Saturday, July 30, 2011

over yonder

Has it ever happened to you where you've totally lost track of time?

One day, you're fully engaged in a routine and then suddenly, you're not.

And the next thing you know, you're sleeping a lot, wandering aimlessly around in your pajamas until noon, eating things like carrots and hummus for dinner and watching an obscene number of Netflix movies? And before too long, you don't know what day of the week or month it is and without serious consideration, you might even flub up what year it is?

That's me.

I've been residing in a blissful mental fog. If not for the nagging exhaustion, dizzying spells and inability to do more than tie my shoes without taking a siesta, I'd say that my detour in to la-la land has been a nice venture. Tonight, just as I was about to crash out after a grueling day of ... um, can't rightly remember ... Charlie suggested that I post an update to my blog because several people have sent him e-mails asking what's happened to me.

How incredibly nice is that?

Thank you so much, all you wonderfully kind people!

In response to your inquiry, I really wish I knew what's happened to me.

In posting this update tonight, I realized it's been two weeks since I've even turned my computer on. Which also happens to be approximately the same time I stopped taking any steroids. My doctors (I'm currently up to three) are still running a magnitude of tests because as of yet, nothing has been ruled out. Except male pattern baldness and Addison's.

Although, Addison's not entirely completely because some of the test results are a little iffy and will be retaken over the next few weeks. Along with a few other tests, but hopefully by then things will have cleared up and I'll be training for my next triathlon. (Or, at a minimum, I'll be able to eat an entire bowl of Cheerios without stopping to rest.)

In lieu of me continuing on indefinitely with this sluggish lifestyle, next week, I'm due to resume work after almost - who knows how many? - weeks off. When I saw doctor #1 this morning, (now yesterday ... er, Thursday, it's taken me two three days to write this) she told me that getting back in to some kind of schedule will do one of two things. Either it will accelerate my healing. Or, it will render me unconscious.

Should we start a betting pool?

In other news...

William recently met a little boy who moved to this area from Alabama. Within five minutes of their introduction, my son grabbed him by the hand and ran to me where he excitedly shouted, "Mom! This is my new friend. He speaks COWBOY language!" At that exact moment, I had no idea where this child was from or what my son was talking about. The little boy was just as puzzled as me when William prompted, "Please SAY something!"

He shot us both a confused expression before asking with a thick southern drawl, "Hey. How y'all doin'?"

William had a huge smile on his face when he stuck his thumbs in his belt loops and leaning back on his heels responded with an equally heavy southern drawl, "Well, I'm doing mighty fine. How you doin', Sheriff?"

Since I've lived a large portion of my life in what I consider the Deep South and have been known to spontaneously break in to a drawl whenever I think of grits or sip sweet iced tea, I feel like I've earned the right to laugh at this. So I did. And so did the boy's mother.

(Thankfully, even louder than me.)

So although my official diagnosis isn't yet in ... I think it's fair to say my funny bone definitely ain't broke. Now y'all come back now, ya hear?

I promise to do better staying in touch.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

parenthood: it's even better than the pamphlet said it would be

This week:

One of our children dropped my beautiful Nikon camera on asphalt. They didn't tell me that this had happened. No, I discovered it when I picked the camera up to take a photo of a box turtle that was migrating across our back yard and the lens fell off. I tried to re-attach the lens, to no avail, and then noticed that the shutter had a convulsion whenever I tried to snap a photo. I was completely perplexed as to what might have happened, when the child that dropped the camera asked, "Mom, do you promise not to get angry if I tell you the truth?"

It was very hard to keep my promise. Especially when I found out that the estimated cost to repair the camera is $300.00.

This week:

One of our OTHER children was jumping on our bed. This is a no-no, because who is familiar with what happens to little monkeys jumping on the bed? Alas, I didn't know that they were jumping on the bed - because try as I might, there may be a 60-second window of time during the course of the day when my eyes are not fixated UPON them. And wouldn't you know, our children capitalize upon that brief supervisory reprieve to swing like Tarzan on the pull-chain of the newly installed ceiling fan.

AS IT TURNS OUT, a small chain doesn't adequately support 45 pounds worth of child. So, the chain snapped and effectively broke the light component of the fan. Cost to repair the newly installed ceiling fan? $100.00 plus at least an hour, possibly two, of Charlie's time.

Who am I kidding?

It will take at least four hours by the time he picks up the part, a month later realizes it's the wrong part, gets the correct part, loses the correct part and OK, so maybe next year at this time, we'll once again have a fully functional light again.

