When we told the lady at the candy shop that it was Tess's birthday she asked which birthday it was.

"Ten?! Double digits! Wow! Well, that means you're officially a tween!"

My heart leapt straight into my throat and the world pitched because while ten is a milestone, to hint around the edges of "teen"? Well, let's take things one day at a time!

Tess planned and planned and planned out her day. She requested to make a skirt for herself and it kept getting put off so we stayed up late last night putting it together. 


It seemed like the proper kind of introduction to ten.

She requested crepes by Jac and lunch out with me. Tess, like all of our girls, is a lass of big feelings. Today, though the weather was stormy, she was nothing but sunshiny joy and grace.


We giggled over cat videos while we are our Sonic in the car. We switched seats and followed every distracted thought at Yo Yo Beeri. We conquered levels in Candy Crish and went to Zoom downtown just to "check things out," and came away with glass bottled pop, a few little treats and a large bag of her favorite candy gifted by the generous and friendly store owner.


All that before the extravaganza. 

She is loved best by people and attention and the new and novel. We had 4 guests join us for her favorite food and they brought laughter and fun with them. Elizabeth brought a hat and a coupon book promising future fun. There was a singing card from Randy and more candy.


Jacques remembered she wanted popcorn for the movie she's been talking about for a month so he brought some home. She was so excited to watch Open Season just so she could hear all of us laugh with her.

She's growing up, yes, and often she wants to race ahead. "Only 5 more years until I'm 15! I can't wait! I'll be able to drive, it will be my golden birthday AND my quinceñara!" Again with the lurching of my heart! 


"Isn't it crazy that I was 8 once? I can't even remember that. Or when I was 4." I think it hit her then, this getting older business. But then she started laughing over something I said and she couldn't stop and their was shreiking about peeing in pants and 10 seemed absolutely perfect, tween and all.

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I used to read in history books about the fighting Italian City States would do and I would be confused. Sure, fighting for over land made sense but over honor? Who's Saint or town flag was better? I didn't get it.

Now I understand.

I love South Dakota. I used to be biased about the Hills, but the truth is, as I've traveled the state, every trip has shown me something to take my breath away. I-90 isn't exactly picturesque, but it has its appeal. I love the Hills, obviously because they're The Hills, and the beauty of the scenery is only rivaled by the character of the communities. But Rapid. . . I heart Rapid.

For the first 20 years of my life I rather disliked it. It was hot and sticky while the lake was cool. It involved awkward family visits or fighting through crowds at the tourist spots. But then I got to know the city and it won me over.

There are problems, of course, with policy and infrastructure. It lacks in true diversity and there is a tightly drawn cord of racial tension that is always strumming just beneath the surface. Love does not keep a record of wrongs I say! And how can someone hope for change if they don't first love?

For all of her flaws, I love Rapid for the friendliness of people. Today it was woman at the neighborhood drugstore who remarked, "Well! Your face is sure healing nicely!" I was taken off guard as I'm not in there with great frequency and it's been at least a months since I looked rough. When I, laughing, told her it was in fact much better, she went on to tell me all about her dad who has Alzheimer's and who went to the dermatologist yesterday. It's not the first time she and I have chatted but I wouldn't know her if I saw her at the grocery store or in a restaurant. She didn't have to enter in or open up like that. But it happens and happens often in this lovely city.

I came away saying a prayer of thanks for her, for this place that we live with its great faces and great places and our place in it. I'd champion this city's goodness any day!
* The bumper sticker above Jac gave me for my birthday after I raved about it. The shop is a local designer from Sturgis. If you're a fan of the Dakotas, Minnesota or any of the lovely western places, check out her great stuff! Oh Geez Design

This kid.


He is -by far- the pickiest eater we've got. He's gotten to the point where he doesn't even complain on the nights when he eats only corn. Or rice. Or bread. He also tanks up on the meals he likes so I figure it all evens out.

Right?!


He doesn't eat milk in his cereal because it's too soggy. He was driven to the brink of tears just THINKING about the fact we were in a place that serves sushi. Potatoes, condiments, ground beef, eggs. . . All no's. The French toast I made for breakfast this morning? He avoided the table.

But black pasta, well that was something he could get behind. He kept hinting about using it and the night I brought it out, he cheered. 


