Friday, December 19, 2008

Does your stay at home wife get vacation?

Through a minor disagreement earlier this month, I came to the realization that while I get vacation days, Heather does not. She is with the girls every day. In the little time off she has gotten in the past two years, she has often spent them with others on girl's nights out or at church events. But, for Heather, true vacation is relaxation, serenity, and some seclusion. Our vacations now include the kids. Weekends include kids. Every day she is with the kids.

I for one couldn't stand working 365 days a year and it made me realize that we need a change of plans. I need to allocate some of my vacation days to allowing Heather to have days off. She needs a break to do whatever she wants that helps her to relax and get downtime.

Today is the start of my last vacation for the year. I have until January 5th off. We started this vacation with that new focus, allowing Heather to take two hours at the beginning of today to herself. I don't think thats anything like the full days off I want to make sure she gets in the future...but its a start.

Anyone else have a similar situation? How do you handle it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fun with Anna

Anna is totally our little helper these days. She sets the table, puts away dishes, throws away trash, and so many other things. Tonight we made strombollis and she helped me add the toppings and enjoyed playing with some pizza dough.

After that while getting ready for bed she started playing with a cardboard wrapping paper tube. I showed her to look through it, in part so she wouldn't swing it around, and she loved it. After seeing she was having trouble looking through it with one eye, I crafted it into a pair of binoculars and we went on an adventure around the house looking at things like the Christmas tree and stockings. Once she seemed to be getting bored of that, we colored the binoculars. In the end, she had so much fun she wanted to take them to bed with her.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

You can only hope to contain me...

Its like Madelyn has said to us, "You can't stop me, you can only hope to contain me." She has been everywhere. Today she figured out that she could crawl through the foyer and living room to get to the dining room where the dog's food is kept. Here are some fun pictures showing her everywhere:

Anna & Maddie
Anna was helping put lights up outside, and Maddie not wanting to be kept out climbed to the window next to the front door to see her sister.

Maddie & Lily
When attempting to take Lily's picture, Maddie crawled over to get into the picture. She cannot be stopped!

Maddie chasing Anna upstairs
Maddie likes to try and chase her sister up the stairs. Lucky for us, she hasn't figured out how to get up the steps.

Asleep in the highchair
Finally, a way to contain her, in her high chair. Here she ate so much she got tired, and went to sleep. :-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Micro-blogging and life update

Just a week after beginning, micro-blogging has taken over my blog power. As you can see on the right of my blog here, I have been micro-blogging and able to keep streaming whats going on in my life. It does mean though that my actual blogs have become less frequent and perhaps more meaningful.

Anna and Madelyn are still as adorable as ever. Now, they play together all the time. We thought it was Anna wanting to play with whatever Madelyn was playing with, and perhaps it was at first. But, after telling Anna to play over with her stuff away from her sister when she is playing too rough, Madelyn immediately crawls to Anna and is all over her it seems they both want to be together, its adorable. Here they are playing with dolls together:

This month may end up a blur by the end. Heather and I have activities every weekend and nearly every day on the weekends. We are looking forward to it all though. More updates another time..

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving and new life

Happy Thanksgiving! This morning I got up with the girls at 6:30 and let Heather sleep a little bit longer. I am thankful for the fun time we had in the last hour before I wrote this. I found myself with a lot to be thankful for this year, a beautiful caring sweet smart loving wife, a couple great healthy active very fun kids, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, an interesting job I like most days, a warm and inviting home, and so many close friends and people I can talk to. Yesterday, I hung out with Derick, one of my closest friends, something I am very thankful for having been able to do.

But, as I thought of the many things I was thankful for, I thought of all the new life we have experienced around us this past year. I perused my facebook list of friends and found that at least 8 (Heather, Suzanne, Katie, Jill, Nicole, Kate, Regina, Ann) of them had babies since last Thanksgiving and 3 (Stephanie, Jessica, Jessica) of them that we know of are pregnant including my sister in law. Among Heather's friends there are about 6 more babies that were or will be born in the Sept-Dec timeframe. Some of my friends at work have just had babies like Aditya and others like Millie are just about to have one. I am thankful for all that new life that God has put in and around us. I lost my count at about 15 babies born in 2008 and 6 waiting to be born in 2008/2009. What a glorious time and I am excited for the potential more to come in 2009. But as I looked at my own little miracles this morning, I was thankful for them and the joy they bring to my life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Micro-USB and the LG Lotus

So, I missed this minor technological revolution, where Micro-USB, just standardized last year, started to replace mini-USB in devices. So many of us tech guys knew that mini-USB was too thick and would need replaces one day. I for one didn't realize the day was already here. Welcome micro-USB...may I not have to buy a bunch of new cables now.

How did I find out about micro-USB being the new chosen form factor? We went phone shopping...

