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.