Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Back from St. Petersburg

Gabriel rocking on the porch

The drive back from St. Pete's yesterday was far better than the trip down there, but we did encounter some traffic for the first 50 miles or so. After that, it was smooth sailing. Gabriel slept most of the way back and still got a decent night's sleep after we got to the apartment at 1:30 on the nose.

Here is a day-by-day account of our trip, starting with Saturday:

Saturday:We went running around the sea wall in the morning, then washed up and headed to the grocery store for dinner supplies. Matt made a delicious dinner of Italian chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, and bread and butter. We went out after that to shop for Gabriel's Easter basket and then headed to the beach. We decided to go to the beach at Pass-A-Grille, since the beach we usually go to in St. Pete was overtaken by spring breakers. We found a fantastic coffee shop/ice creamery/bookstore there called Perk Fiction. It was a little place that had some couches and a really good selection of hard- and soft-cover books, a super friendly guy working there and friendly customers too, and a singer and musician outside the entrance who, along with their little audience, warmly greeted us as we went in. After our snack, we headed down to the water, but Gabe-Luke was too scared of the surf in the dark (his Mommy was a little scared, too), so we decided that it was time to call it a night.

Easter Sunday:We opened cards, and Gabriel opened his Easter "basket" (a sandcastle form), as soon as we woke. We went to 11:30 am mass at The Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. It was surprising how much room we had in our pew compared to our cathedral here in Atlanta. Matt ended up spending much of the mass in the back of the church with Gabriel, since we hadn't realized that there was a cry room in the church. The church was very interesting. It had the old-fashioned railing all around the altar area, and above the altar, the roof was domed and adorned with mouldings that looked like lily leaves. We've e-mailed the tour director of the Cathedral to try to find out more about them. Anyway, after mass, we changed our clothes and headed to the beach. What better way to spend Easter than church and the beach?! The wind was blowing something awful, but we had a good time playing in the sand. It's a miracle there's any beach left after the amount Chip ate! After showers for all three of us, we had a wonderful Easter dinner of ham, kielbasa and sauerkraut (those were only for the Ukie), corn on the cob, rolls, and Goiya shiraz to drink. [Wine review: we liked the shiraz, but it was a little too spicy for us. Although we did enjoy it, we probably won't get it again, since there are others we like more.] It was too late to make dessert, and we were too tired, so we put that off for a day.

Gabriel with Nook Logan

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gabriel Plays the Organ

Here is a recording of Gabriel playing the organ at his great-grandparents' condo in St. Petersburg. Enjoy the original composition!
this is an audio post - click to play

We Finally Made It

The trip down here to St. Pete's Beach was the longest it's ever taken us to go anywhere - 12 1/2 hours from the time we left the apartment to the time we walked in the door of the condo. Traffic was horrible, and when the traffic cleared up, it started raining.

It is hot as heck down here and so humid, but it's so nice to be out of chilly weather, even though it's Atlanta chilly weather, which really isn't that bad (as we're constantly reminded by our Northern informers).

By the way, if you want to drive somewhere with no traffic, go to Michigan because they're all here. In an unscientific study of ten cars that passed us in a row, 5 were from MI. At one rest stop, about 3/4 of them were from Michigan. Most of the people around us all the way to Florida were Michiganders. It was interesting. In fact, at one point, Patty remarked how uncharacteristically polite the drivers were and how they were leaving a proper distance between cars. It was then that we realized the reason - they were Michigan drivers. There were two carloads of caravanning teenagers who were going crazy, hanging out of windows, yelling at the other drivers, but wouldn't you know... Tennessee.

When we got here, there was a package for Gabriel from his Gramma A, and it had some books and clothes in it, some candy for Mommy and Daddy, and a pail and shovel for the beach! We're going to have a lot of fun using it this weekend, if we can get some time there between rainstorms.

Grandma and Grandpa love Gabriel, and he already loves them right back. He seems to like it here; last night he got to sleep with no clothes on for the first time in his life, and he has a nice big carpeted floor to crawl around on.

We brought the stroller and are going to run around the seawall in a little bit, before it gets too hot or starts raining.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Our First Audioblog

this is an audio post - click to play

This is a recording we made today of Gabriel talking to himself as he banged away on the open dishwasher door while Matt was doing dishes. At the end of the recording, he grabs the MP3 player out of Patty's hand. If you listen really closely, you can even hear him open his mouth to put the player in. Now that we know we can do this, look forward to more of these fun posts!

He's Crawling!

Gabe's first crawl, part 1
Gabe's first crawl, part 2

Gabriel crawled for the first time today. It was almost more of a belly scoot, because it was on the bed and his knees sank into the mattress a little, but he definitely got from Point A to Point B using hands and knees! He was going for Mommy's In Style magazine. He must like Queen Latifah, who's on the cover. She does look good! Of course, Daddy and Mommy were there with the camera. It's never more than an arm's reach away.

By the way, the bread that we made yesterday is good! It was nice and moist on the inside and had a nice dark crust. The only thing that would make it better maybe - maybe - would be a crispier crust. It didn't fall apart when we cut it, which meant that we could use it for sandwich bread and toast.

We forgot a few things yesterday. First, Jack called Mom and Dad yesterday morning (technically, two days ago but who's counting). He sounded great and said that they'd moved from tents to buildings and he has a bunk bed, or a "rack" as they say. Bunk bed does sound kind of wussy. He said that they had to shoot up a car that was speeding toward the checkpoint, but the guy had just been speeding and hadn't meant any harm. The guy was very grateful to have survived in one piece. Jack's been in a convoy escorting a colonel and is also working in an office. They have a little exchange the size of a small bedroom, so they can buy things. There is a great web service that we've been using to write him letters called Motomail. They supposedly get letters faster that way, because they print them locally and deliver them, but he hasn't gotten any of them yet.

The second thing we forgot yesterday is that we cut Gabriel's hair for the first necessary time. We'd already cut a piece off the back before to save, but this time he needed it. It was growing over his ears. Patty still wants to style it on the top, but there's no hurry for that since it looks good as it already is.

Lastly, we tried virtual babysitting yesterday. Mom K watched Gabriel play on the webcam while Patty tended to the bread for a few seconds in the kitchen. Of course, he was completely safe and secure anyway, but it was pretty funny.

Gabriel ate a new food today - avocados. He didn't turn his nose up at it, but he didn't wolf it down, either. When it comes to fruit, though, he'll still gobble up anything.

Tomorrow, we're going to St. Petersburg. It's going to be so nice to introduce Gabe-Luke to his great-grandparents. We're very excited about the trip. The weather is supposed to be questionable, but since we'll be there until Tuesday, we should be able to get some beach time in. The temperature is supposed to be right around 80°F all weekend. We bought tickets for Tigers vs. Astros in spring training at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL. We've always wanted to attend a spring training game, especially one of the Tigers', so this is going to be the perfect way to end our trip on Monday.

We might not be able to blog this weekend, but we'll try. Grandma and Grandpa have WebTV, so we can probably log on to our weblog and write a little. If we don't, we should be back in business on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bad Smells and Good Smells

Today is Nancy's 30th birthday! Happy birthday, Nay!!!

