the family festivities begin!  we headed over to my sister's house around 4 on christmas eve.  ledge had been looking forward to it for days- the promise of getting gifts and spending the whole day with his cousins? what's not to look forward to! 
we had a delicious meal and were even treated to some musical performances by the cousins!  we happened to come well prepared with tons of gifts for the kids (much more than we should have gotten...) and we were able to make it a pretty great christmas for them to remember!
it was so wonderful to spend some time with the family, laughing with papa, pestering jackson, annoying jill, and spoiling avery- just a great night together.  it was a late night, but i'm pretty sure ledge is up for it and tomorrow too!
(more pics)

christmas cookies

in order to get the whole family into the christmas spirit, we decided to make and decorate cookies!  this was the first time ledger had ever done it, and its probably been 15 or more years since i've done it either.
ledge was thrilled about the whole thing and loved getting his hands dirty with mama making the dough.  but his favorite part, by far, was getting to decorate with all the different colors of frosting and sprinkles!
(more pics)

winter wonderland

as if i needed any more reason to love this town!  the local theater has been putting on free holiday movies every friday this month, and the showing of rudolph the red nosed reindeer coincides with a special downtown arts and music event.  well, of course we were going to go!  miranda and levi even came down to join in on the festivities!  i got out of work a couple hours early so we could head downtown and go to the show! 
it was the first time ledger had ever seen rudolph, so he was curious and excited.  we got there and found a seat among the packed house, sat back, and enjoyed the show.  ledger thought it was pretty cool and diana and i hadn't seen it in decades, so we enjoyed the nostalgia trip as well.
after the show, miranda and levi headed out.  then the real magic of allegen began...  we walked to the main street downtown and just as we turned the corner, as if it were a storybook, it began snowing huge, beautiful flakes of snow and we saw the dark street lit with beautiful wreath covered street lights, bundled up pedestrians, and a horse drawn carriage waiting for us!  seriously, i'm not entirely sure it was real- that's how beautiful it was!  ledger petted the horse, and we hopped on the carriage and took a stroll through our gorgeous town laced with sparkling christmas lights!  after the ride, we wandered around the different shops and stores, stopping in to see fantastic local art on display and local musicians filling the air with holiday music.  next, we made our way to the griswold auditorium where there were christmas crafts set up for the kids to make, and treats for everyone to enjoy.
no, seriously, allegan is just that amazing!
(more pics)

crafty barbara

the preschool had a special event where parents and friends were invited after school to make christmas crafts with the kids.  needless to say, barbara was all about it!  she immediately made plans to come up and be a part of the fun.  barbara, diana, and i went to ledger's school and joined the festivities, making several different ornaments by hand.  ledger was all about it- give that kid a craft and he is all set.  include his dear auntie barbara and he is over the moon!
(more pics)

ledger in a pear tree

we held him off until after thanksgiving, but we couldn't hold him off any longer... ledger finally got his wish and we put up our christmas decorations!  we pulled everything out of the garage and hauled it up, got the christmas tunes playing, and got right to it.  i set up the tree, then ledger and diana put on all the ornaments.  it was super easy this year- we planned ahead last year and got everything we needed for decorating.  up went the tree, with our amazing star that shines on our high ceiling, and suddenly the whole place is ready for the holidays!

thanksgiving at auntie b's

the family headed down to south bend for thanksgiving this year.  we always love to spend the holiday with family, and this year, with barbara and james buying a house, they offered to host the festivities this year!  it was a lot of fun to see everyone, including aunt gayle and uncle denny, and enjoy a huge meal together.  ledger always takes the opportunity to be silly and impress a new audience, so he was thrilled about the whole day.  it was  a great meal and a wonderful time spent with family!
(more pics)

rental work

it seems like i have to do this way too much- i had to go clean out the rental and find a new renter.  well, it just so happened that jeffry lee had some spare time, so i enlisted his help!
we got down there and got busy making the place look good again.  we got some paint and everything else we needed and got to work.  it took a long time and lots of work, but the two of us got the place clean and shiny again!  we spent the night on air mattresses in the living room, but had a blast staying up late and getting everything done.  other than a stolen lawn mower, everything went well.  we didn't find a renter while we were down there, but i went down a couple days later and found someone, so it has a happy ending after all.  for now...  with our luck, we will be back down there before the end of the year...

