Category Archives: 12 days

12 days of Christmas

as the magical season of Christmas is now upon us, sadly we must inform you that we will not be producing our annual 12 days of Christmas this year.

we know that some of you have been with us from the start. others have found us along the way through various links or searches. whichever way you discovered us, we are certainly grateful that you have enjoyed our stories over the years, and especially our annual 12 days of Christmas. we have been told that reading and watching the 12 days of Christmas has actually become a family tradition for some of you. that is incredibly humbling and rewarding at the same time. to those of you that eagerly look forward to this each year, we are sorry to disappoint.

we are a traditional family, and we tend to do things a little unconventionally by today’s standards. for example, having a blog that we only utilize for 12 days out of the year at Christmas. or stepping away from social media for almost 2 years now. or the fact that we don’t watch television or allow cell phones at the dinner table.

we don’t really get into the whole “instant” craze that seems to consume our society. instead, we choose to eliminate the unnecessary noise. and that is one of the underlying reasons that we are taking a break from the 12 days of Christmas this year. instead of feeling tied to the internet in the days leading up to Christmas, we are choosing to remove ourselves from it and focus fully on our family with no distractions and no need to share with the world.

so, merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there. may God bless you and your families.

day 10 – dusty

the time has come for my very own personal update. these are always the hardest to write, but ultimately, it is nice to step back and reflect upon all that has happened in the year.

2012 was a big year for me. i shot and produced more videos this year than ever before. many of these new projects required substantial traveling, so i was able to see several new places along the way. one of those new places was rwanda, a country in central africa. spending time producing meaningful work in africa was one of the most influential experiences in my life.

but you see, that is the key thing about this year, and even last year. all of the projects that i have been blessed to be a part of have impacted me on a much deeper level than just business. they have challenged me to step back and look at life in a whole new light. i have learned so much from these experiences, and while the goal was to deliver high quality work, i feel like i was the one that truly received more.

without going into the details of each project and client, i can honestly say that my life changed for the better due to these opportunities. i have learned to appreciate nature, and the quiet solitude that it can bestow. i have learned to value relationships, without facebook and twitter. i have learned to truly listen, in my conversations with people and in my prayers with God.

it has been refreshing, revitalizing, and renewing. it has allowed me to add meaning to my life by focusing on the essentials. as many of you know, i fully embrace minimalism in every aspect of life. these experiences have tied directly into that mindset, and i really believe it was divine.

one of the biggest and most direct influences was stepping away from social media. i have not been on facebook or twitter during the entire year of 2012. it has been quite an experiment, and one that i feel has given me much fulfillment. so much, in fact, that i want to write a book about how removing myself directly impacted my life on so many different levels.

the book, in turn, would be directly related to a blog that i halfway started a couple of years ago. it is based on these same principles and how they apply to fatherhood. if you know me well, then you know that i have a goal of one day becoming a full-time blogger. and while i toyed with this idea a couple of years ago, i feel like i truly needed the experiences that the past two years have given me in order to write a book and blog regarding these thoughts.

so, my hope is that for my family update in 2013, i will be telling you about the new book and the new blog. if there is one thing that i have learned this year, it is to slow down and enjoy the process. there is no sense in rushing and missing the best parts of building your life. focus on the details. soak it all in. and when it is time, you will know.

day 9 – sharks

aside from country music and construction, the boys are both highly interested in sharks. i’m not sure exactly how it started, but they have been fascinated by sharks for over a year now. in fact, they dressed up as sharks for halloween in 2011, when jackson was 3 and emerson was 1.

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and since their love for sharks hasn’t faded, they dressed up in the exact same costumes this year for halloween. of course, we had to purchase bigger sizes, but those costumes have been one of the best investments we have made. they wear them on a daily basis everywhere we go.

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and while they love dressing up and pretending to be sharks, they also have a desire to really learn about actual sharks. through national geographic programs, educational books, and interactive ipad apps, they have retained quite a bit of information about ocean life. they began by learning all of the different shark species and what each of them eats. through this process, jackson developed a love for great whites, while emerson’s favorite became the hammerhead.

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during our family vacation this year, we took jackson and emerson to ripley’s aquarium. it was an amazing experience, and the boys loved every minute of it. they saw so many different sea creatures in various environments, but of course their favorite thing was seeing the sharks.

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then, later in the fall, we learned of a small aquarium right here in our hometown. and it just so happened that they were running a limited time shark exhibit. needless to say, we jumped on that opportunity as well, and i was able to take them for yet another day of shark-infested fun.

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but as much as the boys love their shark costumes, they occasionally explore other depths of the ocean world. jackson has recently come up with his own scuba suit and gear. when he came out of his room wearing this ingenious design, we could not stop laughing. such a creative imagination.

