A Whole Lotta Stuff

We've been getting pickup truck loads of mulch to till into our garden this fall. It's always a family project getting the mulch from the truck to the garden. My job usually involves taking pictures and making sure everyone takes their shoes off before they come inside. This last load turned into a playground for the kids ....
Maybe mulch makes children grow as well as vegetables.

Way Up There

Who came out of the shower saying they had a surprise?

What was it?
A pencil eraser

Where was it?
He had just blown it out of his nose

How long had it been up there?
A week

Who thinks that is cool?
An 8-year old boy

How many people can say that they've run a half-marathon with a pencil eraser stuck up their nose?
A mighty small number

I'm with them!

I hope that having athletic people in my family makes me look athletic too ...
We headed off to Richmond, VA last weekend for the Suntrust Richmond Marathon. This is Cletus' fourth marathon and his second time running in Richmond. As a cheerleader, this is by far the easiest marathon to watch. They make it quite an experience. After all, it is called America's Friendliest Marathon.
Hayden had also trained to run. He was planning on racing in the 8K. The 8K started at 7, the half-marathon started at 730, and the marathon started at 8. Even though we left the hotel at 6:30 and it was only about 6 miles away, we way underestimated the amount of time it would take to maneuver our way around in downtown Richmond with several roads blocked off. So, after quite a lot of stress and some tears, we got Hayden to the starting line about 10 minutes after the 8K group had left. He was devastated. While I was parking the car, Cletus convinced him to run the half-marathon! What a brave boy ... here he is with the deer-in-the-headlights look. He took a cell phone with him, and off he went!
Meanwhile, Cletus got ready to run his marathon. The shorts he is wearing are some that I made for him to wear around the house as pajamas. They have brightly colored frogs all over them. Anyway, it turns out that they're super comfortable to run in and he got lots of compliments on them along the way.

After 5 or 6 phone calls along the way (mile 8: "mom, I'm doing great .. I don't even feel bad at all! mile 10: "mom, I'm starting to break down" mile 11: "mom, mile 11"), he finished! I was so proud of him! As I saw him coming down the last stretch, I started crying. He got a huge cheer from the crowd as he finished. As people were remarking on his age and being quite surprised and impressed, I was crying and saying, "That's my boy!". For those of you (like me) who aren't runners, an 8K is about 5 miles and a half-marathon is 13 miles. Quite a difference. What a trooper!

After Hayden finished his race, we still had about an hour and a half to wait until it was time to cheer Cletus over the finish line. Luckily, there was food, music, and a juggler/magician that had my kids entertained for about an hour.

Hayden was so transfixed watching this man, it was quite entertaining for me. His favorite was when this guy juggled batons that were lit on fire. He just couldn't get enough.

He is the parting shot before we headed on home: Greg (a friend that came along with us and ran the marathon with Cletus), a freezing cold and sore Cletus, and a tired Hayden. It was a fun (and busy!) day and we were all happy to get in the car and head home.
By the way, where is my medal for entertaining a 2-year old for 7 HOURS in downtown Richmond while we were waiting for our boys? See those blue porta-potties in the background? We made too many trips to visit while we were there. Kate was really interested in them and wanted to touch and explore inside. I have been in many porta-potties in my life, but I have to say that those were some of the most disgusting, over-used potties I have ever seen. Kate touching anything inside grossed me out so much that I made her fold her arms the whole time we were inside - hopefully she doesn't relate this at all to praying. I started making her fold her arms after she pointed to the urinal, touched it inside and said, "what's that?". Hand sanitizer was our closest friend.
So, after Cletus finished running and he was in quite a lot of pain and discomfort, he asked me to remind him how he feeling right then in case he ever wanted to attempt running again. He compared how he felt to childbirth.
The comparison must have been quite far-fetched, because he's already signed up for his next race.

The many faces of an 8-year old

Hayden has always loved putting on a show for us. He is our drama boy. Anything that will make us laugh is his agenda. He is pretty entertaining ....

