Sundog Birthday

Dear Christian,

This morning, when I woke up, I didn’t know what kind of day it would be. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe yesterday was a long day or a tiring day or a fun day and you just don’t know what to expect from the day in front of you. This is how I felt today. Then, I remembered that today is your birthday. It made me smile to think of you this morning and that good feeling helped me think that today would be a good day.
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(my goodness, how BIG you’re getting!)

On my drive to work, I then saw something extraordinary in the sky. I saw a rainbow. Did you know that rainbows in the winter are EXTREMELY rare? They almost never happen. In fact, they are so rare, they actually aren’t even called rainbows, they gave them a different name, sun dog. I suppose that means I saw a sun dog this morning. On your birthday. For something that special, I knew it meant it would be a terrific day, to mark another year of a terrific, wonderful, little friend of mine.
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(Do you see the sun dog?)

I hope you have a wonderful birthday, I hope you stayed warm on this, one of the coldest days of the year. I love you and I’m so excited to spend time with you as a six year old! Thank you for being my friend and always bringing a smile to my face. Happy birthday to you, Christian.

Love, Olivia
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Day of Friends

A few weeks ago, my mom got a phone call. A little voice asked when Simon was going to visit. Evidently Christian missed his friend and took the initiative to set up a play date. It was a lot of kids. Simon, Arionna, Camden, Victoria, Christian, and Brecken. The kids are all big enough now to go and just play, without being watched or entertained, so it’s pretty wonderful. Kelly and my mom and I just sat in the living room and talked, while cuddling on the babies.
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 The babies. They are only a month apart in age. They played and chilled. Auntie Livi got some good cuddle time:
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I call that one “Armful of Babies”.
Brecken and I were having fun practicing our clapping.
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We fed the babies lunch, I gave Brecken his first macaroni and cheese. It was nostalgic, because I fed Christian his first cheeseburger. Evidently I have a thing for giving babies their first taste of forbidden foods. Brecken is sitting in my family’s antique high chair, my father’s family has used that since before my dad was born (and dad is about to be 60!) there aren’t any straps or anything, we use a towel to tie the baby into the chair. Kelly thought it was awesome and took a picture to send to Mark.
It was such a fun day and great to spend time with all the kids together. Before our friends left, I was insistent upon getting a photo of all six kids together.
Here’s how it went. First, the boys wanted to hold the babies. The girls were disappointed.
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Arionna won’t smile and Victoria is on the fringes. But all four boys look great.
Try again.
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Now Victoria has moved closer but her hands are in her face. Arionna still won’t smile. Christian’s smile is fading, but what I like is that he is looking directly at me, while every other child has shifted their focus to Kelly.
Take 3:
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We have now shifted the babies to the girls. Cam is still being a champ, looking and smiling. Brecken is doing his own thing. Victoria is no longer visible. Christian is still maintaining solid eye contact with me but we’ve lost Simon and still no smile from Arionna.
Take 4:
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Probably my favorite outtake. Victoria, sweetie, what are you doing? Arionna finally cracked a smile, but it’s aimed at Kelly. The big boys, while being wonderful during this whole thing are clearly fading. The smiles are more forced and less pronounced. I think Brecken is screaming at me to stop with the pictures already. But Cam…still a smiling champ.
Take 5:
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Honestly, as far as it goes, this one isn’t bad. If I had had to settle for it, I would have been okay. You still can’t really see Victoria, no one is looking the same direction, and Christian has completely resolved to stop smiling. But, the two babies look fabulous. I know they are tired of this, all of them.
And so I said “one more” thinking I probably had something workable. I did not (see evidence above), so I am glad I took that one last photo.
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When it comes to getting SIX kids, ages 7 and under, including two infants, to look and smile for the same picture, I think this is well beyond as good as it gets. It’s sweet, they all look happy, everyone is (mostly) smiling. I’m very happy with this photo. There’s nothing quite like seeing the children you love all gathered in one place.
Thanks to our wonderful friends for giving us their Saturday. We should definitely try to manage it more than once a year!

The Deer Hunter

Yesterday, I had lunch with this guy:

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my friend Christian (who clearly enjoyed his lunch, in case you couldn’t tell)

and also with this guy:

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my newest friend, Brecken, but he wasn’t much for conversation.

Christian told me all about how he created a trap in his backyard, with his friend Rosie, to catch a deer. It was a surprisingly detailed and well thought out plan for a pair of five year olds. At the table, I mentioned to Christian that if he wanted to catch a deer, he should come to my house, where the deer are quite tame and usually walk right up into the backyard.

That was a couple weeks ago  (prior to our May snowfall).

This was the next night. They really do come into my yard quite often.

He was very excited to see these deer in my yard and it launched his request to have me catch him his very own deer. We spent all of lunch talking about HOW I would attempt to catch this deer. By the end of the lunch, he was up to wanting 4-5 deer, in case he lost one or two and had to go find them by riding his other deer.

He named them, too.

Blitzen, Rudolph, Leader, Blessy, and Dessy.

He will name them in the order in which I catch them.

