Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oh My

I love coming to Wisconsin for Christmas. Not only is everybody nice, but the food is awesome. So, Christmas day we eat at Grandma's house. Then over the next two or three days, we usually get together at somebody elses house to either watch the Packer game or just to see each other some more. This year was no exception. I seriously think I gained ten pounds since crossing the Mississippi River. But the food is great so it's not all bad. And Michelle's family is all about the taste so there is hardly any low-fat butter, light cream cheese or sugar free anything. Yummy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Houston, we (might) have a problem

How do you know when your 6 year old daughter will be tall? When you go out to eat and she eats more than mommy. Then as we're walking out she says she's still hungry.

I remember when she was two and the old wives tale said to double the height on her second birthday and that's how tall she'll be. Well, that means she'll be 6 feet tall. At the time I went out to a couple of "guess your child's height" websites, answered some questions such as parents height, grandparents heights, parents siblings height, etc. The shortest result came back at 5'8". The tallest? 6'2" Any height she grows is fine and I won't complain about it one bit. But 5'8" means we pay for college, 6'2" means full ride athletic scholarship somewhere.

And if you know me at all, I'm constantly asking, "Want seconds?"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Woo-Hoo!!!

Sometimes it takes awhile to realize the fruits of your labor. Today, I've doubled the number of subscribers to my blog from one to two. That's fantastic. In fact it's better than fantastic. It's super-fantastic.

Two years ago, I made a New Years Resolution to celebrate the little things. I think this calls for the finest adult beverage imporated from the great city of St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bummer

So, last night was Katy's Christmas show at school. We got an email the day before saying the first graders will be on the right hand side of the church so we should sit on that side. Upon arriving, we found a couple of seats toward the front and thought we were pretty lucky. Unfortunately we couldn't see Katy, at all, not once. Well, we saw her for 5 seconds as she was walking out. At least I got that on video.

video

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What to do, what to do.

Michelle and I are in a dilemma. For the past who knows how many years we've spent Christmas day up in WI with her family. We would just load up the presents in the car Christmas Eve and Santa would stop at Grandma and Grandpa's house and we'd open up the presents Christmas morning before everybody else got there. Easy. Well, this year we won't be staying at their house. Michelle's sister from NC will be here so their family takes up two of the bedrooms. So we are staying at one of her other sister's house. No big deal in itself, just a change of venue. The problem is they have two girls of their own and Michelle and I both feel that Christmas morning should be family time, especially since their girls are young and still get super excited, so we don't want to infringe upon that.

Another thing is our girls are getting older and we want to start our own Christmas traditions. Opening presents in front of our tree, having the girls come down the steps Christmas morning all crazy and excited, just the "normal" Christmas morning magic.

So now we're at the crossroads where our family wishes meets extended family traditions. It's difficult and I don't see it getting easier anytime soon. We'll just have to see what these next couple of years bring.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wow

Ever have one of those weekends where everything goes good? I just had one. The girls behaved for the most part, we did some fun stuff, saw Santa, ate some cookies, all in all a very good couple of days.

video

Here we are dancing to the CR Spirit dance team music. during the parade. I think I do the best robot ever.

We frosted some cookies...

watched a guy carve an ice sculpture....

and watched them turn on the lights on the big tree.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorry for the delay

Well, it's been about a month since I've last posted. Not entirely based on laziness, I've just been busy with this new thing called Facebook. You see, my friend Brian convinced me to join and give it a try. "You'll like it. You can talk to people you hardly ever see and find out what everybody's up to." So I did and you know what I found out? I remembered how much I didn't like High School.

Not all of it was bad. I talked to a few people I hadn't in a couple of years, found my college baseball coach, who wrote a book by the way, and enjoyed some of the postings. I gave it a month, but it just didn't work out. I won't abandon it completely, but for the most part, if you want to know something, you'll get it here first.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hallowmania

As if Halloween day isn't crazy enough, Katy had a Boosketball camp in the morning. It was put on by the Xavier high school girls basketball team and she ended up having a lot of fun. Not the worst player, not the best player. But we should probably get a hoop up somewhere so she can practice.
Here's the future Illini star!