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the sky is the limit for these two little boys. but who knows, maybe one day they actually will be diving to research sharks.

day 8 – country music

as i said before, we are a family that loves music. over the course of this year, our boys have developed quite an affinity for one genre of music in particular. country.

it is all they want to listen to. and through listening to the country music radio stations, they have been drawn to a select few artists that have now become their favorites. for emerson, his favorite country music artist is definitely luke bryan, or as he says it, buke bryan. being that he loves girls, he also has a thing for carrie underwood, or again, as he says it, carrie woada-oda.

jackson, on the other hand, loves jason aldean. he is without a doubt jackson’s favorite country music artist. jackson idolizes him and wants to do everything jason aldean does. there was even a time that he wouldn’t respond unless we called him jason aldean. not just jason, but jason aldean.

when it came time for jackson to start preschool, he was struggling the night before his first day. he was noticeably upset about it, and he did not want to go. so again, kelly came up with a clever idea. she called one of her girlfriends and asked if her husband would call jackson pretending to be jason aldean. this guy is a good friend of mine as well, and we chose him because we knew jackson would not recognize his voice. furthermore, this guy’s voice is about as country as it gets. so, when we told jackson that jason aldean was calling, he could barely hold in his excitement. and you better believe that when jason aldean told jackson that he went to preschool as a little boy, jackson swiftly changed his mind and wanted to go as well.

now that we have set the stage for you, i am going to turn it over to our two little country music performers. they know the words to their favorite songs inside and out, and they jump at the opportunity to sing for an audience. here they are singing their top picks from their chosen artists. first up is jackson performing “take a little ride” by jason aldean. then we have emerson as luke (buke) bryan singing “drunk on you”, or as he says it, “drum on you”. sit back and enjoy.

day 7 – Christmas cards

ah, the annual Christmas card. this has become kind of a big deal for our family. we put a lot of effort into the overall look and feel of our Christmas cards each year. being a design nerd, i get so excited about creating these cards from a completely blank canvas. taking the photographs, designing the layout, choosing the typography. i love every single bit of it. and watching it all come together from a sketch in a notebook to the final print is very rewarding.

this year, we decided to keep it simple, and go for the classic, rustic look. i finished the cards this week, and per usual, we are just now sending them out a few days before Christmas. so, here are our 2012 family Christmas cards.

Christmas Card 2012 (Web)

day 6 – emerson

and then there is emerson. full of mischief and truly one-of-a-kind. his little personality has certainly blossomed over the past year. he is cute. devilishly cute. and he has already learned how to use that to his advantage. while he adores and idolizes his big brother, he certainly walks to his own beat. he is curiously creative and dangerously smart. i mean, really smart. if you interacted with him, you would not think he was only two years old. he is mechanical, yet artistic. he loves taking things apart to see how they work, and he is always drawing, usually anywhere but on the paper. he is not really the “keep it between the lines” type of person. he is too much fun, and always so happy. he openly loves girls, is extremely confident, and always looking for a good time. dangerous combination, we know.

as i mentioned, emerson loves his big brother jackson, and they are often interested in many of the same things. one of those things is cooking. they both have developed a love for being in the kitchen, and kelly is always so good to let them help.

in the video above, you may have noticed that emerson operated comfortably on the kitchen counter. ever since he was a baby, he has been quite a daring little climber. he loves to climb and get into places that he shouldn’t be. we often find him in the craziest spots and have no idea how he even got there.

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one of our favorite things about the photo above is the pink helmet. emerson is an interesting kid, and he loves pink. it has always been his favorite color, and he is not ashamed to rock it. if pink is an option, then you can bet that he will choose it. for example, whenever we eat, he has his own special pink bowl. oh, and one of his favorite toys is his pink calculator.

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this has been a big year for emerson. he moved out of his crib and into his very own big-boy bed. he was an absolute breeze to potty train. and he stopped nursing. oh yeah, he was still nursing at 2.5 years old. however, in staying consistent with his love for pink, kelly came up with a clever idea to wean him from nursing. in order to make the switch to whole milk, we presented it to him as pink milk. by adding a little strawberry nesquik, he suddenly couldn’t resist whole milk. and we never looked back.

and when he gets a little pink milk in his system, things really get crazy. like i said, the kid knows how to have a good time. he just has such a lovable little presence about him, and he is definitely the one that gets the party started.

but it’s not always fun and games. sometimes, emerson has to crack down. he is seldom serious, but when he is, he gives a look that is classic emerson. he knits his eyebrows together and pooches his lips out, and it is all we can do to not laugh. over time, he has now chosen to name this look his “bad guy face”.

