Into The Trees

Monkey’s off at Girl Scout Camp.

Her co-Cadette asked if she wanted to do a camp together, and Monkey was willing to give it a shot, so they are away together for the week. We’re not really sure what the week will hold for activities, but it sounds like tree climbing and zip-lining might be part of the plan.

She and I headed out on Father’s Day afternoon to take her to Camp Sycamore Hills, about 45 minutes north of us.

Let the adventure begin.

We had a lovely drive together. Lots of heart-felt sharing on both sides, and we stopped to save a turtle that was trying to cross the road.

The line to get into camp was already long by the time we arrived.

Excited to begin their adventures.

We dropped off her luggage in this shed:

The house elves will be along to take the luggage to the “dorms.”

Monkey’s cabin “Hilltop” is the empty row with the paper plate attached to the hale of bay above.

Interesting mental exercise for me: The counselors pulled up to load the luggage for Hilltop into the wagon behind a tractor. The tractor was being driven by a female Girl Scout counselor, which surprised me at first, then I was surprised at myself for being surprised, then I thought about how glad I was that Monkey-and all the girls-have the week to be with strong, hopefully kind, intelligent women in ALL the positions of power, including driving the tractor.

After the health check and dropping off Monkey’s meds., we met one of her two counselors, Ziggy.

One of Monkey’s counselors, Ziggy.

Ziggy is in the center in the picture above. She’s Australian, so Monkey will have that delightful accent to listen to all week.

I asked if I could see Monkey’s cabin before I left, and Ziggy walked us outside the mess haul where the girls were gathering to point out the directions to us. In that few minutes of quiet time with just the three of us, Monkey succinctly explained to Ziggy that she has some anxiety, and here’s how she wants to handle it and how Ziggy can help.

Ziggy was so understanding and respectful, and I could not have been prouder of Monkey for explaining so honestly and thoughtfully how Ziggy could best support her in having a fantastic week. This young woman never ceases to amaze and impress me.

Ziggy suggested we drive to Hilltop because it was a long, long walk. To a woman, every counselor who gave us instructions about Hilltop got big eyes and expressed their version of, “It’s a great cabin and beautiful, but it is a long, long way up.”

They weren’t kidding.

It’s a long way up.

Looks rustic: has great bathrooms and A/C.

We found Monkey’s co-Cadette already settled in, and she’d saved Monkey a lower bunk right next to her bunk so they could visit into the night.

Ready for a great week.

Co-Cadette’s mom and I have been talking about how strange it feels to have our eldest kids away for the week. I’m glad they are together. They are both wonderful, wonderful young women.

The house is missing a vital life-force, but I’m so excited to hear about the fun she had when I pick her up Friday.

Belle Meade Civil War Experience

The classes at Belle Meade (the plantation down the road from us), are always so well done.

This time was especially fantastic. Gorgeous weather, wonderful re-enactors, fun activities.

Great explanation about women’s roles during the Civil War.

These faces.

Roll those bandages for the front lines.

This dress…

Then we learned about communication in wartime before cell phones and satellites.

Flags and telegraphs

Explaining the process.

Practice decoding the flag shorthand.

For you to try at home.

At this point, Buster and Monkey sat under a shady tree to tell each other stories while Yessa and I learned about the infantry.

The dedication of this Belle Meade gentleman; He did a fantastic job, and the kids loved it.

After the program was over, we headed down for Monkey to get her allergy shot, and I caught one last photo.

Yup, he’s taller.

Lovin’ this life.

Buster’s A Teen

He turned 13 a month ago, and it doesn’t seem to have changed him much. He’s still the same thoughtful, kind, sensitive soul he’s always been.

We had plans for a little birthday party, but Yessa started spiking a fever a day before and we had to change up our plans. As is his way, Buster wasn’t disappointed, just ready to enjoy the time with the five of us. (Four, really. Yessa watched from the couch.)

She was not alone on the couch:

They offer furry comfort.

