Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wanted: Superhero

As my wonderful but overwhelmed wife struggles to keep up with a plate full of life, including (but not all-inclusive)...
  • demands of three small kids,
  • running a household,
  • keeping up with a job that is a) worked from home where aforementioned children are running around and b) frequently demands more time than she gets paid for,
  • organizing a closet full of baby & toddler clothes by Friday to sell at a multiples club sale,
  • dealing with a well-intentioned but challenging (my word), difficult and high maintenance (her words) husband,
  • coming up with a plan for dinner,
  • playing part-time therapist, peacemaker, and referee for multiple people,
  • nursing an infant, and
  • trying to find a snippet of time for herself
...I have decided to place a help wanted ad for a superhero to help us get through the next few weeks until preschool starts again.

As you can see Gus has accepted the challenge with both feet running. Little does he realize that he is a good portion of what's on that plate.

Ah, parenthood. When the plate gets so full we just have to find time for a little humor to squeeze through the challenges.

To my Wonder Woman Amy B, hang in there.

"What'chya need Mom? Need the Yellow Baron to carry your load away on my motorcycle?...."

"....or do you need me to pop a cap in your troubles?...."

"...I've got my lasso, my lizard boots, my sheriff's hat, and my whistle at your service."

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Boundary Push

The Rutledge crew had a bit of a challenging weekend, led by our twin terrors Owen & Gus. Since our return from the Kentucky trip Amy & I have been trying to get the boys back between the guardrails so to speak with regular bedtimes, more of a summer routine, etc. The weekend was a contest of wills with 2 three year-olds pushing the limits of what they can and cannot do. Minute things like which shoes they would agree to wear, how much noise their parents would tolerate at the dinner table, and what books they wanted to read at nap time became issues of war and peace. I share these things with you not to whine -- ok, maybe a little bit -- but also so our readers who are also going through this same thing with their kids can relate and also so those of you that have already paid your dues with rearing children can say, "Ha, ha! Been there, done that. Glad we're not you."

To add to the boundary pushing issues Gus has decided that he is too scared to sleep. The kid absolutely melted down on the way home from church yesterday, ranting mad at me for putting him in the left car seat instead of the right car seat -- an issue on par with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What he really needed was a nap because he was truly exhausted. When we got him home Amy and I proceeded to battle him for 2 hours to get some sleep. Unfortunately he caught his second wind and then claimed that there were noises and monsters that were preventing his slumber. Last night it was the same thing -- he was so wound up that he couldn't sleep and again the fears of a three year-old were rolling around in his head and keeping him up late.

So Amy and I are treating it with a combination of kid gloves and hammer -- reassuring him that there are no monsters in his room (with teeth anyway) and then finally walking away at a certain point when we think he is doing more stalling that anything else. Ah the joys...

The weekend had its good points too. Amy & I took the kids to a birthday party for one of the boys' in Owen & Gus's preschool class. While frankly kids birthday parties can be exercises in excess -- more pomp and circumstance done for the parents to compete with each other and show off than they are for the kids -- this party was nothing like that. It was very refreshing. There were 4 families total at the house, each of us with children at about the same age so we were all at that same place and stage in life. All the dads were engaged with helping take care of the kids so I felt right at home. (Plus Jeff, the dad, had a great selection of ales from which to choose -- always a bonus for us dads.) Amy got to connect with the moms which is something she doesn't often get the chance to do. So all in all that ended up being the highlight of the weekend. Who would have thought?

So this week we will be treated to a visit by GJ mid-week. The boys are excited. Amy is preparing to sell a load of kids' clothes at the multiples club sale this weekend. And the rest of the time we will be chasing away monsters and trying to get little boys to get some rest so their parents can do the same!


Our friend Tracy is an amateur photographer and got some great shots of the kids playing at the birthday party. This was my favorite one of Tess -- she looks so studious.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Funny

Hat tip to my buddy Dave O for the link -- hilarious! (Language alert)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Neil on Rose

This interview with one of the most fascinating living artists is incredible. Hat tip to my buddy Chris for sharing it. He points out, "Neil is one of a kind -- a crazy mad scientist. I love him." Indeed he is.

There are so many interesting discussions on a whole host of topics in here -- from music to his 30-year marriage with the same woman to energy independence to faith. Charlie explores them all.

Good lunchtime viewing.

