Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day in the Life: Spring 2014

It's time for another quarterly Day in the Life hosted by Laura at Navigating the Mothership.  Laura is currently babymooning after the birth of her third child.  Congratulations again, Laura, on the birth of sweet baby Lily!

Today is Thursday, April 24, 2014

5:45 a.m. My alarm goes off.  It's so hard to get out of this comfy bed, but if I stay here I won't get that 30-minute head start on the kids.  It makes such a difference for a non- morning person like myself to have just a little while to collect myself before I have to turn all my attention on them.  By the time I get done brushing my teeth and making the bed, only 15 minutes remain before they're all up.  I get my coffee and offer a very unenthusiastic good morning to my husband.  He's tried to get Delaney up a little early since she's been liking that extra time with her dad the past two mornings.  But this time, he reports, she isn't budging.  I say that's too bad since she's going to have to get up in 10 minutes anyway.  She comes out a few minutes later in her pajamas, on all fours like a dog -- happy at first, and then completely dejected after she realizes she's not EARLY, just on time.  She lies down in a heap on the floor and won't move, even though she now has to start getting ready for school.  Tim somehow convinces her to go get dressed and brush her teeth.  Once she's done with that, she comes back out and flops down on the floor again.  Ah, mornings are so much fun.
Top right:  Tim brings a lot of food to work to fuel him through some long days -- fruit, almonds, lots of water, egg salad and tuna salad.  Good thing he has his own office because P.U.
6:15 to 6:55 a.m. Tim lets Timmy out, who finds Delaney lying on the floor and says, "What's wrong, Duwaney?" She doesn't answer.  Tim leaves for the work, the kids eat Dinosaur egg oatmeal, I fix Delaney's hair and clean her ear piercings, and then I send her out the door to get the bus.  I say, "Bye, have a fun day at school!"  Timmy waves and says, "Bye, Duwaney!"  She doesn't reply.  Ugh.  How many more days of school left?
6:55 to 9 a.m. After Delaney leaves, there is a long time before we have to be anywhere else.  I change Timmy's diaper.  I noticed as I snapped that picture of him above, that I haven't done that yet.  It's different now that he comes out versus me going in to get him.  I'm still not used to it.  I turn on Sprout for Annie and Timmy.  I put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.  I check email and Facebook while drinking my second cup of coffee.  I start a load of laundry.  I get dressed.  I break up fights between Annie and Timmy.  I make two eggs which, in addition to the banana I had earlier, are my breakfast.  I pack a cooler of snacks and water because after PiYo we'll be going to the turtle park with a friend from bible study and her little boy.  It's a beautiful day.  Annie and Timmy play with their sidewalk chalk on the driveway for the last few minutes before it's time to leave.
9 to 10:30 a.m. We go to the Y, and I drop the kids off in the babysitting room and get to the PiYo room about 10 minutes for the class starts.  It's a good thing I did.  There isn't much room left to lay down my mat.  I'm squished into a corner.  It is a fun class and very popular.  Once that's over, we leave for the turtle park just a few miles down the road.
10:45 a.m. to noon. We have a nice time there with Bethany and her youngest, Nicky.  We chat about this and that while the kids play.  As far as this gorgeous weather goes, Tim and I have the windows open all the time and are loving it.  (We are also looking forward to a break from $500 electric bills.)  The turtles and fish eagerly gobble up the bread the kids toss in.  Everything is so green this time of year.  At noon, Bethany suddenly realizes she's late to get her 5-year-old from preschool.  Good thing her preschool is literally two minutes down the road.  She scoops up Nicky and takes off in a hurry, and we leave right after because now I'm hungry.  
Noon to 1:15 p.m.  Lunchtime.  Annie and Timmy each get a hot dog and a yogurt.  Annie also gets tomato soup, her current favorite thing to eat for lunch.  Timmy gets half an avocado too.  I reheat one of last night's chicken enchiladas for myself, and have the other half of the avocado on the side.  We departed from our old recipe because Tim thought it was too fattening.  It really is, so I stopped making it but I started to really miss enchiladas.  Last night I tried making lighter enchiladas from Skinnytaste, and they were pretty yummy.  I overcooked the chicken, but otherwise they were a win.  And since considerably fewer dairy products go into the making of these (1 cup of cheese sprinkled over the top of the whole thing and that's all), I am helping Tim maintain his girlish figure.  They are so much easier on the belly too.  I like this meal even better the next day.  So much so that I get out another enchilada and another half of an avocado and I eat it all again.  I guess the only drawback to skinny enchiladas is you need to eat twice as much to feel full, but I bet those two enchiladas are still way better for me than one of the old super heavy ones.