Tough to tell, but Waffles has snuggled himself under her arm to offer warm love.

Whipping up one of the two cakes.

The vanilla cake Buster picked from Lindsay’s website, Moist and Fluffy Vanilla Cake, was amazing. We have never had a batter that was so moist and delicious. It was like mousse. Buds and I would have eaten all the batter, but that was frowned upon.

This batter…

It makes me faint from deliciousness.

He also requested a red velvet cake, which Monkey took on.

There was a plan to decorate both cakes to look like books; Yessa in charge of one, Monkey in charge of the other. Once Yessa fell ill, we gave the book cakes a raincheck and focused on enjoying our weekend time together.

We still frosted them.

Some sculpting.

Crumb coat in place.

He wanted pizza.

Cake #1

Cake #2

He’d gotten gift cards and money to choose presents from his grands and aunts and uncles, so on his official day, he had a couple presents from the family.

One gift was a set to make round ice balls. An odd gift, it might seem, but he became entranced by the set at Kel and Paula’s, so we wanted him to have his own.

Overall, it was a lovely birthday.

And with Waffles’ loving ministrations, Yessa was soon well, too.

He thinks he’s helping.

Happy Birthday, Buster. We love you, now and forever.

New Doggie Great-Nephew Alert!

Jeremy and I have been colluding on Jeremy and Teresa getting a dog since they moved to Nash. I assured them that we would be puppy’s second home, ready, willing, and able.

And today the family expanded. T & J showed up this afternoon with a furry surprise for us.

Such sweet kisses.

We’re missing a flag to make this picture scream “AMERICA!”

Such a handsome boy.

I agree Duke, Buds does have delicious smelling breath.

He had very important secrets to tell me.

The new family.

Can’t wait to have decades of fun with this sweet boy.

Perseverance Or Perseverate…Third Times A Charm.

If you spend much time around us at all, you know Buds is a CrossFitter.

And you know that he and Todd R. have a 10-year bet.

Buddie’s opportunity to complete his portion of the bet began last Thursday night when we watched Dave Castro announce the first workout of the CrossFit Open. Jump to 20 minutes in to see the announcement.

Buds, Uncle Z, and another co-worker made plans to go to the CrossFit box where another Juicer has found a home. CrossFit H Dub will be hosting “Friday Night Lights” for five weeks total for their athletes (and visiting athletes) who want to compete in the CF Open.

Buds and crew were settled in and warming up when I arrived as their paparazzi last Friday night. The two owners were so welcoming, and as we have always found them to be, all the CrossFitters were friendly, helpful, and cheering like crazy for each other.

The workout was:

The workout had a twenty-minute time cap, and Buds had been watching the leader board as men from 45-49 had been posting their scores. He knew he was going to need to finish.

Getting ready to begin after a pep talk.

Early round because he still has his shirt on.

Uncle Z going high.

Gettin’ ‘er done.

Later rounds…no shirt.

To make a long story short…too late already…he didn’t finish under the 20 minute time cap. He still had 12 of the burpee box jumps to go.

So, Sunday afternoon, Uncle Z (who also wanted to try for a better score) came over to our house and we set up the video workout room in the garage. Since they weren’t doing their workouts in a certified CrossFit box this time, we had to video tape it.

I’m grateful that it has been muted due to music copyright issues because the video is full of me screeching like the psycho cheerleader I turn into when my heart and soul are pulling for Buds. And there’s a rather funny/horrifying part at the end where he finishes the workout, under the time cap, and I don’t realize he’s finished it. Then, when I learn he’s done I screech about how I can’t believe he actually finished.

As you might imagine, this did not earn me very many CrossFit spouse points.

I’ll do better next time.

So, he basked in the glory of scoring well and beating the time cap. Then something made him doubt himself and as he was uploading the video to youtube, he began to count the reps for each section.

The sinking sound in his voice and the look on his face when he watched the round of 40 snatches and realized he’d only done 36…That is not a moment I hope to relive anytime soon.

