Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gobble Gobble

Amy borrowed an idea from our friend and fellow blogger Amanda Moore, co-author with husband Jason of the wonderfully witty Vance/Moore family blog, for a turkey made out of cantaloupe, pear, cheese & grapes for a Thanksgiving treat. We crafted this with the boys so they could take it to their preschool class on Monday, where it was a tremendous hit with the kids, teachers and parents.

Owen & Gus beamed as they showed off their creation to their cohorts. Later that night at home, the boys talked about how they were thankful for Mom, Dad, their friends and teachers at school, and their pajamas.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving -- from our turkey range to yours.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby Bjorn Tess

Baby T is a huge fan of the Baby Bjorn. Being in the carrier is still #2 to being right next to Mom -- hey, Tess knows where her bread is buttered. But being hauled around with Dad and peering down at those two brothers instead of up at them gives Tess the giggles. So I pretty much eat it up with a spoon that Tess gets excited to be with Dad, even if my back pays the price after a while and I have to use a gimmick like the Bjorn carrier to get my child to want to come to Dad. So be it.

The other thing that Tess has embraced is waving "bye-bye." At everything. Dorothy, who takes care of Tess in the mornings while Amy works, has even taught Tess the "princess wave." So now our child waves non-stop -- to the high chair when she's done eating, to Mom when she's done nursing, and to the plumber as he left the house today.

My hat is off to the Swedes for this brilliant invention. Cheers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Chuckle

Battle of the Network Stars, 1976. Gabe Kaplan, Robert Kaplan, Telly Savalas, a track & field relay controversy, Howard Cosell narrating, cigarette smoking on camera, and a run-off.

They don't make television like this anymore.

Happy Friday. Cheers!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Carolina Blues

I had the good fortune of getting a phone call from my buddy Mike Mankowski this past weekend with a ticket offer for last night's Kentucky/North Carolina basketball game at the Dean Dome. The reasons against attending were numerous.

The Tar Heels are the preseason consensus #1 team in the country. Kentucky is still in rebuilding mode and was an overwhelming underdog. The Cats had just suffered a humiliating season-opening home loss at the hands of Virginia Military Institute (!!). I would be sitting amongst 23,000 Tar Heel fans. The game was a Tuesday night game that would force Amy into childcare duty for all three kids at bedtime and put me at home well past midnight.

The reasons for it? Ashley Judd was going to be there -- in the Carolina student section wearing her UK gear no less. And I would get to see my beloved Cats live and in person -- no matter how down they are.

Naturally I threw reason out the window and trekked over to Chapel Hill, sat amongst the powder blue contingent, got some razzing from my friend, and watched the Cats fall behind early and never dig themselves out of the hole thanks to 28 turnovers.

Despite Kentucky's lackluster performance, the game was a fun experience. Hanging out on Franklin Street and catching up with Mike over pizza and Bells beer at Pepper's before the game is an all-too-rare occurrence for both of us dads these days.

And getting to see Carolina at its peak is a guilty pleasure for a basketball junkie. Tar Heel fans are riding the wave of success right now and it is fun to watch. Carolina's success is reminiscent of my time in school when Kentucky was at its peak in the mid nineties. UK fans were on top of the world, and Rupp was a raucous place to see a game.

There are some differences between the two most storied programs in college basketball. North Carolina's atmosphere is more "refined" than Kentucky's. The fans sport more sweater vests than flashy logo sweatsuits. And the Dean Dome has a banner for everything, including a national championship from a year (1924) when national championships weren't even awarded.

But despite the differences the passion is the same. It is what makes a fan like Ashley Judd sit in the middle of the opposition's student section with UK gear and makes a dad raised on Big Blue drop everything for the chance to see his team when they are in town.

College basketball -- gotta love it.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


On those stressful days when things get hectic and chaotic, there is a certain little girl that has a way of bringing a smile to our faces. Tess is quite a happy little baby, and her little personality is slowly starting to creep through.

