So I said I was going to do better about writing and there a few weeks went and got away from me! We have had all sorts of stuff going on of course so maybe I can use that as my excuse.
Abigail played several musical pieces in the local Solo and Ensemble Festival. Her solo, in particular, was recommended as a submission to the state solo and ensemble competition, so that is pretty cool…
Sorry to just drop that link above without a preview image…I am a little lazy I guess and wordpress has added a new post editing feature that really sucks. Anyhow, click the link and I hope you enjoy!
We enjoyed, from afar, another celebration of the most important of all holidays (Groundhog’s Day of course). I donned my groundhog cap and shirt and went for a run around town with my pals, evangelizing everywhere I went…Spring is coming! Spring is coming! It was glorious, if I do say so myself.
Not too much else going on here. We are floundering in mud and muck as the temperature fluctuates between 70 and 15…add a few inches of rain to the mix and everything is sloppy. Welcome to winter in WV!
I am very embarrassed to admit it, but somehow I missed a year of writing…anything. You know, insert usual excuses here and all that.
Well, as you can imagine, a lot has happened and we have been pretty consumed by the bulk of that. I think I’ll just list a few things, for my own sake, just to keep a record of what we did…
So….Isaac graduated from high school and got a great scholarship to attend college in Ohio. He is majoring in chemistry and his first semester was successful. He plays in several of their bands…marching, jazz, concert, steel drum. You may remember that Isaac is a sax player, so steel drums seemed out of his lane but he loves it and enjoys the variety.
Abigail finished her freshman year and is half way through her sophomore year in high school. Last year she was selected to sit as first chair flute for the all-state orchestra. This year, she was selected to sit as first chair in all-state band (there are two separate “bands” in the all-state realm). We are, of course, very proud for her to be selected for this great honor.
As I mentioned in my last post over a year ago, we did move into a new house. We finally sold our other house so that was a relief. Things do not move fast in our part of WV so we are very thankful to have that worry done. Our new house has not been without…fun, though. We had to put a new roof on it (which we had planned when we bought it) and a new furnace (which was a delightful surprise). As always, we are so happy to support the local economy for repairmen so it’s all good.
In 2010, we found our male orange cat, Seph. He certainly gave us fits, especially early on but mostly he was full of personality and spunk. Unfortunately, this past Fall, during a routine check-up, the vet mentioned that he had an enlarged heart. Without extraordinary measures, there was nothing to be done so we just decided to let things go as they may. He seemed to have few effects from his affliction so we thought nothing of it…until he started losing weight. Finally, about 2 weeks ago, his affliction had come to bear, and he had to be relieved of his suffering.
So…end on a positive, right? Most recently, I completed my first 25k trail race. It was among the more challenging things I have done, physically. The annual race is called the Frozen Sasquatch and is held in Kanawha State Forest.
As you might guess, weather can be a factor…last year it was 7 deg F I think…this year was warmer but it had rained a ton so it was super muddy and slippery. Couple that with overall elevation gain of 2300 feet elevation loss of 2400 feet, and you have a tough, hilly, slippery mess…anyhow, I finished pretty well and was not injured so I call that a win!
Ok friends, I think that is all for now…we are still keeping on here in WV!
We have always used this blog to, among other things, document our lives and how our kids are growing up. In many ways, I am sad that I have not done a better job of keeping this up to date. So many things have happened in our lives…some good and some bad. Life still goes on, recorded or not I guess. Anyhow, I sold my part of the company I used to own to pursue a different direction. It turns out I hated that direction for so many reasons. While I had no interest in trying to return to my old company, I decided to return to writing software, the work I have done for a long time. It feels good to go back to being a software developer, not worrying about making payroll or playing politics. It’s good to return to the work that has helped our family grow and thrive. It’s good to use my mind on complex tasks and to face and overcome challenges. So, the last 8 months have been swept away in the stress of not one, but two new jobs and the sale of my share of not one, but two companies.
The details are not really important, but that bit of stuff has been very stressful and time consuming and I am glad it is over. We have also decided to sell our house and move to a smaller one story place nearby. That happens very shortly. Of course, that means we need to prepare and sell our current house which I do not think will be much fun. The kids were a little unsure about the idea of moving. This move will not require them to change schools or even neighborhoods, really. Still, our current house is really the only house they remember. I only remember one house for my entire growing up years so I never faced the issue. Emily moved several times though and assures me that everyone will survive and be ok. I guess it is a weird thing as a kid to consider moving from the house in which you were basically raised. I think both kids have processed it enough to know that things will be ok.
