Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Goin' Down to the Fair.

A few days ago we (the kids and I and my dad) went to the Altamont Fair. It is a three-county fair that's been around for ages and ages and I absolutely love everything about it.

When I was a little girl, we learned how to address a letter at the end of the school year. We would carefully write out our own name and address and at the end of July, in the mail you would get that envelope filled with free tickets to go to the Altamont Fair. It was an envelope full of excitement because first of all, you were getting mail, and second of all, it had tickets! To see animals! And go on rides! And eat fair food! I bet there is COTTON CANDY!!!!!

So every year I would excitedly run and show my mother and grandmother my FREE TICKETS FOR FUN and a certain female authority figure in the household, who was not my mother, would sniff and say, "Harumph! Fairs are FILTHY!!" and we would not go.

I am not joking when I tell you I was 19 years old the first time I went to the Altamont Fair.

I love bringing my girls to the fair. We used to go with Danny, too, until he made one too many faces while smelling the cows and wearing an ironed golf shirt. "I don't think you're really a Fair Person," I told him and now we go during the day and he doesn't seem to mind missing it at all. I dragged my dad along, too, for support since I was bringing Alec in a stroller, and while he had a great time, my mom told me afterwards he took a three hour nap as soon as he got home.

We saw lots of different animals: goats and cows and horses and ponies and chickens and sheep and our favorite, the rabbits. ( I have a secret hankering to get a couple of rabbits to keep in our backyard.) While we were walking around, we saw the goat judging and I eat up every second of that. Something about seeing school age kids who have raised their own goats and try to win awards for them just absolutely tickles me... it seems so wholesome and pure and good. I am mesmerized by the judging: the discussions of bettering the breed, why one goat's characteristics are more valued than another, and so on. I'm pretty sure while we were watching the judge was talking about collapsible udders. I'm not sure what button that pushes with me, but it most certainly ties into the fact that I was a farmering Pilgrim in a past life. (See previous post on this subject.)

We also went to the recreated Farming Village, with period storefronts, and the 1800's Farmhouse. Outside the Farmhouse was a sign that read, "Come inside to a time when men were men, women were women, and children were unpaid labor." I smile every time I think of that.

We got the girls' faces painted, got balloon hats, ate some yummy food, watched a monkey show, and walked all around.

I love this monument to simpler living, without cellphones and text messages and fast-paced living and kids growing up too fast; this celebration of savoring a moment, delayed gratification, the joy of hard work and the togetherness of families working towards a common goal. Of course I have no idea if that's how the people showing animals at the fair feel or live but it's a romantic notion in my head just the same.

I am so happy to share this with my girls, even if it's just for a day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Vacation.

One of the highlights of our summer each year is the week that my brother and his family come to visit. This year was no different- though with five children under 8 years old between us (and four under five years old!), the pace of the visit and the ability to go places has changed dramatically over the years. But we had a great time lounging by the pool, going for walks, and generally hanging out at my parents' house. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to Hoffman's Playland and a big reunion party with three of Brian's high school friends, each with babies of their own. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the week...

Our Goddaughter Meggie, poolside

Michaela and Kate

Beth and her girls
Mark, Geoff, Brian and Chris and their families

The girls at Hoffman's Playland

Big Girl Kate and the babies

The Money Shot: The Five Cousins

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Little Appreciation, Please.

It's time for the kids to head back to school.
Like, tomorrow would be great. This week I officially tired of managing the bickering, scheduling playdates, coming up with fun activities to do each day or so, doing the things around the house that they should be doing, and telling them for the 4,563,962th time to pleeeeease be quiet because their brother is taking a nap. The best remedy for all of this is structure, school, daily exposure to friends and PE and Art and Music, and for their brother to take a week's worth of decent naps.
For today's adventure we are heading out to buy Jenna's Official School Backpack and then tonight we are going to a minor league baseball game, followed by fireworks. When I told Michaela we were going, she winced and asked, "Do we have to go?"
So I launched into my second (or third) rendition of the Appreciate What Mommy Does For You Speech, which is one I don't enjoy giving, because it makes me sound like a martyr/whiner and does not come from a position of strength as a parent. But it has to be doe because for the last two summers, every time I suggest something we could do, the girls say But I don't want to do that. Picnic down by the river? Nope. Go see a play? No way. Go to camp? Absolutely not. And it gets REALLY FRUSTRATING.
Not to say that my kids aren't fun. They're great fun, just not particularly adventurous. They could do the same activities, over and over, and have the same friends over, every day. They love the routine and sameness and comfortableness of the known.
After I finished my speech, Michaela was contrite and apologetic and said she does, in fact, appreciate lots of what I do, and mentioned playing soccer and going to quilting camp as specific things she loves to do that we sign her up for.

I think part of the trick of motherhood is balancing the desire and job of making your kids your whole life without actually making your kids your whole life. They should know they are priority #1 but not take advantage of that. They should know that you'd do anything for them without expecting that you'd do anything for them.
And a little appreciation expressed by them after a soapbox speech goes a long way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August Love.

Here are some fresh pictures of the three kids, taken yesterday. Man, I love them.

