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Slice of life: October, November, December

When I started the “slice of life” thing in September, my plan was to make it a periodically recurring motif, something to force me to blog at least once a month about what the normal day-to-day has been serving up. But it’s now clear that even that was too lofty a goal for me, as the 48-day hiatus since my last blog entry will attest.

Sorry, folks. I could probably come up with some B.S. excuse about how I haven’t had time to blog on account of how busy we’ve been, blah, blah, whine, whine, etc. But when you think about it, the craziness of everyday life should be a reason to blog, not an excuse not to, right? So in that vein, I give you not one, not two, but three months’ worth of “slices of life”. Instead of breaking it down month by month, I’m just going to make it one big, gluttonous “slice”, so to speak. Imagine the year 2009 is one large apple pie, and you’re about to inhale an entire quarter of that thing in one sitting. Are you ready for this?

•••

Our house is feeling more like home every day. We ditched the mealtime practice of cramming our six bodies around our tiny kitchen table, in favor of a nice big 10-seater with sleeve extensions from Ikea. It’s long and narrow, so sitting at the head seat makes me feel kind of like a family patriarch about to pray the blessing over Thanksgiving dinner, and Drea and Tom and Renata and Hayden and Jack are all my grandkids. Come children, let’s join hands…

Renata’s dad Charlie has generously agreed to help us convert half our garage into a bedroom for Jolie. The work is still in progress, but we’ve managed to install a door, wall, and most of the floor so far. It’s fun seeing her little room come together, and Drea is especially anxious to start the “nesting” process (which, I’m sorry to report, will include a light pink shade on one or more of the walls. I tried, people.)

•••

We’ve spent quite a bit of time on the road recently, which I of course am quite keen on. Drea and I embarked on a “babymoon” to Florida — a last hurrah of sorts before the little whippersnapper’s grand arrival. We had a fantastic (albeit uncharacteristically ad-libbed) time celebrating the end of life as we know it! You can get the whole scoop here on our family blog.

Over Thanksgiving, my whole family piled into my aunt’s 8-passenger van and headed up to the Poconos for a long weekend of goofing off, playing games and hanging around northeast PA, including Scranton! (Fans of The Office might be interested to know that there is a real Steamtown Mall in Scranton, although it’s incredibly lame except for an out-of-this-world crêpe stand in the food court.) We toured a coal mine (more entertaining than it sounds) and spent some time in the charming town of Jim Thorpe.

Drea and I are excited to take yet another mini-getaway (I’m addicted to these things!) this weekend to New York to see the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. It was supposed to be my surprise Christmas gift to her, but I blew it! She asked me to give her a hint that she wouldn’t be able to figure out, but that would temporarily satiate her curiosity. The hint I gave her was “R.C.M.H.” and she guessed “Radio City Music Hall” immediately. We both kicked ourselves and sulked for a little bit, but we soon got over it. However, after underestimating both Drea’s clue-decoding talent and my own overwhelming stupidity for giving her such an easy clue, we both vowed to keep all future surprises for each other under stealth secrecy, no exceptions. 🙂

•••

Holiday music-wise, I’ve been enjoying Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas this year. Recorded over the course of five Christmases as five separate EPs and now available as a box set, it’s full of innovative, folksy takes on both well-known and obscure Christmas carols, as well as some colorful original tracks, including “What Child Is This, Anyway?”, “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!”, “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)”, and “Get Behind Me, Santa!”.

I also feel compelled to mention that Bob Dylan released a Christmas album this year. I’m a big Dylan fan, but am quite unsure how to feel about this. I haven’t heard the album (besides the samples on Amazon), but something tells me Christmas music might not be his forte. And that something is Washington Post staff writer Chris Richards, who offers this observation in his review: “[Dylan’s version of] ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ sounds like a reason to bolt the doors…As ever, chestnuts are roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost is nipping at your nose — but this time, the man behind the microphone sounds as if he’s trying to dislodge a piece of tinsel from his throat.” My curiosity is piqued, to say the least.

