Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Battle of Chick-fi-la

Saturday I told Amy I would give her a break from the boys so she could get away for a couple of hours by herself. I loaded up the van and took the boys to the park. It was very hot and muggy -- North Carolina in July -- so much so that we were the only ones at the park the whole time. The boys played on the slide and enjoyed themselves when I heard a train whistle. There are train tracks through some woods behind this particular park so I hustled the boys off the playground into the woods in search of gold -- a real, live choo-choo train.

The boys tripped over themselves running to see the train, but when we got to the train tracks there was no train coming. My stomach sank. Here I had worked the boys up into a frenzy to see the train, but it must have stopped over in Apex at the train station. The whistle I heard was from a distance, but I just assumed it would be coming our way. So I searched for an explanation.

"Train stopped."
"Train is not coming."
"Train is broken."
"Train go night-night."

The boys were confused, but eventually they repeated my cooky explanations enough to become distracted. Luckily they accepted their consolation prize of throwing rocks off the vacant train tracks. Eventually we left the train tracks to go back to the playground.

I told the boys I would make it up to them by taking them out for lunch. We hopped back in the van and drove to Chick-fi-la, which on a Saturday is hopping with families and kids like a three-ring circus. The boys settled down long enough to sit in the booth and eat most of their lunch. All the while they eyed all the kids who had made their way to the play area at the front of the restaurant.

When we were finished eating I led the boys to the play area, took their sandals off, and turned them loose. In typical fashion, Owen cautiously grazed amid the commotion from a safe distance as he quietly shuffled some blocks in the toddler section. Gus on the other hand took one look at all those older boys and girls who were running like banshees and punched his ticket. He stammered up the spiral steps to the tunnel, over to the slide, back through the tunnel, dodged 8 year-olds playing tag, and landed in the Chick-fi-la cow car that was suspended at the top of the play area. While he was in the car I could see him overhead through two small windows in the car, beaming as he piloted the car & turned the steering wheel.

So the boys played and played, eating up all the activity from the other children, free from Dad's watchful eye as the play area is elevated and I stood at the bottom. Owen even climbed up the stairs and joined the fun. After about 15 minutes another batch of parents dumped their kids in the play area -- I was the only parent in there with about 10 kids -- and it started to get a little too wild for two year-olds. Nap time was approaching, and I decided it was time to head home. I stood at the bottom of the steps and caught Owen's attention, asking him to come down. He obliged, slowly spiraling down the steps and sat down on the bench behind me.

At this point I'm beaming with parental confidence. I had just given my hard-working, pregnant wife a few hours to herself away from me and the boys. I had entertained the boys with a trip to the park, a trek through the woods, and a rock-throwing trip down the train tracks. We had an easy lunch followed by a raucous time in the play area that was sure to wear them down for a good afternoon nap.

So I looked up to get Gus's attention. I saw him as he sped from the car through the tunnel to the top of the spiral steps. He saw me looking at him. "Gus," I said, "it's time to go. Come down please."


"Gus, come on. We need to go see Tucker and Mom."

"No, da-da."

At that moment Gus ran back through the plastic maze and out of my sight. He landed in the car and I caught his gaze through the small window. Again I told him it was time to come down, this time in a little firmer voice. He turned his attention away from me to the steering wheel and pretended to drive away.

This continued for another 7-8 minutes or so. I entertained my obedient child in Owen at the bottom of the play area while my rebel child avoided me altogether. At one point I made a frustrating attempt to climb up the spiral stairs in hopes that I could grab a shirt, a hand, a leg of Gus's and drag him off the playset. About halfway up I realized that adults -- especially those 6' 5" tall -- were not meant to play on the Chick-fi-la playset. The sight of me calling to my disobedient child and trying to climb a plastic behemoth must have delighted the parents who ate their lunch looking at their children from the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Finally, I reached my limit. I called one of the out-of-control banshees over to me -- an unsuspecting ten year-old who had nearly knocked over every toddler in the play area.

"Do you see that little guy in the gray shirt driving the moo car?"


"I need you to go up there and get him down here for me."

The kid and a younger girl took sympathy on me and climbed back up, made their way through the herd of other children, found Gus and peered through the car window at me. "This one?"

I nodded.

"He won't move."

"Move him. You're bigger than he is."

After another five minutes or so down the slide came my child with two older children he thought wanted to play with him. I grabbed a leg. He knew his rompous time had come to an end. I put his shoes on as he fought me, took Owen by the hand and led them out of the Chick-fi-la battlefield. I expected applause from the parents on the other side of the glass, but I think they were oblivious to what had gone on as they lavished in a short meal in peace. Gus punched me and tugged my hair, mad that he was duped by the older children he so desperately wanted to be like. I sighed and lugged him out of the restaurant, finally victorious in a battle with a two year-old.

