NC Mission Trip Recap- Part 1

I am home from North Carolina and excited to give a full account of the week, but first, I must acknowledge what happened yesterday:  Andrew hijacked the blog.  It was a legitimate hijacking.  Not only did he not tell me he was writing a post, but he didn’t tell me he’d done it afterwards either!  I happened to glance at the stats page on my phone, saw a few notifications, and thought, two people commented on…what post?  Oh…  What a funny guy. 😀  Because the stolen post seemed to be well-received, Andrew has landed himself a contract job as a monthly guest blogger (he’s not getting paid for it.)  I hope those of you that we don’t know in real life enjoyed “meeting” Andrew!

Now the mission trip summary…I’ll do my best to keep in concise without leaving out any juicy details 🙂

The team:
Our team consisted of twelve middle school youth and four adults.  I’ve probably mentioned this on the blog before, but I love middle schoolers.  I think they are absolutely hilarious in that you never know what they will say or do.  In that regard, they did not disappoint this week.  Actually, they did not disappoint in any way this week;  I was impressed by how hard they all worked and the great attitudes they had despite the heat and persistent mosquitoes.

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The people we served:
As I mentioned in my midweek report, we worked with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley, who are in a very tough spot in life at the moment.  Chuck is sharp, witty, knowledgeable about many, many subjects, and full of hilarious one-liners.  “She’s as tough as woodpecker lips.”  “At least my report card didn’t stutter;  yours kept saying, “D-D-D-D-D…”  More importantly, he has a deep love for his daughters and a rock-solid faith that was evident to all of us.  Despite losing his wife, job, and being left to raise teenage girls, his devotion to God has not been shaken.

In addition to teaching us some legitimately useful life skills, Chuck showed us how “we rednecks” get strong out of in the country:  using heavy metal bars and sledgehammers:

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And that block of wood they are pounding with the sledgehammer?  After we took turns hitting it all day, Chuck stood it up and split it in two with the sledgehammer, prompting this response from one of our boys:

“If I took a girl out on a date, and you were her dad, I would treat her so well…”  😀

The work:
Half of our team painted the outside of Chuck’s trailer, and half the team replaced the floor in a few rooms inside.  As I mentioned above, everyone worked incredibly hard and finished the tasks we set out to do.

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The funny (part 1):
The man living next door to Chuck owns a bunch of goats and keeps them in a barely charged electric fence.  Think static electricity.  Or a first grade science experiment using a battery and a light bulb (I know this to be true thanks to one of our awesome adults, Robin, who teaches science to elementary school students. :))  One afternoon Chuck showed a few of our youth what that fence feels like, and, because they are twelve years old, that entertained many of them for longer than you might think.  Weird, but harmless.  Well, the phone calls home that night sounded like this:

“Catherine let us electrocute ourselves on an electric fence today!  We kept shocking ourselves over and over!  What?  Why not?  Yeah, I’m okay… No, it didn’t hurt… No, we didn’t do it for very long…”

Oh boy.  Parents, I did not let your kids electrocute themselves.  Again, think static electricity, and please consider that your twelve-year-old may have exaggerated.  I do think, however, that a few of them seemed slightly more balanced afterwards… 😉

I will leave it here for now, but I have plenty more to report tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

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Father’s Day, a Retirement Party, and a Wedding

Andrew and I kicked off our weekend with a date night Friday at the Mellow Mushroom–a new-to-Richmond pizza restaurant.  We had learned they make gluten-free, dairy-free pizza, so Andrew was excited to try it (as excited as you can be about GF, DF pizza. 😉  Don’t tell Andrew I said that… I always tell him his pizza tastes delicious.)

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Overall, the food was really good!  Andrew ordered their version of a supreme pizza, minus the ground beef that usually comes on it, and I had a cheese pizza with Roma tomatoes.  My only complaint is that I received a rather pitiful amount of tomato, as you can see in the photo above.  One thin tomato slice per pizza slice?  Come on, Mellow Mushroom… you can do better than that!  We both definitely enjoyed our meals though… and had plenty of leftovers!

On Saturday morning I went for my first run since hurting my quad during softball.  I kept it to an easy 30 minutes, and my legs felt good other than being a little achy from not running a lot lately.  Success!  I am going to take a break from our softball game this week, then hopefully play again next week (with a thorough warm-up and stretching.)

Saturday late morning/early afternoon, we worked in the yard (ah, the joys of home ownership. :))  I weeded the garden bed around the perimeter of the back yard, Andrew mowed the lawn, and we cleaned up the vegetable garden a bit.

