Friday, May 13, 2011

Wrestling, Soccer, Art. It's All Here!

Lots of stories to tell so try to keep up!

Gosh, where to start? I found my MIA camera in my coat pocket from our last snow day. We've added a few pictures since then but I obviously hadn't gotten around to doing anything with them.

Cameron quit soccer this season (boo! He was really good!) and decided to take up wrestling, of all sports. Hunter, Kevin's BFF and our neighbor's son, started last fall and they suggested Cameron try it. I took him to a practice to see what it was like and was surprised at how hard those kids work. They did some serious cardio exercises! Cam thought it looked fun so we forked over the dough and signed on the dotted line. On the way home from his very first practice, he was literally singing songs about how much he hated it and swore he wasn't going back. Sorry, buddy. We paid, you play. Like it or not. By the next practice, his attitude had improved again (kind of like labor, I assume, where people forget how bad it was and remember the good parts). The coaches really took a liking to Cameron mostly because he truly worked very hard and never quit. Cam was warned most kids don't win any matches in their first season but that didn't stop him from getting more and more discouraged as the season progressed and he remained winless. He led at times and came really close to winning a couple of times but just couldn't finish the deal. Finally, late in the season, he not only won a match but he did it by pinning his opponent (as we learned, you can win by a pin (best way = bragging rights) or on points). He followed that up with another win in the next tournament. We all learned a lot about a sport we initially knew nothing about and got to where we were really enjoying watching the matches. We even learned to shout something more profound than "Go!" by the end of the season. As fun as it was though, it was always very tough to see my son get twisted into a pretzel and out-muscled despite his very best efforts. It took all I had not to go out on the mat and kick some of those kids off him. That probably wouldn't be a very good display of sportsmanship.

One of Cam's first matches (he's on top). He wanted to look tough but he really looked cute in his singlet.

This has nothing to do with wrestling other than the fact that we were at a match but I just love the expression on Kevin's face.

We also bought a new, used dirt bike for Cameron. He didn't know it was coming so when I brought it home and asked him to help me get something out of the pickup, he was overjoyed when he saw it.

He's only ridden it a couple of times so far but he figured out the clutch and shifting pretty quickly. Hopefully we'll get more time to ride it now that summer is here.

It took us several weeks but we (with the boys help) finally got around to putting our new outdoor fireplace together. Dana bought some huge marshmallows to roast. I'm talking Texas-sized. These things were monsters! We'll enjoy us some nice fires with this thing.

Look at the size of those marshmallows! Eat one and you don't want any more.

Pretty much as soon as we found the camera, Cade got back to taking self portraits again. Dana bought him some kind of detective kit at the dollar store one day so he took these pictures. I just love them.

Agent C is on the scene.

And he's packing heat.

"Don't make me call for backup. I'm the good cop."

Kevin's middle school soccer team had a great season. They almost went undefeated losing only one, close game. When the regional tournament rolled around they were the number 1 seed. The first game was easy, the second was a little harder and the third and final game was against the team they lost to. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half and hung on for a nailbiting 2-1 win. Regional champs for 2 years in a row (Kevin's first year, of course)!

(Kevin 4th from L on top row)

Cade is playing soccer again this season. He's really enjoying it. He's constantly kicking a ball around the house and out in the yard (Imagine that! Someone who actually practices!) He has improved tremendously this year and it's a good thing because he's the only one on the team who has played before. He's always very proud when I ask him to show his teammates how to do something.

Good or not, he' still pretty darn white.

Three little monkeys sitting in a tree. One fell off and bumped his... knee? This was obviously taken a few months ago before everything bloomed and my sinuses rebelled.

Sometimes I hook a strap to the skateboard and drag Cade around the driveway. The boys took that idea a step further and tow each other around the cul-de-sac.

Yet another self portrait. He figured out that he can put the camera on the table, push the button and immediately jump back to get a picture like this. Some day I'll show him how to use the timer but in the meantime this is more fun to watch.

My littlest buddy and me.

Spring time means chalk time. Yet another driveway masterpiece under construction.

Dana let me build a train track around the wall in our office! I've always wanted to do that. With that done, I'm trying to convince her to let me tunnel through the wall and go into another room or three.

