Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Thrift Store Experiment (Catch Up Part 2)

At the beginning of the summer I was really in the mood to do some serious purging.  Apparently, I was inspired because little did I know we would be moving in 6 short weeks.  The kids were not really on board the purging train, so, in an effort to show them what happens to the things we donate we went to our local thrift store. I gave each child $10 and 20 minutes to find things they wanted/needed.  The rules were that at least one of the items had to be useful, such as clothing.  Here is how each one of them spent their money.

Harley bought a fish dress, a pair of new-to-her CROCS and a pink flamingo to accessorize.
Nash hit the jackpot when he found a RAY LEWIS jersey and a hat from one of his favorite restaurants PANDA EXPRESS.

Atley found a ship from the Bahamas, a Korean Airlines stuffed jet, and a new-to-him pair of KEENS.
Believe it or not when we really started purging for the move, the kids put up very little fight as we donated lots of their beloved items.

Budding Artists (Catch Up Part 1)

Last Spring we took the cutest little Art Class.  The kid's spent two hours silently working.  It was such a ZEN moment for the whole family and their creations were pretty fantastic.

Harley loves creating things. She doesn't play with toys but she loves to draw, paint, sculpt, design and write/tell stories.  While I was recovering from my appendectomy she really needed a project to keep her busy while I rested.  Especially, when I woke up to find her really throwing herself into her art one afternoon.
A few years ago I bought a hug painting canvas at Home Depot and I have used it for tons of projects.  It was one of the best investments I ever made.  One day I had Harley draw some pictures on that canvas and then cut them out.  I sewed them up for her and then let her stuff them full of stuffing and stitch around the opening herself.  It was great fun and kept her entertained for a very long time. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First Day of School 2015

