Bella loves to pet Brayden's face

Bella loves to pet Brayden's face
Originally uploaded by themillermix.

Bella loves Shannon and Bill's new baby, Brayden. Whenever she sees him, she has to pet his face and give him a hundred gentle kisses. So sweet!

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Javi's home

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It's a sad day in the celebrity circle. First, Farrah Fawcett lost her long battle with cancer with Ryan O'Neil by her side. Then Michael Jackson went into cardiac arrest, slipped into a coma, and died.

I feel horrible for Farrah and Ryan. I know they had their faults (as Tatum will attest), but it seemed like a true love story and a reconnection of souls between them. I prayed for Farrah's suffering to end, and I suppose God answered that prayer (which came from millions of us). I hope she is in a better place and that the sun is always shining on her.

I don't feel so horrible for Michael Jackson. He changed the music world and paved huge inroads for black musicians back when Thriller and Off The Wall came out. But then there was Neverland Ranch and child molestation charges and the video testimony... and it was never the same after.

I do feel horrible for his three children who have been raised in the weird shadow of this bizarre music legend. I hope that they are given the space and privacy to mourn their father and that they are able to carve out the lives they want for themselves. I hope their mother has been able to establish the loving bond with them that they'll need to get through this personal tragedy. I will always mourn for the children who lose their parents too young.

(Rest in peace all those who lost their lives today, especially those who did so while protecting our freedom abroad.)

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Bella's big day!

Today was a momentous day in the life of our 2 year old.

For starters, she wore big girl panties to school and only had 1 accident ... that's for the whole day! Then, we went straight from daycare to get her hair cut and then to dinner -- and my Bell kept her panties dry. Bless the heavens for creating the travel potty seat as it saved some cute Dora panties tonight!

Also, my baby refused to pee before getting in the bath, but about half way through jumped up and said "I go poop, Mama!" I plopped her on her Dora ring and she sho' nough she did it. Could it really be this easy?! She's still in a diaper at naps and overnight, but I'm going full speed ahead with training.

The other big adventure? The hair cut! This isn't Bella's first cut. She had a rush job about a year ago ... and it was nothing compared to today's 10 minute ordeal that required two packs of gummies and three suckers to get Bella to sit quietly.

We cut two inches off the back, an inch from her bangs, and put in layers. I think it's adorable, but Billy wanted to go with the blunt cut bangs. I did wind up trimming them myself with kitchen scissors (such a Mom) just to stop watching him stare at them.

After all day of daycare and then the big hair cut, Ms. Bella then sat nicely in her seat at Ham's for a nice kids' night dinner. She loves going there because of the train, but today she was beside herself and squealed at it several times (despite nasty looks by a few patrons). Then she saw Bob the Builder and it was on. They high fived and hugged before we convinced Bella to let the other kids have a turn.

Then when the woman who puts on the characters came out in her clown garb, Bella pranced over and got her first facepainting. Actually, it was a ladybug on her hand, but Bella sat very still and never once freaked out. She then showed everyone in the restaurant her new 'yadybud." She also happily put on the balloon hat the clown lady made her.

My big girl had a big night and handled it all like a pro. I'm so proud of her!

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Off To Camp: The Extended Edition*

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*Thanks to Katie for all the Smilebox posts ... I've finally converted. :)

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Camp Blues

My baby boy left for camp this morning! I began having second (and third and fourth) thoughts about the whole sleepaway camp thing yesterday. Would Javi be able to carry his bags? Would he forget his towels in the bathhouse? Would he get enough to eat (because he has a habit of talking during his meals)? Would he make any friends? Would he be the only one without a buddy there?

Talking to Grandma on the way to the meeting point.

So imagine my concern when we pulled up to our county's meeting point this morning and there were no young kids. Like, none ... at all! The youngest child was almost 11. And here's my 8 year old. He was nervous and scared all morning (and has been very negative about the whole camp thing) ... and I knew when he scanned the crowd and saw none of "his people" that it'd hit him hard. It did. He was jittery and clingy as we gathered round the 4H coordinator and he mapped out the next hour.