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as you can see, emerson easily grows on you. he will steal your heart in a flash, and when he is not there, you miss him. as i mentioned in a previous update, i spent three weeks in africa earlier this year. one of the hardest things about that trip was not being home for emerson’s second birthday. so, while i was there, i decided to make a special video for his birthday. i sent the video to him on his actual birthday, so that i could, in some way, be there with him. all the way from africa, i will leave you with emerson’s birthday surprise.

day 5 – jackson

it feels like jackson has grown up so much this year. he is such a little man, and we often talk about how we want to wrap him up and remember him just as he is right now. he has the sweetest and most tender heart that you will ever find. he is a pleaser, and he wants to do so good in everything he does. he is very bright, and we are constantly blown away by his imagination and creativity. and while it feels like he is growing by the second, he still enjoys several of the same things that he always has.

for example, he still cooks. i mean, like real deal cooking. this guy is a chef. when he is not in the kitchen preparing meals, he can often be found grilling outside on the deck or cooking with a makeshift stove in his room.

outside of cooking, jackson still loves construction, and he continues to manage the same crew of workers. you know, cody, hippy chris, gee, diggy-dac, and his latest addition, cheetah. emerson usually joins the gang, and together, they get the job done.

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since we seldom pass a construction site without stopping to watch, they have seen and heard actual construction workers shouting orders to each other. naturally, they have now developed their own little construction language that they use to bark orders to their crew.

to add to the authenticity of being a real worker, jackson often likes to sport a beard or mustache. he shaves pretty often though, and for good reason. just check out his creative approach to growing facial hair.

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and even though he has been busy running construction crews, jackson has still somehow found time to go to school. yes, our little guy officially started preschool this year, which was tougher for us than it was for him. here he is on his very first day of school outside of his classroom, with his teachers, and with kelly.

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although he only attends two days a week for a few hours, it has still been an adjustment for us. but i am so proud of that little dude. we regularly get excellent reports from his teachers, and he has made several friends. one friend in particular, a girl named violet, has apparently stolen his little heart. let me just precede this by saying that prior to school, jackson wanted nothing to do with girls. in fact, he says he still doesn’t like them, but he makes a special exception for violet.

he is growing up so fast, and not a day goes by that he isn’t entertaining us. he loves the spotlight, and he knows exactly what to do to make us laugh. there is one thing he does in particular that kelly absolutely loves. we are not sure where it came from, but he quietly whispers a series of things that he wants to do in order to “get a little crazy” before bedtime.

and while he is usually cracking us up, it is sometimes sweeter just listen to his own precious little laugh. i will leave you with this video of him from our family vacation this year. this was his first real experience on an amusement ride, and he just couldn’t stop laughing.

day 4 – africa

earlier this year, i was presented with a life-changing opportunity. an opportunity to travel to rwanda, central africa to produce a short film. most of you already know that i am a filmmaker, and my work takes me to some pretty incredible locations. however, this was my first adventure out of the country, and it was a huge decision that required a lot of thought and even more prayer.

before i was ever contacted about this trip, kelly had always said the one place that she didn’t want me to travel was rwanda. so you can imagine the sinking feeling that i felt when i received the details of where exactly i would be filming. not only that, but i had been told that it took months to plan for a trip to africa. well, i received the invitation for this trip a few weeks before the departure date. being that i had never left the country, i didn’t even have a passport. not to mention all of the vaccinations that are required. oh, and i would be gone for a total of 3 weeks. i had never spent 3 weeks away from kelly for as long as we had been married. and the icing on the cake? emerson’s second birthday fell right in the middle of the 3 weeks that i would be gone. it was definitely not looking like i was supposed to be on this trip.

but we serve a big God. a God that is bigger than any of the excuses listed above. and through tons of prayer, He began to show me that this trip was exactly where i was supposed to be. i can’t even begin to explain how each of the puzzle pieces came together, but let’s just say that all of my doubt was put to rest.

so, i took the leap and signed on for the trip. and i can honestly say that i have never experienced anything like it in my life. it moved me spiritually, emotionally, and professionally. i worked with a fantastic team of six others, all chosen for various specialties, but all for the same goal to help fuel God’s work in rwanda. it was a beautiful blend of souls, and i was deeply honored to be the one chosen to create the film.

rwanda is a country that has seen much pain and agony. in 1994, there was a genocide in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. father ubald rugirangoga is a catholic priest that lost most of his family in the genocide. as a survivor, he now wants to show the world that peace and healing can be found through forgiveness. his mission is to build a place in rwanda that people can come to receive prayer and healing. it will be called the center for the secret of peace. my job in all of this was to produce a film that documents father ubald’s life and ministry. a film that can show the potential impact of a place like the center for the secret of peace. a film that, above all, shows God’s tender love and mercy, and how lives can be changed through forgiveness.

