Sunday, March 29, 2015

Floors floors FLOOOORS

So, after spending a wonderful but not at all relaxing weekend away we returned home to jump right back into simultaneously, the first days of school back after Spring Break and a major home remodel. We like to confuse and overwhelm the kids as much as possible when we can. So Monday while I was at work, movers came and took everything out of our house and put it in the garage. Including the fridge, the washer and dryer, and the range. The kids ran around in the empty living room (hilarious! I went to the store and when I came home Wes exclaimed "Papa let me ride my bike in the house!" and James said "ME TOO!!") and I cheerfully made school lunches on our remaining square foot of counter space, taking trips back and forth to the garage for food.

The next morning we had a super-fun breakfast picnic on the tile. Bye bye tile!

And when I came home from work Tuesday afternoon EVERYTHING WAS GONE. Our disgusting carpet, on which we have potty trained three children, GONE. Ryan's nice tile job in the kitchen (which I loved and he hated), GONE. The gross vinyl in the laundry room, GONE. The only thing that remained was the tile in the foyer which according to the floor guys, had been set in CONCRETE rather than thinset, which is one way to slap a house together in six weeks, YAY SUBURBIA.

That night I gamely made the kids some stouffer's mac and cheese and cut up some fruit, which we ate on the picnic table on the back porch because just because we have no appliances or furniture doesn't mean we have to eat every meal out, pssshhht.

We had another breakfast picnic on Wednesday morning. This is fun! This is fun fun fun.

Wednesday was the day they went after the tile in the foyer with a jackhammer thing and also the day they covered the entire house in a thick layer of dust such that it looked like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Wednesday was also the day that the five of us came home after an afternoon at a friend's house, prepared to dutifully nuke another delightful Stouffer's product to be eaten on the back porch, to find this thing on the floor directly in front of the stairs, along with multiple piles of dusty rubble and two shop vacs the size of small tool sheds. GONE were both my entryway tile and resolve to continue eating dinner at home!! WHO WANTS TO GO TO DOUBLE DAVES?

I managed to troop everyone past all the fascinating death traps and up into the master bedroom where we played video games until it was an appropriate time to go to dinner. Most kids would be excited to go to Double Dave's for dinner in the middle of the week, but mine demonstrated their feelings by a) refusing to get in the car, b) refusing to get out of the car, c) complaining loudly and throwing cups when I told them they would be having water instead of fountain drinks, and d) unleashing what I call the "primal scream" when a brother needed to get by to exit the booth.

James screamed so loud his entire body started shaking. Wes had such a tantrum that I had to leave Mary sitting in Charley's lap near the door of the restaurant then walk back to the car to sling him over my shoulder. I couldn't even threaten to take them home because home was a Vesuvian wasteland littered with limb-removing power tools!! It was SO SPECIAL. After that we dropped Wes off at choir and went home to find the workers back inside, cleaning up the rubble and packing away the death tool.

Thursday. Enough said.

Thursday afternoon I frantically graded exams until five o'clock then hastily picked up Mary and James and drove across town to a burger restaurant with a playground to meet my mom, who had taken Charley and Wes to the aquarium after school. We played for a few hours until it was bedtime and then Ryan took the kids home while I went to a second restaurant to meet my monthly meetup friends. I was excited to go home after that because that was they day they were going to be spraying the color on the floor. I opened the door with great anticipation to find... not what I was expecting. It was SO WEIRD looking, which the guy had told me to expect, but I hadn't been exactly prepared for. I took off my shoes as instructed and carefully picked my way through the house to the stairs. Ryan and I carefully avoided eye contact and any mention of floors and went to bed.

The next morning the contractor was on the porch as we herded all the children out the door for school. Ryan stayed behind to talk to him about our concerns while I did dropoff and headed to my lab. Drop off was a total cluster that day by the way and between the screaming kids and the stress about the floor I just about lost it. Thank goodness there was a catered board meeting in the classroom next to my lab because I stress-ate the heck out of some cinnamon rolls when no one was watching.