Can I just start by saying that this day was one of the hardest days of my life?  And, yes, I drove by the school twice hoping to catch a glimpse of my babies on the playground.  One reason it was so hard is because Atley started Middle School.  UGH!  The horror.  The truth of the matter is simple. My children are growing up.  They're such TRADERS.
When we moved and I realized that 6th grade would actually be in a middle school I attempted to retain Atley. As a former middle school teacher that should illustrate to everyone how terrifying middle school really is.  Fortunately, Atley is thriving in his new school.  He is making friends and getting involved in Film Club, the school musical, and student council. He even attended his first Junior High Dance last week! EEK. And since I have been such a slacker blogger lately here are some highlights of Atley's last few months. He performed in Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables last year and if I do say so myself, he was phenomenal. He is starting piano again and has huge potential if he puts in the time to practice.  One of his most amazing achievements last school year was participating in the Science Olympiad  where he placed 5th in the state in the bridge building competition.  He completed his Arrow of Light in Cub Scouts and is now officially a Boy Scout.  He even went on his first over-night campout with the Scouts last week and had an amazing time. He is still obsessed with airplanes and maps but he also loves building trails on our property for his motorcycle and can be seen on most afternoons heading into the forest with a shovel and an ax to clear trees just like Paul Bunyan.
We were the least worried about Nash when we moved because he is such a people person, but he is probably struggling the most.  He is on a different baseball team full of older kids  and while they are winning lots of games he is certainly missing his best pals from McLean Little League.  It doesn't help that his beloved Baltimore Ravens are 0-3 and we just witnessed the biggest, ugliest loss in BYU Football history last weekend.  Despite all that, Nash keeps his happy attitude and makes the most of things. Last year he won the "Perfectly Polite" award at his school and his teachers referred to him as the "Mayor" because they said he essentially ran the place.  Here is a funny story.  After a baseball game last spring one of the little league officials was chatting with a few of the boys.  He asked Nash what he wanted to be when he grew up.  After the usual-football player, baseball player, basketball player responses the official said to Nash, "What if you can't play sports? What would you be then?"  Nash casually replied, "Oh, I would be a Coke dealer."  Picking my jaw up off the ground I stepped in and said, "Nash, are you kidding me?"  He responded with, "Yeah, they make tons of money."  Everyone, well all of the adults anyway, were totally stunned when he finally said, "Plus you get to drink all the Coke you want and drive that cool red Coca Cola Truck!"  Whew! Dodged a bullet there. I thought the "Mayor" might be becoming the "Drug Lord".
 He also enjoys being outside with his brother, exploring on his bike and riding his motorcycle. He has spent several nights sleeping outdoors and thinks it is amazeballs. Also, his reading ability was recently assessed and he is a little ahead of grade level. This is astonishing considering his dyslexia and can all be attributed to how very hard Nash works. He always tries his best and never gives up when the going gets tough!
Isn't it obvious how excited she was to leave me?  She never even looked back as she abandoned me forever. She doesn't miss me.  She loves school. I keep telling her it is an awful place and all she has to do is say the word and I'll never make her go back again, but she keeps insisting that it is, "sooo awesome".  Where did I go wrong with this girl? 
Yesterday, I was in Target and I saw this little girl with pigtails shopping with her momma. She was probably three with dark hair and a mouth that would not stop chattering. I lost it.  I had to go to my car and collect myself I was crying so hard. That used to be Harley and I, until she betrayed me and left me for her Kindergarten teacher.  I drank a Slurpee and ate some Chicken McNuggets in her honor.
She is such a character and is so much happier at Kindergarten than she was in preschool where she claims all the girls were from the, "DARK SIDE".  She is independent, unique and tough as nails.  Here are some recent Harley Quotes:
1. "Today the teacher tried to get me to put away the puppet I was playing with and I didn't want to give it back. So, I put my hand in it's mouth and I told that teacher, 'You don't want THIS puppet. It has hand and mouth disease."
2.  Last week she spent hours making a card for a boy in her class. When I asked what it was for she said it was her Wedding Card for him.  A few days later I found the card in her backpack and asked why she didn't give it to her friend.  Her reply, "The wedding is off! I asked him to marry me and he said, 'No, thanks.'"  My response, "Oh, I'm sorry honey.  Are you sad?"  Then she says, "No, I realized this would be a great story to tell my children someday.  They need to know that 5 years old is too young to marry. I made a big mistake thinking otherwise."
3. Scott and I were discussing a minor beef we were having with the Middle School principal when Harley interrupted our conversation by saying,   "I think that principal needs this..."  At this point she balled up here little fist and with her thumb extended she made a slicing motion across her throat.  "Harley!" I exclaimed, to which she responded with, "Oh, I guess be-heading is a little harsh.  Sometimes I think I am too rebellious for this family."  Yeah, she talks like that but she can't count to twenty.  For example...
4.  In Kindergarten those students who can count to 100 get a special prize and become part of the "100 CLUB."  Harley is dying to get into the 100 CLUB and we have been practicing but those darn teens always pose a problem.  Yesterday she came home from school very dejected.  She explained that she tried to get into the 100 CLUB, again, but, "that teacher noticed when I skipped the teens and went straight to twenty. Sometimes that lady puts me on the edge."  By the way that is what she calls her teacher, "THAT TEACHER"  but trust me coming from Harley that is a term of endearment. I think I gave birth to a real life Junie B. Jones.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Papa Edgar

(July 2014-Atley, Nash & Harley with their Great-Grandpa & Grandma Edgar)

Right before the school year ended I called my Grandparents. Generally, we talk every couple of weeks, sometimes more frequently. But, the hectic nature of the year ending had aided in my procrastination of calling and despite repeated promptings to call sooner I had not.  You can imagine my surprise when a dear cousin answered my grandparent's phone, in the middle of the day, on a Thursday. Of course, I immediately knew something was wrong and my cousin's reluctance to explain what he was doing there at such an odd time only intensified my fears.  Eventually, my grandma was placed on the phone and fighting through her tears, she explained to me that several days earlier my grandpa had become unexpectedly ill and despite everyone's best efforts he was not going to survive.  He was home under the care of hospice, unable to eat, drink or speak and I was thousands of miles away.  Grandma explained that he understood what people were saying, so she put the phone to his ear and I told him how very much I loved him and that I was going to get there as soon as possible.  
(Clive Edgar 15 years old)

