Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Every year growing up the "Twas the Night Before Christmas" puzzle was a Christmas tradition. Melanie & C.E. knew the puzzle so well that they could get the puzzle out on Christmas Eve and finish it before Christmas morning. Last week they put this puzzle together in four hours in Charleston.

Well we didn't exactly accomplish the "Twas" puzzle in four hours. It took us four days. (Heckuva a job, Brownie.) Nevertheless Amy & I finished it up just after midnight tonight out of principle. I still contend that Jane & I lost three or four hours Christmas day looking for the #$%&@ piece of the dog's face that turned out to be lost over the years. So in the end, we put together 999 pieces.

Next year we're pulling this one out at Thanksgiving so we finish in time.

Blast you, missing dog face!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Traditions

Amy & I started our Tar Heel Christmas traditions this year with our first Christmas with the boys. Pappy & GJ made their holiday trek to see their children and grandchildren, spending a few days in Charleston with Melanie and Roman before coming up to visit us in Raleigh. Our time shared was short in duration, but long on quality and memories. We look forward to many more holidays to accumulate great memories for us and the boys. Our highlights...

  • Stuffed green peppers & cornbread
  • UK basketball (most of it anyway)
  • The epic struggle of the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' puzzle (we needed Melanie for her TNBC puzzle expertise)
  • "Just get on I-526!"
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - tasty!
  • Reunited compadres in Tucker & Sayla
  • Apricots, peas, sweet potatoes, and spitting
  • Christmas Eve singing at Covenant
  • The boys' first Christmas morning
  • GJ reports for baby rocking duty
  • Lots of home cooked good eating
  • Sayla vs. the dog poo
  • Late night showing of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village

Derek tries out a new recipe for his guinea pigs -- er, family.

The tradition-laden 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' 1000-piece behemoth. As of Tuesday the puzzle remains unfinished and the likelihood that the dog face puzzle piece is the one missing piece increases.

The boys loved having a new four-legged pup to gaze and marvel at. Here Sayla stares Gus down....

....and here Owen points to make sure we know there is another dog he can get excited about.

There was plenty of couch-potatoing going on. Pappy gives Owen one of his first lessons.

GJ and Gus watch one of the boys' new Baby Einstein videos. The boys are completely in awe over them.

Both boys get to man a knee with Pappy.

The boys show off their festive red before the Christmas Eve service.

Of all their gifts, wrapping paper, ribbon, and the trusty Pampers wipe box topped the boys' list.

Amy sits with her boys as they eyeball a gift to unwrap.

And Owen pauses from granwing on wrapping paper to look at the camera.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas from the Rutledges!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spit Peas

Peas were introduced last night to the boys. Neither Owen nor Gus was particularly fond of them at all. Gus gagged through his meal, scrunching up his brow and sticking out his tongue at the taste. But at least he kept them down. Owen voiced his displeasure by spitting the peas back at Amy after she pulled the spoon away. To make matters worse, he clearly thought this was the funniest thing in the world so he repeated the spitting and the laughter throughout.

In a related note, Amy & I have added a few items to our Christmas list in case anyone needs some last-minute ideas for either of us.

Christmas with the Poseys

This week the Poseys made the trek from Paducah, Kentucky to see us and share in the boys' first Christmas. We all had a great three days, and Amy & I certainly welcomed all the helping hands.

Among our adventures...

  • Sleeping bag camp out in Amy & Derek's bedroom
  • Very chilly night walks with the Tuckster
  • Christmas shopping and post office lines
  • An outfoxing of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus puzzle
  • Cul-de-sac football
  • The Mystic Cave Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Babies in the jumperoo
  • Homemade pizza and tasty Christmas cookies
  • Christmas light extravaganza
  • Spiderman2
  • Hearty breakfast eatin'
  • Helping hands at feeding time
  • Ashley & Scott show off their rocking prowess
  • Home treatment hand pampering for the ladies
  • Sharing gifts around the fire
  • Plans drawn up for the 2006 Badminton championship

Aunt Ashley grabs hold of both the little men.

Scott tackled Owen at feeding time.

Gus grubs on peaches courtesy of Ashley & Brooke.

The Posey men offer up sweet potatoes and green beans to Owen.

Ashley is the Rocking Queen at getting the boys to doze off to sleep -- here with Mr. No Doze himself, Owen.

Coca-Cola Santa Claus and his 500 pieces were no match for the Rutledge/Posey crew.