I stayed nervous all morning until I could finally leave then olympic-race walked all the way to my car and drove home to check it out. I nervously peeked in the door from the porch and IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

I finally exhaled and thanked the contractor profusely. He said it would look even better after a second coat of wax and that we could walk on it by the afternoon. I went to my friend's house to change clothes and use the bathroom, did my olympic power walk, picked up the kids, and came home AND IT LOOKED GREAT. We had our normal Friday afternoon party on my neighbor's porch until Ryan brought home some Little Caesar's and we headed to my parents' for the night to avoid the noxious fumes of the drying floor wax. We had a great time with them, watching movies in sleeping bags and eating waffles.

Saturday my dad came back with us and we moved ALLL the furniture back in. When I say "we" I mean "Ryan and my dad" because I'm still supposed to be careful with the lifting. I mostly offered moral support and made sandwich and drink runs.

But you guys! LOOK. I am SO EXCITED about how it came out. Having hard floors everywhere means we can put the leaf in the kitchen table and put it in the dining room and ALL SIX OF US CAN SIT THERE COMFORTABLY.

Tonight we used the table for the first time (I made fried chicken) and it was JUST LIKE Downton Abbey. Seriously you guys, I practically needed walkie talkies to ask Ryan to pass the salad.

The best part was when Mary grew tired of her meal and started flinging handfuls of it over her shoulder, I WASN'T DYING ON THE INSIDE because all I had to do was sweep it up later! THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY. Also revolutionary, Ryan and I SAT ON THE COUCH after the kids went to bed instead of on our bed, which sounds romantic but with all of the computers and books and needlework projects is really just kind of a messy hassle. So YAY DOWNSTAIRS FURNITURE.

Next up we are adding some things to the kitchen and then I will swear off home improvement for the rest of my life because HOO BOY do we not have time for this even though the results are amazing and it is totally worth it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All the time!

As I mentioned last time we went on the annual All Church Retreat last weekend, at a beautiful camp in a river valley in the Hill Country. Complicating matters this year was a forecast calling for five to eight inches of rain and a flash flood watch, along with a mental highlight reel of a made-for-TV movie I watched twenty years ago about a summer camp bus that was swept from the road by a flash flood in the Texas Hill Country. I prepared for this eventuality by buying ponchos for the whole family. Because it isn't childhood if you aren't forced to sweat it out at camp in a four dollar sheet of plastic with a head hole.

Ryan took a half day so that we could leave early and hopefully get to camp before dark; in case flash flooding blocked the entrance to the camp I wanted to be stuck on the inside with all the s'mores ingredients instead of on the outside with the grouchy, disappointed children. As luck would have it the weather held and we used the extra time to stop for a beer tasting flight and some soft pretzels at a brewery about an hour from camp. We also took a few moments to admire the Howitzer on display at the museum near where we parked our car. I think all family fun church retreats should start with beer and guns. Hashtag Texas.

Here is the before picture we took of all the happy excited kids on the way into camp.

After we speed-unpacked the car, based on a tip from a friend that the big rain was a'comin', we ponchoed up the kids and headed for the lodge for some bedtime brownies and hot chocolate and benign neglect. Mr. Montessori (right) was extremely concerned that his "coat has no arms" and ultimately refused to wear it.

At bedtime that night James fell off his top bunk while insisting he climb down alone on a trip to the bathroom. He did something to his foot that managed to wake him up several times in the night until I gave him some ibuprofen and let him sleep with me. Charley and Wes had their own room this year. Mary is still Not a Fan of her sleep tent but settled quickly once she realized we were not letting her out. It was a late night for everyone but Charley managed to rally after his four bowls of sugar cereal and two hot chocolates

Wes disappeared shortly after breakfast and when I passed by this ditch full of muddy water on my way to orientation I found him. Later he started shivering so Ryan had to take him back to the cabin for a warm shower and some dry clothes (we forgot towels, so anyone who showered on this trip dried off with a fleece Lightning McQueen blanket). Later our friend showed us a washer and drier he'd found in the back of the kitchen and gave us super secret double dog permission to use it, WHICH WE DID AND HOW.

