Santa's Crazy Reindeer

Here are our little reindeer. Isn't the reindeer on the left just the picture of Christmas cheer? The other reindeer (underneath) looks a little manic. I have to admit that I made him put on the antlers and pose in front of the tree.

And, here is our little cheerful reindeer. She is singing to the tree in the picture on the left. I loved that! She was just going around to all of the ornaments and singing to them. And, this picture (underneath) is my all-time favorite. I could just eat up those cheeks!

Christmas Cards

It's that time again (we're kind of late this year) and if any of you would like to receive a Christmas card from us, just email me your address. I know I have some, but I'm not always great at keeping up with them from year to year. (If you're family, then you can safely assume that I have your address).

In Tune

I had a piano tuner come to the house today to .... tune our piano. We have heard that it needs to be tuned after it is moved, so we waited a couple of months for our piano to settle into it's new home before we had it tuned. I just looked online to find a tuner and just randomly selected one. It turns out I picked quite a character. This man's name is Billy and he showed up at my house wearing a fishing shirt that says, "Your Bait Sucks". Wow ... interesting first impression. He took awhile tuning the piano and then he started playing to hear how everything sounded. He started rocking the house! He had told me previously that he owns a studio where they record gospel music. So, he started jamming on some gospel tunes there in our living room, without any music, of course. He was really almost shaking the walls he was playing with so much gusto. Kate loved it! She got out her little hymn book and climbed onto the couch and started singing. We were both dancing a little after awhile. That music filled our whole house. It was awesome. He asked for a request and we suggested "Jingle Bells". He played a mean "Jingle Bells"! We clapped for him when he was done. He told us that he lives in Dunn and had driven an hour to get to our house. After he finished his concert, he took his check and left. All in all, it was quite an interesting morning. Who knew that getting your piano tuned could be so much fun?

This guy's information is:
Kane Kreek Recording Studios
Billy Lancaster
(He does live kind of far away - Coats, NC - but he seemed willing to drive to come and see us!)

The Rules

So, if any of you are planning on coming to our house and playing in Hayden's room any time soon, I wanted you to know that there are some rules.
Hayden recently posted these rules for his room:

Hayden's Rules
1. Be nise to aliens.
2. Play with (Lego Secret Agent) truck 2 times a day.
3. Go to sleep at 7:00.
4. Let Kate in only if she's doing something nise.
5. Eat candy only on Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sun.

There you have it. If you can't keep the rules, (especially rule #1, which some people have trouble with), then you can't come in Hayden's room. And, if you don't like candy, then you might want to come on a Tuesday, a Thursday, or a Saturday.

HOW MANY people are in your family?

Here is a video that Christian put together of the Simpson Family, Fall 2008. He did an fabulous job. If you can name everyone in this video, I'll give you 20 bucks! (12 kids, 8 in-laws, and 24 grandkids (I think ...))
Also, I thought we could play a little "I Spy"!

A boy in a dryer and in a plane,
A handsome couple at a football game,
Kids in the leaves and big kids at the fair,
Two funny faces - who is under there?
Buried in the sand with only a face,
How many Hayden's are in this place?
Dad and son in a cart that can GO!
Three pretty princesses all in a row.
A family at Disney,
And one on a ride,
Then one at the zoo with an elephant's hide.
Batman, a pirate, and Tinkerbell times two,
Two faces looking crazy to scare you!
A sweet little smile on a baby who's not lean,
And the littlest scarecrow you've ever seen.

Good luck in your spy-ing!


