Our school kick-off was moved off the feast of St. Augustine due to a scheduling conflict.  Then it was postponed because of sickness.  The kids got mighty nervous that we would skip over it all together, the way we did with our anniversary.

It's fine.  I'm over it.

They were so relieved and excited when they saw me making crowns.  They double and triple checked that it really was okay that they wear whatever they wanted and didn't need to match.  They planned and strategized their meals, drinks, and desserts. They were beside themselves.

We were, too, really.  This begins our eighth year.  There is some weight and seriousness to that number.  It feels like we should know what we're doing.

It's fine. I'm dealing with it.

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Max is an 8th grader this year.  He's taller than I am, is ridiculously organized and fastidious and is currently only interested in WWII. He is serious about his work out regimen and his studies.


Philip is in 6th grade and sat us down to tell us all the things he wanted to learn this year.  The list includes things like work on programming skills, Physics and Newton's Laws, improve sewing skills, memorize all of the prayers and mysteries of the rosary, and work on Parkor skills.  He is equal parts serious and silly and while he still can be utterly distracted by his own ideas, he is more and more attentive making enjoying the current moment really great.

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Tess is in 4th grade.  She dresses and accessorizes every day as if it were a special occasion.  She also thrives on switching things up and keeping things new and novel. She is learning that sh can do hard things and how delicious victory tastes when it is hard fought.

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Ellie is in second grade this year and that means she is preparing for first reconciliation and first communion.  She's decided that green is her new favorite color and ravels back in forth between the big kids and the littles in all things.  She is thoughtful and imaginative.

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Oh, Gemma.  She has a few months left before she turns 5 but she acts "like a teenage!" according to her siblings.  She's just starting in this school business, wanting to be at the table with her siblings and focusing on what she's doing.  She also is "all about fashion which means the best stuff and looking the best,, which I'm really good at." Hence her Tom's on the wrong feet with her red dress.



Lu was so very excited about her crown this year and, along with Gem, thought she was BIG STUFF.  Her main job during school is to serve as a distraction. Or to wake up Penny. She takes seriously her role as Max's weight during his workouts and ensures she gets read to every day.

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Penny doesn't even look like this baby anymore!  That evening she smiled for her rapt audience/entertainers that are her siblings and then had her first 'real' food, eating baked potato and filet mignon.

Before we know it, she'll be the one wearing the 8th grade crown.

It's fine.  I'll get over it.

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In the words of Papa Bill, Sally Ho and Tally Forth!

October has been so very lovely in the weather department.  We have been to the downtown fountains to play several times and have tried to soak up the mellowness of a lovely, lasting autumn.

For Tess's feast day I told the kids I'd take them downtown to the fountains.  We had to search high and low for suits because some girls like to wear them just for fun and some girls like to pee in them while other girls like to shirk their laundry duties.

There was some yelling.  I apologized.  We got through it.

ANYWAY . . .

I loaded up kids in their swimsuits and headed downtown only to find Oktoberfest underway in Main Street Square.

"Oooooohhhhh!" Was the disappointed sigh as we drove past.

"What about Dinosaur Park?!" I tried to sound enthusiastic though I knew darn well that I would have to carry Penny up and down the hill in my arms as I didn't have the backpack.

"Yes!!!" They all yelled. Even Lucy who has not been in her recent memory.

So up we went.

Philip obliged my request to see if someone's head would fit in the dinosaur mouth.  Everyone else was too creeped out.


We were "those kids" who kept pushing the music button on the mechanical ride, causing the obnoxious song to be played so loudly it could be heard clearly from the top of the hill.


They took off up the hill, opting to climb up the side walls instead of taking the steps. Ellie went up on her hands and knees, claiming she was afraid of heights.

"Um. . . you don't HAVE to walk there.  Come on the steps if that makes you feel safer."


