Thursday, August 20, 2015

Come on ride the train!

At the risk of alerting the people over at karma, I wanted to tell you something. Keep it quiet, please.

Mary is potty trained.

I know what a smug asshole I sound like when I say that, but before you let me take any credit for this stunning (and, honestly, extremely surprising) achievement, let me tell you our method.

1) Buy adorable, tiny little girl underpants.
2) Post eye rolly Facebook status update featuring a picture of the adorable tiny undies.
3) Put underpants on toddler.

THAT'S IT!!

No M&Ms, no sticker charts, no bribery, no threatening.

Also no coming downstairs with a basket full of dirty clothes to find a child sitting on the couch beside an impressive, man-sized turd, casually watching Thomas the Tank Engine like nothing was wrong.

Yes, that happened with a boy who shall remain nameless. There was screaming "IF YOU CAN'T WATCH TV AND LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AT THE SAME TIME THEN YOU CAN'T WATCH TV ANYMORE!"

After MULTIPLE experiences like that one I swore off potty training. I told other people, "DOOOOOON'T potty train. It SUCKS. Thirty bucks a month for diapers is NOTHING compared to the agony of potty training."

But Mary's teacher told us back in May that she thought she'd be ready for undies by October. OH HOW I LAUGHED once I got in the car. But then the new semester started and homegirl started going potty at school four or five times every day. And her teacher suggested again that we start backing up this behavior at home by putting her in undies some weekend. Finally, because I still have two or three shreds left of the people-pleaser I used to be, I relented and bought some undies for Mary.

The first day she wore undies we decided to have a quiet day at home, to give her the best chance at success. By eleven o'clock in the morning it was clear that we all needed to get OUT OF THE HOUSE. Fourthbaby has to hit the ground RUNNING. So I packed three extra outfits in my purse and we headed downtown in the car to goof around and have lunch. She made it all the way downtown (twenty-five minutes in the car). She made it out of the parking garage and partway down the bike trail and then when we decided to go back to our car and find lunch she made it all the way back to the hotel whose parking garage we were using, walked to the bathroom without protest, allowed me to put her on the potty, and then PEED LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.

I shrieked with excitement like a not-normal person.

Then I took a picture to commemorate the occasion but didn't post it to Facebook because I noticed she wasn't wearing shoes and I didn't want to get called Brittany Spears.

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Also this was at the Four Seasons, where we parked. Baby Girl likes her bathrooms FANCY.

She then stayed dry through lunch (though she asked to be taken to the men's room about fourteen times during our meal and Ryan took her, but with no actual going potty, her shoes were on by this point), all the way home in the car, and even THROUGH A NAP, when she fell asleep in the car and we didn't want to wake her to put on a diaper.

At this point I thought maybe there was something to her teacher's assertion that she was ready to potty train that I had previously dismissed as CRAZYTALK.

We've had a few accidents here and there, mostly when she is tired and never because she was distracted by Thomas the Tank Engine and not even every day. There is a purple plastic hippo stool our neighbor gave us that I thought we'd never use because we've never before potty trained a child who was short enough to require a stool, but if that stool isn't in there she screams "TOES!!!" until we fetch it for her and then very deliberately puts her toes on it. I think that might be something she has to do at school to ensure she doesn't scoot back too far and jackknife into the bowl.

This week her teacher stopped putting a diaper on her at naptime and sent her diapers back home with her yesterday afternoon!

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Same dress as previous picture purely by coincidence. Also because I love that dress. Owls!!

It's been almost two weeks in full-time undies and everything seems to be going well. She even tells US when she needs to go. Often she tells me in the car as we are juuuusssst pulling out of the parking lot somewhere.

Charley will be nine in November, which means we have been putting diapers on kids for nearly TEN YEARS. Sometimes we were putting diapers on TWO KIDS. And for one horrible two-month period I was buying Size 1's, Size 5's, AND PULLUPS for three different kids (also: alllllls the wines). I have no idea what to do with myself and my encyclopedic knowledge of prescription and OTC diaper rash remedies. Or that giant space under the kitchen sink where we keep all the diapers.

