Monthly Archives: December 2013

Throwing knives…the perfect gift for my lovely wife

As you may have discerned from reading my drivel, I am a practical sort of guy.  Most times that blends well with my continued happiness and allows me to maximize money and get stuff done.  Among some of our friends and acquaintances, however,   my practicality has become somewhat notorious.  But really, what person doesn’t want to get gifts they can use?  And sometimes Emily needs to use vacuum cleaners or frying pans.

Muffin pans for Christmas
Practical…cast iron muffin pan!

So, this year for Christmas, I decided to get Emily one practical gift and one not practical gift.  I like to cook bacon (and other stuff too) using a cast iron skillet.  Occasionally, Emily cooks cornbread and uses my skillet.  I figured a good practical gift would be to get her a cast iron muffin pan she can use when she makes her excellent cornbread.  It’s practical, will last forever and is something she needed.  I am thinking, “score!” with the practical…and normally that would be enough, but this year, I went above and beyond.  Friends, I got her the infamous practical gift but I also got her a frivolous gift just because I care and want her to be happy.

Throwing knives for Christmas
I may have made a huge mistake…that “smile”…

Imagine my surprise when she didn’t run over and hug me when she opened her throwing knives!  I mean, what woman wouldn’t enjoy a nice set of throwing knives?  Apparently throwing knives are not a suitable Christmas gift for one’s wife.  After much discussion among the men in my circle, none of them understands the problem with the gift either.  I asked if she wanted me to return them and she said, “No, I intend to get very good at throwing them…”  I couldn’t hear the end of her sentence but I think she said something  like, “…just keep smiling target-boy”

After Christmas 2013

Christmas with little kids is a lot of fun, but I think it might be even better with older kids.  We started asking the kids what they wanted for Christmas a few months ago and they didn’t really have a lot to say.  Both wanted some books and a movie or two.  Maybe some music and some candy.  It was pretty cool although when you want to buy stuff for the kids, it works better when they offer some suggestions.  Gone are the days (thankfully) of buying plastic stuff that makes noise…any old thing as long as it makes noise …that’s a guarantee that the kids will like it.

Mom and son
How sweet!

Their tastes are more refined now I guess… (which is wonderful…don’t get me wrong).  Anyhow, we finally drug out of Isaac that he would like a home gym and Abigail offered that a new flute would be nice (that was as much her flute teacher seeing the need I think).  We spent a lot of time letting them believe that neither would happen, being big ticket items.

New flute
Her jaw dropped!
New flute
Still not sure what to think…
New flute
Playing the new flute!
Isaac was not impressed…and yes, that is a bathtub in our family room…

I don’t think the picture captured it but I have never actually seen Abigail’s jaw drop leaving her speechless!  It was fantastic!  Isaac also was thrilled with some video games and chocolate.  It was pretty nice really to get them the exact things they wanted.

Not impressed...
Not impressed…

We spent time with family and ate too much of course.  We will travel to PA this weekend to hang with my people.  It’s just been an easy going holiday and I couldn’t be happier with how the kids have blossomed into nice people!

Middle school band concert!

With Christmas near, it is concert season!  Most recently Isaac’s band performed their Christmas concert.  I learned a few years ago that his middle school band is incredible and always puts on a superb show!

American Bell Carroll

Isaac plays tenor sax and is really pretty talented at it.  He picked up clarinet and can play it pretty well too.  I don’t know if his band director knows that but his first love is tenor so it probably doesn’t matter.  Anyhow, the local middle school band has around 120 kids and they can play as well as many older bands I have seen.  In addition to the concert/marching band, Isaac also plays in the jazz band, a group of about 20 or so musicians.

Mainstreet Christmas

So, I am so proud that both kids play music and I was especially excited to hear what they had put together this year!  I guess some people don’t look forward to this sort of thing, but I was on the edge of giddy waiting for their first number!

Jazz Band!
Jazz Band!

I think the music speaks for itself (of course, remember this is just my recording with my phone)!  These kids are amazing and work so very hard and their dedication really shows!  This concert really got me in the Christmas spirit and I couldn’t be prouder of Isaac and his band-mates!

Pulling the plug

When we were first married, we were flat broke.  As soon as we graduated college, we got married and headed to grad school.  In case you didn’t know, grad students are poorer than college students…we surely were.  We were newly married and busy in school so it was easy for us not to have cable tv.

We finally got out of school and even started our family, but we never bothered to get cable.  I guess we went about 16 years without it but we really wanted to see the HBO series True Blood.  We got tv, internet and phone bundled together for the introductory price of $181/month.  We enjoyed True Blood and lots of other shows too.  In fact, it sort of became the only thing we did in the evenings.  Month after month we paid.  Just this Fall, we started to notice this year that we really were not enjoying what we were watching.  We watched anyhow of course, out of habit.

