Thursday, August 27

First Grader

Jeremy started first grade on Monday, a milestone that he has been extremely excited about since the last day of Kindergarten last year. He was thrilled to be able to eat lunch at school and stay there until 'almost dinner time'. Happily, I handled the transition pretty well too.
Bright and early on Monday morning, he jumped out of bed, put his favorite camo shirt and backpack on, and begrudgingly posed for a few photos.
My baby is getting so big!
He's so capable and wise beyond his 6 years. I know he'll do well in this, as he does well in almost everything else he does. I am so incredibly blessed to have him as my son!
Mom, are you done taking pictures yet?
One last shot of sibling love, and we headed down to the corner bus stop.
With barely a backward glance and a hurried 'I love you', he was gone.

At the end of the day, he darted off the bus and ran full-out for me. He initially declined to give me any details about his day other than 'it was good' and 'everybody was nice', but later that evening I managed to pry some details out while we were eating dinner. The last two days he has been a cranky mess after getting off the bus at 3:30, but I'm sure he'll adjust soon and be back to his normal self. I'm so proud of my growing boy!

Wednesday, August 26

Yard Faries

When I moved into this house, the yard was a little overgrown for my taste. I knew I wanted to do something with, but was really uncertain what, and was feeling less than excited about the work it would take. A few weeks ago at church, I was approached by one of my friends, asking if I would be willing to let the young men and young women come over and do a service project for my yard work. I readily agreed, envisioning all the work I would be saved from having to do personally.

Well, tonight was the night. I posted a couple of 'before' shots, taken right after I moved into the house:

One of the men in the ward brought over a chainsaw, and quickly set to work clearing the larger brush along the back fence line.
Another set of young men worked along the side fence line, removing vines and poles from the area.
Soon, the brush began to pile up, so another group of young men and women stated transferring it to a different spot in the backyard, so it's at least out of my way until arrangements can be made to get rid of it all.

Some of the adult Sunday School teachers came over and helped clear out the area on the side of the house, raking out garbage, cement blocks, and underbrush. The larger trees were left to provide a small amount of privacy between my house and the house next door.

Even the boys got in on the action, staying up far past their usual 7:15 bedtime to help clear out the large bushes in the front yard.
Even Brooklyn found a friend and companion in another girl from our church.
In the space of 90 minutes, everything was gone. The brush and branches were piled next to the shed, and everybody prepared to enjoy some popsicles.
The yard looks so bare and naked to me now, but I'm grateful that the extra brush is gone. Next spring, I plan to put in a raised garden along the side of the yard, and possibly some flowers in this area. I also plan to spread plenty of grass seed this fall, so hopefully some more grass will fill in the areas that used to be bushes and overgrowth.
This is the enormous pile of brush and tree limbs that were removed. I imagine it will take several trips to a lawn waste facility to get rid of all of this.
After the work was done, everybody had popsicles and ice cream. I'm grateful beyond measure, once again, for the members of my church. They're wonderful, and have saved me from innumerable hours of yard work in the coming years. All of these people are teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18, and willingly spent the evening doing hard labor in my backyard in the heat and humidity. I love these people!!

Popular Science

This is my favorite photo from our Mammoth Cave trip a couple of weeks ago. We had the fold-out bed that the cabin provided out on the front porch, because we simply didn't need that much sleeping space. It became a makes shift porch seat, and one evening when I was cleaning up dinner, I came across the boys reading Russ's Popular Science. I didn't say anything to them, but walked inside and quickly found my camera. I walked back out a few seconds later, praying they hadn't moved, and quickly snapped a shot. I didn't take a lot of time to frame the shot or zoom, because I wanted to catch them completely candidly. It turned out extremely well, in my opinion. It's nice, sometimes, to see the kids actually show affection for each other, rather than either fighting or just running around together.