(And before you ask, THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT'S TIME FOR ANOTHER BABY. We have FOUR babies, thankyouverymuch. Babies who know how to make coffee and read whole novels and pee in the potty (or around the potty in some cases). But still. BAYBEEEEES.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I forgot about the part with the alarm clock

You know what the sucky part about back to school is? The part where I have to be awake and functional WHILE IT IS STILL DARK EVERY MORNING. Sure, the kids have continued waking up like little roosters all summer, but that didn't mean *I* had to actually be up and around until about eight or so. This morning I had been screamed at by two different kids and had to rip another kid out of the bathroom where he had unspooled an entire roll of toilet paper into the trashcan for some reason (nerves, maybe? Because this was a kid who was way past the toilet paper curiosity stage) and also had to mediate an epic battle over a pair of blue Crocs that James and Mary both wanted to wear ALL BY SEVEN THIRTY.

ANYWAY! Monday was the long-awaited FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!

The kids were both excited to go to school and we had a week's worth of uniform laundry done and folded and sorted, so it was generally a lot easier than every other day this year is going to be. Score!

We took a bunch of really goofy pictures in the front yard to commemorate the occasion.

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Then we dropped off the little kids and headed to the big kids' school where we were immediately greeted by a line to get onto the property that stretched a HALF MILE down the road and was not moving AT ALL. After trying to go in another way to find a parking place only to get turned around and sent back out onto the main road I parked at a McDonalds two lots away and walked through the parking lot and some woods before we were finally approaching the school. The assistant principal was out directing the (massive amount of) traffic and greeted us cheerfully because what are ya gonna do? You can walk the kids in the first day, which we did, but as soon as we rounded the corner past the cafeteria Charley took off toward his classroom without so much as a glance over his shoulder. I finally caught up with him and managed to give his shoulder a squeeze just as he was running into his classroom. THIS IS A GOOD SIGN.

We thought Wes might be a little more cuddly, but NOPE. He led the way through the labyrinthine elementary school wing like an expert, found his classroom (WELL before I could have found it), called "bye!" over his shoulder and disappeared.

I think next time we'll just let them drive themselves.

Both kids reported GREAT days when I picked them up. When we went to pick up the little kids I had to run back to my car to get something and when I got back in the lobby, this is what I saw.

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SO TIRED.

Also, it has been super hot (normal for August, but still super-annoying) and they don't let the kids out for recess because the heat index is 110F. Instead they are allowed to go out and run twice around the track to get the wiggles out. Wes said "Two laps is not enough." And yesterday he only ran one lap because his shoe came untied and he couldn't find another kid to help him tie it (teachers don't tie shoes, he said). We are all looking forward to the return of cooler temperatures. Like the mid-nineties would be fine.

After pickup we went straight to Dairy Queen. I don't know why they always sit like this but I hope they never stop.

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And then we went home to find THIS SURPRISE (I was still outside getting the little kids out of the car and Charley and Wes were running around asking "can I have a cookie? Can I have a cookie?" and I was like "Dudes, we just had Blizzards. And we don't HAVE any cookies." LITTLE DID I KNOW). Ryan had sneaked home from work for lunch and decided to whip up a batch of M&M cookies real quick. He's amazing.

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So far so good, school wise. Soon we add back in homework and swim lessons and piano and scouts though and then HANG ONTO YOUR FREAKING HATS. Oh, and yesterday I asked the kids to hold hands while we crossed the parking lot at the preschool.

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And also, Mary has been wearing underpants since Friday afternoon. I will not comment further because I don't want to anger the karma, but DUDES. We have had a kid in diapers for almost TEN YEARS.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mary is two!

This morning I woke up feeling a little bit sad about summer coming to an end. We have had a GREAT time and I am not looking forward to going back to dragging them out of bed, making them wear uniforms (although they look so NICE IN THEIR UNIFORMS), and dealing with homework and packing lunches. Having them all to myself has been so lovely! I love watching them be siblings!

That was at seven o'clock.

By nine o'clock it was "IF YOU KEEP STARING AT ME WHILE I UNLOAD THE DISHWASHER I WILL DROP YOU OFF RIGHT NOW."

They are outside playing right now. I was giving off a "find something to do or I will find it for you" vibe.

ANYWAY! Mary turned TWO yesterday!! There were breakfast cupcakes.

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And then she and James had to go to school, which started on Tuesday for them. Late first day of school picture here:

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While they were at school Charley and Wes and I had a MARATHON DAY of getting everything ready for her family party and also going to the water park I'd promised. After I made cupcakes, we started at Target, where I returned eighty bucks worth of uniform pants that I'd found secondhand versions of at the school's uniform sale (for $10, which included two sweatshirts I didn't expect to buy until later this fall) and picked out presents for Mary (fall clothes, a doll dress, and magnetic paper dolls).

