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!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tummy Bugs

This past weekend, Kelsey's softball team had a tournament scheduled in Pigeon Forge. As we like to do a couple of times a year, Joe and I reserved a cabin in a Pigeon Forge resort for the weekend since we were going to be up there anyway. The kids love this little vacation and so does Mom because it's close to home and there's not TOO much packing that has to be done for all of us for just the weekend.

So we are preparing to start packing the car up Friday morning, having taken the dogs to the kennel, Joey back to Jefferson County, etc., when Kelsey informs me we just MAY not be able to go to the cabin this weekend. When I ask her why, she tells me she just threw up. Matter of fact, no moaning, no whining, just, "Hey, guess what, I'm sick," kinda thing. At first I thought she was kidding, but as I got closer to her, that kinda pale yellow color on her face told me she was not. She said she felt fine now and thought it might just be because her nose had been stuffy this morning and all the gunk had made her tummy upset. So after an hour passed and she was screaming for food, I thought she might have been right. I fixed her a piece of toast and kept on preparing for the trip.

Two hours later, we're all still fine. By the third hour, Joe had started toward the bathroom to clean (Those who know him understand) when Kelsey came and stood in the doorway. I could tell she no longer felt fine just by the look on her face. So I shoved Joe out of the bathroom and helped Kelsey make it inside. There was no doubt now -- She had a stomach virus.

Needless to say, our trip was cancelled. The cabin facility very graciously agreed to let us postpone our trip after Joe and I grovelled for half an hour or so. Sydney was in tears for an hour because she had so been looking forward to the weekend. Kelsey, ever the tender-hearted girl, was telling me (as she was hovering over the toilet) she was so sorry for ruining the weekend. It was pitiful. But Joe promised Sydney they would do something, just the two of them and he took her out for lunch and to run errands later in the day, even letting her have an ice cream cone at Chik-Fil-A. He said Sydney told him that was BETTER than going to the cabin. And I stayed home and took care of Kel Bell while she battled her insides.

So here we are three days later and everything is pretty much back to normal. Kelsey was sick for about eight hours and then started feeling a bit better. Her fever spiked to 103.8 Friday night, which scared her poor mother to death. Thank the Good Lord for Motrin, I say. By Saturday morning, though, the fever was pretty much gone and Kelsey was ready for Popsicles, Jell-O and chicken brother galore. Kelsey says getting sick isn't so bad really because at the end you get to have all the Popsicles you want. A kid's perspective, I guess!

I'm sure if you're reading this you're thinking how much my weekend must have sucked, but it really was okay. On Saturday afternoon while Joe was waiting out a rain delay in Pigeon Forge with the softball team, I decided to decontaminate Kelsey's bathroom and her bedroom while she took a shower. So I stripped her bed, Lysoled everything I could find (I literally had to open a window afterward), cleaned the bathroom with Scrubbing Bubbles, Clorox Wipes and then another coat of Lysol and then I washed all the mats, sheets, etc., in a cauldron of scalding water. While I was wiping down the faucets in her bathroom, Kelsey came in and said, "Thanks, Mom." I said, "For what?" She said, "For taking care of me and making me better." No prompting, no bribery, just an on-her-own Thank You, Mom.

Sometimes when you're wiping snotty noses, holding hair back while your kids upchuck, taking temperatures, sitting in a steamed up bathroom at 3 a.m. trying to get rid of that croupy cough, doling out meds or just worrying yourself into panic attacks over your kids' health, you wonder if they'll ever know or understand just how much you put yourself through being a parent. You think one day when they've got little ones they'll get it and they'll appreciate all your efforts. But sometimes they surprise you when you're standing in the bathroom, up to your elbows in germs, all umcombed, still in your PJs at noon, desperately needing a shower yourself and they'll say, "Thanks, Mom", just like that. Nothing fancy. And that's when you know they're worth all the yuckiness and worry and loss of sleep the world can throw at ya'!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break

Well, we're on Spring Break in the Birchfield household this week, but it sure hasn't felt like much of a *break*!! Kelsey played in a one-day tournament in Morristown Saturday (which turned into a one-game tournament due to pretty heavy rain arriving just as Game 2 started). J. has been playing high school ball all week. Well, not playing really. This is a tough year for J., dealing with the politics of high school athletics.

