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September 2009

In which I am the champion....OF THE WORLD

It's been a week since we last spoke about ACTIVE LIFE: EXTREME CHALLENGE, which I DO say all in capital letters, although I've finally learned how to say the words in order at least, putting my ability to learn right up there in the same category as my dog's. When we last visited, I was wondering if the kidlets would continue to pull out the game on their own, and if I would EVER defeat the EVIL ROCK CLIMBING game.

Well, no. And...wait, let me set the scene.

You know how kids go in cycles with what they play with? One week they're all Monopoly, all the time, and the next week it's bicycles or nothing? Well, this week all their Wii time has been devoted to an Indiana Jones game that has RILLY RILLY irritating music. The music thing is my perspective, not theirs.

Anyhow, the other night, after dinner, they were all milling about, in and out of the house, up and down the stairs, circling the kitchen, sniffing for loose food, generally acting like the semi-feral creatures they are. And I pulled out the Active Life game. I have passed all the beginner's level challenges (*sniff* not to BRAG or anything, you know. *sniff* Knocked them right out the park, as it were. Yup. *sniff*), and I wanted to get cracking on the intermediate level challenges.

I started out with some double dutch, which, can I tell you? I kind of hate double dutch. I mean, I'm sorry, but exactly how extreme is something I did on a playground some...what, thirty years ago? (Thirty...years...*whimper*...hold me...) And it's not that I'm a sore loser or anything, but that stupid game is hard and impossible and stupid a few more times.

Nonetheless, I started out with double dutch, and I KNOCKED THAT SUCKER ON ITS DOUBLE DUTCH HEAD, OH YES I DID.

At this point Tre wandered in and sat down nearby to watch my progress. I gloated for a few minutes, he indulged me a bit, and I moved on to wake boarding. It took me a few tries to dominate that one, but I did it, OH YES I DID.

By the time I started the third event, street luge, all three boys were gathered around me. Clay perched on the couch behind me, Sophia on his knee, and everyone was shouting helpful suggestions.

"You have to put both hands down to go faster," Clay called out.

"RIGHT, GO RIGHT!" yelled Tre.

"You keep missing the jumps, Mom! HIT THE JUMPS!" Max added.

"You want to get those green strips! They make you go faster! Not the backwards red ones! THE GREEN ONE, RIGHT THERE YOU MISSED IT WANT ME TO HELP?" I swatted Raphael's hands away from the mat.

"Bahhhhhhhh! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" bellowed Sophia, knowing a party when she was deafened by one.

The countdown clock was, well, counting down. I leaned and smacked the mat, leaned the other way and smacked again. Imaginary wind swept my hair back.

"You're not going to make it," Tre said.

"YES I AM," I yelled back, completely not believing I would. On screen, I bounced off walls and smacked through signs. "I AM GOING TO MAKE IT."

And then? With less than a second to go? The FINISH sign suddenly flashed above me, I sailed through, and I WON THE STUPID STREET LUGE.

My kids went completely wild. We all jumped up and down, they slapped me high fives over and over.

I swear, it is the closest to an olympic gold metal I will ever get.

But there wasn't much time to gloat because do you know what I still had to achieve to complete the challenge? DO YOU KNOW?


I dropped to my hands and knees, tossed the remote aside, and friends, I ATTACKED THAT ROCK CLIMB.

I slapped that mat, I reached and smacked and huffed and climbed.

"You're gonna make it!" someone called out. I refused to check my time, so LASER LIKE was I in my focus. Left, right, up right, up left, over right. GO GO GO.

AND I DID IT! On the very first try, after all that complaining last week, I BEAT THE INTERMEDIATE ROCK CLIMB.

And then I danced around the living room, singing at the top of my lungs, "I AM THE CHAMPION, MY FRIEEEEEEENDS! AND I'LL KEEP ON (raise my eyebrows to hit the high note) FIGHTING TO THE END! DUN DUN DUN. I AM THE CHAMPION! (eyebrow raise) I AM THE CHAMPION!"

"Can I try now?" Raphael wanted to know. "Can I have a turn?"

But no, he couldn't because it was bedtime.