That afternoon I realized I hadn't laid eyes on Wes in a while and turned around to find him dragging this huge tree around the outside of the dining hall (once again soaking wet from playing outside in the rain all day with a whole pack of kids. I assume there was also lots of hot chocolate consumption, but I don't know because I was on an hour-long walk with a friend and Ryan was napping with the little kids CAMP IS THE BEST PLACE EVER).

Charley and his friend C spent a couple of hours dragging brush into the fire pit.

James discovered his love for the retro Big Wheel.

The swimming hole was down because of a problem with the dam, but this did not stop Charley and Wes from having some waterfront fun.

This probably would have been the year I let them swim to the raft, but they got to walk to it instead and it was just as exciting.

Their friends joined them after a while. Then the dinner bell rang and the walked back across the river and climbed up the swim ladder. Then had a few more cups of hot chocolate. With marshmallows.


Charley roasted six marshmallows at once then put them all into s'mores then squirreled them away to a private little corner and ate every single one. Because the only rule at camp is there are no rules. Unsurprisingly he woke up with QUITE the hangover.

Then it was time for MY favorite part, the sing-a-long! A mix of John Denver, camp songs, and camp-vesper-like spiritual songs. I would do this every day if I could. Okay, I do do this every day in my car. DANCE, THEN, WHEREVER YOU MAY BE, I AM THE LORD OF THE DANCE SAID HE...

S'more time continued unabated. In the background a herd of glow-stick wearing kids was hurtling around the grounds on scooters. It was like a four foot tall rave out there.

Mary despaired of ever sleeping or eating on anything resembling a schedule ever again.

The next morning was sunny and muddy from two days of rain. As per tradition, they put out all the leftover food so that my children could supplement their sensible egg casserole with two kinds of ice cream, sugar cereal, cobbler, and hot chocolate with enormous pink marshmallows. Mary explored the fireplace in the dining hall while Charley and Wes finished their Buddy the Elf breakfast.

On the way back to our cabin she slipped and fell directly onto her back in a mud puddle and we had to change her into our last remaining dry clothes--James's shirt and a pair of pink sweatpants.

Next stop was chapel, where James became so irate about...something?... that Ryan had to take him out. Even though Ryan took him some distance away he was still screaming "I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I AM NEVER GOING TO STOP SCREAMING NEVER NEVER NEVER I WANT MOMMY" so loud that our pastor had to pause during the communion liturgy to keep from laughing.

He was asleep before we got back to the main road. Everyone was asleep before we got back to the main road. Camp is exhausting, but so fun and so wonderful. You feel loved the second you arrive (and the dining hall smells like brownies and is filled with friends) to the second you strap your screaming children into the car after chapel Sunday morning.

We stopped at Whataburger on the way home for lunch and were too fried to care that Wes wasn't wearing shoes or that everyone in the whole family was visibly dirty and disheveled (or that Wes's toenails were caked in mud hashtag Texas). This made it all the more hilarious when a cute couple and their sleeping newborn sat down next to us, much cleaner but definitely even more exhausted than us. Mary started screaming about something and I whisked her out of there with the quickness so she wouldn't wake the newborn and when I got back the mom looked at me and said softly "I cannot imagine having four of them. How do you...?" her voice trailed off. I promised her that it wouldn't be this hard forever, that big kids are pretty amazing and little kids are hilarious. And then a screaming fight broke out over some extra french fries someone found in a bag or someone touching someone else's leg or something.