so, without further hesitation, here it is. the final film that i produced and delivered. and while it was quite a journey from start to finish, i couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

day 3 – kelly’s 30th birthday

having just shared my surprise birthday gift from kelly, i thought it was only appropriate to follow up with the little extravaganza that i planned for her birthday this year. it was a big milestone in her life, as she gracefully embraced the age of 30.

kelly is truly a summer girl at heart. she loves warm summer nights, freshly-cut wild flowers, and eating outdoors. so as i began planning her surprise 30th birthday party, i knew that i wanted to incorporate each of these elements.

step one, her gift. ever since we built our house, kelly has wanted outdoor furniture for our deck. since that is exactly where the party would take place, i had the perfect opportunity to blend her gift directly into the scene. the outdoor furniture would essentially become the centerpiece for the party.

step two, the details. oh how i love the details. for flowers, i knew that i wanted the table outfitted with a couple of kelly’s summer favorites. (pro tip: guys, know your lady’s favorite flowers. there comes a time when you have to get creative and step out of the comfort zone of roses.) to hold the flowers, i wanted something special. something that would not only be used at the party, but could also serve as another birthday gift, and eventually find it’s way into our home decor. when i came across these old milk jugs at a local antique shop, it was as if the angels began to sing. brilliant. and the wire crate carrier was just an added bonus. to compliment the flowers, i wanted the color palette to include yellow. i went to work on the basics, such as the plates, napkins, and ribbon. then i had some fun and framed a piece of yellow plaid stationary with the number 30. for drinks, of course we had sweet tea and water, and the lemons provided a nice additional pop of yellow to the table. the drink dispensers? well, those actually turned out to be another birthday gift. they tied in perfectly with the mason jars and old glass milk jugs, and once again, i was able to use another birthday gift as a functioning aspect of the party. it all came together quite nicely.

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step three, the plan. just as we always do for our birthdays, kelly and i were going to have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. my parents came over to watch the boys, and the night was ours. little did kelly know that my mom would be calling mid-meal to say that emerson was terribly sick and we probably needed to come back home. bingo. that gave me just enough of a window for everyone to arrive at our house, park their cars at a secret location, and set up the entire scene. i had every piece of the party ready to go, and detailed instructions as to how i wanted it all arranged. so essentially, we left our house with absolutely nothing on the deck, and returned home to a full deck of furniture, gifts, dessert, and people. needless to say, kelly was quite surprised when we arrived home.

and here are just a few familiar faces from the party, including each of our two cupcake bandits, and the birthday girl alongside her sister.

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all in all, it was a perfect evening. i had a blast putting it all together, and i can’t thank my family and friends enough for their help in pulling it off. while kelly may want to forget that she is now 30, i don’t think she will soon forget this birthday surprise.

day 2 – david gray

following the release of yesterday’s Christmas mix, it is obvious that music is a big deal to us. for kelly and i both, it is something that has forever been at the core of our relationship. one musician in particular has always held a special place in our hearts. throughout the many years that we have been together, his music has continually been a part of our lives.

the musician i am referring to is david gray. as a self-proclaimed music junkie, i can honestly say that he is my all-time favorite. i can vividly remember receiving my very first david gray album. it was during my first semester of college, and my mom sent it to me for my birthday. she will probably never know just how much that album meant to me at that particular time in my life. it changed everything, and i began to see music in a whole new light.

david gray’s music became more than just music to us. it became a part of our story. while kelly and i were dating, his music was there. during my summer-long proposal to kelly, his music was there. at our wedding, his music was there. and even to this day, his music is just as special to us as it was the very time we heard it.

for as long as i can remember, kelly and i have promised each other that at some point in our lives, we would see david gray live in concert. well, that moment came sooner than we ever expected. in fact, it was a little surprise from kelly for my birthday this year.

typically, in order to see david gray in concert, you have to travel overseas. but it just so happened that he was touring through america this fall. and not only that, he was coming right through western north carolina. it was honestly like a dream come true. but it quickly became a reality whenever we received our tickets in the mail.

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we made an entire night out of it. dinner with friends at one of our favorite thai restaurants in asheville. the concert. and then dessert at a splendid little chocolate lounge downtown. it was a magical evening, and the concert was unbelievable. hearing our favorite songs being performed right in front of us is something that i will never be able to truly describe. he sounded even better in person. simply incredible.

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and as if the night wasn’t already perfect, as our friends dropped us off at our car, we stumbled upon david gray’s tour bus. and of course, a mob of fans eagerly waiting for him to exit the building. we jokingly talked about how awesome it would be to actually meet david gray. and then about fifteen minutes later, this happened.

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he signed our tickets. he talked and laughed with us. he hugged us. but above all of that, i will never forget him shaking my hand and in his deep english accent saying, “wow, dusty. what a fantastic name you have.” it was beyond words, and will probably go down as one of the most memorable moments in my life. it was honestly more than i could have ever asked for on my birthday, and this photo says it all.

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