So those are my lessons for the week. 1) Persevere. Do not let the rock climb intimidate you. YOU CAN OVERCOME. And when you do? SING. Even if your children pretend to hate it, they LOVE IT. Which brings me to my second point 2) Your kids will want to play and have fun and be active if you are, and ESPECIALLY if it's bed time. Of course, Raphael will happily regrout our bathtub rather than go to bed, but still. Kids will go where you lead. Show 'em how it's done.

It doesn't say anything about a GOOD definition.

What. A. Day.

Can I tell you? You care, right? So today I told the boys that if they finished school early enough, I would consider buying them lunch out before we went to the allergist's office to get Tre shot. Get Tre his shots. Whatevs.

Predictably, they rose to the challenge, because I am a stingy wench who hardly ever buys them lunch - unless you count the many healthful and loving meals I have prepared them here at home - which they DO NOT.

We had coupons from the summer reading program that I wanted to use (see: stingy wench), so off we went. HOWEVER, when we arrived at the lovely burger-providing establishment, and I cheerfully announced my coupons to the metal menu board, I was informed, "We no longer accept more than one coupon per order." Which I pointed out was NOT on the coupons, to which she responded the policy WAS on the window where your pick up your order, to which I responded that is NOT where you PLACE your order, to which she responded that it was still their policy, and then my head exploded, and I apologized for wasting her time and I drove away. We ended up going to TWO OTHER fast food restaurants to fulfill the many luncheon demands, and at the last place a taco supreme somehow fell into my mouth, thereby answering the question, "How many fast food restaurants does it take to overcome the restraining influence of a baggie of walnuts tucked in your cupholder?"

Three. It takes THREE.

Nonetheless, we still had Tre's shots to get, so allergist's ahoy. When we got there, Tre and Max headed up to the office, while I waited in the van with the younger two so Raphael could finish his lunch. He spilled his drink twice while we waited. I sat in the front seat and pretended to be a calm and wonderful mother who happened to be swearing under her breath, rather than what I actually was, a slightly unhinged mother who happened to be swearing under her breath.

Raphael finally finished, and we got out of the van. I pulled out the stroller, scooped up Sophia and plopped her in it. One of the seatbelt straps was underneath her and I tugged it free. It slid out surprisingly smoothly, and then I saw why. Its movement was lubricated by a good cup and a half of baby poop.

It LOOKED like at least a cup and a half.

The next minutes are a blur of baby wipes (this - THIS is why I always carry an entire box of wipes with me. I AM VINDICATED) and scrubbing and stripping Sophia down and changing her and finding a new outfit and redressing her, all the while telling Raphael, "DO NOT TOUCH THAT. NO. NOT THAT EITHER. Look, just...PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD." He stood there with his hands on his head, saying, "Wow. I'm sorry your day is all the way bad, Mom. WOW."

After scrubbing the whole of the parking lot, I went up to the allergist's office, where they told me that Tre had fallen behind on his venom shots, and so was bumped back from his maintenance dose. While I stood there, trying to understand exactly how this happened, Sophia spit up all over me.

When Clay got home from work this afternoon he found me sitting at the kitchen table in my spitty shirt, eating Starbucks ice cream from the carton. He kissed me and asked how my day was. And I told him.

"Well. Would you like to go to the gym?" he replied.

And lo, I did.

And then my day got better, so much so that I am now able to handle the small setback life just handed me. I was just washing my face, and after I was done I noticed the print on the tube of face cleanser. It read, "Pore redefining scrub" which made me groan. Seriously? Who has time? But then, I DID use it already, and I suppose there is some sort of contractual obligation here, so fine. Everyone, please get out your dictionaries, and look up "pore." Found it? Good. Scratch out where it reads, "a minute opening in the skin or other surface through which gases, liquids, or microscopic particles may pass," and write there instead, "perforations in Kira's face that are exuding a sense of DONE WITH THIS DAY."

I am a jerk with a broken blog.

Yeesh, am I grumpy right now.

I'm grumpy because my blog is broken - a week of posts gone, and comments are all messed up, like TEAR MY HEART OUT, TYPEPAD, WHY DON'T YOU? And despite the fact that I've ignored this problem for over twenty four hours, it is STILL NOT FIXED. Can you imagine?

But I'm also grumpy because - well, remember last week when I wrote that post about my kids being different colors, and how my boys are beautiful brown, and my girl is all pink and pale? I would link to it, but IT IS GONE. Anyhow, to revisit that theme, I've frequently commented on what a jerk I am about sunscreen. As in, I have always been pretty careful to get it onto the boys, and then I totally forget about my own skin when HELLO, I am the white one here. The boys have never had a sunburn (wait, not true, I think Tre actually got a burn last summer), whereas I blister. All the stinking time.