The kids each pick something from their Easter baskets after that, and I have a handful of chocolates from the bowl on the counter.  While we were in Massachusetts last week Tim's Aunt Jayne gave us homemade candy to take home and put in the kids' Easter baskets.  I'm not sure if it was she or one of her daughters who made these, but I love the little details, like this little chickie.  Almost too cute to eat!
1:15 p.m. I put Timmy down for a nap, send Annie upstairs for quiet time, and then put a little sign on the front door that says 'knock, please.'  I am expecting someone at around 2 to buy a high chair I posted on Craigslist, and I don't want them ringing the doorbell.  After I get the kitchen cleaned up and the clothes in the dryer, I lie down on the couch instead of the bed for my nap, so I'll be able to hear the knock.  When I'm expecting somebody, I keep imagining I hear things, and now is no different.  Every few seconds I'm like, 'What's that?'  It's a wonder that I do manage to doze off for about a half hour.  I feel refreshed when I wake up.  I make a cup of green tea and sit down to read some blogs.  Then I go back to my room and start folding laundry on the bed, keeping my ear out all the while because it's past 2 and they haven't shown up.  I've started to forget all about them when I'm jolted by the sound of the stupid doorbell at 2:45.  It is loud enough to wake the dead.  Grr.  The doorbell is immediately followed by a knock.  (sigh)  My buyer is apologetic as she pays for the high chair.  It's quite alright, naptime is almost over anyway.  
3 p.m. Naptime/quiet time is over and soon Delaney will be home. Timmy is wanting cuddles when he gets up.  It's times like this that I think being a stay-at-home mom is the best job in the world.  There's nowhere else I'd rather be than right here cuddling my boy who's still sleepy from his nap.  I am truly grateful.
3:10 p.m. Annie helps me get the recycling bins while we wait for Delaney to get off the bus.  I'm hoping she gets off the bus in a better mood than when she got on.  I've had a nice long break but this day is about to get busy again.
Once Delaney's home and they're both inside they chatter excitedly about how tomorrow is Friday and now that Easter has come we can have fun Fridays again.  Delaney says, "I know what movie I want to see."  She runs over to the entertainment center and pulls out Barbie in a Mermaid Tale.  Annie says, "You read my mind, girl."  I chuckle.

