Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holidays with the Family

The Rutledge crew has had a really fulfilling Christmas & holiday break over the past couple of weeks. With Amy being 33 weeks pregnant we received the "no travel" word from her doctor. So we have been fortunate to have several visitors share the holidays with us in North Carolina. Pappy & GJ arrived the week before Christmas. Aunt Mel, Uncle Dude & Corinne came up from Charleston to spend Christmas week with us. And Nana and Granddaddy arrived at the end of the week to ring in the New Year. The last couple of weeks featured a lot of quality family time together.

Gus & Owen were really into Christmas this year. Seeing Christmas through the kids' eyes was rejuvenating for Amy and me as parents. With this being their third Christmas, the boys were excited about Santa Claus, the decorations, and all the family time together. They did not quite make the connection between Santa and presents. In reality this took some of the pressure off of us, and their innocence with it all was refreshing. On Christmas morning the boys slid down the steps to find a toy garage for their cars and had quite the time rummaging open boxes of clothes and goodies.

As I have had some extended vacation time from work over the holidays and there were several family members here with helping hands, Amy & I decided we were going to venture into potty training territory. The boys had been asking to wear "big boy underwear" since a couple of the kids at their preschool were not wearing diapers. No time like the present, so we bought several pairs of Thomas the Tank Engine & Lightning McQueen underwear and went to work. On the first day, the boys had accidents all morning long causing Amy & GJ to wash about 10 pairs of underwear by noon. Slowly throughout the week they began to get the idea that they needed to tell us when they had to go to the bathroom. We are still working on it, and they still have accidents here & there. But we are determined to get two out of diapers by February when the baby girl arrives.

Amy & I took the boys to see Santa Claus who as it turns out spends a three-week stretch in Apex, NC of all places before venturing to the North Pole for his midnight run. Just like last year the boys were afraid of Santa so he had to sneak away and come back through the trap door in order to get in the family picture. Maybe next year...

What is it about Christmas that brings out all the sweets? GJ and I decided that perhaps it was because candy and sweets are the one food that everyone can agree on when you have a lot of people together. Whatever the reason, our house was filled with fudge, cookies, sweet rolls, Chex mix, and all kinds of other sweet treats. Aunt Mel got to experience first hand how much easier it is to cook something when 2 two-year-olds help you. Banana bread batter was everywhere, but it was oh-so-tasty.

Christmas with the Crumptons meant we got to share time with Baby C, shown here adorning a makeshift Yuletide headband. Corinne is an absolute gem. She is the best eater I have seen for a baby. She has a contagious giggle that makes adults turn to mush and engage in humorous baby-talk. And she intently watched her older cousins, mostly from the vantage point of a plastic push-toy fire truck.

Another Christmas tradition with the Rutledge family is the Twas the Night Before Christmas puzzle. Melanie & C.E. have done the thing so many times that they can practically work it in their sleep. But the rest of us managed to work a piece or two in at nap time and bed time when the three little ones hit the sack. 1,000 pieces in less than 24 hours.

GJ and Pappy were gracious enough to keep the three grandkids one afternoon as Melanie, Roman, Amy and I ventured out to see -- of all things -- a movie! Amy & I were skeptical that movies were still being made after April 15, 2005, but it turns out they do. We thoroughly enjoyed Tom Hanks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War."

Uncle Dude and Aunt Mel played a tremendous practical joke on yours truly on Christmas morning. They had purchased North Carolina scratch-off lottery tickets on the way up from Charleston and put the tickets in everyone's gifts. When we opened our presents on Christmas morning, C.E. had a ticket that was a loser, Amy had a $10 winner, and I casually scratched my ticket. My ticket was one that if three of the same numbers appeared, you won that amount. I scratched off two $20,000 numbers and then raised my eyebrow as the last number appeared -- a third $20,000 number. I looked at the ticket, read the instructions on the front, then glanced at the back to make sure I understood how the game was played. After allowing myself to believe I had a winner, I let the excitement come out as I shouted, "Holy #@$% you all, this is a $20,000 lottery ticket!!" I passed it to Amy & I started screaming in celebration. Amy allowed herself to get worked up too. Just then, Roman and Melanie burst out laughing as they read the back of the ticket -- "All prizes $20,000 or greater must be redeemed by Santa Claus." Oh my. I felt like the Bugs Bunny cartoon when a jackass was superimposed on Elmer Fudd's face after being taken in one of Bugs's tricks. We all got a hearty laugh at the joke. All I have to say is paybacks are hell, my dear Crumptons, paybacks are hell!

