Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making Room for One More!!!!!! (Goodbye Den)

So, I know that there are many out there that are as excited about the news as we are. I know some of you already know, but I thought it would be best to make some sort of formal announcement to let people know that it's ok to talk about it and such. Our family has been blessed by the addition of a Felt bicycle. The delivery came at 11:36 am on Tuesday and weighs 24 lbs 12 oz. It hasn't even been a week, and I've already come to love it so much. I will admit though, it has been a challenge to make room for the addition in our house. Thankfully we were able to slide the kitchen table over far enough in it's nook to make enough room for it to fit nicely.

This bike is very different from my last bike. My last bike was a normal full-suspension mountain bike and was quite burly. This bike is a hardtail single-speed 29er. The key differences are:
  1. It's a hardtail--which means it doesn't have a shock in the back. This makes my behind much more sore after the rides, but the bike is much more responsive out of the saddle. It also makes it lighter.
  2. It's a 29er--this means it has larger diameter tires which mean decreased rolling resistance to everything including roots.
  3. It's a single speed--this means just one gear. The bike is very simple and also lighter because of the absence of all the drive train components.

I went for my first ride on Thursday afternoon. I took it out to Hardwood Mills park. It was a great feeling to ride again. The bike is very well suited to the terrain here; my last bike would have been overkill. The bike handles very well and it always feels like it is in the right gear. Also, I must say the 29" wheels are a pleasure. It's a lot of fun to just roll over the top of everything monster-truck style. I love it.

In other great news, Nicole and I spoke in church today on gratitude. Nicole did an excellent job. I kept thinking about how articulate and educated she sounded as she spoke. I keep realizing more and more what a deal I got as our marriage progresses. Yesterday afternoon I sat down to write my talk and told Nicole I would have it knocked out in 30 min. Four hours later I finished. It was just one of those things that the more and more I read, the more and more I wanted to know.

I did get a break in the middle of my talk writing though when we went to the ward activity. It was a great activity that ended up very well. However, at the outset we weren't sure when to show up. We were told by three different sources that the activity started at 5:00, 6:00, and 6:30. We guessed 5:00 and so did 75% of the ward. The rest came trickling in throughout the evening. The activity was a pot luck. Everyone was supposed to make something with their food storage and bring the item and their recipe.
About 4:00, Nicole and I decided we should start cooking something for the activity. Much to our surprise, we found that the only thing beside Cup o' Noodles that was in our food storage that we could turn into a decent side dish was Stove Top Suffing. So that's what we made. And, as instructed, we displayed the recipe for everyone to see (I followed all three steps meticulously). Now some may laugh and point the finger of scorn at our simply prepared dish, but, as I predicted it was one of the first items gone at the pot luck--I didn't even get any. There's no way anyone can turn down Stove Top. Also, I would like to note that at the activity, we took receipt of more items for our food storage that we had on order. We now have 6 gallons of water and 25 lbs of canned flour. I know it's not much yet, but don't you worry, we'll have our proverbial bomb shelter stocked in no time. Now, if only we could find a place to put it all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That Rascally Voldemort (AKA Tom Riddle)

So I know all of you are dying to know the end to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secret's (I realize that this only applies to about 10 people in the world besides those who are illiterate, and those who are both illiterate and blind and can't watch the movies.) So although I now know who opened the Chamber of Secrets to kill all the mudbloods, I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you nine--you are just going to have to read it for yourselves. Nicole and I just finished book two of the Harry Potter saga. When we were first married, Nicole couldn't believe that I had never read any of the Harry Potter books. So in order to culture me, we have taken to reading the books out loud as we drive. We tend to spend quite a bit of time in the car together dropping each other off and picking each other up. I will concede that the books are well written and interesting, and I actually have caught myself thinking about them besides when we are reading them. In fact I look forward to the time we spend together reading and it makes the time in the car go by much faster. My only regret is that I didn't get on the whole Harry Potter bandwagon earlier. I never got to enjoy going to Barnes and Noble at 8am dressed up in a Dumbledore costume I sewed myself making jokes about 'how dumb muggles can be' and waiting in line until midnight to get my book three, book four, book five, book six, or book seven.

Beyond Harry Potter, this has really been a great week. Thursday we got to go rock climbing at a gym in Virginia beach with two of our friends Chuck and Quincy. It was a great time. Climbing is great because it helps you find muscles to strengthen that you don't normally use--then it reminds you the rest of the week about how weak you really are and how you should really consider using those muscles more often--dually noted.