Of course, if *I* took the incentive to learn how to do this type of repair work myself, we'd need to add two years to the estimated time of completion; and then approximately $200.00 to cover the cost of a handyman, because I have NO idea what I'm doing.

This week:

I noticed that the newly installed closet door in the boys' room wouldn't close properly. Upon closer investigation, I recognized that the entire track was bent. WHAT HAPPENED HERE? I asked, aloud. Charlie came running to inspect and as he did, our son very sheepishly admitted that he was practicing his karate kicks.


Estimated cost to repair?

I'll know tomorrow when we receive the quote. But I fully expect there will be at least three significant figures; BEFORE the decimal.

This week:

One of my favorite "recovery" past-times has become putting together puzzles and then, having them framed. As a result of this new hobby, our basement is slowly being transformed in to a gallery of various puzzles. This past weekend, I opened a 1,000-piece puzzle of historic Virginia and began to put it together, with the help of our older children, while seated around our dining room table. It was idyllic.

After spending approximately 20 collective hours working on this puzzle, yesterday, when we had completed at least 900 pieces and were roughly 100 pieces from being finished, I took a very short break to help one of our children blow dry their recently washed hair.

As I stood, waving a blow dryer, my husband appeared in the doorway and said, "Jen, promise me you won't freak out." After I promised 10 times (he obviously didn't believe me), he proceeded to tell me that our youngest son had decided to move our almost-completed 1,000 piece puzzle to 1,000 individual pieces ... ALL OVER THE FLOOR.

Freaking out had been removed from the menu. So as I stood with steam coming OUT OF MY EARS, our older children demonstrated their proficiency with role reversal when they tried to console me by saying, "Mom, it's OK! We'll totally help and just think about how FAST we can put it together, the second time!"

This week:

Each of our children have brought a flower that they had carefully selected especially for me. "Flower" might be too strong of a word because sometimes, what they present - with loving eyes and hands - is no more than a dandelion or less colorful weed.

But quite frankly, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

Our son picked me a flower when he was out for a walk with his father, at least a mile from our house. Despite the distance that he had to travel, he protected that flower with all of his might until he could get home and give it to me, with the most love and adoration I've ever witnessed. As he did so he said, "Mom, you are the best thing to ever happen to me."

You know, it's a very curious thing, because whatever our children have done ... or dare I say, will do ... is immediately forgiven after such a thoughtful gesture.

May I always remember this sweetness...


May I also always remember that children, despite their craze-inducing ways, are incredibly awesome little spirits. More and more, I am convinced that a child's ability to melt hearts is not only what ensures their survival but is also what endears a parent to them for life.

I'd always heard that there's a cost for raising children. Some costs - like shoes, clothing and food - are expected. But there are other costs: the unexpected costs of a new Nikon camera, ceiling fan, closet door, insert ANY item here ... and the hours upon hours of time spent creating, building or repairing. But in return, we are given something, in surplus, that money could never buy.

Being a parent is truly the best thing to ever happen to me.

It's very important our children always know that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

it's a hard knock life

Not long ago, our children watched the movie Annie.


Shortly thereafter, we met a family that had two daughters. The older daughter was biological, their younger daughter had been adopted from China. This family has done a lot of charitable work in the community and it clearly showed in their children. The girls were gentle and compassionate, and although they were a few years older than our children, they were extremely kind with our "little" kids.

At one point, I overheard one of our children ask the girls how they knew each other. And when I heard them simultaneously respond, "We're sisters!" I could see the wheels start spinning in my children's heads.

Now, I should interject here that we know a lot of people (more than 12) that have added to their families through adoption and our children really seem(ed) to understand the concept. But following this exchange, I was a bit worried because six-year-olds have just the right combination of overwhelming curiosity, excellent verbal skills and immature social graces.

And, they tend to be verrry unpredictable.

A year or so ago, when we were in the grocery store and one of the kids pointed at the man who was obviously not pregnant and inquired, "Do you have a baby in your tummy?" I could divert the question by cheerfully saying, "That's right, love! We have a BABY at HOME who likes to sleep on their TUMMY!" or any number of combinations wherein I could use the words "baby" and "tummy" in some totally irrelevant, but hopefully, distracting context. Then, I'd pass the kids a pack of raisins and all their attention would be laser-beam focused on opening the box.

