Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Three-Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend was a needed refresher for the Rutledge family. Like all parents, Amy & I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of raising kids and forget to exhale too often. I don't mean to complain about it because we are truly fortunate to have three wonderful, healthy kids. But I'm not going to sugarcoat it either -- life with twin 3 year-old boys and a 3 month-old infant is not easy right now. So the three-day weekend could not have come at a better time.

Saturday morning was a highlight as the whole family congregated in the nursery as Amy nursed Tess, each of us still in our pajamas and me sipping my coffee. The boys went through the box of toys in Tess's closet handing her a variety of animals and rattles. Amy & I relaxed with -- imagine this -- a conversation. Finally we had the chance to simply hang out and not hurriedly rush for school, work, etc.

Later that afternoon Amy & I hit the kitchen with a pitcher of daiquiris as we made salsa & snacks for a cookout. Our neighbors the Singletons came over to share in the fun as the the kids played together with reckless abandon. Owen, normally one to warm up only to those that he is familiar with, giggled himself silly sliding down the slide with Erin, the older daughter.

On Sunday we went to church where our wonderful minister Joanne gave a very cool sermon about worry and fear dominating life. It was the ultimate cup-filler message that these two busy parents absorbed -- a great reminder to get out of the weeds and see the bigger picture. Later that afternoon we ventured up the street to another cookout with some neighbors. Gus & Owen got to drive a motorized fire truck that squirted water and sported a walkie-talkie. Talk about hog heaven -- Gus was so excited to be sporting his firefighter cap and actually riding on a fire truck that he melted down when it was time to leave.

Meanwhile Baby T went along for the ride for all the weekend activities. She hung out with Dorothy at the cookout on Saturday, fell asleep in the Baby Bjorn at church (I wonder where she learned that one), and stared intently at all the commotion of young children at the cookout on Sunday. At the risk of completely jinxing Amy & me as lucky parents, I have to say that Tess is a very easy baby. GJ points out that Tess doesn't really have a choice -- that by having two older brothers she will have to learn to go with the flow. Others have pointed out that the second time around -- especially after twins -- parents are much more relaxed. I don't know if Amy & I are relaxed, but we do know what to expect much better than the first time around the block. Still, for all of that much of it is Tess's gentle disposition. Yes she cries when she's hungry or if she's tired and fighting sleep. But for the most part she is the grinning observer, easily going along for the ride with her mom, dad and brothers.

Finally on Memorial Day we separated the boys as they were getting a bit of cabin fever being cooped up with each other. Gus hung out at home relaxing with mom and sister while I took Owen out for lunch and a haircut. (I am in the doghouse for getting Owen's curly curls chopped off, but I contend the kid was starting to look like Richard Simmons without the headband & tights.)

So it's fair to say the Rutledges took full advantage of the Memorial Day break. Nothing like the chance to get out of the routine with a three-day weekend to stop and smell the roses.


Ah, to be a kid again...

Donut Hole Terrorism

Dunkin' Donuts pulled an ad with Rachel Ray because she wore this scarf in the commercial. Apparently some right-wingnuts caused a fuss about the scarf being symbolic of Muslim extremists and by extension, Dunkin' Donuts supported terrorism.


What in the world is wrong with people? It's Rachel Ray....and a scarf for crying out loud!

"Dunkin' Donuts yanks Rachel Ray ad"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Showing Off NC

Last weekend we were treated to first-time visitors to the Rutledge household as Amy's father Craig and her half-sister Tracie made the trek from Paducah, Kentucky to North Carolina. It was Tracie's first trip on an airplane -- and hopefully not the last as the return flight was slowed by one of those frustrating 2+ hour weather delays. But the visit was a lot of fun as it gave Craig and Tracie a chance to get to know Owen, Gus, and Tess as well as reconnect with Amy. The boys completely took to Tracie, and Craig got to experience how calm and mellow Tess can be as a baby. And the trip gave Amy and I a chance to show off our area a bit and take us out of our suburban comfort zone.

The crew went into downtown Raleigh to historic Pullen Park for a picnic where the kids (and adults) had a ball riding the carousel, paddle boats, and train around the park. Then we ventured over to Durham on a gorgeous spring Sunday afternoon to check out Duke University, where despite the negative connotation that is associated with Duke (e.g. town & gown, elitist, Coach K, etc.) it truly is a beautiful place with incredible old buildings, oak- and magnolia-lined walkways, and the massive Duke Gardens.

Amy & I gladly took the opportunity of the extra helping hands as we all went out for a late lunch on a patio at a Mexican Restaurant in downtown Durham. That marked the first time we had ventured out to eat (other than takeout) with our newly-expanded family.

