Thursday, January 30, 2014

Growing B's and Aging Horses

I told you the B's have been riding their horses. These flicks are from last Friday. It is a dream come true for Britt to be able to ride Alvin, who is a little high strung and has been healing up from an injury. Britt gets along with him better than any of us! And look how long Brailey's legs look on Texi-Man all of a sudden! HOLY SMOKES! She loves that horse more than anything in the world. The B's are growing so fast (sniff-sniff!). I wish the horses didn't have to get old just as fast as the B's are growing (bigger sniff-sniff!). They are all rock stars (in my world - you know, my blog and all), and I love them!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last Short Course Swim Meet for the Season - YMCA State Championships

Another weekend spent at the pool, and once again, we learned even more about swimming and swim meets! We have made some great friends, which is always nice, and Britt shaved more time off most of his races. He is getting much better at his starts! Above, he is with his two classmates from Buena Vista, Keahna and Alayna. They are such good buddies! Below he is with an 8 year old, Bryce, who just adores Britt. They were on a relay team together (keep scrolling for that picture).
Brailey thoroughly enjoyed herself at the meet on Sunday. She was chatting with friends from her class, friends of Britt's and even the moms! What happened to my shy girl?! Brady and I were so tickled to see her enjoying herself that way. On Saturday, she and Brady went to a WHO Show in Veneta, so she got to ride her horse all day long - they had a big time! Sadly, no pictures, because I was at the swim meet. But we have lots and lots of WHO shows coming up, so I'm sure I'll get some good flicks. Above, she is hanging out with Britt's friend Alayna.
This was a common theme, the picture above and below, all heads around Britt. We let him take his Kindle Fire, this time, so he had something to do in between races (three hours between them on Sunday). This made him quite popular! Most of these kiddos had their own devices to play on, as well. We only let him play on it for a short time, because we felt he needed to interact with his friends, too. But this does keep it fun for all of them.
The Relay Team. Aren't they cute?! All 8 years old, except for Britt, who is 9. And way, way bigger, but super kind and a hero to the little ones. They all adore him! During one of Britt's races, Bryce cheered for him all the way up and down the lane.
  Bryce is waiting for his turn to swim - Britt was the first leg and is cheering on his team.
Cutest and sweetest boy in the world! Love him...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Camp Green Lake - Britt's Diagram

Britt's class has been reading a book called, "Holes." He is in love with this book! Last weekend for their homework they had to build a diagram of "Camp Green Lake." All from their own imagination. We were quite pressed for time, since he had his Swim Meet up in Beaverton, but we managed to throw something together. And he is so proud! It actually turned out really well, don't you think? Ironically, there is no lake at Camp Green Lake. It is a facility for boys who are in trouble, and they must dig holes all day long, 5 feet deep and 5 feet around. I only wish this was one of their OBOB books, this year, because Britt absolutely loves this story! It is interesting to see the differences in how his classmates perceive the camp to look. Fun! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Keeping Up with the Car-Dashin' B's

Get it? Car Dashin vs. Kardashian? Bwaahahahahahaha! I would love to see the Kardashians keep up with the 4 B's, or frankly, any normal family. Here's what I predict - they wouldn't be able to do it for even a day!

Yes, our lives just keep getting busier and busier, don't they? I prefer to think of it as a FULL life rather than a BUSY life. We are living our life like there is no tomorrow, and guess what? We like it that way!

When my kids were little, I had no idea I would be running around like a lunatic, every second of my day scheduled from dusk 'til dawn or that I would be considering getting my ELEVEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER a phone. WHAT?! I always said I wouldn't be "one of those moms," the ones who try to do it all. My kids would only be allowed to do one activity, I said, each. And by activity, I meant sport. And I have stuck to that! We don't do three sports at a time. Oh how naive I was. It is laughable, isn't it? To think I thought I could control our schedules? Because guess what? Unless you are a couch potato and want your kids to be couch potatoes as well, it isn't really possible to do "just one activity." Especially when you have two kids.

