Friday, September 26, 2014

Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth

Somehow, Jim found out at the end of July that the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth was going to have a temporary exhibit on The Wizard of Oz. I'm a huge fan; like, it's a thing.

The exhibit was scheduled to open just a few days after our trip to the beach to hang out with family. "You know we're gonna have to drive back over," I said to Jim. He just shrugged. Bless it; he already knew. But in the end, we were glad for the second trip on August 9th because we were able to enjoy the ocean a smidge. (It had rained during the daylight hours of our first trip.)

The location of the Children's Museum of Virginia is charming, and the museum itself seems new and established all at once. It blows the Children's Museum of Richmond right out of the water. We were granted four free admissions through the ASTC Passport Program, and the baby was free, so we paid admission for Charleigh, only.

The Wizard of Oz exhibit revolved around the book as opposed to the movie and therefore didn't excite me as much as The Wizard of Oz exhibit we'd seen at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh in 2012. It was cool nonetheless, and we all enjoyed the museum, in general (and not just in that awww-look-at-how-much-fun-the-little-kids-are-having way). I found the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection and Dr. Forces Traveling Energy Extravaganza especially amazing.

Top Center: Clementine Crawling under Part of the Train Exhibit.
My camera wasn't wearing the right lens for the train exhibit, but it was AWESOME.

After we left the museum, we ate the dinner Jim had packed for us and drove to the beach. It was a beautiful afternoon, and Clementine was wearing the crown she'd made in the CreARTivity section of the museum.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unblogged Happiness: July Edition

On July 3rd, I fell down the steps in our log cabin. I was carrying Chip. In those moments of falling, all my effort went into keeping him in my arms, and I did; he walked away without a scratch. But because I didn't break my fall or even try, something terrible happened to my tail feather. I can't tell you what happened, precisely, because I didn't go to the doctor.

I didn't go to the doctor because I injured my tail feather by falling down steps in 2001 or 2002 and learned at that time: a doctor can't do a durn thing for an injured coccyx beyond prescribing pain medication I can't take. (Don't laugh, but I broke my foot falling down steps in 1993; I should live only in ranchers!)

So, in July, I stood a lot and sat on a donut cushion. I iced my hind end. I shifted from one cheek to the other, and we tore up the road, anyway. July is memorable for its pain. (I'm doing much better, now, but haven't healed entirely.)

In a great effort to catch up, here are some previously unblogged photos from July:

07/01 - Trip to Holliday Lake.

The girls' friend Maeve, with Charleigh

Charleigh and Abi

Chip and Abi


07/04 - A second trip to Swift Creek Berry Farm for blueberries, this time with Cade's friend Phillip, Phillip's mom (and my friend) Margie, and Phillip's friend Gavin. I still think it funny that Cade wasn't with us. I've said it before and I'll say it, again: I'm so thankful for Cade's friends and their families.

Clementine and Phillip

07/04, 07/05, 07/08, 07/19 - Cookouts and Play Dates with Small-group Friends.

Jim and Caleb



Jackson and Lexi

Rena and Jackson

Clementine and a Toad

Rachel and Caleb

Chip, Charleigh, Zach, and Zeb

Charleigh and Caleb

Daleen and Caleb

07/19 - Culmination of Scout Camp. Cade and several of his friends made Order of the Arrow.

07/23 - Stop at Hampton Carousel (my all-time favorite!).

07/29 - Trip to Bear Creek Lake.

07/30 - Homemade Bread at Cary Street Cafe. Michael Laroche (the guy singing, below) is a member of Jim's and my small group. It had been a long time since I'd been out, but I figured supporting Mike was as good as it gets in terms of excuse/opportunity. My friend Beth Stoddard, her daughter Shannon (my girls' favorite babysitter), and son-in-law Travis joined me. It was fun to surprise Mike (who was bowled over, to be honest!), and the music was great! (Homemade Bread's album Echo is available here, through cdbaby, and they have a facebook page, here.)

In the event that you've been missing me, I have a post up at Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, here. I have--in case you missed the news--a sister blog for my photo sessions, here, annnnd you'd bless in "liking, " here, the facebook page for my photography.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blue Cotton Memory Guest Post

It's been a long time since I've welcomed another blogger into this space, and I'm so excited to welcome, today, my sister in Christ Maryleigh Bucher of Blue Cotton Memory. Maryleigh calls Tennessee home and feels kindred in that respect. She's a little ahead of me in the journey of parenting, and since finding her in the blogosphere, I've so appreciated her her words of wisdom. I'd shared with her about Cade's starting high school, this fall, and asked her to write a back-to-school, guest post to share with my readers. I was blessed and encouraged by her words and trust that you will be, too.


Dear Brandee,

Your son’s just started high school. I can just see that first day. He’s all ready to go out the door, catch the school bus: back-pack stuffed with school supplies, water bottles, - not lunch because he wants to try their lunch, to see if it’s different. . . better. His back pack isn’t heavy, yet. There’s room for books, but not as much room as he’ll realize he needs.

You probably watched him walk to the bus, like independence on training-wheels, that walk up to a doorway to a new era.

You’re more left behind than ever. You can’t walk him out, stand with him like you did in the primary years. You can’t just pop into school to see the teacher at the end of the day to pick up nuggets and morsels of what’s really going on.

