Wednesday, April 22, 2015

pass the dramamine, please

At this very moment, our house resembles a scene from "Hoarders: Buried Alive!" and I have a lot of work (read: days and days) to do to get things back in order. But I'm taking a quick moment to capture a few things happening, for posterity...

The kitchen demolition started yesterday.


The fan over the stove came down and with it, a huge dead rodent.


The interior wall between our breakfast room and kitchen also came down, and between it - a bird's nest, with eggs.   Yes, see - this is exactly why we needed to update our kitchen before it goes on the market.


The children have adopted the eggs, accidentally cracked a few open, and have found the equivalent of fossilized raisins inside.


The one remaining egg, Elizabeth named "Crystal" and after she took it to school for "Show and Tell" has crafted a cotton ball chair / chariot that she pushes around the house.



Last week, Carolyn's vision was checked and it turns out, she's near sighted.


In case you cannot tell from this photo, she was only a little excited to get her new glasses.


Meanwhile, her sister is extremely jealous, and is certain that Carolyn faked the test ... just like she faked a vision test a few years ago in an attempt to get glasses.  (The optometrist wasn't fooled.)


A few years ago, my mother suggested that Carolyn might have a problem with her adenoids, because she snores and breathes through her mouth.  I didn't think too much about it,  until I shared a hotel room with her during our recent road trip, and heard snoring from my 10-year old girl that rivaled her father.  So I googled, "Sleep Apnea" and was interested to read that it can be an underlying cause of attention deficit disorder.  When I returned home, I promptly took her to see her pediatrician - who referred us to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) - who we visited, today.


Within minutes of being in his office, he'd scoped her nasal passages and it turns out, Carolyn's adenoids are huge and completely blocking her ability to breathe through her nose. Her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is now scheduled for next Thursday, April 30th.

Lesson learned: Mother's always do know best.  Especially when they've raised seven children, their first name is Mary, and they are retired from the nursing profession.

Because we have no kitchen, I took the children out to dinner tonight, and didn't notice until we arrived at the restaurant, the outfit that Henry was wearing. At one point in life, I would have been dismayed by thermal ski underwear tucked in to his father's dress socks, and who knows what else is going on here?  But I don't have the energy to be worried about things like this, anymore.

Is he safe?

Is he clothed?

That's good enough for me!


Charlie walked in, as I'm writing this, and informed me that the washer just officially broke and while the timing is fine - because we were planning to get a new one prior to the sale of the house; the timing really isn't "fine" because we have four loads to wash including the one saturated load currently in it.

The guinea pigs - who have been temporarily relocated to the laundry room while renovations are underway - were left out in the sun last week for a few minutes too long and almost died.  I nearly gave our little black guinea pig, Chocolate, mouth to mouth resuscitation to bring him back - but after a cool, two hour bath, and a hair cut - and injecting fluids in to his mouth by syringe, he recovered.   Now, just a week later, we think he has mange because all of his hair is suddenly falling out.

Let's see, what else is new? Well, over the weekend, my children innocently googled a picture of "kissing" and went down a rabbit hole of internet porn.  Thus began conversations I wasn't expecting to have with our ten-year-olds for at least another two or twelve years.  Also, we've implemented internet security measures even I cannot bypass.

My co-worker told me that my life is never dull; and I told him that situations usually comes in waves. Although lately it seems like the waves are more like tsunamis.

Like anything, it's all in your attitude.  So we're trying to look at what we're doing, and the next few months of change, as a FUN ADVENTURE.

Hang on y'all! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

kindness, courage ... and a little bit of magic

Today is my birthday ... which seems impossible that it's already here, again.  This has to be the fastest year in the history of my years.  Hopefully, this was a total anomaly, due to all the other things we have happening, and this next year won't go past quite so quickly.

When Charlie was commenting to me last week that he intends to get in to really good shape now that he's 47, I gently reminded him he's actually 48.  I'd thought he was kidding, until I saw the look of genuine surprise, and then shock on his face as he said, "Well.  I might need to see a doctor about this..."   

