Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do you smell smoke?

I drove the four girls off to Horse Camp this morning.

It always smells nicer in the car on the way THERE, than on the way BACK.

I stayed out there for a bit and took photos. And one of the ranch hands took a photo of ME with the four girls and the horses. I was all full of "Squee! Photos of ME with horses!" and suddenly I'm 10 years old again.


After a lot of running around and getting stuff done, and going here and there and having lunch with Toni (who is responsible for getting the girls this afternoon), I was driving home, and decided, on a lark, to take the freeway home instead of the 'scenic route'.

I kid you not, as I'm coming up the freeway, the big overhead sign suddenly flashes "HIGHWAY CLOSED. FIND ALTERNATE ROUTE".

And this would be the ONLY highway that goes to horse camp. The ONLY road that goes over to where the girls are is currently closed in not one, but TWO places. The closure closest to my house is due to a lovely FIRE!!!!! This fire is currently 5 acres and growing (and I didn't see it when I was coming back from camp? Jackie! I was talking to you when I drove RIGHT BY where the fire is. I guess those thing grow faster than I thought. Egads!) Right now? Inside my house? I can SMELL THE FIRE. And I could see the thick billowy black clouds when I took my exit off the freeway.

OK, it's not the ONLY road, but in order to take another route, you can go 15 miles south, and then take a VERY windy road (the Dramamine Detour) through the mountains, coming out 15 miles south of Horse Camp, and then you have to head north, where... ta DA! The OTHER CLOSURE is. This one is some big traffic accident that's closed the road in both directions. Apparently, there are a lot of cars trapped between the accident and the fire, and they can't go ANYWHERE.

There is a third route. This one involves heading up nearly all the way to San Francisco, and then going out to the coast, and coming down by Devil's Slide. I wonder if that route's open... It wasn't 2 summers ago, when the slide actually, like, SLID.

All I can say is I am VERY glad that today is NOT my day to drive the girls.

*does a little washing-my-hands-of-the-whole-affair dance*

Monday, August 18, 2008

And so it begins

The last full week of Summer Vacation '08.


Let's start it off with a full day of fun in the sun with horses... AND NO SUNSCREEN.

Yes, I'll be getting my 'Best Mother Of The Year" plaque in the mail shortly.

Look!  Baby chickens!  (and a very sunburnt face)


I love, love, LOVE that she's completely unafraid around all this livestock.


Kind of like her mother...


But still.  That sunburn!  Ouch.

Oh look!  It's Java!  Her bestest favouritest horse.

And she was thrilled to discover that whoever it was who told her that her horse from last year, Cheval, was dead, was a dirty stinking lying liar.

Behold, Cheval.

Older.  Greyer, but still beautiful and lovely in Kelly's eyes.  And perfectly gentle for Kelly's good friend (and novice horse-rider) who is going to horse camp with her this week.

Oh, it's gonna be a great week!





It would appear that Exoskeletor passed away peacefully some time yesterday. Live fast, die young, I guess. He was 24. That'd be DAYS old. And he was about as big as my thumb nail.

I thought Nate might be upset about losing one of his 'pets', but when I asked him if he'd noticed anything about his Triops, he made jazz hands, and rolled his eyes back in his head while sticking out his tongue. Yes, the international symbol for "death".

So now begins the Triops Deathwatch 2008. My guess is that Junior (the slightly smaller Triops, which, I think, probably hatched a day or two AFTER Exoskeletor) won't be far behind in his trip over the Rainbow Bridge.

When I told Nate about it, his response was "Great! Then we can start another batch?"

I guess I'm raising a farmer, or something. Finish the first crop, and get the second crop rotated in asap.

My jet-setting daughter is once again out of the house.

This week, it's Horse Camp. Hmm. I wonder if this is turning me into some sort of Stepford Wife (or Stepford Mother?). But THIS horse camp is no country-club walk in the park with English Saddles, or anything. They go out to this ramshackle farm (and I use the term loosely. It's more like an assortment of nearly-abandoned 5th wheels up on blocks), and spend the day gathering the horses, cleaning them, grooming them, feeding them, herding the goats that escape, gathering eggs from the chickens, re-filling the old wheelbarrow that acts as the impromptu duck pond, and THEN they get to ride. It's sort of child labour, but the kids LOVE it.

Last week, we had her BFF from 2nd grade come visit. Kate moved away last year, so Kelly had to break in a new BFF for school, but she still has a soft spot in her heart for Kate. And the feeling's mutual. So Kate's parents have kept in touch, and on Thursday, we went and got Kate for an extended play date.

First, there was play time:

Then there was a sleep-over.

THEN there was a trip to the aquarium!

