Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some catching up on things

Now that August is nearly over, I thought I better clean up some questions I have had on my blog. I linked the post I'm answering in the heading of each section.

1. Poll Question

Thanks to everyone who answered poll. Here are the results to how people clean up spaghetti noodles:

  • Wait a couple of hours till it is dry and sweep: 54%
  • Sweep it up right away, there are few things worse than stepping on wet spaghetti noodles (especially in socks): 27%
  • Try to not get noodles on the floor because they are such a pain to clean up:9%
  • You don't know that easy way to clean up noodles?!? I will email you right away and let you know the secret!:9%
Special thanks to Claudia who emailed me the secret to cleaning up spaghetti noodles. Want me to share? Own a dog. Who would have thought it could be so "easy"? I tried a skunk, but that didn't work too well for me. ANyway, I am glad to know I am not alone in waiting to sweep!

2. Hamster Wheel and Jellyfish Graveyard
To answer Tami and Andrea about these two things, the hamster wheel looked like:

To answer the jellyfish graveyard, there is a pipe on the beach that feeds water to a pond. It is covered in stains. I told my kids they were probably just rust spots, but they insisted they were deceased jellyfish.
"How do you know?"
"Because it looks just like what the jellyfish we took inside did after a day."
Great. Just great. Actually, when I went out to take the picture, there was a jellyfish congealing on the pipe. They were right. Unfortunately.

3. My Sister's family project

Channing wanted to know about my sister's project that led to such a fantastic picture of me. My sister and her husband made my dad a "Where's Waldo" type book. It included pictures of family members photoshopped into random group photos. On each page there was a mug shot of the person my dad should be looking for. I have the picture of Peter stored away for some future post . . .

4. How we got the unwanted PS3

Kim wanted more info on how we got a PS3 despite the fact that we already own a Wii. Since the question came from the "What I Learned" Post already linked in #1, I linked this to where I thought the story was originally published. The answer harkens back to Father's Day this year. When we went to buy our big screen TV, we had set aside a certain sum of money. We decided to go with a lower PPI (thanks consumer reports!) and that left us extra money. Money the salesman could sniff burning my husband's pocket.

He convinced my husband that the deal they were running for Blu-Ray players would make it a perfect time to buy. Since PS3's count as Blue-Ray players, it reduced their price quite a bit. Did it matter that we don't own blue ray discs and didn't need another game player? Apparently not. As a passive (aggressive?) protest the only technologically able adult in the household (ME) refused to hook it up for a couple months. Until our Clearplay broke and Peter came home with a game he had bought (and begged for a while).

5. I got tagged

I kept meaning to post these photos. I was supposed to take a picture of 10 things without any prep and post them. I combined them into 1 picture because 1) I like Adobe Photoshop and 2) the family is watching Indiana Jones on our PS3 and I don't want to see it again:

1- Dream vacation (our house this summer fits that bill)
2- Self portrait (Thank you WebCam)
3- What kids are doing right now (Last Sunday- making cookies and reading)
4- Closet
5- Favorite Room
6- Favorite Shoes
7- Laundry/Mud Room (washing machine in hallway, pile in bathroom)
8- Guest bathroom (Just removed that color from our bathroom in NC before we moved!)
9- Kitchen Sink
10- Fridge (Was it supposed to open, oops, my mistake!)

6. I Am Supreme Lord of Catan 2 times in a row!! (that is not catch up on anything, just bragging- I stole the victory one dice roll away from Peter winning :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Those Pesky Little Questions

Those pesky little questions I get everywhere I go. Something about having a lot of kids brings out the curiosity in people. You know, like side shows at the circus or rubberneckers at an accident. I get stares and jaws dropped. I can see people silently counting as we walk past. Sometimes I even get dirty looks and rolled eyes (although not often).

I have to admit, I actually enjoy getting asked these questions. I like to think of them as compliments. Most people are just making conversation, and the rare person trying to insult me doesn’t quite know how to react to someone unashamed of their large family (Did they expect me to be timid or just stupid?). I have found that the best way to answer people is with humor. Here are a few “regular” questions I get asked with my favorite replies:

Are those all yours?
Although there are days were I wish I could claim otherwise, I usually find the best answer is honesty (spoken with pride and a smile): “Every single one!” If I am in a good mood I will sometimes admit that I have more in school at the moment. Although if my husband is there, I always let him say his favorite, “I'm not sure, but that’s what she claims.”

