Monday, October 31, 2011


I have to start by telling you about this first photo.  We were all sitting in the driveway carving pumpkins and I decided to go upstairs and get a photo of the activity.  I pulled out the screen, leaned out the window and snapped a photo.  Nobody was looking up at the camera.  I called down to everyone and asked them to look up at me.  One person asked if they had to smile.  I replied, "I guess not".  I'll let you decide who asked that question.
Nobody enjoys pulling all the guts out of the pumpkin.  Leave me a comment if you really enjoy that part, because I'm doubting that such a person exists.
We only bother to pull the disgusting guts out of a pumpkin because that's the way to get the seeds out.
Here's our carving work:
Happy Halloween!
I'm betting after a few hours of trick-or-treating on Monday and getting loaded up on candy, nobody will question the need to smile. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Get Lost!

If you are going to get lost in this corn you're going to have to do this one crawling on your belly.
This wasn't the best growing season for corn around here.  Some complain, but I feel like God was just looking out for me knowing how scared I got in the maze last year.

Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do at Denver Downs in addition to chasing kids through acres of corn.

You can watch the goats try and push each other off of the raised platform.
 You can watch kids try and crush each other with the over sized corn ball. (could be improved it it was on fire).
Oh yeah, I knew my kids would end up here before we left. . .
I tried to get lost in the corn maze, but it's minuscule height prevented that from happening.  Maybe that family that called 911 from a corn maze should have come here to get lost.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Improve the Television

There are too many channels and I can't find what I want.

My television needs to work like Google.  Instead of scrolling through the 100's of channels looking for CNN, I should be able to type CNN and have it come up.  The numbers are meaningless to me as a user.

In addition, I should be able to search by the name of the program or actor if I choose.  If I type Survivor, take me there!  I can do this with my DVR, do a search for the show and select if I'm going to watch it or record it, but there are a few problems with this current setup.  First of all, the on screen keyboard is clunky and slow.  Secondly, doing this type of search is buried in menus and is designed if you are looking to record something.

I admit that while thinking about this blog, I went into the menus where I would search for a program to record and I typed in CNN.  On the search results was a spot to take me to the channel.  WHY does this need to be buried in the menus?  There should be one button on the remote that brings up a text box.

I want a small keyboard, similar to a cell phone keyboard, built into the remote.  The software in the cable box or satellite reciever needs to be updated to allow for these quick searches.

I feel like it's still 1990 when I'm watching TV.  I know some of the things I'm asking for can probably be had if I had a Google enabled or Apple TV.  Those exist but do you know anyone that actually owns one?  Anyway, what I'm asking for should be basic.  It should be standard for every TV.

Why is it necessary for me to slowly scroll through three hundred channels before I can find ESPN?  I should be able to hit one button, use the keyboard on my remote, type ESPN and click GO.

Someday my kids will be sitting on the couch with their kids saying, "Back in my day channels had numbers and to watch something you had to remember the damn number".

Next up on improving the television; content.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Band (again)

Although he isn't in high school yet, he was invited to be a part of the marching band along with the rest of the 7th and 8th grade band members.  It's been fun going to the football games and watching the band at competitions this year.

At the final home game of the season, the band had Alumni night for anyone that had previously played in band.  I took them up on the offer and got my trumpet out of the closet.

We had a lot of fun playing the national anthem and playing the stand tunes that night and I've had other opportunities to play since then.  Now that Randy will be in band for another five years, maybe I should keep my trumpet handy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Color on the Pkwy

After packing up camp last weekend we took a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway before coming home.  I think we hit the perfect weekend to see the color.  Much earlier and it would have been more green, much later and a lot would have dropped.  

We have traveled a few of the sections in Western NC previously, so this time we took a section we haven't seen previously.  We went North from Brevard on Hwy 276, got to the Pkwy and went East toward Asheville.  

My family has named this section of the Pkwy the "Tunnel Section".  In that stretch of roughly 25 miles we went through about 12 tunnels in the mountains.  