Today I woke up to happy children who were piling on top of me in bed.  They excitedly handed me wonderful presents that they had carefully selected from items they found around the house and lovingly wrapped.  Within my bounty of gifts was a lovely frame that I bought in 1998, and a pair of my exercise socks that look almost new.   It was a great start to what would be a perfect day (until just before bedtime when I realized that I lost my iPhone, who knows where?).

After a few hours in the office, I left work early and met Charlie and the children at the movie theatre for a 3:30 showing of Cinderella.  We went in to a completely empty cinema and watched during the previews, Elsa throw Anna a surprise birthday party (Henry incredulously asked, "Did you know Anna has the same birthday as you?!") before we all enjoyed what would be one of the best movies we've seen in a long time.  What made this movie so fantastic, aside from the acting and set design, costumes, and fact it was a Monday and we were in a theatre) was the underlining message of "Be Kind and Have Courage."  Those are the same principles we're trying so hard (read: so, so, so, so times infinity plus one) to impress upon our children.  Be Kind! Have Courage! 

Seems easy, right?  Until you try to teach your three 10-year olds to be kind to each other and their 7.5-year old brother, and you wind up taking very long walks because how can you model kind behavior when they make you lose your marbles and you threaten to send your little angels straight back to heaven?

OK, so I know people don't "make you" anything; but children really have a way of trying your patience in ways that cannot be succinctly described.


What I want to remember the most about TODAY,  is my beloved husband and children (yes children, your mother really does adore you) - sitting with each other in a big empty theatre, watching a wonderful movie together, and thinking, "Kindness, Courage, and Magic.  This life really IS pure magic."  


And I'm enormously grateful.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

git 'r done

Hello Blog!

Life is all aflutter these days as we've been preparing to put our Virginia home on the market and determine where precisely we'll be next.  A few weeks ago, we decided to pull the kids out of school for a few days, prior to their spring break, so the family could accompany me on a business trip to the great state of Texas and check things out.   If you follow the "minutiae of our daily life" via Twitter, you know that over the span of two weeks, we drove more than 3,000-miles, transversed 13 states (including what were 10 of the 11 Confederate States of America), crossed the Mississippi twice, and had an overall great time.

Because the children were out of school, during our daily drives, I read aloud 147 pages of our fourth graders' Social Studies book and ensured that our route included several historically relevant landmarks like Jamestown, Yorktown, Monticello, and the Cumberland Gap.  Pictures to follow soon!

It was a totally awesome trip, and my dream of homeschooling our clan for a year (or more), while traveling the country in an RV was ignited. Of course my enthusiasm put Charlie in a semi-state of panic that I'm going to suddenly resign from my profession and buy a camper (and National Park Pass), but he needn't worry. At least not THIS year.

Because we're getting our home ready for sale, we had our (never before finished) hardwood floors refinished during our trip...


And the preparation and aftermath of that activity has nearly paralyzed us. According to the children, it seems like our house is a snow globe that someone picked up and SHOOK. Everything from our upstairs was moved to our downstairs, where it still largely remains while we paint the house and update our baseboards ... and I'm certain the upcoming move will be far less painful.


Later this month, after Charlie finishes the second bathroom that he started in September;  we're redoing our third bathroom, and gutting our kitchen to the studs because we have a six-inch hole in the floor that needs to be repaired and if we're going to fix the floor, we might as well do the whole thing.  You know what they say about mice and cookies, right?


I've maintained that our kitchen has been like GLORIFIED camping, but according to multiple realtors, most people aren't too keen on glorified camping in their home kitchen.

It's a shame. 


We'd held off on doing these big ticket item upgrades because after watching our children run down the hall with crayons in their hands, marking up the walls as they went; we decided having money in our pocket was the best possible investment (for our dollars and our sanity).  But now, with the encouragement of several realtors who have convinced us that these improvements are well worth our effort, we're squeezing in to four weeks, what we might have done in four years. 

It makes sense to me.  

Then again, I did recently suffer a head injury

Saturday, March 14, 2015

can i have this dance for the rest of my life?

Tonight is our annual Daddy-Daughter dance, and so it is, I'm home with our two boys, while Charlie is at the dance with our beautiful daughters.


When I think back to our first dance, it amazes me how much our girls have grown emotionally and physically.  From the latter perspective, Elizabeth is as tall now, as Carolyn was when she was in first grade...  


