Thursday, September 30, 2010

Daddy Daughter Duet

A few weeks ago Chuck and Leland sang "Teach me to Walk in the Light" as a duet in church. They did a fabulous job. I recorded their rehearsal.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One more NASCAR post!

On Saturday, the whole family went to the race. The girls (and Chuck) had fun showing me around to all the fun stuff they did they day before.
Nana came up for the weekend, so she got to experience the NASCAR craziness too. I think we may have worn her out with all our quick walking from place to place. Chuck calls it "California style." (For any of you that are a Gates, or have traveled with a Gates, you know how the "gotta see it all" time line works.) Nana is used to "Southern style," where you take your time to stroll through life. She was a trooper and the girls loved having her there. (Until it was time for her to take them home - while Chuck and I stayed for the race - when there were lots of tears.)
Top left: Chevy tent announcer pretending to interview me for our photo. His microphone was on and the entire tent area could hear us chatting.
Bottom right: Dancing for free t-shirts.
The highlight of the entire weekend was when Jimmie Johnson was scheduled to appear at the Chevy tent for an interview. On Saturday, the girls kept telling Chuck that they wanted to see Jimmie. When he said, "We saw him racing," they said they wanted to see him and talk to him.

So, we planned our day to be at the Chevy tent early enough to get a spot to see Jimmie. We waited by the gates where the drivers came in and out, but we were about three deep back from the crowded gates. Both girls had on their Lowe's Build and Grow aprons ready to show Jimmie all their patches and hoping to have him sign.

Chuck was chatting with some of his fellow racin' fans, and the extremely nice people suggested our girls work their way up front. They even hollered at the people up front to let Leland and Lucy up there. Chuck became buddies with a guy who is in the Air Force, who said, "I love Jimmie, but if he doesn't stop for your daughters, I may have to choose a new favorite driver."

While we waited, Lucy ended up on my shoulders in the back of the crowd while, Leland was right up front with a group of really nice race fans. When Jimmie came out, a guy lifted Leland up and over the railing, while all those around her yelled for Jimmie to sign her apron. Jimmie walked up, saw her apron and started signing! She was so excited, and her daddy tried to contain his excitement as he fired away at taking pictures.

Then, the guy put Leland down so she could come show her Daddy, and he yelled back to me, "Give me your other daughter!" Before I could respond, the guy next to me grabbed Lucy off of my shoulders and passed her to the guy in front. (It was really amazing how calm the girls were with all of these strangers, but I guess they could feel the excitement as they were blown away that they actually got to meet Jimmie.) By this time, Jimmie had gone down the line a bit signing autographs. Then the crowd started yelling "Go back to sign the little girls apron!" Jimmie replied "I already did." A few in the crowd said "No, this one is her sister, go back!" So, he came back to sign Lucy's apron too.

It was awesome. The girls were absolutely thrilled! Their sweet Daddy cried. (You read that right - Chuck cried. After Jimmie left, he was sitting on the ground packing up his backpack and Leland came up and give him a huge hug, and tears started running down his face.) He said it was because he could see just how excited the girls were. (It's happened before when his sweet dream for his little girls come true.)

The crowd around us were so sweet, helpful, and excited for them. (Chuck also calls this "Southern style.") When his Air Force buddy said, "We should've gotten you up there to take a picture with him and sign your hat," Chuck told him that all he wanted was for his girls to meet Jimmie, so he was excited to be taking pictures for them to remember. He's such a great Daddy for little girls.

Seriously, do you now see why he is such a die hard fan of Lowe's?
Jimmie Johnson signing Leland (pink hat) and Lucy's (pony tail) Build and Grow aprons
We felt our day was complete at that point, yet we still had so much more to do. We headed to get our green screen family photo with Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus (pit crew chief) and then walked Nana and the girls back to the car to say good bye.
Holding up 4 fingers with the 4 consecutive Sprint Cup trophies, Jimmie, and Chad.
The race was awesome. We ended up sitting in the Family Section which was no smoking and no alcohol. It made a huge difference in the atmosphere around us and made the race much more enjoyable. I really enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I would enjoy a NASCAR race.

