Summer of 6 Part II

Still Alive!  All of us!  And back in our original locations

I attempted to write something partway through the experience but if  I thought me sitting at a computer was a signal for 3 to line up to ask questions, fight, gush blood and generally interrupt my flow of typing – it was doubled with 6.  We also went out more.

There were crazy moments but nothing too crazy.  Nobody actually gushed blood, there was one minor fireworks related burn, and I don’t think we wrecked anything too badly with Mr Diabetic/No Gluten.  We didn’t even lose anyone or leave anybody behind on any of our many many outings (although it was occasionally tempting).

The positives absolutely outweigh the negatives.  We had tons of cousin interaction time where they could just play and get to know each other.  Like the magic of adding a friend, there were actually fewer “I’m bored” and general fights then if I just had my 3.  We did have quite a few visits from local friends to keep the fresh fun rolling, and, sent a kid off on a playdate a time or two to keep things fun.  It totally helped that all 6 are self-sufficient in the basics and 5 of the 6 can be left home alone so grocery shopping was not me + 6 every time (only 3 times, that was plenty).

Ever notice that you do more when you have guests?  That was absolutely the case here.  We didn’t do some of the ‘normal’ things we do in summer like tennis lessons but we did get the opportunity to get out and show off our awesome state.  The cousins are living in Texas, the word hot does not accurately describe their daily weather – I think you can make driveway jerky from the long slow dry heat baking through their neighborhood.  Here we hit 85 a couple times but we also went down to 65 and sweatshirts were required.  TONs of outside time and I never felt guilty about kicking them out to use up some energy.  In our 3 weeks together we:

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Went to the MN sculpture garden after picking up #1 from camp.  This is ‘the’ famous sculpture for the Twin Cities.  (don’t have a clue why)

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Hiked the interstate trail from MN to WI and climbed around all over the pothole area on the MN side.  Kids hiking is always an adventure, it was only a couple miles but to some of them, it was a very long walk.img_1619

We hit the weather jackpot for our Duluth day, sunny but cool and perfect for playing on the shore, building rock sculptures and general sightseeing on the great lake Superior.

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We also took a boat tour in Duluth, it was actually cold out on the lake.  PS, this is the last we saw of Zoe’s sweater, she left it at the park in Duluth shortly after.  I hope someone adopts it.img_1504

Lots and lots of trips to our local parks, we were waiting on a particular park to reopen so we went more than once to be disappointed that it *still* wasn’t open but they had fun anyway.  Helps that I bring snacks.

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Everyone enjoyed our only rainy day at the bowling ally.

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Can’t visit the land of 10,000 lakes without swimming in at least 1 or 2.  This is one of them and even Prima got in the water.

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#1 suggested that we participate in a volunteer event at Feed My Starving Children where we packed food for kids in other countries.  Our session packed enough for 65 kids for a year!  It was a nice change from frivolous summer or boring regular life and we did a good job working together.

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I didn’t get many actual 4th of July pictures because I was IN the parade and they had fun watching.  Again a gorgeous day, not too hot and a good breeze.  My shoe broke at the very end but that was the only negative.  We did the BBQ thing with friends and then local fireworks.  This picture is actually from the weekend when we went to a friends house who really really loves 4th of July and the party was fantastic.  Over 30 kids all in the right ages, a river to swim in, shade trees, trampoline, as Zoe said: it was ‘paradise’.

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Obligatory sunset over the lake.  They swam in this one too

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They really got into putting mulch in the garden.  There may have been icecream bribes mentioned but I didn’t expect the team effort going on.  We didn’t get much done around the house over the 3 weeks beyond the basics of food, laundry and dishes but we did get the garden full of weed blocker.img_1712

Toward the end, we headed out to the Franconia sculpture garden.  It is way more fun than the downtown one.  This has stuff you can climb on, walk around and it is more a discovery than a walk in a park.  We had not been there in a few years and there are tons of new installations as well as old favorites

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Last but not least, we got this kid to his first SCA event.  He wanted to fight so badly that it made the day trip worth it.  Usually, we camp but this year with the extra kids we didn’t want to worry about overnights.  We wished we could stay but their flight was 8am the next day so we had to take what we could get.