Then we quickly ran through Sonic and went to the little city water park. The kids went down a green tube slide that was so scary Charley said "I think I'm going to go do the lazy river for a while to calm my nerves." Then they made me try it. It was absolutely as terrifying as they said. Especially because I haven't had to do something scary like that in a very long time since I've always had the convenient excuse of being pregnant or holding the baby. We spent the next forty-five minutes doing laps around the lazy river in tubes. Then Wes went down the slides ten or twelve more times while Charley stayed in the lazy river and I talked to a friend we happened to run into. I kind of wished I had a book. BIG KIDS ARE AMAZING.

We followed that exhausting trip up with trips to TWO grocery stores for all the party supplies. The first didn't have the right size of mason jars and if I was going to make sangria WE WERE GOING TO HAVE MASON JARS.

We finally made it home around two-thirty where I spent a little less than an hour frosting cupcakes, making sangria, and putting dinner in the crockpot while the kids watched a movie half-awake on the couch. Then we got the little kids (later than normal, still wearing my swimsuit under my jeans and shirt, and with frosting in my hair) and put the finishing touches on everything.

Our wonderful Miss N and her partner over and my sister and niece joined us for dinner. I love when my house is full of fun people! We ate a feast of chicken and vegetarian tacos, cilantro lime rice, black beans, and watermelon (Mary gets her favorite food on her birthday, and every other day this summer). And don't forget peach sangria in mason jars. The kids also wanted their Italian soda in mason jars. And then insisted I cut up peaches to put in their drinks. And then James asked for peaches in his lunch today. That he was going to put in his water bottle. I might have some explaining to do later.

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Mary was so exhausted by the time dinner was over she was resting her head in her hand.

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There were EVEN MORE CUPCAKES! She was so excited and happy when we sang Happy Birthday. So adorable.

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She received a delightfully girly array of presents--Miss N brought her an animal puzzle and some cute outfits, we gave her some fall dresses, my sister gave her a Minnie Mouse Book, Charley and Wes gave her an "Inside Out" coloring book that I strongly suspect they wanted for themselves. She was thrilled with everything, but the piece de resistance was when my sister brought out the NEW UH OH that her mother in law had made her. My sister's MIL made the original Uh Oh two years ago and we have been living in fear of losing it ever since. Mary COULD NOT BELIEVE IT when Katie brought out the new one. She immediately grabbed it and threw the old one on the floor (which made me a little sad even though it was dropped on god knows how many disgusting subway floors on our trip and she refuses to let me have it for the hour required to wash it).

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We all tried to convince her that now she has TWO Uh Oh's, but she insisted she wanted the soft, clean, new one instead of the scratchy gray one. Still, when she woke up this morning, she was clutching the old one to her face. Win?

The only sad part of the night was saying good by to Miss N and Miss M, who are moving out of state soon. Miss N has been loved our kids since Wes was two months old. She's been there for us for after school pickups, made summer fun for the kids when I was doing summer research, helped us juggle sports practices and piano lessons, and taken them each out for special days one on one. She brought the kids to the hospital to meet new siblings. They are at all the birthday parties and christenings. She was there through Charley's tough time and made that paired with Mary's newborn year a lot more tolerable by coming over and helping most afternoons until Ryan came home. Mary has fallen in love with Miss M and for a couple of weeks this summer carried around a Lands End catalog where one of the models looked just like her. When they arrived at our house last night all the kids dropped what they were doing and RAN to the car. In other words, they are family. We are so happy for their new adventure, but we are going to miss them both tremendously. I'm already wondering how I'm going to do it all myself, even though we have perfectly adequate childcare lined up in the fall. Every family needs a Miss N.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

One morning in Maine. Or ten.

Well it's eight-thirty and no one is asleep like they should be and we have to get on a plane in ten hours, but I ate cheese dip and brownies and wine for dinner and tomorrow EVERYONE IS SLEEPING IN THEIR OWN BEDS so I call that a win.