And how cool is this? LEAFY SEA DRAGONS! And weedy sea dragons! And pot bellied sea horses.

No sooner had we returned from a full day at the aquarium, than it was time to pack a bag, and send Kelly off with Kate's family... TO YOSEMITE.

I swear this child has a wilder set of opportunities than I *ever* knew. Heh.

Somewhere, there are photos of Yosemite. Not on my camera, though. I wasn't invited.

Ah, there's one:


She gets delivered home Sunday afternoon, and no sooner has she walked in the door than the phone is ringing with ANOTHER friend wondering if she's busy.

Of. Course. Not.

So more playing!

And this time? Because she's going into 4th grade, and wants her independence? We let the girls go off on a bike hike in the neighbourhood. it's probably the safest place in the universe, our neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon, but my heart was still in my throat until they came charging back up the driveway, wanting ice cream.

And I want her to be able to bike to school this year? Eek. I'd better loosen the apron strings a bit more.

While the mighty bike hikers were off on their trip, I took a few photos in the yard.

We have visitors.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wasting TIme

Man, there is BARELY a week left of summer vacation, and I had a list as long as my arm of stuff that I just KNEW I had enough time to do this summer (do I even dare admit that I thought I'd be able to paint the outside of the house and the fences this summer?  Egads).


Buh-bye summer.  Hope the door doesn't hit you on the way out.  Yikes.

I know that we did SOMETHING, but right now, I'm thinking that I have very little to show for a summer of sloth.

Oh yeah.  I upgraded the glasses.

Hmm.  OK, I also upgraded the hairdo.  And it looks like I got a good start on the furrowed brow look, too.


But my downfall has been this:

Captioning photos.  I could do this all day long.  And then I giggle at how clever I am, and it's no WONDER there are huge dust bunnies on the stairs, and Skip doesn't know where his phone charger is.

But that's ok.  I poke fun at him, too.


Next week is Horse Camp for Kelly, and I foresee a lengthy time of captioning horse-faced photos.

Sloth, it is the best of the seven deadly sins.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doctor, My Eyes.

So, a few weeks back, I went in for my once-every-whenever-I-remember eye exams.  I think this is the third time since Nate was born.  So I'm almost once every two years.  Almost as good as my "yearly" physical.


Anyways, turns out that my eyes really ARE getting a little worse.  And my use-them-when-I-remember reading glasses that I got back when Nate was a baby aren't doing the best job in keeping me seeing thing sharply.

As I was chatting with the doctor (a wonderfully personable young man that I want desperately to be my friend, now) he said "You know, August is Kid Vision Month here.  How are your kids' eyes?"

Whoops.  You mean I'm supposed to be taking kids to the EYE doctor, too?  I can barely get them signed up for Well Kid visits every year or so.  But I was at the receptionist's desk, and she was very helpful, and the next thing I knew, I was being a pro-active parent, and making sure my kids all saw with their best eyes.

Their appointments were today.

I think Skip found all the apparatus quite fascinating.  Towards the end of the visit, the doctor said "If your Science Fair project ends up being vision-related, come see me, and I'll help you with it."


And it was fun being on the spectator side of the vision exams, watching him turn dials, and flip lenses in and out and watch what it did to the kids.

They also do this laser retina-mapping thing that's WAY cool.  So we all got to see the insides of the kids' eyes.  Everyone is VERY healthy.  A good thing.

The upshot of things?

All the kids are farsighted.  But nominally so.  The sort of thing that most all kids are born with, that gives them spectacular distance vision.

But of the three kids, Kelly is the MOST far-sighted. 

And so...

Good golly, Miss Molly, you'd thought it was Christmas all over again when the doctor said "I do think that Kelly should get glasses"  The biggest grin spread across her face.  My goodness, you'd think getting glasses was a fashion statement, or something.

Of course, it helps that her best friend has glasses, and Kelly thinks she's just the Coolest of the Cool Beans.


So off we went to the doctor's in-house optometrist.

And she'll be a glasses-wearing fashion maven in a week and a half.  Just in time for the first day of Fourth Grade.

(apologies for the craptacular camera-phone shots)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Letting the dust settle.

So, I bid adieu to our Marathon Team this morning at 645, and am now in the process of catching up on the laundry (and obsessively checking my FaceBook to see if any of my Scramble Games are in "my turn" mode.)


I kind of feel like I need to clarify things on the whole shaving-in-the-nude thing.

