As usual, in February I lost my strength. It is hard to keep a sense of humor when it is 20 below. And how can I blog about the children when for weeks, all I have gotten is little peeks of them through their snow clothes.
Also due to Quint’s online school program, I have been suffering from an acute lack of free time.
But yesterday, the temperature soared to 26. In lieu of our coats, we donned hopes that spring could be just around the corner! And today, Elizabeth found this:
And cheerfully instructed me to: “Please write on your blog that your daughter has discovered a berry on a bush, which is the second sign of spring.” The first sign was a lady-bug in the kitchen.
As I write, Elizabeth came into the room to ask me if we could send a picture of the berry to Mrs. Lindmark. You see, this morning during the sermon, the pastor asked anyone desiring to be discipled to raise a hand. Around 19 hands went up. 18 big hands and one very tiny Elizabeth hand*. After the service, (to the envy of women throughout the congregation) Elizabeth was approached by Mrs. Margo Lindmark, widely known at our church to be a master discipler, with an offer, which Elizabeth readily accepted. And just in time, for there is berry to discuss!
In addition to recording the first two signs of spring, I have hijacked Dan’s computer today to record the rapid and unexpected shrinking of the population in our home.
Last week, in the course of 24 hours, we lost Quint (a student), Nicole (a renter), and Mr. Tumnus (a rabbit). To protect the privacy of the aforementioned residents I won’t go into detail. I will tell you that one of them went home to his mom, one of them bought herself a house, and one of them died at the paw of Corn-dog. (Or Korn-dog, as Charlie insists he spells it with a “K”).
The death was a real shock for us. Elizabeth keeps insisting that she doesn’t think it was Mr. Tumnus’s “last day”. Well, apparently it was. And it has got us all contemplating our mortality. As Elizabeth explained to the other children:
“God decides when it is time for a person to die: some people die when they are young, some people die when they are old, and some people are squeezed to death by a python.”
I would also like to record the details of our recent trip to Hawaii, but that might be too much for my first day back on the blog. Later, then.
*Note about the hand: Elizabeth reports, with tears, that the other children at school regularly laugh about her hands being so tiny. Last week I volunteered as sewing helper. And no sooner had the children taken up their needles, than a little boy leaned across the table to peer at Elizabeth’s hands and ask: “Why are your hands so tiny?”
**Please be advised, death by Corn-dog is highly classified. The children think Mr. Tumnus choked on a carrot, and that Daddy laid him to rest in the woods under a shady tree, since you can’t bury anything in the ground this time of year. Both are sort of true. There was a missing carrot after the death. And we hope he is laying under a shady tree, but the snow was thigh-high so Dan just hurled him over the fence and into the woods.
So, we are down to just Theresa, but I’m sure we won’t stay small for long.
While putting on her princess dress, I heard Miss P whisper, “Oh thank you God for making Santa Claus come and bring me this princess dress.” Then she broke into a round of “Bless the Lord O’ My Soul”. I’m glad she’s giving credit where credit is due.
(The giggling you see is due to the fact that one of the Queens was passing some very loud gas.)
At 17, I am not sure you could call Quint Ironnecklace a little pepper. But he has been with us since October and we have grown to love him like a pepper. In addition to being a rich addition to our dinner table, and a wonderful big brother to the children, he has been kind enough to let me meddle in his academic affairs. Meddling in other people’s affairs is my hobby. At one time, I even got paid to do it. But since coming home to be with the children, I have been forced (as Mr. Molesley said to Carson last week) to “contain my skills”.
Quint, who has elected to finish high school online at home, has given me free reign to meddle. Last week was his first week schooling at home, and he really left it all out on the court. Although we are both pooped, the first week was a success. And as you can see, online high school has helped my punctuation.
Below: Quint blending right in thanks to a new wardrobe of Alabama football wear.
(Matthew 11 : 5)
It did not start out the best day ever. Although sorry that Miss P has been presenting with some unmentionable gastric symptoms (that worry me more than they do her), I was not sorry to have an excuse to haul everybody over to the Children’s Hospital to drop off a “sample”. Everyone is just so nice over there. The staff is all crispy and smiling. They don’t seem to mind children in pajamas or children running in the halls or children singing in the cafeteria.
Well, we weren’t in the car two minutes before the kids asked what was in that container there. I explained about Miss P’s sample. They were understandably intrigued.
Charlie: “Can we see it?”
Me: “I can’t show it to you right now because I am driving, but you can see it at the clinic.”
Charlie: “Just throw it on back here mom, I’ll catch it!”
Confident as he was that he could “catch it”, I could not bring myself to throw it on back there, and they just had to wait.
The suspense was just about to kill them as we pulled into the parking ramp. We glided smoothly in without so much as a scratch to the van. And it was not until Level 2 that a sickening scraping, crunching sound reminded me that we had neglected to take the car-top luggage carrier (from our recent month long trip to Birmingham) off the top of the van. Apparently the ceiling of the ramp is lower on Level 2. There was no way to back out and no way to go forward, as closer inspection revealed that the next ceiling beam was even lower. So, I pulled into a parking space and sent an emergency text to Dan.