A couple of days ago I told someone that this is the easiest, happiest Maine trip we've been on yet as a family, and I immediately regretting saying that because I didn't want to jinx myself, but other than Mary developing a raging upper respiratory infection and refusing to eat or sleep for three days, it's been pretty freaking awesome. Wait--Wes did bring a violent stomach virus into the house (those street jellybeans may have been free, but WE PAID FOR THEM DEARLY) which took down sixty percent of the family all told, a situation made much more inconvenient by the fact that there were ten people and one bathroom, but that was like a week ago so it hardly seems worth mentioning. I would have almost forgotten about it myself except that I had to bring the puke bowls back downstairs while I was packing this afternoon. So I guess what I am saying is that even though the universe tried to strike us down with plagues of vomit and snot, we had a wonderful vacation that actually felt like a vacation for all of us (except for some tense moments a few nights ago when it became clear that Mary planned to never sleep again and be as loud as possible all night long).

My sister and niece were here when we arrived (loudly, at eleven o'clock at night, after vomiting in the driveway) and stayed for the first two nights of our visit. We had SUCH a good time together and so did the cousins. Immediately after breakfast (which happened promptly at the crack of six-fifteen every morning thanks to Maine's position closer to the Artic circle and very far east in the time zone) everyone headed to the dock for fishing and swimming and stayed there ALL DAY LONG.

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The first crab was caught within minutes of Charley's feet hitting the floor on his first morning.

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Mary hated, then loved the freezing water (we weren't torturing her, by the way, in this picture someone was actually getting Mary OUT of the freezing water after she CLIMBED IN OVER THE RAIL OF THE DOCK BY HERSELF.

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Swimming swimming swimming.

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Lovey break.

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Then the PIRATES came back this year like they do every year. There were clues in the banana bowl.

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And everyone got their pirate gear on. Mary learned to say "ARRGH!"

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The explorers followed clues all over the front yard and the beach before finally finding BURIED TREASURE!!

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ARRRGH

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One morning my sister took allll the kids out on the rowboat. She tried to leave Mary behind with us but Mary stood on the dock hysterically screaming "I BOAT!!! I BOAT!!! I BOAT!!!" at the top of her lungs.

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Then we went and did a little tubing.

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James was SO EXCITED to go tubing alone this year. He was so brave!

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The kids seemed to need an outing one day so we attempted a trolley ride and lunch out. It was sort of a mini disaster, what with all the ketchup the kids drank before our order was ready, but Ryan and I split a Shipyard and sat at a different table, so how bad could it have possibly been?

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Did not realize about the lobster sign until recently.

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We saw this sign on the way in. They were totally bluffing because we were HIGHLY UNRULY.

After that we all needed a little TV reset time.

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And the next day called for a little historical enrichment so we drove to a lighthouse about an hour away that has really awesome rocks that the kids like to climb. Charley "didn't want to get puked on" after what happened on the way in from the train, so he rode like this.

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The other reason we went on a day trip was because it was too freezing for the Texans to go swimming. Mary yelled when we got her out of the car "JACKET JACKET JACKET JACKET" and Wes started shivering in line to go in the lighthouse. Kind of a perfect day to visit a lighthouse actually. Even if James had to visit the men's room every forty-five minutes, which is why he and Ryan are not in many pictures.

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Charley and Wes caught back up with their friends across the street from last year and the four or five boys spent every spare minute crabbing and fishing off the dock, walking down to the boat ramp to catch hermit crabs, and swinging on a rope swing in their yard. So boy heaven, pretty much.

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One night they all walked to the public float to fish for mackerel. All the boys got bites at the same moment. So exciting!!

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On Sunday it was raining so we all went to church at the tiny Methodist church in town. The congregation was warm and lovely, the pastor walked right up and introduced herself to the kids, the music was familiar, they had a ministry service dog that immediately entranced the kids and then slept up front during the service. When Mary loudly banged her head on the hymnal rack then started shrieking and I was walking up the aisle to take her out everyone told me "It's NO BIG DEAL! Please don't go! We love kids!" We stayed for coffee hour afterward and got to know some locals over homemade peach crisp and coffee. I am seriously ready to pick up and move.

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For our second week we signed Charley and Wes up for Sea and Science Camp, which promised sailing, rowing, and marine science, aka perfect perfect and more perfect. I was SO excited when they told me they had two spots. I arranged all of their stuff the night before, getting a huge kick out of the packing list: lunch, towel, life jacket. What could be better than that??

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The kids were EXCITED Monday morning and when we all walked outside to head for camp (which was within walking distance, SWOON) our friends were passing the house. Waiting for them became our routine and something all of us looked forward to.