You may have noticed that I never did the requisite kids-in-Halloween-costumes-looking-super-cute post. Our computer has been on the fritz and then the time just passed. Let's just say that my kids were really cute in their costumes and we had a fun Halloween. And, also, that if Eric Carle who wrote The Grouchy Ladybug ever needs a mascot, we've got his girl!
So, I've been tagged! Allyn Boney tagged me with a quirk challenge: 7 quirks that nobody knows about me. This has been pretty fun ... although I don't know if I'm going to be able to come up with that many interesting quirks.
1. I have always wanted to clog (as in clogging, not as in wearing them or in getting something stuck). It's my secret dream to be really great at clogging and to wear that frilly dress and the whole get-up. I just don't have the guts to do it. And, if I'm really great at it, clogging seems like kind of a nerdy talent to have. Still, don't be surprised to see me one day up on stage ...
2. I like fried chicken livers. I've even ordered them when we're out to eat, much to Cletus' dismay. And, the Simpsons say that I'm not really Southern!
3. I prefer to have all of the doors in the car locked when I'm driving. A long time ago someone told me that it was safer, and it has just stuck. I realize that if you were in an accident and you were trying to get out of the car, or if rescuers were trying to get in, then it wouldn't be safer at all. This quirk just won't listen to reason.
4. I hate getting water splashed on my face. Even when I'm in the pool, I like having my face dry all of the time. I enjoy water games, pools, sprinkler, etc as long as I don't have water splashed on my face.
5. I can't remember anyone's birthday to save my life. Even family members. Sorry everyone. I'm lame.
6. I hate dogs. I'm actually pretty scared of dogs. I was taking the kids on a small walk down our street a few weeks ago and a stray dog was just walking down the street not paying any attention to us and I was in a panic. My heart was racing, my legs turned to jello, and I had to breathe slow to get myself back in control. I actually don't take walks with my kids around in our neighborhood because I am scared of wild or stray dogs.
7. I'm allergic to fresh fruit. Especially fruits that have an edible skin like peaches, apples, and pears. Peaches are the worst for me. I get a rash around my mouth, the inside of my mouth gets itchy and I've even had my throat get a little swollen before. I haven't always had that problem. I think it's a post-Hayden issue.
Well, that was suppose to be fun but now I just feel like a weirdo. You're all going to have to write comments to reassure me of how normal I am.
I tag Heather Pollei, Tanya Smith, and my sister, Mary.

Lego Maniac

We took Hayden to Toys R Us on Saturday to let him pick out a Lego set for his birthday. He picked out a huge set (the same one as cousin Scott) that he just couldn't wait to get home and put together. We have heard from several people that Legos are great for 7 year old boys and that they will play with them for hours! Hayden has a small Lego set that he doesn't really play with, mainly because there weren't really enough to play with. So we got home too late Saturday night to play with Legos (there was much crying involved). Hayden informed us Sunday at church that 3 hours was WAY too long for us to expect him to go without his Legos. He didn't even want to stay for the Linger Longer and eat! When we got home, he played with them for about two hours. After we went to my grandma's and had a little birthday celebration (where he got more Legos - thanks Grandma, Grandpa, and Kathy!), we again got home too late to play with his Legos (more crying). Well, this morning, Hayden got ready for school as he normally does - all by himself. We expect him to get dressed, eat, pack a lunch, etc. and be ready to leave at 8:45 when it's time to go. This morning when he came out to the car to leave, his little face was very excited and he said,
"Mom, guess what?"
"What Hayden?"
"I started my first fast!"
"Ummm ... a fast? What do you mean?"
"I wanted to play my Legos this morning, so I didn't eat breakfast! I wanted to play instead."

What can I say? The boy loves his Legos.

If you think your family is weird ....

...then just go to the State Fair. What you see there will convince you that you really are quite normal. At least, that 's what Jeff Foxworthy says and I agree! We went to the fair yesterday and had a great time (and yes, we saw some pretty strange specimens of North Carolinians). Kate was just amazed by everything and we stopped often for her to admire something that none of us even noticed, like a man blowing bubbles or a stand of balloons.

We saw some friends there ....
The picture of Hayden and Arthur is suppose to be next, but our computer is being stubborn, so the pictures are out of order. We saw some friends that weren't wooden cut-outs too. Here's a shout-out to our peeps we saw at the fair - Sarah and Devin Gilreath, Jeremy and Michelle Aycock, the Huband family, and Chad and Jessica Simpson. It was fun to see them, but it's difficult to have a meaningful conversation on the midway with children.
Kate was completely amazed by the animals! Cletus and I had the most fun watching her watch the animals. This picture captures her cute face looking at some sheep, but unfortunately, it also captured this green, peeling metal post.

We topped off the evening with a family ride on the ferris wheel. We bought tickets ahead of time, so it wasn't as expensive as it could have been. It is always an amazing sight to be up so high, to see the lights, feel the breeze, and to push away those thoughts of news stories about ferris wheel disasters where a mother is hanging for her life with one hand on a metal bar and another holding onto her child. But, other than those paranoid thoughts, it was a fun ride. (I also have to say that in about 30 minutes around 7;30 or 8 pm, the atmosphere quickly transformed from a family atmosphere to one of teenage hoodlams. It was then that I noticed that fair ride workers truly look and act like the dregs of society).