This workout is a mental, physical, and emotional commitment. I could not fathom giving myself over to the pain of doing it for a third time.

It was never a question for Buds.

The next day at the gym in the basement where he works and where he works out with co-workers, he tackled this beast a third time, and shattered his previous attempts.

Uncle Z sent me this as soon as Buds was done:

Final time 18:31.

The CrossFit website is stinking of failure right now because I can’t get in to see what Buds’ current stand is, but last night he was 7th in the Great State of Tennessee and at about the 8th percentile for the entire world for his age group.

Each day I’m more inspired and grateful for the example Buds sets for our family.

And I need to send a joyous thanks to Uncle Z. He also improved his score significantly when he did the WOD the second time. Then, he was so supportive and shared in our sorrow when Buds discovered the “36 is not 40” issue. And when Buds did the whole thing for the third time, Z was there to cheer for him, and let me know as soon as possible when the deed was done with a successful outcome.

Four more weeks of effort, sweat, camaraderie, anguish, and glory.

By Theodore Roosevelt

These two. Absolutely love them.

A Girl Scout Filled Day

A new homeschool troop was forming, and the girls were willing to give it a try. (Monkey with enthusiasm, Yessa semi-willingly since Monkey was going to do it.)

It’s a long drive, and we’re still learning everyone’s names, but the girls are making the most of this opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and grow as leaders.

They took part in their first cookie booths for this year and both said they’d be willing to do a booth again some day, which makes me consider the booth experience a stunning success.

Monkey and her co-Cadette prepare to sell all the cookies!

Monkey and her co-Cadette prepare to sell all the cookies!

She's ready!

She’s ready!

The girls had a long, two-hour shift, and for an hour of that Monkey was alone, except for me. They did a fantastic job, and worked hard on presenting Girl Scouts in a positive, productive way to all the folks who walked by on their way into Kroger.

And they sold a lot of cookies!

Getting a couple hours of reading in while waiting for his sisters.

Getting a couple hours of reading in while waiting for his sisters.

Earlier in the day, Monkey and her Sister Cadette completed their “Leader In Action” badge by preparing and leading the entire meeting for their troop’s Brownie Scouts. (As is typical for many homeschool troops, the girls belong to a multi-age troop with girls from ages 6 to 14, meeting together under one troop number, but breaking out by age for their meetings.)

FYI: Monkey is a Cadette level scout. Yessa is a Junior level scout.

Monkey and her co-Cadette did such a fantastic job presenting science activities and other fun lessons around the theme of “Wonders of Water” for the Brownies.

Meeting prep.

Meeting prep.

Thinking and planning

Thinking and planning

Presenting the lesson.

Presenting the lesson.

These Brownies are a hoot!

These Brownies are a hoot!

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More fun and games.

More fun and games.

Between the meeting and the cookie booth, we had a couple hours to play, so we headed to an fantastic park on this glorious day.

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Having children who still love a great playground, but who are also old enough to plan and lead; what fantastic ages they all are.

866 and Onward

This is my 866th post, which makes me deliciously happy.

Buster was reading through posts last night and laughing with great shudders of laughter.

Then he asked me, aghast, “Mom, have you done a post about Christmas yet?!”

Oops, not yet, Buster.

So many more posts to write, so many more adventures to have and love to spread.

Sometime in the next few weeks we’ll be switching this blog over to a private space that is password protected. Those of you who read it will have easy access, and there will be many more details to come.

But for today, for this random Monday as we prepare to head out for Girl Scouts and a cookie booth, today is just for fun.

A few random moments of joy:

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Buds, making the one-two success fist punch he does when he solves a coding problem, sitting in the dark under a picture of…Baby Buds.

She got sick far enough before our trip to Florida to be totally well at the right time! And her brother, too!

She got sick far enough before our trip to Florida to be totally well at the right time! And her brother, too!

Walking out our front door to see this goofball.

Walking out our front door to see this goofball.

