Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fresh milk, fake chimneys and funny songs

Christmas is here at the Rutl Farm. Gus, Owen and Tess boast an excitement level that is through the roof. Christmas cookies have been baked, iced and left out for Santa Claus. Kiddos are snug in their beds with visions of sugarplums, rockets, Batman and a robot.

Gus & Owen were particularly interested in pondering the specifics of Santa tonight. They wanted to ensure that the milk that Amy & I are supposed to leave out for St. Nick is fresh milk, not spoiled milk. When you're 4 and your list is specific, you have to get the little details right.

Next, they needed some clarification on the whole chimney thing. If a house has kids in it and has a chimney, but it's not a real chimney that Santa could fit down (aka, our house), how does Santa get inside to leave the toys? I explained that Santa "just knows" and perhaps he gets in through a window or a door. When the natural follow-up question emerged asking if I had to leave a door or window unlocked, I just explained that Santa Claus has mojo with a crafty resourcefulness that allows him to do things we can't. That confused them enough to convince them that they needed to get to bed so he truly would show up at our house tonight.

I can totally see the boys reasoning their way to a conclusion that I don't hope they reach for several years. Until then, here's hoping Santa doesn't get stuck in your chimneys tonight.

Cheers, and Merry Christmas!

When Santa got stuck in the chimney
He began to shout
You girls and boys
Won't get any toys
If you don't pull me out

My beard is black
I have soot on my sack
My nose is ticklish too

When Santa got stuck in the chimney
"Achoo, achoo, achoo!!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Santa

Our crew is geared up for Christmas. The energy level is high as the countdown to the big day takes place every morning at the Advent calendar.

Owen & Gus are just now starting to grasp the concept that if they're good they can ask Santa Claus for what they want in terms of gifts. To that end, two different approaches were employed this week as four year-old boys composed their Christmas letters.

Owen wrote his himself and emphasized his goodness.

"Owen had a dog. We have been good. I would like a cat please."
On the other hand Gus dictated his letter to Santa to Amy as she transcribed. Note the shotgun approach to validating his wholesomeness -- cookies, sympathy, and so wholesome that his goodness rubbed off on his stuffed animal.
Dear Santa,
I am nice. We are going to bake cookies with icing. Icing is my favorite with cookies.

My dad is really crazy and we have played tennis before. I have a stuffed animal dog named Polka Dot. And I have a bear that is 1,000,000,000 years old.

I would like a toy rocket and a robot. My stuffed animal dog, Polka Dot, is very nice.
Cheers everyone.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


My stubborn refusal to join the social networking world has now run its course. I am on Facebook so I can see what the rest of you young whippersnappers are doing.

I still love my blog though and will continue to post here when I can.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Gobble, Gobble...

This poor blog. I have meant to get updates out here for weeks, and I'm now averaging one a month. Someday when time isn't consumed by so many other things that keep Amy & I so busy, we'll do a better job at documenting what's going on with us. Plus, so many people are on Facebook now -- including Amy but excluding me -- that longer posts on blogs are going the way of the typewriter.

Personally, I'm happy being a blog dinosaur. I refuse to go on Facebook so I don't have to turn away some friend request from a person I barely knew in high school or so I don't have to know that my neighbor's status is "looking forward to the weekend!!!!!" Of course, I was a cellphone holdout too for a long time, and now I can't live without it. So it's just a matter of time before I'm eating my words.

On to the post.....

Amy & I took the kids back to Kentucky for Thanksgiving as we had not been to Glasgow in almost a year and a half. The ride there -- despite the detour around the rock slide on I-40 -- was a piece of cake. The kids were great travelers, and we made it from North Carolina to Virginia to Tennessee to Kentucky in two stops. The drive back on the Sunday after turkey day was longer, but that's not surprising given that it's the busiest travel day of the year.

We got to spend quality time with GJ and Pappy and spend Thanksgiving day with my 95-year old grandmother, now "GG" (Great-Grandmother) to the kids. Billy & Elaine came over to spend Friday and Saturday with us which was a nice treat. And C.E. and I drove up to Lexington on Saturday to watch Tennessee rip the heart out of Kentucky in football yet again for what is now a 25-year tradition useless futility. But we had fun tailgating in the process!

Tremendous visit. Tremendous turkey. Tremendous company.


This is what passes at a posed picture at our house these days. Tess has quite the role models to look up to.

Owen got his revenge by getting the wishbone after losing out on it when we cooked a chicken the week before.

The boys marveled at the hot tub as they swam around with Pappy in the cold night air.

Some things change, and thankfully some things stay the same.

A trip to Glasgow wouldn't be complete without a trip to see the horses at cousin Spencer's farm. Our attempt to get a quality family photo against the rolling hill backdrop of rural Barren County ended up with more faces like the ones shown above. So our Christmas card picture will likely be Amy & I holding the boys down forcing a smile while Tess looks on in horror.

