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A quick “plus and minus” recap of our weekend:

  • Left Valentine’s Day gift for Drea at work. Husband fail. (-)
  • Finished Season 4 of Lost on DVD. So much more gratifying to watch episodes back to back. (+)
  • Contact lens debacle Saturday morning. In half-awake state, rinsed my lenses with disinfectant instead of saline solution. Talk about burn. (-)
  • Nice ride with Tom and Renata up to western MD; enjoyed novelty of driving on Beltway and I-270 without will-to-live-sucking traffic. (+)
  • Skied at Whitetail with Tom. Fulfilled need to ski at least once a year. (+)
  • Drea and Renata shopped at Hagerstown outlets while Tom and I skied. Everyone wins! (+)
  • Tom forgot gloves. $50 at ski shop. (-)
  • I forgot ski goggles/sunglasses. $30 at ski shop. (-)
  • Pretty much got taken for a ride by monopoly-exploiting jerks at ski shop. (-)
  • Multiple skiing fails on my part. Highlights: not going fast enough to make it over ski jump, sliding backwards down ski jump, almost getting taken out by snowboarder behind me, coming to painful grips with shocking degree of my imcompetence, AND skiing into a fence. Not the wooden kind, the orange plastic safety net kind. But still. (-)
  • Later redeemed myself by nailing a double black diamond. Boo-ya. (+)
  • Met up with Smizz in Hagerstown after skiing/shopping excursions. (+)
  • Tried to see Mall Cop. Sold out. (-)
  • Saw Coraline instead. Good, but freaking weird and definitely not for kids, despite PG rating. (+)
  • Smizz took us to a great little place called Cafe del Sol for dinner. Salsa, nachos, Yuengling, and meat-lover’s calzone. Delish. (+)
  • Starbucks for the ride back home. (+)
  • Sore muscles the next day. Self-loathe for not being in better shape and having to groan like an old man every time I stand or sit. (-)
  • Who cares? Our weekend was off the hook. (+)
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After two great four-day weekends of staying up late, hanging out with friends, and generally goofing off, I’m going through holiday withdrawal this week. (What? A five-day work week? Are you freaking kidding me?) Ah, reality.

Our New Year’s weekend was basically off the hook from start to finish. Well, almost. Drea was in a car accident Wednesday afternoon with a guy in a pick-up truck who tailgated her for a mile or so before finally rear-ending her. But she’s fine and it looks like all our expenses, rental car included, will be covered through this guy’s insurance.

My work closed early on New Year’s Eve, which provided a little chill time before heading to the Janes home to celebrate (as was necessary as I’m becoming increasingly brain-dead after 10pm.) The festivities included homemade party hats, Renata’s homemade New Year’s version of Apples to Apples, and lots of Dance Dance Revolution, which I’m actually getting a little better at! (And “better” is a nice way of saying that, really, I just suck a little bit less at dancing.)

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The gang at New Year's

The late nights didn’t end New Year’s Eve, as we spent Friday and Saturday nights hanging out with Tom and Renata and our life group, respectively. What began as a group bowling night turned into a game night at Mike’s house (bowling lanes were booked till late), playing Loaded Questions and Wii Bowling.

One New Year’s resolution of mine is to read more novels/fiction. I’ve realized recently that my reading diet is a little nonfiction-heavy. I’m about to start David Wroblewski’s novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I’ve heard great things about. Anyone have other suggestions?

Some more of my hopes for 2009 are to be more obedient in day-to-day things: prayer, Scripture reading, intentional silence, maybe even some community service. Less thinking/talking and more doing. Our blog-friend Kate McDonald recently shared some great stuff about this on her blog.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a great new year so far. Here’s to 2009!

During the past two days, we’ve seen what must be the two worst movies of 2008: What Happens in Vegas and Four Christmases. The former we watched with our friend Jess (Smizz) over the weekend. Good grief, what a trashy and banal piece of cinematic crap. To be fair, our On Demand choices were limited and Smizz and Drea, wanting a chick flick, made me choose between this and Made of Honor. (I wanted to watch Transsiberian but was hopelessly outnumbered.)