His pretending to fall out of his chair while we were camping face,

His Harry Potter spell-casting face at Halloween,

His Halloween Busch Garden trip with dad face (also called, mom would never let me get my face painted like this if she were there face)

Looking polite over his birthday cake and getting ready to blow out these cheap candles that melted down to the cake in about 20 seconds face,

My favorite, his sweet baptismal face,

And, finally, his Cub Scout face. He has been a scout for two weeks and has already memorized that scout oath and the motto.
Happy Birthday, Hayden. We love all of your faces.

Great Dad

So, today is Hayden's birthday! (Where did the past 8 years go??) As a surprise, Cletus took the morning off of work and he, Kate, and I went to have lunch with Hayden at school. Hayden got to choose 2 friends to come and sit with us at a separate table. We were talking and visiting with the kids, and Cletus was attracting more and more students over to our table to visit with us, to practice his Spanish, and to learn all of the names of the kids in Hayden's class. They LOVED the attention. Hayden's best friend looked at Hayden and said, "You've got a good dad". Then Hayden said, referring to his friend, "he doesn't have a dad". His friend told me that his dad is in prison, that he did some "bad stuff" and that they kicked him out of the house. I thought about how I was feeling guilty for making a cake mix in a 13x9 pan for Hayden's birthday, how I'm just not that creative when it comes to birthdays and celebrating, etc. How all of us give ourselves guilt trips. But when I listened to Hayden and his friend talking at lunch today, I realized that I did one pretty important thing right. Hayden has a great dad who loves him, plays with him, teaches him, sets a good example for him, holds the priesthood, wrestles every day when he gets home from work ... The other little things like a boring cake don't seem so important. I get to give my kids a great dad for their birthday.

Off to Medoc

We headed out for our fall family camping trip last weekend. We waited until the last minute to decide where we were going to go in hopes of finding a place where there wasn't a forecast of rain. We settled on Medoc Mountain State Park, north on 95 just south of Roanoke Rapids. It's a beautiful park. Despite some cold weather, and a few reservations on my part about strapping things to the top of the car (I trust my husband, I really do ....), we were off. Luckily, it's only about an hour away. Cletus is the man with the camping skills! He does all of the hard stuff - and he likes it! He made several great campfires for us. Kate didn't like the smoke getting in her eyes, but the rest of us enjoyed it. There's just something about sitting around the campfire with a bag of marshmallows and a cup of hot chocolate!
I chose to put in this picture of me, because the others that Cletus took resembled someone who had just been wheeled out of surgery. Camping and pregnancy mixed don't bring out my most beautiful qualities. But luckily, my family doesn't care. They think I'm beautiful - or they just don't care - I don't know which.

Hayden and Kate had so much fun playing together in the tent right before bedtime. The older Kate gets, the better of friends they are getting to be. Hayden is learning to be more patient, and Kate is learning not to scream so much. They were very sweet snuggled together in their sleeping bags.

Kate was just a picture of beauty this day when we went hiking. Her pink shirt and her little pink cheeks were too cute with her long curly pig tails. She had so much fun exploring and finding treasures along the path. We quickly learned, however, that taking a 2 year old who has been potty trained for 2 weeks on a camping trip with underwear on is a recipe for disaster. After an incident with poop that probably should have resulted in a bathtub, and another with wet clothes (including shoes) on a cold day, we resorted to the few diapers that we brought. Luckily, she was okay with that.

I love this picture of Hayden! He is .... not the most photogenic child. Don't get me wrong - he is handsome in every way - he just doesn't smile well for pictures. But this time, he was asking us to dare him to jump off of this bridge into a pit of leaves quite a ways below, and he was loving it. I caught a real-life Hayden smile. He did jump, by the way. And, he also set up our tent all by himself!

Here is the afore mentioned packed car. Notice the two bikes, scooter, tent, and various other things strapped onto the top of the car. And, the extra firewood we found on our hike packed into the back of the car ("for next time, of course" is what Cletus said when I asked him WHY we were bringing home firewood). But, honestly, Cletus did a knock-out job packing the car. Let's just say that I said a few prayers as we were driving home.
It was a great trip - the fall colors were amazing, the kids had fun, and it was heaven to be home in a heated house.
Our sweet campers.