The plan for dinner, as far as I know, is to heat up the last of the Easter ham and make mashed potatoes to go with it.  I believe Tim has a softball game at 8, and he'll come home and eat with us at about 5:30 beforehand.  But Tim calls a little while later and asks if we want to come watch his game at 6, and we'll go home and have dinner afterward. Um, OK.  I say, "Sure, why not?"  He wants me to be ready with water and snacks packed, especially for me, when he gets home.  Delaney is already done with her math homework, and she doesn't have spelling tonight because they took the test a day early, because tomorrow they're going on a field trip.  I tell her she has to do her reading in the car.  I try to get all the laundry put away, and throw some Halos (little oranges), cheese snacks, crackers and Pistachios in a bag.  Can't have anyone getting hungry.
5:10 or thereabouts, we leave for base in Tim's truck.  Delaney forgot her book and I decide she'll be skipping her 20 minutes of reading tonight.  I don't know why we have to be SO early, but Tim likes being early.  He's the first one there from his team.  We have a nice time at the game.  We stay in the bleachers next to the dugout.  The kids are mostly contained, and I only have dispense snacks, make sure they don't throw dirt at each other's faces and don't make a nuisance of themselves.  Of course they have no interest in the game.  I try to get their attention when it's going to be Daddy's turn at bat, and he hits the ball every single time, but they are too busy playing to notice. Timmy gives Tim a hug every time he comes back to the other side of the fence.  I'm glad I brought sweatshirts because once the sun starts to go down and the breeze picks up, it gets pretty chilly.
7:45 p.m. We get back home and I put the kids in the bath for just a few minutes to get the dirt off.  This is an unusually late night for the kids on a school night.  Normally they are in bed and fast asleep at this point. Tim makes a box of mac 'n cheese to have with the ham.  Once the kids are in their pajamas and I've cleaned the girls' ear piercings, we all sit down for a quick dinner.  After dinner, Delaney's favorite song "Carolina" comes on again and I let them listen to it before they go to bed.  I try to capture on video Delaney singing along, but Timmy's closer and he kind of drowns her out.  It's not a good video at all but it is kind of cute, and I know one day we'll all watch it and say, "Aw.."
8:30 to 10 p.m. The kids go to bed without a peep.  I sit down at the computer and plug in the camera card.  I smile when this one pops up:
Tim took this a few days ago after the girls tried on their new bathing suits and sunglasses from Grandma.  I immediately post it to Facebook.  While I'm on there I am treated to this old photo my sister Anna posted:
That's my brother Scotty and I carrying Anna in the box circa 1987.
I am such a fan of Throwback Thursdays even though they make me feel old.  Look at that little old TV with the rabbit ears!   

Normally Tim and I watch a show or two before bed, but we don't have much time left before we're ready to crash.  What little time remains is spent preparing for the next day.  Tim brings all his gear in from the garage and inventories it because he's getting ready to check out of his unit.  It is so nice to see him sitting there with all of his gear out because he's getting ready to turn it in -- not getting ready to take it 7000 miles away.
"Do you want me to pose?" he asks.
"Try this on," he says, meaning the pack that weighs half as much as I do.  Perfect opportunity for my last selfie of the day.  
As I'm getting ready for bed I catch sight of another basket full of clean and folded laundry that I think has probably been there since before we left for MA.  I remark to Tim about how much stuff we have, that we don't even miss a basket of clean laundry that's been sitting there for nearly two weeks.  He says, "What do you mean, we?"  I shoot back, "Yes, I mean we.  We are in this together, whether you like it or not.  The good and the bad.  From now until forever everything is 'wewewewewewe'!"  He smiles as he listens to my little speech.  "You have to go to the bathroom?"  It drives me nuts how he tries to correct me in the use of "we."  When we got to the Raleigh airport last weekend and I said, "We forgot sweatshirts!" he replied, "I didn't forget anything."  Hmmmph.

At 10 I go to bed and in no time I'm fast asleep.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter portraits

I don't think I've had Easter photos taken of the kids since that cheesy one of the girls at Sears a few months before Timmy was born.  Ugh, those ugly fake backgrounds.  I'm so glad I remembered to do it this spring, and really glad I got my talented friend Ashley of Ashley Kenner Photography to do them.  The kids knew that we would go to Cow Cafe if they were cooperative, and they were very cooperative for the most part.  Annie is in a phase where, when told to smile, she'll just show you her teeth, and it's frustrating because she has such a beautiful smile.  What it is, I've noticed, is she needs the photographer to do something funny instead of telling her to smile.  Her preschool pictures are always the best because whoever does them is a complete clown who eats bubbles and things like that.  But we got a couple of real (little) smiles out of her anyway.  I was especially delighted to how the pictures of Timmy turned out.  I hadn't been watching for about half the session, since I was in a gazebo filling out paperwork.  Timmy's dapper poses with that hat and tie .. to die for!  I've got to dress him like that more often.