Monday, October 19, 2009

That's an interesting thought

The other day, my friend Brian and I were having lunch. Our birthdays are two days apart and since we've been friends since high school and we're both turning 35 we decided to splurge and go to our favorite 5 star restaurant. I hadn't been there since they renovated about a year ago so I was anxious to see the changes.

The outside was nice. Fresh paint, new stucco, cleaned up the landscaping. Then when I stepped inside, I could really see the changes. Everything was new. No more teal seats. No more gray floor tiles, no more purple railings. It looked as classy as I imagined it would when we decided to go there a few days ago. Everything was decorated in nice earth tones with a touch of the deepest blue you could imagine. Absolutely gorgeous. New seats and tables. In fact, everything was new. It was like stepping into a magazine ad for one of those luxury condos on Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago.

The service was quick, the food was great as always and we had great conversation between us. We decided that we are going to try and make this a regular event. Who knows, maybe next week. Anyway, I highly recommend this place to everyone. It's on first avenue in Cedar Rapids, just up the hill from the Cell Center. Just look for the tan and brown stucco building with the big bell painted on it. I might just see you there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What just happened?

My birthday is coming up, which is normally a good thing. However, for some reason, it just hasn't been my best day. I can remember numerous times getting injured (diving into the shallow end of the pool and scraping my whole chest along the bottom, breaking two ribs in high school football), getting sick (three times that I can remember, both feeling like death was only a puking away), girlfriend broke up with me in junior high (I think we had been "going out" for two whole weeks. I was heartbroken). Last year on my birthday, I took the day off from work to putz around the house. I ended up getting a hernia lifting a piece of drywall.



So you see, October 13 and the days that surround it just haven't been that kind to me. Don't get me wrong, I've gotten my share of great gifts, gotten to go to a couple of Illinois football games (which by the way are winless when I've gone) and of course Michelle's special good gift, wink wink. So, I shouldn't be too surprised as to the events that have transpired this weekend. Work went ok on Friday, except I slept at the rink. I closed on Friday night, finally turning off the lights at 12:30 and had to open on Saturday at 7:00. Instead of losing an hour of sleep due to driving 30 minutes each way, I just brought my air mattress and spent the night. Not the first time I've had to do that so not that big of a deal.

As a result, I missed the Big Ten Networks Friday Night Tailgate show from Champaign, an Illinois volleyball game on ESPN and the two baseball playoff games. Saturday was the killer. Illinois lost to Michigan State, the Cardinals got swept by the Dodgers and Iowa beat Michigan. On Sunday, the Packers don't play and the Vikings won.

What a crappy weekend. Anybody want to trade birthdates? Maybe I'll have better luck on April 30th or Sept 17th.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We're all in

About a year ago, Michelle and I decided we should paint the living room. The big debate at first was whether we should paint the wood trim white or refinish it. It is all scratched up, cracked, some of the varnish is peeling off and in general it doesn't look bad. But it's that beautiful yellow, long grain pine that is only found in older homes. We finally decided that we're going to refinish the wood. It's a lot more work, but the benefits will be worth it.


So, now that we've decided on that, wall color is next. After spending hours looking on the internet at various other rooms and colors, an olive green is what we decided looks best. I brought home 5 sample jars and started painting splotches all over the room. None of them look good. so it's back to Menards for some more choices. At this rate, we might have it done by Christmas.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Two weeks to go

These next 13 days can't go fast enough. That's when Illinois basketball officially begins with Illini Madness. I can't wait. This season might be a little rough, but they'll still finish in the top 3. It's next year that should really be fun. It's nice having the #2 recruiting class in the country two years in a row. Click the Chief for this years schedule.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Foiled again

Always a brides maid, never a bride. We came out like gangbusters and won the first game last night. But alas, it wasn't meant to be because we lost the last two. It's sort of a bummer, but realistically, we barely beat that team when they only had three people because one didn't show up. So beating them with four players was going to be a tall task. Oh well. Indoors starts next week so I'll just move on.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This is it

Tonight is the last night of outdoor volleyball. Once again, we are playing in the championship match. The previous two, we've lost. Third times the charm, right? I'd really like to win that t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Minnesota Weekend

Two weekends, two states, two families. We visited my parents this weekend. Partly because there was a family picnic at their house, but mostly to give my dad his retirement gift. He's a huge LA Dodgers fan so my brother and I decided to send my parents to LA to watch a couple of games. We've got the whole she-bang. Tickets, air, hotel, cab money, everything. For the first time I can remember he was speachless. And for my dad to be speachless it takes either a dentist or a Sunday sermon. Very cool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wisconsin Weekend

We went to Wisconsin over the weekend to visit Michelle's family. It's usually a good time and this one didn't disappoint. We got there around 6 on Friday, ate and then went to bed early.