My current project, then, is to catch Blitzen. I started with food. The deer eat grass and leaves and plants. But they also like the seeds from the bird feeder. I sprinkled some on the ground to tempt them to come into the yard.

Then I sat quietly and read a book waited. Suddenly, I could hear the sounds from their hooves as they walked through the woods. But they didn’t come into the yard. I decided to go and look.

There I am, actually in the woods.

I was looking very hard. But I couldn’t see them! Deer are naturally brown in color, and the woods are brown and so the deer are camouflaged.

Here, take a look at the woods:

This is what I was looking into, trying to spot a deer. I stood quietly in the woods for a long time, waiting to see one I could catch. Suddenly….

Don’t worry, buddy, I will keep trying. It just might take me a while. Maybe one of these days you will have to come over and help me…

UPDATE: Christian just called me at work to ask me why I am not out in the woods trying to catch him a deer. He has yet to even see this because I hadn’t published it. He advised that I use carrots, deer toys, and a lasso to catch a deer next time. Seems like I have a lot of work to do.

Lent Letter #11

Dear Victoria and Christian and Baby,

I know that you all know that your mom and I have been friends for a very long time. A VERY long time. I first met her when she was 10 years old. That is barely older than Victoria is now. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that she has three children because I still remember her as the young and carefree friend of my childhood.

But she is very different now and that is because of the three of you. You are amazing children, beautiful and happy and funny and friendly and kind. I love how excited you get to see me when I visit. I love how you (well the older two) tell me stories and remind me so much of your mom that sometimes it brings tears to my eyes.

Victoria, I love how much you love to read. It makes my librarian heart so happy to see you love reading. It makes me remember when I was a little girl, like you, I’d sneak extra reading time in after I was supposed to go to bed. Something about an exciting story just makes sleep less important. I get that. I’m still like that to this day. I suspect you might be as well. The other day, I visited your mom at school and I stopped to see you. When you saw me standing there your whole face lit up and you raced across the hall to throw yourself at me and give me a hug. It made my whole day. As much fun as I had with your mom, that was my favorite part of the day. I hope you always love that generously.

Christian, I love how you see the world. You tell me stories of the people and the places and the things. The details are less important to you, what you see is how and why something happened. The night I came to visit your mom and you had just gotten Goldie #1 that day, I could have listened to you talk about that fish all night long. You have a natural curiosity about why things happen that will help you learn more about the world than you could ever learn in books or in school. Not that those things aren’t important but caring why things happen is the most important trait you can have in this world. I hope that you are always interested in the world around you.

Baby, it’s harder to know you because you’re not here yet. I’m pretty excited to meet you though. I’m thrilled beyond words that I will be part of your life from your very first day onward. There will never be a day in your life when you won’t know me as your friend. You’re pretty lucky though to be coming into the world as part of this family. You have two wonderful parents, a big brother who will teach you how things really work and a big, big sister who will teach you everything else. You’re basically set for life.

I’m so lucky to have friends like you. I hope you feel equally lucky to have a friend like me.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Christian’s Favorite Things

This goes out to my little friend Christian. Yesterday was his 5th birthday and today he had his tonsils out. He’s sitting in a hospital bed and I wanted to send him some love.

Here are some of Christian’s favorite things.

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Simon

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Me (also trains, in the background)

Water slides

Spiderman

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His daddy

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His mommy

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His sister, Toria, and their dog, Cookie

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The circus

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Staying overnight at my house and playing Pig Toss.
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His baby

 

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Happy Birthday Christian! I hope this list helped you feel a little better. Love you!

 

Therein to be content

When my sister was pregnant with Arionna, my absolute favorite moment of her pregnancy was when she invited me to be present for her ultrasound. I’d never seen one before and to me, it was a magical moment where I got to see my niece before she even made her way into this world. I’d always thought it was so generous of Emily and Chad to invite me along. It was their only ultrasound and their first ultrasound and a moment they were willing to share with me. I was honored.

When I told Kelly this story, she invited me to share in her ultrasound, for baby #3. Mark and Kelly have decided not to find out the gender, and she had an ultrasound scheduled. She was bringing the kids so Victoria and Christian could see their new little sibling before he/she makes their way to this world. She agreed to let me come along. It wasn’t easy, I had to arrange things with two different jobs, but it was worth the effort. To me, being able to see inside, to hear a tiny heartbeat, to see the baby move it is a beautiful and sweet and gentle and tender moment that never goes away. (Perhaps not when you’re six or when you’re four, but for sure when you’re thirty-three). I thought it was incredibly generous of Kelly to allow me to come. She took that moment that could have been a precious memory for her and her children and expanded it to make room for me.
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Here’s a live shot of it happening. The tech is Kelly’s good friend, Molly, which is extra cool.

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This was the 3rd shot in response to “show me how happy you are about the new baby!”. But still, so cute.

Last but not least, the money shot.
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Here’s the little tweety, I call Allyken, waving hi to the world. That slays me. Ultrasounds are truly incredible.

It was a beautiful afternoon and the effects have lingered beyond into the next day.