Looking through these photos, I'm amazed at how unique and precious all of them are.  And I am struck again by how little they resemble each other or their parents.  They are completely their own little people.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring break MA trip

Way back in November Tim's dad asked us to surprise his mom on her 65th birthday with a visit for the week of spring break.  He actually offered to fly us there, making it an offer we couldn't refuse.  But Tim turned him down and told me we'd drive.  I was like, 'No way, are you crazy?'  After a brief attempt to persuade me that the 14-hour drive is not so bad, he was soon shopping for plane tickets.  It seemed like the day was forever away, but now it's already over and done.  We left last Saturday early in the morning and got back the night before Easter.

It was our first time flying as a family of five, and it went really well.  We did a direct flight from Raleigh to Boston and back, so we wouldn't have the hassle of changing planes.  Tim was pre-checked for security both times, so he and the kids just zipped through and only I had to do the x-ray machine and all that.  As many time-consuming steps there are to the whole process -- the 2.5-hour drive to the Raleigh airport, the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport, the walking, the waiting, the flight itself, then getting bags, getting our rental car, and driving the hour to his sister's house -- it's almost as long of a day as driving.  In fact it was about a 10-hour day, because we woke up at 3 a.m. to get ready and leave for the airport, our flight landed in Boston at 11, and we didn't end up at Karen's until about 1:30 or 2.  But it all felt like it went by so much faster than sitting on our butts hour after hour in a car.  And then to not have to deal with all that traffic from northern VA to New York and beyond, made it all worth it to me.

The kids behaved well.  They were excited to be flying. The girls carried their own boosters and backpacks full of toys from place to place.  Timmy trotted along with his little puppy lunch box full of cars and trucks.  He loved the shuttle rides and cheerfully said goodbye to the drivers whenever we'd get off.  The plane had TV screens on the back of every seat, and we were given full-size (snack size, but not the miniscule airline size I'm used to) bags of chips and pretzels during the flight.  Right about the time we were thinking, 'we did it!' and were about to drive from Logan airport to Karen's house, we had our only hiccup.  Tim went to install Timmy's carseat and the girls' boosters in the backseat of the Toyota Camry we'd rented, and they wouldn't fit no matter what he did.  Tim quickly regretted his last-minute decision to change our rental from minivan to sedan, thinking we'd save some money.  He figured they'd fit because when I'd had to rent a car after the accident a couple years ago, I'd been able to fit three carseats across in an equivalent sedan.  Now we understand that three carseats across is doable, but one carseat and two boosters with armrests is not. So we waited in the parking lot for about 20 minutes while he went back inside to rent another car.  We were very hungry for lunch by that point, and the kids were restless.  That was the hardest part of the day.  Tim came back outside with the keys to a brand new Chevy Traverse, and that would cost $200 more for the week.  Ouch.  But soon we were on the Mass Pike bound for Karen's house.

Once there, we ate some lunch we'd picked up from Dunkin Donuts, and then waited for their parents to arrive.  Tim Sr and Carolyn were to stop by before Mass to look at Karen's broken icemaker.  This family loves to do surprises, and they especially like to surprise Carolyn.  Tim and Delaney paid a surprise visit a couple years ago, and long before he had me and the kids I know Tim came home unannounced many times throughout his Marine Corps career.  "Is it even possible to surprise her anymore?"  I asked at one point in the weeks previous to this trip.  For him, there's never any doubt.