Anticipation is in the air as presents sit just waiting to be opened.

Owen: "What exactly am I doing wearing this hat?".....

...."This is much better, thank you."

The crew of kids.

Amy tries to give Gus to the Poseys before they leave, but they aren't having any of that.

Monday, December 19, 2005

JibJab Year in Review

Jib Jab

Also here if the server is down.

These are great.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Infirmary Week

Unfortunately Infirmary Week continues here at the Rutledge house. Gus has a rotten cough, Owen continually wakes up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose, Amy has a sinus infection, and I have a sore throat. Tucker decided to add to the mix by getting sick at his stomach at 6:00 a.m. yesterday. So despite the sleepless nights that have reared their heads, the troop tries to march on and stay in the Christmas spirit.

At nights we have our routine pretty well down. The boys are mighty fond of sweet potatoes and butternut squash, a little less so of green beans but they tolerate them. Once dinner is over for the boys, they remain in good spirits in their high chairs. Owen, the first of the two boys to utter a "ma-ma," has cut back on his chatter lately. He is more into shrieking and cooing. He is still completely glued to the dog and the cats whenever they enter a room. Gus has developed into quite the little chatterbox, keeping himself entertained with happy babbles of "da-da" and "ba-ba." So while they find their voices, Amy & I can usually find a few minutes for our dinner. I must say it is much easier now than back in the day when one of us would entertain boys while the other wolfed down food.

The boys have moved up to the next round of car seats. I was just skilled enough to get the seats out of the box and into the van. Amy took them by the fire department on Monday to make sure they were in tight. I still contend that the box should point out that one needs an engineering degree to install car seats correctly and a masters in English to understand the massive instruction booklet. But I digress. Owen appears very happy to have progressed to the next size. Next thing you know he'll be asking to stay up late to watch Letterman.

And finally Owen helped me put the last of the Christmas decorations up this week -- although I don't think he thought the Santa hat was as cute an idea as Amy & I did. Cheers everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Beyond The War Spin

E.J. Dionne has become one of my favorite editorial writers. His piece in the Post today about the spin that poses as our national debate on the war in Iraq nails it for me. I long for the day when politicians -- on both sides of the aisle -- can talk openly about solutions to the situation in Iraq without being branded as cowards or unpatriotic.

The real patriots are not those who fall into line behind everything Bush says. They are the Republican and Democratic doubters who have pressured Bush into realizing that he has limited time in Iraq and an imperative to speak more realistically. In his speech yesterday, Bush actually admitted that "things did not always go as planned" in Iraq and that last January's elections "were not without flaws." From an administration that never admits mistakes, that's progress.

Message to Democrats: Buck up. Message to Republican ad makers: Democracy is about improving government through the uninhibited exchange of ideas. And, yes, our soldiers and enemies are watching.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Saturday is finally here. It has been a challenging week at the Rutledge house as the boys have experienced their first real colds. With congestion and stuffy noses out comes the baby aspirator which both boys despise. At first when you put it up to their face they laugh as they try to eat it. Then when they realize that it is going up their noses, they go berzerk. Fun stuff. But they are troopers and are hanging in there. Amy has it the worst of the four of us. I tell her I think it's actually the bird flu.

Amy & I put up Christmas decorations this week. It is a bit different now with two little ones -- what used to be an afternoon of putting up the tree & Christmas village is now spread over days as we decorate when we can steal a few minutes here and there. We finally put our $2 artificial tree to rest this year. It had gotten pretty ridiculous trying to keep the tree from falling over as we had to find the right combination of phone books to prop it up -- the tree only had three of the necessary four legs. This thing made the Charlie Brown Christmas tree look like a champion Redwood. But seeing how we paid $2 for it at a yard sale five years ago, I think it had a full life. We figure this is a year of new traditions so we kicked it off with a real Fraser fir, a tremendous upgrade over the phone book tree. The boys aren't quite as captivated with the lights as we thought they would be. Still, they do enjoy rolling around on the floor in front of it. I suppose we should just be happy that they're not crashing into the tree as they chase each other around -- yet. ;-)

This week brought a mix of good and bad news. Amy's cousin Tyler was in a bad car accident back in Kentucky as his car slid across lanes of traffic on the WK parkway. Thankfully he is recovering ok in the hospital despite being banged up a bit. And our friends Debbie & Chad in Savannah received a much-anticipated phone call this week. They have been matched with a little girl in China that they have been trying to adopt for a while. Aidan and Abby are about to have a little sister, and Debbie and Chad are brave souls now with three little ones two and under! Here is a picture of little Anmei.

