Dear Friends and Family,
Fine, I admit it I am perpetually late. A man must be granted one fault. In an otherwise perfect human, just ask my wife and mom, I just can’t seem to get control of this one area of my life. Since the first step to resolving a problem is admitting it I guess now I’m on the road to recovery. I really enjoy taking the time to reflect on a year and bombing your mailbox with the result. I guess this year I enjoyed it right past Christmas. We hope this letter finds you quickly after you’ve had a wonderful Christmas holiday but before a great New Year begins.
The big story for the year involves a couple of members from the reptile community. We live in an old house in an old neighborhood. Our neighborhood has big yards, is hilly, and has wooded areas. We have a family of chipmunks that live in our side yard garden—about 12 of them. Generally, at least 2 squirrels attempt suicide by diving underneath my minivan tire each morning as I head down the hill on the way to work. They are everywhere. When we first moved in I was amazed that about 6 of them would seem to play follow the leader in our yard on a regular basis. Molly has an eye for the neighborhood deer. She sees them all the time in our neighbor’s yard, herds in our yard, or running across the street almost hitting a car. I always find lizards crawling around outside the house. I’ve been “keeping” a small pet garter snake in the ivy in our side yard garden for about a year. I was trimming a bush one day a he was in it. He moved over to the ivy and every time I trimmed it I saw him. He was the perfect low maintenance pet. Eventually he decided to find a new home. One day when I was mowing I saw him crawling through our yard to another house.
Anyway, you get the picture, we are surrounded by nature and we live in harmony with it. I definitely don’t use power equipment to hack up anything that crosses my path. Me man, hear me roar?!?!
One day I get a call at work, as I frequently do, from the love of my life. She was in distress. I was informed that a small lizard was in our kitchen. “OK, well catch it and put it outside.” I’ll just say that the response I got back wasn’t really anything I need to print here. Pops, my father-in-law, was nearby and came by the house and saved the day. He captured the lizard and put it back outside. It was later described to me as a little baby lizard that easily fit in the palm of his hand. My wife has changed diapers with wretched evil lurking inside them. She has cleaned up messes from kid sickness that would have landfill workers running for cover. I couldn’t imagine why she couldn’t capture an itty, bitty, teensy, weensy, little, lizard and put it outside. I’m sure that night at dinner I spoke of how weak we have become in this day and age. I probably ranted about how people in the old days probably had snakes in their cave all the time and they lived!
A few days later I got another call. “What…a lizard is in the linen closet…[long pause]…I guess you want me to come home and get it…OK…well it will take me a few minutes to get there…yes, I know you want it out now…I hope it doesn’t move either…well I can’t magically transport myself there…OK, bye…yes, I’ll hurry…yes…[click].”
At this point I was in a pretty foul mood. A lizard had breached the interior of our home…he had now done it twice in a single week…I had no clue how he was getting in…I wondered why we didn’t “eliminate” him the first time…I was having to leave work…and obviously my wife had not listened to my speech at dinner a few nights ago…STEAM BUILDING!!! I went by to tell my boss that I had an “emergency” that I had to take care of. He suggested that I take some sticky, glue board, rodent traps to help catch it. Good thinking, now he’ll never make it out of the closet, I thought to myself sinisterly!!! Your about to meet your maker now lizard boy!!!
I arrived home with my arsenal. I came up the steps, around the corner, and immediately noticed a package of toilet paper had been tossed in a flurry on the floor outside the linen closet. I quickly developed a mental picture of Emily grabbing the package, seeing the lizard, freaking completely out, and running for her life. I thought about how silly she was as I chuckled. Girls?!??! I moved in to further assess the situation and immediately noticed the claw of the little vermin sticking out from behind another pack of toilet paper. Hmmm…that’s weird…I hadn’t expected it to be that big?!?!?!
Now I’m going to preface the rest of this alarming tale with this—I have seen lizards before. I have seen the ever common blue tail lizard around almost every house I’ve ever lived in. They are usually about the size of a Sharpie marker, a few inches long and not very big around. Yes, I’ve seen lizards before.
I decided that before I begin poking around too much I better lay out the “path of doom.” If he decided to depart the linen closet he would be stopped cold in his tracks. After laying the glue boards from one end of the door to the other I began removing items from the bottom of the linen closet. Finally I got down to that last item, the pack of toilet paper that the little serpent was under. I grabbed it and expected the little thing to quickly scurry towards the door to escape to some little hole somewhere. Huh, he’s not moving…good, maybe he’s dead.