Tess is a giggler, with her "huh huh huh" laugh that (as bad as this may seem) is reminiscent of Butthead's laugh on the old MTV show Beavis and Butthead. She is very alert and goes from gazing at brother to brother, especially at the dinner table. Amy & I talk about how she looks like she just wants to jump in there with them and mix it up.

Our little one is a good little eater. For the most part she eats fruits and veggies out of the jar unless her "do-it-myself" streak causes her to push the spoon away and clamor for finger foods that she can feed herself. Cheerios and fruit puffs are easily at the top of her favorite foods list.

Tess still isn't crawling at 9+ months, but we have been saying any day now for a few weeks. She will rock back and forth on all fours, and she has perfected the roll & scoot method. In reality she doesn't have to move too much when she has two brothers to watch and laugh at.

Owen has started to slowly but surely warm up to her. He will bring her a toy, and I even left him "in charge" of her for a minute yesterday while I ran downstairs to get something. The boys proudly boast that Tess has not put anything small in her mouth when we relieve them of their supervisory duties. Given where Owen was the past few months on the jealous scale, we will chalk that up to definite progress.

Finally, Tess got a great checkup at the doctor last week. She is where she should be on the growth curve and with all the gross & fine motor metrics the doctors measure. She is a little light for her age but nothing to be concerned about. The doctor just told us to enjoy her, which we certainly do.


Tess with a slight mischievous little grin....

....showing off how she sits up.....

....and is sporting some choppers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Did I Have the Bowl?

So a few weeks ago, Gus was really a handful for about a week when GJ was visiting. Amy & I think it was because he was used to the grandparents giving him his share of attention without having to share it with his sister. One day at a pumpkin patch he ran away from Amy and nearly ran out on the highway into oncoming traffic. Needless to say there was a heart-to-heart that night with two parents and a certain three year-old.

Owen, on the other hand, had been very good during that period so we decided to reward him with a fish (and by not getting Gus one we hoped that denying him a reward would teach him a lesson about listening).

Owen was all about his fish. For about a day. After a couple of days it came time to change the water in the little bowl. So I had set some water out to get to room temperature. I placed the bowl cleaning solution by the pitcher of water and Amy was going to change the water later that day.

The problem was that Amy thought I had already put the drops in the water. So she changed out the water, and you know where this is going....

Owen's little betta fish lived 3 days before going belly-up and getting flushed down the toilet. Amy & I were then faced with a dilemma: Do we try to replace the fish with another one that looks just like it before Owen notices? Do we use this opportunity to teach a 3 year-old about dying? Or do we just put the bowl up on top of the refrigerator and hope he doesn't mention the fish again?

Of course we picked the easy route. So far Owen has only mentioned feeding the fish one time and changing the water maybe once. But other than that, the kid is focused on the bag of Halloween candy that is still sitting on top of the fridge.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Color of Fall

Fall has arrived in central North Carolina. The trees are changing colors, and leaves are beginning to fall. You wouldn't know it by the temperature -- today is supposed to be a record high 80 degrees. But you can definitely see the changing season.

The boys are all about the yellows, reds, oranges, and browns. Owen remarked on the way to school, "Look dad, a bright yellow one -- that tree is beautiful." Then he went on to tell me how the little girl, Hannah, in his preschool class is beautiful as well. It's already started.

Gus took several leaves to his school today for show-and-tell -- or as he calls them, "leave-es." It is pretty fun watching the boys become aware & experience these things. The changing season is pretty interesting from a three year-old's perspective.

Now if I could just get them to pick up a rake when all these leave-es start to fall....


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New Day

The moment Barack Obama walked out on stage last night in front of 70,000 people at Grant Park in Chicago, my daughter Tess woke up crying. Amy & I looked at each other with the same dejected look on our faces:

"Which one of us was going to miss the victory speech?!?"

Amy hit the record button on the DVR, and I grabbed my headphones on the way upstairs. As I sat in the dark rocking my nine month-old back to sleep I listened to Obama's speech on the radio. I could not help thinking about my little girl and my boys and the challenges that their generation will face as they grow up. And I was truly grateful that our country had just elected a unifying, inspiring President in Barack Obama to lead us through the challenges ahead.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those - to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pick the Electoral College

Predict the Electoral College here.

