Saturday, September 20, 2014

Taking a tree down

Our friend noticed that this tree had a large crack where a large branch that hung directly over our house connected to the main trunk.  It seemed one strong wind away from falling on our house. Luckily for us, this same friend told us that he happens to enjoy taking down trees, has all the right gear and would do it for us for free! 

It was fun, then nerve racking then awesome watching Dan cut the tree down. The nerve racking part was the part RIGHT before we could see which direction the tree was falling. He did such a good job and was "off" his lined up mark by only a few feet. Amazing. 

And now we have SOOOOOO MUUUUUUUUUUCH debris to cut into pieces and haul somewhere to burn. Anyone want some firewood?? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nashville and a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Betteridge

We had a trip up to Nashville on the horizon for a check-up with Chris' stem cell transplant doctors. My parents also had planned their get-away trip to happen at a location close enough to us to make visiting us possible! Last minute, we realized if they came a day earlier, they could meet us in Nashville. They changed their flights and helped us with hotel reservations and provided babysitting so I could go with Chris to his appointment with the doctor. I'm continually awed and so grateful for their support. It was so much fun to show them around Nashville and share/revisit our history there.

We met up in the evening the day before the doctors appointment and went out to eat at the Rainforest Cafe near the Grand Ole Oprey. It was so much more relaxing than the last time Chris and I ate there with the kids. Having grandparents around is the best.

Then we put the kids to bed in our room across the hall from my parents,set up our video monitor and chatted in my parents room until way too late. Chris and I had to get up early so I could drop him off for his PET scan while my mom watched our kids. Then while Chris was drinking radioactive liquid and laying under warming blankets as a computer scanned his body, I took my parents and kids to the famous, beloved Pancake Pantry for breakfast. I. Love. That. Place. I am sorely tempted to drive the 5 hours one-way up to Nashville just to eat there.

Then my parents walked around the hospital while I joined Chris for the meeting with the doctor. He first had labs downstairs and I was annoyed at the nurses who wouldn't let me sit next to him and hold his hand while they poked him. Of course, it took 2 tries. I know Chris really hates that part. As we waited for the doctor we had plenty of time to talk about what we might hear. Chris always gets nervous before a scan.  They've always been the first sign of cancer for him and we worry that we'll get another bombshell dropped on us. But I have to say, Chris has gotten really good at compartmentalizing these worries. He didn't seem withdrawn or extra depressed before this scan.

The doctor comes in and chats for a minute with us, he's super casual and has an awesome accent from somewhere in Africa. He asks if Chris had his PET scan this morning and determines that he could find out the results all ready for us. He excused himself for a minute and used the phone in the hallway (right across from our door) to call 'a guy he knows.' Based on our overheard version of his end of the phone call, we were put on guard and curious.  The doctor came back in and first asked if Chris had had a sore throat or some kind of sickness recently. Chris didn't seem surprised and admitted that yes he had had a minor cold with a stuffy nose, and sore throat just about a week ago. I guess he had foreseen this question and wondered himself if his cold would affect the scan results. The doctor seemed relieved and unconcerned as he told us that Chris' lymph nodes in his neck were larger than normal, and one was slightly bigger than the other but that a cold in the past week can explain that away.  But he did recommend that Chris repeat the PET scan sometime soon. After realizing that we'll be back up in Nashville in a few months for his 1-year-from-transplant appointment, he decides that we'll just do another PET scan then.

Huh. even managed to slip back with Chris to see if some of our nurse friends were working that day. They were!! so fun!! I always get scared that they won't remember us and so when they looked at Chris and didn't bat an eye, I got all sad. Then they did a double take and saw me and put everything together. It was so good to see them and chat for a bit. I couldn't resist the chance to show our kids to them too. They were good sports about it. (both the kids and the nurses!) :)

Chris had one more test, something for his heart, and so my parents and I took the kids back to the hotel for a quick swim before checking out (thanks to a late checkout and a good idea from my mom the night before to check H&M for swimsuits on clearance -- I had forgotten to bring ours!). We swung back by the hospital to pick up Chris before taking he scenic route (showing my parents the apartment Chris and I stayed in last year, and a few other places) home.

