August Begins with an "A"

Guess what other month begins with an "A?"
That's right-- APRIL.

Millie made Americanized Kung Pao for the first time, and she, Susannah, and I fell in love. Who cares about the rest of the family?!

One of my children thinks it's strange that I take pictures of the dead birds they find. It's my small memorial, though, so here.

(Why, don't mind if I do!)

I looked out the window one rainy day to see Zeke's clever love for John Wayne.

Here we go loopty loo; here we go loopty li.  Happy April, everyone!

These Boots Were Made for Walking

She dresses herself now.

Bet you didn't guess that.

First Flowers

Now that we're enjoying the last flowers, here are the first.

April Birthday Showers, Or, Our Fool on the First

Part of the reason for taking a flood of snapshots in one month is that April  is birthday-heavy on Mt. Hunger. We celebrate four birthdays plus Dude's birthday, which results in April unfolding as four straight weeks of cake, ice cream, and decadent breakfasts. Not a bad way to ring in spring...

As per (new) tradition, Annika spent the day of her birthday with John four hours away from home, visiting the Durkee-Pooles and running the Sloppy Fools trail run while the rest of us moped about waiting for their return.

The Sloppy Fools was her first race ever last year, so this year she was an old hand. Not only did John run it with her, but Owen made the trek, too, which made it even more exciting (if you can imagine). The only thing that could make the race better is if all her friends and family ran it, too. I think Owen is just the first in her scheme to trap everyone in the mud on April 1st.

Aaaad, I have no pictures.

But here are some from the day after she and John got home!

Zeke and some of the other children wrapped up little gifts for her. Ezekiel had individually wrapped some especially good-looking rocks. I was impressed by his wrapping abilities.

Annika was first in her age group (not hard to do when there aren't too many teenage girls running), and she got a gift certificate for a local running supply store. She picked out a green hat, which made this year's race even more exciting.

Birthday breakfast:
peach caramel rolls, sausage, eggs

Giant candle.

Birthday supper was probably spicy chicken bread bowls or enchiladas, but it doesn't matter because her dessert was cheeeeesecake.

I love cheesecake as much as she does.

A few days later-- don't get confused by her continuing to wear her new favorite outfit-- Grandma and Grandpa Owen came over to celebrate again, and she received more camo gear. At long last, she owns more than one tattered t-shirt.

And THEN they pulled out the big gift. Just so you know, when I heard this might be an option, I suggested they wait for a benchmark year, perhaps 16 or 18, but Grandma Owen would not be swayed. She said that Annika had helped so much with their move that she deserved a....

A....What's this?!  A box that says "Genesis Archery" on it? Whatever could be inside?!!!

I love this picture because Annika didn't notice the writing and was utterly surprised to open the box

and find this.

Then she tackled Dude and Dudette.

(I'm not kidding.)

In this picture, I'm pretty sure Dudette is drowning out my sputters and protests by explaining just why buying her a bow wasn't outrageous and over-the-top and just what a good deal it was.

But I'm still right.



Then we pulled a cake from thin air to celebrate Dude's birthday, which is only three days after Annika's. Happy birthday, Dude!  (Wait, how come HE didn't get a bow?)

We gave him a giant candle, instead.

And, to top off this long post, here is what made this year's Sloppy Fools race the race that no other race will ever eclipse. In addition to grinning her way through the whole race, visiting with friends, and getting a green hat, this year there was a raffle for the attendees with a pair of new trail sneakers as the prize.

Guess who won the raffle?
When the sneakers arrived, the kind man who organizes the race also included a code for her to register for next year's race for free because it's her birthday.


I'm going to start smiling more.

And she's putting those sneakers to good use.

Do Often Go Awry

Seed-starting this year was an albatross on my shoulders, and when I finally found the gumption to tackle it, I deliberately did so in the afternoon after the three littlest were put to bed for naps, congratulating myself that I would finish swiftly without all the little helpers in my midst.

Ten minutes later, who plodded into the kitchen but a little helper.

