Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Robbie's Story Met My Story

I didn't know Robert Wood, Jr., until I met him this past Sunday. I don't even remember how I heard the news about him, though I'm guessing it was somebody's Facebook post. What I do remember is "8 years old with autism," lost in Hanover County park. That resonated pretty hard.

As I looked at the picture of this boy, which was very quickly everywhere in my sights, I couldn't help but identify. North Anna Battlefield Park, where Robbie got lost, was a place we had visited with the girls. A family hike. I remember the picnic tables near the parking lot and the hilly terrain on the trail. There was whining about going too far, and when could we turn around and go home. Lots of trees and not many obvious markers, clearings or obvious rest stops. Years after our walk, we had to drive up to the park to rescue R, who had popped a bicycle tire on a ride in Doswell. He sat by the tree at the head of the park's driveway.

I thought about this child being in this park on a Sunday afternoon. What fun! So many places to explore. The more I read about his account, the more I thought about just what a great playground this was. A river, train tracks, quarries! When I looked at Robbie's face, I thought of two words--curious and resilient. Understanding just a bit of how a child with autism can function, I could see how he could be in the spot he was (to him, having a great time!) and how he could cope with the conditions he was in (because it probably didn't have much of an impact, in his mind).

RJ2 shares a bit of commonality with Robbie, which is why his story hit with particular strength. I could see her running off to explore. Even when you explain safe boundaries, every place you go is considered new. What are the rules? Are they the same? Being in the outdoors is about as free as life can be. Maybe there are no rules? When so much of the rest of your life revolves around schedules and sameness, being in a beautiful outdoor environment is extremely enticing. There's just so much to see. So much trouble to get into, if you only knew it was trouble.

I said to a friend that we have lost RJ2 in the house! I have no doubt that she would have spent hours at the river, and probably would have had too much of it to drink! I was hopeful that Robbie was doing the same thing. RJ2 wouldn't hesitate to pick up something that looked like a food container--used, on the ground, what. Maybe Robbie's fascination with containers landed him some nourishment. RJ2 loves to sit in the dirt or sand and just sift it through her hands. The quarry would provide ample material! One place would lead to another, and if she got bored in one, she would probably go to the other. Very much like Robbie, she doesn't understand all of the dangers in her environment. She can be really quiet when she's in her world, which is what happens in a playground, sometimes. Robbie is non-verbal, but he definitely had the means to verbally communicate if he wanted to. He must have been content for awhile.

It certainly did get to be a long week, though. Wednesday morning, while on my way to two medical appointments, I put on the radio. A woman was talking about how she had to go to work and couldn't help in the search efforts for Robbie, but she still wanted to help. She mentioned that the local fire station near the park was serving as a receiving place for donations of food for the volunteer searchers. It was a no-brainer to help in that way. With time in between my appointments, I ran to the grocery store and filled the cart with trail snacks, water and juice. I had just enough time between my last appointment and school pickup to bring the items to the fire station.

I pulled into the parking lot with another woman. She got her bags out of the car as I was unloading my trunk. My hands were full, and she closed my trunk for me. We walked in together and volunteers met us and took our bags, thanking us for our donations. We thanked them for what they were doing. As we walked out, this woman and I shared with each other just how much we had wanted to do something and were so very hopeful that the news would be different at the end of the day. Complete strangers, yet, somehow not. Have you been there? As I got in my car and stared at the local TV trucks across the fire station lawn, I cried. Just overwhelmed at all of these folks who were coming together doing whatever they were moved to do, yet still wondering how long before there was something new to say.

The rest of the week brought more volunteers with every day. The calls for prayer continued to go out. Hanover County officials remained positive and encouraging, even suggesting that Robbie would best be found at night, even with all the help. By Friday, the weather had started the bad shift we knew was coming. What would happen today? Why hadn't they found something, anything of note that would change the news. It was hard not to get humanly practical, talking about how this search-and-rescue mission could turn into a missing persons case file by the weekend.

I picked up RJ2 from school and was driving back home close to 2:30. I looked up and saw a helicopter heading north, following the path of I-95. I had been hearing helicopters all week and with each one would wonder if Robbie would be discovered. Within the half-hour, the news came out that Robbie had been found, alive and doing well--and a helicopter was air-lifting him downtown for medical treatment!