Thinking it couldn’t be any worse than Vegas, Drea and I went to see Four Christmases with our movie theater gift certificates last night. I was looking forward to Vince Vaughn’s usually hilarious monologues (a la Wedding Crashers) but few were to be found.

We have more free movie coupons to use, so we’re hoping to redeem our slump by seeing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button during the next few days.

In other news, Drea and I used our Carrabba’s gift card last night (at Outback, as it’s owned by the same company) and couldn’t help but laugh/be appalled at the statement printed on it:

giftcard1

“There is no love more sincere than the love of food.”

Wow. “No love more sincere”? That is quite an asssertion. Let’s see, there’s Jesus, my wife, my family and friends, our church, good music, traveling, books…

I mean, don’t get me wrong. My No Rules Pasta with chicken and shrimp, coupled with cheesy fries and a cold Fosters was fantastic. But is it really being implied that enjoying a Bloomin’ Onion is the highest form of love I’m capable of? Wow, thanks for the pick-me-up.

Speaking of sincere love (how’s that for a segue?), my sister Allison and Rich got married this weekend! Their wedding was filled with good music, great food and drink, lots of dancing, and lots of joy – as all weddings should. Allison was beautiful and she and Rich looked immensely happy. I’d like to offer them my public congratulations (as I’m sure they’re taking time to read this blog on their honeymoon.)

The aforementioned Smizz was in town for the wedding and stayed with us Saturday night, which was fun. The three of us stayed up until the wee hours catching up and engaging in the usual irreverent humor. Good times!

I/we might write a blog about our 2008 highlights sometime soon. If not, have a Happy New Year!

Christmas absolutely snuck up on us this year.  We smashed all of our Christmas shopping in one day last week!  Even still, I ended up at the mall today to make some returns and get a last minute Christmas need.  Ridiculous.  However, we are so grateful that this year, we are not stressed financially because of Christmas.  We have a sweet little place, great friends, wonderful family and we are happy.  Happy, happy, happy. :)

Despite Christmas creeping up on us, we did manage to get a Christmas card together!  We didn’t send one out last year, so it’s our first!  We didn’t send it to our local friends (sorry guys), but here it is for your viewing pleasure.

I know it’s not a very Christmas-y picture, but hey, we like it. :)  

We also got our tree!  We got another one from Home Depot this year (they are cheap and great).  When we went to look, the trees were all tied up.  We picked one according to height and didn’t bother to check the width.  When we untied it, we discovered it was as wide as it was tall!  So, it’s more like a Christmas bush.  Very stout indeed.

Drew did this.

Since we moved into a new place, we decided the best way to get motivated and put our house together was to host our small group’s Christmas party.  We had 3x the amount of food needed.  It was awesome.  We also did a white elephant gift exchange, which proved to be the hit of the night.  I got a singing bear puppet, and Drew got a set of plastic golf clubs which were used to play a continuous tournament of golf the rest of the night.  

Janaiha got a fabulous pair of socks.  I was so jealous.

Beth got this wonderfully oversized hat, which we all tried on.  Tim was a great model.

Tim and Beth brought Honey Buns, Iced Honey Buns and Nutter Butter bars!  Delish!

Our group is the best!  (Mike, there was a spot reserved for you right above Lewis.  The shadow on the wall is either your presence…or maybe the Holy Spirit.)

And we got the chance to do this:

Have a very merry Christmas!

