Thursday, May 29, 2014

Big Boy Brandon!

Two of my friends--I don't mention names--told me age three is worse than two, and I'm afraid they might be right! We had another terrible toddler year, especially at Walmart, which somehow brings out the worst in him. I'd probably cry every time I went in Walmart, too, if I didn't have to act like an adult.

Well now he's four, and to celebrate we started the day off with a trip to McDonald's with his BFF.

These two have had play dates all year, which have been so fun for them (and have provided much needed sanity for me and BFF's mom).

Brandon told me he wanted water balloons for his birthday, so we went outside and had a water balloon popping party!

Later in the day we had a party with friends and family, and he got lots of cool stuff! He especially loved the clothes, which I found still folded up amidst the pile of bags and wrapping paper after the party. He didn't even bother to check them out! I assure you I loved the clothes VERY much.

But the best thing was his NEW BIKE! This is his first bike ever, so he was really excited.

We sang the best rendition of Happy Birthday in the history of happy birthday singing, and that's hard to do!

Mama had a momentary lapse in judgement and decided to make cake pops. They were truly sorry looking, but they still tasted good!

Brandon always chows down on the pistachios when he's at my mom's house, so she gave him a whole bag for his birthday. Yessss!

The next day, we went out and rode bikes. First thing he did was sit on his bike when I wasn't looking and roll down to the bottom of the driveway until he crashed. So sad! But we got him back on there, and big sister helped him get used to it.

He's been asking to go out and ride bikes ever since.

Happy birthday to my big little boy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Celebration of Learning

Oh you know as soon as I heard that Paigey needed a costume for the living wax museum at her school, I was all over it! Unfortunately, despite my alterations, the bodice didn't fit her well, and so I had to take a lot of it apart and alter it some more. I was still sewing 20 minutes before show time, but we made it! I do declare, she looked beautiful. The only things missing were the ringlets I had planned to put in her hair and a brooch for the center. Goodwill did not come through for me on that one.

See that little ping pong ball sitting inside a toilet paper roll on the bookcase behind her? Each student had to make a button that the visitors could press if they wanted to hear her little speech. She took it upon herself to find things around the house that would work for her button. With a spring from Dad's workshop to provide tension, she had the best button there, and she knew it. What a creative little tinkerer she is! Just like her daddy.

She also had a very long speech that she memorized. Her voice was so quiet that we could barely hear her, but she knew her stuff!

Then we went to Kallie's classroom to check out the work she has done this year. She was so proud of her two "selfies."

I think the school invites us to come down to this celebration of learning so we can burst with pride at our little ones. I know I did!

Monday, May 19, 2014


Egad! Clearing the pictures off my memory card made me realize I forgot to post any pictures of Easter! Not that there were many worth sharing... it's so hard to capture an Easter egg hunt. The kids run too fast!


After church, Uncle Jeremy hid some eggs for all the kids to find.

Baby Gems has a new tongue trick, and she loves to demonstrate it for anyone who is willing to do it with her.

Cute girls!

Just another beautiful Easter afternoon in Arizona.

Monday, May 12, 2014


Wow, my posts have been few and far between. Part of it is that we haven't done much this spring because we're saving money for some future adventure that we hope will materialize. (I guess I'm dreaming big because I went ahead and got passports for the family.) Also, we've done a few projects around the house, which isn't exactly fun, but it always feels good when a project is done. (Hello new dishwasher and lemon tree... both of which I installed myself! Okay, I had a little help with the tree.)

That doesn't mean we haven't had any fun. We did the neon splash dash again this year. Our team was cursed... people dropping out like flies, mainly due to injuries, but the few and the proud were there to represent! Russ sprained his ankle four weeks before, so he walked and took some major shortcuts. However, I was so proud of myself for being fit enough to jog the whole way... see, I usually hate all forms of running, so I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. Not only that, but I jogged four miles a couple of nights later with Kyle to prove to myself that I could have jogged the whole way if not for the stations (where we slowed down and even went through a few times to really get nailed with the neon). The following week, I jogged home from the gym and that's when I realized it's having someone to jog with that makes it bearable.

Which brings me to "BEFORE."

And "AFTER."

Last year there was neon water at every station. This year, we were surprised to get cornstarch thrown on us at the second and fourth stations... not as surprised as Chelsey when I threw a handful in her face! Of course, being the great friend that I am, I threw some on myself to be fair. The combination of the water and cornstarch made our faces into crusty birthday cakes.

