Formerly the Birchfield family blog, this space has been taken over by Sydney B., hip-hop dancer, softball player, fashion designer and youngest of the Birchfield clan.

There will be an occasional note from mom when something of interest pops up, but most of the commentary/photos/drawings will be from the young mind of Sydneyboo, diva in training.

No spelling or grammar critiques, please!

Friday, February 22, 2008


At approximately 7:00 p.m. this evening, 2/22/08, Joe and I will have been married exactly 11 years. ELEVEN, people. That's more than a decade, almost a third of my life (Yeah, yeah, I'm old. I'm aware...).

Am I going to say that time flies? Sometimes. Sometimes I can still remember how the day felt -- a little cool, not cold -- or how the air felt behind the scenes when we were all getting ready -- electric, like everything was buzzing. I remember sitting with my girlfriends out on the back steps of the church sharing a cigarette (Back in the day before I was *Mommy*, I liked to have a social puff or two) an hour before the service. I remember I wore black leggings and a blue denim shirt into the church that day and I remember the flowers were COMPLETELY wrong, but I didn't care.

I remember standing in the living room of our little ranch house in nothing but a corset and stockings, getting all gussied up to leave for the church, and Joe coming in from his morning bachelor golf game with all his high school and college buddies, not realizing I was still there (in my underwear). A spat on our wedding day -- If you know us, that is so appropriate!

I remember the pictures, the ceremony, the elation I felt in the limo on the way to the reception. I remember dancing and drinking and talking, talking, talking to sooo many people. I remember trading my wedding shoes in for a pair of Keds early in the night and I remember riding home in the limo with my sweet, sweet stepson and my brand new husband. I remember finally eating at midnight, watching Saturday Night Live in the floor of my house while little Joey colored sleepily in his coloring book beside me.

So in that regard, the way the memories of that day are still so clear, like it just happened last week, time has flown. But in other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. It seems like a wedding where I was an observer and not a participant because those two people were so different than the two people who live here in this bigger house I'm in now.

In our 11 married years, we have been blessed with new members of the family and we've mourned the loss of other members. We've traveled together, traveled apart, driven kids to the E.R. a million times, weathered the wrath of ex-wives, prayed for sick parents, put down sick dogs, trained new puppies, homeschooled our children, built a house together, cheered on the kids in baseball, softball, spelling bees and ballet. We've laughed at and with each other, screamed at and with each other, stayed up late fighting over stupid things and stayed up late making up.

I could never, ever list all the experiences we've had that have tattooed themselves onto my memory. These days I forget a lot of things, more than I probably should, but there are a lot of things I don't, can't, won't forget. And I know that even if, God forbid, when I am old (older) and gray (grayer) I develop some memory-killing condition in the old lady's home, I know my heart will fight to hold on to all the reasons why marrying Joe B. was the best decision I ever made in my life.

Joe always tells me life is a culmination of choices. If you make good choices, your life goes one way. If you make bad choices, it goes another. Forks in the road, crossroads -- we all come to them eventually. If you have known me for long, you probably know I have all too often made bad choices, especially in my early years, taken the wrong fork in the road. But somehow, some way my internal GPS led me to him all those years ago and, for whatever reason, I made the right choice.

We aren't the prettiest couple in the world, not the smartest, not the richest, not the classiest and not the most exciting. Our life together won't be made into some reality show for VH1 anytime soon because it's just not that darn interesting -- I mean, come on, Joe is no Flavor Flav. But it's a good little life. Sometimes it's dramatic, sometimes it's sexy (okay, not so much), sometimes it's funny and there's almost always an episode where somebody throws up! :)

So to my bestest, bestest friend in the world, Joe B., Happy 11th Anniversary! XOXOXOXO

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Arts, Crafts and Fifth Disease

The picture above is one taken on the last day of this six-week session at the Fountain City Art Center. The girls did a two-week series this time on self portraiture and then followed up with some architecture the last four weeks. You can see my pal, Sandi Van Winkle, with the pretty red hair in the back.

