Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hershey Park

Day 2 of Atley's birthday weekend found us at Hershey Amusement Park. We spent the night across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, PA and despite the coal train cars you cannot see in the picture and the fact that I took it with my IPhone, Pennsylvania is beautiful. 
 Unfortunately, I woke up with what I thought was food poisoning but judging by the vomit sounds in the bathroom coming from the hubby three days later, I apparently had a violent case of the stomach flu.   Either way the day was a special kind of hell for me, but the kids had a great time. I didn't get a lot of great photos to demonstrate just how much fun everyone but me had because I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I am sure you can imagine the pain of being nauseous,  extremely un-constipated, dehydrated and achy in 90 degree heat with the smell of funnel cakes and sweaty bodies floating around your nose all while watching things spin in a circle for 10 hours. Everyone thought I was one hardcore roller coaster rider judging by my frequent bouts of vomiting in the bushes. Too much information? But, again Atley had a very memorable day and someday that is all we will remember. That and the fact that Scott lost his wallet and we were blessed when someone very honest turned it into the lost and found with the cash still inside.  

A Birthday at Gettysburg

That title sounds pretty morbid, right?  Anyway, the first stop on Atley's birthday trip was Gettysburg.  Immediately, the boys chose opposing sides of the war dressing up like Johnny Reb and Billy Yank. I can imagine as young Virginian's in 1861, the boys may have made a similar choice.  Atley is a staunch federalist and Nash is always the rebel. As you can see in the pictures below, Johnny Reb had a bit too much fun with his sling-shot, even torturing Honest Abe and pretending to eliminate Yankee troops on the Cyclorama painting.

 After watching the film, visiting the museum and the cyclorama at the visitor's center we bought an audio tour from the gift shop and drove around the enormous battlefield ourselves.  I definitely recommend this option for anyone traveling with kids. You can make your tour as long (up to six hours) or as short as you need/want it to be.

Gettysburg is the world's largest statuary garden, with almost 1,400 monuments dedicated to different men and regiments. I took many pictures of monuments most more impressive than those above, but these were the kid's favorites. Top Left:  During the first day of the three day battle a large oak tree stood in that spot.  Receiving a direct cannon hit the tree was decapitated leaving behind only a tall stump.  When the top of the tree fell, a bird's nest also fell out of one of the branches with three baby birds.  In the middle of the battle a Union Soldier picked up the nest and put it on top of the stump.  Several minutes later the mother bird came back with worms for her babies, just like the battle around her wasn't even an issue. Top Right:  Atley standing at the spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address.  As a side note I had to memorize that address in third grade for hitting my teacher in the back with a spit wad.
Bottom:  Harley picking flowers to give to the puppy named Sally who died on the battlefield with the Pennsylvania Infantry.
When you read about the Battle of Gettysburg you read about the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field and of course Big and Little Round Top.  Above the boys played on the rocks of Little Round top where the Union Troops dug in and had a significant geographical advantage over the confederates below.  
The National Cemetery at Gettysburg is a remarkably moving place. I felt fortunate and grateful to be there over Memorial Day weekend. My pictures do no justice to the amount of graves filled with unidentified soldiers. A few, mostly Union graves,  have names but most graves are simply numbers and with 51,000 casualties at Gettysburg the numbers grow larger and larger as you walk through each row.  Each section of the cemetery is marked by a section of poem called the Bivouac of the Dead. Four stanzas from the poem is pictured above. It reads:
The Muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The Soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That Brave and fallen few
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
Your own proud lands heroic soil
Must be your fitter grave
She claims from war his biggest spoil
The ashes of the Brave
Rest on Embalmed and Sainted Dead
Dear as the blood you gave
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.

Atley's 10

A decade! My baby has been around for 1/10th of a century.  He is the most unique, positive, creative, uninhibited,  intelligent, handsome, and kind-hearted child on the planet.  So, of course he deserved an unforgettable birthday. His actual birthday was not terribly exciting.  He had end-of-year tests at school so he couldn't party too hard.He had his favorite cake for his birthday breakfast-blueberry cheese cake and took cupcakes for his classmates. He spent the rest of his free time building the new LEGO sets he received and watching the LEGO movie.  