My, you certainly have your hands full!
This statement makes me (for etiquette’s sake) stifle a hysterical laugh. My hands? Understatement of the year. Do you know how many times I realize I'm once again using my mouth as a third hand: carrying car keys, pacifiers, mail, dirty diapers (JOKING!!), etc? I can clean an entire house without bending thanks to years of practice at picking things up with my toes (4.5 years of being pregnant did have some side benefits). My favorite replies, “All the time,” or “you better believe it.”

How do you keep from going crazy?
Hello? I kept having children, close together, even after I knew what the terrible twos were like, “What makes you think I did?”

You don’t look old enough to have 6 kids.
Well when you start when you’re 20 . . . I have three different replies to this one, “I feel old enough,” or “I’m not (must be said with a sigh for total effect),” or “Thank you.” Since I don’t get told this as often as I once did, “thank you,” is becoming the more prevalent answer.

So how many children do you want?
I also get "So are you finished?" a lot. I don't mind these questions from people I know, but I am usually a little shocked when a complete stranger asks. After my 4th was born, I found the best reply, “Two.” It takes a couple of seconds, but they usually get it.

Do you home school?
I started getting this question when pregnant with #5. I guess there is an unwritten law that women who have more than four children are required to home school. Thankfully I am somehow exempt from that law (they let me register them at public school and everything!). I just look at them and ask incredulously, “No, why?” or, sometimes "And have 6 kids at home all the time?!?"

Are you Catholic?
A favorite question while in Pennsylvania, I began getting this question after 4 children. From complete strangers in the store. Once even from a checker at Aldis. My reply, “Close, I’m Mormon.” I have always wondered what kind of answer people who ask this question expected; they were usually embarrassed by any answer acknowledging I did in fact belong to a religion known for having unusually large families.

My favorite was a recruiter (actually trying to get us to work for their company) asking us, after learning our family size, if we were Mormon or something. We looked at her and replied, “As a matter of fact, we are.” She promptly blushed and walked away. And we still took a job with the company.

You know how that happens, right?
Yes, I have been asked this question. More than once. I used to reply, “No. If I knew I would stop it right away and never do it again. Peter says he has absolutely NO IDEA.” I thought this was very funny, but unfortunately some people believed me and tried to explain. I figured it wasn’t so hilarious if people really believed I was that naive (and my husband that mean?). I really haven’t been asked that one in a while so I don’t have any witty replies. You can try the 1st one, but it really is awful to have to explain that you were kidding.

What is this Jon and Kate plus 8?
I loved this question. At least the person was being creative and she said it with a huge smile. I replied, “No, but I relate to that show on WAY to many levels.”

So do you have a favorite (or pet peeve) question or reply?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1st Day of School (and Fashion Personalities)

There have been summers where I am shocked that summer is ending; I dread having to send my kids back to school and (briefly) consider homeschooling so I don't have to let them go. This is NOT one of those years. This year I am very excited to see them all head off to school. As though an enormous weight has been lifted. (I am still a little euphoric from my first grocery shopping with only two kids along).

It was, however, difficult to let Elise go to middle school. Where she knows NO ONE. I walked her to the corner (that I can't see from the house!) where the bus would pick her up. I didn't even embarrass her by asking if she wanted me to stay. Well, I may have hinted that the option was there. OK, I did ask, but only once . . . or twice. (But there weren't any other kids at the stop yet) I know, I know, the worst thing for Elise would have been for all the kids on the bus to see her Mommy waiting at the bus stop with her, but I did make Ryan go out and stand with her till the bus came to make sure no one drove by and threw her into the back of their car (He is only one grade behind so I reasoned it wouldn't be as embarrassing). I thought leaving them for kindergarten (at the kindergarten door) was hard!!

I did walk the other three down to their stop and stayed with them for a few minutes (until other kids got there). They leave an hour after Elise, so we had some time to get things done before we left for the stop. See what I can do with "extra" time? I call this the triangle-part-cross-over-basket-weave-pigtails hairdo. If you like it you can stop by anytime this week and take a closer look (I'm not taking it out anytime soon!)

