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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011.  My buddy Will and I went to Blacksburg for a cold Thursday night game last week.  Tech beat Carolina in a close one, 24-21.  Will grilled some pretty kicking moink balls (Italian sausage wrapped in bacon) and wings, but man was it cold. 

Monday, November 21st, 2011. As a reward for working hard and making great grades, we let Ben have a "hooky day" last Friday.  I took the day off from work so that he, Amy and I could spend the day together.  We spent our afternoon on Pilot Mountain.  Ben had a marvelous time and enjoyed the rare two parents-to-one kid ratio.  (Jackson got a day off from school earlier in the year when he got a head start on our TN vacation)


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011.  Yesterday, while volunteering at The American Red Cross for the Mt Airy Junior Women's Club, Amy gave blood for the first time.  Considering how well Amy and needles go together, that was quite an accomplishment and one that I was very proud of.  In a moment that I was not so proud of, after giving blood myself, I took Ben home, finished his homework, played a game with him, etc... It was around 7:30 when it hit me that I completely forgot about his Cub Scout meeting at 6:30. 
Below are some photos from Ben's visit to my office and to Main St on Halloween.

Monday, November 7th, 2011.  On Saturday, I was thrilled to go creeking for the first time this season.  I met my friend Joe and new paddling pal Vince for two fun laps on Wilson Creek on a simply gorgeous day. More info can be found on my whitewater website.  And I have a video here.  While I was doing that, Amy and the boys went to the movies, played Frisbee and threw football.  Later that evening, we sat around the new fire pit roasting marshmallows with our neighborhood friends.  Deana gave the fire pit to Jackson on Thursday and he has had it in action every night since.  On Sunday we visited Hama, took Jackson to basketball practice, visited at Deana's house, then at Melanie's, cooked hot dogs over the open fire and watched some late night Steeler football.  Amy skipped part of those activities by attending her monthly book club which met in Stuart at Deana's house.  Another highlight of the weekend was having Joe over to play at the house, it was the first time he has been able to do that since his diagnosis. 

 Friday, November 4th, 2011.  We joined my family in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee a few weeks ago for a three day vacation, as we did back in 2009.  One of the highlights for us again this trip was the hike at Cades Cove.  I posted quite a few photos here, half of which were taken by Jackson, who is turning into a pretty good photographer.  We saw a black bear, which was a first for my gang, had a picnic, saw lots of deer and a few turkey and enjoyed our time together.  There were lots of other activities for the kids during the vacation as well, including Magiquest, Go Karts, the Dixie Stampede, the aquarium, the arcade and more.  On our way out of town, we made another stop by Magiquest, then ate at Mellow Mushroom and made a stop by the big knife store.  Ben still had some spending money and found a sword that he could buy for twenty dollars.  He was really excited about it.  I told him that we would walk around the store, then swing back by to pick up the sword.  On the opposite side of the store we found a section that had baseball cards.  Ben found a couple of packs that he liked and said "I think I changed my mind about the sword, I want to get these instead."  I can't think of any better example that sums up our boys and their love of sports.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011. As I drove into our neighborhood Wednesday evening, I saw all the kids out laughing and playing.  It was like old times.  The reason, in my opinion, was that Joe was outside and feeling good.  When Joe is outside and playing, it seems like the whole neighborhood comes to life.  And I think that was just as true before Joe's illness as it is now.  He's just a little ray of sunshine.  Joe and Amy were painting a pumpkin turkey while the other kids whizzed around on their scooters.  Once he had finished painting, Joe decided that he would ride his four-wheeler with the other kids, so he got his dad to put the battery in it and took off. 

I shot this footage of Joe cruising around, which makes me think of all the fun the kids have gotten out of that little four wheeler.  It was Jackson's first.  My dad gave it to him for Christmas when he was only one.  He didn't ride it very much during those first few years, because it was just too big, but by the time he hit three, he was giving it a try.  He would only ride it though if he wore his elbow pads, knee pads and a helmet.  By the time he was five he was spending afternoons perfecting his bootlegs in the driveway.  When Jackson outgrew the four-wheeler, it was turned over to Ben, who adored to ride it, especially at his great-grandmother's house where he had lots of open, flat terrain.  That was a favorite thing for Jackson to do as well.  This video was shot when Ben was four.  Ben is a little guy, so he was able to get his money's worth out of his turn with the four-wheeler, as he never really outgrew it.  By the time we moved to our new house though, the battery had died and Ben was riding bikes.  We thought our neighbor Joe might like it and passed it on to him.  Mark replaced the battery and charger and Joe immediately started patrolling the neighborhood.  Now we smile whenever we see the trusty old green machine zipping by. I found the photos below by searching through the website, the little four wheeler made its way into quite a few posts.

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011. I really enjoyed watching Jackson (#15) play his first season of organized baseball and hope he decides to play again in the Spring.  Jackson played the last game at 1st base and gave a solid performance.  He also scored a run in what was a really tight game.  I honestly think that if they had not been a man down they would have won.  It seemed like that automatic out rolled around at the worst possible times.  But the team played well across the board and it was nice for them to end on a competitive note.  They might not have won any games, but Jackson learned a lot, progressed a lot, met some new friends and got to play ball with some old ones.  Good times.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011.  Ben wrapped up his first kid-pitch baseball season with 9 walks and 3 strike-outs.  You may remember that in machine pitch he had 10 hits, 1 ground-out and 2 strike-outs.  So he still got on base a lot, but either wasn't getting as many pitches to swing at or just wasn't swinging.  He was definitely intimidated a little by the idea of getting hit by a pitch, but there isn't a cure for that other than continuing to step up to the plate.  I was proud of his progress during the season and especially proud of his maturity in the dug-out.  His team was well organized, well coached and fun.  It was a great season.