Maybe it was that train that never came....


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monkey George

There have been a handful of outings over the last two years that have made me proud. Today was one. This morning I took the boys to see their first movie.... at the movie theater! The place down the road has special summer showings each week. Today was Curious George. 10:00am, $1 kids and adults were free.

The boys were in awe. The big screen, the lights shaped like stars and the 'folding' theater seats. They didn't weigh enough to keep the chairs open! Gus sat in my lap for the most part and Owen sat in his chair with me holding it. We passed on the $1 popcorn and soda and stuck with our juice and fruit snacks. They didn't mind. We made it through the entire 1 1/2 hour movie. Overall is was a great experience!

Counting & Fat Boy Balls

Update from the homefront this week....

Gus & Owen are trying to master the art of counting. Generally both of them can get 1 through 5 pretty well. Occasionally they can come up with a 1 through 10 on their own if they think about it hard enough. When one of the boys gets makes it to 10, Amy and I usually clap for them to encourage their accomplishment. The only problem is that this leads to subsequent attempts that leave out several numbers in between so they can jump to 10 and get the reward. There is a lot of "1...2...3...4...5...10!!" and then an expression of "Hey, where's my applause?"

Both boys continue to be little chatterboxes. They are repeating everything we say, which as you know presents its own challenges as a parent. ;-). Their sense of independence is growing as their ability to communicate progresses. This is a good thing as they want to be more involved with everything we do. Owen put together his longest sentence to date last night at the dinner table by uttering "Daddy needs to get new fat boy ball, Mommy." This was in reference to me complaining to Amy that Owen had destroyed my workout ball -- my "fat boy ball" as I call it -- by pouncing on top of the ball, putting it in his mouth, and biting a hole in it. As you can see the "baby in Daddy's belly!" chants from the boys have motivated me.

Speaking of babies in bellies, Amy is at the 11 week mark. We survived a scare last week as we took Amy to the emergency room after she was experiencing a lot of pain due to a cyst that we thought had ruptured. As it turned out -- after several hours, morphine & Percocet doses, and ultrasounds -- things were ok. The cyst had not ruptured, and the baby looked good on the ultrasound. Amy's diagnosis was to play Trooper for a while and deal with the discomfort. Luckily the pain has gotten more manageable this week. Amy is still dealing with the first trimester blues of nausea, which makes mealtime a challenge for her and for the men of the house. Just opening the pantry door and getting a whiff of food causes her to cringe. But we're hopeful that the nausea will soon fade as her body adjusts to all the hormones that are pumping through her system.

Finally, Gus put me in Time Out earlier this week. I was in the kitchen as Amy was cooking dinner, and I was trying to swat an annoying fly that kept buzzing around. When I swung and missed I knocked over a box of mac & cheese that sent pasta flying. "No hit, Daddy. Time out, Daddy!" came Gus's reply. He then led me over to the steps, sat me down, and grabbed my cheeks with his hand as is sometimes done to him when he acts up. Clever little kid I tell you.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Ugliness of Pro Sports

Last week a Michael Vick was indicted on federal charges relating to dogfighting. Sports Illustrated has written some well-researched pieces on the charges that give the background into the federal investigation of Vick and the three defendants who lived on Vick's property where dogfighting was alleged to have taken place. As for my opinion on Vick I am all about a person receiving his day in court before passing judgment -- the Duke lacrosse case taught us that. But after reading this, if these examples of cruelty to dogs are true then I hope the guy gets what is coming to him. People love their dogs second only to their children. I would not be surprised if the NFL faces a huge backlash from fans if the league doesn't step in and take some sort of action even before this trial takes place.

On the NBA front allegations emerged last week of an NBA referee betting on games, including those in which he officiated. This is worse than the Pete Rose betting controversy in that this referee potentially altered the outcome of NBA games, including five playoff games this past season. Bill Simmons' article on espn.com sums up the uphill battle the NBA faces to clean up its image -- although personally the NBA lost me as a fan years ago.
When news of the scandal broke on Friday, every diehard NBA fan had the same reaction. They weren't thinking, "I can't believe it!" or "Oh my God, how could this happen?" They were thinking, "Which one was it?"
Finally America's national pasttime completes the professional sports bad news trifecta as one of its most sacred records -- Hank Aaron's 755 career home runs -- is about to broken in the coming days without much celebration from the baseball world. Outside of San Francisco baseball fans don't care as no one truly believes Barry Bonds competed fairly without the use of steroids. Even the baseball commissioner hasn't committed to being in attendance when Bonds breaks the record. Until baseball owns up to looking the other way while its players bulked up to freakish sizes by using steroids, many casual baseball fans will again be turned off by the sport.

