life on the funny farm

Monday, May 25, 2009

And Then A Hero Comes Along .....

So Julie is just beginning to learn to swim sans "swimmies". I was sitting poolside, reading a book while watching the kids. Only Julie, James and Rosie remained at the pool, the others had gone in already.

All of a sudden I realized Julie had swum into the deep end and she was struggling to keep her head above water. She was less than a foot from the wall but couldn't seem to reach it. I jumped up and ran around the pool to help her. But before I got there, James had dived in and crossed the pool in about a second. He got her head above water and pulled her to the swim-out bench where she could sit and catch her breath. She was scared but we both sat by her and eased her fears for a bit, and then gently encouraged her to get back in at the shallow end for a few minutes before getting out.

Now we're all in for the night. Julie is showered and dry and all cozy in her pajamas. Big brother has gone off to play video games and has likely forgotten all about his moment of heroism.

I don't think Julie or myself will be forgetting anytime soon ....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We're Goin' To The Zoo-Zoo-Zoo

Yesterday we took our big crew
And drove to the Philadelphia zoo.

It was crowded and hot, but it mattered not,
For the breeze made us feel nice and cool.

We ate picnic lunch on a rock
While the kids cavorted with a peacock.

They ran 'round some more, then we went to explore,
And so we set off at a trot.

We saw many things in a day,
Such as gibbons and otters at play.

We saw monkeys swoop and elephants poop
And thought admission was a small price to pay.

The kids pressed their face to the glass
When they saw the babboon's funky a--

And after awhile, saw a Nile crocodile
And a tortoise moving slow through the grass.

But soon it was time to go.
To the camel rides we had to say no.

Though the kids were sweaty and hot and smelled like socks
They cried they still wanted some mo'.

On the way home we ate.
Burgers and fries and shakes.

We talked and we laughed about long-necked giraffes,
Bats, capybaras and snakes.

We'll go again someday.
To learn and to laugh and to play.

But for now it's relaxing to be sitting here typing
While the kids just hang out for the day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mood Mines

It's tricky being me. Each morning and afternoon I have to carefully navigate my way through the house, orchestrating the movements, actions, and words of all the young people around me.
Rosie, for instance, is NOT a morning person. It's best not to be in her path, glance at her, or politely inquire after her health. Her siblings need reminders each new day that they should refrain from speaking to her unless absolutely essential. Her hair being on fire would not be considered essential.
Daniel handles mornings just fine, so long as he is able to follow his "traditions", which include resting in a fetal position on "his" kitchen stool whilst baking his butt in the oven and me serving him up the same breakfast he has every single morning without fail. If he were to come down and see someone else sitting on his stool, I do believe he would spontaneously combust on the spot.
Patrick, on the other hand, prefers to take a more active role in the mornings, acting like a human cattle prod poking and prodding anyone within reach. And he can just about reach to Delaware. He'll keep at it until everyone is screaming and crying or I threaten to remove all sources of fun from his life till he's 30.

The afternoons are better. For some. However, this is when James seems to feel moodiest. If he even THINKS he hears his name he responds with a scowl on his face and a "VWHAT?! Me I not did anything". I need to put James and Julie in separate corners (of the state) in order to keep them from squabbling. She could say to him, "I see a pretty butterfly" and he would find it objectionable. Then they start arguing with each other in Russian, James yelling with brows knit, Julie poker-faced and more subdued, but each with their voice dropped an octave or two. At some point one of them is bound to whip around to me with a wounded expression on their face and hands thrown out, clearly expecting me to rush to their defense.
Me, I just go around playing musical chairs, re-arranging my children around the house like furniture in order to get the most effective layout and the maximal degree of complacency. On the occassions when the physical repositioning has little to no effect, I'll resort to lecturing, which is always good for a few eyes rolling. This is a good thing, because eye-rolling initiates a sibling-bonding process. If lecturing fails to have an impact, I pull out another favorite trick of mine, threatening them with, "Do you want to write .....
The Family Prayer?????"
The Family Prayer is some little Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph thing I bought that has a prayer on it. It goes, "God made us a family. We need one another. We love one another. We forgive one another. We work together, We play together....." and on and on and on. They HATE writing the family prayer and that generally puts an end to most of the squabbling.