Gabriel invented a really good baby sign today. While he was eating lunch, he kept wrinkling his nose and breathing in and out of his nose really hard. He did that about 3 or 4 times before Patty realized that something was burning on the stove. He was telling her that it smelled bad!

We went to play group happy hour today at the Flemings' house. Gabriel's friends Jake, Zoe, Jonah, Sofia, and new friends named Mackenzie and Allie were there with their parents. We had drinks (wine for Patty and beer for Matt) and the kids played. It was fun.

We got a few more things prepared for the Chipster today: Anjou pears, squash, and zucchini (two different types mixed) - all organic, of course. We keep underestimating how much we need of each type of food and only end up with about 6 servings of each every time we make something. Patty punctured the muffin tin when she was using a knife to pry out the pears - it went right through like the metal wasn't even there. She forgot that Matt sharpened the knives.


We also finally finished making that bread that we've been talking about for a couple of days. It's from a recipe on the Food Network - Alton Brown's recipe, of course. His recipes always turn out really well. We've made the best turkey we've ever had, we've made some killer yellow cake, and we always make our own chocolate syrup, all from his show. He hasn't steered us wrong yet. He's also got a really good web site. But we digress. Anyway, as of press time (ha ha!), the bread is still cooling on the rack and smells fantastic. It's really crusty, and since we had to cut the cooking time by about 10 minutes because it was starting to burn, we're hoping that it's nice and chewy on the inside. We are fanatics about crusty bread.

We found a really good web site today called It has a lot of really good cooking information, including some really informative cooking shows given by an animated octopus named Tako. The shows have interesting tidbits of information while you watch, and related links show up - and stay in the corner - from time to time. That way, you can learn more or buy something for the recipe very easily. It's funny, interesting, and educational all at the same time. It's done by one of the writers of Good Eats, Alton Brown's show.

Incidentally, we got started as Good Eats fans back when Patty was up against a scientist from Georgia Tech for a role on the show. Before that, we'd never heard of it. It turns out they asked for a thermodynamics expert when they really wanted a ceramics expert, so they went with the professor. Of course, it was the worst episode ever...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

DJ Chipdip

Gabriel plays DJ

It stormed today in Georgia. It's always spooky to drive through the city after a storm, or any time it's foggy, because the buildings seem to disappear. It looks like the entire city's been wiped out. There is a skyscraper three blocks from us, and when we drive toward it on a foggy day, even from three blocks away, it looks like a ten-story building. It's really neat.

Tonight was tutoring night for Patty, so Gabe got to spend some quality alone time with his daddy. Matt gave him a bath that was not the easiest one in history. As usual, the Chipster wanted to sit forward and play in the basin rather than lie back so Daddy could wash his tummy and legs. When Matt finally got him to lay back, he was rewarded with a shower of his own.

After the bath, Gabriel went exploring, and his daddy found him playing with the stereo. He'd opened the CD tray - he must have wanted to check out the selections. By the time Matt could grab the camera, though, Gabe was halfway across the apartment. Later, he went back to the stereo, turned it on, played a little music from his Dora the Explorer CD, decided he was in a jazzy mood, and switched the CD to his Harry Connick, Jr. disc. We danced to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (why couldn't he have picked one that's easier to spell?!) and then sang The Lonely Goatherd. This time, we got a picture of him playing DJ. Every day, he amazes us with the things he learns to do.

Also amazing was how fast he was walking today. We almost couldn't keep track of him, because he was almost running in his walker. He's getting really good at turning around in small spaces, too.

AR7 Watch

Warning: spoilers ahead!

We've been through this before - don't look if you don't want to know what happened!

This is your last warning...

We really like Rob and Amber. We don't want them to win another million, but second place would be fine. They are not mean-spirited at all and seem to be genuinely excited about their successes in the game. They really are playing it well. We get the impression that the other teams are a little jealous of their cleverness and are using their celebrity as an excuse to hate them.

Ray and Deana are this season's Jonathan and Victoria. We might even hate Ray more than Jonathan because he seems sneakier. At least with Jonathan, you knew to dismiss him as a moron right away. Ray keeps harping on Gretchen and Meredith and saying that they are too old to be there. He's no spring chicken himself, not that you could tell his real age under that over-tanned leatherface of his.

Gretchen and Meredith continued to do well, even though they'll probably be the next to go. They fell for Ray and Deana's trick when they followed them in the boats away from the clue, but luckily they weren't the ones eliminated. It would be nice to see them outlast Ray and Deana.

The brothers weren't really in this episode very much, except for the Gaucho task, where the one brother (whichever, they're interchangeable) did an awesome job with the horse.

Joyce was a champ with the horse. She got thrown off twice and still got back on and finished! She definitely won points with us this week.

Ron and Kelly were almost a non-presence this week. We were not surprised to see the southerner Kelly riding a horse.

Alex and Lynn are getting a little too snitty to be funny. They're doing well, and even though the engine on their boat broke, they still finished quickly.

Susan didn't deserve to lose, but Patrick sure did. He's been whining the entire time and didn't seem to want to play the game at all. As hard as she tried, he was a total anchor.

Next week's prediction: Gretchen and Meredith come in last in a non-elimination round.

p.s. A couple of notes about the picture:
  • The Chipster's hair is getting so long that we have to cut it. It's over his ears! You can really see how long it's getting in this photo.
  • Yes, that is dust. Usually, we just like to let it accumulate until it forms a little ball - then we just pick it up and throw it away. It's much easier that way.
  • And Nancy, we know that after you noticed the dust, you zoomed in to see the DVD and CD collection. Don't pretend like you didn't! Let us know if you need help identifying anything, ha ha. Did you recognize the babysitter-in-a-box (Baby Einstein video) that you gave us... er, Gabriel?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Music and Food

Gabriel's Monday 21mar05 photo with train

Gabriel was a pill today - he was sleepy and clingy much of the day but had a really hard time falling asleep. We thought that babies are supposed to learn to fall asleep, but it's been 8 months of trying everything under the sun, and he's still crying himself to sleep. We've tried rocking him to sleep, and he isn't interested in falling asleep in our arms. We usually let him cry it out, but he isn't getting better with time. We've tried sitting in the room with him, leaving the room, putting on a fan, turning off the fan... he just hates going to sleep. But he does everything else well and makes us so proud that we really can't complain too much.

There is something interesting about the picture above that we didn't notice at first. Gabriel is pushing a button on the train with the middle finger of his left hand. This is remarkable because he'd just picked up the train and wasn't even looking at it, yet he knew exactly where to touch it to play a song. The place where he is pushing is actually designed so that if he puts a certain type of block on there (which he doesn't do yet), the thing inside the block will spin around. He's figured out that if he just pushes on it, it will vibrate against his finger while the song plays. That was one of the first things he learned about cause and effect, maybe the first, months ago. By the way, is this an indication that he's left-handed like his mommy and daddy?

