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Happenings

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Our last stop on our road trip was Hot Springs, Arkansas. I have been here a couple of times, but Gina and the boys have never visited this area before. This is one of those towns that I am just captivated by. It has a rich history, and the many old and abandoned buildings give you a glimpse into the former splendor of this unique little town. We got to tour the old bath houses, we walked around in the shops, we peeked inside the Arlington Hotel, and we climbed to the top of the observation tower.

We actually stayed about 10 miles outside of town in Hot Springs Village. This place holds special meaning for me. This is the place where I spent my last vacation with both sets of grandparents, and I have a lot of vivid memories from that trip. Our room was quite spacious compared to the motel rooms in Savannah and Gatlinburg, and we were able to eat some of our meals right there in the condo. Even though we had a great time in Hot Springs, and on the trip in general, I think we were all ready to get home after being on the road for 3 weeks.

You can see our photos from this leg of the trip in our online photo album.

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg

After saying good-bye to Auntie Flo and Jonesborough, we headed to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gina and I visited there before the boys were born, and we loved it. Of course, we visited during the off-season and had no idea what we were in for. After spending a few days there during the apex of tourist season, I think I will call it Gat Vegas from now on. All of the businesses and attractions stay open until midnight, and there are hoards of people walking around all night.

Despite the crowds, we had a really good time. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of my favorite places, and we were eager to show it to the boys. While we were there, we went horseback riding, got to see Cades Cove, hike to Laurel Falls, and we even got to hunt for salamanders in the Chimneys Picnic Area. My favorite part was climbing on the rocks in the river.

In addition to our outdoor fun, we got to take in some of the local attractions. We saw the Guinness World Record Museum, rode to the top of the Space Needle (twice!), and we spent a day at The Track in Pigeon Forge riding go-karts, playing putt-putt golf, and squirting water at each other in the bumper boats. Even with the large crowds and hot temps, we had a lot of fun and made the most of our time in the Smokies.

You can see all of our photos in our online photo album.

Jonesborough

Jonesborough

Our summer adventure continued with a stop in Jonesborough,TN to see our friend Flo. She has been there about 6 years and we have heard a lot about this town, and it lived up to the hype. We had a great time walking the ETSU campus, visiting the quaint downtown and farmers market, and we even got a ride on a hand-carved wooden carousel. We had a great time catching up with Flo and letting her show off her beautiful town. Sam and Nate especially liked playing with the dogs, Gretchen and Tilley. We are already looking forward to hanging out with Flo again. You can see pictures of Jonesborough and our adventures with Flo in our online photo album.

Chapel Hill and Durham

Chapel Hill and Durham

After leaving Savannah, we headed to Durham to spend time with family. My cousin Lindy lives there, and several other members of the family came into town to celebrate Independence Day. The list of people included my parents, my sister and her family, Lindy's daughter Kit, my Aunt Fran and her son Don, and a lot of cousins from Atlanta, Austin, Raleigh, and Washington, D.C.

We had a wonderful time together for 5 days. We got to see some wonderful sights around Durham, including a Ghost Walk in downtown, watching a Durham Bulls game, and visiting Gina's alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill. We also got to celebrate the June and July birthdays in our family, including Lindy, Joe, Gina, and Ella. Ella's Star Wars cake was a huge hit for the whole family. Most importantly, we spent a lot of time together at the house having conversation, watching tennis, swimming, playing games, showing off our musical abilities, and even sledding down the stairs in a cardboard box. We are grateful to Lindy for opening her home to us for a week and letting all of us relax, have fun, and connect with each other.

I didn't take many pictures, but I do have a few in our online album. I think Gina took quite a few pictures, and I will add those eventually. :-)

Savannah

The next stop on our trip was Savannah, GA, and let me just say, I love this city. I was here for the first time in March for a conference, but I did not really get to look around. This time we explored every part of the city, and we agree this is an incredible place to visit. We explored the squares and historic churches, and we found the place where Forrest Gump was filmed. We also got to visit Tybee Island and swim in the ocean. The boys have definitely inherited Gina's love of the beach! Of course, my favorite stop was the Lady and Sons restaurant, which is owned and operated by Paula Deen. I'm surprised I was able to walk after eating so much! We loved our stop in Savannah and already want to go back. You can see our pictures in our online album.

