Holiday Halloween

Sometimes my ideas are good ideas. Sometimes my people get right on board.  This Halloween was one of those times.
It started with Jude wanting to be Uncle Sam because he saw some guy dressed in red, white and blue on stilts.  Then Silas wanted to be Santa Claus because he thought it would be hilarious. And so we had a theme.
The kid I was most surprised about was Mimi. I thought I'd have to talk her into some kind of beautiful glam Leprechaun or something but nope. She was dead set on being a Thanksgiving Turkey.  When your nine year old silly girl wants to be a turkey you help her make her dreams come true.
I let the costume choose the rest of us.  I found a 6-12 month bunny suit and the Easter Bunny materialized.  I found some green striped tights and hat so a Leprechaun worked for me. Lou will not wear anything on her head and is going through a naked phase so she became Cupid.  I love it when things pan out easily.
I love how committed Jude was to Uncle Sam. The giant hat really sold it. He plans to wear this costume for all pro America holidays for the rest of time.
Six year olds are the perfect audience for Santa Claus.  His class loved it. Silas kept all of the pieces of his costume together and had a great time wishing everybody a Merry Christmas.  
You go with what you have.  There were more pieces to her costume but she kept ripping them off. Thankfully Cupid is naked. And thankfully it was really warm that week.
 Babies are best dressed as animals. Philo's first Halloween costume was a sniffly Easter Bunny. Not a bad way to start out.
Of course I had to teach that day so I offered extra points on a quiz if they showed up in costume. 90% of them did!  I was NOT going to be the only one in head to toe costume.  We had the best time and their costumes were so creative.  This gilly suit was rad. 
Lou was able to trick or treat for the first time this year.  She was on board, 100%. I love that she's in the storage phase wherein everything that belongs to her must be carried everywhere in her little arms. This pic also shows her mastering the "Mine" posture.  
Group costumes have to make sense individually too.  I like costumes that you don't have to explain.  I think we nailed it this year!


I'm Fancy

For the first time in known history I went places and did things. ALONE. 
It all started when I burst into tears watching the snapchats of my sisters all together at Cam's baby shower.  I cried and cried. Camille was having a baby and I was missing everything.
Camille is the Lou to my Mimi. She is ten years younger than me (15 and having a baby! 😑) and she was my baby.  She slept in my room and I tucked in her pacifier and woke up to her happy little face every morning. Watching Mimi with Lou is like reliving that part of my life and it brings me so much joy.
So how could Mille have her own private baby without me?!
The weekend after Camille was to have her baby my mother graciously planned and provided a trip with my sisters to see Shakespeare in Ashland.  I committed six months before the trip. I had pie in the sky dreams of watching Shakespeare again.
But I have five stinkin' kids! I can't leave. And surely not two weekends in a row. I have never left. I've taken no breaks. I haven't been fully alone in years.
But the tickets to the shows were already purchased. One sister had already bailed. I wanted to go, badly. 
Camille only has her first baby once in a lifetime. I couldn't miss it.  
Guilt, fear, worry, planning be damned. I needed to go and I knew I'd live in regret if I missed these events. 
So I utilized all my years of people managing and made a plan.
Thankfully I have a solid team. My friends, family, nanny, and husband covered me. Everybody survived, nay, thrived with a much needed break from each other.  I feel very grateful and proud that everybody did so well without me.  Apparently I am not crucial.

My trips were rad.

First, LA. Mille moved down there a month ago (btw, I call her Mille bc when she was little she deduced that nicknames were just the latter syllables of names). LA is home for me and I have a million memories and friends down there. As I was boarding the plane I got a text: the baby is here! LAME. She had been in labor for over 24 hours and I missed it by two hours. 
But I arrived shortly after and met her sweet perfect baby Lorenzo.
The next two days were baby days. Pam and I cleaned her house and got things ready. Of note: she went into labor in the middle of a massive cooking project that included tons of chopped onions and uncooked chicken. Her fridge was bursting at the seams.  We went to and from the hospital and got to hold and snuggle that little guy. He's a beautiful boy. Birth wiped Mille out though.  I was glad I could be there to help with nursing.  They didn't have much in the way of lactation support at that hospital so I did what Paige had done to me when Mimi was born: shoved that boob in the kid's mouth and taught her what a good latch feels like.  They are a successful nursing pair. I was grateful to be useful.