Yesterday, I got Heather a LG Lotus from Radio Shack. I started to feel bad at the lack of connectivity my wife had. She is a gadget person at heart and we just never spent the money to get her really connected with a sweet phone..or even text messaging. That changed yesterday when we got her the LG Lotus and changed to Sprint's family data plan, $130 for 2 phones, 1500 anytime minutes, free nights after 7 PM and weekends, unlimited text, unlimited data, and a handfull of other features which are standard on all the cell providers. Its a real cool device, beautiful screen, nice camcorder ability, and a 2 MP camera. But, the one issue is that I was used to the Blackberry which has infinite application support. Not the cool games that are on the iPhone, but Google Talk, GMail, Twitterberry, etc. So, Heather's phone surprised me not having as man applications for it. However, the mail as integrated with the phone was cool. Google Maps, YouTube, and others things have native support. Maybe its just a matter of time, the phone has only been out for a month. But, its a cool device which Heather will gladly show off to you.

As for those who knew I considered a move to AT&T. I have been with Sprint for almost 10 years and I thought about changing. In the end, AT&T's plans would have cost me $25 more for the same thing. I have corporate discounts both places, so that may not be for everyone. But, Heather loves the new phone and if finally connected to the modern era of communications...and thats really what matters. :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Started using twitter

I decided to start using Twitter. I held off for a long time since its yet another trendy tool. However, I found that I wanted something to push status updates to do what they call micro-blogging. What is micro-blogging? Its where you are basically posting whats going here and now in your life. Wikipedia suggests a micro-blog is 140 characters or less. The idea is simply that you update what is going on in your life at a more granular level. So, over on the right of this blog I put a widget that streams my twitters there. If you are my friend on facebook, its the twitters that will update my facebook status. We'll see how it all works.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homemade cinnamon rolls

My wife has a love for cinnamon rolls as her favorite speciality breakfast food. Unfortunately, the best we had been able to do before was the Pillsbury out of the can cinnamon rolls. Recently, we have been starting to make breads and doughs of all types in our Zoji bread machine. Well, I woke up this morning at 6:30 AM and starting making cinnamon rolls for the family. I started with this recipe and modified it.

How did I modify it? I like lots of swirls, so I rolled out the dough longer than the 9x8 it suggested, but rather around 9x13. Because of the increased surface area, I had to double to amount of filling, using their amount of filling for each amount. Additionally, I took the softened butter and smeared it out on the rolled out dough except for the last inch, which remains dry to . Then, I sprinkled a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon on the butter. I then cut them into smaller rolls than were described, into 9 rolls per half rather than 6, made 2 8x8 pans with 9 each, and baked it for only 20 minutes. How did I decide to make these changes? Mostly it was that I have some experience through the thousands of cinnamon rolls I made at my time working at Loafer's Bread Company in Pittsburgh.

Here are some pictures:

Cutting the cinnamon rolls
Proofing the cinnamon rolls
Baking the cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon Rolls, just out of the over
Out of the oven
Glazed and gone
Glazed and Gone

I probably will continue to adapt this recipe, but it was good for this first round. I'd like to perfect them by Christmas for Heather.

Friday, November 21, 2008

God's reminder

Yesterday night around 11:15 PM I found myself missing Pittsburgh. During that day I found that my favorite way to keep in touch with my home for 20 years was shut down. PittGirl, the anonymous Burgh Blog author, had her identity revealed and decided it was best to shut down her website. It is the only blog I found that was entertaining, fun to read, and kept me in touch with the happenings of Pittsburgh. Then, last night I found myself in a sports bar with a couple of friends watching the Steelers game. Now, had I gone to one of the many Steelers sports bars, I may not have felt the same way, but while Steeler fans greatly outnumbered the Bengals fan, the enthusiasm wasn't there. On top of all of that, it was snowing in Pittsburgh.

I was sad. I missed my hometown. On the 10 minute trip home last night, I thought of how much I missed Pittsburgh. How much I want my girls to love Pittsburgh as well. And how I wanted to return...

This morning, I feel that God sent me a reminder. As I went to the gym, it was snowing. When I got home, I took a picture of the house with a slight snow dusting. Here is that picture:

If you look even closer, you may see this:

Another part of the sweet reminder that I am home, where God has me deployed in His service and to enjoy life here in North Carolina.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crawling check. Walking...

Maddie has decided to move on. She quickly perfected crawling to the extent she wanted to, so now she is pulling up on things and ready to start standing and walking...

Madelyn standing

She seems way too small for this, just 6.5 months!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the homefront..

Big news on the homefront, you can read/watch about it on Heather's blog by following this link.