Mines defused for another day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Girl Power

I had to do some fence repairs yesterday, so I checked with the kids to see if I had any helpers among them. Only two volunteered: Rosie and Julie. The rest of the gang were all deeply enmeshed in brain-rotting activities of the utmost importance.

No matter, I took my girls and we loaded up my truck with barbed wire, work gloves, u-nails, hammers, wire cutters, machetes, etc. We drove out into the knee-high grasses of the pasture and got to work. The work in question being hacking away at brambles and briars, stretching wire, resurrecting rotting fence posts, hammering nails into tree trunks, and slamming posts into the ground with the T-post driver. We got scratched, dirty and sweaty, and probably a raging case of Poison Ivy to boot, but we got the job done. Of course, a small elephant could probably walk on through our patches, but lucky for us our horses don't try too hard.

Fence patched, we let the horses back into the low field and Rosie said she could actually see them smiling when they ran out into the tall grass. I know the girls were smiling when they were eating the Rita's I treated them to afterwards.
Who needs boys?

Friday, May 15, 2009


Got a call the other night from a rep promoting some package deals at a hotel chain. Always looking for a good deal, I decided to listen to her pitch. So she got all my information and told me they were offering special promotions in Orlando. That's great, I told her, b/c we were thinking we might try to get down to Disney next year. The gist of our conversation follows:

Rep: Disney? So do you have kids?
Me: Yes, we do.

Rep: How many?
Me: 6.

Rep: 6. Oh................
Rep: 6?
Me: Yes, 6.

Rep: Would you be taking all of them?
Me: Uhhhh ....well, yes.

Rep: All 6?
Me: Yes, all 6.

Rep: I'm afraid we don't have any rooms that can accomodate that many people.
Me: Yes, I know, we generally get 2 adjoining rooms when we stay at a hotel.

Rep: Well we do have a beautiful 2 room suite with a kitchenette that sleeps 10
Me: That sounds wonderful, can you tell me more about that?

Rep: Well we can only put 5 people in there.
Me: I thought you said it sleeps 10.

Rep: Well yes, but because of fire codes we can only allow 5.
Me: ...............

Rep: You're sure you would be taking ALL the kids?
Me: Which ones would you suggest I leave behind?

Rep: Tense, polite laughter.
Rep: We also have some lovely rooms available in Las Vegas. Maybe just you and your husband would be interested in hearing about that?
Me: Well, it sounds like a nice idea but I don't think we'd be able to take advantage of an offer like that.

Rep: Why not?
Me: 6 kids (think Abbott and Costello, First Base)

Rep: ........Uh......well I'm sorry we won't be able to help you at this time, but if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to call us at 1-800-large-families-confuse-us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Library Card

I hadn't been to the library in about four years b/c the last time I went it seems we managed to rack up over $60 in overdue fines. Figure at a quarter per book per day, even 4 books adds up to $7 in a week. Add into the equation 4 children under the age of 9 and a new house up to the rafters in boxes and, well you can do the math.

But one of the kids needed to reference a book from the honest-to-God library for a school report. So I packed up my pride and most of the kids and drove over to our small-town library and inquired politely at the desk as to whether I still had a vaild card. She clickety-clacked her computer and said (in a rather loud voice for a librarian), "Oh dear, it seems you have some unpaid fines. They're from quite some time ago and it was for a large number of children's books, see?"turning the monitor towads me.

At this point the people behind me are peering at the screen and giving me hoity looks. Trying to retain a shred of dignity, I quickly pull my kids along and tell the librarian, "OK, thanks", with a non-chalant 'I didn't care to check out any books anyway' smile. Not wanting to let it go, she was telling me as I was walking away, "I'm afraid you can't check out anymore books until the fines are paid". I flashed the non-chalant smile once more but kept walking.

Actually I walked right on downstairs to the children's section to gather my thoughts, and it was there that I hatched my evil plan.

I casually strolled over to the children's librarian and ever so cooly asked, "If my son wanted to get a library card, would that be through me or something entirely independent?"
"Oh, that would be completely independent of you" she replied, oblivious to my scheme.

A smile spread across my face as I told her, "Well then my son James here would like to get a library card, please". Before you could say "overdue" she printed out a shiny new card for James. We then took our time moseying through the library, picking out books that interested us and finding the reference books needed for the report. We checked the books out on James' new card, then walked back upstairs to look at one more thing.

Actually, it was just an excuse to walk past the librarian with a pile of books in my arms and watch her puzzled expression out of the corner of my eye.

