Wednesday, February 14, 2018

VaLENTine's Day

Well! Isn't today an interesting day of contradictions! I made sure we had a King Cake last night, our last of the season, since today is Ash Wednesday. But then I woke up on this the first day of Lent and was greeted with a hug and a kiss and a box of fancy candy. I spent a whole ten minutes yesterday afternoon selecting the perfect thing for Ryan at the grocery store between school pickup, tutoring pickup, and going home to cook six dozen pierogi for the Scout international potluck.

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And tonight half of us will be celebrating Sunday's performance with the children's choir and the other half will be contemplating our mortality on the other side of the building.

Charley is missing his children's choir Valentine's Day party tonight because he is straight up AMPED to serve as the backup acolyte at the Ash Wednesday service. The director told him that even though there were no more open acolyte spots, he could still help take all the pieces of paper people nailed to the cross and help burn them in the back. I share his fascination with ceremony and ritual. Or maybe it's just pyromania. Probably pyromania.

The children have taken the dual nature of the day in stride. We always put a small box of three Russell's Stover (didn't there used to be four??) chocolates at each kid's seat at the table on Valentine's Day and today while they sat around eating them (for breakfast) Wes suggested they go around the table and "atone for their sins." Mary immediately piped up: "James, I am so sorry I stabbed you in the eye with scissors." I had almost forgotten about that special family moment!

(For the amount of goofing around, fighting, getting drinks of water, and going to the bathroom they manage to cram into a single hour-long church service, they really do cue into the darker parts of the liturgical calendar.)

Wes gave each of us a tight hug this morning, which was extra sweet since he can't seem to get along with James for more than seven minutes without starting a screaming fight these days. This morning he helped him read the descriptions of all the chocolates, gave him a big hug, and you could tell he was working so hard at being patient and kind with him. It is a struggle, sharing the middle kid status with an boisterous and incredibly intelligent little brother that has LASERLIKE precision when it comes to driving Wes up the wall. Once, James couldn't stop saying "What are you gonna do with your life?!" like the dad at the beginning of the Twisted Sister video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" because we are awesome parents. It was making Wes INSANE. Wes was out in the garage with Ryan and James popped around the corner, looked right at Wes, and said loudly "WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE" and Wes FLEW across the garage in a horizontal position and took James TO THE GROUND. Ryan said it was like something out of a movie.

UPDATED TO ADD: I had lunch with Ryan today and now I have the whole story about why Wes was working so hard at being nice this morning. HE GAVE UP FIGHTING WITH JAMES FOR LENT. Whether this is an entire Lent commitment or just an Ash Wednesday commitment was unclear.

As for me, I toyed with the idea of going vegetarian for the month, but never mentally committed. Clearly that is off to a roaring good start.

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Fasting from...fiber?

Perhaps I should give up making commitments of any kind instead?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Potty Accident Not Shown

My friend Irina and I went on a long hike Saturday, first thing in the morning. It was a beautiful trail in the woods and, importantly, was straight uphill for the first two miles. The second two miles were back down the same long hill. The weather was cool and cloudy and it was just wonderful.

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Come at me, big ass hill.

After the hike I was texting with a friend about my plans for the rest of the day and I was saying things like "The kids have a bunch of events later today and I would like to be considerate of Ryan's time" instead of "OMFG I need a freaking break" and it occurred to me that PERHAPS, vigorous exercise and uninterrupted (except by my own labored breathing, see above: big ass hill) time talking to a friend was JUST WHAT I NEEDED. The change in my mental state was remarkable. I came to this realization standing at the iced tea tank at a breakfast taco restaurant and it was like a lightbulb went on. I'm not crazy, I just have four kids and a job and spend most of my time either sitting down and being frustrated, standing up and cooking while arguing with people, or putting people to bed while arguing with people. I hate to characterize my life, which really does feel happy and the good kind of busy most of the time, this way, but DANG, you guys.