The weekend was a good break from the norm. We hope to be able to build on it for future visits.


Picnicking at historic Pullen Park in downtown Raleigh.

Craig & I took the boys for a paddle boat ride around the lake. Only once did we venture off course into the trees that draped over from the shore. Of course that's what the boys remember about the boat ride -- "we went into the trees, Dad, into the trees!" Next time, 2 three year-olds I know are going to be paddling while the adults "steer."

We thought the train ride around the perimeter of the park was going to be the highlight for Owen & Gus. But actually the ride on the "motor boats" complete with bell ringing and splashing took the prize in their eyes.

Tess was all smiles from her car seat perch in the stroller as she wound her way through the park.

Duke Chapel is quite a remarkable site as a backdrop to the Duke campus. It was built in 1935 for $2 million (!) and with its stained-glassed windows gives visitors a majestic sense of appreciation when you walk up to it.

I was able to snap a quick shot of everyone in the only 5 second stretch where the boys sat still all weekend....

....and I was this close to convincing Craig to take a souvenir back with him to Kentucky! ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2008


"Zoo" is a perfect word for the scene at la casa de Rutledge the month of May. Amy & I have been Energizer bunny parents juggling work, family, kids, etc. the past several weeks so I apologize for the lack of posts. We did take full advantage of the long holiday weekend to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. The holiday weekend was a much needed refresher -- more on Memorial Day weekend coming....

In the meantime, here are a couple of catch-up posts from the happenings in our lives.


After my return from Las Vegas and the horrendous stomach bug that thwarted my weekend (including my ever-deserving wife's Mother's Day), Amy & I took the boys, Tess, and Dorothy to the North Carolina Zoo. It was our third trip to the zoo, and each one brings more and more anticipation from the boys. One of the highlights was the elephant exhibit, where the long-trunked behemoths were close to the fence for up-close viewing (as was the elephant-sized dung pile which I have graciously cropped out of this photo).

Dorothy was a trooper in making the zoo trek with us this year as she wheeled Tess around the exhibits and onto tram shuttles. Sometimes the help one gets from three year-olds is not really that much of a help. But his intentions are good.

Ok, I can't resist a cheesy pun here for this caption of "Owen coming out of his shell..." but it really is an accurate analysis of his emerging personality. Owen is less reluctant and shy around people lately. Even his teacher at Montessori mentioned that to Amy & me when we met her for a conference last week. Owen is still not as fearlessly outgoing as Gus, but he has begun to interact with kids and adults, developing a contagious laugh when he gets excited and wound up.
Even though Gus did not get to ride the giraffe on his zoo trip, he didn't let that stop him from climbing atop this rhino as he tried to scurry past his mother's watchful reach. Yet another fitting analogy to the hustle and bustle of life with twin three year-olds right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Cool article in the NYT about a town near and dear to us, Amy's hometown of Paducah, Kentucky.

"How Artists Saved Paducah, Kentucky"

But what’s most significant about Paducah is that it has become the model of how a rundown town can revive itself with the arts — and it’s done so in a big-box-retail-loving red state, no less. ‘‘I think of Paducah as a kind of a poster child for using a very creative initiative around older small buildings,’’ says Ann Markusen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert in regional economics. ‘‘Artists are putting their own sweat equity into Paducah.’’

Hat tip to Mike O'D for the link...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Politico Friday

Viewing of the day: Hardball, May 15, 2008
One of the political shows on television I find interesting is Hardball on MSNBC. Chris Matthews is the bulldog host who obnoxiously interrupts his guests with another question as they are still trying to answer his previous question. And while his style can be brash, he has the confidence to call a spade a spade and the intellect to back up his assertions.

Last night on Hardball Matthews invited a talk-show host from the left and from the right to debate the story yesterday where President Bush covertly accused Barack Obama's support of an open dialogue with Iran and Hamas as "appeasement" of the radical Islamic groups just as the Nazis were appeased prior to WWII. When the talk-show host stopped screaming and was pressed to answer Matthews' question of how the Nazis were actually appeased, he couldn't answer the question. Matthews proceeded to unload in a tirade on the guy. It was highly entertaining and in my view, completely justified. This guy might read up on some history before he goes on a talk show the next time to regurgitate right-wing talking points.