16:00 - Young on the changing perspectives in life as you grow older and identifying with the things you've done in the past:

Young: I've heard Bob [Dylan] say he doesn't know the guy who wrote those songs anymore.
Rose: Do you feel that way about songs you've written?
Young: I understand what he was saying. I understand the feeling behind it. I look at it and I go, "Wow, I must have been in a really different place doing that." But I was, and that was it. I wrote those words, and I said that and I believed it.

37:00 - Young on the war in Iraq:

Do you see w/ respect to the war, do you see the end?
The end of this war?
The end of this war is when we solve the energy problem. This war is going on for a long, long time. This war will not go away until we figure out what we're doing on the planet. This is a bad war. That's how I feel.

46:00 - Young on learning faith after suffering a near-fatal brain aneurysm:

What did the brain aneurysm teach you?
Young: It gave me more faith.
Rose: Did it really? Faith in...?
Young: I don't know. I have faith. I don't know what it is. I know there's a lot of stories. There's the Bible, the Koran. Everybody's got one. Everybody has a faith. And there are stories that have gone through the ages, and I respect all of them. But I don't know where I fit in. I just have faith. I believe in nature. I love nature. My church is my forest.

52:30 - Charlie closing the interview with this summation of Young:

Rose: If Bob Dylan had been for years our best guide to explore the complexities of human experience, Young may be the songwriter who expresses most eloquently the simple ties that bind us all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Amy & I continue to go back & forth about which one of the boys Tess most resembles. Some days it's Gus; other days it's Owen. Here's a pic we snapped of her after a bath & it took us back to Owen's days as a wide-eyed infant.

In reality Tess probably has pieces of both of the boys in her -- she came from the same parents after all (sorry Mr. Federer). Tess still doesn't nap during the day unless she sleeps on someone. Putting her down in her crib to sleep is a no-no unless it's nighttime when she's ready for slumber. When she is awake she is constantly checking out the activity around the house -- she'll turn her head when she hears a familiar voice, she'll watch the dog walk within her line of sight, and as we've mentioned she is fascinated with watching the boys.

Aside from the attentiveness she is a remarkably mellow little baby. (Knock on wood, knock on wood...) When she wakes in the morning she often chills out in her crib for an hour before we know she is awake. Amy & I will hear through the baby monitor that a foot has kicked on the fish aquarium or hear a squeal when something has delighted her. That is our signal that she is awake rather than her crying to announce her presence.

Yesterday saw a couple of firsts. Tess had solid food for the first time last night, devouring a bowl of rice cereal. And Dorothy (who takes care of her in the mornings while Amy works) pointed out another first. While Dorothy was holding her, Tess reached out her arms for Amy. When Dorothy reached out her arms to take Tess back she turned away and clung to Mom -- the little girl definitely knows her mom. Our little one continues to grow & change...

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest....."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Silly Sounds

The things we do as parents and grandparents to entice a smile from a little girl...

Bluegrass Adventure

The Rutledge family just completed a pilgrimage to Kentucky to introduce Tess to family and friends and see some familiar faces. Amy & I woke up early at 4:00am on a Saturday morning and finished the last of the packing before trying to sneak the kids into the van before it was light in hopes that they would stay asleep for a few more hours. An hour later we pulled out of the driveway with three kids who were wide awake. So much for stealth mode.

The trip to Kentucky was an all-day event. Gone are the days when Amy & I used to be able to make a stop or two for Tucker and be back on the road in 5 minutes. With an infant and 2 three year-olds there were many more stops and longer ones at that. But we made the most of it. Our highlight was a stop in eastern Tennessee off the interstate where we found a gravel parking lot for semis that was the site of our peanut butter & jelly picnic. Tucker happily sniffed around in open space while Amy fed Tess and the boys made lunch. Who said truck stops weren't for minivans?

Once we arrived in Paducah there were many anxious folks ready to get some Tess time. Nana and Granddaddy opened up their house to aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, and the fun began. Tess was more than happy to oblige as she (mostly) quietly ate up all the attention.

On Monday Owen and Gus ventured over to their cousins' house while Aunt Ashley was kind enough to watch all the kids. Mason, Gavin & Brooke entertained the boys, and all five kids ended up taking a nap in the floor as they had expended so much energy with each other. Amy & I appreciated the time out as we went out shopping for a couple of hours. I needed shoes as my tennis shoes and sandals were inadvertently thrown away instead of packed in the van. Doh! Also I got to visit my favorite store in Paducah -- Roof Brothers, home to one of the best India Pale Ale selections I have ever seen in any sized town. Whatever magic Aunt Ashley has that will get five kiddos to sleep at the same time should be bottled and sold!