(Total side note: Gwen has been throwing some crazy tantrums recently...that girl has some lungs!!)

Once home, we wasted no time in showing my parents our new house! I had been so excited to show them that my semi sad feelings as I walked them around surprised me.  I think I really cared about them liking it but also feared they wouldn't.  I kept seeing all the problems our house has and wanted to beat them to the punch in pointing them out. I was really weird, but my parents are amazing and did their best to convince me that they really like it. I'm so crazy. Sorry everyone!

We had a nice easy day our frist day back with the boys in school. It even happened to be Grandparents Day for the Kindergartners (2nd grade had theirs just two days before!) so my parents surprised Charlie for lunch by showing up to eat with him! He loved it. Then we shared with my parents our new favorite pizza place: Lost Pizza Co while we had Friday Night Movie Night.

The next day was cool and overcast - perfect for our yard work plans. We worked in the yard alllllll day. Dad and Chris took down the big trunk of the dead tree out back and we pruned and cleaned up some needed areas. I almost feel back for working my dad so hard,...he was pretty sore the next day...but I'm too happy for the progress in the yard to regret it!

Who said we wouldn't ever use our sleds or snow shovels in Mississippi? All you Canadian doubters...

Sunday, I had to attend a different ward for their Ward Conference and one of my callings is the Stake Young Women Secretary, so I didn't get to go to church with my parents but it sure was helpful to have them take the kids to church and look after them while Chris had his meetings and taught his class.

It was hard to say goodbye on Monday, but thinking about going to their house in just a few months for Christmas made it bearable. Oh, I love my parents.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Anna and Isaac visit - Dismals canyon

Anna and her son Issac are some of our good friends from Canada. We were so happy they could come down and stay with us for a week. We had some chill days where we stayed home mostly and experimented with some fun Southern-Style recipes like blackened catfish, potato salad, homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, chipotle cranberry chicken, creamy collard greens and others.  We had other days where we got out and explored some new local-ish places. We walked around the boardwalks at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, and went swimming at Lake Tiak O'Khata:

We toyed with the idea of driving down to the gulf coast for a night and doing the whole beach thing, since Issac has never swam in the beach before, but we all got a little sunburned at the lake. We decided instead to go 2 hours North East to Dismals Canyon in Alabama. It was this really quaint and other-worldly river ravine/canyon in the middle of rural Alabama. It was very beautiful, and a bit pricey, but hey its not like we're going to go there all that often. We got there a bit late and with a misunderstanding of their hours we only had 30 min to explore the canyon before they closed it. I liked how at each special little spot along the canyon floors there was a name for it and on our paper we could read a paragraph about the history of it. Some places were famous hide-outs for bandits, or the location of Native American ceremonies. Really interesting stuff. I wish I was steadier with my camera to have taken better pictures, but we were kind of pressed for time. 

We had also paid for the 9:15pm night tour, and found ourselves with almost 2 hours to kill in the parking lot/little store area. It wasn't completely terrible.  I got to take pictures of these cute kiddos and we enjoyed watching the fireflies.

Eventually night fell and we sat around some tables outside the store playing "Big Booty" and "I spy." Gwen had starting having melt downs around 8:30 and we decided we needed to buy 'energy' for our hike. We let each of the kids pick out a treat in the store. That little Gwen can be so motivated by food and treats...just like her mama. The kids ate some of their energy while Chris told a Sam the Suit story. (one of his longstanding made up characters). He is such a good story teller. Frederick was amazingly wide-awake but luckily he was mostly content to be in the hiking backpack as long as I kept walking around.  

Finally our turn for the tour came and the kids excited grabbed their flashlights and one of our hands and we followed the guide back down into the canyon floor in the black night. We stopped in two rocky caverns and turned off all the lights. It took a little bit of time for our eyes to adjust to seriously pitch black darkness. I was reminded of the darkness that fell upon the America's for 3 days after the death of Jesus Christ and talked with the kids about it a bit. Once our eyes did adjust the guide told us where to look to see the little glowing worms along the rock walls. Apparently they're one of the only two kinds of glowing worms in the world (the others are in Australia). The guide called them 'Dismalites' but I forget their scientific name. It was really fun to see them and the kids enjoyed finding them.  