Tim's other sisters Sam and Kathy came over with their girls and we took this picture of all the cousins while we waited for their grandparents to arrive.
Left to right: Alexa (10), Delaney (6), Annie (4), Timmy (2), Juliana (11), Natalie (5), Sofia (9)
Finally, the big moment!  You might need to click over from email to see the video.
That evening we joined Grandma and Grandpa for Mass and then it was back to their house for a birthday party with extended family.  After dinner and dessert, Juliana played her guitar and sang Taylor Swift songs with her sister Alexa.  Sofia played her flute.  Juliana also found "Carolina" by Parmalee on her iPad for Delaney to sing along to.  I thought I took video of that but I can't find it so I guess I didn't after all.  Too bad because it was cute.  Performances of one kind or another are common at every family gathering.  These kids love music, singing and dancing, and the adults love to watch.  Only no jumping or stomping because the curio cabinet might fall.  Ever since the oldest of these energetic girls reached toddlerhood, that has been the fear.  
After that very long day we left the girls for a sleepover with their cousins, and took Timmy back to Karen's with us where we all soon collapsed.  The next day was a lazy Sunday for me (thanks to Tim waking up with Timmy), and later, more birthday festivities just for immediate family.  After that everyone went outside.  Saturday through Monday were warm and sunny, and everyone was so happy after an exceptionally rough winter up there.
We took full advantage of our last warm and sunny day in the forecast by taking the kids fishing in the morning with Tim Sr.  Juliana and Alexa played hooky from school to join us.  This was the first time our kids had been fishing and I think they had a lot of fun even though the fish weren't being too cooperative.  When Annie and Timmy lost interest, Juliana and I took them to the playground right down the road.  Delaney and Alexa caught a fish each after we left, I think.  For a rooky fisherman, I think Delaney had a lot of patience because they all lasted about an hour after we left for the playground.
Before going back to raid their kitchen for leftovers, we stopped at the bank to say hi to Grandma.  She is 65 years old and NOT retiring.  Her reasons: she likes her job as head teller, and she does not want to spend her days at home with her husband who is retired.  He would drive her crazy more than he does already.  He was able to arrange in advance for her to have a couple days off while we were visiting.  Note the time and temperature behind her.  The next day would be quite a different story.
The following morning we woke up to snow on the ground.  Snow!  It was coooold again.  And by the way, we came to town with no outerwear whatsoever.  We wanted to pack light so we'd already decided to get by without jackets, but I had intended to at least grab the kids' sweatshirts before we left for the airport.  It wasn't until we'd made the 2 1/2 hour drive there that I realized I'd forgotten them.  The girls were able to borrow from their cousins until we got them something new, but we just kept Timmy indoors until we came up with something for him.  Sweatshirts are scarce at stores this time of year.  

For the rest of the week, we did mostly indoor things.  We went shopping a couple times.  We planned our Disney trip for June -- eeeek!  This was decided only two weeks ago when Tim mentioned to his dad that we wouldn't have a home for a few weeks after we move.  He said it sounded like a good time to do Disney.  Disney has been brought up many times in the last few years, but up until recently we've been able to say we've got a baby or a toddler, and it wouldn't be any fun with a kid that little.  Now we have no babies or toddlers, Tim's not deployed, Timmy will be not yet three (so still free), we will have nowhere else to be, and our kids are their only grandkids that they haven't been to Disney with.  We've run out of excuses.  I love how everyone -- friends and family -- upon hearing about our Disney plans says, "You'll have fun!"  In the next breath comes their favorite Disney horror stories.  And you'd better believe, everyone has at least one.  (Think rude people gnawing on turkey legs and ramming their strollers into the legs of the elderly.)  Big crowds scare me so it isn't hard to imagine.  But my Disney planner knows this, and we are doing perhaps a lighter itinerary than some other people would prefer.  Day 1, for example will be Epcot in the morning and a character lunch, followed by the afternoon spent at our resort at the pool.  And there is relief in knowing I always have the option to take a bus back to the resort if it gets to be too much.  For me and the kids, it will be our first time there.  Yes, we are going to Disney.  It is happening.  Carolyn and Karen have bought their plane tickets and we will go immediately after the St. Augustine vacation with my family.  We have booked a resort and even have dinner and lunch reservations made for most of the days.  I will have to follow up with the planner about Day 2.  Everything must be planned ahead or we will be lost.  It's going to be a crazy June.  I hope after all that there is a house ready for us to move into on Parris Island.  We'll be needing a breather!

