Saturday, May 31, 2014

the tank

For as long as I can remember, William has been infatuated with all things military-related.


This year in school, his best friend's father is a Colonel (former fighter jet pilot) in the Marines who now works at the White House.  Suffice it to say, with a best friend who is surrounded and obsessed with the military, William's fascination has been escalated to a whole new level.  This was a picture of my little soldier this afternoon.


He's standing next to a tank that he constructed out of a cardboard box that he wears over him as he drives his little John Deere tractor around the yard.


Our neighbor stopped and was staring at the box driving around our yard, until I yelled, "It's his tank!"  and they smiled, nodded their head as if to say, "Well, OF COURSE it's a tank!" and drove on. William was slightly embarrassed that they stopped to talk with him, because as he said, "The tank doesn't really look like a tank, it looks like a cardboard box and it's not totally bullet proof."


But what the neighbor's don't know is that he printed out actual pictures from the internet of what a tank looks inside and those are glued around the inside of his box. So even if it doesn't look like a tank on the outside, it sure does look like a tank on the inside.


Even though we live on a very quiet cul-de-sac, the rule is he cannot go in to the road without a spotter because his peripheral vision isn't very good and he needs to be able to see cars.


His tank is equipped with a walkie talkie so he can radio back to base.


He's planning to add a turret, tomorrow. He just needs to find another box and tape together some wrapping paper and paper towel tubes.  Then he wants to paint the whole thing camouflage.


So long as we have cardboard and duct tape - we have hours of adventure!

Friday, May 30, 2014

random thoughts from the sidelines of a rapidly changing landscape

Whenever people hear that I have triplets, they will always ask me how I survived when they were babies?  Wasn't it so difficult?  How in the world do you function with three babies?!  Truth be told, I don't recall the infant stage being all that difficult. Sure, I was tired. And I'm certain there are certain things I'm forgetting, like the feeling of sheer desperation when it was 2 AM and I'm feeding one baby and still have two more to feed, including one that tends to get fussy and may not want to go right back to sleep, and by the time they do finally go back to sleep - the other two will be crying and ready to eat again. But that time didn't last too long, because we had them solidly sleeping through the night before they were six-months-old and then I had a lot of free time on my hands.

Actually, my memory of those days is really fading and the most challenging (and wonderful) stage is always the one I'm currently in.  Although, I do know that if I was uber-organized before I had children, my organizational psychosis reached a whole new level once I became a mother. To be organized is to be in control (or something like that), and my survival depended upon my organization.  My keen organizational skills actually kept my children alive, too.  I'm sure of it. 

Knowing when my tiny premature babies ate, and set off their heart monitor, and took their litany of life-sustaining medications was absolutely critical, so I tracked everything in an Excel spreadsheet which I'd cart with me everywhere I went.  

Control of Our Children's Schedules? CHECK!   

Around the time the babies were 10-months old, our pediatrician told me I could start weaning myself off the Baby Binder because he really didn't need to see a bar chart for every time they pooped.  The Baby Binder went away, but that intense organizational focus just shifted to other things. And so it is, I became consumed with things like toy - book - game - food - clothes - and pantry organization.  When we lived in our 1,600 square foot house in San Diego, people who visited would tell us they'd never suspect we had four small children because our house didn't look like a twister had swept through Toys R' Us and straight in to our living room. We had a lot of toys, but they were always precisely stashed somewhere when not in use.

Control of Our Living Space? CHECK!  

Even though we now live in a much larger house, I'm still meticulous about picking up toys and organizing our living space because clutter cripples me.  Clutter leads to the confusion of not knowing where things are, and taking the time to find things, takes time away from other things that I'd much rather be doing: things like skipping in the sunshine and chasing butterflies with my children.  So as I'm swiping armfuls of random things in to the trash, I'm doing it because the Less I Have to Organize And Put Away, The More Time I'll Have With The People I Love.  

Time. It's slipping through my fingers all the time.

That is precisely why I'll walk around the house at least once a week with an empty trash bag and fill it to the brim with paperwork, toys, partially complete games, and random clothes.  I don't know where or how things keep coming in to our house, because I very rarely bring anything new in, but there is a seemingly endless supply of things to get rid of and so I do.  Our children, now that they are a bit older, know that they better pick things up and put them away, appropriately. Or they better hide them extremely well, because I'm ruthless about throwing things away.

Control of The Vast Amount of Stuff That Comes Through the Door? CHECK! 

