July 2005


Last week, Christine and I stopped in Bellville on Tuesday for dinner, after I drove to Houston to make a sales call. We at dinner at Galileo’s, which is a nice little Mexican place in town. We saw Mama Payton there and a few of her friends… and Cap and Maxine joined us for dinner with my mom, Evan and Shadel.

After dinner we went to Grandma’s house, and saw all of the improvements she’s made on the house… Looks great mom.

And then, my mom gave Christine and I a few photos of me when I was a kid. We also got a copy of a great photo of Evan and I as kids (don’t Evan’s eyes just look like the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen?)

So, we got some super fun photos of me as a kid and, then this week, Christine picked up photos of Jack at 7 months. Jack is growing so much… just this week he has been pulling up from a sitting position, starting to skirt around standing up while holding on to furniture, and saying “eeeee” when he sees the kitty cat (think “hi kitty” … that’s the “eeee” sound he makes).

Isn’t he just adorable?

So,

Do you think Jack looks like me, or Christine:

Christine John Jack

And, for bonus points… can anyone guess which Aunt of mine this is holding me as a baby:

I found this really cool online license maker:

Go make your own.

Jack and I have had a great summer together. We’ve spent time in Lakeway with Debbie and Raymond and the rest of the family, we’ve taken swimming lessons and learned how to kick and splash in the water, we gone to many many weddings, we went to North Carolina to see Aunt Murrell, Grandma came to visit and helped us with inside stuff, and then Granddad came and helped us with outside stuff (the office). It has been super busy and super fun.

Then last week (July 12th thru 14th) we got to go to Bellville for a few days to visit Aunt Shadel, Uncle Evan, Cousin Ella and Grandma! We had a blast!!! Jack loves to play with Ella, and Ella loves to give Jack hugs and kisses. The two kids were so much fun to watch together!

While we were there we went out to Cap and Maxine Hillbolt’s ranch to go swimming in their pool. Jack and Ella had so much fun playing with Grandma in the water. We took some really great pictures of the two kids on the ranch. They even got to say hello to a group of cows that had come up close to the house for a snack. We “mooed” at them and they “mooed” back. On the drive out of the ranch I had to dodge a few cows in the road… honestly, I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to cows! What a city girl I am! After Max and Cap’s we had Golden Pagoda for lunch… YUMMM!

That night Grandma came over and Shadel and I headed out for a night on the town. Bellville has a new restaurant on the square that looks like it is transplanted from the warehouse district in Austin. It is called The Fainting Goat. It is a great little place. They specialize in wine and mediterranean style food. We weren’t that hungry so we ordered a fruit and cheese plate, a hummus plate, and a bottle of wine. The food was very good, the wine was delicious, and the atmosphere was awesome. The couple that owns it transplanted to Bellville from Manhattan. That’s got to be culture shock! On Friday and Saturday nights they have live music and bring in bands from Austin, Houston, and even New York! Out waitress actually commutes to work there from Austin! Its really a cool place. If you’re ever in Bellville you should try it.

After The Fainting Goat, we went to another small bar that’s new to town, but it was so empty that they closed it early. Then we headed to the other side of town and visited the Blue Moon Saloon. That’s where we found the party. There were a few of Shadel’s friends there with a group of guys and gals. We hung out for a little while and then headed home around 11:30. It was great to get out… Thanks Grandma!

The next day Grandma took us out for breakfast at Newman’s Bakery which was yummy. Jack got to eat grits for the first time which he loved. After breakfast we played at Grandma’s house for a little while (and took pictures of course) until the kids were ready for naps. Grandma has spent the last year fixing up her house and it looks amazing folks! You can tell by the pictures we took of the kids playing in the “TV Room”. We’re looking forward to more play dates at Grandma’s house.

After naps, I packed up all our stuff, we had lunch, and then Shadel and I took the kids to Walmart in Brenham to get some of the pictures of our visit printed. Jack and I left from Brenham and drove home. About 40 miles from Austin we ran into a horrible thunderstorm, but I took it slow and Jack slept through the whole thing so we made it home just fine.

We had a great time in Bellville. Thank you Shadel, Evan and Grandma!

See the rest of the photos from our trip to Bellville here.

On Sunday, the house woke up, and Phill went to Los Altos to buy breakfast tacos… which were much better than Mi Madre’s tacos… will definitely have to buy our there from now on (they’re much cheaper too).