Road Trip 2016

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This summer we decided to take a long road trip for our summer vacation. I had mixed feelings going into our trip (lots of hours on the road, different locations every couple of days, meals in restaurants, etc.), and the early part of the trip confirmed some of my fears. We were on the road late a couple of nights, and we had to drive a fair amount in rain. The payoff, of course, is that we got to make some pretty great stops along the way. We saw the state capitals for Mississippi and Alabama, we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, and we walked through historical Tuskegee University. All of our back road excursions had us arriving in Savannah after 1 AM, but it was worth it to see so many interesting historical sites. You can see some pictures from our adventures in our online album.

USS Lexington

This weekend our Cub Scout pack had the opportunity to stay overnight on the USS Lexington, a decommissioned or craft carrier. Despite the long drive to Corpus Cristi, we had a fabulous time! We learned a lot about the Navy, World War 2, and life on a boat. We also got to know some of the families in our pack better, and that was a lot of fun. You can see some photos here and all of them in our online album.

Camping with Nate

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Earlier in June I took Sam camping in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, and now it was Nate's turn to escape the city. We got to spend three days at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, and if you have never been it is definitely worth the trip. I have been wanting to go here for a while, and it was a great experience. Just like my camping trip with Sam a couple of weeks ago, this one had its share of adventures and misadventures. This included sweeping views of Texas Hill Country from the top of Enchanted Rock, meeting new friends, and being raided by raccoons.

The experience of getting to spend so much quality time with each boy one-on-one has been really great for me. I have always known their unique personality traits, but it is hard to see when each boy is constantly interacting with his brother. There is something special and sacred about sitting by the campfire late into the night, answering questions that seem to come out of nowhere, and experiencing the unique insight into life that can only come from an 8-year old. I don't think I would have seen this side of Sam or Nate had we not dropped everything and spent some in the wilderness. I hope this is the beginning of a tradition that continues for many years.

Camping with Sam

Early in 2015, Sam started talking about his "8-year Old Trip." I have no idea where he got this idea, but I know he is not the first one to think of it. His first proposed destination was Hawaii. I told him this was not an option, though I would love to visit Hawaii someday. After suggesting a few other locations, Sam did what most people do when looking for an idea: he Googled it. The result of his query was Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, OK. This seemed more reasonable, so we booked a camping site and put a date on the calendar. This was my first camping trip with just one of the boys, and Sam and I had a great time. You can see some of our pictures below. Nate and I are heading to a different spot in about a week, and I will write about that when we get back.

https://youtu.be/k3K-3btcbZ8

https://youtu.be/-oP8uth-i8A

Last day of school 2016

Today the boys jumped out of bed, quickly ate breakfast, and headed out for their last day of school. What a year it has been! Amazing teachers, great friends, and a fantastic school! We are glad to get a break this summer, but we are so grateful the boys have a good school.

Second Grade Awards Ceremony

Today all of the Second grade students at RHES were honored for their hard work and accomplishments this year. Sam and Nate both racked up quite a pile of awards, and we are proud of their hard work. Both boys showed tremendous growth this year , and I think they are in good shape for Third grade (and beyond!). Below are some pictures and video from today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0FYjK0bheM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH0wNv1jKfo

Play ball!

We had the chance to see the Rangers play this weekend, and it was awesome. We saw Yu Darvish pitch for the first time in a year and a half! The best part is that Gina's cousin, Ellen, was able to come with us. It was her first baseball game! We can't wait to come back again for another game.

The Verb Song

I had a chance to sing and play guitar with Sam and Nate's classes. It was almost like being a teacher again, except without the grading and discipline issues. So much fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImEpSCuGzaY

Talent Show 2016

The boys participated in the Ridglea Hills talent show again this year, and it was amazing! They all worked really hard and put their best foot forward during the performance. I guess you could say they really lit the place up! (Sorry.) We are so proud of them! The video of their routine is below ... http://youtu.be/CBO9rLvzdyQ

Almost Summer

The boys took a swim today, which can only mean summer is just around the corner. Two more weeks of school, then freedom! Don't worry, Sam is more excited than he looks.