Not knowing if we would make it in time, the kids and I caught the next available flight. We didn't arrive until very late Sunday night.  I called to see if it was too late for me to come see grandpa. Grandma's reply was that he was waiting for me and wouldn't go to sleep until I arrived. I thought my heart would break in two.  There he lay looking so small and frail in his hospital bed, propped up in the living room of their home.  He was indeed waiting for me and miraculously he was communicating.  I told him again how much I loved him and he reminded me of the song he had asked me to sing at his funeral-My Way by Frank Sinatra. I told him I would do whatever he wanted. Then he asked me if I would sing it to him right then and there.  I'm not really sure how I got through singing him that song,  while he cried beside me along with the rest of the family. It most certainly was divine intervention and such a comfort to both of us as we said our goodbyes.  My grandfather passed away on June 30, 2015. He was 79 years old.  

(Papa letting me play nurse circa. 1984)

When I was a kid 79 would have seemed ancient but as each year passes I realize how very young 79 years old is. In fact, 90 seems younger everyday.  I wasn't ready to lose my grandfather.  It was hard. What made it harder was the feeling I got from others that losing a grandparent wasn't really a big deal.  Granted, my grandpa lived a full life, full of adventure, full of love, heartbreak and learning.  But I loved him and because of that, it was never going to be easy to say goodbye.  

My grandpa was a unique man.  He overcame many difficulties.  He was creative and artistic. He loved learning. He loved people. He was generous and loved his family despite how they may break his heart at times.  Most of my childhood was spent only a few miles from his home. I went there after school most days and when grandma didn't have cookies baked for me, which she usually did, grandpa would sit down with me and we would eat saltines with thousand island dressing.  He would tell me stories and ask me questions and he listened to what I had to say.  His influence on my life was inevitable. 
He always encouraged me.  One New Year's Eve I was staying at my Grandpa and Grandma Edgar's house while my parents were out with friends.  I was probably 9 years old and I desperately wanted to stay up until midnight. I was starting to get very tired and was afraid I wasn't going to make it until midnight.  Grandpa brought me an exercise trampoline and told me to start jumping to stay awake. It was only 10:30 at this point.  After at least 45 minutes of solid jumping, my grandmother began to be concerned.  She asked me something like, "Are you getting too tired?  Maybe you better take a break?"  My reply was, "I'm no wimp grandma."  Then Grandpa said, "That's right. She is not a wimp. She is the toughest girl I know. She can do anything."  Something about the way he said those words, made me believe him and believe in myself. I jumped all the way to midnight.  He gave me the gift of confidence.
 His love for me was  unconditional and I knew it.  I was certain I was his favorite grandchild.  But that is what is most remarkable, I  think all of his grandkids were certain they were the favorite.  He made us all feel special.  He encouraged me to write and sing. He was proud of me when I graduated from college and more proud when I gave up my career to have a baby.  He tried to teach me to paint and loved the disaster that I created.  He took me on jewelry selling trips and taught me to love green chili on everything.  He gently cut the turquoise ring off of my finger when I was bucked off of a horse and several weeks later replaced it with a brand new ring that he said he had made even sturdier for all the mischief I seemed to get into.
He taught me to appreciate the simple things and recognize the beauty in God's creations. One example of this happened right before his passing. 
Grandpa had a humming bird feeder in front of his window.  He often talked about this little yellow bird that would show up to eat from the hummingbird feeder. Before he passed away that little yellow bird returned to the feeder.  Grandpa cried to see his feathered friend again.  What an example of finding joy in the little things! 
Grandpa and Grandma bickered like little kids but as he lay dying his greatest concern was that my grandma be taken care of. He loved her and they worked at their marriage.  Many years ago my grandparents had to move from a home that they built and loved.  The day they were leaving my grandma dug up a little tree sprouting from the grass. She planted it into a pot and carried it around in that pot as they moved from place to place before finally settling into the home in which my grandfather died.  At one point my grandpa planted that little sprout in the ground by my grandmother's kitchen window. It grew into a beautiful crab apple tree.  One morning a few days after my grandfather passed away I walked into the kitchen to see my grandmother crying over a little box on her kitchen table.  Inside the box was a necklace my grandfather had made for her from the branches of her crab apple tree, attached was a poem he had written.

