A Splashing Experience

We looked out the back doors yesterday on a gorgeous, crisp, sunny Tuesday morning.

The fire hydrant across the street was shooting spray, and we wandered out to take a look.

We investigated from a distance.

We investigated from a distance.

Heading up to take a look, splashing in the water.

Heading up to take a look, splashing in the water.

We got more and more comfortable.

We got more and more comfortable.

#5

#5

#6

#6

#7

#7

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The sun so bright.

The sun so bright.

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The water was so warm.

The water was so warm.

The gentleman from the water department was generous with his time and knowledge.

The hydrants are “cleaned” once per year. There are about 2500 in Davidson County, and our little neighborhood has 7 or 8. The first one takes the longest, which is why we were so lucky to have so much play time, because it is clearing all the sediment from the previous pipe in the previous neighborhood.

The hydrant will pump 1455 gallons of water per minute.

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Full soak and shine

Full soak and shine

The fun slowing down.

The fun slowing down.

And over until next time.

And over until next time.

It was one of those perfect moments in time.

Next year, they want Dad to stay home from work so he can play too.

Co-op

Several people have asked how our new co-op is going. In homeschooler speak, a “co-op” is when a group of families gather to “school” their children together.

The co-op we found is secular, and very relaxed, which suits our style.

And if you had asked me yesterday morning, I would have told you co-op was going fine. I was having a great time getting to know the other moms, and the children seemed fine.

Then, before we left for co-op, the children sat me down and told me they didn’t want to keep going to co-op. This time I truly listened to what they were saying.

They had logical, rational, honest insights to share.

And my extroverted reason for signing us up, to get them more friends; it isn’t a concern to any of them. They don’t need me to fix this or help them. They are happy with how our life is rolling along, and when another special friend comes into each of their lives, that will be great, but there is no rush.

This was another reminder to me that they are a product of both Buds and me. This piece of their personality is all him. It was good to talk it over with him after the children were all in bed.

I’m not failing them because they don’t have more friends down here. Their needs are different than mine in that realm. They have much to teach me.

In addition to deciding co-op wasn’t a good fit, they also had a list of things they want to do, and ways they still want to get out and meet people. It was a wonderful conversation and so respectful and loving all around.

So, that’s how co-op is going…It isn’t.

That’s how it worked out for us.

On to our next adventure.

Yessa did love all the babies that were around.

Yessa did love all the babies that were around.

Chiggers and Things that Wiggle and Niggle and Gnaw

Yessa and I managed to get into a batch of chiggers. If that means nothing to you, let me elaborate through picture and word.

Chiggers are a type of arachnid. Medicine.net says, “Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye (their length is less than 1/150th of an inch). A magnifying glass may be needed to see them. They are red in color and may be best appreciated when clustered in groups on the skin.” (Emphasis mine.)

Best appreciated when clustered in groups on the skin…someone with a keen sense of humor wrote that particular phrase. Chiggers cannot be appreciated. These bites are insanity inducers.

When I was a child, Dad used to warn me about chigger bites.

“You better get up outta’ that grass or you’ll get chigger bites.”

Since Dad normally issued his chigger warning when I was sitting or rolling around on the grass, as I look back with my newly-earned knowledge, if I had ever had a chigger infestation get hold of my butt for a feast, they would have had to sedate me, or call in the vet with a humane killer.

I never did get chigger bites as a child. In fact, until Yessa and I stumbled into our own little nest of chigger satans, I don’t recall ever having gotten chigger bites at all. Yessa and I have been scratching for weeks! Weeks! With no end in sight.

We try so hard not to itch. We’ve iced, we’ve soaked. Lotions, potions, prayer, meditation, ouija board, we’ve tried it all. Nothing has helped. The bites niggle and wiggle and get under your skin.

Shapely ankle, disfigured by  itchies

Shapely ankle, disfigured by itchies

I was sitting on our bed, scratching my ankles this morning when I realized the chigger bites are a painful, annoying, and very accurate depiction of the need to write that I have been fighting since SUUSI this summer. The writing workshop I took at SUUSI was a joy and a fire-lighter. I have been dreaming, planning, thinking of writing ever since.