Well it turns out that Sophia, being also pale skinned? ALSO BURNS. I discovered this when she was only a few months old and I took her to Max's ball game, and by the end of it, she was bright red. AND WE HAD BEEN IN THE SHADE. Dappled shade, as it turns out, is not strictly the same thing as shade. She actually got a tiny little blister and when I saw that I died about seventeen times.

So since then I've been very very careful with her. She wears her silly hat - oh, wait! I have a picture!

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Gratuitous, I know. Hush. She's cute. How much do I wish I'd cut that tag off right now?

BACK to the point, I make her wear her sun hat, I bought ridiculous sun block that is chemical free and made from ground-up fairy wings so it won't hurt her skin. As a side benefit, it's also a pain in the neck to use. And whenever I take her outside, I spend all my time hustling her from shade to shade, flinging myself bodily between her and the sun whenever necessary. The child will never synthesize ANY vitamin D if I have anything to say about it.

So today we went berry picking. We met my friend Amy and her kids, and together we did our best to strip all of Colorado of its raspberries and strawberries. If there are any left in the state, it is not our fault. And the whole time we were outside, I did my uber-attractive keep-the-baby-out-of-the-sun dance. Do you know why? Because I am SMART. I am TEACHABLE. I am...

Look, I'm going to put a picture after the fold, because it's an awful picture, in every way, but it shows you the point I'm trying to make.

Continue reading "I am a jerk with a broken blog." »

I still say the name wrong.

This is the second in a series of four posts about the Wii game Active Life: Extreme Challenge. In return for my review, I received a Wii console and the game.

I haven't used the Active Life: Extreme Challenge game a huge amount this week because I've INJURED MY ACTUAL SELF. My calves, to be precise. So now any time I try to do any sort of hopping activity, my legs hurt and kill me and I'm forced to lie on the couch and whine at my long-suffering husband about how I'm so old and massive that my legs are giving way under the strain. Then I weep and say how I've given my best years to our children, and I would never change a thing, DESPITE THE PAIN. Then I gaze at them with love and sorrow all mingled in my eyes. HEY! Guess who got taken out for a date night this weekend?

Nonetheless, I figured the fact that I couldn't actually play much was no problem, because what do I have all these children around me, if not to do my work for me? As a friend of mine says, if you're still doing the dishes, you need more kids. I just figured I'd expand the concept to writing my own blog posts too.

To make matters even better, we had plenty of kids coming over to play, so I could not only get the input of MY children, I could happily exploit the children of dear friends also! And my plan worked perfectly. Children would arrive at our home, I would casually suggest they play a wee Wii (snicker), and then I would fling the Active Life: Extreme Challenge mat down in front of them and step aside. Time would pass, and children would appear in my kitchen, all sweaty-heads and snack requests. I would place food in front of them, like some modern-day calf-injured Donna Reed, and then I would pounce.

I asked them what they thought of the game, and I wrote down their actual answers, so you can get the FLAVOR, if you will, of the sort of input I was getting from them.

13 year old boy: "Uh-huh. It was cool."

17 year old girl: "Fun!"

9 year old boy: "It's good. Can I have more goldfish?"

Hot tip: children are useless at writing your post for you.

However, I will point to the following evidence: sweaty heads, and they played it for much longer than I would expect them to if they thought it was lame. Kids do not suffer lame willingly. And my actual children will spontaneously pull the game out and play it. AH-HAH! Says I! EVIDENCE OF ENJOYMENT!

Despite the *ahem* helpful comments, and the EVIDENCE, I felt like I still didn't have quite enough to SHARE with you this week, so I played it again myself. There are plenty of activities you can do with just your arms, and I decided to give rock climbing a try. I'd passed the beginner level, which I have to tell you was SORT OF LAME. I am just telling it like it is, friends. LAMETY LAME LAME. So I didn't expect much of the intermediate level.

