Friday, July 31, 2009
None of which seem all that impressed with Aunt Sissy.
That would be me.
I would be okay with my lack of status amongst the nephew population if they weren't all so stinkin' cute.
I hate rejection from a stinkin' cute group of guys.
Of my nephews, JRL is the oldest. He is the sage of the group, clocking in at a wizened seven years old.
My Dr. Sis-in-Law is his long-suffering and amazingly patient mother.
For, you see, JRL is at the extreme end of the male prototype.
As in, at the extreme end of the Engineering Male Prototype, an important designation when it comes to describing the breadth and width of the differences between the male and female of the species.
The Engineering Male Prototype is seen in the guy for whom the world should operate by a predictable and agreed-upon logical set of standards.
They are sometimes referred to as Vulcans.
And that would be JRL.
His foray into understanding the female of the species has been treacherous and rocky.
JRL would not understand the need for the above adjectives; why use the terms 'treacherous' and 'rocky' when you could just say 'difficult'?
Dr. Sis-in-Law was recently packing up her family for a trip. She was in her bedroom and JRL was in his. Dr. Sis-in-Law needed JRL to bring her something and she called out, "JRL?!?"
She heard a muffled "Yeah?" come from the vicinity of his bedroom.
"JRL!" she called, a bit more stridently.
"Uh-huh?", again came back, quiet and still down the hall.
"J---R----L!!!!!" she yelped. "Get down here to my room now!"
JRL made an appearance at her door, eyes wide and bewildered.
Dr. Sis-in-Law said, "Young man, when I call you name, you come to me. Don't make me call for you multiple times. If you hear me call you name, you get down here!"
JRL pressed his fingers to his temples and in an anguished tone cried, "Mom, it's like you have a secret code or something!"
Engineering Male Prototype.
Inference and context not required.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The oil is long overdue for a change.
The entry way of the house is piled high in suitcases, duffel bags, discarded flip flops and portable baby beds.
There is a two week backlog of mail precariously perched on the dining table, a tangle of important bills and comically colored advertisements.
A mound of laundry rests by the door to the laundry room.
And there's this guy in the family room, reclining on the couch, listening to the stories his children are telling him of their road trip adventures. He is attentively soaking up all of their words, asking questions at the right time, laughing at their funny narratives.
I have missed him.
So I'll be back to tell you more of our 3000 mile stories. I'll tell you of my nephew's befuddlement at the communication styles of women. I'll tell you of a purchase that 5 of 8 just had to make. I'll tell you that on one of my stops, I discovered that I will be having a new niece or nephew come winter...and I'll tell you how a bag of baby carrots alerted me to those good tidings.
But for now, I'm going to go sit on the couch with that guy listening to the kids. Because I missed him. And 3000 miles and 11 days is a long way and a long time to be away from such a man. So I'm going to go watch him watch our kids.
It's good to be home.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Although those are fairly high purposes.
We manned the van to go see 2 of 8 as she performed in Holland, Michigan, after completing a two week ballet intensive in the discipline of Cecchetti, an Italian form of ballet.
The twins did not.
After a cumulative 22 hour drive, I found myself leaving halfway through 2 of 8's performance as 8 of 8 proceeded to throw what we Southerners call a 'wall-eyed fit'.
That means 'a really big one' to you who are uninitiated in Southerneze.
My sister-in-law with the PhD in biomolecular chemistry (not to be confused with the sis-in-law who is a successful CPA or the other sis-in-law who is a math educator....yes, it's intimidating, thank you...) went with me to wrangle babies. I had stopped by her home in the smack dab middle of the country for a few days on my way to Holland and she offered to come with me for this leg of the trip. She and I were two ships in the night during the performance, passing on the stairs to the balcony of the theatre, trying to sneak peeks of 2 of 8.
Thankfully, there were two performances.
Here's Dr. Sis-in-Law.
She's awfully brave.
My niece also tagged along for the adventures...another brave soul.
Even if you have to stand in the stairwell of the balcony to watch.
...while wrestling a furious toddler....
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I'm still on the road.
By the time I pull back into ye ol' driveway, I will have clocked in 3000 miles of drive time.