This first photo is Cold Mountain. 
 You can see the amazing views we had from the various overlooks.  It's hard to capture the vibrant color and wide open views we saw in a photograph.

 Near the end of our trip we got a unique view of the Biltmore house from the Pkwy.  Seeing it gave us an idea. Notice there is a little more green in the trees at the lower elevation.
To finish our trip, we made a visit to the Biltmore Estate and toured through the house.

I'm not sure this was my favorite section of the Pkwy, but it was certainly beautiful.  The tunnels also added an interesting element to the trip and kept the kids entertained during a day in the car.  In any season, it's always worth the drive.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small Town Debate

What does a small town political debate look like?

The candidates for City Council and Mayor were seated on the stage with an American flag above their heads. The moderator and assistants, dressed in jackets and bow ties, were seated at the front of the room facing the stage with the audience to their backs.

The debate in this small town began with a prayer.  That's one of the things I love about this town.  Prayer.  We pray at the beginning of most any event here.

The hosts and the moderator of this event were mostly high school students that also run a local news website.  From what I can tell, they are responsible for pulling the entire debate together.  They were professional through the entire evening and did a fantastic job.

One of the themes that ran through the event was "come to my house".  I believe all the candidates at one time or another invited anyone in town to come over and talk or ask questions.  Being in a small town, everyone in the room is neighbors with one another or knows someone that is neighbors with you.  I think this was proven by the openness of the men and woman running for city office.  They are our neighbors.

Social media is another theme that frequented the group of candidates that are split in half by an age gap.  While the younger candidates push for more technology and electronic communication by the city government, the older candidates tried to show that not everyone uses social media.  "How many of you sent a tweet today?", was asked by an older candidate.  A hand full of audience members along with the younger candidates raised their hands.  Feeling satisfied that his point had been proven, the older gentleman went on to tell us he doesn't even have a "tweeter" to send a tweet.

The theme of technology continued through the evening and during closing statements one of the younger candidates laughed shyly as he told us to get more info about him by visiting his website.

You know the stereotype of a small town that says everyone knows everyone else?  It's true.  And if you don't know someone, you might know their daddy.  I guess that's why one of the candidates decided to use daddy's name several times while answering questions.  Daddy was a popular business man in town.   It reminded me of Junior thinking he's a fantastic race car driver because his daddy was.

So what does a small town political debate look like?  It's a room full of candidates and spectators that are passionate about making their small town the best small town possible, for each other.

Being at the debate and getting involved in local politics has me pumped up for the election in a few weeks.  It's a bit disappointing that I will not be able to vote since I live a block outside of the city limits.  But to whoever gets elected, that doesn't mean I want to be annexed.  Please, please don't annex me!  I'm happily supporting the town from one block away.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Camping at TableRock

It's been a long time since we've done a family camp out and we've all been thinking more about it this year. A few months ago, Cari and I sat down and found a campground at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina and booked our trip. This past weekend was that trip.
If you read this blog very often, you may have noticed that I go backpacking a few times a year. Camping is similar but not the same.

In camping you have a much bigger tent:
In camping you have electricity for a coffee pot:
In camping you have running water and bathrooms. (not pictured)

One thing that I don't camp with in either case is a television.  Brenna wanted to bring one but we told her that you don't have TV's when you camp. After convincing her of that, I was glad she didn't notice the RV a few spots down that had a TV on the table.
We did all the expected family camping activities like camp fire stories, s'mores, hiking, and cooking on a fire.  During part of our story time we played the game where you tell just a few lines of a story and then let the next  person tell the next few lines and keep that going to see where the story ends up.  Somehow all of our stories involved a main character with only one eye and that character always ended up at an ice cream shop.  Not very scary stories when someone is always eating ice cream.

While we did have a great time, we were all ready to get home, have a real shower, and sleep in our own beds.   I'll give the kids until Christmas and then we'll start planning our next camping trip.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We had a great time camping this weekend and it was nice going without any form of internet the whole time. 

Honestly, while we were there I didn't think about Twitter or G+ or any news headlines. Once I realized I couldn't have it, I moved on with my day.