The Elmo Collective

Anna got a Elmo Live doll for her 2nd birthday and after getting it out of the box, it seemed to be defective. With the factory batteries or new batteries, it wouldn't do what it was supposed to. But, mysteriously, if you but it next to the TMX Elmo we would start to act. It was sort of we caught it on video tape before the Elmo Live was returned.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I want a 3% mortgage

So, if you haven't seen it, the FDIC released a proposal to modify mortgages that people can't pay for to be as low as a 3% mortgage (5 year ARM) with no principal reduction allowing people to reduce their mortgage to 31% of their gross take-home pay and stay in their houses. Here is the FDIC page with the official proposal. While I understand the need to help people in these bad mortgages to stabilize the housing market and therefore the economy, I wish they would make a general program that allowed a 3% 5 year ARM instead of only offering it to those who can't afford it. I gladly would take a 3% 5 year ARM and nearly cut my interest rate in half. Instead, the current proposal is that unless I miss 60 days of mortgage payments, I am not eligible for this rate cut. Sad...

When I say this is an really isn't. It raises 1 percent per year until it hits the prevailing market rate. Better than an ARM.

Cool Mommy Stuff

My cousin Lori is starting her own business sewing handy Mom stuff. Check out her blog to find out more. Here are the diaper totes:

and here are a couple pictures of her wipes case:

I think its great that she is taking something she is passionate about and trying to make it work for her as a side job while having the more important job of raising her adorable little girl Kelsey. If you need a cute little baby shower gift, please think of her ;-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More on product recalls

Andy pointed me to this website that allows you to get notifications about recalls related to your automobiles, tires, and child restraints. I added this to my list of subscribed to recalls. As I blogged about before, I also watch the Consumer Product Safety Commissions list.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heather and homemaking

I am very proud and appreciative of my wife. She has consistently amazed me in our 5.5 years of marriage, but no more than she has as the mother of our kids. From my view of her job as a stay at home mother, her easier days can be worse than my worst days. Yet, she handles Anna and Madelyn with grace, love, and gentleness that amazes me.

A couple of months ago we were at her ten year high school reunion. Of the people that had come, we seemed to be the only ones with more than one child. The "Heather with all her kids" comments made Heather feel like she was an eccentric person with 20 kids. About the same time, we began feeding Maddie baby foods.

As Heather has written about a couple times here and here, she is making most of Maddie's food for her. Some of her friends gasp at this as if she is again eccentric, but I see a lot more sense in it than they may realize. To make Madelyn bananas as Heather points out in that first link, you take a banana in a bowl and smash it with a fork for 30 seconds. Considering the alternative is about $.50/container and normally has additives, namely absorbic acid as a preservative, this seems like an easy way to save a little bit of money AND help our child to avoid some chemicals. But, does it make sense for everything?

This past week we wanted to give Madelyn some more apples and upon seeing the prices of apples were over $1/lb, we looked around target a bit. In the apple sauce area was a 25 oz jar of Target's Archer Farms brand Organic Apple Sauce for $3.

So, I am really quite proud of Heather. She has been doing a great job of feeding Maddie and making the smart decisions as she does it. Yes, mashing up a banana saves money and is healthier. Yes, buying organic apple sauce saved time and money and is just as healthy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Motivation for working out again?

Since writing last about working out and the success I have enjoyed in the past year, I am struggling again with motivation which is my original topic and issue. I still feel as though I have a ways to go before I am in the shape I desire to be in.... but once that occurs...where do I go? I think it was considerably easier to get the motivation to get into shape or back into shape than it is to maintain that shape.

One of the things I have been realizing is that most of my life when getting in shape it was for a particular reason. The reality of my life and body style is that in order to stay in shape I will/would have to consistently exercise for the rest of my life. Do I like working out that much? No. So, how do you get the motivation or mentality that you can do this the rest of your life?

First, let's review my current motivation:
1) To be able to do active things with my family
2) Self-image, particularly how I view myself for my wife
3) Having that personal time every morning

#1 and #2 are not going to be as strong as I get in better shape. So, I have been working on a list of new things that could help motivate me that I can try to use:

1) A yearly athletic event or trip such as backpacking, triathlons, whatever
2) Regular sports that I would like to be competitive at

So, all I have been able to think of is that I need to have something I shoot for year to year. What else can I use otherwise? I am thinking I may have to find something to focus on year to year otherwise.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saving money

With the economic turmoil we are facing in America, many newspapers and websites are writing vasts amounts of information on how to save money. From what I have read, these range from things like "start clipping coupons" to "use new energy efficient lighting." You get some information that suggests you stop eating out or try to take public transportation more often. On Sunday when I was getting a haircut, a conversation with the person cutting my hair, my wife, spawned this one question from me. What new ways can we save money?

Well, I thought it might be something worth posting a blog about. How do you save money? Where don't you save money?