On Saturday, Michelle, her dad and I decided to drive down to Milwaukee to watch a Brewer game vs the Astros. I could watch any baseball game so I was fine with not seeing the Cardinals. It was a mostly blah, blah game. Brewers won 7-2 and Prince Fielder became the single season RBI record holder for them with 127. There was a bachlorette party in front of us but that not the good part. We were treated to a play-by-play from Mr. Loudmouth the whole game. I don't mind somebody explaining the game to somebody or occasionally imparting some sort of wisdom on the general population of fans in the area. But this guy was obnoxious. Every player, both on the Brewers and Astros warranted his own set of comments. Everything from if he was good looking to if they could hit the ball into the parking lot if given the chance. Seriously, I just paid $39 to watch a game between two teams in 3rd and 4th place with no chance of making anything this year except their tee times October 6th. Shut up already!!!





Anyway, here are some pics. Miller Park is a great place to watch a game. You can walk around the whole place, the ushers are friendly, the food is decent but not spectactular and tickets are easy to come by.


Of course the highlight of going to any Brewer game is the Sausage race. This is the hotdog. He nor his handler were very happy. Probably because he came in last. Bummer.

This is my favorite pic of the night. I might get this print blown up and hang it on my wall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Well, now I've done it.

Yesterday after work, I went with my friend Brian to pick up his camper from his little sliver of paradise, Holiday Lake. Yes this is the same person who almost capsized a boat, but since nothing bad really happened, I went back anyway. Besides, he promised no water sports so I thought it would be safe. The trip went fine, no bad things happened, we didn't crash the truck or camper. This was one of the few times things actually went as they were supposed to. It's nice to have that happen every once in a while.

On to the point of my post. He has started this movement. FTG or Free Todd Garrison on his Facebook page. At first it was designed to force Michelle to let me play basketball on Tuesday nights out in Atkins. You see Michelle plays volleyball on Tuesdays and doesn't get home in time for me to make it out there on a consistent basis, actually hardly ever, so I quit trying and just gave up. So FTG has morphed from that to something along the lines of getting me to join Facebook. At the beginning, I was against it, but after wearing me down for an hour, I said if he gets 30 legitimate people to join, that I personally know and have an interest in, I'll jump on Facebook.

I see this ending only in a bad way in that I'm probably going to have to become one of you. And by you, the millions who are on Facebook. There could be worse things. I could be tied down on top of an ant hill covered in honey or sprayed by a skunk. Or sprayed by a skunk while on top of an ant hill covered in honey. Basically anything with skunks and honey craving ants are about the only things worse than Facebook.

I think I'm in trouble.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Volleyball part II

Again with this stupid sport of volleyball. Crush the team first game, get crushed the second and we crush them in the third. Typical of us I guess, but this time, it probably cost us the championship. We're down two games with two weeks to go. Fortunately we get to play them one last time so that helps, if we win.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One last thought for the time being

Some people have told me that my postings have been, let's see, less than could be desired and wish I would spice them up a little with funnier quotes, pictures, happenings, etc. just like when I tell stories to them in person. To those people, I have my usual "I wish..." response:

"You can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which one fills up faster."

Last Day of the ol ball and chain

Sunday, September 13th is my Dad's last day of work at the Post Office. I'm not sure how long he's worked there, probably 87 years or something, but I can't think of anybody more deserving of a "vacation" than my dad. Congrats!

Good weekend



Last weekend, instead of going someplace exotic, we decided to pack the kids up and head North to Backbone State Park. It was an hour away, but worth the drive. We walked on some trails, ate a picnic lunch, explored a cave. All in all a good trip.


We decided that we're going to have to go back next summer when the boat rental place is open. Molly might be a little nervous to step back in a boat as her last time resulted in a near death experience. I can see Molly now. Everybody is climbing into the canoe while Molly just stands on the dock asking if we're going to sink. Thanks DJ for potentially scarring my kid for life.