Nathan was in LA for his birthday so on Friday night we threw a party for him.  Was great to catch up with my ragtag band of misfits down there. I love those people. 
Pam and I drove back to Danville together on Saturday and then on Sunday I was invited to attend the wedding of the century.  Bronwyn and Todd were married at City Hall in SF and it was an epic black tie affair.  The bride had no less than four outfits and looked stunning in every one.  All of my favorite Danville people were there.

I rolled into SLC at midnight, spent three days resupplying and bonding with my children and then unloaded them on my dear friends for the next trip.  I'm telling you, it was an intense two weeks.
Off to CA again and then a five hour drive to Ashland, Oregon.  The babies stayed with their dad and he did a wonderful job with them.  The big kids were farmed out each with a different family.  It may have been the best weekend of their lives.
Celia, Ellie, Pam, and I saw Twelfth Night, Great Expectations, and a bluegrass production of the Yeoman of the Guard. We ate delicious food, shopped, and chatted.  It was one of the best Ashland trips I've been on, many thanks to Pam for making it happen, Celia for planning the itinerary, and Ellie for driving. 
I was home by late Sunday night and in school by Monday morning.

I am so grateful I was challenged by forcing myself to have fun outside of my children.  My identity gets swept up in other people's needs and it was revelatory to be away.  I think we all learned a lot.  But man, I missed my babies and I am glad to be home again.



See Your Memories, Sept 2016

Facebook just sent me one of those "See Your Memories" notifications.  In it was a link to this post: Shine on You Crazy Diamond. Reading through your comments on that post gave me blog guilt.  I'm sorry for my absence! I feel bad that I've written less about my children this past season because I will have less memories to revisit.  Time is steadily slipping away and with it the little things.  I never recorded catching LouLou expertly applying deodorant.  I didn't write about the time I bet against Silas by offering him $5/lap at the fundraiser expecting him to quit after two laps and then he ran 29 laps. I've caught Philo's army crawl on video but don't have a context with the rest of the family.
(Why the George W Bush face?) 
Blogs are an inefficient medium.  You have to put more effort in to write, remember, associate, and explain. Instagram is so much easier because it takes two seconds.  Facebook easier still, though status updates have become article sharing opportunities. But Instagram doesn't tell the story and facebook isn't very linear. So I'm going to play a bit of catch up as a gift to my future self.
 Hello, future self!  I'm proud of you. You're keeping everybody alive. You're working three days a week teaching college. Silas can almost read. Philo is a cuddly baby who doesn't push out of your arms. Mimi is your right hand woman and she loves playing American Girl Dolls.  Cubby is in second grade and into Harry Potter.  Hush's project is painting the house.  You are really busy but very fulfilled. You're worried about getting the downstairs remodeled (not happening yet), Hush's commute, and Philo eating things off the floor.  You're challenged by keeping the house clean because holy crap 7 people are messy (especially toddlers!) You're working on money management because holy crap 7 people are expensive. You're obsessing over Camille having her first baby.  You've just completed project lose a bunch of weight. You need a new personal goal. 
That is what's up. Here's what it looks like:
Lou is two. She has unicorn shoes and lots of feelings but few words.  She's a late talker. She has great fine and big motor skills. Lou and Philo share bottles and food.  BL could play outside on the trampoline all day long. She's discovered how to open all iPads and phones and find the games. I do not like nor allow this. She loves baby dolls right now and loves to feed and diaper them.
Mimi is getting really tall and she will not let me brush all the way through her hair. She has lots of friends and a few crushes. We love her teacher this year and Mimi is challenged by the amount of homework each night. She just started an Aerial Arts class.  She is still cooking with me all the time and getting really good at it.
Philo, 8 months. Don't you just want to eat him up? I love this age of babies.  He's sleeping pretty well but wakes up at the crack of dawn. Everybody adores him. I think he's about to get his top teethies. Mimi tried to take him to school with her last week and made it down the block. I love when he follows me around the house doing his army crawl. My heart bursts with love every time I see him or just think about him.
Silas likes friends, ice cream, his Ipad, and Philo. In that order. He's doing well reading Dr Suess. I especially like Silas in the morning because he's the first kid up and very cooperative.  Si is going through an easy phase, bless him.
  A week ago Silas offered to be the waiter for my book club. He set the whole table with China and dressed himself in a suit and tie.  He ushered people in and then served them food and drinks.  It was adorable.
Jude, pictured here on his birthday wearing one of my flip flops because he cut his foot, is having the time of his life.  He just started cub scouts with all his best buddies.  He goes to skateboarding class on Saturday. Last week he started his orthodontic treatment and he feels very proud of his appliance.  The ortho said that while he was putting on Cub's expander he was the toughest most stoic kid he's ever worked on.  Jude is going to be baptized in two weeks.
Hush recently drove the whole lot of us down to AZ to stay with his family.  Whilst there Lou collided with his forehead and took a chunk out of it with her teeth.  It's a pretty good battle wound. We swung by the Grand Canyon on the way home.  He is doing great at his job, watching a lot of college football, and helping out with the babies and kids. 
And here's me this week holding baby Lorenzo:
I am continuously trying to get pictures with everybody in them.  I like to see them in reference to one another.


