Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009... Over and Out.

This will be the final post of 2009. Holy cow! This has been an eventful year.

Lincoln, January 2009
When we think about where we've come as an immediate family, as an extended family, as a nation... wow. All of the stories that we could revisit (see the blog post list to your right for the details) all illustrate that you never know where life is going to take you. Through all of the twists and turns of 2009, God has been very, very good to our family, and we're very thankful for his provision.

We've got plans for New Year's Eve with some friends (provided Lincoln doesn't get sick), and then on New Year's Day, Jenn plans to get her sauerkraut fix at Grandpa Doug and Grandma Paulette's house. It'll be low key with just close family... and the Buckeyes!

Auntie Em got to spend some good time with Lincoln this Christmas break.

We wish you a great 2010. Pray and seek the Lord's will and guidance, and you'll be able to look back, as 2011 approaches, with great satisfaction.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009, cont'd

After much noise from the public, I've set aside the pressing needs of my home and posted some Christmas photos of Lincoln. Enjoy!

On my way out to Phoenix I spotted another Lincoln in the airport!

We went to a Train Park in Scottsdale. Lincoln was into the sights and sounds.

Clearly I've been blessed.

The carousel ride was... interesting. Lincoln did not like going up and down without me sitting behind him on the horse, but when the ride was over, he signed, "More! More!"

Lincoln can do the smaller slides by himself now.

But he loved riding beside his Auntie Haley!

Snack Time

Lincoln received his very own tape measure...

... as part of his very own tool box.
Was this a great Christmas, or what?!!

The concept of receiving and opening presents wasn't terribly exciting to Lincoln,
but he did enjoy unwrapping a few things.

Grandpa Dave, Auntie Haley, Lincoln and I stacked blocks for a long time.
The stacks always ended with Lincoln taking his very own hammer to the towers.

The plane-ride home was much better than the trip out.

Flashback: October 2008

Lincoln actually napped on this flight...
a HUGE help!

Lincoln now has his own chair!

And his own Pooh!

Belly Laugh

Lincoln gets along quite well with his Uncle Jeremy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dec. 21

I was bouncing around on Flikr earlier today and I stumbled across photographs from last Christmas. My how things change in a year.

Lincoln enjoys sitting in Grandpa Doug's chair
in his new Christmas sweater-vest from Grandma Paulette.

Sunday was Donati Family Christmas. We began a new tradition this year. Rather thang going all-out on presents for each other, each family chooses a charity or a need to which to make a donation in the name of the Donati Family. It was a very nice Christmas, with family contributions made to provide healthy goats to families in need in Laos; to provide assistence for women below the poverty line in Erie county, PA, to receive job training and follow-up; to provide mosquito nets for the needy in Africa; to provide bee colonies to produce honey for sale and pollenating capabilities for the needy in Central America; and to provide needed resources for the Salvation Army of Nashville and middle Tennessee. The focus was more on providing for needs, which was exactly what Jesus did for us in Bethlehem 2,009 years ago and on Calvary 1,976 years ago. We also had lots of good food! The Donati Family was disappointed that Lincoln was away, but I told them that he'll be in Ohio next Christmas and for future Christmases as well.

And getting back to Lincoln, Jenn took him for his first haircut last week.
I'm still waiting on the photos to share with you, but she said he did very well. He got to sit in a racecar and that he actually liked it. Yesterday she took him to an event in Scottsdale where Winnie the Pooh was, and he walked right up to Pooh to say, "Hi."

The flight out to Phoenix was tough, Jenn said. Lincoln didn't want to sleep in his seat, and with the long day, he got tired after a while. On top of that, he threw up just as they turned into the driveway at Grandpa Dave and Grandma Laura's house. Uuuggghh. Jenn began feeling sick before the trip, and it's taking her a while to get back to feeling good again.

But he recovered well the next day, I understand. He's had a bunch of marshmallows from his Grandpa Dave, he's starting to put two words together with consistency, and he's making Jenn laugh lots. I can't wait to get out there and see him again.