Remember that girl who was just starting middle school that I was so worried about? The one who was having a horrible start to sixth grade and that I was considering moving into a private school? Well, that girl has blossomed into the most beautiful, full flower in the garden. That girl has made new friends. She applied to be on the Yearbook Staff and made it. She is in her first season of Club Volleyball, her second team of volleyball this year (Kidsports before Christmas). She just tried out for the school play, and not only did she land the part she wanted, she was asked to try out for the lead. (The timing didn't work out, and we decided it would be a lot for her first time, anyway, so she stuck with the original part she landed - happily!) Oh yah - did I mention she rides her horse, too? Brailey-Cakes leads a busy, full life, no doubt about it!

And our Brittster Man, who was so desperate to make the Swim Team last spring, has faithfully been swimming three times a week and participating in swim meets. Swim Team changed our life, and that's a fact. He's also on an OBOB team again this year (Oregon Battle of the Books), which will begin practicing soon. And he rides his horse, too. Pretty packed schedule for a fourth grader.

Then add in our work schedules, and you've got a true car-dashing life, dashing from one school/sport/activity/job to another. That's us!

Because Brady is on the road selling his silver during the week, we are a little different than other families. We don't have the luxury of sharing the load between two parents. We also don't live in town, which adds a little more chaos to the mix. In fact, I can very much relate to single parents. Yet when Brady is in town, he is able to help out, and we all appreciate it so much more than we would if he were able to be here all the time. We are grateful, and that is a good thing! I was so worried about how I was going to make it all work, feeling completely overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year, near the edge of insanity every second of the day.

But guess what? It all worked itself out. WE CAN DO IT! We ARE doing it! Sometimes, I have to rely on my friends to help us. Thank God for friends and bless their hearts! And what at first seemed scary and overwhelming, like doing homework somewhere other than home, seems totally normal, now. Brailey does her homework while Britt swims. Britt does his homework while Brailey plays volleyball. We are getting it all done.

And do you know what else? I wouldn't trade any of it! It it worth every second of planning and rushing, because when it comes right down to it, it is only for a very short period of time. My B's will be grown and gone in the blink of an eye, and then where will I find myself? They are worth it all, and then some.

Of course I've had to give up a couple of things. But they were only things. And I can do them later in life, more than likely. I gave up playing on a club team of volleyball myself. I gave up my book club. I gave up volunteering in the schools. Lately, I've given up exercising, but that has to change. And my days are still packed to the gills with more than I can ever hope to accomplish. My house is never as clean as I want it, much like my horse's stalls. Someday, I'm sure I will have all the time in the world to clean. Frankly, I enjoy having an excuse not to clean, but don't tell anyone. At least that is what I tell myself - the truth is, I could make the time to do more cleaning, but I don't.

Yet at the end of the day, I feel like my priorities are straight and even though I'm not Super Woman or Super Mom I know I am most definitely Super Blessed and Super Lucky. Yes, I am blessed and lucky to be busy with the wonderful people I take care of, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'll dash them around in my car wherever they want to go. And like I said, I'd love for the Kardashians to try to keep up with the Car-Dashing B's.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Round Robin Swim Meet 2014

Another busy weekend for the B's! Brady just got home from Denver Market, was home for a day, and then he and Brailey headed off to Spokane for a two day PBR event. They had a great time! I was so excited for Brady to show her Gonzaga, where I went to school my freshman year of college. She was impressed! Brady came down with a bad bug while he was in Denver, so he was still recuperating from that, and it was good that he had Brailey with him to make sure he took his vitamins and wasn't lonely. A father-daughter trip! And Britt and I had a mother-son trip - we went to Beaverton for a Round Robin Swim Meet. We, too, had a great time! Ironically, we went to eat at the same time on Saturday afternoon that Brady and Brailey did - they went to the The Golden Corral, and we found a Home Town Buffet. It was fun! Britt and I also found a Goodwill, and we enjoyed tromping around it in search of treasures. As far as the meet itself, Britt didn't win any races, but he did improve his times in every single event he was entered in, and that is big! As my mother said, that, too, is winning! He was super proud of himself when it was all said and done. To begin with, he was very nervous, because this was his first meet away from home - all his other meets have been at the Sheldon Pool in Eugene. It was a great experience for him, no doubt about it.
 As you can see, it was a very big pool. There were ten lanes in each heat!
 He earned two Best Time Tattoos his first day of swimming.
Warming up... It is so hard to get good swimming pictures!
 Britt and Coach Sarah - she is the Assistant Swim Coach, and was his main coach for the weekend. She is awesome!
 Britt and his friends cheering on a team member.
And a little bit of Kindle time. There was a lot of waiting in between events, so he got to be on his device for a while - not a lot, but it did help to pass the time. He has another meet this coming weekend, his last for the Short Course Season, and then we will be moving on to the Long Course Season. We are still learning so much about swimming, but the great thing is, he tries his best and loves doing it, and for that, we are thrilled!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Silver Linings