Op-ed of the day: "Obama Admires Bush," David Brooks, NYT, May 16, 2008
Obama clarified and articulated his foreign policy position towards Islamic terrorist organizations like Hezbollah in a discussion with David Brooks. At first glance Obama's positions can be dismissed as naive and ideal. He supports discussions with Iran, North Korea, Hamas, and Hezbollah whereas his critics (many conservatives and even Hillary Clinton) do not believe in acknowledging the leaders of these radical regimes. But when you read deeper into his view that engaging enemies in discussions is not a sign of weakness but sound foreign policy, I think this illustrates a needed change in our attitude toward other countries. It represents -- finally! -- a Democrat willing to shine the light on the vast differences that exist between our two parties when it comes to engaging our enemies.

This is the debate the country should be having between now and November rather than goofy ministers and flag pins on the lapel.

“The debate we’re going to be having with John McCain is how do we understand the blend of military action to diplomatic action that we are going to undertake,” he said. “I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism. Those are the terms of debate that have led to blunder after blunder.”

Obama said he found that the military brass thinks the way he does: “The generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After being away for a week I could swear Tess has grown and changed a month's worth. She is becoming more alert and observant of all the sights and sounds around her. Tess will just sit and stare at the boys and the commotion their presence brings into a room. And when she hears a familiar voice that she knows, she will light up a smile and coo in response.

Amy & I will do the goofiest things to entice them from the little child.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Giraffe Riding

The weekend and Mother's Day didn't exactly go as Amy & I planned. I returned from Las Vegas bringing a nasty stomach bug back with me which confined me to the bed all day Saturday and a good part of Sunday. (Whatever happened to "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas???") Mother's Day was a rainy, stay inside sort of day for Amy which is a challenge with little ones anyway, much less with a whiny sick husband to take care of on top of it. So we decided to make up for the lost weekend and take a day off to take the kids to the zoo.

We have been to the zoo with the boys a few times now and every time they seem to get more and more excited about it. Today was no exception as we told the boys at breakfast that we were going to the zoo tomorrow. You would have thought we told them that they would only have to eat chocolate for the rest of their lives and could watch Handy Manny all night instead of going to bed. Needless to say, the boys were stoked.

"That makes me very, very, very happy," Gus happily announced.

On the drive to school Owen wanted to know the list of animals that would be there -- lions, tigers, bears, polar bears, alligators, you name it. He went through them all. When Amy picked the boys up this afternoon, their teachers asked, "Are you all perhaps going to the zoo? I hope so, because the boys told everyone about it and are pretty excited."

As the day wore on apparently the excitement built in their three year-old minds from going to the zoo to actually getting to ride the animals at the zoo. Gus happily reported that not only was he going to see the giraffes with the long, long necks, but that he was going to ride the giraffes.

So tomorrow we make up for a lost weekend and head to the zoo with two jubilant boys. Dorothy will be coming with us so it will be Tess's first zoo experience. We'll see how the giraffe riding plays out.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What Happens in Vegas

Greetings from Las Vegas, where a person can...
  • go a full week without breathing fresh air or seeing the sun,
  • be greeted first thing in the morning off the elevator by grisly tourists still wearing out the nickel slots with a drink in their hand and a Marlboro Light in their mouth at 7:00am,
  • have a conversation with an executive about software education for business partners only to be interrupted by blaring lights and music as a scantily-clad cocktail waitress hops atop a platform for a song & dance,
  • same situation as above only with the shirtless Chippendale's dancers approaching ladies to have their take their picture taken with them.
Ah, Las Vegas. There is no place like it. And while I contend that Vegas is the most artificial, gaudy, plastic place on the planet, it is what brings 2,000 software consultants from IBM together every year for our technical conference.

This year has definitely been the best of the four conferences I have attended. I think the biggest plus for me is getting to meet people that I work with face-to-face after a year of laboring to get things accomplished via phone calls, web conferences, and email. Each year more and more contacts are made so it is that much more rewarding to connect with these people. So while I may grumble about the excessive cheesiness of this place, it has still been a productive week.

Cheers from Slot Machine land!

Pickin' and Grinnin'

Last week the Rutledge family embarked on a strawberry picking adventure at a farm close to our house. We loaded up the baby in the Baby Bjorn and outfitted the boys with plastic buckets on a great spring evening after dinner. I have to hand it to Amy on this one -- she broke up the nightly grind with a timely outing that broke the routine and was a lot of fun for the whole family.

You could easily tell which strawberries were picked by parents and which berries were picked by Owen, who was drawn to the under-developed greenish white berries instead of the fat juicy red ones.

So Dad had to step in and show Owen which ones would go better on ice cream.

It was all fun and games until the Gus man got stuck in the mud. He was even more unhappy when instead of stopping to give him a hand, his mother and father insisted on snapping a picture. Mean old mom & dad.

Once the mud crisis was averted, it was back to fun and games and smiles.

Here's hoping you all get the time to go pick some berries wherever your strawberry farm may be.