trick r treat!

the big day, the one ledger had been waiting for for the last 4 months, was finally here- halloween!  we got back from school and it was time to start getting ready for trick-r-treating!  he wanted to be a pumpkin, but he also wanted to do the face paint thing.  so diana and i tried our best to paint a pumpkin on his face, with middling success, but he was pleased as punch!  we got on his costume, diana and i put on something a bit costumish as well.  and then we were off!
we wondered around the neighborhood and ledger got his first taste of trick-r-treating!  he was a bit nervous at first, asking us a few times what he was supposed to do when he went to the door.  the first house or two he was a bit timid, but that didn't last long!  before we knew it he was running ahead to the next houses eager for more candy.  along the way we even came across his best friend from preschool!  he and royce hugged and laughed about all the fun they were having!  as the sun went down, we called it quits and headed home to take stock of all his sweet loot.
(more pics: 1, 2)

preschool halloween

ledger's favorite holiday is quickly approaching- halloween!  this year he decided he wanted to be a pumpkin, so we found him a great costume.  preschool even has a special day on halloween, the kids got to dress up in their costume and go to the different classrooms and get candy.  the parents were even invited to come and join the class for the afternoon and take our kids around to get candy!  well, there was no way we were going to miss out on that!
(more pics)

storytelling about daddy

adam, a friend of mine since grade school, was in town doing a storytelling gig.  it was only 20 minutes away, so of course ledger and i headed over to see him do his thing!  adam often does his storytelling thing for the summer programs at the local libraries in west michigan, so it was really great to have ledger come and see him perform.
this particular show included a halloween story that adam himself had written based on his own life.  his story was about going trick-or-treating when he was in junior high.  what was especially fun about this particular story was that it involved two of his junior high friends- one of which was me!  yes, i was featured in this story, which he called me out by name, and ledger got to hear it!  it was kind of strange for me, but really cool to hear a professional storyteller turn a night in my life into a riveting story!  ledger was amazed and i was thrilled- thanks for the fun night, adam!
(more pics)

pumpkin carving

ledger was so excited to carve his pumpkins- he was almost vibrating with anticipation!  i cut open the top and he was both thrilled and disgusted by what was inside.  at first he didn't want to touch the pumpkin guts to clean it out, but once he saw daddy do it, then he really wanted to dig in and get nice and messy!  we carved both pumpkins; ledger drew the faces and i did the cutting.  the final product shows that we make a pretty good carving team!
(more pics)

pumpkin patch

ledger had been waiting for this day for months: it was finally pumpkin day!  we told him that today was the day that we would go and get some pumpkins to decorate our home with and he was so thrilled!  we found a nice little spot in allegan that was selling pumpkins and let ledge pick out a couple of big ones.  he had so much fun looking around the yard and picking just the right ones.  he was disappointed that we could only get two- he wanted to bring them all home!
(more pics)

football game

mike, one of the guys at work who i've gotten to be good friends with, has a couple boys.  one of them, mikey, is only a year or two younger than ledger, ant they have become fast friends!  so, when his older son aiden had a football game, we were more than happy to tag along and let the boys have some fun while mike and i had some fun too!  this was ledger's first sporting event and he had a great time.  he didn't much care for the game that was going on, but he and mikey had a blast running around the stands and playing with the other kids.  which is exactly my experience with going to games as a kid as well.

ledger's nibble bob

so there's this character i made up back in high school: nibble bob.  i've been drawing him ever since i first created him in 9th grade science class.  he's a little creature i made up and has been very special to me- a sort of spirit animal that has been a part of my life for over 20 years now.  whenever i have a blank piece of paper in front of me, my first impulse is to draw him.  well, recently my son asked me to draw it for him so he could try and draw it.  i did, and this is what he came up with.  the pure joy i felt seeing his first attempt at nibble bob is almost something i can't put into words.  looking at this picture right now is even getting me a little choked up.  i can't explain why or how, but this was one of the most profound moments i've had as a father; passing a part of myself to my son. 