At the second cavern the dismalites were low enough and close enough that we could find a specific one while it was completely dark and get real close, then turn a flashlight onto that spot to see what they look like in the light...they looked just like an inch long, skinny seam (just a strand really) of sparkly rock.  Pretty cool. Climbing through the dark tight spaces with Frederick on my back in a big hiking backpack could have been a little tricky at times, but I got mad skills, so it wasn't a problem. :)

It was really fun to experience new things and see new places with Anna and Isaac. We had lots of time to chit chat and we enjoyed playing games and watching shows after the kids went to bed. Anna was always good to play games with the kids, (she probably played Labyrinth like 20 times in a 24 hour period)  Gwen seemed to get really attached to her! Isaac and 'the brothers' as Gwen and I often call Alec and Charlie got along well. I'm so glad they could come visit!

Back home and a new toy for Chris

We made a short stop at Thom and Brittany's (like a couple of hours) while we returned the rental car and picked up our van from the shop, looking as good as new. Then we hit the road again to finish the long long drive home: 29 car driving hours in 36 hours. 

It felt great to be back home. Already this house feels more like home (having lived there 3 weeks) than it ever did in our last place (having lived there 11 months.) By the way, this house makes the 9th place that Chris and I have lived out of 10 years of marriage. I think we're here to stay a good long while. 

The kids have really been enjoying the big bath in the master bathroom. Frederick usually enjoys being by his siblings but I think the usual chaos plus deep water and bubbles was a bit on the frightening side.

But after discovering that his hands and feet can splash the water and that bubbles taste interesting, he warmed up to the experience. Oh! how we all love this bright-eyed, kissable cheeked, smiley boy. 

There was one disappointment upon arriving home. There must have been a mix up with the guy we've hired to mow our lawn every 2 weeks because our grass was over 3 feet high and looked like it hadn't be mowed since before we even left! We had company coming over in a few days and the yard was not usable at all in that wild meadow state. This is the only picture I got of the tall grass.  Chris is out with our new chain saw trying to cut down this huge dead and diseased tree. 

There wasn't anything for us to do but go out and buy a riding lawn mower. We had planned to get one all along as it would practically pay for itself after a year of paying someone to mow it twice a month at $75 a time.  We debated between a regular tractor style mower that you could pull stuff behind and a zero-turn radius one. We got a medium to large size zero-turn radius mower and we're very happy with it.  With the grass at an average it-needs-a-trim state, it will only take Chris about 1 hour to cut the main sections, maybe 2 hours if he cut everywhere. Not as bad as we thought! Did I mention it is really fun to ride?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cedar city - the tradition continues

Its been many years since Chris and I were able to go to the Utah Shakespearean Festival with his family. We were all very excited to be able to make it this year. We only had 2 and a half days of plays but we were still able to see and do a lot. Chris and Edward and Grandpa were able to go golfing two of the mornings. It had also been many years since Chris was able to participate in the illustrious ILLCRIC tournament put on by the AGA. He did pretty well! (INSERT CHRIS' OR SPORTS WRITER FARFEL MILLER III's DETAILED RECAP HERE). 

While he was golfing the kids and I had breakfast in the hotel lobby and swam in the pool with cousins. 

As for the plays, We were blessed to have babysitters (thanks Edward, Kayla, Dixie and Jess!) for Chris and I to get to see some plays together. We saw a Monday matinee of 12'th Night, then Chris went to the evening performance of Henry IV Part 1 while I wrestled the kids to sleep in the hotel room. The next day I saw the matinee performance of Sense and Sensibility. It was fun to see a book I love so much as a play, but it just made me want to read the book and watch my favorite movie version again. Tuesday Night we took Alec with us for the evening performance of Comedy of Errors. 

