The CHERISHED Life of Heather Leigh

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Family Reunion

This weekend was our annual family reunion on my dad's side of the family. The Shellnut's. My dad is the 2nd youngest of 11 siblings, so, he has a LOT of immediate family members, many of whom I don't know all that well. Not surprising when you consider that in addition to his 10 brothers and sisters, my dad has umpteen nieces and nephews (my cousins), som of whom are as old as he is, and then some of them have kids who are about my age, and then they have kids and so on. And extended family members, like my dad's cousins and their kids?!? Oy Vay! Forget about it. I wouldn't be able to pick some of them out on the street. (My handsome dad and Owen below)

So, these annual reunions are held at the same park each year and always on Michigan's hottest day of the summer (did I mention that the park has no water and no cooling amenities ~ interpret this as no "lake" and no "air conditioning")? The park has a pavilion where we house our numerous potluck dishes (the KFC went fast!), a ball field where Kevin spent most of his time pitching tennis balls to our kids and to my sister's kids (them taking a break below), a couple of swing sets, and a horseshoe pit. This year, my cousin (I think he's my cousin), Bruce, brought an inflatable bounce house for the little kids…Great Idea! And Doreen, my dad's cousin Ken's wife (who took over the reunion planning from my parents a couple of years ago), supplied us all with nifty red pens that read "Shellnut reunion, see you next year!"

Most relatives live here in Michigan, although we don't get together nearly as often as family should. But, some come from far away places like Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. A lot of my dad's family are from the south and I spent about 2 weeks (or more) during every summer as a kid visiting these "foreign" places where they say things like "ya'll", "fixin' to", and "ma-maw & pa-paw". What fun! One of my favorite places to stay during these childhood family vacations was at my Uncle Jimmie and Aunt Thelma's house (that cute couple is pictured below) in Arkansas. They had an awesome basement with a dartboard (where I stuck my brother in the back of the leg with one of the darts when we were 10 or 11), a tire swing, homemade buttermilk biscuits every morning, and Intellivision (my cousin David played a MEAN game of Pitfall). Plus, it was the most comfortably air conditioned space in Arkansas where we didn't get yelled at every 10 minutes simply for being kids (like we did at my Uncle LD and Aunt Bernice's house).

Also in attendance at this year's reunion (actually, I don't think he's missed a family reunion since we began having them years and years ago) was my older cousin Curtis, from Texas (picture not available, although he took one of he and I with HIS camera "cheek to cheek! cheek to cheek!" ~ a pose that he energetically insisted we strike). Anyway, Curtis has down syndrome and always makes us laugh (and sometimes wince in pain as he karaokes to Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue", it sounded a little like this>>> "AAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh AAAAaaaaahhhhhhhh Boy Named SUE! AAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh AAAAaaaaahhhhhhhh Boy Named SUE!" " ~ whose bright idea was it to bring the karaoke machine this year anyway?!!). So, Curtis asked me to marry him (even though we're cousins and I'm already married to Kevin and he usually proposes to my sister), and then he proceeded to tell me that I shouldn't eat any dessert because it might make me fat and that did I know he had lost 5 pounds and is now down to 198 pounds? OK.

At least no one thought I was pregnant this year, like at last year's family reunion when my Aunt Erma (Curtis' mom) asked me if I was expecting (I wasn't) and then thought it was great and humorous that I was FINALLY getting fat like the rest of the ladies in the family. Great. Thanks. So, I'm glad I've lost 9 pounds since last year's reunion, and even had a "Wow, you look great" comment this year. I won't point out the fact that this comment came from my Uncle Hurley, the oldest of my dad's siblings whose eyesight is probably failing him (although I don't know that for sure), and who, for years and years and to this day, has called me "Fatso" because I was always so stick thin growing up.

Leading up to the reunion, Jordyn, was SOOO looking forward to it, only to be disappointed that my cousin Ron's son Christopher's daughter Dianna (who is a little older than Jordyn) wasn't there this year. While it was nice to see some relatives that I don't get to see on a regular basis, I can't really say that I "caught up" with any of them. Well, I guess I now know that my cousin Denise pulled her hamstring recently and is in a LOT of pain and that my cousin Danny's daughter Robin (who I think is in high school) is dating a nice young college boy who is studying to be an anesthesiologist and even though he's a nice boy, he's still a boy and Danny wants to wring his neck because of this fact...things I wouldn't have known otherwise. But, most of the time was spent hanging out with my sister and brother and their families, who we see all the time and don't need a reunion to catch up with each other. (My sister, Shawn, my brother, Jeremy, and me, sporting the nifty red pen on my shirt, below)

In the end, I suppose the reunion is more than just a sweaty, sticky get-together in the summer heat where we briefly hug and hello people we haven't seen since, well, last year's reunion. It is a good opportunity to show our kids that they are part of a bigger network of people that we call family, even if we don't know exactly how we're all related or the intimate details of one another's lives.

See you next year!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fire Pit

So, last weekend, my husband and I built this lovely fire pit down by our beach.

We bought a metal ring that was 42 inches in diameter and 12 inches high. After completely leveling out the soil in this particular location, we buried the ring about 6 or 8 inches. Then I hauled rocks from our as-yet-to-be-sodded lot to completely cover the outside and inside of the ring (more on my rock fetish in a future post). We were very proud of our handiwork. The only thing left to do is to fill the bottom with sand.