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(Also, I think it might be time for me to buy a new camera.  All my photos have been blurry, regardless of the setting, lighting, etc.  Something is “off,” and I don’t think it’s just user errors.)

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…And we picked and ate our first green bean 😀

That evening went to our good friend Erin’s wedding.  Everything was wonderful–Erin looked absolutely beautiful, and both she and Nick seemed so happy.  It was a joy to celebrate with them!

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(I may have borrowed this photo from Facebook…)

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Additionally, we were able to visit with friends who came in town for the wedding.  We don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, and it’s always great to catch up!

Sunday morning we went to church to hear our pastor’s final sermon before retirement.   John has served our congregation for 16 years!  It was a bittersweet day, full of emotion as John’s wife, Julie, escorted him out of the sanctuary at the conclusion of each service.  After the final service, we had a reception/farewell party in our fellowship hall.  The committee in charge of decorations went all out!  They created a “tailgate” theme and used the school colors from John and Julie’s alma maters:  Randolph-Macon, UVA, and Duke.

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For Father’s Day, Andrew and I were limited to phone calls with our dads–mine lives near Atlanta, and Andrew’s dad was at the Cape.  In honor of my dad, (Papa Walt, as he has been renamed since the addition of my nieces, the next generation,) I resurrected this photo gem to post on Facebook:

Papa Walt

This was taken at the preschool party for my 4th birthday.  Andrew pointed out that I still make that face, minus the green marker on my nose. 😉  Papa Walt is the best dad a girl could ask for;  I love you, and I’m so proud of you, Daddy!

Sunday afternoon, after an accidental nap on the couch, Andrew and I went to the hardware store, purchased supplies, and built a more permanent cage for our strawberry plants.

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We bent 2-ft tall chicken wire to make a box, secured the top with small wire pieces, and added a rope handle so we can lift the whole thing off.  Take that, birds.  I am 83% sure that our neighbors think we are nuts. 😀

And now, off to tackle Monday!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Youth Stuff and Yard Work: A Full, Fabulous Weekend

Well, I survived the crazy weekend!  Despite the stress I experienced leading up to this weekend, everything went incredibly well.  Here’s what the last two days held:

Saturday morning I went with a group of our youth to volunteer with the Miracle League of Richmond–a baseball league for kids with disabilities.  We “buddy-up” with the players each week during the league’s spring and fall seasons to help them enjoy the great American pastime.  It is an absolute joy to know and be able to spend time with these guys and girls.  Plus, it’s my kind of baseball: everyone gets up to bat, everyone swings until they hit the ball, and everyone makes it home. 😀

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One of our youth, Eliza, and Carrie Rose have been buddies almost every game for about four years!

If you live in the Richmond area and are looking for awesome volunteer opportunities, check out the Miracle League!

When I returned home Saturday afternoon, it was time for yard work.  Andrew was working on the roof installing… something related to ventilation along the very top (not my area of expertise. ;-))

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After thanking Andrew for having such useful life skills, and also having a serious chat about not climbing on the roof when a. no one else is home and b. no one is holding the ladder (seriously, Andrew, what were you thinking?), I offered to mow the lawn.  Now, I mowed the lawn frequently when I was in high school, but the lawn mower we have now stinks.  It just stinks.  The previous owners of the house left it behind, and it works, so we figured, why buy a new one?  It is a full-body exercise to push it across the yard, and only once have I successfully started it by myself.  (Andrew started it for me initially, and then when I took a break after, oh, four rows, Andrew was back on the roof, and our neighbor Gary took pity and started it again for me :-D)

In the garden we thinned the broccoli, Swiss chard, and beets.  I know it has to be done–if two or three plants are too close together, none of them will thrive–but I have such a hard time pulling up little plants that are doing well!

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Saturday night, this happened.  I am scarred.  Absolutely scarred.

Sunday morning was Youth Sunday at church, which meant the youth were responsible for most every aspect of all three worship services.  This was a large part of my crazy-stressful week last week.  Everything came together beautifully, and all our youth did a wonderful job!  I am one proud youth director. 🙂

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Meg was one of two high school girls to offer the sermon…Go, girl 🙂

After following the bulletin closely and nervously for three services thinking, “What did I forget?  Where is there a hole in the service?” I headed home to rest for a few hours before our youth year-end banquet.  I was nervous about the banquet, but all went well!  Okay, I  forgot to recognize and include one of our mission teams from last summer in the slide show…Sorry, LA Team!  (Or as Forrest renamed it, the “Lost Angeles Team.” ;-))  Oops.  Aside from that, all went well. 🙂

We ate, watched the slide show, thanked our parent volunteers, and honored our seniors and some other youth, including our awesome Servant of the Year, Lauren!

