Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our car...

It is whole again. We took it in this morning and set out walking toward a park. It was threatening rain and I was pretty sure we would get drenched at some point.We bravely pressed on, however, with Renie in the stroller, Jesse in the backpack carrier, and everyone else hoofing it. We made it to the park, passing several houses down by the river with sump pumps chugging streams of water out of their basements. It was sprinkling by the time we got there but then it cleared and got quite hot. We played for almost an hour and then went to Piggly Wiggly for cold drinks and a snack to eat on the walk back. We got the call while we were in the store that the car was done so we quickly checked out and headed back up the hill. Can I just say, it was MUCH hotter at this point AND we were going uphill. My jeans were clinging to me and my back was completely drenched under the back pack. Not quite the drenching I was anticipating, and much less refreshing. But the kids were champs and hung in there. We were very happy to get back in our fully repaired Mountaineer and crank the AC. And because it was a recall it didn't cost us a cent. Now that we have cooled off it doesn't seem nearly as hot outside (I think the thermometer at the bank read 76) and I STILL have not had to use the AC in the house. It was quite cool in here when we walked in. After being in NC for so long it is amazing to me that we'll easily make it into July without air conditioning. In fact, it was the first that I've used it in the car today.
So, maybe a trip to the pool today, T-ball, and the last concert. Then we'll put on the car top carrier and start loading up after the kids are in bed. So I guess I'd better get to work- no pool if the work isn't done!

Monday, June 23, 2008

There is beauty all around...

Another beautiful summer afternoon in America's Dairyland. We went Sunday afternoon for a walk at the state park. I was really struck by how much this place reminds me of home. As I walked through the summer woods the scent of the flora took me back to my youth. I love the smell of dank forest. It always reminds me of a certain spot where we would go swimming when I was pretty little. We had to walk to the river through the woods. I don't remember there being a trail so the smell was especially strong as the grasses and brush were crushed under our feet. I am always transported there when I smell low summer forest and the excitement of the approach to the swimming spot swells within me again, manifested now in nostalgic contentedness.

Julia fashioned a knapsack out of her jacket and a stick so that she would be properly outfitted to sing The Happy Wanderer.

Notice the hay in her mouth. She started slow and grumpy, due to gravel in her shoes, but once she hit her stride she did great.

This is what we see all around, all the time. Rolling hills covered with prairie grasses and dotted with farms, and trees in all the low spots.

Unfortunately, at the end of the evening as I was busy in the kitchen, a tick fell off me. I checked the kids over and found a tick on Julia's head, one in Renie's ear, and one on Devon's head. We will be much more vigilent about checking for them going forward.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Where to begin?

So wow. Let's recap the week in pictures.

Father's Day. We updated Lincoln's handprint T-shirt. The last time we made him one there were only two handprints to put on it. We also made him his favorite dinner- stroganoff sandwich and a very rich, very chocolate cake. Renie is helping clean up.

Wednesday night was another concert in the park. It was a fun performance by Piano Fondue. They took requests from the audience the whole night, playing all the classics- Brown-eyed Girl, Crocodile Rock, American Pie, Piano Man, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, even Dueling Banjos and Bohemian Rhapsody. They were a lot of fun (two pianos, two guys) and we had a great time. I made a big ol' batch of popcorn and brought a thermos of water. We sang, the kids danced (as you'll see in the video), and we enjoyed another perfect summer evening.

On Thursday I took the kids and went strawberry picking with my friend Bethanie and her kids. Kennedy took a bunch of pictures for me at the field. I love the one of me because it captures perfectly what it's like every time I take my crew to go do something. A kid on my back, a kid on my lap- WHILE I'm picking strawberries. Everyone actually did very well. I had some anxiety before going because when my parents went to pick strawberries when I was a kid, children were not allowed in the field. I've always been a little afraid to go because I feared I would do something wrong. Say nothing of bringing 5 KIDS with me! But it was very family friendly and the kids were really good. Jesse was not nearly as fussy as this picture implies. I moved him into his stroller and he sat next to his little buddy Andrew and was pretty content.

I then spent the rest of Thursday hulling berries and making jam. Go me! My first time making jam. It was so fun and very rewarding. I know jam isn't exactly going to feed my family through the apocalypse, but it felt good to lay up food for the family. I did a batch of freezer jam and a batch of canned. On Friday I did a batch of strawberry-rhubarb freezer jam. And finally today, Saturday, I got around to making a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Can't wait to eat it. It looks great!