When I got home, I related the whole story to mu son Patrick. He just looked down at me and said, "You're just takin' down the man, aren't you?"

Now, if we rack up outrageous charges on James' card, we still have Julie.

Beyond that, we may just have to adopt a few more children ....

Image courtesy"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day? You bet.

After so many years of feeling like one of my kids was missing from the picture, I am happy to report that I loved loved loved my Mother's Day this year. Not only did I finally get to celebrate the Big Day with my boy by my side, but with his sweet little sister as well.

I came downstairs to a table full of beautiful homemade cards and gifts from my chillens and an arrangement of wildflowers that James had picked. Next we were chaufferred to brunch by my dashing husband. The place we have gone to every year since I became a Mom 14 years ago has changed owners and is no longer doing brunch, but Fred found us a place that we enjoyed even more. Although we got many stares of incredulity, we had a wonderful meal.
Afterwards we went to a nursery (more stares) and picked out some flowers to plant as well as a few hanging baskets. Home to change and then rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty planting impatiens, geraniums, pansies and petunias. The girls and I also worked on our vegetable patch, which has been four years in the best intentions stage. We tilled and planted strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, basil and mint.
Took a long break on the couch reading a great book Fred got me ("Coop"), then later in the day headed out the door again for a pizza dinner and then to DQ for sweet treats at the end of the day.
Now I get to sit and blog and read e-mails while Fred handles showers, chores and bedtimes. I'm trying to decide what the best part of the day was:

1)No part in any meal prep/clean-up
2)Deferring all questions and disputes to Fred
3)Yardwork which included only putting in, no ripping out
4)The drop-dead gorgeous weather
5)Dozing in and out of a good book in the afternoon sunlight
6)Putting Julie on the pony's back and walking her around for a few minutes
7)The good food
8)The sweet cards and sweeter hugs
9)Queen-for-the-day treatment
10)The six interesting little people I am blessed to call my children

When all is said and done, I'll take #10, hands-down, every time.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Julie's Birthday Bash

Julie had her "friend's" birthday party last night. I took Jewels and 4 of her brothers and sisters (Patrick was a bit under the weather) to Boomer's, which is one of those Habitrail-for-kids kinda places. 3 of the 4 friends she invited from school were able to come, and she was a pig in mud tearing around with everyone. Daniel dressed like a Ninja (of course he did) and there was much sneaking and chasing and running amok.
They had a break for pizza and birthday cake and sugar-water (OK, it was fruit punch and lemonade, same thing) and then got right back into the frey.
By the time the party was over they were all soaked with sweat, out of breath, and their eyes were zig-zagging about like they were watching a ping-pong match.
Then I got to load six of these crazed little people into my car and take them home where they continued to run around like escaped mental patients.
But it was worth it. Julie had a birthday party. Probably the first one ever. She had a cake with pink roses on it and "Happy Birthday Julie" sprawled across it and a passle of munchkins shouting Happy Birthday to You Cha-Cha-Cha. She got to open presents which included jewelry, Barbies, Hula-Hoops, and kickballs.

Julie just now stumbled over to me for a hug, having just crawled out of bed. Her hair is a mess and her face is all sleepy and her arms and face are covered in pink heart ink-stamps. Looks like she and I will both need some time to recover from last night .....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Personal Space

In this culture of cyber facelessness, we have grown to feel comfortable in sharing life details that past generations had kept private. Seems the most insignificant nonsense is now glorified and freely shared with the world.

Just this morning I offered a man a cup of coffee. He looked up at me with a pleased-as-punch expression and said, "I don't drink coffee", clearly expecting a response from me in which I pulled up a chair and asked him to tell me more. It seemed he found himself to be quite the interesting character being so far out of mainstream and all.

I have had a Complete Stranger tell me that while her husband's sperm count was low, his motility was off the charts. A pregnant woman in a check-out line once divulged to me that she had discharged her mucous plug that morning and that her cervix was beginning to dilate. I don't know why people feel the need to drop these pearls of privacy. I know that My Face or Spacebook (do I have that right?) encourages its members to share 25 things about themselves with the world at large. My question is Why? I like to think of myself as a compassionate person, but my God in Heaven, who cares?