An Explanation

First, I need to nominate myself for lame blogger of the year award. Unfortunately, I do about as well writing in my journal as I do updating my blog. But there is an explanation ....
We are expecting a baby! I've been miserably sick for weeks and weeks. Maybe months ... I've lost track. Maybe I never really felt well. I can't remember. It's all a blur. But my mind tells me that I'm only 11 weeks along so I really couldn't have been sick for most of my life, like it feels. We are all really excited! I'm due April 7, which seems like a really long ways away. But we have a lot of getting ready to do. We're going to bunk the baby in with Kate, so we need to get their room ready. We will need to get a bigger car ... and, the baby is the size of a fig right now, so I guess it needs to do a little bit more growing.
Kate talks about the new baby every day and Hayden is really wishing for a boy and not "another boring girl".
So, I've been lame at blogging, but at least I have a good excuse.

Taking a Moment

This post is about my friend, Tami, and her family. I hope she doesn't mind if I talk about her for a minute. We've been friends for almost 25 years, so maybe she'll forgive me if she really does mind.
Tami is expecting their 4th baby later this month. That is amazing in and of itself ... only because 4 children is so much work and I admire women who seem to do it so effortlessly. She is one of those. I've also heard that the 4th child is the turning point in a house of chaos. (Cletus' mother told me that and he was the 4th child, although I've heard it from others as well). The real reason that i wanted to bring up Tami is that her husband is set to be deployed for Iraq a week before the baby is due. He's going to be gone for 12 months. They are hoping and praying that the doctors will induce her so that Grant can see his baby before he's gone for a year.
After he's gone, Tami will be holding up the homefront with 3 children and a newborn. I know her and I know that she will be positive, that she will carry on and show a brave face, and that she will do singlehandedly what most of us complain about doing every day. Think about a year alone of: famiy home evenings, dinners, birthdays, outings, holidays, anniversary, children's firsts, evenings at home, prayers, and everything else that we share.
I don't feel sorry for her, but I respect her and the decision that both of them have made to be so brave and strong. I am so grateful for the sacrifice that she is making to create a safe country for me and my family. Her sacrifice, and many others like her, make is possible for me and my family to be together, to live and breathe, and work and play every day in a free and safe country.
So, thank you Tami. I value and honor your example. Soldiers aren't just sent off to war. They are left home to be a little scared, and brave, but to carry on with a smile.

On my way to Hawaii (in my dreams)

So, I've been expanding my homemaking talents by canning this year. And, wow is it a lot of work! I've burned myself several times, it makes my kitchen the temperature of a tropical rain forest, and I despise the sight of fresh vegetables when I'm done. It's difficult to spend hours chopping and cooking to produce a jar of salsa when there's a Food Lion just down the road. And, honestly, I've wondered sometimes if it's really even financially beneficial. But, I think after I build up my jar supply and I grow (or bum off of other people) what I'm canning, it really is cheaper than buying it. So, here is the tally for this year ...
41 quarts and
30 pints of ...
green beans
pickled okra (yee-haw y'all!)
pickled banana peppers
peach jam
strawberry jam
and we have stocked an ample amount of peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and okra (an "ample" supply of okra isn't very much for us - I don't even know why we grew it this year, but it's producing like crazy!) in our outside freezer.
So, it seems crazy to spend so much time and money on canning. But, when it's all over, I have to admit that it's quite satisfying to see all of those jars lined up on the shelf: red, green, and orange. They're beautiful in a way. And, I'm passing on the art to the next generation: Kate carries around my jar-lifter-outer thing and tells me that her pretend food is "too hot".
And ... it's satisfying to know that my family will have lots of healthy canned food to eat while I'm recovering by myself in Hawaii.