Thursday night we went to the lake as mentioned in yesterday's post. I love this picture of my boys walking up the beach.

In our travels this week we took some photos of flood damage. We drove to Spring Green last night to eat at a fun drive-in burger place, Rumbleseats. When we got there we found the little playground flooded and the placed closed down. There was a six inch pipe coming out of the window with water flowing out of it. Spring Green is right in the Wisconsin River valley so they got hit pretty hard. (Keep in mind this was a week later.) The shots of the washed out road are from Sunday. Lincoln took the kids to Blackhawk Lake to go for a walk and found the road washed out on the way there.

We finally got our pool pass for the city pool. We went on Friday afternoon and had a delightful time. Devon can touch easily in the shallow end of the big pool now, which is a big relief. Renie and Jesse are content to play in the baby pool or hang out on the steps of the big pool. There are always people we know there so I can usually get someone to watch kids in the baby pool while I watch the kids in the big pool or vice versa. And there are always six lifeguards on duty which is fantastic.
So I'm now focusing on getting us ready to leave for vacation in 5 days. Today we bought a car top carrier and tried to buy a new cooler that would fit in the car better. We found the perfect cooler on sale at Sears. Wow- the last one! Lucky! Only $12! Lucky again! We got to the register and they couldn't sell it to us because there is a recall on it. Argh! What's with all the recalls lately? Did you know that Cinnamon Life has been recalled? Did you also know that my children LOVE Cinnamon Life and every single morning they ask me if I was able to buy it yet? C'mon Quaker! I'm dying here! Fix the Life already! So still no cooler- it would've been nice to get one at Sears with our discount. Now we'll have to get one that's not quite what we wanted at Walmart. (Was the cooler going to kill us? Was it going to release some sort of toxin into my food? If not then couldn't I make the decision myself about whether I wanted it or not?) So packing, organizing, getting the car ready. Did I mention that our liftgate is falling off our Mountaineer? Yup, one of the hinges just gave up the ghost, popped apart, Bam! That's when I remembered something about a letter we got a couple years ago in reference to ----wait for it------a RECALL on the hinges. Are you kidding me? So I called the dealer and sure enough I did remember correctly and they are under the recall. So I have to take the car in to have them replaced on Wednesday, one day before we leave. Talk about cutting it close. When I called to set it up I explained that we needed it done right away because we were leaving on vacation. When the lady called to tell me the part was in she said, "Do you want to go ahead and schedule that right now?"

"Umm, YES."

"OK, any day next week.....after Wednesday."

(Thinking, so why not say Thursday or Friday? It's not "any day", it's one of 2. Not 1 of 7. One of seven you could start with 'Any day') "I guess Thursday then. We're leaving on vacation that day at 5:00, can it be done by then?"

"Oh. How 'bout I put you in for Wednesday and I'll check with our service technician to make sure we can get you in?"

(Thinking, then why didn't you say after Tuesday if you thought you might be able to get me in sooner?) "That would be great."

So Wednesday it is. It takes about an hour to do the labor, but requires 2 hours to let the adhesive set. What I'm going to do two towns away with 5 kids for three hours is beyond me, but at least the car will be fixed.

So, despite the chaos of getting ready to leave, I'm SO EXCITED to go on vacation. I love to be on the road with my family. And I get to do fun things and see fabulous people that I haven't seen in years! Take for example one of my missionary companions , Chari, we'll be staying with in Utah- 12 years! I love her and she helped me have a great mission. She taught me how to have fun while doing the work. We were only together a month (is that really all it was?!) but we became great friends. She is great at keepin' it real. And funny. And boy, you all know how hilarious I am, so imagine the 2 of us together. And then there's Charlene. She was a missionary in my ward when I was a teenager. She and I clicked and she had a great influence on me for good. I've always said she's a soulmate. I'm sure our spirits knew each other long before we met in Potsdam. It's been 8 years since I've seen her. Then there's Jenn and Dawson who we'll stay with in Las Vegas. You know when you meet a couple that works perfectly with you and your spouse? No? That's because it's rare. But they are that for us. We met when we were all newlyweds living in New Jersey. We were just starting our families and the boys were just starting their careers. We have stayed close through the years and always have great times together. It's been 2 years since we saw them. And last, but certainly not least, Jessica and Erik. Jessica is my cousin and I just love her. We've been close forever, traveling together, working together, living together, being in each other's weddings. And happily, we both married people that the other likes so we can get our families together and continue building memories. We saw Jessica 3 years ago, but haven't seen Erik and their son Carter in 6 years and we haven't even met Bridger!
I'm sure you'll hear lots more about all of them after our visit.
So- a long rambling post that no one stayed around for the conclusion of except me. That's OK. This is after all, my journal. Sometimes I'm the only one reading!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Aaahhh, summertime...