The Tess collage (clockwise from top left): Aunt Pam & cousin Lauren; grandmother Mary Margaret; Aunt Kay; Uncle Ken & Aunt Rhonda; Aunt Rhonda (solo); Aunt Susan (with the magic hold); Granddaddy (with the enticing newspaper); Cousin Mason; Aunt Susan and Uncle Shan; Cousin Allee; Aunt Melba; Granny

Cousin Mason brought over his acoustic guitar that we restrung and tuned. Then we dove in to the land of chords. Mason mastered E, G, C, and even a D-minor. Before you know it he'll be touring the country singing to audiences and melting hearts.

While Tess was eating up all the attention of being the new kid on the block, the cousins proved to be fantastic entertainment for Owen & Gus. The boys were mesmerized with all the activity -- playing monster, chasing each other through the house and the yard, and watching Gavin climb trees. Baylee dips Gus while Brooke, Owen & Mason pause under a good climbing tree.

Granddaddy provided some fun as he took the boys and the Posey kids to the golf course for golf cart rides. When they returned it was time to fire up the lawn tractor for rides up and down the street.

Amy & I got to see some of the Sturm family while we were in Paducah as well. We spent a morning over at Craig and Melisa's house where the trampoline and pizza were huge hits.

[Craig (standing), Aunt Ashley (with Gus), Whitney (holding Tess), Amy (with Owen), Papa Jack, Brooke, Mason & Gavin]

Finally, when you have a question about technology chances are it's best to ask someone younger than you. Billy found this out first-hand as Allee introduced him to the world of customized ringtones, radio stations on his cellphone, all through the wonders of a headset. Nothing like those young whippersnappers to keep us all in line.

Our trips back to Kentucky are always loaded with activity. That will always be the case since there are so many people we want to see and we live in North Carolina. We were happy to be able to see as many people and share as much time with folks as we did. The hospitality is certainly appreciated.

On Wednesday we ventured across the Western Kentucky, Natcher, and Cumberland Parkways to my hometown to see some family & friends in southcentral Kentucky. GJ and Pappy were happy to accommodate our clan in their environment for a change. On Thursday we had a nice visit with my grandmother who lives in a nursing home. Mother was entertained by the boys' activity and very pleased to meet Tess for the first time.

After the visit we took the kids out to the swimming pool, where I had burned many an hour growing up in Glasgow. At the pool Owen found his swimming fins for the first time. He had been swimming several times in our neighborhood pool at home, but on this day he truly decided to break out of his shell. He jumped off the side of the pool, went underwater, and realized that he was going to be ok when I pulled him back up. It was like a light went off. The kid proceeded to wear his dad out over the next two hours, jumping off the side of the pool dozens upon dozens of times articulating the joy through shrieks and shouts. GJ joined in the fun by submitting to the boys' cries for her to go down the slide, which she happily did. I wish I had my camera handy. That's what I call grandparent dedication.

There was another new addition to our family as we got to meet Maren, whom my cousin Jane Layton adopted from Guatemala in January. Maren is an absolute doll who is coming out of her own shell -- venturing over to play with the boys or hand someone a toy before coming back to Mom for reassurance. We were very glad to make young Maren's acquaintance.

Another bonus this visit was to connect with my pal David Downing. David and I have known each other since we were five years old in kindergarten playing Nerf Hoop and Atari. The first thing David noticed was that the tree in the front yard had been taken down -- the very tree he suspended himself from in disbelief after Christian Laettner hit "the shot" in 1992. Sharing a happy hour with David and introducing our crew to him was a great time.

A trip to Glasgow wouldn't be a visit without a stop by Spencer Benedict Stables. The boys roamed around the barn and the fields checking out all the horses and farm equipment. It's a gorgeous place with those great, gentle creatures where kids can run to their heart's content.
Decisions, decisions.....

And of course the boys had to leave their own mark as they fertilized the fence. Gus and Owen are definitely at the point where they marvel at peeing outdoors. (Amy asked that the bum be censored.)

