Our ten year old son, Ethan had a field trip to Old Salem, North Carolina yesterday.  If I'm being honest, I'll admit I was dreading the day.
     You see, my Dad loves history.  I don't mean like, normal people love.  I mean, when I was a kid and all my friends got to go on cool vacations to Disney World or Kings Island, we went on history trips.  Nerdy history trips.  The kind where we stood there looking at fields of grass because some battle of something happened there four score and seven years ago.
     This brings us back to yesterday.  It would be a day of walking around a really old town, with really old buildings and really old stories.  The kicker was, my husband wanted to go on the field trip too...because you know why?...yep.  He loves history.
     Arriving early morning, our tour began.  We listened to speakers from house to house, church to tavern. 
     Then, the strangest thing started to happen.  I began to listen.  
     Everything actually became (gasp) interesting.  Learning about the way the people used to live, eat, survive...how they got along with their day to day function.  It was fascinating. 
           Can you IMAGINE cooking in this kitchen?
                There was gun shooting...
                ...and this guy, with a pulley.
       The kids even learned how to start a fire. nice.
   We were able to walk the very same floors, George Washington once graced...
    ...then went with some friends to a restaurant called, "The Tavern", where we had the BEST food from this century, or any other. 
     Jared was the chef - and we watched as he greeted each guest with the most genuine welcome.  If you're ever in the area, this place, you have to go. 
    Leaving the field trip, Ethan went on and on about how much fun everything was.  My husband smiled with the assurance that the "trait" of loving history was being passed down to yet another generation.  
     I'll have to say, even though I went growling and scoffing all the way there, on the way home it was a different story.  An amazing story, of our country's past and of those who endured to keep it.  
     So with that, I'll say, Thanks, Dad.  Maybe all those trips weren't so bad after all.
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       Yesterday, I had my appointment with the Neurosurgeon. Even though my back feels so much stronger now, I was a little nervous.  I know better than to think a surgeon chooses to see you, simply to chat over a cup of tea.
       Getting called back to the room, I sat waiting as I heard muffled voices fill the white hallway.
       Before I knew it, the doctor entered the room, clicking my MRI results up on his screen.  
        A knot gripped my chest, knowing the last time he did this, resulted in surgery.
        This time however, the news was good.  The lower four discs were buldging, but nothing time wouldn't heal.
       The biggest smile of relief covered me as I stood to hug him.  I'm sure it totally freaked him out, but at that point, I was too happy to care.
        Thank you again for your Awesome thoughts and prayers.  They were truly felt and they most definitely worked.  God is good. 
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    Being born and raised in the Great State of Ohio, we had our fair share of winter weather.  Blizzard of 1978 anyone?
     Snow was pretty much fair game from the months of October through April.  It wasn't uncommon to go Trick-or-Treating in full winter gear, or go on Easter Egg hunts in the same attire.
    I've tried to have my kids understand that in the 90's, when I walked to classes on my college campus, I'd sometimes pull tiny beads of ice from my eyelashes once I reached the inside of a building.  Why would I walk to class, you might ask?  Because my keys wouldn't fit in the car doors or the ignition, due to everything being frozen...and forget about scraping the solid ice from the windshield and windows.   
     Winter was cold.  Like, bone hurting cold.
     You can imagine my surprise then, when something like this happens...  
     Picture if you will...a beautiful fall day in North Carolina.  It's overcast with an intermittent sprinkle, but the leaves are starting to change and the air is crisp.
     Lauren Elizabeth, our six year old little girl, steps outside only to stop in her tracks.  
     "Yes, Baby."
     "We need our COATS!"
     "Our coats?  Why Sweetie?"
     "Because today, it's WINTER!"
     - It was 70 degrees.  
      I remember the day I moved to North Carolina from Ohio.  It was years ago, during the month of February.  I left in about 8 degree weather and arrived to the upper 60's.  I'm not even kidding when I say that I put on shorts and a t-shirt, while everyone around me thought I had lost my mind.  The feeling was mutual, as I couldn't believe they were in sweaters and coats.  
