Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God bless us, everyone

I started this blog because we have the cutest kids ever and I wanted to share their pictures with our family (a couple of hours away) in a way that’s less obtrusive than constantly sending out mass email messages. Five hundred thirty-three posts later, it’s also become sort of an ongoing record of Jack and Landon growing up ... that maybe they’ll like looking back at someday.

That’s where this fits in.

# # #

Jackson and I went to the local branch of the public library last night for a free program called “The Night Before Christmas Carol.” Set in 1843, one actor played Charles Dickens — and 17 other Christmas Carol characters! — on the night he dreams up his redemptive Christmas story. The one-man show was a humorous and historical look into the author’s struggles and inspiration behind the world-famous book.

It was about 70 minutes long. The place was packed. And as restless and distracted as Jack gets, he did great. He even sat on my lap for a bit.

By the end, though, he was really anxious to get up and go look for books. We browsed for about 10 or 15 minutes, but it was gettin’ late and a school night, so we finally checked out (chapter books and “graphic novels” for him, and some Christmas CDs for me). I always cherish one-on-one time with Jack; it kind of reminded me of when I was unemployed and got to take the boys to the library.

As I went back to our seats and got our coats to leave, the Charles Dickens actor himself walked right up to me. He had stepped away from the little cookies-and-punch reception and opened his hand to reveal a wrinkled dollar bill. “I want to let you know that your son gave this to me."

I had no idea. I was shocked.

He continued, “I was so touched, that I’d like you to take it and give it back to him — anonymously — on Christmas morning.”

I didn’t know what to say, I was speechless. But I refused, saying that if Jack wanted him to have it, than it was meant for him. I explained how he gets a small allowance that’s divided into fourths (for saving, spending, taxes and giving) and this must be how he wanted to share some with others. To show his thanks and appreciation. In his own special way.

Finally, I shook the man’s hand and he wished us a good night. “Merry Christmas” I said, as Jack and I turned to head home, “and thank you.”

# # #

Jack had done that entirely on his own. He didn’t say anything about it to me, and I didn’t say anything about it to him.

We wonder so much about our kids: how they behave; how they’re gonna grow up; how they act when we’re not around ... how they act when we are around.

So it’s pretty overwhelming to see, firsthand, Jack actually living out an example of selflessness and gratitude. I thank God for him to be learning these important values, when it often seems we usually battle over mundane things like putting away his toys and getting ready for bed.

But maybe some of it's sinking in, after all.

# # #

Wow. I might have just had the highlight of my Christmas season.

And it’s not even December yet.


“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
~Ebenezer Scrooge


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black (and white) Friday

Leslie and I ventured to the Grand Loft in Osawatomie, Kan., Friday night for our neighbors' wedding.

It says "1917" at the top of the building out front, but the bartender told me the lower level (the original mercantile) was built in the 1800s.

It was classic, timeless and memorable...

...kinda like Rob & Tracee.

Then all we had to do for the reception, was walk upstairs.

This was a fun idea I hadn't "heard" of before.

Not only did the groom's cake look great, it tasted great — they used Sandy, our wedding cake baker from 11 years ago!

Did you notice? Tracee changed into a different dress during the reception.

(And, lastly, an ornament I made for them with their wedding invitation.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

More than the pilgrims ever imagined

Thanksgiving morning. And what we're thankful for.

Cranberry sauce is actually Jackson's favorite Thanksgiving food! Leslie thinks it might have something to do with the two cups of sugar in it.

Have I mentioned I'm a wannabe food photographer?

Around 12:30, we drove to southern Kansas City to Dan & Linda's house, like we did two years ago. But as I told someone earlier in the week that we were going to "my wife's cousin's husband's parents' house," I realized we really don't go there because they're relatives and we're obligated to. Instead, we choose to spend Thanksgiving with them because they're so nice, we really like spending time with them, and they're just so easy and comfortable to be with.

With it being a gorgeous 70 degrees (on Nov. 24!), you felt bad not going outside. So it was perfect to let the boys run around and play.

Our godson Danny.

Jack was excited to get the wish bone. And more excited to beat his dad at pulling it.

Roughhousing with Andy.

Empty plates, empty glasses and pushed back from the table ... the tryptophan's kickin' in.

Leslie and Dulsey doin' dishes.

Playing everyone's favorite after-dinner activity, "Your Continent or Mine?" (Actually, Jack was looking for Serbia, where Dan & Linda lived for two years.)

After Thanksgiving dinner, the Kennedys play football on the front lawn. I guess the Neumeyers climb trees in the back yard.

Landon in a turkey coma.

The iPad held their attention a little bit longer than the atlas did.

On the way home, we wound our way through the Country Club Plaza to see all of its lights lit up for the first night.

A few thousand other people had the same idea, too. (In the glass on these doors, you can see the reflection of red tail lights from the bumper-to-bumper traffic.)

And cruising by the Pamona Fountain (featuring Donatello's sculpture of the goddess of vineyards and orchards), where I proposed to Leslie.

Over the river and through the ... sunroof. (My unedited shot of the Bond Bridge at 50 miles per hour, at night — completely un-Photoshopped.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Showdown in Joe town

The boys and I drove up to St. Joseph today for Northwest's first round of the NCAA Division II national playoffs. It was a rematch of our game two weeks ago, when Missouri Western beat Northwest by three points.

After hearing the rest of the crowd cheering, Landon got into it, too. He liked the idea of being able to yell without getting in trouble.

It's fun seeing A.D. do so well as a first-year coach, since Leslie and I have known him since we were in college together.

Taking a potty break behind the stadium. (I've never been so proud as when Landon peed on the Mo West campus. I really encouraged him to go No. 2.)

With the help of a double-decker tuba player and a rockin' drum major, the Bearcat Marching Band brought down the house.

In the fourth quarter, with the crowd on its feet, Northwest had to go for it on fourth down and inches.

After getting the first down and an AMAZING two-point conversion, the crowd erupts. But Landon doesn't flinch ... as he stays cuddled up in his green blankie, dreaming of a Northwest victory.

Northwest's athletic director, Baker, celebrating with last year's All-American, Soy. It sounds like they should have their own cooking show.

Jack’s second-grade teacher, Mrs. Henson, told him yesterday at school that she was going to be there — so he took his little bird-watching binoculars in hopes of seeing her. As soon as the game was over, we finally did!

Whew, the game really wore Landon out!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Experiencing Northwest

My niece Schuyler, who's a senior in high school, did an offical campus visit at Northwest Friday afternoon, so I went up to meet her and Mom.

It was a different perspective to tag along on the Student Ambassador's tour.

I still remember this computer lab in the library being the first place I ever heard of the "World Wide Web."

We all stayed overnight for the football game Saturday afternoon. (The requisite Bearcat Zone pic.)

Head over heels.

Head over heels, marching band style.

Me and Mike, on the hunt for Bobby.

Northwest was only up 28-14 at halftime. But once we started watching the game from here, Northwest scored 34 unanswered points!

Finally, a shot of the three of us...

...before driving back to KC.

Thankfully, Mom and Skye spent Saturday night at our house.

We love seeing Grandma!

Bedtime stories.

And the parting shots Sunday after church.