On the table in front of them is the *town* they created. They all sat down together and decided what should be in their town and then took various cereal boxes, granola bar boxes and peanut cans to create their community. There was a park complete with swing set and slide, a church, a cinema, a penguin zoo, even a cotton candy vendor on the street. There was not a courthouse, a jail or even an AA meeting going on anywhere in sight! As Sandi said to me earlier today, kids should design our towns. So true...

You might notice in the picture Kelsey's bright red cheeks. She has Fifth Disease. It sounds exotic and looks like it came deep from the jungles in Africa, but really it's just a bright red blotchy rash that comes after a little bit of a cold. Not real exciting, huh? Well, if she stripped down to her skivvies, you might think otherwise. She is one hivey (is that a word?) kid!

Not much else is going on around here. Lots of schoolwork, laundry and ball practice, but that's just the usual. Most of you will be happy to know that Kelsey has decided, after much uncertainty and deep consideration, that she will be able to play softball again after the *incident*. She starts back this weekend with her new protective face mask.

Finally, a shout out to my cousin and best bud, Tracy Lee, on completing a marathon in Jacksonville this week. I hear she's walking funny (insert joke here) and has a couple of scary looking toenails, but she's home and has a big pink ribbon for her efforts. None of us were there to actually witness it firsthand, but I have a feeling she had at least one family member right beside her, cheering her every step of the way. So for Tracy, congratulations on crossing that finish line, gal!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Slumber Party

When I was a kid, my friends had a zillion slumber parties. Slumber parties were big back in the, um, '70s, I mean '80s, well, back in the day. Anyhoo, I can remember tons of girls, lots of soft drinks, pizza, cake, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey games, charades and late, late nights. I remember sneakily playing "light as a feather, stiff as a board" and Ouija board in the laundry room of one of my friends' homes late one Saturday night and getting the bejeebies scared out of me by my hostess' older brother. Good times...

I remember one great slumber party when I was in seventh or eighth grade (It's all a blur now) at my dear friend Christine's house. I so loved Christine (and still do to this day, I might add). She was one of my bestest buds in elementary school and through the first half of high school. She cruelly left Knoxville our junior year of high school for sunny Pensacola, Florida. The last time I saw her in Knoxville, I was 16 years old, driving away from her house in Broadacres with her giant stuffed animal strapped into the passenger seat of my blue Mustang and her little shamrock plant sitting on the floorboard, her final parting gifts, so to speak. Sorry, I digress...

The slumber party at Christine's was a birthday party, I believe. We all went to see the movie Footloose and then came home and danced to the ALBUM soundtrack -- remember those? -- at her house in her basement (was it the basement or the living room? My mind is fuzzy now, but in any case it was some large space). That party was FABULOUS. There is nothing like a little Kevin Bacon and Kenny Loggins to get all the tweens excited. At least that's the way it USED to be.

So why am I taking this stroll down memory lane? Well, this past Saturday, Sydney went to her first slumber party. Kelsey had her first slumber party this year, but it was only about 4 or 5 girls, not one of those big free-for-alls I think of when someone says *slumber party*. Sydney went to a slumber party with 13 other girls, a Webkinz party. (If you don't know what a Webkinz is, Google it.)

I was worried she wasn't going to make it through the night. Sydney is a different creature than Kelsey, still very needy sometimes, wanting me to pick her up and love on her. She is a creature of habit and likes to sleep in her own bed. So I put the cell phone up at the head of the bed when I went to sleep Saturday night, half expecting the late-night call. But when I opened my eyes at 7:00 a.m., I realized it had been quiet all night long, not a peep out of anyone. She had made it.

We went to pick her up at 10:30 the next morning and she was mad at me for not letting her stay longer! She said they went to bed at 2:30 a.m. after watching movies, having pillow fights, playing Twister and listening to a bedtime story snuggled in their sleeping bags. They ate pizza and cake and ice cream. She took her video camera and caught the pillow fight on film. It is truly hysterical.

You know, now in 2008, having a slumber party can kind of breed anxiety in a parent's heart. You never know anymore where you're sending your kids off to sleep. You hear horror stories about kids being snatched out of their bedrooms in the middle of the night, of house fires, of PREDATORS. So I am not as thrilled with slumber parties as much as I once was. But I have to say I am happy she had the experience this weekend. She had a great time and she really bonded with her girlfriends. And in true slumber party tradition, she came home, was a complete bear and I had to tell her to GO TAKE A NAP RIGHT NOW just like my mom used to tell me when I was a kid. Three hours after she laid down, she was back to her sweet self.