I love the patriotism I felt when all the fans waved an American flag while "God Bless America" and "The Star Spangled Banner" were sung. I love that a prayer is said before every race. I loved the rumble of cars as they sped around the track. I was so glad that I was able to fulfill this dream for my husband. I think it made me the most happy just watching him enjoy every moment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The winning burn out - Night 1 (Chuck's additions)

As you can see from the previous post about the Friday night race, Ashley posted it before I could get to it to add my comments.

But come on! She forgot to post the video of the burn out, baby!

The winner was Kevin Harvick, driving the #33 (my lucky number!) Chevrolet.

Ashley also forgot to mention that not only did the girls make it through the entire race, but they were angels! They were so cute together! They played with their "prizes" together for a while. Then, they decided they would be independent and sat two rows away from me by themselves, cheering and watching their little TV. The two women and their husbands behind us thought they were so cute.

(The top left picture shows how much junk I was carrying after I had already dumped 3 other bags and the sleeping mat in the car!)

Around lap 200, Lucy got really tired and I asked her if she wanted to go home. "No Dad, we stay here," she said. "I lay down on the bench for a minute." She lied down on the grandstands, used her seat cushion as a pillow and watched the rest of the race with her head next to me.

At lap 230, Leland climbed into my lap and put her thumb in her mouth. I thought perhaps we could beat the traffic and leave with 20 laps to go. Nope, they wouldn't let me.

When we were finally walking out at 10:30 p.m. after 8 hours of NASCAR fun, I heard the very first, "I'm tired." But instead of being a whiny complaint, Leland said it like, "Whew, I am so tired... that was a fun day dad!"

I was so pleased with them. They never complained about sore feet or tired legs. They were perfect.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Virginia 529 College Savings 250 - Night 1

(Be sure to read about the activities before the race.)

Chuck had learned from his earlier experience inside the track. He got the girls' headsets ready to go before entering. He also packed his stuff so that they could set up quickly once they got to their seats. Still, he still figured the girls would only last about 50 (out of 250) laps before they were ready to go home.

I asked Lucy what she was doing in the top right picture below and she said, "I'm saying, GO Jimmie GO!" You can see Leland the bottom left picture below holding the Sprint Fanview (handheld TV).

The girls lasted the entire 250 laps of the race and absolutely loved every minute of it.

You might want to check your volume before you hit play on this video - it shows you just how loud it was and why the headsets were a necessity.
Of course, hundreds of pictures were taken. After hearing about all the fun they had, I was so excited to go with them on Saturday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Let's Go Racing Girls! - Day 1

It's official, we are rednecks. The first step is to admit it, right?

(Note from Chuck: I have openly aspired to being a redneck for some time, so I am offended at the pejorative tone of saying we should "admit" it.)

Remember back in May, when we went to see the Lowes' 48 live? Chuck was giddy with excitement just to see a previously driven race car. Last weekend, was NASCAR's return visit to Richmond International Raceway. Can you imagine Chuck's excitement when I got a pair of tickets to both nights of NASCAR for free? I was so surprised how easy it was to get the free tickets by continuing the same purchases we already make. Thank you Richmond Times-Dispatch for Friday night tickets (value $30 each) and Kroger for the Saturday night tickets (value $40 each)!

We had the absolute best weekend, EVER! If you have never been to a NASCAR event, you absolutely must experience it. It is like a combination of a county fair, corporate trade show, and college football game. What was really surprising was how much of it was totally free! Kids were free on Friday, so Chuck took the 2 big girls to the events, practice sessions, and qualifying during the day and then to the Nationwide Series race that night (like Jr. Varsity to the Varsity racers in the Sprint Cup Series). I stayed home with Charly and gave my ticket to a friend who took his son to the race.

Chuck even took Leland out of school at lunchtime, so she could be there all day with her daddy. When her teacher came to the office with Leland, she said "Have fun at the races, Leland!" and Chuck said, "Ummm, you mean our southern heritage social studies field trip, right?" She thought that was hilarious.

After they drove away, Leland was a little sad to leave school early because it was her first Friday, which is computer class day. Chuck told her he could take her back if she wanted, but she was so conflicted with the dilemma that she started to cry. Chuck told her that she could go to computer class every week, but that the race was a special thing that only happened twice a year. After less than an hour at the track, she said "Daddy, you were right, this is way more fun than school!"

