Let it snow!

They promised a little dusting – – reward for enduring the 12 degree temperatures the last few days.We awoke to a blanket of snow across the ground, the powdery snow that wafts in the winds. It floats from the sky into the soft glowing street lights and is illuminated like fireflies. We layered and bundled – piling on clothing to protect from the biting morning cold.And we played. We tossed fluffy snow. We ran. We laughed. We made snow angels. We grew wet and cold quickly and scurried indoors.

Incognito: the Trial Run

As we’ve tried to do every year, we’re building our October’s end personas on a budget. A tight budget.

My girl ‘Kea, just gave birth to her beautiful baby girl, so we didn’t get to craft costumes for our “womb mates.” Trust when I say I missed it.

So, the eldest (who still needs a blog moniker) wanted to duplicate his “Killer Clown” from the family day face painting event last spring. He found a stocking-material mask already embellished as a spooky character for $1. We’re working on perfecting the look and ultimately will have added two tattoo sleeves and a hat of some sort.

Hubs elected to show off his gifts from our summer cruise to the Bahamas – a “Surrender the Booty” pirate shirt and a custom made walking cane. (I love it that Ya calls the shirt “Kill the Butt.”) We added tattoo sleeves (it’s cold at night) and a Captain’s hat to complete his style.

JD, who had no idea what he wanted to be and who has never really had the “Trick or Treat” experience, stood in the store looking at costume accessories in awe. He picked a few $1 pieces to create a law enforcement theme. Adding a long sleeve shirt and a burst of personality, he surprised us.

Who knew thirft stores offered so many gently used costume selections? Oma makes an almost weekly run through the two large stores in our area and found several adorable costumes for under $5 each. As usual, we’ve acquired one more than possible to wear, so Chi insisted on a photo shoot in the costume it’ll be too cold to wear on Halloween evening.

And then there’s me… the portly clown. Oversized, ill-fitting pants, tee, suspenders and dundundununun Afro circus wig.

Flies bite and balloons burst

It was barely 11:30am when we pulled into the slightly shaded parking spot. Chi, holding tightly to the dozen freshly filled helium balloons as wind gusts threatened to whisk them away, trailed behind me as I traipsed across the gravel path towards the beach-like water’s edge that seemed far closer to us than it was. The littles followed her, each still sputtering and gagging from the mist cloud of bug spray I’d saturated their arms, legs and heads with – – man that stuff lingers in the air and flavors it awfully.

The goal was a simple one: capture the boys for their 6th and 4th birthday portraits. The balloons were a gimmick, true, but one that I was certain would elicit some genuine expressions and carefree un-posed images. The beach setting would be beautiful, the balloons would add vibrant color to each image. Perfect!

The task proved difficult, though, even with the prior agreements from the youngest to cooperate and let Mommy shoot him. I suspect he’ll be telling strangers I “shoot at him” too much and he’s tired of it (and they might not realize he means with a camera).
First, Ya refused to be first. Instead of grabbing hold of the balloon bouquet, he splashed into the water, grabbed a handful of sand, and hurled it seaward. Instant attitude showed across his face and complete defiance radiated in his posturing. He was having none of this portrait-making business.

So I moved to the just-shy-of-six-year-old. JD isn’t used to the camera. He thinks I will command a smile (I suspect some drill sergeant with a camera belted out demands for school photos one too many times). And when he forces an expression, well, it isn’t exactly appealing. Think “I just ate something nasty and I’m waiting for you to turn around so I can spit it out,” that’s the expression.

At this precise moment, some nasty little fly landed on my leg and stung me. I swatted at him and moved into the water, cursing myself for not having tried to wear those silly preggo jeans that I have to keep hiking up every few seconds. He repeated this attack several dozen times and all his neighbors joined in. So much for that bug spray effectiveness test.

Clearly it was time to rev up my tactics if I wanted to salvage the shoot. I barked, “Mean face! Happy face! Sad face! Mad face! Jump! Skip! Play!” JD was confused. He hid.

And then, just when I thought I’d lost my opportunity, he peeked through his clutch of balloons with a mischievously blissful smile. Gotcha!

Granted, it’s not the traditional kid portrait, but it speaks volumes about who JD is at this age, at this time in his life.

I begged Ya to take hold of the balloons, bribing him with the gum (I’d unfortunately left it in the van, but he didn’t need to know this). He begrudgingly complied and complained about being so obligated to pause for a few clicks of the shutter. How dare I?

The flies continued to sting my legs, making capturing the in-between-the-complaints expressions truly difficult. So I suggested he jump. And jump again. And again. While he insisted that he’d cooperate if he could just pop the balloons.
Meanwhile, little cherub was collecting seashells. The first ornate shell still had its occupant inside, and after squealing in surprise, she returned it to the water with an apology. She then resumed search. I thrust the balloons at her and freed the completely disgruntled Ya to play without restriction. Obviously I have to devise a better plan to get his portraits.

Click. Click. Done.
At some point, I convinced the boys to pose together for a portrait. As I encouraged them to pretend they were enjoying this photographic torture, Chi met a friendly insect and convinced herself it was chasing her. She ran haphazardly through the water, splashing up spray as she swiped at her head with her hands.

All attention to the camera was lost. There were bugs on attack? The boys shot up from the log perch and joined in Chi’s crazy antics.

So, I gave up trying to compose portraits. Switching to my kit lens, I suggested the boys shed their fancy button down shirts and get comfortable in their tee shirts. The flies swarmed my legs and, I think, were actually being attracted by the sent of the bug spray rather than being repelled by it.

Chi composed herself moments later and resumed her shell search. The boys helped, forming a small pile of interesting sea-discards they intended to carry home with them.