I Need Your Honest Opinion

I have this urge to get my hair cut short. I mean, pretty short. Does anyone know Britt Brostrom? I love her hair! I want to get my hair cut like hers, but I don't know if I can pull it off. Not everyone has the face for a really short cut. You have to have just the right features, angles, whatever to look good. I just don't know if I do. I'm not asking if I'm pretty or attractive or anything like that. I know lots of beautiful people that wouldn't necessarily look good with a short haircut. I just need to know if I have a short haircut kind of face. Just tell it to me straight. I can take the honesty. I prefer bluntness, actually. It makes life so much easier and more refreshing.

You Missed Me, Didn't You?

So, my last post was June 5 and it's now July 17. Yikes! (I'm afraid my journal writing habits are shining through here)

My last post was titled "Playing Catch Up", so since I've already used that title ... I'll have to think of something else. Apparently, I'm having a hard time keeping up my blog on any kind of regular basis. I don't know how you amazing people who update your blog all of the time do it .. I mean, I'm impressed. I secretly feel better about myself when someone else takes a long time to update their blog too. Silly, I know. It's like seeing dust, old Cheerios, and a few toys under some else's couch. It makes them seem real. So all of you people who find it hard to write on your blog all of the time, I'm just helping to keep it real.

I really feel like life has been a whirlwind since Hayden got out of school in early June. Does anyone else feel like life is in fast forward? I've heard many people say that the older you get, the faster time flies. I say "amen" to that! (I'll be 32 in a few weeks, so maybe I qualify for the "getting older" group). Here are some things that have been part of this crazy, chaotic fun summer so far:
We started off the summer with a bang at the Simpson Family Cousin's Camp. There are 24 (I think?) cousins in all and the oldest is 9. That's a crazy good time! We even had matching shirts this year. The kids had a great time and I think we've decided to make it an annual tradition.
Cletus and I headed off to Ocracoke to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. I can't believe it's been 10 years! I mean, I feel like it was just yesterday that we were being awkward and sitting in the corner of a singles' dance telling each other we just wanted to be "friends". How time flies! It was a fun beach trip - we rented bikes and rode around the island.
We took a ferry to get over there and Cletus told me he was taking me on a cruise ... not quite. We enjoyed being together without the kids and spending so much time together. I am so happy to love him more than I ever could 10 years ago. It just gets better all the time ....

Hayden showed off his hard work at his first piano recital. He's been taking lessons for only 4 months but he has learned quickly and has really taken to the piano. (However, if I ever have to hear "Woodchuck" or "Daydream" again, I think I'm going to jump out the window). We are proud of him! Thanks, Leah Steelman, for being such a great teacher.

Me and the kids took off to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy an extended family camping trip. Despite a rough start (Kate cried, freaked out, was delerious, and talked about grasshoppers until 4:15 am the first night in the tent), we really enjoyed ourselves. My favorite part was the visit to Alta Pass Apple Orchard off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you're up that way and have never been, it's well worth the stop.

And, how could I leave out our new baby, the dental practice? You'll notice that the sign looks like there was suppose to be a date after "Opening July ...". That's because the date has changed a few times. Cletus has worked countless hours on this new office. He has worried and stressed and planned. The office looks cute and harmless, but oh the sweat and tears that have gone into it. He is actually opening tommorrow and we are excited/anxious to see how everything goes. If you're ever in Bunn and you have a tooth ache ...

Cletus (aka Old Man Simpson) turned 34 at the beginning of July!

My brother, Aaron, and his family flew in from Texas a few weeks ago and we've been enjoying some time with them. The "boys" took a river rafting trip to Tennessee and had a blast! They did it all in a day - about 9 hours total in the car. I heard it was worth the trip.

After the rafting trip, we all went to the Outer Banks for 4 days on the beach in Corolla. The weather was amazing and we had such a good time. I love the age our kids are at - perfect for all day beach play. They really could have stayed all day every day. Kate was a trooper and spent 8 hours on the beach one day.

We really loved getting to spend time with Aaron, Lynda, Todd, Autumn, and Audrey. We only get to see them once a year at best, so it's always a fun time when they come. I have to admit that hosting 5 extra people in our home was a little stressful, but it was worth it. We love them and are glad for our kids to spend time with their cousins.

