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Monday, June 30th, 2008.  What a busy week!  Thursday night we went to Ben's Arts Alive show at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.  Our niecce Izzy and lots of other friends were also in the show.  (photos here) On Friday, after taking our niece Nicole to meet Alan and Jimmy in Mebane, we celebrated my grandmother's 89th birthday with lots of other family at the Mayflower here in town.  (Birthday photos here)  Saturday, my friend Jeff and I took all of our boys to Kibler Valley to play.  As a surprise bonus, I got to do a little paddling when a whitewater release came flying down the river.  Only a little paddling though because I broke my paddle not long after starting, but it was still a fun getting to hit the water.   Jeff clowned around, the boys and I clowned around and, despite several bumps and bruises, we hated to leave.  (Kayaking photos, courtesy of Jeff,  here.)  But leave we did, because the boys had to get cleaned up and head back to Claudville while Amy and I went to a Junior Women's Club cookout.  Then on Sunday we hosted Dinner Club at our house.  Everyone except Brooke, Ella and Molly were able to attend this month and we enjoyed the company.  I don't have photos of that yet, but I will!  Today, Amy and the boys went to the pool with Deana, Izzy and Caleb.  And tonight, everyone was in the bed early!

Thursday, June 26th, 2008.  We only have Nicole for one more full day.  We'll miss her.  Nicole and Isabelle have become friends and have seen each other almost every day.  Today's photo was taken following an afternoon spent with Deana getting manicures and pedicures.

This morning, Amy ran 9.4 miles!  How about that?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008. Jackson, with a grin on his face, sat down in the barber shop chair and, when asked what he wanted,  replied "Flat top."  Getting our hair cut off appears to be contagious and for the first time in many years, Amy now has the longest hair in our family.  Jackson wanted something cooler for ball playing and wanted to look more like the guys in the NBA.  Since we ruled out his first picks, cornrows and braids, he went with David "The Admiral" Robinson's flat top fade.  He's happy with it and I think he looks cool.  Nicole likes it a lot, I think she is a fan of short hair.  Jackson definitely looks taller, maybe a little older, and even tougher. With the cut he has over his eye after accidentally walking into Nicole's cartwheel, he looks a little like a boxer.  Radically different, that's for sure.   

We spent part of Sunday afternoon watching a thunderstorm from Hama's front porch and the other part playing in the creek.  When Nicole, who is most decidedly not from the country, first slid down the muddy bank into the creek, she exclaimed "Oh my gosh!  I've never been so dirty in all my life!"  From Hama's, we went to Deana and Martin's house for another evening of playing on the dock.  The kids just love it there.  Nicole enjoyed it just as much as our boys and spent much of her time paddling the sit-on-top kayak around the pond.  Ben surprised us this time by launching himself into the pond on a tube, riding it until he was about thirty feet beyond the dock, then jumping off it and swimming back.  He just loves being in the pond with his PFD on.  He also caught another little bluegill with his Superman fishing pole.  We tried to repeat his luck with Nicole, but could only get nibbles.  Jackson and Nicole went out on the sit-on-top together and fed the fish all around the pond.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008.  On Friday, our family, Nicole, my sister Melanie's family, minus Seth who was sick, Deana and Sharon all spent the day at Wet and Wild - Emerald Point in Greensboro, NC.  Deana has more photos here.  We had great weather and all enjoyed the day.  Amy and I took turns hanging out with Ben while the other went with the bigger kids.  Nicole was the biggest dare devil in the crowd and would have rode every ride if they would have let her.  Eric and I went down the vertical 76 foot DareDevil Drop.  I chickened out of doing it last year.  This time I counted how long it took to make the drop and determined that a person could live through anything for four seconds.  I would ride it again in a second, but at the time, I was about 95% sure I didn't want to do it, especially after climbing the seven story set of stairs to get to the the top.   It was fun having Sharon along this year and it was very nice of Deana to again rent a cabana for the whole group to enjoy.   

On Saturday, after Amy ran eight miles and Nicole went to the hair salon,  we drove to Bland, Virginia for Amy's cousin Lamoore's wedding.  This was our first wedding since 2005 when we had four in one year.  It was a beautiful day, beautiful ceremony and beautiful bride.  The kids behaved well during both the wedding and the reception, which was great.  We rewarded them by letting them run around outside the rest of the day at Amy's aunt Pat's house.  It was a fun day and we enjoyed visiting with everyone.   Nicole caught the bouquet and Jackson caught the garter, or gardener as Nicole called it, which thrilled them both.  Amy and Sherri gave Lamoore butterflies as a present.  We were a little worried about getting them there alive.  Okay, we were a lot worried.  But everything worked out fine and the kids enjoyed seeing them fly away after being released.  I've got lots of photos from the wedding here.  The photo below of Ben and Amy was taken by Amy's cousin Jerry.