On Saturday, we got to go to the Washington, DC temple to see two of our friends be sealed for eternity. It was a great experience. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be married to such an incredible woman and how grateful I am that we can be together forever. On the way home from DC, we went to Golden Corral to celebrate. It has been a long while since I have been to an all you can eat buffet. I used to be quite good at eating; however, much to my surprise, I had two plates, and a little dessert, and I was done. I filled up fast--I'm no longer the 'Great White Kobayashi of the North' that I used to be. However, I still did manage to get in steak, fried chicken, prime rib, shrimp and a taco.

Today on the way to church we had a rough bout with nature. When we were almost at the church, we were driving about 40 down Mercury boulevard when I heard what sounded like rocks hitting the windsheild. It wasn't rocks, it was droppings from some unknown bird between the size of a California Condor and WWII fighter plane. Needless to say the windshield was covered in feces. We turned on the windshield wipers which only made matters worse until after we used up almost all of our windshield washer fluid. Regardless, I have to say we deserved it.

You see earlier in the same car ride, immediately after leaving our apartment we turned right on Kecoughtan ('kick-a-tan') Road. As we turned right, we saw this:

Memorial to the squirrel we crushed on the way to church

This squirrel was on the side of the road just gathering nuts into a basket to take home to his children. I thought to myself, 'That's cute. Hope he doesn't run out under the car.' Then, of course, against my better judgement he ran right under the car. Rear passenger tire caught him square and that was it. Anyway, I was sad, but aparently not sad enough because we got taken to town by the aforementioned mystery bird.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

4th Grade Political Science

Well, the elections are finally over. And even those who weren't satisfied with the result have to admit, at least all the ads have stopped and we can get on with life. However, because it was such an important week in our nations history, Nicole decided to teach the students about how politics really works. This week, Nicole started a new program with her students. Similar to a politician the students receive rewards (poker chips=$$$) for things that most would consider 'responsible behavior' or 'common-decency.' The chips are handed out for such things as turning in assignments, listening in class, or helping another student. Chips are then redeemed at the end of the week in the class store. Items in the store range anywhere from candy to Hotwheels cars to slightly larger toys. Some call it 'a behavior plan' some call it 'bribery,' but regardless, it works and everyone is happier.

In other news, I got a new wrench set this week. And not just any wrench set, a ratcheting wrench set. Built like regular box end wrenches with a ratcheting end, they are magical little devices that allow you to perform work in very small areas where space is very limited. Lucky for me I had just such a job. Of late, our car developed a small whine, which turned into a squeal, which turned into the blood-curdling death cry of a rabbit as it is skinned alive loud enough to wake up everyone in a three block radius as we leave each morning at 7 am--certainly loud enough that we couldn't carry on a conversation while it was happening. It turns out that the culprit was the serpentine belt on the alternator. On a Japeneese car (we drive a Mazda) changing the belt is a simple process of loosening four bolts that are conveniently located at the bottom of the engine between the firewall and the block and easily loosened by the same types of people who can fold their entire body into a piece of carry-on luggage. Enter the magic wrenches. We were able to complete the whole operation last night in a little over an hour using only two wrenches and less than a dozen cuss words. Using standard wrenches that had to be repositioned every eighth of a turn, we easily would still be there right now. For those reading this that are not interested in tools or auto repair, thank you for allowing me this indulgence as I glory in the best purchase of the week (and I had a lot of good ones this week.) Also, it will make a great gift for your husband or auto mechanic at X-mas.

Also this week, I went on my first scout camping trip as a leader. I will admit that at first I wasn't too excited about going. It has been raining here essentially non-stop for the last two weeks. All I could see was myself being wet and cold for two days. I imagine that these same thoughts often crossed the minds of the leaders I had as a youth which make me even more grateful for their sacrifices. However, I went and it actually turned out well. My scout did great; it was his first camping trip. (As a note 'scout' is intentionally not plural as I only have one.) Being that he had never been before we spent our time going over good Boy Scout classics such as building a fire that will light with only one match, how not to remove your fingers while using a pocket knife and what to do if you do, setting up tents, and knot-tying. We were quite successful. He had a good time, and best of all, the sun was out and Friday night was warm. Additionally I got to spend some time with the one of the other scout masters who is becoming a really good friend of mine.

I know I've said it before, but Virginia is really beautiful. The countriside here is absolutely gorgeous. I got up early before the boys were up on Sat. morning and went for a little walk down a small road near our campsite. Here are a some pictures. Also included are some photos that Nicole and I took this evening when we drove out to walk along one of the piers.

The James River

Nicole and I at the Pier

The James River Bridge

Sunrise at the campout

Fall on the camping trip