Love Is

Love is free
Love is kind
Love is Eternal
Love is sublime
Love is strong, give it time
Love is even a small crabtree
Love is made from its branch you'll see
Love is the fat on the soul
that keeps you warm when you get old.

Thanks for all you taught me Papa. Thanks for loving me and my babies and for loving my grandma. I think of you often and am so grateful you were my grandpa. You and grandma provided me with an ideal childhood, full of love, adventure and excitement. I'll miss our chats on the phone.  I can hear your voice in my head answering and saying, "Hey, Sugar!  How's that awful neighbor of yours?"  Of course I always knew you meant Obama. 

Love you forever,


You ever notice how many quotes there are about change.
 For example,
"If nothing ever changed there would be no butterflies."
"Change is inevitable. Progress is optional."
"All great changes are preceded by chaos."
"Any change, even a change for the better is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."

The theme of my life over the past 3 months has been all about change and just like the quotes above there have been some drawbacks, discomforts, plenty of chaos and hopefully a little bit of progress.  There have been some heartbreaks and tremendous blessings and busyness like never before.  Hence, the long absence from the blog.  
By the way we did celebrate Easter this year.
Just wanted to throw that out there.  
Anyway, fair warning, my next 30 or 40 posts may be a little disjointed and perhaps sometimes incoherent, what can I say, my art is imitating my life.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Appendicitis Sucks

About a month ago my life was super busy, as every springtime inevitably is, and I really didn't have time for surgery or sickness or anything else but on May 28th while I was watching Nash's baseball game I started feeling sick. Actually, I really started feeling sick about five days earlier while we were on vacation for Atley's birthday.  I just ignored it.  In fact, I tried to do the same thing during Nash's game, attributing the pains in my stomach to the McDonald's fries and Diet Coke I had just scarfed down.  (Truth be told that healthy diet could have contributed to my impending condition.)
When we got home that night I was undeniably feeling terrible. I took a few Tums, mumbled about how we needed to eat better and laid down.  Around midnight I woke up with pains in the center of my stomach. I got out of bed and felt nauseous.  The pain increased, I had a horrible case of the chills and I started vomiting.   Gradually, the pain became worse and it began centralizing on my right side.  I walked upstairs and told Scott that I thought I needed to go to the hospital.  He didn't respond so I started making lots of noise looking for my shoes and bra.  Yeah, I'm even passive aggressive when I'm deathly ill. He woke up dazed and confused and I told him again that I was going to the hospital.  I grabbed my keys and headed for the door. Of course, he tried to stop me and told me I was obviously not thinking clearly, driving one's self to the hospital was ridiculous.   So, just for everyone's information and for the sake of our posterity, Scott wanted to drive me to the hospital.  He did not want me to go alone, BUT we had three kids sleeping upstairs and I was in too much pain to deal with all that. I had to get there quickly, so I just left him bewildered, standing in the doorway. He was perhaps a little unsure whether he was awake or asleep.