On the way back, we drove through Strawberry Point and had a good photo op with Katy and the ginormous strawberry downtown.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

WTF

This crappy Imon cable provider. They have the flipping Minnesota game on today instead of the Illini game on the BigTen Network. AGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I want restitution. I want satisfaction. I want to watch Illinois! It might be their only win of the season.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

So Sad

Well, I finally got around to posting my old cordless drill on Craigslist. We've had such a good time together and I have many fond memories of all the projects we've built together. But, Michelle let me upgrade to the 19.2v set so instead of letting it sit and collect dust, I'm hoping I can find it a good home and allow it to lead the life it was designed to do. Drill on my good friend, drill on.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uh Oh

Well, after 48 hours of raining it's finally stopped. I saw on the news where we got 7-10 inches. Our backyard was flooded and we had some water in the basement. Nowhere near the amount last summer, but I might be giving FEMA another call. Hey, somebody has to pay to replace the used gift bags and cardboard box, might as well be John Q Taxpayer. Oh wait, that's me. Nevermind.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wow

I'm sure all of us have a friend that no matter what your intentions are, something crazy always happens. You two could plan on going to the store just to buy toilet paper and end up in Tijuana Mexico on some search for the perfect pair of silver earrings for your spouse. For me, that's my friend Brian. Oh the stories I could tell. Nothing really bad has ever happened to us. Only a midnight trip to Chicago, our car getting impounded, and almost drowned on a ship a little more water tight than the Titanic. Yes, that's right, I've been on a boat that has almost sunk. Last weekend, I was helping him shovel 10 tons of gravel at their new campsite. He and his wife have bought the American Dream. 1/2 an acre on a piranha infested lake out in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, no water and no toilet. Actually, it's quite nice and I'm a little jealous. And they have a really, really, really nice camper, a semi-level spot with trees and if you squint hard enough, you can see the lake. It's only an hour away from Cedar Rapids so it's close enough for us to mooch off them, but yet far away enough for us to say, no thanks I have to wash my hair. You have nice personality, but I only like you as a friend. Oh wait, sorry. Flashback to my high school, college years. Who am I kidding, my wife still says that to me.

Anyway, after we got done with the rocks, we hooked up with some friends on their parents party barge. Cruising along at, oh I'd say, 2 knots when all of a sudden the front of the boat started going under. Luckily the Captain, DJ, calmly said, everybody to the back of the boat. Of course everybody was screaming. And I forgot to mention that there were 6 kids with us, all under the age of 8? (sorry Leah if you're 9, I can't remember. Too many shots to the head in 8th grade dodge ball). For a second or two, I really thought the boat was going to tip over so I grabbed Molly by the back of the life jacket and was ready to pull a Jack from Titanic and jump in, but then the boat sort of righted itself and all was good. Well, mostly good, I lost our camera and three princess dive toys. Oh the humanity. Just another chapter that is the saga of our lives.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fun Day

Friday was the last day of summer camp. While it's fun and I look forward to it every year, towards the end, I'm ready for it to be over. This year has to be the best ever in my opinion. The kids were great, nobody got hurt and everybody had a lot of fun. Our counselors and instructors were absolutely fabulous. I think I owe all of them a hot chocolate.

Michelle's brother and his family came down for the weekend to visit and to go to the St. Judes Sweet Corn Festival. They're camping close by at Sandy Beach Campground so we stopped in last night for some yummy burgers. There's nothing better than food cooked over an open fire. Everybody had a good time, nobody really got bit up by bugs too bad and the kids got to play in the water for awhile. Michelle and I decided that we're going to come down here next summer to try camping. We have almost all the equipment, but are just too nervous to try it with the girls. The campground is clean, inexpensive ($12/night) and there's a "beach" right there. All in all, a very good day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last day for Jones Pool