We then all got back in our separate cars and caravaned to the county over to meet the bus. Our county only had maybe 10 campers, but the next county had more than 40! They graciously allowed our campers to ride out to the campground with them in a nice, cushy, air-conditioned motor coach. During the ride to the bus, Javi couldn't sit back and got into several mini-battles with Bella due to his inability to just relax.

The whole way we pep-talked him. He promised to try everything, to have a great attitude, to introduce himself to people instead of waiting for someone else to do it. But once we pulled into the 4H center lot where the bus was waiting ... we knew it was gonna be okay. There were tons of 8ish year old boys! I counted at least 4 just standing near us. Javi immediately perked up and was ready to roll.

The family waiting for the sign to load up on the bus.

We had to stand around for about 30 minutes or so, but then everyone started loading up and my child was not going to be left behind. We tracked down Billy and Bella (who were off keeping Bella entertained) and Javi gave quick, cursory hugs to both before pivoting on one heel and making a beeline for the bus. He almost looked like a man heading off for the gallows. I imagine he felt the ol' tug-o-war of excitement and fear in the pit of his stomach.

I made him wait for us to walk to the bus with him and then we hugged and loved on him before letting him board up. He was pretty much done with us at that point, as you can imagine! He waved quickly and then disappeared. We stood around a while longer in case he needed us, but then we made our way back to the car.

Javi gets kisses from Bella before he gets on the bus.

It's been weird ever since. Javi's slept over at friends' houses and at the grandparents' houses multiple times since he was a little boy, but there's something about knowing that he's off at camp doing camp things without someone specifically in charge of helping him. I know he has a counsellor, but it's just not the same as someone's mom or dad. Also, we can't contact him unless it's an emergency, so I'll have to wait until Friday to hear from him.

Going to camp for the first time is as hard on moms as it is kids! I know he'll be okay, though. And he's going to have an amazing time and never forget this experience. I'll be reminding myself of that all week!

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Father's Day ... A Day Early

Javi leaves for camp tomorrow, so we decided to celebrate Father's Day a day early. Billy loved the idea because, technically, it gave him two days of "do whatever I want time." That might have been the perfect gift. :)

So, we invited the grandfathers over for a feast of pizza, salad, chips, and cheese ravioli (for the vegetarian). I normally cook something, but I decided that I'd opt for convenience at any price rather than spend most of the day cleaning and cooking ... and then cleaning up after everyone finished up.

We gifted Poppie (Billy's stepfather) with a Carolina teeshirt and a Carolina hooded sweatshirt. (I'm pretty sure that the man owns nothing without either Carolina or Tennessee emblazoned on it.) We gave Grandpa (my dad) an oversized deck of slang flashcards. They were pretty funny (and cheap - I picked them up at a yardsale). Unfortunately, the deck was from 2003, so the slang wasn't as informative as I thought it'd be. Dad's birthday is June 18, so we also gave him a birthday gift, which was a wireless headset for his cell phone.

Billy's folks brought him a fitting Father's Day gift. It's called a fishing rod called an Ugly Stick. Javi thought it was awesome, of course. Then we gave Billy his gift. His real gift is the quad cab or extended cab truck he plans to buy this week, but we couldn't let him sit empty handed on Father's Day.

So we got him a couple Threadless tees and a 7" digital photo frame pre-loaded with a special Father's Day slideshow of special moments between Billy and the kids. He loved it! It will permanently grace his desk at work ... where he can more adequately brag about his awesome children. :)

We ended the night by sitting on the floor labelling and packing up Javi's camp supplies while watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall. All in all, a much more relaxed holiday than usual.

I hope all the fathers out there (and the mothers who act as fathers) have a fantastic day!

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Only Javi

Javier: "Mama, I have a very important question about my pee."

Me: "Okay..."

Javier: "If I don't pee for like three days or something, will my privacy get really big? Like, really big?

Me: "Uh."

Javier: "Or will it get really small? I don't think it would get really small because where will my pee go?"

Me: "How about you go use the bathroom and the next time we're at the library, we'll learn all about where pee comes from."