You can imagine my delight, then, when it ROUNDLY KICKED MY ELDERLY BUTT. The intermediate level has you smacking the mat all over the stinking place, and after a few rounds my arms were ACHING LIKE CRAZY, all shaky and tired. I was kind of tickled by this, actually, because it felt like a real work out, which I have been SADLY lacking in this week (see: Elderly Calves). But what made me crazy is that I could SIMPLY NOT beat the stinking level. I tried and tried and one night I kept smacking that mat so hard and repeatedly that Raphael (who sleeps in the basement, directly under where I was smacking and swearing) came upstairs to ask me nicely to PLEASE STOP HE IS TRYING TO SLEEP.

I did stop eventually, and tried again another night, and as of this writing I am STILL unable to beat the stinking thing. I'm trying to figure out whose fault this is.

So that's this week of our ACTIVE LIFE. The children enjoyed themselves, if not all that eloquently. I was able, despite injury, to find a fun activity that is making me insane with its unwillingness to be defeated. And my husband is patient and long-suffering.

Love colors your vision

There was a moment I'll never forget when Tre was a baby. His eyes were just starting to turn and I showed a friend the dot of stained-glass brown in the circle of cloudy dark blue he was born with. She looked, then said something I couldn't believe. Since she had blue eyes, and her boyfriend had blue eyes, she'd recently realized that if they had kids, they would HAVE to have blue eyes.

"We'd be GUARANTEED a blue-eyed baby!" she said, clearly delighted. I stared at her, stunned. Was she actually saying that blue eyes were preferred - somehow better than this, my perfectly brown-hued baby boy?

I'm afraid that day something of an attitude was born.

My sons' biological father is Mexican, and they have inherited from him a rainbow of browns. I stare at them, drink in all the different shades. Their eyelashes looks like lacquered slivers of mahogany. Their hair is glossy dark, spun strands of copper and bronze. Their eyes are the clearest pools of strong coffee. Their skin is a warm tan heavily favored by Eddie Bauer.

Raphael eyelashes

And then their biological dad broke. I don't know how better to say it. There was before, and then there was after, and he was gone gone gone. He associated his weakness with being Mexican, and it infuriated me. I would not permit him to bequeath that to my sons. Addiction and selfishness are not Mexican traits, they are human traits to live with or live under. To be completely honest, I feared an ugliness inside me, that I could look at them through the anger I felt at their biological father. I grew fiercer in my appreciation of them, of their brownness, of their beauty. Not only were they perfect in my eyes, they were better than any other color.

Max eyes

Better than any other child.

Raphael hair

And, of course, they were all boys. And people would roll their eyes and offer me sympathy that I had no daughters. I disdained their sympathy. How could I want anyone other than my sons? I shrugged off the whole concept of girl power. Not only did I not need a daughter, I didn't even WANT one.

And then.

Sophia face

She was born to us, a little girl, a study in peach and gold and blue.

Sophia eye 

For weeks I was startled to look at her and realize she was really my daughter.

Last night I was reading a magazine and in an article about skin care, there was a side bar that read, "Why are there so many different colors of skin?"

Oh, I thought, I know. Because it's lovely.

Sophia hand tre arm

It wasn't until I saw her in their arms, peachy-pale skin against sturdy brown, that I finally understood. My sons are not diminished by their sister, by her girlness or her shade of beauty. It's not a better than/worse than proposition at all. It's not a competition.

Tre and sophia

It never was.

Happy Love Thursday.

I cannot think of a title now, because of the explosion.

Today the boys had their first day back at Monday school. And while I usually don't start school until after Labor Day (as GOD INTENDED), this year we're starting school tomorrow. We have a family vacation coming up next month, and not even I can justify waiting to start school until September 8, then leaving town for two weeks on September 15.

You know what that means, right?

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for Kira's annual freak-out. Present paper bags and commence hyperventilating.

Oh wait, never mind. That's my job.

So today, while the boys were at school, that's what I did. I worked my way through the leftover mess from last year's schooling. I threw papers away and sharpened pencils and sorted through books and outlined the year's plan. And the whole time I tamped down the panic and muttered to myself, "I can't do this, it's too hard, I'm ruining my children, I can't do this, why isn't this pencil sharpener working, OH THAT'S RIGHT, BECAUSE I CAN'T DO THIS."

