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.

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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.

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“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!

Run With Me – For All The Kids.

Every time we’re downtown, we see at least one helicopter land on the roof at Children’s of Alabama. My kids stop what they’re doing and watch it with amazement, and we talk about how they are saving the life of a child. Ali and Noah are always in awe – and so am I.

Children's Hospital of Alabama

In the past few years, I have had so many friends, and friends of friends, who have had serious, long-term need of the services provided by a Children’s Hospital. Childhood cancerpremature babies…intense illnesses…all of these families made Children’s Hospital their second (and sometimes first) home for a while. And, without fail, when it was time for them to leave the hospital, there were always pictures of them with smiling doctors and nurses that had become their family, their lifeline, and their hope. The consummate care of the hospital is always apparent.

Although we have been very fortunate to have never needed Children’s of Alabama yet – except for one middle-of-the-night emergency room visit (the kind where your child is completely limp and nonresponsive until you get to the hospital and through check-in and then the kid lights up like it’s Christmas morning and acts completely normal) and one after-hours Chicken Pox scare (it was awesome – they took us through the back door with masks on so that we didn’t start an outbreak in the waiting room – and it ended up being a very thorough covering of chigger bites, because I’m really medically smart like that) – I always rest easier knowing that they are only 15 minutes away if I ever do need them.

So I was more than happy to sign up to help them – and help myself get motivated for something I desperately needed to do – through the Miracle Marathon, which is a one-mile-a-day race organized by Children’s Miracle Network, with all of the proceeds going to the hospitals they support.

Miracle Marathon

Children’s Miracle Network is a fundraising network for 170 Children’s Hospitals across the nation, and they work tirelessly to make sure that we all have care for our children when we need it. This race is one of their many fundraising activities, and it’s one that I’m particularly excited about.

I signed up for this before I started running two months ago, and it was definitely one of the motivators behind my first attempts at running – I needed to make sure I could do it. Running has improved my quality of life in so many ways, and this marathon is a great way to try it out if you want to see if it could be just as beneficial for you. Or if you’re already running, then a mile a day is no problem.

It starts on September 16. You can run, you can walk, or you can do the exercise equivalent of walking a mile – it’s completely up to you. Then on the last day, day 27, the final 1.2 miles will be started as a group at the same time, 1:27pm Central.  If you are local, I will be hosting a team run for the last 1.2 miles.

It’s a marathon – plus a mile – for the kids.

I would love for you to join my team in this race and benefit your local Children’s Hospital – you can choose which hospital gets your support when you sign up. Also, you can use the code “MiracleRachel” to get 10% off your registration, making the signup only $24.48.

If you would rather support than run, you can do that here – all money raised goes straight to the Children’s Hospitals. Hospitals who desperately need our help:

Children's Hospital

The number that really catches my attention is the 3.4 Billion dollars in charity care. Children’s Hospitals are taking care of children who otherwise would not have access to the medical care that they desperately need. I am excited to do my part to contribute to that number.

Will you join me? I want to run with you!

This post was made possible through the support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. All opinions are my own.