Despite needing to complete this last detail, we decided to take the fire pit for a test drive. So, last night, we grabbed the bag of marshmallows, a couple cans of bug spray, some roasting sticks, and enough beach/lawn chairs for everyone to have a seat. Here is what I learned:
  1. Marshmallow sticks in the hands of 3 & 5 year old brothers quickly become swords and have the great potential of outing someone's eye.
  2. The pit (with out the sand at the bottom) is entirely too deep which caused us to fear (and secretly hope) that one of the kids would fall in.
  3. It is better to bring the kids to the pit AFTER the fire has been started. Owen, much to our chagrin, wanted to roast his marshmallow in the paper flame before the logs took light.
  4. Man creating fire causes mounting frustration, especially when receiving tips from your brood along the lines of "Maybe you should rub two sticks together or hit two rocks against each other."
  5. Jordyn is as sweet as they come, perfectly roasting 2 mallows at one time for her baby brother to enjoy (whose mallows kept falling off) only to find that 3 year olds, particularly Owen, may have asked you to roast him a marshmallow, but doesn't necessarily want to EAT, or be anywhere near, the perfectly golden brown result.

  6. Kevin's burnt marshmallows tasted JUST like creme brulee (so he says). MY burnt marshmallows tasted JUST like burnt marshmallows.

  7. Don't make the rocks around the fire pit fall down, it will piss mom off. (It would piss YOU off, too, if you had spent hours and hours and hours building the gosh darn thing!)
Living in this house makes every day feel like a vacation. Here are some pictures of our really good time at the fire-pit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daddy Day Care

My kids go to a wonderful in-home day care (Nee Nee's) where they are treated like family. Nee's Nee's husband, Mr. Jeff, is a teacher and has his summers "off". So, during the summer, Mr. Jeff is at home most of the time while my kids are at the in-home daycare. Yesterday, Mr. Jeff took his son, Mitchell (who is my son, Liam's, best friend and simultaneously his arch rival), up to the local elementary school to practice sports and then they stopped at Frosty Boy on their way back home. What Fun! Liam told me about this excursion not in a jealous manner, but in a factual manner, although I have to wonder if Liam felt left out.

Anyway, later that evening, Liam says to me, "Mom, can dad stay at home?" Puzzled, I ask him, "What do you mean 'stay at home'? Do you mean can he 'work from home'?" - which is what I do when I'm not traveling. "No," he says, "Quit work and stay at home and do daycare." The first obvious question is, "Did you watch that movie, 'Daddy Daycare', at Nee Nee's today?" He shakes his head, "No..." So, he wants dad to stay home and not me? "So, you want dad to stay home and do daycare and not mommy?" Looking hopeful he replies, "Yeah!" To which I reply, "No, silly, dad can't stay home and do daycare." Deflated, he asks (or whines, whichever you want to call it) "Whhhyyyy?" DUH "Because then we wouldn't make enough money to pay the bills to live in this awesome new house." Honest answer, although not the only one, like because Dad can barely tolerate his own brood for a solid 10 hour stretch let alone someone else's snot-nosed kids. (OK, "barely tolerate" is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point). So, this honest answer somewhat satifies Liam, and the conversation ends.

So, now I am faced with the question of WHY? Why does Liam want dad to stay home with them and not me? (Not that either one of us is able to or wants to stay at home…especially not if we have to do a daycare to make ends meet!) Is it because Liam watched Mitchell run off with Mr. Jeff and do those fun daddy-son things? Is it because Kevin and Liam could (and sometimes do) fish together endlessly? (Although Liam's endless questions and incessant talking during their fishing 'trips' makes Kevin wish he could fish alone.) Is it because I was such a crab the other day, displacing my anger on the kids?

Whatever the reason, I'm not offended by it. I know Liam loves me (he IS a momma's boy after all). I know I'm a good mom. But, more importantly, I know that Kevin is a good dad, a fact for which I am eternally grateful every day. So, even if my ego is slightly bruised, it warms my heart to know that Liam longs for a Daddy Daycare.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Maiden Voyage

I've been lurking in the blogosphere for awhile now...reading various blogs - some occasionally, some regularly, some of total strangers, some of people I know virtually, some of people I know face-to-face. I've even been posting comments here and there.

And I've been contemplating and discussing with other bloggers the creation of my very own blog. A place where I can post musings about my life as a (well, just insert my blog title and description here) in the hopes that someone might care, check in on me once in a while, and maybe, just maybe, spark recognition, a smile, a chuckle, a guttural laugh, or a thought provoking moment in the mind of the reader.

Creating the blog was much easier than I thought. Choosing the layout and format for the blog, mmmm, not so easy. And actually creating my first post, aaaaahhhhhh forget about it!

But here it is. Finally. My very first post. My maiden voyage. Time will tell if my blog sinks like the Titanic or sails on and on and on like the Queen Mary (that one didn't sink, did it?)

Anyway, thanks for sailing with me. If you're a first class passenger, please post a comment and let me know that you're here. However, I can't promise you that there will be enough life boats for everyone in the event of an iceberg.