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!
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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...
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opry backstage

this lunch stop became, unexpectedly, the highlight of our trip.  miranda and levi wanted to go out for a special meal, just the two of them (it was their anniversary while we were down there), and barbara and james just wanted a quiet afternoon, so diana, lissa, aaron, and i headed out for lunch.  we decided to go to the opryland backstage restaurant.  it was a nice place, the food was pretty good, but the amazing part happened as we were leaving.  they had a gift shop that lissa wanted to check out.  as we were at the cash register, lissa struck up a conversation with the guy working there.  he said that he was one of the 'singing waiters' at the restaurant.  lissa asked what that was, and he told us that he's usually a waiter but sometimes goes up on stage and plays his guitar and sings for the customers.  well, lissa was all about that and asked if he could go up and play for us.  he said 'sure' and proceeded to strap on his guitar and walked up on stage!  we headed back in and grabbed a seat to enjoy the improptu show.  he started playing and all four of us were shocked at how fantastic he was- like really really good!  the best part of the show? we were literally the only people there so it was a show just for us!  as he was on stage he just kept talking to us and giving little stories about his life and different songs he would then perform.  his musical tastes run similar to mine (keeping in mind this is nashville)- he loved 90's country and garth brooks.  he asked if we had any requests, so of course i called out 'blackhawk'!  he was absolutely thrilled with that one and told us a whole story about how much he loved blackhawk!  he dared me to try and stump him, so i called out 'thinking problem' by david ball.  well it worked, he was stumped- and felt really embarrassed about it!  he asked for another request, whatever i wanted.  since he had mentioned michael jackson earlier, i told him i'd love to hear a countryfied version of a michael jackson song- he then proceeded to play the coolest 'man in the mirror' cover i've ever heard!
finally, after about an hour, he wrapped it up saying that he really should get back to work.  oh, that's right, he was actually on the clock this whole time!  oops!  well, we were absolutely amazed with his talent and willingness to humor us for so long.  like i said, this turned out to be one of the greatest part of the whole week in nashville!  thanks again for the amazing concert, bradley brassfield!
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distillery

the ladies went off to do their own thing, so levi, aaron, and i decided to check out a local distillery.  nelson's greenbrier distillery was offering tours (with free samples), so we went and checked the place out.  it was really cool to see how it was all done and hear about the 100+ year history of the place.
at the end of the tour we got to try some of the tennessee whiskey they had made.  levi and aaron were all about the samples but i was not so excited- that stuff hurts as it goes down!  i wasn't too thrilled with the whiskey, but seeing how its made was really interesting!
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nash boys

after a long day of checking out the nash, almost everyone was planning on a night in.  well, everyone except aaron and i!  after getting a taste of downtown earlier in the week, the two of us decided that we wanted to check it out again.  we called an uber and off we went!
the two of us had a blast checking out some of the bars that we missed the first time out.  some of the highlights include the rooftop bar we started the night at, and ending with an amazing chocolate milkshake as we closed the bars down!
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hotel nash

man, this place is weird.  there's this hotel in nashville that has a small town inside of it.  yeah, i've been there and i don't get it either...  the opryland hotel is like a circle of hotel rooms surrounding a strange rain forest/water ride/victorian era houses sort of place covered with glass.  we checked it out and wandered around a bit, but it totally felt like a strange twilight zone area that shouldn't actually exist.
we stopped at one of the restaurants in this fairy tale land and got some really yummy pizza.  it was a pretty cool place, but i still don't know why it even exists.
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the nash: first night out

now that we were in the nash, it was time to get rockin!  we put on our fanciest duds and headed downtown.  aaron and i seemed to be the only ones who knew how to party 'nash' style- no one else was wearing their cowboy hats!  and when i say no one, i mean no one- the locals, the other tourists-- no one!  but don't worry, we wore them proudly and only got embarrassing looks from 2/3rds of the people we saw, so everything was a-ok.
we drove down as a group and spent the night wandering up and down broadway street, thats where all the bars and music are downtown.  we stopped first at rock bottom, a fun bar and grill that has a really cool patio on the roof which was perfect for seeing the whole place and figuring out our plan of attack!
the rest of the night was spent wandering down the strip poking in and out of different bars checking things out.  the best one we went to was actually a food place that specialized in tater tots!  don't worry, we made sure to visit that place another time or two while we were down there...
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plantation visitation