The pluses and minuses of our jaunt to Nashville this weekend to celebrate Drea’s grandmother’s 100th birthday:

  • We flew instead of driving 11 hours. (+)
  • Realized after going through security that we had to go back to check our bag. Repeat process of standing in counter line, standing in security line, removing shoes, etc. (-)
  • Free entertainment watching guy at ticket counter COMPLETELY LOSE HIS MIND because the lady wouldn’t accept an expired driver’s license as valid ID. Totally worth standing in line again for. (+)
  • Flight delayed. (-)
  • Got to meet most of Drea’s extended family for the first time. (+)
  • Mild state of lingering nausea from riding around in the backseat of Drea’s dad’s convertible. (-)
  • Didn’t have to pay for a meal the whole weekend. (+)
  • Colder in Tennessee than Maryland (?!). (-)
  • Free breakfast (and great coffee) at hotel. (+)
  • Ridiculously saggy beds that gave you a backache in the morning. (-)
  • They have Sonic in Nashville! (+)
  • Got back too late on Sunday to go to life group. (-)
  • Drea’s grandmother is 100 and still looks great. (+)

Being friends with Tom and Renata, Drea and I usually get in a little bit of parenting training with their kids when we get together to hang out. This weekend was no exception.

On Friday we all went over to my parents’ house in Dunkirk for Halloween duty, as my parents were on vacation in Utah. While Tom and Renata took the almost-2-year-old Hayden out for his first trick-or-treating excursion, Drea and I stayed behind to hand out candy and keep an eye on Jack.

This was when I had probably my first extended experience feeding an infant from a bottle. This was more of a challenge than I anticipated, as Jack engaged himself in an all-but-uninterrupted farting extravaganza the whole time, which resulting in a considerable amount of crying and allowing the bottle’s contents to dribble down his chin and neck. But I think I did OK for a rookie! (Diaper duty was averted as I realized that Jack had soiled himself only seconds before Tom and Renata returned. Score!)

The four of us ordered Chinese and debated over which movie to order. (The usually gore-averse Drea wanted to watch Interview With the Vampire – WHAT?) We eventually decided on Run, Fat Boy, Run, whose funny, off-beat humor made up for a somewhat predictable plot.

On Saturday night, Tom and I ended up driving to Lexington Park and back (110 miles roundtrip) because Drea and Renata lost their car keys at a wedding they were shooting down there. After dropping off a spare key, we grabbed some Taco Bell on the way back home with Hayden and Jack in tow. This is not unusual, as our wives are often off together on photo shoots on the weekends. We joke about how seeing two guys together with two kids probably leads some people to make incorrect assumptions about our lifestyle.

The weekend was topped off by meeting up with our life group people on Sunday night for a bonfire/pumpkin carving/fondue/Wii shindig, and much fun was had by all.

Life is good. Weekends are the bomb now. We miss living in Annapolis a little bit, but being closer to so many of our friends, and to our church, definitely makes weekends more relaxing and enjoyable. The fall colors are particularly stunning in our neck of the woods this week, and the weather is crisp and cool. AND (thank goodness) the Presidential race is over today! I’ve enjoyed the political conversations, debates, etc., but I’m definitely ready for it to be over.

Til next time, folks!

A great Labor Day weekend it has been.  Drea and I spent Friday evening at my parents’ house for one of the last “family nights” for a while with all family members present.  My youngest sister Adrienne went off to Montclair State University yesterday in what may be the most gutsy leaving-for-college of the four Ackermann children.  Montclair is in New Jersey, just outside NYC, and Adrienne doesn’t know a soul there.  Talk about expanding your horizons!  I think we all know she’ll do great.

In lieu of our typical “movie night”, our family watched Barack Obama’s inspiring acceptance speech that my dad had taped the night before.  Not all of us are Obama fans, but it was still cool to watch together as our country named its first black man as a major party’s Presidential nominee.  What a cool time to be an American.

Saturday morning I met up with Mike, Tom, and Patrick for a greasy breakfast at Al’s and some kayaking on the Patuxent.  It was good to hang out with just the guys, as being married tends to make “man time” increasingly scarce.  However, I must admit for good measure that as the other three enjoyed cigars on the river, I instead snacked on a granola bar.  A less manly choice, one might argue, but certainly a healthier one!  I’ll be throwing it in their faces decades from now when they’re all hacking up a lung while I win a triathlon.  :)

Drea and I met up with Allison and Rich, two of our most favorite people, hands down.  We grabbed dinner at TGI Fridays, followed by one of those meanderings through Barnes & Noble where you spend an hour flipping through books and sitting in their comfy chairs, and then walk out without buying a thing.  (Nowadays, I pretty much only go into B&N to “preview” books I will later order used on half.com.   Dude, I love Barnes & Noble.)