What makes this new house especially appealing is that it is all on one level. Our current house has tons of character and is old and very cool. Part of what gives it character are the multiple levels inside…translation: steps. While we are still young and healthy, we have recently watched grandparents and parents begin to struggle some with steps. The idea of growing old in our current house is painful to consider. Our current house is also a lot bigger than what we need. The funny thing is that even though the new house is significantly smaller, it has much better storage and uses the space much more efficiently. In the end, I think we will feel like we have more room. Bah, there are lots of reasons we want to move and they all involve making our lives smaller, simpler and easier. That’s the real bottom line I suppose.
The kids started school on Monday of this week. This is a really big year for them both as far as school goes. I cannot believe it, but this is Isaac’s senior year and Abigail’s freshman year! It is unbelievable! They cannot be that old…we cannot be that old…where has the time gone?! Isaac was pretty cool about the whole start of school. I think he is behaving exactly as he should. Senior year is a big deal , but he has earned it and knows what to expect. He knows what he is about and is learning how to manage stress and information and how to make decisions for himself. I am incredibly proud of the man he has become! Likewise, Abigail is where she should be also. Being a freshman means she had to learn a new, bigger school with all sorts of new challenges. She was a little nervous I suppose, but she is ready for the change!
The kids are so different and react to things so uniquely. It takes a lot to rile Isaac up and he is about as Type B as they come. That makes me shake my head as both Emily and I are Type A. Still, he wears it well and he rolls with the flow so well. I usually do not worry about him as he just makes do and figures things out. Abigail, on the other hand, is our first-born trapped in a second-born’s body. She is Type A and sort of driven to understand and excel, right out of the gate. She will be fine too, but I know her stress a little better than Isaac’s.
We have toured a few colleges and I suspect that Isaac will stay in state for his post-secondary education. He still has not decided where he will go, but his grades and test scores are very good so I think he will find opportunity in many places. For now, WV still has the Promise Scholarship which provides some funds for students who stay in state for college. Our political situation is as screwed up as anywhere I think so it is not clear to me that the state-funded scholarship will survive much longer, but we will take advantage while it remains. It was supposed to be set up as a benefit for WV students taking its proceeds from lottery revenues. It seems our politicians keep eyeing those funds to solve general revenue shortfalls that have resulted from all of tax breaks they have assured us would result in economic prosperity and businesses beating down the door to come to WV. I digress.
Anyhow, the kids are setting up another good year in school and we are hopefully going to see the final piece of our stress reduction scheme fall into place in the next few months as we complete the purchase of a new house, the move, and the sale of our current house. Wish us luck dear friends as the world is a wild place, full of surprises!
I’ve been absent on here unfortunately, but today marks a big event in our house…the return to school! School continues to start earlier and earlier, and typically, I don’t really care. For some reason, this year, I am really bothered by its early return. Summer just passed by too quickly!
We have had a busy summer I guess which explains it all. We took a tour of a lot of WV. We visited family in Montgomery Alabama…in July (it’s hot and humid…don’t do that). We worked on the house and caught up on doctor visits. Last week, Isaac was away at band camp all week which definitely signals the end off Summer! And now, here we are back to school!
Per tradition, I interviewed the kids asking them what they want to be when they grow up, who their friends are, what excites them about starting a new year, etc. I promised them I wouldn’t post the videos, but I love to look back at them from earlier years and see what changes and what stays the same. My kids are growing up into wonderful people and I am so very proud of them…of what they think about and what the see for the future!
So, even though getting back to school might seem like a drag to me sometimes, it is the marking of another year forward toward such exciting futures!
A few weeks ago, Isaac and his school band went to Chicago to play a special performance in the Chicago’s Symphony Center. We drove separately as we didn’t want to ride the bus and he didn’t want us tagging along separately. So, we made a family-1 affair of it and had a lot of fun touring around Chicago seeing the sites and having a great time!
We did stay in the same hotel as the band…The Palmer House Hilton in downtown, right near Millennium Park. The hotel is listed as an historical landmark and I can see why…it is a beautiful hotel and well worth the experience! I loved being able to step outside and see the “L” pass by. We could walk to almost everything. I especially love that part.
We had Chicago deep-dish pizza the first night at Giordano’s. I typically do not like deep-dish as all of the bread wears me out but it was a cool ambiance and the flavor was really great! I especially loved to start off with a Chicago staple as well! I know Jon Stewart gave Trump a hard time about eating New York pizza with a fork, but with deep-dish, we had no choice!
Abigail, Emily’s parents and I braved the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). The Sky Deck is a set of glass push-outs near the top of the building where visitors can step out into what seems like thin air at 1353 feet up! It was really neat to do and the views were simply amazing. To me, the Sky Deck was so high up that it didn’t feel like a scary thing at all. It was sort of like flying in a plane…I think 100 feet would have been more scary. Anyhow, it was worth the trip. We bought a City Pass there which gave access to a lot of the cool exhibits throughout the city and saved us a lot of money.