I am not sure why but we finally snapped out of it and realized what a waste of time and money it was. We pulled the plug and cancelled our land line phone and tv.  I called to cancel and the rep asked if they could lower our bill to keep us subscribed.  I asked what the offer was and that sealed the deal for me…she could lower my bill to $120/month with no change in service…a savings of $60/month!  That infuriated me!  I asked why they didn’t just lower my bill automatically…blah, blah, blah.  Forget it!   We kept internet so we can stream programs if we want.  It’s funny but we haven’t bothered streaming much.  When we do stream a program, it’s because we want to watch it.  Not only are we saving $120/month but we are interacting again…like…as a family!

To each their own, but no one in our house has noticed any lack of things to do or any withdrawal symptoms from cutting the cord!  And with an extra $120 per month, I can probably get a new hobby or something!

Let there be light!

As you might remember, we did a lot of work earlier in the Fall in order to get electricity run to the deluxe shed.  Let’s see…that was…um…September!  It was still hot then.  The sun was still out enough to work an 8 hour day in daylight.  You know…it’s been awhile!

New zeroed out electric meter!
New zeroed out electric meter!

I was patient for awhile and I called, with my most polite voice, every week trying to determine when we would have power at the cabin.  Finally, I felt compelled to express my frustration to the designer for the power company.  He was a super nice guy and always very apologetic and polite to me…but I was frustrated.  Finally, just last week, the power company came through!

Our brand new transformer!
Our brand new transformer!

Isaac and I drove out to the place and spotted the new transformer hanging from the pole…could it be?  A Christmas miracle?  Well, that might be an exaggeration but I was pleased and delighted to see it in place in the same quarter and year in which we started this process…barely…but still, it was there!

We'll leave the light on!
We’ll leave the light on!

We popped on one breaker at a time to test my wiring.  To my delight (but not surprise…I am a good wire-er after all) everything worked just fine!  We have lights!  We have plugs!  We have heat!  Hooray for electricity!

 Other cabin stuff…

Time has flown!

Today my baby boy turns 14!  I just cannot believe it.  Honestly, he just makes me so proud and I have enjoyed (almost) every minute of watching him grow into a young man.  It’s funny, just last year he was shorter than me and, really, still just a boy.  In the year since, he truly has grown into a man…certainly physically, but also emotionally.  I don’t mean to say he is all adult yet but he has progressed so far into adulthood and that process has been amazing and awesome and fun!

Happy Birthday!
He’s huge!

I suppose every parent goes through it, but I continually struggle to give him room and to let him become more independent.  I still remind him to brush his teeth and feed the cat, but that’s just stuff that Emily still reminds me to do.  What has been most exciting to witness is his ability to make up his own mind on politics and humor and right and wrong.  Certainly we discuss those things and sometimes we disagree but he is critically considering lots of things and can usually offer a solid explanation of his thoughts.  That’s the stuff that matters more to me right now.  Dental hygiene is important but a kind who thinks for himself…that’s amazing!

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!

Anyhow, happy 14th birthday to my boy, Isaac.  I couldn’t be more proud of you and I love watching you grow up into a fine young man!

The lighting of the Christmas tree

Just like everyone else, this time of year is very busy for us.  Both kids have numerous concerts between Abigail’s singing in the Appalachian Children’s Chorus and participating the county’s music magnet program and Isaac’s playing in the middle school band.  Thanksgiving being late threw us off even more so we only put up our tree on Sunday.  We do not usually decorate too early but rarely do we have a tree up for only 2 weeks either.

Our Christmas tree...still wrapped up!
Our Christmas tree…still wrapped up!

Finally this weekend, we got a few free moments to go to the farmers’ market to buy a locally grown tree (WV local anyhow).  It’s a pretty good time skittering around through the hundreds of trees for sale.  The smell of pine (in fact, the very smell of Christmas) is fantastic and people are generally pretty friendly.  Some trees are high dollar but we generally steer away from those vendors.   Unlike most years where we put a tree in our living room with 10′ ceilings, this year we are decorating in the family room with 7′ ceilings.  Lots of times we look for the trees that are a little off-shape…not usually a true Charlie Brown Christmas tree but tending that way.  So, we looked and looked and finally found the perfect tree from a farm in French Creek, WV for $34.   Emily paid and I drove around where the attendants even tied it on the roof for us!  He told me it was a 70 mph tie-job though I decided not to test the bailing twine.