We got home and threw everyone in the shower, forced them to eat some normal food, and then PUT THEM TO BED because DANG. Judging by the way I flaked out during my class on Tuesday I'd say we're all still adjusting to real life again after Spring Break. Which is why this post is four days late. AGAIN. Dang it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ain't No River Wide Enough

For spring break this year I decided to give the children the gift of unstructured time, meaning I gently suggested that if they didn't want to help me pack things in preparation for the floor people, build an enormous cabinet for the kitchen, or clean things, then they best find something better to do. But before all that, on Monday when James and Mary still had school and I wanted to sneak in a big kid activity, we headed to a park we enjoy for what was supposed to be a morning of hiking.

I thought: What a great way to get my walk in and spend time with the kids and do something new! They thought: LET'S WADE IN THAT FREEZING WATER.

Air temperature: 63 degrees. Water temperature: I don't even want to know.

Giant logs, fast flowing water, and rocks as far as the eye can see? It's paradise.

They had a blast moving these two huge logs across this little stream together, one on each end. Adorable teamwork. Then Wes slipped and became completely soaked. He was unfazed. Shortly after that, and completely without my permission or prior knowledge, Charley was SWIMMING ACROSS a deeper part of the creek. He scrambled onto a rock ledge, yelled across the river that "That was so cold it made my chest queasy" then climbed up on top of a huge rock. It was a triumphant moment.

Wes continued to play until he started feeling really cold, so he stripped off his wet clothes and wrapped up in my friend's sweatshirt and her daughter's fleece Anna and Elsa blanket. He curled into my lap while I talked to my friend and we watched Charley up on top of his rock.

This was quite a nice time until Charley realized that the only way back to the car was by swimming back across the river. This was a problem because he was now completely freezing. I encouraged him to JUST DO IT because I had no other ideas. We cheered him on, we clapped for him, we chanted his name, but he only became more and more hysterical. Finally, I rolled up my pants and waded in. I got tantalizingly close but getting all the way over to him meant walking through waist-deep, fast-moving water and there was no freaking way. He paced up and down looking for an alternative way to get off the rock. Finally I found another, shallower way to get closer (I only had to go in up to my hips, not to my waist, a small improvement).

My friend, a mother of two sweet girls who would probably never swim across a stream in MARCH then require rescuing, took a flipbook of pictures of the exciting, not at all approved or recommended by my physical therapist for patients recovering from spinal disk injuries, rescue.

The same friend, who had worn appropriate rubber boots, waded across a shallow place upstream to retrieve Charley's shoes. We are delightful park company.

Despite blasting the heater the whole way, we were all freezing the whole way home. We were supposed to do a quick change then run to the grocery store but instead I took a twenty-minute excruciatingly hot shower and came downstairs to find both boys wearing cozy, dry clothes, wrapped in blankets and watching a movie. I settled into the couch with another blanket and my book. It was glorious.

The rest of the break has not been nearly so fun or restful, but it has been incredibly productive. Tuesday the guys come to replace all the flooring on the first floor, so I've been packing up boxes of stuff, cleaning, purging, and also on the side building a large wooden bookshelf in the garage with my dad. It's going to hold the backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, frog tank, cookbooks, and even have a place to display some pretty pottery I normally keep put away because I live with The Borrowers. I figure I'm safe because the shelf is seven feet off the ground and they won't even know it's up there.

Tomorrow we go on our annual all-church retreat, which takes place at a summer camp alongside a river in a beautiful canyon. We are all beyond excited about it though slightly apprehensive about the five to eight inches of rain expected to fall overnight Friday. Charley said he wants to cuddle up under blankets in our cabin and listen to the rain fall as we sing songs together (nature/nurture?). We may need canoes to get back home on Sunday, but DANGIT we are going to have a BLAST.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Our Saturday: Walking and science. And more walking.

Ryan got back from his trip on Friday afternoon and to help him relax back into the rhythms of family life we had scheduled three! fun! family! activities! for Saturday. We hit the ground running at 8:00 AM with the pancake breakfast to support the high school band (I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL BAND AND THIS WAS THE ONE FOR *MY* HIGH SCHOOL). Pancakes were a good way to get everyone motivated to GET IN THE FREAKING CAR OMGah.

