The weekend of March 11th and 12th was a weekend of Birthdays.

I turned 30 on Friday, March 10th, and Ella turned 2 on Monday March 13th… to celebrate, we had a couple of parties!

Christine threw me a relaxed happy hour birthday party at Brentwood Tavern in Austin on Friday afternoon. We started things around 5:00 and ended around 10:00. Christine brought an Ice Cream cake from ___ and it was gooooood!

John’s 30th Birthday Party photos are here.

On Saturday, we got up and headed to Bellville for Ella’s party.

We got there in time for Jack to take a nap, so we headed over to Grandma’s house, and tried to put Jack down after a quick bite to eat. He wouldn’t sleep. He’s spotted a bucket of toy cars on his way from Chrsitine’s arms into the crib. He went nuts! He just wanted to play with his cars… so we played until it was time to hit the party.

Ella’s party was too much fun. There were kids galore, and lots of friends and family. Some kids fell off the new playscape Evan and Shadel bought, but no one broke them, but no one got seriously hurt. Ella got lots of presents. And all the kids got to eat cake and ice cream (as did the adults).

I took lots of photos, and got lucky (I think) capturing this photo of Conner:

Conner is Lori Lockett’s 3 month old son… isn’t he just adorable?

The photos from the party here.

On Sunday morning, we all got up, and headed to Newman’s bakery for Breakfast. Bussy met us for breakfast, and we had a nice conversation over omelets and pancakes, donut holes and kolaches. Then we went to Grandma’s house to play and show off the deck. She’s building a big deck off the back of the house that should be done in time for Easter.

She’s also got some great places for kids to play in the backyard… including this “funny car” built out of wood with horns and mirrors on it. Got a really great photo of Jack and Ella on that thing:

More photos from Grandma’s house are here.

On Sunday evening, Evan, Chad and Jake Payton (Jake was the ring bearer in our wedding almost 8 years ago (has it been that long?) and is now 15/16 or so), and I played poker. Chad took us all.

On Monday morning we got up, drove home, and returned to the grind.

Had a great weekend though!

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This past week, Christine and Jack drove down to Bellville to spend some time with Grandma and his cousin Ella, Aunt Shadel and Uncle Evan.

Christine and Jack had a lot of fun (and from the pictures it looks like Ella did too). They played (a lot) at Grandma’s house, and made a trip down to Brookshire to visit Brookwood.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the poinsettia farm there on the Brookwood property… And the photos we got from that trip are awesome:

See the rest of the photos here.

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Earlier this year, Evan took an old Chevy pickup that was sitting in a pasture off one of his in-laws hands. It looked like crap at the time, as it’d been sitting in that pasture for a long time…

But today, it looks amazing:

It’s been refinished, repainted, repaired, refurbished and refitted… just about everything under the sun that Evan could do to it, he’s done… even down to the new pimped steering wheel and interior…

Great looking truck that I hope to see sometime in person in the next few weeks.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 249 user reviews.

On Wednesday night of this past week, Christine and Jack drove to Bellville for the Austin County Fair.

Oh my gosh, did they have fun.

They stayed with Grandma, and got to spend a lot of time playing with Ella and Aunt Shadel.

On Thursday morning, they all got up, and headed to down the road to the Austin County Fair Parade. They found their spot on the side of Highway 159 near Mrs. Payton, Jennifer, and their bunch of kids, and settled in to watch the parade. They were also sitting next to Mrs. Hueni and Brian was there (Haven’t seen them in forever and I’m sorry I missed them).

The parade started, and soon, there were firetrucks and ambulances from all of the towns in the county driving through town, making all sorts of racket. There were a few bands, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts paraded through town. The fair queen candidates rode in on a trailer, as did all mannner of cheerleaders and mascots.

The kiddos were getting tired towards the end of the parade and ended up falling asleep in their strollers.

On Thursday evening, the family got dressed up and headed to the fairgrounds. The saw the opening of the rodeo, and met some goats, and pigs, and cows, and other animals, before heading over to the carousel for some fun. (The animals scared Ella just a little).

Christine finally got to meet Dixie Haverlah, who babysits Ella for Aunt Shadel and Uncle Evan. They all had lots of fun on the carousel.

Jack got to taste ice-cream at the fair for the first time ever… bad mommy… she gave in to temptation…

Ella and Jack got some whirly light toys and had lots of fun playing with them, before eventually heading home. On the way out of the fair, Christine plopped Jack on a tractor. Jack was totally in command of his element.

Now that you’ve looked at all of those photos, here’s a quick video from the Fair photos and videos that Christine shot:

See all of the photos from the Fair in this gallery.