The Browns won yesterday!!! Josh Cribbs ran
two kick-offs back for touchdowns (100 & 103 yards, an NFL record) and Jerome Harrison ran the ball for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns, the third best rushing day in NFL history. There's no hope of playoffs this year, but I thought I'd make mention of this unbelievable day as a bit of a historical marker. Also, I pretty much called the Browns quarterback situation back in the preseason, and I'd like to get out in front of the following issue. I haven't consumed a lot of sports media lately, so I don't know if anyone else has come out saying this, but I'd like to make a case for Josh Cribbs for NFL MVP. He won't win it because the Browns are lousy, but there's not a player in the league who is more valuable than Josh Cribbs. Not Peyton Manning, not Brett Favre, not Drew Brees. Josh Cribbs does it all. Literally. And he ought to be named the league MVP this season.

I'm having a hard time letting this blog post pass without commenting on the dark day that this will be marked as in American history. However, I've made attempts to keep this blog from getting political. With only a few lapses, I've stuck to this plan, and I intend to do so today, because I've got a lot to say. However, if you are interested in my thoughts about what has transpired today in the Senate, click here to visit my column at Keep in mind that by clicking on the link, you are actively choosing to enter my mind and read my thoughts, and I am not forcing my opinions upon you. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

Pictured here is our first opportunity to utilize our basement.
The guys would rather wrestle/beat on each other or play Wii the whole time, but we always spend some good time in Bible study and discussion. This was post Bible-study.

It's been a while since we've added a photo of Lincoln, and this has been one of the funnier ones of late. I actually took this a few weeks ago, and Lincoln has improved significantly with his spoon since then. He used to flick the spoon out of the bowl, but now he picks his food up appropriately. The new food fascination is the graham cracker. It has become his dessert.
I'm not sure exactly how he got into them, but I suspect it was at Grandma's house.

And speaking of Grandma and Grandpa's house, Lincoln loves all of the Santa Clauses around. He's not sure what it's all about, but he's into them. Between all of the Santas and a few other objects such as doors and books, we've been practicing counting. He can get to three, which I think is pretty impressive at this point. But gettin back to the Christmas things, he's also quite entertained by the jingle-bells on the Christmas tree. He started out being allowed play with one jingle-bell, but that has progressed to somewhere between 5 and 8.

He's also been very interested in the Disney Sing-Along playlist I've put on the iPod in the car. We (Jenn and I) were starting to go crazy with a playlist of about 16 songs (each played over 200 times. So I downloaded Volume 2 and now I've got "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" stuck in my head. I even had a dream about it last night.

Pictured below is our new dining room furniture and the view of our great room from the entry way:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We're back! After the move and all of the unpacking, both Jenn and I were pretty content to some of our non-work time to sit around and not do much. No, we haven't been lazy, as there hasn't been much time to be lazy with, but when that time has come, we've enjoyed the break. We were also without internet service at home here for a while. We're now with AT&T U-verse, and we love it.

Most things are unpacked, and there are only some things in the garage left to put away. When Jenn takes off to Scottsdale in mid-December I'll do some of the little projects that need done. Thankfully, there aren't many of them, which is why we LOVE this house.

I had my first middle school small group in the basement last Sunday and it was great to have their noisy mouths downstairs while Lincoln was sleeping upstairs.

Our new dining room furniture arrived, and we're looking forward to hosting dinner parties once the new year comes.

Lincoln is shooting up (growing into the length of his pants!) and talking a BUNCH. His appetite has also decreased over the last two weeks. He still eats a good variety, but just less at a time. This is good for his pants' waistlines.

It hit Jenn today that she'll be in AZ in one week! Holy cow!

We haven't grown less thankful for this house. We love living close to my work, we haven't gone any further from church, and we're anticipating good walks on the sidewalks when the weather improves (60mph gusts right now outside!).

It's been a while since I've taken photographs of Lincoln, so when I get back into that swing, I'll post them here.

Christmas is coming and we're looking forward to the family time that's approaching.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I know the blog posts have been few and far between lately. I don't have any pics to share because no one wants to see photos of boxes strewn around a house. Things are coming along nicely, and by the end of today, we ought to be completely, 100% out of the Norton house.