I haven't been glued to the TV over anything in a while. As TV folks were waiting for the hospital news conference, my old media relations hat came back on, waiting to hear how the hospital would describe Robbie's condition. I watched the emergency physician talking, being guarded as to how many details he could share. He could not talk about medical tests they could be running--keys that could point to how Robbie survived almost a week in the wilderness. The PR person had written statements from the parents. I knew how important keeping their privacy was and how very difficult in such a high-profile story this will be for them to do.

I'm not sure I would say that I was surprised that they found him. I really believed that this wasn't going to end with nothing. But that Robbie was alert and just roughed up.... That was really amazing to me. I was expecting "critical but stable" condition out of the hospital. But, no, he was really going to be very much OK. His resiliency definitely went beyond the scope of what I had thought, and I was so thankful!

After I posted the TV news blurb about Robbie being found, a friend posted that he was "surrounded by protecting angels." Brings some familiar words to mind:

"Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home."

Robbie's story reminded me that there are definitely dangers, toils and snares, and that we have come through a lot of things. We're still on the learning path as far as understanding autism. We still wonder--a lot--about where things are going. But his story also reminds me that Grace kept him safe, and Grace led him home.

Grace is amazing!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bowling with Barbara Manatee

We're wrapping up our week at home in which we had no company, no camps, no summer school, no R--no-thing!

We ran some short errands, to keep RJ2 venturing out into new places and to take care of things that needed to be taken care of--like back-to-school supply shopping and spending CJ's birthday gift cards. Oh, and Sweet Frog (frozen yogurt)! There was one more thing on my list--take the girls bowling.

RJ2 had such a wonderfully successful moment when she went bowling with the day camp group. CJ and I had a nice morning outing bowling, too. (Except for the Josh Grobin that they were playing that day--a whole album! Really... bowling to Josh Grobin?!) Could we all go bowling together and could this be something we could do as a family? And with cousins on our upcoming "Cousin Tour" road trip?

We are fortunate to have AMF based here in Mechanicsville, and our bowling lanes are top-notch. The company has done a lot of work to make the bowling experience family-friendly and nice. We bowl in a prototype center, really, and a corporate support center adjoins the lanes. Overall, pretty cool!

On a Friday morning, there's no league play, so things are not too busy. They assign every other lane to customers, so you don't feel like you're playing in a narrow closet. We were fitted for balls and shoes, then off to lane #26!

RJ2 was reliving her camp experience and doing a great job until we were actually ready to start bowling. She lost it for about five frames of bowling, but then recovered as if nothing had happened. I think the issue was that she needed to bowl with her new best friend....

Barbara Manatee!

Who is Barbara Manatee? Well, she's a complex character, all right. See if you can follow these threads. (It's like playing the Kevin Bacon game!):

Barbara Manatee originates with a VeggieTales' "Silly Songs with Larry" called "Endangered Love." Larry the Cucumber, watching a soap opera, sings back to his television to the lead character female in distress--singing a tango--Barbara Manatee.

For some reason, RJ2 decided to name the turquoise bear Beanie Baby Barbara Manatee. Mind you, this particular Beanie Baby bear is a special edition bear named Ariel. This Ariel was Ariel Glaser, daughter of Paul Michael Glaser [of the Starsky and Hutch TV series, circa 1975] and Elizabeth Glaser, who passed away from HIV, and the bear was named in her honor and with her artwork. CJ first received Ariel bear at her second Christmas, so the bear has been around for awhile. The Barbara Manatee name just happened a few weeks ago and led to lively discussions with RJ2 about the difference between manatees, dolphins and bears (Oh, my!). So, that's the story!

Once Barbara Manatee started bowling, things were great. AMF has ramps for the kids to use,
the computer keeps the score. We flew through two games!

The three of us are getting ready to bowl. That's actually my hand holding the ball underneath, while the other hand is driving the ramp into position. You can see Barbara Manatee's ear just over the ball.

Set.... GO!

CJ is developing a very stylish approach! (Thank you, bumpers!)

Looks like an 8--All right!

Even though the computer kept score, we weren't keeping score. With Barbara Manatee bowling, and Barbara Manatee and RJ2 bowling in my spot, and CJ bowling when RJ2 didn't want to bowl a frame, it made actually scoring kind of pointless. (HA!) And, really, who cares!


And was it excellent?

