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Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Build a Cemetery

Every year I set up a cemetery for Halloween. Each year I buy a few more Styrofoam grave stones after the holiday when they are on clearance for 50%-75% off the retail price. I'm smart like that. This makes each Halloween season a little like Christmas when you get to open up all the new stuff you bought last year on clearance.

The problem is that the plastic stakes that come with the gravestones break easily, and they are often too short to hold the headstone in the ground during a windy storm. I spent a lot of time fixing the cemetery, repairing headstones and replacing the ones that were too torn up from frequent usage.

Last year I decided that I was going to find a solution to this problem. My original graveyard was just 4 grave stones. It has grown over the years to 38 headstones plus several grave diggers, an arch entryway, a gated entry and several other spooky and lighted goblins. With all of that to set up I was just over the constant maintenance of those gravestones.

What you will need for this project:

Styrofoam grave stones
 plastic fencing
2 X 2 X 8' pine boards
 Black spray paint and tent stakes
 3/16 washers and deck screws
 Step 1: Cut the 8 foot boards in half and spray paint them black. I suppose you could use black paint and a brush but I am far too impatient for that. Spray paint dries faster and doesn't require brushes/rollers/and it might be cheaper? I used 4 cans on this project. They were under $1 each at Wal-mart.
I drilled a hole into both ends of each 4' section of 2 X 2 about 6" in from the ends to stake the wood to the ground so the sections stay in place and are secured to the ground.
 Now...this is probably an optional step. I'm sort of a little obsessive/compulsive about small details. I tool a small saw and cut the tabs off of the sides of the fencing that are meat to connect them together since I will not be connecting them. You will have to cut the stakes off of the bottoms. You may be able to cut these off with a sharp box knife but please use caution. Missing digits are not sexy.
 Again-a little obsessive, but I spray painted the washers too, and the screw heads as well.
 I placed a grave stone at the end of the 4' section of 2 X 2. Then you screw on a screw and washer, 2 per headstone...like this. I do not have man hands. I had an assistant because...boys like to work for me. :) 
 I screwed the fencing in without washers. 2 screws per fence run. I then screwed another headstone into the other end to finish off the 4 feet of 2 X 2.
 I placed the tent stakes into the holes that were drilled in about 6 inches from each end and then pressed them into the ground.
A finished section looks like this once it is staked into the ground.

In short, I purchased 2 X 2 X 8' pine boards, spray painted them black, drilled holes 6 inches in from each end for tent stakes to hold them into the ground, I attached 2-3 headstones per 4' section of 2 X 2 with screws and 3/16 washers (that I spray painted black), and then I attached plastic fencing pieces between the gravestones to add some spooky graveyard character as well as to evenly space the headstones. Now the headstones are easy to set up, they stay in place all season (in theory...we'll see) and they will be easy to store for future years usage.

Here is what a bunch of these sections placed together looks like:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Special Heart

I truly believe that kids with special needs need special parents with a special heart in order to succeed. When I say succeed I am NOT speaking to becoming doctors or lawyers, or the entrepreneur that makes six figures while sitting on a beach on Tokyo. I just mean a successful life in general. You know...the kind where you work for a living, support your family, give back to the community, and have a loving family.

That's just my definition of success at the moment. It may be different tomorrow. It may be different in an hour. Please do not take offense if you are not supporting your family right now, or if you cannot volunteer of yourself. Success may be a very different picture for you.

I work very hard to help keep my special boys on task. Very hard. So hard in fact that there are days where I think it may very well be the death of me. I have those days where I just want to lie down, and when I say lie down...I mean lie down, and never get back up.

Sometimes I feel like I am in this alone. My child's only advocate. That's a lot of strain a mommas heart. Especially a momma with 2 special boys and 4 children all together.

No matter how organized my brain is once these guys walk out from under my wings...they are in the drivers seat. They are in control. They have the power to undo all of the planning and organizing I so painstakingly did to ensure they were set up for success. One of them usually does just that.

You may be wondering what has sent me on such a tangent. It's really the smallest of things. It's really MY issue. Today is team pictures day. I made sure to pay for the photos online so that my son would not have a check or cash to keep track of. I placed his uniform in a gallon Ziploc baggie WITH the order form and confirmation number of payment to ensure that the uniform didn't get wet or stained, and that the order form wouldn't get lost. I asked him to place it in his backpack. I made sure to watch that he actually DID place it in his backpack AND that the order form and both uniform pieces were inside it.