So with Amy's bird flu and some basketball on the tube later this afternoon, our day is going to be a low key one with some relaxation and recuperation. Hope everyone stays warm -- cheers!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Flip the Switch

Amy & I have a colorful history with our local cable company Time Warner. This week that history just got deeper as we added to it with a funny incident.

A little background....we have our cable, internet, and phone service all through the cable company. Over the years we have called them on multiple occasions to resolve problems with reception and connectivity. The problem has always been a weak cable signal to the house because the guy who built the house split the cable 142 times. In addition to those problems, there was an incident where a UK tournament game was supposed to be on TV but was not, causing us to move a houseful of UK fans who had come to watch the game to the closest sports bar. That one led to a particularly "spirited" phone call on my part to say the least. Nevertheless, TWC isn't our favorite utility, and we are not their favorite customer.

Which brings us to yesterday when Amy & I woke up to find our internet and phone were not working. Disgusted, we called Time Warner to get them to come out to fix it, knowing that the problem was the weak signal to the house. All day there was no signal and no phone until 5:00 last evening when it came back on just as the technician was in route to the house. He called to see if it was still down. Amy told him it had just come back on, and we thought the problem was resolved. Case closed.

Until last night around 11:00pm. Again as I tried to check my email before going to bed there was no signal -- no phone either. By this time Amy & I were both very frustrated. Obviously a person relies upon the phone in this day and age, and you would think every time you pick up the receiver you should get a dial tone. So I called Time Warner and demanded someone come to the house this morning. (Of course you get the "We'll be there between 8:00 and noon" -- ugh.) In the meantime I kept thinking to myself, "What have we done differently over the past two days that could cause the phone to keep going out?"

Amy waited around this morning for them to show up. Finally around 11:30 I get a call. "Um D, we're going to be eating our words." As it turns out, the cable booster that they installed a while back to fix the weak signal problem was not getting any power. It wasn't getting any power because the light switch on the wall was turned off. The light switch was shut off because we use that switch one month a year to control the Christmas tree lights coming on and off -- the tree we just put up on Monday. So the phone and internet were fine as long as our Christmas tree lights were on (hence at 5:00 yesterday afternoon as Amy turned them on). When the lights were turned off (as they were last night at 11:00pm before I went to bed), the cable booster was also turned off thus killing our internet & phone.

So some Time Warner technician is dogging us and laughing at us with his co-workers right now. We deserve it. The way I figure it though, this makes us even for the UK/Southern Cal game being blacked out a few years ago. Next time we have a problem at the house -- no matter if it's a leaky faucet or the cat gets sick on the carpet -- I'm checking the light switches to see if that's the problem.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Feeling Blue

Despite their dad's best efforts to swing luck the Cats way, Kentucky fell short yesterday to the Tar Heels giving the boys their first dose of disappointment in the basketball department. We have dealt with disappointment when a brother steals a toy, when green beans and squash aren't what they had in mind for dinner, and when fingernails have to be trimmed. But basketball disappointment was a new thing for them. No matter where Dad put them -- in the bouncy seat, on the couch with him, or in the floor with the dog -- nothing could spur the Cats to rebound and defend the three-point shot against a North Carolina team that wanted the game more.

In the end the boys took it well though. They quickly recovered to roll around on the floor with their toys and stare at the dog whenever he walked by. They will try their luck this afternoon with football as the Bengals play at 1:00.

I'm off to look for a tiger outfit & some black and orange face paint. Cheers!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Game Day

Today is a big day for the boys. It is their initiation into the clash of the blue -- their native Tar Heel blue that surrounds them here in North Carolina versus the Kentucky blue that runs through their veins. For weeks we have studied the history of Kentucky basketball -- the seven national championships, the Unforgettables, Pitino's bombinos, Tubby Smith & the Comeback Cats, how to do the C-A-T-S cheer. Dr. Seuss books have been replaced with skill and strategy talks about how to attack a zone defense and dribbling with their left hands. Of course, they prefer dribbling down the front of their face onto their shirts, but hey they're seven months old.

All of it culminates today with their inaugural Kentucky/North Carolina matchup at noon. The boys will be wearing their UK outfits from Granny and Aunt Kay. Their dad will be in his lucky Kentucky sweatshirt. The flag flies proudly outside the house. As Amy is going out this morning for a massage that was her birthday present from me and the boys, she will return to three Rutledge men with their faces painted blue. Any chastising and reprimands we get for that will be worth it.