Last year, J. played about half-time as a freshman and did pretty well for himself in his first year of high school ball. He got along well with his coach and was even receiving praise from the varsity coaches every now and again. This year, there's a new coach (the basketball coach) and, boy, is the environment different. If you're not a basketball player, you're pretty much screwed this year. There are about 20 kids on the JV this year and about 10 of them are playing regularly. J. has played 4 innings in the first five games. Could be worse, I guess. He's got friends who didn't even sniff playing time until Game 5.

But it is frustrating as a parent to see how down J. has become about it all, even talking about hanging it up after this year. I hope he doesn't, but I can't blame him if he decides to do just that. He's been to every workout since the fall, every practice, sold everything the booster club has thrown at him to sell to raise money, and he just doesn't understand why all that doesn't matter. It's hard to explain to a 15-year-old the politics that go into high school athletics, the kid whose parents donated the most money, the kid whose dad is the teacher, the kid whose mom is *extra* helpful, the coach who favors his basketball players, etc. It's hard to explain why 110% doesn't always bring reward, especially when giving 110% has been drilled into his brain since he started playing sports.

I pray for J. a lot these days, not so much for his playing time -- although I do sneak that in every now and again. But I more oftentimes pray for him to find the grace to deal with this situation. At first I thought his quitting at the end of the year was not necessarily a bad thing, but now I think it will show more character to stick it out. I told him at dinner tonight he has to decide if it is playing time that is more important or just his love of playing and being on the team. Playing time is important for him, for every kid on the team, I know. But I wonder if he wouldn't feel worse if he had no team at all. He so loves baseball.

I also think by staying he may just make a statement about his determination and his ability to deal with adversity. I don't know what the right decision is here. J. has never had to deal with failure and it's causing him great stress and pretty dark moods because he feels he has no recourse, no way to right the ship. But because this is not failure to perform on his part, but failure to be given any opportunity to perform on the part of his coach, I cautioned him away from hanging up his cleats next year because the coaches will be different. It will be interesting to see what decision he makes.

In other news, the girls have talked their dad and me into getting a tropical freshwater aquarium. We now have two fancy male guppies, a dalmation molly and some kind of orange Mickey Mouse platy (the real name escapes me). We thought we were getting a tank full of male fishies, but we believe now our molly is a female and probably the platy, too. Because almost all female mollies and platies come pregnant from the fish store, they are going back tomorrow. The girls are not thrilled about it, but we do NOT want hundreds of babies roaming around our little 20-gallon tank, not to mention we also do NOT want to watch the mommies munching on said babies after they're birthed. So to avoid any kind of scene like that, we are trading in these two for males bright and early in the morning. These are just starter fish, so they may all bite the dust in the next week or so anyway, but I want to take no chances. I will post some pictures of our swimmers in the coming week.

Finally, this Sunday is Easter. So early this year. My daffodils are not blooming yet, but they're wanting to. They're budding, but I feel certain the predicted snowfall on Monday will take care of that. Never fails. Everything JUST starts blooming and then BAM!, the old freezer turns on again. I was so thrilled with our week of 60+ weather that I packed up all of Sydney's warm clothes while I was cleaning out her room (another story for another day) and stored them securely under her bed this week, just daring Mother Nature to send any more cold weather our way. I'm over it. If it's cold, then it should snow. If it can't snow, well, then forget it and let's get on with it already. Just my opinion...

I hope everyone reading this has a happy Easter, full of hugs and lots of chocolate! We're having the usual family get-together at the house, complete with egg hunt and Honey-Baked ham. Good times, people. Good times...