      I'll have to admit, when it gets down to the sixties now, I am a little cold.  My blood is evidently thinning, making me completely aware of the fact that my friends and family from home, have full permission to demand I turn in my Ohio card.  My brother even hung up on me once when I told him we made a fire and turned the heat on, once it got below 70. 
     So, I guess, I'm not only failing as a northern mom, I'm failing as a northerner.  My kids don't know what real winter weather is, and my body evidently doesn't know what to do with it, either.
     Lord help us all if it snows.
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    The Tooth Fairy does this thing in our house.  She waits until all the kids are asleep, then sneaks into their rooms and kisses them on the cheek, regardless of who lost a tooth. 
    The way we know she does this, is because when all four kids wake up the next morning, there's a little bit of sparkle dust, sprinkled right on each face.
    Our little girl has grown to love this especially.  The boys, well, not so much.  Oh, it was cute when they were little, but now, they're not really having it.
    You can imagine their dismay then, when she came to visit our eight year old last night.  It was late, in her defense. 
    Really late.  
    I think I heard her around one in the morning when she slammed into the window, almost forgetting to stop by.  
    She had her pocket of fairy dust in hand with her money in the other.  
    After she carefully felt all over the bed and under the pillow for the baby tooth like a needle in a haystack, I heard her sigh of relief when she found it.  
    Replacing the tooth with the loot, she then ever so carefully removed the cap of her fairy dust, to sprinkle over our son with a kiss.  Flying on to the other rooms, each child was kissed the same.
    It was the first time she used this new kind of fairy dust, which seemed to be much finer with smaller sparkles than the old kind.  She thought it wouldn't be as obvious, in turn, pleasing the boys.  
    Little did she know.
    In the morning, our eight year old, Preston, woke up with a yelp.  "She came!  She CAME!" The other three went to his room, then all came out to show us his riches.
    Adam and I gasped as the cast of 'Twilight' approached, when four sparkly children, one, minus a tooth and waving a dollar, climbed into our bed.         
    Covering my mouth, I giggled as Adam whispered, "Whaaaaaaat happened?".
    It took awhile to get the sparkle off and I'll probably have to wash their pajamas and sheets, at least three times.  
    Even though the Tooth Fairy won't come around much longer, I guess her sparkly kisses will have to be reserved for our little girl from now on.
    It will be too hard to try to explain to the school why our kids all randomly sparkle, or why the boys have to fight their way through lunches and recess. 
    The next tooth that's lost will eventually come, though.  In our house, it seems like it happens every other day.  She'll flutter around the house, probably in the wee morning hours still, but this time, her heart will hurt just a little, knowing her boys are too grown for fairy dust.
    No matter how old they'll be, she'll always see them as her babies, and never fail to kiss their cheek...she'll just have a little less sparkle next time.  Okay, a lot less sparkle.
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     In the South, there's an expression commonly used.  When someone says they're having a "Come to Jesus" moment, it typically means they're about to rip into someone, or tell them what's what.
     We just had one of those - involving four children.
     Having a twelve, ten and eight year old boy can be a handful.  Throw in the drama of a six year old girl, and well, you get the picture.
     The other evening, the kids were lying around the TV room, watching shows and playing on their electronics.  
     Adam and I were in the kitchen, working on dinner, dishes, going through their backpacks and emptying their lunch boxes.  This was nothing atypical.  Between the two of us, we're usually up long after the kids, cleaning around the house.  Between full time jobs, taking care of the kids, the dog, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, bathrooms - if you don't keep up with it all, it will bury you.
     In the midst of all this, Adam asked one of the kids to pour everyone's drinks for dinner.
     One of the kids - "Okay, I will."
     Adam - "Alright guys, can someone else get the plates?"
     Kids - "Yep."
     Adam and I continued around the kitchen while they continued to sit...in zombie mode...on the couches.
     Adam - "GUYS."
     Kids - "Yeah?"
     Putting a backpack down, Adam waited for one of them to respond.  Anything at all...but there were crickets.  Crickets and the mixed volume from the TV and iPads.
     That's when it happened.  I knew Jesus was going to enter that room.  Not the, "Bring the little children to Me" kind of Jesus, but the "I'm about to tear through this Temple," Jesus.