In 11 days.
Shouldn't have somebody stopped me? Isn't there anyone out there who can show some care for my sanity?
Along the way, I've been picking up bits and highlights of the riders in France making their trek in the Tour de France. They've now gotten to drink their champagne while cruising the streets of Paris. There have been flowers and accolades.
Bunch of punks. Try being trapped in a 15 passenger van with a bunch of small kids and a fermenting sippy cup lost somewhere under one of the seats. I'll show you grit and perseverance.
Where's my yellow jersey, pray tell?
But all in all, a great time has been had by Team Octa and we've only had one road puke, which counts for high points in my book.
And I've taken lots and lots of pictures, which I will be posting with great abandon over the next few days.
I'll give you just a taste here...
That's my view.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
It's been a common topic as we have been on the road these last several days. Traveling with so many small people means that we have to make sure we are within reasonable distance of a rest stop before we allow unmitigated water bottle consumption.
Thirst is an amazing little warning system for the body. We can survive for a while without food, but our hydration needs require daily attention. Our bodies are over 60% water and a long run or a long sleep can quickly remind us of how much we need to replenish those stores.
And we were also created with a thirst of the soul.
We begin to notice that thirst when we are traveling through a dry patch of the heart, those times we notice our stores of compassion and patience, faith and hope beginning to wither. We can become parched by the dry dust of daily life.
But we often can confuse the signal.
Some scientists believe that one of the reasons we may overeat is that we are confusing physical thirst with hunger. Instead of reaching for a cooling glass of water, our brains may sometimes misread the signal and we find ourselves noshing on salty snacks, searching for satiation but finding none.
And we can sometimes confuse that thirst of the soul as well.
We try to fill the void. Retail therapy, realtionships that distract us in their drama but leave us more depleted. Causes, charities, hobbies, addictions, all things that we try to cram in the empty places of the heart, but not finding that quenching.
But there is a fountain.
A fountain that has what our souls are searching for.
A place where we can immerse ourselves.
It is the fountain of life that is Him.
Jesus understands this thirst of the soul. He came to the cross thirsty. The Roman soldiers, before the put the nails into his hands and feet, offered Him a mixture of myrrh and wine, a balm against the pain that was to come. Jesus tasted of this cup, but then refused it, accepting no buffer against the agony of the cross. He refused this cup of the world, and then they crucified Him.
But there is a moment. A moment at the very end.
In the book of John, we read that Jesus has been on the cross for six hours. He has cried out to God, forsaken and alone. And then we read these words, one of His final utterances.
Jesus says, "I thirst."
He again is offered a drink from the cup of the world. Now, at the end, He drinks the bitter vinegar they give Him. He drinks and then He gives up His spirit, returning to the Father.
Was He thirsty for this bitter drink, this cup of vinegar?
He was thirsty for God.
And in drinking from this cup of the world, in taking the world's best remedy against loneliness and pain, He completes all that must be done and fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 69:19-21.
I have to wonder.
I have to wonder if those hours on the cross were the first time He had ever known in His human experience the absence of the presence of the Father.
And in that experience, He thirsted alone for God.
We come thirsty. We come to the cross of Christ, knowing that the world can't offer what we need for the quenching of our souls. We come like little children, pastel sippy cups extended from sticky hands. Because He has already taken of the world's cup for us, we no longer have to sip of its bitter gall. He offers something sweeter, something better. Something that is flavored with eternity. Something that can truly quench our souls. And all we must do is tell Him that we are thirsty.
And He will dip our cups in the fountain of life.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
I have a feeling she is smiling down on her son's efforts.
And the legacy continues.
4 of 8 spent a beautiful morning helping groom the tomato plants.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm in one of my happy places.
But there are always things you learn when you travel to new locales, when you experience the local culture and the local flavors.
And I am learning something important in this cheery kitchen in this happy place.
And that is this.
It can actually be somewhat chilly in the middle of America in the middle of July.
As in, we could legitimately fire up the fireplace.
As in, the kids are wearing sweats under their costumes.
I clearly have been living the the lower south west regions of the U.S. for quite a while now.