All five of my little monkeys at the lake. We saw a muskrat and a snake in the water that evening.
Time is getting away from me and I'm behind on blogging, but it's because we've been doing fun stuff like this, oh, and fighting with each other. More soon!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stating the obvious...

Every time I change Renie's stinky diapers, which is usually about 4 times a day, she says, "I wanna see my poop. That's disgusting. We don't want to eat that! Right, Mom?"
Just now Devon was in on the conversation. "What would happen if we ate it Mom? Would we die?"
"No, we wouldn't die, but we would probably throw up."

"How would we throw up Mom?"

"Like this." [Making barfing noises.]

Such stimulating conversation.

Oh, What a beautiful morning...

Oh, what a beautiful day. At least, I hope it will be. It is sunny and warm, the birds are singing, the grass smells fresh, and I got to start my morning at the gym before any little kiddies were awake. We read scriptures together over a sunny breakfast and I feel ready to conquer the day.

So I shall go forth...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This season of my life...

I was thinking this morning that in a couple years my house will smell so much better. Yes, it will take a couple years. Not because I never clean, but because by then, with any luck at all, I will no longer have any children in diapers. I currently have 2 and can I just say they are VERY prolific. It seems the smell just constantly hangs in the air. Either there's a stinky one on a butt, the scent is heavy in the air because I just changed one, or there is a stinky one that has gotten kicked under the couch or forgotten in a diaper bag or something or there is one stinking up the trash bag that's almost ready to be tossed in the dumpster. The other thing that will help the smell around here will be the death of our dear dog. (It's got to happen in the next couple years, right? She's 13 and a half, for crying out loud!) We don't let her in the house, but her stench has completely filled the garage and every time the door to the garage gets opened her smell comes in. Then there's the deadly combination of the two. Yes, I'm referring to when she gets her jaws on a stinky diaper and eats/shreds it. How foul is that?
So in a couple years it will get better- I promise.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

If you don't know my Dad, you are missing out. But then, Dad knows everyone, so chances are good that you're acquainted. It's amazing how much our parents are a part of us, how they define us. My Dad always had a bit of a temper, my kids can tell you I inherited that, but never did I question his love for me. Dad always seized opportunities to spend quality time with his kids. He knew how to make great moments out of the mundane, how to make us feel special. I remember what a treat it was to go to the barn with him to do the chores. Dad would call the cow in and pull up the stool to milk. I would climb up on the wall of a nearby pen and the mundane moment became great. We would play singing games. These were and are one of Dad's favorites. Dad loves music. He loves to sing. He is not a very good singer, he has a hard time carrying a tune, but he is my favorite singer. The fact that he can't sing well never stopped him and he taught us a love of music. He always has a song for any situation. Any word. In fact, just today Julia said something to me and I sang a line of a song that had that word in it and she said, "Is there a song about everything?" It's just second nature for me to do that because Dad has always done it. We would play Name That Tune as we sat in the musty barn, Dad beating out the rhythm into the frothy milk pail. Or we would play word games. Dad loves to tell hink-pinks or hinkie-pinkies or even hinkety-pinketies. (You know, An obese rodent. You guess: Fat rat. ) When my youngest brother was small Dad helped him memorize a fairly lengthy poem during their chore time moments. We were all so impressed when they came in from the barn one night and he recited his poem.
I don't remember ever feeling like I was in the way, despite the fact that there was a lot of work to be done all the time. We worked alongside Dad, he let, and expected, us to help, even if what we were doing was probably not all that helpful. For example, I remember hunting for kittens in the haymow. Dad would come in and tell me that Sam had her kittens and she had hidden them in the haymow somewhere and could I come help him find them. I loved those moments. We would go to the haymow and strain our ears for the faint mews. We would follow the sound to the nest and peek at them. Such a simple thing that I was not needed for, but that Dad included me in and now it is a part of me.
When I was a teenager, Dad would drive me to youth night at church. Sometimes we would stop for ice cream on the way home and he would make a moment. He would tell me not to tell the others when we got home, so it felt extra-special to have been in on the secret with him, to have gotten special treatment. What can I say, I'm #4 of 6, it felt good.
Dad also trusted us to do things that other parents might think were beyond our age. Like for instance riding our big horse by ourselves at age 6, driving the tractor at age 8, or driving the car at age 10 (on the dirt road). If being trusted doesn't make you feel special, I don't know what will.
I don't think Dad has ever passed a flower he didn't notice or a perfect apple he didn't pick. And in just the same way, he hasn't ever passed a person he didn't try to befriend. He loves people, he is genuinely interested in them, remembers their names, thinks about them, hopes the best for them, serves them, prays for them, aches at their loss, rejoices in their successes. Dad loves to have a crowd of people in his home and share whatever he has with them. He'll share his food, his land and animals, and on many occasions, his home to help someone out. He is kind and generous, perhaps to a fault, having difficulty saying no or I'm busy to someone who wanted him at an inopportune moment. I remember people just showing up at our house- long lost relatives, former students, an old friend- and Dad would just drop everything to spend the afternoon visiting with them.
I love you, Dad. Thank you for teaching me to savor moments, to see beauty all around me, to love people. Thank you for teaching me a love of words and music, how to tell a good story and how to enjoy a good laugh.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Have I mentioned...