On Friday, they all headed towards the pumpkin patch in Sealy to take photos with all of the pumpkins. Evan told them that there were plenty of pumpkins out, but the Great Pumpkin must have liberated them all, because when Peggy met the girls and kids there, there weren’t but two pumpkins left…

So they took lots of photos with the two pumpkins that were there, and then Aunt Peggy and Christine drove back to Austin.

Sounds like they all had lots of fun at the Fair this year… I’m gonna have to make sure I go next year.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 245 user reviews.

Last weekend, Aunt Murrell, Jon and Hanna Weakley (my family – from North Carolina) all visited Austin. It was part of Jon and Hanna’s first visit to Texas.

They got to Texas sometime the week before, and had been touring all over south and east Texas. I know they spent some time in Kima, Beaumont, Houston, and parts in between there and Austin. They got to Austin on August 11th, and Christine and Jack drove out to Debbie and Raymond’s lakehouse to meet them and welcome them to our hometown.

I was still in Detroit, so when I got home (at 1:30 in the morning on Friday 8/12) I went to bed, and planned on meeting them on the 12th.

Around noon or 1:00pm on 8/12, they all came to our house in central Austin, before we headed to lunch at Jason’s Deli. Jon and Hanna were really hungry (actually, they’d been eating lots of food all week, so that’s sort of an inside joke). Christine and Jack stayed at the house to take a nap.

After lunch, we headed over to the LBJ Library, and tootled around the exhibits. They’ve got a really nice view of downtown out the 10th floor windows there. And the Presidential Limo that’s on display there is pretty cool. I also didn’t make the connection that LBJ presided through a lot of crap this country had to go through: War, Civil Rights, a depression of sorts, and other stuff… I should learn more about our history sometime.

After the LBJ Library, we went to the Bob Bullock State History Museum. We walked the first floor of exhibits before heading up to watch the “Story of Texas” mini-movie. That was lots of fun. They all enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it. We then walked a little of the second floor exhibits, trying to figure out what happened at Goliad. It was a massacre.

After we were “Bullock’d out” we walked down to the Capitol Building. I showed Jon how you can stand in the very middle of the bottom floor, right under the rotunda, and if you talk, you’ll hear your voice echoing, but no one else will hear the echo. Pretty neat stuff… especially since I remember that from my first visit (my Mom took Allen Hillboldt, Bradley Froebel and I there when we were like 10 or 11 – almost 20 years ago, ugh). We also walked into the House and Senate chambers… it’s neat to be so close to one of the great statehouses in the country. It’s too damned bad our legislature can’t actually get much done (like school finance reform).

Then we met up with Christine on “the drag” just to the west of the UT campus. We went into the Student Union building and got our tickets for our tour of the UT Clocktower. The Clocktower is fairly well known as the place where, “On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a student at the university, barricaded himself on the observation deck and began shooting passers-by with a rifle. At the time, the shooting was the nation’s worst mass killing. It lasted 93 minutes, ending with Mr. Whitman’s being killed by the police, but its after effects have spanned two generations.”

The tower was closed to the public in 1975, due to a rash of suicides, and was reopened in 1999, to guided tours. The tours are led by student workers, and they’re lots of fun to listen to.

The view from the top of the Tower is pretty cool. I’d recommend the sunset tour, if you ever plan on taking the tour. I’ve heard it’s pretty cool.

We also found Aunt Murrell’s dormitory from when she attended UT back in the 1930s. I think Austin’s grown a bit since then…

Afterwards, we headed to Trudy’s for dinner, but they were packed, so we drove over to Serrano’s on Red River. Great food, but we were all exhausted.

Evan, Shadel and Ella got to Austin while we were eating dinner, so Christine, Jack and I headed home to visit with them, while the rest of the gang (Murrell, Debbie, Jon and Hanna) headed to the lake.

On Saturday, the 13th, the girls (Shadel, Ella and Christine) went to the Mall around 10:00 a.m. The boys (Evan, Jack and I) stayed home and played, then watched a little TV. When Jack woke up from his morning nap, Evan and I took him out to the lakhouse (we got there around 12:30).

We all took a dip in the pool, and then ate lunch. Christine, Shadel and Ella showed up around 2:00 or so, and around 3:00, we all headed to the lake. We’d rented a jet-ski and a pontoon boat from Hurst Harbor Marina. I piloted the pontoon boat, while Evan and Shadel drove the jet ski out. We headed out of Marina Point to the west, and parked in a little bay cove just around Lakeway. It took us around 25 minutes to get to where we were going, so we really only had an hour on the lake.

Jack slept in Aunt Murrell’s arms, all the way there. Ella napped on her Grandma’s lap too.

After parking the boat, we all went swimming in the lake, while we took turns driving the jet-ski. First out was Evan and Shadel, then Evan and Hanna (Evan drove). Debbie went out with Evan next. Then Jon and I went out (we let Jon drive). It was Jon’s first time driving a jet-ski, and he did pretty good. Then he let me take over for a little bit. I was a bit rusty, and ended up throwing us both off the jet-ski in a high-speed (attempted) turn.