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Not shown are the trips to the pool, many meals together, tablet and tv time where they all puppy piled together, books traded back and forth, adventure games spread over the entire playroom floor and board games all over the table tops.  Sure there were fights and short tempers and some moments where you wonder how they survived on earth this long and my attention was pulled 6 ways at all times but I would do it again for sure.

And now starts the next phase of summer.  A two-week interlude before our travels where 1 week all three kids are in summer camp and the next week we need to get ready to be gone for nearly a month.  I’m glad I’m not moving like last year,

Summer of 6 Pt1

Monday night I acquired 3 more kids, my only niece and 2 of my nephews.  It was a late pick up at the airport and claiming unaccompanied minors is not easy but it isn’t hard.  Home far too late but that’s the way it goes.

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Tuesday I had NOTHING planned on purpose.  This was the day to get used to here, to figure out the way, to deal with cranky kids who stayed up too late (that was all of them since mine stayed up excited to see their cousins).  It was a long day but overall fine, nothing out of the ordinary and we did achieve ‘the list’ of things to do pre-electronics.  For a day with no plans I feel like we ran through a ton of things, I was exhausted by 3 and didn’t feel bad about the TV going on because they had biked, played, eaten, read, done chores, and endless other odd little things that amounted to me feeling like air traffic control speaking in  3 different languages.

Wednesday and today were way more ‘normal’ with better moods, easier activities, and we actually went out and that makes the time fly.  Me trying to do anything is hit or miss, but when did I ever really have the luxury of enough time to do a project.  I’m getting decent at putting stuff down mid project, it has been a solid 7 years of major multitasking.

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Today we have our first book club.  My attempt to make a playdate sound smarter.  We invited two friends of #2’s to read a book and then come over to watch the movie.  So far they consumed a metric ton of popcorn but seem to be actually talking book v movie so the seed planted will grow.  Overall success, be it the movie, friends, or popcorn I’ll take the win.  They are now discussing next books to read, Princess Bride seems to be in the lead.

The odd thing about this week is feeling both like I’m missing someone and also having extra kids.  #1 is at sleep-away camp for the first time.  Looks like she is having a great time and I’m happy she is there and I don’t ‘miss’ her but I do miss her being part of my world.  Meals, car, bed, chores etc – I have her in my head automatically and NOT being here makes me feel like I ‘Just’ have 2.  Second, I’m missing the oldest of my sister’s kids, what should be four is ‘only’ 3.  He isn’t as ingrained as #1 in my head but he is missed and the unit is missing him.  On the other hand, I’m up 3, so, 5 kids is still a bunch to feed and manage.

Speaking of feeding… one of the new ones is diabetic and has an app to monitor his sugar.  Boy stats are addicting to me, I monitor this kid and the mysteries of his body chemistry like its my job.  A friend pointed out that I got myself a real-life tamagotchi.  Do you remember the electronic pet?  I nearly got in a car accident messing with the one I was babysitting for a friend.  Really, it is a bit of a game – he goes high get him to run around or adjusts, he goes low, toss an orange at him.  Calculating food and healthy choices are already part of my life but this is like major league.  Once I get a better feel for the trends I’m sure I won’t need to check so much but it is probably my top app at the moment.

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Tomorrow we add back #1 in the afternoon and then pick up my mom at the airport late so our kid to adult ratio is getting better overall.  It is both a fun and exhausting week but I’m glad I can do it.

In this summer week

I felt like we got ‘nothing done’ but in reality we did tons, just did not finish any of the big things on the list.