There's always time for snuggling when grandchildren are around.

"See here Owen, this is the great state of Tennessee. Your dad is going to make that foolish trek to sit in the cold for 3 hours to see if Kentucky can beat them. But it's not going to make a difference. Be smart kid."

Another highlight for Owen, Gus & Tess was the chiminea. (Bonus points for Owen as it involves fire.) Throw in their four grandparents and there are some happy grandchildren.

Finally, Owen is absolutely obsessed with people smoking. When we stop at a gas station he will loudly proclaim, "Look! Dad! Someone's smoking!!" regardless of the proximity of my child to the offender. If there are cigarette butts on the ground, he is the first to call attention to it and to the evils of smoking.

So while in Kentucky I went over to talk to a neighbor that I had known in high school. Travis happened to be smoking a cigarette while we were catching up. When the conversation was over, you would have thought I was talking to an axe murderer according to my son. Owen could not understand how Dad could be talking to anyone that smoked.

So all the adults tried endlessly to explain to Owen that while smoking is a bad habit that the people themselves who smoked were not necessarily bad people. It's an easy distinction for us as adults, but not to a four year-old.

Nevertheless, when the boys helped decorate their grandparents' house for Christmas on Saturday, GJ had some 'splainin' to do. (Note Santa's mouth)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trick or Treats, Andy Griffith & Goofy Grunts

Holy cow have I neglected the Rutl Farm. Our beloved blog has taken a back seat for the last couple of weeks to a weeklong celebration of Halloween, a weekend trip to Mt. Airy with our friends, and the parental juggle that is our daily life.

Halloween taught Amy & me first hand that holiday celebrations can drag out for a long time. The holiday isn't just about trick or treating anymore. Not that it ever was I suppose, but this was our first exposure to day after day of Halloween parties, preschool celebrations, neighborhood get-togethers, church events all around All Hallow's Eve. The boys only have 2 teeth left and they just sit around all day on the couch eating their weight in Snickers and Milk Duds. Ok, so it's not quite that bad, but it's safe to say Mars, Inc. stock has gone up lately.

I cannot complain about the celebrations though. The kids' enthusiasm -- although draining -- is so contagious and fun to witness. Gus dressed up as Batman, Owen as Robin, and Tess as a pink kitten. We trick-or-treated with several families in our neighborhood, adults hanging out in the street as kids bounded for each door. It was really a fun time.

Last weekend we trekked up to Mt. Airy, North Carolina which some of you may know as the real-life Mayberry where Andy Griffith based his TV show on. (The Andy Griffith Show still runs in syndication on just about every channel in NC by the way -- we North Carolinians love our Andy, Aunt B and Opie). Our friends the Wises have a place there, and the boys got to fish, camp, run wild with other kids, and roast marshmallows for 48 hours straight. Just when I think we couldn't possibly compress more fun into a short period of time, the kids find a way.

We do have a few pictures to share. But that's mostly because Amy got a Flip video camera for her birthday, and she takes videos instead of still shots. It is a pretty cool little gadget that allows us to capture some cool moments of the kiddos. We will definitely get some of those posted here soon to share.

Tess's vocabulary still continues to grow. Only it is growing in ways that only parents understand. She mumbles things whose meanings Amy & I have deciphered like cryptic code. So either we are making progress understanding our 20-month old or she is having a fun time seeing how many words her parents can assign to her goofy grunts.

For example:
"Oh" = Owen
"Duh" = Gus
"Da" = Tucker (dog)
"Opper" = Harper (cat)
"Dut" = Dutch (cat)
"po-po mm-mm" = purple blanket
"eye-na mm-mm" = the blanket that's not the purple one

It is amusing fun to be able to build communication with a toddler, even if it does seem a little crazy to people witnessing our attempts from the outside.

We will get some videos out here soon. Before Thanksgiving I promise. In the meantime we're gearing up for the start of college basketball season, watching the incredible Flash Forward, and looking to see where the po-po mm-mm happened to end up.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Amy & I were fortunate enough to trek down to sunny Shreveport, Louisiana last weekend for our wonderful friend Dan's wedding. It was a quick trip, but a much-needed break for the two of us to be able to put the Mom & Dad hats on the hat stand as we walked out the door and really enjoy ourselves.

GJ & Pappy came down to NC to watch the kids. The parents truly missed the kids more than the kids missed the parents. When we called the first night the kids had eaten pizza, taken showers on their own, put on their new Spiderman pajamas, and were eating popcorn while watching a movie. (Note to self: Must try being a grandparent at some point in future -- spoil the snot out of kids and then leave.)