After hanging out in the house for the better part of the morning, we all (James and Janice, Chase, Phill, Melissa, Steve and Abigail, Christine, Jack and I) all got ready and left Austin for the wedding in New Braunsfels at 3:00. The wedding started at 4:00, so we figured an hour was plenty of time to get there.

We were wrong.

Two things contributed to our long trip to the church:

1. It was raining.
2. The construction all the way from Austin to the church really made traffic suck bad.

Long story short, even with driving on the shoulder, trying to cut through town, and cutting it close with a couple of lights, we arrived at the wedding right as the church let out. Crap!

Chase flew down from New York and Phill flew down from Pennsylvania and I couldn’t get them to the wedding on time. Blimey!

We followed the pack from the church to the reception at Saengerhalle, and packed into the hall for a party. And boy, were we treated to one.

Saengerhalle is probably one of the coolest dancehalls in Texas. It’s rich in history and speaks Texas Country to you as you walk in the doors… if those walls could only talk…

Anyways, back to the wedding:

Before the bride and groom arrived, we all got to meet up with old friends, and family. My ol’ lady, Chip, and his wife and daughter were at the reception, and it was really, really good to see them, and to finally meet Carly Rae. She was just adorable. All of my other buddies from the band were there too, except for Rodney Kelley and Chris Morgan. Rodney is in Iraq with the Marines, and Chris is in Special Forces pilot training with the Army, learning to fly Chinooks. We really missed seeing them.

Michael Medford, Dub’s ol’ lady when Dub was on Band staff, was also there, and Greg Holland drove up from Houston. Good to see them both as well.

Stanley and Emmy Jo Miller (Dub’s parents) looked fantastic, and are now living in Pontotoc full time, ranching in their retirement (heh, ranchers don’t retire Stanley informed me). Kelly Jo and her husband were at the wedding too… Kelly Jo looked fantastic as expected, and her beau was really nice… she done good, as the saying goes.

Marci and Dub arrived to a standing ovation, the hall was packed with people… lots of friends and family, and lots of musicians to boot… They made the rounds a few times, and when they finally danced their first dance, it was a picture perfect moment:

Christine, Jack and I left a little early, as the wedding was on a Sunday, and Jack had a little fever (turns out he has a mild ear infection)… so we drove home in the rain, after a full day, and a full weekend.

Right before we left, Dub broke away during the bride/father dance, so we could snap a few “buddy photos”:

We both wish we could have stayed longer, but we had a good time, and we are really happy for Dub and Marci.

All of our photos from the wedding day are here.

On Friday night (ok, I guess it was technically Sunday morning) Chase Brown flew in from Rochester, New York. I picked him up at the airport. Funnily, I also ran into Jason and Leah Eggenburger (two of our fish from A&M) while waiting for Chase at the airport.

James Rodriguez and his girlfriend Janice drove up from Houston, and got here about the same time Chase did.

We rendezvoused at the house, I let them in, we drank a beer on the back porch, and we went to bed.

We were all planning to hit the Guadalupe river on Saturday, but the weather was horrible… it’d been raining for 3 days, and when we woke up on Saturday, it was pouring. Dub called me around 8:15 and said the river trip was off, so we should just meet him at the River Road Ice House.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast tacos from Mi Madres, then Rudy Gaytan and Will Ketchen showed up, and we all hung out, catching up with each other, meeting Jack, and having a good time. Then we headed to New Braunsfels to meet up with Dub and his Fiancee, Marci.

Phill Becker beat us to New Braunsfels (he was coming from State College, PA, by way of San Antonio). We got to New Braunsfels around 1:45 or so, and met up with Jen and Mack Avery in the parking lot before heading into the RRIH. Scott Wideman showed up not long after us. Last to arrive was Mike Elmquist and his wife Carol.

Around 3:00, Dub decided it was safe to float the river, so we hit it, and boy did we. I haven’t hit the river like that since our old trips to the Guadalupe in college.

Let’s see. We lost about a case of beer on the river, I gashed my hand open really good. Dub tackled Phil and scraped up his back real good. Marci (Dub’s financee at the time) fell off the truck that took us back to the parking lot from the river (not good when you’re getting married the next day). Phill bruised his foot. James whined about being sore the next day… all in all, a good trip (and yes, someone almost got arrested, but I won’t say who here publicly).

