My job

Sometimes the best way for me to spend my time as a homeschooling mom is to keep Yessa entertained so that Buster and Monkey can focus on what they are reading or doing.

Tough job, but somebody has got to do it.

Friends For Dinner

David and Ruth came over for dinner last night. It was the first time they’d been to our house, and the first time they met the children. It’s so funny/interesting to me to try and see our life through another person’s eyes.

David and Ruth are two of the kindest, most open-hearted people you’ll ever meet, so I wasn’t worried or anxious about their visit, but I do want people feel comfortable in our home, and I want people to enjoy being around our children.

When they arrived we had them sit on the couch in the library, which is facing the pass-through window. Buds and I were working on cooking and slicing and dicing, so it was a great way for all of us to be able to talk while still finishing dinner prep.

Zoe plopped down in the blue chair and chatted away with David and Ruth. She shared an assortment of family stories and secrets, but nothing mortifying.

Buster and Monkey popped up and down from upstairs, having food, visiting, telling some jokes. Yessa had decided she was too shy to come down, so I took some food up to her.

The adults had a lovely dinner, visiting, sharing travel ideas and insights. Ruth and David have lived all over the world, so we picked their brains and made notes on countries and cities they suggested for our Year of Adventure.

Then, after a lovely meal, prepared by Buds, David brought out his guitar. This is what it took to lure all the children downstairs. At first Yessa kept her distance from Ruth, but by the end of the night, she was snuggled right up to her, laughing and rubbing noses.

David played songs we all could sing, and after the children wandered back upstairs, he played some with a little edge to make us all laugh. It was a wonderful, musical, loving evening. I revel in seeing our children learning to choose wisely the people they would like to have as friends. David and Ruth obviously made the cut.

Looking at books with Ruth.

David explaining a musical point to Buds.

Entranced by the music.

More sharing with Ruth.

Dancing, spinning, dancing.

Memorial Day Murph

1 Mile Run to start
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile run to finish

That’s what it is. A little running, a little calisthenics, a little more running.

This was our second year participating. It’s all to honor this man, and for us, any of those who have chosen to serve in the Armed Forces. I told the children the story of LT. Michael P. Murphy and his bravery. In The Buster’s mind, he’s become the man who saved his friends and died from making a phone call.

Buds completed the workout in 38:56. It took me 1:01:00. I thought we had completed it as RX’D, but Buds just informed me that to be RX’D, we would have needed to be wearing a weight vest.

Yes, a weighted vest adding 20 or 30 pounds. Maybe next year.

Lots of our friends completed the workout in vests. Many of them wore their combat boots and wore camo. And our Vet friend, Jason, did it with his prosthetic running leg, camo, and running boot.

Around 60 of us did the WOD. Our friend Sarah had her car stolen out of her driveway in the early morning before the WOD. She still came to show her respect and support by completing this grand adventure. The heat was getting to be a factor for the 11 a.m. heat of CrossFitters. We came to test ourselves, and we stayed to cheer for each other. Some people have been training at CrossFit for a couple months, some for a couple years. Some completed a half-Murph, some completed a full, some completed a Murph in full gear, and some just came to cheer. All were greeted with camaraderie and affection. A little teasing, a little puking, a lot of watermelon, water, and beer.

Noa sat by my side and counted my rounds for me. Buds had created a very specific rep scheme to play to my “strength” of being able to only do one pull up at a time. I completed all 100: Even Mehdi would have to agree I grunted my way above that freakin’ bar every single time. And I paid for every single one of them.

I love this WOD, and more than once on my runs I thought, “LT. Murphy, I wish you were here to run this with us.”

Photo by Darryl Moody. Yessa counting my reps. "Move a weight, Noa." "Mark an 'X,' Noa."

Thanks to kind friend, Aaron Wyche, Professional Sports Photographer, and really cool guy, I have another photo of Yessa and me at Murph.

My hair looks really Amish in this picture.

And bless my Buds, there are actually photos of me running with my friend, Courtney, which I never thought would happen in a million years. My first mile was an 8:47, which is lightning speed for me. Let’s be clear. Courtney had already completed Murph. She had, in fact, been done for quite awhile. She came back out to run with me, as did our friend Jeff Namadan, because I wanted their company, and I needed their support. I would not have run nearly as much of the final mile without their presence. On the second to the last lap, as we rounded the first corner, where I would normally would have stopped to walk, Courtney said, “Okay, we slow down, but we do not stop running.” And, by golly, we didn’t. It was pretty freakin’ awesome!

We flew by in a blur.

