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On Friday I was explaining to another homeschool mom where Jac was. "He's at the dentist with Phil." A friend overheard and exclaimed, "Again?!"

Yes, AGAIN. February-and it turns out March, too- was the month of dentistry. It adds up quickly when everybody and their mother (no hyperbole here) have cavities and or other issues.

So fun!

Its made us hyper sensitive to whats going on - or more accurately, IN - everyone's mouth.

Gemma is bird-like in her appetitive to begin with but she leans hard in the "bird-like and only things that are sweet" direction. As in, claims she's full after eating three sugar snap pea pods only to ask for an "Oreo? Gumball? Icecream? Peep?" etc., etc. the minute she's excused from the table. The requests for sugar are made ALL DAY LONG and she is often found rummaging in the pantry (or on the counter or above the fridge or in my room or. . . ).

Plain and simple, she is a sugar fiend.

Recently, she announced she was hungry. So, so, sooooo hungry. I suggested some cheese.

No.

Yogurt?

No.

Crackers, pretzels, apple, Cutie?

"Yeaaaah. I'd just really like an Oreo. Or some chocolate."

I laughed. "Gemma, we've got to get you eating something else beside sugar!"

"Why? Because I'll get dia-BBs?"

I choked back a laugh. "Do you know what diabetes is?"

"It's when you swallow sugar and you get BBs stuck in your throat and die."

I had a choice here and I did NOT take the high road.

"That's right. You're right."

"So, I can't have an Oreo then?"

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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

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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.

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.

 


It started with Passover.

While we prepped and readied during Holy Week, the kids discussed the food and drink. They planned ahead for whether or not they would be drinking wine or not for the night unlike any other night. And while Gemma was uncertain about what she would do, she opted for a taste that evening. Then, when we returned home to dregs left in the carafe, she asked if she could have it.

"Sleepy time!" I thought! I'm kidding. Or AM I?

Then there was a lovely evening at the lake when I must've been drinking because I strapped Penny to me, put Monday on a leash and set out to walk around the lake with 4 of the 7 on foot and slippy, slide-y sandals on 2 of those feet.


I'll let you guess whose feet they were.

I'll give you a hint, they weren't mine.

After having negotiated the footwear choices, we set off. We had not made it past the first corner when Ellie and Gem began to lag behind. I uttered a rather impatient, "Jesus, give me patience!" sort of prayer and waited for them to catch up, sure they would complain of fatigue so early on. Instead I over heard them discussing weddings.

Ellie was giving her sister a lesson on all the things needed for a wedding. 

"It's not just about a pretty dress, Gemma. If you're called to marriage, there is A LOT you have to do for a wedding." 

Gemma challenged this assertion and asked for examples. 

"Well, first you have to make sure you're old enough, then you have to ask a priest when he's free so you can choose a date, decide on outfits for other people, buyyyyy food, MAAAKE food, decide on decoraaaaations, write invitaaaaations. . . "

And then, as Ellie continued to list the rather impressive amount of knowledge about weddings, Gemma started to interject and interrupt.

"And wine. And wine! Aaaaand WINE!" Then,

"No, seriously Ellie, you need A LOT of wine."


Kudos to Ellie for clarifying that you only needed it if you wanted it. After all, Chelsey and Roman chose not to. . . 

A few weeks later, we visited the Hofer's for supper and to discuss wedding photograph details. Gemma followed me inside to find a beverage. 

"Well, what is there? What are my choices?"

"There's water, and lemonade. . . You want some lemonade?"

"Hmmm. . . What are you having?" she wanted to know.

"I'm having wine."

"Oh! I'll have that. I'm fine with wine."

I couldn't not laugh. I couldn't. In sure you understand. And no, I did not allow any spirits for the spirited 4-year-old. She'll have to wait a good many years until she can freely choose the booze for herself.

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My relationship with my mom's dad, Papa Bill, is woven around cars. Some of my earliest memories are being strapped into the front seat of his dune buggy-the dune buggy he designed and built himself-in my car seat to head out on camping trips. I was his "best co-pilot" and was in charge of the horn and the CB radio. He smoked a pipe then but for driving only a cigar would do and even now the smell of a stogie brings to mind a Volkswagen engine and the wind in my hair.


When I had my permit, it was the ultimate test to have Papa ride along and say you did good. He watched for smoothness in shifting, care for the car, attentiveness. I failed miserably, taking a downhill corner on a dirt road far too fast. The centrifugal force of the turn shook my cousin Esther physically but his hand on the emergency brake shook me mentally. I was thankful and embarrassed all at once. Later, after I had gotten my license and worked hard refinishing a Volkswagen bug (his beloved car of choice), he brought down a car care kit, showed me how to properly wash and chamois a car and gifted me an airplant for the dashboard. I had arrived.

Papa turns 88 today. He came for a visit this summer, a visit that began and ended with him in the hospital and not feeling well. Before he left for home, it was decided to take him to the lake. It was my responsibility to pick him up and drive him to Iron Creek. This time I drove around to get as close as possible to the exit. I loaded oxygen tanks and handed him up into the van. I buckled the seatbelt and checked for oxygen flow. I took it slow and easy up the rough dirt roads, not wanting to jostle the man who had raced around corners with me in the passenger seat.