The highlight of Gabriel's day was when we read him his new book - Barnyard Boogie, which he got in the mail from Great-Grandma Angle today. He loved the book right away, and we both had fun making voices for all of the animals. Part of the book is actually a puppet mouth that sticks through the middle of the pages. We have to hide our face behind the book when we're reading so Chip will look at the puppet mouth and not our mouth.

We discovered yesterday in the car that Gabriel is a fan of punk music. "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones came on the radio, and he loved it. We downloaded it for him today along with some Rancid (one song is a killer version of the Bob Marley and the Wailers song "No Woman, No Cry") and The Sex Pistols. Maybe we won't tell him the names of the bands, now that we think of it...

We went to Whole Foods today to stock up on organic food for the Chipster. He's down to a couple veggies and needed some variety. We got corn, peas, avocado, green beans, zucchini, squash, and pears. We ran into Kathleen, Patty's former boss, in the produce section and got a chance to catch up. The man working in that same section, Norm, told us that we needed to try kohlrabi and threw a bunch in a bag for us, wrote "Comp" on it, and told us that we could have it. It's supposedly a member of the turnip family but tastes sweeter than a turnip. We can't wait to try it; we need to branch out with our veggies.

Speaking of food, Patty has been obsessed with popovers lately and made two batches yesterday and one today. She's eating them almost as fast as they can come out of the oven, but she's been saving a few for Matt. The recipe is super easy: whisk together a cup of milk and 2 eggs, whisk in a cup of all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt that have been previously combined, and bake in a greased muffin tin for 20 minutes at 450°. Lower the heat to 375° and bake until crispy and golden on the outside, about 10-20 minutes. It takes literally two minutes to prepare. Oh, here's a tip that makes it even easier: throw the muffin tin in the oven while combining the ingredients, and then put a little dab of butter in each tin and rub around to grease. The butter will instantly melt and will be easy to get in the corners, rather than trying to force a solid piece of butter to go where you want it.

We got some bread flour at Whole Foods today, so we're going to try to make our own bread. If it goes well, we'll never have to buy bread again - and at the rate we go through bread, that's a good thing!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Chattahoochee Nature Center

Gabriel in orange polo shirt 20Mar05

Gabriel wore his new polo shirt today. With his daddy in his dark blue polo shirt, they were quite a pair.

Sculpture at Chattahoochee Nature Center

Today we took Gabriel hiking for his birthday at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. We hadn't been there before, and we were surprised to find that they have owls and bald eagles there, as well as a beaver habitat, frog pond, and pitcher plant bog. There are several areas that recreate different Georgia ecosystems. We only had half an hour to hike around, so we went pretty quickly. It was a beautiful place, even though it was small. In the middle of the woods, we found the grave of a Civil War soldier and the remains of his family's home not too far away.

Gabriel feels the bark of a tree

Whenever we hike, we stop frequently so that Gabriel can feel tree bark and leaves, and we pick up sticks and other things that he can hold and examine. He had a great time looking around and exploring.

M, G, and ducks in tree

We decided after our hike that we wanted to just hang around outside somewhere for a while, so we went to Azalea Park (or Chattahoochee River Park, depending on where you look), just down the road. It's a place with a sheltered picnic area, a really nice jungle gym, and a boat launch, so there were a lot of families there. We sat and watched the ducks and birds for a while (Gabriel loves birds and water, so we could have sat there all day) and then walked around. Matt saw a coworker who had broken his leg snowboarding, so he was hobbling around while his wife took photos of the park. We took some pictures too; there were some interesting sights there. For example, we found some ducks in a tree. Some of them had climbed quite a steep branch to get to their perch - it was pretty amazing. You can see them in the photo. The crabapples, dogwoods, and weeping willows are in full bloom right now. The crabapples seem to be everywhere we go. Every spring, they become so full with white blossoms that we half expect to see one explode with them some day.

When we got back to the apartment after hiking, church, and the grocery store, Gabriel was ready to walk on his own. We put him in his walker, and he walked from the living room to the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the closet, to the bedroom, and back to the bathroom. We found him in there banging on the toilet having a good old time. It sent his mother into convulsions, but we realized that all of this exploring is an important part of his growth, and that he is quickly growing into a smart little boy.

8 Months Old

Gabriel at 8 months

Gabriel turned 8 months old yesterday. We made our traditional brownies and ran out of icing, so they just said "8". The weather wasn't too great, so we didn't take him out for a hike; we're going to do that today. We did buy him a new shirt, sleeper, and pants, but that was just because he needed them, not really for his birthday.

We watched Napolean Dynamite last night. On our movie scale of 1 to 64, we give it a 38. It was funny, but we would have found it funnier if our expectations hadn't been built up so much. Also, we had to watch much of it with subtitles, since Gabriel was sleeping. We don't recommend watching a comedy with subtitles.

We also finished City of God the night before last. That movie gets a solid 55. Despite getting off to a seemingly aimless start, it turned out to be a movie we will probably want to watch again. We weren't sure at the beginning that it was a true story, but the fact that it is makes it that much more powerful. It's disturbing, mostly because it's true; there are scenes that are not for the faint of heart. It sounds like a downer of a movie, but the central character tells a story of his life that is really worth watching.

One of our favorite TV shows is "Distraction", which is a game show on Comedy Central. The contestants have to answer questions while being, say, thrown around by professional wrestlers or having bottles broken over their heads. The winner has to face a round of questions where every wrong answer means the destruction of a prize. The "winner" last week lost all of her prizes. Every time she got one wrong, she had to push a plunger randomly wired to blow up a prize. She didn't even win the pudding. It's on every Tuesday at 10:30 pm. We recommend the "Appetite for Distraction" quiz game on their web site.

The NCAA basketball tournament just gets worse and worse. On the bright side, though, Patty is now in second place with her "Crunk Pix." We're happy for West Virginia, but they really messed us up. North Carolina, don't let us down!

Friday, March 18, 2005


Not much to talk about today. We installed a counter at the bottom of our blog and ate spaghetti for dinner. Matt was in first place in our NCAA tourney bracket, but judging from his results today, he's slipped. Gabriel spent a lot of time walking around, and Patty spent a lot of time replacing lost shoes and socks. We're in the middle of a movie and a game of Scrabble and haven't been able to finish either. Tomorrow is the Peachtree registration, so we're really excited about that.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patty's Day!

18 pounds on St. Patty's Day

Happy St. Patty's Day! We celebrated by going to Toast for some Irish whiskey after getting an attitude problem at Gordon Biersch when we told them that no, we didn't want a booth, we wanted to sit at the bar. They saw the stroller and couldn't put together a plan in their tiny empty peanut shells of brains that the stroller could sit in the corner and we could fit just fine at any of the tables in the bar area, which wasn't smoky, by the way. They seemed to think that they were crowded. There were about ten people in there; they should have welcomed the business. It was strange, because we've always had such great service there in the past. Anyway, we walked outside and saw our friend Tim Kreiner, on his way to the party across the street which definitely did not look kid-friendly. We went to Toast, where we felt very welcome. All of the people who worked there were very friendly and we had a great time with our whiskey and calamari. The breading on the calamari was amazing; it had caraway seed and was very light and non-greasy. Their bread was also very good; one kind had rosemary, our favorite herb.