Finally, anyone with a large family knows that people seem to see your children as one homogeneous group, which they are not. I thought I would use their first day outfit choices to illustrate some of my kids' differences in personality:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Little Stress Relief

Once, long, long ago I was a young mother of 2 young children. I have always been a little rigid about grocery shopping, and this day was no different. I loaded my kids into the car and headed off to the store. The route always took us past my oldest child’s favorite park and each week I endured her begging to stop and play. “But we have to get to the store,” was my usually reply.

But as we drove this day it finally hit me. Why not? Why hurry to the store, hurry through the store, hurry home, and hurriedly put away my groceries? What difference were a couple of hours playing going to make? So I stopped. But most importantly I learned that being a successful stay at home mother means sometimes leaving behind to-do lists and living in the present.

I share this story because it seems this is a lesson I need to continually learn. Fast forward 10 years and 4 more children . . . This morning I woke up with a list of things to do. Being sick a lot of last week and spending my cleaning time organizing clothes, there was housework galore to be done. Plus I needed to put the finishing touches on cleaning my children’s rooms. Plus it was laundry day. Plus I had all the new clothes to distribute & backpacks to find and pack. Plus I wasn’t yet feeling 100%. Then something happened; as my husband left for work he wistfully commented on how beautiful the ocean looked today. And I looked up.

“Maybe if I finish my chores today I can go out,” I thought. And then I had the same epitome of 10 years ago. Why not? Why clean all day today (especially when next week my numbers will be down to 2)? Why stay stressed and grouchy? Why miss out on this last, beautiful Saturday before school starts.

So I grabbed my swimsuit, grabbed my kids and headed outside. And I played. I enjoyed my children. I felt the sun on my skin. I pulled Matthew on a boogie board and jumped in the waves. And I felt my stress let go. I remembered that I WANT to stay home with these crazy little ones. I embraced the present again.

As we walked the sandbar, I thought about the scripture in Mark, “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

This scripture shows us the love Jesus has for children, but it also is a lesson for mothers. How often do I get so caught up in how busy I am and I rebuke my own children? “Not now. Maybe later. If we get finished in time.” Today I suffered my own children to come to me. And in so doing, I enjoyed a little taste of heaven.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Help, I've drowned (in clothing)

With school starting next Tuesday, I knew there was no way to put off getting the kid’s clothes ready any longer. Not that I didn’t try . . . This may seems a simple, straightforward task, but it is NOT!!! Let me explain how much “fun” it is to get my family ready for school.

Before we even began today I had to do prep work.

We already bought new shoes, socks, and underwear, and a couple of new outfits. I have found it is just better for all involved to replace these items every year (and throw out the overflowing lone sock basket) and buy at least one new outfit for school to start.

Also, I went through the cedar closet: stacking plastic boxes, checking and labeling the sizes of clothes in the vacuum bags (would have been nice if I had thought of that when I stored them!!), yelling at the boys for throwing various clothes and toys into the closet when they “cleaned” their rooms, and I making one huge pile of the winter clothes unceremoniously thrown in when we first moved.

Last bit of prep, I cleaned the kids’ rooms (normally they do it themselves which explains the previously mentioned stuffing in closets phenomena). I dug laundry out of the deepest corners of their closet and out from under beds and dressers and anywhere else clothes could be stuffed. I even went through their drawers (why, oh why was there dirty laundry in their drawers?) and reorganized them, with a threat if they didn’t put their clothes away properly from now on (idle threat, I make it every time I clean out their dressers).

Now comes the fun part, where I get to drown myself in clothes. As I cleaned, I have thrown out anything that is holed or stained. Now I get to make piles. We start with three big piles: the last winter clothes pile, the clothes from their room pile, and the bags of stored clothes that should fit this year pile. From these piles are born other piles:

  • 6 piles, one for each child, of clothes that fit;
  • Doesn’t fit anymore, but will fit another kid someday piles (sorted by size);
  • “Why did I save that outfit?” pile (aka garbage pile); and
  • Doesn’t fit anyone anymore pile (I love this pile!!)

*That is a total of 13 piles of overflowing clothes spread across my living room floor*

Now comes the extra “fun” part where I try on questionable sizes to see if they really fit, deal with “but I liked that outfit!” whines (or the more persistent “See it fits, I like pants where you can see 2 inches of ankles or shirt sleeves that come past my fingertips!!”), bag- and label this time- the clothes to store for hand-me-downs, and make a mental list of who is deficient in what so we can go shopping.