Oh, and just in case you're living in a monastery or a cave somewhere, the Big Orange is competing in the NCAA basketball tourney this weekend. After today's exhibition, I am not holding my breath on an overly-extended season, but ya' never know. 20 (TWENTY) years ago I was a freshman at the ol' UT and I can promise you basketball season was nothing to cheer about, but I still loved going to the games, sitting (standing) in the student section in the arena, hoping I would catch an orange and white shaker before game time. I still love watching them, just now from the comfort of my living room!

Happy Easter Everybody!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spelling Bee News

Kelsey participated in the Southeastern Regional Spelling Bee on March 8. We weren't sure if the bee was going to go forward because it started to snow about 7:45 that morning and just kept right on falling up until time to leave for the competition. But the message on the coordinator's voicemail said they were going to go on with it and just to be careful getting there!

So we got to UT about 12:15, 15 minutes before check-in time. We got in a fairly long line to register. There were people, people, people everywhere! Lots of bored-looking kids, lots of kids being fed spelling words by their parents, lots of people. When registration began at 12:30, Kelsey received a t-shirt, a certificate, a program, a copy of the rules and a big #3 necklacke to hang around her neck.

We waited in the auditorium until 1:15, kidding around and joking with family until the little lady told us we would be starting early because everyone was there. They called all the participants to the stage and Kelsey took her place on the front row, suddenly very serious and focused. She looked small compared to the other kids up there.

In the practice round, Kelsey spelled macaroni without hesitation. She then sat quietly while the other 38 kids went through their words. Then the REAL DEAL began. The first girl in the first round fumbled on "regime" and tearfully went off the stage and up the aisle. I was secretly pleased that Kelsey would not be the first one to go, a fear she had expressed so many times while studying. Her first round word was "Capricorn." I knew she knew this one and she spelled it without hesitation as well, even remembering to capitalize the C. She took her seat and on the round went. I think there were probably about 10 kids out by the end of the first round. They were dropping pretty fast all around her.

In the second round, the #2 girl spelled her word correctly and then Kelsey got up. The announcer asked her to spell "macrame." My heart fell because I knew this was not one of the words we had gone over. We had covered 600 of the 800+ words, but this was one she stumbled on very early in the studying and we pushed on, meaning to return to it. We just never did. She made it through the first part of the word just fine, but added an "a" at the end instead of an "e". The little bell sounded signalling an incorrect spelling and Kelsey walked off the stage, picked up her complimentary dictionary and plopped down in the seats in front of us. We stayed until the end of the round and then we headed out.

There were several members of the family with us, so we all headed off to a little celebratory lunch at Red Lobster. Kelsey was pretty frustrated on the way to lunch, but seemed to perk up once we were there. When we returned home, she set up camp on the couch for a little while and kept saying how poorly she had done. I just decided to let her work it out for herself instead of continually barraging her with the "I'm so proud of your effort" talk. Sometimes you just gotta get through it in your own mind.

That night, around 7:00, Mom called to tell us a 14-year-old girl had won it. It was her third time in this bee. The other four finalists were all 13. I think that helped Kelsey realize how big a deal even just showing up really was. She was the only third grader in the competition, the youngest speller there. She stood with no fear in front of the big auditorium and gave it her best shot. Her success came not in winning it all, but just in TRYING, in making the all-important effort. When we were leaving the bee that afternoon, some woman we did not even know came up to her and told her how close she had come to spelling her word correctly and how good she had done, obviously noticing in the program how young she was. It seemed to make Kelsey feel better.

So it was a good experience overall for her. She got lots of e-mails from her teachers and her principal expressing great pride at how she represented CFC and how they knew she would be back (not holding my breath on that one!) next year. Things are pretty much back to normal now. This week is Spirit Week at school, so our focus is now back on Crazy Hair Day, Mismatch Day and Support Your Favorite Team Day at school. Thursday is the last day before Spring Break and the weather here is getting warmer. Our first softball tournament is this weekend and Joey is playing his first high school double-header as we speak. Sydney is now wanting to take tennis lessons. Life moves on for us all, I guess!