Hot news first; Zoe and her softball team won their division!  They did not have a great record but it was actually a lot like a tv show.  At first the scrappy team of new girls learn to get along.  Then they have some early success but a long string of losses.  Some losses were close, some really not close – there were tears and talks about how they like seeing their friends and being on a team and learning the game.  Games were rained out, rescheduled, and we parents became acquainted with each other as we spent hours sitting together.  Finally, the day of the tournament everyone tried so hard and had practiced and through some really lucky hits and catches we found ourselves in the finals.  They were overjoyed and nervous as all eyes were on them.  Zoe made a fantastic catch for an out.  The pitcher reached deep and struck out a few girls.  Finally, the last girl hit the ball very short and our catcher got it and tagged home base as the runner was coming at her BUT it wasn’t a force situation (meaning nobody was going to 3rd so that runner could have gone back to safety) and in that situation, you have to tag the runner.  Neither girl knew what to do but about 50 adults were screaming at them and they were in a semi-frozen standoff on the 3rd baseline and finally, our catcher ran nearly to 3rd base and tagged the girl.  It was over!  It was exciting!  Nobody cried!  There were trophies!

Softball may never be as exciting at this fresh first year but Zoe is already excited to play next year.  The coach is willing to stay, the girls seem happy, and in my opinion, knowing what we are doing will only help us do better.  We were supposed to be in South Dakota with friends but since they couldn’t make it we choose not to go and I’m really glad we had the opportunity to do this tournament.

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the last run of the game for the team, next girl got out, next inning it was over!

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National anthem time, 

The other major theme of the week was getting #1 ready to go to her fancy science camp.  It has a dress code so we have been collecting the dullest clothing out there.  I updated her medical to show she has a broken arm, I hope it does not impact her ability to participate.  I’m double glad this year is a science camp since last year was rock climbing!  It is her first sleep-away camp and we are not all that nervous (yet) tomorrow might be different.  It is a little odd that I’ll be bringing her to the University campus, I had felt that was still a few years off, but it is a great choice for an academic camp since it is pretty empty of normal students during the summer.  Tomorrow’s instagram will show us dropping the happy camper for sure.

The other major thing #1 had to accomplish pre-camp was more or less moving out of her room because her boy cousins are coming for a few week visit starting Monday.  She might be bumped from her room but she does get a mom super clean in the deal.  Technically she was ‘helping’ but after enough help she slunk away to play really nicely with her sisters and I just did it my self – much easier actually.  I could throw away trash without discussion and now it looks neat as a pin.  It helps I put most of her ‘stuff’ in a box in the closet to be gone through when she returns.  However, only one bag of trash and one box of stuff is pretty good all things considered.

Did I bury the lead?  Yes, I’m importing 3 extra kids for the next few weeks so their parents can do a few super cool/important things that happened to overlap.  It was stressing my sister out so I just volunteered and now she can do her thing, he can do his and all the cousins can cavort like wild monkies here.  I think these Texans might really like it up here, I looked at the forecast and our temp for the next 15 days is between 60 and 90, and, where they live I saw a 105 on their list… that is super hot.  My mom is also coming to visit the crew at the end of week 1 and we are filling our time up fast so I’m sure it will be super fun.

The other days this week we had lunch with friends to celebrate the end of Ramadan (observed), we achieved passport submission so now we can travel internationally, celebrated our friends birthday with a middle of the day cake, #1 cut a foot of hair (and still has long hair) and the other two were trimmed up and we managed to get to the pool a couple times.  Books have been read, math practice done, food made and consumed, 168 stupid fights started and ended, yard mowed, and, we downloaded the harry potter themed Pokemon/Ingress game.  When I list it out it looks pretty cool, I wish it didn’t feel like a frantic paddle to stay above water half the time.

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trying on a new uniform skirt, and, sporting hair.  No, not crying just shy!