Everybody did excellent!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Camping it up with the JGirls

It was a mixed-weather Sunday. We did have sprinkles, even though had the timing all wrong. We did have thunder. Lots of thunder. More thunder than rain, perhaps, though it did manage to pour a little bit. Every little bit helps!

What are the JGirls to do to cap off the weekend--with no summer school or any obligations on Monday?....

Camp-out in the Family Room!

No, that's not a television evangelist on the screen. That's Bobby Flay from Food Network. One of CJ's favorite shows is "Food Network Star," and Sunday night's show was the "Final 4" episode, leading up to the finale next weekend. Camping, Food Network AND staying up late to watch the whole show?!

She could hardly wait.

Even though she spent her earliest days in front of "Emeril Live," RJ2 is not a big fan of Food Network, nor of most television in general. She prefers to watch kid programs on her computer, "rewinding" as often as necessary to her favorite parts. So, she opted to have "Crazy Hair Day" with her Play-Doh friends...

...who then have to take the bus to school.

We started turning off the lights at 8:30, with the last ones out at 10...

(--after they let Mary Beth Albright go--Boo hoo! But the food writer just couldn't cook well enough to hang in there for the finale. Oh well. I think Food Network General Manager Bob Tuschman should use her as a companion commentator with Kevin Brauch for "Iron Chef America." Yeah, yeah, it's one more star/idol competition show that I wasn't supposed to be watching....)

Shortly after 6:20 a.m.

RJ2 was up first, very quietly whispering to her beanie baby bear, Barbara Manatee. Then came the click of the flashlight and CJ opening the pages of a book. This was followed by my turning on the light and grabbing the....

...which lasted for about five minutes, until RJ2 emerged from the tent with a mission to create pillow structures. The first was a pillow stack at my feet. Then, it was "Fort Mom."

After being pressed by pillows, it was time to press some coffee!

A good night was had by all. (And a dry tent indoors is much more fun to put away than a wet tent outdoors.) Nice job, JGirls!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

So, when I left my last post--after the Water Country USA experience--I thought for sure the girls were on their way to bed. "Ha-ha-no-no-no," I thought, in my best Tim Taylor head voice.

No. About the time I was wrapping up my last words, CJ decided it would be a great time to launch her own hair salon.

She's tough to say "no" to when she comes with all her products.

But, it was all about RJ2 agreeing to have her hair played with, and that's not something that comes easily all the time. Most days, you have 15 seconds to get through tangles! Her sister has the right touch, apparently, and RJ2 received a full treatment.

Hair clip bonanza AND glitter nails?! Too bad this was all right before bedtime. No sooner had I snapped these shots than we were taking the clips out of her hair and brushing teeth.

The creative play rolled right into the next day--when Mom and Dad were definitely not up for doing anything.

CJ has had a thing for blanket tents for a very long time. One year for Christmas, I decided to assemble a "kit" for making blanket tents. I had seen one in a catalog and thought I could put one together for a bit less with no shipping costs. She got two shower curtains with extension hooks (which I sewed out of leftover bias tape), nylon rope and clothespins.

Most of the designs she tries out in her bedroom. The last one involved her sleeping in her closet with curtains overhead, fastened to her dresser. She hasn't had an elaborate one downstairs until this weekend.

"Yes, peek-a-boo back at you. And, no, you can't sleep here tonight!"

We have been moving bedroom pillows, stuffed animals and blankets up and down the stairs for three days, now. But, "girls don't seem to care...." to quote a Steely Dan song, and we find them here regularly--talking, reading, singing, arguing, playing with toys, watching videos off the computer....

"Please, Mom...don't make us take it down...."

(Sigh....So cute!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Livin' in the Country

Water Country USA, that is....

Back in June, CJ celebrated her birthday and received a very special gift--passes to Water Country USA, a dedicated water park (owned by SeaWorld) in Williamsburg. CJ and R went last year and discovered a sweet deal for residents of Virginia who return to the park after a visit: Free entry! (minus parking and any extras). So, they had a second visit, and CJ has talked semi-nonstop about the place ever since.

Especially, just before her birthday this year. (Hint! Hint!)

She counted down the days 'til the opening of the 2011 season, even writing the numbers on our kitchen blackboard and "Opening Day!" when that rolled around. Needless to say, receiving a pass to her favorite summer attraction made her birthday. But it wasn't just a pass for her. It was a pass for all four of us! Wow.... We were all going to the water park this summer. Yeah! Uh-huh. Oh....gee....

