Christmas with the Boys

Every year I see my friends Clay and Lew for Christmas Eve. That didn’t work this year, so I saw them a few days later. We exchanged gifts, had dinner, and played games, it was a wonderful, relaxing afternoon.

Before I left, their delightful father, Tom, insisted that the boys take a photo with me by the tree.
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How sweet is that. And is anyone else shocked at how tall Clayton is getting, or is that just me? I love those boys so much and appreciate that even though they are getting to the stage where it is not “cool” to take pictures, they still do it for me.
That is easily one of my favorite photos from the holiday season.

Summer is Here!

If you haven’t been paying attention, or are fortunate enough to live somewhere that is NOT here, you may be unaware of the intense crappiness that was our spring/summer. It snowed into May, then rained the rest of the month and the first two weeks of June. It was mid-June before our highs started hitting the 70s. Essentially, super-awful weather. Finally, finally it started warming up and though it still rains most days, it has stopped raining all day, every day.

It hasn’t felt even remotely like summer. I have hardly been able to read outside and the pool? Forget it.

Yesterday, Mindy called and asked if she could bring the boys swimming. I wasn’t remotely in the mood. It didn’t feel like summer and I didn’t think I was up for it. However, I haven’t seen Mindy and the boys in ages, and they are some of my favorite people in the world. So, I ignored my impulse, shut down the negative part of my brain and simply said yes.

I am so glad that I did!

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening. It was simply the perfect way to kick off the summer and now I truly feel like summer is here and I can enjoy it. And, for those of you keeping score at home, the pool is officially open!!!
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Me and Clay, I was teaching him to dive. I LOVE to dive and it’s a tough skill to learn. I showed him and he’s a natural! He was diving like he’d been doing it for years.
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Sweet little Lewie. He was catching butterflies. About the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. And then he got in the pool, which has never been his favorite thing to do. However, what a difference a year makes! He was tentative at first, just hanging in the shallow end. Then, suddenly he realized how much fun this was and BAM! he’s swimming the length of the pool. Jumping in off the edge. Jumping into the deep end, by himself, and swimming to the ladder to do it again. It was amazing. He played in the pool for 3.5 HOURS and only got out because it was time to go home. Next time, I’m teaching HIM to dive, too!
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Because it is still not as warm as I’d love it to be, we headed into the sauna to warm up. It took a while to figure out how it worked, but Clay and I put our heads together and….mmm, a nice warm sauna.
Then, as always, before they left I asked for a nice photo of the boys.
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 Those are a couple of handsome boys! I loved my evening with them and with their mother. It was a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. And for future reference, bringing a pizza to the pool might just be a genius plan!
Thanks for being the perfect way to kick off the summer and open up the pool for days and days of fun to come!

Lent Letter #31

Dear Lewie,

Happy Birthday, Lew! Today you are six years old. Sometimes I look at you and think that I blinked and you went from newborn to six, then other times I can’t even remember what life was like without you.

Do you wanna know something funny? Until the day you were born I didn’t know that babies could be born with dimples. True story. That sounds kind of silly now, but when I met you at the hospital, you made a little face and you had dimples in both cheeks. I was delightfully surprised. I said to your mommy, “he has dimples!” I will always remember that I learned something the day you were born.

When I think about you, the first thing that I see is your smile. I think you smile more than any kid I’ve ever met. Probably my favorite thing about you is that you like it when I ask you to smile at me for a picture. Every single time. If I say your name in that tone, you immediately turn toward me and slip into that easy, charming grin of yours, dimples popping, eyes twinkling. It melts me, every time.

(Even though I have not been posting pictures in my letters, I am making an exception for you, because other people read this blog and they don’t all know you like I do.)

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That picture was a year ago, but you’ll note that even while playing on the playground, you took the time to stop and give me that trademark grin.

Your personality is pure sunshine. You make people feel better just being around you. That is your gift to the world. I love the fact that you’re still a little boy, that you’ll still hug me and sit on my lap and just want to play and have fun. I know it’s ending, I know you’re on the cusp of becoming all boy. That soon hugs and kisses will be gross and playing with adults won’t be on your radar, but I am hoping that you never lose that magic smile. That you’ll use it your whole life to bring light and happiness to yourself and those around you.

Being your friend makes me happy. Being around you makes me happy. Seeing you smile makes my whole day.

Happy 6th birthday my sunshiny friend!

