Friday, December 30, 2005

Larry and I are so glad to be home, in our own house. We're both sounding like George Bailey at the end of It's A Wonderful Life - Hello, drafty old house! Hello, falling down apple tree! All the kitchen chairs are breaking - isn't that terrific! You'd think we'd been away a year instead of a week. It just felt like a year. But we're back. We survived. Some highlights:

Rachel's potty-training progress has gone right down the toilet. I knew we were doomed the first day of our trip when I took her into a rest stop bathroom to go pee. She said, "It smells funny here. I'll pee at home." Good thing I brought some diapers.

We had to caravan, as we can't fit everyone into one vehicle. Even so, both cars were packed full of stuff. Unfortunately, I don't like doing the driving on long trips. My back starts hurting, my knees start hurting, my hips start hurting (no, I'm not done complaining). To top it off, I harbor the conviction that I am going to die of deep-vein thrombosis from sitting in one position too long. So Larry, in a foolish attempt to flatter me, congratulated me on driving all the way from Mass to Maine on the third day. Give me a break - what choice did I have? Refuse to go on and live at Westover Air Force Base the rest of my life? When I pointed this out to Larry, his face lit up and he said, "You're right - it's the deathground principle!" For those of you as uninformed as I am, he was referring to Chinese military strategy as discussed by Sun Tzu (apparently the East's answer to Clausewitz) - it seems Chinese generals would purposely place their troops in positions where they would have to either fight or die - no retreat possible. I don't know whether to feel flattered that I passed the test or annoyed that my husband deems it acceptable to manipulate me using battle tactics he learned at the War College.

Anyway, I survived the drive; I'm sure a few years of therapy (psychological and chiropractic) will undo any damage that's been done.

Anna is apparently the only person in our family to feel inconvenienced by having to share a hotel room with 7 other people. I almost left her behind in Massachusetts.

McDonald's is everywhere, but it is extremely hard to find exactly the same McDonald's as last year - you know, the one with the best playland ever. We had to settle for the second-best playland, which made certain members of our family very sad. The restroom there was pretty good, however.

I spent most of my vacation driving and doing laundry (not at the same time, but wouldn't that be a good idea?). The best laundryroom was at the Air Force base in Massachusetts - 4 stackable washer/dryers in a row, so I could do all our laundry at once. I am definitely installing one of those stackables in our kitchen once all the kids grow up and leave. Then I would never again have to walk into our laundry/utility room/Larry's storage unit. It would be very good for our marriage. I found myself wondering what sort of laundryroom Mrs. Claus has. Does she have to wash all the elves' clothes too, or do their wives do that? Do elves have wives? Does Santa Claus frown on civil unions? These are the sort of questions that run through my mind when I spend most of my Christmas vacation doing laundry.

Uncle Frank is apparently getting more lenient in his dotage. He actually let the kids help decorate the tree this year. Up until now, he has never even let them touch the tree. Maybe it's because we make him watch the Grinch every year, and he's finally taking the hint.

A lot more happened, but I think I am trying to block it out. It's less painful that way. I know I've said this before, but there's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas is Coming...

It's been a while since my last letter, but not much has happened around here of note. I have decided that perhaps it would be best if I took a little time to clean my oven more often than, say, once every few years. Nothing like a minor grease fire to make me reevaluate my housekeeping methods. The fire was a great learning opportunity, however - the kids got to see how effective baking soda really is on a kitchen conflagration. And I think the flames actually burnt off a lot of the greasy buildup. So it wasn't a total loss.

After faithfully exercising for the past 3 1/2 months at the Y, I've come to the inescapable conclusion that exercise makes me fat. Apparently, I am not the only one to think so. The other day, as I was bending over to wipe out the tub, Rachel happily said, "Mommy, you have a big bottom." That kid used to be cute; I don't know what happened. When I shared my scientific findings on exercise with Larry, he muttered something about the chocolate factor, whatever that means. Hey, is it my fault the Y is dumb enough to have a candy machine in the lobby?

Rachel woke up one morning recently and apparently decided that using the potty was a pretty good idea. I would like to note here that this happened at the exact same age that Anna learned to use the potty, which leads me to think that it really didn't matter what I did as far as toilet-training went. What I need is a set of identical twins to test this theory on.

In case Anna reads this, I would like to state as a disclaimer that of course Anna has always used the potty and would never dream of doing otherwise.