So whatever happened to my buddy, Christine? Well, a few years ago she found me on Classmates.com and sent me an email. She is still in Florida, a Florida University alumnus (Okay, guys, cut her some slack. Nobody is PERFECT!) with two kids and a husband named Joe (small world). We now e-mail regularly and send Christmas cards of our kids to each other every single year. She is what they call a keeper.

The pictures at the top are from Syd's slumber party. In the Twister picture, Sydney is the one wearing the pink High School Musical PJs. But then you probably already knew that... :)


Monday, February 11, 2008

Keeping Us In Stitches

Well, yesterday was a first for the Birchfield family. Our first set of stitches! Miss Kelsey B., age 9, is now the proud owner of 4 baby stitches right under her left eyebrow!

The story goes something like this: Kelsey had indoor softball practice yesterday, the first practice where pitchers were pitching to catchers. Until yesterday the girls were just pitching to their pitching coach. So practice was set for 4:00. At 5:07, my phone rings and I hear my husband's shaky voice telling me we have a "little problem". My heart fell because I knew just from the sound of his voice she was hurt.

He said Kelsey had taken a softball to the eye and he was going to take her (Joey was with them) to the emergency room because he thought she was going to need stitches. He kept assuring me she was fine, that they had "gotten the bleeding stopped," sounding like that was a great accomplishment, like he had reached the top of Mount Everest or something monumental like that. So I knew she must have been gushing pretty hard prior to the phone call.

I told him to take her to the new St. Mary's Hospital in Powell and I would meet him there. I was crying, frustrated and, of course, undressed. I had been working out (Yeah, I know. That in itself was a small miracle for the day) and I looked like I had been wrestling large animals in the back yard. So I flew to the bathroom, searching for something to wear. I really thought my yoga pants and shredded t-shirt, while painting me a free spirit, needed to be switched out to something a little more suitable.

As is always the case with emergencies, I couldn't find my jeans. I knew for a fact I had hung them up, put them in the proper place, all ready to go when I needed them. But I'll be darned if somebody hadn't come in, playing a cruel joke on me, and swiped them right off the hanger, hidden somewhere deep in the bowels of the house. So I, while screaming into the phone at my mother that SOMEBODY HAD TO WATCH SYDNEY, pulled out a pair of jeans from the dirty hamper and threw them on. I changed shirts, slapped on a little Dove deodorant, some tennis shoes and I was out the door. I pulled up at Mom's going about 180, threw Sydney into the driveway and said, "I'll call you later" and I was off.

I got to the E.R. about 5:30 and Kelsey was in triage with Joe. Joey was sitting in the lobby texting whoever it is he texts 417 times a day. Totally unphased by the events taking place around him, Joey had brought in his Rubik's cube and was pretty much obsessed with his growling stomach the whole time he was there. You gotta love teenagers!

So Kelsey comes strolling out, bread bag full of ice covering most of her face, looking like she had just come out of a war zone, dried blood decorating her shirt and pants. She took the bag off of her face and right above her very swollen left eye was an angry, bloody gash. The outside corner was swollen almost shut. The whites of her eyes were red and bloodshot. Underneath her eye was a little mouse with just the faintest outline of softball stitches.

We all sat down and waited about 45 minutes for her to be taken back. I sent Joe and Joey home to get Sydney and to eat dinner when they called us back. While we were back there, I asked the doctor if maybe we could use glue instead of stitches, but after evaluating her, he said stitches would be the only way to minimize scarring. So he prepared Kelsey for what was to come and went and got his supplies.

He came into the room with a BIG NEEDLE full of some kind of numbing medication. He sat down beside her, told her not to move at all and began poking her, pulling out the needle, poking in another spot, over and over again, probably about 6 times total. Kelsey was as still as she could be; the only clue to her nervousness was the shaking of her legs under the blanket. She did not make a sound. The doctor let her sit for about 10 minutes and then came back to stitch her up. About 5 minutes and 4 stitches later, with not a peep from the patient, we were done. He presented Kelsey with a big red double popsicle and you would have thought he'd given her a bag of money. She sucked it down in two seconds, grinning from ear to ear.