After the hike and a breakfast taco, and a gigantic cold front that came through shortly after we finished the hike, dropping the temperature twenty degrees, I arrived home refreshed and ready to jump into the project Ryan and the kids were engaged in, namely digging the house out from three weeks of constant business, entertaining, and sloth. This involved scraping dried urine off every surface imaginable in the downstairs bathroom, running a small village-worth of laundry, and reshelving every single book in the family room, but I also suited up and waded into Charley's room, which had taken on hoarder-level conditions. Imagine my relief when he told me the huge box of trash next to his desk was his recycle bin AND that I could empty it. You never know! We cleared the entire floor, cleaned out the closet, made the bed, and pulled all the too small things out of his dresser. Since the door to his room is right off the main part of the downstairs, this has improved my stress-level IMMENSELY.

We all took an Olympics break in the early afternoon. In a pile on the couch, as you do.

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And then all the pickups and drop-offs began and I made Ryan go buy me some beer and a family size box of mac and cheese at the store, the kind with the powder, I made sure he understood. I was asleep by 9:30. Pretty much the perfect day.

Sunday morning we had to be at church for THREE SERVICES, due to it being Children's Sabbath. Charley and Wes played the offertory and the prelude, respectively, at 8:15 and then all four kids sang in the children's choir at the 9:30 service. After they sang, we spirited everyone out and went to get some donuts down the street. On the way there I showed Ryan a radar image on my phone, because his parents were getting a crazy sleet storm. Charley got super excited and thought I was talking about where we live and when I told him it wasn't he exclaimed "OH CRAP!" So then Ryan and I were cry-laughing and trying to tell him he's not allowed to use that word. We all squeezed into a booth intended for a family of four at the donut place and when James's donut dropped sugar all over the table a Hunger Games-style street-brawl erupted with all four kids slamming their hands and faces into the pile of sugar from all corners of the table. It was quite the spectacle. I just sat there getting jostled while I drank my coffee and practiced mindful breathing so I didn't literally pummel someone right there in the middle of the donut shop. It was the world's most annoying game of Hungry Hungry Hippo.

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They appear to be so calm.

And then we went back to church for the 11:00 service and second children's choir performance, during which Mary had a potty accident and began screaming. I swooped in and grabbed her, but she managed to screech "I had a potty accident!!" before we made it all the way out. She screamed and peed (all over me) all the way to the bathroom, where I stripped her down and considered my options. She has never been an accident kid and I had no extra clothes. Numerous helpful old ladies had followed me into the bathroom to see if they could help with the screaming child, but obviously none of them was carrying a pair of size 5 leggings in her purse. So I put her back into her skirt commando and carried her wet tights, undies, and shoes back into the sanctuary to watch the big kids perform. We stood in the back, but when I noticed Mary hiding behind a trash can I wrapped her in one of the fleece courtesy blankets they keep in the church and snuggled her into my shoulder. Later, a friend's daughter ran up to us in the parking lot with a pair of pants and some undies for Mary to put on. It takes a village!

Since the kids were obviously in need of a few hours of down time after the crazy morning, it was good that we had two concurrent Scout meetings and dinner plans scheduled for Sunday afternoon. The giant meltdown Wes had upon arriving home was certainly not unexpected. Amazingly we coaxed him to eat a hot dog (lying down on the runner in the upstairs hallway) and then he perked up because we had a freak thunder-sleet storm.

I managed to coax him into the car by telling him his Scout meeting was near the location of the huge sinkhole that opened up not far from our house and that maybe we could go check it out on the way home.