Trying to come up with some things ourself, here is what I came up with:

1. Heather cuts my hair. Since I like to keep my hair short, thats an annual savings of about $90.
2. Coupon clipping/sale watching.
3. Heather is making Madelyn's baby food. I am not sure how much this saves, but it seems to save some. Heather is doing it more for it being so much more healthy.
4. We use compact florescent lights (CFLs).
5. We eat in most days. We eat out about once a week for lunch and twice a week for dinner at most.
6. We drive the more fuel efficient car whenever possible. That car (Toyota Matrix) averages 30-35 mpg whereas our other car (Honda Pilot) averages 20 mpg.
7. We shop around and shop online often. We utilize Google to find coupons/promotion codes for things online. In the past month, I have saved an additional $50 with coupons found through Google.
8. When traveling for business, I try to buy gum and bring snacks so I don't spend a lot while out.
9. We pack Anna snacks rather than buying prepackaged snacks.

Thats all I could think of off the top of my head. What other ways do you save money? I'd love some more ideas.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dillard's, the service without the products...

We went to Dillard's to find jeans last night after not being able to find the same version that I liked anywhere but Macy's online. I was so disgusted with Macy's service, I wouldn't buy from them. At Dillard's we received exceptional service. One guy helping show us around all different parts of the men's department. Other people offering assistance to him and us at the same time. What a wonderful experience. That said, they didn't have the products. Half of what they had, Heather said, "reminded her of her dad."

So, I found one pair of jeans that both Heather and I liked...whereas at Macy's I had found probably 6-10. The service at Dillard's was great...too bad it wasn't equally as great at Macy's...I might have bought 6 pairs of jeans ;-)

In the end, I am still going to be looking for another pair of jeans. When describing what I was looking for in the end, the Dillard's sales guy suggested I look at Abercrombie specifically. I appreciated the fact that he was honest in telling me where he thought I could get what I wanted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No pacifier - no problem

As I wrote on Saturday, we took away Anna's pacifier after her second birthday. We told her that big girls no longer got pacifiers and the bowl in which we kept her pacifier no longer has one in it.

At the first nap on Saturday, she asked for it and didn't sleep. That night, she again asked for it. I told her that big girls didn't use pacifiers and she was a big girl now. Wanting to give her something in return, I told her that big girls got to read longer stories at night also and have read to her loner bedtime stories from bigger books each night. She asked for it again the next day, but hasn't asked for it since. The first night (Saturday) was the only night she had trouble getting to sleep. But, she hasn't napped since removing her pacifier.

The reading longer stories has worked well. A couple of nights, she has wanted to read her smaller board books that rhyme. Also, there is also the occasional night she barely wants us to read at all because she is so tired. She just says, "night night daddy, night night" and that is our hint to leave.

Anna has handled not having a pacifier extremely well. I think we took it away at the right time as she was able to make good decisions about it. That said, I am tempted to get rid of Madelyn's now so as to not deal with it in 1.5 years. :-)

Last pro-life comments..

Its 6 days before the election. I am pro-life as you may have read in my other blogs. I had planned to drop it, but I thought this video was powerful from America's Choice Now in which videos of Barack Obama himself declaring his not only pro-choice stance but his abortion extremism is obvious. The video is safe for work and safe for kids.

At 1:45, Barack declares the first thing he will do in office is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That link is to a pro-choice website, so you don't think I am offering just pro-life interpretations of that act. If you think that was taken out of context, look at this statement from his own website in which he says (my emphasis added):

"Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

"When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.

For those who pro-life decisions are a priority we can not waiver on, Barack cannot be our candidate.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Macy's and their bad service

We went to Macy's at Triangle Town Center tonight to buy me some jeans. After an 30-45 minutes, 10 tried on pairs of jeans, and one breakdown from Anna, I narrowed it down to two pairs of jeans I wanted to buy. While standing in a short long line (one person with over 10 items), the lady at the cash register, while not even halfway done with her intensive customer, tells the person behind me to go to the other guy who just came over so he could ring her up. After standing there a minute to see if she was mysteriously going to finish in a reasonable amount of time while my child is screaming off in the distance, I put the jeans down and left disgusted. There were good reasons to stay, but so many more reasons to leave.

In a "tough economy," you would think companies would go more out of the way to get business. Not this lady. Not at Macy's. At least, not tonight. Anyone else want my business?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bye Bye pacifier

Heather and I are bravely attempting to rid Anna's dependency on her pacifier now that she is two years old. She was good with her pacifier, only taking it when going night night and giving it up as soon as she got out of bed. Unfortunately, breaking this sleep time dependency on it is still going to be difficult. She hasn't been sleeping well as is...without her pacifier it could get temporarily worse.

Anyway, today is the first day and I'll let you know how it goes.

So, why give it up at 2? One good reason was that the Avent pacifiers she was using only go up to 18 months. Also, she is well beyond when most experts say to get rid of it, at 6 - 12 months.

In the end, we wanted to stop it at 18 months but that is when Madelyn came around and Mommy and Daddy didn't have the will power. Instead, we made the rule that she could only have it at night time. Before that, we had it around to keep her from blowing up while out in public. In retrospect, we let her become dependent on it for our own convenience and its our responsibility to get her to stop, even if its inconvenient for us because she cries a lot.