After the river, Dub took care of his ailing fiancee, and the rest of us headed to the New Braunsfels Smokehouse to eat. And eat did we, and catch up with each other. Scott’s girlfriend Sarah met us there, and we tried to meet up with Chip and Cristy there, but it was 9:00pm and they’d taken their kiddo back to the hotel to sleep.

Steve Wiley, his wife and daughter – Melissa and Abigail, and Phill came back to our house in Austin after dinner, and we all tried to get to sleep without waking Jack. Steve, James and Phill stayed out on the front porch talking all night, while I went to bed.

On Sunday we got up to head to the wedding, which I’ll write more about in the next update.

More photos of Saturday here.

This past Sunday morning, I got up before the butt crack of dawn (around 5:05 am) and got in my car and drove out to Lakeway. I met Raymond, Evan and Reese Lockett at the Lakeway Marina.

We had a date to go fishing.

We met our Lake Travis Fishing guide, Mr. Allen Christenson, at the dock at 6:00 a.m, shook his hand, got in the boat and went fishing.

We tried a little top water and plastic worm fishing from 6:30 or so until around 8:00 before moving on to live bait fishing around 8:15.

The lake was hot. The sun was bright. The breeze was non-existant.

Raymond caught the first fish pretty early, and overall we caught 13 fish, 5 of which were keepers. We caught a bass or two, some catfish, a drum, and maybe another type…

It was fun to just spend time with the boys, and to get rewarded with eggs, bacon and sausage afterwards.

This year, we all took it easy for July 4th.

Christine headed out to the lakehouse to see Peggy before she drove home, while Frank and I worked until around 5:00 p.m. (we were hanging the last of the ceiling sheetrock).

When Frank and I finally arrived at the lake house, Jack and Christine were in the pool with Uncle Raymond. Raymond was playing with Jack in the pool… having lots of fun.

We ate dinner and drove home, watching some fireworks out the windows of the car as we hit I-35 in Austin… we went to bed early… it had been a long but fun day.

More photos here.

On July 3rd, Erin and Toni threw a house warming party that Christine, Jack and I attended. It was loads of fun to visit with Erin and Toni and all of their friends in their new back yard while enjoying some barbeque and beer.

Jay brought some Earl Campbell sausage, and I had two sausages in tortillas for dinner … ummmm, good!

Everyone had fun, and we got to see a New Yorker transplant playing washers with the boys from Texas.

More photos here.

On Friday, July 1st, I started finishing out the little building I had Affordable Portable build in my back yard, as that little building is going to become my office. Yep, that’s right… I got kicked out of my own house! Actually, I was pretty adamant with Christine that “We are moving (or something) so I can get some work done around here!” After many trials and tribulations, we decided to stay in our house and to build me an annex in the backyard.

While my original plans were to have a finished building on July 5th, I soon realized (along with a little help) that that goal was a little overzealous, to say the least. And while we didn’t meet my original goal, we sure did do a damn good job getting the building done (for the most part) on the 10th.

So I’ll try to tell the story of how we (Frank “Grandad” Kamp, Christine, Jack, Josh Janicek, Marc Swendner and myself) finished out my new office over the past week in 100+ degree weather.

On Thursday, June 30th, I hung the electric boxes and dug 90 percent of the trench that the electrical, cable, and phone conduits were going to go be buried in, from the corner of the house to the clubhouse. That sucked. It was hot and the ground was hard. Not quite as hard as Josh’s backyard, but I hit rock about 8 inches down.

On Friday, Frank got to Austin around noon, and I knocked off work around 1:00 or so. The first thing Frank and I did (ok, wait, I think we went to Home Depot first) was install the air conditioner (and Frank did most of the work). It was hotternhell outside, and we were going to be working inside the building for the most part, so I followed Frank’s lead, and we got the A/C running off an extension cord immediately.

Next, we started cutting holes in 2×4 studs and pulling electrical wire, phone and cable wiring through the walls. Once the wiring was in, we started installing the fiberglass installation in the walls.

On Saturday, Marc showed up early, and helped us put the insulation in the ceiling. Josh showed up later and helped too. Then the three of us put the conduit in the ground, pulling wires through as we went.

Oh, to heck with telling you what happened each day… the days all run together at this point.