Dan had told us just complete horror stories about his 2 years in Shreveport. He was a recruiter there trying to convince 18 year-old boys that they should sign up with the Army at the same time the US was fighting two wars half a world away. But he got a wife out of the deal, and in reality Shreveport wasn't so bad. There was a boardwalk on the Red River, an El Chico Mexican restaurant, and a Rockin' Rodeo right outside our hotel room. I mean, really, what more could you ask for?

Shreveport is a military town for sure. Barksdale Air Force Base is right up the road, and everyone at the wedding had a connection to the military in some form or fashion. It was a different experience for Amy & me, but we really got a true appreciation for the men & women that serve and the lifestyles they lead. We met a great lady named Evelyn, who is 1 year away from retirement and is about to be deployed to Iraq. Her husband is also in the Air Force and is currently in Guam. And they have five daughters that they juggle when they are here in the States. This was just one family's story out of the many connections we made. Very cool to experience it.

The wedding was moved from outdoors to a church due to 10 inches of rain the week prior to the wedding. So plans were in flux and people were shuffling, but it all went off well.

Another great bonus was the fact that we got to take a time machine back to 1967 as shown by this picture of Dan and me. Oh wait, no, this is just the grainy photo from the Kodak disposable that we picked up since we didn't take our digital camera. Man, are we spoiled with technology. How did we take pictures before digital?

Picasa photo editor helps.

Dan met Deborah playing shuffleboard at the VFW where Dan would often go for a beer after recruiting at the end of a 16-hour day. In honor of their first "date" one of the cakes reflected their passion for a game most often played by senior citizens in retirement homes all across South Florida.

Who knew Shreveport was a gambling hotbead? We didn't that's for sure. But there were casinos everywhere -- Diamond Jacks, the Horseshoe, Lucky Jack's -- all built on the Red River that splits the town with neighboring Bossier City.

Outside our hotel was the Rockin' Rodeo, which was rocking well into the wee hours. Amy asked the first day we were there, "Oh, we should so go to the Rockin' Rodeo! C'mon!" After I explained that this was the type of place with more electric bulls than front teeth, she agreed that we'd just hang out at the Hampton Inn.

Finally, we were supposed to be on a 575-passenger Airbus A380 that tops out at 1,200 mph into Alexandria International Airport (a gem of an airport that actually has no international flights). Instead they switched us at the last minute to this little puddle jumper prop plane that left our ears ringing for 3 hours after landing. But we made it there safe & sound so life was good.

All in all it was a relaxing weekend, a great celebration for Dan, and a super getaway for these two weary parents.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Week That Was

Every now and then a week creeps up on you that turns a few more hairs gray -- if not making them fall out altogether. The management team at work needs you to redo chart 14 with a different color font and run the numbers one more time.....for the eighth time. Or the battery on the car dies when you need to be somewhere five minutes ago. Or in our case this week, a virus decides to make our 18-month old its host sending life for our family into an unmanageable mess.

Tess's fever spiked on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, approaching 105 both nights and dramatically altering her -- and therefore our -- moods, sleep, and eating habits all week. After two trips to the doctor, several short nights with little sleep, a challenging work schedule, church commitments, and late-night runs to the store for more Motrin, Amy & I were just about ready to throw in the towel. Thankfully on Thursday Tess's fever broke and she slept through the night.

On Friday & Saturday Amy & I tried our darnedest to get Tess rehydrated. And while our little one still isn't back to completely being herself -- she has grown accustomed to being a velcro child attached to a parent (mostly "Mom!!") -- Tess is starting to finally come around. Today she ate & drank like normal which gave her some energy and made her more like herself.

In the meantime, Amy & I did get out with the kids on Saturday. There was a 5K run followed by a family fun day with rides, jump houses, a ferris wheel, face painting, & live music up at IBM. Amy & I ran the adult race, and Owen & Gus followed in the kids' 1/2 mile race.

Gus was practically sprinting the whole way, and he eventually gave out in the last 100 yards. Amy & I coerced him to crossing the finish line with us running along by pointing to Owen (who had passed him) and the medal he was about to receive. Gus quickly turned it around, threw fatigue to the wayside, and wore his medal for the rest of the day, including proudly displaying it when we went out to eat for dinner.

Kids get sick. It's just a fact of life that all parents have had to deal with. It is especially true this time of year when the weather cools off and more time is spent indoors. Children are together in schools passing germs back and forth to each other.

And while our tough week was in no way unique, it is one of those weeks that they don't tell you about before you have kids or else no one would procreate.

On an related note, here is this week's stock tip.

The crew about to board the bus to take us to the races.

Owen gladly sat still for the face painting, surprising us with the dolphin over a snake or a shark. Gus had a ferocious dragon, but couldn't keep his hands off his face. He raced into the house when we got home and washed his off before we could get a picture. We took a mental picture.