At the end, we partied at the tower, trying to get some orange neon water on us to round out the look. It was super fun!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Another day passed, another round of clean up and teeth brushing done, and I had finally managed to fall asleep and allow my mind to explore the secret passages for which the day has no time. For a moment, at least--an hour at most. Suddenly there was a distant cry, and my dreams took pause to investigate the intrusion. And then another cry, yet louder, until the spell was broken. Finding myself back home in bed, I sensed the urgency of the cry and rushed into my son's room to see what was the matter. At four and still potty training, it's almost always an emergency. His cries were interrupted by a gag, and so I quickly swooped him into my arms and rushed him to the toilet. Yeah, here's the ugly, really unglamorous part: he puked, and I had the first heaves of it on my chest and hair to prove it. After cleaning him up and getting him back in bed, I found myself lying in bed awake with a restless mind feverishly writing this blog post. But I'm scared. Scared to admit things to other people, scared they will believe me, and scared that I might fail. Or am I scared that I might actually succeed?

Terrified, really. And now I've come to a mental block because everything I want to say is once again tied up and held prisoner in my head. Don't let it escape! the soldiers cry, and I die a little more, but this time I won't go down without a fight. So let me start with a story I wrote years ago:

Grandma. She was an icon of strength and endurance. She was the top of our matriarchal line, and along with Grandpa, she was the thread that held the rest of the family together. It was her famous biscuits and gravy that we all craved, her rendition of “Kitten on the Keys” that was etched into our memories from the earliest ages, her hand in the garden that taught us everything we know about growing things. She was the unrecognized guest of honor at every family function. Even now, the mountains, a hearth stove, and Thanksgiving dinners speak her name. So ingrained into the fibers of my being was this woman and the family that she created, that I felt an unquenchable desire to salvage whatever I could from this piece of myself before her death. When Grandpa died, he tore a gaping hole in the fabric of the family, and as the family scrambled to find bits to piece together in his memory, we found that all that was left was a few threadbare fibers – torn, frayed, and incomplete. I was determined not to make the same mistake.

Grandma’s life was one of sacrifice. At the age of ten, she lost her mother to tuberculosis. Her father’s devastation ran deep, and he began to withdraw from everything that used to be important, and he didn’t want my grandmother to have anything to do with her mother’s family. A child emotionally abandoned, she was angry and alone. But there was music. She played boogie-woogie and ragtime, and it was there that she found her escape and even salvation. She met and married my grandpa when she was nineteen. He was in the Navy, so she left her home and followed him wherever the Navy sent him until they shipped him off to war. Alone again with their first child, she went to live with his parents, but she might as well have moved to a foreign country. Having grown up in Kansas City, she was a city girl, and this little farming town had not been part of her dream. She hated the farm, but she had married a farmer, and after the elation of falling in love had faded, this was her reality. When Grandpa came home, he worked on his parents’ farm for a few years before buying a home and moving the family to another small farming community where they knew no one except Grandpa’s sister, whose husband had gone in on the farm with them. There they had four more children. Just when life had stabilized for a while, her oldest son was killed by a car while riding his bike. Her grief was intense, but she had four other children to raise, and her duty to them kept her going. Duty. She lived on that farm and she raised those children because it was her duty, and she was a loyal, righteous woman.

Near the end of my interview with Grandma, I asked what her greatest accomplishments were. She sat quiet for a moment, her eyes looking at the floor. “I never thought of myself as someone who had accomplishments,” she said quietly. I just looked at her in silence, waiting for a different response, but nothing came easily. I looked at her then and saw the torment in her eyes. I knew she was searching for something to say, something for her posterity to remember her for. I studied her thin, white hair and pale, translucent skin. Her hands looked frail, her nails yellow with age. Through her large glasses, I could see the tiny twinkle of her eye set back among her wrinkly skin. She had once been confident, stunning, and strong, but the years had eroded away at all of that and she now seemed so helpless and fragile. Still, I waited.

Timidly, she began, “Of course, it was my music, I suppose, because that's what kept me alive, I think, after my mother died.” She was a fabulous musician, and I let my mind, like a child, wander back to those happy moments when we listened as her hands danced up and down the keys at a dizzying pace. I wished I could hear it right then, but it existed only as an echo in the caverns of memory. Then she continued, “But I don't know, my greatest accomplishment was probably marrying Grandpa and getting in the Payne family.” I exhaled and put on a slight smile as I felt a sort of tentative relaxation come over my body. Even if it wasn’t the answer she had expected to give, it was an answer nonetheless. I wondered why she made no mention of her life work, raising her five children. After all, that was what she had really dedicated her life to. Why now did it not seem to matter? Why was it forgotten? That question haunted my thoughts as I spent the next several weeks transcribing the interview. As I put together chapters telling her story and struggled to write the dedication, I couldn’t help but think I had to give more meaning to her words.

This was supposed to be an excerpt from a book I was going to try to write. I don't write books, honestly, and I had no plot anyway. I had a problem but no resolution, so I thought maybe I'd just start writing and discover the ending as I went. It was to be a journey of exploration that was supposed to lead to some kind of happily ever after... but what if it didn't? Perhaps I'd only find a tragedy, and so I ran from it. But I couldn't escape. The ending that I feared stared at me day after day in every grocery list, load of laundry, and crumb to be swept.

To be continued?