after we made it down to the nash and settled in to our rental house, we took the evening to enjoy ourselves.  we picked our bedrooms (i was lucky enough to get to shack up with aaron... meow!) and unpacked.  we headed to the local grocery store and picked up a bunch of food to last us through the week and then played games and hung out for the rest of the night.
the next morning we were up and out of there, the ladies had made plans for us to visit the belle meade plantation, one of the old plantations in nashville that has been preserved.  we spent the afternoon on a tour of the grounds and just generally enjoying ourselves on vacation!  the whole place was really cool, the main plantation had been restored and displayed as it had been when it had been built in the 1820's.  diana and i have a love for old houses, so this was right up our alley!
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louisville sluggin'

on the way down to the nash we were just going to quick stop at a restaurant by the highway, but james insisted that we check out what louisville had to offer.  we drove down around the university but that was way too busy because they had a game going on and so there were about 50 thousand people in the area...  instead we ventured down by the fourth street area and checked it out.  we ate at the gordon biersch brewery restaurant for lunch (it was very good) and then headed back out on our way!
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a trip to the nash

for the past couple years diana and i have been going on different summer vacations with her friends.  it started two years ago when we tagged along with miranda and levi to grand marais in the upper peninsula of michigan for a short weekend.  then the following year we rented a house and went up with a bunch of people including lissa, aaron, and barbara.  well, this year we wanted to do something different but weren't quite sure what.  remembering all the fun i had with different friends through out the years, i suggested we go to nashville (or as we like to call it: 'the nash')- its always a blast!  well, everyone seemed to like the idea because we all agreed and set it as our destination!  we planned it a bit later than usual- we made plans to go down together in september.  everyone was on board and really excited.  we rented a house and made our plans.
the big trip finally arrived and we were ready to head down.  diana left early so she could bring ledger to her mothers and get him all situated.  aaron and i had to work, so we headed down later on friday.  he came to my place and picked me up.  on the way down, though it was getting late, we wanted to grab a bite to eat.  we stopped at benton harbor for a late dinner and had a great time being silly and getting ourselves in the vacation mood.  apparently that includes getting hit on hard at applebee's...
we finally made it down to diana's moms place around 11pm and promptly went to bed.  we had a week ahead and wanted to get a decent night's sleep to start it off!

hand print board

for some reason i got it in my head to make a special craft for ledger's first day of preschool.  it was totally a 'pintrest' sort of thing...  before the school year started we went to home depot and got a six foot board and some wood stain.  we went to the craft store and let ledger pick out a paint color that he liked, and then once the first day of school arrived, we went to work making a hand print board.  the idea is that at the start of each school year, from preschool all the way through 12th grade, we are going to have ledger make a hand print on the board to show his growth.  its kind of cheesy, but for some reason it really struck me as a great marker of ledger's school life.  as soon as he heard that he gets to put his hand in paint, ledger was all about it!  i know this 'craft' will take a long time to really be anything, it will be interesting to see how he grows and i'm glad i was cognizant enough to start it at the very beginning instead of coming up with the idea later and wishing i had done it!
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first day of preschool

well, its finally here: ledger's first day of school.  ever!  he was so excited that he woke up early to make sure he didn't miss it!  don't worry buddy, your mother and i are just as excited for you as you are!  we got him ready, talking through the day, trying to calm his anxiety, and then it was time to go.  well, not before we took lots of 'first day of school' pictures!  as you can see from the photo, he almost exploded with excitement before we even got out of the house...
we took him to school and went in the room with him to get him all situated, backpack on his hook and all that, then the teacher welcomed everyone.  soon after, we bowed out and left him there.  it was really strange to us- it was the first time we had really ever left ledger to anyone who wasn't family!  we went to the car and headed off.  what, now, are we to do with all this free time?  we have had a child centered existence for four years now, and suddenly we are given 6 hours free for 4 days a week?  diana and i just drove around for a bit, went for breakfast together (just because we could), and headed home.  it was pretty great...
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preschool open house

as our little fella gets older the creeping reality sets in: he's old enough to go to school now!  that's crazy!  we enrolled him in the spring and how is the first time we get to see his preschool.  diana and i are both very excited and nervous, but not as excited as ledger is!  they had an open house before school started, a chance to meet the teacher and check out his classroom for the first time.  as we first walked in, ledge was excited but also a bit confused by the whole thing- having never been to school before he had no idea what to expect.  he was pleased to see that there were toys and books and fun things to do, so that made him feel a lot better.  he was really excited about the teacher and aids, and even hit it off with another student or two.  he wasn't exactly sure what to do while we were there, but we weren't either...  eventually a few parents took the kids to check out the playground and we followed.  we got a chance to chat with a few of the parents, which helped us feel more at ease.  on the way home ledge said that he thinks he's ready for preschool now.  you know, i think we are too!
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lunch