It also enabled Wes to realize his lifelong dream of dipping sausage into chocolate syrup.

Wes had soccer after that which is why he appears in his soccer uniform in all of these pictures. Ryan took James and Mary to watch while I headed for the treadmill for my olympic racewalking and Charley watched the Food Network with a group of senior citizens.

The biggest event of the day happened after soccer, though, because the huge university in our town has a big open house for K12 kids every year. We've gone a couple of times before and learned some tricks, like bring a picnic so that when someone starts freaking out with the hangry you can make a sandwich on the spot instead of standing in line with six hundred high school kids from across the state. The other trick is to not attempt to do science AND engineering AND performing arts AND humanities because you will spend your entire day walk walk walking around the campus and you won't get to see as much. So we took our picnic and found a good parking spot and set out. The kids were like little electrons, running actual circles around us as we pushed Mary in the stroller all the way across campus to this dorm that was giving tours so we could show the kids the tiny room they'd get to share with a stranger if they worked hard in school. They were highly impressed with the loft bed, probably because it was a good seven feet tall and promised certain death if they fell out of it.

After that we headed back to the engineering and science area because OBVIOUSLY and also because that is ALLLL Charley wanted to do. We found a nice picnic table close to some of the activities and got a few calories in everyone before they went to go play. Wes diligently built a block tower as tall as he is. Later it started to tip and instead of getting upset he kicked it the rest of the way over then cheered. All the students around him cheered with him.

Charley built with Legos.

James got a long lesson in construction from one of the students, who was incredibly patient and kind. James loved it.

When Mary saw Ryan start to put the wooden blocks back in the bin she screamed to get out of her stroller. Mary loves putting things in bins. Once I let her out she filled an entire bin and asked for another. #thanksmontessori

Later, Charley got to experience liquefaction by standing in a bucket of wet sand while a grad student hit the bucket with a sledgehammer. He sank down to his ankles! SCIENCE.

James got to stand on top of this box full of sand then slide down with it when they opened the door. The Sunday School song "The wise man built his house upon the rock" now has new meaning for him.

Later the kids (and Ryan) spent a long time looking at motors in the mechanical engineering building. They also had a nuclear energy exhibit with mouse traps and ping pong balls that had Wes utterly transfixed for thirty minutes before it was accidentally set off and shot ping pong balls and mouse traps shooting out in all directions. It was pretty awesome. And probably a good reminder about why we treat nuclear energy so carefully.

Mary took her picnic on the road.

I don't have any pictures of the ten-foot tall trebuchet that shot water balloons at the kids but it was pretty sweet. Wes liked doing the shooting and being hit with water equally. He stood with a pack of kids who screamed every time the balloon was launched and cheered when someone got hit. We headed back over to physics to take core samples of cupcakes next.

Then went up to the roof to check out the telescopes (and force everyone to take a family picture). James very bravely touched an astronaut mask, which he is terrified of. Wes engaged a girls' honor society from a nearby town. Charley spent a long time talking to the grad students about UV light.

And then before we knew it it was time to walk back over to the stadium for marching band practice. The walk was far, FAR, FAR for everyone's little legs. There was no running in circles, only resigned trudging. James kept yawning audibly and telling us sleepily "College is FUN". I thought we'd have some time to rest once we got there, but we had to wait in this huge crowd instead. The kids laid on the concrete floor eating the last of the apples from our picnic. Then they opened the gates and we got to walk down onto the field, which gave everyone their second wind. Charley is too cool to do an endzone dance.

Then we learned how to march with the band and I attempted to not get all fangirl on the actual real live band members. IT WAS SO COOL. Here Charley is being very frustrated that no one else is taking this seriously.

Mary was a total natural.

Wes and Mary got restless so Ryan took them back to an open area and did...something.