Christmas at the AckerJanes is fun this year — devouring gargantuan waffle breakfasts on the weekends, watching Elf, making fun of Renata’s affinity for the Hanson Christmas album, and pooling both families’ Christmas ornaments together on one tree. As I type, Drea is stuffing our Christmas cards into envelopes as Sara Groves sings “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in the background. It’s a good moment, and “Glory to God in the highest” seems a fitting expression of gratitude — for the friends and family we send cards to, for the little Ackermann kicking away, for peace and good will to men.

Merry Christmas to all!

Filed under: Blogging, Family, Funny, Music, Slice of life, Travel

Slice of life: September

Brief reflections on life right now…

Drea and I have gone public with the pregnancy, ushering in a season of “whoa” for me. For some reason, having people know about it and asking questions has made me aware (as if for the first time) that we’re actually having a kid. Hoooooly crap. We can’t wait to find out the gender in a few weeks. If we have a girl, Drea wants to paint her room light pink. I’m more partial towards a “gender-neutral” tone. Maybe a poll can settle our debate once and for all. What do you think?

•••

In other news, we finally moved into our new house with the Janes a few weeks ago. So far it’s been great, but it also means I’ve had to step up my handyman skills a little bit. We bought a power drill from Home Depot, which Tom and I have been using to install blinds. Turns out installing blinds is a fairly meticulous process requiring a degree of measuring accuracy that surpasses — as I learned the hard way — “eyeballing it”.

We’ve enjoyed making our new place our own, as suggested by the photos Drea uploaded to our family blog yesterday. After a year of not having our own kitchen, this is actually one of my favorite things about our house. Gall-darnit, I even like doing the dishes at night. (We’ll see how long this lasts.)

•••

We joined a few of our life group pals on Sunday night to see a Derek Webb/Sandra McCracken show at Jammin’ Java. We learned upon arriving that it was a standing show, but we got in early enough to snag some dining area seats. Sandra McCracken’s opening segment was pitch-perfect. (We actually ran into her and her kids at Starbucks before the show, which was fun.) Derek Webb was outstanding as well, playing through his entire new record — the gutsy marriage of folk-rock and trippy electronica that is Stockholm Syndrome. Particularly enjoyable was when technical difficulties on stage forced him to scale back to just an acoustic guitar, playing old Caedmon’s Call tunes and one unexpected treat — Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin”.

•••

So, that’s life right now. In the absence of a decent closing remark, I’ll leave you to marvel at the fast food order-taking skills of a certain King Burger employee…

Filed under: Family, Funny, Marriage, Music, Slice of life, , , ,

End, begin.

This day is one of significant endings and beginnings.

First, the ending: A few of us are meeting tonight for a “last cup of coffee” at Starbucks in Upper Marlboro, which is closing today after ten years in business. It’s probably the most sad I’ll ever be about the closing of a retail establishment. I still remember having my first Starbucks experience at this location after a Young Life meeting back in high school. Since then, it’s become a staple of my life around Upper Marlboro – skipping school during senior year, grabbing a vanilla misto on my way to work, meeting up with friends. Yeah, it wasn’t the best Starbucks ever – certainly not the cleanest or most efficient, but it will be sad to see the place go.

But now, the beginning: Survivor and The Office start up again tonight, which also means that regular family nights are back in swing. Booya!

Filed under: Slice of life, , ,

On having a photographer wife

— Crossposted on the AJP Blog —

I often get asked the question, “So what’s it like being married to Andrea of Andrea Jae Photography?”

Okay, so I never get asked that question. But it can be interesting having a wedding photographer as a wife. Please allow me to explain.

When you’re married to a wedding photographer, you’d better be a good model, because that’s the role you’ll assume. Your spouse just bought a new lens or flash or something, and she needs your face in front of the camera to test it out. Even if you’re an average-looking guy like myself, it won’t be long until you feel like a regular Derek Zoolander – posing, strutting your stuff, shooting looks of every kind at the camera. A little flirty look here, a pensive one here…let’s see Magnum!

