Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Boss was Right

Anna Rose was so excited to see her friend Thomas last weekend. They live four and a half hours from each other, so she doesn't get to see him as much as she would like.

We all like Thomas. It doesn't hurt that we love his parents. Cooper and Beth are lifers. And it has been a thrill to see our children enjoy one another, especially Anna Rose and Thomas. I have to admit I'm guilty of perhaps encouraging this little relationship along, openly musing upon the benefits of arranged marriages, etc.

Well, Anna Rose hasn't needed much encouraging. It was fun to watch their reunion. It was at Wyatt's house, Thomas was over there playing. Wyatt is Thomas' best friend in Charleston. I smiled as I watched Thomas sprint out the door, Wyatt calling after him, "See you tomorrow?" Thomas running away, "Only if Anna Rose comes."

Good job Thomas.

I should have realized how Wyatt might have received such words. He reacted exactly the way he should have, threatened. The next morning, he was at Thomas' door before breakfast was over. I smiled, watching the three of them play outside, not seeing the determination in Wyatt's eyes: he was not losing his best friend to a girl!

We went to the farmer's market downtown. Anna Rose and Thomas were holding hands along the sidewalk. We ordered some breakfast burritos while the children ran in Marion Square. Sure enough, there was Wyatt. He told his dad we were coming. He waved Thomas over. They climbed a statue. It was too tall for Anna Rose. She asked me to help her. It was her turn to be determined. She was not losing her friend to a boy!

Have you ever seen a sadder picture?

Well, it went on like that all day. Wyatt was over after lunch. He wasn't planning to leave. He wasn't giving Anna Rose an inch. I was too late to see how his presence was hurting Anna Rose. She wanted Thomas for herself. Wyatt gets to see Thomas all the time. This was her one chance. I should have seen it earlier. Should have seen it before Wyatt came inside holding his neck.

Anna Rose had attacked him.

And she was not going to apologize. I could hardly blame her.

Of course we had to address it. Tears and screams were involved.

Later, Lia took Anna Rose for a walk. She asked her how she felt. She said, "I feel like I'm hungry, but it's in my heart."

That's exactly how it feels, Anna Rose.

Everybody has a hungry heart.

When she got back, Thomas was waiting for her on the porch. He gave her a bouquet of flowers. She grabbed them with a straight face. She handed them to me, saying: "Put them in my room." She walked inside without another word.

I heard Thomas say to Cooper who was standing with him on the porch, "Did it work, dad?"

It did, eventually.

What's it going to be like when they're teenagers?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frosty Bomb

Last Wednesday, Frosty showed up at our front door uninvited.

He came about the same time the Young Life staff did for the little Christmas shindig we were hosting.

I don't know if there was any correlation.

He was gone by morning.

So if you happen to see Frosty while you are out and about, please let him know that he is welcome at our house any time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Year 1: 2007.

"The best Santa photo ever"

Year 2: 2008.

"Lightning Strikes Twice"

Year 3: 2009.

 "Calm Between the Storms"

Year 4: 2010.

 "Like Sister Like Brother"

Year 5: 2011

"How Many More Years Do We Have to Do This?"

Year 6: 2012

"I'm on to you Santa."

AKA: "No, Mom, you will NOT make me show my teeth (or the lack there of) when I smile."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Vacation Party!

SQUIRREL!!!! Yes, Jenny Ryan even wore a squirrel...just one reason this year's Christmas Vacation party was the best to date. 

Lia and Allison both were Mary: 
Mary: "That's my name." 
Clark: No shit.

The Barnhills were a realistic Rocky and Ruby Sue:

Ruby Sue: Rocky bit my thumb. Him's nervous because Christmas is almost here.
Clark: Nervous or excited?
Ruby Sue: Shittin' bricks.
Clark: You shouldn't use that word.
Ruby Sue: Sorry. Shittin' rocks.

(there's a lot of cussing in Christmas Vacation)

The Speakmans were a solid Todd and Margo:

Margo: And why is the carpet all wet, Todd?
Todd: I don't know Margo.

Some people didn't dress up. ahem. Catherine and Becky (they were also supposed to bring dates. ahem)

*** Photo No Longer Available*** 
(Only for you, Sallie)

Sallie and John seconds before I took their picture: "And why have you not taken our picture?" All rightie, I aim to please. 

I did snap a better one of them. Sallie, I love you! I'll take down the other photo in a few days. : )

As for the Nedster, I rocked the Cousin Eddie with my new friend, Erica. Guess which one of us is carrying twins.

It's not a trick question. 