Here's to a better week -- cheers!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Big Blue Madness

Down here on Tobacco Road I catch a lot of grief for being a Kentucky fan, especially now that UK has hired John Calipari, whom most ACC fans place a rung below Beelzebub and regard as a cheating scumbag. (Personally I think a good bit of the animosity has to do with the apprehension of Cal lifting Kentucky back up to the level of a basketball powerhouse once again, but that's a post for another day.)

As this blog's readers know, I still follow Kentucky basketball as regularly as someone with three small children who is immersed in ACC land can. So when I came across this gem today I have to admit I got the fever for Big Blue and had to share.

These fans are camped out in tents for blocks to get tickets to see Big Blue Madness on October 16. Kentucky fans love their basketball.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bowling Ball

As we mentioned last week Owen & Gus would not let Amy and I bypass our birthdays without celebrating it just like the professionals do -- in other words, like a four year-old would celebrate it.

On Thursday night we took the kids out to eat and had the staff come out to serenade Amy with "Happy Birthday." They brought her ice cream, which was quickly devoured by Owen, Gus, and Tess. Then on the way home I stopped to get the birthday cake that I had ordered. So dessert #2 was held in our kitchen after which there were three children with sugar levels rivaling a female East German sprinter's testosterone level.

Rather than try to squelch the kids' energy by telling them that they shouldn't chase each other around the downstairs at full speed, Amy & I encouraged the kids to run faster to get all the energy out before we even contemplated baths & bedtime. All three children happily obliged, and even Tucker got in on the action of chasing each other around and making noise.

Unfortunately for Gus, Tucker moved over in front of him during a chase sequence sending Gus tumbling head first into the hard floor. I had always thought that lumps on the head were things of Popeye and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. But no, they are very real as a lump the size of a buckeye protruded from Gus's forehead for the next several hours. In true hardheaded fashion, Gus took the lump like a champ and considered it his badge of courage.

When we celebrated my birthday on Saturday, Amy took the boys out to the dollar store so they could buy some balloons and the boys could get Dad one present each. When they allowed me back in the house to see the decorations and open the presents, I was treated to a slingshot gun that propelled rubber space shuttles and a plastic toy gun that shot ping-pong balls -- in other words, exactly what a dad needs and purely a 100% coincidence that the boys might also enjoy them.

I didn't even get them out of the packages before the boys snatched them and ran off with their new acquisitions. It reminded me of this episode of The Simpsons from season 1.

Birthdays are great when celebrated with little ones that love to celebrate.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Derek!!

While we couldn't help the Cats pull out a win on your big day, we enjoyed celebrating by making your shirt. The one of a kind shirt includes Owen's fish carrying, rock crushing truck and Gus's green rocket truck with a red driver showing the blood flowing through his healthy body.

Happy birthday from the whole gang!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feliz CumpleaƱos a Mama

A big Happy Birthday to Amy today!

Owen and Gus were so excited for their mom's birthday -- much more excited than we parents get at the thought of notching another year on our belts. Tess was groggily watching her brothers bounce off the walls this morning, but she quickly picked up on the excitement.

The kids had made pictures for Amy -- including an apple tree under a sky of raining hot dogs and hamburgers (Owen & Tess), a sea of fish with a flying airplane truck overhead (Gus & Tess), and a fiery volcano (Owen & Gus) -- and then hid them under the TV table in their playroom.

Then, this morning when Amy got back from her run the boys played "hot" and "cold" to guide her to the hidden birthday treasures. When Amy didn't find it in about 3 seconds, Gus said, "No Mom, upstairs! Upstairs! Under the TV!"

When Amy sat in the floor the boys couldn't pull out their gifts fast enough, including a small package wrapped in birthday paper.

"Here Mom, here are your jelly bellies! Open them! Open them!"

We need to work on playing up the surprise a little bit. But hey, we'll take the botched surprises in exchange for the boundless energy the kids bring to birthdays any day.

Happy Birthday Amy B!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Apparently Andy Roddick reads the blog. Who knew?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
To: Amy Rutledge, Founder of MMFF (Moms of Multiples For Federer)

Dear Amy,
I am writing to you today as the President and Founder of Concerned Parents Opposed to Poor Sportsmanship, or CPOPS, to issue a plea for you to end your allegiance to Roger Federer. As we are all aware Mr. Federer has represented the sport of tennis very well over the past several years, racking up more Grand Slam championships than anyone in tennis history in the process.

But on Monday night, Federer's loss to Juan Martin del Potro may very well have signaled a changing of the guard in men's tennis. During a court change Federer could be heard voicing his frustration at the chair umpire for allowing a late challenge to a ball that was called out.

While professionals who play at the highest competitive level such as Mr. Federer are certainly known to let their frustrations show from time to time, it's the surprising level of testiness and yes Amy, dare I say vulgarity that emanated from Mr. Federer on Monday that has my organization concerned.

Our children deserve better role models than the likes of a profanity-spewing Serena Williams. Unfortunately now we see that Roger Federer belongs in that category as well.