For everybody who sent Kelsey well wishes, who came to support her Saturday, who called, e-mailed and prayed for her success, we thank you a million times over. For Kelsey, who never ceases to amaze her mom and dad with her ability to get the most out of life, you are truly AMAZING!! XOXOXOX

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I just finished a couple of books and I thought I'd recommend them. They are such polar opposites of each other that it feels kinda strange talking about them in the same entry here, but in the interest of time I'm gonna do just that.

The first book I want to recommend is Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. This is not my typical read, but I discovered this guy on the pages of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, just a small blurb about him and about this book. I researched it on Amazon a little bit -- well, researched meaning read the other reader reviews -- and decided to buy the softback version. So glad I did. This book is about this guy's search for sense in modern Christianity. It's about his conflict about calling himself a Christian when most of the *Christians* he knows are judgmental, closed-minded folk. It's about how you can be a *normal* person and still come to the conclusion that there has to be something bigger than you out there. It also speaks to the importance of spirituality as it relates to belief rather than just memorization of Biblical philosophy. And it's about how acceptance of EVERYONE must be at the root of your belief system, else you are just a phony Christian. It's funny, it's sad sometimes, it's a quick read. Most of all, it feels familiar, at least to me.

The second book I want to recommend -- so different from the first -- is the new Stephen King, Duma Key. I love Stephen King, always have. I love the gory, love the scary, love the clever wordplay. Ever since his real-life near-death accident, though, I haven't loved him as much. Sorta felt like he was different, a little less weird and a little more broken or something. Anyway, the main character in this one is no different than in any other of King's books. He's a broken guy, but through his life upheaval, he finds this artistic ability he's represssed all his life while he was building a career. There are the usual scary, weird, even bloody elements in this book, just like all of his books, but there seems to be more heart. I'm not gonna review it, cause, well, that's just not what I do, but I will say it's worth it's heft. It moved pretty quickly and I thought about it for longer than my usual half-hour after I closed the back cover.

I have included a link to Donald Miller's website. He has several other works and I think he's worth checking out.
Donald Miller Website

That's all for now, kids. I'll probably be blogging again after the weekend. Kelsey's in the regional spelling bee Saturday. Hopefully I'll have pictures and a story after all is said and done. Everybody, please keep her in your hearts the next few days. She has worked her rear off studying in addition to all of her schoolwork and I couldn't be prouder of her!


Monday, March 3, 2008

Field Trips, Uniforms and All The Rest

Joe, Kelsey, Sydney and I went on Kelsey's third-grade field trip to Wonder Works today. Joe, just in from a short jaunt to Ann Arbor, Michigan for some kind of special *work training* -- You know, he works for the government, so I don't even ask anymore what that exactly means -- accompanied us on this beautiful 70+ degree day to spend time with the kiddos and their friends. It was a fun trip. There were probably about 30-35 kids and maybe 10 or so adults in attendance.

If you've never been to Wonder Works in Pigeon Forge, it is tons o' fun! It's covertly educational, sorta like those Brain Games the kids like to play on the DS. There's a rock wall, a virtual roller coaster, all kinds of *What you'll look like at age 40* and *What's your personality* types of kiosks everywhere. There are space exploration exhibits, a bubble room, a bed of nails and an optical illusion art gallery that is spectacular.

So we spent a couple of hours there, then headed to Logan's Roadhouse for a little lunch. Kelsey's favorite restaurant since she was old enough to know what a restaurant was is Logan's. Sadly, we haven't had a Logan's in Knoxville for a year or so now and Kelsey hasn't quit griping about it. Fortunately for her, a brand-spanking new restaurant just opened across the street from the Tangers Outlet (fortunate for ME) in Pigeon Forge, so whenever we're in the vicinity we have to make a stop.