Let the Christmas wrestling begin!
Let the Christmas wrestling begin!

We got the tree positioned and started with the lights.  Like every year, somehow the process of storing the lights for 10 months or so caused half of the strings to die so we had to run out and get new lights.  Finally, after a trip or two out of the house, we finally got around to actually hanging the ornaments.

Decorating progress...
Decorating progress…

Friends, I have to confess that I do not enjoy any part of Christmas decorating once the tree is inside the house.  I like picking the tree and even setting it upright but then my fun is over.  Isaac is pretty much the same as me so Emily hangs lights and then she and Abigail hang the bulk of the decorations.  We usually listen to Christmas music and joke around but that’s the extent of what we do.  This year, with a smaller tree, we are hanging far fewer ornaments that usual so it was more enjoyable that usual.

Christmas tree decorated!
Christmas tree decorated!

Once we were all done, Isaac and Abigail sort of wrestled around in the family room and had a lot of fun.  Emily looked over at me and smirked, “and that’s why we set up a tree”.  Although Isaac and I don’t like decorating, the process did somehow put us both into a playful mood and it was totally worth it!  Christmas has finally set in at our house too!


The lighting of the WV Christmas tree

Here it is Christmastime already!  Abigail is a member of the Appalachian Children’s Chorus and they were invited to sing at the lighting of the official WV Christmas tree!  Two large high school bands filled the steps of the WV Capitol building and played back and forth a number of…patriotic songs.  Not really a Christmas song in the entire bunch.  Although I didn’t get much Christmas spirit from their music, they were quite good and a lot of fun to hear.

WV Christmas tree lighting
WV Christmas tree lighting

Herschel “Woody” Williams, a proud West Virginian and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from  the Battle of Iwo Jima led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Abigail and her group sang a Christmas song or two and the Governor and First Lady lit the official tree.

The Appalachian Children's Chorus
The Appalachian Children’s Chorus
Governor Tomblin and his wife
Governor Tomblin and his wife
The official Christmas tree of the state of West Virginia
The official Christmas tree of the state of West Virginia

The tree itself is nice and the ceremony was cool and all that but what sort of surprised me the most is how accessible the Governor and his wife were during the whole celebration.  Along with many people, I walked right up to him to wish him a Merry Christmas.  He posed for many pictures and kissed a few babies (literally).  I don’t figure every state could pull this off, but I was sort of proud that here in WV, we really are like one great big small town.  Sure, there were a pair of fairly large state troopers standing nearby, but they shook hands and kissed a baby or two as well.

Christmas celebrations all over the Capitol grounds
Christmas celebrations all over the Capitol grounds

So, I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in my small town of WV, we are now officially in the Christmas spirit!

Paper airplanes from the Mound

We have a sort of tradition in my company.  I call it an annual tradition but really, it’s just every few years when I remember to get everyone together to play along.  The tradition is that around the Thanksgiving holiday, we fly paper airplanes where the longest flight wins.  In our previous location (we bought a new building!) we could fly the planes from the roof top.  That building was 4 stories tall and perfect for such a contest.  Our new building, however, is one story and in the valley besides so we had to improvise.

Powered paper airplane
A thing of beauty!
Powered paper airplane
I thought I was guaranteed to win!

Our place is located in downtown South Charleston, WV.  South Charleston is locally famous for several things but most people know it best by the large Indian Mound in the center of the city.  I capitalize “Indian Mound” because it is an ancient Adena Indian burial ground.  It’s a landmark in the Charleston area and is well known as “the Mound”.  My building is a few blocks away so we decided it was a perfect place from which to fly our paper airplanes this year.

Paper airplane contest

Paper airplane contest

Weather here has been random as always so on the appointed day, we had to contend with both snow and wind..  My intrepid co-workers braved the weather and we flew planes.  I thought I had it all wrapped up this year.  A family member bought me an airplane add-on that seemed like it would take the cake…it was a motorized propeller that attaches to the plane.  While the idea was awesome, it failed pretty badly.  I think the wind got the best of my design.  I did come in last place though!

Paper airplane contest

Folks created all sorts of planes and one guy had his kids doing research on the best planes all week leading up to the event.  The winner, though, sort of exceeded all expectations.  One person attached two helium balloons to her plane and set it off into the wild white yonder.  It sort of bumbled along the rooftops for awhile but definitely stayed in the air the longest.  It won both time and distance awards!

Paper airplane contest
The winner!

Although I took the loss pretty hard, it was really cool to get out with a bunch of folks at my office and have a good time in preparation to the holidays.  Does anyone else have such traditions?