In other news, Drea officially launched her photography website and blog, proving once again her passion and fast-growing competence for photography.  In less than a year, she’s made an impressive foray into a brand-new field, built up her clientele base, and seen her business quickly blossom, largely by word-of-mouth.  People, my wife is just cool.

As I type, it’s 9:00 and we’re about to start a movie.  This is an atypical Sunday night for us, as we’re usually in bed by 10.  But such is the glory of holiday weekends, where we can stay up late and sleep in, just because we can.

Hope you’re enjoying your Labor Day!

Weekends like this last one are why summer is great. After my birthday party on Friday (which Drea, Tom, and Renata planned and executed superbly) we drove up to Ocean City, New Jersey to hang out with our friend Lammy for the weekend. The five of us (me, Drea, Tom, Renata, and baby Hayden) took off around midnight.

While I’ve made the drive by myself multiple times, I decided to let our trusty TomTom choose our route. We were never led astray, although it did feel like it a few times because the New Jersey highway system lacks the faintest hint of human logic or intelligence. If you don’t believe this, try exiting off the NJ Turnpike, and then try to get back on. (“Why can’t I make a U-turn? Or a left turn? What the devil is a jug-handle? Where the #%$@ are we?!”)

Anyway, Tom and I split the driving and we arrived at Lammy’s pimped-out beach house around 3:30. All of us married people enjoyed the reverse-novelty of sleeping in our own individual beds. (Not to worry – we all still love our respective spouses!)

The next day, we hung out at the beach. The weather couldn’t have been nicer; not too hot, a nice breeze, and the water wasn’t too cold. I used that new spray-on sunscreen, which apparently wasn’t up to the challenge of preventing my chest from absorbing so much sun that I was radiating heat by the end of the day. (OK, I also may have forgotten to reapply after swimming in the ocean. Big no-no for a pasty-pale guy like me!)

That night, we hit the boardwalk, gorging ourselves on ice cream, funnel cakes, and French fries. Tom (of course) entertained all of us by feeding a seagull from his bare hand. We took Hayden to the amusement park, and all six of us got on this old, creaking monorail ride that made you stare death in the face every time it made a turn. Good times.

The next morning, we rented bikes and had a great lunch at Kessel’s Korner. After saying goodbye to Lammy, we headed back home. New Jersey’s aforementioned road suckage turned our 3½-hour drive into about 6. But we all managed to stay in good spirits, even little Hayden, who is at that age where he talks all the time, but can’t put words together yet, resulting in those one-of-a-kind words like “aaiishasheesh!” or “whaddisheebay!” Pretty entertaining stuff.

We eventually gave up on getting home in time for our small group meeting, so we pulled off I-95 for a leisurely dinner at the Cracker Barrel (so good).

We got home quite a bit later than expected, but those long, traffic-congested car trips aren’t so bad when you’re with good friends. We had a fun time, and it was great to see Lammy. Vacations, even these little short ones, are the best.

One of the benefits of being married without any kids or pets is that Drea and I can up and go on little mini-getaways pretty much whenever we please. It’s freaking amazing.

Since we’re both roller coaster junkies (although in different ways – more on this later), I decided a trip to Hershey Park would make for a fun getaway.

Since I don’t have too much vacation time built up, we had to go on a weekend. I knew we were taking a chance since Saturdays are the busiest days at amusement parks, and paying $45 a pop to stand in long lines in the heat can make for a pretty miserable day. But thanks to some enthusiastic recommendations and some research of my own, I had faith in Hershey.