Gabriel had his flu shot booster today and did great, despite a nurse who was not the best in the world. She took out the needle before dispensing the vaccine, so she had to stick him again. It definitely hurt, but he was okay, just a little groggy from the experience for a while. He weighs 17 pounds 15.8 ounces two days shy of his 8-month birthday.

The NCAA tournament started in earnest today (one game was played on Tuesday). So far, Matt is doing better in his predictions. We are both doing well in our group but not the best yet. There's still time.

The family for whom Patty tutors is the Doziers. Mom Lisa is starting a photography business and did a photo shoot here in December. Yesterday, she gave us a CD with all of the photos as well as two framed black and whites. Here are some of our favorites.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Gabriel and Zoe at playgroup

We had two playgroups today - one through Piedmont Hospital (Tender Spirits) that takes place at our church and one through the Virginia Highlands neighborhood association. This was our first time at Tender Spirits, and we've been going to the other one since it started in October. We had a good time at both. Gabriel hung out with Mommy at Tender Spirits but was more interested in the other kids at the Flemings' house, probably because they're all his age. In Vi-Hi, he ate his first non-organic food: Gerber sweet potato veggie puffs. He only ate one tiny little puff (about the size of a Cheerio), so it hardly counts.

We had a voice mail from Jack this morning. He said that he's fine and would maybe try to call later. He's going to be out on patrol for the next few days, so we guess he'll call after that. He sounded happy, healthy, and energetic. We're upset that we had the ringer off; we'll have to leave it on tonight just in case.

Speaking of people from other continents, Patty's in touch again with the British family with whom she stayed 15 years ago. It turns out that they had a place in Orlando for a while and have been closer than we thought many times. They sold the place after 9/11 but still have friends over here. We hope to see them again, no matter which side of the pond we're on.

We finished a movie the other night called "Yojimbo", which means "Bodyguard." We give it a 53 on our scale of 1 to 64. It is the movie from which "A Fistful of Dollars" was remade. It was an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's book Red Harvest and drew heavily on American westerns, so it was only fitting that it be remade as an American western. It was also an inspiration for George Lucas when he made Star Wars. It starred Toshiro Mifune, who was to Akira Kurosawa what Cary Grant and James Stewart were to Alfred Hitchcock. We love Kurosawa movies and have also seen Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Ran (which we own and is one of the most beautifully shot movies we've ever seen).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

March Madness

Gabriel gets curious

Gabriel is getting more and more curious. While Patty was walking around the apartment doing something or other, she heard a noise that sounded like the cell phone vibrating. The phone was set to ring, so she went to investigate. She walked in on the scene above. Our little Curious George got bored with his toy keys, walked from the living room to the kitchen where he stopped to pull the towels off the stove handle, which you can see being dragged by his walker along with the keys, and play with a chain hanging off the refrigerator door. He then proceeded to the bathroom, where he learned how to open a drawer. Now, when his mommy was his age, her parents put a yardstick in the cabinet handles. We're not so sure that would work here. We're just going to have to step up the vigilance another notch.

Today was our second annual March Madness Starbucks party. This entails getting a drink at Starbucks and sitting down with articles about the NCAA basketball tournament regions and filling out our brackets. We both ended up with North Carolina winning. We have Oakland University making it to number 64 and Michigan State going out in the second round. Georgia Tech should put up a good fight but go out in the second round. We wouldn't mind being wrong on that one, though, since they are across the street and all. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Michigan will not be included in the tournament this year.

While we were at Starbucks, Erica called. She said that she and Raul are doing well in Quebec and that she's getting more work as a tutor. Raul is working on his PhD and should be done in a couple of years. We've been thinking of them, since Raul's native Peru has been featured on "The Amazing Race" the past two weeks.

We bought our tickets to DC for April 13-19. We are going to try to get tickets to the first Washington Nationals home game ever for Patty's birthday. It's a birthday tradition for us every April. If we don't get tickets for that, we'll just go to the second game. Independence Air, with which we had a great experience the last time we went to Virginia, is having a sale right now. The tickets were $29 each way! It will be nice to see the family and explore DC a little more than we did last time.

AR7 Watch

Warning: spoilers ahead!

No, really - if you don't want to know what happened, look away right now!

This is your last warning...

Okay, so we were happy to see those two girls go. They will undoubtedly be much happier sitting somewhere adoring each other, without having to worry about pesky Roadblocks and Detours. We are really liking Rob and Amber more and more. They are playing the game well, and Rob is turning out to be really funny. How smart were they to convince other teams to give up the challenge? That was brilliant! Speaking of funny, the two brothers are great fun, and we hope that they stay in the game for a while, even though they're dumb as rocks and will probably be eliminated very soon. Has anyone else noticed that Ron really doesn't like Kelly very much? We like him, but she isn't a very good teammate and seems pretty annoying to boot. Argentina is one of the places on our "must visit" list, and today's show just reinforced its place there. What a beautiful country.

We came up with a few more rules today: when choosing between two tasks, never choose the one that involves searching for something or counting something, and always choose the one in which you have helpers, especially if they're professionals; also, Patty automatically does any task that involves eating.

Note: As of yesterday, our photos are now "clickable," so you can now click on them for a larger version.

Some Photos

Here are some great photos that Snapfish put online today from film.

Gabe at Onslow Beach
Gabriel's first trip to the beach - Onslow Beach

Gabe and Jack at the lodge
Gabe-Luke and Uncle Jack bonding at Camp Lejeune

Laura at the lodge
Laura at the lodge

Gabriel on Grandpa's shoulder
Grandpa gives Gabe a bird's-eye view

Grammie, Gabe, and Aunt Laura on the beach
Gabriel, Grammie, and Aunt Laura on Onslow Beach

Icy branch outside our apartment
A tree outside our apartment the day after an ice storm closed down Atlanta

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Perfect Day

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Today, we decided to play hookie from all responsibility and headed to Stone Mountain for a day of, well, whatever struck our fancy. On the way, we went through the drive-through at Krispy Kreme for a donut. We were at the red light outside the store and it looked so good that we couldn't resist. Anyway, there is so much to do at Stone Mountain that even though we'd just been there 8 days ago, we found a lot of new things to do. It's amazing that you can go to a place over and over again and keep finding new things that you like about it.

The first time we visited Stone Mountain, we thought that it was a tribute to the Confederacy. We've learned that all the Old South stuff is not actually the main point of the park, even though a lot of people identify it that way. It's a place where there is a lot to learn about history, ecology, geology, and so on. The park was originally a granite quarry and was bought by the state of Georgia as a nature preserve.