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He doesn’t want to fish, but sitting in the boat feels fun.

These two, talking about things sisters talk about.

These two, talking about things sisters talk about.

A hockey date night with Buds and his co-workers.

A hockey date night with Buds and his co-workers.

I’m not sure why all the seats all around us are empty. We’re very friendly and harmless. At least I am.

And a blast from the past:

Four years ago. Buster's shirt was new then.

Four years ago. Buster’s shirt was new then.

Monkey giving Yessa an eye exam for some reason.

Buster still wears that shirt. We still have that brown sweater. Look at those sweet faces.

We didn’t even know that a move to Nash would soon be in our future.

Who knows what fantastic adventures await us now?!

866 more posts to come.

Floored!

We’re not fans of carpet in our family. Too many allergies, too many sensitive noses. For various reasons, we reached the end of our rope with the carpet in the basement and out it came.

Because Weston was putting in our new deck out back at the same time, it was the ideal time to take advantage of the lovely dumpster sitting in our driveway. There was plenty of room for the carpet, and the children and I got to work being destructive.

Plus, it was great to be able to pick Weston’s brain with a few questions. Use all available resources!

Obligatory “Before” post:

What the old carpet looked like.

What the old carpet looked like.

Tear it all out!

Tear it all out!

We made a big pile of carpet and padding in the garage, then tossed it into the dumpster.

This was after we’d removed 75% of the pile.

Looking pretty chipper.

Looking pretty chipper.

Filled up.

Filled up.

Hammer, chisel, the carpet strips don't stand a chance.

Hammer, chisel, the carpet strips don’t stand a chance.

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Can you tell how we learned there was tile before there was carpet?

Can you tell how we learned there was tile before there was carpet?

The big truck delivering the 64 boxes of laminate flooring.

And Wonderful Weston using his truck to make my life easier.

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Stripped, vacc'ed, and ready to go.

Stripped, vacc’ed, and ready to go.

The laying of the flooring was a process of; move furniture, pull out carpet, padding, and carpet strips, scrape up the glue, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum, move the furniture some more, vacuum again, lay out plastic, underlayment, and flooring, move the furniture again, vacuum again, lay out more plastic, underlayment, and flooring, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The flooring had to sit inside for 48 hours. This is what the children and I brought in from the garage.

The flooring had to sit inside for 48 hours. This is what the children and I brought in from the garage.

This is what Buds carried in for a pre-workout warm up.

This is what Buds carried in for a pre-workout warm up.

The leveler I poured by the door so it had time to dry before we got to this section.

The leveler I poured by the door so it had time to dry before we got to this section.

Part 1

Part 1

Part 2 Prepped

Part 2 Prepped

Part 2 laid.

Part 2 laid.

Part 2 continued.

Part 2 continued.

Furniture moved again.

Furniture moved again.

Getting close to the end.

Getting close to the end.

They needed to test the new flooring for snuggles.

They needed to test the new flooring for snuggles.

Friend J came down to help with the work on this day, and after hours of floor work, Buds said, “I’m hungry. Let’s go to Five Guys to celebrate our floor.”

So we did.

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And it was good.

Niece Teresa provided the tools that saved my life on this project. Her chop saw and air nailer made this so much easier than previous floors I’ve laid.

At various times I texted her to tell her how much I loved her, but how much more I loved her tools.

The floors were done enough to have friends over for a game night we’d been planning for weeks.

No trim, but it's clean!

No trim, but it’s clean!

It looks so clean and open.

It looks so clean and open.

Done and cleaned up enough to host friends for a party!

Done and cleaned up enough to host friends for a party!

All cat free, so Eddie can breathe!

All cat free, so Eddie can breathe!

Games, games, games.

Games, games, games.

Closet trim in!

Closet trim in!

I had to create a make-shift painting room in the closet since I was still sawing in the garage so I couldn’t paint out there.

Covers for the bases of the support poles in the basement.

Covers for the bases of the support poles in the basement.