You know my new not cheap bike I just got for my birthday? I went out to the garage tonight to head out grocery shopping and found her GNAWING on it! My bike! She was busy working on the pedal at the time but had already destroyed the tire. For anyone wondering, we will NOT. BE. GETTING. ANOTHER. DOG. Doesn't matter, she's going to live forever anyway, destroying every nice thing we own, one at a time.

From Bliss to H*ll in 24 Hours..

A little somethin' to make you smile:

So Wednesday was another great day. The weather was absolutely fantastic. Let's see. It was so long ago it seems. Ah yes. I started the day at the gym. I'm attempting the couch-potato to 5K training program. Now, I'm not exactly a couch potato and I have run 2 miles a couple times lately, but I think I take it too fast sometimes. So I'm going to try this approach and see if I get better results. The girls played with their friend Abby. They set up a stand selling lemonade, freezie pops, rocks, and Pokemon cards. They actually ended up making about $12. Devon had his first tee ball practice. When I first told him he was going to play tee ball he wasn't too thrilled about it, but by the day of he was pretty excited about it. I was so happy to see him get right in there and do his thing. He didn't hide out by my side or refuse to join the group. He batted, ran the bases with great enthusiasm, and practiced fielding balls. (OK, really they held their gloves down to the ground and the coach rolled the ball to them. Baby steps.)

Speaking of his coach, I am so excited about him. I really think he's a great coach and the kids will actually LEARN something from him. After so many less than stellar soccer coaches it is refreshing to see a coach who will actually teach them the sport. After tee ball, we grabbed Happy Meals for the kids, dropped Kennedy off at Activity Days and headed to the park for the first event of the summer concert series. The band was Madisalsa, a fun Latin group from Madison. It was a perfect evening for a concert in the park. The kids ran around in the fields and danced with the art teacher from school. When we weren't busy chasing kids we got a few seconds to sit on our blanket in the sunshine and enjoy the perfect atmosphere.

The concert series is sponsored by Lands' End, another great thing they do for the community. They really make an effort to provide some nice perks to the area that wouldn't be here otherwise. So, Wednesday was another great day.