We found the old rock quarry today. We would have found it a couple of years ago if we'd ever bothered to read the map they give us at the gate. It was the place where granite was mined and sent off to places all over the continent. We learned that some of the granite from Stone Mountain is in West Quad and its surrounding buildings at U of M, as well as in the Ann Arbor post office! Those years that we sat down in the MUG with our Subway cramming for tests, or mailed a package, or the time when Matt wiped out on his rollerblades outside the post office, we never knew we were surrounded by the rock from the place we'd visit as a family years later.

We stopped for the better part of an hour to feed Gabriel and have some snack bars at a picnic table overlooking an old grist mill between a stream and the lake. It could hardly have been more picturesque.

We tried unsuccessfully to locate several geocaches. The first was in an area that looked like hiking through it would be destructive to fragile plant life, so we decided to forgo that one. We hiked through woods for a while, only to realize that the second cache was on an island just 100 feet from the edge of shore. We didn't want to rent a kayak with Gabriel to go out there, so we decided that we should try another one. We made it to the third spot and looked until it started to get dark, but since we had a lot of hiking yet to do, we finally moved on. We did find a beautiful spot with a bench under tree cover next to a stream, though. It would have been the perfect camping spot.

We decided to take an old Cherokee trail over the mountain. As we started the trail, a very big fox accidentally began to follow us until we spotted each other and he decided to wait until later to climb the mountain. Not too long after that, we made one of the most breathtaking discoveries we've ever made hiking. There was a place where the mountain cleared out and became steep granite. Just as we got there, the view opened up to miles and miles of skyline. The sun had just set, and the sky was horizontal streaks of varying shades of red. We could see the Atlanta skyline 15 miles in the distance. The moon was high in the sky, and the stars were starting to be visible. Patty's shifted center of gravity (Gabriel in the carrier) and quickly-tiring legs combined to bring back her fear of heights, and as soon as she saw the view, she bent down and grabbed the ground before getting back up and hurrying across the mountain for safer ground. We had to move quickly anyway, since it gets very dark up there at night as we learned last weekend. We have a flashlight that has both red and white lights, so we could use the white light while in unfamiliar territory and red when we got to the wide trail that most people use to get up and down the mountain. Red light preserves your night vision, but while light is better when you really need a good view of where you're walking.

Our GPS unit saved the day once again, when we needed to find the "walk-up" trail to get back to the Jeep. It wasn't marked by signs or blazes that we could see at night, but we had it marked on our GPS. We had initially passed the trail before realizing that we were descending; we knew that the trails crossed at the highest point of the Cherokee trail. Sure enough, our GPS pointed us back to the junction and we were back at the cars minutes later. It was fun to imagine the Cherokees passing over the same rock and along the same ridges that we were. We even had a papoose to make it a more genuine experience!

As usual, Gabriel was a trooper all day. He seemed to love being outside in his carrier for six hours and fell asleep just when the Cherokee trail got scary. He missed all the drama but woke up just in time for the drive back to Midtown, happy as ever.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Update on Jack

Jack called home this morning to say that he's at the airbase and doing fine. You can read it in the comment from Mom K attached to the post below, but we'll reprint it here to make it easy.
Jack called this morning. He's finally at his camp. He used the satellite phone and the sound quality was much better than the last time he called us. He said the camp was very small, maybe a mile around the perimeter, and you could probably throw a stone all the way across it. They're in tents right now, but some Navy guys are building some more permanent shelters. He said they have a hot breakfast and dinner, but lunch is an MRE, which he said he doesn't mind. And they can have a nutrition bar any time they want. No TV, so a lot of the Marines have DVD players and buy DVDs at the PX. We might try to see if we can send Jack one soon. The only newspaper they have is Stars & Stripes. He'll be catching up on his phone calls soon, now that his calling card works.

She Did It!

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Congratulations to Laura, who passed her boards and is now Nurse Laura Kelly, RN! The boards are computerized, and the number of questions varies. Laura and her friend Genevieve both got the minimum number of questions, and after going home and checking some of her answers, she was certain that they'd both failed. After a rough 24 hours, she found out that she is just as brilliant as we already knew she was. We're so excited. She's worked harder for those two little letters than just about anyone we know has worked for anything.

This morning, the largest manhunt in Georgia history came to an end when they caught Brian Nichols in Duluth, about half an hour's drive north of here. It turns out that he escaped the scene of the crime by taking MARTA, Atlanta's train system. It's a little scary to think that we could have easily been on the train with him and that he did, in fact, go right underneath our apartment while we were sitting here watching the story on the news. We were going to walk over to the overpass to watch them drive by with him this morning, but they stopped at the FBI headquarters so we went to lunch instead at Noodle. When we were walking back, we saw all of the news helicopters fly right by us, following the curve of the interstate. We knew right away that they must have been transporting Nichols. They were taking him to City Hall East, which is across the street from the Whole Foods where we were yesterday.

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We spent the evening at the Karsons'-to-be house with Steve and Kelly's dad, Bob. We had some fantastic Thai food (fourth Asian meal in a row - Japanese for dinner Thursday, Thai for dinner Friday, Vietnamese for lunch today, and Thai for dinner today) and played a lot of ping-pong on their new table. Gabriel was so good all evening and got a lot of floor time, which he doesn't normally get. He watched Daddy play foosball and calmly sat in Daddy's lap all through dinner without fussing one bit. Kelly was at work and didn't get there until we were driving away, so we took the car out of gear and coasted backward down the street to go say hello and see her engagement ring. Steve did a great job with the design - it's really beautiful.

On Thursday, Paula Zahn Live on CNN will be at Camp Lejeune, so that should be an interesting show... even if they're about 3 weeks too late.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

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That line from the musical "Oliver!" pretty much sums up our day. We went to Your DeKalb Farmers' Market - yes, "Your" is part of the name - as well as Whole Foods. We bought every organic fruit and vegetable known to man and even some grain-fed, antibiotic-free, free-roaming, daily-manicured and aromatherapized chicken. We will probably eat none of this, however; it's for Gabriel.

He now has the entire top shelf of the freezer just for his food. He has apples, bananas, pears, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and chicken, not to mention spelt (wheat-free) bagels in case he wants something to gnaw on. There are papayas and mangoes, and some more bananas, pears, and peas waiting to be prepared and countless things in jars. We also gave him his first cookie today, an arrowroot biscuit both for teething and so he can learn to eat finger foods. He loved it - that is, until he threw it on the floor.

For dinner, we had pad thai with peanuts and lime, rice with "rat-s*#@" chili fish sauce (sorry, that's what they're called), and salads. Our wine was pretty much drowned out by all the spice, but it's so totally good that we couldn't wait until tomorrow to open it. It's called "Chard-No-Way", and Darren, who owns the restaurant down the block, Toast, introduced us to it.

Jack called home today to say that bad weather has left them at Al Asad airfield for some time. The helicopter can only transport about 25 troops at a time, so he's working about 4 hours a day doing flight manifests for the time being. To find it on the map, look in the northwest of the country, not too far beneath the Euphrates River. After clicking on the northwest part of the country to zoom in, it should be recentered to find the airfield.