And from the emotional perspective, I'm absolutely sure our girls will collapse in to a heap of embarrassment when their father drops his suit coat and jumps up on the dance floor to dance gangham style in front of all their friends.

You better believe he's been practicing.

Monday, March 09, 2015

the harder you play, the harder you fall

And so it is, we had yet another big snowstorm last week.


This time, I had my eye on the weather, and I knew it was coming.  Because I had my eye on the weather, I also knew that temperatures, this week, would be in the high 50's to 60's, signaling that Spring is on its way to being Sprung.   So me, being the huge snow aficionado that I am, and recognizing that this will be our last winter in Virginia, made big, big plans.

In preparation for the biggest storm of the season that was scheduled to hit on Thursday; Wednesday evening my office preemptively announced it would be closed the following day, and all the schools in northern Virginia announced cancellations.  Thursday morning, at approximately 7:30 AM, right on schedule, the snow started to fall from the sky, and it didn't stop for the next 12 hours.

By the end of the storm, we'd receive 10-inches.


Thursday, I worked a very full and long day at home; while alternating my glance from my computer screen to the scene outside of our kitchen window and trying to sear in to my memory, the breathtaking natural beauty of our property.

Louie seemed to be doing the same.


Next year, nay ... four months from now, we won't live here anymore.  So following my ritualistic snowy morning walk with Charlie and the dog; and helping the kids get dressed in their multiple layers so they could play, I soaked up what I knew to be our last snow-fall day.  At one point I ran outside to sled with the kids, and after a mere 15 minutes, was coated from head to toe in snow.


It was glorious and perfect.

Friday, I worked an abbreviated day, again at home, because the roads were like a well-groomed ski slope and the driving conditions were just bad enough, that Charlie couldn't make it to Starbucks.   That's a pretty good gauge on how suitable the roads are... if my coffee-addicted husband cannot make it to the Mother Ship, all bets are off that I'll attempt the nine-mile drive in to the office.


When I wrapped things up, just after noon on Friday, I suited up in my snow gear and ran outside to join our children, and a handful of neighborhood children, who had descended upon our house for the sledding awesomeness that is known as our Back Yard.


With a bright blue cloudless sky, and temperatures that had remained low so the snow from the day prior had remained frozen,  the sledding conditions were superb.  My excitement was electric because I had nothing else to do for the rest of the day but PLAY, PLAY, PLAY.


But when I stepped outside to join with the kids, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but my children - wading in the partially frozen creek.  I have told our children COUNTLESS times this winter, and every winter thus passed since we've lived in Virginia to stay out of the creek in winter. 

But do they listen?


What I saw on this perfect sledding day, were three of our four children (the fourth was playing at someone else's house and might have possibly - had he been here - been able to save his siblings from the Maternal Wrath that descended upon them, because he really has the most logical mind of all) in the water up to their knees, using their sled as a boat, that they were towing up and down, around the broken ice like a barge plowing through icebergs.

In this makeshift boat sled, were drenched hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. Socks, that they had somehow managed to remove from their feet in the freezing temperatures.  Did all of the neighborhood children do this, you wonder?

No. Just mine. All of the other neighborhood kids, were standing on the banks of the creek telling my kids to get out of the creek.

But did they listen?


So, I stood at the top of the hill - seeing all of this before me - and I yelled at the top of my lungs, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!  WHAT THE {Insert Bad Word} DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?! GOD GAVE YOU A BRAIN, BUT IT DOESN'T WORK UNLESS YOU USE IT!!"

Did I over-react?


But, I felt 100% justified in my overreaction because I'VE TOLD THE KIDS BEFORE that they need to stay out of the creek in the winter because they:

1) Could get injured and/or drown if they fall beneath the thin ice in areas where the water is more than 5-feet deep (of which there are a few);

2) Ruin their gear for as long of a period of time as it takes me to wash and dry it; and

3) Create a colossal mess for me and/or Charlie to clean-up because even when we assign them the responsibility of cleaning it up - they make an infinitesimally worse mess.


Under the circumstances on Friday, I was particularly peeved because:

1) I worked an exceptionally long day on Thursday (16 hours to be exact), so that I could specifically play with them, on what I expected to be our last "snow day" and...