I suggested they shed some energy (secretly thinking Ya needed to be tired if I hoped he’d nap). A race? Fun. Except the youngest bellows, “Guys! Let me win!” And that was just not happening.

So we packed up and hiked back to the van. The windows remained up to prevent the balloons’ escape. And the odor of the empty shells the kids so carefully gathered quickly permeated the cabin. We probably should’ve photographed and discarded the funky little things. Or, perhaps, carried the bleach bath they’re now soaking in to the sandy shore?

Heat break for playground monkies

The sky looked a little cloudy Sunday. The sun, temporarily hidden behind plush clouds, wasn’t blazing down upon our little pseudo-suburbia with the ferocity of the last few weeks. Could we finally dare to venture outside to a park for some much needed energy release? Well, yes, if we avoided the heat-reflecting metal slide or the incubating rubber play things formerly known as tires. My kids, however, are very brave souls. They don’t mind a little heat on the bum if it’s a byproduct of their playtime fun. And fun is exactly what they had.



It seems that despite being cooped up indoors for much of the summer’s daylight hours, they’ve not lost their gusto or their agility. (And they like to show off for the camera, who knew?)

Where was Ya in all this show? In the sandbox playing with his monster truck – which seems to be the next big toy obsession.

Poolside ponderings (of the evil stepmother)

JD stands. He’s clad in heavy jeans (despite the heat) and his favorite anti-chores tee. His hat remains haphazardly set upon his head — the very head that was newly discovered to be harboring an unwelcome ring worm and has caused the entire homestead to be blanketed in a fog of Lysol and disinfectant.

He is bored. And thirsty. He ignored the recommendation to bring along a cold bottled water and some form of entertainment. (Next time, children, listen when I offer advisement). Occasionally, he whimpers, as siblings three laugh and splash in the deep end waters. He remains under the umbrella, alone – isolated at a crowded community pool.

I can’t help but wonder how hard it must be to be “odd man out” all the time, stuck between two families and two many parents. Uncertain of when to let his guard down and when to stay on high alert, he remains aloof. Each household demands strict adherence to rules and expectations foreign to the other abode and each includes siblings who are permanent residents of their respective homes, not part time dwellers.
He sighs. Wipes his nose. Searches for the ones who’ve left him. They laugh together – loud enough for him to wonder about the joke he’s missed, been left out of while sitting perched at the edge of his lounge chair. They create games, mingle arms and legs in chase, push one another under water in playful “gotcha” games. He buries his head in his chair – a nap and dreams commence (far better, I assume, than wishing he were part of it all).

Perhaps he’s been struck by the earlier comments about his ever-increasing fear of water. Even the youngest knows JD wont willingly don his swimsuit and join in pool play. He sits up minutes after beginning his soft sleep, and wearily looks toward the rippling blue waves. No doubt he sees the infants happily floating along in blow up boats with inflated sun shades shielding their sensitive heads. Or, the toddler jumping fearlessly into mama’s waiting arms, giggling even as she wipes water spray from her face. And the kid who’s probably about his age? He jumps in, too, quickly bounding back to the surface and hopping along in the shallow on his tip-toes, water up to his chin. It’s a whole society of swimmers.

Does he wish he were somewhere else? Is it fair to treat the others to activities he will refuse to partake in?

Back in time

We’re starting to do outings in partial groups.  It’s not something I enjoy.  When I experience an “adventure,” I like to have my whole crew share in the novelty. 

But Chi is growing up.  She has friends and likes to go out with them to movies and on playdates, though I hardly think the 9.5 version of her would call their socializing “play.” Rico, in his almost teen persona, maintains a safe distance from our excursions.  He guards his time alone – even when traveling with us he remains safely on the outside mostly as an observer and occassionally as a participant.  He’s fiercely competitive, so I’ve no doubt that when the sports seasons begin with the new school year, we’ll find a common interest in his athletic persuits.

Our most recent outing has become an annual journey to the past – the Virginia Renaissance Faire held at Lake Anna Winery.  From the parking lot we are drawn in to the cast of this quaint oasis of European history come alive.  Poppets are invited to participate in a tournament at twelve of the clock.  They can be knighted by the Queen, can join the royal processional, and can create little trinkets as souvenirs.The many performers dazzle and humor us with their comedic timing, larger than life caricature-personas, and nods to classic drama.  And pyromaniacs have no shortage of circus fire stunts.  My favorite performances, though, have to be those demonstrating  amazing strength and agility.  The hat and vest we picked up last year were perfect fits for my little Rennaisance Man.  He looked absolutely daper as he strutted through the different areas of the faire.  And, an experienced patron, he was more than happy to try everything at least once.  He battled a villianous stake in a close combat attack. He donned his heavy metal helmet and chest plate to storm enemy troops.  And he made a valient effort to hoist the weighted leather, metal, and wood shield designed for full-grown combatants.  We brought Hubs and JD as the new initiates into the world of old. JD was not too amused and spent much of the day swatting at insects no one else seemed to be bothered by. He would not participate, or did so with such reluctance that it seemed like we forced him. He was not awe-struck by the performers. He was not even slightly drawn in by the sword fighting, weaponry, and pageantry.  I think outings like this are still too foreign, too new for his comfort.

Hubs found the day… interesting. He sampled Lake Anna Winery’s finest (and found some smooth and wonderful cider for me). He even volunteered to be in a knife throwing juggling trick, although I hardly think he thought they’d really be tossing knives over him.  A little innocent wager on the lure coursing proved him quite the good judge of athelete (at least of the canine variety, he picked wrong on football and doubted my Giants).

The faire this season seemed much smaller than the previous few we’d attended, but the talent was strong.  If only the heat weren’t so imposing.

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