The painting room.

The painting room.

And World’s Best Contractor Weston let me use his table saw to cut the side boards, which made all the difference. I haven’t used a table saw since high school shop class, but I came out of this project with all my fingers and my nose, so I did great!

Then, seemingly suddenly, it was done. The trim is all in. The chop saw has been sent home. The air nailer waits patiently in the garage to go home to its owner.

I scooted around on the floor and caulked trim while we watched “Trolls” for family movie night. There are still nail holes to fill and plenty of wall paint to touch up, but it looks great. It feels so bright and open, and no icky carpet to haunt me any more.

And all the lovely spaces we have down there to be together:

I asked them to pretend I wasn't taking a picture...they had to ham it up.

I asked them to pretend I wasn’t taking a picture…they had to ham it up.

They are putting together a server to host this blog.

They are putting together a server to host this blog.

Mario levels being crafted.

Mario levels being crafted.

Creating some new video game stages.

Creating some new video game stages.

The sewing space

The sewing space

The reading nook.

The reading nook.

Ready for some Virtual Reality.

Ready for some Virtual Reality.

The storage closet now serves as our server room.

The storage closet now serves as our server room.

Creating a world with K + B via skype.

Creating a world with K + B via skype.

It didn’t feel like that much work as we were in the midst of the project, but as I look back on it I’m so happy to have it complete. And I love that our children are exposed and part of work like this. I might not know how to do something, but thanks to the internet and help from friends and loved ones, we can figure it out.

On to the next project!!!

Deck Me!

We’d been talking with Weston for over a year about our new deck. We needed to save up the money; he needed to create a rough draft of the look; I had to order all the supplies to be shipped or delivered to the house.

Here’s what the old deck look liked for a before and after perspective:

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Buster says the best thing about the old deck was that it matched the house.

We’d covered it with blue outdoor artificial turf to help protect feet a little, but nails were popping up through and boards were warped and twisty.

Weston was willing to work with us to use the beams underneath which were fine, and build some planters and benches to make the deck even more user-friendly.

One of the many things I love about Weston is that he’ll give me his opinion, and he’s very willing to listen to my vision, help me see if there are concerns or issues, and then say, “We can do that.”

I’m a big fan of, “We can do that.”

Weston suggested getting 20-foot boards because then the deck top wouldn’t have any seams, which would look elegant.

I toyed with the idea of hauling the boards home myself somehow…I did haul home those 12-foot carpets at Mom’s house, and that went well. What could possibly go wrong with hauling 20-footers?

Since we needed 80 of the boards, it seemed that having Home Depot deliver was prudent.

The 20-foot deck boards arrived on January 16.

The delivery truck arrives.

The delivery truck arrives.

Took a little wiggle to get down the driveway.

Took a little wiggle to get down the driveway.

Thank goodness for the right equipment.

Thank goodness for the right equipment.

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Weston kindly took a little extra care in removing the old deck boards because I hoped to be able to freecycle them. (To no avail, but I’m glad we tried.)

I got to clean out underneath, which made me happy.

I got to clean out underneath, which made me happy.

Quite a pile when it was all torn off.

Quite a pile when it was all torn off.

Turns out the deck was a later addition. The original brick patio was still under there, which makes me feel better about the days Jake The Kitten was hidden below. I had thought of him wallowing under there in mud, but he was actually living in style.

Under the dirt is brick.

Under the dirt is brick.

The weather toyed with us throughout the weeks of deck building. There were cold and rainy days, and one day Weston had on shorts with a stocking hat and a couple layers of shirts and jackets because it seemed sunny, then wasn’t. We complimented him on his fashion choices that day.

He took the time to do a fantastic job, as always. This meant he had to step away from our deck for a couple days because of a previous commitment to another job, but that was fine with us. When our contractor is willing to let you use his tools for a project you are working on at the same time, what’s to complain about?