What else..?  We took the girls to Claire's to get their ears pierced.  They were both very brave.  We went to the Ecotarium one day, where Tim's parents' neighbor works as a wildlife expert or something.  After we walked around by ourselves, she met with us and gave us a private tour and showed us more animals.  That was fun.  We ate a lot of yummy food that Tim Sr cooked for us.  Tim and I went out to eat and shopping by ourselves, got reacquainted with the Mass Pike and the crazy toll plazas with most cars whizzing to the left and the right like they're supposed to, and a couple of them stopping dead in the road in front of us (bad).  I unsuccessfully tried to maintain my avoidance of sweets for the final days of Lent (a feat for even the most iron-willed individuals, in Tim's childhood home).  Tim was disappointed in me when I broke down and ate that freshly-baked peanut butter cookie, but what was I to do?  It had been sitting under my nose for the last 20 minutes!  On Friday night, the kids all had another sleepover at their grandparents', and Tim and I went to a party and both got to imbibe, with Karen as our designated driver.

Here are some more pictures in no particular order.
Natalie and Annie looking more like sisters than cousins
I've never cared much for reptiles, but that bearded dragon was as cute and charming as could be, and if I knew how to keep anything alive besides my kids, I would love to have him for a pet.

All the kids enjoyed the change of scenery, and getting to see family and flying and whatnot, but Timmy -- my smiley guy, my social butterfly -- was in his glory this week.  His heart was full to bursting with all the love he felt for everybody and everything he encountered along the way.  I tried to take note of whenever he said something that made me chuckle.  Here are my favorite Timmy quotes:

To Juliana: I love your pink shirt.

To anyone listening: I loooove Grandpa, and I love trucks.

To Tim and me: Grandpa loves me very much.

Timmy: Who was that? (indicating the cashier at the airport long-term parking lot)
Tim:  That was Glenn.
Timmy: I love Glenn.
We kept it together very well on the way TO Massachusetts, but on the day we traveled back here we were a ragtag group.  The kids were lagging as we went from place to place through the airport.  Maybe because it was the middle of the day they didn't have the energy they'd had starting out the week before.  Also because enthusiasm was a little lacking with this being the return trip.  Tim kept hurrying along as if he didn't know we weren't right behind him, as focused as he was on catching the shuttle from the rental car agency to the terminal.  He didn't hear me when I called for him to slow down because I had a kid who'd insisted on pulling along a heavy suitcase, which then toppled over when she tried to pull it over a curb, which required me to go back and pick it up, but kids were still going..  I kept calling out, "We need to move along because your father is not waiting for us!"  I might have also mentioned to anyone who cared to hear that I was going to kill him.  Thank God there didn't happen to be any cars driving down the road at that time.    
It was a very long day.  Timmy slept through the flight to Raleigh, which took us to 6:15.  We had to walk about a half a mile to baggage claim, and wait about 10 minutes for our bags.  After that we took another shuttle to the park and ride, where our chariot awaited.  We got on the road at about 7.  We were hungry for dinner so we stopped at a Subway about an hour from home.  The girls picked at their quarters of a footlong, and mostly ate chips.  Timmy wolfed down the other half of the footlong himself.  I devoured mine hungrily, all the while wondering how I could have so many toppings on it, and still all of it tasted the same, like cardboard.  Tim wondered how we could have such a crappy little dinner and it still cost $30.  Then we were back on the road.  The girls fell fast asleep but Timmy was wired and chatting with us nonstop.  After awhile his happy chatter turned somewhat less happy.  Then a little bored.  A little discontented.  Sad.  Very sad.  Mad.  Very mad.  By the time we reached the final five miles of the trip he was screeching out a note of pure anguish that I can't even remember hearing from him ever before.  I just sighed and said, "Poor guy."  I reached back to hold his hand and he gripped my fingers tightly, his eyes so big and sad.  It took him all of yesterday and half of today to recover from that.  Even still, I know we had a way easier day than we would have had driving the whole way.  