I suppose I should be writing a Christmas-type newsletter right now, sharing the year's highlights and all. Unfortunately, I don't remember a darn thing that happened before the baby was born in May. And since then...well, you've been kept up to date on all the excitement. I'm not truly in the Christmas spirit right now, as we have to drive up to Maine this Wednesday to celebrate with Larry's family. I don't see why we have to do that, as we have a perfectly good tree right here at home. His family's okay, but not worth a 12 hour drive with 6 kids in two vans. Larry, of course, does not share this opinion. If someone would like to steal our van late Tuesday night, I'll give you my keys. Just don't return it until the 26th.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Halloween, Etc.

Well, Halloween passed uneventfully. We had 2 pirates, 1 damsel, a dalmatian, a bat, and a pumpkin this year. Rachel (the dalmatian - and a very cute one, at that) almost backed out at the last minute, as the first trick-or-treater to show up at our door was a 9-year-old Grim Reaper. We had to unmask him in order to persuade Rachel to stop screaming and come out of the hall closet. Larry took all my candy and brought it to his office. When I asked him to bring back some of my chocolate, he said that two really fat women in his office had eaten all of it. I think he's trying to tell me something.

Anna is perennially annoyed at me now. This morning she was annoyed because I asked her to come back down and throw out the potato peels from the potatoes she had just peeled for me. Then she got more annoyed because I told her to change the garbage bag, since she had left the peels mounded so high the lid on the can wouldn't even close. I am so mean. Today is her day to do the dishes, too. I can't wait.

As if having a 12-year-old girl isn't bad enough, I have an 8-year-old boy who suddenly thinks that he shouldn't do anything he doesn't want to. But that's okay. It may be sadistic, but Larry and I will really enjoy, um, persuading David that, yes, he actually does want to do everything we ask of him, even the unreasonable requests such as not screaming at the table and being polite to his parents. In fact, I have reason to believe that shortly he will be downright eager to say "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Sir" and to stop acting as though everyone closest to him is his worst enemy.

Do I sound fed up or what? I can't believe that kid is stupid enough to mess with me.

Okay, I'll stop. It's raining now, and rapidly turning colder, and we all know what that means. Well, maybe we don't. It means, tonight is the night the mice come in seeking shelter from the elements. We're ready for them this year, though - traps are set, waiting to be deployed. I don't need any extra creatures living in this house at this time, pooping all over the place and making a nuisance of themselves. We have enough of that type already. Meaning, yes, we have made absolutely no progress with Rachel's toileting habits. I think I'll just work on Susie; if she learns, perhaps Rachel will be shamed into it. Who would want to be outdone by a 6-month-old?

You know, reading over this scribble has me thinking that Larry and I really need to get away for a bit. Anyone want to come babysit? It'll be easy - really.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another Fall Weekend - October 2005

Well, I've bowed to the inevitable -- the only way to teach Rachel to use the potty is to not put those diapers on her. Though maybe that's not correct - after all, can you learn to fly by going skydiving without a parachute? Whatever. Rachel's wearing those undies, so the past two days have been rather wet around here, and I seem to be doing 4 loads of laundry a day rather than the usual 3, and I don't think the nice people working at our local Barnes and Noble really want to see us again, ever. Otherwise, potty training is going just fine.

I think we've finally cleaned up the last of the apples from the apple tree. We sort of neglected the apple situation last week because of all the rain; but today our front porch was smelling strongly of fermenting apples and the bee population seemed to be multiplying, so I did what any responsible adult would do in that situation - I sent the kids out there to clean it all up. Yeah, they cried a little; but in the end, it made them stronger. And now maybe our neighbors will start talking to us again.

Larry worked all weekend (boy, this sounds familiar), so I kept us busy with trips to Michaels' (Rachel and Brian made very fine styrofoam/pipecleaner piggies there) and to the Farmers' Market at Lake Anne (we tried stopping in at one of the stores, too; but Rachel had another, uh, accident there) and then to the commissary to pick up 2 weeks' worth of groceries. That was just Saturday. Theo was away at a boy scout camporee, so Anna was pressed into service as oldest child present. This did not make her happy. She had quite the attitude until she suddenly seemed to sense that I was about to ground her for the rest of her life. Then she became amazingly cooperative. Sunday, I was going to take it easy; but I woke up and realized I still had 6 kids and no husband, so that plan went out the window. We made a double batch of apple crisp (we just can't stop) and walked to the bookstore and the bagel shop and came home and cleaned up the porch. By this time the children realized that if they would just leave me alone, I might not make them work anymore. So I didn't see any of them for a couple of hours. Good thing.