Water Country has spectacular features. If you like going down steep hills on rafts, inner tubes, foam mats or just your bathing suit, you will love the assortment of attractions. For someone brand new to the water park experience, not a swimmer and not a fan of going into new places, Water Country loomed as one more "dark, spooky closet" to check out for RJ2. Still, water rat that she is, we figured she love it.

R and I picked a date with time in advance to prepare. We told RJ2 we were going the week of. CJ took the visual schedule one step further and prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the park. [Would I ever kid you? I would post if Blogger had that option.] So, RJ2 had ample preparation for the big day. We laid out her swimsuit the night before. It's not every day you wake up and put on your swimsuit right after breakfast!

Of course, because this is how things happen in life, the afternoon before had brought one of our worst neighborhood pool outings this season. Too complicated a series of events in dynamics to explain, let's just say, we left early and no one was happy--no one! Was seriously hoping that today was a new day--in every respect!

We left the house in great shape--picnic lunches packed, suits on, sunscreen waiting to be applied. Got to the park in great time and spirits. Made it to the front gate. Then, a stumble! Even though we had told RJ2 there would be no "going inside" and it was only a gate, we were stuck. She could not get passed the blaring soundtrack coming through the loudspeakers. Steps away from fun--even access to the quick lanes, with our passes--but we couldn't budge.

We regrouped, moving to a less loud position and offering to cover her ears. She wanted so badly to just get beyond it. Then, as she has proven so many times this summer, she just said OK. And, screaming most of the way, we went through the gate. [Breathe....Breathe!] It was smooth sailing from there.

Today was supposed to be 101 in central VA. Crazy day to have picked to be at the water park! Lots of other folks had the same idea. But, it worked so well. We arrived at the opening, so we had our pick of the pools to play in, and everyone had a good time. R and CJ went off to ride on the larger flumes. RJ2 loved exploring the different pools, their mini-slides, little boats. Fountains, not so much! The freedom to explore shallow water was just the best.

After a trip down the park's Lazy River--two-person blow-up boats that move very slowly around a segment of the park--we broke for lunch. Then, we closed out the afternoon with the Hubba Hubba Highway and the wave pool. The wave pool has calm water for 8 or 9 minutes and constant waves for another 8 or 9 minutes. Cool! Then, we returned to the car, five hours from when we had started, and left for an uneventful drive back home. We figure the girls will soon fall asleep [yeah, right!], being so tired from a long, exciting day, while we're wondering how we are still awake--because we are tired--and why our legs and knees ache!

Looking back, by far, we had the biggest smiles on the Hubba Hubba Highway. Unlike the Lazy River, we donned life vests before entering this river ride, as the current moves at a strappin' pace! Jets shoot water from the sides--to keep the folks moving around the very long track--as well as from the bottom, occasionally and surprisingly! [Insert slightly embarrassed giggle here. Think Fraulein Maria sitting on the pine cone in the Von Trapp dining room.]

Various types of squirting devices and misters spray water on the participants as they quickly pass by. Signs, a la Burma Shave days, cover the sides of the track. We had the best time, zipping along, grabbing hands when we could, trying to steer against the current. Even RJ2, by the third time around, didn't mind getting rained on! She loved the feeling of freedom, even as she was moving much faster than she could control things.

I was really hoping that our adventure would turn out to be special family time. We don't get to go to "big" places together very often. But our time on the Hubba Hubba Highway--and spending a super-hot day in a wonderfully cool, wet water park--together, will be remembered and talked about for weeks to come.

Although there were so many "picture perfect" memories, we didn't want to bring a camera into the park. Just too much to think about with doing that. So, there are no actual pictures of our visit. But, since it's hard for me to blog without a photo....

I made one.

Greetings from Water Country USA! 'Til next time....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crumblin' Down

Artwork by CJ

Last week was so incredibly busy! The whole family was split up!! Even though R traveled more miles by flying, I felt like my east side-west side-all around the town pick-ups and drop-offs surely must have come close. Wow.... Things didn't really come to a pace of relaxation until after Sunday's bell-playing concluded. Enjoyed a very "regular" day today. Whew!....