Join me and my organization in combating this swell of gamesmanship and the lack of sportsmanship that is exhibited by the likes of a so-called champion. End this allegiance to Mr. Federer and join the dozens of tennis fans who think that an American such as myself should be elevated to the top of the men's tennis world.


Andy Roddick

Concerned Parents Opposed to Poor Sportsmanship

(For our readers fortunate enough not to start their careers working in IBM Accounting, CPOPS were purchase orders for things as trivial as office supplies that we entry-level accountants were required to approve by the dozen. This mindless workload drove many an IBMer slowly insane.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tennis Moral High Horse

So the US Open concluded last night after a weekend of rainouts. The men's final saw the end of Roger Federer's incredible win streak of 40 matches come to an end to a 20 year-old from Argentina in Juan Martin del Potro. As much as Amy's devotion to R-Fed can rival my allegiance to UK athletics -- in other words, fanatical -- I have to admit he is one gracious guy and a heck of a champion. And this shot in the semis against Novak Djokovic is one of the best tennis shots I have ever seen.

Federer did get uncharacteristically perturbed at one point and actually cursed at the chair umpire over del Potro's late challenges. But given the verbal assault that Serena Williams put on the poor linesperson from her semifinal on Saturday, Federer's outburst was incredibly tame.

Amy & I talked a good deal about the Serena tirade. For both of us it will be hard to pull for her again as a tennis player. Even though she has always been less than gracious to her opponents, Serena seemed to have grown up over the past couple of years. Until Saturday anyway...

The problem I have with the Serena situation is not so much the outburst, but the complete lack of contrition she showed until 2 days after the event -- when it was obvious that the media and fans had begun to backlash against her. Only then did she come out and apologize for her actions.

I don't mean to sound like an old curmudgeon. Nor do I like to give too much credence to the argument that our culture and society are going down the toilet. I think part of it is that times change, attitudes change, and we are slow sometimes to accept change.

But the Serena tirade, the Joe Wilson classless outburst during Obama's speech last week, and the Kanye West incident at the MTV Music Awards this week all have one thing in common -- an attitude that only takes oneself into consideration and not others. So even if we are not going down the toilet, there is certainly a lack of respect that is bothersome.

GJ called the house last night to mention that Charlie Gibson had a piece on ABC News last night about this very issue. Today, David Brooks echoes some of the same points in his column that bemoans the lack of modesty in our culture today, contrasting it with 1945 after Americans remained humble despite being victorious in WWII.

I suppose people have been complaining about the eroding respect for other people for generations. And I imagine everyone has his/her own opinion on what the solution is to turn attitudes around. For me, a starting point is teaching my kids not to tell an official in a sporting event that they'll shove an f'ng ball down the official's f'ng throat when a call doesn't go their way.

(Stepping down from soapbox now.)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Holy Matrimony Bites

A special congratulations goes out to our wonderful friend Dan Wilkerson (aka Lt. Dan) who is getting married in October. Dan was the best man in our wedding and is now stationed in Fort Bragg, NC, an hour away from us here in the Triangle. Dan comes up to visit us periodically when he's not jumping out of Blackhawk helicopters or going through training exercises deep in the woods of eastern North Carolina. When he came up back in August he gave us the good news, and over the weekend he called to tell us the date is set. Amy & I will be traveling to Shreveport, LA for the ceremony. Congrats to Dan!

Other tidbits from our piece of the planet...

GJ & Pappy spent the long holiday weekend with our crew. I got a night out for my Fantasy Football draft (which featured two Cincinnati Bengal selections as well as a former Kentucky Wildcat in Keenan Burton thank you very much). Amy & I got a date night out as well together as well which was a great time. We appreciate the long drive down to NC to see our crew and spend the time with us. Tess is still walking around shouting, "GJ, are you?"

Amy & I are venturing into the world of organized sports for our kids. We signed Owen & Gus up for a 12-week indoor soccer program. This place even has a league for 18-month olds (!) so in theory we could have registered Tess. But when I took her to the place a couple weeks ago while the boys checked it out, Tess was more interested in the whack-a-mole and the flashing lights in the arcade so I think we have a while. As parents Amy & I are making a vow to each other not to be one of those deranged Little League parents that plays the whole "living vicariously" angle through their miserable kids. In other words I promise to give it a couple of weeks before I show up with face paint on at one of their games.

I didn't think it was possible for my wife to like Roger Federer any more than she already did. But since he won his incredible Wimbledon title over Andy Roddick earlier in the summer, Federer went off and became a dad for the first time -- to twins no less! So now Mr. Swiss Cheesehead is now on my TV screen in Gillette commercials and Rolex commercials, he wears tailored white warmup suits before some matches, and he now posts Facebook updates on parenthood. R-Fed is an incredible champion, but I think I could take him in a diaper-changing contest. (Admittedly I am actually coming around a bit on Roger. I enjoy giving Amy grief about him because she's such a rabid fan, but he is definitely one of the classier sports stars out there.)

