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Friday the 30th. Amy and I were engaged eight years ago today.  She asked me this morning at what point I knew I was going to propose on the 30th.  And I'm not sure.  I mean, I knew for a long time that I was going to propose, but I'm not sure at what point of the day I decided that it would be on that day.  I had looked for the ring forever and finally found the right one on the 29th.  Amy was living in Blacksburg, VA and working in Dublin as a physical therapy tech.  I was living in Mayberry.  We spent every weekend together and one night read more.. .

Thursday the 29th. pm.. Aren't they cute?  When I came home today I found the boys playing football with Amy in the front yard.

I am continuing with the embarrassing story theme I started earlier this week.  This story takes place about eleven years ago.  I was working a second shift job and taking classes during the day.  My nightly routine was to drop by Blockbuster, rent a movie for the night, go by the grocery store, buy a frozen pizza, then head home.  This is around the time that I decided to buy a motorcycle, so after picking up my movie one evening, I decided to stop and do some window shopping at a local motorcycle dealership that was just down the street and next to my favorite guitar store.  So it's close to midnight and I'm walking around looking in the windows to see what they have.  It was pretty annoying because an ambulance was right around the block read more...

Thursday the 29th.am.  I fell asleep in Ben's bed last night while putting him to sleep.  I woke up and thought it was probably around midnight, maybe one.  I was so ready to go upstairs and crawl into bed until morning.  I hadn't woken up once and couldn't even remember falling asleep.  When I walked out of Ben's room I saw Amy asleep in Jackson's bed and heard the alarm going off upstairs.  I thought "that alarm must be set wrong."  Let me tell you that I felt totally robbed of about five hours of sleep when clock after clock told me it was six in the morning.  So I get to sleep over nine and a half hours and instead of feeling rested, I come out of it feeling like I got cheated.  How crumby is that?

Wednesday the 28th. I got a call late one morning, early to me though, from two friends, Mike Joyce and Mike McColl.  You may not recognize McColl's name, but you would recognize his voice.  He is an actor, lives in California now and, among other things, does voiceover work on movie trailers, Fox Sports, etc... Anyway, this story takes place around twelve years ago.  The guys had borrowed McColl's dad's boat and called to see if I wanted to water ski with them at Philpot Lake.  I said "sure", hung up the phone, rolled out of bed, out the door, and started driving to Stuart.  Somewhere along the way I realized that I hadn't asked them where they were at.  No problem, it's a small town.  So I rode by ...read more

Tuesday the 27th. Amy ran into Papa today while shopping.  He took Ben with him in his cart and when they returned they had an open box of cereal and an open box of Krispy Kreme donuts with them.  I'm sure everyone is familiar with Ben's Krispy Kreme love affair.  If not, check out this photo, or this one, or this one.  He also stood for the first time at eight months just minutes after sneaking into his first box of hot Krispy Kremes.  We are still very disappointed that Krispy Kreme pulled out of Mayberry.  Very few things are as satisfying as picking up a box of donuts while the HOT NOW sign is glowing.  How can a company with that good of a product possibly screw things up so bad?  Luckily we still have plenty of stores relatively close by since their headquarters are in Winston-Salem, but it sure was nice having a spot right here in town.

We had kindergarten curriculum night at Jackson's school.  All I have to say is that I will be terribly proud of those little kids if they accomplish everything that is expected of them by next Spring.  Jackson will have to be able to write three complete sentences that go together, recognize twenty-five sight words and twenty-five two letter words (pop quiz: can you think of twenty five two letter words?  I'm not sure if I can, I'll have to try that when I'm done here), put together the most complex puzzle of shapes you've ever seen, read a level 3-4 book and tons more.   I'm sure Jackson will meet all the goals, after all, I had no idea he would be able to recognize words, count past one hundred and recognize numbers 1-30 in just a few weeks.  But it's a little intimidating when they start running through the list, it makes you realize how much work is going to be taking place... for like the next seventeen years.  

The boys have a few new movies in their collection.  Grandma Sue had mentioned many times that she wanted to buy the boys the new Little Einsteins movie, so Amy bought it for them today.  Their Aunt Deana gave them Shark Boy and Lava Girl last night and Papa added a Fraggle Rock movie to the collection after Ben supposedly picked it out during their jaunt through Wally World.

Monday the 26th.  Jackson's soccer practice was rained out, enabling him to attend his first martial arts class since his belt test a week and a half ago.  He was delighted to discover that he had earned his orange belt. 

It was a long day for Amy.  It was also a sad day and a quiet day.  As for Ben, he seemed happy to be home and spent much of his time pulling out toys.  He also opened a canister of Nestle's Strawberry Quick powder and emptied it all over the kitchen floor. That's our Ben.