Amidst the bustle of our busiest week this summer, there was a lot of cooking done last week. The gluten-free pantry was a bit bare. Even though I complained about having so much bread in the fridge, I copped the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and made some gluten-free bread! Helped to finish off some cold cuts and condiments. (HA!) The best part about this was deciding to try the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Bread mix--the best gluten-free bread I have had so far. Loved every single slice--especially toasted, but, not necessarily. That's how good it was! (Now, today, I made a mistake and bought K.A. G-F FLOUR mix. OOPS! Fortunately, K.A. has directions for making bread with the flour mix on their website. Of course, it's not as good as the bread mix. Doh!!)

R left us three of his bananas when he left town. RJ2 helped me make some very tasty G-F banana muffins--half with chocolate chips. She eats one of those every day!

And with the cool breeze blowing--yes, this was last week, when the cool breeze was blowing, and I was cooking like it was Fall outside!--I peeled up the last apples from the beach trip and whipped up a crumble. Because, any day can be a crumble day! (And I think some of last week's truly were. "Crumblin', crumblin' -- dowwwwwnnnnnn.....")

Grabbed the last of the strawberries and tossed them in. (I love this gadget! I asked for a strawberry huller for my birthday, and this crazy syringe-looking thing is the coolest huller ever. Works great on tomatoes as well. And, since strawbs season is wrapping up, it's getting much more use with tomatoes now.)

Last of a bag of frozen raspberries? Sure, why not. Dried cherries. Oh, yeah!

And the crumble part--G-F oats, brown sugar, butter....

You know when it's done when the juices overrun the sides. No, not really, but.... YUM! Have been enjoying it with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt--trying to use up both, actually. What really makes it is being able to heat it up, to re-live the just-out-of-the-oven experience. Unfortunately, the microwave is shot, and I just don't feel like heating up one more thing on the stove at the end of the day. But, it's fine cold, too. (Gosh, we really did used to heat up things without microwaves once. So spoiled!)

* * *

One more apple story....

Our neighbors planted an apple tree in their front yard a couple of years ago. It is a really nice tree now but, they have struggled with keeping their fruit. No, not a bug problem. Not a mold/fungus problem. Not even a kid problem! No, the squirrels have pretty much claimed the tree theirs. Most nights, while we're eating dinner, I spot a squirrel with a huge chunk of bright green in his mouth. You would think he would dine at the source. But, no, it's take-out, every night--on top of our swing set!

We have since found parts of apples stashed all over the yard. I found a large uneaten one buried under a pile of leaves! But, the funniest find so far has been the one that was left on the swing set the other night.

Mrs. Cardinal, enjoying herself some apple crumble....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rainout at the Diamond

One of the small nuggets of excitement in this town in the past few years has been the return of minor league baseball to Richmond. The Richmond Flying Squirrels have provided great evenings of fun since making here in central VA. Recall last summer's awesome Fourth of July fireworks night in which we received Chick-fil-A coupons for sandwiches when a Squirrel hit a ball into the "fowl" pole. Sweet!

Last Friday night, R and CJ had tickets for the game. They were hopeful to see Bryce Harper, a young phenom who has been playing for the Harrisburg Senators--a farm club of the Washington Nationals, our root-root-root for the home team. The Senators were to play the Squirrels, and Friday night was the start of the home stand. Except for this....

Even though the P.A. announcers were optimistic that baseball would be played, the radar map suggested something quite different. No, there would be no baseball. In fact, many hours later, R would discover that Bryce Harper was not even at the Squirrels' ballpark on Friday. He had been whisked away by management to another event on the west coast! Even if a pitch had commenced, Bryce Harper would not have been there to take a whack at one.

The Friday night outing was not a total loss, however, as ice cream was enjoyed in the stands, under that umbrella. And, CJ was inspired to write something really special....

Flashing lightning is the spotlight
for raindrops that dance in tap shoes.


they perform on a silver Acura
frozen at an intersection with a taco bell and a drug store
a sign flashes with a discount for shampoo


she sighs inside the car,
wrings out a pair of socks
and remembers:
waiting in a pair of green seats
for a game to begin that never will.
Under the shelter of a white and green umbrella
as more performers stream down from the heavens
their entrance proclaimed by drum rolls of thunder
climbing up dirty waterfalls on the stairs
wading through pools of puddles by the golden light of cars....
the light turns green
the stage moves elsewhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Know When to Fold 'em

It was the best of days. It was the worst of days.