Larry has the day off tomorrow, so I have many exciting plans, such as sleeping as late as 7:30 and maybe even going to Target all by myself. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but I can't help it. An incurable optimist, I am.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Of Costumes and Commodes

Relatives are visiting (ain't we got fun?). Larry's sister Kate is here, which means all the little ones are sitting around wielding crochet hooks and other implements of destruction. She brought Grandma with her. Grandma is prefacing everything she says with "I may be repeating myself, but..." Yes. Indeed, yes. Most emphatically, yes.

Anna's Halloween costume (a damsel dress) is progressing well, thanks to Auntie. If she hadn't showed up to help, Anna would have been stuck with wrapping herself in old newspapers and going trick-or-treating as the Goddess of Recycling. Or perhaps as an order of fish-and-chips. Or the floor of a bird cage, even. The possibilities are endless, if you simply use your imagination.

I have officially given up - I do not know how to potty-train a child. I am open to any and all suggestions that may help Rachel to kick her diaper habit. (And, no, the suggestions may not involve the use of duct tape.) I just read an article in The New York Times (see - I can still read) claiming that the fashion now is to toilet-train one's infant, before it develops that nasty and expensive dependency on diapers. One mother is quoted as saying that she has a much better relationship with her 10-week-old now that she has learned to read his cues which signal his need to poop or pee. May I humbly suggest that there is one woman with way too much time on her hands? Anyway, it's too late for Rachel, who apparently (at this late age) needs some sort of 12-Step program in order to graduate to undies.

Rachel has commandeered a camping lantern for her bed (battery-operated, don't worry). "See, Brian," she showed her brother. "This is my lighttern." "No, Rachel," he sagely corrected her. "That is a lamptern." Despite their differing opinions on most things linguistic, theirs is a mostly harmonious relationship. Oh, Rachel does swat Brian on the head with her little purse from time to time; but he's taking Tae Kwan Do 3 times a week now, so he should be able to defend himself pretty soon.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Apple Trees and Centipedes

Well, Larry has finally returned from his San Diego sojourn. He's at the office now, but we did get to see him for a full 24 hours or so. At one point yesterday, Rachel asked him, "Why aren't you at work?" Kids say the darndest things.

He did manage to injure himself while - ahem - sailing last weekend. Nothing major, his rib just feels "poke-y" at certain times, like when he breathes or moves or lies on his side. He could visit the doctor, I suppose; but he doesn't seem to want to do that. Maybe because I suggested it. Or perhaps he's making a political statement by demonstrating his solidarity with the millions of working Americans who don't have health insurance. Most likely, he's just being a typical guy and believes he can fix anything with Motrin and a roll of duct tape. He doesn't need no stinking X-ray.

Anyway, he is feeling well enough to tackle the apple tree. Not to cut it down, mind you. Sure it's getting lower each week, but his solution is to cut off each limb as it becomes low enough for him to bump his head on. Selective pruning, I believe it's called. He won't cut down the whole thing because I once foolishly suggested that he do so (yes, I'm detecting a pattern here). That was a few years back when the mailman bumped his head on the big branch that essentially bisects our front porch. But Larry liked the tree and left it, and the mailman left us and took another route in a nearby city where - I can only suppose - they have ordinances against killer apple trees. So it goes, but any day now I expect to look out our front door and see the UPS guy knocked out cold on our porch.

It hasn't rained here. Have I mentioned that? 3 hurricanes, and no rain. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to....whatever. The centipedes all seem to be coming inside in search of water. One morning last week we woke up and were finding them everywhere. Well, David woke up first; his shrieking woke the rest of us. I found him in the hallway babbling about centipedes in the powder room and centipedes in the bathroom. I calmed him down somewhat and sent him off to get dressed and I wandered into the bathroom myself to perform my morning ablutions. Unfortunately, David neglected to mention that the centipede surprised him in the middle of peeing. Definitely not a good start to my day.

Susie did me a favor by sleeping 12 straight hours last night - she definitely has earned Most Favored Baby status. I would have slept too, if I weren't busy coughing. Theo and I seem to have picked up a nasty chest cold. With both of us down for the count, and Anna having yet another "bad day" (meaning "everything's horrible, nothing is fun, and you're mean!"), it will be a miracle if anyone gets fed here today. We had apple crisp for breakfast (left over from yesterday), but our enthusiasm for that particular dish seems to have waned markedly over the past couple of weeks. Just too much of a good thing, I suppose. I've run out of neighbors to foist it off on, too. They don't seem to be answering their doors anymore. It's a good thing that tree only bears biennially.