Happy 2014! Might as well have a good year as a bad one - that's our motto around here. We try hard to stay positive, although our frequencies have been tested several times in recent months. But it is so important to always look for the silver lining, and there is always someone worse off. Always.

You might remember me mentioning a few times that we had a hard fall (as in autumn). Let me tell you what happened in the short span of three months, and then you decide for yourself if you think we handled ourselves okay.

First of all, we had an onslaught of vet bills. They actually started in June, and if you want to get technical about it, we've had a steady stream of them since Alvin broke his coffin bone a few years ago. This year, however, we nearly went through every horse we own! We just got done with Alvin, and bam! First Tex, then Tex again, then Maggie and then Boomer - twice for Boomer, because the first vet wasn't ours and stitched him up wrong. Fingers crossed, everyone is good and well today.

The vet bills weren't exclusive to the equine profession, however. Rosin (pronounced Rozz-in, as in rosin up your bow!), our precious pug, had to have several teeth pulled in July, and then she came down with a collapsed trachea in October. Thankfully she is currently doing well, also. The silver linings? All animals are perfectly healthy today. Their injuries could have been much, much worse. And in the process of it all, we found an awesome horse shoer (Kira Mollers of Kira's Farrier Service) we love, and we learned to trust ourselves more. We knew our previous shoer wasn't doing what we wanted, but it took our best horse coming up lame and thousands (literally!) of dollars for us to learn this little lesson.

In September, our water tank went out. It could have been an easy fix, but no... We like to do things dramatically around here! So first, we had the initial emergency call. Then, less than twelve hours before the pump guy was due to replace the tank, our horses knocked the temporary one down, so another emergency call. Thus, three calls later, we were good to go. The silver lining? The pump didn't burn up and have to be replaced, and we have a lovely new, clean water tank that is more efficient than the old one.

Next, along toward the start of November, our sewer went out. Lovely. Thankfully, it was an easy fix. A simple matter of replacing a broken part in the tank and pumping the tank out. The silver lining here is a great one - if I had run a single load of laundry, as I often do every Monday morning, I would have come home to a flooded house full of sewer water. The damage would have been severe! But thankfully, this all happened on a Sunday, and Brady was able to determine we had a problem, thus no damage was done. Hallelujah!

Then we had the great snow. Wasn't that fun?! It was, in many ways. But here is how it wasn't fun - our pump in the pump house froze, despite the fact that we put a new light bulb inside it at the beginning of October. Guess what? Said, new light bulb burned out. In less than two months! And so what do you know? No water! And then, the pipes in the shop froze. And guess what happened then? The entire shop was flooded with water, and then froze, creating a lovely (not!) ice rink. MESSY! The silver lining, though, is that Brady, bless his heart, was able to fix it himself, and we were able to save most of the stuff on the floor that would have been ruined by the water. We also had to pack water from the bathtub in our house to the horses, because our "freeze-free" water spickets froze. But again, a silver lining - thank the good Lord we only had to survive these conditions for a week! Some people have had much worse winter conditions to deal with than our pitiful bout of cold.

In the midst of all this, it was determined that Brady has to have a tooth pulled, and then an implant procedure - this is coming up soon. He also had to have a colonopscopy and an endoscopy, which both turned out well. Let's just say those medical procedures aren't cheap, and leave it at that. The silver lining is that he is healthy as a (healthy!) horse!