I really do love the fair: the smells, the food, the animals, the Village of Yesteryear, the exhibits, the tractor-pulls, and everything else that you can only find in such abundance at the State Fair. Depsite the fact that we come home and disinfect our clothes and our children, we can't wait until next fall when we get to head back to the fair again!

Camping and Cousins and Rain, Oh My!

We headed west Thursday night to Stone Mountain State Park to camp out for the weekend with Cletus' sister, Celeste and her family, and our friends, the Beaumonts. We arrived Thursday night and set up camp before heading to bed. (Kate slept through the night without a problem! Yeah!) Early Friday morning it started raining .... and it didn't stop. So, the kids played in the rain, had fun, got soaking wet, and then started to shiver and to be miserable. And, hey, what is more fun than packing up wet camping gear while it's still raining? Friday afternoon we headed to the Beaumont's house (they never showed up to camp because of the rain) and spent the rest of the weekend. We took a fun hike Saturday (12 kids in all!) in the beautiful weather. The Beaumonts live in Huntersville, just north of Charlotte. Cletus and I actually planned on moving to Huntersville right after dental school and even picked out a house. But, it wasn't meant to be. As we were driving around Huntersville (in the fall, my favorite time of year!), I couldn't help but feel another longing to move to this beautiful part of the state. It was a fun (and tiring) weekend!

Hayden and Holly
Wilford, Lillie, Hayden, Lucy, and Holly waiting for breakfast
Tim, Cletus, and Celeste making a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage and eggs, and hot choloclate
Kate is ready to eat!
Are we having fun yet?

Slow ... Children Playing

Although Cletus and I usually laugh at this sign and look for the slow children that are suppose to be playing in the neighborhood, I think that this phrase describes my recent thoughts. I am just too busy. I don't have to be too busy, but I let myself get that way. The words to this song have been running through my head lately: "I'm in a hurry to get things done, Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun. All I really want to do is live and die, but I'm in a hurry and don't know why". There are lots and lots of good things to be involved in, but it's so easy to be involved in too many of them. We only have two children and only one of them is in extracurricular activities, but I find that I am running here and there so often that I am not enjoying my day, I'm not enjoying being a mom, and I'm certainly not stopping to enjoy the little pleasures in life. I get to be unhappy and frustrated and I feel that my schedule is out of my control. But, I know that that's not true. I am in charge of where I spend my time and whether I am on the go too much. I realized recently that it had been a week since we slowed down to have family time together - all 4 of us just being at home with nothing scheduled! Children grow up way too quickly for this to be a norm in our household. I want the house to be clean and for things to be orderly and nice, but when it comes down to what is really important, who cares? I want to play with my kids. I want to laugh with them, to get down on the floor and read to them. I want to be able to do something spontaneous and silly because we have nothing going on. I want to be able to leave dishes in the sink so that I can go and play kickball outside with my family. I want to slow down. Our prophet, President Hinckley, said something one time that I loved. I tried to find the exact quote but couldn't. It said something like, "enjoying the time of just being at home together as a family is an art" and that it is necessary for our children to have that constant in their lives. So, here is my public promise now to slow down, to breathe, to play and to laugh, to leave chores until later so that I can enjoy my children while they still want to play with me.

Running just as fast as we can ...

Cletus ran in a 10K this past Saturday in Carrboro. It was so much fun! He did a great job and came in right over 44 minutes. As a cheer-leader and care-taker of the little cheer-leaders, a 10K is much more fun and manageable than a marathon. At a marathon, we would cheer and applaud at the beginning of the race (usually in a city not very close to home) and then try and find something to do for 4 hours. But a 10K is perfect. We cheer and watch him run off, then play and visit with friends and then, viola! The time is up and we get to cheer again. The winner of the race ran it in 30 min 34 sec. For those of you not great at math, that's just over a 5 minute mile! I was pretty amazed. We spent the night Friday with our friends in Chapel Hill, the Polleis, and Heather ran in the race also. She is an exercise machine! Two of Cletus' sisters, Crystal and Candice, also joined in. Candice had never actually run 6 miles straight and decided at the last minute to run. She did really well. I think it inspired me to run. I have never run on purpose. I don't even like the thought of running for exercise. I'm an elliptical machine fan. But, being at the 10K inspired me and I think I'm going to start training for a 5K. It may sound easy to some of you, but I probably can't run 10 minutes straight without passing out.