Jones Pool is closing for the summer. So, while Michelle is at her "Tea With Thee" meeting, I took the girls. We love going to Jones. It's never crazy busy, it's on the smaller size and there is enough to do for both Katy and Molly to keep them entertained that they don't drive us crazy or complain that they are bored. Katy's swim instructor for the past two years is a lifeguard there and she is heading off to Loras in a couple of weeks so she won't be teaching her this winter. I told Katy to say goodbye to Ellen because it might be a while before she sees her again. As usual, Molly all of a sudden became best friends with her and almost started crying and made Ellen pick her up when Ellen said she wasn't going to teach Katy this winter. Molly is so strange like that. For no real reason, she'll latch onto somebody, usually a person she doesn't know but one of us does, and become instant friends. I don't know if it's more of she wants to be better friends with whomever than Katy is with them or it's just a part of her personality. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Garage

Another casualty of the flood of 2008 was our garage. We got about 5 inches of water inside the workshop and I didn't really think much of it, until about 4 months ago. I was moving some boxes away from the wall and found a forest of mold. After closer inspection, it was all over the place. So, I've started to demo by removing the drywall and insulation. It's a pretty crappy job, but I'm not in any rush so I'm taking it slow and just not trashing the entire shop. But there is some rotten wood so that will need to be replaced. I'm going to replace everything with chip board, which will look nice and I won't have to mud & tape. This is just another project on my already long list.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rain today

It rained today so no pool. Bummer. It would be nice for the pools or city to have on their message system that the pools are closed. Instead the phone just rang and the Cityline said there were no cancellations for January 15th. That's nice to know, but doesn't help us out. Instead, we had to drive to Jones pool to see if it was open.

At least we are still going to Chilis for dinner with Jaime and Beau and the kids. Love those chips and salsa.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Weekend ahead

Well, Friday went well. Pretty busy at the rink so that's always nice. This week of camp also finished up. As always, the kids had a blast. It was a small group of 7, but sometimes the smaller groups have the most fun. Next week though is the biggie, 30-35 depending on how many sign up on Monday last minute. Plus my bosses girls are going to be there so it has to be extra fun. I don't want her spies going back saying it was not any fun or they didn't like the bread and water we gave them for a snack or the craft project of cleaning the glass around the rink.

It's supposed to be a hot one this weekend. Heat index in the 100's. We'll see. I don't ever believe the forecast or the weathermen. What a job. If I'm wrong 50% of the time at my job, I'm looking for a new one quicker than a rabbit has babies.

Friday, August 7, 2009

School Sign Ups

It was form and fee day yesterday (Thursday) at Katy's school. In a couple of weeks she starts 1st grade. Yikes! It's amazing how fast kids grow up, but at the same time still act like an infant. Katy again had a meltdown about a teeny little thing. I didn't put enough milk in her cup. I tried telling her that when she drank all that she could have more, but she was in that state where she couldn't comprehend anything you say to her. I could tell her she gets to eat candy for dinner and she wouldn't understand. I'm actually kind of glad school will be starting soon. Maybe those nuns at St. Jude can straighten her out. If you doubt the extremeness of Katy's fits, check this one out. It's from Valentines day and all we're trying to do is get ready for bed. Of course Molly doesn't help matters much by stealing some of her candy, but you get the idea.
video

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Volleyball

Volleyball sucks. I don't know why I keep playing. Everybody on our team is good, we just keep losing. It's never one person who does us in. I'll shank a pass. The setter sets one over the net. Our strong side hitter hits one into the net. Our middle back over passes. Next thing I know we're down 0-4. Maybe it's not as bad as I think it is. We do end up winning every match 2-1, but our league standings are based on game wins so we finish the session in 3rd or 4th place. Ugh!!!!

Plus tonight, Katy was throwing an absolute fit. Want to know what about? The ketchup on her hot dog was on the bun, not the hot dog. Uh oh, call the Feds. We have ketchup on the bun! She was almost uncontrollable. How embarrassing.

Family Vacation

Probably what got me started doing this was a co-worker of mine asked me to keep a journal of our trip to North Carolina. She liked hearing about our last family vaca to Mt. Rushmore. And I must admit, it was a rather interesting saga. If I remember to, I'll add that story on a later date. (Can you have flashbacks on a blog?) But to start things off, I'll begin with our current adventure into the great unknown, North Carolina.

We picked NC for a couple of reasons.
1) we've been there before
2) my wife has family in Raleigh
3) we're going to bring the girls to the beach for the first time

We found a great deal on a house rental for a couple of days and then planned the rest of the trip around that. It worked out fairly well, but looking back, I wish we didn't have so many stops. Oh well, there's always next time.