We walked around in the cool air a number of days and nights and saw Calder’s Flamingo, Cloud Gate (aka the “Bean”), and the Chicago Board of Trade. Really, Chicago is a fantastic city to visit. We took in the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. There is just so much in Chicago and it is a shame we didn’t have a lot more time to really take in more of the city. We spent some time seeing Van Gogh’s work in the Art Institute but that was only the tip of the ice berg of the famous works that are housed there. We saw American Gothic and Nighthawks and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. We saw Monets and Picassos and works of the ancients. It is truly a remarkable collection which I would like to further explore.
Finally, we did get a chance to actually lay eyes on Isaac and his his fantastic band play fantastic pieces in a fantastic hall! I think they were all so very proud to play and their love of music was quite evident! I so enjoy seeing Isaac and everyone in the band in tuxeudos / formal dresses and I am very proud of the hard work that led them to be able to play at this venue.
Even though it snowed while we were in Chicago, it was a marvelous trip and one I would love to repeat!
Earlier this month, Abigail, my precious little baby, had another birthday. It was a big one…the big thirteen! My adorable baby has turned into…a teenager!
I do not know if I am lucky or what, but aside from first thing in the morning 🙂 , Abigail is an absolute joy. We were out of state on her birthday so didn’t get to properly celebrate, but we will remedy that this weekend.
Like most teens, she loves to listen to music and see movies, but where she really shines, I think, is that she is capable of and really enjoys thinking about all sorts of interesting subjects. She has opinions on politics and the future, and the world around us and can elucidate her thoughts very well. I always say that I don’t think I ever progressed, mentally, beyond age 13, but then I see how mature Abigail is, and I think I over-estimated my mental age. She makes me so proud and I am happy to welcome another teenager into the world!
It’s hard for me to write this, not because I am displeased, but rather because I cannot believe it is possible. Yesterday, Isaac passed his driving test making him our street’s newest driver. It seems like he is still my precious little boy, but he has gone ahead and grown up (into a fine young man…who now has a driver’s license!) and is finding his freedom!
In WV, as elsewhere, a person can earn their driving permit when they are 15. Isaac was kinda interested, but not really. I sort of had to push him to take his permit test because I wanted to have plenty of time to drive with him while he was still at home. Lots of kids these days are disinterested in driving I guess, and some parents don’t make their kids get their license until they are older. That’s ok, but for me, I wanted him to have more experience under my tutelage so we got his permit soon after his 15th birthday
We drove a lot under different conditions as I wanted him to experience many aspects of driving with my eyes helping him merge, see hazards, etc. Isaac has a car for his use and has spent a good bit of time getting used to it and has done an absolutely fantastic job of learning how to drive. He seems to be very conscientious and aware of things around him. I knew he was ready to take the next step.
I was most concerned with whether he could pass the parallel parking test. We put it off quite awhile, but it was time. I gathered a step stool and a large box to work as markers to practice and asked him to watch a few quick youtube videos while I got the stuff loaded into his car.
We measured out a parking bay near our house. I figured the youtube video would give him some general info, but that I would have to explain and demonstrate how to properly parallel park. We decided to just let him try it once, and lo and behold, he parked beautifully on the first try! I kid you not! I didn’t believe it so I jumped out and made him do it again…and he did it again. All-told, he did it 15-20 times with only 1 failed attempt so we called it a night. Two nights ago we went to the actual testing location to practice on the space the tester uses…same story. He parked several times flawlessly, so we knew it was time.
Emily took him after school and he passed beautifully. The tester said he was the first person she had passed all day…and that was at 5pm…that’s rough. Anyhow, we went out to eat and celebrate, but Isaac was anxious to get back home to dump me off so he could drive around some.
He can’t haul friends yet until he is accident-free for 6 months, but he wanted to go out on his own. It was one of the harder things I have done recently, watching him drive off all by himself. He rolled his eyes when I went into Dad-mode, “You’re gaining freedom and I am giving up control over you…and it’s hard…be careful” Eye-roll, “Yeah Dad, I know…” Eye-roll. It’s all good though. He drove around our area for an hour and returned, obviously excited and a little tired. I can still remember both the thrill and exhaustion of the first hundred times driving solo. He’s growing up though and learning to manage both very well. If you see him on the road though, don’t honk or wave…I need him to focus on the road!
The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel is a bit of a legend in WV. The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, WV, where rich folks used to come to drink/bathe in the sulphur waters in the area. People believed that there were medicinal powers in the water so they flocked to the area to cure all sorts of things. Of course, amenities built up around as the influx of people grew and the Greenbrier Hotel was built. It’s a palatial structure situated on 11,000 or so acres and it caters to all sorts of outdoor activities including pheasant hunting, horseback riding, off-road Jeeping and high-end golf. The PGA holds the Greenbrier Classic there each Summer and it draws all sorts of golf-y folks.