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Sinkhole tourism!
We had a nice dinner with our new babysitter and everyone was in bed asleep by 7:30. Olympics, cross stitch, and beer is a perfectly lovely way to wind down the day and I am really looking forward to this next two weeks.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

More cataloguing of the mundane

I didn't know this about myself, but apparently after Christmas I no longer have any use for the things that seemed so wonderful before, like jeans and sweaters and boots and daydrinking. It has been not warm all week long and I keep throwing on a dress and tights (because of the winter shaving situation only, not because I am dressing for warmth) and running outside without a coat on only to be surprised and disappointed every time that I am horribly uncomfortable. Yesterday I wore Birkenstocks all day and I was FREEZING. Not today. Today was one of those weird days where it gets colder all day instead of warmer so I wore jeans and a tshirt with a fleece and WOOL SOCKS AND BEAN BOOTS. Much better. Yes, I know it is February. We haven't had winter in three years, so you can imagine it has come as kind of a shock.

It would seem based on a quick check of the archives that I lost the ability to weave a single grocery store poop diaper into a thousand side splitting words of hilarious oversharing and that all you are left with are half-hearted recaps with a bunch of phone pictures. Or maybe it's just that no one really poops in their pants around here anymore. Almost never! And sometimes the hilarious things can't really be shared publicly. The only thing I will mention is that a couple of weeks ago someone in our family attended an all-weekend human development seminar and after that happens you have really crossed a line. The line between normal families and families in which you can converse at length with one of the children about IUDs.

And NO ONE wants to hear about that, right??

AND NOW FOR THE BREEEZY RECAP FULL OF PHONE PICTURES.

Mary let me choose her clothes this morning, which she never lets me do, probably because my choices are always WAY LESS PINK than hers. I have a thing for practical jeans and sweaters. Today I tried to honor her style by pairing her Superman tshirt and leggings with a flouncy gray tulle skirt she loves. Then I pulled her hair into what she calls a "rowing ponytail." We were both pleased.

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She was feeling very mature and went to the kitchen to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, that she gave to James. It was quite a nice morning (probably because we let Wes awaken slowly by watching a soothing video of a cat nursing ten kittens instead of playing marching band music at top volume outside his door. I should really get around to writing a parenting book someday).

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I rowed in a race on Saturday morning called the Winter Warrior. The race itself is 8K, the whole length of the lake. You also row down to the start and then back to the boathouse at the end, which means you row the whole lake twice for a total of 16K. It was SO HARD. But it felt SO GOOD. Someone got an awesome picture of us as we went under one of the bridges. It was truly the perfect day for a race. I even got to see the kids, who were lined up (in a weird coincidence) on another one of the bridges for a Scout parade that was happening at the same time).

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I like a sport you can do in cozy woolen socks.

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Pre-race selfie: feeling strong and excited! Let's do this! Post-race selfie (not shown): Similar, but more blotchy and exhausted looking. Plus side, after we put our boat up someone from the men's eight handed me a Guinness and a breakfast taco. Athletics are the BEST.

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In case any of you were wondering re: the status of my housekeeping abilities.

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Friar Tuck was an acolyte for the fourth Sunday in a row this weekend. He loves it and is also in a friendly competition with his friend Sara to see who can get the most beads on their cross lanyard. Since you get two beads for being the First Acolyte on Communion Sundays, this was kind of a big deal. Plus he really digs the robe.

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The younger kids and I had to wait on a playground for a while on Saturday while Ryan and Charley attended to some Scout business and James wanted me to take this picture of him being ferocious.

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I was back on the lake Monday morning for our usual practice. It is hard to take gym pics when your gym is a lake before sunrise, but the skyline all lit up is so pretty I keep trying. I have about a million of these.

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Mary and I made meatballs for dinner tonight and as usual she was chatting away happily as she stood on a chair at my side. I giggled when she started to tell me about her day (we sometimes share "Amens" which are good things and "Aw mans" which are bad things) and said "My 'aw man' for today is--WOAH" when she finally looked down and saw me mixing the meat mixture by kneading it with my hands. Then she joined in and declared it "cold and disgusting." The directions suggest using a potato masher, which, have you ever tried to wash a potato masher? I save mine strictly for maiming intruders.