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

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

To think they almost named him Vern…

My pal Lewie is four today. He was born on the Vernal Equinox (this year, it happened last night, just a shade before midnight). When he was born, his parents jokingly discussed naming him in honor of this special day. The first day of Spring…and the first day of Lewie.

Vernal Robert just doesn’t have the same ring.

I think we can all be glad that Tom and Mindy went with Lewie, as it suits him so well.

I was flipping through my flickr account trying to decide which picture to use and there were so many to choose from. I was so inspired that I decided to have a little photo tribute of Lewie, starting from the beginning.

I’ll apologize in advance for the quality of some of the earlier pics. I was not as invested in the technology game, then.

Let’s start with the day we met,

4 years ago, today:

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There is really very little as sweet as a newborn baby. He was so precious.

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It was so fun to me to be able to play with TWO special little boys whenever I’d visit. For a while, I was obsessed with getting the perfect shot of them as brothers. (I think I am still working on it…)

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He kept getting cuter and cuter every day.

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Every. Single. Day

Those dimples of his just slay me. Since the day he was born, I can’t get over how adorable they are.

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As with all things, children start growing and they just don’t stop.

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That picture melts my heart every time I look at it. It is about two years old now and I still love looking at that sweet little face of his. It always reminds me that he got a personality to match.

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Not that he can’t be tough when he needs to be!

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And I love how as we all get older our friendship gets better and better.

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I’m extremely excited for his next birthday, so he and I can have our special birthday date, all to our selves.

But, in the meantime, I hope he and Clay and I get to have some more dates as a group. We always have so much fun:

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Sometimes it is so much fun we just can’t contain ourselves!

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But, in the meantime, I couldn’t be happier that this wonderful little boy is turning four. I hope he has a wonderful fourth year and I’ll leave you all with my very favorite picture of him.

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Happy Birthday Lewie!

Friend Fiesta

The weekend after my family Christmas party, I had another party. (Yep, I’m just that kind of crazy)

This one was pretty spur-of-the-moment. My friend Niki and her son, Finn, were coming to town. I hadn’t seen them since the memorial service for Niki’s husband Peter, last September.

Niki let me know they’d be in town and that she wanted to get together. I was supposed to see Mindy and Tom, et. al. that same day. Since they all know each other through me, I decided to just have a get-together at Casa Olivia.

Mindy and Tom brought the kids. We invited Muffy and Frodo. Niki and Finn stayed over, it was awesome.

I made tacos for everyone, marking the first time in history that I have cooked a meal to feed other people. (Yes, that’s true. The previous party was potluck). The tacos were really good, but I made way too many. After the fourth or fifth consecutive day of me eating them for both lunch and dinner, I finally ran out.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back to the week of the party.

I had such a busy week that week, several nights I wasn’t even home until 8 or 9. This made things a little chaotic when the weekend finally hit. Friday was out as that was Christian Kane Day (that should be a national holiday or something) so my focus was elsewhere. However, I did hit the grocery store on Friday to get all my taco fixings.

When I finally got home from errands that day, I was so intent on getting ready for CK that I rushed in and threw my groceries in the fridge and left.

Saturday, I had planned all the things that needed to get done. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan the time I needed to actually get them done. You see, I still had to take down ALL of my Christmas decor. My tree was undecorated, I had managed to squeeze that in at some point during the week. My dad was coming at 2:00 pm to help me get rid of the tree itself. Thank the Lord, my mom called and came over at 1:30. They both helped me get my house in order and Christmas stuff away. My mom then helped me clean while my dad assembled the new shelf I bought before Christmas but never got to put up.

Just as my mom was arriving, I grabbed one of the new tubs I had bought the day before at Target. I knew I’d need it to put away all my decor. When I looked inside, there was plastic bag at the bottom. Puzzled, I picked it up and realized that it was my hamburger meat.

Yep, in my excitement the day before, I forgot to put the meat away and the whole five pounds sat out overnight. For at least 24 hours. Crap.

With only four hours to go and TONS of work to do, I had to send my mom to the grocery store to buy more meat (and I just realized I never paid her for it! See, Mom? This is why you should have let me give you the money BEFORE. Then it’s covered. And I don’t forget for two weeks.)

She came back and finished up a few things for me, because, while she was gone, Niki called and said she and Finn were on their way, over an hour early! And I wasn’t even showered yet. I sprinted to the shower and frantically raced around getting last minute things ready.