This brings us to the end of December, when I thought to myself that surely we had had our share of bad luck for a while. Wouldn't you think so, if you found yourself going through similar situations as mentioned above, in short succession? Nope - not the case. As we were heading to a full day of work on the Saturday before Christmas, our pickup blew up. Well, not really, but kind of. Our water pump went out, and it sounded and smelled like it blew up. The silver lining here is that it happened at a perfect spot on the road, just off the freeway. And blessedly, we were able to get a ride back home thanks to one of our wonderful friends coming to get us, and the dealership had our Silver Bullet (as we fondly call our pickup) fixed that very day, and it wasn't anything terribly major, just that aforementioned water pump. Now this did cause our heater to go out two days later, but we got that fixed, too, and all is well.

I will admit to almost losing it as this point. Okay - I did lose it. I swore someone had a voodoo doll on us, a hex, and that we were cursed and I needed our priest to come and bless our house and us and to rid us of said curse and that we must not be praying enough, and was everyone praying? Because I was praying. Praying is very important. We must pray! Yes, I can be dramatic. But after a quick (depending on your perspective) rant, I got over myself quickly - I can be dramatic that way, too.

When it comes right down to it, we are so lucky! Lucky, lucky, lucky! We have had so much sadness on the road we live on that it is hard to feel anything other than relieved and blessed. One of our neighbors just passed away from cancer on New Year's Day - he was only in his 60's. His 89 year old dad is now trying to run the family business, and his wife is thinking she will need to sell everything. Another neighbor had to be moved into an Alzheimer's Home in town due to his extreme dementia, leaving his wife on her own to deal with their property. Thankfully, she just sold her place, but her life has changed so much over the past couple of years. Our other neighbor is also dealing with dementia - his wife has recently come down with it. She has emphysema, too. For the time being, he is managing to take care of her.

So as you can see, there is always someone worse off, always worse circumstances. Compared to what our neighbors are going through, literally and figuratively, what we experienced is small potatoes. I can think of many friends who are going through really hard times, dealing with cancer, failed kidneys, broken backs, sores that won't heal. The bottom line is, we are healthy and happy, and that, my friends, is big. Being healthy, mentally and physically, is the biggest blessing. The biggest! Think about that for a moment, won't you? And I'm sure you'll see, you, too, are lucky and blessed. Silver linings - they're everywhere. Almost like the wings of an angel...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First Club Volleyball Tournament

It was so much fun! She learned more in this day's tournament than she has all of the past years combined! And come to find out from a bona fide volleyball expert, 80% is learned by playing and 20% is learned in practice through drills. Interesting, huh? Any way, it was an awesome day! We had to get up really, really early, but it was worth it. Brailey met Isa, pictured below, during the regular season last year. Isa's mom, Bethani, is the friend who invited me to be on her Club Team last winter. And we all remained friends! Frankly, we are kindred spirits, and it was really fun hanging out with them all day! Although when I say "we," I mean Bethani and I, and then the two girls stayed together with their team, and were basically attached to their coach's hip. They LOVE their coach, and so do Bethani and I. She is young and fun and awesome! She is the perfect choice of a mentor for our girls, and we couldn't be happier about it. It was a weird sensation - I was thrilled Brailey felt confident to be on her "own," but sad that she didn't really "need" me, if you know what I mean. Bethani felt the same way. We consoled each other and laughed about it, because for these two sweet girls, it is a good, good thing to gain some real independence.
Twelve and thirteen. These two are so much alike - shy, quiet, hard workers, kind, sweet, funny, mature and downright amazing! It is nice for them to have someone they "know" on their team, although they made great strides on Saturday in the bonding department with the other girls. Brailey discovered one of her teammates is in the same class as her best friend Carrie, as they go to the same school! It has been fun for her to give this girl messages to give to Carrie and to receive them back.
Brailey, Coach Maren and Isa.
Brailey played very well! I was super proud of her... Of course!
Finally bonding as a team. Nothing like a tournament to bring a team together, right?
They changed into their black shirts at the end. They were very tired at this point! And unfortunately, Brailey had a little sugar crash going on. I should have intervened, but I didn't, because I was letting her spread her wings a little. And now she knows - don't eat a bunch of sugar! Next time, we will be eating healthy all day long, I'm just sure of it. I can't wait!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Givers and Takers