Then we let Hanna drive, with me on the back. Ha! That was sooo much fun. Hanna was pretty content with testing out the jet-ski first, and seeing what it could do, then she slowly started pushing it pretty hard after we did a few donuts and figure eights while waiting on the pontoon boat to catch up with us. That was the most fun I’ve had on a jet-ski in a while.

At the Lakeway Marina, I traded in Hanna for Christine, and I rode ont he back with Christine all the way back to Hurst Harbor. It was Christine’s second time to drive a jet-ski, and that was just as fun for me as riding with Hanna had been… Christine was pretty funny… she scared herself good a few times, and forgot to let off the gas because she was gripping the handles so tight.

Then, right before we got to the marina, she threw me off the jet-ski by goosing it good while I was showing off by not holding on to anything.

After we put up the boats, we all piled back into our cars and headed to the lake house. Aunt Murrel cooked a really good shrimp-boil and veggies for dinner. I told Jon that I’d bought him his very own domain: (Jon’s had a business since he was 4 or 5, if I remember correctly, called Jonagon. I thought he should own the domain); so look for more from Jon on his new website.

We celebrated my Mom’s 55th birthday after dinner. She got lots of fun cards, and some great gifts.

When it was good and late, we all said our good-byes and called it a weekend.

Christine got up on Sunday morning and drove Jon and Hanna to the airport. Jack and I stayed home and played… it’s so much fun having him all to myself every now and then ;).

Sadly, we forgot our camera at home during this weekend, so I don’t have any fun pictures to show you, but we all had a great time.

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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.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 189 user reviews.

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.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 259 user reviews.

This past weekend was awesome. It was the best weekend it could be, especially for a first Father’s Day.

Evan and Ella came to visit us in Austin while Shadel visited some friends in Galveston for a bachelorette party.

Evan and Ella arrived around 11:30 on Saturday morning, and we all loaded up and drove out to the lake house. Greg and Cheri’s family were still visiting, and they’d invited us out to swim with them. We figured why the hell not? What else do you do with two babies all weekend, right? It’s not like you can take them a movie or a museum to keep them busy, can you? That, and spending time with Cheri and Greg and the kids and in-laws and grandparents is always fun… the pool was a bonus.

Cheri had lots of fixin’s for lunch ready for us when we got there, so we ate lunch and the jumped in the pool. I got sunburned (stupid me forgot to put on sunscreen again). Ella and Jack loved the pool. Just loved it. Matthew, Paige and Patrick loved having Jack and Ella around to play with, and I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

Jack did a little kick-boarding with a little help from Daddy. Ella danced on the pool patio to the tunes of Pat Green. Patrick showed us how good he was at pushing off of me to swim across the pool. Cool dude Mathew watered his mommy with a watering pail. Paige and Patrick learned a new trick with the floats (they’d jump off the side of the pool onto one of the floats to skim across the pool). All in all, we had a great time at the pool, hanging out with family.

When we got home from swimming, we fed Jack and Ella at the table, then gave them a bath in the big tub together… too much fun!

Evan and I headed up to Home Depot (with Ella) and bought some supplies for the little building going in out back. (Ugh… didn’t realize wires were that expensive). Christine headed to Babies-R-Us with Jack and bought a high-chair and a big baby gate for the entrance to the dining room, and some outlet covers (before, after).

Saturday evening, I cooked T-bone steaks for Evan. They were pretty good steaks, though I cooked them just a tad too long, or rather over a tad too hot fire… “But, John, charred edges on a steak are the only way to eat them!” you’re saying? I hear ya, but I couldn’t done a little better job. Ella told us that the peas and carrots were good (she ate half of both of the peas and carrots off our plates).

We watched Last of the Mohicans on Saturday night, then started to watch Troy, but Evan couldn’t hang, so we went to bed.

Sunday, we unpacked the stuff from Home Depot after playing with the kids for a little while… then Evan and Ella left to get home for Father’s Day activities with Shadel.

Jack and I hung out together (after a much needed nap) and talked Father/Son stuff. I gave Jack some advice about life, which he took pretty well. Christine went to HEB to buy some stuff to make dinner with.

When Christine got home, we opened presents. Jack got me two cool shirts that I’ll wear a lot this summer I’m sure. Christine bought me a good DVD. Then I put Jack to sleep (he fell asleep in my arms he was so tired after reading his book for the night which was too cool … he hasn’t fallen asleep in my arms in a good 4-5 months).

Then Christine made us dinner. She made Crawfish Etoufee from a recipe, and it was goood! Ummm!

Best Father’s Day Weekend I’ve ever had. Glad I got to spend it with my brother and niece too.

Lots more photos here.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 195 user reviews.