These days, when I try to divert an awkward question, our children will revisit the topic despite my desperate prayers, eyes bugging out of my head, lip puckering and imaginary throat cutting gestures that I'll make with my hand.

If I try to do some fancy diversion tactic in this day and age, the kids (particularly the girls) will shoot me an exasperated look (roll eyes, lip sneer) and say, "No, Mom. I didn't say that WE have a BABY at HOME. I'm asking if THAT PERSON HAS A BABY IN THEIR TUMMY!"

I didn't think that my children's smack talking would start until they were 12. And it really doesn't seem fair since they've only been potty trained for what? Three years?? How and why did they get so fresh wise, so fast?

Is this the influence of public school?!

So that's usually when I'll just look at my child with a confused expression and jokingly say, "Oh Dear. Why are you calling me Mommy? Do I look like your Mommy? You poor thing. You must be lost..."

Sure enough, my children were not placated with the response that these two girls were sisters. So one of my daughters fired the follow-up question, "How can you possibly be SISTERS? You two don't MATCH!"

(I saw that one coming.)

(I really did.)

The older daughter very sweetly responded, "We adopted my sister from a country called China. That's why she and I don't look alike!" I could see the wheels shift in to overdrive and seconds later, my daughter asked the follow-up question, "So, does it make you sad that your mother and father didn't love you and gave you away?"



For a brief moment, I thought that maybe I was asleep, having a nightmare because our kids know better than to ask a question like that. Right??

Then I realized, nope. I'm awake and my six-and-a-half-year-old just asked the most insensitive question to a sweet 12-year old girl. When feelings aren't being hurt, I try not to meddle and let the kids sort things out, themselves. But my heart dropped to my feet as I heard the adopted girl quietly say, "No, I don't think that's it at all..."

Unaware that I had been eavesdropping, my girls were surprised when I swooped out of nowhere and said, "Actually, her mother and father love her so much that they made a very difficult decision to give her to a family that will hopefully, give her a better life. It's the hardest thing in the world to give your sweet baby up for adoption, but her parents must have known that their baby needed more than they could provide." Then I added, "Just think about how lucky she is to have two families that love and care for her so greatly!"

The adopted girl smiled brightly.

Our children smiled brightly.

My heart smiled brightly.

Everything was good.

Fast forward to last night when the girls were in the process of cleaning their rooms. I should probably note that our definition of "cleaning" is inconsistent. In my vocabulary, it means picking things up and putting them away where they belong. In my children's vocabulary, it means standing on top of all the things that you need to put away while making funny faces in the mirror and acting like a monkey.

I'm telling the children that anything remaining on the floor will be bagged up and carted off to Goodwill ... and as one of my girls says, "Yes Miss Hannigan!" the other one rolls her eyes and says, "If you really loved us, you'd give us to a family that wouldn't make us clean our rooms."

Oh, they are SO cute.

I could just pinch them.

But I fight the urge and instead, embrace them both in a tight hug and say, "No way! It's because I love you with all my heart, that I'm teaching you the important responsibility of picking up after yourselves and contributing to our family household. Now don't forget to put away the zoo of stuffed animals you've stockpiled under your bed because next, you need to grab a broom and sweep the kitchen."

As they scowled at me, I gave them a wink and said, "Cheer up, sisters. The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. MAYBE."

Sadly, they don't think I'm nearly as funny as I think I am.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

his and hers

I almost titled this post, "Signs You're Growing Old." Shown below is Exhibit 1: Matching His and Hers Weekly Pill Cases.


It's so romantic and so sweet!

And so borderline geriatric.

Gosh, I just turned 40. I didn't think we'd need this apparatus for at least another 20 years. But between Charlie with his heart issues and me with my various issues, we've got a pharmaceutical smorgasbord across the two of us. We felt the need to invest in these handy-dandy little pill cases when we couldn't remember (for! the! life! of! us!) whether or not we took our wide-assortment of life-sustaining medication, earlier in the day.

I'm not entirely sure if he's kidding or not ... but Charlie's recently informed me he wants a phone, alarm clock and remote control with the JUMBO numbers. Maybe if he's extra good, he'll get those for Christmas.

Or, maybe Santa will just bring him some bifocals.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

there will be t-shirts and coffee mugs

A few years ago, while I was out of town serving as an expert witness in a trial, Charlie decided to start his own business. It happened on a total whim. One of his former clients had called to ask if he could help them with a project and my husband thought, "Sure, why not?"