Like I said before, I’ve seen lizards. I’ve even seen lizards like this before—IN THE ZOO! No wonder he didn’t move, he was enormous, he probably couldn’t move!!! This thing was no “Sharpie marker” he was a “corn cob”. He was a “corn cob” that was now staring me down, taunting me with his cold, dark, lizard eyes. As he stared at me I could almost hear him say, “you want me, you are going to have to come in here and get me!”
The whole time this is going on Emily is on the other side of the house screaming the same thing she had been screaming since I had walked in the door “Did you get him yet…you better not let him get out in my house”. “Yes Dear!” I grabbed a broom and started to rustle him around. The whole time I was worried that this giant beast would somehow jump over the “glue board death row” I had assembled. I wondered if the boards would even be big enough to slow him down. Would he just be running through the house with one on each foot chasing the dog? As he took his first steps, in my mind, the floor seemed to tremble like the movie Jurassic Park! Then he turned and headed my way, hit the glue board, and slowly came to a crawl. I had brought him down and I breathed a sigh of relief. As I sat there in my pool of sweat I thought to myself…it is over…for now…but for how long…2 in one week…this obviously wasn’t the same one…unless he took steroids…do lizards take steroids…how many more would there be…will we ever be safe?
I am happy to report that we had no further lizard incidents in our home. It took me a solid week to talk Emily off the ledge. I felt sure I would arrive home from work any night and find a giant neon for sale sign in my front yard.
Later in the summer, I had a guy come and pour some concrete paths outside. He was a good old boy and worked for a couple of days in our side yard garden. After he finished he called back a couple of days later to make sure everything was alright. At the end of the call he said, “Hey man, I didn’t want to freak anybody out or anything but I feel like I oughta tell you…” “No problem, what is it?” “Well, while I was cleaning up my partner stepped over a bush and jumped back real fast. When I asked him what was wrong he showed me a snake.” I immediately started thinking of my little “pet” garter snake. He said, “We killed it.” I thought it was horrible since that little guy never did anything to anyone. As I told him about “my snake” he broke into my story. “Oh man, I don’t think this was the same snake…this one was about 6 feet long!” I thanked him for taking care of that little “nightmare waiting to happen”. I quickly made sure that it still wasn’t lying dead at the house for Emily to happen upon. It was like he was in my mind. He knew Emily or a kid finding Godzilla outside the house would probably not have been a good thing. He had taken it with him—in a 5 gallon bucket!!! You can imagine that I thought about it long and hard before telling Emily of the giant snake. Eventually my conscience forced me to tell her. I tried to spin it where it would sound like this had to be the end of our problems. Who knows if it is? It seems each time we see an animal another one about 4 times its size winds up appearing to terrorize us. We see a small lizard in our house and then a giant one shows up in the linen closet. We see a small snake in our garden and later a giant one shows up. I’m now waiting for Molly to see a 20 foot tall deer or have a family of 2 foot tall chipmunks appear outside our house in the Spring. We’ll keep you posted!
We started off 2004 with some friends at home. All the kids decided they were going to stay up all night. Max and Molly were horrible, they tapped out by 10. Emmaline put up a strong fight and with a few naps she made it to 11:50 before giving up. Preston made it for his first time. We were off to a strong start.
We took several trips with Mimi and Pops (Emily’s parents) down to Florida this year. We usually had someone in tow. For Spring Break we took S’more on his first family vacation. He made the 9 hour drive in his little kennel in the back of the van perfectly. For the 4th of July we met Gran and Golfball (my parents) down there. We all got to see Golfball in his “swim gear” which was worth the drive. Later in the summer Cameron, Jayne and Miles (Emily’s brother, his wife and little boy) joined in for a great trip. We decided fish and dog were no longer enough and returned home with 3 hermit crabs. The kids haven’t helped take care of them at all, which wasn’t the deal. Does anyone want 3 hermit crabs? We closed out the season with a final trip for Thanksgiving. Yes, the kids got in the shivering cold water. No, I didn’t since I’m not crazy. On one of these trips my alter ego Kite Boy made an appearance. The ocean was rolling, the wind was strong. While the kids finalized the hermit crab decision I looked at kites. I took it back to the beach that afternoon and began flying it. So I’m flying my kite in my own little world and I hear my wife just having a ball behind me. It sounded like it was at my expense and it was. It seemed I was evidently quite funny flying my kite as the tan, buff, surfers strolled up and down the beach behind me. I bet those surfer punks can’t do a double axle straight into a flat spin?!?!