Because this turn of climatolgical events is quite stunning to me.
I feel my personhood expanding already.
Travel expeditions do make you grow.
If it stays this chilly, I may grow fur.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
And unless she started at the university pre-womb, my math shows that JK and I have enjoyed a twenty year friendship.
Most of it conducted over the phone.
And so the phone connection started.
And then there are the road trips.
We've always tried to see each other as often as we could. After JK and her husband and boys moved a couple of states away, our drive to each other was tripled.
But no matter.
We still see each other often.
So we can talk some more.
JK and her husband and three of her four boys were in town to see us last week. JK and I always laugh that the only pictures we seem to have of ourselves are when we are pregnant or frazzled at the end of a long road trip to see each other. So we took a little time to slap on some mascara, slick on some lip gloss and manufacture a little photo shoot. 1 of 8 manned the camera for us.
Miss you, Girl. Call me.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Yea, those folks.
Well, for quite a while now, the wife of that duo, CB, has been telling me that I needed to bring the kids for a weekend and go to their neighborhood pool.
And I thought, "Well, ah, okay. But we have a neighborhood pool just around the corner. So the pool quotient is not so high."
Until we actually went to their pool on this latest visit.
We entered the pearly pool gates.
We looked around.
And 3 of 8 declared, "This is the son of Schlitterbahn!"
And it was.
And I should have made all kinds of awesome pictures...
But I got a little busy going down one of the water slides...
And so I somehow only ended up with a couple of 7 of 8 pictures and one or two of 6 of 8.
I knew you would understand.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I am a true traveling patron of the arts.
This time I'm hitting highways to go see 2 of 8 as she wraps up time at an amazing ballet school halfway across the country. She flew out after Nationals and now I'm taking a good portion of the crew with me to head north and see what she's been up to. So it's time to pack up the van, gas up the tank and swill some serious coffee.
To that end, I thought it would be appropriate to repost a little something I like to call 'Octamom's Rules of the Road.' Since I am such a road warrior, I thought I would collect my myriad of wisdom, compile it in a readable format and present it to the world. It seems like my civic duty....
It was never my intention to become a Road Warrior. I didn't harbor childhood fantasies of driving a big rig, even though BJ and the Bear did have its attractions. I don't mind traveling, but I can be pretty happy in my own backyard, provided there are good running trails nearby. Voyages, destinations, estimated times of arrival, well, okay, but, to quote Mrs. Bird, "My nest is best."
Until four years ago. That marked the end of the nest season and began the season of Let's Move Often and With Great Challenge. M took a job many, many hundreds of miles away and I stayed behind to sell the house... which ended up taking a LONG time. We would travel frequently to see M and stay with him for a couple of weeks before packing up and going back to the original home turf, all in an effort to keep the house 'staged' and ready for showing. After many months and miles, we ditched the original plan, cleared out the house and moved into a lease house. We then learned the fun tradition of traveling on major holidays, trying to secret gifts in the same vehicle as small children without them gaining knowledge of said presents. We undertook another move five weeks before the twins were born and added more miles to our collective backsides.
An expert of small child travels I did not set out to be, and yet here I am. I've learned some things along the way, perhaps some nuggets of wisdom that could help you, Dear Reader, should you lose your mind and decide that you want to travel with your kids in a confined vehicle on $4 a gallon gas this summer. What follows are some bits of knowledge gleaned while behind the wheel of my non-eco-friendly SUV, driving the highways and byways of this great nation.
1. Determine what kind of traveler you are. There are two types of drivers in this world, the motivated and the mosey-ers (as in 'mosey on down the road'). I think there may be moral issues with being a mosey-er. You frustrate people. You don't care what your mph average is. You have no concept of beating the land speed record from your previous trip on this same path. Therefore, it is obvious--being a motivated road warrior is morally superior...with the exception of my precious in-laws. But only them--the rest of you need to get out of my way.....
2. Restrict fluids. If you give children a 64 ounce container of lemonade, they will need to relieve their bladders every 30 minutes for 400 miles. Yes, that is the official equation for determining bladder thresholds: 64 oz=400mph/1800sec (or something close to that). If allowed, I would have the children insert catheters prior to departure. That's how seriously this bathroom thing can cut into the best laid dossier.