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…and the public speaking wasn’t as horrible as I’d imagined 😉

When I returned home at the end of the night, I enjoyed reading through notes from youth and parents.  Thanks to everyone for your kind words…they brought me a lot of joy!  Perhaps the greatest…item…I received last night was this collage from hilarious 9th grader, Courtney:

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Why, yes, she photo-shopped herself into a bunch of pictures and added captions like, “Our engagement photos turned out GREAT” and “I’m so glad we’re married now!”  😀  Andrew and I laughed SO hard.  What a funny kid.  We’ve considered adopting Courtney, but because she comes from such a loving, outstanding family, we don’t think the courts would approve the request. 😉

While I feel like I say this every Monday, this was a full, but great weekend!  Thanks to everyone–youth, parents, Andrew–who stepped up to make everything run smoothly!

Today, I enjoy my first day off in three weeks. 😀

April Garden Update

Based on the weather, it seems we’ve skipped spring completely and gone straight from winter to summer.  Yesterday the observed high for Richmond was a record-breaking 91 degrees!  Even the squirrels are struggling with the heat:

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We have a bunch of white squirrels in our neighborhood (which we find awesome, in case you were wondering. :))  When I arrived home yesterday I found this one resting in the shade under our wheelbarrow planter.  He stayed there for a solid 30 minutes!

The plus side of the heat is that it is finally warm enough to start planting the vegetables outside.  This week we planted broccoli, Swiss chard, carrot, and beet seeds–all of which can handle a bit of cold, and we have a few 40-something-degree nights on the horizon.

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We also transplanted the plants we started inside in February from the seed starting kit to individual plastic cups (with holes cut in the bottoms for drainage.)  We were way late doing this, and now we are having to do some popsicle stick scoliosis treatment for the tomato plants.  I think they are beginning to straighten…

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This is only half of the plants, and the two giants in the top photo are tomatillos that our friend Matt gave us this week (thanks, Matt!)  We’ve been putting them on the back deck for a few hours each day to let them adjust to the outdoors before it becomes their permanent home.  (If that sounds crazy, you should know that when Andrew comes home from work he says, “How are the babies doing?” in reference to the plants. 😉 )

The downside to the heat is that my tulips–which I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I planted them in the fall–are blooming overnight, opening completely by the afternoon, and losing their petals by the evening.

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DSCN7747Pretty, nonetheless 🙂

By the mailbox:

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You can check out the “before” pictures from a month ago here.  It’s crazy to see the difference!

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Even if each tulip only blooms for a day, I plan to enjoy them while they last. 🙂

DIY Sewing Organization & A Surprise Party

My sister, Whitney, turned 30 last week, and we drove to North Carolina Saturday for a surprise party thrown by my brother-in-law, Charles.  The party was a huge success– backyard barbecue, fantastic bluegrass band, and Whitney was genuinely surprised.  Everyone had a blast!

I meant to capture the entire party, but mostly just took pictures of my family.  Sorry for the photo-overload, but I really love these people. 🙂 Ross, my mom, and my mom’s friend Walter drove down from Richmond, my dad, Aunt Ann, and Uncle Richard drove up from Atlanta, and Whitney’s best friend Jeanine drove down from Northern Virginia:

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I think the best surprise of all for Whitney was this:

528277_622926824389862_313341416_nShe babysat these girls during her college days 10 years ago, and they made the trip from Northern VA to celebrate her birthday.  Whitney actually screamed when she saw them.  Charles set the bar pretty high for himself for future birthday parties. 😉

As for our present…  Whitney is incredibly crafty.  Among other things, she sews/monograms/appliques adorable children’s clothing which she sells here on her Etsy site.  <–Check it out!  The last time we visited, I noticed that she could use some organization in her sewing room.  I searched Pinterest for inspiration, presented a vision to Andrew, and we began work on a project…

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…that ultimately turned into this:

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A pretty sewing organization board!

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Plus a set of pincushion mason jars for storage and, well, pins.

We were pretty pleased with the outcome and thought crafting a present was a great way to honor the ultimate crafter on her birthday.

Happy birthday, Whitney, and happy crafting to all!

Weekend Highlights

We had a very full weekend here, and while I know this post is a little late, I wanted to write about some of the highlights.

Thursday Night–(I know, not technically the weekend… but close enough.)  Andrew’s church league basketball team progressed to the championships last week, and the final game was Thursday night.  The guys played well…and won!