Guess who both popped his first tooth AND learned how to crawl up the stairs this weekend? He has one top tooth (who grows their top teeth first?? I've never heard of that) and we're hoping others come in quickly so he doesn't look like Nanny McPhee for too long, with one hanging-down-snaggle tooth. He is proud as punch with himself about the stairs; when he climbs them he constantly looks back at us and smiles. I'm hoping to have some video of that before long and post it.
We're having my parents over for dinner tonight to celebrate my mom's birthday. Happy, happy birthday to her!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Car! The Knee! The Fire!

So it's been quite a week around here.

The same day that I blew out the back window of our car, Dan played in a church softball game and injured his knee. He went to his primary MD and then to an orthopedist, hobbling all the way, and has been diagnosed with an ACL tear. He is really uncomfortable and trying to get the swelling down and has to decide if he's going to have the surgery to repair it. We have a follow up appointment in three weeks with the orthopedist to get more info on the surgery, recovery time, etc and then will make our decision from there. Dan's certainly no professional athlete, but he loves playing softball every summer and he does have three kids that he wants to be able to play with for the next 15 years without worrying about his knee giving out.

The car has been fixed: new back window, new bumper, and some bumps and scratches on the back all buffed out. I drove it home from the repair shop yesterday and when Dan asked me how it felt, I told him she's riding like a woman in a new pair of jeans that makes her butt look small. The car is rockin'. She was a bit jealous, however, of how much we liked the rental car- a loaded Buick Enclave- so we tried to downplay all that. But seriously- the Enclave was gorgeous. And it had a backup rear video camera that popped up in the rearview mirror everytime you went into reverse, which was helpful so I didn't backup again into a non-moving object. I told Dan that this would be a possibility for us to buy after the Pilot was done, and then he told me that they are about $40K and then I told him a minivan would probably work out just as well.

On the same day that all this nonsense with the window and the knee happened, we also found out that a house in our newly-moved-into-development had been burned down by an arsonist. Lovely.

The day before, on Wednesday, I and my brother and his wife, who were in town this past week (more about that in a later, happier post), and some of our gaggle of children went for a walk from my parents' house to our house. On the way back, we thought we saw smoke rising over some trees. Then it became black smoke, smoke that we could smell, and my brother called the police about it. As he was hanging up, the sirens started screaming in the distance, and before long we watched as police cars and fire chief and fire trucks and more police went tearing down the street. When we got back to my parents' house a few minutes later, we dropped off the kids and Brian and I hopped into my dad's van and went down the street. After a few hundred feet, we could see the house on fire: red and orange angry flames ravaging the house, coming out of the roof, sloughing off the melting vinyl siding on the sides.

I had never seen anything like it in my life.
It was horrifying and destructive and violent.

Brian had the good sense to ask the police officer who was diverting traffic if anyone was in the house and thankfully he answered no. We found out later that the family- parents and three kids- were on a 2 week vacation when this happened. Brian and I watched as the water started putting out the flames and very quickly the majority of the fire was subdued.
Dan later was walking from our house to my parents' house and talked to another fire official who was diverting traffic. He told Dan it seemed like an electrical fire, which freaked us out a bit since the house we just bought and the house that burned are the same age and built by the same people. And my dad just kept saying how unusual it would be for a house of that age to have an electrical fire.
So about ten minutes after I backed out into the pickup truck on Thursday- did I mention that I saw it? And it was NOT MOVING? - a friend of mine pulls up in her car and tells me that she knows the family whose house burned down and that it was arson.
Someone broke into the house, sprayed gasoline in every room and set every room on fire. The house is a total loss.
The idea that someone could do that to another human being and their family is unfathomable to me.
They arrested the person who they think did it yesterday, and it's a 17 year old boy who lives in a nearby neighborhood.
I cannot even imagine the heartache that his family is feeling as well.

Sometimes the world doesn't make a whole lotta sense, and the only thing you can do is pray.
Pray hard.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Backing out of my parents' driveway this morning, I backed into a pickup truck parked in the road.
I smashed out my back window and damaged my bumper. I did minor damage to the pickup truck.
No one was even remotely hurt.

When the insurance claim rep called me about the accident to determine liability, he asked, "So what exactly would you say was the cause of the accident?"
"Me being blond," I answered.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Playing Barbies and Teachable Moments.

Jenna and I were playing with Barbies the other day. I am always looking for the plot, the storyline, the conflict and Jenna usually just wants to have them go on dates and change clothes alot. Jenna was playing the part of Caitlyn, or Taitlyn, as she calls her, and I was Lisa. I was getting married to the Troy Bolton doll from High School Musical and Taitlyn was a bridesmaid. After the wedding was an afterparty, which was pretty low-key, and mostly was Taitlyn and Lisa sitting down on the floor in new dresses, chatting.
We were playing for awhile when Jenna says, as Taitlyn, "Would you like to see my unitorn?"
I immediately recognize that she means unicorn- we have one from the Barbie Pegasus movie- and try to make this a Teachable Moment, like they taught me at her speech eval.
Turns out Jenna can say a garbled, horrible "kch" sound when prompted, but it has yet to make its way into her everyday speech. It sounds like she's clearing her throat of tons of phlegm or has learned to speak Hebrew and is saying a hard /ch/.
So I say to her, all gentle like, "Hey Jenna, instead of 'uni-torn' can you say uni-kkkccchhh-orn?"
She practices her /kch/ sound a bit and then calmly asks me: "Would you like to see my kkkkccchhh- unitorn?"

And I just laughed and said, "Sure!"

Teachable Moment, indeed.