We again made a pilgrimage to Bristol, Tennessee to see Kurt Busch win the Food City 500. We repeated last years trip almost exactly (even got the same winner). We went to NASCAR Café for the slowest, worst dinner ever, again. This year we added the NASCAR go kart track where Preston beat us all up pretty badly. Then we got up early and headed to the race. In addition to Emily, Preston, and I we had quite a crowd packed in the old Dodge minivan. Preston had somehow talked Pops into making the trip. I don’t think Pops will allow that to happen again. All the way in the back seat were a couple of Earnhardt fans, Wayne and Mandy (my cousin and his wife). They were really good sports about their driver losing to the future NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion. Get used to it! Go 97! Go Kurt!!!
We hadn’t been to Memphis in a while so we met our friends Michael and Robin for a long weekend with the kids. For them I’m sure it was a very “long” weekend. We went to a Redbird baseball game, which was fun. I wanted to see the Masters of Florence exhibit so we took all the kids with us. They loved it. We took the entire 2 hour tour in about 20 minutes. Towards the end I think we actually broke into a jog to keep up with them. Michael told me so, but anything is worth a try! After the exhibit it rained most of the afternoon, so we got wet exploring downtown. We saw the Peabody Ducks, rode the trolley, and went to Mud Island. Max got good and soggy chasing leaves in the scaled down Mississippi River. We ended that day playing indoor miniature golf. Michael and Robin went to a really nice restaurant and we ate at the Waffle House beside our hotel. Very high class! The next day we ate ribs and hit the zoo to see the Pandas before heading home.
Another adventure broke out in Santa Claus, Indiana. We met Hogdaddy and Theresa (Emily’s dad and his girlfriend), Cameron, Jayne and Miles at Holiday World. We rode little rides, big rides, and got really hot. Never fear just hit a Pepsi Oasis for free soft drinks and fight the rays at the free sunscreen station. The horrific sights of the free sunscreen station to this day haunt me. There is something about a mass of people, crowded together, drinking Pepsi, some eating, in public, rubbing lotion all over themselves that is deeply disturbing for this boy from Springfield. Holiday World has the #1 and #4 wooden roller coaster in the world. We rode the #4 coaster first and it almost got the best of half the group. Emily didn’t fair too well on it so she and I got to cool off in the first aid station for a while. Some of us went on to #1 later and we swear they have the numbers mixed up!!!
My year has been project after project. Last year’s project was “lawn renovation”. It turned out pretty good. This year anytime a moment was free, or not, I was back outside doing something in our yard. I put Preston to work and he and I shoveled a couple of dump trucks of mulch. At one point I had all the kids outside helping me dig bricks out of the ground in our side yard garden. I wonder where that giant snake was while we were out there.
I spent the last month getting in trouble with the law. I was at the end of a line of fast brakers and my reflexes gave out on me so I ran the old minivan into the back end of another car. My minivan was on its way to the grave anyway so this just messed it up for good. Emily was pretty mad at me until she got another car out of the deal, which helped take the sting out (at least for her). I’m still trying to decide if mad wife or empty wallet is worse. Two weeks later John Law nabbed me again for speeding. Neither time did I have my updated insurance card. Yes, I was dumb enough not to get it after my first incident. I just smiled and looked interested as the second officer explained the procedure to me…in detail…again. Are we having fun yet?
We don’t see Emily much. She is usually either hiding behind a 44 ounce cup of Sonic ice or we banish here to her “dungeon” where she stain sticks laundry into the wee hours of the morning. Are we having fun yet? We’ve been in our house for a few years and since the very second we walked through the door I’ve heard how our bathroom needs remodeling. It was fairly disgusting, so when the shower door handle came off in my hand prior to Mothers Day I knew what this year’s gift would be. We had it remodeled and it finished up towards the end of the summer. It was brand new from the studs out. At this point the story gets interesting. Emily is one of those that on house cleaning day you get yelled at when you use the bathroom. “I just cleaned that don’t use it”. “Are you serious, where exactly would you like for me to go?” With Preston in the house I kind of understand this mentality. With the new bathroom it got a little ridiculous. Once complete I was all ready to go. “No…why…the what isn’t ready?” Each time I’d ask, something else wasn’t ready. I’d work on that and then, something else, and so on. Finally I catch on and confront her. “Emily, we’re never going to use the new bathroom are we?” “It’s just so new and nice.” I felt like I was living in Graceland and we needed the bathroom roped off with a red velvet rope. We are now finally using the bathroom. We took baby steps, first I walked into it with shoes on, then #1, then…and you get the picture!
Towards our anniversary we started to make our plans. “What do you want to do for our anniversary…yeah, let’s go out of town…I don’t know…well there’s a NASCAR race at Indy…really…ok, let’s do that.” About halfway through this conversation I realized I have the best wife on earth. I had mentioned taking her to a NASCAR race for our anniversary and #1) had lived to write about it, and #2) was about to plan the trip. I might suggest a Titan’s game for our ten year anniversary?!?!