Javier: "Okay. Because I've been holding it all morning!"

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Summer Camp

Javier is slowly warming up to the idea of summer camp. And that's a good thing considering all the camps I've signed him up for.

There's the week-long 4H overnight camp that he leaves for on Monday. Then he has three days of Fun In The Sun 4H day camp, then a 4-Monday arc of drama workshop for a play that he'll perform at the end of July, a "how to do magic tricks" one-day workshop in July, and then a week of art camp that last week of July.

I also wanted to sign him up for computer camp and a cooking camp (which is being held by one of the premiere chefs in our area), but they are both $100. While I did pay big(gish) bucks for the sleepaway camp and the art camp, the others are $5 or less. With our economic future now uncertain, I couldn't justify spending that much on camp.

But on days like today when it's rainy and gray and there are no children around for Javi to play with, I consider just paying that other $200 to ensure he gets to have lots of fun and socialize with his peers. He wants me to send him to the old church daycare where several of his friends, including his two neighborhood friends, go during the day ... but I'm trying to resist.

Next week starts camp season so I don't have to hold out much longer!

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Doctor's Orders

I stopped giving Javier his Vyvance after the last day of school, which was Wednesday of last week.

I then endured four days of whining, thrashing, moody, hyperactive, and down right obnoxious eight year old.

Today I gave him his medication as soon as he finished breakfast. He then went into warp-speed focus and spent 4 hours cleaning his room -- no backtalking, no drumming on door frames and flat surfaces, no sucking teeth or blowing out breath. Just quiet, concentrated cleaning.

At one point I called up to him: "Javi, what are you doing up there?"

Javi: "Cleaning! I've been focusing all day! I haven't played a bit!

Me: "Great job, bubs. But now you're scaring me!"

Javi: "Don't be scared. I'm just on my medicine."

Which caused me to giggle out loud a bit. When Billy got home for lunch, we both watched Javi like two crows on a wire. Back and forth as he deposited trash in the kitchen and dirty clothes in the basement. Then puzzles to the table and too-small shoes to the donate box. He was a little workerbee without any distractions.

So why didn't I give him his medicine last week? I think I sometimes fall into the mindset of people who don't believe ADD or impulse disorder are actual chemical problems. For instance, my mom always talks about how people give their children medicine to turn spirited children into "soldiers."

However, my child has a chemical problem in his brain. It's not made up and it's not us trying to turn him into a Stepford child. If he had diabetes, we'd make damn sure he took his insulin. If he had asthma, we wouldn't just toss out his inhalers. So I need to always treat his medication just as I would any medication that staves off pain or hurt or discomfort.

The upside is his medicine turns him into a regular kid instead of The Surly One. And that's a huge bonus.

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Bella goes to church

I took Bella to church this morning for the first time since she was an infant. I was a little nervous about it because she's so active and I knew she'd stay with the congregation for about 20 minutes after the service started.

This is our first time attending this particular church (Crossroads Ministries*), so I didn't know that I shouldn't worry about it. The first 15 minutes were all praise band worship - so it was some really cool and upbeat music. Bella danced and clapped in her chair the whole time! Well, there was a few minutes when I went into panic mode bc she wanted to lay in the aisle, but no one seemed to care and I was able to get her back into her seat.

Then they dismissed the children and Bella went to the 2 year olds' room. Most of the children were fine, but several of the were crying (including those much older than Bella) and trying to stay with their parents. My Baybell went right in and started playing with the toys and smiling at the teachers.

All in all - I was so proud of my big girl! There were 900 people in attendance today (there was a carnival afterward, but there are normally 600 some people ... so it's a really big church ... but Bella handled it all in stride! Also, we saw the Mosses today -- and Bella wanted to do everything James and Nathanael did, which tickled me. She's definitely leaving the baby years behind!

Don't you just want to hug her?!

*I remember when Crossroads first started, it was in a tiny room on Main Street in Broadway and was an outreach ministry for bikers. We went a few times, but didn't stay because Javi's biological grandfather attended as well. Anyway, it's neat to see how this huge congregation developed from such humble means!