Maybe we should stop Maddie now before she gets attached..she is 6 months..

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy 2nd birthday Anna! Although i am slightly disturbed by my dreams of Anna turning 4 instead of 2 last night...I am thrilled for her 2nd birthday. Terrible Twos? I think she has had them for the past 3 months :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Before 7 AM

So, I wanted to update my blog about working out but its been very difficult to write about. In January, I wrote about my new motivation for working out and I am still happy with what I wrote there. However, after a year there is a bit more to it all and I thought I should write an update. Its not that I don't want to talk about my work outs, but I don't want to be one of those people who makes others feel like they should be working out if they are not. So, realize this is me trying to put some perspective on whats been going on with my working out since January when I last wrote.

As I wrote in January, I started working out again consistently in September of 2007. While it was difficult at first, I was able to establish an effective routine that has worked well. I started by consistently getting to the gym 4-5 days a week. By January I was averaging 5. In May, I switched gyms to Snap Fitness which is in a plaza very close to my house that provides 24/7 access. This has made the trips to the gym substantially more streamlined as well as allowing me to go whenever works best for me. I now go to the gym 6 days a week on average. The majority of days, I wake up at 5:15 AM and have hit the gym, went home, cleaned up, and left for work by 7 AM. As I stated in my previous blog, this time works best as I am not stealing time from my family.

I did however realize I am stealing time from my wife and I. When Heather and I finally get the kids to bed, its around 8:30. This gives us about an hour to talk as adults and spend together before its off to bed and to wake up again. About 2 weeks ago, we decided we would now reserve Friday nights as our nights so we could have some more adult time and catch up. Although, this didn't work last week (the first Friday after the decision) as Heather was at the hospital with Suzanne and Lily...and it won't work this Friday as its Anna's second birthday....but we hope we can save Fridays after that!

My primary motivation is still to have the flexibility to do whatever whenever with my family. When I realized that I was in such bad shape that I started to either not participate or did not feel comfortable as I participated in activities with my daughter, I knew something had to change. Of course, I am not purely motivated by that. Self-image is a great motivation. Although honestly, alone I don't think self-image is enough...partially because Heather does a good job of reaffirming her love for me no matter what i have looked like. Self-image wouldn't keep me going but it does help serve as yet another good reason.

I still haven't gone on a diet. Sure, I have tried to avoid some of the bad stuff, but I have not dieted at all. Why? Its because I love food and know that going on a diet for me will not last. I want to get to a place where I am comfortable without having to be on a constant diet or a roller coaster of diets. All that said, I have tried to cut down how much I eat over time..just not focussing so much on what I eat.

Starting about 4 months ago in June, Heather started also going to Snap Fitness. Our schedule is that I wake up, go to the gym, come home and she goes to the gym. While she is working out I eat, clean up, dress, check my email, etc..and still normally leave before 7 AM. Heather looks great and most people can't believe she had a baby less than 6 months earlier. I think she is absolutely back to pre-Anna form. Having Heather go right after me is another motivation for me. I know if I don't go, she may not go. I also know that whats best for our combined health is for me to go. This has been an uplifting motivation I didn't expect. It also has helped drive me to that extra day a week working out.

What else can I say? In the past year I have lost weight, become more healthy, dropped a couple pant sizes, and feel good about myself. I feel like I can do anything with my girls...whether that is climbing up on to a pirate ship (from September):
Our Day at Marbles
or sliding down a huge slide at a farm (from October)
Down the big slide

Would I have done these things before? Probably. Do I feel better and more comfortable about doing this and anything else now? Definitely!

Here is a picture of me from March 2007 with Anna and from this month with Madelyn. Both times, the girls were about 5 months. The facial hair throws the direct comparison off, but I feel good about the shape I am now in...and feel like I can still do more.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baby Lily is here

We've waited for 8 days longer than expected, but baby Lily is finally here. Having a little baby around again makes me realize two things:
1) I like the fact that Madelyn is gaining her independence.
2) Other people's babies are so much fun I don't need another of my own ;-)

Here is baby Lily who visited our house this morning:
Baby Lily

And here is my baby, Madelyn, and I. Madelyn recently found her tongue:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pro-lifers should take note of what Obama said last night

As I pointed out in a blog a week ago, many strong pro-life people seem to be swaying towards Barack Obama. One of the main reasons I hear from friends who are pro-life is that the president doesn't seem to have done anything anyway, looking at Reagan and the two Bushes. But read for yourself what Senator Obama said last night:

And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.

I copied that from the NY Times debate transcript at 1:07:11 into the transcript and video. If you scroll to that part, you can click on Barack Obama and here him say it himself.