So we left the E.R., filled her pain prescription at the pharmacy and picked up something for our dinner at Mickey D's. Yeah, I know, so much for the workout earlier. But the child wanted chicken Mcnuggets and, by God, she was going to have them! We scooted home and Kelsey took a little bath, downed some Motrin and snuggled in bed. She insisted on going to school this morning -- Remember, she's my Type A, we-can't-miss-a-day-of-work child -- so she arose at 7:00, got dressed and headed off for another Monday at the co-op, never missing a beat.

So long story long, we survived it and have the bruises, the stitches and the pictures to prove it. The picture at the top is after we got home and Kelsey was snuggled in bed. The end of a very long day...

Friday, February 8, 2008

History Fair

Sydney & the Tennessee flag

Kelsey and Allie in front of the stable

More of Kel and Allie

Well, the History Fair was two days ago and we are almost all recovered. The day started horribly with tornadoes in West and Middle Tennessee and a tornado watch for all of us here in K-town. We headed out for school at 7:30 a.m. right as the skies turned pitch black and the rain began to fall in big, round globs -- Splat all over the windshield. I was praying silently the whole way to school for the Lord to please just let us get there safely. Then whatever was gonna happen could just go on and happen.

I told the girls we could not tune in to Disney on the XM radio this morning (something we do EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES) because we had to set the channel to WIVK to listen to the weather. There was no music on the radio Wednesday morning, just DJs talking about how there were tens of people dead in Tennessee and how dark it was outside and how JUST NOW the storms had entered Knox County. Great, I thought. Then the streaks of lightning started and the thunder. Sydney was squealing every time she saw the lightning and Kelsey was commenting on how loud the thunder was. It looked like we were headed into the middle of hell.

So I pushed on, Joe following me two minutes behind so he could help me unload at school. We were moving through the flooded roads on our usual route and I thought we were JUST GONNA MAKE IT before the deluge when we got into a long line of stopped cars -- a huge sewage truck had overturned! So we got detoured onto this little one-lane country road. I had no idea where I was going. Needless to say, the stress level was fairly high in the car. I kept trying to remain calm and not make colorful comments on how bad everything sucked (something at which I am well-trained) so that the girls would not get scared.

Finally, after following all the cars in front of me, hoping and praying they were going the same way I was, we got back onto our normal route and made it to school just as the skies opened completely and dumped gallons of water all over us. I let the girls out under the overhang, dropped all of their stuff off, including the robotic horse and parked. By the time I got inside the building I looked like I had showered in my clothes. And I smelled like wet dog. It was gonna be a good day!

So after all of that and after setting up all of the girls' displays, getting everyone settled, the History Fair began. Most of the displays were very creative and the costumes were neat. There were several people there doing soap-making demonstrations, quilting demonstrations, etc. There were even Civil War re-enactment enthusiasts there to show off their authentic goods. The kids created little vignettes from colonial times, a tea party on the lawn of the White House, castles, ships, wigwams, you name it.

Kelsey and her partner, Allie, were, as I said in my earlier post, blacksmiths. They had a stable complete with forge, authentic horseshoes, hay and a robotic horse. They stood before groups and groups of people and explained their trade, their importance and even told stories of famous blacksmiths in colonial times. They looked and sounded great.

Sydney's class did their projects in their classrooms. Kindergarten through second grade are not involved in the BIG History Fair, per se. Their displays consist of tri-fold boards, costumes and any accessories they want to bring. Sydney did a little project on the Tennessee flag, the designer, the significance and its adoption date. She wore a t-shirt with the Tennessee flag on it and had red, white and blue ribbons in her hair. She constructed a flag out of red, white and blue clay. She stood proudly in front of her board for most of the day, giving her speech to every group that came calling. Surprisingly, the projects in her class were very entertaining and pretty detailed. There was old-time candy, homemade butter and even a log cabin made out of Lincoln logs. They were creative and very age-appropriate.