The final sprint.

A much-desired rest.

Finally, a cute one of Buds from Beloved Darryl:

He loves this shirt. And with this smile, this had to be the start of Murph.

The Broken Arm In Pictures and Emails

To have all our visual memories of The Monkey Broken Arm Incident in one place, here are some more photos of the event.

We've just learned it's a break...

Our very first X-Ray. Zoe said, "So it's not broken?" and the nurse and I looked at each other and said, "Oh, no, it's broken."

Alternate views of the awesome break.

It felt better all wrapped up.

Notice the wrapped arm and pillow in the very front of the picture.

Here are the series of emails I shared with family and friends to keep them updated:

1) Feb. 1: It’s a break!

2) Feb. 3: Zoe broke her arm while we arm while we were in Florida, so I’m taking her to get a cast put on this morning.

3) Feb. 3 to Gina: The tough thing was, Zoe fell off a merry-go-round at the playground at the rental house and broke her arm. Of course, we didn’t know it was broken, but went ahead and assumed it was. So, we packed up as quickly as we could and drove up to Matt and April’s to have her looked at up there. She wasn’t in much pain if the arm was immobilized, and we iced it all the way there. The urgent care center put a splint on it, and we had an appointment with the ortho in Reston this morning. He put a cast on it, and we go back in a week for another x-ray to see how it is healing. Cast from armpit to fingers for at least 6 weeks.

I’m so thankful it happened on our last day to Disney, and I trust that in about 5 years this will be a great family story. For now, she’s still very sad about it, but isn’t in pain, for which I’m grateful.

4) Feb. 8: L.M. wrote last night to ask about Zoe, so I thought I’d update everyone all at once.

Yesterday was really a turning point day. She’s still very careful of the arm, and the cast still feels
very heavy, but as I tucked her into bed last night she said it doesn’t feel like it’s broken any
more, and she showed me how she can move the arm around much more easily than she had
been able to.

She hasn’t asked for any pain relief since Sunday, which seems like another good indicator.

We’ll go on Friday morning to have an x-ray taken, and that will hopefully confirm her feeling
that all is going well in healing.

Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. She has really been amazing through the whole process.

5) Feb. 8 to Aunt Liz: She flew off the merry-go-round at the subdivision of the house we rented down at Disney. It was the last morning of being able to go to Disney, so if it had to happen, it was the best timing possible. She had nearly the whole time for fun.

She broke both bones in her right arm, at the half-way point of the lower arm. Full arm cast for at least 6 weeks, x-rays once a week for the first two weeks, then possibly not for a couple weeks if all is going well. They may re-cast at some point partway through.

We’re using the same group of docs that helped with Maya’s break, and the doc we got is great.

Zoe can laugh about it now, which is a wonderful thing.

Other than that, we had a fantastic time in Florida.

6) Feb. 13 to Jenny: Did I tell you Zoe broke her right arm our last day at Disney? She flew off a merry-go-round at the playground by the house we rented. She’s doing great with it now. She’ll have had the cast for two weeks this Friday, and they will probably give her a new cast when we go in for x-rays then. This one will have gotten too loose. Then at least 4 more weeks in the cast.

7) No more updates via email after this point, but the cast did eventually come off. She was in a soft brace for 2 weeks after that, though she only ended up wearing it for 2 days. Back on the scooter and bike a week later, and now, as I write this on May 28, the “Arm Incident” is fading into the family stream of memory, except that every time someone says, “Disney was great,” someone else will chime in with, “Except when Zoe broke her arm.

Farm Day

Today we headed up to the Amish farm where our farmer–who up until today was only a name–and his family, have their home and raise the chickens and cows and pigs and sheep that make up some of our family’s food.

Before Farm Day, we had a couple family discussions about what it means to be Amish, and how we would be wearing more “covering” clothes than we might normally be out of respect for our new friends. I showed the children pictures of Amish people on the internet, and we talked about how their lives are different than ours. Especially intriguing to the kids was the choice not to have electricity.

It was an early start to the morning, but a beautiful day for a drive. When we arrived on the farm, David had started the tour in the barn where the butter was made. Rachel was working on making the butter, which involved a large metal spinner in a stainless steel box. Sarah was splooting the pounds of butter into the plastic containers in the background, though I didn’t know it was Sarah at that point.

So many intriguing things from this day:

Butter making is part art, part experience. Rachel warms the cream to 60-63 degrees, then mixes it in the mixer box, then she works it around by hand. Then the buttermilk is drained out, then it is rinsed with water. And at any point in this process she may realize something is not quite right with the butter. Maybe the cream got too warm, or the milk was a little different. She adjusts as she goes to create something handmade.

