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Tuesday, June 30th, 2009.   We are back from our four day camping trip on the banks of Deep Creek in the Smokey Mountains with friends from my paddling club and their families.  Jackson and Ben were both wonderful and I would call the trip a success.  I paddled the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN and the Nantahala in Bryson City, NC.  The daily trips down Deep Creek on tubes turned out to be a big highlight from the weekend.  Jackson was fearless and managed to make one more trip than the rest of us.  In one of today's photos, you can barely see Jackson's legs as he plunges over one of the larger drops.  Our friend Mike is stuck and our friend Joanne is swimming away from her lost tube.   Ben enjoyed floating as well, but preferred to start downstream from the biggest rapids and liked for either Amy or I to hold his tube, which we both enjoyed because he laughed and told wonderful stories as we bounced off rocks on our way to the campground.  There were football games, volleyball, woofleball, boomerangs, ice cream, a trip to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, s'mores, jiffy pop, cookouts, and more.  Our tent was dubbed the Biltmore.  It was simply enormous and extended well beyond the largest tent pads, but it did help to have a room just for our food and clothes.  But putting it up and taking it down turned out to be a community effort.  In the end, we decided that we would like to do it all again next year.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009.  Ben doing the running man on the amphitheater stage at the Arts Alive finale.


Wednesday, June 24th, 2009.  Today's photos are a couple of shots that Amy has taken of Ben this Summer.  Ben has enjoyed having Ann Rachel at the house two days a week this Summer.  He says "Ann Rachel just LOVES me!" whenever she sticks her tongue out and swings her arms in excitement.   And he was super excited this afternoon when our little friend Brett came by to play. 
Things are taking shape for our weekend camping trip in western North Carolina.  Mom will house sit for us and keep Ruby Sue company.  On our last camping trip, I ripped the top of my old fifteen year old dome tent, so we needed a new one.   Our friend Tommy picked up a nice, new extra-large three room tent for us in Danville that we found online. I think it will be a much better size for family excursions.   I also discovered on our last camping trip that the boys hog too much room on our air mattress, so this time we'll take extra foam, plus our friend Sandy is lending us a second mattress.  And we have my Father's Day present, which was a canopy, with brass lantern lights to trim it.  Friday night we will be guests at Tommy and Kathy's spaghetti dinner.  On Saturday night, Bob and Amy R are hosting a hamburger/hotdog/chicken cookout.  It should be an awesome four-day weekend.  The only wildcard will be the boys and how they behave for Amy while I am on the river.  Hopefully all will go well and everyone will enjoy the campground.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009.  Jimmy's first visit of the Summer is over, hopefully he'll get to return for another week in August.  Jimmy is easy-going, caring and always a pleasure to have around.  Today's pics are from a day spent at the pool last week.  Amy said that the boys played really well together at the pool, with both Jimmy and Jackson looking out for Ben.  This is camp week for both boys. Ben is attending Arts Alive while Jackson is sweating his days away at basketball camp. Tonight Jackson is staying with his cousin Caleb, who is at also at basketball camp this week.  Tonight, Amy, Ben and I made a quick trip to the farmer's market for some bread, carrots and lilac jam to go with dinner, before enjoying a quiet night at the house.

Monday, June 22nd, 2009.  Another wonderful Father's Day spent in Kibler Valley with the Eads.  As a bonus, the river ran the entire time we were there, so the boys got lots of tubing, body surfing and kayaking laps in.  Another bonus was that our nephew Jimmy was with us.  Dinner was wonderful; kabobs, salad, new potatoes, corn, banana pudding and strawberry shortcake.  I paddled late Saturday afternoon (photos here), then again with Jeff, then with Jimmy on Sunday.  Jackson and Matthew came along on those trips in the tube.  Ben actually got in the water with Jeff on Saturday after Jeff promised to keep him away from the rapids.  That's a big deal for Ben.  Jackson on the other hand rode the rapids head first all weekend long.  The kid is pretty fearless.  Jackson said his highlights from the weekend were keeping the campfire going with Sam and tubing close to a mile of the river.  I once again have my beautiful wife to thank for giving me superb Father's Day weekends (way more photos on the Father's Day page).


Sunday, June 21st, 2009. Happy Father's Day!  Thanks for a wonderful weekend Amy!