But what I'm realizing is that as the children grow older and more independent, my organizational and hence, control skills, are morphing in to the shape of a pretzel.  The kids, as they nudge closer to the edge of the nest and continually test their wings to fly, are learning to be more responsible, but they're not there just yet.  And my ability to control four kids and all their stuff now, is a lot harder than it was when they were little and stuck behind baby gates. Also, I work outside of the home more now than I did before, so I'm distracted from the Art of Controlling Our Lives, and when I actually have the opportunity to slow down and take inventory, I tend to get overwhelmed because I realize, I'm not in control the way I once was. Looking ahead, I see that I'll have even less control as the children continue to grow, so I need to gracefully adapt. 

I'm not very graceful. 

This entire week, Charlie is in California for the second time this month.  That means I've been working from home on single parent duty and IT IS SO DIFFICULT.  I have no idea how single parents do this everyday.  The act of getting the children up and dressed and out the door to school on time, and then working-working-working, until it is time to pick them up from the bus and feed them and do after school activities and dinner before getting them ready for bed, and then working-working-working is exhausting on every level of existence: physical, mental, spiritual.

I haven't had a chance to do any laundry since this past weekend.  I think there are at least seven loads waiting for me. I also haven't had a chance to go to the grocery store. Today, I packed the children whatever I could find in the cupboards.  Included in my kindergartner and third grade lunch boxes were pickled beets, mandarin oranges, cottage cheese, cashews and string cheese.  The kids started to complain but I told them, "It's all we have and I promise it's better than what you'd eat in the cafeteria, anyway."  They replied in unison it would be the worst day ever, and I laughed because I knew that my children's perception of my culinary awesomeness from the Dirt Cups earlier this week wouldn't last long.

As I was cleaning up this morning, I found that someone had used a full-sized bath towel to wash something in the sink, and had left that sopping wet towel on the floor so that it soaked through the carpet and left a water mark on the hardwood floor, below. A few minutes later, I found banana peels beneath the couch cushions, and I'm drawn by the stench to a half eaten turkey sandwich that has been left in a drawer for who knows how long.  This is how it goes whenever I'm at home. My realization of what I perceive to be the Family Train Falling Off The Well Controlled Tracks inevitably happens.  It's so much easier when I leave in the morning and Charlie confronts all of the child-impacts to our home.  Charlie doesn't lose his cool about sandwiches in drawers, or soaking wet towels on the floor.  He never loses his cool, so I think it must be a hormonal chemical imbalance thing for me? Or maybe Charlie's the one chemically imbalanced because it really doesn't seem normal that he is always so calm. Does it??

Yesterday morning as I was packing lunches, I realized that the kids have lost not one - not two - but eight water bottles since the start of the school year.  Where are these water bottles going, pray tell? If I was the primary responsible person responsible for putting away water bottles every day, instead of allowing others to complete this task, would I have realized our significant inventory shortage sooner, and perhaps discovered the black hole vortex of water bottles?  

Yesterday afternoon, one of our lovely neighbors, an elderly man from China, came over to drop off a gift for each of the children. Our neighbor, who doesn't speak a word of English, had handcrafted the most beautiful Chinese double-wheeled windmills for the kids.  They were constructed of delicate paper and bamboo and made a clicking noise when moved by the wind.  What I should have done is let the children LOOK at them, and then put them away until they are 35.  But I what I did is let them PLAY with them for a few minutes.  It only took two minutes before Henry and William's windmills were in pieces because they had turned them in to cars that they were trying to race down the driveway.  At this moment, only one windmill is still fully intact and it makes me wonder, would these toys have survived if they were played with by Chinese children?  Do Chinese children lack the destructive gene? If I wasn't distracted putting away dishes, would the windmills still be in tact?

Do Chinese parents blink?  

Also yesterday afternoon, I received my umpteenth e-mail from a teacher indicating that someone hasn't turned in their homework and it is really important that they complete their homework each night. In an effort to defend myself against the stigmatizing overwhelmed and neglectful triplet parent persona, I wrote back to the teacher, "I know that they did their homework, because I physically sat on them while they completed it.  I even checked their homework to ensure it was correct, and made sure that they put it in their backpack." I guess the fact that I wasn't there at school hovering over their shoulder to make sure they turned it in, was the stumbling block.  

Every so often, I toy with the idea of NOT cornering the kids to do their homework.  If they don't want to do it, they'll suffer the consequences, not me.  (Remind me of that if I ever wonder why our 40-year old adult children are still living with us.)  I've tried that approach and have even told the teachers that it really is the children's responsibility and I'm going to take a more laissez-faire stance. But then I feel guilty because they're only nine and I feel like I should be more involved. With a whole lot of energy, I can control that homework gets done. But as demonstrated yesterday, I can't control their ability to turn that homework in, or want to learn and further apply themselves in school.