This seems like an abrupt way to end this, but I was annoyed about something petty when I left work this afternoon and declared that I would not be taking my power cord with me as an act of defiance. And now my battery is getting low. I SURE SHOWED THEM. TOMORROW IS WEDNESDAY (abruptly and loudly starts sobbing).

Monday, January 29, 2018

Stream of consiousness with your coffee

Not much to report here. It was kind of a mixed weekend. Sometimes the kids were fighty and annoying, sometimes they were wonderful. Dinner last night was a mix of irritability and other low-level annoyances that just made the whole thing feel like a chore. When James started hacking again I sent him off to the nebulizer and happily set to the task of cleaning up and sending everyone else to prepare for bed even though it was only 5:45. A wine-fueled practice session with Charley (he has to learn "Do Lord" in the next eight days to perform at the Children's Sabbath. It is going moderately well) while Ryan put everyone else to bed and we were still done by 7:15. Sometimes you just need to call it a day.

The other day our sitter texted to ask if she could put James's shoes in the washer. I have a weird phobia about washing shoes in the washing machine, so I asked politely if something disgusting had happened to them. She replied that they stunk so bad she had to drive with the windows open, but then considerately qualified that with "But I'm pregnant, so things smell extra strong to me right now." I asked her just to put them on the back porch for now and said I would figure it out when I got home. I was a bit surprised since if anyone's shoes smell bad enough to offend someone it's Wes's. I've never noticed James's shoes before. But then yesterday he took them off at church and YUP. James's shoes STINK. I made a mental note to find a time to get him some new ones, somewhere in the neighborhood of next weekend, but then he wore them while he played in a pond all afternoon and this morning they look like this.

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For the record those are white Converse All Stars. New shoe purchasing timeline has been accelerated.

In better-smelling news, I has an Ordinary Time itch and threw together a King Cake and some jamblaya on Saturday night. Then some friends came over to eat it with us and brought with them a craft beer pairing to go with it. A great night with only minimal kid drama (I am so glad I and the friends I hang out with are past the stage where we pretend we don't use the TV babysitter! I set up the TV at the first part of Moana and said to the kids "When you are done eating, go hit play!" They didn't even both us in the dining room. Beautiful.)

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My house smelled SO GOOD, you guys. And Ryan got the baby in the King Cake leftovers last night. I told him that he will need to make the next King Cake sometime before THIS Ash Wednesday, please and thank you.

We went over to a friend's house on Saturday morning for a Girl Scout cookie recipe open house, which was clever and fun and induced me to buy even more crack than I was planning on originally. Her house backs up to a little pond, and, like the golden retrievers they are, the kids could not WAIT to bust out of her fence and go check it out. Naturally this resulted in Charley reappearing twenty minutes later with a dead fish. See what I mean? Golden retrievers.

And finally, we have one kid who is just having a tough time with things right now. He just reread the part in Wonder when Jack Will says hurtful things about Auggie behind his back, and he cried and cried. He woke up twice on Friday crying about it and didn't go to sleep until he tucked all his stuffed animals in with him. He has been super irritable with the other kids and has been lashing out with his nails. We call him the Angry Cat. I think school has just gotten overwhelming for this sweet kid and we are trying to work with his teacher and the administrator and a couple of other helpers (therapists). Yesterday this kid wanted some Thin Mints and I was about to give him some, but then I said instead "Why don't we take these Thin Mints and get on our bikes and go have a picnic!" The kid was excited and so was I--he hasn't wanted to ride his bike or play outside in weeks! So we got on our bikes and rode a couple of miles away to a park. It was a beautiful day and the sight of his knobby knees pedaling his bike in front of me was so joyful. We ate our cookies on a picnic bench and then jumped off the swings a few times. We took a new route home and went to an open house just for fun. He picked out his bedroom and did some twirls in the middle of the floor. He fell asleep early last night and woke up feeling refreshed instead of exhausted for the first time in a while. So glad for this little break for him. I don't know why things have to be so hard for kids!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Spiders, pants, pants spiders, albuterol, and hair

Let's see how the last forty-eight hours have gone in my house, K?