Life is good. Getting busier by the day, but everything is going well. Jeremy started school on Monday, and so far seems to be enjoying his class. The first two days I packed lunches for him from home, today he asked to be allowed to eat the school provided lunch. We had a discussion about what was on the menu and what consists of a healthy choice. In the end, though, I'm trying to accept that I have to trust him to use what I've spent years teaching him about fruits, vegetables, and too much sugar, and make wise decisions. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit freaked out about it. Kadon is handling the transition to being home without Jeremy better than he did last year. So far we've spent every morning at the YMCA, and will continue to do so until I start school late next month. At this point, I'm looking forward to labor day and the week after, when Kadon starts his three-day-a-week preschool. After that, there is another short break before I start my fall classes.

I'm also dating. I've seen the same gentleman twice, and am cautiously excited about the possibilities. He hasn't met the kids yet, but it will happen soon. We're not worrying about titles or the future at this point, but it feels good to be near him, talk to him, and have him in my life. For now, that's enough for me. I'm enjoying exploring this new world.

Friday, August 21

Set in Stone

I've been a little preoccupied with permanent marks lately. Before we left our townhouse, I felt compelled to take pictures of the hill where Ammon crashed his motorcycle. It was a mere 500 yards from my front door, and I felt a bittersweet set of emotions knowing that I wouldn't be faced with the reminder of that hill every day when I drove home.
This photo was taken standing nearly at the bottom of the hill, and looking back up. Ammon's accident site was about the middle of this photo. Our best guess is that he lost control of his motorcycle somewhere near the top of this hill, and hit the pavement about halfway down. This hill is also what kept those of us near our front door from actually seeing the accident--particularly Russ. It's a small mercy I've been grateful for many, many times. Seeing the after-effects of the impact was bad enough. I can only imagine what nightmares seeing the actual impact would have caused.

If you look closely, there is a small white groove in the center of this picture, stretching from the left side to the right side. At this point, this is the only mark left on the pavement from where his motorcycle hit the ground and slid several feet.
Standing near the top of the hill, near where I was when I first laid eyes on my eerily still husband.

The mark I saw today was a different kind of mark, but somehow even more permanent. Eventually, the mark on the pavement will probably fade away. Even now, it's a little difficult to know exactly where it is. For a long time I avoided that hill, and the memory of the exact placement of his body is difficult to dredge up. This other mark, this will last forever. Generations from now, ancestors will see this mark. My children will always associate this mark with their Daddy.
To those of you who have been kept in the dark about the headstone, I apologize. It was something I felt like I had to do. I know I hurt some of you with my refusal to discuss the timing of it's placement, or the features of it's design. This headstone, this piece of granite--it's my last gift to Ammon. I thought long and hard about the design and what I would have written on it, and every word on that stone comes from a place deep inside my heart. I suppose I wanted it to come from my heart only, and couldn't bear the thought of any input marring the tribute I wanted to make. It's a personal gift, one that I am now ready to share with everybody else.

It's an odd kind of closure, but today, I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, August 20


Kadon has had problems with ear infections nearly from birth. He was born in March, and his first winter he spent a grand total of about three weeks that he was healthy in the months between November and February. My the time he was 15 months old, he had been diagnosed with a form of asthma, and had surgery to insert a set of tubes in his ears to ease the constant infections. The tubes worked fabulously for a couple of years, but in the last six months since they fell out, he has had more ear infections, eardrum ruptures, and hearing loss. I consulted with an Ear Nose and Throat doctor here in Cincinnati, and he agreed immediately that it was time for Kadon to have a second set of tubes, along with removing his adenoids, which are glands in the back of the sinus passages that can become swollen and contribute to the excessive fluid and bacteria that can cause ear infections. The surgery was scheduled for Tuesday morning, and my sister Erin flew out from Las Vegas to spend some time with us, and help with the surgery. I left Jeremy and Brooklyn at home with my niece Janelle, and spent the morning with Erin and Kadon at the Children's Hospital.