The Hopwoods are in town now and we're major excited to see them. Perhaps they'll even help with our move a bit (I have no shame at this point).

Among the many things for which we have to be thankful are a group of friends, the Kellers, Kings and Uckers, who helped us move last weekend. We can hardly express our appreciation for their help and sacrifice to help us set up our home.

Friday, November 20, 2009


In progress.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Packing and Park

Lincoln has been helping us pack.
We've boxed up what feels like most of our stuff, though there is certainly lots more to go. We're really ready to get the keys and start the moving process. That ought to come on Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, we took a trip to the park today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back from Vacation

Jenn and I are back from our vacation, and we had a great time away together. We'll share a lot of photos in this post, and tell some stories from the trip, but we're also going to include some tips and advice.
These tips and advice are as much to ourselves for future trips as for anyone else, but also for folks who may stumble on this post when researching things like "first cruise," "Emerald Princess," and "Caribbean Vacation."

Jenn and I were looking forward to this time with each other in a big way. With all that's been going on with busy-ness with work, getting our house ready to sell, the excitement surrounding getting the house that we really wanted, initially stressing about asking family to care for Lincoln while we were gone... there were just a lot of things going on and getting a short break was very appealing for us.
We chose Princess Cruises because Jenn had had a very good experience with them years ago, we knew they made great food, they had an itinerary that we thought we'd like, and the cost was very doable for us. We initially wanted to spend our anniversary on the cruise, but August 30th is in the middle of hurricane season, so we put it off until early November.

Our flight to Ft. Lauderdale was very smooth, and getting a cab to the port was actually very easy, and it was less costly than the pre-arranged Princess transportation. We got through the check-in process at the port very quickly, and realized that we had budgeted several hours for a process that we finished in less than one hour. So that left us plenty of time to get our stuff situated in our very small room and then explore the ship.

Holy cow. There's nothing second class about a Princess ship. The only arguable exception to this might be the cruisers themselves. Being on a cruise is like going to the State Fair... like a State Fair with lots of money. There are people, couples and fashion statements that you'd swear would be impossibilities. But I digress. The Emerald Princess was beautiful in every aspect: beautiful clubs and dining rooms, beautiful shopping areas, beautiful decks. Pretty soon after we finished scouting out the ship, we embarked from Port Everglades and started our sail.
It's apparently quite the big deal for the locals (in their multi-million dollar homes) to sit out and watch the cruise ships take off.

Our first stop on Monday was Princess Cays (pronounced "key"), Bahamas, and it was overcast when we arrived. There's no port at Princess Cays so we anchored out in the ocean and took a life boat to the shore. Right after we landed it began to rain. Hard. We figured that if we were going to get wet, we might as well be in the water. But the rain made snorkeling difficult, and the splashing from the

Jenn read a lot on this trip.
All of the books were novels
about cruise shipwrecks.
rain threw salt in our eyes, so after about an hour and a half on the island we returned to the ship, at which time it promptly cleared up and was pleasant for the rest of the day while we were on the ship.

The second day we were at sea. The Atlantic was unusually rough and the ship did a lot of bouncing up and down. We found it most pleasant to be outside either on the top of the ship or on the walking deck because when we were inside we felt "almost dizzy" with the rocking of the ship.

On Wednesday we went to Sint Maarten. We first took a bus ride to The Butterfly Farm on the French side of the island. Once we left Philipsburg and got away from the shore and the shopping, we found Sint Maarten/St. Martin to be an absolute dump. There was garbage everywhere. The cattle were literally grazing among and lying on beer bottles. As veterinarians with training in public health, we were appalled.

The Butterfly Farm was really fascinating, and the folks that give their time and lives to it were pretty neat. We saw all sorts of butterflies and chrysalises and caterpillars.

After we were through
there we went to Orient Beach on the French side and saw some of the things that you don't want to see on a French beach. The weather was perfect, though, and we had a good time relaxing. We did some shopping after our time at the beach, but no buying. Jenn has compiled a mental list of what it is that she wants to shop for on our next trip down to the Caribbean.