     "That's it.  TV off.  iPads, DS's, Xbox, everything off.  Everybody in the kitchen.  NOW."
     Adam and I have played around with idea of giving the kids daily responsibilities/chores to do after school or on weekends.  It usually lasts for a minute or so, until sports, meetings or a hundred different things get in the way.  There's never any consistency or follow through, and we've never made the time to organize a good plan.
     Adam sat all four at the kitchen table.  Taking a pad of paper, he started.
      "Mom and I do everything around here.  That's about to change.  You're old enough to take on responsibilities and help around the house.  We're going to sit together and come up with a plan of action and each of you will have weekly chores.  Christian, you'll have the most because you're the oldest.  It will go down from there.  We're going to think of things to do and make a list right now."  
      In no time, we came up with a good group that the kids agreed to choose from each week.  On Saturdays, if their chores are done, they'll get an allowance on the same sliding scale according to age.
      Adam went to the computer, printed the first week's list off and put it on the fridge.
     It began that night and I stood in awe as all four buzzed like bees around the house.  I knew there'd be whining, complaining and fussing, but there wasn't.  
     The next day after school, they got right to it.  Homework was done, clothes put away, and chores commenced.  My jaw dropped as they went through their lists.  
     That night, I had to cover my mouth when Adam and I overheard one of them asking the other, "What are you going to do with your allowance?" 
      So that was it.  A simple act that's existed for generations before, but has yet to reach our home.  What I thought would be the equivalent of pulling teeth, actually became, dare I say it, fun for the kids to do.  They each feel like they have responsibility and they're so excited to get paid.  Our house has never been more smoothly run and amazingly clean, without the two of us being so stressed out and tired all the time.    
      Total win/win.  
      So, if you're like us, with kids lying around the house, lazy and doing nothing while you're running your tail off - consider a plan of action.
      You never know, just like they say in the South, that "Come to Jesus" moment might just work for you, too.  
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     You know when you were a kid and your mom screamed, "I hope you have FIVE wild children, JUST LIKE YOU!"?  
     Yep.  We heard that a lot in our house.
     Nine out of ten times is was because of my older brother though.  He was the life of the party and had like, zero fear of anything.  
     My brother, David was that guy you saw flying over the side of a cliff, while his friends stood on the edge wondering how deep the water was below.  
     The simple fact that he survived his entire childhood, still puzzles our friends and family to this day.
     This is where God's sense of humor comes in.  
     My brother grew up to marry the perfect girl.  They have two children...one girl, one boy...and guess who the boy resembles?
     Our nephew is six years old and his name is, Charlie.  He's the cutest and toughest little guy on earth.  One look into his big blue eyes and your heart will melt.
     This weekend, my sister-in-law, Heather, took Charlie and his sister, Fiona to the park.  It was the best day ever. (Hence, the shirt.)     
      Before I continue, I should mention - when my brother was young - he rode BMX bikes.  He jumped, flipped and pulled tricks that were unreal, even putting his arm through the handlebars by mistake once, as the bike flipped over...breaking his right arm...in half. 
     Back to the park.  Our niece and nephew were having a wonderful time, playing and having fun.
      When it was almost time to go, Charlie went across the monkey bars one last time.  Swinging from his left hand and hanging from the bars, he flew down, landing on his right arm.
      Just like his dad's, it broke in half.  
      I've never seen anything like this though.
      Scooping him up, his mom reacted like a pro.  She called the EMS and held him to her, keeping him calm.
      Charlie was taken to the hospital where they set his arm, casted it and fixed him right up, all the while he was tough as nails.
     David and Heather had quite an experience I'm sure they hope to never relive again.  They, along with the emergency personnel responded beautifully.  The police even sent Charlie a get well letter the next day. 
     It's hard to believe how accurate my mom could have been when she used to scream back in the day.  My brother's son is as brave and strong as he's always been...and from the looks of it...maybe just as wild.
     Get well Soon, Charlie.  We Love You, Sweet Boy!
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     "Wake up.  Wake Up!  WAKE UP!!!"
     This weekend, our six year old little girl jumped from her bed and dashed to our room, like Christmas morning.