David was also a surprise. I have had this vision of “Amish Farmer” in my head. Well, David looks Amish, and I suppose I look like a 41 year old mother of three, but there’s a lot more to people than how they look. For one thing, David’s face is ageless. His hair and beard are white, but his face, and in fact the faces and skin of the whole entire family, are absolutely smooth and beautiful; incredibly gorgeous, young skin. David could be anywhere from 44-58. Buds and I could not agree on an age.

And such a tease! He could not answer a question without a joke and a twinkle in his eye.

Sarah, his wife, was also such a treat. More reserved and seemingly shy than David, but when it was just Buds and I visiting with her, she was so kind and loving and soothing to be around. She also took the time to truly listen to Zachary and shared with us that, “Your son said something to me…I can’t remember the exact words…but it was so interesting.”

It turns out that what Zachary had said to her was, “Farm Day was like a scientific adventure through a world with all the creatures of the Kingdom Animalia.”

Yeah…I can see why she couldn’t exactly remember his wording.

So, we watched butter being made. We saw the meat chickens in the portable coops out in the field. The cows were at a distance, as were the sheep that were over by the pond, but we got up close and personal with the pigs that will become our sausage someday. The children all got to hold and pet some “peeps,” and then there were the puppies.

Here are the puppy descriptions:

We were playing with the Yorkiepoos (miniature poodle mama mixed with yorkie daddy) on the lawn. The boradors were in the corn crib and I don’t think they got out to get played with. Boradors are from mama Misty who is a border collie and Goldie, the yellow lab. They are ready for new homes now, while the yorkiepoos need more time with Twinkle.

The Yorkiepoos were in a little pen on the lawn where we had our picnic lunch. Four sweet, black, curly puppies. They children climbed into the pen with them, and played for hours. Yessa literally did not come out of the puppy pen for two hours. Buster and Monkey spent extensive time in there, too, but for Yessa the puppies were the perfect mix of puppy and baby. To be carrying around a furry baby was a dream come true for her. The puppies were exhausted by the end of the day, but, as David pointed out, by the time they are ready to go to their new homes, they will be so used to being handled and played with, they will be perfect family pets.

Our group shared a picnic lunch with a host of different delicious food. And when Sarah brought our her homemade bread with homemade butter, you can bet your bippy we tried some. It was delicious.

There are still some questions I have. For example, they don’t use electricity, but David has generators to run the equipment. I don’t understand the difference. I certainly don’t begrudge the use of “power,” especially after seeing how much physical labor it took for Rachel to make the butter, even with using a machine. I just don’t see why the source of the power matters.

And phones. David has a phone in their farm store. Brenda said lots of Amish have a “phone shack,” and they sometimes share it with several families. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t have one in the house, then? Where is that invisible line? And who gets to decide where the line is drawn?

David was too busy chatting and hosting for me to invite a philosophical discussion, but I hope for the opportunity some day.

Oh, and just a funny family memory. We placed a bulk order to get hamburger, chicken, and pork while were were up there. We’ve always purchased the rope sausage, but they were out of it. In the course of conversation, David realized we squeezed the sausage out of the casing to use it. He looked at us in aghast shock?! The casing costs money, and we could have been buying loose sausage all along! I told him we’d bring back the casings after we squeezed the meat out for him to reuse. That got a laugh out of Sarah.

We didn’t stay for the wagon ride or the pony rides, so we have those to look forward to next year.

I’m grateful we had the chance to spend time with this family who does so much for our family. What a blessing to be reminded once again, people are people, and the vast majority of us are willing to reach out a hand of friendship to each other…looking for ways to find common ground. It was a day filled with many blessings.

Yessa and a Peep.

It was a strong memory "rush" to be back on a farm that reminded me so much of Aunt Reva and Uncle Jim's and many joy-filled hours spent there in my childhood.

Pigs are awesome!

Monkey's new umbrella made a great sun shade.

The glorious, glorious puppies.

A Lovely Life, Well Remembered

We celebrated the life of Rodney Kintore Lay at UUCF yesterday. Rodney was a long-time UUCF member, but Buds and I knew him as a founding Massadoah Partner. His online obituary, though factual, gives no feel for the amazing life this fantastic man lived.

I cannot begin to do justice to his story. Buds and I are so new to the partnership, and Rodney has been in declining health for the last couple years. Christine summed it up for all the new partners at the memorial yesterday when she said, “I’m so jealous of the years the older partners had to spend time with Rodney.”