When they got there, they made their way through the Midway fairly quickly. The Midway is basically the fair of NASCAR, mixed with a dose of a corporate trade show and a whole lot of southern culture.He was trying to hurry so they could get inside to watch the last hour of practice for the Sprint Cup racers, but even in a hurry, it took about 45 minutes to get through. He said they skipped a ton, but they stopped at the Sprint tent to take pictures with the Sprint Cup trophy and Miss Sprint Cup Monica Pulombo and at the Jimmie Johnson merchandise hauler (18-wheeler trailer). They also stopped at a booth where they played a game to get free seat cushions.

When the cars are on the track it is INCREDIBLY LOUD. It is absolutely necessary to have ear protection or you won't last long. Chuck had brought professional grade ear protection he bought the night before, but he also decided to rent Sprint Fanview - a little handheld interactive TV (only $50 for the full weekend) - and it was the best decision.

(Ashley's sidebar: This is what really made watching the race so much fun for me on Saturday night. You could watch and listen to the race as you would on TV at home. The best part was that you could change your camera view to any camera that was on a race car and you could listen to the communication between the driver and crew chief. That was really cool to watch, especially when they would go into the pit and you could watch the team close up running around changing tires and stuff.)

(Chuck's description of Sprint Fanview: Not only can you watch live race video, but you can scroll through 7 in-car camera views. And, you can pause or resume coverage at any time! Then, you can listen to the race broadcast, or any of the drivers' communications. You can also see crazy in-depth race data with real-time updates. Seriously, why hasn't every sport started this? Imagine how much money could be made doing this for football!)

Unfortunately, Chuck wasn't really prepared for how much the loudness and the ear protection would cause chaos because he couldn't communicate with the girls. He said it was really hard to help convince them that the ear protection would help because they couldn't hear him trying to explain. They kept wanting to fiddle with their earmuffs and Chuck was probably a little too rough, but sure enough there was a few tears at first. Once they got up to some seats right at the start finish line, things didn't get much easier. He broke out their lunches and the cooler, but the girls were not too interested in what he had. Getting them settled in their seat cushions wasn't easy and trying to wire them up to the Sprint Fanview was difficult. It wasn't long before Leland started screaming, "THERE'S JIMMIE!!!" and he realized why he was so excited to share the experience with his girls.

Chuck was surprised that the girls actually kept the headsets on for as long as they did, but eventually they got worn out sitting in the sun. After more than an hour of watching practice, Lucy took a tumble off of the grandstands and started to cry and say that she wanted to go home. Chuck was exhausted, but didn't want to go home without going out in the Midway. He scooped up all of there stuff (1 cooler, 3 backpack/shoebags, three seat cushions, and one sleeping mat which he had originally planned on using as the seat cushions) and got the girls out of the track and to someplace where they could talk. Once there, he calmed Lucy down and convinced them to go do the fun things in the Midway.

The Midway is gigantic. And it is free because it is outside of the ticketed area (at least at Richmond). We recommend you go by when NASCAR comes to your area. Each of the racers have their own merchandise hauler where you can buy souvenirs. Some even have two (and if you are the son of a legend, you get three haulers because an unfathomable amount of people are die hard fans even though you never win races). They also have all of the standard food booths you would find at a county fair. But while those options to spend money were very plentiful, they were far outnumbered by all of the free and fun stuff!

All of the major sponsors of NASCAR set up huge tents with all kinds of free giveaways. Each of the major tents had stages for driver appearances, free race simulators, interactive games, and competitions for free prizes. There were innumerable giveaways and games. They came home with so much stuff - cups, hats, t-shirts, shoe bags (backpacks), matchbox cars, lanyards, keychains, and all sorts of trinkets. Leland calls them all of her prizes that she "won" at the race.

Some of the coolest giveaways were (#1) the green screen photo opportunity in the Chevy tent were your photo is placed in a picture with your favorite Chevy driver (see us with Jimmie, Chad, and the 4 trophies above), (#2) the free Denny Hamlin Fed Ex #11 baseball caps (not the cheap kind, but ones you would pay $15 for, but they were free because Denny is from Richmond), and the free large-size bottles of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (our favorite BBQ sauce!). With all of this free stuff, Chuck was extremely loaded down with bags and bags of stuff. He said each of the girls had their own shoebag/backpack with stuff, but he was carrying another 4 bags of paraphernalia, the sleeping mat, the 3 seat cushions they won, and the cooler loaded with drinks and ice.