I’ll tell you what. If not for my amazing parents, there is no way this would have happened so successfully. I just didn’t have the time. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou Mom and Dad.

Eventually, everyone arrived and we got into the party.

These are the friends that I partied with throughout the majority of my 20s. Mindy and Tom, for my entire 20s. I met them a month after I turned 21…ah, the stories! Get together’s with these people typically involve LOTS of drinking, occasionally some food, more drinking, laughter, a bit of drinking, and once-in-a-while, a game.

That’s how we create memories, folks.

This party was different.

Turns out, this is the first time we’ve all gotten together, including the children. Having kids around makes for a very different experience. And this is one of the best nights I’ve ever spent with these friends of mine.

It mostly began with Clayton. After a tear-filled moment when he asked Niki point-blank why Peter died (Niki handled it amazingly well, I was in the corner, wiping tears away as she told him that Peter was sick in his brain and that is why he died.) Clay was his usual happy self and he wanted me to play with him. Since I ALWAYS play with him when we’re together, I’m sure it was a shock to him when I said I couldn’t. I was cooking.

But, I told him I had bought him a game to keep at my house. He opened it and it was….Monopoly! Might be that you’re thinking Monopoly is a little advanced for a six year old and you’d probably be right, but Clay is wicked smart and he loves this game. (He had told me so over Christmas, so I made sure to get it for him).

He went around the party and asked people to play with him. He got two takers, Tom and Frodo. (Frodo, as it turns out, is a confusing name for kids–so we eventually switched to Ryan to lessen the confusion.)

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The boys played Monopoly almost the entire time. And the rest of us ate and chatted and played (if you were Finn and Lewie) and occasionally observed the intense game.

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It wasn’t Clay’s turn…and that’s Lewie in the middle and Finn on the right.

Children of all ages seemed to be wildly in love with my Christmas village. It’s too bad it is ceramic, it really took a beating this year. But you know what? I don’t mind. Because I loved the fact that it created memories.

At one point, we broke to do presents. I hadn’t done Christmas with Clay and Lewie this year–and I got a little something for Finn, so he wouldn’t be the only kid NOT getting presents.

One of the things I got Finn was a Pez dispenser. Finn is 2. I got Simon one when he was 3. Evidently, Pez dispensers are for older kids….

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That is Finn, uninterested while Niki and Frodo tried to get it loaded. I don’t know why it needed two people….

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Now Clay is entertaining Finn while they are still loading it…

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Frodo is trying to explain how it works to Finn, who caught the word “candy” and just wants to eat it.

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Now Niki is trying to show him…but he just wants candy.

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Success! Finn got his candy and Frodo got him to eat it “correctly” out of the dispenser. We were all thrilled.

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Mindy is tallying up exactly how much candy I gave her boys (a LOT) while Lew is obsessed with his present. A Star Wars M&M dispenser. I know, I’m so cool.

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I think he likes it!

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This is actually Clayton’s snow globe, but Finn really liked it!

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Eventually we tried to settle the kids down. Lewie was no problem. With a party going on in the next room, he’s obsessed with the movie. He didn’t even turn his head when my flash went off.

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We got Finn in there, too. And Niki stayed “for a minute” thinking he’d fall asleep. She ended up watching the whole movie with them! (They were watching Up!, which she’d never seen. And it is a very good movie).

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Mindy and I were getting pretty involved with the crazy Monopoly match going on. Clayton was counting all his own money, doing subtraction and addition and I even taught him how to figure a percentage for his mortgaged properties. He also figured out all his own deals. He’s very shrewd–and had no trouble negotiating to get what he wanted.

Which is why he won! (Legitimately, they didn’t let him win. He knocked out Ryan first and then took down his own father.)

I asked for his best “Donald Trump” look:

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Which I thought was hilarious!

Then, because he knows me well, after the silly one, I get one good one:

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After the game, the Mindy and her fellas had to get going, her parents were in town visiting and just waiting at her house. So they left and Muffy, Frodo and I sat and talked while Niki put Finn to bed. When she didn’t come back for a while, we checked and found that Niki had fallen asleep.

Eventually, she woke up and rejoined the party and we all sat and talked and drank until 4ish in the morning.

The next day, I had my first ever am houseguests. Niki got herself ready to go while Finn and I played trains.

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He looks so much like Peter in that picture that it kind of breaks my heart to look at it. I hope that in addition to his looks and his height, Finn gets his dad’s thirst for knowledge and ability to listen and his love and loyalty. That’s what I’d wish for him. From his mom, he’ll get his common sense and her humor. Also her calm demeanor and relaxed nature.