St. Thomas was our Thursday stop. There were some neat art galleries along with some nice jewelry stores there, and the costs on cameras and lenses in both St. Thomas and Sint Maarten were phenomenal. Still no purchasing, though. Our excursion in St. Thomas was aboard the Castaway Girl 2, a catamaran that took us to Buck Island for snorkeling over a shipwreck and some coral. (The reviews found here and here are consistent with our own experience.) When we boarded the Castaway Girl 2, we noticed that the crew was 4 guys between the ages of 20 and 25. They were highly entertaining, but we each had the same thought, "Do these guys know what they're doing?" They demonstrated their competence early on and we had a great time. Catamarans provide relatively smooth, steady rides, and the views around the bay and out in the sea were dazzling.
It was on Thursday evening that we noted at this point that each stop was better than the previous day. Friday did not disappoint. Grand Turk was absolutely beautiful, very clean and very enjoyable locals.
We took dune buggies (brand new Polaris RZRs!) all over the island on a guided tour and Jenn and I both agreed that we could spend a week on Grand Turk. After ATVing, and getting dusty, muddy and sweaty (a nice combo mix with the sunscreen that we started with), we got our swimsuits and snorkel equipment and hit the beach right beside the ship. There wasn't much sand once we got in the water, but rather rocky coral. The fish we saw while snorkeling were fascinating, and sometimes a little scary. The sun went down on us in Grand Turk in a stunning way.

I've spent the bulk of text to this

That's the Emerald Princess
way off to Jenn's left.
point talking about our island stops, but that was just one aspect of our fun cruise. No meal disappointed, and the servers, all of them very friendly and helpful, brought us anything we wanted. For instance, the appetizers were very good, but I heard that the Fettucini Alfredo was excellent, so I asked my waiter to bring me an appetizer-sized Fettucini Alfredo, and he did. I proceeded to have Fettucini Alfredo as an appetizer for the last four nights on the cruise... it was that good. We had most types of Caribbean fish, Jenn had lamb, we each had New York Strip, we regularly ordered two desserts and split them, etc. One could spend his entire time on a cruise eating in one dining room or cafe or another. We did not do this, though at times it did sound appealing at times.

On Saturday we went to a wine tasting event that was really neat. I'd never been to an official tasting with guides that knew lots and lots about the particular wines they were presenting. They gave us two whites, two reds and a dessert wine, which were all very good. It reminded me of when Jenn first introduced me to wine 7 years ago (7 years!) and I couldn't handle a dry wine. I've come full circle and nearly prefer the dry wines to the semi-sweets.

Twilight at Grand Turk

Each day they had fine art auctions and we found this to be one of the coolest ways to spend our times during the days at sea. When I say fine art, I mean originals by Alexandra Nechita, Wyland, and Pino. There was art that was worth more than half as much as our Norton house! Jenn and I have been art ignorants, but we learned a good bit from the auctioneer and with the thought of Forest Edge being a blank slate for us to decorate (with the exception of Washington Crossing the Delaware, we don't have any art), we were able to start brainstorming, though any thought of decorating with originals causes a chuckle.

The entertainment was very good. There was only one evening that provided entertainment that we just weren't into (a mentalist whose show just plodded along). There was an evening with a hypnotist, a stand-up comic,
a comedian/magician, and a couple of bands gave us fun things to watch and laugh at in the evening. There were some shows with song and dance, but we were doing other things when those were going on.

Jenn and I came to the conclusion that we're going to plan all future Caribbean vacations around the itineraries and not around cost. Additionally, sailing from San Juan usually allows for only one day at sea as opposed to two days at sea when sailing from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami or New York. Prioritizing itinerary over cost and sailing form San Juan may sound idealistic, and you know, it probably is. But when it comes to spending a week of one's life, pursuing idealism isn't such a bad thing, in my opinion.

On a completely different subject, we came home to learn that things are moving along nicely with our closings. We signed the closing papers on our Norton house, and we're set to sign the papers on the Forest Edge home this coming Friday. The closing dates have not changed, and we still ought to take possession of the Forest Edge home on Wednesday, Nov. 18, allowing us about a week and a half to get all moved. Our goal is to be all the way out of the Norton house before Thanksgiving.