I get this team picture every year. I want to have these in his scrapbook of memories for when he gets older. Every year he misplaces or forgets the form. Every year it is a battle to track down the company and arrange to get copies of the pics. You may think I should just not get the pic and let that be his lesson. That wouldn't do anything to solve this problem. It is ME who wants the picture. He could probably care less.

As you may now have guessed he has somehow lost that order form envelope. It's gone. He has no idea where it went. It is probably in the locker room or the team bus...or floating around at the school where they hosted last nights 5k. Who knows.

I had planned for this to happen. I kept the parent side of the order form. I wrote down the confirmation number. I circled the package I had ordered. I put his name on the paper. HOPEFULLY he doesn't lose that one. I forgot to make a copy.

I know it may seem like the smallest of things...but it is the little things that pile up around here. Losing homework every.single.day. Losing order forms. Permission slips. Uniforms. Gym clothes. Sweat pants. SHOES!!! He lost 2.5 pairs of shoes in the first month of school.

I don't know that this is anything more than a vent. My head aches. My heart hurts. I'm tired, and weary, and bruised to the bone...and now that he is off to school I have another very special boy to wake up and start all over again. Thankfully this one has an organized brain like mine...he's special in a very different way. Bring on the loud, hyper, and wild.

Have a great day. Hug someone today. They may really need it!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Don't Have a Title

I've been thinking a lot this weekend. Several blog topics have come to me. Now that I have time to write of course the topics, like Elvis, have all left the building.

We had a XC meet on Saturday in Martinsville. It was 90,000 degrees outside so I was extra proud that the boys ran a 5k and won! Andrew's time dropped to 22:14 but given the heat index I think he still did well.

I let the kids have a couple of friends over last night. That was fun. They played board games. We made our own pizza, had ice cream sundaes, and watched an old movie. It was a good time and I really love the kids mine have befriended!
Today I've just been cleaning, working on a few projects around the house, and now I feel a nap coming on. Not the most exciting holiday weekend but sometimes uneventful can be very enjoyable, right?!

Have a great labor day. Sorry for the fluff post. Topic suggestions are always welcome. ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Making Tough Choices

In life we all have to make tough choices. I also believe we have to make wrong choices. It's how we learn. My oldest child is in high school and is participating in XC and Marching band this year. It's a beast of a schedule. The two activities have overlapping schedules nearly weekly. There are days where my son will leave home for school at 6:30am and I do not see him again until 9:00pm. It's too much. At least it is for dear old mom!

This weekend is the first of a series of Saturdays where the XC team has a meet on the same day and usually within an hour of a Marching band performance. Since we obviously cannot be in two places at the same time we have to choose which event to participate in. He has to choose.

I would like to see him run XC events over marching band. This is a painful realization for me. I hate admitting that. Music is my whole life. It moves me. It inspires me. It's how I learned how to love, and how to hate. How to succeed and how to fail. Marching band holds some of the very best memories I have of high school. I could not imagine having not had music in my life back then. I never thought I would want to choose anything over music. Ever.

With that said...this is about my son. HE is a runner. HE is an excellent runner. He may not be showing his full potential right now, but I have seen him at near best and he is a beast. He has always been a varsity runner. He may not be #1 but he does give him a run for his title!

Music, on the other hand, is not his best skill set. He has never been 1st chair. He is dead last most of the time. He doesn't practice. I've never really felt like his whole heart is really in it.

A good runner could be eligible for scholarships down the road. A fair musician is not likely to see much in the way of scholarship money. Life isn't all about money but I do have 4 children to see off to college and every little bit helps...especially when it is a reward for a skill your excel at!

With that said...music gives him joy. The very same joy that it gives me. While he may not be able to make the best music...it brings him joy. Now...how can a mother take even a sliver of bliss away from her child? I don't know. Not this mom. I cannot do it. I'm in the midst of my own mid-life...life is too short to not live your bliss-kind of moment right now. No way do I want to do that to my kid!

Still, a choice has to be made. For this year it has to be some meets are missed and some marching opportunities are missed. Next year it needs to be XC or Marching. I'm one mom with four kids and our lives cannot be centered around his schedule. Everyone deserves time to branch out and do their own thing.

I hate that I looked him in the eyes and told him that he was better at running than music and that he could still be in the band next year and just not march so that he could still run. I hate that I busted his bubble.

I hate that he has decided to run this weekend instead of march in the parade because I know his heart was set on marching.

No one ever said being a parent was easy. I sure hope tomorrow is at the very least a little easier! This mom sure doesn't like frowny faces.