And then they announced that it was time to march out of the stadium with the band and before I knew what was happening Charley was running at full speed into the crowd. James and I scrambled to catch up with him and found him right behind the band, marching along with his hook 'em horns in the air. He (and I) was (were) having SO MUCH FUN (reliving the glory days) that we decided to keep marching even though James was exhausted. We blindly followed the band up hills and around corners and I kept thinking we were almost to our destination. Right when I thought we couldn't go another step I checked my phone and saw a text from Ryan that said "Wes tired, meet you at the car." Which was fine except James was completely exhausted and I'm not supposed to carry him and also I didn't know where I was or how to get to the car. After some aimless walking and directions from a policeman (we had parked sort of close to a major campus landmark, hurray foresight!) I parked the kids on a bench and examined a map for several minutes before setting off hopefully down a leafy pedestrian street, past a fountain, down several flights of stairs, two more blocks, then turned left and realized we still had like three blocks to go. Both kids were totally awesome but they were fading fast. James was lagging so far behind we had to stop every twenty-five yards or so to let him catch up. It was like climbing Mount Everest except horizontal. I REALLY wanted to carry him but I also really didn't want to screw up my back again because I had dinner plans with friends that night. Finally, FINALLY, we were less than a block away when I saw Ryan pull out of the parking lot to come get us. We were all VERY happy to see the car.

I threw the remainder of our picnic into the backseat and we headed for the hills. We got home at 6:30 and two kids were too exhausted to even eat dinner. Charley sleepily thanked us profusely for taking him to the college and James repeated how much fun college was (he used to think it was a punishment). Wes said he loved "EVERYTHING". Mission accomplished.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kale, Crunches, and Challah

Ryan's been on a business trip this week and the reason you haven't heard me complaining about it nonstop is because Ryan's parents came to stay and help while he was gone which was SO HELPFUL. The reason he asked them to help was because of my back situation but honestly, I feel like our house really needs three adults to really function properly.

So we had a fun week. Wednesday the temperature finally rose above fifty so we went to garden club where the kids learned to make a delicious "massaged kale salad" using kale from the garden.

Earlier this week after bedtime I had a friend over and was ignoring all the funny sounds I was hearing from upstairs (I have been trying that this week, ignoring the post-bedtime clatter, instead of stomping up the stairs both guns blazing, and have had similar outcomes and much less mental anguish for me. Interesting). Finally, late, late, LATE at night, I crept into my room and turned on the light to find TWO KIDS in my bed. Two kids who had been put down in their own cozy beds hours earlier. Shenanigans. I gently woke them enough that they could stumble to their own beds then tucked them back in and made my bed for the second time that day, at midnight. One day I will not be pulling tiny socks and copies of Boys' Life out of my bed and I will miss it. Sigh.

Last night we were under a winter storm warning so all three of our schools canceled for today. I was SO EXCITED to sleep late in the morning and have a relaxing day playing together and baking. Mary had other plans. Plans that began a little before five o'clock in the morning with a poopy diaper and so much screaming that I turned up the heater just so the fan would dampen the noise and hopefully keep the other kids asleep. I finally got Mary sort of settled on my chest in the bed in her room when I heard James start to cry in the hallway after he couldn't find me in my bed and then looked out the window to check for my car, which was in the garage. He thought I had left and was so relieved when I called him into Mary's room. Sleep was pointless by that point so we all went to the big bed and sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" forty nine times until I heard Wes go downstairs and turn on a movie.

Charley and Ryan's mom made homemade butter so James and Wes and I made some challah to go with it. All three boys were so excited by the sunshine that they bundled up and rode bikes for an hour before they came in with their red cheeks and runny noses and put on another movie.

Later I had vacation physical therapy where "we" are working on my core. I say "we" because after everything my core has been through in the last almost nine years it's going to take at least two people to get it back to something resembling normal. And let me tell you, I have the BEST physical therapist. I want to be IRL friends with her. I was a little sad (or a lot sad) when she told me I should come back in two weeks after improving the ergonomics of my home and workstation and practicing all my exercises. I've been going twice a week since I hurt myself!