Here's a blow-by-blow of what went down:

Wednesday, July 22nd
The trip started with Michelle and the girls picking me up at Coral Ridge Mall. That's where I work and it's sort of on the way. We wanted to get going right away, but of course the girls had to get one more ride on the carousel. Heaven forbid we leave on time or without riding on the carousel one last time. Oh well. Michelle is great and packed PB&J so we just ate in the car. We had to make it to Indianapolis tonight so we could make it to Kannapolis the next day. I know somebody who plays for the Intimidators, Jon Gilmore, and were planning on seeing him play on Thursday. Everything was going fine until we crossed into Indiana. All of a sudden we were dive-bombed by the biggest bird I have ever seen. This wasn't your average hawk. I swear it was a terradactyl. What kind of strange science experiments are they doing in the Hoosier state?

Thursday, July 23rd
Our big driving day, 10 hours in the car. Yikes. We made it in time for the game, driving up just before the National Anthem. Jon went 1-for-4 and made a couple of nice plays in the field. The Intimidators won 3-2 in the ninth and the game went really fast, which was good for the girls. The stadium was nice, very clean, but a little bland. I wish they would have carried over the same brick exterior to the inside of the stadium. The vinyl siding just didn't do it for me. The food was ok, but the nachos were awesome. $5 got me a ton of chips, chili, beans, salsa, cheese, peppers and sour cream. By far the best deal I've gotten in a long time at the ballpark. During the game, we sat with Jon's wife Jessie, who used to work at the ice arena with me. The girls have seen her one time, at their wedding, and for a total of 15 minutes. Well, you would have thought they were long lost friends as they both had to sit right next to her. And I think Molly almost started crying when it was time to go. Jessie carried her out to the parking lot and I think one wrong move or phrase would have pushed her over the edge.

The hotel we stayed at was ok. The Super 8 in Salisbury claims to be the newest indoor entrance property in town. Well it might have been, but it didn't look it. Have you ever been someplace that looked good from far away, but on closer inspection, there were paint drips on the floor, dents in the drywall and weeds in the garden? That's how I would describe this property. Clean, but worn. What do you expect? It's a $60 Super 8.

Friday, July 24th
I would say out of all the free hotel breakfasts we've ever had, Super 8's are the skimpiest. Bagels, danish, juice and coffee with a couple of dry cereal choices. After eating, it was off to Raleigh. I sort of forgot what hot felt like because it's been so mild back home. When we stepped out of the car, I was instantly soaked. It was hot, and not your normal 90 degree hot. It was 90 degrees with 90% humidity. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found out a trip to the pool was on that evenings agenda. Upon arriving, I was a little disappointed. I guess I'm spoiled by the Cedar Rapids pools and all the water slide having, zero entry, kiddy themed pools. Maybe I just have high expectations of Raleigh because all I've ever experienced is Michelle's sister and brother-in-law's place. They both work for IBM and I guess he is pretty high up on the food chain. He told me once what he does, but I either can't remember or didn't understand it when he told me. And that goes for pretty much everybody who has an office type of job. Michelle? Not sure, pays out money in the commissions department at Aegon. My friend Brian? Not sure, hooks up telephones for MCI/Worldcom/Verizon/whatever they're called now? My friend Jaime? Collects money for MCI/Worldcom/Verizon/whatever they're called now? Why can't everybody have an easy to describe job like mine? Zamboni Driver - what's left to explain? Back to Kevin and Maryanne. Needless to say, they don't live in the same neighborhood as Michelle and I do and it's not the one where all the shootings happen, if you know what I mean. Now back to the pool. The water felt nice and the kids had fun so I guess that's all that counts. Dinner that night was awesome. Grilled chicken with noodles and some yummy tasting sauce. Holy Crap I ate too much. They also gave the girls some boogy boards and sand toys for the beach, which was much appreciated.

Saturday, July 25th
Happy birthday to Michelle and Molly. Molly is now 3 and Michelle is 30 with one year experience. Hah!