Sunday the 25th.  After saying goodbye to friends, family, and Grandma Sue's house in Colonial Heights, we returned home to find our lawn mowed, our house clean and our mailbox full of very thoughtful cards.  When we left our house a week and a half ago it was in such haste that we couldn't even remember how we left it, but I'm sure it was not in as good of shape as we found it tonight.  So I once again would like to thank everyone for their kindness and support.

Saturday the 24th.  Grandma Sue would have enjoyed watching VA Tech's dominating performance today against Georgia Tech.  She would have been yelling right along with me for the Hokies.  This morning we went to the soccer fields to watch Jimmy and Lexi play.  Following that we took the boys by the cemetery to visit Grandma Sue's "special spot."

Children's Museum of Richmond - September 2005Friday the 23rd.  We wanted to take the kids somewhere fun today since they have been shuffled around a lot this week.  A friend kept both boys one night, then my parents kept Jackson the next.  Ben stayed with us because one night away from mommy and daddy was enough for him.  To Jackson, staying in a hotel room is like going on vacation.  He loves it and would have stayed there every night.  My parents drove up to watch Ben and Jackson during both the visitation and the funeral, which was great and a big help.   Amy had business to take care of at her mom's house today and couldn't leave, but the boys and I drove to Richmond and spent almost four hours at the Children's Museum of Richmond playing.  You can tell that The Food Network was on in the background at our house a lot lately because Jackson was able to put on a thirty minute cooking show.  He would say "this needs to go in the oven at seventy hundred degrees for fifteen minutes..."

Thursday the 22nd. Another sad busy day, but also a day full of stories between old friends and family.  There were tears, but laughter as well.  The children ran in the yard and played games.  Much food was brought to the house and much of it is now gone.  Everyone is very tired and ready for a night's rest.

Wednesday the 21st The Rose (3.4MB) Sep05.  I think Grandma Sue would like this slideshow set to her favorite song that I put together for tonight's visitation.  She loved a good cry and could start weeping during a NASCAR video montage.

Tuesday the 20th. Once again I would like to thank every one who has expressed their care and concern.  Obviously the last two days have been very hard ones.  And, I suppose by design, they have also been incredibly busy days.  I was amazed at how fast Amy and her siblings had to start planning, preparing, greeting, answering the phone, etc... We feel as if we have been riding an out of control roller coaster for the past week and it didn't stop Monday morning.  Amy compared it to the feeling you have on your wedding day.  You are so busy doing all the things that you have to do and talking to so many people that when it is done you feel like you missed it somehow and have to watch the video to find out what happened.  The funeral process leaves little time for reflection and quiet, which allows you to keep moving, albeit in a complete daze.  Little things stop you in your tracks or bring you to tears all along the way, but at least you don't have the chance to sit down and let them hit you all at once.  There really isn't enough I could say about what this loss means to Amy or myself, so I am not even going to try right now.  I'll just tell you some of what has been going on with the kids. read more...

Monday the 19th.  Everyone keep Amy and her family in your thoughts.  Grandma Sue passed away early this morning.  

Sunday the 18th.  Sue is dying and is dying at home.  We were about to leave for home this evening when we were told that Sue would more than likely not make it through the night.  So I took the boy's to Amy's brother's house and put them to bed, before returning later to check on Amy, her family and Sue.  We don't know whether it will be today, tomorrow or the next, but the hospice nurse said that it would be soon.  Sue had requested not to go back to the hospital and I suppose she felt that it was her time to die. It is very hard watching Amy go through this experience.  I think it is equally hard watching it unfold the way that it has.   I don't think anyone has ever loved anyone the way that Amy loves her mother. read more... 

Saturday the 17th.  Thanks to everyone for the thoughts and prayers.  It's been another day much like the others.  Sue is now taking morphine and I don't think she is in pain.  She is also aware and talking to us when she is awake.  All the family has been at the house for much of the day.   I kept the boys out as much as possible to make it easier on them and to keep the house quieter.  They got two trips to Toys R Us out of it and thanks to a %50 off sale actually walked out with some new toys.  We will all stay at Sue's house with her again tonight and I think some of Amy's siblings will be joining us as well.  One of Amy's sisters is going to stay with Sue starting Monday and depending on how things are going we'll probably return home sometime tomorrow so that Jackson can go to school on Monday.  To give Amy a break last night, I stayed up until six, surfing the Internet to keep awake, because I knew Amy wouldn't trust me to stay awake if I laid down.  I still only managed to get her to sleep a couple of hours though.  Jackson has become aware of the seriousness of Sue's illness and we've talked about it.   We had received some good advice about things that he would be worrying about and I kept that advice helped when it was time to talk to him about what is going on. 

Friday the 16th. Just to reiterate, yesterday sucked.  From beginning to end, it really sucked. 