Three things I want to remember:

1) The Memorial Service was exactly what a Life Celebration should be: Glorious memories shared from a place of joy by friends and family. Stories that gave insight into the well-rounded, fascinating human this man was. Respect and awe at the life-long love affair he had with his amazing wife, Meg. They met at 12 and 14 years old, and were married over 50 years.

2) Live is a wondrous adventure, and even more glorious with you by my side. These are the words that I gifted to Buds as part of our marriage vows. Rodney and Meg lived under this premise, too, and I never want to lose it.

3) Buds and I both came away from the service wanting to live our best lives; willing to try new hobbies and interests, no matter our age. (Rodney began writing poetry after retirement, and was such an insightful, honest, clear poet.)

To live life with joy, to recognize every moment is a unique gift from the universe…these are the insights Rodney offered through others’ words yesterday.

Thank you for all the gifts you shared with the world, Rodney. I wish we had gotten to know you better and longer. We’ll hold Meg in our hearts for you.

Poop Soup

Thankfully, no pictures were taken of the main course the children created last night, but we all had such a good laugh about this, I didn’t want the memory to be lost to time.

We headed to Kelly and Paula’s for dinner after church, and we sat outside since it was so beautiful. The children love their big backyard, the wooden play fort and swing, the spigot of water, and last night they discovered a wheelie cart filled with water.

If you’ve ever left water, mixed with some random dirt and leaves, sitting outside for any length of time, you know what sort of a smell it can create. The children decided to embrace these delicious beginnings and they spent their time whipping up some poop soup.


1 gallon water
4 beach buckets of dirt
27 handfuls of mulch
16 cups of hand-pulled grass
53 bursts of laughter
10 muddy feet
4 mosquito bites

Mix all together. Randomly scoop out a bucket of poop soup. Offer to the adults seated nearby so that the children can enjoy the adults’ looks of feigned disgust.

It was another perfect night with good friends. Being outdoors, enjoying great company, along with the peals of laughter from our kids…priceless.

The Year of Adventure, or The Year There Was No Winter

We haven’t decided on a final name, but we have got a timeline and a plan.

Buddie came up with the idea, we’ll tweak it as we go, and the children are already mentioning things they’d like the year to include.

When we talk about future plans, it’s now always part of the discussion, and we are ready to create the spreadsheet to track the potential expenses.

WHAT is it, you may be thinking?

Here’s how the concept came about:

Every year there is a Partners’ Weekend at Massadoah. All the partners, as their lives currently allow, come out to The Valley and spend the weekend together. It’s relaxed and fun; great discussion and time together. Buds and I were able to spend a day out there this year, which will change as the children grow older. Several hours of this day we spent hiking up to the fire tower with Christine, Ann Marie and John.

On the hike, we asked them their favorite places they have traveled. The three of them have visited some amazing places, and we had an interesting discussion about travel and new places.

Then, on the drive home, Buds said, “As we hiked up the ridge, I realized what we need to plan to do. In five years, we’ll travel around the world with the kids, living in a different place for a couple months at a time.” That discussion took place on Saturday, April 7, 2012. Since then we have talked about the idea with the children; they bought right in. I hung a world map on the living room wall, with adjoining papers for each person. Zoe came up with the visioning process for us: Each person can write as many countries as they find interesting on their papers, and those countries will become our list to cull from in a year or so. We’ll eventually have about 15 countries to study and really delve into. From that group, 5 or 6 countries will make the final cut, and we’ll put plans in place to live in those countries.

So far, critical criteria include, in random order:

1) A country that supports homeschooling. We already had to knock out Botswana from our list because they jail homeschoolers there. That wouldn’t necessarily impact us, but we don’t want to support a country with our money if it doesn’t support a practice that is so fundamental to our lives.

2) Safe for our family, or at least as safe as one can generally expect when living in a different place where we may not know the language.

3) Reliable internet: Buds and I will both be working remotely, and the children will need to have that access to the “library of information” the internet provides since we may not have access to a bricks and mortar library.

Additional opportunities we’d love to have available:

1) A UU Church: for ready-made connections with like-minded people

2) Dream option: A CrossFit box…yeah, we like to dream.

The children have written down Egypt, Italy, New Zealand, China, and Hawaii for their interests so far. The Buster has said, “On our year of travel around the world, can we go to Costa Rica again?” Good stuff, that!

This has also been a fantastic conversation starter. At a friend’s birthday party this weekend, we were able to visit with several different people about where we should go. The birthday boy is ex-military, so, many friends with extensive experience living in many different countries. People’s eyes light up when we share the vision for The Year of Adventure, and they love reminiscing about places they’ve been that they loved.