All I have to say is that the argument that the president doesn't matter if he or she is pro-life, if you listen to Barack Obama, is not true.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The star of the presidential debate

Here he is, the start of tonight's debate, Joe the plumber:

So there you have it, Obama's plan is class warfare which could be called socialism. He says the guy should pay more so that other people who haven't been successful can have more opportunities, avoiding the fact that this guy is losing money he worked hard for. I understand some people are for fact I had a brief discussion with a coworker from the UK today who describes himself as a liberal socialist and therefore says he is pro-Obama. Thats fine and personally I understand how people have some to that conclusion based on despair and not being able to get ahead, especially as inflation has increased but wages have not. Getting ahead can be difficult.

All I want it to just call socialism what it is instead of hiding behind brief explanations and vague facts. Obama's plan moves towards socialism, but doesn't implement a full socialist system. I understand there is a big difference. Maybe we need a new word for it. Class warfare may be it. It doesn't stop capitalism, just slows class separation out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall Favorites

I am a sucker for the right food at the right time. There are certain foods which would just be out of place in another month or another season. In the fall, I think harvest time..apples, pumpkins, corn on the cob, etc. Yesterday I was in luck. Since Heather is making Madelyn baby food, we had some left over Gala apples from the bag she bought. They were starting to go bad and needed eaten, so I whipped up some apple dumplings for the family. After an hour of baking, these delicious treats, which to me epitomize Fall Foods, were great. As is done in my family, we poured milk over the dumplings and devoured them. :-) If you would like, I can share the fairly easy recipe with you all.

Apple Dumplings, a fall favorite

Other fall favorites in our household include pumpkin roll and sweet potato casserole. I think that really fall is the yummiest time of year. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Carve an online pumpkin

I found this flash pumpkin carving game amusing and had to share...

Burckart blog happy halloween


Last night I decided to change my background to a slew of pictures of my wife and kids. Here is the image I created with some of my favorites:


Anyway, I used a program called Seashore for my Mac to put the pictures together since iPhoto has no capabilities in this area.

Delicious tortilla soup..

I love Max and Erma's tortilla soup. Unfortunately, there is no Max and Erma's around this area in North Carolina. So, I searched on the web and eventually found this recipe that is supposed to mimic its recipe. I copied it without saving the reference to see who made the recipe....but it was delicious and so I thought I would share. For us, it was a bit salty and fattening. So, next we will try to use some of the more healthy request soups, lower in fat and sodium.

Here is the recipe. All said and done, it cost about $25 to make and we had over 10 bowls.

2 cans Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
2 cans Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
2 cans Campbell's Cream of Celery soup
2 cans Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup
2 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup Pace medium picante salsa
1 (4.5 ounce) can Ortega green chiles
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red chile powder, more or less to your taste
Salt and pepper to your taste
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
4 cooked chicken breasts, cut into
small chunks
1 package flour tortillas
1/2 pound longhorn style Colby cheese

In a large stockpot combine and whisk together until smooth all eight cans of soup. Add chicken broth. Add tomatoes, salsa, green chiles, onion, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper.

Bring all ingredients to a full boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

Add cilantro and chicken breast chunks. Simmer another hour.

While soup is simmering, make your soup toppings: Cut flour tortillas into small thin strips and deep fry in hot oil until lightly browned.

Shred cheese.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, top with shredded cheese and fried tortilla strips. I double this recipe and use a 12-quart stockpot. Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pro-lifers not as adamant in years past

I am finding this political season interesting for many reasons. First, because this is the first time in a while I don't feel strongly about one candidate or the other....either positively or negatively. Second, because numerous people I would have typically cast as socially conservative are breaking their lines and going to a candidate who is anything but. In my short political following career, I have never seen so many people break from what they would have considered their values.

The greatest example I have to give are the pro-life constituency inside the US. Most of the time, pro-lifers are adamant about choosing pro-life candidates, particularly in the presidency where their selection of Supreme Court justices have the most influence on candidates. However, many of the pro-life people I know have moved to being a Barack Obama supporter. This is particularly odd since as the Washington Post points out in this article, Barack Obama is not only pro-choice but an Abortion Extremist. What does that mean? Well, for example, he feels that partial birth abortions are "okay" and the Supreme Court should have not allowed them to be banned. Even worse than that, he opposed multiple laws which require a baby who was attempted to be aborted but born alive to be given medical treatment to try to keep them alive. You can see this website,, for more details on that. Yes, the website is probably slanted...but if you don't want to read it you can click through to the actual links to the Illinois governments voting records to show you Barack's records. You can avoid the text if you want and just use the links to get to the meat of how he votes.

So, why are pro-lifers breaking from their values? Here is what I have heard:
1) George W Bush, George H W Bush, and Ronald Reagan "did nothing" to advance the pro-life cause and therefore the president vote doesn't seem to matter much.
2) Other social injustices seem more relevant today such as poverty, health care, and war mongering.
3) Barack Obama is the furthest thing from Bush.