Then came Thursday. I should have known what the day held when I woke up late (8:00) to the phone ringing. It was very dark and cloudy and even at 8 I didn't want to get up. It was my dentist office calling to tell me they had some extra time around my scheduled appointment so I could come early if I wanted to have my fillings done while they had my mouth numb for my other procedure. I decided to do it, but that meant I had to see if my babysitter would take my kids for an extra hour and I'd have to rush like a mad woman to get us all out of the house on time. My gracious friend was willing to take the kids for the extra hour so I changed 2 diapers, dressed 5 kids and myself and rushed out the door. Of course, when we pulled into the driveway to unload kids at Kym's, it was pouring rain. Soaking, drenching rain. In fact, as I stood in her doorway passing off kids, we watched as recycling bins and dumpsters were carried down the road in the run-off. The drive to the dentist was slow-going. The rain was coming down in sheets and I often had to slow to about 40 mph on the highway. We made it safe and sound on the dot of 10. I spent the next 2 hours with my mouth propped open and the bottom of my face numb. And I was freezing. I had gotten drenched in the rain and was chilled right through, even with a blanket over me. After my appointment my neck, jaw and head ached and I began yearning for a nap. We picked up the little ones and went home. It wasn't long before I realized that the chills and aching were because I was sick, not from all the other stuff I had been attributing it too. So my sincerest apologies to my dentist and the 2 other people who played around in my germ-infested mouth. I didn't know! I promise! I spent the rest of the day in the throes of a fever. I could barely function and holding my head up was excruciating. Kennedy did a great job watching the kids and came to wake me up about an hour later to tell me the tornado siren was going off. Everyone sat on my bed and we watched and listened. The siren went off 3 times and then Lincoln called to tell us the internal alarm had gone off at Lands' End and they were sending everyone down to the tornado shelter. A funnel cloud had touched down near Platteville (where we go to church) and the storm was moving in our general direction. In my semi-comatose state I moved everyone to the basement and we turned on the TV. We watched for some time, as it poured buckets outside, until we were convinced it had passed us by. Meanwhile, Jesse, still working on those molars, was screaming his head off. Each scream left me reeling as it cut through my skull. Once I was sure the coast was clear I put him in his bed. Then the kids watched a movie while I slept in the chair. When the weather cleared the girls ran off to play again and I was left with three little stinkers. Jesse, now up from his nap had returned to screaming. I had called Lincoln and asked him to stop to buy infant Motrin on his way home, but knowing he would be very late, I decided I needed to call a neighbor to see if they had anything to stop the screaming. After talking to Kym I determined I could adjust the dose of children's Motrin for him- why I didn't think of that before I blame on the fog I was existing in. Bless her heart, Kym arrived a few minutes later and whisked my kids away and sent me to bed. At this point it was nearly 8:00. I had to go haul the annoying dog in a few minutes later, but then I finally fell asleep, curled up in the fetal position trying to stay warm. I barely remember Lincoln arriving home with the kids around nine and waking up drenched in sweat at some point in the night. But at 7 this morning my eyes popped open and I was feeling worlds better, you know, aside from that fever taste in my mouth and the post-sick blahs. So today is recovery- house, body, spirit.

Oh yeah, due to weather the girls' last soccer game was cancelled. Here's a team photo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Time Flies...

It doesn't SEEM like it's been getting away from me, but when I uploaded pictures from my camera I realized I had a ton that I had taken with the intention of posting here but just haven't gotten around to it. So here we go.

This is why I don't need air conditioning.

This past weekend we had our first severe weather of the season. Severe is the codeword for tornado. Kids don't get freaked out by severe, but the panic flashes to their faces when you say tornado. On Saturday when the kids heard there was a tornado watch, they apparently thought they were personally responsible for watching for it.

(What you can't hear on the video is Devon's adorable way of saying tornado- mataydo. Kind of like how he says potato. He had no idea what we were looking for, what was coming to get us. "Mom? What does mataydos say?" If you crank your volume you might be able to hear him say it.)

They ran out the back door to watch from the deck, then through the house and out the front door to watch from the porch. Back and forth back and forth scanning the clouds and looking for the sure sign a tornado was approaching, according to Kennedy's friend who was here at the time- orange bubbles in the sky. Just as we convinced them a tornado was not imminent the tornado siren went off. Wanna talk about panic? The sky was full of thunderheads,

but nothing else seemed too worrisome. No wind, no hail, not even a bad thunderstorm upon us. Later that afternoon we were in Madison. Lincoln was at a meeting at church and I was shopping and killing time with the kids until he was done. Wouldn't you know it, another tornado siren. The weather at the time was a little more stormy but it passed quickly with nary a funnel cloud.

Saturday night at about 10, Lincoln and I were watching a movie. Even above the sound of the movie we suddenly realized the wind was howling. We ran upstairs from the basement and the wind was whipping through the house howling and knocking stuff over. We ran around closing windows, wondering if we should move the kids to the basement. Lincoln stood at the back door for a minute watching and then turned with a wild look in his eye and said, "Let's just move them." So we ran to the kids rooms and pulled them from their beds. Jesse was drenched in diarrhea and by the time I cleaned him up and we changed his bed it seemed the threat was over. We put everyone back in their beds and none of them had even awakened enough to realize what was going on. We tucked them in and went back to our movie. It was funny that there was no siren that time. So we are whole and well, though not all of Wisconsin's residents can say the same.