Turkey has come up in a couple different instances. Some good friends just returned from a trip to Istanbul, so we look forward to hearing of their adventures and viewing their pictures. A couple we talked to this weekend had lived in Turkey for three years, and they said it was both their favorite place to have lived, and the most family-friendly place they lived. One of their children was born there, and when they’d go to eat other patrons would ask if they could hold the baby. In the US we would have been sort of shocked, but there they gladly accepted the chance to relax and enjoy their meal while their baby girl was snuggled and cooed at by these loving Turkish women. What a great memory!

I’m enamored of the idea of living on 6 of the 7 continents. Buds isn’t sold on that vision…yet.

A couple friends have suggested having a recurring theme running through each home spot:

1) Zach suggested hooking up with a local sports league of some sort in each country.
2) Mia suggested having a service project to do in each place.
3) My contribution has been that we travel as light as possible, including taking only one set of clothes to each new home spot, leaving the rest with friends in the previous country, or mailing home a box of the most-loved local clothing.

Another of Buster’s questions has been about food. “Will I get to eat penne on our year around the world?”

Whatever the locals eat, we’ll eat.

Another great idea suggested at David’s birthday bash this weekend: That we pick a country to live in in “Central” Europe, like The Netherlands, and get a Eurorail pass to travel all around.

One other item we’ve implemented to start preparing us is beginning to study world religions. What a great way to learn about other perspectives.

You’ll be hearing more about this grand adventure.

Challenging Ideas

We went to a 60th birthday party for a beloved friend this weekend. He and his wife are two of my favorite people from church, and I’ve gotten to spend much time with them, thanks to the auction, but Buds hadn’t ever really gotten to visit. It was a wonderful party. Ruth, David’s wife, is an amazing planner, and it showed. They had a chef and his wife there to do all the cooking and serve drinks. Great food, great drink, great company.

David is ex-military, so fascinating people from all different parts of his life were there to celebrate him.

Buds and I had the chance to visit with David about his previous military experience, and he had some really amazing insights and stories to share…at least the stories he could share. Yeah, he was one of those guys. He knows a lot, can only tell a little.

Of the many things he said, the two that have been working their way around in my brain are:

1) There are people we will never know about, doing things we won’t ever know, and won’t ever want to know, for the protection of us all.

2) Sometimes you have to find a balance between your morals and the options life gives you.

David was involved in military public relations during the time before and during the process of the public learning about the abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison.

It was fascinating to get even a tiny insight into how much of the world is gray, no matter how we want it to be black and white.

Then, on Sunday, I read this blog post, shared from a friend’s FB feed: A Challenge to the Amendment One Debate. The author, a gay Christian and native North Carolinian, has some insights about even having discussion about a topic like this which is so divisive and hurtful to so many people…on both sides of the debate.

For me, the big takeaway was that the minute I start assuming that the people on the other side of the debate are ignorant and bigoted, I have lost the opportunity to try and truly engage in meaningful debate. Not just this debate, but any debate of emotional and intellectual value.

I’m still processing how these two events: David’s party with the challenge to my vision of a free, loving world for everyone, met head on by the real-life experience of someone who has had to know about the ugliest evil that lives in our world; and the idea of coming to difficult conversations and debate with an open heart and clear head.

David talked about his thoughts when soon-to-be President Obama said he was going to close the prison. David knew there was no way President Obama could have been briefed about the incredibly complex situation there.

My thoughts kept coming back to the souls of all the people involved. What does it do to your soul to be told to get information no matter the method? What does it do to your soul to be on the receiving end of those actions? What has happened to your soul to believe that some people must die simply because of where they were born? What does it do to your soul to have to put aside what you truly believe to be true, for the sake of the country you have sworn to protect?

And what of those spies David mentioned: People we will never know exist, doing things we will never know about…to keep us safe.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

*The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

*Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

*Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

*A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

*The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

*The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

*Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

One reason I have continued to process my way through all these seemingly contradictory perspectives is because David is one of the kindest, most-loving people I know. He is working to make peace with the role he played and the decisions he was part of for so many years. And I KNOW he was making those decisions for the protection of the citizens of the United States. I’m sure President Obama has these same soul-wrenching decisions to make.

So much to ponder…I can’t even begin to put into writing what I’m trying to think through. At this precise moment in time I’m focused on that First Principle: *The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

How does that apply to people who would do me and mine harm because of our differences in belief. Where does that debate even begin?