Firstly, Kevin didn't have any idea that I was in the hallway.  It was nearly a half hour after the house had been stilled for the night.    Jordie had gotten me up, and we'd been downstairs.  It was he who had knocked on Kevin's door, and in all likelihood, Kevin probably imagined it was just a 'whisper through the door' sort of comment.  Also, the guys had been in and out of the one bathroom, and I'm sure that Kevin was just keeping the bathroom clear, seeing as he had an electric razor, and could just as easily shave over Kelly's trash can, as over the bathroom sink.  Oh, and one last thing - it was STINKIN' hot on Saturday night.  And the bedrooms are upstairs, and they just hold in the sweltering heat, and when the marathon team comes up to stay with us, they travel VERY light (one backpack each), and their night-clothes are these heavy fleece track-suits, because it's usually FRIGID where we live at night, even in July, because of the fog that rolls in around 8pm.  So really, Kevin's choices for sleepwear were the oven-suit, or the birthday-suit.

Oh, and as a by-the-way.  After the guys left this morning, I started laundry, and was getting to the mess in the kitchen, when there was a knock at the door.  It was Jordie.  Whoops.  They'd forgotten to give me back my camera. 



The great thing about having guests like this, though, is the sense of affirmation that they give me as a hostess.

I make the most basic food for them, and it's like they'd NEVER had such exquisite stuff before.

I give them a couch-cushion in a pillowcase, and a blanket, and it's like I'd just opened the door of the penthouse suite at the RItz to them.

We sit down to eat around a crowded table that I've forgotten to put even the basic condiments on, and their swirl of conversation always comes back to what a wonderful family we have, and what a blessing we are, and I just want to pump my fist in the air and say "We rock!" instead of "thanks for being here".

But now, today, I have a 'letting the dust settle' day stretched out ahead of me.  There's laundry running, and Skip and Nate have just staggered downstairs, and are playing a bit on the Xbox.  Kelly's still sawing logs. 

Once I've eaten, and gotten a few more loads run through the washer, I'll be heading off to the thrift store to drop of nearly a full van of 'stuff we don't need any more', as part of my "Turning Our Room Into A Zen Sanctuary" goal for the week.  It was my goal last week, too, but I kind of stalled.  Er, and I think it was my goal the week before last, too.  Whoopsie.  Let's draw this goal to a close, shall we?



Strange stories that are true:

Last summer, we'd just come back from our Quebec/Maritimes vacation to discover that my friend and neighbour, Renee (and her family), had vanished from our street, leaving the only home they'd ever really known after some wierdness with her father/landlord.  As it happened, the city that they moved to was the same city that the Marathon Team was using as a home base last summer, so when the team was staying with us, I asked Kevin if he'd consider taking "housewarming" flowers to her at her new address.  He was happy to do it for me, as he and the team had just spent a wonderful weekend with us, at our table, and under our roof, and he was more than happy to do something a little out of his way as a 'thankyou'.  So the next week he had stopped by her new house, brought her flowers from me (I gave him cash, and suggested a bouquet from the local Safeway florist department), and gave her suggestions for churches in the area, as he was quite familiar with the place.

Fast forward to this last week.

I'm driving home from Kung Fu with Kelly when I notice that my neighbour's garage door is open, and she's just getting out of her car.

"Kelly!  Quick!  Get the flowers, we're going to meet the new neighbour!" (I hadn't told Kelly that Renee and her family were back in town).

And so, with tears and hugs, we're welcoming them BACK home in the  middle of the street.

Her first words:  "Oh, Kem, you have NO idea what a blessing it was last summer when you sent that man over with flowers.  He couldn't have come at a better time.  The flowers were such a joy, and his church recommendation was Bang On.  We ended up going there all year, and it was a perfect fit for us.  I want to get your friend's address, so I can write to him, and tell him how he really touched our lives this last year."

My response:  "Oh, well why don't you tell him in person, seeing as he's going to be staying at our place THIS WEEKEND"

Yup.  The Marathon Team showed up the very next day.

Renee could NOT believe it.

And so it was that on Saturday evening, just after supper, she showed up at our place, and practically squished the air out of Kevin in a big Thank You Hug.

And once again, I was so impressed with his grace and his wisdom, as we discovered what had transpired since she and her family had been away.  It was not a pretty tale.  But she told it to Kevin (a man she had only met once) and I, and we laughed and cried, and hugged, and Kevin said some of the most touching things that really impressed me, and really helped Renee.  The man gives such wise counsel.

It is not my story to tell.  Suffice it to say that I am so glad that she is back, and she is so glad that we live on the same street.  And there is much work to do, and much healing that I am ready to be used in.


Hey.  Are these things illegal here?

I bought a bunch up in Canada, but I would hate to get busted for having the kids play with them out in the street tonight.


Ok, I think enough dust has settled.  It's time to put the Working Clothes on, and get busy around here.  That laundry isn't going to wash itself.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

We know how to put the AWK in awkward

So right now, we've got a team of guys staying in our house. Four guys who are going to be running the San Francisco Marathon tomorrow morning.