The common thread among these three events is that the incidents move the sports in directions that appeal less and less to the casual sports fan. Don't get me wrong, the Super Bowl will still be the most watched event on television. Diehard basketball & baseball fans will still follow their teams and watch the playoffs and the World Series. But in a time when professional athletes make 10, 50, or 100 times the salary that the average working American makes, scandals like these will only continue to deter people from tuning in.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Three's Company

February 14, 2008....10 weeks....baby brother or baby sister....wooohooo it's only one!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Past & Present

Saw this picture on the UK message boards today. A picture is worth a thousand words. Note Mr. McCarty on the back row as well. It is odd not seeing him in Kentucky blue.

93 days until tipoff....

Sleep Where Ye May

In life's nightly routine one of the more entertaining things Amy & I do is check on the boys before we head off to bed ourselves. I say "entertaining" because where Gus will be in the boys' room when we go in there is usually a mystery.

On some nights Gus is dog tired and goes straight to sleep in his crib. Other nights he has a fit because he is not ready to go to sleep. In that case he has been known to bang on the door for a half hour for us to let him out, only to eventually wear himself out and fall asleep -- right behind the door. On these nights we have to find a way to wedge ourselves into the door without waking a sleeping two year-old. Other nights when Gus does not want to go to sleep he has been known to crawl underneath the bed, climb up in a chair, curl up in his bear chair, or climb in bed with Owen. All this just goes to show that young, independent Gus is determined to do even the most basic things -- like sleeping -- on his terms.


Thursday, July 12, 2007


Amy & I got our home computer fixed this week which means we're back connected to the world. The thing is a 6+ year-old relic that moves at tortoise speed, but with a new hard drive installed it should get us through to the holidays when retailers are throwing out some major deals on PC's. It is crazy how dependent we are on internet, email, blogs, etc. and is much more evident once that capability is taken away. This has been especially true for Amy who has been limited to using my work PC at nights for the past few weeks to stay connected. Anyhow, now that we're back online hopefully we'll get some more posts up.

On the homefront, Gus has come down with Roseola, which is a viral infection that causes several days of fever followed by a rash. He began with a fever on Saturday night of 104 which didn't go away until yesterday morning when the rash appeared. It is one of those things that just has to run its course. We are just trying to keep Owen at a safe distance to keep him from coming down with it too. "Irritability" is listed as one of the main symptoms of the virus. But in Gus's case I would say his mood has been more of an insane, fierce, bat-out-of-hell grumpiness than mere irritability. We are hoping that with some rest there is a light at the end of the little man's tunnel.

Amy is still working with a couple of managers at IBM to come back to work part-time in August when the boys start pre-school. She was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a great job she had lined up fell through causing her to go back to square one. It is one of those punch/counterpunch things in life that we just have to get through.

Finally our thoughts & prayers go out to Amy's grandfather Billy Frank and the Smith Family. "Chief" is in the hospital in Clarksville, Tennessee undergoing some tests.


On Sunday we were treated to a visit from a friend and former neighbor from across the pond. Sterenn and her wonderful family lived next door to us in Cary while they were in the US before returning to their native France. It seems like only yesterday when Tucker would bolt through our front door and run next door to play with Sterenn and her brothers Kilian and Joss. The kids had a key to our house and would come over to get Tucker to play whenever they wanted a brown dog to incessantly lick them in the face.

My how things change. Amy & I have moved, we now have the two little monsters busting through the front door, and Sterenn is all grown up about to enter her final year of school before going to college. But despite the life changes it was great to see a familiar face and catch up with her and some more of our old neighbors, Jennifer and Rebecca Rauhe.

Cheers to old friends!

Independence Week

Last week the Rutledge crew was treated to visits from family to help us celebrate the Fourth of July. GJ and Pappy ventured down to North Carolina for the whole week. Aunt Mel and Baby Corinne made the trek up from Charleston for the weekend. (I had to chuckle when Melanie relayed the story of driving up I-95 with one hand on the wheel and one hand in Corinne's mouth for gnawing to cut down on the fussiness -- those were the days!).

We had a full house, and it was a tremendous week for Amy and me as the boys were entertained, there were always helping hands around for an infant & two toddlers, and seeing family is a rejuvenating experience.