While the rest of us slept soundly at 5:45 a.m., Tim rose and went to Walmart for all the makings of our Easter feast.  If it had been up to me, who knows what we would have eaten that day?  PBJ?  Pancakes?  But my husband, bless him, went to Walmart at 6 in the morning so we could have a delicious dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, veggies and rolls.  He prepared it all himself, and we ate it on the "fancy" placemats and used the "fancy" napkins (according to the kids).  This made the day considerably nicer, especially since I'd been ready for it to be a little sad since it was the day after we had said goodbye to family.  And for that I forgive him for leaving us behind at the airport.  

And that was the end of a great spring break.  I am so glad we took this trip and got to have this time together.  We miss them all a lot, and even though Disney looms, I am still looking forward to June.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What we're reading: Ramona books



From the day I first found out I was having a baby girl, I looked forward to passing on my favorite childhood books, and envisioned us reading out loud together like Mom and I did a long time ago (Cheaper by the Dozen -- best front porch reading ever!).  Come to think of it, I would absolutely love to read aloud with my boy too, even though I have always pictured it as a mother-daughter thing with Ramona, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, Caddie Woodlawn, and all of those classic girl heroines.  But of course, there are plenty of books with boys as the main characters, and no reason why either type of book wouldn't appeal to both sexes.  I enjoyed Hatchet, It's Like This, Cat, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when I was little.  I read a LOT as a kid, and it is my pleasure to pass on the love of reading to my kids, although I hope that they are able to find a balance between reading and lots of other things.  I preferred books to people, and really, to anything else from about age 10 on.  That led to a lot of social awkwardness and some difficulty living in the "real world."  From me the kids will maybe get their love of quiet, individual pursuits.  From their dad, I hope they get a healthy enjoyment of things like team sports.  Then they will be well-rounded individuals.