And before you say it, I know I sound like a hypocrite, b/c here I am writing a blog about the mindless goings-on of my family. Although I mostly tend to write about life-stuff that amuses me or what we're up to so I can keep friends and family in the loop, I'll be the first to admit I've bought into this sense of "triviality grandiosity".

But I'll tell you what, why don't we all just try to simplify our conversations a bit and answer yes or no where applicable. If I want to know if you'd like ice in your drink, I don't need to know about the sensitivity of your teeth, a simple no will suffice. If I offer you some trail mix, I can honestly go my whole life without knowing the effect of seeds and nuts on the irritable tissues of your bowels. And for God's sake, if I politely inquire about your pregnancy, please do not feel the need to share with me the details of your vagina.

There's something to be said for good old-fashioned personal boundaries.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Answer: Crackers and Candy and Drink

Question: How are birthdays celebrated at Julie's orphanage?

Yesterday was Miss Julie's birthday; she turned 11 years old, joining my other two girls. She was basking in delight from break of dawn through nightfall, just glowing and grinning and full of herself all the livelong day.

Truth be told, it wasn't much of a birthday, but she didn't seem to notice.
She got soaking dripping wet at Rosie's soccer game (along with Rosie's friend Alyssa), but then got to warm up at Mickey D's with a chicken nugget happy meal that had a Kidz Bop CD as the prize.
She had to sit in the car for nearly 2 hours in order to take Alyssa to our pre-arranged drop-off spot and then back to our house, but she enjoyed giggling with the girls in the backseat and watching a movie on the DVD player.
She got to eat the dinner of her choice, which was spaghetti. Even though Mom hadn't pulled it together to make it a complete meal with salad and Italian bread, she didn't seem to mind.
She got to open presents from her family, and she loved every last blessed thing that her brothers and sisters had bought her:
A jumbo pencil
Happy Birthday sunglasses
A rubber ball
A pretty blue baseball cap
A self-inflating whoopie cushion (will advances in technology never cease?)
A jewelry kit
Some hair barrettes.

Her Dad and I got her a Nintendo DS and a couple games to go with it and she was just tickled pink. She kept running back and forth to both of us to give us one bear hug after another. She played with it most of the night until we finally cracked the whip about lights out.

After presents we had cake and ice cream, and she looked so full of herself sitting in front of her white frosted cake with little pink hearts and her name spelled out in candles. A bit over-excited, she didn't understand to wait till the birthday song was over before blowing out the candles, and I don't know if she made a wish. I'm kinda guessing her wishes have come true. I know mine have.

While everyone was eating their chocolate cake, I asked Julie to tell us what she usually did for her birthdays in Kazakhstan. She said they have crackers and candy and drink. And if I understood her correctly, they have one of those Barbie heads where you fix the hair and do the make-up, and that is brought out for the girls to play with on special events like birthdays.
The sense I got was, even though today was far from perfect, this was the best birthday of this sweet young girl's life.

Happy Birthday to you, Julie. And many more ......

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Get Your Head in the Game

Rosie, James, Julie and I participated today in a brain cancer awareness walk. We walked with a team called Christina's Crusaders. Christina was the daughter of an aquaintance of mine who passed away in the last year from a brain tumor. Rosie was able to walk with her good friend Alyssa, who was a friend of Christina's.

I also walked in remembrance of my brother Donald. We wrote a message to him on the "Memory Wall" and I wore his picture and life dates on a card hung around my neck. It's coming up on 13 years that he passed away. It was nice to have an event like this to bring people together and raise awareness.

I was glad some of the kids wanted to walk in this, and we took the time this morning to look on the website at the pictures of the people being walked for. It's so wonderful, I think, when kids are able to see outside their small world every now and again, and to realize how truly blessed they are.

Of course, they also loved being part of the walk so they could enjoy pizza and popcorn, and dance to the live music. Bottom line is, it was a very memorable date for all of us, and I think it will have a lasting impact on them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

J & J Meet P & C

James and Julie got to meet their Paw-Paw and Granny Caggy from KY, who came up on Weds night and left this morning. They were very excited to meet two more family members and warmed up to them immediately.

I have to say that's one area of "firsts" that delights me most for these kids-- meeting new family memebers. In the last week they've met two grandparents, two aunts, an uncle and a cousin. And there's more to come in the next few months. From going most of their lives with no family, to joining a family with parents and siblings, to meeting all the extended family members, it's all new to them and they seem to be basking in the love!


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