Following the wedding, we spent the rest of the day visiting and playing in Bland.  Yesterday our niece Izzy came over to play with Nicole, then last night. after it cooled off, I took the kids to the playground to burn off some energy.  This morning Amy took the kids to see Shrek The Third, which is this week's free movie at the local cineplex, then to the pool this afternoon.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008.  My laptop is back safe and sound from the shop, so I can start catching up on posting photos.  Nicole's first week went so well that she has decided to stay for one more.  She's so much fun to have around and laughs all the time, even at Jackson's bad jokes.  We are very happy that she decided to extend her visit.  Jackson's basketball camp went well also.  He learned a lot, worked hard and enjoyed having his cousin Caleb there.  Jackson was disappointed that his team was in last place going into the tournament on the final day, but as you can tell from the photo, he was pretty excited when they won both games and took first place.  Ben loved Arts Alive this year and after hearing him talk about the songs he learned, we are looking forward to his performance at the end of this week.  That catches things up through Thursday.  I'll work on covering our big weekend with the next post.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008.  Friday evening, we went to Deana and Martin's house to help feed their fish and chickens.  We were shocked, completely shocked, that Ben enjoyed swimming in the pond.  Ben is not a dare devil.  He doesn't go in the ocean or rivers or like doing anything that he doesn't deem safe.  We couldn't even get him to float on his raft.  But all on his own he ventured into the pond and had the best time "floating", as he called it.  With his life jacket on, he swam all around the dock and even under it.  He had a ball and repeated the feet on Sunday by making multiple floats down the river.  Ben also caught three fish Friday night with the brand new Superman fishing pole he picked out for his birthday.  When one fish managed to slip off the hook just as he reached the dock, Ben threw the pole down and said "I'm done.  I hate fishing."  This is the video of him catching the first fish.  Jackson jumped off the dock a hundred times and Amy took the sit-on-top kayak out for a spin.  My mom was there and came down to the dock to watch the boys for awhile before heading back up to the house.  We enjoyed feeding the fish and spotted three of the big trout swimming around.  We ended the night by eating Chinese take-out food outside with Mo and by catching lightning bugs in the yard.  The boys have asked several times if we can go back and do it all again. 

Nicole's visit is going well so far and we very much enjoy having her with us.  She and Jackson wanted to make a video last night and this is what we came up with.


Monday, June 16th, 2008In celebration of Father's Day, we met our friends the Eads in Kibler Valley for lunch and an afternoon of playing in the river.  The water was pretty low, so Jeff started a project to create a rapid.  Ben jumped right in and worked hard on his side of the dam.  It was a fun afternoon and another great Father's Day.  (more photos here)  My gift was a pair of Shaq basketball shoes that Jackson picked out and a really funny card that both boys selected.   Once we got back from the river, I drove to Charlotte to pick up our niece Nicole who will be visiting us this week.  We pulled into the driveway at 9PM and found Amy and the boys on the porch waiting.  We finally got everyone settled and in bed around ten.  Jackson will be spending his days, from 8:30 until 3:00 at basketball camp this week.  Ben will spend his mornings at Arts Alive.  That gives Amy and Nicole a couple of hours of girl time every morning and gives Ben and Nicole a few hours to play every afternoon before Jackson gets home.  It should be a really busy and fun week.

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008.  I grew up on a peninsular piece of land in Claudville, Virginia bordered by Highway 103 on one side and Red Bank School Road on the other, although it wasn't Red Bank School Road at the time.  It didn't get that distinction until after the school was demolished and a factory stood in its place.  In my childhood, the school  sat furthermost inland on that peninsula, at the top of a hill and along the road that would later bear it's name. Jenny and Burton Slate lived between the school and my house, which sat in the point of the triangle. Further down the hill, along Rt. 103, lived Debbie, Johnny, Neil and Chad.  Debbie was Jenny and Burton's daughter.  Neil and Chad were able to walk to their grandparent's house through a trail in the woods separating our two houses.  One house further down was Don, Carolyn and Chris.  That brief summary defines the landscape of my youth.  From the top of the hill at the school to the bottom of the hill at Don and Carolyn's, we roamed and played. 

Jenny and my grandmother at Jackson's 1st Birthday PartyIt was a close neighborhood, with summer cookouts and game nights.  We played horseshoes, woofle ball and badminton.  We caught fire flies and lay on the ground next to Jenny's apple tree late on Summer evenings looking at the stars.  We played King of the Hill, rolling from Jenny's house down to ours.  And on Winter days, we rode our sleds down that hill.  On schooldays I was allowed to eat lunch at my house.  So each day I flew out a side door of the school, jumped a rail fence between the playground and Jenny and Burton's backyard, then ran across their grass and down the hill to my house, ducking their clothes line along the way.  Both Jenny and Burton were two of the nicest, most exemplary people I've ever known.  Burton passed away ten years ago this August.  Today, Jenny died.  I took the photo of Jenny at the top of the post a couple of years ago at the Ruritan Club's annual Kibler Valley River Run.  We were in Kibler Valley last night, paddling and playing.  We spoke of Jenny more than once and talked about how nice she had her river house looking this year.  Jenny has always been kind to me, my wife and my sons.  Today we are thinking of her family and what they are going through.  I know that all of my family will miss her as we all felt like we belonged to hers.