Are we sure we can?
Trying not to get too bogged down in the politico stuff, but I have to say after watching President Obama deliver his health care address to Congress last night in primetime, I have to say:

"Where in the heck has this guy been for the past 8 months?"


Getting people to accept change is a helluva lot easier than getting people to simply vote for it.

Adam Nagourney has the best analysis of the speech that I've read today.

Finally, my Wildcats are 1-0 after a 42-0 drubbing of lowly Miami (OH). I am playing fantasy football for the first time in a few years after taking a hiatus. And the NFL season kicks off tonight. Fall is definitely in the air -- I love it.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pre-Labor Day

Fall is in the air in central North Carolina. In September is normally still hot and humid here, but yesterday the humidity dropped and temperatures were in the 70's. If this truly is the end of the 90+ degree days, then this really has been a mild summer compared to other years.

The cool weather definitely has me in the mood for football. Optimism abounds among college fan bases everywhere. Reading the papers here and listening to sports talk radio, you would think both UNC and NC State will be competing for a national championship come January.

It's the same thing reading the blogs for my Kentucky Wildcats. Nevermind the fact that UK lost its best defensive lineman to a (crummy) illegal substance test. Nevermind the fact that it limped to a putrid finish to the season with a loss to Vanderbilt at home and a ho-hum performance to a down Tennessee team. That was so last year. Things are going to be different this year. So sayeth the sages in the blogosphere anyway.

That is part of the fun though. Saturdays in the fall with the windows open, the breeze coming through, and football from noon to night. I am looking forward to the first games tomorrow night.

Speaking of fall, has there been a more notable fall from grace than that of Mr. Billy Gillispie? Two years ago the guy went from good ole boy Texas ball coach to the head job at one of the most storied programs in college basketball. Fast forward to today and he was fired from the UK job, sued the university for $6M, faced the public revelation of abusive treatment toward his players for 2 years, and now gets arrested on a DUI on his return to Kentucky to negotiate a settlement to his lawsuit.

The compassionate response would be, "I hope the guy gets help to turn his life around because he clearly has a drinking problem." But the diehard UK fan in me, who will never forgive him for ruining the college experience for one of my favorite UK players of all time in Jodie Meeks, tends to shrug a "karma has a way of coming back to bite you" response to Gillispie's troubles.

(Gregg Doyel has one of the better summaries of the BCG situation out there.)

This will look good on the cover letter to his resume for his next head coaching application.

Elsewhere on our front, Amy has been going full throttle on getting the Worship & Wonder program going at our church for the kids. We painted the classroom last weekend. We have trays, towels, a Montessori bell, and all the stories ready to go. It all starts this weekend with an orientation followed by the first class on September 13.

Owen & Gus got a "no cavities" report from the dentist this morning. Tess is entering the "I think I'd like to get into everything" stage now as an 18-month old. Things are good with our crew.

Safe holiday weekend to our readers & enjoy yourselves.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Last week Amy & I concluded the summer with a vacation down to Charleston. We rented a house on James Island just a hop, skip & a jump across the marsh from Aunt Mel, Uncle Dude, Corinne and Sam and a mile from Folly Beach.

Amy & I crammed as much work as we could get done in the weeks leading up to vacation, led a Worship & Wonder training the morning that we left, and a finished up a multiple's club consignment sale that afternoon. We both slept hard the first two days that we were down in South Carolina.

The vacation was a really good one in that we were so ready to leave town and escape the day-to-day life at home by the time we departed and then we were ready to be back in the comforts of home by the time we returned at the end of the week. That's what a vacation should be, I suppose.

On Tuesday our friends Debbie Barrett and Chad Nance brought their litter up from Bluffton, SC -- Aidan, Abby, and Anmei -- and shared our place for a couple of days. I am not sure if the kids wore us parents out or if all the fun we parents threw at the kids wore them out. But either way, it was a really good time seeing the Nance crew.

Off the boat dock from the back of the rental house, the marsh rose and fell with the tides. It made for some good bird watching and fiddler crab hunting.

The parents loaded up the kids for a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium, which sits on a gorgeous spot in downtown Charleston on the harbor. The kids got to pet an alligator and saw plenty of penguins, sharks, fish and jellies to provide a good thrill.

Gus, Aidan & Anmei posed for their Nemo shark bait moment.

One of the fun parts of trips are the impromptu moments that you can't plan for -- like when six kids are tired and hungry after a morning of sightseeing in the aquarium. So the parents pulled out the beach chairs and fed the kids sandwiches & goldfish right there in the parking garage. All we were missing was a cooler and a football game....