…well, sort of…

On March 21st, I got a photo of Ella in the bluebonnets, from Shadel. The photo was too cute, so I forwarded it to my friend Christian at the Statesman, and asked him to put together his “wildflower photo gallery” again this year.

Christian sent me back a one-line email: “Please don’t make me do it again” … I know that building the photo gallery for the paper is a lot of work for an overworked guy… so I felt his pain, but I sent him back an email begging him to do it.

I hadn’t thought about it again, until Christine pointed out to me today, that Ella was on

Woohoo! My niece’s photo is part of the newspaper’s website. That’s soooo cool. I remember being a kid, and thinking it was cool to have my track photo, or Boy Scout troop photo in the Bellville Times.

I think it’s just too damned cool that Ella made it onto

Cool Beans. She’s so cute, and in my opinion the cutest little girl in’s wildflower photo gallery.

I gotta buy Christian a beer for putting together the photo gallery. Love it!

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 178 user reviews.

From Shadel:

Ella is really starting to walk.

She is getting into everything! She especially enjoys being outside. Her favorite thing to do is push her push toy all over the yard. When we go inside she cries and sits at the window and just stares.

Evan and I have enjoyed every stage of her life, and it just keeps getting better. Everyday after school I race over to the daycare to pick her up! I don’t think she even cares when I get there because she is so busy with her friends.

Oh, well! I guess one day she will have me ducking in the car when I take her to school because she is embaressed of me!

Love to everyone!

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 275 user reviews.

Ella at One Year
Ella in Black and White at One Year

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 235 user reviews.

Last night, after a wonderful dinner (Christine cooked a delicious lemon oregano chicked dish last night), I spent some time downloading photos and movies from the little camera, and here’s a round up of recent photographs and a movie:

  • 29 – A few select photos from my 29th birthday party.
  • Ella’s a Year Old – These are a few photos we took at Ella’s Birthday Party (I can’t believe we didn’t take more).
  • Reading his book – Mommy took these photos of Jack reading his book during morning playtime.
  • Goodmorning Sunshine – On Saturday morning, Jack and I went out to greet the sun, while laying in the hammock. Afterwards, we went inside and woke up mommy.
  • Reading with Daddy – Jack and I read a book before bedtime last night.

And for this week’s movie, we present Life of the Party. At my 29th birthday party, Jack and I danced to a song Josh was playing on the radio. The poor guy was tired, but he hung in there, and was the “Life of the Party”:

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 208 user reviews.

Ella shows us all that the Bluebonnets are finally starting to bloom:

Ella in Bluebonnets

Isn’t she adorable?

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 259 user reviews.

Over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time celebrating birthdays:

John turned 29 on March 10th. Yes, I’m still a year younger than my wife. She’s still wiser. I’m still younger. I’m 4 weeks into my Weight Watcher kick and so far I’ve lost 11.2 pounds. Feels good being a little lighter, I just hope the pounds are coming off the right parts of my body 😉 To celebrate, Josh cooked an amazing dinner, and we spent the evening at their house, playing with Jack and talking about stuff. Josh also gave me a really nice knife and some stuff we need in the kitchen so he can come over and cook at our house like he does at his (and so I can learn some culinary arts from him in the process).

Ella turned one year old on March 13th! And boy is she amazing at one year old. Shadel and Evan threw the little princess a wonderful birthday party in Bellville. Christine, Jack and I drove down on Saturday (the 12th) and spent an evening with them before the big event. Evan and his friend Jason got up around 5:30 to start cooking brisket. I got up around 7:00 to help them. Shadel and Christine decorated, and around noon, I guess, the birthday well-wishers started showing up. Lots of family and lots of friends. It was a lot of fun, and I shot about an hours worth of video, so Evan and Shadel can preserve the event.

During the week of March 14th, we just worked. Jack started learning how to sleep a little longer through the night. I started reading a book on how to get him to sleep through the entire night. I closed another deal at work, this one with a bigger client based in Chicago.

Then last night, March 18th, we met Cheri, Greg, Raymond and Debbie at the Iguana Grill on Lake Travis, to celebrate Cheri’s __th birthday (I’d never ask a lady her age). We went ahead and celebrated all of the March and April birthday’s last night too (Debbie’s birthday is April 5th). The food was great. The conversation was better. The sky was overcast, so the sunset wasn’t as good as it normally is over the lake.

Today, I’m hoping to either a) get the garage cleaned out, or b) get the yard in shape. Depends on how much time I have.

Jack’s sitting in front of me playing right now, so I’m gonna get off this darned computer and go spend some time with him. He’s so much fun!

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 199 user reviews.

This movie comes to us from the backlog of videos and photos I have on my hard drive:

Terrified Boy
Two Crazy Girls and a Terrified Boy


Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 167 user reviews.