There are few things as miraculous as a new baby. Except maybe an old friendship. Thanks, Kel.

 

*Title is an excerpt from the following quote

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” ~Helen Keller

Tempting Fate

That fate can be a fickle friend.

Today, I had lunch with Kelly and the kids. It was a nice surprise in the middle of the day/week. I think Victoria missed me. When we sat down, she scooted her chair so close it was touching mine. Before the meal was out, she was actually perched in my lap.

Kelly managed to distract them for a moment so we could talk about…lobster. Of course. For the record, lobster makes me very happy.

Why all this talk about lobster?

Champps has a new claw machine right inside the door. It’s a live lobster tank. For $2 you drop a claw and try to capture a lobster. If you catch one, they’ll cook it for you. Weird? Um, yes. The kids thought it was great. More so if you know that as a family, they’re kind of obsessed with claw machines. I’m fairly certain a good percentage of Victoria’s college fund has gone into winning her 7,864 stuffed animals.

Mark loves those things. To be fair, Mark is actually good at them. So, Kelly said right away, “we’ll have to come back with daddy and win a lobster…”

Christian kept asking about the lobster all through lunch. He wanted to know what you did with it when you won. A good question, because it’s alive. Victoria and I already had this discussion and she didn’t want to eat one because it would pinch her lips. I asked if she’d be eating it or kissing it, which prompted a giggle–exactly my aim.

Finally, Kelly told Christian that you have to cook the lobster and then detailed exactly how. Boil the water, drop it in and listen to it scream. Or something like that.

Christian would not be denied. He HAD to try to win a lobster. Kelly said sure and gave the boy two dollars. When Victoria heard, she wanted in as well. Kelly said no. Victoria didn’t think it was fair that Christian got to win a lobster and she didn’t.

Kelly said, with a meaningful glance at me, “he’s not going to WIN a lobster, he’s just going to try. One try is all we need.” And since we had already eaten and lobsters are notoriously unreliable pets, one try is plenty to “win” a lobster.

The money went in, Kelly lined up the claw and let both kids press the button.

Down it went.

Slowly dropping in place.

Kelly and I were harshly whispering because it was tough to believe what we were seeing.

The claw dropped gently on the back of the largest lobster in the tank.

Surely, SURELY, it won’t actually lift him. It’ll be like most of those games where the claws skid harmlessly off the toy and snap shut in defeat.

The claw closed.

It started to retract.

Gripped inside was Lousy, the largest lobster in the tank.

Kelly and the kids went nuts.

Victoria was screaming “I don’t want him, I don’t want him”

Christian was just screaming

Kelly screamed at me, “do something! get someone!”

And so I did. Mere minutes later, we were chatting up the manager who was kind enough to offer to refund our $2 and keep the lobster.

Or…

He offered to box it up and send it home with us. Kelly was laughing/crying and not really deciding much at all. I stepped in and said, “yes, box it up, she’ll take it home.”

Off they went to get the box.

Kelly decided to call Mark and tell him the “good” news.

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Victoria officially told the story, as you can see, she’s a little freaked.

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Mark was strangely casual about it. “They won’t cook it for you?” When Kelly said we’d already eaten, and were bringing the live lobster home, I think he said, “okay, I’ll cook it tonight”.

The manager returned with an assistant who pulled the lobster out of the machine, placed in in a box, taped it shut and poked holes in the top. I thought the holes were a bit redundant. Given the choice, I think I’d choose slow suffocation over boiled alive, but that’s just me. Nobody asked Lousy.

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Meanwhile, the manager was giving Kelly firm directions on the care and handling of live lobster, right up until cooking.

Did you know they have no nerves so they can’t feel it when you drop them in water?

Um, okay.

and you have to put them in head first?

Is that so they die faster? Or so they don’t realize what’s happening and climb the heck out of that pot?

Then, the assistant handed me the box. A large box containing the freshest entree ever. I balanced the bizarrely light box (I thought lobster would be heavier, they look sturdier than they feel) on my left hand and then felt its legs creeping along the bottom of the box, even through the cardboard. That sensation was, less than pleasant.

Christian asked if he could carry it. I said, sure, and then added, “but you can’t drop him”; which, in retrospect, strikes me as a rather stupid remark. Who cares if he drops the lobster? Will it bruise a few hours before we boil and eat it?

I gave it to him, snapped a picture of him holding the thing and then he said, “okay, here you go” and shoved the box back at me. Evidently he didn’t want to carry it, just wanted the novelty of holding it.

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Victoria wouldn’t come near it. Right until we got in the car, she kept saying she didn’t want that thing coming home with us. Then I set it on her lap and told her to hold it. She was chill about it. I guess getting to hold it is better than looking it in its beady little eyes.

Here’s the proud family, in front of the machine.

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“You catch ’em, we cook ’em” says the sign. Ah, if only it were that easy.

“We’ll never win.” Guess you won’t be saying that anymore, huh, Kel?

The good news is, I’ll always remember this as the day I learned about lobster. I love lobster.