I think there are some pretty good statistics out there that parents with advanced degrees are more likely to have children that eventually go to college. Especially children who can rapidly deconstruct a double-wheeled Chinese windmill. If so, I'd like to play that card, please.  In the meantime, instead of pushing them too hard, I'm encouraging them to GO PLAY OUTSIDE. They've been inside a school for eight hours a day, are they really going to learn something more in that ninth hour with me?  And if so, then perhaps I should be their primary teacher for the other eight hours a day, too.  Ah yes, homeschool.  I still entertain the thought of you every single day. 

Last night, I found a water bill in our children's bedroom. Because I'm manage all of our finances, I was actually waiting this bill to come in and was planning to call about it over the weekend if I didn't receive it, today.  It was tucked in my child's desk because they had collected the mail from our mailbox earlier in the month, and were planning to pretend like they were paying bills, too.  When I opened the bill, I saw that it was the SECOND NOTICE and our water service would be turned off by May 29th (yesterday) if it wasn't paid immediately. Fortunately for me and the seven loads of laundry I have to do, when I called the customer service line to pay the bill over the phone,  I was able to talk with someone and I learned that our service provider had changed recently and the bill I electronically paid last month, was routed to the incorrect provider.

Because there are 16,000 other people in Fairfax who recently changed water providers and may not know it yet, a large number of those new customers have also received second notices for cessation of service. Fortunately for the 16,000 of us that do not have locking mailboxes and children who may hide bills, the new provider is totally overwhelmed and extremely short-staffed, so doesn't have the resources to turn off water for another few weeks. But something tells me that if I hadn't paid the bill, our water would have been among the first turned off. 

This morning, as I was walking home from dropping the kids off at the bus stop, I see that the sliding door to our van is wide open from yesterday. Or maybe Tuesday. I can't recall the last time I left the house.  All I know is that it's been raining since the last time I was in the car, so the inside resembles a marsh filled with random debris. Crayons. Wrappers. Cub Scout patches. Oh, look! Two water bottles!!!  The battery is dead so I'll need to get a jump start from a neighbor, since Charlie and his truck are gone, before I can go to the grocery store. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I pray so much for patience, but it often eludes me.  And I feel like such a hypocrite, because I'm always preaching about how important it is to be kind and exert love in everything we do, and then I say something, or do something, that completely undermines my message.  The kids are developing their own attitudes and testing the water with things they have picked up along the way.  They will provoke each other and instead of being graceful, I'll get so worked up everyone is in tears.  I'll repeat myself once, twice, three times and more often than not, I'm not able to breathe deeply enough, or bite my tongue hard enough and KABOOM!  Then I'll beat myself up over my shortcoming and swear it will never happen again until ten minutes later, it happens again. This morning, I tried a new tactic when William and Henry were fighting over something (?) and I put them both outside and locked the door. As I closed the door I said, "You can come in once you've worked it out.  I really can't handle the noise of your bickering so you need to get it resolved elsewhere. Good-bye."   

It probably sounds counter-intuitive, but I know that if I had more time each day with them, I'd be more accustomed to children, and wouldn't have to re-calibrate whenever I'm on solo-parent duty.  As Charlie and I told the children recently, their brains won't be fully developed until they're in their 20's, so as their parents, we just need to remain CALM and remind ourselves that everything we are facing is perfectly NORMAL.  Although I'm really surprised at some of the things I've found myself repeatedly saying that I never thought I'd utter to another "normal" human being.   

While I might think that the children would have heard the message loud and clear the first time, that usually isn't the case.  As a sampling: 
  • Please don't brush the dogs teeth with yours (and/or your brother's or sister's) toothbrush.
  • Please wear underwear. Just trust me on this ... underwear are your friend. 
  • Please don't throw rocks / sticks / objects and hit your sibling in the head. 
  • Please flush. Just do it, it's really not that difficult and actually kind of fun. 
  • Please don't wipe your bottom and throw the dirty toilet paper on the bathroom floor. 
A new one that I've recently added, "Please don't take mail out of the mailbox and hide it.  If I unintentionally miss a bill and have to scrub seven loads of laundry on a washboard in our back creek because we have no water, I might have to be institutionalized."

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining. That's not my intent in writing this.  I'm documenting these memories of parenthood for future reference so I can one day look back and remember the good old days. Because these really are the good old days.  I just wish these insanely fast flying days had more hours in them, or I required less sleep.

An industrial self flushing toilet that doesn't clog easily would be very nice, too. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the geeky geologist gourmet

This year is our first year of SOL (Standard of Learning) tests.  These cumulative tests, which span all of the information taught since first grade, begin in third grade and cover subjects such as social studies, science, reading, and mathematics.  For the past month, the kids have come home with various study guides that I've been working through with them, and I've got to admit ... I'm learning a lot of things I never knew before. For example, I now know the difference between a waxing gibbous and a waning crescent. Perhaps I just don't retain information very well, but I do not remember learning the moon cycles when I was in school. Certainly not when I was in third grade!