So all in all the day went well once we arrived at our destination safe and sound. Outside, it was wet and windy, but inside, it looked like a different time. The kids were excited, bubbling over with information they had memorized, costumed in great detail. All the time and effort put into the day was evident. While I was worn out after it had all ended, from set-up to clean-up, I was glad I spent the day with the girls, listening to their presentations and even learning some new things myself. It made an otherwise dreary, miserable day into a memorable one.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

History Fair

In this homeschool journey our family is on, some days are more trying than others. As anybody who has visited here before knows, the girls attend a 3-day-a-week co-op. When we ran screaming from the Knox County public school system in the fall of 2005, this little co-op was the oasis we had been seeking. It was peaceful, calm, challenging, loving, all those adjectives that you pray will describe your child's school environment. We saw (and still do) great results in Kelsey and our relationship with our child became better, stronger, happier.

And because of that success in our first year I became a great advocate of the school, so much so that our administrator started sending potential parents my way, hoping I could shed some light on the whole wonderful process for them. I will say it has never been an easy experience. Even back then, it wasn't easy. It was challenging for me. It was challenging just by definition -- schooling at home. I was now in charge of her education, and when I started to think about ALL of the things her little mind needed to absorb, well, it gave this mother pause.

Here we are in 2008 and both of the girls are at the co-op now. Double trouble, double time, double lesson plans, double schoolwork on homeschool days. Like I said earlier, some days are better than others. This week we are preparing for the History Fair. Every other year we have the History Fair, alternating with the Science Fair.

I don't know if any of you out there are homeschoolers or know people who are, but whether they be homeschoolers for religious beliefs or, like us, because of environmental concerns, one thing never changes -- the level of intensity put into projects. There is nothing like doing projects in a building full of home educators. It is like preparing for the Miss America pageant, like preparing for some historical blockbuster television mini-series, like preparing for the presentation of your life. These people (most of these people) LIVE for these History Fairs. We have mothers frantically sewing authentic historic costumes, complete with hoop skirts. We have dads painting and building the White House, Indian wigwams and royal palaces. It is the most over-the-top experience you will ever witness.

Thus, my good days/bad days statement. While I am all for delving into the pasts of all these historical figures, giving oral presentations to enhance public speaking skills, even putting together dioramas to depict the historical topic, I am more than overwhelmed with the level of authenticity required at this little co-op. It isn't really acceptable to pull your hair up in a bun, put on your prairie skirt and your ankle boots to depict some woman out in the wild, wild west. That will require a wig, a costume and a horse (complete with saddle), maybe some cactus and a gun (loaded) if you can get it approved by the administrator.

This year, Kelsey is a colonial blacksmith and Sydney is doing a project on the Tennessee State flag. Mercifully, first grade is a little more low-key about this kind of thing, so Sydney's project is just your typical poster board, paragraph, clay mold of the flag type of deal. Kelsey, on the other hand, has been spending the last few days of school painting and building a forge for her blacksmith shop. She will have a stable made out of wood complete with hay and horseshoes to stand in front of and a robotic horse for the visitors to enjoy. She will be dressed in full garb, britches, knee socks, apron, etc. We are to bring our costume in to class tomorrow for *approval*. Sigh...

So this is an *interesting* time for us on our homeschool journey. I use the term homeschool loosely because truly we are more private school than homeschool. I have very little say in the curriculum for my kids, the pace at which we do the lessons and even the grading of their test scores, etc. I hear next year I won't even have a say in what they wear -- uniforms for all ages for the next school year is on the table and really already a done deal, if the rumors are true. Do I wish I TRULY homeschooled? Some days, yes. I wish I had more control over what material was emphasized, wish I didn't have to spend so much time dealing with unimportant things like how the hardback binders are organized or whether the folders I bought are acceptable to the teacher, wish we were less deadline-oriented and more LEARNING oriented.

But I have always told myself on every challenging day that a bad day in this little co-op is better than a good day in *regular* school. I still believe that. I love Tuesdays and Fridays at home, books all over the table, studying definitions on the trampoline, memorizing Bible verses in the kitchen. I think 10 years from now I'll mourn the passing of this time, remember it with great fondness and no regrets.

And I'll probably be fond of it again right around 12:31 p.m. this Wednesday -- right AFTER the History Fair ends! :)

Idina Menzel

This song really speaks to me. Thought it might to some of you, too!