So in a span of about four hours, he set up an environmental consulting company.


At first, I was very skeptical. But over the past few years, he has developed an excellent rapport with his client. These days, he's involved on so many different projects ... I've lost count. Once every few months, he needs to travel on a business trip, but other than those times when he's out of town for three or four days at a time ... during an average week, he'll only put in 15 hours of work effort, usually between the hours of 8 and 11 PM.

The only thing that makes Charlie happier than the fascinating projects he's involved on, and his incredibly flexible work schedule, is the fact that next year, he's on track to make almost as much as me, the "primary breadwinner." Granted, he doesn't have to pay for medical benefits for our entire family, nor does he have a 401K ... but ...

He works 15 hours a week.


For the past few months and especially since my hospital visit, Charlie's been brainstorming different scenarios for our family. Because what if I can't go back to work? What if the long-term work that is available for me, is not conducive with say ... our family life and my mental or physical health?

So while I've wildly vacillated between keeping things status quo ~ or ~ moving to a farm in Montana ... Charlie's been trying to convince me that I need to throw in the towel on the big corporate world, and take the plunge to join his fledgling consulting company.


I've always been resistant to this idea. Because despite the pressures that I've faced with my current job, I truly enjoy the work that I do and I'm good at it. It's fun and exciting. The people are great, the company is great, the stability is great. And long-term, the benefits for our family can not be easily matched. The only thing that would make my job better is if I worked out of the house no more than twenty-four hours a week.

(That's very unlikely to happen.)

So perhaps in a few years, I'll give Charlie's proposal more thought.

In the meantime, when we recently met up with my sister, Eileen, Charlie floated the idea of her joining forces with him as well. You might recall, my sister Eileen is an environmental chemist and was the impetus for my pursuing a career in the environmental industry way back in 1986. With 10 years of consulting experience under my belt, plus an additional 10 years working on the "inside" ... coupled with Eileen's 20+ years of environmental chemistry experience, Charlie's convinced the three of us would dominate the environmental consulting world.

Moreover, my husband has done his homework and he knows that a lot of companies earmark a certain percentage of their work for "MWBE" or "Minority and Woman Business Enterprises" so if he put Eileen and I in the role of President and CEO, we could register as a "diversified supplier" and would undoubtedly (in his words) have a difficult time keeping up with all of the projects that would come flooding our way.


Several years ago, Eileen set up a very small private practice that she dubbed "Pillar Services." Charlie thinks that we should just rename her company to "Pillar Management Services." More aptly: PMS: A Woman-Owned Business. He said our tag line will be, "HIRE US, OR WE'LL BITE YOUR $%*# HEAD OFF!!"

It certainly has appeal. But assuming we do eventually pursue this path, that tag line might need to be softened up a little bit.

I'm thinking, "Please don't make me cry."

Here, have some chocolate!

the water taxi

When a two-person kayak ...


Takes on additional persons ...


A rope and the ability to improvise become necessary.


(It also helps to have very strong arms.)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

the hero squad

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys.

Their function is to work with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus (within the brain) to produce various hormones. The hormones that are produced include cortisol, corticosterone and epinephrine (to name a few) which are all necessary to control the body's use of fats and carbohydrates; suppress inflammation and support the immune system; regulate blood chemistry, volume and pressure; and help a person cope with physical and emotional stress.

In other words: the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are critical for survival.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the normal range for cortisol is ~9 to 25 mcg/dl. During my hospital stay it was noted that mine were <1.

Ruh roh...

This variance is what prompted my consultation with an endocrinologist, two days ago. Her first question was why they checked my cortisol levels when I was in the hospital, because apparently - that's not a very common thing to do. Once I provided the intelligent response of "I dunno..." she deduced that they checked my levels based upon my extremely low blood pressure and the fact that a YOUNG (ahem) and healthy woman was in the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia in June.

Then she told me it was a good thing they did check my cortisol levels and put me on the appropriate medication because I very swiftly could have collapsed and died. I'd tossed that very thought around myself because I tend to do that, but something about hearing those actual words from the mouth of a professional shook me up a bit. Ya know?

She added that it's entirely possible that there was a laboratory error and my results were incorrect and the only way she can positively ascertain whether or not I have an adrenal insufficiency (a.k.a., hypoadrenalism; a.k.a., Addison's Disease) is if she completely taper off my Prednisone and check my cortisol levels again once my system has returned to "normal" approximately two weeks from now.