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Our good friend Kevin, who lives in Dallas, was in town for a meeting that day, and he was able to make it to the game and cheer on the guys.  We enjoyed visiting with him for a while after the game!

Friday–My alma mater, James Madison University, played their first and only game in the NCAA tournament.   They got their butts whooped, as expected, but I was still excited that they made it to the tournament.  There was a small part of me that held onto hope that maybe, just maybe, they’d be the first #16 seed to beat a #1 seed 😉

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I was really excited, okay?

On Friday night we took a youth group trip to Jumpology–a new indoor trampoline gym in town.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

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The room was essentially wall-to-wall trampolines, plus areas for basketball, dodgeball, and a foam pit.  It was quite a workout!

Saturday– Yesterday I recapped the 5k I ran with my brother; you can check it out here. The short version:  we kicked butt.

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In the afternoon, our friend Andrew came over to watch the VCU basketball game.  Unfortunately, no havoc was wreaked.

Later in the afternoon I helped with a youth group service project.  Once a month we help wheelchair-bound adults with disabilities (residents of the Virginia Home) enjoy an afternoon of bowling.

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Everyone–youth and bowlers–had a great time!  I love to see how excited they are, not only when they do well, but simply to be there bowling.

When I arrived home, I found that Andrew had been hard at work in the yard and made some awesome progress on the garden:

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Doesn’t it look great??  We cannot wait to start planting.

Saturday night our friends Amanda and Diron came over to watch some more basketball.  With JMU out of the tournament and VT not in the tournament to begin with, we were not particularly interested in any one game other than for the sake of our brackets, but we had a great time hanging out!  Amanda and I have been friends since college, and for a long time would say, “We need to go on a double date!”  When the four of us finally hung out a couple of months ago, we realized just how similar we are, and now we get together often.  We laugh a lot, although I think it often centers on how neurotic Amanda and I are 😉  Regardless, we are very thankful for these “new” friends in our lives!

When Amanda and Diron left, we continued watching TV, and I fell asleep on the couch, as often happens (I think I inherited this ability from my grandmother.)  It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or how interested I am in what’s on TV–the couch + the sound of the television are my personal recipe for sleep.  Andrew finally turned off the TV, and the instant the sound was gone, I sat up straight, opened my eyes wide, and said, “We should go to sleep!”  Andrew started laughing and said, “Oh you think we should?  You think we should go to sleep now?”  😀

Sunday– We had a pretty typical spring Sunday until the evening when…it snowed?

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It started sticking to the ground in the middle of youth group, so I decided to send everyone home early just to be safe.   I know everyone is saying this, but I am very ready for spring to actually be spring.  Snow is great–in January–but I am so ready for warmer weather.

Even so, a blanket of white was not a bad way to end a great weekend!

 

The Garden Bed: A Work in Progress

On Saturday, during the few hours of warmth before the cold and rain blew in, Andrew and I began work on our vegetable garden bed.  As I’ve mentioned before, last summer we grew our vegetables in pots, and while we experienced mild success, we have been dreaming much bigger for this season.  Rather than pots, we measured and marked a 10 ft x 20 ft plot in the back yard for the veggies.  Because that is a relatively large area, we rented a rototiller to help with the digging.

The before:

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Don’t be fooled by the greenish hue you see;  it is not grass, but moss. 🙂  First, Andrew dug a few holes to find a cable line we knew was buried so we could be sure to avoid it.  Then we brought out the big guns:

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Using a rototiller is NOT easy.  I had no idea.  Andrew did most of the hard work of breaking up the ground, which was predominantly clay.  A few hours, a lot of rocks, and one hidden tree stump later, we had this:

garden bedPlease note the piles of rocks and roots.  We discovered lots of treasures, including large chunks of cement (seriously?  Why were those buried in the back yard?) and the aforementioned stump from a tree that the previous owners had obviously removed.  That alone was an hour of fun, axing, and shoveling 😉

Next, we amended the soil clay.  We added gypsum to break up the clay and organic compost to add more nutrients.  Let me remind everyone at this point that Andrew and I have only a vague idea of what we are doing.  It’s very much a learning process.

I used the rototiller to mix everything together, which was not as difficult as the initial breaking-up of the soil, but it was still a full body workout!

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Andrew brought home some scrap stone from work (one benefit of being married to a mine engineer) that we used to create a mosaic path through the bed, forming two 4 ft x 20 ft beds.

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Now we wait for slightly warmer weather so we can actually put some plants in the ground and not just have a backyard mud pit (which is exactly what it is at the moment after all the rain we’ve had since Saturday. :))

It is a work in progress, but we are pleased with how it looks so far!