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Burning up the pool

School's out! Javier kicked's school's a$$ (as Billy likes to say) ... he scored 100 percent on his Reading assessment, 100 percent on his Grammar assessment, and 97 percent on his Math assessment. Of course, he was upset with himself for not scoring 100 across the board, but we're ecstatic and proud.

But now it's summer. And he's eyeballing me all day. He wants to go to the pool, the library, maybe McDonald's or something, the pool, the park, the zoo, and - oh, did i mention the pool? Thankfully my sister is burning up the pool with her kids, so he's had someone willing to sit out in the sun with him. Because I'm not that person. I will probably take him in the morning after next week when my deadlines are over and I don't mind taking him at night -- but not in the heat of day.

I do think it's cute that he loves the pool so much. When we were growing up, my mom bought us season passes to OT Sloan pool. Every day of summer vacation, we'd lay around the house until noon, eat lunch, and then pack up for the pool. We'd walk from the apartments down Bragg Street and usually arrive right at 1 pm when the doors opened. And we'd stay until she picked us up a little after 5 pm. All day, every day. It was fabulous and the taste of strawberry Jolly Ranchers will always take me right back to OT.

So it's fitting that Javi loves it so much. As does Ethan. Here they are hamming it up for the camera earlier this week:

This is the best part of summer!

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Presto Pesto!

My dark green thumb is getting lighter. My husband tends to accuse me of being a fairweather gardener, but I braved the heat and humidity yesterday to prune and tend the garden in the middle of the day.

I reaped three more zucchini, five cucumbers, and three more cups of basil. The eggplant is flowering, which means we should have our first one of the season next week, and the cherry tomato plants are studded with small green globes ... bring on the tomatoes! I had to seriously prune the zucchini plants because they were covering up the peppers. Now that the peppers can see the light of day, we should have some in the next couple of weeks.

All of this to say: It's looking good out there! And it's looking good in the kitchen, too. Yesterday I finally got some pine nuts and fresh grated Parmesan ... which means PESTO!

It was the first batch of the season, but there will definitely be more. I don't think I considered how much basil 8 plants would yield when I ordered that many. Most likely I ordered 8 because we love basil and I usually don't do a great job of keeping it up throughout the summer. However, the garden rules keep me doing the hard labor -- so anticipate many recipes sporting basil this summer.

One of my favorites (which may sound weird, but you have to try it) is fresh pineapple with chopped basil, lemon juice, and a dash of sugar. YUM!

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4 Wheelin'

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Four Wheelin'

A few months back we bought a used Dora & Diego four wheeler off Craigslist. We thought it would be fun for Bella since her little legs don't really reach bike pedals. However, when we picked it up, we realized it was way too big for her.

However, Billy fetched it from my mom's before we left for vacation this weekend so we could charge up the battery. Today was Bella's maiden voyage and she rocked the four wheeler!

Billy took her out for a walk/drive and she got the hang of it almost immediately. There was one small snag: She has no cup or snack holder! She'll get to going and then realize she needs a drink or a bite of Apple Dapples ... and then she has to stop, try to find a place for her goodies, eat and drink a little, and then climb back on for another ride.

Needless to say, they didn't get far. Our next goal is to get her a little bike basket to hang on the front. That should solve the "where'd my cup go?!" freak out, but I don't know if there's a way to enable snacking while driving... which may actually be illegal in some states.

I do have video, but Billy was filming -- which means you'll get slightly dizzy and see lots of pavement. I've got to put that man in video school!

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Thank Heaven for Little Boys

We invited two of Javi's friends to eat dinner with us tonight. Billy took his dinner on the couch while I sat at the table with the two boys, Javi, and Bella.

Everything was going great -- the boys were chowing down on their spaghetti, Bella was plowing through her "noonels," and I was enjoying the little boy banter -- until the subject of French kissing came up.

Yes, French kissing. Apparently, they were looking at a wrestling video on WWE.com at the boys' house (they are brothers) and there was an ad that mentioned French kissing.