Thursday, June 18th, 2009. Early in the week, we had sweet little Anne Rachel at our house.  Ben took hundreds of photos and thought that she was great company.  On Tuesday night, our nephew Jimmy started his Summer visit with us.  When I arrived home from work last night, I found my house in an all-out Nerf war.  After taking on all three of the boys for thirty minutes, I left to attend my paddling club's monthly meeting.  Amy took Ben to his last night of Bible School, which he thoroughly enjoyed.   At the end of the night, Amy recorded this video during the very sweet sing-along part of the closing ceremonies.  Jackson and Jimmy spent their evening shooting basketball in the driveway until dark.  Then today, the rains stopped long enough for Amy and the boys to hit the pool.  By the time they left, two girls had asked Jimmy for his cell phone number.  While we were shooting ball tonight, one started texting him.  By the end of our basketball game, the girl had broken up with her boyfriend.  I guess he just can't escape the drama of fourteen year old girls, because the same thing happened to him two weeks ago while in Virginia Beach for a soccer tournament.   (the  pretty princess in the trampoline photo is Ella M.  The photo was taken at Sunday's baby shower for our friend Chad and his lovely wife Leslie)

Monday, June 15th, 2009.  Jackson is on his second day at Camp Deana.  Ben says that he misses him, although he did have our little friend Ann Rachel to keep him company today.  Ben has also enjoyed getting to play with some of his pre-school friends at a picnic last night and at bible school tonight.  We all miss Jackson though.  He probably doesn't miss us at all, especially since his cousins Caleb and Isabelle spent the day with him at Deana and Martin's house.  From what I understand, besides helping out with a few chores, they swam and swam and swam today.  We escaped the heat by hitting the water on Saturday as well, in nice cool Kibler Valley, where we will return this weekend for our annual Father's Day trip (photos from the river here)

Thursday, June 11th, 2009.  Ah, a bitter-sweet day; wonderful, except that everyone was a little sad that it was our last with Baby Brett, who isn't so much a baby anymore.  Before Brett arrived, the boys scurried around getting ready for him.  Jackson stacked up all the balls he could find just inside the front door for him (Brett calls Jackson 'ball') and Ben built a foam block tower for Brett to knock over.  When Grayson and Brett arrived, they came in carrying wonderful and very thoughtful gifts.   Then, at the end of a very fun day that included time in the kiddie pool and at the candy store on Main Street, Ben built a barricade at the door so that Brett couldn't leave.  Yes, the boys will certainly miss all the fun they have with their little buddy Brett.  (Ben took the photo of Amy and Brett)

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009.  Our weekend was spent in Colonial Heights celebrating our nephew Jesse's high school graduation.  (click here to watch Jesse's walk across the stageCharla and Nicole were wonderful hostesses and we had a really fun visit that included another trip to the Fun Zone at Swader's, the site of Jackson's birthday party last month.  We came home Sunday with Jimmy's bunk bed in the back of Alan's truck and had it assembled that evening.  It looks great and we are very pleased with how well it works in their room.  While still unloading the vehicles, for the first time in eleven years, an ice cream truck passed by the front of our house.  As soon as I heard the music, I sprinted out to the street with cash in hand, the boys were not far behind.  We scorched the soles of our bare feet while ordering, but how could we have let the only ice cream truck to ever drive up our street go by without ordering something.  Today, after Jackson finished his last day of school, we had lunch together at Chili Rojo.  Amy and the boys then hit the pool for three hours.  After dinner we continued celebrating the start of Summer vacation by going out for ice cream at Speedy Chef.  The last official act was to turn Jackson's 6AM alarm off.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009.  Summer vacation has arrived (well, not quiet yet for Jackson, he has another week of school) and that means many things, like afternoons spent running through a sprinkler in the front yard.  It also means that baby Brett will be visiting our house on a regular basis for only one more week.  After that he will spend all his Summer days playing with his mom.  I think it is safe to say that every single one of us has become very attached to Brett over the last nine months and will miss having him around very much.  But at least we know that our little buddy will be having so much fun with Grayson that he won't miss us at all.

Today, Ben had friends Conner and Hunter over for an afternoon play-date, while Jackson had an end-of-the-year pizza party with his fellow student council members.  Yesterday, Jackson spent his day at the pool as his school's reading program reward.  And last night, Ben wrapped us his tee ball season.

Monday, June 1st, 2009.  Today Amy, Brett and Ben walked to the library, then to Main Street where I met them for lunch.  Their afternoon consisted of a Slip-N-Slide, a sprinkler, a bubble rocket and popsicles.  Sounds like Summer to me.  When I got home from work, Ben was asleep on the couch, still in his swimsuit.  He slept until 7:30.  Friday night's Relay For Life appeared to be a success.  The boys and I stayed until dark.  Amy stayed for a couple more hours and helped break down the MAJWC's ice cream float booth, which fit in well with this year's Fifties theme.  On Saturday, I went kayaking, then met up with the family late that afternoon on the banks of the Dan River in Kibler Valley where the boys were having a water gun fight.  Yesterday we stayed home, only venturing out as far as the yard for projects and play. 

I forgot to mention that Amy's design for her club's t-shirt, screen printed by our friend Ken, won the best shirt award at last month's March Of Dimes team-walk.