We got a late start due to a power outage. Just sort of hung around in the morning and then went to an old-time park in the afternoon. It had kiddy train rides, boat rides and a carousel. It's no Coral Ridge Mall carousel, but nice because it was old and had this air powered music thingy. At night we went to a Durham Bulls game. The park was awesome as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Very cool. A definite must see if your in Durham. As cool as the stadium, was, the highlight of the day came before game. For dinner we ate at your run of the mill Mexican restaurant, The Fiesta Mexicana. The food was great and there was lots of it. I recommend it if your in Raleigh. Since it was Michelle and Molly's birthday's they brought out this huge sombrero, put it on Michelle's head and started singing. Molly put it on and was laughing and screaming the whole time. Ah to be so easily amused. Thanks again to Kevin and Maryanne for dinner and the tickets to the game. Much appreciated and all-in-all another great day in the Tar Heel capitol.

Sunday, July 26th.
After going to church in the morning and eating some lunch (eggs for brunch-yummy!) we packed the car and headed out to the OBX. That's local speak for the Outer Banks. It seemed to take 6 hours to get there, but in reality only 3 1/2. The house is nice, not too flashy, and in a real neighborhood with people who live there year-round. After getting some pizza at Papa Nino's and getting jobbed at the grocery store it was too dark to check out the beach scene. Probably good because the girls were wiped out. Forecast is for the upper 80's with scattered thunderstorms. Hopefully we'll get some sun.

Monday, July 27th
I think Katy could have slept until noon. Molly on the other hand was up at 7:30. After a quick breakfast we headed for the beach. This was the girls first time and crazy is a good word to describe their reactions. We had a blast. Katy practically dove in while Molly was a little more cautious. We swam and played in the sand,

went back to the house, ate some lunch, took a nap and went back out. It was so much fun playing with the girls. What a great idea of mine it was to come out here. Yes Michelle, I am taking all the credit for this trip. One thing about the walk to the beach was the mosquito's. We had to go thru a couple of bushes along the path and they must have been waiting for us. I think the girls lost a pint of blood. We didn't have any bug spray. And when the girls got bit they developed these HUGE half-dollar size welts. I get itchy just thinking about it.

For dinner we ate at The Froggy Dog. A nice looking place, but we probably won't go back. We sat for about 15 minutes before I flagged somebody down. The waiter was super nice, but that didn't make up for the small portions. We're talking cruise ship meal small and this at this place it wasn't all you can eat. And the kids meal, well, $6.99 for just a chocolate milk and a little dish of mac-n-cheese seemed a little steep for me. Katy and Molly liked it though, at least they liked saying the name anyway. Each time we passed it on the road, "There's The Froggy Dog!" Ah kids.

Tuesday, July 28th
We went to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the morning. This was something more for Michelle and I, but the girls still had a good time. Katy & I bought our tickets to climb to the top, $7 for me and $3.50 for her. 278 steps all the way up. We listened to a short talk about the lighthouse and the rules. One in particular was "No carrying children up or down the steps." I wanted Katy to hear that so she wouldn't ask me to. What's great about Katy is that once she knows the rules, she's pretty good about following them. Let me tell you something. Walking up all those steps is tough. That's a 10 story building with no A/C. About halfway up Katy said her legs were tired. I asked if she wanted to stop and rest but she said no. All the way up to the top, no complaining. What a trooper. It was nice at the top. Great views of the ocean and sound. We saw Molly and Michelle down on teh ground and waved. But like most tall structures I've been up (Arch in St. Louis, Freedom Tower in San Antonio and the John Hancock building in Chicago) after about 20 minutes I've seen enough. The trek down was easier, but it was still about 100 degrees inside. On the way back to the house we made the mandatory stop at the souvenir ship. The p


rices actually weren't that bad. Wings does a nice job and i would go back next time. After lunch it was back to the beach. I think Michelle and I are in trouble. The girls liked it too much and want to come back next week. I better ask for a raise at work.