Preston is in 4th Grade at Percy Priest Elementary. He could care less about school and all the homework, projects, and reading assignments that go along with it. He does it all and works really hard but doesn’t like it much. We guess that is normal for a little guy who would rather play and rough house than sit, be still, be quiet and focus. He played soccer again in the Spring. Later in the year he tried out football for the first time. He remains about a head taller than anyone in his class so the little soccer guys run around him like he is standing still. Football on the other hand seems to be his sport. The Bellevue Steelers made him a starter immediately and he played on the line at right guard. He went up against some big dudes and held his own. For the playoffs, he made weight and he started on defense as well, as a defensive end. He was awesome and they had their first shut out of the year. Preston and I are sure it is due to his power pass rush?!?! I filmed every single play of every single game and we have an awesome highlight reel from the season as I have become an amateur videographer. So if you want to see some football action come see us. The big jock also sings in the church choir and consistently beats me in our fantasy football league. I am getting used to the fact that he is about to be able to do everything better than me and be big enough to squash me. “Bring it little one!!!”
Emmaline is in 1st Grade at Percy Priest Elementary. Where Preston leaves off with school Emmaline picks up. She loves it and whizzes through everything with ease. Dancing is her thing. Ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop she is a dancer in training at the Green Hills School of Dance. Earlier in the year she was going to competitions all the time with her company group. This season company has decided to lay off on the competitions a little and do more in-class stuff. Emily is thankful that she only has to run up the road several times a week rather than spend the better part of a weekend watching endless dance routines. Emmaline seems to like hip-hop and jazz the best. We think she has a crush on her hip-hop teacher Mr. Chris, like all the rest of the girls in his class. We are not sure it that has anything to do with it being her favorite or not. We are regularly treated to in-home dance displays where she does what we refer to as her “hoochie mama dance” which is heavily influenced in hip-hop. I break out some of my old hip-hop moves from way back, but she doesn’t seem too impressed with my skills. She also does a mean headstand and can hula hoop for days. She is very particular, still, and won’t let me forget when I have not done something for her. I often call her Princess since her repetitive wish(s) are my command. “Yes Princess!!!”
Molly goes to preschool at Brook Hollow Baptist Church three days a week. She doesn’t have homework or anything but that doesn’t stop her. She sits at the table with the big kids each night and slaves away on her homework. The way she slaves away on her letters and words you would think she was on a deadline. We often wonder if she really thinks she has homework. She is ready for kindergarten next year. On the days she is at home she disappears into her room for all kinds of imaginary adventures. She comes out dressed in a new outfit and with a different bag full of knick knacks regularly. She is following in her sisters tracks and goes to ballet class as well. She attends class one day a week and when recital time came around she put on a brilliant performance. Wherever we go people just can’t stop talking about Molly. They usually talk about how pretty she is, and then talk about how she looks just like me. I think that pretty much explains it!!!
Max also goes to preschool at Brook Hollow Baptist Church three days a week. He just turned 3 and has just started to show an interest in talking. Early in the year when we would ask him to say words he would blurt out a word that was about 80% there. The problem was that every word after that sounded about the same with one exception, “football game.” For some reason football game was the most perfectly formed set of syllables in his vocabulary. He has just started using words on a regular basis for communication rather than his already effective pointing, screaming and grunting. His favorite thing to say is “choo choo train”. He goes absolutely ballistic about trains. We usually have some elaborate train setup in some room of our house. From the second he wakes up in the morning until his tired little body hits the pillow at night he plays with his trains. He and Molly are on the same schedule. When they are home together he usually is caught up in one of her adventures. He usually comes out dressed in a pink skirt or some other girly outfit. YIKES! We call him Maxie sometimes and one day in a discussion of maxi pads he blurted out, “Like ME!” Double YIKES!!! Note to self, get Max a new nickname!!!
S’more eats our kid’s toys and steals Max’s pappy every chance he gets! Molly is his biggest fan. She loves and kisses him all the time. Max usually has something mean to do to him, a swift kick, tug of the tail, or a harsh scream. Poor S’more, he just wags his tail and comes back for more…or S’more…get it “some more”…get it…no…ok!??!?
We’ve had another full year and life just moves rapidly along. We try to stay busy which isn’t all that hard. In the process we try to slow down at the right times and remember how lucky we are and to be thankful for all we have. We are blessed to live in this country and to have family and friends that love us. We are thankful each and every day for this. We hope each of you have a new year filled with happiness and joy from beginning to end.
Happy New Year,
Joey, Emily, Preston, Emmaline, Molly, Max and S’more