But of course, it wasn't just my voice here today, because I had the company of my girlchild. Sophia woke up this morning at THREE IN THE A.M., which YES,  I KNOW THAT'S REDUNDANT. I tend to lose control of the prose when I've been up since the morning at THREE IN THE A.M. She was perfectly happy when she woke up, just LOUD. Sweet Pea has discovered this...noise. I say it sounds like pencils being fed into a garbage disposal, eraser first. Max says it sounds like a cat being strangled. Regardless, it is loud. And it is Sophia's default noise when she is a) happy b) unhappy c) bored d) excited e) hungry or f) sleepy. So while I muttered and sorted, she shrieked and squirmed around on the floor at my feet, falling silent only when she'd wormed her way close enough to lick something that was GRAVELY NOT RECOMMENDED FOR BABY LICKING.

Then when I retrieved the boys from school (plus one extra boy), they were enthused about telling me about their days. The fact that their baby sister was screaming from her perch on my shoulder was NOT seen as a reason to WAIT on the telling. No, rather, it was a reason to INCREASE THE VOLUME of the telling.

And then, as a result of the fretting inside my head, and the shrieking and hollering from outside my head, the noggin couldn't take it anymore, and it exploded.

The end.

For some reason I keep calling it EXTREME LIFE: ACTIVE CHALLENGE, which doesn't really make sense at all.

A few weeks ago I got an email, asking if I wanted to try a product and blog about it. Being the sort of blogger I am, with rigorous integrity and all, I SQUEEED and said YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME! and agreed with the same enthusiasm as the time I was in eighth grade and the cool girls asked me if I wanted to try out for basketball with them.

Well, the eighth grade basketball thing didn't work out that well (I sat on the bench, except when the coach was threatening to put me in the game, and I was begging him, seriously BEGGING him not to), but this, I think, was a fine idea.

They sent me a Wii (!!) and a game - Active Life: Extreme Challenge. Because of my aforementioned rigorous integrity, I have to tell you that these did not come packaged in rainbows or butterflies or unicorn poop or anything. They just arrived in boxes. See how unbought I am by filthy lucre? I tell it like it is.

The game, however, is pretty darn cool. There's something of a learning curve, because there are ALL THESE DIFFERENT SPORTS - street luge, wakeboarding (which, hello, all this time I've been calling that WAVE boarding, I am still an eighth grade dork), rock climbing, bmx, skateboarding - fifteen activities in all, and each one of them is played differently. Some of them just use the pad and your feet, others you hit the pad with your hands, some require the remote, others not so much. Getting all that figured out was a little overwhelming. The first night we played, all five of us were gathered around, everyone shouting out opinions on how to play the different games and wow. That was not actually fun. Be prepared to send your fourteen year old and your husband out of the room to talk it out, is all I'm saying.

But once we figured it out and established an orderly turn-taking system, it was better. And best of all was when the kids went to bed and Clay and I went HEAD TO HEAD IN FIERCE COMPETITION. I won't say who defeated who, but I will point out that I DID have a BABY a short FOUR MONTHS AGO and also my darling husband is an ENORMOUS CHEATY CHEATER.


I also thought, as we were duelling each other in fierce double-dutch competition, that it was fun but not THAT much of a work out. Fer reals.

But then the next morning I tried to walk and my legs were made of pain. So. Perhaps I was hasty on that.

Fortunately, there are different levels for all the sports. We're mostly all on what Clay calls the stupid level, although Raphael is moving up into the intermediate level. He is VERY IMPRESSED WITH HIMSELF, and does not hesitate to tell you. There is a coolness aspect of the sports included that really appeals to the kids. "WATCH ME DO THESE SKATEBOARD TRICKS!" You would think they were actually out there, trying to maim themselves on a skateboard. For me, well, I still think bowling is cool. So there is that. Also, I say "COOL." Multiple times in one post. Plus, just tonight, Tre was playing and he hit a button and a screen popped up with buttons, one of which read "How to Play" which would have come in handy back when we were trying to figure out, you know, how to play it. Clay and I both said, "Hey WAIT! How did you do that?" And Tre responded, "Oh, you just push B." (I think that's what he said.) And then he smirked at us. Whippersnapper.

That's our experience so far with ACTIVE LIFE: EXTREME CHALLENGE. At the moment it's the hot ticket in the house. Can it stand the test of time? Will Clay ever stop cheating and let his long-suffering wife WIN AT SOMETHING? Don't you think WAVE BOARDING makes more sense, really? For the answers to these questions and more, STAY TUNED.