After the real race, they had races for the kids by age group. Kate's age group (3 and under) was pretty cute to watch. Kate didn't get what was going on at all at first and just stared at everyone trying to figure it out. But once the lightbulb went on, she was off! She ran with all her might and loved it. In fact, since then, she'll stand against the wall, say "go!" and run as fast as she can to the other wall. That is her new favorite game. I'm hoping that our kids get Cletus' athletic talent and not mine (or lack thereof).
Hayden's age group (7-8) was much more competitive. He also ran with all his might and came in second. He is a fast runner. He might have come in first if he was actually in his real age group. He doesn't turn 7 until later this month. He likes to run with the big kids. We have a picture of Hayden crossing the finish line with Cletus at the end of the Richmond, VA marathon. It is priceless.

A new baby!

No, not that kind! (How presumptuous!). This kind:

Isn't she a beauty?! We have been looking for a piano for awhile and had convinced ourselves of all of the reasons to buy a cheap old piano for ourselves while our children are young. Then, Cletus' sister called one day and told us about this piano. I have to admit that we didn't think about it very long. It is a Yahama console about 20 years old with excellent sound and in perfect condition. (and yes, it's black and coincidentally matches our decor) It seems to have been meant to come to our family. We love it! Hayden hasn't started official piano lessons yet, but he has learned the first few lines of "We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet". Cletus and I play a lot more than I thought we would, and we are just giddy to have it. We are both trying to relax and realize that sticky fingers and a little banging will happen. I got pretty nervous when I asked Hayden what he thought the family rules about the piano should be and he said, "no painting on the piano, no eating or drinking on the piano, no shooting the BB gun at the piano, no throwing hard stuff at the piano ...". Ah! I guess I didn't realize we needed to get so specific. Anyway, it has brought a whole new spirit of music into our home and we love it. Our goal is to have both of our kids accepted into Juilliard by the time they are 16 ... they'll have to refuse so that they can attend NC State, but the acceptance is really what we're looking for. I might even start taking lessons just for fun! Those 2 years when I was in elementary school have stuck with me, but I could use some polishing.

Music Advice

There is nothing quite so astonishing as hearing your 6-year old sing "hold me all night" or "you make me lose control"! We always thought we were pretty picky about the music we listen to as a family, but obviously not picky enough. One of those phrases came from a Beach Boys CD and the other came from an LDS acapella group that we thought would be perfectly family-appropriate. I guess not. So, .... help! What do you listen to as a family that is fun ... and wholesome? We love music - all different kinds - and we want good music to be a part of our children's lives, but it seems a bit scarce! And, I'll just say now that kid's songs sing-along CD's make me want to jump out the window. Any advice?


I've had a few people tell me that I look like Pam from "The Office". I don't think I do that much (although Jenna Fischer is quite beatiful in real life). I think that my sister, Mary, definitely looks more like Pam. Here are a few pictures for comparison purposes. Excuse the ridiculous self-portrait - why doesn't anyone ever take pictures of me? When my children grow up,they will wonder what I looked like when I was young(ish). Maybe I could just tell them to watch old re-runs of "The Office".

Farewell, Summer!

Farewell to beach and camping trips, to long rides in the car, to bug bites galore. Farewell to ice pops, runs in the sprinkler, and baseball games. Farewell to summer heat and humidity that makes fall one of my favorite friends. Farewell to having squash, zuchinni, and tomatoes in great abundance from our garden. Farewell to fireworks and daylight that lasts past bedtime. So, farewell summer. We will greet you again next year with great anticipation.

Dr. Dad

The kids and I went to get a cleaning before school starts and schedules get crazy. Hayden always gets a kick out of seeing Cletus "all dressed up" as a dentist (I do too). I think he forgets that Cletus actually goes somewhere and works during the day. One of the assistants asked Hayden, "so, does your dad talk about teeth all of the time at home?" and Hayden looked at her like she was crazy and said, "umm, no". I guess she assumes that he is interested in teeth at home as well as at work. Not true. Anyway, I'm glad our kids are getting a good introduction to a friendly dentist and a good experience with their teeth. I had awful dental experiences growing up and I still tense up and clench my hands when I'm in that chair. We all got new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss, so the day was a success. (and, no cavities!)