Jess was taking Mady to the same show and it was fun to see the next generation initiated into the Archibald tradition of Shakespeare plays.  The siblings were cute as they simultaneously explained the play's plot to their oldest children who listened well and sat still with serious expressions. So precious to watch traditions being passed down.  The play itself was set as a western and had lots of body humor, I loved hearing Alec and Chris laugh out-loud. There was one particular part that I really enjoyed when one of the silly 'Masters' was slapping his 'servant' for something and the servant spun his head in the wrong direction of the slap. It looked unscripted as both actors paused for a second in shock and started laughing! It was hilarious. Live performances are just awesome. 

We took the kids to the Green show one night and Chris was sooo excited when he learned they were bringing back the puppet show he used to watch as a child, 'Punch and Judy.'  

Again, seeing traditions passed down from my husband to my kids was fairly magical to me. 

The next morning we had to check out of the hotel and then run off to the family Picnic with the festival's founder, Fred Adams. Chris' Aunt is his daughter and since this festival is a larger Woodward family yearly tradition they always have a picnic with Fred.  We hadn't yet gotten in the traditional shopping at Christiansens and the Cedar City Deseret Industries, so we squeezed those in and BARELY made it to the festival for our last and final show. We were taking all the kids (except Frederick) to Into the Woods. Alec and Charlie did great. Gwen....euuhh... she wasn't old enough to appreciate it yet.  We had watched the Broadway video version with Tiffany and kids a few days previous so the songs and story were familiar, but it also prepared us for the second half of the play that was full of adultery and death. So because we were also driving the 20ish hours to Texas as soon as the play was over, we decided to just watch the first half. It was a good decision. 

It had been a long, fun and full trip and we were ready to get our van back from the body shop in Texas and get home.  We drove straight through the night as we were sort of on a time crunch. Chris drove until 2 ish when we stopped at a gas station to try and sleep for a bit, but Frederick woke up with the car off and I tried to feed him over and over again to keep him quiet so Chris and the other kids could sleep. But by 3:30, I was getting annoyed and told Chris I would just drive for a bit so Frederick could fall asleep. Surprisingly I was feeling ok, and drove until about 8:30 AM when Chris was a bit refreshed and ready to drive while I fell asleep. But its hard to sleep while all the kids are awake, cranky from many late nights in the past 3 weeks and tired of being in the car. They demanded attention and being very cranky myself, I didn't handle their squabbling very well. Two moments stand out in my memory...

At one point, after harping on them over and over again in a not kind voice, I reached a breaking point and turned around to deliver some very strong words.  Seeing their 3 pouty, sad faces made me stop and it was like my eyes were opened and I saw them through new eyes. I saw 3 adorable, tired, troopers who had been strapped to seats for the past 15 hours. Instead of more complaints I smiled and gave them compliments and how great they've been for most of our trip and remarkable they were in their car-trip stamina.  It was like I could see their agitation melt away and they unfolded in the bask of my praise. That moment was a real blessing from God. 

The peace didn't last forever and I started to crack again during breakfast. Usually the kids do really really well, eating in the car, but in the span of 30 minutes, Gwen had spilled her Chocolate milk all over her car seat and the car's seat and Charlie accidentally dumped his yogurt down his seat. Having just battled a nasty smell in the car before our trip, I was SO FRUSTRATED about the dairy spills and so tired from not much sleep that I started ranting as I leaned over the seats and used wet wipe after wet wipe to try and get everything clean. I realized I was behaving poorly and I knew it was mostly just tired so in between rants about how gross and hard this was to clean up I apologized to Chris and the kids saying I was just tired and I'm sorry.  The boys had been playing a shooting game at each other across my head as I leaned over to clean it up and at one point I slumped back and  half growled under my breath, "just shoot me!" The boys heard me and went still with serious eyes, watching me in my distress, and then looked at each other as smiles spread across their faces. Simultaneously, they turned their finger guns at me and at the same exact moment started making shooting noises as they "shot" me many times. It was too funny to pass up and I started laughing, which made them laugh, which made Gwen and Chris laugh. I'm sure it wasn't so much true laughter as it was relieved chuckles that I wasn't still so angry. Its interesting how laughter really can defuse stressful situations. Another blessing from Heavenly Father. As was this huge, beautiful double rainbow we saw somewhere between New Mexico and Texas.