Sam's Research

Since about last November, Sam has become very interested in doing research on the internet and writing about it. Since I am not completely comfortable with giving him free reign on the actual internet, I set up a way for him to do his research through Google Slides, which lets him add pictures and text in a very safe and filtered way. And let me be clear, by "research" I mean Sam adding images to his unsupported and unverified opinions about the way the world works. I have included some examples from some of his more memorable projects below so you can see what I mean.

Take me out to the ballgame 

Sam and Nate opted to play baseball this spring instead of soccer. I am glad they are getting to try new sports and learn new skills. We have made some new friends on the team already, and the games have been a lot of fun. Here are some photos and videos from their game yesterday.

Rocket Men

The boys are launching their model rockets this morning with their Cub Scout    pack. This has been a lot of fun to learn about the physics behind launching rockets. Both boys had successful flights, and if this is like other activities they have done, they will both declare Aeronautical Engineering as their major... today at least. 😀

Mother's Day 2016

This year we were able to celebrate Mother's Day with Gina and Karen! After church, we had an amazing lunch at the Garden Restaurant at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden, then we walked around and got some great family pictures. We got to have a great FaceTime session with my mom, Gale, later in the day. Below you can see some of our pictures from the special day.

Living Thankfully

This Thanksgiving, I really made an effort to focus on what this time of year represents. Our culture has made it hard to do that, especially when you see Christmas items being displayed in stores before Halloween is even over. Despite the big retail push that seems to start earlier each year, we felt like it was important to focus on those things for which we are thankful. No, I didn't post something new to Facebook each day. I'm not even sure I thought about it every day, but this Thanksgiving season was marked with clear reminders that nothing in life is guaranteed.

We started the Thanksgiving season by participating in a couple of different food drives. The boys and I picked out several cans of food for an initiative at their school, and it was really cool to see them carefully scanning the canned food aisle for items they thought families would enjoy. We also participated in the Live Thankfully event for the second year in a row. Our school is a partner in this event, and we had a great time gathering at Southwest Christian School to fill bags with canned food items and move them to a local church, where families would come to pick them up before Thanksgiving Day. I think the families also got a free turkey, but we did not have to move those. You can see a picture from the event below, where Gina and I are totally not looking at the camera. Oops!

This year was also filled with some sad reminders that holidays can be hard for some people who are experiencing poor health or lost loved ones. We had friends fighting for their lives in the hospital, families doing their best to celebrate with empty places around the table, and others who were unable to travel and be with family because of health conditions. For those of us, like my family, who are not experiencing extreme difficulties, we need to reach out to those who may need kind words, emotional support, or a helping hand.

On Thanksgiving Day, we started our celebration early by participating as a family in the Fort Worth Turkey Trot. The weather was unseasonably warm, and the rain managed to hold off until later in the day. It was a great event for everyone, and I am excited for the day when the boys want to move up to the 5K. Here are few pictures below.

We spent the rest of the day at Tommy's house, eating great food, watching football, and making a lot of memories together. The boys especially enjoyed getting to make a gingerbread turkey, which I have to admit, tasted better than I thought it would.

The next day, we had tickets to the TCU/Baylor football game. The weather was was rainy all day, and the temperature kept dropping by the hour. It became clear by about 1:00 that Gina and the boys were not going to make it to this one. I tried to recruit some of the neighbors to go with me, and I was able to get Ryan to tough the elements with me. The game turned out to be really cold and wet, but it was totally worth it to see the Horned Frogs pull the upset over the Bears. That is all I will say about that, since there are several BU fans in the family.

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More than anything, this Thanksgiving was a reminder that everything we have - our health, each other, our home - is a gift. Take nothing for granted and live generously from your heart. That is the theme we hope to carry with us all year long.