(Chuck's addition: I was exhausted and looked like a pack mule walking around! Everytime I would bend over too far, the cooler would spill ice water down my back and I would quickly straighten up. I think I frightened some retired military men when I got too excited when I saw the National Air Guard tent was giving away carabiners, so I could clip some of the bags to each other. The larger tents had announcers/hosts with microphones and a few commented on me being "father of the year" and telling people to "take a look at that dad over there bringing his little girls to the race.")

Have you seen this "Design It. Enter It." commercial by Toyota?

Well, we saw that car, which was actually driven for the only time during the Richmond Nationwide Series race! Here are some pictures of the girls inside the M&M #18 (Kyle Busch's Sprint Cup car) and next to the pink #18. Even though we really don't like Kyle Busch, we love the paint scheme on the M&M's #18 and think the ads are hilarious.
A funny story about that pink car with bunnies, kittens, baby seals, hearts, and rainbows on it. Well, when we go to crowded big events, we will write our phone numbers on the girls, so in case they get lost, someone can call us. When they got home that first night, Leland says to me "We had so much fun and someone only had to call Daddy once cause we were lost!"

(Chuck's defense: Okay, it wasn't really that bad. While I was giving the Toyota people my mailing info to get the girls more free stuff, they were drawn in by Kyle Busch's pink car with the horses and cats on it that was displayed. When I turned around, after less than 30 seconds, they were gone. I started to panic as I could not find them and started making circles in an outward fashion. finally, I found them on the other side of the pink car and behind a Toyota SUV on display. They were talking to two Toyota people and one was already calling me on the phone. Evidently, Leland realized they were lost and walked up to them, stuck out her arm with my cell number written in Sharpie on it, and said, "We are lost, here is my dad's phone number." So, even if I am a poor father for losing them for less than a minute, at least I had them trained well enough to know what to do.)

They walked around the Midway for nearly 4 hours, in the heat of the day and with Chuck carrying all of that stuff. Chuck said he was so exhausted he kept trying to convince the girls to go home (he was going back on Saturday for the Sprint Cup race anyway), but the girls kept refusing. They never complained about being tired, but every once in a while, they would trip and cry for a bit, but when he would say, "Okay, maybe we should go to the car," they would cheer up really quickly. Finally, at 6:30 p.m., they went to the car to drop off all of there stuff and take a breather.

Chuck fed them some food and was hoping they would get tired and ask to go home after having spent 5 hours in the sun. Well... they were a bit tired, but as Lucy said, "Dad, I go to race, not go home." His reminder of the loud noises didn't deter them at all. So, he packed up the stuff they needed and headed into the Nationwide race - the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.

If you didn't figure it out - Chuck added quite a bit to my original post.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lucy Luba

Our Lucy started preschool this week. She absolutely LOVES it! She runs right in to her classroom and hangs her bag on her hook with out even looking back. I have to make sure I get a goodbye kiss before we are in the building or it won't even happen.

She's a whole head taller than most of the kids in her class, even though she's one of the youngest. Have you ever done those height predictors for your kids? You enter their age and height and each parent's height, then the child's adult height is predicted. I tried it out with Lucy the other day. Her predicted adult height - 6 ft. 1 in. Crazy! I need to start teaching her basketball and volleyball.

She knows all her letters and the sounds they make. She wants so bad to be able to read like her sister does. Her teachers were impressed that she knew how to spell her name and could recognize it written down. She also has mad scissors skills. She learns pretty quickly and always feels the need to keep up with her sister.

I love her excitement for life. She gets so excited about things and then her deep voice will turn to a high squeal. She's a little like her dad in that she has limited volume control to her voice and loves so talk loud. She has started going to speech again once a week, but improved a lot over the summer. She loves the fact that she goes to two schools.

She loves to play with my cell phone and type messages to people. She usually just types her name and the number 3 for her age. She also takes tons of pictures on the my camera phone. It's always interesting to look through the pictures to see what she thinks is worthwhile of a picture.

We rearranged the girls sleeping arrangements, so Lucy now has her own room. It has worked out really well. However, she is a bit of a collector. Her dresser next to her bed is usually piled high with stuff that she "needs in order to fall asleep". It's usually books, blankets, dolls, and cars piled up. She also collects rocks and sticks anytime we are outside and she always says "these are for my collection." We have had to establish a rule of only one rock per event (talk about a cheap souvenir).We love our little Lucy Luba.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to some Summer Fun

In August, we checked out a new extension of the Children's Museum of Richmond in Short Pump. We met my Aunt Barbara there to check it out.