Amy's pick -- Obama 320, McCain 218
  • Obama wins the Kerry states plus Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, & Florida

Derek's pick -- Obama 318, McCain 220
  • Obama wins Kerry states plus Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia
  • I think North Carolina is an election cycle away from turning blue. The state has the same influx of transplants from other parts of the country like Virginia. But the Tar Heel state has a million more people so I think VA will go blue this cycle and NC potentially the next.

Yes We Can

So we are finally here. Election Day 2008. It has been such an incredibly long campaign, stretching nearly two years. The Republicans started out with so many candidates -- Guiliani, Romney, Thompson, Huckabee, Paul, McCain -- before John McCain emerged as the nominee. The Democrats saw a long battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton before Obama finally clinched the nomination in June.

The interest level of the American people this election cycle has just been enormous. Much of the interest has to do with the unpopularity of George W. Bush and the desire among an overwhelming majority of Americans to move in a new direction. And regardless of which candidate the electorate decides is the best agent to bring forth that change, getting the American people engaged, motivated and participating in the process to select its leaders is a huge positive step forward.

Obviously on a personal level I am moved by the potential of a Barack Obama presidency. He appeals to me on an intellectual level as a man who thoughtfully takes in multiple points of view before making a decision. Although he lacks experience on an executive level, I admire the way he has managed a $700M campaign and stuck to a consistent message of how he will lead. On the issues I share his view for helping out the middle class with tax relief, ending the war in Iraq responsibly, and investing in our children's future with infrastructure, renewable energy and education. I do not believe that we can continue to saddle our kids and grandkids with debt and have nothing to show for it besides a corrupt winner-take-all economic system, a tax system skewed to the wealthiest 2% of Americans, and a tattered image across the world.

Barack Obama is not without his flaws, and his task would be enormous. His record is not dotted with examples of reaching across the aisle to form bipartisan legislative solutions. He will not be able to deliver on all the promises he has made in the campaign -- most notably universal health care. As a liberal, Obama cannot succumb to the temptation of the familiar -- to dust off decades old liberal policies in order to dig us out of the ditch we are in. And the path ahead is going to be extraordinarily difficult given that we face a mountain of debt with the $700B bailout plan and rising costs of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

That said, what will it take to lead us through the tough challenges in the future? The answer is the one thing that we have been so starkly missing the past eight years -- leadership. Leadership is not surrounding yourself with ideologues who share your view of the world, sticking with decisions when they have been proven to be the wrong ones, working to undermine the Constitution so you can get your way, or using fear as a powerful political weapon to secure power.

Leadership is having the temperament, judgment, intellectual curiosity, and skill to carry out difficult decisions that face us. It involves talking with people that do not agree with us, trying to bring people into the fold instead of building walls around us to keep people out. And that is not an easy thing to do. Naturally we are more comfortable with people who think like us, look like us, and share most if not all of our values. But in this flattening world that we live in, opening ourselves up to the diversity of thought and ideas is something to embrace, not reject. Barack Obama has shown throughout the campaign that he possesses these qualities.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Obama's rally in Raleigh where people waited outside in the freezing cold for hours to get a chance to see him. The cross-section of people who have felt inspired by Obama's promise was unbelievable. At least half of the crowd was African-American, and I was blown away at the enthusiasm that the black community feels for Obama.

But beyond race, it was inspiring to see people of all walks of life unite around Obama's message. Young and old, complete strangers were talking, engaging, dancing, laughing -- all of them united not by fear of what they perceive the other side would bring but by the hope that their candidate could bring.

I for one hope that America chooses hope over fear.

Yes We Can.

Obama in Raleigh:


Before I immerse myself in the election today I have to give a huge congratulations out to my wonderful Amy, who last week overcame the work week from hell, scarce (if any) personal time to exercise & train, the responsibilities of three small kids, and an annoying head cold and still managed to run the IBM 5K on Saturday.

Amy ran start to finish without walking and to this day amazes me with the load she manages to shoulder. Way to go Amy B!