If there is one thing I have learned in recent years, it is that there are true GIVERS, and there are absolute TAKERS. I have friends in both of these catetgories, truth be told, and I'd be willing to bet you do, too. Lucky for me, most of mine fall under the GIVER heading, and after another birthday (on Friday the 10th!), I am feeling loved and blessed! Here are a few of my favorite birthday goodies...
So this little setup (the book pictured above and the box pictured below) sat on the counter for a week prior to my birthday. The inside of the book says, "My Mom. By Britt Murray. My mom is sweet. My mom is loving. My mom is caring. My mom is awesome. I love my mom. Britt  is a Mama's Boy!" BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN! Britt is such a sweet, tender boy - I love Big Mama's Boy!
Brailey made the flame on the candle and then wrapped the two items below, which they had me open first thing. Guess what they were? Keep scrolling...
ROLOS! After I opened the two tubes, I opened the box, and it was FULL of my current favorite candy, Rolos! They had me open them first thing in the morning, and it was a great way to start my day.
Okay, so I'll admit it. I was a bit sad on my birthday, this year. I actually get a little sad every year. I was feeling sorry for myself, because Brady was in Denver at the big WESA Show, as he is every year, now. What can we say? I may be tough as nails, but my heart was a tiny bit heavy, even with my darling B's to keep me cheered. After I dropped them off from school, I came home and read my daily thing that I read every day, and that is what it said (see above). I thought that was pretty cool... 
The beautiful presents from my beloveds that Brailey Shaye wrapped for me. She's getting so good! She also made me a ring, which I haven't yet gotten a picture of. It is a picture of a crown and B, for Queen B. I saw her making a ring, but I didn't know it was for me! She's such a precious heart, my girl...!
An Oreo Cake from my friend Renee! And let me tell you, it is DELICIOUS! Isn't it cute?! She didn't think it turned out very well, but the little B's and I did - it has pink frosting in the middle with SPRINKLES, and it tasted like heaven! I loved it! And I think it looks absolutely PERFECT!
This awesome sign is from my parents. A 3D welcome sign with a bull rider - very appropriate and more than perfect for our decor!
An awesome book from my Nicoley! She knows me well... I can't wait to read it!
 All my wonderful cards!
Can you believe all these gift cards from my mom and dad?! I am spoiled, I know... But I love it! And I am really looking forward to doing some shopping!
This from my bestie, Kimmy! Is this so cool?! I absolutely adore it! She knows me well... She also treated me to lunch at our traditional venue, Applebee's, and after a morning that was spent in a mixture of sadness and self pity and rushing-rushing-rushing, my day totally turned around! Even though her dad was in the hospital all week long, she still managed to get the perfect gifts for me. I love my twin!
And more from my Renee! Brailey is so intrigued with how she arranged this - the woman is GOOD! I love all these hair blings, and I can't wait to use them AND to get a new hair cut!
These cute little jewels are boot toppers, made by my bestie, Kimmy! You should order some - they are DARLING! I can't wait to try them out with my new boots from Christmas. I love them!

So you see, these are just a FEW of my favorite things. I am more than a little spoiled! It was a rushed day, from start to finish, but a fabulous day in so many ways, and I love looking back and reflecting on how lucky I am. Who wouldn't?! I also received a wonderful wish from my Aunt Sharon, who has never, not even once, forgotten my birthday, bless her heart. Another precious, "golden" friend from high school, Nikki, left me a wonderful voice mail that warmed my heart. And even though I don't have my birthday listed on Facebook, a lot of sweet chums figured it out and posted birthday wishes for me, which I was thrilled to read. I am blessed with many giving, loving friends and family, it has to be said. And I am filled to capacity with thankfulness!

April - Here and Gone in the Blink of an Eye

It seems crazy to think Easter Sunday was on April Fool's Day this year, but it totally was. We started our Easter at mass with our fa...