orchard field trip

since i've got some extra days off during the week, i've been able to volunteer for any of ledger's school stuff.  the kids had a field trip to the apple orchard, so of course i'm going to go along! 
it was one of the first times ledger has ever ridden the bus, so he was very thrilled about the whole thing.  we got there and hopped on a trailer attached to a tractor and made our way to the apple orchard.  he picked a few apples, laughing and smiling the whole time.  it totally didn't matter that it was raining and miserable out- he was having a blast!
we also checked out the petting zoo, had a donut and cider, and wondered around the whole place having a ton of fun.  he was so thrilled and in awe of everything that it didn't really matter what we did, we were loving life and having a blast!
(more pics: 1, 2)

out fishin'

we finally made it home from the nash to our little boy!  and what do we find him doing? why, fishing, of course!  we make it back to diana's mom and david's house and when we got there we wondered why ledge wasn't at the door to greet us excitedly.  turns out he was at the dock trying to catch a big one!  when he finally saw us he went nuts- it had been a week since he last saw his mama and daddy, so he was super excited to see us, immediately telling us about all the fun he had been up to since we left!  it was good to see our little fella again, but he kept telling us about how much fun he had with grandpa and grandma!

heading home

phew!  after an action packed week, it was finally time to head home and reenter the real world!  we had such a great time getting away and enjoying our time with friends.  we were sorry to see it come to an end, but all the great memories will hold us for at least a few months.
the way home was fairly uneventful, which is a good thing!  it was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but we know we will do it again sometime soon- but the question is: where do we go next time!
(more pics)

i scream

for the last night of our visit to the nash we went to some of the more touristy places (as if we hadn't been doing that the whole time...), so we went to go find the parthenon and wonder around for a bit.  we did find it but unfortunately it was not open, so we just walked around it and the park it was in.  at the end of the night we went out and found a really cool home made ice cream shop.  of course james and barbara suggested the place.  i say 'of course' because the place was so hipsterish that it hurt! they had some crazy flavors that sounded like they would be gross, but all of us were pleasantly surprised by the unusual concoctions that they came up with.  it was a delicious and fun way to end our fun in the nash.
(more pics)

third man

when we first started exploring nashville as a vacation destination i came across third man records as a place to check out.  it was the only place that i really wanted to go.  it's the personal record stored owned by jack white, of the white stripes fame.  apparently he has been known to jump behind the cash register from time to time, so i was pretty excited to check it out.
unfortunately we didn't end up seeing jack white, but we did get to wander around the record store for a bit!  the place was really cool and packed full of rare and limited run vinyl printings- and you could even open any of them up and give them a listen on the record players in the sound booths.  barbara and james got ledger a cute little 'third man records' shirt and everything!
(more pics)

nash night

we decided to go downtown one last time.  who knows when we'll be back in the nash so we might as well enjoy it while we're here, right?
we started our night grabbing a bite to eat, and then made our way down the strip again.  this time aaron and i were able to direct everyone to some of the cool places we checked out last time we came down just the two of us.  not everyone lasted very long, and before we knew it, almost everyone was ready to head home for the night.  everyone except aaron and i...  so we waved them off as everyone else went home, and the two of us stayed out for another night on the town!  (as i'm writing this i'm definitely realizing that i spent way more time with aaron than i did with diana... oops.)  we both had another super fun night and really enjoyed our last night in the nash- living it up!
the highlight though, was when we got home.  aaron decided he wanted to fry up some bacon!  he then proceeded to fry up the whole thing and pretend to be some sort of baking show host the whole time.  it was so funny!  after he got it all fried up we ate about 2 pieces each and then went straight to bed.  sorry for whoever woke up first to our fried mess...
(more pics)