Fortunately, he works only a block from the hospital. Unfortunately, upon checking his schedule he found that he would not be able to work us in for another 3.5 hours. He suggested I try my hand at the removal, but he reinforced it so well with a labyrinth of bungee chords and ties and the car top carrier is heavy and it was -11 degrees and I had all these short people with me, so I decided to wait until Dan could come.
We were a little late for Miss P’s appointment, so I grabbed everybody and pulled them along at a brisk trot. ”Oh! oh!” Miss P panted, “Why are we running? Do they need me to do something on a stage?”
It is kind of a let down to know that not only are you not wanted on a stage, but all they really care about is your poop.
We finished the appointment and had only three hours left to wait for help to arrive. Fortunately, the hospital has a beautiful child care center for siblings of children with appointments. Unfortunately, you are supposed to leave your children there while you attend an appointment (not drink coffee in the lounge), and we had no more appointments scheduled.
I decided to march in confidently, figuring that since Miss P operates under an assumed name the teacher might not notice that she had already had her appointment for the day.
“Hello, Charlie, and Elizabeth, and Miss P,” she greeted her old friends warmly.
And to me (nodding at Annie): “And the name of the child with the appointment?”
“Mary.” Technically I was telling the truth. Miss P’s name is “Mary” and she was the child with the appointment. But I know what she thought. She thought I was taking Annie to an appointment, not out for coffee.
And of course Elizabeth had to pipe up: “But why are we here when her appointment is already over?”
There was nothing to be done but gasp, “Look over there!” And then sneak away with Annie before questions could be asked.
I felt so guilty, knowing I was living a lie, I could not even enjoy my coffee or my magazine one bit. It was all I could do to wait an appropriate amount of time before I could snatch them back out of child care and get my life back on track.
My plan was to wait the remaining 2.5 hours in the cafeteria, but on our way we noticed a bluegrass concert happening in the Starz Studio where they broadcast live on the Children’s Hospital channel. Would you believe that the live studio audience section was empty? Not for long. We took the front row, and clapped along all by ourselves. The emcee was so grateful to have us that he produced stuffed animals for each of the children. The music was really great. Miss P could not help but jump up on her chair for a little hip shaking. Annie followed suit, and Elizabeth joined in with shoulder action. Even Charlie engaged in some subtle toe tapping.
After the concert we swung by the cafeteria for pizza and giant cookies.
Where Charlie said, “This is even better than Lifetime Fitness*”.
And Elizabeth said, “This is the best day I have ever had at Children’s Hospital.”
And then Charlie said, “This is the best day I have ever had in my life.”
About that time, Dan called from the ramp, to inform us that he had successfully transferred the luggage carrier to the top of his little grey Honda Civic, where it easily cleared the roof.
And then we went home to nap. And all agreed, it was the best day ever.
*While in Birmingham I found out that at Lifetime Fitness, where my mother has a membership, members can deposit their children free of charge for three hours of classes that include Karate, Gymnastics, Zumba, and Spanish. For the remainder of our stay I availed myself of this resource for the allotted three hours every single day.
**What Miss P would have done if they had wanted her on a stage:
…that never ends.
Warning: when you tell a child, “After this song you are going to bed”, there’s a good chance the song will never end.
I read recently (I’m no longer a reader…it was in Real Simple) that Lucille Ball said it is more important to know what you can’t do than to know what you can do. I have been thinking about this all day, and though I am still not sure why anyone would think this a jolly quote to put on the spine of the festive holiday edition of Real Simple, but it did motivate me to think of all the things I can’t do. Such as costumes.
Although the Hand in Hand Christmas Program announcement has hung proudly on our fridge for weeks, I only just this week spotted the line that read, “Students should come in an angel costume.” Or maybe I did read it and just blocked it out.
I don’t know what it is about costuming that is so daunting to me. I’d rather do almost anything else. Why, just this week a friend of a friend asked if her friend could stay with us for a couple of months to fulfill a sentence of house arrest. (Obviously, it is hard to do house arrest without a house.) My first thought: “Well, I don’t see why not!” Host house arrest: no problem. But tell me I have to make a costume: Whoa Nelly! You will find me lying in bed with a cool cloth on my head.
Which is why on Tuesday, when I heard Phil ask Mary if she minded spending the day at our house as he was needing the car, I (inwardly) began to cackle. Mary Olson: my prisoner for the day!
The feeling I get when I think about Mary Olson is very similar to the feeling I get thinking about Theresa Bulger.
Poor Mary Olson, hunched over the sewing machine in my sweatshop for the rest of the day. But not everyone can do this with an old, white sheet.
A few times a year I have this back spasm. It’s okay except that I can’t stand up all the way. Which makes it awkward to carry out my duties. After supper, I asked Dan if he minded if I left him on duty and went upstairs to lie down. He very graciously agreed. But within minutes, this happened:
A real beehive. So relaxing.