Monday, July 16, 2012

This and that

I am loving how laid-back this summer is -- no packing up and rushing off anywhere, no giving birth to anyone, and having Tim in the vicinity almost every day.  Add that to things I love about summer already, like not having to wear jeans or jackets, not being pasty white, and not having to adhere to a schedule.  I really think one day I will look back at this summer and it will be one of my favorites of all time.  There's the perfect balance of having things to do, but also having plenty of  time to be lazy.

I mentioned last month that I would start reading chapter books aloud to the kids.  I began with A Bear Called Paddington, not because I had ever read it, but because it was on a list of books to read with the kids that I got ideas from.  Come to think of it, I see it's not on that list and I don't know where I found Paddington after all.  But I do consult that list.  I quickly found out that Annie was not at all interested in listening, and would frequently interrupt; but Delaney listened patiently.  I did not like this book much at all, and sometimes I wondered if I were to read the White Pages to Delaney, would she like it just as much?  (She is a VERY polite listener!)
Then we began Little House on the Prairie.  I fell into the habit of reading it to her during naptime, after realizing that Annie's a little young to sit and listen to a chapter book (I'll try again from time to time.  They both love books like Madeline, and a dear friend was kind enough to give us three of the Madeline stories.)  After a little nap, I'd ask Delaney to go get Little House.  But sometimes I would skip the nap, and just read to her almost the whole two hours of naptime/quiet time.  We devoured it in just a few days.  She couldn't wait to hear more.  It meant a lot to me, her liking it so much.  The Little House series was one of my favorites as a little girl.  We've just started Little House in the Big Woods.  I now wish I'd started in chronological order, because now she's going back in time to 'the big woods', and she'll have to jump forward with On the Banks of Plum Creek.

I read the Little House books myself when I was about 10, but I have many fond memories of read-alouds with my mom long after I learned how to read.  We really enjoyed Cheaper by the Dozen, for example.  We would take turns reading to each other.  She was super busy with all of us kids who ranged in age from baby to middle school, but she would carve out the time here and there.  We would sit down on the front porch in the evening, just us.  I think it's so important to make time for stuff like that.  I was thinking to myself the other day (as I was finishing up a good grownup book,  What Alice Forgot), I don't ever want life to get so busy that there's no time for slowing down and enjoying a good book together.  Or a meal.  Or a conversation.  No matter how big, busy and independent these kids get, I hope we always have time to just be together.
The girls went to Vacation Bible School last week, from 8:45 to noon every day.  It was Annie's first experience of any kind of  "school," and I think she liked it, even though she had a strange way of showing it.  On the last day, all the parents came, and we had Mass and then lunch together.  When the kids all sang a song together, Delaney participated, but Annie hid behind the other kids.  A little while later, Annie was making goofy faces at Timmy in the stroller when one of the teachers came up and said, "Well, that's the first time I've ever seen her smile!"  Sure enough, I was given two photos of Annie taken there at different times, and she was pouting in both.  But she talked about it happily all the way there and all the way home every day.

One day earlier in the week, I came to get them, and Annie was holding a tray that had a chair on it that was constructed of graham crackers, Tootsie Rolls, frosting and sprinkles.  It was a pope's chair, and she'd saved it just to show me.  All the other kids, including Delaney, had eaten theirs.  That was their morning snack.  Annie was proud of her chair, and wanted to take it home, so I let her.  It sat in the front seat.  When we got home, I let her eat it right away because what was the point of withholding it until after lunch, when Delaney had already eaten hers?  I said to the girls, "I'm going to stop calling it 'bible school' and start calling it 'ruin your lunch school.'  Every snack they served involved frosting and sprinkles, nothing remotely nutritious.

On the plus side, I thought the volunteers who taught bible school were very sweet to the kids.  On the second morning when we arrived, Annie was feeling a little timid, and she gripped my hand tightly as we walked into the school library where everyone was congregating.  Her teacher said, "Hi, Annie, it's nice to see you again!" and put the green bandanna Annie had decorated herself the day before, around her shoulders.  I don't know if these kids learned anything at all about the Catholic faith, but they sang a lot of songs, played a lot of games, and ate a lot of sweets.  I think these people really tried to teach them, but at this age, the kids don't remember much.  I asked Delaney what she learned about St. Peter one morning, and she told me, "He was grumpy."  She didn't know why.
Waiting in line for Sno-cones on the last day of VBS.  Annie likes waiting in line about as much as I do, as evidenced by the scowl on her face.
Last month I made it a goal to conserve gas this summer, and so far I have succeeded.  I spent a total of $184.34 on gas for my car in June (I love Quicken!).  I nearly halved what I spent in March, which was $321.  I used March, because that was the last "typical" month I could use for comparison.  It helped that gas prices also fell between March and now, because I haven't stuck to my one-trip a day rule 100% of the time.  I said to Tim recently, "I would love to live within two minutes of everything like we did on Quantico!"  Everything we wanted or needed on a daily basis was literally two to five minutes away, including Tim's work.  He seems to think that way of living would only be a possibility for us on Quantico, and will not be our reality when he retires, finds work in the civilian sector, and we settle down.  He envisions the kids and me living close to school and other activities, but him having to commute to work at least a half hour.  He doesn't think anyone in the real world lives close to everything.  Something has to be sacrificed.  
I'd be driving these kids around all day if fuel wasn't a factor!
We talked ourselves out of buying the camper.  As I told my mom, it is sad when you take your dream, the pretty sunset picture you have in your mind, and keep putting holes in it until it no longer looks attractive, or even recognizable.  Trying to get three little kids to sleep in a camper.. walking little girls to the bathroom at night .. mosquitoes.. all the new gear we would need to buy to go in that camper.. trying to keep Timmy out of the woods or water..  But I think it's for the better.  I am not going to try to muster up any false bravado and take this family on a camping trip anytime soon.  Camping is too rugged for us with these little people.  When I told my mom this she said, "I did it, I've got the bragging rights!"  Yes she did, sometimes with babies as young as a few months old.  Those were some of my earliest and best memories from childhood.  In the next breath, she admitted that they didn't have the money to rent a cabin.  A cabin we can do, and have done in the past.  We can have air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, and rooms with doors.  When we want to be in nature, we can go outside.  Then we won't also have another thing that on wheels  that we will have to move when we move, as soon as next summer.  We like to travel light whenever possible.

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