I kept all comments to myself and made eye contact with Billy as we both listened carefully to what the boys thought of French kissing. Kendall said, "I saw it on the computer. It's a girl and a boy and they touch tongues!" His brother Jamison replied, "Yeah. And they have spit."

But all the shock and disgust was put to rest by my son who used his logic to explain it to everyone: "Yeah, I saw them kissing like that but it's French kissing. You can't do it unless you're French. This isn't even France!"

You're right, buddy. This isn't even France. Leave all that nasty French kissing to the folks who own it. ;)

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Solo Vacation

I love my children. I am lucky to have them. God granted me the first when no one had any faith in my ability to raise a child and often scoffed that the job would do me in. I was then blessed with a second one despite my intense fear that having a daughter wouldn't be the plan for me. On today of all days, I find myself weepy at the thought of them -- both happy, healthy, spunky, and smart.

But that doesn't negate the overwhelming stress that falls on my shoulders every time we decide to take a vacation. If it's a family vacation, then I'm the one schlepping enough shirts, shorts, pants, undies, socks and shoes for four people; packing up the diapers and wipes; booking and paying for the room/cabin/campsite; planning and preparing all snacks and meals; cleaning up before and after; and ensuring everyone has the toys and gadgets they need. My husband and children just show up and then complain about that pesky item I forgot.

This weekend we're taking a solo vacation. You'd think the labor list would be shorter -- and it is, but not by much. For our anniversary, I booked Billy a half-day of wakeboard lessons as part of The Wilde Experience tour. Then I split lodging with our friends who are also attending. So there was the activity and the accommodations. Then it fell to me to find someone to watch both children for 3 nights, arrange pickups and dropoffs, and pack up all of their things as well as all of mine as well as our towels and toiletries.

I still have a mile-long grocery list, must clean the house and get everyone in good order before it's time to head out, and ensure Billy has what he'll need for his lessons (yes, I had to cajole him into taking his water stuffs over to the boat last night). Billy, on the other hand, just has to get dressed and leave.

Why? Why can't I ever just enjoy something? Why is it my job to make it happen, plan all the major and minor details, and then hold my breath and hope that everything goes super smoothly so I don't have to hear about what thing I didn't do right?

I suppose my point here is this: If you have a cushy life where things just seem to magically fall into place, then there is some hard-working person making it happen for you. So take a moment to offer a simple "thank you." You have no idea how far those two words will go.

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Community Garden: First Harvest

I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping our plots at the Community Garden weeded and watered. After a quick and yummy meal at the Dairy Bar, we decided to swing by and do some early watering since it hasn't rained since before the weekend and temperatures soared to 95 degrees today.

This is what we found:

We only planted two zucchini and four cucumber plants so our plots aren't crazy big, but the other plots boasted plants that dwarfed our beds. I was pretty proud of our green thumbs, though. (ETA: In total, we planted tomato, eggplant, basil, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers -- but only the zucchini and cucumber plants get big and bushy. So our beds look sparse in comparison to those who planted lots of zucchini and cucumber. Also, others planted bush beans, which we decided against.)

And lo and behold - we harvested two zucchini (one that was way too big), four cucumbers, and a ton of basil. I'm planning to make pesto for dinner tomorrow night with the basil and maybe roast the zucchini to have as a side. Javi and Bella both love cucumbers, so I know those will go fast.

Our peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant are just starting to flower and show tiny fruit buds, so we expect to harvest some of those by next week. I can't wait to pick my own cherry tomatoes instead of paying $3 for them at the store.

However, the trip wasn't all fun and games. I was on the lookout for pests ... and I found a nasty one. The stink bug.

Yuck! I've been looking online for organic methods of running them off. Apparently, nasturtiums and sunflowers act as trap crops and lure the bugs away from vegetables, but I don't know where to find them. I've decided to harvest my veggies as quickly as I can to keep the bugs from eating them.

Anyone know of organic ways to get rid of stink bugs? I've not seen any tomato hornworms yet, but I know they're coming next. Ah, the joys of nature!

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