Ok, the longest day of the year here, it is nearly 7 and absolutely still bright.  I’ll go chip away a little more at the pagoda project of never-endingness.  Projects like this make me feel like I get nowhere but when they are finally done the impact will be worth it!

Summer!

We are nearly 1 week in and I have had a constant ebb and flow of children flowing around me.  Today is my first time at my desk in about 7 days…

First of all, it is officially summer because someone broke a bone. The past 4 years one of our friends has been broken, this year is our turn.  On the second to last day of school #1 had a collision with a friend while playing a game and they both went down.  Slapping out only works when your friend doesn’t fall directly on your bent wrist.  Hey, could have been worse, it is in a half cast, meaning the bottom is a cast and the top is a bandage so she can actually wash.  (Only some of us count this as a perk…)  She can do most things but it is sad to tell her she really can’t go to the climbing park with a friend.  I’m on the lookout for a brace she can wear to swim, that should make the summer much better.  She doesn’t really swim laps but she does enjoy pool time with sisters and friends.img_1003

Here are the first-day last day pictures – I’m always amazed by how much they grow in one school year.

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Over the past 6 days, my kids have either had friends over, been over their house, or we met somewhere for them all to play.  I don’t think I can keep this up all summer but it has been fun.

This weekend we had #3’s birthday party.  We did an archery theme and the kids all had a great time.  When you have a giant yard, why not just lean in?  We have a softball field on one side of the garden and an archery range on the other.  The party had some cute crafts for me to get excited over (thanks Pinterest) and thankfully #1 has the right blend of bossy and professionalism that she could run the archery range for the kids that wanted to do it for over an hour.  Others choose to play elsewhere after the official archery, cake, gifts portion of the party was done.  I like building in free play, I like even more when it works!  If they were listless I had a backup plan but they bopped between playing with new toys, archery, and playset pretty nicely until parents came to collect them.  Birthday season Complete!

 

 

 

Sunday we were supposed to meet the girl scouts for an end of year gathering at a park but the weather looked ominous so I volunteered our house.  We were already tidy from the party the day before, not to mention had an archery range, so we had about 45 people for a couple of house for a very fun, zero stress party.  Since we were expecting to be in a park, everyone already had food and drinks and even dishware ready so all we did was move a few things around and instant party!  We had another dozen kids at archery and one mom even decided to clean up so when I got in from the yard the kitchen was cleaner than when they got there.  She is invited to every party from now on.

 

 

 

Monday I was going to ‘take it easy’ but we were invited out to a park and I can’t resist.  We were meeting #2’s friend there so I picked up other friends on the way so everyone could play.  Pleasant morning and easy afternoon after dropping off again and then we were off to softball for a picture-perfect evening (even if we lost yet another game).

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rainbow!  and the hoard of siblings that play ‘whatever’ while the team plays

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catcher this time, she does pretty well and is actually quite the whole time.  Not true for any other position, we have had to talk about how well her voice carries…

Tuesday and Wednesday #1 and #2 were signed up for a local safety camp.  They learn a bunch of personal and bike safety lessons but most importantly they interact with the local police in a positive way.  Half the kids there were familiar, including one girl that #2 saw and asked “did you play softball last night?” yes she did, I didn’t recognize her at all but #2 has a knack for faces.  #3 had a playdate half of Tuesday so I had a tiny bit of time to do things at home but the afternoon got crazy with camp pickup, dash home then out to gymnastics then sprinting to softball.  #3 moved up a level and is getting good at gymnastics and our Tuesday softball session was great and the game ended in a tie.  Wednesday camp invited #3 to come back at noon for lunch and then a BMX bike trick show and then a magic show.  The bike guy did have some lessons on trying hard and safety that fit the theme, the magic show was just pure fun as far as I can tell.  It wasn’t the day I imagined but it was pretty fun.  #2 even won a bike in the drawing.