A special note of gratitude as well to Ms. Ann who entertained Owen, Gus & Tess on slides, swings, and jump houses so Mom and Dad could run the race. Amy & I are certainly grateful for all the help and friendship that she shows to our family.

Cheers to the strong women that keep us all going!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Super Dragon Turtles

Halloween is just an enormous event in the life of a three year-old. That's probably stating the obvious. But the enthusiasm of little ones leading up to the day where they get an endless supply of chocolate and sugar is just contagious. Owen & Gus woke up ready to seize the candy. Luckily we held them off until dark.

Amy got twin red dragon costumes for the boys. The costumes fell slightly in the "cutesie" column with the ears, wings and big tail. But as this is probably the last Halloween that cutesie could be pulled off, even I have to admit they were pretty doggone cute.

Gus switched gears though at a Halloween party earlier in the week, choosing Woody (from Toy Story) over the dragon. With his brother altering the costume plan, Owen then took a detour as well by declaring he was going to be Spiderman for that same party. Mom was somewhat crushed that her boys had thwarted her plan. But whatever made them happy. (Luckily for us, the boys have a closet full of hand-me-down costumes thanks to our next door neighbor with three older boys who has already been through this stage.)

So when Halloween came Gus settled on Superman, and Owen wouldn't reveal his choice until right before Trick or Treating. Luckily for Mom, she got her dragon as Owen decided he would "breathe hot fire" on people for candy.

I took the boys trick-or-treating and walked them all over the neighborhood. By the end of the night the little guys were absolutely worn out. Gus even said to me, "Dad, I want to go home and take a bath and go to bed" when we finished our last house. I think that's the first time those words have ever escaped those lips.

Tess was dressed up as a turtle -- the same turtle that the boys spent their first Halloween in. She stayed home with Amy and gave away candy to the neighborhood kids. We probably had 150 kids come by -- not as many as last year but still a good turnout.

I have spent an insane amount of time the past few weeks on ripping up bermuda grass in my front yard & re-seeding it. With the constant care required to get the good grass to come up I roped off my yard with flags and stakes to prevent the kids from walking through it that night. Amy gave me a hard time that I was being the grumpy old man (insert Presidential candidate here) -- "Stay off my grass!!" But I didn't care -- I'm not about to have all those hours of watering, tilling, & seeding go for naught. At least I used orange rope between the stakes & orange flags for Halloween. I'm festive, right?

Now we just have to unload all of this candy before too long. Owen & Gus have zeroed in on Kit Kats and Snickers; Amy on the Snickers; on all the above. We will hit our limit pretty soon, and I'll take the rest into work to donate to sugar fixes among software developers.

(Note: I have a feeling the next dozen posts are going to be political. Election Fever is in the air at la casa de Rutl.)


Super Dragon Turtles.

Amy got her wish as her "Mini-me," Owen, decided to go with the dragon costume at the last minute on Halloween night.

Tess just chilled out as a turtle. She is simply a happy, mellow little reptile.

GJ & Pappy East Coast Tour - Leg 1

Taking a few minutes to catch up on some posts as last week was a nonstop zoo and the next few days are likely to be dominated by the election....

We had a great time with GJ and Pappy on their east coast tour before they headed down to Charleston to see Corinne and crew. Gus had a surprisingly tough adjustment period the first week GJ was here. He resorted back to Terrible Two Gus and threw several tantrums. The fits culminated with Gus running away from Amy at a pumpkin patch nearly running out onto the highway. There was a long heart-to-heart with a certain 3 year-old that night. I think he was acting up because he was having trouble with the fact that GJ was spreading her attention across three kids instead of the two he was accustomed to. By the second week Gus (finally) snapped out of it.

Pappy joined GJ toward the end of the visit. Luckily for him (and his back) there was no earth moving involved this trip. Pappy did give my lawn mower a makeover which should get me another year out of the old clunker -- much obliged there!

The two "Edwards" -- Charles and Gus -- pause at the park where grandson shows grandfather how to captain a ship.

Chow time...

GJ captains the U.S.S. Tess.