Hands-off time has begun – kind of like on the cooking competitions you see on t.v.  when that buzzer rings, hands fly off – and up.

He pulls himself up through those bus doors that will take him to a school where everything is possible – booze, drugs, PDA, friends who lift up and those who pull down, teachers who encourage and discourage, believers, non-believers – it’s all in there.

. . . . and you just let him go. . . .

When you just let him go, remember the other back pack – the one you can’t see – that soul back pack that you started filling the day he was born.

It’s a bottomless back-pack containing everything he’ll need. You’ve filled it with God’s word, a power supply that works anywhere, love, encouragement, motivational speeches, stories to inspire,  maybe even a rebirth certificate so he knows to whom he belongs. God’s filled it, too – with spiritual gifts, love languages – and a plan.

It’s a back-pack that is designed to fit lightly, easily, like the second skin to the soul.

But God designed all children differently. Some will wear that back-pack always. Some will set it down, walk off and leave it. Some will empty it out and fill it with other things. Some will use parts and pieces of it.

Why? Because each of us is designed differently. We meet God differently, take different pathways to Him. Some children, teens and adults are coachable and make those connections between what you tell them and how it applies. They don’t have to experience it to believe mentored cause/effect.

Some do have to experience life to understand cause/effect. Coachable? Not yet. They need hands-on experience about why bad is bad and good is good. They’ll pull everything out of their back-pack, re-evaluate it time and again – and, eventually, faith realized, they’ll put the good stuff back in.

You can put the same exact thing in each child’s soul back-pack – but they all won’t treat it the same. Some of your teens will go into high school coachable, utilizing what you filled their soul-pack with. Some won’t.

That’s when mothering is the hardest.

Don’t think you’ve failed if they set that back-pack down, empty it out. God’s not surprised. He knew they would have to learn by experience. He’s the designer, after all.

The hard part of parenting a teen is that it’s more hands-off than on. It’s letting them take control of their souls – and the soul back-pack.

Remember, there’s a no-fail response in every soul-back-pack. God put it there.

Like the cooking competitions when the buzzers ring – hands-off - hands-up.

. . . . that’s right – lift holy hands to a Father who loves your teen even more than you do, raise them high for intercession – and in the raising of the hands, give each challenge, each bad moment, God’s got it – and He won’t drop it!

And, if your son sets that back-pack down, God knows where it is and will help him find it.

If your son’s emptied everything out, God will help him find all the good stuff that was in it, too.

While you’re praying, on the hard days, ask God to allow you to see your son as He sees your son.

See him as God sees him because on some days He’ll need some who can when he can’t. See him in the faith and hope of God’s plan.

Be, Friend, like the centurion, who asked Jesus to save his servant (Luke 7:10) – who interceded on behalf of his servant for him to be saved – Have that kind of trust.

Be like the Canaanite woman, who interceded for her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15: 21-28) – have that kind of faith

Be like the father, whose son was a lunatic and ill – who, even the disciples (church people) didn’t quite understand how big God was yet, who Christ healed – who encouraged us to have the faith of a mustard seed so that mountains can be moved – and broken people healed (Matthew 17:14-20).

As you take your hands off, Brandee, lift them high – and if they get heavy in the midst of a great battle, like Moses against the Amalek, know that God gave you friends Aaron and Hur who will help you hold your hands up in prayer so that the battle can be won. (Exodus 17:10-13).

Brandee, you’ve filled your son’s soul-back-pack the good things, the God-things. It’s an independence-with-training-wheels time. You have to trust God – hands off - and up!


Maryleigh is a wife of 31 years, a mom of 5 sons ranging in ages from 28 to 13. She is a seeker of solutions to challenges, the perfect white cake recipe, the washer of the Blue Cotton Blanket, trying to raise sons to be strong, manly men who love God and show the love of Jesus Christ to others through their words and actions. Trying to live grace and joy through the journey, she writes at her blog Blue Cotton Memory.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family, Pt. 2

After our time in Virginia Beach, my brother-in-law Terry, his wife Jill, and their younger daughter Adalynn Grace spent a couple days at our log cabin. (Their older daughter Jasmine was in another state, spending time with Jill's mom.) I didn't use my camera very much but did take some photos of our fishing just down the road:

Poor Cade was with us at the beach, too, but somehow I failed to photograph him, there?

I'd come up with some ideas for sightseeing, but in the end, everyone was content just to hang out at (or very near) home. I'm thankful for in-laws with whom I enjoy spending time. Aside from the days of preparation for my mother-in-law's funeral, these were my first with Terry's family but without my mother-in-law. I missed her so much and knew her absence was felt even more painfully by Jim and Terry. We all agreed, though: she would have been so glad for our being together. She wanted her sons to be close.


I mentioned in my last post: Andrea and her bunch are the only relatives who live within an hour's distance of Jim's and my log cabin. Over these recent years of my having little ones, Andrea has spent far more time here, in Powhatan, than I have in Petersburg, where she lives. I'm so thankful for her and so proud! to claim the title "great aunt" to Andrea's granddaughter (Brandi's daughter) Haven Mae. Here are some of my favorite photos of the little kids' and my summer happiness in both Petersburg and Powhatan with this part of our family:

How is my baby big enough to hold a baby? Waaaah!

So out of focus, but I love the expressions!

I have a few photos of precious moments among my parents and children but will save those for a future post about Charleigh's birthday celebration.