The girls, especially Delaney, love being read to.  It's hard to find time for it on a typical weekday between homework, Delaney's own reading requirement, soccer, and outside playtime which takes precedence now that we're having such beautiful weather.  We usually try to squeeze in a chapter before bed at least a couple times a week.  The last weekend was rainy and we read a lot.  For the past few weeks we've been reading the Ramona series.  We've read Ramona the Pest, Ramona the Brave and Ramona and her Father.  We are slowly working our way through Ramona and her Mother.  We've probably renewed these books at the library the maximum number of times we're allowed.  I try not to own any fiction books because they take up too much space and are a waste of money, especially in the case of brand new books.  But I might have to make an exception for the kids' books that we really enjoy.  I could buy the entire Ramona series from Scholastic right now for $18, and I think I'll do that so we can read them at leisure, and they can re-read them themselves.  I loved having a book collection when I was little, and being able to re-read my favorites.  I'd get something new out of them every time.
As a grownup and a mother revisiting these books, I'm having so much fun.  Beverly Cleary's writing is a little old-fashioned and kind of quaint.  For example, she frequently uses "cross" to mean angry and "quarrel" to mean fight.  The characters wear "car coats" when they go places.  I just checked to see what year the book was written after asking Tim, who was born in 1974, if he remembers car coats from childhood, but he does not.  I expected the copyright year to be 1965 when I looked inside the first pages of Ramona and her Mother, but to my surprise it was 1979, my birth year.  Hmm.  I am not sure where stories take place, but if I had to guess it would be the Pacific Northwest.  In addition to car coats, rain boots are mentioned frequently.  In Ramona the Brave, her mother tells her daughters that she's getting a part-time job to pay for an addition on their house.  The older sister Beatrice "Beezus" responds excitedly, "Oh, Mother, you're going to be liberated!"  I know that the Ramona books were written over a span of five decades.  A quick Google search tells me that the first came out in 1955 and the last in 1999.  I notice that adults are never referred to by their first names.  I have no idea the first names of Mr. and Mrs. Quimby, Ramona's parents.  They are "Mother and Daddy" or Mr. and Mrs. Quimby.  Wikipedia calls them "Bob" and "Dorothy," so I guess it is mentioned somewhere in one of the books.  When Ramona starts kindergarten in Ramona the Pest, she and her friend Howie are on their own walking the few blocks to school after the first few days.  In the 80s, I walked to school with my cousins/brother/friends from first grade on, but nowadays I suspect no little kids are walking without parents, and most are not walking at all.  More's the pity.
I find the characters in these books so lovable, as seen through the eyes of the high-spirited, impulsive and often misunderstood Ramona.  Ramona is always finding herself in some kind of trouble, and her sincerest efforts are always backfiring.  There's the time in Ramona and her Father when she and her recently out-of-work father watch a commercial together that has a cute little girl telling a grownup that her pantyhose is wrinkly like an elephant's ankles or something.  Her dad comments that the kid must have made a fortune doing that commercial, so Ramona gets the bright idea to start acting like a cute kid in a commercial, in the hopes of being discovered, making her own commercial, and making her family rich.  Oh, and in the hopes of being loved and adored by all, which is what she wants more than anything.  So one day at school she tells her teacher that her pantyhose has more wrinkles than an elephant's legs.  Poor Ramona can't understand why that doesn't go over well.  And it's on the same day as the parent-teacher conferences, no less.
Ramona, her responsible and (maddeningly) sensible older sister Beezus, and the Quimby parents are so real.  They experience stress and they say hurtful things to each other in the heat of the moment.  The themes  are not as light and fluffy as the typical fare for kids in younger grades.  When Mr. Quimby gets laid off from work, the family struggles to adjust to the loss of income and having Mrs. Quimby work full-time while he looks for another job.  Ramona and Beezus launch an ultimately successful campaign to get their father to quit smoking.  I squirmed a little as I read those parts out loud because I realized that my kids have never laid eyes on a cigarette or seen anyone smoking.  One evening Ramona and Beezus witness an argument -- a "quarrel" -- between their parents one night that starts with harsh words exchanged over whose job it was to turn on the crock-pot that morning.  That somehow escalates to a ridiculous debate over whose grandmother was a better woman.  Finally, as the girls watch with mounting anxiety, it culminates with Mrs. Quimby smacking her husband on the butt with the pancake turner.  I see myself so much in Mrs. Quimby, especially when she's at the end of her rope after a long hard day, and comes home to see that the dang crock-pot hasn't been turned on and they're all starving.  I told Tim about it and said that I can totally see how that argument started, and how, if he responded a certain way to my cranky remarks, we could wind up yelling at each other about things that have nothing to do with anything.  But while the kids have seen us have disagreements, they've never seen us completely lose our temper at each other.  Besides, when I get to that hungry, cranky state Tim sends me out of the kitchen.  In Mrs. Quimby, I also recognize my own wry humor, the way she gives in to the demands of her kids in an 'I guess, why not?' kind of way, and just tries to maintain her sanity when it seems like there is always something -- especially with a kid like Ramona.  I think all moms can relate.
My girls who do a fairly good job of staying out of trouble for the most part, can recognize the signs that Ramona is headed toward danger, and they kind of kind of cringe as they wonder what's going to happen next.  Ramona wants to squeeze that brand new tube of toothpaste and keep squeezing..  bad idea, Ramona, don't do it.  By the way, this was 7 1/2-year-old Ramona who does this. Why?  Maybe if I had been that kid, I would understand, but I was more of a Beezus myself.  Ramona wants to make a beautiful crown out of burrs to wear on her head ..  I wouldn't if I were you.  On the other hand, I completely understand her frustration at "Susan with the boing-boing curls" who copies off her paper owl and gets accolades from the teacher, leaving Ramona to look like she'd been the copy cat.  I can't stand a copy cat either.  This one event mushroomed into probably the worst of all the disasters of Ramona's first grade year.  It is such a relief to me when she finally tearfully explains the entire thing to her family, and Mrs. Quimby says she actually feels sorry for Susan because she's the one who has no imagination.

We are only about halfway through the Ramona series, and at the rate we're going it will take an entire year to get through them.  There are also a wealth of other Beverly Cleary books to dig into once we're done.  I know there are a few movies out there based on the books, and I glanced at one at the library.  I see one Beezus and Ramona has Selena Gomez as the star.  Interesting.  Would we like it or would it be a big disappointment?