People still travel from far and wide to partake of the ambiance of the area and it truly is beautiful in the Greenbrier Valley area. We have visited Lewisburg as well as the Greenbrier Hotel to do the bunker tour, but we had never stayed at the hotel itself before.
Some have said that I am a bit thrifty. Emily calls it other things, but I prefer to find a value whenever I can. A few months before Christmas this year, I saw that the hotel was running a special deal on a weekend stay in January. It was perfect! We could stay at the hotel and take in all that is the Greenbrier, and I could feel content in having gotten a “bargain”. Please note that the Greenbrier’s special price was a “bargain”, not a bargain. It still cost us around $500 for two nights, but we had a nice enough room and the opportunity to stay!
Upon our arrival, a gate-man had a card for our car with our name already printed. He ushered us through to the grand entrance where bellhops grabbed our bags and hustled them inside out of the snow. I couldn’t bear to pay the valet so I parked the car myself…at least 100 miles away…in the newly falling snow/rain. But it’s good…and definitely cheaper.
Anyhow, we received champagne and our room keys and were good to go. All checked in, we decided to explore the massive building. There are ballrooms and great foyers. Enormous fireplaces burned delightful fires and the atmosphere was rich. There is a dress-code at the Greenbrier which we followed to the letter, but it appeared that not everyone bothered. I was a bit disappointed, frankly, that people chose not to follow the rules and that the hotel allowed them to get away with it. I normally hate dress-code stuff, but it just felt right there…like people should be dressed up.
Anyhow, we caught a live singing performance where a really talented group sang a variety of tunes and did a great job interacting with the crowd. We clapped and sang along like good tourists…it was a blast!
We took the bunker tour again and visited all of the shops (or are they shoppes?) in the Greenbrier. The weather was not amenable to our touring the grounds or doing many of the outdoorsy things, but we really enjoyed the time to lounge around and talk and read. All-in-all, it was a nice trip.
The only complaint I had was with the food. We chose to stay in and eat at the hotel. It was convenient and part of the experience in my mind. It cost more for four of us to eat three meals than the room cost and we didn’t eat high-end at the hotel. Food was really expensive there. We ate breakfast at the main dining room and both the food and service were really great. Lunch and dinner, however, were no better than what we would have gotten at Applebees, but at 3x or more the price. Both service and food were average which was a shame for how much it cost…live and learn I guess.
Anyhow, I would like to go back and visit in the Spring when I am sure the place really shows its beauty. I am not much of a golfer but I hear that part of the fee includes a guy who will stand out in the fairway and watch where the balls land. For golfers, the savings in lost balls may make up for the expense in the food department!
I am glad to have stayed at the Greenbrier and look forward to the continued improvements that the fairly new owner is making after years of neglect by the previous owner!
So I didn’t do a great job of sticking with my declaration that I would post more. My diary has been fairly quiet lately and that is a drag for me. We did have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s season and are racing towards the most important of all holidays, Groundhog’s Day!
Anyhow, I took a bunch of pictures of stuff we have been up to lately…
I love our fireplace area at Christmas…we still put out cookies for me Santa to eat
We pretty much only do sugar cookies at Christmas…and I mostly eat them in dough form leaving few to actually make it to the oven. The kids “decorate” them in interesting patterns.
And by patterns, I mean globs and piles…which makes them perfect to eat!
Best Christmas present ever!
I buried my nephew under his new blocks. I loved those kind of blocks when I was in school…We had a large, ride-able wooden train in kindergarten that we used to drive through great walls made from similar blocks. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun “hulking” out from under these blocks!
My brother mentioned that he always wanted the game Operation as a kid. We obliged this year although it is a much different game now. Still, they talked trash and left a watch or two inside the body…it was good fun!
Sober…all of us, sober. We do New Year’s with Emily’s folks. It’s a great time and we made it clear until midnight!
Somewhere during the holidays, we replaced two windows in our house. All together, I think we have replaced 21 windows or something like that. We have become old hands at it. It made a huge difference in both warmth and sound control. It’s always so striking to see a gaping hole in the house.
Well, we have had a busy few weeks lately including the crummy snow storm. I have lots more pics to post soon. I hope you are dug out wherever you are!
My baby turns 16 today. I started off his day with the well-known, “Sweet 16 and never been kissed.” Cooly, he replied, “Yeah, let’s just go with that.” How can it be that the tiny baby so long ago has turned into a nearly grown man?! And just who did he kiss?! Anyhow, this is a big year for him and Emily and I are so excited to see what comes next!
Some pics with his friends from his Winter Concert last night: