The Runaway Incident.

My parents have what we often refer to as Grandkid Heaven.

Right around the time that Chris and I started dating, they went in with three other families and bought 70 acres of land 20 minutes out of town. It was the cheapest land anyone could buy, because it was completely unreachable – a mountain on one side, and a creek on the other three sides.

My dad, however, is quite handy. So he and the other neighbors built a bridge. A bridge sturdy enough for every piece of construction machinery that needed passage to build three houses. A bridge that is still in beautiful working condition fifteen years later.

We the children rewarded their hard work by giving them five grandchildren who think their Grandparent’s house is the stuff dreams are made of.

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They’re not wrong.

My parents have antique cars and chickens and bees and a creek and a sandbox and rocks to paint with chalk and blueberries and blackberries to pick and a garden full of vegetables and eggs to collect from the chicken houses and flowers to gather into bouquets…

it couldn’t possibly get any better, except for once a year when our entire extended family comes out,

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And the party gets real.

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There are tire swings to catapult through the air and horseshoes with which to nearly decapitate your cousins.

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There are even hamster wheels – which surveys show are approved of by nine out of ten kids.

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Much more frequently than the annual family extravaganza, my parents have their five grandkids over at the same time to foster relationships and childhood magic.

IMG_6281Eli – 6 years old, Ali – 7 years old, Andi – 3 years old, Noah – 3 years old, Tessa – 5 years old, Model T Ford, 100 years old.

That would be my two kids and my older brother’s three kids – all delightfully attached to each other.

Despite the obvious positives, though, we the four parents are always a tiny bit worried.

“Are you sure you can handle all five? They’re a LOT…”

But Mom always assures us that it’s no problem at all and she lives for this kind of thing (while my Dad looks at her like she’s full of hippy dippy baloney).

Until…The Last Time.

Mom had all five completely to herself, as my dad and little brother were out of town.

They all sat off on a nature walk. It was a lovely day, and there’s nothing my Mom loves more than educating children on the wonders of nature. She knows to whom every leaf, bark, and bird chirp belongs, and can tell the children about them with such wonder that they actually care.

(This is a magic that only a grandparent possesses. I say, “Listen! There’s a Mockingbird!”, and Ali says “So? Why are you telling me that?!”)

The kids were in the mood for a butterfly hunt, and Eli spotted one first. His butterfly led him and the other children running after him and my Mom running after them to the creek. The creek was immediately deemed more fun than catching butterflies, so the chase was cancelled and all five kids began wading in the water.

Besides his butterfly chasing skills, Eli is freakishly adept at climbing trees, and superhuman in his ascent speed.

Which explains how he managed to climb a tree in the middle of the creek before my Mom realized his feet had left the ground.

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And, for some reason, that was the day that he decided to get stuck.

So my mom quickly got the other four kids to shore and waded through the creek to answer his plea for help.

While Mom was busy, Tessa decided that it would be a grand opportunity to throw sand in the other three kid’s faces.

That’s what cousins are supposed to do, right?

She did not, apparently, expect the other three to begin screaming as if someone had thrown sand in their faces.

Ali worked up her most self-righteous oldest-kid voice and told Tessa that she was going to be in big trouble, then started yelling, “Graaaaaaaaammmaaaaammmmmaaa!!! Tessa threw sand!!!”

Which made Tessa flee the scene.

Mom had completed her rescue of Eli, who was not at all grateful for her services and was arguing his case for re-climbing the same tree again as she was trying to get back across the creek to remove sand from six little eyes belonging to three little screaming mouths.

Which is when she discovered that she was once again down one kid.

Mom called for Tessa, but Tessa wasn’t returning calls. Thanks to Ali’s proclamations, she thought she was in trouble so she was keeping a low profile, erroneously thinking as kids often do that time heals all wounds.

Mom hurried three kids up to the house (Ali, Noah and Andi), told Ali she was in charge, and kept Eli with her for his eagle eyes to help in The Tessa Hunt.

She set off, calling for Tessa and completely freaking out on the inside.

Which is when Noah began screaming as if his life was over.

Mom rushed back to the house to find out which tragedy had befallen her next.

Noah wanted to play with the blocks. ALL the blocks. And Ali had a couple of blocks that he wanted.

In a desperate state of being, My Mom told Ali, “Give him whatever he wants. Whatever it takes to make him not scream.”

(She never told my brother to do that for me growing up. We should have run away more often.)

Then she ran out of the house again to search for the missing child.

“Tessa!! TESSA!!! TESSSSSSA!!!”

Runaways don’t answer.

Eli was much too busy chasing bugs and butterflies to look for his missing sister, therefore tying Mom up with keeping him from also disappearing.

Worried that Tessa was wandering further and further away, mom decided that it was time for more power and control in her situation. So she put Eli on the golf cart and took off, even searching across the creek and onto the next road.

On her way back over the creek, as I’m positive her heart rate was reaching dangerous levels, Mom finally spotted Tessa, darting from one hiding place to another. She was taken into custody and what was left of my mother was finally able to return to the house, all five grandchildren in her possession, and holding Tessa especially close.

When he returned home, my Dad forbade her from keeping all five by herself ever again. And we all said a very hearty Amen.

…Except for Mom, who still regularly says, “Oh it will be fine!! They’re no problem at all!”, prompting Dad to start calling around for openings at nearby mental institutions.

The Profit of a Yard.

The best thing we did in 2013 was get sod in our front yard.

Previously, our slightly sloped yard was nothing but dirt – with a few weeds, a bunch of gumballs (or pricklies, as we call them at our house), and plenty of tree roots. It was a shame, as most yards in our neighborhood are too sloped to be properly utilized. And then there was our yard – not a bad plot at all – yet a wasteland of uninhabitable negligence.

We’re not much for big investments or big renovation-like projects, but even we could see that something needed to be done. So we got our yard guys to quote it, were surprised that it wasn’t as much as we feared, and within a few weeks, actually had….a yard.

My kids actually began playing in the yard nearly daily,

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We accessorized our yard with nostalgic items such as Slip n’ Slides,

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And it became so popular that odd traffic jams began occurring.

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Our yard became a gathering place, where Ali basked in the privilege of hostessing/bossing/organizing neighborhood friends to properly enjoy her domain.

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Although we have several neighbor families that we love to play with (one of which you heard about last week because apparently it’s Neighbor Month around here), our across-the-street neighbors became our most common guests, with playtimes and picnics occurring at least twice a week all Spring and Summer.

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Lachlan would drive over,

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Bringing his older sister Olivia, who is a few months younger than Noah.

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Ali and Olivia were tight from the beginning, as Olivia was more welcoming to Ali’s organizational bossing than Noah.

Ali and Noah

Olivia played the part of the adorable younger sister that Ali always wanted,

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and Ali was a seven-year-old superhero to Olivia.

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But then, as the summer wore on, Olivia began to notice the other superhero in the family.

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And a new friendship began to develop.

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Noah had always been too busy avoiding the Realm of Girlishness to realize how fantastically awesome Olivia was, until all of a sudden, they were sneaking off for long conversations and impish giggles on the porch.

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There might have been one occasion where Noah and Olivia snuck inside, upstairs, and into his toddler bed to “Play Nap.”

He wanted to show her his blankets, he explained.

She liked his noisemaker’s music, she explained.

Their appreciation for each other’s company grew,

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And Olivia had to start diplomatically splitting her time between Ali’s maniacally organized activities and Noah’s casual conversations.

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The pinnacle of the summer occurred on the occasion of Olivia turning three.

She had a birthday party with a water slide and bounce house, and, to cut down on toddler bashfulness, there were only two non-adult guests – Ali and Noah.

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So basically the best thing that ever happened to my kids.

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And Noah paid her back well, becoming The World’s Best Birthday Party Guest.

He jumped and bounced and jumped and bounced and ate cake and jumped and bounced some more.

Then, when it was time for presents, he sat a respectful distance away from the gifting area, joyfully wearing his assigned Princess Party Hat, and made unpresumptuous recommendations as to which presents she should open next.

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At each present opening, he awarded the crowd with a creepy way-too-loud-and-excited laugh, thereby fully demonstrating glee on Olivia’s behalf.

And even when he realized that she’d gotten a Barbie Motorhome and she wasn’t opening it quickly enough for his boyish needs, still he sat, dutifully holding his balloon.

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He inched closer as the motorhome was assembled, still being somewhat thoughtful of her Birthday Personal Space.

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Until finally, he found his opportunity to participate.

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Noah.

He might be a player, but he’s not afraid of some pink.

The Moments of Artwalk.

I survived my first two-day art show for Picture Birmingham. Here were the moments I won’t (or, in some cases, can’t no matter how hard I try) forget.

1. I got stuck in a ditch.

Literally.

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That’s my friend Radford, illustrating exactly how stuck I was. And no, I do not have four-wheel drive. And yes, it did make me late for my setup appointment.