And then, because I haven’t quite drowned yet, I get to take the kids shopping. Elise needs pretty much new everything, all the boys but Matthew wore out all their jeans again and need at least one “dressier” shirt, but Kirsti is doing ok. At this point I can be seen roaming my house mumbling things like,

“I think Kirsti should try only 6x, what is her shoe size again?”or

“Maybe Elise should try size 16 pants- but it might be too long in the legs. Don’t forget to measure her before we go.” or

“If the boys are really that close in size how will I ever sort their laundry?” or

“How did Matthew not outgrow 18 months yet? I thought for sure he would.”

And after trying on tons of clothes on tons of kids, returning to the checkout desk because they rang something up wrong, going to another store because Ethan wanted a hooded sweatshirt and couldn’t find one he liked, I have had my fill of clothes for a while. Unfortunately, tomorrow is laundry day. But I am one step closer to school starting!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Skunk Who Came for Dinner

A Normal Night:
It is a pretty normal evening here in the Later household: Peter working the 4-2 shift, Kirsti knocking the dresser on herself, and Matthew taking a nap just before bedtime- no early sleep for him. While waiting for the other 5 kids to fall asleep, I’m putting the finishing touches on my “catching the grill on fire” post.

Matthew has been alternating between sitting on my lap and wondering the house. “Finally done posting, now it’s time to clean up the kitchen.” Matthew is still playing in there, so I need to force help him to bed. With the same philosophy about sweeping rice as spaghetti noodles (wait till they dry out a little), I had earlier decided to publish before cleaning, but now it’s time to get my youngest out of the way make sure Matthew gets his needed rest and clean up dinner.

I can hear him playing. “Matthew, time for bed!” Of course, he’s ignoring me. “Come on Matthew, let’s go.” I walk over to drag carry him to bed, calling for him the entire way. As I round the corner of the center island, I’m already bending to pick him up. Only it isn’t Matthew,

IT IS A S-K-U-N-K !!!!!!

And so it Begins:
EEK! I yell, jumping backwards out of view. “Oh crap, I just yelled ‘EEK!’ to a skunk!” The horrible truth hits me quickly; I left the door to the garage (and the automatic garage door) open for the breeze, but more than the breeze has entered. Now there is a skunk eating my children’s leftovers scattered around the kitchen floor.

What to do? WHAT TO DO?!? I peer over CAREFULLY to make sure that tail is still DOWN. So far, so good. First of all, no more skunk startling outbursts! Second, find Matthew. For all I know he’s fallen asleep under the table again and might be close to becoming a Skunk’s cuddle buddy. I run carefully walk to Elise’s room (Matthew’s favorite place to fall asleep). “Whew, he’s there!” So all that time I heard Matthew playing in the kitchen it was . . . I think I’m going to be sick.

How do you get a wild skunk out of your house? He (she?) has slowly moved around the corner of the island. “Think, Charlotte, think. How will you get this skunk, sprayless, out of your house.” Every idea I think involves potentially startling the skunk, an automatic elimination:

  • “I wonder if I should take a picture for my blog.” No, the flash might startle him.

  • “Maybe if a gently push him with a broom?” Definite no-no.

  • “Maybe, if I turn off the camera’s flash?” No, I would have to turn on all the lights and that might be scary to a nocturnal skunk.

  • “I could call animal control.” Who knows how long that would take and would involve talking, might scare the skunk.

  • “Seriously, how am I going to take a picture?”

A Plan is Executed:
The skunk is all the way around the island by now, perusing his eating choices under the table. I have it! My crazy ingenious plan: I will make a food trail for the skunk to follow. Luckily for me some of my children failed to clear their plates (never thought that would be lucky). I kneel, careful to not make sudden movements, starting as close as I dare to the skunk and begin scooping corn and rice in a trail across the floor. Slowly I crawl and scoop towards the garage. I leave a huge clump of food just below the step down into the garage as bait. “That should do it.” Now I’m going to wait.

In case you’re wondering, skunk eating (licking?) food off your floor sounds a lot like a small trickle of water through a faucet. I sit and wait. At one point I try to get (as distantly as possible) behind the skunk and make soft noises in the hopes the skunk will move the other direction toward my trail, but after a couple of times I get too nervous and just wait. “What is that noise?” I notice the sound seems to be coming from two different directions. “Is there water running just outside the door to the garage? Oh no! It can’t be!!!” It is.