Let's just say it is hard to get three little ones to look in the camera at the same time for a posed Christmas picture wearing their good outfits. These three have a lot of fun times together in the years ahead.

Nana and Granddaddy arrived on Friday to help us ring in the New Year. Billy is in between trips to Oklahoma to work with FEMA on the flood damage to a college there. Elaine has taken up traveling in her first few months of retirement, and we are more than happy to provide a draw to help her scratch the travel itch. For Christmas the boys were treated by their grandparents to a CAT back hoe tractor and some Lightning McQueen gear.... well as an awesome train table complete with train, tracks, flat-bed trucks, magnetized cranes, and even a helicopter. This is one present that is nearly as popular with the adults as it is with the kids.

So the holidays have indeed been joyous ones for our crew. We thank everyone who made the trek over to see us this Christmas and wish all our blog readers a safe, festive and very happy New Year!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Family

Always a Christmas favorite courtesy of Mr. Robert Earl Keene. Cheers!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Amy Doesn't Tip Over

Hmm, I was thinking it was because she can still outrun Gus. Apparently there is a more complicated, scientific answer. Whatever the reason, my hat is off to the child bearers.


"Why Pregnant Women Don't Tip Over"

What they found, said Katherine K. Whitcome, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard and the lead author of the paper, was evidence that evolution had produced a stronger and more flexible lower spine for women. After studying 19 pregnant subjects, Ms. Whitcome found that the lumbar, or lower back, curve in women extends across three vertebrae, as opposed to just two in men. And the connecting points between vertebrae are relatively larger in women, and shaped differently in ways that make the stack more stable and less prone to the bones shifting out of alignment or breaking.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Send 'Em Out Back

Home projects are never as simple as you imagine them to be. They take longer, cost more, and involve more decisions than you plan for. Last weekend we finished up work on our backyard, capping off a project that began eight months ago in the spring. The area behind our house was highlighted as a "natural area" on the flyer when we bought the house. That's real estate-ese for "unusable, densely overgrown Sweet Gum jungle with approximately 1,000 ticks per square foot." So realizing that we were about to have 3 kids under the age of three and that we would desperately want to be able to extend our usable space (translation: be able to boot the kids out back when they inevitably get too wild inside), Amy & I began planning to fix up our backyard.

We tackled the erosion problems, the brush undergrowth and tree stumps, and we added grass, a retaining wall, a small patio and play area. Finally we reached the point last weekend of adding the finishing landscaping touches. With their green thumbs Amy & Elaine picked out scarletta bushes, ferns and gardenias to go around the patio. I got well-acquainted with my wheelbarrow, snow shovel, and 10 cubic yards of mulch. When all was said & done we were really pleased with the result. Eventually we would like to add a play set for the kids and some more landscaping. But for now the simple pleasures of running up and down the steps, digging in the mulch, and jumping in the leaves make the kids happy which is fine by us. We have plenty of time down the road to add to it.


Prior to clearing out the undergrowth, the ticks outnumbered the mammals 10 to 1 in our backyard.

After clearing out the trees we had to tackle the drainage issues that had eroded the topsoil and most of the grass.

Fill dirt and a retaining wall were added to level out the area where we put a small patio and a mulched play area for the kids.

The back of the play area is normally sprinkled with dumptrucks, buckets, and shovels as the boys have a grand time digging in the dirt & rocks.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December in Shorts

I feel like I should go to confessional for the gap between posts. "Forgive me Father, for it has been a week and a half since my last post." So if I ramble on, it's just to catch up for lost time...

Life at the Rutledge house has been really good these past few weeks. It certainly has had its challenges as raising two-year olds does for any parent. Thankfully for us we have been fortunate enough to have Amy's mom Elaine -- wonderful Nana -- here to help us out for the past few weeks. Elaine has been such a huge help -- with the boys, around the house, cooking, doing laundry, walking the dog, providing moral support for run-down parents. She has even mastered the art of getting Gus to nap, always a prerequisite for a good day.