Also, be ready to stop the car at a moment’s notice so your spouse can take a picture of a cool-looking door or field or dumpster or something. Or, prepare to drive like a maniac for the sake of capturing a shot. Two Christmases ago, we were driving with my family up to the Poconos. Drea had just gotten her first lens and was determined to get this shot: from our car, looking at our reflection in the hubcaps of another car. So imagine, if you will, barreling down I-81 while your wife dictates driving instructions so you can get right beside (and going the exact same speed as) another motorist. A little faster! No, slow down! We’re passing him! Of course the window is down so a clear shot can be obtained (and so the other passengers can experience a nice icy blast of 30-degree air at 75 mph).

Sarcasm aside, I actually love being a part (however small) of this photography adventure. Behind the blog posts and images and marketing is a vibrant, intelligent, authentically good-hearted person I’m proud to call my wife. You all should be jealous. 🙂

Filed under: Slice of life,

Thanks (in advance) — you’re a good sport

Drea is at the Outer Banks with Smizzle this week, leaving me all alone! I’m kickin’ it Kevin McAllister style this week. I’m doing okay (staying pretty busy) but I still miss her. As such, I’ve elected to write a haiku to chronicle this time…

North Carolina
Has my wife for the week and
I miss her a bit

She prepared me though
Did my laundry, cleaned the house
I have a good spouse

I’m not enjoying
Having the bed to myself
As much as I thought

She’s having good times
With a good friend, so that’s cool
Beaches, spas, chick flicks

She left me a list
Of stuff to do while she’s gone
“if I have the time”

I’ve done none of them
I’m a terrible husband
I hope she’ll forgive

She’ll be getting back
Tomorrow in the afternoon
So I still have time

I’m just rambling now
You’re probably bored to tears
Thanks — you’re a good sport

This is what happens
When I have too much free time
I write crappy haikus.

Filed under: Marriage, Slice of life, Travel,

I’m back, suckas!

First things first: my bad. It’s been almost three weeks since I last posted. I know nobody’s suffering from my unintentional blogging hiatus, but I try to post something at least once or twice a week for my own sake, to keep the old brain working. I feel like a big collective “you suck” from the blogosphere is warranted.

But enough about how much I suck; let’s talk about how the past few days have un-sucked. There’s something about a three-day weekend that makes you feel like you haven’t worked in months. It’s freaking great. This was one such weekend. We were planning to meet up with Tom and Renata in old town Annapolis on Friday, but we all decided it would be too crowded, so we fooled around at the Annapolis Mall, seeing how far we could launch Hayden and Jack down the concourse in their strollers. (This was right before the mall closed and there weren’t many people around.)

As we strolled through the children’s section at Borders, we came across this book about the Obamas’ new dog. It was released April 23, nine days after Bo arrived at the White House. Among other things, it (fictitiously) recounts little Bo stealing the President’s letter-opener and being there for Michelle Obama’s organic garden opening. This crap happened like, yesterday! Then again, I guess it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to write a children’s book (as Strong Bad would attest).

On Saturday, Drea and I ventured down to National Harbor and enjoyed walking the waterfront shops and sitting on the docks. It’s a huge place — condos, retail, hotel and convention center, and apparently a Disney resort and children’s museum coming soon. We ate Potbelly subs for lunch (so good) and checked out the American Market. It’s a charming place to walk around, and we want to come back with a few friends and take the water taxi over to Alexandria.

I played a wedding Saturday afternoon before we headed to my parents’ house to hang out with my uncle and cousin who were visiting from Houston. A fabulous barbeque dinner was followed up by our family’s new favorite game of “loaded questions”, where everyone in the group writes their answers to a certain question and one person has to guess who gave the answers. It gets pretty fun.