 Luckily, there wasn't a lot of traffic at 2 AM and I made it to the Emergency Room Valet without inflicting further injury upon myself or anyone else.  I felt a little dizzy as I stood at the front desk, filling out the endless paper work and the next thing I remember I was slumped over in front of said desk with a nurse and an orderly trying to get me into a wheelchair.  The whole passing-out nonsense turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They realized quickly that I was pretty sick and rushed me back to triage. Nurses took my blood and urine samples and put me in a room next to a stab wound victim who had  lots of suspicious visitors and a few police officers milling around both our doors which was totally exciting. I kept pretending I wasn't really sick but undercover trying to find the victims would-be murderer. I have a very healthy imagination.
  I explained my symptoms to doctors and nurses and residents and was promptly hooked up to an IV and given something for nausea and pain.  I was carted down the hall for a CT scan with and without contrast and was feeling pretty fantastic with the cocktail of drugs coursing through my veins. The drugs were so wonderful I was pretty sure I must have just had gas and that I was miraculously cured of my flatulence and would be going home in a matter of minutes.  Much to my surprise, the doctor came in and stated that I had an appendicitis and would be requiring surgery soon.

"Oh, okay. Well, I'll be back in a few days then." I said this while attempting to stand up and grab my purse.  I believe this was that FIGHT or FLIGHT response I read about in Biology freshman year.

"No, actually, you will be going into surgery in about 20 minutes, or as soon as we can get that antibiotic drip bag into your veins."

"Wait, what?"

At this point I thought I might need to call Scott and explain to him what was going on. He certainly couldn't make it before my surgery began and I was feeling pretty scared and pretty alone.  I had about 15 minutes of conscious thought to say my prayers.  Truthfully, I am not afraid of being cut open.  In fact, this was going to be the 5th time my stomach would be sliced and diced. I even jokingly asked if they could just install a zipper while they were in there. What I am terrified of, is anesthesia and horrible doctors. I prayed more sincerely than I had for quite sometime.  I prayed for comfort, for a feeling of peace and calmness to accept whatever was going to happen.

Flash back almost 11 years to the day-Atley's birth was extremely difficult for both of us.  He still carries the scars of a traumatic birth in the form of a brain cyst.  After more than three days of trying to have him, we were both in distress and taken in for an emergency C-Section.  Of course, I was scared then too. As they wheeled me into the operating room Scott said,  "It's going to be fine.  I'll see you on the other side."  I remember not knowing whether to laugh or cry at his poor choice of words, "I'll see you on the other side."  It sounded like he thought I was about to meet my maker.   Since that time we have always laughed and joked about the incident and it has become a part of my vernacular. When the kids are facing something difficult, I will whisper to them, "It's going to be fine. I'll see you on the other side."

So, as I lay in that hospital bed, alone, early that morning, awaiting surgery, praying for comfort, I remember saying something like this, "Please help me to know that you are with me and that I am going to be okay."  Soon after I finished that prayer I was being wheeled down the hall to another operating room in a different state, eleven years later. My husband wasn't there to offer me any infuriating words of comfort. It was just me. Suddenly, a young nurse approached and tapped me on the shoulder.  He uttered a few words that were sent to me directly from heaven and were nothing short of miraculous. He said, "It's going to be fine. I'll see you on the other side." A feeling of peace warmed my entire body.

I will never forget that tender mercy from a most loving Heavenly Father. There were certainly others in that hospital on that early morning who were in more dire circumstances than I, but He took the time to comfort me in a very personal way and I am eternally grateful to Him for that reminder of His love for all of His children.  I am also grateful to the young nurse who showed compassion and was willing to be an instrument in our Father's hands.