Susie is attempting to sneak in an evening nap here, which I must interrupt. I'd like to be well-rested tomorrow, in case it turns out to be a pleasant fall day for a change. Meaning temperatures below 80 and humidity less than, say, 90 percent. Wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fall?!? - Sept 2005

The weather here has been hot and humid or just plain humid since July. So
much for a cool, crisp September. I have been whining all week. We still
have the air conditioning on. When the humidity eases up a teeny bit, we
all venture outside only to be attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. I think
the humidity makes them cranky, too.

Susie is incredible. I just plopped her down on the family-room rug so that
I could check my e-mail, and she has decided to suck her fingers and fall
asleep. What's not to love?

Larry is still hiding, I mean working, in San Diego. Tough life. Last
night on the phone he was trying to decide what to do with his free weekend
there. Tactless. A few days ago (again, on the phone) he mentioned that he
was offered an opportunity to go to Korea for 2 weeks for a military
exercise at the end of October. The only problem that he saw with that plan
was that he would miss Halloween. I'm beginning to think he doesn't like

I signed up the 4 oldest kids for Tae Kwan Do at the Y. Logistically, it's
great - 4 children, 1 activity. I found I can take the 2 youngest to the
nursery during the TKD class so that I can even get some exercise for myself
on the machines. Unfortunately, I think my oldest will never forgive me for
making him learn to count in Korean and jump rope at the ripe old age of 14.
Just one more thing for him to discuss with his therapist when he's older, I
guess. Anna is really taking to it, however; Larry told her he might
actually let her out of the house on her own once she got her black belt, so
she is highly motivated.

Our apple tree is bearing its usual abundant biennial (biannual?) harvest.
There are apples everywhere. We have only narrowly missed being bonked on
the head by falling fruit any number of times (shades of Newton, I know).
Actually, I think the squirrels are throwing them at us. I don't know what
their problem is - they're eating half the crop. In a desperate attempt to
salvage what we can for our own consumption, Theo constructed a rather
ingenious apple-picker out of a stick, a bathtoy bucket, a wire coat hanger,
and (of course) duct tape. He has managed to harvest enough apples for us
to inflict our famous apple crisp on several of our long-suffering
neighbors. I doubt it makes up for their having to step over rotting,
smashed apples and dodge wasps all month. The only creatures enjoying the
windfalls are the butterflies - they look to be getting drunk on the
fermented apple juice. Party animals, I suppose.

Have I whined about the weather yet? How about the mosquitoes? My missing
husband? Well, I guess I've covered everything then.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Beach Trip - Sept 2005

Boy, did it feel good to get out of town for a couple of days! And the kids didn't even notice we were gone (ba-da-dum). But seriously, folks, just a short(?) 3-hour drive and we left those blood-sucking mosquitoes (whoops, redundant) behind. It was worth the $100 in gasoline (2 vans, remember?). We were relieved to find that our accommodations were decent. We had reserved, sight unseen, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath trailer on a National Guard base for only $60 a night (your tax dollars at work - thanks!); so we were a tad apprehensive as to what we were going to find when we got there. Good beds, clean bathrooms, complete kitchen - well, almost complete. As we were sitting around the table eating our lunch, one of the children asked, "Hey, where's the dishwasher?" Larry didn't miss a beat - "You're looking at them," he replied.

The beach was great. The surf on Monday was so high that none of the children could get beyond the first set of breakers, which suited me just fine. Rachel was repeatedly knocked over by the waves, but she would bounce right back up again like one of those blow-up punching clowns we used to play with as kids. It was very windy, so it reminded me of Newport - particularly of Larry's Reserve Unit BBQ where we had to keep chasing down the tops of our hamburger buns as they blew off our plates. Ah, fond memories...

But I digress. I noticed a woman about a quarter-century older than me staring at us as we arrived and set up all our beach paraphernalia. I figured we had ruined her day and she'd get up and move, but she stayed to talk. Turns out she had raised 6 kids with the same age spacing as ours, but her youngest is 25 now. I'm not quite sure if she was getting nostalgic or if she stuck around to remind herself how glad she is that they're all grown-up.