We went to church on Sunday and afterwards headed to Jason and Shannon’s to swim in the pool and eat Jason’s dual masterpieces — salsa and Texas style barbeque. A few of us ended up staying late, talking with Jason and Shannon around their kitchen table until after midnight. It was one of those luminous moments that reminds you how real everything is. Life is real, struggles are real, God’s redemption is real. Our friends are freaking awesome.

Late last week, I decided on a whim to reread Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I read it about six years ago when it first came out, and it definitely encouraged/convicted me in different ways the second time through; I guess life has changed a bit since 2003. I think Don’s words are incredibly beautiful and true, and I’m immensely looking forward to his new book due out in the fall.

So yeah, it’s been a good weekend. Hope yours was likewise. More to come soon!

Filed under: Blogging, Books, Faith, Slice of life, , ,

(Co)-homeowners!

A few months ago, Drea and I decided to pursue buying a house with Tom and Renata.

What? A house together? Two families under one roof? Communal living? Eating meals together? Seeing each other every day? Don’t Tom and Renata have young kids that still cry and drool and crap themselves? Doesn’t Drew’s taste in movies, like, suck? Aren’t you guys going to drive each other crazy?

Well, we’re anticipating certain challenges, and we won’t be living without personal boundaries and privacy, but yep, that’s pretty much the gist of it!

Anyhow, we’ve spent the past few months looking for an affordable house that has the potential to be split into two private living spaces (one for each family), and one big shared space. This has essentially narrowed our critera to three-level townhouses. Since the Janes have kids, their bedrooms will be on the top level, Drea and I will have our space on the bottom level, and we’ll share the kitchen and living area on the middle level.

So off we ventured with Karen, our trusty agent, to look at a myriad of townhouses of all shapes and sizes, including one whose living room carpet was graced with a large brownish-red discoloration about the size of your average human being. (“Yes, I’m calling about your lovely townhome for sale in Crofton…would you mind explaining the murder stain on your floor?”)

Then there was “Farting Floors”, the house in Annapolis whose floors creaked in a way that reminded one of…well, you get the idea.

After seeing many more houses, we ended up putting an offer on a nice older townhouse in Crofton, but got wedged out by a cash investor. We bid on another townhouse in Odenton, but never heard back from the seller (who was evidently facing foreclosure if he didn’t sell…weird).

Finally, we think we’ve found our new crib. We signed a contract last night for a yet-to-be-built end unit townhouse in Upper Marlboro. And we are psyched! It’s slated for delivery in late July/early August, and we will be obsessively visiting the construction site to take pictures. Prepare!

Filed under: Slice of life,

Ill-advised April Fools’ jokes

Over-the-top April Fools’ Day jokes that might get you in trouble and/or arrested:

  • Randomly stand up during the sermon at church, scream a profanity, and calmly sit back down.
  • Pretend to quit your job after cussing out your boss.
  • Pretend to rob a store at gunpoint. “Haha, just kidding guys.”
  • Fake a heart attack.
  • If you’re dating, pretend to propose to your girlfriend. Like, get a ring box and everything. “Honey, we’ve known each other for a long time, and I’ve finally decided I’d like to ask you to…oh, sike ya mind!
  • If you’re getting married, pretend to call off the wedding.
  • Surprise your kids by sending them off to school with a small garden snake in each of their lunches.
  • Change your work email signature to “Git-r-done.”
  • Intentionally rear-end somebody with your car.
  • Quietly break into your neighbors’ house in the middle of the night while they’re sleeping and go stand in their bedroom until they wake up. “Oh, hey Bob. April Fools’, buddy! How’re the kids?”
  • If you’re a pastor, draw sermon illustrations from Family Guy.
  • Insult a police officer.
  • Fake pregnancy annoucements are always a good idea.

Filed under: Slice of life,

Weekend smorgasbord

So Drea’s parents, whose basement we currently make our home in, have a burglar alarm. A pretty good call, I think. I mean, we’re not in a bad area or anything, but it is PG County, so a little precaution can’t hurt, right?