It was a fun miniature version of the big downtown museum. A few great things about it were 1) it was just all one big room, so I could sit in one place with Charlotte while she played and still felt like the big girls were in view and 2) the TRAIN! It was awesome and it ran every 30 mins in a small circle. You would have thought we were at Disney World the kids were so excited about it.They had great dress ups and puppets to play with, too. Saying Lucy was excited about the Spiderman costume would be a gross understatement. I think she was hyperventilating and shivering with excitement. To be honest, I have no idea where her recent Spiderman obsession came from. She also got new sunglasses this weekend and she chose Spiderman. There was no talking her out of them. They have spider webs on the lens. I'll need to take a picture, she looks hilarious in them.Charlotte loved sitting in the big throne chair (upper right). I think she feels like a big girl when she sits in a chair. It cracks me up.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bear Creek Lake State Park

On Labor day, we met some friends from Charlottesville at Bear Creek Lake State Park for a fun filled day. The park was less than an hour drive from our home.

The Crofts are friends of Chuck's from undergrad and from some reason we haven't seen them for over a year. We had so much fun with Tyler, Cecia, and their 3 boys.

We went on a short hike.

We played in the sand.

We played in the lake.

We went kayaking.

We pretty much wore our girls out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Territory

Leland started Kindergarten yesterday. Public school is an entire world that is all new to us. Riding the bus, massive school supply lists, PTA, volunteering, eating lunch at school, and an entire 7 hours where I do not know what my little girl is doing.

It's weird. I wasn't sad or emotional. It was just this weird feeling. I was 2nd guessing all of my parenting up to this point. Have I done enough for her to be a confident, positive student? How will she handle conflict? Will she eat all of her food, so she is not hungry? If she is sad, who will comfort her?

The whole send off was so easy, because she was SO excited. She lined her backpack up with the big kids at the bus stop, and barely gave us each a kiss before darting onto the bus. She waved, climbed on the bus and didn't look back. She was all smiles!When I asked her why she chose this outfit over any of the new ones we got for school she said, "If I wear this shirt, maybe my teacher will call me Miss Sunshine all year."

All day, I kept checking my watch to make sure I wasn't going to be late to meet her at the bus stop. I started checking my watch at noon. Her bus didn't drop her off until 4:15 pm!

She survived. I survived. She had so much fun. I actually had a lot of fun, too. And to top it off, Lucy starts preschool next week. For 3 hours, 3 days a week it's just going to be Charly and I.

Maybe it will make me think I could handle another baby right now. Probably not.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pony Pasture Picnic

Last Saturday afternoon, we decided to go on a picnic at Pony Pasture, which is an area of the James River that is known as a great "beach" for Richmond. We were out running errands when we decided to do this and were totally unprepared, but had so much fun. We grabbed some food "to go" and headed over. We wanted to eat out on the rocks, but were trying to figure out how to get all three girls and all of our stuff out there.A nice man who was there with his family came over and in his broken English said, "I help you", picked up Lucy and some of our stuff and helped us out to a perfect spot. It was great and so nice of him to help us. I love that Chuck can speak Spanish in times as these, where he could really thank this man for his help.

The girls love playing in the river. They didn't seem to care that they did not have swim suits on and still had lots of fun.
Chuck and Leland went out to explore the rocks farther out.
Lucy, Charly and I hung out splashing our feet. Charly loves the water and is fearless in situations like these. She kept pulling at my hand that was around her waist, so that she could get farther into the water.

I love this city! This fabulous spot is only about 15 minutes from our house.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


We took advantage of Kids Bowl Free and went twice recently. Leland really got into it and drastically improved (as much as you can using a ramp). Lucy had fun her first game, then quickly lost interest. She had more fun hanging out by the video games playing with the guns from the hunting game. Charly hates missing the action. She tried as hard as she could to pick up a ball. I let her "push" a few balls down the ramp and she would just squeal with delight.Notice how the scores improve. Lucy bowled the very first game, then the rest are Leland's scores. Her only game and she got a 97!
Can you believe the very last frame of Game 4? Leland got a spare, then with her bonus turn, a STRIKE! Leland was ecstatic!