Do you know what a palindrome is?

I do!

It's a word or phrase that reads forward or backward the same way. For example, the word M-O-M, D-A-D. William informed me tonight that race car is also a palindrome, and as I was saying, "Nuh-uh...!" he was writing it out and he was correct: R-A-C-E-C-A-R.


So two weeks ago, our three third grade teachers sent out an e-mail to the parents inquiring if anyone would be willing to prepare snacks for the children to enjoy immediately following their various SOL tests.  Since there are five separate days of testing, I volunteered for one of the days in each of the classes.  How it unintentionally - but fortunately - worked out is that I wound up being the snack provider for all three classes on the same day.  Which means I had to make 90 snacks, because we had to prepare enough for 30 people in each class.

(The student:teacher ratio boggles my mind, too.)

For the past week, I've been debating WHAT TO MAKE for 90 kids?  I queried the kids, but all they told me was, "I dunno, but please make something GOOD."  I looked for ideas on the internet about SOL snacks, and came up empty handed because the suggestions were for candy like Dum-Dum lollipops (!!) with notes that read, "You're No Dum-Dum ... good luck on the SOLs!" Very creative, YES, but not quite what I had in mind. Because we'd be delivering snacks immediately following the Science SOLs, I wanted to make the children something with a "science" theme.

On Sunday morning, the snack idea finally came to me, like a bolt of creative awesomeness straight from Heaven.  Remember, Charlie and I are both geologists, and we've been to the children's school on several occasions to talk with students from kindergarten through third grade about the water cycle.

A collage put together by one of the teachers, following a recent demonstration: 

This year, our third graders also learned about soil and the various properties of the subsurface, so Charlie and I were in school talking with all the third grade students about topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock.

My lightening bolt idea of making "dirt cups" for the science snack was quite possibly the best idea I've ever come up with .... in my life. From the side of the cups (which I didn't clearly capture in the photo, below), you can see the soil column.  The chocolate chunky pudding on the bottom is the subsoil, and the crumbled Oreo on top with the gummy worm is the topsoil.  While under normal circumstances geologists DO know what makes the bedrock (Charlie once had that bumper sticker on his car), we were stumped with how to make bedrock in a pudding cup.


Granted, a dirt cup doesn't have the same nutritional value as sprout bread and organic cheese with a side of homegrown strawberries, but it has a totally cool 3rd grade factor that is unsurpassed.  Also, since the kids ate these AFTER the test as opposed to BEFORE the test, I wasn't worried about them bonking out.  We wound up using eight boxes of chocolate pudding, 1 gallon of milk, 10 cartons of Cool Whip, one monster sized bag of gummy worms, and seven boxes of Oreo cookies (Charlie had to run out and buy more).


It took us almost six hours to make all the cups and get them loaded in to a chilled cooler for school, but when the triplets came home that afternoon and told me that everyone went crazy with joy and started to hug them and carry them around on their shoulders, I knew that we'd done real good.

Mark this day.  It will likely never happen again.

Monday, May 26, 2014

requiescat in pace

Our neighbor, a Navy veteran, sent us the following e-mail that he had received:
Dear USA: 
Today is Memorial Day. It is the day we honor our war dead, those warriors who gave what Lincoln called, "The last full measure of devotion."  Enjoy your barbecues, your mattress sales, and your community pool openings, but remember you do so because those honored dead made it possible. Please do not offer your thanks to me or any other living veteran. It is not our day. We came home carrying our shields; they came home carried on theirs.  Memorial Day is the day we raise our glasses to absent comrades. Thank me and my living brothers-in-arms (and sisters, too) on Tuesday.  But on Monday, turn your thoughts to the gardens of stone around the globe. See you at Section 60. 
We read this to the children this morning during breakfast, before turning to Google to find out how many US soldiers have lost their lives in battle.  Living just outside the nation's capital, we've visited most of the memorials and sights, such as Arlington National Cemetery, and the tomb of the unknown soldier.  This year we were planning to visit DC and "Rolling Thunder" again, but Elizabeth wasn't feeling up to a day trip with her arm in a full cast. So we stayed home, and could actually hear the thousands and thousands of motorcycles (estimate of approximately 10,000!) as they drove along I-66 on their way in to Washington, DC.


At 3:00 PM this afternoon, the children took a break from their playing, and Charlie and I took a break from our 100 Dirt Cup making (more on that later this week) for a moment of silence to honor those who have fallen during war, in duty to our country.

