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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone enjoyed our only rainy day at the bowling ally.
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.
#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.
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’.
Obligatory sunset over the lake. They swam in this one too
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here are the first-day last day pictures – I’m always amazed by how much they grow in one school year.
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).
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.
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
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
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)
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.
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.
- 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.
I missed recording a few things in my crazy little life here.
Most importantly; #2 is now 9! As we say ‘It’s time for 9″. She claims she had to wait FOREVER for her birthday and all her friends are older, however, given the number of birthday parties we have attended for her friends this month, she was born peak season. We did another sleepover with a fun painting project to pass the time. All the girls did great with everything and eventually went to sleep. The party was on a Friday night to have a prayer of fitting into graduation/recital season and we actually had everyone attend and the bonus was we still had the weekend. On her real birthday, we had lunch together at school and she skipped jujitsu to hang out with me and then we went for sushi. It was a full day and I think she enjoyed it.
Speaking of parties – in the past 2 weeks, we have had 4 kid birthday parties, a house warming, a bridging ceremony, a graduation, and 2 grad parties that we got to. It has been an intensely social couple of weeks. Most of these were in succession, going from one to the next to the next. A few were concurrent where we dropped a kid at a birthday and went to another celebration and back in time to pick up again. Exhausting but exciting and fun to see so many friends achieving things in their worlds.
The weather… has been a factor in all things. Currently, it is raining, again. Yesterday it was perfect. That is the way, we get a couple gorgeous days and a couple soggy days. I have two lists at all times; things to do outside and things to do inside. It also has been mild to cool here still. I know other places are melting already but we are still using layers. I wonder if I can ever put away all the winter?
Remember when I said I was doing a lot of field trips this month? This past week I went on a 3 day trip ‘up north’ with the 5th grade. It was thoroughly educational and the staff at the place was incredibly good with kids and making science exciting. Every activity had a running dialogue of history and science and social interactions that was like sneaking veggies into a cookie. We spent tons of time in the woods, in the ponds looking at micro-organisms, and even some classroom time. They have a magic formula going up there I’m glad to have participated in. It was worth the time, however, three days away still has a price in things NOT done elsewhere and it was also not exactly relaxing keeping track of 130 kids.
We also got a new minivan. This was a process that spanned about 4 months but we finally got it this Saturday. It is still a little amazing to be in, so new and full of tech to learn. We decided on the Pacifica – great safety and stats – but we needed one that had 6 seats in the back. That turned out to be a special order but it was worth the wait because since we were factory ordering we could get or leave out any option we wanted so no compromises because it was ‘on the lot’. I listed our Oddysey and hope it sells to a nice person. That will be its own post someday because it truly was a good car. We have always done a trade in so it is odd to still have our old car too.
Between parties and rain storms, we have gotten more of the play set up, I added monkey bars and then a flip bar that is both fun and helps keep the system stable. The kids are enjoying it both for its built purpose of swing/monkey bar/flip and also as a centerpiece of imagination games that I can’t even start to describe. Let’s just say my 3 have no shortage of crazy imagination scenarios that they can play all day. This set lures them out of the house. There is still a list of building projects not to mention yard work in general. We did get our yard mowed. Note I didn’t say grass…. we are waiting on the builders to finish some drainage fixes so we didn’t plant yet, however, plenty of volunteer green items were filling the void and we mowed them to a socially acceptable level. Next year we might have grass… maybe.
Sports were dominant this month with #1 doing track and #2 doing softball and #3 doing gymnastics and they were all stacked on Monday and Tuesday making them crazy afternoons. We survived though, the last track meet was Monday and #1 did very well. She was 3rd overall for the 800m and had fun on all her events. Everyone got t-shirts and ribbons and I got to see parent friends from all over I wasn’t expecting. Now we ‘just’ have softball and gymnastics (and jujitsu) but the schedule is much less crazy.
Last but not least, I looked and there are less 2 weeks of school left. This year flew by but we did do quite a lot so we earned our summer. The next 2 weeks are full of end of year things, a final field trip, #2 has a wax museum presentation that parents are invited to, and I need to do one last birthday party.
I’m closing in on 1000 words here so that is plenty to read with your coffee, I will keep ‘blogging’ on my list for inside time and hopefully, I get back to a bit more regular schedule when things click over to summer life.
ps. while uploading pictures I was reminded that I also went to school for their field day, a 5th-grade concert that was actually really good, we dealt with our first major behavior in school issue, we attended the agriculture fair at the high school and got to pet the baby goats and I helped a friend rehab and stage his house to sell – reminding me I don’t really like packing but packing someone else is more fun. Now I don’t feel so bad about the basket of towels that just never seems to get folded.
Health; 50% of us have colds. I am in that 50%
Workout; keeping a decent rate, don’t know what I’ll be up for today though but coughing should count as an ab workout.
Cat; I get requests… yes, Mr Pink is still here, still very cat.
Projects; I’m transforming Halloween costumes into real things 🙂
My post yesterday was a dashed off line I ran downstairs to do between dinner, kids bed, and having people over for a group game we are playing weekly on Sunday. The day in general was perfect weather and I can’t help but feel that I’m losing half the space in my life very very soon because we won’t be able to be outside anymore. We finished the gardens; took in any lingering veggies and our massive kale crop and the kids picked and sorted all the herbs. The house smelled really good with a pound of mint, lavender, lemon balm, basil etc sitting on the table. We have snow forecast for this coming weekend and I’m glad I got so much done yesterday, and, I’m glad to have spent one more good day outside.
- I finally have the garage empty and ready for car(s)
- The gutters are now clean – since our lawn guy was coming today, yesterday was the best day to clean them since I could just throw it all on the grass and he was going to clean it anyway.
- All the outside toys and playhouse are packed away or ready for snow
I would have been content to keep churning through the chores but Zoe really really really wanted to ride her bike to the Y that is 2mi away. She has been wanting this for weeks and I told her that it would have to be a day that both parents were able to go because Fiona can’t ride a bike that far so she and I would take the car. (I also thought they might be too tired to get home again so I wanted a bail out option). We went to the Y and she not only rode there, she did it at a decent pace and with no fussing AND she wanted to ride home again too. While we were at the Y I did a workout and then we all did the pool and Zoe was swimming laps with Niamh when I got there. When we got home I told them to run around the block so they can claim a triathlon day, and so they did. In my workout I rode the bike and ran, and, I also swam so I had a triathlon day too 🙂
Saturday we actually ended up with an odd day. We had plans for the day that got changed last minute so we but we figured something out. The evening plans were thrown together on a whim on Friday and it actually worked out that we had someone to watch the girls (thank you vacation mom!) and friends were free and the Escape Room Groupon we got last year had an available slot for Saturday night so we did that. It was really fun and we had a great group to do the puzzles. We finished in 50 minutes and that puts us in the top 10% and we only needed one clue. We technically didn’t need that clue because we were in the middle of checking our work and would have found our error, but, it did save us a few minutes. I spend all night dreaming of puzzle room scenarios that would be fun to build, I think I need to send in a few of them to the place just so I get the brain space back!
Today is a ‘regular’ Monday and I’ve done my client work and next on my list is to dig out all the snow pants and real coats to see who fits and who needs. I also plan on taking a rest, this cold is creeping in and my weekend was fun but not restful.
Oh! I also still need to plant bulbs. I decided to wait until someone else found the garden under the leaves to do the planting 🙂 Hopefully there are a few days lefts…