We have the most beautiful sunsets here. Remember through the winter when I kept posting pictures of the snow? Well it looks like the summer thing will be fabulous sunsets.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Julia learned to ride her bike. Here's the proof.

Yesterday, Day #2, was a very pleasant day. I was able to go for a bike ride in the morning before Lincoln left for work. I thought I was going to die. Wisconsin is very hilly. We went for a walk mid-morning and then at 1 we went to the park for a playgroup. The kids had a fabulous time and I am pleased to report there were no injuries on the death-trap merry-go-round that got Jesse last time we were there. I was too busy following Jesse around to get any photos, but I made up for that in the evening when I took the kids to the state park to play at the lake. I really enjoy watching them play at the lake. When I was a kid we did all our swimming in the river. The only time I ever swam in a pool was in school or at a friend's house. Funny thing though, I actually preferred the river and lakes. Especially the river. Pools seemed so boring. There were no currents to swim against in the pool, no rocks to play on, no rapids to sit in as the water rushed over your shoulders. One especially fun spot was called The Dynamo. There were two channels in the river here. One was a small section 8 feet wide that we would cross to get to the small island between them. The other side was the main portion of the river. We would stand on the flat rocks which dropped off abruptly on either side. On the river side you could jump off the rocks and the swift current would carry you down a bit. When the rocks started to rise up out of the water again we would scramble up them back to the flat rocks. We'd run back up to the beginning and do it again. You can't do that in a pool. So when I see my kids swimming in the lake I remember the sound and taste of river water. I love the muffled sound under water of rocks rolling and crashing against each other. I also love to hear the sound of a rock galumping into the water. I think I could maybe do a whole post on swimming holes. Maybe I will. For today, you have lots of pictures to look at. Enjoy.

Oh, and I finished yesterday with a fun Girls' Night Out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day One...

For any of you who are following along at home, we survived day one. And it went amazingly well, actually.
We read scriptures together over breakfast, the girls completed their morning To-Do list, we went for a walk, I got a shower, we went shopping, Jesse took a long nap, Julia had a friend over, Kennedy played outside most of the afternoon, I made a yummy dinner, Kennedy went to a birthday party, the girls did their chores and completed their evening To-Do list, and everyone was in bed at close to 8:30 (some a little before, some a little after).

I only had to yell at them once for playing in the hose (again!), once for playing in the car and painting the dashboard with fingernail polish (how do they come up with this stuff!?) and a couple times for sneaking Gummy Worms. Renie peed on the floor once, Jesse is cutting molars, and Devon continues to refuse all food but fruit, bologna, and ham. Julia rode her bike into the curb in an attempt to avoid a collision with Kennedy, resulting in some serious crying, a Not-Visible-To-The-Naked-Eye scrape, and the chain coming off her bike.

So all-in-all, not too bad. We'll chalk it up on the Good Day side.
Now, on to tomorrow.

My Destroying Angels...

So my kids may look cute, but...

In the last few days we have discovered the following items destroyed at their hands:

My paperback copy of Anne of Green Gables, yes the one I read repeatedly growing up. The cover and all the pages before the story actually begins were snipped into confetti by a safety-scissors wielding Renie.

My potted geraniums flanking the garage door. About 10 heads, full of buds, ripped from EACH pot.

A row of coral bells plants along the side of the garage. This was accomplished another day AFTER a strongly worded talking-to about not destroying Mommy's plants. The tops of the plants were ripped off and tossed to the wind.

My full-length mirror. Devon and Renie laid it on the floor and danced on it, shattering it. Luckily they danced on the back of it so they didn't fill their feet with glass. Just my carpet.

Our water bill. The kids turned on the hose, which has a nozzle on the end, and then left it on the ground. The nozzle being cheap, leaked all day. The entire backyard was soggy.

All the clothes they were wearing. On Saturday they managed to find a mud hole. They completely caked themselves with mud. There were globs in their hair and all over their clothes in addition to the mud mask on their arms and legs.

The lawnmower. Lincoln went out to the garage on Saturday to start the mower, only to discover that SOMEONE had cut the line to the pull-cord. It was just sitting there, unattached. This one is still a mystery.

And today is the first official day of summer break. This should be fun.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hometown Heroes Walking Among Us...

Or Balloon Fest 2008. (I'm not just adding Fest to all my titles to make them more interesting, that's really what the event was called.)