2) One of the children was wearing MY snow boots, which were now soaked. 


My children were crying and embarrassed because I gave them a WHAT-FOR in front of other people, and then sent them inside to get cleaned up, while I went outside and went sledding with their friends, as they sat by the window and watched, waiting for their garments to dry.

I had fun.

They did not.

Remember: this is what happens when you go wading in the creek in the winter.  Really?!

Fast forward two hours.  I made several sledding runs, and was having a great time. But beneath my happy demeanor, I was quite disappointed that my beloved children were not with me. So I eventually went inside and told them to wipe their tears, and come out to sled again. And then I dragged Charlie away from his bathroom tiling job, to come with us.


Oh, what fun we all had, sledding and laughing and rejoicing in WINTER!

But then.

I went to the top of the hill that I'd already sled down more than 100 times this winter, and with my sled in my hands, over my head, I declared for all to hear, "And now, competing for the GOLD MEDAL, representing the United States of America ....!"  

The kids were all laughing and wooting as I took off with a running start, from mid-way up our driveway. I threw down my sled and jumped on it, hurtling down the hill at (literally) break-neck speed, head first.

I saw the tree.

And I lifted one side of my sled to skirt around it, as I've done many times before. But this time, my sled wouldn't turn and my trajectory remained straight for a collision with the fir.  In a split second, I knew that I was going to hit it and there wasn't a single thing that could be done. There wasn't enough time for a prayer.  Nor was there time to jump off the sled, throw my feet down to brake, or raise my arms up to cushion the blow.

The last thought to partially fly through my mind, before I struck the tree was, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!  WHAT THE {Insert Bad Word} DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?! GOD GAVE YOU A BRAIN, BUT IT DOESN'T WORK UNLESS YOU USE IT!!"

Perhaps it's because I had lifted my right side, in an attempt to veer left, that my right cheek is what smashed against the tree trunk, instead of hitting it head-on.  As I impacted the tree, I could feel my entire spine compress, from my tailbone to the base of my skull.  There multiple POPS! that might have only been heard inside my head.

I fell over to my left side and struggled to breathe, because my lungs had been squashed. There were guttural groans as I accepted the reality that I was going to die, right then and there in the backyard.

Thank you for such a wonderful life! 

I have no regrets. 

Except, what the heck was I thinking sledding down the steep back hill, riddled with trees, head first without a helmet ... in front of a half dozen children under the age of 12?  Dear God.  It's no wonder my children cluelessly go about wading through a creek in the winter.

Charlie flew past me on his sled, yelling, "You'll have to settle for the Silver, Baby!" while pelting me with snowballs. He had no idea that I'd been mortally wounded and thought I'd flipped off the sled before I hit the tree.

Henry was the first one on the accident scene, as he slid down next to me on his little saucer. Standing over me, he asked, "Mom, are you OK?" and I groaned. He said something to Charlie about Mom and Blood and my husband came over to inspect.  Charlie's eyes flew wide open when he saw my face and the blood dripping off of it, on to the white snow.  He tried to help by rubbing snow ON my wounded face, but it turned out, that wasn't really a help at all. 


My strong husband helped me up and escorted me in to the house, with one arm gently around my waist.  I couldn't open my mouth,  my jaw felt like it had been broken. The head ache was intense; as were the pains along the entire length of my spinal column.  My sinuses, which produced blood clots for the next several hours, felt like they'd been ruptured. The abrasion on my skin wasn't so bad, it was the inside that hurt. Did I break teeth?  Did I give myself a concussion?

Charlie was asking why I didn't jump off the sled, or put up my arms, and there honestly wasn't time.  In retrospect, if I'd put my arms up, I probably would have broken an arm, or my nose, or my neck.

If this had happened to anyone else, I would have insisted they go to the hospital to get checked out. But I didn't go, despite Charlie telling me that we should.  The difference between us, is that I would have started the car and demand that he get in it.  Charlie left a Friday night visit to the ER open as an option, so my more favorable option was to take some Tylenol and a hot shower.  The fact that I didn't go signals that YES, I probably did sustain a head injury.  It's nice to now have an excuse for my less than rational thinking.