If laughing really takes years off of your life, then this video has made Cletus and I years younger! Sorry Carrie Underwood, but I almost like this version better. (First, go down to the bottom of my blog and pause the music so that you can fully appreciate and enjoy the video)

(Hayden thought that this was actually Cletus in the video ... with a beard and an extra 100 lbs ...?)

Does anybody smell that?

I have pretty much decided that most of my job as a homemaker is to make sure our home doesn't stink. Almost all of my jobs center around this one goal.
Laundry? Making sure our clothes don't smell bad
Dishes? Dirty dishes definitely smell horrible. Especially greasy ones.
Diapers? Obvious
Cleaning the bathrooms? The smell of bleach is so much better than other alternatives.
Bathing children? Obvious again
Cooking? There are few smells better than the smell of fresh baked bread or homemade cookies. And I think that cooking broccoli could be up there with one of the worst smells of all time, along with various burned items. I guess burned broccoli could be the queen of bad smells.
Cleaning out the fridge? I always dread this job, but my nose convinces me that it will be well worth it after the dirty task is finished.
Vacuuming and mopping? Questionable, but it sure seems like the house smells better when the floors are freshly cleaned. And, now that I've started mopping with vinegar and water, somehow vinegar has become a pleasant smell.

And, along the theme of smells, I have always wanted to be known among my loved ones for a certain sweet smell. Whether it's a perfume I've worn my whole life, or fresh homemade cookies, I picture my husband, children, or grandchildren smelling this sweet smell, smiling, and thinking fondly of me. It seems that old women are usually remembered by a floral perfume that they've worn forever and which seems to waft after them wherever they are and wherever they've been. I learned in some of college psychology classes that the part of the brain that senses smells is right next to the one responsible for memories and that smells bring back memories more strongly than any of our other senses. Can you pick this smell that others identify with you or does it choose you? All of the more reason to have a lovely-smelling house. I don't want to be remembered one day as the grandma who smells like burned broccoli.

The Essentials

I laughed as I walked by our kitchen counter a few days ago and noticed this:

Our nutritional essentails all lined up: rice, wheat, pasta, and wild cherry M&M's.

Response to Last Post

I had so much fun reading all of those memories! Thank you, ladies, for sharing those with me. And, for the ego boost! I should do this more often - you were all so kind. I think I need to set the record straight, though. It isn't true that all the guys wanted to marry me! Not at all! In fact, I think Cletus was the only one standing in that line. He did ask me twice, so maybe that's where the confusion was. And Heather, I still have that black dress.

Memory Blog

Do you remember the time.... I saw this on a blog that I stumbled across and thought it looked fun.
1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!
2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. I think it will be pretty fun to see the responses.

Todd's visit ...

My nephew Todd is visiting for a few weeks from Texas. We've had a lot of fun so far. Aaron and Lynda, here are some pictures just for you!
(Above: Todd and Hayden posing by the Andy Griffith statue at Pullen Park. Hayden makes a pretty good Opie, but Todd doesn't really pass for Andy.)
(Below: We did the paddle boats at Pullen Park. It was hard work! Todd said that his legs were sore the next day. We had fun chsing down ducks and taking turns pedaling. It was a beautiful day, but it felt hot out in the middle of the lake!)
Hayden and Todd surfing at Ft Fisher beach. It was a PERFECT day at the beach - not too hot, breezy, and sunny. The water was even warm. We had a great day!
So, I don't know that I think Todd and I look that much alike, but we've gotten comments since he's been there. Someone at church turned around and said to me, "That has to be your brother! He looks so much like you". Interesting. I hope Todd takes it as a compliment. He was smiling kind of weird in this picture because he has a Slim Jim in his mouth, his snack of choice.
Jumping on the trampoline in the rain at Grandma Cunningham's. Is there a face under all that hair?
This is a huge dirt mound at the back of our neighborhood. We like to go out there and climb up. When we really want to have some fun, we roll old tires up to the top and then roll them off to see whose can go farthest .... "you know you're a redneck if ..."
This is suppose to be a 4 generations picture. Aaron, we are just mentally picturing you here as well.
Todd worked on this puzzle for over an hour and then finally conquered!
Aaron and Lynda, thanks for letting us borrow him for a couple weeks. It's been fun. Wish you could all be here!