Eddie: You surprised to see us, Clark?
Clark: Surprised Eddie?... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.

Here's to next year!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Griswold, scratch that, the Erickson Family Christmas Tree

Just in time for the annual Christmas Vacation Party, the Ericksons did a little Christmas Vacation reenacting of our own. For the first time in our lives we cut down the Erickson family  Christmas Tree.   

So ax and hatchet in hand, we set off to chop down the Erickson Family Christmas Tree. 

You see kids, this is what our four fathers did.
Audrey: I can't feel my leg.
Clark: They walked out into the woods, they picked out that special tree and they cut it down with their bare hands.
Audrey: Mom, I can't feel my hips!
Ellen: Clark. 
Clark: Yes honey?
Ellen: Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down. 
Clark: That's all part of the experience, honey.

Rusty: Dad, didn't they invent christmas tree lots so people wouldn't have to drive all the way out to nowhere and waste a whole saturday?

Clark: The Griswold family christmas tree.
Ellen: Isn't it a little big?
Clark: It's not big. It's just full.

(Check out Lia's photo sequence)

That's Christmas elation you see right there!

Rusty: Dad, this tree won't fit in our back yard.
Clark: It's not going in the yard, Russ. It's going in the living room. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So That's What Happens

Lia signed us up for a Jesse Tree. If you don't know what a Jesse Tree is that makes two of us.

From what I gather it's like an advent calendar without the little doors you open or the treats.

Instead, you hang ornaments on a Jesse Tree, which is basically a Christmas tree without ornaments until you put them on.

The ornaments are what you have to sign up for apparently. Lia and twenty-four other "couples" (women) each craft twenty-five of the same ornament - a la Henry Ford - then pass them out at "the ornament exchange."

Lia made the world. Anna Rose and she painted clear globes blue then Lia painted on all seven continents (all green). Our worlds are post Global Warning. I say our because Lia convinced me to go along with her to "the ornament exchange" even after I explained to her that I was pretty sure I was going to be the only male in attendance.

In order to ensure I was wrong, Lia invited our friends Barnes and Elizabeth out to dinner beforehand. They (Elizabeth) were also participating in the Jesse Tree. So it ended up being me and Barnes along with all the women.

There we were, eating our tiny cakes from Dewey's bakery and sipping our non-spiked lemonade while we sat around and ooo-ed and aahhh-ed at everyone's ornament. (Lia's kicked ass by the way).

All the while I kept thinking to myself, so this is what happens at those baby showers Lia goes to.

By the end, I was ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing as much as the rest of them. I couldn't help it; some of the ornaments were so adorable. 

Jesse Tree season begins December 1. So you still have time to join the party.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Product Placement

Couple weeks ago, I went on a retreat with some high schoolers up at the Vineyard. We had an awesome time.

The speaker was awesome (me). The music was awesome (also me). Basically, I'm awesome. Take my word for it.

But all my awesomeness in the end was trumped by Jet-Puffed Jumbo Mallows. They're about three times the size of regular marshmallows, and frankly at first,  I was disappointed with them.

I strongly believe that marshmallow roasting perfection is a golden brown exterior and a completely gooey middle. Those of you who believe that charred marshmallows taste best are simply impatient. That's all there is to it.

Unfortunately, these giant marshmallows make quality roasting nearly impossible. And I was beleaguering the point to my friend Charles when all of the sudden he chucks a jumbo puff across the fire, hitting his daughter in the face.

"Dad!" she cried, picking up the marshmallow and chucking it back. It made a nice, satisfying thud. The next thirty minutes were the best fall snowball fight in history.

I can't remember having a better time with marshmallows.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Never Ever Again

If you have followed this blog at all, you know how madly, head over heels in love I am with my daughter, Anna Rose. She is the most beautiful girl on the planet. And she is growing up way too fast. It's part reason why I write these in the first place. It's my way to catch moments and hold on to them before they slip forever out of my grasp. But this one caught me by surprise.... 

Anna Rose has now lost four teeth. The first three were lower teeth. And their loss was met with celebration, a twinge of nostalgia, and a successful, stealthy visit by the tooth fairy. This fourth tooth, however, was front and center. 

It had been dangling for awhile. 

Anna Rose would show us the snaggle tooth whenever she felt like giving us the heebie jeebies. It made apple eating an impossibility.  And we were all looking forward to its departure. It happened on Sunday.

I had just returned from a high school retreat. She rounded the corner and leapt to my arms. I couldn't believe how cute she looked. 

She looked incredibly cute. I didn't realize what had actually happened until later...

I think it was actually after I took this picture at the pumpkin patch. I realized, Anna Rose is never going to look the same again. 