This fixation with my ab muscles began after my warmup (six minutes on the arm ergometer) when I made an offhand remark about how a conversation we had had during my last session reminded me of the complication I had with Mary and James's pregnancy that you might remember as the thing with the pelvis that made pretty much everything horribly painful except for sitting on the couch and eating like the queen of an ant colony. This is also the reason that I am in such horrible shape now. She knew what I was talking about immediately and asked with wide eyes "Why didn't your doctor send you to a physical therapist? I treat that all the time! My specialty is pelvis and spine issues!"


This conversation led to a change in plans, sadly, because the original plan had been to work on the tension in my shoulders i.e. massage and the new plan was to tie a bedsheet around my midsection and do crunches while simultaneously pulling my belly button down to my spine. The bedsheet was to HOLD MY UPPER ABS TOGETHER WHILE I DID THE CRUNCHES. Because they are not together like normal abs should be.

"It's not a wonder you are having back problems" she said.

Believe it or not, I am excited. Between the olympic race walking and the ab work I should look less like a cautionary tale at the pool next summer. Except I did not get to walk today because the kids and I had a snow day and spent the day baking challah and making our own butter instead. Two steps forward, etc.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Update: Still freezing

I just started reading the sixth Harry Potter book and at last! The reason for our current weather pattern (never ending cold drizzle) has been revealed! It's not an unusually persistent kink in the jet stream allowing a steady stream of Canadian air to flow south into Texas, it's dementors multiplying! I feel so much better.

No but seriously you guys, the weather is terrible right now. This is TEXAS; we are supposed to be annoyingly filling your FB feeds with bare-armed, sun-soaked, outdoor beer drinking selfies, but instead we are muddling through the end of winter just like everyone else. I haven't seen my neighbors in DAYS. I have to wear my coat *every time* I go outside. I HAVE TO SLEEP WITH SOCKS ON. It's like Little House in the Big Woods.

Physical therapy continues apace. I have graduated from the "make a double chin" exercise and the "cock your head to one side" exercise to something resembling up-dog and something I call butt raises. That is to say, "exercises" that actually resemble exercise. Add that to my rigorous olympic race walking schedule and I should be looking GOOD by summertime. And by good I mean normal.

I realized how out of shape I'd become when the physical therapist looked into my eyes and asked me softly "Do you know what it feels like when your muscles are sore from exercise?" because she wanted to be sure I could distinguish that sensation from the problematic pain we're trying to eliminate.

I've been joining my active senior friends for some mid-day treadmill time every day. Instead of watching Fox News with them (it was playing on a record 3/8 of the community TVs today), I listen to my new Pandora station. Apparently I like Pittbull and Beyonce WAY TOO MUCH for a thirty-something mother of four who drives a gold minivan.

Let's see, what else...

I taught Mary how to safely get herself down the stairs because I'm not supposed to carry her. This works great most of the time and she loves doing it. The other day though I needed her to come downstairs before I changed her out of her nighttime diaper because there were no diapers in her room. She excitedly slid her little bottom off the top step and looked terribly concerned when she landed on the next step down. She pointed at her bottom and looked at me with brows furrowed "Diaper?" she asked. Like, "this is disgusting, are you going to do something about it?" This happened three times in a row and every time I asked her if she'd rather I carry her. Every time she waved me away and shrieked "NO!!" when I attempted to help. Finally after she sat on the third step down for more than a minute contemplating her next move I picked her up and took her downstairs screaming to change her. Much better. Toddlers are funny.

Lastly, I will write more about this when all the pictures are uploaded, but Charley had his Blue and Gold dinner for Scouts this weekend and I just need to tell someone what an amazing kid he is. He is so helpful with the other kids, he is delightful to hang out with, and he is thriving in school. Anyway, he was SO PROUD to have earned his Wolf badge. His excitement was infectious and it was so rewarding to have a special night to celebrate him. Love this kid.