And I just couldn't resist her.

20 Snapshots for My 20th Birthday

WAIT a minute!

That's weird. Zeke and Piper were 20 years off with their birthday mud cakes for me.
(Homeschooled kids. I don't know who teaches them math, but she should probably be fired.)

So I turned 40 20 this year, and it wasn't a big deal, at all. Over the years, my enthusiasm for birthdays has shifted completely from my own to those of my children because, honestly, adult birthdays are nowhere near as fun.

I was excited, however, that John had my birthday off and was going to take me on a date! I'll snatch any excuse to spend time away from home with that bearded Heart of mine, even a 40th 20th birthday.

We drove to Syracuse and walked around and window-shopped before eating lunch, and just when I thought we were heading home, John pulled up to an antique shop, where we spent the next couple of hours. We browsed through every last room on every last floor, and there were four floors, so it took a while. Then we stopped for coffee on the way home. Bliss!  I spilled half a latte all over my lap, and the resulting stain looked suspicious, but it didn't matter because we were on our way home, at last, and no one would see a thing.

Excepting, maybe, all these weirdos who jumped out at us when we got home. (It's probably a good thing that in the rush, the girls forgot to invite several groups of people. Less latte-pants embarrassment.)

John does not like birthdays and never has. Even as a child, his mother used his birthday to justify cake, but the birthday boy could not have cared less. My birthday usually passes without much fanfare. Some years, I get a present or ten; some years I get none (but get flowers and gifts on commonplace days on which I expect nothing).  This lack of enthusiasm for pomp and circumstance spills over into holidays, too, which makes our partnership comical around those times because I seek out all the frills and flourishes. We avoid each other on any holiday eve, as our separate approaches can be a bit jarring to the senses. 

All this to explain why I would never, in a million years, have expected a surprise birthday party. 


In a million years.

Millie, that girl bending over the hot oven, is the most to blame for this surprise party, and Susannah and Annika were her two right hands (even though you wouldn't know it to look at Annika below....ha!).

When John and I left around ten o'clock, the house was trashed in its typical way, and the littlest were still wandering around in nightclothes. When we returned mid-afternoon, the house was clean (and decorated!), everyone was dressed, and party food was prepped and ready for finishing touches. I still don't know how they managed it, apart from flying Mary Poppins in with her bag of tricks.

So the whole point of this post is really to honor and gush over my children, who pulled off a massive heart-attack-inducing party, all on their own, without their clueless mama having the least whiff of it. It was such fun and a deep pleasure to see everyone gathered together, their delight mirrored by my delight, and all the suppressed excitement finally able to explode out into the sunlight. What a wonderful day. What a wonderful group of people.

While at our house for supper the week before, Mopsy had commented that her fingers were in pain. Because she was also experiencing the symptoms that we later learned were cancer, I was a bit concerned and mystified.

Well, opening this hand-crocheted rug unlocked the Painful Hands Mystery in a split second.

Isn't it beautiful?! I just couldn't believe it, and am still a bit fearful of walking on it.

Everyone's gifts thoughtfully chosen and just what I would buy for myself (if I did such a thing).

To explain these pictures, Lucinda made me a small jar of homemade tinted lip balm, an enticing shade of rosy red. All the little girls wanted in.

My favorite pair of earrings!!!

A book I will gush about to anyone who visits!!! And this goes to show that it pays to gush about an exceptional book to your friends, because one of them will then buy you the book for your 20th birthday. :)  (It's less expensive on Amazon, but this link shows some of the illustrations. Buy it. Just buy it now.)

FIVE MORE CADBURY EGGS to bring my holiday total to almost TWENTY! Plus, another exceptional book!

And then a dessert and a little-boy-wish-thief to round out the day.

Thank you, my girls, and thank you, family and friends, for surrounding me with love and warmth. Poof!  And a big thank you to Rebecca for taking and sharing all these pictures of the day, along with a second thank you for not taking a picture of my latte-stained pants before I scurried upstairs to change them.