In other news, there was a shooting downtown that was all over every news program today. A criminal shot his judge, the court stenographer, and two deputies (one of whom survived) and escaped by a series of carjackings. We live about a mile north of this courthouse and have parked in the garage where the carjackings took place several times. We've been in the area countless times, but today wasn't one of them. We can't figure out how he got away from that many law enforcement types. On the bright side, it's a good thing that it didn't happen tomorrow because it will be family day there.

We got some digital camera photos today in the mail from two different companies. They weren't that much different from each other, but we thought that Shutterfly was slightly better than dotphoto. We also sent film to Snapfish to be developed, put online, and printed, but they haven't yet received it.

We also tested several programs to download music, because we have an MP3 player and are excited to put new music on it now that we have this computer. Napster is quick, easy, and well-organized, but the songs can only be downloaded in MP3 format with a certain type of subscription. If only downloading songs to burn on CD or listen to on the computer, it's great. Morpheus is a peer-to-peer program that was pretty difficult to use. Every time we chose a song, it said that the host had gone offline. Finally, we tried Kazaa, which works great for MP3 downloads. Both Napster and Kazaa were very quick, and the songs are of good quality. For CDs we will be using Napster, and for our MP3 player we will be using Kazaa.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Our Checklists

The book NOW has inspired us to create our "Done That/To Do" checklists. These are lists that depend on a number of things, so they are always changing. Some things made the list because they were extremely difficult to do, whether due to obstacles or fears. Others made the list because of unique opportunities or chance. We hope that this will inspire other people to think about what they would like to do. Here are the current top seven items from each of our lists:

    Matt's "Done That" List

  • Earned a BSE in Aerospace Engineering
  • Has designed parts for the F/A-22
  • Ran the largest 10K race in the world
  • Got married
  • Had a son
  • Traveled to Thailand
  • Flew in a police helicopter and caught a criminal

    Patty's "Done That" List

  • Married Matt
  • Earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do
  • Kayaked with wild dolphins
  • Jumped into New River off rock about 30 feet high - twice
  • Ran the world's largest 10K race 8 1/2 months pregnant
  • Played Chopin's Ballade in F Major from memory
  • Bathed under a waterfall on a mountain in Thailand

    Matt's "To Do" List

  • Visit every continent
  • Write a book
  • Win "The Amazing Race"
  • Visit every major league baseball ballpark
  • Climb Mt. Everest
  • Visit Irish homeland
  • Plant trees

    Patty's "To Do" List

  • Visit every major league baseball ballpark
  • Climb Mt. Everest
  • Complete natural childbirth
  • Win "The Amazing Race"
  • Earn PhD
  • Obtain pilot's license
  • Snorkel Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

No Opportunity Wasted

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We just added a new picture for our profile. It uses a very sophisticated technique that Matt developed just today. For a small fee, we may divulge the secret.

Above is a picture of Gabriel helping Mommy at the computer. He likes to slap the keyboard, because we won't let him close enough to type.

We got a new book today from Mom K. It's called No Opportunity Wasted by Phil Keoghan, the host of our favorite show, The Amazing Race. He wrote in it, "To Patty, Matt, Gabe - Phil Keoghan THE PHILIMINATOR! Hope to see you soon" How cool is that?!! Mom told him that we want to be on the show and that we are huge fans, all of us including her and Laura. She got to talk with him for a long time and said that he's really nice. Apparently, NOW is a show on the Discovery HD Channel and it looks pretty good.

Laura takes her nursing boards tomorrow and we wish her good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2005


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Gabe-Luke has been cruising around a lot more. For the first time today, he followed us around the apartment. It's really nice, because he doesn't get bored sitting in the same spot all the time; he can explore a lot more. It also means that we have to watch him very closely. He is pulling things off the refrigerator, pulling towels off the stove handle, and getting curious about those cabinet doors. Thank goodness he isn't taller, or we'd be nervous about the stove. It won't be long... While we were looking for a chocolate chocolate chip recipe on the computer (which me made even though much of the cookie dough never made it to the oven), we thought he was playing in the living room, maybe even watching TV. We didn't realize he was coming to see us (he never had before!) until we saw him leaning way over just outside the barn door and laughing. He quickly corrected his course and came right in, stopping for a second to make sure that the door was open all the way. That's what he's doing in the picture. Earlier, while Patty was exercising in the living room, he had come over to help hold the exercise ball. A few times during the day, he ran right into our legs while following us around.

He had another first today: he ate his first "just like the grownups eat it" non-processed, non-frozen, non-jar food. We have some overripe organic bananas, and he ate half of one. He didn't need a bib or anything, although when he got curious, we let him stick his hand in and mash the banana himself. When he was through with it, it was mushed perfectly for spoon-feeding. He loved it.

He also loved his homemade dinner. We now have frozen five kinds of food, all organic and homemade:

  • sweet potatoes (for our little southern-born baby)
  • peas
  • Braeburn apples
  • Bosc pears, and
  • bananas.
He's eating more and more, and the supplies are dwindling almost as fast as we can make them! He's up to two meals a day now in addition to three times nursing and is ready for teething biscuits or Cheerios and maybe some meat. It seems like there's a new "first" every day.

We are huge fans of The Amazing Race, and we make an event of the show every Tuesday night in our household. Because of that, we are starting an AR7 Watch. Here is our first installment:

  • Ryan and Chuck: These guys, who got kicked off last week, might have become our favorites if they'd lasted, because they were funny, kind, and hillbillies - all good things. Our prejudices were challenged when one of them started speaking Portugese. They are actually our age, but we thought that they were quite a bit older. We were a little teary that they came in last.
  • Megan and Heidi: We were so happy that they lost today. There are a lot of likeable teams this time, which is a relief after last season, but they weren't one of them.
  • Rob and Amber: We are really surprised that we like them, because we were ready to hate them. We're not sure why - probably because they've already won a million, maybe because of his accent... who knows?
  • Ron and Kelly: We were ready to root for our "neighbor" and Miss South Carolina, but they're not working too well together. Kelly seems like a pain in the butt. You'd think that a pageant queen would have a better personality. And skin. (Ouch!)
  • Lynn and Alex: They won't win, but we hope they come close. They're more fun (and gayer) than a barrel of monkeys. We like them a lot.
  • Ray and Deana: Who? They seem like they might be this season's Bolo and Lori, or maybe the token argumentative couple.
  • Uchenna and Joyce: We haven't seen enough of them, and they don't seem like they're going to last long enough for us to get to know them.
  • Debbie and Bianca: Two people we'd never be friends with in a million years, not that they'd stop fawning all over each other long enough to notice anyone else...
  • Meredith and Gretchen: Token older couple. We predict that they last two more weeks.
  • Brian and Greg: Their stupid frat-boy routine is surprisingly funny. They seem pretty interesting, but they probably won't last another week.
  • Susan and Patrick: Patrick doesn't seem too interesting, but his mom seems really likeable. They seem to make a great team. They could last a while.