After lunch, we decided to take the girls to play a little miniature golf at Old McDonald's Farm in the Tangers Outlet parking lot. After much back and forth, we decided to play on the Porky Putters course (Insert your own joke here). It was so nice out today. The sun was shining, skies were blue and it was about 72 perfect degrees. A little taste of early spring. After about 45 minutes of hits and misses and all kinds of barnyard animals critiquing the putting skills of the Birchfield family, we headed back to K-town. It was an unusually easy-breezy, non-stressful day for the fam and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Let's see. What else has been going on around here? Ah, I think I may have forgotten to mention in earlier posts that the girls are going to be wearing uniforms to the co-op next year. Since I spent my entire elementary and high school career in a uniform, I think it is safe to say I am not a big fan. I'm not against it enough to start a war over it, but I think all the reasons the administrator and the *Board* give for why uniforms are the greatest thing since sliced bread are hysterical. "Uniforms give the students a sense of pride, of unity, will help keep behavior problems down, help them become better citizens," blah, blah, blah. You know, the co-op instituted uniforms this year for the middle school for the first time and the behavior problems are UP, way UP, from last year. Funny stuff, huh?

Until now, I have really tried not to be too critical of the administrator or the decisions of the Board here on the ol' blog simply because I do have some friends who read this who are parents there. But I will say this: I really have come to the conclusion that our administrator is a little out of touch with the way the world works today, especially when you are the parent of a little one. He is a grandfather now and it has been a loooong time since he has been chasing toddlers or even elementary school students. He is a decent man, a DEVOUT Christian, always says hello when you pass him in the hall kinda guy. He's also a khakis and button-down kinda guy. At first I doubted if he even owned a pair of jeans, but he does do some hiking, so maybe somewhere he has a pair of Levi's.

But he is convinced somewhere deep inside that if every child at the co-op is in a polo shirt and khakis that the world will somehow right itself and we will be discharging the most respectful, well-behaved geniuses East Tennessee has ever produced. He firmly believes that being comfortable equals a poor work ethic and that having a princess on your shirt might just mean you're a -- God forbid -- liberal! The horror!

I have a mom friend at the school whose daughter is not the traditional stick model that some elementary/middle school girls are. She says her daughter is self-conscious in a tucked-in shirt and therefore opts to wear a nice tunic with her jeans or slacks. The child is beautiful and always looks well-groomed. My friend fears that the forced uniform code will cause her daughter greater self-consciousness than she is already feeling. And it probably will.

I don't think the physical differences in children ever came into play when making these decisions. I don't think the children came into play, period, when making this uniform decision. I think what came into play is what all too often comes into play when decisions are made at the co-op -- The *Board* (those who sit in judgment of all the rest, I choose to call them) in one of their *secret meetings* (Parents are never privvy to these meetings, unless they need to address the Board and then they are given the secret time and place to show up) decided we will look more like the real private schools if we all look the same.

Interesting, isn't it? We're supposed to be at a HOMESCHOOL co-op, but it sure has started to look, feel and act like real school. The only thing left to vote out is the parental involvement and then we're all set. But, as I said, this is not a battle I choose to fight. We're there 3 days a week for four hours each day. After that, I don't care if the girls come home and run around in a sparkly scarf and panties with puppies on them the rest of the day. In my grand scheme, what they're wearing just isn't that important. And I don't think it should be as important as it is at the co-op either. We're drowning in minutiae more and more each year.

Just between you and me, if the girls were interested, I think we'd probably ditch the co-op and blaze our own trail. Kelsey has come close a time or two, especially this year, but she likes the routine. And I think it's important that she has it. So we will trudge forward, in our navy blue polos and khaki chinos, loafers and black or brown belt, until we've had enough. Then we'll have a ritual burning of school uniforms in the firepit in my backyard and maybe even roast a marshmallow or two for good measure!