That’s right, while Weston was building the deck, the family was redoing the basement. Separate post on that to come, but here’s a picture of Weston and the delivery man helping me bring down the pallets of laminate flooring that were delivered on one of the days.

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Each day Buds would come home to see the progress.

Weston laid some boards so we could easily get out to do the composting.

Weston laid some boards so we could easily get out to do the composting.

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The above picture is a reminder to me of the care Weston took with this project. The end board on the right side of the deck looked wavery after he put the inital laminate deck board on. Buds and I would never have noticed, but it wasn’t up to Weston quality, so he took the board off, braced the underneath side more so it would be more solid and level, then put it back together.

That’s another reason we didn’t mind how long the project took. We knew it would be done well.

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A beautiful platform for dancing.

A beautiful platform for dancing.

Look at those 20-foot boards…smooth as butter.

Benches in.

Benches in.

Sturdy handrail up.

Sturdy handrail up.

The custom planters were the fussiest part. They look gorgeous and I can’t wait to see them filled and blooming.

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Weston takes the time to think through how to make things beautiful.

Weston takes the time to think through how to make things beautiful.

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Look at that consistency!

Look at that consistency!

My dad would love the symmetry of all this.

My dad would love the symmetry of all this.

On two days of heavy rain, we had the chance to see what the birds thought of the deck while all was quiet back there with Weston not working.

What the heck, birds?!

What the heck, birds?!

The birds sat in the gutter above the deck, hung their tiny feathery keisters over the edge and crapped in a pretty, seedy pattern straight down the deck. I was horrified and fascinated all at once.

After many shared cups of coffee, many hours of labor, lots of decisions and discussions, and a few conversations with Jeremy about fishing, the deck was done.

Before Yessa and I cleaned up the yard.

Before Yessa and I cleaned up the yard.

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The view out the deck door.

The view out the deck door.

Ready for entertaining.

Ready for entertaining.

Look at those beautiful patterns.

Look at those beautiful patterns.

Ready for spring.

Ready for spring.

We had a fire out back with Teresa and Jeremy on the first night the deck was done, and I’ve eaten dinner out there already. Once the weather is consistently warm, it will feel like we’ve added another room to the house.

Thanks, Weston, for making our life better.

The final product.

The final product.

Dancin’ At The Symphony

The Nashville Symphony has a fantastic education department, and we have taken advantage of their offerings multiple times since we moved here. They send out a list of free school concerts each year, and we homeschoolers are included in this generosity.

The one we attended last week was “Dancing Through The Centuries.”

Waltz, Polka, Hoedown, Minuet...something for everyone.

Waltz, Polka, Hoedown, Minuet…something for everyone.

This is a great example of one of our adventures where I miss Buds. He’s been leaving for work early and working so hard. We had to send him this puppy pile picture so he knew we were missing him in the early hours on this day we’d be heading to the symphony.

Best way to start the day, if Buds were here, too.

Best way to start the day, if Buds were here, too.

Even Waffles joined the fun.

Even Waffles joined the fun.

The homeschoolers always get to sit in the loge boxes on the sides. Yessa wanted to see if we could get seats higher up, but they were already filled with students, so next time we’ll get there earlier to see if we can get higher or closer.

We love the loge boxes.

We love the loge boxes.

And our friend Roger was playing, which always helps us feel connected to the music.

Another great aspect of the Young People’s Concerts is that the symphony adds in an extra hook to help keep us entertained. For this concert a male and female dancer came out in stunning costumes to demonstrate several of the dances as the symphony played. I was so entranced I didn’t get any pictures of them, but it was beautiful.

Additional bonus, people who didn’t arrive in a bus always get released first.

Oh, and as a funny aside: Much like a new friend will say, “Oh, you are from Chicago. I know Sally Jones from there. Do you know her?”

When we’re out at an event with students who arrive in buses, Yessa and I are always looking for Nashville cousins to happen to be on a field trip at the same place at the same time. We’re perpetually hopeful we’ll see them.

Yeah for live music, kind people, and delightful, free adventures.