The boys were enamoured with their young cousin immediately as they brought Corinne toys, helped give her a bath, and hijacked her booster seat. Gus helped by setting the clock and noise settings on Corinne's sound machine a couple hundred times.

Pappy -- at 63 and a year off back surgery -- outworked his son as we teamed up to clear more brush & trees from the backyard. (It has taken me three days for the soreness to wear off from the -- ahem -- wonderful introduction to the tool known as a grubbing hoe.) :-) But the backyard is really coming together, and happy hour was that much sweeter after hours of work in the hot sun.

Finally, Amy & I were treated to a game of Sequence -- the first board game we have played in our house probably since the boys were born! Unfortunately for Amy and GJ, the men won five straight games and may have gloated just a tiny bit about their shutout victory.

What a great way to celebrate Independence Week. Thanks to the family for making the trip to see us. Cheers!

Owen puckers up to give Baby Corinne a kiss on the cheek.

Aunt Mel cooks dinner while GJ, Corinne & Baby Bjorn assist.

The three cousins slow down just long enough for a picture together.

Corinne was introduced to her first feeding of cereal. Actually, she was introduced to four helpings of cereal. I think it's safe to say solid food was a major hit with Baby C.

The boys show GJ and Aunt Mel how to have Wrestlemania on the couch. It's oh-so-much fun.

The "I will be bribing Gus in his teenage years" fund just keeps adding pictures to its repertoire. Gus proudly displayed Baby C's hat all by himself with no provocation from us by the way.

When not participating in Wrestlemania, Corinne's seat was a popular spot for TV viewing.

Here is what the backyard looked like about six weeks ago before chainsaws, a stump grinder, a grubbing hoe, shovels, and wheelbarrows began the clearout. There are still many, many trees back there -- oaks, tulip poplars, maples & hickories. We just cleared out the brush & saplings so we could have some usable space.

Pappy pauses for only a moment as he attacks sapling stumps with the shovel & grubbing hoe.

The stump grinder was the envy of Pappy and me. The man operating it even had a remote control. Unfortunately for the boys -- who absolutely love trucks and tractors -- they napped through the entire episode while this machine was going to work in their backyard.

Manual labor in July calls for a popcicle break with grandsons.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gus the Showboat

Gus has embraced the art of dressing up as his little extroverted personality grows and grows. He pillages our closets looking for shoes, shirts, jewelry -- anything he can put on and prance around the house. He still points to the dog costume in his closet asking to dress up like a dog. Since the dog costume is too small, he has to settle for bigger clothes, shoes, and um, accessories.

The knack for walking the toaster with Mardi Gras beads and Amy's sandals as only Gus can.

Sleeveless top with Elmo undershirt, $14; Mom's slippers, $8. Potential bribery to hold over Gus's head when he's a teenager, priceless.

Live large young Gus-man!

Nance/Barrett Tour '07

Last week our good friends Debbie Barrett and Chad Nance brought their kiddos up from Bluffton, South Carolina to spend a couple of nights with us. Chad & Debbie have 3 year-old Aidan and 2 year-old Abby as well as 2-year old Anmei, whom they adopted from China. The reunion in Raleigh was their first chance to connect with many of the parents who also adopted babies from China on the same trip.

Amy & I and the boys were very happy we got to see them as we don't get the chance to get together quite as much as we used to pre-kids. In fact the parents got a good chuckle reminiscing about the things we used to do when it was just the four of us together -- trips to the amusement park in Charlotte, haunted pub crawl tours in Savannah, a tour of a local brewery here in Holly Springs, watching football games on Saturdays. Now it's diaper changing, Curious George, and trips to the park. My how times change! But life changes are great.

Aidan, Debbie, Abby, Anmei & Chad ride the train on an expedition to the North Carolina Life & Science Museum in Durham.

The two year-olds pause for some PB&J at the museum park before revving it up in full gear again.

Anmei, Owen, Gus & Abby discuss gas prices, the latest Pixar movie, campaign finance reform, and Lightning McQueen over sippie cups and pizza.

Pool time gave the little ones a chance to beat the heat as Chad and I manned the inflatable pool while Debbie & Amy got away for some well-deserved time away together.

The zoo view from above.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Beat up Elmo and Shout"

Looks like Elmo is finally saying himself what many of us parents have wanted to do to the little furry red monster after listening to him for hours. ;-)



Monday, July 02, 2007

Golden Dog

After reading the story of a family's golden retriever staying with a two-year old who wandered away from home and barking to alert rescuers, it is evident to me that dogs are absolutely wonderful animals.

Long live our canine friends.

"Faithful Dog's Bark Brings Searchers to Missing Toddler"