Following a nice lunch and afternoon visiting with family at my grandmother's Stanley family "Cousin's Reunion" in Meadows of Dan, Virginia and a visit with our friend Anita, the boys and I made the short hike down from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Round Meadow Creek.  They had fun cooling off in the water and throwing rocks.  Ben fell just before we made it back to the van and hurt his knees.  When he finished crying he sadly said through his snubs, "I don't know why I listen to you.  I get hurt every time you take us on a hike."  Last night we made it to Kibler Valley in time for me to paddle the tail end of a whitewater release from the hydro-station (photos here).  Amy dropped me off at the top where I caught up with friends and made the paddle down to Deana and Martin's place.  When I got there, even though the temps were near a hundred, the boys were shivering from playing in the ice cold water.  (Jackson took the photos from the reunion)

Saturday, June 7th, 2008.  In a house with two Democrats as parents, Jackson has stayed pretty interested in the primaries.  I've been a Hilary supporter for a very long time and, all politics aside, I think the Saturday Night Live skits of Bill being back in the White House would have been phenomenal.  But I gradually moved into the Obama camp over time and voted for him in our North Carolina primary.  Amy has been a big Barack fan all along.  Jackson was rooting for Hilary because he wanted her to be the first female president, but was happy to learn that Barack Obama likes to shoot basketball before big events.  He also wants Amy to get a "Hot Mama for Obama" shirt.

The point of all this is that this afternoon, while Jackson and I were outside cooling off the dogs with nice cold baths, we heard Ben screaming from the inside.  A few minutes later Amy came out and told us that, right in the middle of the fight scene at the end of a Power Rangers episode, ABC cut to Hilary Clinton's live concession speech.  She said Ben stood up on the couch and screamed "Arrrrggggh!!!!!  I thought she lost!!!"  It took a long time, a sprinkler in the front yard and a popsicle to calm him down. 

Amy spent her morning waiting tables as a charity fund raiser with her Junior Women's Club.  We stopped by for breakfast and it was a lot of fun.  We gave Ben a hard time because the waitress kissed him.  He kept saying "but it's MOM!"              

Thursday, June 5th, 2008. All of today's photos are from Amy's camera.  The photos on the right are from our friend Erin's baby shower last weekend.  The first photo below is made up of pics taken around her Mother's Day tree.  The next photo is of the flower vase the boys gave her for her birthday.  It's neat because it sticks to the kitchen window and holds three individual flowers, like the ones little boys enjoy picking for their mom.  The next photo is of Ben getting a big boy hair cut fit for a five year old.  And the rest of the pics are from some front yard sprinkler fun.


Wednesday, June 4th, 2008.  On Sunday afternoon, while Amy and Ben caught up on their sleep, Jackson and I went to Deana and Martin's house with plans to take big running jumps off their dock.  We did make the jump, but the water was cold and we found ourselves spending more time paddling around the pond than swimming.  It was Jackson's first experience with paddling solo and he did really well.  He also showed off by standing on one foot in his kayak while drinking a soda and flexing his muscles.  I think he mostly liked floating in the middle of the pond while eating the snacks his aunt gave him.  I don't blame him, that's a pretty good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  More photos here.

Monday, June 2nd, 2008. We spent Friday evening picking cherries and playing at my sister Melanie's house.  The cherries were tart but made the best cherry cobbler.  I ate the whole thing myself and it was delicious.  Amy's visit with her college room-mates Monica and Erin went well and Amy enjoyed her time with Monica's little girl.  Ben had fun at the birthday party on Saturday afternoon at the playground.  He picked out a pretty little Princess Ariel doll to give his friend and a very sweet card to go with it.  When she started opening his present, he got so bashful that he hid behind a pole.  Then when she came to give him a hug he walked off like he didn't know anyone was trying to get his attention.   The other funny thing was that while we were shopping Saturday morning, I kept accidentally calling his friend the wrong name.  I did it again on the way to the party and Ben said, in a worried tone, "Daddy, when we get to the party, can you just not say her name?"  Ben hates to be embarrassed.  After he says something funny at home he often asks "Will you not tell anyone I said that?"

Jackson had a good time as well and was thrilled to get in his first ever "street-ball" pickup game.  He played HORSE with three other boys at the park and won.  He was so excited that he had to call Amy and tell her all about it.  Ben also had a good time on his sleepover with the Eads.  Jackson and I spent our evening alone playing baseball, football and basketball outside.  We also read Encyclopedia Brown stories, played video games and watched Hoosiers.  Jackson called it "Man Night."  More cherry picking photos here.