They're getting up at 4am.

I will not be getting up at 4am.

But because they're crashing early, I've been relegated to the master bedroom, with the laptop actually inhabiting my lap. Ken is coming down with something, and has already fallen asleep. His throat is all scratchy, and his head hurts when he moves his eyes instead of his whole head to look at something.

There was just a knocking at the door. And a quiet "um, Kem..." from the hallway.

One of the marathoners. He'd just realized that none of them had brought a camera along, and was wondering if we had a spare digital camera they could borrow.

Now, ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer. Ken's got our old one (the behemoth that we thought was SO SMALL when we bought it years ago) in his office somewhere. And my old digital camera (the one I had before Ken bought me my magnificent midget Canon last year) now belongs to Kelly, and can often be found on the kitchen counter. So I said "let me get you my daughter's camera. It takes 1-meg photos and is a great camera, and quite tiny. I'm pretty sure it's on the kitchen counter.

So Jordie and I head downstairs (in the dark) to look on the kitchen counter. But Jason is already asleep in the family room, so I just open the oven, and take a look around in the semi-darkness. But Kelly's camera is nowhere to be found. Oh nuts. Did she take it with her to her sleepover? Oh, there's one more place it could be. In an ORGANIZED HOUSE, Kelly's camera would be in Kelly's room, so let's take a chance.

Well, Kevin was staying in Kelly's room, and there was still a sliver of light under the door. Kevin is the senior member of the team, probably a few years older than Ken and I. His children are grown ups. He's like an elder statesman. Very mature. Very wise. He's stayed with us as part of the marathon team for the last 4 years, and we really enjoy our time with him. I tell Jordie that Kelly's camera may be on her desk, so he knocks quietly on Kevin's door (which is slightly ajar), and when Kevin answers with a quiet 'yes?', Jordie pushes the door open.

And there is Kevin, standing in the middle of Kelly's room.


In the nude.


There was this moment of slow-motion terror, where everyone turns away with the speed of a viper striking.

And then we started laughing.

It was that "I'm so embarrassed that this happened" laugh, coupled with "The kids are sleeping, and we don't DARE wake them up" laugh, coupled with the "it's late, and how will we every explain this laugh", coupled with the "this is REALLY not all that funny, so it must be even MORE funny" laugh, coupled with the "I can't look you in the eye" laugh as we'd catch each others' eyes out in the hallway.

And the piece de resistance?

Kelly's camera was NOT there. I'm beginning to think that she may have taken it on her sleepover after all.

So I grabbed my own beloved camera, and wiped the memory card, and wrote up a little bit of "how to use it to its best advantage". I think it's the least I can do, after catching Kevin in such an awkward moment.

I left that note, with the camera, on the bathroom counter. There's no WAY I'm going by the mens' bedroom doors any more tonight.

I've had enough surprises.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm no sidekick!

I had Nate and Kelly in the car with me last night coming home from a supper at church. Nate was tired, and slumped over in his seat. Kelly, being the Van Policeman, took it upon herself to try to get Nate to sit upright... "so the seatbelt can do its job". Alas, she was a bit vigorous in her pushing of Nate, to the point that his arm got a bit jammed in the armrest, and he started wailing.

Nate: Ow ow ow ow ow ow... waaaah.... (other sounds that were toddler-esque, rather than the sounds I like to hear from my 6-year old). Kelly... you are bad and mean... ow ow ow ow

Kelly: I'm sorry, Nate. I was just trying to help you sit up straight SO THE SEATBELT CAN DO ITS JOB.

Nate: Well, you hurt my arm. It could be broken. ow ow ow ow.

Kelly: Nate, if you were sitting up straight, you wouldn't be hurt.

Me: Yup, Nate. I'm gonna have to go with Kelly on this one. You know that you can get hurt if the seatbelt can't do its job.

Nate; But Kelly, I AM NOT A SIDEKICK.

Me: ????

Kelly: *silence* *sounds of crickets*

Me: What do you mean, Nate?

Nate: (again, for emphasis) I... Am... Not... A... SIDEKICK.

Kelly: Sit up straight so the seatbelt can do its job, Nate.

Me: I still don't know what you mean, Nate.

Nate; *eye roll* I mean... that I don't know everything. And I don't KNOW that something bad is going to happen, because I don't know things before they happen.

Me: Oh... so you're telling me that you're not PSYCHIC?

Nate: Yeah. I'm not a sidekick.

Kelly: Nate! That's NOT the same. A sidekick is someone that stands beside you and fights the bad guys.

Nate; Well, I'm not psychic either, then. Hmph.