We really want to be on a future season, so we're studying the show. We're already testing out our "tag". Maybe we'll be "Married Parents", or maybe "Married Aerospace Engineers." Maybe "Married Best Friends," because we'd definitely be the best at teamwork. We've noticed that there are certain types of teams in every show: the elders, the sometime-daters, the strong guys, the athletes, the models/famous people, the married couple, the African-Americans - we guess we'd be the married couple. Our current rules for success: always choose physical tasks because they're never that hard and always quicker, never work with animals because they never cooperate, and don't stress out over starting in the back of the pack, because there's always a closed museum or grounded plane that puts everyone back on equal footing. Oh, and learn Spanish. The next season is going to be families of four, so we're going to have to wait to apply. We think we would win if we were able to compete. Easily, ha ha.

A Very Nice Day in Atlanta

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Yesterday was a very nice day in Atlanta, even though it was a little rainy. Gabe-Luke went with his mommy on a little run to Georgia Tech. The baseball team was not playing, so we kept going until we got to the biomedical engineering department. Patty used to work with them at SciTrek, so we stopped in to say hello to Sally Gerrish, who used to head the educational outreach activities there. Gabriel enjoyed playing on the carpet, which he doesn't get to do much.

We forgot to post the other day that on Sunday, we had to install our first safety plugs for the electrical outlets. Our little wheeling dervish was looking at those holes with a glint in his eye. Luckily, he didn't get too close before we pulled him away. He's also discovered light switches. His fingers aren't strong enough to push the little lever, but he likes to practice.

The little guy's been vocalizing a lot. The most common thing he says is "Mamamamama." We're sure it's just a coincidence, but it sure sounds like he's saying his first word. He's also discovered peek-a-boo. The strange this is, we didn't teach him. He seems to have invented it himself. What a little genius, not that we're biased or anything.

Jack called last night - what a huge surprise! He was in Kuwait, and it was 0530 there. When they got there, there was a big package from the USO for them that included a phone card, so he was able to go to the phone center and call all of us. He said that he was at Camp Victory, an Army base, and that they had to travel halfway around the world to find a decent chow hall. He sounded tired and said that they hadn't gotten much sleep in the past couple of days. They were about to get on a C-130 to travel to Iraq, and they would helicopter in to Ar Rutbah.

Speaking of C-130s, the union at Lockheed in Marietta walked out after midnight this morning. Matt got a haircut today and so has been past the line three times, but he didn't have any problems with them. In fact, there aren't many of them out there, probably because it's so cold today.

Now for the big news: Steve Karson finally popped the question! He proposed to Kelly on Saturday night by making her follow a series of notes on a wild goose chase around the house. He designed the ring himself, and we can't wait to see it. Of course, Steve still hasn't told us any of this. If it weren't for Kelly, we'd never know anything!

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Sprint Sucks

Well, Jack is officially on his way to the desert. His plane left after midnight this morning, and he'll travel to Ireland and Kuwait before arriving in Iraq. He tried to call us yesterday, but with our fantastic Sprint service, it didn't get through. Our phone was on, the ringer was on, and we were waiting right by it all day, but the phone didn't ring, it didn't say that we'd missed any calls, and we didn't have a voicemail. This is just the latest in a long, long line of disappointments and frustration with Sprint. When we called to complain that we want out of our contract, we were told that we were under contract until May 2006 and that we would have to pay $150 to get out sooner. We argued that given our history with Sprint and the present situation, we obviously had extenuating circumstances and clearly they could understand that. We went through three levels of "customer solution specialists" (yeah right - they change the name of the position but not the crappy service you get) and are awaiting a call from the boss of the last manager with whom we spoke. Patty went on quite a tirade with the last person, something to the effect of "My brother is willing to give his life for our country, and because of your shoddy service, he couldn't even say goodbye to his family. Does Sprint care about our men and women overseas? [yes] These people act with nobility and protect your right to sit in your posh office and suck us dry with your charges and fees and do nothing noble with your life, and this is your chance to do something noble..." We're thinking of starting a second blog titled, "Sprint is Evil." That's just a working title, of course - we're open to suggestions. The ruder, the better. The moral of the story is this: Stay far away from Sprint, and for the love of God, don't ever sign a contract!

So we didn't get to say goodbye to Jack on the phone, but at least we said goodbye in style last weekend. He knows we miss him, and he'll write or call when he can.

Gabriel Summits His First Mountain

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Yesterday, Tony visited us with the Coopers. After a delicioso lunch at Moe's, we traveled to Stone Mountain Park. We'd never visited the plantation there before, and the Coopers wanted to see it, so we went there first. It was really interesting. The house was beautiful, but of course we know that it was a plantation house and we can't get too excited about it. Still, it would be nice to have a house like that - except with a real bathroom. There was a smokehouse that smelled really nice, even though it looked like something out of a horror movie.

It was going to get dark soon, so we went to the mountain hiking trail. On the way up the mountain, Tony found a geocache - it was the first for him, the Coopers, and Gabriel! Gabriel had slept in the car for the last one we did, so this was officially his first. We left a Michigan basketball schedule and a dollar and took two things. One was a thing that looked like a credit card, but there were plane parts that could be punched out and put together to make a 3-D plane. The other was practically the find of the century. It was a stamp of chikara, the symbol that Patty has tattooed over her belly button. It means strength of an inner kind, and the more pregnant she got, the more strength she needed, and the bigger that tattoo got. But we digress...

As we got to our second geocache, the sun was setting over the city of Atlanta in the distance, and a fellow hiker got this great photo of all of us:

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Just beyond this point, we found a carving in the mountain left by someone from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Go Blue!

Finally, we made it to the top of the mountain. It was quite dark and extremely windy. In fact, the sky train had been closed all day due to high winds. After a quick couple of pictures, we hightailed it back down the mountain. Gabriel was such an adventurer. He didn't complain at all, even though it was quite cold and windy, and his little hands were frozen. In fact, he had lots of smiles for all of us and even relaxed so much that he fell asleep in the baby carrier on the way back down the mountain.

We went to dinner at Ray's-Cedars and had some fantastic Mediterranean food and pizza before the gang went back to 'Bama.

Here are some more links to things we mentioned here:

Stone Mountain Park

Gabe's first cache

Our second cache of the day

Friday, March 4, 2005

Growing Up Fast

So Gabriel decided that he wasn't done surprising us last night. He sat up on his own! We sort of tricked him into doing it by making him reach for his lotion bottle (who needs toys?) off to the side, and then by putting it in front of him. He usually tries to sit straight up, which is hard even for those of us who practice Tae Bo. We're trying to get him to understand that he needs to get onto his side or belly in order to sit up. Earlier in the day, we had let him practice by putting a chair in his playard. He fell and hit his head on the wall (no tears from the little tough guy), so that ended that.

Chipdip's new favorite hobby is blowing raspberries. It's replacing growling, which is nice. He seems to do it more when he is ready to sleep.

In other news, he spent a good deal of time wheeling around the apartment today. He's becoming quite a good walker. He went right for the hiking baby carrier. He has good taste. Later, he went to his favorite organic food - the plant. That poor plant is not going to last long with this little guy around, but it's good for him to explore something green. Goodness knows he doesn't get to see much in the way of trees and plants.