By Monday, with Frank, Josh and Marc’s help, we’d installed all of the wiring, the power subpanel, insulation, conduit under the house to the main power panel and the phone and cable box. We’d hung most of the sheetrock on the walls, and had a nice cool building to work in.

On Monday Frank and I finished the ceiling insulation and hanging the sheetrock on the ceiling (that took a little while), then we started floating and taping (actually, Marc started that over the weekend, and we finished up).

After the sheetrock was up, we started sanding. And patching and sanding. And patching and sanding. After about the third day of sanding (it felt like it took that long even if it didn’t) we decided to build a custom desk in the clubhouse, to help line up the sheetrock where the rock was meeting between studs and wasn’t actually meeting.

So, Frank installed 2×2’s on the walls, where the desk and custom shelves would fit later. That helped the floating and taping go faster. We sanded one last time and started painting. And painting. And painting.

We put three coats (Christine pitched in on the third coat) of Ralph Lauren textured paint (Garden Wall with a River Rock finish) on the walls and ceiling, and it looks great… though I’d tell anyone that asked not to paint with a textured paint. It sucks, and is really hard to do right. We still have one or two spots that don’t look perfect.

After painting, we started installing the desk and shelving, which looks fantastic if I say so myself. We used thick and sturdy 3/4 inch Birch plywood for the desk surfaces, stained with Minwax Honey Pine polyurethane (2-3 coats, depending on whether I forgot if there were 2 coats on a piece already). Oh, and Frank installed a really nice oak parquet floor late into the night.

Frank put in all of the trim around the doors, windows, the A/C unit (inside and out) and the floor. I finished up the desk tonight, and am exhausted.

The building really came together yesterday (the 9th day of the building process) with some minor finish work happening today (I just needed to finish installing some shelf supports and staining the desk tonight)

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how much help my buddies and Frank were in accomplishing this project. I could have never done this in 10 days myself. Hell, I don’t think I could have done it in 30 days. Josh and Marc really helped with the heaving lifting. Marc let Frank and I borrow his big power miter saw and his orbital sander. Without that miter saw, I think Frank or myself would still be hand cutting miters for the trim. The orbital sander also made short work of all of the sanding we had to do. Thanks Marc!

Frank really outdid himself though, and is the shining star of this project. He took my vision, improved it in some places, and worked tirelessly for 10 days straight. His expertise on the tasks required to do this job came in extremely handy too… from wiring the outlets, to tying in the 220 volts that power the building, to connecting the phone line and cable, to how to properly measure and cut sheet rock, to how to drive a copper ground rod eight feet deep into the ground… and how to properly cut a piece of plywood with a jigsaw… and on and on… It’s amazing how many little jobs there are when finishing out a building. I think Frank probably worked 10 hours a day minimum for 10 days straight, which let me work some during the day over the past week, while he progressed on the building.

Thank you so much Frank. I don’t think I can thank you enough for this project.

The finished project really looks great and will be the perfect work environment I think.

I picked up a really nice DeWalt 18v cordless drill, skillsaw, flashlight, and sawzall during the project somehow (funny how using Marc’s good cordless drill sold me on the idea that I wanted on, and then Dewalt’s rebate/freebie offer talked me into buying the 4-piece set).

I used every carpentry skill I knew on this project and learned a lot more new skills and really had fun building this building… though I’m really tired of going to Home Depot now, and I have a lot of crap in my garage that it’ll take a few weeks to get rid of (left over sheetrock anyone? The City of Austin won’t haul away “remodeling materials” so I’ll have to hide a little bit in the bottom of each trash load below a few bags of trash so they don’t notice it in the bin).

I’m tired, so I’ll point you to the photos of the process. I’ll post a few more later next week after I’ve totally moved in.

Next weekend: Landscaping around the building… ugh… oh, and Dub‘s getting married.

Just a quick update to tell you all that Jack is feeding himself pretty well now.

Jack loves to eat his little Gerber vegie and fruit puffs, which are puffed wheat flavored with sweet potato, or strawberry-apple flavors.

When I’m testing him to see if he’s hungry, or putting him in his high-chair while we fix his bottle or get his real food, we give him about 6 of those little puffs. He immediately shoves the first puff in his mouth (after a few tries at picking them up). Still no teeth, but Jack is feeding himself pretty well now.