Well, the dang thing went off at about 4:00 this morning. There was no burglar; evidently the wind had activated the garage door, setting off the alarm. This was not the first time since we’ve lived in the basement that this has happened. The alarm’s “fail quotient” (kudos to Janaiha for coining that) is pretty high right now. If the past few months are any indication, having an alarm system is like paying a monthly fee to periodically have the living crap scared out of you (this thing is loud) for no reason. I suppose we’d be grateful if it ever thwarted an actual burglar (or other deranged person – again, PG County), but so far it hasn’t done much besides cost us sleep.

In other news, we finally took everyone’s advice and saw Slumdog Millionaire this weekend. I’m glad we saw it on the big screen; the visual elements were incredible. I don’t know much about cinematography, but there was something about the way they shot this movie that made it hard not to be totally consumed. I really felt like I was there. (During the outhouse scene, as my dad put it, you “could smell the crap”.) But for all it’s cinematic quality, I was a little disappointed with the ending. It was definitely more neat and predictable and “Hollywood” than I expected. So, I’m glad we saw it, but…eh…

In yet even more news, we’re officially on the hunt for a house! If all goes as planned, Tom and Renata will be our housemates! Both of us are renting right now, and we figure if we pool our incomes together, we might be able to afford a halfway-decent house. An unconventional idea, but apparently an increasingly popular one ever since the economy went down the crapper. (Seriously, how can anybody afford anything?) We toured a few townhouses yesterday, most of which were brand new, huge, and probably out of our price range, but fun to look at nonetheless. We’re psyched about the idea of living together, and we’re hoping the low property values and interest rates will give us a window of opportunity.

Let’s see, what else is going on? Daylight savings time! It’s actually a pretty good idea in my opinion, but getting out of bed this morning felt like having someone throw a brick at my forehead. The aforementioned 4am wakeup call didn’t help much either. The silver lining, though, is that I got to drive to work in the dark. Score! Really though, I’m actually excited about the longer days and particularly the 70-degree weather we’ve had as of late. (Seriously, there was a foot of snow on the ground a week ago. What the crap?)

Well, it’s cleaning night at the Ackermanns, so I’d better go!

Filed under: Movies, Slice of life, ,

Snow, the dentist, and awkwardness

So…it snowed. A lot. Like 10 inches. That may not sound like much to some people, but for our neck of the woods, 10 inches is a veritable butt-load. In any case, we had a great lazy three-day weekend thanks to the storm, which included watching an unreasonable number of movies: The Dark Knight, W., Transsiberian, and Wall-E. (All fantastic.) For our snow day yesterday, Drea and I bundled up and headed to Jason and Shannon’s for some sledding and/or getting dragged on a sled behind a four-wheeler (awesome). Life group was cancelled on Sunday because of the weather, and Tom, Renata, Drea and I used the free time to wish Lammy a happy birthday. Such creative geniuses we are.

Today it’s back to reality. I had a dentist appointment this morning. (Suckfest.) Am I the only person who feels weird not being able to talk with the hygienist while she cleans your teeth? She’s politely engaging you in conversation, but the various foreign jagged objects in your mouth limit your responses to ones that require no movement of the lips or tongue, like “ah”, “eh”, or the more advanced “uh-huh”. Such meaningful conversations we have. But I can’t complain. My teeth feel clean as a whistle, aside from that subtle lingering taste of latex gloves.

Confession: I never really know how to end blog posts. When it comes time to wrap things up, my mind simply blanks. I seldom can come up with a good concluding sentence. It always feels anticlimactic, kind of like when you’re getting ready to part ways with someone and you say goodbye, only to realize you’re actually headed the same direction. Then there’s that awkward few seconds where you silently walk together, followed by the real goodbye which is invariably abundant with awkwardness.

So um, I guess I’ll, uh, see ya later.

Filed under: Blogging, Movies, Slice of life, , ,