And, how can you go without a family picture? We had planned on hiring someone to take the pictures for us, but when that didn't work out, I just did it myself. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. I just set up my tripod and then jumped in at the last minute. The little girls aren't really smiling, but I didn't set my expectations too high.

Well, that's it. Thanks for joining us on the Simpson Family Tour. I hope to write again before it's been another month and a half ... but you never know. I'll leave you all on the edge of your seats.

Playing Catch-Up

Wow - it's been almost a month since I posted last. I don't expect that anyone is too upset by that (except my mom), but it shows how lame I've been at posting. Part of the trouble is that every time I download pictures from my camera, the program downloads ALL of my pictures, including ones I've already saved on our computer like 10 times. So that is frustrating and takes forever. Also, I guess part of me feels like updating my blog is like writing in my journal: it should be fun but often ends up feeling like a chore.

So, to take a short-cut, I'm going to post what I wrote as our latest entry for the Simpson Family Quarterly Newsletter (the "I Declare"). I'll post some pictures to make it a little more exciting.

Cletus and Alice and family:
I usually start out by saying that things have been busy at our house. I really mean it this time! Cletus’ new dental practice seems to be the background music to which we are marching lately. He is in a constant state of finishing and then making a new to-do list. We are looking forward to his opening date of July 7 (Happy Birthday to him!), not necessarily because we think it will get easier, but because it will mean that we have completed this part of our adventure and we are ready to move on to the next phase. I realize that we have all been spoiled in the past with Cletus’ schedule. He used to arrive home at 5 to eat dinner and spend time with us as a family. After all, that’s one of the reasons we chose dentistry – the family- friendly schedule. Well, dinner with Cletus at home has turned into a treat instead of the everyday “norm”. He often has people to meet with after work, then goes straight to either more meetings or church responsibilities. A few days in the past weeks he has been gone from home from 6:15 am to 10 pm. However, through it all, he is learning to make decisions quickly and confidently. (And if you have time, stop by and see his great crown molding project in progress). So, if he has not returned phone calls or emails, or if we seem more protective of our family time, just know that it is the chaos of our lives right now.
Hayden is about to finish second grade! He is very excited about summer break and is going to be involved with swimming lessons, a short outdoor day camp, camping and beach excursions, and according to him: his favorite, “hanging out with mom and dad”. He is a great big brother to Kate and I think that they will have a fun time playing together this summer. We are thinking about starting Hayden on the “Rosetta Stone” language program in Latin. He is still progressing in his piano lessons and loves to play. We are looking forward to his piano recital on June 20.
Kate is still the sunshine of our family. We all race to be the one to get her out of bed in the morning. Whoever wins is usually rewarded with a kiss, a hug, and a big smile. She loves laughing at Hayden, nursery, reading books, playing in the sandbox, dancing, singing songs, coloring, and running outside. It is easy for me to tell that she is a 2-year old by her tantrums and screeches, but she turns into an angel the minute that Cletus walks in the door. We are worried that she is getting quite vain about her hair. She gets compliments on it wherever we go and she has started telling me that her hair is “pretty”.
I am just trying to keep up with everyone else! I am trying to happily hold down the fort so that Cletus can accomplish his goals with the practice. Although we only have 2 children, I have to admit that between our garden and yard, housework, church callings, and other daily tasks, I often feel overwhelmed. However, I am learning to take care of myself so that I can better take care of my family. Sometimes I just need a break and I’m learning that it’s okay to take one sometimes. I am looking forward to an online photography class starting in the fall. I will need some practice, so if you’d like some pictures taken of your family, then let me know!
Despite our challenges, and maybe through them, we feel the love and the guiding hand of the Lord in our lives. We are so thankful for the blessings of the gospel. As we look at others in the world, we are increasingly grateful for the piece of heaven that is in our home. We enjoy happiness and peace and we know that these are fruits of living the standards of the gospel.
We love you! Cletus and Alice