ledger's two favorite foods in the world are macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  i know is not unusual for a little kid, so we just go with it, mixing in some more unusual stuff from time to time.  when we give him new food we have the rule that he doesn't have to like it but he does have to try it!
sometimes he decides to help out with making lunch- so we gave him a butter knife and had him make his own sandwich.  sure, it got a little messy, but what else would we expect?
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seeing movies

i know i've said it before, but it bares repeating: i love the regent theatre in allegan!  all summer the regent shows kids movie matinees for free, so ledger and i took advantage every chance we could!  i'm always a sucker for seeing movies in the theater and it would seem that my son is taking after his dear old dad!
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christmas in august

sandy pines has a tradition of celebrating christmas in the summer.  mostly this is just to people have an excuse to put up their christmas lights at their trailers, not that i'm complaining!  mom and papa reminded us that it was coming and asked if ledge would like to come out and enjoy all the beautiful lights and fun.  well, of course he would!  so we headed out there so we could ride around and see all the displays.  needless to say, he absolutely loved it!  he was beside himself with excitement the entire time!
every once in a while its so great to step outside of myself and live vicariously through him and just enjoy his wonder and joy- its like a perspective reset.  it reminds me what is most important!
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exhausting

so my car wouldn't exactly be considered 'cherry', but it gets me where i need to go.  as someone who doesn't really care about cars, i dont really ask for much more than just something that gets me from point a to point b.  there's so much wrong with it that i've often felt like my car is like mr. burns on that one episode of the simpsons where he goes to the doctor and is told he should be dead- he actually has every disease there is but they are all fighting each other and miraculously he is still alive.  everything is wrong with my car yet somehow it is still alive!  and thriving- that thing gets 37 miles to the gallon!
sometimes something goes a little out of whack though.  this time it was the exhaust pipe.  i was driving home from work and started to hear scraping on the road- that's never a good thing...  i pulled off on a side street and took a look at it.  yup, the exhaust pipe broke off from the engine and was hanging down.  i was a bit worried, so i did what i always do when i have a car question- i called aaron!  he was kind enough to walk me through the issue and come up with a solution.  he asked if i had a duct tape to fix it temporarily so it didn't break off completely.  miraculously i did!  there was a little roll in the emergency kit in the trunk!  lucky me!  i taped it up and it held the rest of the trip.  i set up a time later in the week to have aaron take a look at it (cause he is an amazing friend).  i made it almost all the way to his house that day with the duct tape still holding- about a mile from his house the pipe gave out and started dragging again!  i got my fair share of looks from the pedestrians on the side of the road...
i made it there and aaron worked his magic- he actually had an extra tail pipe that he cut a section off of and made it work on what was left of mine.  i was truly amazed- he fixed the whole thing and somehow we didn't even have to go to the car parts place!
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bush!

i was hanging out late one night with jeffry lee and we found ourselves down a youtube rabbit hole and noticed that the 90's band 'bush' had a new single out.  we checked out the video for 'the only way out' and thought it was amazing- both the video and the song!  we got talking about how much we love that band and then realized that they were coming to down in a couple months!  we did the only logical thing- we bought tickets to see them at the orbit room!  we talked jon into going as well.
the day of the show i got out of work early, met up with the guys and we headed out.  after a stop for dinner, we made our way to the show!  i haven't been to a concert in a very long time, and especially someone as big as bush, so i was really thrilled.  we had so much fun, it was great to hear the hits from gavin himself!  it was fun to see which songs he seemed most excited to sing- the ones that got him going and got his energy up the most were 'swallowed', and 'the only way out'.
we totally had a blast!
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meeting mikey

one of the guys at work, mike, has a little boy about the same age as ledger.  we decided it might be fun if the two of them met each other- maybe they could be as good of friends as mike and i!  diana, ledge, and i met up in south haven with their whole family and went to see 'the secret life of pets' together.  everyone had a great time at the movie and afterwards we wandered down to the pier together.  it was great to meet his wife and kids- and ledger and little mikey had a blast together!  we are going to have to do this again real soon!

grand day out

in order to give diana a little break, ledger and i spend the day out and about! on these special days, as is so often the case, we just headed out with no real plan of what we were going to do to fill the hours.  we decided to head over and see if jeffry lee was up to anything.  he didn't have any plans, so he joined us on our grand day out.  we drove around for a bit, stopping at meijer and getting drenched in a flash rainstorm!  we ended up making our way to chuck e cheeses, which is always a hit with ledge!  jeff was feeling a bit weird about the whole thing, being a childless adult at that place, but eventually he got over it and felt comfortable playing around with ledge and i.  after going through all of our coins, we went out driving again.  this time our drive took us to aaron's house!  he happened to be out working on his car so we stopped in for a minute to pester him and check it all out.
what an unexpectedly fun day we got to have!
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