Postal station communication

Today I went to the post office. The boys were busy elsewhere, so it was just Sophia and me. The girl was IN A MOOD, grumping at everything and everyone all day (except for like 1.5 hours when I was at my friend Amy's house, when she was a drooly little Miss Congeniality, meaning that a) Amy and/or her husband John are going to accuse me of lying about said MOOD and b) it's possible that Sophia was just suffering from an Amy deficiency. I know it makes me miserable). The post office didn't improve her temper one bit (go figure), and while I finished filling out a card and tucking it in the package, she groused and hollered and moaned and complained. I'm pretty sure my card reads something like this, "Happy baby. I hope you stop crying. WHAT DO YOU WANT? Wishing you many hush hush sweetie. LOVE YA!" The package will arrive and my friend will open it and think I've had a psychotic break.

I did NOT have a psychotic break, but I did have a package to mail, so I stepped up to the counter with my complainy baby, dodging severe looks all around (WHAT? Do you really think I'm PINCHING HER or something? YOUR babies never cried?), and handed the box off to the nice postal employee.

"Oh," she said, eying my sad little girl, "she's upset! Do you think she's hungry?"

"Um, maybe. She's been grumpy all day," I replied. We set to the business of shipping my package. I ordered the delivery confirmation, because I love it - it's like spying on your intended recipient. "Did you get your package?" you ask WHEN YOU ALREADY KNOW THEY DID AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! And then I lost the slip before I even got in the car. I would make SUCH a lousy spy.

After a few moments of postal transaction, the woman said again, "She must be hungry, don't you think?"

"Hmm," I said, "maybe so." What I thought was, Is it possible that YOU are hungry, post office woman? Because you are sort of preoccupied with the thought?

And then I leaned over to fish my wallet out of my bag, and I saw the front of my shirt.

And the rapidly expanding circle of breast milk saturating the shirt over my right boob.

Ah. So THAT'S what you meant.

Go baby, go!

This morning Max was sitting on the couch, holding Sophia.

"Do you think she'll sit up first, or crawl?" he asked.

"Probably sit up," I answered.

"I don't know," he countered (like, why ASK me, then, son?), "she REALLY REALLY wants to crawl."

As it turns out, she just really really wants to MOVE. Crawling not required.

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Just a sweet baby, here on the edge of her blanket. Don't mind me.

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And GO!

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Um...hi. Nothing to see here.

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So yeah, I still think she'll sit up first, but Max is also right. She REALLY wants to crawl.

Party favors

Raphael went to a sleep-over birthday party this weekend. When we dropped him off, the house was fairly vibrating with the activity therin. It was like a home-made science experiment showing molecular activity, where the eight year olds were molecules, the party was heat, and I was recoiling from the resulting steam. Ooookay, baby boy, enjoy your vapor state, don't mind me racing out the door!

"You're welcome to stay, if you want..." the dad called after Clay and me as we beat a hasty retreat down the sidewalk. We laughed - um, I mean SMILED WARMLY, and told him we couldn't, unfortunately, and then we ran for it.

The next morning I showed up to retrieve Raphael. The scene was markedly subdued compared to the night before. I gathered my own tired-eyed little boy from out of the crowd, tossed him and his sleeping bag in the van, and we pointed our noses toward home.

The whole drive there, I swear he didn't stop talking for a second. The child seems to have perfected some sort of circular breathing technique to facilitate constant chatter, and he told and told and told me about his evening. It had been SO MUCH FUN. There were WASPS in the back yard, and they THREW THINGS AT THEM and then the dad came out and SQUIRTED THEM WITH POISON - the wasps, not the boys, and they SLEPT IN THE BACK YARD, the boys, not the wasps, and there were mattresses out there, but he didn't jump on the air mattresses, because he thought they might pop, but they all jumped on the other ones, the spring ones, and he DID FLIPS and they stayed up until MIDNIGHT and they were all telling WEIRD DREAMS and then they woke up at 6:30 and ATE WAFFLES.

It was a joy to behold, his rapture at the evening of wasps and other delights. But the very best part was when we turned onto our own street, and he looked around and drew a deep breath.

"Oh," he sighed, "when you've been away from your very own home for a while, seeing it again just feels good on your eyes."

And that, we agreed, as I treated my own eyes to the sight of him, was the best part of the whole party.