The Rutledge crew got to reunite with the Crumptons and meet cousin Sam for the first time. He is a laid back little fellow who takes in the two year-old tornado that is his big sister Corinne with a big gummy grin on his face.

Corinne experienced the Owen shun first hand as she was enamored with her older cousin, but he did his best "girls are icky" impression all week. (Talk to Tess, little peanut -- the two of you can share stories.)

Corinne and Gus on the other hand are cut from the same cloth -- both rowdy & rambunctious and (too?) lovable with their younger siblings.

What fun we had and will have as this group gets older.

The rest of the week was dedicated to entertaining kids. We beached it several times. At first the boys were very cautious of the water, which is what you want as a parent when it comes to the ocean -- a combined sense of awe and excitement with a healthy respect for the tides when you only weigh 35 lbs.

By the end of the week though, both boys had their badges of courage with the water and were body surfing and sticking their heads underwater. And of course, the receding tides offer wet sand which is just perfect for building sand castles....

and making mud balls to throw at each other.

Little Tess enjoyed herself as well -- chasing sea gulls, playing in the sand, walking Tucker on the beach, and adapting very well to the relaxed beach schedule which sometimes led to lunches at 2:30 in the afternoon.

We did break out of the beach routine a few times. This was our first visit back to Folly in two years since Gus had his fall that put him in the hospital. So we drove by the house where we had stayed to see that the open stairs had been closed off with a deck on the back of the house. Little Owen and his crazy accurate memory remembered a lot of it two years later and was full of questions. It gave a good sense of closure, especially for Amy.

Then we drove over to the park a block away where the kids ran off the rest of their morning energy. Owen does his best eerie devilish impression coming out of the slide.

Finally, we hit Splash Zone -- which has to be one of the coolest water parks there is -- on the morning before we drove back home. The boys were just tall enough to ride down the monster water slides with Dad, Mom & Uncle Dude.

All in all it was a good way to end the summer before preschool started back for the boys this week. We finished the summer with a splash & a bang.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer Summit

At the risk of jumping back into politics for the first time in many months, I have to weigh in with my two cents on the controversy over the arrest of the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in his own home by the white policeman, James Crowley, and the unfortunate comments that followed by President Barack Obama about the police department "acting stupidly."

I think all parties involved overreacted, and this incident highlights the open wound that still exists in our society when it comes to black/white relations. But that is not the main thing I want to address.

President Obama proposed a meeting at the White House that is taking place today with Crowley and Gates. He suggested they all get together over a beer to talk about the issue and the greater issue of race relations in America. Great, I'm all for reconciliation and discussion. But there is a bigger issue at stake here.

My issue is over the choice of beers that have been chosen for this Kum Ba Yah moment of national healing.

Crowley, the policeman, has chosen Blue Moon as his beer of choice, which is a wheat beer owned by Coors most often served with an orange. And while I scratch my head that a working-class civil servant hero is drinking a beer garnished with a citrus and admittedly I am not a hefeweizen fan myself, kudos to Crowley for setting the bar with something a little bit out of the box with a Blue Moon.

For Gates he went with the trendy Jamaican beer Red Stripe, which is beer hyped more for its image than it is its flavor. But given that the guy is 5'7", 150 lbs, walks with a cane, and is a public intellectual from Harvard it's clear that the guy is not a beer drinker. To each his own. I'll cut the guy some slack. He was after all arrested for being in his own house.

Now for our President. After sticking his foot in his mouth by uncharacteristically dropping his guard and commenting on a story based on emotion instead of facts, President Obama has some ground to make up. Ok, he spoke without thinking. He's human like the rest of us. So here is his second chance. If he picks the right beer, he gets to have his discussion and then move on to the swamp that is health care reform. As the leader of the free world President Obama can pick any beer he wants to be his companion in this discussion.

There are endless possibilities. Help out the struggling California economy and pick a flowery India Pale Ale with cascade hops, say Green Flash West Coast IPA for example. Or go with a Brooklyn Brewing variety, made in the most multi-cultural place in America in New York City. Or pay tribute to America's colonial roots and to greater Boston where this controversy originated in picking a Harpoon -- heck, even a Sam Adams.

Obama's choice? Bud Light. The king of lawnmower beers. Not even owned by an American company anymore. A beer so lousy the company spends endless amounts on promoting it with goofy commercials, animals, and models to make it the best-selling beer in America.

Where has Hope gone?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Superhero Summer

Owen & Gus have had quite the summer for four year-old little boys. After having GJ & Pappy visit their house for 10 days, the boys rode back to Kentucky to begin their Bluegrass Adventure without Mom, Dad & little sister. What fun!

After spending a few days in Glasgow with GJ & Pappy the boys journeyed across the state to spend time with Nana, Granddaddy and the Paducah crew. While there, there were reports of a superhero sighting nearby -- more on that in a moment.