The second day, we drove a few miles up the road to a state park beach - it was all natural (sand dunes, no buildings), but with bathrooms - who could ask for more? We saw porpoises (dolphins?) swimming just offshore, and we were jumping up and down and yelling and pointing to show them to the kids. Everyone else on the beach was a local, as it was the day after Labor Day, and we realized that they were looking at us funny, so we settled down. After a few hours the baby was fussy, so I took her back to our trailer early and left Larry to gather up all the beach stuff and shower/de-sand five kids. I would have felt guilty, had I not done it myself all the time 2 summers ago in Newport. It's payback time, amigos!

I can be unbelievably petty at times.

Larry took the kids out boating Tuesday afternoon. There was a huge salt-water pond on base and we could rent a rowboat for a mere $3 an hour (again, your tax dollars at work). There was also a playground next to the pond where Larry attempted to injure himself by showing the kids that he could do a flip on the rings. Brian told him he was too old to do that. My thoughts, exactly. Disability insurance is expensive, you know.

We packed up the cars Wednesday morning for the return trip (by the way, both going and returning, we hit the road at 9:50 AM - we figure that must be our set point for departures) and we couldn't understand why Rachel was so anxious to get in the van. Turns out no one had explained to her that we were going home. So, after several hours of riding and, I guess, great anticipation, she burst into tears when she realized that our final destination was not, in fact, the beach.

There's no place like home.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Finally Fall

I don't think I have ever been this glad to turn the calendar page to September. August was a slow month. There are only so many popsicles one can eat (and feed to the kids - I do share sometimes) before the novelty wears off. Although we did have a bit of excitement with this last box - the wrappers were blank, so we didn't know what flavor we were getting until we had unwrapped each one. Quite suspenseful.

Rachel (3) is still squeezing Susie (3 months) a lot, but Susie doesn't seem to mind. Susie doesn't seem to mind anything, actually. Not even the fact that she is slowly going bald. Or that she has very fat knees. She is very pleasant about everything. And she never, ever complains about her food. Unlike everyone else in this house. David refuses all meat and eggs and assiduously inspects the remainder of his meal for bugs. (Let's not talk about the morning Theo slipped a plastic spider into David's oatmeal.) Brian eats only meat (with an occasional side of potatoes) and spends mealtimes grossing out Anna. Twelve-year-old girls have very low gross-out thresholds, I must say. Rachel yells for whatever she can't have. And everyone participates in baby-carrot-bashing - "This one tastes/smells/looks funny." So Larry and I are thinking of instituting a new mealtime rule. It would be called, "Shut up and eat." No stimulating dinnertime conversations which would keep our teenagers abstinent and drug-free. No lively discussion of current events and world affairs. Just shut up and eat. Please.

We are headed to the beach for a couple of days (we decided to save our vacation time until gas went over $3 a gallon). Both Rachel and Brian have forgotten what the ocean looks like, so we figured it is time to refresh their memories. Larry plans to leave at 7 AM. This should be interesting.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Late July - 2005

It's hot here. I know, it's hot everywhere. My friend in Utah had the nerve to complain about the 100-degree temperatures there. They're also suffering(?) from 18% humidity. Please. I'm practically wading out my front door every morning into what must be a humidity level of 548%. And beating back vicious, blood-sucking insects every step of the way. Otherwise, our summer is going along swimmingly (sorry, couldn't resist). Afternoons at the pool, mornings spent forcing recalcitrant children to do math ("but it's summer!" they whine - I told them they could enjoy summer when they are grown-ups and gainfully employed - yeah, I lied).
You know, not much really going on around here. I labor under the delusion that if I step outside when the temperature is above 100 degrees, I may spontaneously combust; so we have mostly been hunkering down inside (aside from the above-mentioned forays to the local swimming hole). It's almost like being snowbound in the winter, but less fun. UNO has gotten old (actually, the kids are mad because I'm winning - spoilsports). The only excitement we've had lately is when Rachel fell into the potty. She was pretty shaken up. That should only delay her potty-training by a year or so. Anna is doing her best to remind us that she is just about 12 ("I hate summer! I hate everything!") Larry hides in the basement during her tantrums, the coward. He has also been sending away for convent boarding-school brochures.
Well, I need to get back to dehydrating chicken for Theo and Larry's backpacking trip next week. Looks, um, delicious. Really.