3. Unsupervised Goldfish Cracker consumption is discouraged. I don't know what it is about the molecular structure of Goldfish Crackers, but they are reduced to their basic atomic structure and come to rest in a golden dust which covers every fiber of carpet on the floorboards. Goldfish are simply rendered incapable of holding their form when subjected to the high G-forces of an Octamom Road Trip. Use with caution.
4. Someone working in the 'roadside sign' department in the state of Missouri has a relative in a highly elected position. I am not making this up--there are mileage markers every 2/10ths of a mile in the state of Missouri, again, every 2/10ths of a mile. The roads have potholes the size of impact craters, but I can tell you to few feet exactly where they are....
5. Fast food is not fast if you are in a hurry. I have sat at numerous drive-thrus, drumming my fingers in irritated staccato, while my friendly fast food servers are apparently out in the pasture selecting a ripe cow for the picking of my burger. We have had fast food experiences which have involved a multi-minute search for ketchup packets. We have waited for new to-go bags to be extricated from the high security vault of fast-food paper products. When they see us coming, the gravitational forces around said fast food establishment morph and slow, rendering a time differential that is in direct inverse proportion to the amount of fatigue and patience I have in my mental storeroom.
6. If 4 of 8 says she needs to go to the bathroom, you can probably get another 100 miles out of her.
7. If 5 of 8 says he needs to go to the bathroom, he's not playing. Enough said.
8. We have not done enough to honor the makers of travel DVD players. They are the ambassadors of non-invasive kid distraction, preserving the sanity of traveling parents everywhere, and yet, where is the national holiday honoring these hero engineers? Where are the ticker tape parades? It's a travesty, I tell you....
9. When traveling as a large family, be prepared to be hassled. I've only been stopped a couple of times in all these travels, and once it was so the officer could make sure I wasn't 'trafficking solicitors'. Really? My 15 passenger van is now on the radar of law enforcement officials as the nouveau 'pimp mobile'? Wow. Makes me feel pretty edgy and urban....
10. The 'stuff' you packed in the back of your vehicle at the beginning of the trip will in no way fit back into your vehicle in the same way once you begin the process of repacking to go back home. This is a tried and tested truism that I can't seem to defeat. We are bringing back the same stuff in the same containers and yet, it just won't all go back in. The beautiful packing job I executed originally degrades to 'stuffing and shoving' as we disembark. I always feel a little bad that children have to sit atop their Barbie suitcases, but I do think a booster-seat/suitcase design is long overdue....
11. You get bonus points if you travel with all eight kids AND two incontinent dogs.
12. Car sickness will not be tolerated, except in the case of the driver, who has been a motion-sick sufferer from childhood and now must drive at all times to avoid...upheaval.
13. However, you do get more bonus points for each vomiter...but it's not car sickness--it must just be a tummy bug....
14. Getting home to your own bed feels better than any other spot in the world. Beach, mountains, museums...they got nothin' on my 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and that cute guy I've been living with for almost 19 years....
Okay, you potential Road Warriors of '08, take out that second mortgage for gas money, load your bags, and hit the road. Wear your seat belt, drink your coffee and don't forget to mark where all the potholes are, down to a 2/10th of a mile accuracy. Godspeed!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
It's just that after doing many years of Chuck-Bleh-Cheese Gouging Extravaganzas and full-out-every-thing-Pocahontas-Snow White-name-your-Disney-princess soirees, I just sorta kinda petered out.
I choose to believe it's not a bad thing.
So when schedules collided and it turned out that 6 of 8 would be celebrating her birthday while we were on the road for 2 of 8's Nationals competition, we engaged in a little 'party where you're temporarily planted' kind of a thing.
Hence, the Sam Moon 6 year old birthday bash.
2, 4 and 6 of 8 were raring to go, to hike the aisles of purses and such, to hunt for hidden treasure among the imports.
4 of 8 also did a little shopping with some money that was burning a hole in her pocket.