There is a SECOND skunk eating my bait. And it has just poked its head over the step. It is coming inside! This was not the point of putting bait inside my garage!! No-sudden-movements rule NO LONGER APPLIES!!! I run over and slam that door right in my guest’s face (as quietly as possible). Then I check with skunk #1- still too interested in the buffet under the table to notice my trail. Luckily, tail still down.

Now I am stuck in a house with a skunk and no open doors. My food trail idea was a FLOP, a huge near backfire FLOP. “Time to check the internet.” If you ever find yourself trapped in a house with a skunk, let me recommend you NOT google 'get skunk out of house'. Because all the sites will be about getting skunk SMELL out of your house, and it looks IMPOSSIBLE. Not comforting at all. Everything I find seems to say I am doomed.

“That skunk seems pretty tame. If it lives in the neighborhood, maybe it is used to people and won’t be scared if I take its picture.”

A New Plan or 2:
“Maybe I can make a NEW food trail around the kitchen through the front door.” This is my new plan. I tiptoe over to the counter and grab my child’s plate of left out leftovers. I decide to start at the front door and move around as close to the skunk as I can get. But, as I approach the door I see something out the window. “Is that . . . it is!!” There is a skunk on my front porch. I am surrounded. No way I’m opening the door.

Panic is setting in. I am out of ideas. As the initial wave of bewilderment begins to recede, I decide to (gingerly) peak in the garage. After all, maybe the front porch skunk is the garage skunk, how many could there be trying to invade my house? I tuck my head inside my garage, “No more skunk patrol!” One shot left before I grab the kids and make a run for it.

I move as stealthily as I can through the house and turn off every light. I open the door to the garage again and flip on the garage light. “Please, please take the bait.” I know that skunks are nocturnal and I pray that doesn’t mean it will decide to turn towards the darker parts of my house. I picture the skunk running up stairs and finding my bedroom or my kids’ rooms. “PLEASE, PLEASE, TAKE THE BAIT!!” That stubborn skunk immediately saunters over to the door and walks right out. I super speed over and slam it shut. My hour of torture is finished, the skunk is GONE!!!!

The End:
I shut off the garage light in hopes that the skunk will take the hint again, waiting until I’m ready for bed to check. I kid you not, there is a 3rd skunk, this one smaller than the last two, finishing off the pile of rice. I shut the door, call Peter at the hospital and inform him that he is under no circumstances to enter the house through the garage tonight (he thinks the story is HILARIOUS, probably because there was no spraying involved).

As I begin to drift off to sleep, I remember Peter lost his house key and can’t get into the front door. Good thing we live in ULTRA SAFE neighborhood, I go down and unlock the front door. Unable to resist, I peak one more time in the garage. No skunk. I shut the automatic garage door. My ordeal is finally over. Did I mention Peter’s first question when I told him the skunk story- “Did you get a picture for the blog?” For once common sense prevailed, although I might be doing reconnaissance tonight for that all important visual.

PS I tried to get a picture of the neighboorhood residing skunks tonight, but it involved the skunk raising its tail high and me high tailing it back inside!! You'll have to be satisfied with the pictures of me playing with my camera.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Guilty as Charged?


  • 1 Count of Catching Grill on Fire
  • 1 Count of Negligence of Husband's Favorite Appliance
  • 7 Counts of Murder of Hamburger
  • 1 Count of Lazy Dinner Making
  • 1 Count Trying to do Too Many Things at Once


murdered hamburgers with "fired" grill and appliance used to cook new hamburgers

My 2 year old and the huge party going on next door.
We will prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence that Charlotte did willfully and neglectfully catch the grill on fire while trying to cook hamburgers. The flames and billowing smoke had to have been seen by the entire neighborhood for the ten (maybe even 15) minutes it took to die out.
Despite the fact that she totally burned hotdogs just the week before, she still left the hamburgers cooking while going inside to grab the hamburger buns and check on the fries. I know it is meatism to only give a warning when murdering hotdogs while charging her when murdering hamburgers, but hamburgers? HAMBURGERS? If it had been steak, there might have been a lynching. What a deplorable, deplorable crime.
Before pronouncing your sentence, would you like to address the court?
I would like to beg for leniency. I had, after all, had all the kids to myself all afternoon on that Saturday. And I had to take them to 3 different stores just an hour previous (in search of ink for my printer), so I was very distracted and a little grouchy and dinner was running late so I was trying to hurry.
Also, once I went outside to check the hamburgers and found the grill on fire, there was not much to do but let it burn itself out. The hamburgers were already doomed. Besides, what could possibly be fit punishment? Never to cook dinn . . . wait a minute. . . I agree, my crime was beyond reason. I am obviously a callous and incapable cook. I think I should be BANNED from ever cooking dinner again.
. . .What do you mean, "case dismissed"?
If my sister and her husband ever ask you to play dress up and pose for pictures for a funny (and it did turn out funny) family project, think carefully, no matter how many Reese's Peanut Butter Miniatures they've wheedled you with.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What I Learned this Week