His real party started on the weekend which we spent in Pennsylvania at Gettysburg & Hershey Park.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fire-Belly Toad Fiasco

Without my knowledge Atley answered an ad from a lady who needed someone to take her two fire-belly toads. He wrote something like, "My two sons would love to have your toads. Love, Melisa"  Several hours later I received a call that I could pick up the toads as soon as possible, of course I was clueless about what the lady was talking about.  Long story short, last Monday the boys became the proud papas of 2 Fire-Belly Toads and a carton of live crickets. They named their toads Bob McDonnell and Paul Ryan.

Our cat Lucy was not thrilled with the new addition and spent many hours swatting at the aquarium and the cricket keeper.
So, I suppose it should not have been a surprise when I returned from running errands, less than 24 hours after the toads arrival, that Lucy had some how managed to knock the aquarium off of the counter and the toxic toads were missing, along with 10 live crickets.  The boys were at school at the time and we frantically searched for the missing creatures, finally finding one toad hiding under the hutch and covered in cat fur.  Atley was devestated to discover that the toad was missing, especially when Nash convinced him that said toad was most certainly Atley's (aka Paul Ryan) and not his own.  As if they could actually tell the two politicians apart. Two days passed and still no sign of the missing toad.  Scott and I had to go to the pet store to buy some more crickets to feed to the one remaining toad.  As luck would have it, the Fire-Belly Toads were on sale and we decided to attempt the old-switch-a-roo.  We bought a replacement toad. The plan was to lie to the children, which totally worked by the way and I highly recommend it. When we returned home Lucy had once again attacked the aquarium, but this time as I bent down to take a picture of the wreckage as documentation for the boys, I noticed 2 little toad legs sticking out of the dishwasher.
We captured him before he could escape. We once again have 2 toads that have already lost their excitement to the boys and the cat and are now completely my responsibility.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Embarrassing Beaver Boy

This post is dedicated to my son who has been recently called Beaver Boy because of his gorgeous front chompers.  As you can see he has embraced this new nickname by gnawing on the wood molding in our home. I can think of a few better names for this mean little kid. Nash has been a bit more vocal lately. Translation:  Nash has said a bunch of embarrassing things lately.  I am going to share four of them so that they can forever be chronicled in the everlasting annuls of the Internet. Warning: Some of the information shared below may be considered too obscene for some audiences.

1.  Nash accidentally threw a football over the fence into the neighbor's yard.  Our neighbor is a super nice man but for some reason Nash was terrified to ask for his ball back.  He finally recruited his brother to go with him to knock on the neighbor's door.  Of course the neighbor was nice and returned Nash's football. This neighbor is also an older gentleman. He is quite tall, very thin and completely bald.  As Nash was thanking him and leaving the neighbor's house I hear him yell back, "Thanks again and I really hope your cancer gets better!"  The neighbor does not have cancer.
2.  Nash was invited to a paint ball birthday party. He was so excited despite my warning that paint balls hurt when they hit you.  As we walked the little boys up to the paint ball course, I could hear Nash talking trash to his buddies about how he was going to destroy them.  Less than 5 seconds into the first round Nash was shot directly into his manhood.  At which point he began rolling around the ground screaming, "My nuts! My nuts!  You shot off my nuts!"  He began pulling off his clothes and yelling for me, "Mom, I can't look!  Please help me! Look and see if I still have my nuts!" I checked and they were in tact. He did not believe my reassurances but was too afraid to look himself, certain that they were either missing or bleeding.  In front of a crowd of parents he asked me to describe them to him so that he could know for sure if they were okay. I just walked away shaking my head.  30 seconds later he was screaming again. "My nipple! You shot off my nipple!"
3.  Nash is a very good little baseball player.  He was proud to tell me that one of his coaches even told him that he was "builded like Bryce Harper!"  This news is especially exciting for a lefty like Nash since Bryce is also left-handed. We have spent many hours at the ball field this spring.  Last night it was our family's turn to provide the team snack.  It was a very warm summer-like night so along with some other treats I took along some watermelon.  As the kids and families gathered around to partake.  Nash made the announcement that I decided to bring watermelon because I was very concerned about how fat some of the kids and their parents were getting.  Of course that was a huge lie designed to make me squirm which was made only worse by the fact that there are a number of chubby kids on the team.