Rest in peace, fallen warriors.


Today, all 1.3+ million of you are in our hearts.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

sympathy pains

As I so ineloquently wrote in my post late last night, Elizabeth fractured her arm on Tuesday evening, when she tripped after running down the steps along the side of our house on her way to Girl Scouts.

While the thought had crossed my mind that she possibly fractured a bone, I wasn't entirely sure because it wasn't swollen and my x-ray vision wasn't working properly.  Also, we have a lot of "Cast Envy" going on at our house, because there are two children in the third grade with broken arms and I've heard our children say how fun it would be to have a cast for everyone to sign.

(Now that Elizabeth has experienced a broken limb, she says that she'd rather just have the cast and not the fractured arm because it hurts worse than anything she's ever had happen in her whole entire life.)

Thinking that perhaps there was a bit of hypochondria at play, I wrapped her arm in a bandage, elevated it on some pillows, and gave her a dose of Tylenol.  I figured I'd see how she was doing the next morning and take her to the doctor, if she wasn't improved.  Instead, Carolyn escorted her sister from their bedroom to our bedroom at 12:30 on Wednesday morning because Elizabeth had woken up crying as a result of her arm.  She remained with Charlie and I until 3:30 AM, when I reached my quota of being squished between two people in a Queen-Sized bed.  Charlie brought her back in to her bedroom and less than 30 minutes later, I was awoken by Henry who was standing over me with a bloody nose.

As a parent, some nights you just don't sleep very much - if at all. 

There were several meetings I needed to attend in the office on Wednesday morning, so when I dragged myself off to work, Charlie scheduled an appointment for Elizabeth to see the pediatrician.  They took one look and sent her to the radiologist.  As Charlie is waiting for the x-ray results, he receives a call from the elementary school that Carolyn has been sick to her stomach and needs to be immediately picked up.  He receives confirmation that Elizabeth's arm is indeed broken and with x-ray in hand, dashes to the school to pick up one sick Carolyn.  He then calls the pediatrician and asks for a referral to an orthopedist that can set Elizabeth's arm in a cast.

Here's where I should capture the huge lesson that we learned during this experience:  If you suspect that you have a broken limb, you might want to consider going directly to the hospital where you will likely be x-rayed and casted (if necessary) in one location.   When the orthopedist told Charlie that their next available appointment wasn't for more than a week - and Elizabeth would need to remain in a splint until then - my husband spent the next hour calling multiple orthopedic offices until he found one that could see Elizabeth sooner than nine days out.

Today, we took Elizabeth in to have her arm wrapped in a cast.  Carolyn, who was still home sick from school, accompanied us.

I'd also scheduled an appointment for Carolyn to see the pediatrician this morning, because I wanted to rule out the potential she had the onset of appendicitis, based on the symptoms she was presenting.  Since Charlie and I have both survived ruptured appendix, we're very sensitive to the prospect of it happening with our children.  But no sooner was the cast on Elizabeth's arm, and she visibly relaxed for the first time in 36 hours because the pain was finally abated, the color returned to Carolyn's cheeks and she told us that she felt better.

I wondered if it was merely coincidence, because she really was violently sick, but earlier tonight, I overheard her say to her sister,  "I love you so much and I was sick with worry that you were hurt.  But now that you're better, I feel better, too." 

Thankfully, Elizabeth (and Carolyn!) is feeling better. But she is very dismayed that because of her full-arm cast which she'll be in for at least the next three weeks, before transitioning to a smaller cast for another three weeks, she can no longer suck her left thumb. 

Hopefully, all of the cast signatures that she receives ....

Will help keep her distracted. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

my little thumbsucker

At some point within the next few months, it appears all three of the triplets will be in braces.  The whole braces "situation" is a post in and of itself ... including how we've visited six orthodontists for their extremely varied opinions and have debated whether we even need this first phase of braces at all.   Now that we're on the threshold of making what appears to be a commitment to the first phase of braces, which are required to make room in tiny mouths for big denticles, we've been told that Elizabeth, who is an avid thumbsucker, will need to cease sucking her thumb, immediately.

And while YES, I recognize that sucking a thumb somewhat defeats the purpose of braces, I don't want to push my daughter in to giving up her thumb sucking until she is ready.  I'm adamant about this because I, too, was an avid thumbsucker and I distinctly remember how much comfort my left thumb gave me. I also remember people suggesting various tricks like bitter apple, or a glove, to deter me from sucking my thumb and although I tried all the tricks - nothing worked.   Eventually, I got to a point ~ at approximately the age of 13 ~ when on my own terms I didn't feel the need to suck my thumb anymore and I gave it up.  And the braces that I'd been in since I was 11, remained on my teeth until I was 15 and my teeth came out great.  Even despite my thumb sucking, ha!