Sounds like he’ll be a pretty great kid.

It was an incredibly fun night and so different from the norm. I really enjoyed having the kids around and being able to interact with everyone. I hope this is something we’re able to repeat in the future.

Peeping Santa Part II

This blog has been a long time coming. Going all the way back to December 4, 2010…over a month. Gulp. Guess I’m a bit behind on my blogging. No wonder people are writing to complain about the lack of posts.

First, you should read Peeping Santa Part I, to refresh your memory.

Then, you should read Christmas Spirit because it ties into the following story.

When I picked up Clay and Lew that morning, they had just come from visiting Santa at Tom’s work and having breakfast with him. They got letters from Santa that were written expressly to them about their activities and behavior. As Mindy was struggling with Lewie to get him dressed to leave again, I was chatting with him. Probably not helping.

I read his letter and asked him how Santa knew so much about him and what he was doing. I said, before he responded, “is it because he is magic?” He responded, in the way that only three-year-olds can, “NO, he knows about me because he peeks in the window and watches!”

I actually choked as I tried, in vain, to swallow my laughter.

Apparently, Santa truly is a peeping Tom. His marketing team must have been working overtime to keep this a secret all these years. But, I’ve sleuthed out the truth.

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Once we were underway, we chatted all they way downtown to Macy’s to see the annual “Day in the Life of an Elf”. Even though this is the third year and, roughly, 10th time, I’ve seen it, the children do, indeed, make all the difference.

Lewie was entranced this year. Three must be the age. He was wide-eyed and captivated. Clayton was impatient, unimpressed, and ready to rush through to see Santa on the other side. I was on a tight rope. Balancing against holding the magic for Lewie and trying to entertain and interest Clay. I don’t know how mother’s do it.

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I finally just took the straightforward path and told Clayton that Lewie needed time to soak it all in. He hadn’t seen it as often as Clay had and he was younger. Patience, please.

It worked.

He began showing Lewie “the best parts” and talking him through the experience. It was joyful watching them do it together.

Singing Tree

Halfway through, Clay looked at me and sighed. “I really liked the Nutcracker so much better”. The Nutcracker display was when he was 3. Three is the year. I wonder if three years from now, Lewie will look back on this year in wonder.

Awed

Lewie is leaning on the ledge, just to soak it all in.

Elfin Family

We saw a couple of “real, live, ELVES” who were kind enough to photograph with the astonished boys.

Clay had questions, they played along.

Look Lewie!

“Lewie! Look at the candy cane machines, that’s really how they make them”  My favorite moment.

Toy Shop

And then, it was over. Faster than I liked, perhaps, but the boys seemed content.

We got in line to meet Santa. Clayton was dancing with anticipation. No boy has ever loved Santa like Clay has. There is a photo on my mantle of him, throwing himself on Santa in pure joy, when he was three. The photographer happened to catch it and I paid for those overpriced Santa photos, just so I could keep that one moment forever. To me, that photo is the essence of Christmas, the essence of Clayton.

This year, however, there is a bit of worry. Clay is on the very edge of not believing. He’s too smart and too analytical to believe for long. He already thinks of millions of questions, trying to poke holes in something he struggles with. He wants to believe, he just doesn’t think he should.

We got to see Santa, the boys went in and climbed up to sit with him.

Smile!

I was told, for the first time, that I was only allowed two personal photos.

Chatting with Santa

I’m not sure which of mine I like more.

When we were done, we walked out and Clay looked troubled. I asked him what was wrong and he mumbled something, looking at the ground. He looked…sad.

I knelt down, facing him so we were at eye-level. I held Lewie’s hand so he wouldn’t wander off. I asked again, what’s wrong? Clay looked at me and said, “his voice was different.”

He’d just seen “Santa” that morning. He believed that one to be the real one. He was told by his parents and reconfirmed by me that Santa was traveling across town in order to be at Macy’s. We would see him again.

Twice in as many hours is too soon for a smart little boy.

I said, “do you think he has a sore throat from talking to so many kids?”

No.

“He looked different, too. The other Santa had glasses. And his coat was different.”

The word “other” spelled defeat. He knows they are two different Santas. He’s not pretending any more and I can’t convince him. His blue eyes looked at me, pleading for an answer.