That picture I took that Friday before the retreat - the one she smiled for after brushing her teeth for bed - that was the last one. The last picture with her beautiful baby teeth smile. 

I'll never ever get another one. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mamma Marathonna

With tears filling my eyes, I ran along side Lia for the last half mile of her first marathon.

Though she finished after me, she looked a lot better doing it.

But this marathon from the beginning was about Lia. I wanted this for her.  I've always known she could do it. But knowing and doing are two different things.

And she killed it! Her first marathon in 4 hours 27 minutes. Just a shade over 10 minute mile pace. Not too shabby.

She is a little sore for it. Yesterday, we were driving home and she literally had to lift her leg, with her hands, off the accelerator to put it on the brake (a little unnerving to say the least from my passenger seat vantage point). But she made it work. And I survived to write about it.

As for me, I went out a little on the ambitious side of things, running the first 18 at a 6:40 pace. Not too shabby. However by mile 20, my lack of training caught up with me. Everything out of my right eye was spinning to the right; everything out of my left eye was spinning the other way. If I looked forward, I automatically started running at a forty-five degree angle (not so good on a straightaway). The only way I made it to the finish was looking straight down and telling my self "one foot in front of the other." Somehow I crossed the line without being plucked out of the race by the medics. I finished in 3:04.

The congratulations really needs to go to Lia. The first is the hardest! I'm so proud of you, sweet love. Can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Something Has To Give

Lia and I had one of those Come to Jesus meetings a couple weeks ago. We were at our limit as a family, and it became painfully clear that something was going to have to give.

Sadly, the "thing" had to be this year's Mr. Davidson competition. For more on Mr. Davidson click here. It's one of the funnest events I've been a part of. And I've been a part of a lot of fun events...

Many of which were spawned by the most creative human being I have ever met: Hayes Trotter. This is us at his wedding a few years back.

The tie goes on the forehead when things get rowdy.

This is us doing program at Frontier Ranch - Dr. Science and Fat Skeleton Boy.

This is us after a Shifty Fish Concert. (Golly, i miss us)

Yes, I can honestly say that of all the people that have infused fun into my life, Hayes Trotter has been one of, if not the most preeminent infusers. 

He's responsible for teaching me the Bowl O Rama. He's also the one who came up with the Wooden Open

And Mr. D's results are in:

Hayes Trotter 56.5
Matt Pearson 50
Will Baldwin 45
Rix  Threadgill 39.5
Rick Apgar 36
Patrick Fernando 36
Goose 29

You are a worthy champion, my friend. Sorry I wasn't able to give you a run for your money this time. 

Go Cats. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Rascal is my nephew Wesley's three year old hermit crab. That's right, three years old. I didn't even know that hermit crabs could get that old.

True, beside the very real and immediate risks associated with being raised by a seven year old, Rascal hasn't had much adversity in his life. Although he has been loaned to us a time or two for skits.

"The Hermit Crab Skit" is Lia's all time favorite it seems, for whenever skit duty falls to her, Aunt Mel gets a call. In the skit, if you haven't seen it, the unsuspecting teenager is instructed to walk from one side of a tarp to the other. Easy right? Then we place Rascal the giant hermit crab down on the tarp and blindfold the teenager. 

We count to five while quickly Rascal is rescued and in its place, we scatter Fritos all over the tarp. Mayhem ensues as the unsuspecting teenager hears the CRUNCH under their feet. The audience screams. The unsuspecting teenager screams. And fun is had by all. 

It was a great start to Lia's reintroduction to Young Life leading. She and a bunch of her friends have started YoungLives here in Winston-Salem. Basically, it's Young Life for teen moms. 

Last night was their inaugural meeting. And Rascal came out of retirement for the occasion. 
You go, Rascal. Last night, you made history. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Raising Kids Right

I don't know if any of you parents out there worry that you are screwing up your kids royally, but I do. The responsibility freaks me out sometimes. Take this example from normal life: During dinner a couple nights ago, Dave Dave scoots from his chair (which he's apt to do) and crawls underneath the table meowing. I mean, if he's going to pretend to be an animal, why pick a cat?

You know what I'm saying? Things like I'm pretty sure the boy is going to be wearing diapers into adulthood. Or that Anna Rose still sleeps with a light on. You know what I mean? Maybe you don't. But every once in awhile I get to worrying that I'm not raising these kids right. 