So whenever we go visit dentists or orthodontists, and they vehemently tell Elizabeth she MUST stop sucking her thumb or her teeth will be ruined forever, and they'll tempt her with gifts if she's able to quit; or threaten her with gear that will be fitted across her palate so she physically can't suck her thumb anymore, I'll always give her a wink that says, "Don't you worry, Sweetie. You can suck your thumb for as long as you want and I promise, your teeth will still be beautiful."

Now...  while I clearly support Elizabeth's choice to suck her thumb; I do not support that she sucks her thumb all the live long day.   And what I've noticed is that whenever Elizabeth has Bunny in hand, the other hand is in her mouth.  So my rule to try and limit the amount of thumb sucking, is that Elizabeth can have Bunny only at night when she goes to sleep.  Each morning, Bunny is hidden somewhere so she is not tempted. Seems easy enough, right?

As it turns out, Elizabeth doesn't much care for my totally lame 'No Bunny During the Day' rule and frequently breaks it.  As soon as she walks in the door from school, she'll throw her backpack down and set off like a rabid bloodhound to discover where we hid Bunny and if she finds Bunny, she'll suck her thumb like a crazed addict.  One day last week, after witnessing this maniacal behavior when she was so distracted sucking her thumb that she was totally oblivious to the world around her, I decided to take Bunny with me on a business trip to Houston.  It would be an overnight Adventure for Bunny, and a brief thumb sucking reprieve for Elizabeth.

Just before I walked out the door to the airport, I slipped a briefly unattended Bunny in to my backpack and snapped a picture.  Then once my car arrived, I took another picture of Bunny, with every intention to e-mail them to Charlie and Elizabeth.  Alas, before I had a chance to send the message, I received a text from Charlie, who was anxiously inquiring if I had Bunny?


"Yes," I told him. "Bunny is safe with me and we're going on an ADVENTURE!"

This news was not greeted with the excitement I'd been expecting.  So over the next day, I snapped off a load of pictures to show Elizabeth just how much "fun" Bunny was having with me.

Because I'm crazy fun and do wild things like check myself in at the airport! 

Here we are on our way through security ... P-U!  What is that smell, Bunny?

Bunny waiting for the terminal train.

Bunny on the moving sidewalk.

We stopped to get dinner, and although Bunny told me he'd pick up the tab, he forgot his wallet.

Sneaky Bunny!

Uh, where are we going again?

We're on board! Although, why do the wings turn up like that?


Did you pack a parachute?! 

Parachute, Smarachute!

They've got The LEGO Movie?!

Please, oh please oh please oh please oh please?!

After a one-hour delay, the plane took off and we flew somewhere, over the rainbow.

And through some huge clouds.

Bunny enjoyed a light beverage.

And then a few hours later, we landed in a stormy Houston.

Welcome to Houston, Bunny!

We rode the bus to the rental car terminal.

And then Bunny helped me navigate to our destination.

We checked in to our hotel.

And Bunny made a quick bio-break.


The next morning, Bunny was up with the sun to take a shower.

Bunny styled his fur.

And checked out his Do...

Before trying to call Elizabeth at home.

I attended my meeting while Bunny slept in my bag. And 24 hours after we'd arrived, just as we were preparing to leave Houston and fly back home, I received notice that our flight was delayed.

Then it was delayed again.

And again. 

Before I received confirmation that our flight had been canceled. And our new flight wouldn't depart until the next afternoon.  Mad scrambling ensued, that included calls to Emergency Travel Agents who were able to put us on a flight that would arrive in Maryland at 1:00 AM, because Bunny had somewhere to be. 

We had a few minutes once we arrived at the airport for dinner, so Bunny and I split a chicken burrito and cerveza.  (That was our plane in the background....)

We safely arrived home at nearly 3 AM and Bunny was tucked in to bed with a sleeping Elizabeth.  All was once again well in the land of Elizabunny.

Fast forward exactly one week. 

Yesterday, on the way to Girl Scouts, Elizabeth took a bad header down the stairs. She had been running, but tried to abruptly stop because she thought she saw a caterpillar and was afraid she would squash it. As a result of her compassionate behavior and subsequent fall, she badly scraped her elbow, knee, and hip.  We learned today, that she also fractured her left wrist.

The left wrist that is attached to the most magnificent left sucking thumb.  Elizabeth has an appointment tomorrow morning with an orthopedist, at which time I suspect she'll be fitted for a cast and whether or not she'll be able to continue sucking her thumb remains to be seen.