If you have another reason, I would love to hear it...but this is what I have been hearing. Here would be my responses, urging pro-lifers not to give up this value of theirs:
1) I can see the argument...but when legislation has been done from the supreme court bench (Roe v Wade) than the only way we can affect that legislation is to elect people to power that will put Supreme Court justices who believe in the sanctity of life.
2) If the person is a Christian, I would respond with Matthew 25:40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I would argue that while these other issues are important, there is none less than a helpless child. Have you held a newborn baby? Are they not the most helpless and therefore least?
3) I can't say anything to this aside from should we give up our values in this election? This isn't just pro-life to pro-choice...this is pro-life to "abortion extremism" pointed out by the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, my choices in this election are very limited since I am sticking to my pro-life least in so far as to avoid the abortion extremism. The choice comes down to McCain or no one...a choice I don't like very much. But, at least I will be able to sleep at night.

Family update

Its been a while since I wrote a blog and honestly its been the craziness of life. Its not that I haven't had time to write a blog but rather its that I haven't had the time to think of what to write. This is one reason I decided to begin with writing about just whats been going on in our family.

Last Wednesday I came home from a 3 day business trip to Austin, TX sick and have not quite kicked the runny nose yet. My mom, also known as Oma, came into town that day and we actually met in the airport about the same time. Here is Oma with Maddie:
Oma & Maddie

Thursday I worked while Heather and Oma took the girls for a walk around a local Lake and had fun together. On Friday, we went to visit some of my parent's old friends who live on Lake Gaston, about an hour north of Raleigh. They have a gorgeous place there and we were there from about 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM. The girls did great. We took a boat ride around Gaston which Anna really liked. Here are a couple of pictures.
Boat Ride
Boat Ride
Boat Ride

On Saturday, my Uncle Paul (Oma's brother) came down from Roanoke to spend the day. We had a fun day with Uncle Paul just around the house...only venturing out for lunch at Andy's. Here are some pictures of Uncle Paul with the girls.
Playing outside with Uncle Paul
Uncle Paul & Maddie

Sunday, we went to church and then I took Oma to the airport while Heather took Maddie to learn about Maddie's baby dedication this upcoming Sunday at Crossroads. Everyone is invited to Madelyn's baby dedication at 9:15 on Sunday. That night, Opa drove in and had dinner with us and played with the girls a bit. He left Monday morning for a 2 day meeting in Chapel Hill. Monday night I went out with Aaron, Andy, Keith, and John to celebrate John's 30th birthday. Tuesday night after work Heather and I went to a IBM RTP Leadership banquet dinner while Kristen watched our kids. Wednesday morning I flew to La Guardia, drove to Fairfield, CT, had a 2 hour meeting, then came back. I left the house at 7:15 AM and got back around 8:30 in that whirlwind. Here I am at the airport, bored out of my mind, with my airplane in the background:
Photo 29

Yesterday was a good was fairly easy partly due to a long 1.5 hour meeting in the morning and spending the afternoon at Frankie's Fun Park with my coworkers celebrating a big release. Pizza, beer, go karts, laser tag, and just having fun with people you don't see often. Here is a picture of people I do, however, see often...Andy, Aaron, and I...
Aaron, Andy and I at Frankie's

That has been the craziness of the past week. Hope this finds you all well!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

While you were out...

I took a couple trips in the last week, one to Philly and another to Austin. During those trips I came home to some changes in my girls. Maddie started saying Dadadada as recorded here by Heather and Anna is now able to go through her whole color book and name all of the colors. Previously, Anna could only name "pink", which is fitting since that is what she wears everyday.

Its tough being away from home and missing these little milestones...but thanks to email and video recorders, I have at least been able to keep up to date on what they can do. That doesn't make it completely better..just not quite as bad. I have a trip to Fairfield CT and Hartford CT in the next two weeks...but those at least should just be day trips.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Selling baby stuff

Heather and I recognized early before having Anna that baby stuff has a demand during resale. When we had a neighborhood garage sale one year, we had several people just simply ask if we had baby stuff and those people quickly moved on once they found we did not. Raleigh even has a gigantic consignment sale twice a year just for kid's stuff called Kid's Exchange.

One of the amazing things is how much good hand me down stuff people pass down from one another considering this resale value. At the same time, if you don't have anyone to immediately something down to, I guess you either end up keeping it for a second kid or selling it. Some people keep it for no real good reason, but logically keeping it only for a second kid makes the most sense. Today, Heather put up one of our first resellable items on Craig's list. With kids only 18 months apart, we didn't have long til we started reusing things.

The first thing that was outgrown is the single jogging stroller. After Madelyn was born, we quickly became a five stroller family. 2 jogging strollers (one single, one dual), 2 umbrella strollers (one single, one dual), and a travel system stroller. The double jogger is all that gets used, so for the past 5 months the single stroller has been taking up space and gathering dust. So, Heather put it up on Craigslist today. I am impressed that we (specifically she) got it out and ready to sell so quick.