     "It's time to go!  Wake up!"
     It was the day the high school cheerleaders were having a clinic to teach the young girls.
     Lauren Elizabeth could barely see straight.  She's waited all year for this day to come and wanted to learn everything she possibly could. 
     The older girls were fabulous.  They worked with the little ones with patience and love.
      We were amazed at how beautifully they treated the little ones and how well they taught different stunts and techniques.  
      Later that night, Lauren's smile was a mile wide.  
     "I got to cheer with the real cheerleaders, Mommy", she grinned as her head sank in her pillow.  Her heart was so happy...and so was mine.
     Thank You so Much to the High School Girls for being so Wonderful!  You made her dreams come true. 
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     Our oldest son began playing in the fifth grade band last year and decided to go with the trumpet.  When he started, he was awesome.  And by awesome, I mean, not awesome.  If you've ever heard a wildebeest scream from the depths of hell, well, that pretty much sounds better than the 'music' coming from our child. 
     He's in the sixth grade now and continues to play.  The school's band director is pure genius and somehow managed to pull the most wondrous sounds from the band as a whole, even with our son playing in it.
     What's more wonderful than our oldest son deciding to 'stick with it' this year?  Our second son becoming enamored with the idea of playing in the band, too.  Could it GET any better?    
     Oh, but it can.  He's now in the fifth grade and decided to play...the saxophone.  Yes, because our children hate us.  I carried them in my body for nine months, nursed them FOREVER and have loved them more than my own life from the minute they were born, and this is how they repay us.
     Not only do we have a fifteen minute practice session of agony every night of the week in our home, it's in stereo now.  One on the trumpet, while the other, because you evidently have to LEARN on a clarinet before you can get to the saxophone, squawks and squeaks his way through a series of songs that continue to linger somewhere in the universe. 
      It's a life altering, ear bleeding, painfully long fifteen minutes which would seem so short to some, but to those of us who must endure, every, single, night...it's about to break us.  
      I'm legitimately considering giving a recording to the government for tactical purposes.  Even the hardest of criminals would break within ten minutes.  Not even kidding.
      So, for now, ear plugs it is.  The dog creeps slowly against the walls when the instruments come out, but we're all getting through it, together.
      There's still hope for our third son.  He's in the second grade now, with three more years to decide on a quieter approach.  
      With our luck, he'll go for the drums. 
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     Today was the first day I've been out of the house since last week - and it was heavenly.  Hints of leaves have begun to change with their red and orange masterpiece, while the promise of fall has kissed the air.
     I love this time of year.  Being born and raised in Southeastern Ohio, it was hard to find anything prettier.  
     Hot apple cider, carving pumpkins, caramel apples, and Trick-or-Treating filled our childhood days with the sweetest memories and fun.
     I'll have to admit, even as a grown up, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to Autumn.  We've gotten our Halloween costumes for the kids, because again, I'm a nerd.  This year, they voted on a theme...and even included the dog.  poor dog.  We'll post pictures.   
     We're excited to get this new season started, and hope you are too.  Happy First Day of Fall to You!  Here's to a Great One.
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     The Neurosurgeon came back from vacation today, but still hasn't provided his impression of the MRI results.  As frustrating as that is, his nurse ended up showing the MRI to another surgeon, who stated that he didn't feel it would result in surgery.
     That's wonderful news, seeing how I am ready to climb the walls at this point.  I've been stuck in the bed for days, watching every episode of 'Friends' known to man, ('PIVOT' still gets me every time).
     The bed rest, plus the steroid series they gave me, have done wonders, so I'm ready to go back to work tomorrow.  
    Thank you again SO much for your thoughts and prayers.  Friends and family are the best medicine on earth - and God had truly blessed us with Angels.
    The irony of it all, is that as much as I dream of how nice it would be to stay in bed and have a whole day with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go, I'll never wish for it again.
    On that note, as much as I can't stand the thought of watching anymore TV shows, there is juuuuust one more that I'm dying to see.  It's a childhood favorite and the new version premieres tonight.  
    There's a bowl of popcorn and four little ones calling our name.  It's time to get things started...
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