Because today is Game Day -- it's Initiation Day. Go Big Blue!

The future Gus & Owen.

24,000 Big Blue faithful.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Instant Replay

About a month ago I posted about my disappointment from not passing the exam to obtain my project management certification. Specifically I noted that particular day felt like I was the hydrant as opposed to being the dog in the proverbial dog/hydrant scenario. Well I must say yesterday brought a bit of unexpected retribution.

I came back from lunch and noticed an email from the Project Management Institute (PMI) regarding "your examination score." Groaning but curious, I opened the email.

After the examination was introduced, PMI monitored candidate performance to verify the validity of the passing score. In addition to its analysis of the actual test results from over 800 candidates, PMI sought review by an additional volunteer team. After performing a statistical analysis of the additional data, PMI and its independent psychometricians were able to make conclusions about the performance of questions as well as candidate performance. This second review, initiated by PMI as part of standard exam development procedure, indicated that the passing score should be adjusted.

PMI is pleased to inform you that you have successfully passed the PMP examination and have been awarded the PMP credential .

So in other words initially I did not pass the PMP exam. But after further review in the replay booth, since very few people were passing the new (and more difficult) exam the criteria was changed and I did pass. There are multiple ways of looking at this. Realistically this is not how I had envisioned achieving my first professional certification -- by PMI issuing a "do over" and lowering the bar. I told Amy that in a way it was like getting my GED instead of a high school diploma. I wanted the screen that pops up when you complete the exam to say "Congratulations" instead of the "Regrettably..." that I got.

On the other hand the score that I got would have warranted certification under the previous exam that was offered prior to them changing the content and criteria in September. And my score was much higher than the eventual passing score that PMI established so I feel like I was ahead of the curve there. Also, I busted my tail studying for that exam on nights and weekends. Amy sacrificed too having to take care of Owen and Gus by herself while I meticulously pored through chapters and pre-tests. So the effort was there, and frankly I'll take a little early Christmas present in November. I'd rather be the dog than the hydrant.

In the end I like to look at the experience the way my friend Chris suggested I write the note to my managers about getting my certification.
"Remember in The Karate Kid, when Danny Laruso hurt his leg and had to go into the locker room, and they were about to award Johnny the trophy, and everyone thought it was over... but then Danny came hobbling out and beat Johnny with the crane kick... well today I'm Danny Laruso."
Cheers everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving in Savannah

The Rutledge crew ventured south to Savannah, Georgia to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our friends Debbie and Chad and their two children Aidan and Abby. Savannah is a unique place with its rich history, the Spanish moss hanging off the trees, and parks and squares sprinkled throughout the town -- it's always one of our favorite places to visit. In past trips to Savannah, we've visited River Street, downtown, Vinny's Pizza, and the haunted pub tour. This visit was a bit different for all of us. Since we had four children calling for our time, we didn't venture out of the house much except for short walks to the park up the street. No matter though -- it was a great holiday getaway with great friends.

On Friday Aidan celebrated his second birthday with a birthday party. All the kids there were entranced by the balloons that floated to the ceiling throughout the house. Owen and Gus got to meet Abby, who is just three months younger than the boys, and had their eyes on her most of the time. Gus discovered his favorite toy of his young life so far -- a jumperoo. We sat him in the middle of it and he bounced, hopped and jumped for hours -- he was a kid in a candy store alright. And the boys got to meet my aunt, uncle and cousin in the DiSilvestros who also live in Savannah.

The trip was short but sweet. By the next time we all get together Debbie and Chad will have their third with Anmei, whom they hope to adopt from China after the first of the year. So the next visit will have even more going on, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Cheers!

Aidan the Gatherer loves to pick up pine cones, acorns, and pretty much anything he sees on his walks.

Owen and Gus stroll in the park on a sunny Thanksgiving day. Gus actually kicks it while Owen strolls.

Owen, Abby & Gus -- the bouncy chair crew -- got acquainted for the first time. Oh just wait until these three can walk.

Chad claimed to slave for hours designing Aidan's elaborate birthday cake. The validity of that claim is up for debate, but the birthday partyers dove into the cake head and fingers first regardless.