When I woke up from surgery Scott and Harley were there.  Harley was happily taking pictures of me on my phone and I was so grateful to see both of them.
What I thought would take a week to recover has taken nearly a month. I have had a few complications, including an allergic reaction to the surgical glue, a re-opening of my incisions, an infection and countless disgusting things I won't share, BUT I think I am on the mend.  
Fingers crossed anyway! 
 My mother-in-law flew in for a few days and was such a tremendous help to our family. She organized kitchen cabinets and closets, kept us fed and did enough laundry to last a lifetime and most importantly kept the kids and animals at bay.
Harley's favorite part  of the whole ordeal was hanging out with me in the hospital.  Every time I would get up to use the bathroom or walk around she would jump at the chance to put on my leg compressors.  
Her smile is always a bright spot during hard times.  
Nash wrote me countless get-well cards and was as sweet and tender as possible. Here is one of my favorites.
(Translation:  I have the best mom ever. But isn't that obvious. Also get well soon. P.S. This paper looks like Utah.)
 Atley kept it real. One day he came up to my bedroom and explained how he had just read a study about kids with concussions.  Apparently, the quicker they got out of bed and resumed normal activity the faster they healed.  Perhaps I could take that same advice with my problems.  Hey, it's hard on everyone when momma is sick.
And if you will humor me for a moment-my sweet husband has been so good and kind to me this past month.  He has had to do much more than his fair share of the work while I got better and I am so thankful for his efforts. 
 I hope this post doesn't sound overly dramatic. I am fully aware that in the grand scheme of  the world's problems an appendectomy is not terribly serious, but it was certainly serious enough for me to realize that maybe all my busy-ness was misspent on insignificant things. I am reevaluating my priorities and gaining a whole new sense of gratitude for my good health. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Atley's 11!

I am going to refrain from all the usual birthday clich├ęs like, "How did this happen?"  "It seems like only yesterday when he was born." or  "I can't possibly be old enough to have an 11 year old." And head straight into how this child wanted to celebrate his big day.  His first request was a cheese cake topped with French Macaroons from his favorite bakery, Fluffy Thoughts.
Atley always wants to be on the go.  He loves to travel, loves history and really loves gift shops.  This year Grandpa and Grandma Butler came up and we all headed to Williamsburg for the Memorial Day weekend.  He had a great four days planned for us and we just followed him around providing the necessary cash.
Our first stop was Norfolk where we took a cruise on the Elizabeth River.  We were able to cruise around the Naval Station and see all the ships at dock. An aircraft carrier even went right by us with the sailors manning the rails.  It was a perfect day.

 On our second day we visited both Jamestown Historic Site and Jamestown Settlement.  Harley socialized with Pocahontas, Nash was too lazy to walk himself and Atley corrected the tour guides whenever they provided misinformation.
We also spent some R & R at the resort swimming and working on our calligraphy.

Day 3 found us at Yorktown Victory Center.  The boys enlisted in the Continental Army until Nash panicked when he thought he had actually joined the ranks. He attempted to tear up his enlistment papers but we told him a contract was a contract. He spent the next three days asking us if he really had to go to war and when he had to report to duty.

We spent our last day at Virginia Beach and thus ended Atley's Birthday trip extravaganza. 
We love you Mr. Beans and can't wait to see where you take us next year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm

After 7 years of living only a mile from Claude Moore Colonial Farm we were FINALLY able to go to the tri-annual Market Fair. Claude Moore Farm is a living history museum. Actors "live" as a country family would have lived in the year 1771. They farm crops native to Virginia in the manner taught to them by the Powhatan Indians.  It is like a miniature Colonial Williamsburg but way more manageable.
Nash took to heart the idea of "putting aside the routine chores and cares of life," by practicing a little meditation.
Our first order of business was exchanging our 21st century money for some 18th century Spanish Coins.  Apparently the colonists were not able to import English money so they used Spanish silver. Each silver coin was cut into 4 bits.  At the fair each bit was worth a dollar.
Next task-FOOD!  We had bread and cheese with blood sausage and roasted chicken, pecan pie and homemade pickles. DELISH.
The kids talked to the interpreters of all ages, played colonial games, shopped for colonial wears, made candles, scent satchels, and Harley painted a lovely fan and made a Corn Husk Doll.

Everything was so adorable and educational.  It was great fun!