I haven't been the one to pack in a while, so it took me hours to get it done last night and I still forgot to pack myself anything besides t-shirts and underwear.   By the time I picked up the boys and made the long drive, it was 1am this morning before we got off the road.  I did everything from taking pictures of the kids sleeping to braiding myself a set of pigtails to stay awake.  We were supposed to stay at my brother-in-law's house, but Jackson was crying for Amy when he woke up in their driveway.  So we drove back to Sue's house so that their mommy could tuck them in.  We then went to Amy's brother's house later this morning and spent much of the day there while Amy stayed with her mom.  Amy hasn't slept for more than an hour or two on any day for at least a week and I don't expect her to sleep again tonight.  She stays up each night next to her mom making sure that she's there when she needs her.  Hospice is now involved, Sue has a hospital bed in her living room, and this is hard in about a thousand different ways.   I'm too tired to write about it and don't feel like getting into any of it anyway, so I'll just summarize by saying that today sucked too.

Thursday the 15th. I haven't wrote much about Amy's mother's recent illness for a couple of reasons.  One is that we still know very little about it and I would like to have something more concrete to say.  The other is that it is just hard to talk about because what we do know is that she isn't doing well at all.  Mixed in with this is my worry over Amy, her worry over her mother, and our worry about how all of this is effecting Jackson.  He is terribly close to his grandmother.  read more...

Patience - Daren and JacksonWednesday the 14th.  I try not to brag too much on the kids or gripe too much about them, but I think Jackson has worked really hard during the last month and accomplished enough to deserve some props.  So if a long post bragging about Jackson sounds too boring, then you may just want to come back tomorrow night. read more...

Basic Form #1 (1.1MB) Sep05 - Jackson's Belt Test

Tuesday the 13th.  I was a boy once, so I know.  It's all about the tricks.  Jackson showed off his ability to ride his four-wheeler backwards and with no hands this weekend.  Very soon we'll look out the window to see him headed toward a home-made ramp on his bicycle. 

Monday the 12th.  Today I am posting this movie, Whoa, Daddy, Whoa (1.1MB), of our little wild man running down a hill.  You know how I have been telling you for about a year that Ben always holds something in his hand that he can shake, like dandelions, rubber lizards or leafs.  In this clip and in the photo on the right, notice the two long blades of grass.  

Sunday the 11th. Because Grandma Sue hasn't slept  well for the last three nights due to lots of lower back pain, the boys and I decided to clear out and give her and Amy a few hours of peace and quite this morning.  We drove first to my parents house in Claudville, then to my grandmother's house.  That also enabled the boys to wish all their grandparents a Happy Grandparent's Day.  Just one more perfect day in a long series of perfect days and such a nice morning to spend in the country.  So glad we got outside.  Ben's diet on the farm consisted of cookies from Hama's cookie jar, pickles from her pickle jar, tommy-toe tomatoes right off the vine and watermelon right out of the garden.  If that isn't a recipe for a belly ache, then I don't know what is.  Jackson literally ate so much watermelon that he threw up.  Just threw watermelon up all over the place, then went right back to playing.   We also made use of the constant breeze by picking the flying seeds from the wildflowers and weeds, then setting them loose to sail across the yard.


Saturday the 10th. I rolled! I repeat, I rolled!!  This is a big deal for me guys, I was positive that I wouldn't figure out how to roll my kayak until I spent some time with an instructor.  Turns out all I needed was a counselor.  My friend Jeff got his new Wavesport Big EZ today, so he brought it over for a little pool practice.  I floundered, as usual, in my first roll attempts.  I decided to try Jeff's boat out and after making one attempt to roll in his boat, I made a wet exit.  Jeff told me that I had the boat almost all the way over when I bailed out.  "You're kidding?" I asked, because it didn't seem like the boat moved an inch to me.  I hopped right back in to try again.  I mean, if I was that close then all I had to do was give a little extra effort right?  And what do you know, I popped right up.  Tried again and rolled right up again.  Switched to my Dagger GT, same thing, rolled right up.    Awesome.  Jeff, the licensed counselor, later sent me an email that he was totally lying about me being close to making the first attempt.  He said the boat barely moved at all, but he thought I would do a little better if I had more confidence.  I guess he was right and I'm sure that me rolling my boat totally makes all that work to get his masters worth while.   

Friday the 19th.  My sister's name is Melanie.  So instead of watermelon, Ben says watermelanie.

While we watch Jackson practice his martial arts, Ben always walks next door to the "Goin' Postal" store to steal a sucker.  Today he picked out a tootsie pop instead of a dumdum, which meant he was occupied for most of the class and I got to take a few photos.  