Our life is very busy right now, as it is for most people. I’m not sure how or where to find the mental space and the physical time to write. Writing this blog is an easy, laughter-filled exercise for me, most of the time. I love recording our days for those who know and love us and wonder what we’re up to, as well as for our future selves who will look back and smile at these memories. When I hear Monkey cackling over previous posts, it is worth the time.

I’m talking about writing of a different nature. Essays that speak to the world, or at least speak to what I feel driven to write. I can’t ignore that internal itch any longer.

Despite all the scabs and groans caused by the chigger bites, I’m grateful for them this morning. Sometimes things that wiggle and niggle and gnaw cannot be ignored.

Planning

Buds volunteered to teach Religious Exploration for the elementary age group this year, and Dearest Thena volunteered, too. Since our two families comprise 2/3 of the class, it makes sense.

They are teaching a curriculum called Windows and Mirrors, which is lovely, and for Buds and me has the cool cross-section of having been co-written by Natalie Fenimore, who was our RE Director at our previous church. It makes the curriculum feel very personal and loved.

Thena and Buds are both so busy, and I’m so thankful to them for stepping up to guide and learn with our children. It’s great for everyone involved.

Two weeks ago our crew headed up to Thena’s for the afternoon/evening. They brainstormed, I cooked, kids played. It was a great day.

Planning Session

Planning Session

In preparation for today’s class, Buds asked Monkey for her suggestions for videos about Charles Darwin, and she had lots of stories that she loves that she shared as well.

Child-led curriculum

Child-led curriculum

I’m thankful that Buds was open to finding a spiritual community that felt safe and enriching for both of us, all those many years ago. Being UU has brought us more blessings than I could ever have imagined. (You know who you are.)

Safe Haven

Our church has partnered with the other UU church in town for over 15 years to provide dinner quarterly at a local family shelter . In my quest to find community service options that are well-suited to our family, I took part in this undertaking last week.

I tell you this not to pat myself on the back, but because of the parts of myself I had to confront because of this reaching out to others.

I walked in the front door of the shelter and introduced myself to the receptionist by telling her I was there to help with dinner. As she went to find the staff person in charge of dinner volunteers, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find the sweetest face looking into my eyes.

“What are we having for dinner?”

This was asked by a child who could have been The Buster if The Buster had curly hair instead of straight. And if Buster went to a school that required a uniform.

A couple stereotypes kicked to the curb: There were white folks staying as guests at the shelter. People staying at shelters can be articulate and precious and interesting. Oh, and homeless kids apparently can go to schools that require uniforms.

Truly, this child shone with an inner sparkle. I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl, but I was drawn to this precious human.

The pleasure and lessons of the evening went on from there.

Due to a mix-up with scheduling, our group was signed up with another group to serve, so there was an over-abundance of food. What an amazing blessing.

It was an awesome spread.

It was an awesome spread.

We had chicken, pulled pork, grits, corn, rolls, fruit salad, cookies, spice cake, and sweet tea.

The other volunteers serving were a group of college friends, now in their late 40’s-early 50’s, who all lived within 45 minutes of each other, but never saw each other. They decided to change that by regularly volunteering to bring meals to Ronald McDonald House, Hospital Hospitality House (the adult version of Ronald McDonald House), and now they were adding Safe Haven to their list of food-donation spots.

What a fantastic idea and so humbling to serve with them.

It was unclear if the shelter guests would have welcomed someone joining them at their tables. I’m sure they would have been kind, but different groups serve dinner every night, 365 nights a year, at the shelter. Having to be open and friendly and visiting with strangers every night would be exhausting. And just because I would have been honored to learn their stories, that doesn’t mean they would have cared to share their stories.

Instead I made conversation with people as they came to fill their plates, and if they chose to stand with me and visit for a few minutes, I was grateful. Another Mom and I talked about raising children, and the curly-headed pixie and I talked about her day and finding joy in life.

I drove home emotionally overwhelmed, grateful, and feeling so helpless.