I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t asked his parent how to handle this. I didn’t know what to do. And Lewie was right there, hanging on each word. My internal debate lasted seconds, but felt like years.

Finally, I settled on something I felt was true. “Clay, do you think maybe, maybe, the real Santa gets SO busy this time of year, making all the presents and preparing for Christmas, that he can’t be everywhere he needs to be to talk to all the good children in the world?”

A spark of hope. “I think so…”

“Well, maybe, just maybe, Santa has to have friends, helpers, that go and talk to some of the children for him, so he can get everything done.”

The pause was deeper than I imagined.

“So after we saw him this morning, Santa went back to the North Pole to get his work done? And this guy was one of his friends?”

And just like that, we’re safe for another year.

I don’t want to be there when he learns the truth. That look in his eyes would slay me.

Lewie listened intently to the whole exchange. I worry about how long this will last for him. He’s too attentive to everything-Clayton. I’m afraid that Mindy and Tom will lose them both, the same year.

The rest of our day was easier, lighter than those morning moments.

We wandered out of Macy’s intent on finding the bear. There is a photo of Clayton and me with a bear, taken two years ago. I wanted both boys and the bear.

Nice Faces

Success!

Looked Away

We also found a reindeer. Guess that will be a new tradition.

These animals are inside an ornament shop. Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in breakables, I entered with two boys, 6 and 3. Either I’m nuts, or trusting.

They were more careless than many would like, but that is how they learn, how they grow. Nothing broken, but many close calls.

Eventually, they captured my camera for their own photo shoot.

Lew of Clay

Lewie of Clayton

Clay of Lew

Clayton of Lewie (who is being very dramatic for the camera)

I snagged it back in time to capture these gems:

Where are the Boys?

They practically disappear in the face of all those nutcrackers.

Black Santa

And in the midst of all those rosy-cheeked Santas, Lewie softly touched this one and said, “what’s wrong with Santa?” I had another paralyzing moment of “oh-crap-what-do-i-say” when I, again, decided that straightforward is the way to play it. “What do you think is different about him?”

“He’s brown.”

“Yes” I smiled and touched his hair, “he is.”

And he moved on, fine after acknowledging the difference

And then they realized they hadn’t done one of me.

Me 2

Lewie took this and I found myself marveling at how all of my favorite pictures of me are taken by him. Mindy once told me that it is because of the way I look at him that makes the pictures turn out so well. I love that thought!

Then Clay got ahold of the camera for a heavy dose of six-year-old narcissism:

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And I deleted about 50 more like this.

Blur of Lew

I love this picture that Clay took of Lewie running down a ramp. I don’t know how he did it, but the blur marks on the photo show him moving. Love it!

We found a decorated tree in a lobby and I got a picture (through bribery) of the boys smiling nicely.

Boys Tree

Then we played…on the escalator. For like 30 minutes.

I let Clayton run up the down and down the up.

Up the Down

His mother later told me she never lets him do that because she’s afraid he’ll fall. I said that I thought of that, but I figured if he fell, he’d probably not do it anymore. Being a mom must be very different than being a fun friend.

Reflection

I took this and love how his reflection is captured. He’s going up the down, but resting and sliding down a ways before jogging up again. He learned that it is a lot of work to go the wrong way on an escalator. He was panting by the time I made them quit.

Lewie also played but he wanted to hold my hand as he stepped on and off. Then he’d release me and play during the middle.

I finally convinced him to try it himself and then he and his brother played together.

Up or Down?

Lew is doing it right…

Brothers
One of my faves. Clay is going down the up, but he stayed right beside Lew who was going down the down. This was so cute. I was astonished at how long we had fun on the escalator. Guess it really is the simple things. And we were lucky it was in a deserted area so there were no other people wanting rides during all this.
When we left, it was off to McDonald’s to grab lunch and then to my house to eat.
Clay Lew Village
They were entranced by my village. I gave them permission to touch-gently-and they were in heaven.
After lunch, I begged for a couple Christmas photos by my tree.
Clay Tree
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And then Clay asked for one while sitting on my inflatable Snowman
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Then it was home to drop off Lewie with his mom and dad. Clay and I had more fun to have.
But, that’s for the next post. This one is long enough as it is. And now you know why it took me so long to get around to writing it. At work, I don’t often have an entire HOUR to write a post…
Today, it was 2.5 hours as I got interrupted many, many, times while plodding through this story. When I reread it later, my single hope is that it all makes sense.