But there we are this afternoon, and it starts thundering outside, and I hear Anna Rose cry, "Let's put on our bathing suits and jump in puddles!" And Dave starts chanting: "Puddles! Puddles!" And quick as lightning there we are in the rain, splashing around, and I'm thinking to myself, Self, you might not be getting everything right, but they at least know what to do when it's pouring rain outside.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Roughing It Deluxe

Last week, my parents gave me a great birthday present in watching the kids while Lia and I went to the mountains. Thanks mom and dad!

We called it our "scouting mission" week. What we meant was that over the last couple years we have accumulated a list of "things we want to try before the kids are ready to do them." The actual title of the list is shorter than that; it actually isn't even written down, but you know what I mean.

Day 1 we went on a three hour, that's right a three hour horse trail ride with Triple E Stables (recommended).

They have carved trails all over Bullhead Mountain near Sparta. Three hours, did I say that already? About two hours more than my rear end was in shape for. But Lia's a born cowgirl and I love her so much I'd chaff my ass to show her.

Later that day, Lia and I hiked up from the bottom of Doughton Park to the abandoned Caudill Cabin. We thought it was three and a half miles up then back. It was closer to five miles. I think it ended up being 9.8 miles total. And the way it had been described to us was that it was a pleasant hike by a creek. It was pleasant. The views were pleasant. The cool ruins along the way.

The waterfalls. All that was pleasant. But it was not easy.

And it was getting late. And the Caudill Cabin is famous because Mr. Caudill, his wife and his fourteen children died in a hundred year flash flood. It didn't help that it was getting close to evening. We were deep in the forest. Lia mentioned that she kept thinking that she heard what she described as "the wood children." Plus the fact that we had just watched the Hunger Games, which was set in woods just like this all added up to a quicker pace than I probably would have liked.


On the hike Lia mentioned that on the way home from Chicago the week before, she had read this article by Jay Heinricks called Roughing It Deluxe. The premise of the article is about finding vacations that are adventurous but also relaxing. Lia was talking about it as if it was the kind of vacations she'd like to take some if it described the vacation we were on...

We crossed the creek below a waterfall. Crawled over a fallen pine. The wood children were whispering. And I thought to myself: relaxing? really?

We made it back to the car in one piece. Ate at Maddy's in Elkin. Got the small plate. Had enough leftovers for dinner the next day.

Day 2 we decided to "rest our legs" and do the Virginia Creeper Trail (see earlier entry).

Fifty-three miles, a face plant, and one mild concussion later and day two was not exactly what I call a leg-rester. (recommended)

Day 3 we headed back up to Virginia to go to Grayson Highlands, our favorite state park within two hours of Winston-Salem. (recommended). To us, it's the closest thing to hiking out west. There are huge rocks. You're above tree line. And you can see forever.

Plus you get the bonus of wild horses, something you don't get out west. We've taken the kids here several times, but there is so much park that we hadn't seen. So from the Massie Gap parking lot we headed up the Rhododendron Trail over Wilburn Ridge (my favorite trail) through the keyhole then to unchartered waters down the beautiful Pine Mountain Trail to the AT which loops back around in and out and in and out of the park back to the car basically. Twelve miles. A perfect loop. Full of everything.

But restful? Not in your life.

There's a different kind of rest I guess.

Day 4 we did take it a little easier. A nice easy kayak down the New River (recommended - Riverside Canoe).

It was a scouting mission. Like the Virginia Creeper, we want to take the kids tubing down this next summer.

And like the Virginia's going to be a winner.

We took a side trip to Thistle Meadow Winery then to the Blue Ridge Arts Gallery (recommended). We were gifted an incredible sunset and we headed to bed for our final day and our final adventure...

Day 5 our super friend and realtor extraordinaire Shirley Richardson showed us an incredible property not for us but maybe for one of our friends...hint hint hint.

I'll tell you, the place is awesome. 8,000 square foot house WITH a 1,600 foot cottage WITH 200 acres WITH a 12 acre deer fence WITH a 2 acre pond WITH three koi ponds WITH basically your own mountain WITH a fifty mile view all for about $800,000. That's right. It was once on the market for $10 million. (recommended).

From there, we drove to Fries, VA and did a nice little 18 mile training run. That's right, after horseback riding, biking, kayaking, and multiple hikes, we went for an 18 mile run. Restful? Are you kidding me? We found ourselves on the way back to Fries (we did an out-and-back) smack dab in the middle of a Senior Olympics Bike Race, which turned sunny for us as we received a hearty cheer as we finished our run.

Lia killed it. Unfortunately, she's been gimpy this last week. We need a healing. If you're so inclined, send up a prayer for her left leg. Admittedly, we might have slightly overdid our "relaxing" vacation. But golly was it adventurous.