Wednesday, July 29th
Time to leave the house. We piled in the car and headed north to Kitty Hawk. We toured the Wright Brothers Museum and National Park. It was another hot day in NC, but we made it up to the top of the monument. Molly of course had to be carried. Katy didn't understand why she couldn't be. That's the cross Katy must bear; being 5 but the size of a 12 year old. Next we went to the public beach and hung out there for a while. One good thing, for me anyway, was the eye-candy was a little better than the semi-private beach we had been going to. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happily married, but I'm still a guy so back off. Let me sidebar a little here. Michelle and I had been talking about making this a regular part of our vacation plans, every year or more likely every other year. While discussing where to stay, I wanted farther south, away from the touristy spots. Still stuff to do, but it's not forced down your throat. Michelle wanted just the opposite, crazy Wisconsin Dells type of atmosphere. Well I think I won because the beach we went to is practically right where Michelle wanted to go. It was crazy packed, dirty and for some reason the water was colder. Quiet, relaxing vacation here we come! After a couple of hours we bid farewell to the ocean and left for our hotel in Greenville. The hotel was a Microtel and practically brand new; easily the nicest one so far. Of course it was also the most expensive. Coincidence?

Thursday, July 30th
Up and at 'em for another "free" breakfast of waffles and bagels. Then off to a little side trip to Greensboro to tour a revolutionary war battleground. It was nice (for Michelle & I). the girls just ran around during the documentary and watched a movie in the car during the driving tour. I guess their a little young for early American history. After that we headed to the Smokey Mountains. When we got to the hotel, it was about 15 degrees cooler. Nice. The hotel was nice, a Ramada, but a few strange things made our stay sort of weird. First of all, at check in, I had to fill out a guest information card. I haven't seen one of these since I worked at Super 8 back in 1994. Second was Kathy at the front desk. There are two opinions about her on the Travelocity review section of their website, you love her or hate her. I am more of a middle ground type of guy. She wasn't mean like some people said nor was she super bubbly nice like other people said. My theory is that society's customer service expectations have been lowered so much that when we encounter even the a halfway nice person they appear to be the nicest person in the world. the third thing was the pool/hot-tub, both of which were super small. the size didn't bother me as much as the extremely slippery tile used around them. And I mean EXTREMELY slippery. I don't think they used the correct type of tile when they put it in. It was borderline dangerous. The other thing about the pool was the handwritten rule taped on the door about no jumping into the pool. No diving I can understand, but no jumping? The reason given is that the pool is too shallow. It's 5' on one end and 3' on the other. My kids jump in and out of the bath tub with no problems. Don't give me that lame excuse, you fun-haters. I think the real reason is they're aware of the slippery tile and using the depth as an excuse so not to alarm anybody their life is in danger from slipping and having their brains spill out all over the floor after cracking their skull open. Oh well, at least the water in the hot-tub wasn't boiling hot so I could enjoy it. I really despise being boiled alive.

Friday, July 31st
Spent about 6 hours driving around the Smokey Mountains. Wow, they're pretty. When we first got there it was pouring rain and Michelle and I were a little bummed. We made it to the first waterfall and decided that since we were here we might as well suck it up and make the 1/4 mile hike to see it. It was well worth it. Absolutely spectacular. I'm so glad we went. About 15 minutes after we got back in the car, it stopped raining. Figures. Onto Clingman's Dome, the tallest mountain the Smokey's. I was very cloudy/misty when we got there so we couldn't see much, but it was still nice to say we made it to the top. The path was super steep. Next time your on the treadmill, crank up the angle all the way and walk on the for 1/2 mile and you'll get the idea. Katy made it all the way to the top all by herself. She wanted to be carried a couple of times, but convinced her that Grandma and Grandpa would be proud of her if she walked up all by herself. One thing I noticed was that the rain was a blessing in disguise. Every little trickle of water was turned into a fast moving, white-water rapids. Little waterfalls sprung up all over the place that wouldn't have been there if it hadn't rained. The Lord works in mysterious ways. The Sinks was the next and on the way we stopped every so often to look at other rapids and waterfalls. It was just awesome and words can't describe it. We spent a little longer than expected and didn't get to Louisville until about 10:30 that night. Needless to say, that was not a fun walk with the girls from the car to the room.

Saturday, August 1st
Baymont Inn & Suites. Another $70 night with the same "free" breakfast as the other 4 hotels we stayed at. I couldn't force myself to choke down another waffle but that's ok because we're headed home today. How come the drive back always seems to take longer than the drive there?

In The Beginning.....

For some reason, people have asked me to start a blog and I'm not sure why. I seem to lead a pretty normal life; wife, 2 kids, house, good job, etc. I thought it might be sort of interesting and I've always wanted to keep a journal so why not. I'll try to keep it interesting, include a few pictures and maybe entertain you along the way. Happy reading.