It was bittersweet, that drive. I was happy and honored to be his chauffeur but all too aware of how the tables had turned. So I tucked it away as another precious memory to add to all the others of him beside me, teaching me as we drove.

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Someone (it really is a matter of serious debate) left a lid unscrewed on a nail polish bottle and the whole bottle spilled over the other nail polish and through the basket. That's why I have a rather unfortunate brown color of nail polish smeared on my nails (and on the bathroom vanity). Of course the nail polish remover is MIA.

Penny is teething. This makes for a cranky babe, sleepy parents, and frightening diapers. Every single onesie she owns is currently being stain treated. Really, if the diaper she is wearing doesn't hold, she will be a naked, teething baby.

The girls got out their new paint set, the one with acrylics. They made beautiful pictures with the abundant paint they poured into multiple palettes. Then Lucy found it. So Ellie poured the paint into (and down the sides) of the trashcan. It dripped on the ground and she stepped in it. This is to be expected, really it is. But then she tracked the paint over the floor and onto Penny's new quilt. All FIVE girls and I have blue paint somewhere on our bodies and Lu is sporting some around her mouth.

No one napped. Well, Jac and Penny got 40 winks in, upright in his office chair. Lucy and Gemma, though, who are volatile without being sleep deprived, I am frankly terrified of. So let's take them to scouts and keep them up late!

All this is to say, if you see me weeping into a margarita later, you'll know why.

Things are piling up. Like the coats we are hopeful we won't have to don again, things are turning into mounds around our ears. Events to record here, celebrations to have, things to do before we leave for California.

I feel badly about it and then, it never fails, I drive by The House. The one with the manicured lawn and seasonally appropriate flag out front and a fully lit Christmas tree in their bay window. 

A Christmas tree. In May. 

It may be their thing, but seeing it makes me feel better about my back log.

Anyway, Ellie turned seven. Something about that transitions her from a little to big kid in my mind. It must do the same for her because she woke up and weighed herself. Then she measured herself against my arm, wanting to prove she'd sprouted overnight. The day before she cried because we told her she wasn't big enough to mow the lawn.

She's reaching and stretching, that girl.

On her big day we made pancakes and enjoyed them under some Spartan Alice in Wonderland decor. We followed that up with delivering May Day baskets a day late. As we drove near the base, we watched B-1s do touch and gos and oohed and ahhed in between singing along the Backyardigans soundtrack. 


Elizabeth took the birthday girl to lunch and while Ellie wasn't pleased about having to take a rest upon returning home, she did and was better for it. The crew that loves our kids well showed up for enchiladas and cake and the boys delivered in the 'connect the dots' treasure hunt. (Yes, connect the dots. 100% Ellie.)


Alice in Wonderland was the movie de jour- the old Disney version that made the kids laugh and freaked the adults out. So much fun! Lucy crashed and Gem and Ellie weren't far behind her. I guess she's not such a big girl after all. Not yet.



Sometime during Holy Week, Lucy began replacing "my" with "me." It resulted in her sounding like a saucy sailor or irate Irishman.

"Where's me boots?!" she'd yell. Or, "Where's me bottle?!" she would demand, always loudly and forcefully but usually with a smile. When it was, "Get in me pants!" I totally lost it and laughed until I cried, causing her to say it over and over between her own deep belly laughs.

That kid.

Last weekend, the season's first thunderstorm rolled in. The crew was readying for bed and I rocked Penny in the dark living room, Lucy on a stool at me feet, happily chatting away. A flash of lightening lit up the windows and Lu stopped, mid sentence.

"Oh mah gooooodness, Mama! Wuuus zat? A pitcher?!" She drawled it out, eyes wide, fingers pointing.

Again, I laughed until tears came. It was so cute how surprised she was by the light show in the sky and how she reasoned that it must be a giant camera flash. But the drawl! 

The rest of the crew came running when they heard my laughter. I repeated what she had said to each question and each of them joined in with their own giggles and asking her to say it again. 

She refused but we've all been saying it just like she did ever since.

"So Lucy. . . she's either a leprechaun or a southern belle, huh?" was Jac's insight. Indeed. A distinct combo, to be sure, but we'll take it if it keeps yielding these comedic gems.

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We play fast and loose around here with our names. There are no hard rules about the hows and whys of titles.

Max is Max except when his sisters lovingly call him Maxi or we call him Maximilian (it doesn't have to be just when he's in trouble. We just like it.)

Philip is Phil and Felipe and Philip Augustine. There's Tessie and El-Belle and Gem or Gem-Gem.

Lu most often goes by Luce and Luce-a. 

And Penelope. . . Well, we're still working on it. Lucy is the trail blazer in this department. She started during Holy Week to call her Neppy. Sometimes it came out as Nempy or Nappy, but I really loved Neppy. I didn't think there was much room for improvement but then, then, she started using Lumpy. I know it's because of the final two syllables in Penelope but good golly, it's the cutest thing ever. And I hope with all my heart that it sticks because Lumpy is a great nickname. It's a character builder, unique and slightly outrageous. What more could she ask for? Lumpy forever!