Gus and Owen got to meet cousin Brittany, Uncle Chris, and Aunt Betty Ann DiSilvestro for the first time on their Thanksgiving excursion to the Peach State.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gobble Gobble

Well we're about to pack up the van with two boys, the dog, and the acres of gear that comes with them and head down to Savannah for Thanksgiving. Our friends Debbie and Chad with their two littles ones -- Aidan and Abby -- are about to be invaded by the Rutledge clan.

Over the years Thanksgiving has evolved into a favorite holiday of mine. Don't get me wrong, Christmas is great and has a deeper meaning, but it has become so commercialized (stores decorated in October!) that its meaning has been skewed by and for too many people. Enter Thanksgiving with the turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, naps, family & friends, football, games, and more's just a very relaxed holiday. It's difficult not to relax with so much food in our stomachs I suppose.

Thanksgiving is also the weekend of the annual Kentucky/Tennessee grudge match. Although twenty straight years of losing to the Big Orange hardly constitues a rivalry, the Cats have been known to make it interesting even if they always end up on the short end of the stick. With UT's struggles this year and the game being in Lexington, I'd say "Maybe this year" if I hadn't been uttering those three words since I was eleven years old. Yes, it's been that long. Still, the game is part of the Thanksgiving holiday & tradition. Jane, make sure Dad doesn't do any harm to his recently repaired back while he's watching the game this year ;-)

So we hope everyone has an excellent and safe Thanksgiving. Don't overdo it on the turkey... not that turkey, this turkey. :-)

Note to Debbie & Chad, clear a spot for us on the street because we bring a mighty load with us. Cheers everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Boy and His Dog

Owen has discovered Tucker the past week. He follows the dog's movements whenever Tuck enters a room and smiles and laughs. So we decided to get the two of them side by side and see Owen's reaction. Once we finally got Tucker to stop licking him in the face -- which Owen didn't really mind -- we got a couple of good shots.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Goat Rodeos and Baby Showers

What a week. First thing Monday morning I have a message from my boss that we have a "fire drill" from the general manager of our group that is to be my number one priority. Our instructions were to provide a "very detailed deep dive" into the workings of our group -- how many people we have, what they all do, how much it costs, the whole nine yards. So I essentially worked non-stop for three days and three nights with some people on my team trying to condense our business into a handful of PowerPoint charts. On Thursday morning at 7:30 am we all got on a teleconference to take him through the culmination of our efforts. He joined the call and immediately grumbled about there being too many people on the call.

"This is supposed to be a high-level discussion among the executives. I don't know why this is even an hour on my calendar -- we can do this in thirty minutes," he barked.

It was a true example of miscommunication, bad leadership, and wasted effort of about fifteen people all wrapped into one -- a classic corporate goat rodeo. Weeks like this past one make me despise corporate America and long to do something else.

Insert perspective here. My buddy Dan emailed me this morning. His unit at Fort Bragg had just returned from being out in the field all week. On Wednesday we had a good rain storm roll through, ushering in a big cold front behind it. Our temperatures have dropped 50 degrees in just a few days. Unfortunately Dan was out in the rain on Wednesday night and stayed wet for the next two days in the cold as the temperatures dropped into the 20s at night. So when I say I had a crappy week, at least I was dry and warm.

Dan came up to Raleigh last weekend to run a 10K downtown. It was his first competitive race and he ran it in under 50 minutes. Here he is with Bill and Turner, two guys in his unit who ran it as well. Amy, the boys, and I went down to watch them cross the finish line.

As for the boys, Gus has developed into the little thief. He steals whatever toy, ring, block or stuffed animal that Owen has. Owen has started to stand up for himself a little bit but mostly he just laughs as Gus stacks all he toys next to him.

Owen has found his voice this week. He shrieks when he's mad, hungry or happy. It's amusing -- for me anyway as I don't listen to it all day like Amy does -- but we try not to draw attention to it or else he just does it repeatedly.

This weekend is baby shower weekend. In all honesty, normally I would moan and groan about having to attend two baby showers in one weekend. But I'm looking forward to these two. Tonight we are going to a shower for our friends Brian and Kelly who are expecting on New Year's Day. We haven't had this particular group of friends together in a long time so it should be a good time. And tomorrow there is one for some friends who just moved back here from New York. It will be good to catch up with them as well. Who knows, maybe as long as I don't have to swing a potato between my legs like I did in a game at the last couples' baby shower I attended, I might be a fan of these after all. ;-)

Owen gave his dad a big grin this week....

...and Gus just chilled out in the car seat. "Wassup y'all?"