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The first thing Charley said when we picked him up after lunch was "IT WAS AWESOME. CAMP IS AWESOME. I LOVE IT." Also, they had learned to row a boat, the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton, and started working on knots. They started each day with a weather briefing and kept a scientific journal all week. They had a touch tank on the dock where they could touch lobsters and crabs and anemones. They pulled a seine net in from the water and cataloged all the creatures they found. The kids were in HEAVEN. The second day they went SAILING and Charley came home rattling off sailboat parts with an adorable New England accent (You steer with the "tillah") and then asked Ryan to set up the sailing dinghy so he could KEEP SAILING IN THE AFTERNOON. This was, likely, the happiest moment of Ryan's life. He and Wes and Charley went out and had a BLAST.

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Camp sailboats (Ryan and I were so excited about camp that we went on a recon mission to check it out when everyone was asleep the night before).

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At home.

While the big kids were at camp, we got to do fun things with James and Mary, like go to the harbor for ice cream and go to the beach and swim.

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Which is what we were doing when Mary got into some blue oil paint at an art studio.

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We took them to a beach.

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After camp every day we did walks to the candy store and EVEN MORE SWIMMING and made smores one night.

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Unclear on the concept.

The kids tried steamed clams and chowder (chowdah).

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Charley and Wes tried to get a seagull to land on James.

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The last day of camp everyone went to an open house at a marine research lab. The campers got to do lots of hands on science experiments with the all the postdocs and grad students. Ryan and I took James and Mary too for the public open house. The shore facility was my favorite... James got to collect a plankton specimen and take some other measurements. The scientists were WONDERFUL and he had them all to himself for a while. Wes tells everyone that plankton make 60% of the world's oxygen and James happily chimes in "Thanks Plankton!"

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Mary wasn't feeling the science love and later turned out to have a massive ear infection (diagnosed at urgent care and much improved by the time we had to get on the plane thank goodness). She also drank some of an experiment made of seawater mixed with red cabbage dye and then asked for MORE when I took the cup away. GAG.

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Most mornings Charley would put his Cheerio bowl in the sink and tell us "I'm going to go haul my traps" as he shouldered his life jacket. Then he would skip down to the dock and pull the lobster trap he borrowed from his friend to check the bait. He caught TWO LOBSTERS (then threw them back because you get in big trouble if you mess with lobsters around here).

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Friday afternoon our camp friends stopped by for a glass of wine and some beach time on the last evening of our trip. The kids put on their life jackets and jumped into the water and swam so far my dad got nervous and followed them in the dinghy. They spent over an hour climbing the rocks and splashing around. James was the swimmer of the summer, going from timid on the beach, afraid of what critters might be down there, to jumping off the railing of the dock, swimming across the bay with the other boys, and letting my dad tow him around hanging onto the rowboat.

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I sat with my friends and Ryan and my parents on the porch and we watched them having the time of their lives. When everyone was shivering we wrapped them in towels and fed them warm pizza before, regretfully, saying goodbye until next summer.

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You guys, we had SUCH a good time. It was more than the sum of its parts--the sense of family, independence, tradition, fun, adventure, rest. The kids came home more confident and closer to each other (and also TOTALLY FILTHY, as evidenced by the PILE OF SAND left in the bathtub tonight after bedtime). The kids LOVED having my parents so close all the time. My parents took such good care of us with food, and laundry, cheering up crabby kids, taking kids on walks, listening intently to their camp stories, celebrating their fish catches, the list is ENDLESS. We did NOT want to leave. It seemed so unfair to take the kids back home to sit in a classroom after their amazing experiences on the water, but this morning (this post obviously having been written in two chunks because it is SO LONG) we packed everyone up at 2:30 and drove to the airport where we walked directly onto the plane after going through security because we were really late for reasons I still don't understand. told them that if we were in Maine all the time it wouldn't be as special as it is now, but I am beginning to wonder if a few more weeks would really take away from the magical time we had this summer and would it hurt to try? We made it home after a screamy (the lady in front of Mary kept shooting dirty looks back at me when Mary screamed until I finally met her gaze and stared until she looked away, I mean seriously, lady, she has an ear infection and neither of us is enjoying this any more than you are) but otherwise uneventful flight and everyone was happy to see our house again. School starts in a week for the big kids and work starts for me. Ryan goes back on Monday. No one understands why it is so hot and why we can't walk to the store like we did in Maine. None of us can wait until next year!