I think it was about 5 years ago that I was first struck by the desire to live in a small Midwestern town. I had this idyllic picture in my head of Little League games on summer evenings, played on a dazzling green field under a clear blue sky in the warm glow of evening sunshine. I imagined a town where everyone knew each other and community events were driven by patriotism. I pictured small town parades where you knew everyone on every float and probably helped build half of them. I could almost smell the corn fields in my dream and savored the heavy, sweet scent of them. (My cousin, when I expressed my love of corn fields commented, "You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl." So true.) I pictured family and community being one and the same and folks just being...happier.

Well, here I am. I am living the dream, baby. Last night we went to the annual Bloomfield Manor Balloon Fest. The theme for the event- Hometown Heroes Walking Among Us. Let me try to paint the picture for you.

Yesterday was hot, about 80 degrees. It was also pretty humid after the night's storms. (Humid by Wisconsin standards, not North Carolina. I haven't had to use my AC yet). By 6:30 in the evening, however, the air was cooling enough to just comfortably wrap you in its velvety embrace. We drove 3 miles out of town over the rolling prairie hills, headed west into the hazy evening sunshine. We passed cows grazing on the hillsides and meadows of restored prairie grasses. We knew we were close when we saw the cars parked up and down the shoulders of the road. We parked down the road some distance and piled out of the car. As we walked the last bit to the festival grounds we passed people we knew who were on their way out. Not even to the grounds yet and we were seeing people we knew.

The driveway to Bloomfield Manor (a retirement home) was guarded by a two story inflatable Uncle Sam. Assisting him were a couple of cheerful ladies in their 60s or so, handing out programs and admiring babies. We stopped for a moment to check the lay of the land. The large front lawn was speckled with tents and picnic tables. A tent for purchasing tickets, the game tent, the performance tent, and the food tent. An ice cream stand in the back, a cream puff (we DO live in America's Dairyland)stand to the far left. Way off to the right was a petting zoo, pony rides, and a big inflatable slide. Folks were scattered all over the grounds with their lawn chairs and blankets, or pulled up to a picnic table eating brats. Kids darted in and out of the game tent, begging for more tickets for one more game. The smaller set paid their 2 tickets at the inflatable slide and then jumped and bounced and slid to their heart's content. We purchased a slew of tickets and began wandering among our neighbors. We determined we would eat right away since we had not yet had dinner. We bought the biggest hot dogs I have ever seen in my entire life and hunkered down at a table to eat them.

The girls ran off with their friends and we enjoyed the simplicity of it all. I remember going to community events in Matthews, NC. Matthews was supposed to be a small-town community near Charlotte. Don't misunderstand, I loved Matthews, but it was no small-town. I remember going to events there and being hot hot hot and claustrophobic among the throngs of people. In fact, it's hard for me to get over that mentality. I sometimes forget here that I don't have to dread the heat and crowds when I go to a festival- even though the whole town is attending.

As we were eating our dinner the local one man band, a guy armed with an electric keyboard programmed with his own harmonies, began performing. Between him, the band that played later and the music the cloggers danced to,

Lincoln commented that he'd heard more Johnny Cash songs last night than he had since we last listened to his greatest hits collection from beginning to end.

At 7:30 the parade began. They looped from behind the building up the driveway on the right, out onto the road, back down the driveway on the left, back behind the building again.

The floats were decked out in red, white, and blue and the colors were proudly displayed by the local veterans.

There were even some WWII vets in the parade. I was touched to be surrounded by a generation of folks who know what it means to be patriotic. As the veterans passed carrying the colors, elderly men and women from the nursing home struggled to their feet applauding them. I felt for a moment like I was transported back to the 1950s when times were simpler and patriotism burned fiercely. I thought of how I wanted my children to feel that burn in their own bosoms, to have a swelling of pride in their hearts when they see Old Glory, a reverence for it and appreciation for what it stands for. I realized how much that will depend on Lincoln and me, because it just isn't taught in school like it once was. But I have hope, because here, in this small community, I feel it.

As we walked back down the hill to our car last night, I breathed deeply, filling my soul with the prairie. I looked out across the waving grasses to the cows under a tree on a far off hill. I looked at my children, sweaty, sticky with ice cream, pockets bulging with candy gleaned from the parade route and I loved them with every bit of my being. Lincoln pointed across the hills to the cows I had been watching. "Look how beautiful..." And I loved him too.