4.  In LDS jargon I am called the Primary President, which means that I am in charge of the kids ages 18 months to 12 years old each Sunday. One might assume that a person with this job would have children who were not only well behaved but had a basic understanding of what is and is not appropriate to say at church. We have been working on sharing our testimony's of the gospel in primary each month.  Nash has never felt the desire to share his testimony so I was ecstatic and nervous to see him stand up to share his feelings about the church and his Savior.  I quickly whispered in his ear before he reached the pulpit that his job was not to make people laugh but to be serious.  This is me paraphrasing what Nash said:  "My brother has a friend that said he would give me $20 to give up my religion and join his.  I told him I wouldn't do it for $20 but I would do it for $40 because I really wanted the Lego Sandcrawler.  He said we had a deal and then he started to tell me about his religion.  He said when a man and woman get married the man goes inside the woman..."  Imagine me running to his side to yank him away from the microphone at this point.  I was terrified about what might come out of his mouth next. I jerked him into the hallway furious and more embarrassed than I can express.  I asked him what he was talking about and more importantly what was his point.  Why would he think that the crazy and creepy story he was sharing was a testimony?  My handling of the situation will most likely cause him to never ever share his testimony again.  He explained to me that his brother's friend, who is Hindu, told him how he believed that when a person dies he becomes a star but when a man and woman get married a new man is formed in the woman's belly from that star.  At this point I was a little bit relieved that he had not actually been educated  about the birds and bees from a 9 year old boy.  He further explained that he was going to say that when he heard about that weird religion, our church didn't seem so weird and he decided not to accept the $40 even though he still really wanted that Lego set.  We had a long talk about how discussions or criticisms about other churches was really not appropriate.

Despite his uncanny ability to tease and embarrass me on occasion, I love him so very much and I adore the card he made me for Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Arlington House

I owed Atley a day to skip school since his little brother had one several weeks ago and apparently we keep close track of who gets to miss more school and "it must be even."  I think my sons might be socialists.  Anyway, Atley had to settle for a half-day excursion.  We went to Arlington Cemetery to visit the home of Robert E. Lee.  It has been on his Civil War To-Do-List for a while.  I envision him as an old man spending his retirement participating in Civil War Battle Reenactments every weekend.

One of the most interesting things we have discovered about Virginia architecture is how they created  faux stone finishes. At Arlington House and Mt. Vernon, it looks like the structure is built of stone but it is actually planks of wood with a paint and sand mixture to create the look of stone. 

We learned that years after the sting of the Civil War was over the U.S. Government built the bridge you can see in the distant background.  It provided a straight line of sight from Robert E. Lee's home to the Lincoln Memorial to demonstrate how we became united as a nation once again.
Atley at JFK's grave trying to figure out the whole Eternal Flame thing!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pink Princess

Our baby is 4 years old!  We celebrated her birthday last weekend.  I adore having a girl.  She wanted her birthday to revolve around flowers, the color pink, princesses and cake.  Sounded perfect to me.  She got up especially early on her big day and so we decided to go for a walk while the rest of the family slept.  She spent our time picking dandelions so that she could blow on them to make birthday wishes. I will always cherish the memory of that quiet cool morning walking with her.  She loves nature and has so much enthusiasm for life.  She recognizes the beauty all around her and finds complete joy in it.  She sang songs for the flowers and trees, the birds and the worms and even the weeds in the grass.  My heart felt like it would burst with love for her!
Later we went to Burnside Tulip Farm in Haymarket, Virginia.  She was so excited to get to pick from so many beautiful tulips and daffodils.  

After "brothers" came home from school we had cake and presents.  Grandpa and Grandma Butler were here to enjoy the festivities with us.  In typical Harley style everything had to be pink and she even wore a pink princess crown and dress.

Happy Birthday to my darling daughter! May you always know you are beautiful and remember the gift you have been given of bringing happiness and light to all those around you.