I couldn't try it because as I opened the package I saw it was colored with squid ink. My stomach turned in the way I know Phil's does at the mere mention of foods he doesn't care for. So I kept that knowledge to myself and he went on to eat nearly the entire pound of pasta all by himself.

I'm still unsure if I should feel guilty (for omitting the truth) or proud (he enthusiastically ate something I was too chicken to try). We shall see if we've scarred him for life or made a gourmand of him by accident. In the meantime, don't say a word.

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Birthday talk has become hot and heavy around here. Yes, Tess's birthday is in a week followed closely by Jac's, but Gem and Lu are convinced it's their birthdays that we should be thinking about.

Today Lucy assured me that she wanted cake and that I could make it. 

"I'll let you make it mom, okay?"

Meanwhile, Gemma -fanciful, imaginative Gemma- has been cataloging her gift requests. Sunday she told me I could get her what she wanted for her birthday because, here she clicked her tongue, "You know what I want." To save face (because I had no idea what she wants, aside from a phone and that's not happening), I told her it was okay to ask us for things.


Jac had a similar discussion with her and whispered it to me when she emerged in her 4th outfit of the day. 

"She said, 'Dad, for my birthday I want a motorcycle and a statue of Mary.' I told her she was NOT getting a motorcycle."

But then she asked me, "Mom, is this how you hold a cigar?" As she pretended to chain smoke, her faux combat boots tapping a sassy rhythm on the linoleum, her 'do-rag slipping over one ear.


Speechless is what I was. And then I caught a few pictures because I think it will be humorous to have those present when she enters the convent. Yes, the convent. It's the only place for that load of spunk.

Pray for us!

A phone at the lake is a relatively new convenience. When I was a kid, Mama Syd would have a list of people to call when we got to Uncle Bert's on our trips into town. Or she'd fill her pocket with quarters and I'd accompany her to the store and we'd wait our turn at the pay phone, bugs swarming under the lightbulb over the door, and she'd have to make it quick. So why we had some antique/vintage/old phones around, I have no idea. But they did provide great entertainment for the girls and inspired all sorts of questions from the kids.

"But how does the phone know which number you're dialing? Like how does it remember how far you went?" -Philip

"You mean you had to go all the way around?"

"But what's this cord for? You couldn't go farther than this?!"-Tess

"How did you know who was calling?"

"Wait. The phone didn't know the numbers? You had to know them?! But what if you didn't?"

"IT'S WINGALING!!!"-Lucy (Translation, "It's ringing!)

And now I am officially old. I'll hang up now.

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Max has a way of requesting things. Like when I've got Penny in the backpack, and sisters crying, and 30 minutes to make a 45 minute dinner, he will come and stand next to me, handing me items I need and then ask calmly, "What was the last thing you wrote on the blog?" I'll tell him and he will ask when that was and I'll wrack my brain for an answer amid all the other scraps and scrapes in there. "Oh, that's sad." He'll say. "You should write about fair." Then he'll say something to Pen and disappear.

Request received.

It matters to him this year because this year he knocked fair out of the park. Such a surprise after last year when it was a fight to get him to do anything. He entered 15 total items including 6 photos. If he wasn't thirteen or a boy, he would've been giddy but all he could muster was early rising and extra jokes. That was pretty great, too.


For 3 weeks he researched, studied, planned and built a Lego DDay Omaha Beach landing. He was so proud of it and we were, too.  When we went to pick up our entries, the fair lady gushed about it and said at least one kid had studied it at length, determined to make his own. Jac and I were glad the effort was recognized with a best in class ribbon. I had a few project suggestions for him, too, and one-a splatter painted Captain America shield-won best in show.


Philip dreamed about how great all of his entries would be but the morning we planned to turn things in, he panicked. "I have nothing done!" How many things had he started? One. We calmly asked what he had been doing instead and if it was worth it. When he realized it had been, most of the pressure was lifted. And in the end, the things he did enter received blue ribbons and a ceramic tile even won best in class.


Tess and Ellie both worked hard and with great persistence on their entries. Tie dyed shirt, art pieces, recycled crafts.  .  .they were pleased with their effort. Their ribbons reflected their hard work.


And Gem was serious about her work and truly aware of what it all meant. She was excited to check in and when we finally saw their ribbons, she beamed.