I was so impressed with the quality of care that Kadon received on Tuesday. All the nurses spoke to him directly, and explained things using words that he could understand. He was able to choose a stuffed animal within our first few minutes there, then was given another chance to choose a video to watch and a box of toys to play with. He willingly put on his hospital gown and played on the floor of the room while we waited for the surgery to begin. I was able to go into the anesthesia room with him and be there while he was put under, which was certainly much more difficult for me than it was for him!

After a quick 20 minute surgery, he was back in recovery, struggling to sort himself out after the anesthetic. I pulled him into my lap and coaxed him to drink a couple juice boxes and eat a Popsicle, and after another 20 minutes of wailing, he calmed down. The only real effects I noticed for the rest of the day was a slightly smaller appetite at dinner time, and a general fatigue. I'm incredibly pleased with the medical team, the results, and the after effects. Today, two days later, it's not even noticeable that he had anything done!

Tuesday, August 18

Mammoth Cave

The early part of last week, the kids and I traveled to Mammoth Cave Kentucky with Angela and her boys, Russ and Mary, and my niece Janna.

We left late morning on Monday, and stopped about an hour south of Cincinnati for lunch. The boys spontaneously held hands all the way across the parking lot, and I was able to capture the cuteness.
That night after we got to the cabin, we unloaded the cars and got settled. Each family was in charge of preparing one of the nightly meals, and I chose to do Dutch Oven chicken, potatoes, and cobbler on Monday night. The potatoes were a little salty, but everything tasted excellent!
On Tuesday morning, we drove to the cave. I took the kids outside to wander around for a bit while everybody else bought souvenirs. Brooklyn saw me with the camera, turned around, and said 'Cheese!'

We rode buses from the visitor's center to the cave. I was having middle school flashbacks!

The older boy cousins were cute with Brooklyn. Other than Janna, she was the only girl out of the five boys, and is the smallest and most portable of all the grand kids (at this point). I think she enjoyed all the attention!
The cave tour we chose lasted about two hours, and had about 300 steps total. Jeremy, Janna, Josh and I had gotten ahead of everybody else when we filed in the cave entrance, so we decided about halfway down to stop and wait for everybody else. I was feeling a little stressed out being separated from Brooklyn and Kadon with all the steep drops and narrow passages in the cave.
The engineers did a great job making the cave more visitor-friendly, but there were still incredibly narrow passages and parts where even the kids had to duck. They tried to alter the cave as little as possible in order to preserve the history, and I'm glad. It was really neat!
I tried not to think about how many tons of earth were pressing down above our heads. The cave was about 55 degrees on the inside, which was cold until we started climbing.
The cave also constantly dripped, which is partly what is responsible for forming these amazing stalactites.

At the very bottom of the cave, we all gathered together and I petitioned a random stranger to take a group photo. I love random strangers.
After the Mammoth Cave adventure, we all trooped back to the cabin and had lunch, then left Russ and Mary at the cabin with a napping Brooklyn while we went down the street and rode bumper cards, miniature golfed, and rode the alpine slide.
We had the bumper cars to ourselves, and everybody had a fabulous time! The first time I went, I had Kadon with me--I wanted to keep the ride going just so I could enjoy his deep belly laughs!

The alpine slide was like nothing else I have ever done. We rode chair lifts up to the top of the mountain, exactly like the chair lifts I have ridden the times that I have been skiing.
The higher we got up the chair lift, the more nervous I got. By the time we reached the top and I realized I was going to simply sit on top of a small plastic sled and barrel down this concrete chute, I was pretty sure I had lost whatever sense was mine to begin with.
There is no seat belt on the small blue sled. There is no riding double, and you have to be at least 6 to ride. I was actually a little glad that Kadon and Brooklyn couldn't go-less stressful for me!
We came back on our way out of town so that Russ could ride the alpine slide. Angela and I stayed at the bottom with Brooklyn and Kadon, and sent everybody else up for one more ride.
Even Mary got in on the action!
I'm sure Russ and Jeremy were more thrilled with the ride than this picture shows.