BUT when we returned to civilization I picked up my phone and started wondering, "what happened while I was gone?" 

How long have you gone disconnected and how did you respond?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

View the Wonder

We've visited Peoria, Ill on a regular basis over the years and I can't count the number of times we've driven past this tower in Peoria Heights.
During our most recent visit, we had an hour to spare before dinner so we decided to see what this thing is all about.  So what is it about?  It's about having a cool tower in your town.  Seriously.

We paid our $2 each and hit the button to bring the elevator down.  After a few minutes we interrupted the ticket lady from her magazine and asked what else we could do to get the elevator to come down.
She said it gets stuck sometimes.  Please understand that this elevator is the only method from the bottom to the top of the tower.  Cari asked Ticket lady, "Has anyone ever gotten stuck up there?"  Ticket lady shrugged and smiled.  "What do you think?", she asked.  She continued to comfort us by telling us there is an emergency phone located on the elevator.

Once the elevator made it down, I saw Cari hesitate to get on.  There was no hesitation on my part, I wanted to view the wonder!  We were on our way to the top!

We made it to the top, without any problems from the elevator, and took the spiral stairs to the highest of three observation decks.  We were standing 170 ft above the ground and had 500,000 gallons of water under our feet.  The view looking out to the Illinois river was beautiful on this clear afternoon.

After some photos and looking around we decided it was time to head back down.  Amanda pushed the button and the elevator arrived to take us back to the bottom.  Once aboard the elevator I pushed the button to close the door.  The door closed and the immediately popped back open.  Cari pushed the down button and watched the doors slide closed. . . then immediately open again.  I started to laugh.  This elevator wasn't in the mood to take us to the bottom.

Cari rolled her eyes at the broken equipment, "Seriously?!"

After two more tries with nothing getting us to the bottom, Amanda stepped off of the elevator and pushed the button on the wall, then hopped back on before the door closed.  We started to descend.  For whatever reason, tricking the elevator in this manner got us down.

Viewing the wonder is partly about the amazing view from the top and partly about the wonder of the malfunctioning elevator.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


She'll hold up four fingers and tell you she's five.  
She's just trying to confuse you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Neighbor's New Dog

The neighborhood kids found a small dog at an empty house on the block recently.  They petted him and gave him tons of attention for about fifteen minutes.  That's all the attention that any kid has the ability to give.  Then the kids went back to play at my neighbors house.  The dog followed.   When I noticed the dog, I went to investigate how vicious it may be.  I found the dog to be terrified of me (rightly so). It had no collar to identify it, and the kids told me they had named it Snickers.  I know the dogs that live on my block and this wasn't one of them.  The kids were already adopting it, and I'm glad to report that the process was taking place away from my house.

At dinner that night, I asked my daughter how Snickers was doing.  She looked at me with a confused look.  "You mean, S'mores?", she asked.

The next day the kids continued to play with S'mores and I noticed it had taken up sleeping on the neighbor's porch.  I stood in my driveway that afternoon, pointed at the dog, and laughed.  This neighbor doesn't own a dog and he doesn't want a dog.  His kids, on the other hand, feed S'mores from their porch.

At dinner that night, I told my daughter that I noticed S'mores sleeping on the neighbors porch.  She looked at me with a confused look.  "You mean, Georgia?", she asked.

The third day of life with Snickers S'mores Georgia continued much the same.  The neighbor kids and my kids continued to love the dog and even took him for a walk up and down the street.  No leash required, the dog loved sticking close to the kids.  When the kids went inside, I went out to cut grass.  That little yappy dog stood at the edge of my neighbor's driveway and barked at me the whole time I was out there.  I texted my neighbor and asked him to please put his dog inside so it would stop barking.  My neighbor didn't appreciate my humor.

At dinner that night, I asked my daughter if she saw Georgia protecting the neighbor's house while I cut grass.  She looked at me with a confused look.  "You mean Lightening bolt?", she asked.

On day four my neighbor had a friend of his come over and pick up the dog.  The friend took Lightning Bolt out to a large property where he lives, and will give the dog a good home (honest).