I am pretty sure I have reached maximum brain capacity- for every thing I learn, I lose some other tidbit I used to know. Unfortunately, I keep learning new things. Here is a list of what I have learned this week:

  1. Don’t use your good scrapbooking scissors to cut fake flowers off their stem. You might do OK with individual cuts, but you will get impatient and try to cut the thick middle stem and then you will be replacing your good scrapbooking scissors.
  2. Swim diapers were not meant to be worn all day. If you put them on in the morning and then don’t change them for . . . a while . . . they will be really, really, REALLY nasty.

  3. Never leave table (even for a minute) when a curious 4 year old and spagetti are involved. (you'll have to enlarge the picture to get the full effect)

  4. If you have a child who recently became castless (why was there a cast? Check here), you might want to give that limb an extra bit of sunscreen. Otherwise your child will look funny with only one arm out of all his limbs bright red.

  5. If you have a balcony above some bushes, you might want to periodically peer over the edge. Especially if you have an almost 4 and 2 year old who like to drop things. That may be the only way you will see what has been dropped. This is very useful if you have been trying to find a sheet you know you washed but can’t seem to find to fold and put away. Or a favorite toy. Or a laundry basket. Or an empty jar of nuts, black rubber ring (old weather stripping?), or a couple of towels.
  6. Tangier outlets have a ton of printable coupons online. If you are buying new school clothes for up to 6 kids, you might want to check it out. We’re talking Old Navy, Reebock, Rue 21, Rockport, Eddie Bauer, percent off any one item anywhere in the mall, etc.
  7. On an unrelated note, 11 year old girls will think they have died and gone to heaven if you take them into Rue 21.
  8. On another unrelated note, don’t let your husband take calls while driving to an outlet mall. One will probably be from work and might mention there are already 5 hour waits and he might have to turn the 3 hour shopping trip into a 1 hour trip because, believe it or not, ED doctors (at least mine) abhor anything over a one hour wait and want to go in early to help out.

  9. On yet another unrelated note, if you are used to 6 kids- and have taken them clothes shopping before by yourself- you and your husband will be able to get 2 outfits per child, new school shoes for all of them, and new dress shoes for husband in a one hour span (that includes dressing rooms with multiple items to try on and choose from). The only thing that has to be cut out is potty breaks (sorry Kirsti).

  10. If you buy a PS3 and don’t set it up, because you don’t need another video game system (see here why we own the unwanted PS3- oh wait, I never posted that story. There is no where to check it out, you'll just have to wait) and then give in 2.5 months later at the insistence of your husband, your 10 year old boy will try to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment trying to play said PS3.

The only question left is what knowledge have I lost by learning these things? I’ll would tell you, but I can’t. You see, I’ve forgotten them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Perfect Summer Nights

Cooling evening air, parents sitting around pleasantly chatting, whistles blowing amidst formations, runs, and plays . . .

Ever since I was a young middle school kid in band, I have loved attending football games. (I don't like watching them on TV as it can't capture the complete atmosphere.) This year my boys decided to try their hands at the game. Luckily the field is just a couple blocks down the road from our house so we can all walk over and enjoy the practices. As I sat with Peter and the other kids, it truly felt like a perfect summer evening. Here is what we all were doing:

Ryan and Ethan learning different football positions. Although my through-college-football-playing husband never pushed them to play, he was thrilled when Ethan expressed a desire. Ryan was more than happy to follow along. Still careful to not add undue pressure from Dad, he didn't make a huge deal about them wanting to sign up. So how could I tell he was excited? Check out their brand new "practice clothes", complete with new shoes, cups, and Ryan's sports goggles.

Matthew and Dad taking a break from watching practice.