More pictures to come. Cameron had a big day and we had some guests for Easter.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Returning to Normal

We've had quite the interesting week to say the least! As you all probably know, we had what's called a generational storm system, in that something like this only happens about once a generation. I've heard the worst storm on record in 1974 spawned 149 tornadoes but this one spawned 150 tornadoes - in Alabama. I don't know what the total count for all the states turned out to be. It started on Wednesday when the storms started rolling in. After getting stuck in the basement at work for an hour, I took the opportunity to go home early in between storm fronts. I'm so glad I did too because I got home just minutes before another storm hit and several of them passed through my route home. Dana and Cade had already taken shelter once under the stairs when it got nasty but it was just a strong wind at that time. One of our neighbor's trees fell but nothing was damaged. The rest of the afternoon and early evening seemed to be one tornado warning after another with several passing just a few miles south of us. We lost power around 5:00. At one point, Dana noticed debris falling from the sky even though it was calm outside (indicator of a tornado nearby). Pieces of insulation, tin, shingles, paper and other items littered the area. We found a church bulletin from Phil Campbell and registration form from Hamilton AL (both about 100 miles away and very hard hit by the tornadoes).

The next day, power was out across the area. We heard 1 million people were w/o power. Most of Athens had power (we did not) so all the neighboring cities were coming here for gas and groceries and causing all kinds of headaches with traffic. Reports were that getting gas could take anywhere from 45 minutes to over 2 hours depending on what time you went. The grocery stores that were open were quickly wiped out of bread, milk, ice and the like. Being from the southwest, Dana bought some of the many available tortillas and we made meals with those. Ha! These Southerners apparently didn't know what to do with them. It also started to become more clear how lucky we were. An F-4 tornado passed just 2 miles south of us and destroyed several homes. One brick home was completely wiped off it's foundation. We had nothing more than some broken twigs in our yard while those nearby people lost everything.

Some good came out of the bad. Our lives slowed down and we spent more time visiting with neighbors and each other. Dana volunteered to work an extra day at the hospital since they were short on staffing and I grabbed my chainsaw and headed out with a group from our church to help with cleanup efforts. The chainsaws ran all day as we cut and others hauled off the debris. I won't post any pictures but it looked like a bomb went off in the hardest hit areas. Houses gone, cars pulverized, huge trees uprooted... After seeing this, I couldn't help but feel like I had a little survivor's guilt. We didn't have so much as a shingle torn from our roof. We also started hearing some terrible and heart breaking stories from EMTs and first responders that I won't repeat here.

Almost all of our friends were unaffected by the storms other than not having power but some did have some damage to their homes. One group was watching the big tornado as it approached and said the water in the field across the road suddenly rose and shot straight towards the approaching wall cloud then went straight up in the air. At that point, they ran inside and down to the basement. Just about every tree on their property was knocked over (and they had a lot!) and several hit the house. No one was injured though. Another friend had some damage to the home they were renting and ruined a lot of nice furniture. But literally, just across the street, several homes were destroyed and the second stories on each of them were gone. I'm pretty sure they consider themselves lucky.

As the days dragged on with no power, we used our little generator to charge all the neighbor's cell phones and the kids' portable games. Dana also used it to power her blow dryer. She was the only lady in the whole neighborhood with perfect hair every day! Everyone else wore a cap or a ponytail. We grilled some of the food in our freezer before it went bad and shared dinner with our neighbors. And I must say, we LOVE our neighbors. Everyone has been so good about helping and watching out for each other.

We never felt like we were all that affected by the storm, only minorly inconvenienced by the power loss but others felt differently. I stopped at AutoZone and when I asked the cashier how he was doing he griped that he could be a lot better because he didn't have any power at home. Really? Your place of employment is still there and open, your family is well, your house and property are fine and you're complaining? Seriously?

The power came back on at our house late Sunday night and cable and internet followed on Monday. After being cut off from everything for several days, we were finally able to see the images and videos from the storms. Yikes!

The other day Cade and Cameron found a big box from a generator and dragged it home. They taped it back together and call it their "emergency box". It appears the storms had an effect on them as well.

As I type this, the Redstone Arsenal where I work still hasn't reopened so I've been off work for almost a week. I could definitely get used to this as long as the paycheck keeps coming!

Things are slowly returning to normal and it appears the rest of the country has moved on to the next big news story. It'll be awhile before it feels normal here because I have to drive by some of those devastated houses to get to work. Every time I see one of those, I thank God my family wasn't injured.

I started working on a blog early last week with some updates over the last month or so. I'll get around to it again soon and post some pictures of the kids' happenings.

Thanks to everyone for the thoughts and prayers and for checking in on us. It was exciting but not the kind of exciting like a Space Shuttle launch where you immediately want to do it again. I'm good with going through that just once!