At dinner that night, I asked my daughter how she felt about Lightning Bolt moving away.  She looked at me with a confused look.  "You mean Dorito's?", she asked.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Giving the youngest some stickers helped quiet her down today.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pumping Gas

Have you ever gone to a gas station and when you started to pump gas you realize the pump handle trigger thingy doesn't have that little flippy clippy thing that locks into place so your car will fill with gas but your hands can do other stuff?  Yeah.  You know what I'm talking about.

That stinks, right?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Cooking Kids!

I love putting my kids to work.  Recently, I was in the mood for some home made granola bars so I called my three kids into the kitchen.

Here's a video of their baking skills and they'll also teach you how to make your own home made granola bars. . . maybe.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Flight

I'm typing this blog from some altitude above the clouds. You know, like where God lives.
It took a little longer to get to this height than I had expected. When we first boarded, got seated, buckled, and situated I looked up to see our pilot facing us from the front of the plane. Being my first time on a plane I thought she was just going to say good morning to us. Other passengers seemed to know she shouldn't be talking to us, she should be in the cockpit getting ready to fly this beast.  With a smile, she told us that upon inspection it was discovered that the nose cone was missing a chunk of paint.  She continued to explain that it was in an area where the radar is located and she didn't know if there was damage. She was still smiling and I started to think she was getting prepared to tell us we were going to give this flight a shot... as-is. Instead, she asked us to get off the plane and wait for a mechanic to arrive. A delay. No surprises there.
When we re-boarded I realized we were getting back on the same damaged plane.  Does this need to be my first flight?

I feel like one of the only adult Americans that haven't been on a plane. All of my expectations of this trip were created by television and movies. Most movies that feature flight don't show a relaxed ride above the clouds, so sitting next to the window with a view of the wing, I wondered if it's supposed to vibrate like that. I'm serious people! I sat, still buckled, looking out of a tiny plastic window as the wing vibrated in the wind. Heck, it's vibrating as I type this.

Taking off was as I had anticipated. We drove down to the end of the runway and turned to face a long stretch of pavement. The engines revved up and the force of the speed had me sitting back in seat. I felt the bumps of the pavement as we sped down the stretch and then the nose lifted up a bit. A few seconds later the heavy back end left the ground with a noticeable lift. Everything was smooth as we found our way above the clouds.

Did I tell you how many plane crash stories I read back in the terminal? Three.  All in the news the morning of my flight. But I didn't worry about that. This plane, with vibratey wings, was smooth sailing.  The cockpit was loud, but smooth, like driving on a newly paved interstate.
And then we came to a construction zone. The plane pitched and bumped and the seat belt light came back on. Lucky for me I had never unbuckled. I looked at Cari but didn't say anything. She knew by my eyes what I was telling her.  This ride shouldn't be bumpy.  She smiled and said it was normal.  The pilot came on the radio and announced the obvious. We were in some light turbulence and it exsisted at all altitudes.

At the end of the day I was really excited about flying. It's a really unique experience. The power that you can feel in the plane during take off is amazing.

But at the end of the weekend, after having made four flights and having two delays, I'm starting to understand the stereotypes frequent flyers attach to the experience.
I'm finishing this blog on my flight home wondering if it will be another 30 years before I return to this place above the clouds.  I hope not.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Life is Delicate

A seemingly healthy person, her passing was very sudden.  She thought she had a case of pneumonia but when she finally went to the hospital the truth of her situation was much worse.
Her laugh is the one thing that will stay with me.  She had a very cheerful laugh. One of those smiles and laughs that, if you were fortunate to hear it, will have you smiling as well.

An artist that paid such close attention to detail, as you would expect an artist to do.  She expected everyone to do their best.  That was probably the teacher in her.  With such high expectations I was always grateful that I seemed to pass the test when marrying her granddaughter.

I always enjoyed talking with Marilyn and listening to her stories.  That's probably one of the things I miss most about her.

The quickness that this happened brings to mind how delicate the human body is.  How delicate life is.
Make sure you enjoy every day.