Gus continues to really, really challenge us as he forges his own little identity. He definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer -- and often it is a march he performs while naked, wearing green lizard boots, sunglasses, and a firefighter cap. As parents Amy and I try to envision in the long run when his independence and his love for engaging with people will serve him so well. In the short run we try to keep our sanity as he challenges us on such minute daily details as what shirt he will tolerate for the day and what he will eat at mealtime. So we try to keep positive attitudes as much as we can through those trying moments. Gus's preschool teacher raved about how much he talks with the students and how much he loves to read books and role play. So he's on someone's good list if he is not always on ours. ;-)

Owen continues to come out of his shell. He is such the little observer, possibly in part because his brother dominates the attention around the house. Owen is turning out to be a thinker, surveying the mood of a situation and pondering how he should act. He is quite good at getting his brother's goat when he wants to. Owen picks at Gus sometimes just to get a reaction out of him like taking a favorite toy away and sprinting to another room. But his actions are not always malicious. This morning when Gus insisted on taking the little bell necklace that Owen had been wearing, Owen looked at Gus and simply took Gus's beloved firefighter cap and waited. As if Owen knew what the reaction would be, Gus made the peaceful trade. And along with that quiet, introverted personality Owen has developed an endearing little sweet streak that gives us reprieve in dealing with some of his younger brother's tantrums.

Of course the humorous aspects continue to spring up with the boys as well. Both Owen and Gus are testing the waters of potty-training, getting rewarded with M&M's when they do the deed (3 M&M's when they do the major deed). Gus has been known to sit on the toilet for 30 minutes at a time, refusing to leave until some bodily function is performed. Owen beams from ear to ear, proud as a peacock when he goes to the bathroom. It is a nice reminder of how we all learn the most basic things at this young age. Naturally the boys are interested when other people in the house go to the bathroom as well. We often have to sneak away while they aren't looking so we can have a private moment of peace. Inevitably they find us after calling for us from all over the house.

"You need M&M, dad? You need M&M?" Funny stuff.

Amy continues to hang in there with the pregnancy. She overdid it over the weekend as we were putting the finishing landscaping touches on the backyard. Amy loves to work in the yard so much, but she was really wiped out & hurting on Sunday night after doing too much. Luckily her doctor visit yesterday produced a good report. 31 weeks this Thursday....she's getting there.

The weather has been unseasonably warm here in North Carolina this week. We hit a record high yesterday and today as temperatures are creeping up to 80 degrees. Amy & Nana love the warm weather; yours truly becomes a bit of a Grinch in trying to get into the Christmas spirit when it is so warm. Last night I tried watching "White Christmas" on TV, and it just doesn't cut it to sing Bing Crosby with shorts on and the windows open. Snow, snow, snow, it won't be long before we'll all be there with snow....

Still despite the heat wave we managed to decorate the house for Christmas -- putting up our tree, the lights around the house, and various Christmas decorations here and there. The fun part about it this year was that the boys were really into Christmas. This is the first year where they are really anticipating it. They know Christmas is coming, they really get into the decorating, and they point out the Santa Clauses that are sprinkled about. Nana and I have been walking the boys around the neighborhood to check out all the lights. The boys love the choo-choo trains that are lit up, the polar bears and snowmen in people's yards, and even the random "Christmas alligator" (not quite sure what it was that Owen saw). Again, it's fun to watch these things through younger eyes.

So tomorrow is our final day here in NC with Elaine before she heads back to Paducah for a brief respite before heading off to icy Oklahoma to see Billy, who is working with a local college there on behalf of FEMA. We know she will be glad to see Billy and perhaps to slow down to a more manageable, relaxing pace. Still, Amy & I are truly appreciative of all the help and enjoyment that her visit has brought us.


30 1/2 weeks and counting...

"Just hold me Nana."

"Nana, we need to decorate the bottom fourth of the tree. All the ornaments need to be within my reach."

Elaine -- grandmother, mom, chef, and ladder holder.