We wrapped up our trip on Friday night with a trip to a Mexican restaurant in Glasgow where for the first time, I enjoyed a beer in my hometown -- legally anyway. The food was great, the cellphone pranks to GJ were entertaining (for me at least), and it was a great way to wrap up a week's visit with our family & friends in Kentucky that we love.

Cheers everyone!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brotherly Love

Pic of the day. Gus adores his sister.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wiffle Ball War

Do you ever read something where you can see both sides of an issue so clearly that you can't really make up your mind which side you would take? That is how I felt when I stumbled across this little story about some teenagers in Connecticut that renovated a vacant lot owned by their town into a wiffle ball field as a replica of Fenway Park.

The kids just wanted a place to play wiffle ball outside and saw the lot as a perfect place to have some harmless, healthy outdoor fun. The neighbors living around the lot (valued at over a million dollars mind you) lost privacy, quiet, and a flood barrier that the lot was provided.

So both sides have lawyered up and a battle has ensued. In a way this story is a microcosm of several things -- how we as parents box our kids into an endless sea of structured activities, how we cling to our romantic notions of carefree days gone by, and how our society handles conflict and disagreement (all or nothing, win or lose).

I can completely see both sides to this. The first instinct is c'mon, it's a wiffle ball field for crying out loud. Kids have so many distractions today -- especially unhealthy ones. What is the harm in them channeling their energy on a neighborhood ball field of all places?

Then I remember that I am a homeowner living in a neighborhood and that I would probably not be crazy about the noise and distractions something like this would bring to my backyard.

Interesting read.

"Build a Wiffle Ball Field and Lawyers Will Come"

All kids deserve a Huck Finn summer. We perhaps have lost our collective minds about our overscheduled, overstressed young. But, in the end, maybe there was a reason that Kevin Costner built that Field of Dreams in Iowa and not in Greenwich.

Monday, July 07, 2008


The Rutledge clan was treated to a mini family reunion as our house was filled with family the weekend before the 4th. GJ and Pappy are in town for two weeks as they graciously offered to help us out with the boys while preschool is out for the summer. The Crumpton crew -- Aunt Mel ("sometimes I call her Aunt Mel, sometimes I call her Melanie"), Uncle Dude, and Corinne -- made the trek up from Charleston for a vehicle swap and a visit. So we all piled in for a weekend of festive fun and avoided bloody competitive battles of Scattergories at all costs.

The weather is muggy and hot here -- typical July in North Carolina. So on Saturday we put the swimsuits on the kids and ventured up to the neighborhood pool. It was only the second time this summer that we have taken the boys to the pool so there is a "re-initiation" of sorts that has to take place as they discover their courage to get off the pool steps. Corinne on the other hand was in true water bug form as she happily paraded around the pool with her dad and mom before the need for nap took over.

On Sunday we all ventured to Covenant where we kicked things off with an interesting conversation about South Carolina's new religious license plate offering. Then we followed that up with Tess's dedication, in which she managed being in front of a crowd much better than her hyper brothers.

Finally on Sunday night we invited our good friends John and Jeanne White over for a summer cookout. The Whites are originally from Glasgow and have settled in Cary to be closer to their kids and grandkids on the east coast. Amy & I met them at our church one Sunday and then made the connection that they knew Jane & C.E -- small world. John treated C.E. to a day at the links in Pinehurst on Saturday and was kind enough to bring his camera along for some family shots on Sunday.

The weekend was good to reconnect with family on one of those rare occasions where all the Rutledge grandkids were under one roof. We are all so busy with the demands and routines of our own lives so we appreciate these opportunities to spend the time together. Cheers!

Tess was all smiles as Rev. Joanne showed her off and dedicated her as the boys fidgeted at their mom and dad's feet.

The promise of watermelon on a summer afternoon was made in exchange for a sit-down photo where the kids are still for 5 seconds together.

Owen's favorite shirts are the ones that are two sizes too small that Mom & Dad still haven't removed from his closet. Today, he insisted on being Watermelon Diego.

Gus is a different character every day -- including workin' man, baby dog, mama dog, and motorcycle man. He announces his character de jour each morning and we follow suit. On this day he was "racing man" wearing his 5K running shirt.

"I just know you're going to give me some of that watermelon, GJ. Gimme, gimme, gimme."

Corinne's favorite spot of the weekend was undoubtedly the wagon. Top it off with Dad feeding watermelon to her while she's in the wagon and that's pretty much paradise to an 18-month old.