Friday, July 15, 2005

2 Weeks Later - July 2005

It's been a while, I know. But it's rather hard to type with one hand, and I'm actually expected to prepare dinners for my own family now, and Larry had the nerve to return to work. So...I'm a little busy. I must be putting up a good front of having my ducks in a row (ducklings, actually), as Larry is still planning to accompany Theo on a Boy Scout backpacking trip the first week of August. He calls it good exercise - I call it running away from home.
Rachel seems to have bonded with the baby somewhat. David attempted to pat Susie a week or so ago while Rachel was crooning over her in her infant seat; she (Rachel) smacked David's hand away and shouted, "Don't touch! This is Rachel's baby!" There is no font or punctuation with which I might adequately convey the peremptory way in which she said this. We don't call her the Empress for nothing, you know.

Brian and Rachel are still spending most of their spare time perfecting their whines. I try to keep them busy with playdough and Duplos and books and trips to the pool, but there always seem to be extra hours in the day (the long, hot, humid summer day) for them to work at driving me nuts. We've even included Brian in our summer-long UNO tournament by having him play open-handed (i.e., cards face up) so we can help him. That worked fine until this morning when, in the middle of a game, he said, perturbedly, "Hey! Everyone can see mine!" It bothers me he didn't figure that out until now. I had him targeted for medical school (not at all squeamish and fairly bright, I thought); but now I'm not so sure. Anyway, he wants to be a butcher. We don't know why. We don't want to know why.

David has been spending the summer being alternately ignored and ordered around. We vote him to be the kid most likely to run away from home. He has gotten very good at doing laundry and making oatmeal. I call it summer boot camp. Theo has kept himself occupied with his work at the vegetable farm, his experiments in the kitchen (he can whip up an excellent pesto now), and all the schoolwork I've decided to torture him with this summer. He is going on a practice hike this weekend, in preparation for the weeklong trip in August. What, the boys need to practice peeing in the woods? I hardly think so. This is more likely another gambit by the troop dads to escape from their wives for the weekend. And no, Larry isn't getting away with it this time. Anna (who has absolutely no desire to pee in the woods, thank goodness) has been a big help, when not at band camp or at a neighbor's house being paid to do what she does for free around here (her mother's helper business is thriving - she'll need to incorporate soon). Of course, these halcyon days may be ending, as she is less than a month away from turning twelve, and we can already feel those storm winds blowing closer, ever closer. Be very afraid....

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Beginning, June 2005

Well! It's been a month since Susie was born, so things are fairly back to normal here. I mean, if normal is no time to make dinner and laundry baskets full of clean clothes everywhere (at least they're clean) and a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old who are whining an awful lot. Let's just call it the new normal, shall we? Anyway, we didn't have enough to do around here; so we decided to take a jaunt to NJ to see my parents last week. We had to convoy, since a 7-passenger minivan simply won't seat 8 (those darn seatbelt laws, wouldn't you know); personally, I really didn't mind riding separately from the above-mentioned whining children. Susie slept three solid hours on the way up - I definitely had the better end of the deal. The way down was another story, but it can actually be rather interesting comparing all the different turnpike reststops on I-95.

Our stay at my parents' house in NJ was bearable; though Larry did seem to develop some sort of nervous tic while we were there. He kept walking around muttering "loony bin...loony bin..." under his breath. Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Matt were all glad to see the children, even the whiny ones (have I mentioned that they're whining a lot lately?); and I was glad to let the kids mess up someone else's house for a change.

Susie is spending her time sleeping, nursing, spitting up, pooping, and hiccuping. She's very good at hiccuping. I'm spending my time carrying Susie, changing Susie, nursing Susie, preventing Rachel's squeezing Susie too hard, ordering the older children around, and pretending to Larry that we're doing just fine - really. 6 children? Piece of cake! No more trouble than 5 - honest! What's a little extra laundry? When he looks doubtful, I remind him that Susie may be the child who visits him and takes care of him after I abandon him to a nursing home in his dotage. It definitely won't be David. He doesn't like us anymore, because we insist he eat his oatmeal in the morning. He claims that there may be bugs in it. I told him that's all right, because it's organic. We insist that he eat breakfast, because he usually passes on dinner - he's a vegetarian, and the dinners are generally of a carnivorous nature. Anna, on the other hand, will only eat oatmeal for breakfast and pouts (no one can pout like a 12-year-old girl - I can feel it on the back of my neck) if we occasionally have cold cereal. I think they are all trying to drive me nuts. And, yes, it's working.