I have cajoled by force a sobbing child out of bed to get ready for school. Fed him yogurt in the manner of Tina Fey trying to get Amy Pohler to take a prenatal vitamin in Baby Mama. Used every ounce of self control I have to not ALSO lose my mind. Fortunately the yogurt helped enough that he was able to put on his coat and shoes without further histrionics.

I have performed a detailed inspection of a child's pants for poisonous insects after the inside of James's thighs became red and inflamed and incredibly painful to the touch last night while we were eating dinner.  I dosed him up with Benadryl and had him lie on the couch quietly because I sort of remembered some advice from a Girl Scout wilderness first aid class about not running around because it pumps the venom through your body faster.  It also gave me access to the best spotlight in the house so I could take pictures of the rash and text it to friends like WTF is this???  After a bit of back and forth with my friend Rosa we decided Benadryl plus ice plus a shrug of the shoulders was the standard of care in this situation.  We still have no idea what the heck happened but with 10 mLs of Benadryl in his system he slept like a ROCK.

I have administered three albuterol breathing treatments to two different children, morning and night, due to COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL coughing during which their faces turn red and they become short of breath.  For those of you following along at home, this is entering WEEK FIVE for Charley and week two for James.  I emailed their pediatrician yesterday to describe the problem and ask if they should come in and she said, basically, DUH, so I took them in this morning.  Charley gets a suite of decongestants at night and James got a dose of steroids for wheezing and instructions to use the nebulizer every four hours.  The last time James took steroids he hulked out and sank his teeth into the post that holds up the roof of our front porch.  I should probably email his teacher.  Nah.


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I was a bit apprehensive taking them to the pediatrician during flu season. Many sharp "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING" commands were delivered and I took my own pen out of my purse to sign the receipt rather than using theirs. Theirs which are labeled and that even the staff won't touch. Yeesh.

I took Charley to Goodwill after their doctor's appointment this morning so he could buy a pair of pants that actually have a button.  But only after spending a few minutes considering whether he could just wear the buttonless pants at school as long as he didn't tuck in his shirt before realizing that without the button the ZIPPER would also not work, so JUST NO.  It's not often you can save your child from humiliation for five dollars. I'll take it.

I dosed a child with Miralax after his abdomen became distended such that he looked as if he was carrying our first grandchild. After some discussion, it was revealed that the child was having issues in the bathroom. These issues were described in QUITE GRAPHIC TERMS. The next day I had a lengthy conversation about the result of that Miralax while standing in the lobby of Mary's school. The tummy had recovered substantially. It's a girl! Not really.

And finally, here's something new I'm learning about that might surprise you:  Girl hair.  Specifically, why does Mary wake up looking like she was doing field work on Mount Washington every morning?

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Twenty minutes and half a bottle of detangler later, we had made some important progress but both of us were sweating and no longer on speaking terms.

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Look! It's a human child who is loved and cared for by a responsible adult!

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I am hoping for a normal evening tonight without coughing, spiders, tantrums, knots, or any question marks regarding whether or not to go to urgent care.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Into the Woods

Am I the one who has been operating in a weird in-between state for the past TWENTY NINE DAYS in which no one has school and there is plenty of work to be done except NO TIME AT ALL and everyone is off their schedule and out of whack and man, that was really fun for the first TWENTY DAYS (TWEEENNNTTTYY!) but now, OMG someone just make me operate on a schedule again PLEASE. For all of our digestive system's sakes.

I got to that point this weekend (after my conference last week), and then we still had school off on Monday to contend with. Often Mary will have school when the boys are off and I use those days for things I consider to be Big Kid Activities, hiking or rock climbing or roller skating, but Mary was home with us too so I really wasn't sure what we would do with our day. I had just fired up the TV and settled into the upstairs couch with my laptop to try and squeeze in some work on one of my syllabi when my friend told me that Yes, we were absolutely going through with our plan to take the kids on a 3.5 mile hike today NO EXCUSES and I found myself gathering everyone into the car.