How every almost 4 year old should be dressed in summer: red and blue Superman swimsuit, green Hulk T-shirt that is so old it is "supposed" to be worn only to bed, chocolate chip cookie covered face, and hair still messed up from swim lessons that morning. Do you want to mess with Joseph?

My tomboy. Really she is. She just sometimes likes to carry around dolls in a purse, too.

Look at his interest in the practice. He really is thrilled they wanted to play. It was a lot of fun to sit and watch practice and ask Peter stories about when he was in little league football (and see how much he enjoyed his football days).

Remember my rant about puberty? Well that is my shirt Elise is wearing. Hmph!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

On gardening (I hate it)

You might say I have a love/hate relationship with gardening. But you would be wrong. There is no love for gardening residing anywhere inside of me. Sure I can enjoy seeing a pretty garden, but it is the same way I admire a weight lifter; sure it looks nice, but I have no desire to do what it takes to get there. None, what-so-ever.

My feelings toward gardening are deeply, deeply engrained. My parent’s idea of “landscaping” was to mow over any garden areas until they were just grass. And by grass I mean weeds that vaguely resemble a lawn. They have now moved to Texas where people are encouraged to have “dry landscapes”.

(A short story to illustrate my point) When we were first married, my husband, having spent many of his developing years with a large garden and canning expert mother, was determined to help out my gardening deprived family. He actually planted a garden in the dirt spot my parents had set apart as a “garden area”. As we came to visit often, he realized he was also in charge of weeding and caring for said garden. The next year, my parents planted a huge shed that completely covered the garden area and my husband took the hint.

I suppose it is needless to say (but I still will), Peter has always been in charge of our landscape and garden. I don’t think I have ever used our lawn mower. Like I said, no desire. Not even a spark of interest. This leads us to our present situation.

We leased our house from a former gardener. The yard is full of little (and sometimes big) gardening areas. If you don’t believe me, look here- there are pictures of the yard scattered in the other house photos. And it has been a few years since the owners have been up to the task of keeping up with said garden. Translation: there is a lot of work to be done in the yard. This move correlated with Peter working CRAZY hours. Translation: unless he stops requiring even a little sleep, there is no time for him to garden.

At first this didn’t bother me. Like I said, I don’t care. But the weeds were beginning to interfere with my view of the ocean. We’re talking taller than my youngest children (and in some cases my older children, too). For several weeks I tried living in denial. When Peter has some free time, he’ll get to it. I wouldn’t want to take away his joy in gardening, right? But, alas, I have now realized that Peter has less “free time” than even I. And when he does, he is more interested in exciting things like paying the bills or that sleep thing I mentioned. So if I don’t want the kids swallowed in a jungle of milk weeds, I was going to have to tackle the landscaping on my own.

(Another illustrative short story) In our first house, in a moment of insanity, I decided to weed out this tiny patch beside our backdoor. When I was finished my horrified neighbor came over to tell me I had just pulled out all the strawberry plants. I have no way of discerning plants from weeds. Never-the-less, I have decided to try my hand again. I pull anything too tall, thorny, or grassy looking. If it comes out too easily, I assume I have pulled a “real” flower and try to avoid pulling more plants that look the same.

And I still hate gardening: I hate sweating (which explains my related issue with exercising), I hate getting dirty, and I hate kneeling and pulling and hurting my back. But I like my view and I dislike prickly thorns and most days I don’t want my kids swallowed in a jungle. So I have been going out to garden every day. Maybe when Peter sees my “progress”, he will decide to find some free time SOMEWHERE and take over the duties. Otherwise, I am going to start seeing if I can feasibly grow mowable grass in raised planter boxes.

PS- When I was looking at the pictures of the house, I saw that the weeds and flowers had yet to appear in the yard. Here is an example of what it looks like now (I already pulled a lot of the really tall plants- if you look close you can see a pile of milk weed plants waiting to be put into a bag- but you'll get the idea)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Before and After

We finally did the deed. My baby is now a little boy. Yes, those pictures were really taken 2 days apart, not 2 years. A complete different child? Lets compare:

Baby Matthew

Kid Matthew

Sweet angel doesn't know his own strength.

"Hey, you need to be nice. Go get in time out."

Likes to drag you over and point at what he wants.

"If you don't use your words, I can't know what you want."

Poor kid accidentally spilled his cup, let me get you some more.

"Go get a towel, if you spill it you clean it."