Next, Madelyn is close to outgrowing the bouncer and swing. After that, we have an exersaucer that is a hand-me-down that we will need to return and a jumperoo that will be able to be passed down and sold. Its nice that since we don't plan to have a third, we feel like we can part with all of these treasures. Its also nice that if there isn't a good place to hand them off to, we can easily sell them at a garage sale or at the Kid's Exchange.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heat in September? No way

Here it is, September 20th, and we have the heat on in Raleigh NC. Now, normally we never would have turned it on so early but today we had some exceptional circumstances. It was in the low 50s outside and a high of 71, so the house was a nice mid to upper 60s. However, Heather and I are both sick with something nasty which causes us to be cold plus we can't stay huddled under blankets when we have a 23 and 5 month old. Thats why the heat was turned on this morning, so that Heather and I could be comfortable in our sweatshirts and jeans without a blanket.

So, this fever is a lot like one Anna had on our car ride back earlier this week from Pittsburgh. For Anna and I, it manifested itself as a slightly upset stomach and a fever. For Heather, she ate the wrong thing which made an upset stomach go sour. Anyway, our weekend plans now are to try to survive while the kids still have plenty of energy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

product recalls

So, I subscribe to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's email list for product recalls. I never cared much before Heather was pregnant with Anna and I thought I should monitor it. Typically, that means 1 email each week with anywhere from 1-5 products in each email. Today, we got the second recall for a Simplicity branded bed, which is the brand Anna used. The first was a bassinet last week and second was this Simplicity drop side crib. Here is an article on it from Reuters. The bassinet led to the death of two infants and the crib has led to 9 injuries, no deaths.

To me this is very scary since we own a Simplicity Ellis Crib for Anna. We like this crib and have recommended it to friends...but this is the type of thing that makes you want to never recommend a product. What if I has recommended the bassinet to a friend whose child was killed or the crib to a friend who got injured? Not only that, but I think its a reminder that our kids, especially at these very young ages, are so very fragile. We don't think normally we could die while sleeping because our bed kills us.

Anyway, I highly recommend subscribing to the consumer recall email list...I doubt it will cause any pain or discomfort.

Blog profiles

So, I updated my blog profile to not list this blog any more. It seems sort of silly since anyone could find this pretty easy using Google, but I am using my blogger ID to blog for work on another blog and would prefer that people are not directed this way when thinking it is another related blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Road Trip

This past weekend our family had planned to head to Columbia, Maryland to visit my dad at his house. However, our family suffered a loss last week when my 37 year old cousin (Mom's brother's son) passed away so our plans were changed and we needed to go to Pittsburgh. Heather and I thought breaking up the trip by going to Columbia for one day would work well and it did. It was about a 5.5 hour drive included a 1 hour stop in Richmond for lunch at Chick-fil-a, playing, and hitting Ukrops. As soon as we got there, Anna saw the horses across my dad's driveway at his neighbors. So, we went over and saw them:
Petting the horse at Opa's house
Petting the horse at Opa's house
We also played indoors quite a bit:
Anna and Opa had matching fun toys
Opa, Anna, and Maddie
And checked out my dad's backyard wilderness:
Opa and Anna walking in his back yard

We then headed to Pittsburgh on Saturday around noon. This took about 4.5 hours with a 20 minute break in Somerset, PA. In Pittsburgh, we stayed at the Residence Inn in Cranberry which was very near to where I grew up and within a mile of where I lived my one year out of college living in Pittsburgh. We ate at a couple old favorites within walking distance of the hotel, Quaker Steak and Lube as well as Primanti Brothers. Here is my yummy Primanti Brother Sandwich, ham, bacon, egg and cheese. Of course, Primanti's puts fries and slaw on each sandwich as well:
Primanti's sandwich

We spent 2 nights in Pittsburgh with my mom, sister and her family. My niece Tori (6.5 years old) and Anna (2 years old) bonded and Anna would cry when Tori left every time...nearly inseparable. Here are some pictures of them together:
Anna with her cousin Tori
Anna and Tori
Anna and Tori coloring
Tori and Anna with their cups Opa gave them

In the end, we got some family photos together as well. Here is one of Heather, Madelyn, myself, Anna, Kristal, Tori, and Chris,
Heather, Madelyn, Erik, Anna, Kristal, Tori, and Chris

And here is one of Oma with her three granddaughters:
Oma and her girls

Monday we did the 8 hour drive home with 3 stops (accumulating another hour) making the trip 9 hrs. We did it partially while the kids were awake and some asleep. On the trip home, Anna started having a fever and was whiney most of the time. We are not really ready to try an 8 hour trip anytime soon again, but the 4-5 worked well. Here is a map of the route we took:

View Larger Map

All said and done, we spend about 18 hours on the road in 92 hours (Friday - Monday) and hit 5 states.