While I recognize this is potentially a very good opportunity for her to give up the thumb sucking habit,  I know that if there was ever a time in life when my sweet girl needed the comfort of her thumb, this would have to be it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

worth every minute

When I open my blogger account, I can see how many posts that I've written and published (1855) and how many posts I've started to write, but are currently in draft format (51).  I'd estimate that with the story writing, and photo capturing, I've spent more than 5,000 hours, on the low end, dedicated to this blog over the past eight years.  And while I don't write nearly as much as I used to (lack of time, not desire or material) I'm so glad I have kept this space.


It has always been so therapeutic for me to sit down and write and during those really early days of parenting four little children, when I'd often feel overwhelmed with our circumstances, taking the time to document what happened during the day would allow me the ability to clearly see the awesomeness, and often hilarity, present in our lives.  


We have a strong marriage, and four healthy and happy children; this blog is an amazing testimony to the blessings that have been abundantly reaped upon us.  


Last year, Charlie turned my first year of blogging in to a book.  Since then - either for a birthday, or Mother's Day, or Christmas, he'll give me another "year" in book format.  We're currently up to four volumes of blog years and while I've long known that this blog was a gift for me,  I can now see how wonderful of a gift it is for our children because this blog is largely their story.


One night recently, I retrieved one of the volumes to share with a friend (and mother to three young children) who is also blogging.  She was feeling guilty that she was taking the time to sit down and write when she had so many other things she should or could be doing.  When our children saw the book I was sharing with her, they ran off to retrieve the other volumes, and then spent the rest of the evening flipping through the pages reading various stories that made them laugh until they cried.


This past week, Carolyn came home from school and told us what a tough day she had and how nothing would ever cheer her up, again. William thought for a moment before saying, "I know what will cheer you up ... let's read our blog!"


In that moment, when a smile erupted on her face and she jumped off her chair and yelled "YES!",  I promised myself that I'd really try to start blogging more often.

Friday, May 09, 2014

save snowflake!

Charlie and I are very fortunate to have some wonderful friends and neighbors.  Whenever we go away on a trip, instead of boarding Louie and the guinea pigs - or hiring a professional pet sitter - we'll send out an inquiry to our network of friends and ask if they'd be willing to come by and look after our pets for a few days.    Because all of these people have children that are similarly aged to our children, we'll pay the kids some agreed upon amount to feed the animals and play with them each day.  It's a win-win because we know our pets are in good hands, and our friends have the opportunity to test drive having pets, before they commit to having one (or three) of their own.

So, we went to Florida for Spring Break. And we left our dog, Louie, and our two male guinea pigs - Hairy Barry (aka: Barack Obama, Chocolate) and Georgie Porgie (aka: George Washington, Oreo) in the hands of our good friends who have three children that are approximately the same age as our children, but are currently pet-less and desperate for a dog and/or guinea pig.  

On or about Day 7 of our 10 day vacation, we received an e-mail from our friends, written by Louie, letting us know how much FUN he was having while on vacation at "Camp." But in this e-mail Louie eluded to a situation that had occurred with his guinea pig "brothers."

Apparently, an eight-year-old girl lives in the house behind our friend's and she has two guinea pigs, too. But her guinea pigs are female.  Can you guess where this is going? 

One day, she decided that she was going to take her guinea pigs over for a "Playdate."  Her parents were busy and didn't have any knowledge of her playdate plan and because she had to climb through a fence, she wasn't able to hold both of her guinea pigs, so she opted to just take "Snowflake."

Meanwhile in our friend's house, their father was in the shower, and not aware that Snowflake had come over for a playdate with our un-neutered males.  From all accounts, Snowflake was in happy guinea pig land one minute, and the next minute she finds herself smack dab in the hopping Bachelor Pad of Hairy Barry and Georgie Porgie.


According to the kids, the guinea pigs started SQUEALING loudly and then they were jumping around, climbing all over Snowflake, and playing a game that looked like Leap Frog.  This scene went on for a few minutes before one of the kids had decided Snowflake had had enough "Playing" and reached in to pull her out.

Once Snowflake's adult owners realized what had happened, they immediately called their vet who said it is extremely likely that Snowflake is going to be a Mama Guinea Pig in approximately 60 days.  Oh, but because Snowflake is 2.5-years-old and has never had a litter before, her probable pregnancy is very high risk. It would seem that if a guinea pig sow does not give birth before she is 8-months-old, her pelvic bones can fuse together and this can be a real problem for an animal that gives birth to not-so-tiny animals that are ready to hit the ground RUNNING.