You get the idea. I knew that I would continue to treat Matthew as a baby as long as he kept that hair, and I knew he was getting a little too old to be totally babied. Still, when I looked at the pictures I took before the hair cut, I almost cried for my baby. The difference in our treatment and his reactions since the cut has amazed me. He truly is taking his place as "one of the kids." It made me wonder, how much of parenting is really a matter of perspective?

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

You have to SEE THIS

Thunderstorms have become a favorite in our house. I have been wanting to get some pictures what they look like from our bedroom. I need to work on my lightening picture taking technique (try that Fox in Socks!), but this is what I got tonight:

Sorry about the blinking light in the video clip, I will work on that too. I tried opening the door, but it was too windy (and wet and cold). After 76 photos taken to get 7 useable, I realized a video clip might work better.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Am I really THAT old?

For a while now, I've known that puberty has been bearing down on me like an out of control locomotive. As it has screamed ever closer, I've felt like the innocent maiden tied to the tracks. Someone help me!! Well, this summer I am finally getting run over. The erratic mood swings, the changing body, the uncomfortable conversations. I've been through it all this summer. But it is worse, far worse. I am losing.

What am I losing, exactly? My sanity has been long gone. I am losing something much more qualitative. It all started a couple of weeks ago when my daughter accidentally (thanks a lot Tami!) discovered her feet are nearly my size. My shoes are no longer my own. I get to (unwillingly) share. "Where are those tan heels?" I wondered last Sunday. I guess my wondering is proof of my lost sanity. I should have known I would find them, not lost, but residing on my daughter's almost large enough feet. Take a look next Sunday, you'll see her wobbling down the isle (hopefully not in my black heels this time).

But it gets worse. I found out last Saturday that I have to shop in the junior section of stores now!! For obvious vanity issues I have avoided that section of store since my eldest was born, going there only as a last resort if the "older" section really only had shirts an octogenarian could love and even then desperately looking for anything remotely flattering that comes in sizes above "I want to show off my body". No more "Girls 7-14" sections for me (actually that is wrong, Kirsti is just about that size so I guess I am still stuck there, too). Don't get me started on the trips to the "lingerie" and/or "feminine hygiene" sections of stores; you thought going for yourself was embarrassing!! Shirts in Juniors fit her better, almost as though they were designed with her size in mind instead of mine.

At least the shirts I own are still too big. I feel torn on this. Should I be glad if she wants to borrow my clothes (yea, fashion sense!) or upset (Hey, I was going to wear that!!)? Hopefully an outcome I don't have to worry about. Ever. Because if she fits my shirts, it means she has developed the body to do so, and she hasn't nursed 6 kids.

But that still isn't all. Her media choices are developing, too. She watched the Dark Knight, and thought it was "Awesome". I know, I told everyone it was WAY to disturbing for anyone under 17, but my husband felt differently. I catch her watching "John and Kate plus 8" and "What not to Wear" more often than "Hannah Montana" (I might have inadvertently blocked MTV, I don't think she knows it exists yet anyway). And the other day she was listening to my music channel (the one I listen to if I happen to be sick of talk radio). "I just like the music on Flight 26 better than XM-kids." STOP, STOP, STOP!! And guess what book she started reading. Hasn't put it down all day, already half way through. Anne of Green Gables, you guess? Maybe Little House on the Prairie. No, Twilight is the first book to really capture her interest all summer. I think I am doomed.

Is there a light at the end of this tunnel? No, those are the 5 other train cars, relentlessly following behind the first. People thought I was crazy having them so close when they were toddlers! I guess I am neither "innocent" nor a "maiden", so there is nothing left to do but grin and bear it, hoping I'm not completely flattened by the ordeal. I fear my years with teenagehood are going to be worse than 12 years of diapers. Did I mention that my son is reading Eragon and blushing at underwear ads? AHHHHHHH!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Swim Lessons

We finally signed our kids up for swim lessons. Elise is 11 1/2 after all. The town had them late in the summer because the high school (where the lessons are held) was getting some work done earlier. Anyway, since they are not new to swimming (we went a lot in NC) but have no technical training, the lady in charge and I had to guess at their levels. It seems to me that they are really getting stretched in their classes, but I guess that is a good thing. Better to be the one trying to catch up then be bored, right? I hope so. Anyway, I asked them all what they liked about their very first day of real swim lessons and this was their response (I "channeled" Matthew's response for him!):