When their time in Kentucky came to a close the boys piled into the van with their Aunt Ashley, Uncle Scott, and cousins Mason, Gavin & Brooke for the long return trip back to North Carolina. The kids were all reportedly on their best behavior -- funny how being together can bring the best out of each other.

Amy and I were very happy to see the boys for the first time in 8 days. It was obvious that we missed Owen & Gus more than they missed us. Oh well, that's the sign of a great visit right there.

We were then treated to a few days hanging out with the Posey crew in North Carolina. After an unsuccessful badminton attempt (cheap plastic poles from China!), we rebounded with bocce, a trip to the swimming pool, a campout in the backyard while it thunderstormed, and a great trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina History Museum.

It was a tremendous time getting to see the Posey crew. It took the boys a couple of days to recoup from their trip and the fun of the visit. Tess had to adjust to not having her cousins around to dote on her as well. We look forward to many return visits!



The first step in a successful museum visit is hydration.

Pack up the van so there are enough seat belts and car seats to go around.

Throw in some sea horses and plenty of fish.....

....and the occasional 50-foot long plant-eating dinosaur.....

.....a stuffed pelican going after its prey.....

......some sea turtles......

....a few minutes to rest & catch our breaths.....

.....some peanut butter & jelly on the concourse.....

......a little fun goof-off time by the pirate ship at the history museum.....

.....and out comes two extremely happy superheroes.
(Nana took this picture across the river in Metropolis, Illinois. An instant classic for us!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome Stella

Congratulations to Chris & Pam LeDuc on the birth of their daughter, Stella Caelin. This is Chris & Pam's first child so they are about to start the awesome journey of parenthood. This little girl will eventually take Nels Cline's place as guitarist for Wilco, so Jeff Tweedy be warned.

Amy & I are so excited for you all. Cheers to you!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Key Cats

So the boys are back in Kentucky about to finish up their Bluegrass Adventure in Glasgow and Paducah. Meanwhile, Amy & I have discovered what it was like to have one child -- a different experience than the chaotic house we normally inhabit, but it's still parenting.

In her brothers' absence, Tess has filled up the attention vacuum. Part of it may be Tess relishing her chance to shine and get attention. The other part may just be a (near) eighteen-month-old seeking out her independence.

Either way, Tess will probably be happy when her brothers return to North Carolina. In the meantime, Harper has gotten some more (unwanted?) attention.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Week of Independence

In what is becoming an Independence Day tradition for our crew, we were joined over the holiday week by grandparents as Pappy & GJ made their way down from Kentucky. As Amy is back to work full time, the July 4 weekend represented a busy quarter close time for her at work. So Pappy & GJ agreed to come down & help out with the kids. We all ended up having a tremendous time.

The hit of the week was the swimming pool. With the weather in the low 90's and moderate humidity -- by far the best July 4th weather we have had in our 12 years in North Carolina -- the pool became a destination on several days.

Owen is definitely a natural water bug. Even the life guards were laughing as they would talk about how excited he got as he winded himself up before jumping off the side into waiting arms.

Gus was slower to get comfortable with the water and getting his face wet. You can see the progression from the first day when his apprehension level was high to the last day when he was putting his whole head under water and holding his breath.

Little Tess was very mellow in the water. Amy, Pappy, GJ & I passed her around and around as we took turns catching the boys as they jumped off the side and she didn't mind a bit. Once I took her out to deeper water where I threw her up and caught her, she found the joy that is the swimming pool. She kept putting her fingers together which is her sign language for "more." Kids, swimming pools, and summer -- quite a combination.

Once Tess finally wore herself out from the sun & water, she found happiness in Mom's arms.

Another fun part of Independence Day week is Wimbledon. This year's tournament was terrific with a Williams sister final on the women's side and an incredible five-set match on the men's side between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.

Amy & I even got out one night and dusted the old tennis racket off up at the neighborhood courts while the grandparents hung out with the kids. As much as I tried to safety pin Roger's talent to me, I just don't measure up.

After camping in Mt. Airy the boys brought back a taste for roasted marshmallows. So one night we gathered around the fire pit and made S'mores. Just when they thought it couldn't get any better than fluffy white sugar on a stick, the boys were thrilled as chocolate bars & graham crackers were added to the mix.

A sporting goods store close to us had a great sale on tents. So I picked up a 6-person tent and put it up in the backyard. Gus & Owen immediately wanted to sleep in the tent so after devouring some marshmallows the boys & I piled in for a good night's rest. Serta mattress not included this time.

Finally our last night together we borrowed a Raclette grill from our friends the Learys and cooked up a great dinner of bread, cheese, apple sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions & potatoes. The boys -- excuse me, Batman and Robin -- were not impressed as they quickly begged for PB&J. Oh well, the adults and Tess enjoyed the heck out of it.