In the meantime, I asked if she would release me to work because I have GUILT that I've been out for four weeks and I miss some of the big projects that I was working on and I know that work misses me and did I mention GUILT? ... and my doctor said, "Absolutely not! Do you understand that you could have a life threatening condition if not properly diagnosed and treated?"

Oh. You're like really serious about that?

Maybe it's a defense mechanism that I have the attention span of a goldfish and tend to forget things almost as soon as they happen. Yes, I know that my doctor told me twice within five minutes how serious this is. Shudder.

Hey, those are nice shoes!

Are they comfortable?

As part of my "diagnosis" I'm completely weaning off my Prednisone while hoping that my low cortisol levels were indeed a lab error and not an indication that I have adrenal insufficiency that might throw me in to addisonian crisis without the proper medication. Charlie knows all the warning signs and has promised that if I wake up gasping, he won't sleep walk in to a wall, again. Sure, that's what he SAYS, but if I don't ever update my blog again, you can just assume he went back to sleep.

I'm kidding. OF COURSE.

I'm also trying my best to look at the bright side of life. So on that note, how awesome is it that this whole health "snafu" happened during summer?! The timing really is impeccable, SO, THANK YOU BODY for at least choosing to fail me when the kids are out of school and the weather is beautiful.


Also, it's really awesome that Henry's birthday was this past week and he received a whole box of assorted Super Hero costumes from Alex and Kathleen.


Best yet ... THEY FIT!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

em & me

We had a special visit with a special someone this week.

Scan 2

FYI: In case there is any question, in the photo above, I'm the one on the LEFT. In the photo below, I'm the one on the RIGHT. Not only does it look like I've aged 20 years, but it appears I've developed the overbite of a (non makeup wearing) squirrel...


I'm happy to report that Emily is doing considerably better, although the road to recovery from a traumatic brain injury is uncertain and long. While we remain hopeful that she will be able to return to college in the fall, only time will tell.

Thank you, again, to everyone who sent along their thoughts, prayers and messages of support. They were passed to my sister and niece and helped to lift their spirits more than I can express. You are an amazing bunch and I'm very thankful that you are a part of our lives.

Now, does anyone know where I can hustle up some acorns?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

... and then he was four

On July 4th, our little firecracker turned four-years-old.


It's hard to believe four years have gone past...


Then again, it feels like he's always been a part of my life.


He calls me Princess and Sweetheart.


Countless times throughout the day, he'll ask if he can marry me, kiss me, hug me and dance with me. He tells me that he loves me with all of his heart, and I tell him that I love him with all of my heart.


This drives his siblings crazy because doesn't he know, I'm ALREADY married? And also, how can I love Henry with all of my heart when there are FOUR kids in our family?

What about THEM?


"It's like lighting a candle," I tell the children. "When you take a candle that is burning brightly, you can light several candles, without losing any of the fire from the candle that started it all. That's exactly how it is with love. You can pass love around and always have more to share. And the best part is, the more love you share - the brighter life becomes."

Happy Birthday to our beautiful blue-eyed boy.


Four years later, you still take my breath away.

Thank you for being here and for making my world so bright.

Friday, July 01, 2011

easily lured by chocolate frosted

Last year, our children brought home a book from the library entitled, "The Ugly Vegetables." It is the story of a young Chinese girl and the unusual vegetables her mother grew in her garden patch. Their vegetables were "unusual" because while everyone else in the neighborhood was growing fragrant flowers and plump tomatoes, her mother was growing Kong Shin Tsay and Kuu Gaa.

Needless to say, the young girl was very self conscious and embarrassed about her garden and how it was so different than everyone else's.

Very soon though, when the "ugly" vegetables were harvested and the delicious aroma of the Chinese soup that her mother made wafted throughout the entire neighborhood ... people for blocks were drawn to their home and offered flowers and garden vegetables in exchange for just one bowl of the spectacular soup.

We love this story, because it is a great example of cultural diversity and neighborliness.

As it turns out, our next door neighbors are from China and they don't speak a word of English. As it also turns out, our neighbors have a very extensive garden where they are growing an assortment of different fruits and vegetables. We've met our neighbors in passing a few times. This past year, we brought them an apple crisp and I tried to explain that it tastes REALLY GOOD WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM.

As I'm standing there on their front steps hand gesturing an imaginary scoop and plop, Charlie whispered, "Jen, they have absolutely NO idea what you're saying. Do they even have ice cream in China? I think they eat oranges for dessert..."

