with his Aunt Deana and to his first Soccer practice of the year.  His practice field this year is right behind our house, so he is looking forward to the freedom of getting to walk to practice on his own.  He loves the shoes, clothes, hat and jacket that Deana bought him and has enjoyed showing them off.  Big news at our house this year is that Amy is watching a friend's baby three days a week.  The entire family has enjoyed having him around.  He's a super cute four month old and the boys take about eighty photos of him each day.  Alas, school starts next week, so Summer is rapidly coming to a close.  Ben will be in pre-school until noon five days a week and Jackson will be moving up to third grade at the Intermediate School.  I can't believe he's already finished with the elementary school next door.

Tonight Jackson is traveling with his Aunt Deana and cousin Caleb to his Uncle Martin's book signing event in Greensboro.  Ben meanwhile is spending the night with his Papa in Claudville.  Both boys wanted to get some time in with Papa before school started.             

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008.   As you can see, things were a little more crowded on our second full day at the beach.  The sun was shining and, just like everyone else, we tried to pack as much as possible into the day to make up for the day before.  Amy ran before the boys and I got up.  Following that, we hit the kiddie pool where Ben loved the tube slide, then moved to the hotel's private water park where Ben loved the tube ride through the rapids (he called it riding the rafts), and wrapped up the morning with lunch in the room before hitting the beach.  By the end of the day, we had made that rotation multiple times and were all exhausted.  We had a wonderful day.  (I'll leave out all the discipline parts around Jackson's bad attitude during most of the morning.)


Tuesday, August 19th, 2008.  After playing in the ocean and pools on the night we arrived at the beach, we walked to the gift shop so that the boys could spend some of their own money.  Ben bought a toy boat and Jackson bought a "mood" necklace.  We then wrapped up the evening by watching Daddy Day Camp at our hotel's free family movie theater.  It was a fun way to end the day.  The next morning we woke to find the beach rainy and cold.  I took advantage of the rough surf by getting a little early kayaking in (photos here).  We then walked back to the gift shop so that Jackson could spend more of his lemonade stand profits on a boogie board.  Ben bought a snow globe.   The rest of the day we spent either in the crowded indoor pools or the not so crowded ocean.  The waves were fast and furious, pummeling us all before the day was finished.  Ben was adamant that Amy NOT go out into the surf.  He totally freaked out each time she tried to go play in the water.  This is a photo of him explaining that it was just way too dangerous for her.  On the next day, she started to go down a slide in the kiddie pool and he said "Uh, what are you doing that for?"  He's very protective of his Mommy these days. 

So, our first full day was very rainy.  And very cold.  But we made the most of it and enjoyed the rough waves.  Ben screamed at each one of them, yelling things like "AWESOME"  or "RADICAL."    Jackson surfed them, swam under them and tackled more than a few head on (more photos here).

Saturday, August 16th, 2008.  Today's photos and those posted here are all from our first evening at the coast earlier this week.  Ben started the week having Amy lift him over the waves.  He then moved to jumping over the waves by himself and ended by letting them roll him around in the surf.  Jackson is still our biggest wave lover though.  His first choice at the beach is to hit the waves.  More photos and details from the rest of the trip later.             

Monday, August 11th, 2008.  It was a bit of a milestone weekend for Amy and I.  On Saturday, I paddled the New River Gorge in West Virginia, which was a goal that seemed very distant when I started kayaking a few years ago.  I was upright for the entire run, except for rolls while surfing, and had more fun than I would have anticipated.  (photos here)  Then on Sunday, Amy ran thirteen miles on the New River Trail in Galax, Virginia.  When she first began training for next month's half marathon, she set 2 hours and 10 minutes as her goal.  She finished in 2 hours and 11 minutes on Sunday, the very first time she's ran that far.  She's awesome and I'm very proud of her.  I had paddling legend and friend Ricky B from Mount Airy with me on my trip and Amy had her friends Timmesa and Christy with her on Sunday's run. 

Tonight, Jackson and I took our buddy Matthew racing for his birthday and had a blast.  The weather has been unbelievable the past few days and I hope it sticks like this for a while.  The boys have roughly two weeks left before school starts.


Thursday, August 7th, 2008. Amy said that she was tired of seeing the Avett Brothers on our homepage.  So I'll squeek in a quick post.  We've been busy, with trips to Fairystone State Park, to the cabin and the waterfall above it, the pool, Sci-Works and lots more.  I took off work yesterday afternoon because they were supposed to release water in Kibler Valley.  Instead I found myself standing around with my hands in my pockets, along with a lot of fellow paddlers that drove a lot further than I did, because the release was cancelled at the last minute.  Fortunately for me, Amy, the boys and our nephew Caleb decided to drive up as well.  So while everyone else had to head back home, I was able to spend the rest of my day playing with the family at the river.  

Here is a clip from FloydFest of the boys dancing.

Jackson had a big week.  He realized that he can now snap his fingers, skip a rock and ride his bicycle in full circles.  Those are all big deals when you're eight years old.  I remember how frustrated I was at that age that I couldn't whistle.  It drove me crazy.