We started him on another solid meal today. We're going to nurse him for his two morning feedings, give him solid food for lunch, nurse for supper, and give him solid food for dinner. That way, Mommy can go places with him during the day and doesn't have to worry about finding a private place to nurse. Of course, the nap schedule still has to be considered...

Tomorrow, Tony is bringing his Alabama "family", the Coopers, to visit. Last time he was in Birmingham, we went to visit them and this time they're coming here to see us. They are a great family and we can't wait to see them again tomorrow. The two Mini Coopers, Katie and Abby, are in love with Gabriel. They all like to hike, so we might take them to Stone Mountain to try to walk up to the top. Maybe we'll take the skytrain down for fun.

Patty is considering going back to work. We'd rather have one of us home with the Chipster, but financial considerations might have to take precedence right now. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, March 3, 2005


Today, Gabriel reached two new milestones. That fourth tooth finally broke through! Maybe now we can stop pumping him full of Tylenol and he won't be so out of sorts. He's already used it to bite his mother's finger, but that's what she gets for feeling around in there.

He also, while playing on the bed with Mommy, pulled up to a standing position using her legs as leverage! It wasn't too surprising, since he's been acting like a little monkey lately. We'll be holding him, and he'll squirm around so that he's behind us. We don't know how he does it, but he's good at it.

In more serious news, we received a phone call on Monday while we were on vacation that Matt had to reserve all of his vacation time for the next few months because the union may be striking beginning next week. Given the fact that the government wants to cut back on funding for the F/A-22 and C-130 programs, a slowdown in production could possibly put the jobs of everyone at LMAS at risk. Even the union leaders advised the workers to accept Lockheed's offer, but they still voted to strike. The strike is expected to begin, if at all, next Monday or Tuesday.

We're Baa-ack!

We spent last weekend in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune, because Jack is going to leave for Iraq on Sunday. He's going to be stationed at Ar Rutbah for 7 months. We're going to miss him, but we're grateful that he doesn't have a longer tour, and we think that those months will pass pretty quickly. Anyway, he got us a lodge and a cabana on the beach. Both were very nice. Even the germ-obsessed, hotel-phobic Patty was very comfortable - that says a lot. Those Marines really know how to wash a sheet!

Here is what we did:

Friday: Arrived at 8pm after only 8 hours of driving. Gabe was a champ the whole drive. Laura had gotten in by plane earlier in the day, and Mom and Dad arrived about an hour or two after we did. We all sat around the lodge that night.

Saturday: Ran on the beach. Weather was beautiful - sunny all day. Gabriel got to touch the ocean for the first time. He liked playing with the sand and didn't try to eat any! We went shopping at the MCX and got some Girl Scouts cookies. Those Marines are looking younger and younger, but the uniforms are getting cuter... We ate dinner at the Marina, right on the water. It was a cool place, and it would probably be a fun place to go for a drink on a Friday night. Gabriel made friends with a parrot who kept squawking at him and saying something that we couldn't understand. He was also fascinated by all of the birds that were flying around outside, especially the pelicans. We're amazed at how observant he is. We played foosball (tie game) and Bahamian ring toss (no one could get that stupid ring on the hook but we had fun trying) and had some good eats. Mom fed Gabriel solid food for the first time and made us jealous - he hardly had a spot of food on his bib and none on his clothes!

Sunday: Ran on the beach, and then went to Wilmington. Dad did his first geocache and found an historic bell that rang to announce the departing train in the old station. We then explored Battleship North Carolina, which was enormous and so interesting. Dad got a good workout carrying the little one around. We ate dinner at the Front Street Brewery, and it was great. We really liked their beer, and their food was creative. Any place that has hot pretzels as appetizers has got to be good.

Sunday night we had "the perfect stahm" - one of the strongest rainstorms in our lives. There was no thunder nor lightning, only rain. It was scary for us because our room had three walls to the outside and only one bordering on the rest of the lodge. The wind was so strong and the rain fell so hard, it felt like the ocean had risen right up over our heads. The storm gave the impression that we were being washed away at sea and knocked around by the undertow. We almost called Mom and Dad to see if they were okay in their cabana on the beach.

Monday: Mom and Dad left for Michigan, and Jack had to work, so we spent the day with Laura. Patty ran on the beach with Laura, and then we picked up Jack for lunch at Subway. Longest line ever, but with military efficiency, it went quickly. One of the highlights of our trip was watching Gabe-Luke fall asleep in Jack's arms. He is so fascinated with Uncle Jack - he stared at him all the time, and whenever Jack picked him up, he calmed right down. That night, Laura's friend Melissa and a bunch of Marines who had friends staying next door came over for some drinks. We rented Old School, and it was pretty funny. We're going to rent it again and actually watch it next time. We went down to the beach with Melissa, who had borrowed a red flashlight and showed us how to find sharks' teeth. We found a lot of small black ones.

We turned up the heat so that we could leave the windows open. Since the Marines had to work the next day, there were no partiers outside to disturb us. We slept to the sound of the surf. It was heavenly.

Tuesday: The place where we stayed required us to clean, sweep, mop, empty garbage, and fold all linens before we checked out. We liked the organization of that and thought it's a great idea. Besides, it probably means cleaner rooms because the cleaning crew doesn't get frustrated by people's messes and they probably do a better job because they're happier.

After we checked out, we went to see where Jack works. It's a spacious office with a few desks and a bunch of filing cabinets, no mess and not much ornamentation. It looked like there are probably about 5 people who work there, and they all have a ton of room to move around. He was yawning when we got there, so he was obviously working very hard. Laura had to catch a plane back to Michigan, so we only stayed a minute or two.

When we got to the airport, we were about one minute late and there was no one at the U.S. Airways counter. We found a TSA person, who went back and told them that Laura and another passenger, a Marine on leave before he ships to Iraq, were ready and had no baggage to check. They said that they'd have to get on a later flight because they were about to close the door of the plane. "About to close"! The airport was so small that the plane was just on the other side of the wall. It was ridiculous, but since they didn't charge change fees, Laura and the guy decided not to complain too much. She got on a flight 3 hours later and was back in Detroit by 9 pm.

Our drive back to Atlanta took about 9 hours and was a little tough, because Gabriel cried a good portion of that time. His fourth tooth was coming in and was giving him a good deal of grief. We quickly took out our baggage, returned the rental car an hour and 5 minutes late but weren't charged thankfully, and were back at the apartment around midnight. Gabriel ate dinner at 12:30 am and we were in bed around 2 am. It was a really great trip, and we're looking forward to going back in September to welcome Jack back home.

Here are some more links you might want to check out: Our digital photos from the trip 2nd LAR Battalion, H&S Company (Jack's Company) Map of Iraq - Ar Rutbah is in the west

Coming soon...

We're back from our big trip and are hard at work on our blog. We should have it finished by tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a picture from our trip. This was after a big storm, and the waves were outrageous. We were standing on the steps outside our cabana. There were surfers behind us getting ready to jump in.