Neighborhood Camps: Our Summer Sandlot

Around April I started to worry about summer.  Three big kids, two babies who aren't very portable and me.  Me facing the music of my parenting choices. 
Summer camps are affordable here FOR ONE KID. But tutition for three would put me in the poor house!  Did I want my three bigs rattling around the house bugging each other and begging me to schedule play dates? When did moms become the captains of kid's social calendars? Go find your own friends, kid. 
I needed a plan. I needed a Sandlot.
Thus Neighborhood Camps were born.
My years of Devil Mountain Summer Camp under the tutelage of Nancy and Colleen gave me all the training I need to organize and entertain big groups of children. Matter of fact, my life more closely resembles DMSC than any college experience.  Life and survival skills currently employed were gleaned from working summer camps and from my other fun job choreographing my mother's plays with Danville Children's Musical Theater.  I'm an expert at playing.
The plan is to have 5 or 6 weeks of organized play for 5-10 year olds during the summer.  Camps are TWTh so that they don't impede weekend travel.  We start at 10am when it's still cool and end at 1. As a mom I do not feel activities for kids are worth it unless I get three hours away from them.  You can actually get stuff done in that amount of time and by stuff I mean a legit nap.  With that schedule and plan I made a Google sign up form and sent it to my friends.
I've hired a nanny to take care of my babies during camps.  She's the adult at home while we are at the school playing.
Our weeks planned are Baseball and Nerf week, Soccer and Bike week, Craft and Lego/Barbie week, Sport Camp with my teacher sister Val whom I'm flying in from LA and street games, and Gymnastic and football week.  Lunch is also included, accomplished co-op style.  I request a $5 per kid per week donation, but I think next year I'm going to structure that by family instead.  Maybe $20 and $5 for each additional kid. That way it's not prohibitive for big families.
I asked local young teens who are good at that sport to come coach and give them the donations to sweeten the deal. 
When the kids get there at 10 they just wander into my back yard. We gather, talk about the rules (don't get hurt, use the downstairs bathroom, let me know where you are) make sure everybody has the gear they need and then head across the street to the school.
At the school the teens lead them in playing the sports.  It's a ton of fun.  It's like the Sandlot. 
At 11:45 I send two kids up to my house and our dear nanny helps them make the lunches with the food that's been provided by the parents in bulk.  Week one was corndog week, this week we're making PB&J with the two big loaves of bread and vats of peanut butter and jelly sent by a parent. Other parents provide fruit and treats.Noon is lunch in my backyard. No plates, no waste. Then we hydrate with water bottles and sprinklers.

After lunch last week I organized a Nerf gun shooting range from my porch.  Kids volunteered to be turkeys. It was pretty hilarious. We also played capture the flag.  
This week we went to the empty school parking lot on our bikes.  Using sidewalk chalk the kids chose a parking stall and designed their home.  Then they chose another stall and made their business. We had a police station, a bakery, a crystal shop (not crystal meth), a mechanic, fire station, etc.  They drew roads and played to their heart's content.
I planned for 10-15 kids, this week we have about 25. The more the merrier! 
I am so grateful to live in a supportive neighborhood with so many kids and great parents so I can do this with my kids.  I live in fear that somebody will get hurt and I will get sued, but we will solve that problem with waivers pretty soon.  We are having a rad time!