The shelter has 10 units for families. It was full.

There were at least 10-12 children served that night.

Something isn’t right. This isn’t how the world should work.

I haven’t decided if I’m emotionally ready to go back to Safe Haven, and even more unsure if it is a good fit for the children. I want to fix things, but these people don’t need me to fix things, they just need society to make it possible for them to fix it themselves. We need to all fix this together.

Randomness

The weeks seem to fly by, though the days are sometimes sticky-slow.

Here are some fun memories for future years.

And have I mentioned that sometimes I think this blog is for my future self when my memory is completely gone? Also, of course, to make our children think they had the perfect childhood.

“Look at how happy you look in all these pictures!”

Here we go:

On Fridays we generally have a family movie night. Last week we had a movie party with people from church, so we had an outdoor showing of Raiders Of The Lost Ark on Saturday night.

But, the week before that, we watched Ze’ Frank videos together. Ze’ is foul-mouthed and inappropriate, but we learn tons of animal facts, and laugh like crazy. That seems like a fair exchange.

Cackles.

Cackles.

The path to our front door had become a jungle. The UPS delivery people had started dropping packages by the garage rather than running the gauntlet of butterflies and buzzy bees to the front.

Last weekend I took back our sidewalk:

Before:

Who plants spiky holly bushes next to a SIDEWALK?!

Who plants spiky holly bushes next to a SIDEWALK?!

Happy tomato plants

Happy tomato plants

Why did the  plant cross the road?

Why did the plant cross the road?

After:

Back off, pushy bushes.

Back off, pushy bushes.

And here we have a sidewalk.

And here we have a sidewalk.

More randomness:

Yessa and Buster's idea of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Yessa and Buster’s idea of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

We all sat down to dinner together...extraordinary.

We all sat down to dinner together…extraordinary.

Snuggly cat.

Snuggly cat.

She also loves to be in the shower…when the water is on.

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While we waited for the tires to be rotated, the children had to find a way to amuse themselves:

Caged.

Caged.

We recently realized our oven exhaust fan is aghast at our dirty kitchen floor:

Shocked, perpetually shocked.

Shocked, perpetually shocked.

Reading together.

Reading together.

And good times at the neighborhood pool in the waning days of summer:

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Have a happy, relaxing weekend.

Dreamin’

Buds sat up in bed the other night talking about “We’re going to run down this road. Yes, the race is on.”

That pales in comparison to the time he turned to me in the middle of the night and yelled in a rockin’ voice, “I’m OVER radio. I’m all about MTV!”

I was going to tease him about the running dream, but then last night happened.

I was squished between he and Yessa, and they were both so freakin’ hot! I was dead asleep, and I wanted more room and more air.

In a very cranky voice, I started asking him, “Are you getting up to take care of the window?!”

In the few moments where I was between awake and asleep, I could feel him chuckling and agreeing with me, and I realized I was telling him to get up, mix up some wood shavings to put between the glass panes of a window, and could he do that in pumpkin flavor, please?!

It made total sense at the time, and with that statement, I lose any opportunity to tease him about talking in his sleep any time soon.

Can’t Call Her Jaws Anymore

Monkey and I headed to the dentist this morning since her three-month deadline was up. She had managed to wiggle out two of the five baby teeth that were refusing to vacate, and the final three were still stubbornly entrenched.

The tech I had talked with told me that it wouldn’t take long for Dr. Branch to decide if he could quickly take care of the teeth, or if she would need to be referred to someone else.

It didn’t take him long to decide, but Monkey needed a bit more explanation.

She is incredibly strong and has high pain tolerance, but the specter of having three teeth pulled at once is enough to give anyone pause.

The staff at Nashville Smiles is excellent, and Kimber and Dr. Branch were both very patient. Kimber suggested some nitrous to help calm her nerves, and they also use numbing gel before the novacaine is injected, so they really felt they could reassure Monkey that she would not feel any pain. She asked for Buster to come back to tell her what nitrous was like, and he and Yessa were both happy to oblige.