I dropped the kids off at a friend’s house, and as I was backing out of their driveway, using my trusty backup camera as always, I discovered that they had a perilous and quite invisible trap awaiting any and all visitors who attempted to use the Evil Weapon of Reverse on their property.

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Oops.

Radford was able to find an assistant who pulled me out of the ditch in five seconds, clearly demonstrating that they’ve done this before. Because people with traps utilize them often.

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2. Underdressed.

People watching is supreme at art shows. I spotted a girl in a t-shirt and panties (okay I suppose they were technically hot shorts but they were bright shiny spandex (with stars) and created a dreadful case of underbutt, side butt, and just butt butt.) Later, I saw another girl in huge baggy blue jeans and a bra.

Between the two of them, they had one quite wearable outfit.

3. Overdressed.

I saw a dude in a Grumpy Old Men winter hunter’s hat and another dude in a full length leather jacket. Between the two of them, they had the ability to cause death by overheating.

Grumpy Old Men

Meanwhile, I melted in my sleeveless shirt and shorts. Because that’s how I roll – fully dressed minus suffocation.

4. I will do anything for love…but I won’t do that.

One browser asked me, “Do you have this picture in black and white?”

It’s a…sunset.

No.

 

…Later, Chris said, “But the customer is always right! You could have special ordered it in black and white…”

No.

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A sunset in black and white is worse than a scented résumé in Comic Sans with a Curlz header.

5. Curses.

On Saturday morning, another artist came over to my booth.

“Hi! I thought I’d walk around and see the other booths before things got started. But of course I’m not going to BUY anything from you. I LIVE in Birmingham. Ha! WHY would I ever want a picture of it?”

She then went on to curse me. Literally.

“I’m putting the Artist’s Curse on your booth. Do you know what that is?”

“Ummmm…..nope.”

“I’m cursing you to sell out. You see? It’s a blessing because you’ll sell out. But it’s a curse because you’ll have to make more.”

Well okay then. Everyone loves a good solid curse to start the day.

6. Finally finding the pot of gold.

I NEVER see rainbows. I’ve even gone out on rainbow chases, and let me tell you – they’re much harder than sunset chases.

But then, at the beginning of Artwalk, a beautiful, bold, double rainbow came right to me.

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…and only brought twenty drops of rain with it. Totally worth it.

6. Meeting you.

So, so SO many of you came to see me. I really should have kept a list because I lost count of everyone who came by. AND I had so many Instagram notifications that they all rolled off before I got back to everyone to thank them, so please know I meant to but…it was kind of a hectic two days. I never left my booth for the entire eleven hours of Artwalk. But I enjoyed meeting every single one of you and I was so honored that you’d come visit me. Thank you all!

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7. Freaking out someone else’s kid for a change.

Although I adore meeting blog readers, Ali and Noah are not always as excited. They’ve been known to be completely weirded out when a stranger references what they did last week.

I spotted my blog friend Katy and her family coming toward us, and greeted them by name.

Her oldest son looked at me, looked at his mom, and said suspiciously, “Uhhhhh….how does she know our last name?”

It was a beautiful moment.

My kids had just returned from the football game, so they were able to dispel any amount of creepishness that I had given off, and even crossed the Alabama/Auburn borders to do so.

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8. Body Art.

The cousins came by to visit with their craft that they made at the Artwalk kids area. Fans that they decorated with…glue and glitter.

Glitter.

On a fan.

Like you know, a thing you wave back and forth in front of your face. And in front of your parent’s faces.

I’ve never seen my brother and sister-in-law so sparkly.

9. Serendipity.

It was the end of the second day, and Chris left to go get my car to start packing everything up. My very last visitors walked up – two women and a younger man. The ladies were thumbing through some prints, and I watched as the gentleman walked straight to one print, picked it up, looked at it closely, then showed it to the others.

They were all exclaiming their wows at some detail in the print, so I went over to see which picture it was.

It was my bamboo picture.

140719 Sunset Through the Bamboo

“What’s so interesting about the photo?”

”It’s my name. Right here. I carved it last year.”

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Just one day before, I had told another visitor that I harbored a secret hope that one day one of the name-carvers would find my picture. (After all, I had worked hard to get those names and the sun in the same picture, as I can appreciate a name being left behind.) Then I quickly explained that I knew that was silly and it would never happen.

But it did.

And my day was made.

(And yes – he bought the print.)


It was a great weekend and I was able to raise a very good amount for The WellHouse. Thank you to all of you who came out to say hello!