She didn't need to be asked twice which was good because with that crisis averted, another cropped up. Lucy stood frozen on the narrow steps. I felt her shrinking within herself and I started to sweat from more than the heat of the day.  People were coming up behind us and Lu and I were to have a confrontation, well, things could get ugly.

I played it cool.  "Hey, Lu!  What's going on?"

"That is a dragon. Right there." Fear rimmed her words.

"It's not a dragon!" Ellie hollered down to her.

"Oh!  Yeah, it's an elephant!" And with that decided, she kept climbing.


Note to self: teach Lucy about Dinosaurs.

By the time we made it to the Stegosaurus, she was over any hesitating and went up and down the back of the dinosaur even with her slippery Salt Waters.


Turns out hot, painted concrete and swimsuit clad bodies aren't the best mix.


And Gemma wanted to know the dinosaurs names.

"Their names?  I don't think they have any.  Would you like to give them some names?"

"Yes!" she was eager and decisive. "This one is Isabelle." She pointed to the Tricerotops. "And thiiiiis one?" She concidered the T-Rex, "I think it's Sparkle."

Best. Name. Ever.

Penny spent her time trying to lunge out of my arms so she could explore the dinos on her own. So we tried to sit her down at Sparkle's feet, but her kicking, anxious legs wanted to dance with joy instead.  So cute.


It was a great trip with much laughter and enjoyment. And then it ended with a full body press to get a screaming, enraged Lucy into her car seat.

Oh, the memories!

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I lamented more than once that I doubted Lu would ever be out of diapers. The fits and starts we had! It made me question my ability to be a parent.

Before Penny was born Mama Syd scoffed at my claim that I had never dealt with one like Lu before. "You say that about every kid!" she laughed. Then she came at Easter and with wide eyes said, "That Lucy. . . She's something else! Boy, is she stubborn!" Rest assured, if I had been able to drink I would have simply poured a tall one and raised it in an acknowledging toast before slamming it back.

The thing is, the kid cannot be convinced of something that isn't her idea. Or be distracted or swayed. She knows what she wants and she absolutely did NOT want to be potty trained.

One day in June she stood up mid-lunch. "My skirt is wet!" she announced matter-of-fact like. I was up to my elbows in dish water but went on high alert. "What?! Why? Did you spill your water?" "No. I peed." "Luce! Where are you supposed to pee?" "In the potty chair." she replied. And then, "Yeah, you keep saying that. . . "

A week later she ran to the dining room-AWAY from the bathroom-and hollered, "I'M POOPING!" Again I was at the sink. "Okay! Let's go! Quick, quick, quick!" was my enthusiastic reply. "No." was her flat response. "I already did." And then, "Oh! And I'm peeing." she said as she watched a puddle form on the floor.

No words. None.

When Mama Syd and Papa arrived for the summer and found out Lu was still in diapers, my utter lack in potty-training prowess was laughed off. "We'll do it up at the lake, won't we Lu? It will be easy up there!"So it was with no little joy that I pointed out how she remained in diapers the last week they were here. "Yeaaaah," Mama Syd sighed, "I didn't get that done either. We'll work on it this week though, right Lucy?"

The look that she gave could be summed up as, 'Do. Your. Best.'

But then, seemingly without any real trying, she just up and decided that that was what she was doing.

It may have helped that Mama Syd offered to take her to the Outhouse in style.

I observed that it was a little Silence of the Lamb-y but it got the job done, so who am I to judge?

Really, once she set her mind to it, there has been no turning back. Well, except for 6 days in when I found her happily playing in a Pull-up. "Hey Lu? You need to get some chonies on and go potty in the potty chair." "Yeah," she said, not even bothering to look at me, "I don't do that anymore. I just wear diapers."

I am drinking heavily, friends. Heavily.

So, this was written and SUPPOSED to be posted in August.  But WordPress and I haven't been getting along very well so I just realized that it was never put up.  I'm shaking my fist and imbibing as I type.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


"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.