Today while I was at school, I bumped in to our friend's neighbors and she informed me that they're on Day 23 post Play Date.  Once they get to Day 40, they are planning to take Snowflake in for an ultrasound ($70.00) to determine whether or not there are any little GP babies on board.  If so, they'll also assess if her pelvic bones have fused.   And if so, they'll discuss what options are available to help get those babies safely OUT of Snowflake.  It appears that a C-section is the best bet.  But the survival rate following a C-section for a guinea pig is only 50% and comes at a cost of approximately $1,000.00.

That's a whole lot of money, and really poor statistics, for a little critter that only cost $30.00. 

While Charlie and I initially joked that we'd waive the stud fee, now that we understand the risks and cost implications to save Snowflake, we're contemplating a bake sale to help offset the costs.  I'm not sure what our advertising signs would say, though.

"Please buy a cookie and help offset the veterinarian costs of our friend's neighbor's guinea pig, Snowflake, that was a victim of the worst playdate ever."

Thursday, May 08, 2014

be aware of wonder

One of my favorite essays of all time, is Robert Fulghum's "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."   My very own kindergartner, Mr. Green Thumb, came home with this little plant last week, which seven days ago, was no more than a tiny sprout.  

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup?  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 


We've been watching Henry's plant every day and providing it plenty of water and sunlight.  Sure enough, it's thriving and growing so tall, it's now starting to bend under it's own weight.  Henry is totally astonished by how quickly his once little sprout is growing and changing.  And I'm astonished, too.  My baby only has five weeks of kindergarten left and then he'll be going to college in the Fall.  

Because it really seems like that's how fast it happens.  

do you like butter?

In the background ... a lacrosse match.


In the foreground ... my sweet Little Bit. Also known as Little Beth, Bee-Bay, Liz, and Loki. Yes, the same "Loki" from Thor because of the unbelievable chaos that she can intentionally bring to situations. Particularly situations involving her younger brother.  


But then she lovingly offers me a fresh bouquet of color, and curls up on my lap, and whatever latent frustrations I might have been carrying around are instantly erased, like someone gave the Etch A Sketch of my memory banks a good hard shake. It's really amazing the effect children can have on us and our at times, extremely fragile grasp of sanity.  I don't know how they do it.


But I do know that she means the world to me.

And I unequivocally love her more than butter.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

the better to see you with, my dear

We've been back from Spring Break for two weeks now, but as soon as we touched down on Virginia soil, we've been in "GO" mode.


The day after we returned home, I took all four children to the office with me for our annual, "Take Your Child To Work Day." I'll post pictures of that event, soon ... along with the pictures from last year's annual "Take Your Child To Work Day" because it appears that I've forgotten to post any photos or commentary of that event.

The day after "Take Your Child To Work Day" Charlie and I accompanied our third graders to school (a la "Take Your Parents To School Day") where we presented our groundwater model and discussed with the children the joy of hydrogeology and subsurface contamination.  A great time was had by all and I'll soon post pictures and commentary from that event, too. Hopefully, before the children are 12 which is essentially tomorrow at the speed with which time is clipping past.

Back in the day when our children would nap every afternoon and I mistakenly thought I was "really busy" but could still find an hour or two to unload my thoughts in to the computer ... I was a disciplined blogger.  Now I just muddle through random photos when I have a spare moment, and try to cobble together and post stories so I don't forget.

Tonight, as I was scrolling through photos from our trip to Florida, I was reminded of an afternoon when we had just returned from the beach.  We were preparing to give the children showers to wash away the salt, sand, chlorine and sunscreen from the day ... before we converged with Mom and Jim for our nightly sunset viewing and dinner ritual.   Our condominium overlooked the beautiful ocean, and our girls were standing on the patio awaiting their turns in the shower, watching a few people who were still on the beach, soaking up the last hour of daylight.

Soon everyone had left the beach, except for a young couple in their late teens or early twenties who were clearly In Love.


She was in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini, he was in a pair of swim trunks. They were running around, playfully chasing each other, before collapsing in to one another's arms.  In the brief moment I was looking down at the beach, I witnessed a passionate embrace and long drawn out kiss.   Our girls, who were watching this scene unfold, came totally unglued.  Elizabeth said, "OH GROSS!!" while Carolyn gasped, "Can you see what they are doing down there? Oh my gosh, that is so DISGUSTING!"


She tried to feign repugnance, but that was difficult to do when in the same breath, she looked at me and demanded, "Mom, Quick! Where are the binoculars?!" 

I don't know if the lovebirds saw the children's googly eyes staring at them through the binoculars, or if they heard my uproarious laughter at my daughter's response.  Either way (or a combination of the two), they recognized that they'd developed an audience, and quickly ran out of sight, holding hands.

Gross, indeed!