Three days later, I'm feeling better.

I'm also feeling like this might have been a little nudge from the Universe.  Consider, when I woke up on Friday morning, I was absolutely distraught at the thought of leaving the east coast and its awesome winter season, with sledding down wonderfully snow-sloped hills.

But by Friday night,  I was beginning to think we should live in an environment without any hills or snow.  So, maybe a move to Texas is a good idea, after all.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Monday, March 02, 2015

when noni and auntie came to town

Zoom. It's March.

Way back in January, which seems like only yesterday, the triplets were scheduled to participate in a strings concert at their school: William and Elizabeth, performing on the violas, and Carolyn performing on the cello.  I happened to mentioned this upcoming event, in passing, during a phone call with my mother, and much to my surprise (and delight), she decided that she would plan on attending the children's performance.


This was no small feat, because she would have to find someone to help look after Jim for a few days, so she could fly to Virginia for the event.  To further add to our surprise, a few days after Mom told us she'd definitely be attending, she called to tell me that our beloved Aunt Grace, would also be traveling up to Virginia for the concert.


So I immediately had the children blow the dust off their instruments and bribed them to practice. Yo-Yo Ma and Yuri Bashmet, we're definitely not.  At least not yet. 

The concert was scheduled for Tuesday evening, so the plan was that we'd spent a few days together before the big show, and then they'd leave for home on Wednesday morning.  While my mother was able to fly in from Florida on a Saturday, Aunt Grace ran in to all kinds of challenges with her flight, and wound up driving solo the 500 miles from South Carolina on Sunday.

As luck would have it, Monday was a clear day.  (I'll write later this week about what exactly we did on Monday. It involves rotary cutters, sewing machines, and an absolute miracle.)  But by Monday night, a storm rolled in and dropped several inches of snow, such that school was canceled on Tuesday. And with the cancellation of school, came the cancellation of all school related events.

Including the fourth grade strings concert.  

When I woke up at 6:30 AM to see the snow falling outside and read the e-mail that school had been canceled, I thought, "Well, we'll just have a nice quiet day at home and spend some wonderful time creating memories with Noni and Auntie!"

Those thoughts no sooner formed in my mind, when I heard a cough - cough, the weak cry of "MOM!" followed by the running of little feet down the hall to the bathroom, just in the nick of time.  Elizabeth, it would turn out, had the stomach flu, which would last for 18 hours.


With Elizabeth on the couch for the full day, and me next to her holding a bowl trying to fight off the feeling that I was staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun ... William, Carolyn and Henry suited up and ran outside to play with their father.   Auntie and Mom stood in the window overlooking the yard, and remarked how wonderful it is that Charlie plays so well with his children.

Here are some photos of Charlie playing "well" with his children in the snow...


He departs from the fort, in what appears to be an attempt to help his child who has fallen to the ground and seems to be in pain.


Hark! He is not there to help, but to crush them, with balls of snow in his hands.


This causes the others to pile on and further crush their sibling.


Charlie untangles himself and pelts a child with chunks of snow.


Every action has an equal an opposite reaction. Unless, you're dealing with three children against one adult in a snowball fight, and then the reaction tends to be more positively weighted.








SLAM! (Poor little Henry, he's looking at me for help.)






Around this point, Henry had decided he'd had enough "fun" and came inside to play Dominos with Noni.


And Carolyn - our Gracie - retreated to the kitchen to make a homemade chocolate cake with her namesake.


There is no better chocolate cake IN THE WORLD than the ones Aunt Grace makes from scratch.


Less than an hour after Mom and Auntie left on Wednesday morning, Charlie came down with the flu. Carolyn had it Thursday night, and I had it 10 minutes after Carolyn. Thankfully, the boys were able to dodge the virus bullet, as were Mom and Auntie.

Although Elizabeth wasn't feeling well enough, William and Carolyn were able to have an impromptu living-room concert for a few minutes on Tuesday night, and Mom and Auntie both agreed, That Was Plenty.   I'm not sure any of us could have withstood 60 children playing their stringed instruments for 30 minutes, in a closed gymnasium.

See, there really are no accidents.