We made the short drive up to PA and checked into our hotel. Drea wanted to stay at the Hotel Hershey and partake of their famous Chocolate Spa, but seeing how this costs as much as, say, a Mercedes, I instead booked us a nice room at a Quality Inn in nearby Harrisburg. :)

We grabbed some Red Robin for dinner (de-lish), and arrived at the park around 8:00 Friday night for the “preview plan”, where they let you into the park for a few hours the night before your big day. We rode like five roller coasters in just over an hour. We barely waiting in line for anything. Not bad for a Friday night. Things were looking pretty good for our main trip to the park on Saturday.

I think it’s safe to say our already high expectations were exceeded the next day. Hershey Park is obviously well-managed, and the whole place runs like a well-oiled machine. A free tram takes you from the parking lot to the gate. The park itself is well laid out and immaculately kept. Trees and bushes provide shade for the walkways and queueing areas. Rides and attractions aren’t just plopped down haphardly, but seem to be thoughtfully positioned to complement the landscape. Employees are efficient and surprisingly friendly. The whole atmosphere of the place makes you feel like a valued guest, not just one in a herd of cattle. I was impressed to say the least.

As mentioned before, Drea and I have differing tastes in roller coasters. Simply put, she likes going upside down, but hates that free-falling sensation you get on a steep drop, where you feel like you’re plummeting to your death. (I love that feeling.) As such, I was unable to talk her into getting on this:

That’s Fahrenheit, Hershey’s newest coaster that features a 97 degree drop. (That’s 7 degrees past vertical.) She missed out – it was off the heezy. :) Maybe next year?

After knocking out most of the coasters, we spent some time in the waterpark, which was a little crowded but still fun. Around 4:00, we decided to call it a day. I’ve found to my great dismay that my stomach can’t tolerate roller coasters like it used to.

We had a fantastic time. Hershey impressed me from top to bottom. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it an annual trip.

This was a terrific weekend – and that’s an understatement. Disclaimer: this may be a long post. :)

The concert
Friday night was the long awaited Sara Groves/Derek Webb benefit concert for Blood:Water Mission. It was fantastic. Sara, who I have aptly named “The Groves”, and Derek are super passionate, super real, super talented people. They did not disappoint.

(Another disclaimer: the following pictures were taken with Drew’s old point and shoot…not my sweet Nikon. :) )

 

We saw some friends there! (Fisch and Megan were also there, but I forgot to take a picture.)

 

As Drew mentioned in his previous post, going to this concert may have been a providential thing for us. Derek Webb spoke right to Drew’s heart regarding this election, and Sara Groves spoke right to my heart reminding me of the kind of woman I want to be. Plus, the entire concert was to benefit Blood:Water Mission, a great organization that we want to be more involved with. There were displays and a great photography exhibit, which I will write about soon in the photoblog. Overall, a great night.

The engagement

After the concert was over, Drew got a call from his sister and my dear friend, Allison. He put me on the phone with her. The conversation:

Allison: Hey Drea! So I was wondering what you were doing on December 27th.
Me: Uhh, I don’t know…why?
Allison: Because I was wondering if you’d be a bridesmaid in MY WEDDING!
::screaming ensues on both ends of the phone::

That is right, friends, Allison and Rich are ENGAGED! Let’s tell the world! :) We couldn’t be more excited for them.

Kinda blurry, but you get the idea. :) That thing is blingin’!

 

 

The wedding
Saturday morning, we woke up at 4am and drove to Raleigh, NC for an old friend, Amy’s wedding. We got to ride with Allison, Rich and Kristen the whole way, which made the trip fly. Plus, the engagement kept us busy for a few hours :)

 

Stopping in a fast food bathroom to freshen up…

The wedding was lovely, but it could not have been hotter! The ceremony was in a gorgeous rose garden…with no shade. A little torturous. I realllly felt for the groomsmen in full out tuxes!

 

Amy and Matt had to be the cutest couple I’ve ever seen. They were SO HAPPY. The ceremony was totally them, and the reception was really laid back.

 

 

The boys were a little sad it was only root beer.

There was a pimpin’ disco ball!

 

Congratulations Amy & Matt + Allison & Rich! Long live good weekends!