And me? Well, at the end of it all, I was in need of a good, stiff drink for my nerves, a massage for my tension headache, and a maid for the state of the house. Oy.

Their winnings are now burning holes in their pockets and they have already begun to plan for next year. I think I need a few months to help get me there, but I'm sure I'll come around.


Take a nap!, I said.

You need the rest!, I said.

You can't tell me what to do! I'm a wanna-be woman who don't need no naps!, she said. (More with her actions than with her words though.)

Then she threw a fit well out of the napping time frame and was escorted to her room where she promptly fell asleep on the floor.

Twice.

"How's your week been?" Bridget asked of Gemma after this happened. 

For the second time.

"Wellllll," Gemma shot a side long glance at me, and shook her bowed head sadly. "Tsk! Not so good. Luce-a hasn't been napping."

"Because I won't let her," is what she should've said.

But she didn't. Probably because she was so tired she forgot to. Gemma doesn't need naps either, or so she says. Though again, it's more with her actions than with her words. And that has me saying all SORTS of words to myself, believe you me.


I find myself, minutes away from another Monday, staring terror stricken and sweaty-browed at another oncoming week.

I'm fine. It's gonna be fine!

Where's a paper sack to pant into when you need one?

Anyway, here I am sifting back through the weekend for the things that made us laugh. It's those things that make me think I can endure another long week filled to bursting with bickering siblings, strong-willed toddlers, and the impending Girl's Room Clean-out 2016.

The choicest gem of child utterances for the week goes to Ellie who imperiously huffed at Gemma this morning, "Ugh! This is unnecessary work! Cut me some slack!" Because, you know, she works soooo hard all the other days. (No. No, she does not. She actually covered the living room floor with the contents of her school drawer on Friday and then cried when I told her to pick it up after 4 hours. The reason for tears? "It's too hard!") I find it hilarious that she managed to be holier than thou AND lazy at the same time. That's my girl! She gets that from me. And the "chore" Gemma asked of Ellie? Pouring her some milk for her cereal. 

I know. Life is so hard.

Cheers to a new week! Here's hoping it's filled with hilarity and more than enough help to go around. Lord knows I need it!

Backstory: For months - MONTHS! - before her birthday, Gemma talked obsessively about the eye shadow we would be giving her.  I tried all the tactics to make it stop - failing to engage, ignoring, distraction - and finally just shot straight with her. "You, my friend, do not NEED eye shadow.  You are turning FOUR.  Tess can put some of her play stuff on you sometimes."  Even this did nothing to change her mind.  And then Jackie gifted her an eye shadow palette of 100 shades. It is as horrific amazing as it sounds. There are strict guidelines about when and where she can wear said makeup but when she does put it on? Lord have mercy, to say she is liberal in her application is only a slight understatement.

So. . .

At the end of July I had a dermatological surgery.  There were 3 incisions, multiple layers of sutures, the warning of some swelling and "perhaps a little bruising." That turned out to be only a slight understatement, too.

The kids reacted with differing amounts of pity and concern.  Concern, mind you, not for me but for themselves.  "So how long did they say you would look like this?" Phil tried to sound nonchalant. Tess suppressed a snicker and announced, "You look like Gemma did your makeup!"

I thought perhaps Gemma would be offended or hurt but she immediately turned to me, appraised the mess of my face and said, "think it looks beautiful."

I've been MUCH more generous with the makeup rules ever since.

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It's probably true that we've grown complacent in our parenting as we've added kids.  Some might even say 'lax'- those "some" I refer to being primarily our children.

It has yet to be determined if this is a benefit or a detriment to our later progeny.  At the moment, I'd like to think of this as a prodigy:

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She happily banged away at the piano for several minutes before I even realized it was her, Max having been the one to scootch her up to the keyboard in her older sister's chair.  No seat belt, nothing to keep her from slipping out.

Her sibling carried on as if this was normal.  Okay, it's not that far removed from normal.  Penny is hauled around, hoisted up, sat upon shoulders, placed on the tramp . . . in short she leads a life of daring and danger most of the time.  Because of this, it appears nothing seems to phase her.  Sure, loud noises make her jump but putting her in real danger really doesn't cause a reaction.

I'm banking on it being a great inspiration for her later in life.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that jazz.