Buster said it was like a warm, fuzzy feeling. He loves the sensation.

Yessa is also a fan, but Monkey still wasn’t convinced.

She did agree to try it, and Kimber gave it to her through the nose cone very, very slowly.

I stayed back in the room with her, and she kept informing me that the nitrous wasn’t doing anything, and that she was totally fine, “WOW! That picture is pretty.”

It was like having a conversation with a puppy who suddenly spots a squirrel.

She handled the whole process like a champ, and I got to watch the whole thing. (Gina, I thought of you and how glad you would be not to be there.)

Once he was sure she was numb, he took a squeaky-clean pair of stainless steel pliers and grabbed hold of each tooth, one by one. Since he couldn’t know how long the roots were, and since bumping other teeth or her tongue could have been painful, he worked very slowly and methodically, and then “pop,” they were out. Luckily, all of them had dissolved roots. The gums had hardened, which was all that was holding them in.

She was hungry, and a little cranky. (I told her I think nitrous makes her mean, unlike her siblings. ;-)) Once we got some food in her, she was back to her normal, wonderful self, just a few ounces lighter.

I sent this picture to Buds after the procedure, with the subject line: Problem Solved.

Peaches?

Peaches?

And got this email back from him:

I spent an unfortunate amount of time staring at that picture going “What was the problem?” “Are those peach halves?” “Did we have a problem with peach halves?” before it hit me.

Gaaah, I’m never going to work at a hospital.

Big smiles from all of us.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There are so many fantastic, free opportunities around Music City.

Recently we met up with some friends for a Shakespeare puppet show. In general our crew…not huge fans of puppet shows, but this one was a hit with everyone. The puppets were intriguing and beautiful, and all the children wanted the chance to go check them out up close after the show.

Bonus, Other Mom Amy and I both agreed that we got a lot from this retelling of the tale, for which we were thankful.

Read all the books!

Read all the books!

Snuggled in a cubby waiting for the show to begin.

Snuggled in a cubby waiting for the show to begin.

The larger fairy king- his eyes could change from red to green to indicate his mood.

The larger fairy king- his eyes could change from red to green to indicate his mood.

The gorgeous scenery

The gorgeous scenery

Puck and his glowy, glowy eyes

Puck and his glowy, glowy eyes

The queen in bridal attire

The queen in bridal attire

Rock Climbing

Monkey loved rock climbing in NoVa, and a new climbing gym opened down here recently. With their offer of a homeschool class, we had to give it a try.

Buuutt, knowing our crew as I do, I didn’t want to put out the bucks needed for the class until I was sure they’d enjoy it, so on Monday of this week we headed to the climbing place to hang out with Ms. Sara.

The Buster didn’t want to do it and was nervous. Yessa was looking forward to it since her sibs would be there, and no other kids. Monkey just loves to climb, so whatevs.

Ms. Sara was exactly what we needed. She was fun, kind, and supportive and all the children had a fantastic time. Their hands were sore, they were sweaty and tired, and when the class started today everyone was looking forward to it. (Even Yessa quickly got over her “Will there be other kids there?” anxiety.)

Some pictures of Monday and today:

Getting geared up.

Getting geared up.

The view from the second floor balcony.

The view from the second floor balcony.

Yessa almost at the top.

Yessa almost at the top.

Yessa makes it to the top.

Yessa makes it to the top.

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Ms. Sara getting them clipped in.

Ms. Sara getting them clipped in.

An adult on the 3-story walls downstairs.

An adult on the 3-story walls downstairs.

Homeschoolers who were not in our class, but working on their lessons between climbs. That's quite a classroom.

Homeschoolers who were not in our class, but working on their lessons between climbs. That’s quite a classroom.

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All this climbing is tiring.

All this climbing is tiring.

Buster said to Ms. Sara: I've probably got more in me if you give me a challenge"...so she did.

Buster said to Ms. Sara: I’ve probably got more in me if you give me a challenge”…so she did.

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The auto-belay system is really cool.

The auto-belay system is really cool.

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The professional climber we saw on our first day there.

The professional climber we saw on our first day there.