I am so glad I was forced into this situation because it was really lovely, even when we realized we were off the trail and accidentally turned our 3.5 mile hike into a 4 mile hike.

Seven children in the woods, what could go wrong?

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The kids were often miles ahead of the moms. We all got a workout, fresh air, AND alone time with our peers. Hiking is amazing.

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Kids? What kids?

There were numerous stream crossings. Surprisingly none of these ended in catastrophe.

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There was some fun and potentially dangerous rock scrambling. When we got to the top of one hill, Mary stopped me and pointed up. "Mama. Look at how close the sky is to us now" she said reverently.

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Mary was borderline amazing. I say borderline because she got pissed at mile 2.5 that she wasn't able to lead the pack of boys and refused to walk anymore. After some expert negotiating by my friend Cindy and some agreed-to turns and a stopwatch, we were finally able to proceed. But we still took turns carrying her a LOT.

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Expert negotiating in progress. I will store this away for the next time I attempt to convince children to do things using only volume and hysterical gesticulations.

On her turn she couldn't help it and took off at a run. All six boys ran along behind her.

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Many Dateline NBC jokes later, I was incredibly happy to see the car.

Amazingly we were all still smiling in the "after" picture.

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We decamped immediately for lunch at a restaurant with a playground and a nice beer list.

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And today the high was twenty five degrees and the thought that I was outside prancing around coatless and eating in the sunshine is ABSURD.

The kids and I had a snow day. Ryan stayed home to hold down the fort while I started digging out from work (the finals week, grading hell, Christmas prep to Christmas to New Years Gauntlet, followed by ANOTHER WEEK of kid vacation, followed by a week at a conference AND A SNOW DAY was a lot).

I took this picture of my coffee and candy wrappers that looks positively demure compared to the HUGE PILE of wrappers I just dumped into the bathroom trash can.

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Other benefits to working from home? Adorable interruptions.

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And now I must stop procrastinating and finish figuring out how to make grouped histograms in Matlab, which according to Stack Overflow is basically the white whale of scientific computing.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shop Safety

Ryan was supposed to take the three boys to the Scout derby car workshop this morning, but he mentioned it to Mary and she asked if she could build a car too. OF COURSE SHE COULD, after all they have a sibling division and Wes was building cars at her age anyway. Ryan had an extra car (he's cubmaster), so he told Mary she was welcome to come along, but that she had to change into some work clothes (from the sparkly Christmas dress she had originally chosen). Mary, who despises all pants and only deigns to wear leggings when it is below 50 degrees, FLEW up the stairs and returned with a pair of jeans and a tshirt, then changed right there in the kitchen. Ryan still was going to take all the kids by himself but taking four kids to work with power tools all morning while I sat by the fire in my pajamas working on my syllabi and eating leftover cake seemed like a lot to ask. I was SO GLAD I went (even though the first thing I did was abandon everyone and go inside to have a cup of coffee with my friend M, whose husband was hosting the workshop).

Charley's group is the oldest kids in the pack, so that means they get to use the power tools alone, as long as an adult is watching. I didn't realize this when I was eleven, but eleven year olds are basically adults. It was all I could do to not nudge all the other adults and say "Look at how amazing he is on that drill press, JUST LOOK." That wouldn't be weird, would it?

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Mary and James: Plus one for safety googles. Minus one for bare feet.

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Charley helped Mary with the belt sander.

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Wes and James played a violent game on the trampoline and James came away with giant claw marks on either side of his ear.

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Mary was an experiment in static electricity.

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And then they started attacking each other for real so we adjourned to Whataburger to sit sullenly on a bench until our burgers were ready. (LOOK AT HOW OLD THEY LOOK STAAAAAHHHPPP)

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