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And now we are at home today. The first day I don’t have plans to leave the house EARLIER THAN A SCHOOL DAY.  How did that happen?  We do have an extra child who slept over, we are expecting 2 more after lunch and #1 has a babysitting job at 3:30 so when I bring her we will go do the grocery shopping etc

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I also get the best picture from up on stage.

Oh! Nearly forgot my crazy week last week included an awards dinner, a scholarship presentation thing that took about 45 hours, a school board meeting, and finally the graduation event itself.  The speakers were fabulous, the weather was perfect,  it was impeccably organized and if there was a glitch I didn’t see it.  They all say handing out the diplomas is the best part of the school board and I think I agree.

May all 88 days of summer be so fun

the last before

For some reason, so much of my world is measured in where it falls in my world.  It bothers me when I can’t acknowledge that something is the first or the last and only realize it after the fact.  Sometimes you can’t help that, like the super sad thing Lars told me once that there will be a day when you pick up your child for ‘the last’ time and you won’t even know it, you just never pick them up again because of so many possible reasons.  Those are sad but don’t bother me as much as just missing something like the last full week of school – that was 2 weeks ago and I didn’t know at the time because I completely forgot about a Monday holiday and school ending on a Thursday.   Water under the bridge – this week though I KNOW it is the last week (well, 4 days) of school.  Of my ‘normal’ schedule.  As of Friday, I will have full charge of all my children until September.

To that end, I’m trying to half savor and relax the quite and also cram in as much of the to-do list as possible.  Anyone else see how that is doomed to fail?  So this is my last Wednesday before summer and I have a list of things to do but somehow not my normal list of Wednesday stuff?  There isn’t an on/off switch, it is like a slider bar into summer.  The past 2 weeks have been field trips and fun things outside at school and I’ve been there so much I feel like I work there.  Really, nobody going to school will give me back time in some ways, but, that time will inevitably be used in kid management.

One more ‘last’ happening – we are closing in on our last birthday in the trio.  #3 passed from 6 to 7 years old happily at the children’s museum field trip with me there beside her.  Instead of a ‘fancy dinner’ that we normally do she choose pizza at zero gravity.  the clever girl really just wanted to go to the giant trampoline and indoor play place and she got her wish.  The cake ended up a bit late in the day but it was an enjoyable birthday.  This weekend is her friend party and we are doing an archery theme.  I did intend to set up an archery range in the yard and this just gives me a good push to get it done.  The perfect number of kids are able to come so we won’t even need to share bows since I was able to borrow 6 from a friend.

The archery party plan is to have the kids run around on a scavenger hunt for the gear hidden in the yard so they can learn about the equipment as we find it.  Then some target shooting where hopefully they have fun and get ok at it.  The finale will be a target pinata where they will need to work together to shoot it open.  I can’t say I ethically like this more than beating something with a bat to get candy, but, it is slightly more skill based.  Depending on mood and flow there will be cake and gift time and I’m sure it will devolve into just running around and playing (without bows) and that is ok too.  I’m going to put #1 in charge of the range, she might only be 11 but is good at rules and will keep people safe.

I know school ends for everyone at different times so if you are already on break good luck, if you are not yet; savor the days.  I’m actually looking forward to the fun of the summer, the kids are older and we have no naps to work around.  I have a couple things already planned and next week we will work out chores and ways to prevent the summer slide.  If anyone has good ideas throw them my way!

Play structure age 7+

I must remind myself that this time last year our house didn’t even have sheetrock or toilets so I can’t feel down that we don’t have a brilliant patio, garden, playset, and yard.  I’ve been working hard and I can say we do have a fairly cool playset and 1/4 of a garden structure.  I got semi-firm timing on when the builders will be able to finish our yard grading and the grass is after that.  I know I’ve posted a little about the play structure already but for the sake of complete info,  here is a pretty complete summary;