Thursday the 8th.  As usual, we have enjoyed having Amy's mother with us in Mayberry.  Amy, Sue, and Ben made their usual trek to the produce markets in Virginia this morning to stock up on peaches, apples, and candy.  Amy and her mom would make a good game show team.  Sue is able to direct Amy through the market from the van and Amy is able to figure out what Sue wants her to put in the basket by watching Sue's hand signals.

It's been awhile since I wrote about how school is going for Jackson.   Today he received his tenth straight kitty note (means he was purr-fect), plus a sticker and a dynamite note.   That's his first kindergarten hat trick.  Apparently the dynamite note is a big deal because the "student of the month" is selected from the students that received one.  He was pretty proud of that one.  The ten second bus ride is working out great.  He now gets to pick his own seat for the ride down the hill, so all issues are resolved there.  The mornings are running smooth as well.  The routine so far is for Amy to walk him to school, with me stepping outside to yell "bye, I love you!" before they get around the corner. Jackson stops, turns around, waves really big, then yells the same thing back.

At one exact moment in time today, while Amy was changing Ben's poopy diaper, Jackson was climbing out of the bath tub wet yelling for Mommy, BOTH the cell phone and the home phone were ringing, the buzzer was going off on the oven, AND the neighbor's six year old boy was ringing the door bell.  Wow.   

Wednesday the 7th. This is the conversation you would have heard in our house last night...

And as odd as it sounds, Gilligan died at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.  That seemed so strange, because if Gilligan lived around here, I was pretty sure I would have heard about it before now.  This isn't exactly New York City.  But I then learned that Mr. Denver lived a little to our north near Princeton, West Virginia.  The air is starting to feel like fall is around the corner.  I look forward to days like the one in this picture taken last October

Tuesday the 6th.  I try to keep the number of new photos posted each month under a hundred and I think I'm ahead of that pace, so today I'll give you an old one from last September.  The crowd in today's photo gathered to see Andy Griffith's speech at a statue dedication during last year's Mayberry Days.  Folks, for Mayberry, that was a LOT of people, mostly from out of town.   Wouldn't it be funny to see a crowd of Matlock fans in Atlanta? 

Monday the 5th. Happy Birthday Landon Joyce!  The boys and I went to Winston-Salem to celebrate our buddy Landon turning two.  Afterwards I got to do a little shopping for paddling gear at Great Outdoor Provision, always a fun thing to do.  As soon as we got home, Amy took the boys to the pool one last time before it closes.  They will be very sad to hand over their passes at the gate knowing that they won't be handing them back this time.  Later tonight, my sister Deana and my mother are taking Jackson to see Herbie at the Downtown Cinema on Main Street with his cousins Caleb and Isabelle.  Jackson is going to think Labor Day is one heck of a holiday!  Ben and I wrapped up the evening with a stroll around town.  

Sunday the 4th. We are back home in Mayberry, Amy's made one of her great dips, the mugs are frosted and the beer bought, kick-off is in an hour.  Go Tech Go!!!


Saturday the 3rd. The biggest news today, for me anyway, is that I took a two and a half hour nap with Ben.  In a perfect world I would take a nap everyday.  I think the last time I took a nap was at Grandma Sue's in the Spring.  Speaking of Grandma Sue, she is doing really well.  I was impressed with her progress so far and look forward to having her with us in Mayberry for the next few weeks.  We leave for home early tomorrow... more photos and stories

Friday the 2nd.  While Amy walked Jackson to school and I finished getting ready for work, Ben pushed a stool next to the refrigerator, reached his hands up into the air, squeezing them, and said "I want SpunsBob SquareSquants, I want SpunsBob SquareSquants".  I was busy, so I just reached up, got the box of SpongeBob cereal and handed it to him.  Then it's "open, open, open, open..."  Still pretty busy, I bent over, opened the box and went back to getting ready.  I figure he'll just fish the marshmallows right out of the box, right?  Hi-Five was on and calling Ben from the living room, so he walked away carrying the box.  And that's when I heard the sound that the not-too-busy part of my brain knew was coming.  I peaked around the corner to see where all the cereal went and found that Ben had decided to fix his own breakfast this morning.  read more...

Thursday the 1st. From the minute Ben woke up this morning he was carrying around his sandals in out-stretched hands saying "I ready to go.. I ready to go..."  I guess one whole week without a morning stroll was getting to him.  As soon as Amy got back from walking Jackson to school, they took off, even beating me out of the house.  What a beautiful morning too... blue sky, white clouds, cool breeze.  Ben looked very content as I waved to him from my motorcycle on my way to the office.  They spent a couple of hours strolling through Mayberry, with Ben again playing for over thirty minutes under his favorite willow tree, the little one between the library and the war memorial.

I didn't have a photo from their stroll this morning, so today's photo is from our trip to VA Beach last September.