They brought us some luscious pomegranates. And we went over to their house again, on the Chinese New Year, to present them with a picture of a rabbit that Elizabeth had drawn.

And .... that about sums up our interaction.

Fast forward to today, when Charlie is downstairs trying to wrap up a report for one of his clients and I'm nearly horizontal on the couch trying to match up socks from a laundry basket that is overflowing with clothes. The kids are outside happily playing in the front yard.

If I haven't mentioned it before, we live in a very quiet neighborhood. Very, wonderfully, peacefully quiet. And the predominant reason we selected this exact location is because it is so very wonderfully, peacefully, quiet. With a cul-de-sac on one end and less than ten homes (predominantly occupied by retirees), on any given day, no more than five cars will drive by our house and two of them are the mailman driving down the road and then back again.

I could hear the children playing outside but then I noticed their voices had disappeared. "Surely they just wandered around the backyard and went down to the creek," I'm thinking to myself. But when several minutes went past and I still couldn't hear them, I went to the front door and looked out. The kids were no where to be seen. So I walked to the back of the house and looked out towards the creek and they were no where to be seen there, either.

"Well, they must be climbing trees," I thought.

So I went outside and walked around, calling for them.

No response.

My heart starts to beat a little faster when my eyes are scanning our property and the kids are NO WHERE to be seen. And there is absolutely NO SOUND which is highly unusual whenever there are four small kids around. So I run in to the house and summon Charlie and the two of us bolt outside and start calling for our little ones.

Echo. Echo. Echo. Echo.

Crickets. Plane in the distance. Birds chirping.

I grab the car keys and tell my husband that I'm going to drive around the neighborhood looking for them and he tells me that he's going to go in to the woods on the other side of the creek.

They wouldn't go on the other side of the creek because there are foxes over there and the kids would be terrified. And surely they didn't just wander off because they know not to do that and we've talked to them ad nauseam about not going in to anyone's house without one of us present and we've read books about Stranger Danger once if we've read them a million times and they know all about not being able to tell if an apple is bad just by looking at it and ...

I'm starting to fight gut wrenching panic.

Our children have vanished in to thin air.

As I jump in to the car and start to pull out of the driveway, I notice that our next door neighbor, over a hundred yards away, is walking out her front door. She is a small elderly woman, perhaps 85 years old. Directly behind her are three of our four children smiling ear to ear and carrying baskets of Chinese vegetables. They are walking out of the house, talking animatedly about SOUP as the woman just smiles and nods. She has absolutely no understanding of what they are saying, nor they of what she is saying.

They're all just chattering in the language of neighborly happiness.

I'm extremely relieved to see (three of our four) children, but also aghast that they went in to a stranger's house without us. For a long moment, I'm conflicted with how to respond. Yes, this is I'm sure, a wonderfully sweet neighbor. But what about all the books we've read?

And the stories we've told about children who have just vanished?

Have they heeded absolutely NO warning?

The kids come running up to me with chocolate ... chocolate? ... on their faces as Charlie goes in to the neighbor's house to retrieve Henry who was trying to climb under the master bed to pet their cat. The children are excitedly telling me how they had a piano that they PLAYED and there were all kinds of small glass STATUES and other FRAGILE things that they TOUCHED and suddenly, they catch sight of my expression and they can see that I'm troubled and oh oh.

They immediately start pointing fingers at each other.

Accusatory glances were shooting in circles, and ultimately landed on Henry who doesn't have the verbal skills to adequately defend himself. Our three six-year-olds concluded that it was their little brother who noticed the cat outside and then followed it in to our non-English speaking neighbor's house and the only reason they followed is because they had to save him.

Of course!

When I asked why they didn't come straight home, they all explained, "Mom, they had CHOCOLATE DONUTS." And best yet, as they were concluding their rescue mission, they took a detour through the garden where they each picked several Sheau Hwang Gua.

Thank goodness our neighbor doesn't speak English because I imagine she'd be offended if she understood our children were gleefully referring to her vegetables as ugly, ugly, UGLY.

U-G-L-Y ... you ain't got no alibi you ugly!

I've decided that although I clearly need to continue impressing upon our children how it is NOT okay for them to ever go with someone without our knowledge, to reciprocate our neighbor's hospitality to my small crew, we're going to bring her another apple crisp.

But this time, we'll also bring her a carton of Hรคagen-Dazs and two dozen Munchkins.