1.  I purchased this set* from Amazon since it came with hardware and swings and I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.  It was a good choice and I learned some nice tricks from the instructions that I used in my extra structures.   I did need to buy the GIANT drill bit and spade bit but they proved useful in all other parts of my building so an extra $30 well spent.  It took me about a week in little bursts to get the base set done.  If I just ‘did it’ I estimate 6 hours and you absolutely need a 2nd person for at least one part but I did the vast majority alone.  Let’s just say that time in the gym isn’t wasted because I lifted a lot in making this.  (*I get nothing from you buying, just telling you what I got)

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The base kit is everything to the left of the monkey bars.  Still deciding still about a slide v rock wall for one side of the ‘tower’.  Twin swing hardware is MIA in the garage but I’m sure it will turn up soon.

2. I had this set of monkey bars from when we had them in our old house.  I originally thought I would put them from the platform end but once I saw the 3d version I scrapped that plan and moved the monkey bars over to the end.  The plan was to use the A at the end for one of the supports to increase stability.  This could have been done in about an hour but took me 4 days because of the lack of an hour in a row.

  • I measured and dug holes for the other 4x4x8 3 legs based on the anchor of the swing set
  • I assembled the bars 17 inches apart on the 2x6x12s set onto a set of saw horses so I didn’t have to use a ladder.  This did create a pretty heavy thing to lift up and bolt so my solution was to put a couple screws half way into each leg at about the goal height to lift and prop the monkey bars on top of.  It isn’t safe to leave this way so make sure you have time to do at least 3 of the 4 legs or just put it down again.
  • With the bars up lifted up (team lift) and resting at the height, we decided on (78 inches) based on the scientific method of having the kids reach/jump and show me where they wanted – I bolted the first ‘corner’ to the swing set using 3/4 x5 bolts and these nifty washers that nail into the wood.  I sunk each in about an inch and drilled using my giant drill bit purchased for the swing set.
  • From that first point, I leveled the system on leg number 2 (same side, other end).  I generally ignored the level left/right at that time and things stayed reasonably steady on their screw rests.  I could pretty easily lift the little bit to make it level and then reused the screws to fasten it while I made the bolt hole.
  • Turned around and did the 3rd bolt, leveling left/right and repeating the screw, drill, bolt procedure.
  • Last leg, I had to level both lengths and left/right but it was pretty easy with the other 3 set tight.
  • Finally, I cut scrap to add bracers/steps and attached them.
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Monkey bar addition!  Ps. I’m not that messy with my scrap, the kids play with them and they are messy.

The monkey bars were a wild success and my monkey children loved it.  After a few days it got a left/right wobble on the end away from the swing set.  I didn’t use concrete or set them super deep so that would be a good choice if you want to eliminate this issue.  Personally, I didn’t concrete because I didn’t know how long this will be up, and, I didn’t want to mess with it.  Instead, I added a flip bar to add to the fun, and, stabilize the system.img_0926

  • I purchased another 4x4x8, a 3/4in 45inch long threaded stainless pipe (they come that way at our store) and 2 floor flanges.
  • To be super stable we sunk this 4×4 super deep, so deep we hit water.  There is at least 4 feet below the ground (FYI the reason why we don’t have a basement).
  • I already had the giant drill and the spade bit from the swing set and I easily drilled a set of holes and banged the pipe through.
  • thread on the flange and screw it onto the posts, not like it was going anywhere but now it really isn’t.

The flip bar was actually the easiest thing because I already had the tools and really it was already 1/3 built because it latched onto leg 3 of the monkey bars.  Amazing what not going to the store does for the speed of a project.

Future plans for this structure include a balance beam on the other side of the monkey bar to further stabilize, although it is pretty good now.  I’m also adding a ninja line at some point too, still researching the right one for us.

If you found this because you want to DIY a backyard swing set or playset this worked for me.  I would say I have medium building skills and I read the directions many may times.  For the part I ‘made up’ it is all about keeping stuff level and bolting it together.  The rest of the yard is not much to look at but the kids have a playset now and that was goal #1 of the yard.