Dickens knew something of the range of human emotion. But, what did he know about playing cards?

At the beach, I was "forced" into a hand of Texas Hold 'em--a kind of straight poker, but the dealer deals the cards to all to consider, not just to you. "Forced" in that someone in the family who was playing had to attend to another matter, and I was a body who walked into the wrong place at the right time. I'm not a good card player. And, those games that I have tried to learn recently have rules that completely conflict with straight poker, which I haven't played since, probably high school. Anyhoo....

In poker, there are very few rounds in which to make decisions. You are dealt a certain hand and have to decide how many rounds you will stay in to make the best hand possible when it's time for the big reveal. As Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em." Sometimes, you have to end your game early. "There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."

If you're following me on Facebook, you know this has been a bit of a tough week. The girls are both in summer programs, which were meant to be fun. CJ absolutely loves her creative arts classes at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. She finishes up her studio time on Friday afternoon, and it will be a sad "so long" until we can find another something to send her to downtown. She is so full creatively, and I'm thinking this burst of energy will carry her straight into the start of school, so long as she continues to use what she has learned. She has lots of materials and ideas. Writer's block? Maybe never again! Good stuff!!

After summer school, RJ2 has been attending the county's day camp program. Things have not worked out as well, unfortunately. High highs--like walking into the bowling alley and bowling for the very first time! But, low lows, too. Things are new. People are new. Same environment, but different schedule. Just not able to work things out in this short time span. Last night in my FB post, it boiled down to those lyrics.

The dealer had given out the cards, and I know what makes for a winning hand. But, RJ2 is chance. The first cards had not even a pair. The dealer laid down the next card. An ace of hearts, for sure, in a hand that showed promise for raising. But, again, RJ2 is chance, and the next card left an empty hand once again.
No one else was raising, but did it make better sense to fold, leaving with what chips we had earned this week or to stay in and look at the next card?

Decided to fold and walk away. Not run.... Lots of people had made an investment into this week, and running wouldn't be right. We're going to finish out the camp week--with ice cream today. But, the uphill learning curve, the anxiety, the lack of happiness on everyone's faces.... It was time to fold and walk away.

Hard for me, being the one just playing the hand. I can't see over the dealer's shoulder much less direct chance by seeing the cards in the stack. But, I still have to hold the cards and play the hand. Sometimes, the best move for all really is to fold and walk. I still struggle with that, because it seems like I really have left the game early. But, there's a cost to consider, and I decided it just wasn't worth it, this time....

There will be another chance to ante up sometime. There are lots of tables at which to play. Not looking for one with better odds, necessarily, but one at which we can all play and leave with a few more chips than at the table we played before.

Friday, July 8, 2011


As much as I try to prepare for going away--lists and multiple errands and such, there are always things I have in mind to do that don't get done. Like, washing the windows or cutting the girls' hair.

Really, the haircuts should have been moved up closer to the top of the list, given how much hair you see on the floor! (And that's only RJ2's hair!) By the end of our time at the beach, her hair was almost completely covering her eyes.

Yeah, you mean there are eyes under there?

Not a fan of the haircut, RJ2 did get to pick which room in the house she wanted her hair cut, and picked the empty dining room. (CJ, on the other hand, always picks a room in which she has access to the TV. "Chopped" during her, um, chop, I guess.) RJ2 definitely does not have my hair, in that hers is super thick. It takes a long time to do it well (that being a subjective term).

After I brushed her off, she quickly ran to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Then, in her way of styling, put water on the front pieces to part and flatten as she likes it. Hmm..... So glad it's trimmed for the summer, finally!

CJ's is trimmed, too. Long, long, long--as in, almost time to consider a send-off for donation. Having hair more like mine makes it a little quicker to cut. But, it's harder to make it a smooth look all the way around when you don't have as much hair to play with. She would rather I just leave it all be until donation time. A little trim every now and again will help it meet that 8-inch requirement sooner. I'm thinking she might make 10 inches this next time. Woo!

Besides still trying to get the house back together, I've been trying to find ways to clean out the fridge. When we return from the beach house, our house is the place that receives the leftovers from the beach fridge. The leftover meal items tend to go quickly, as do pantry snacks and any desserty items that weren't consumed at breakfast on check-out day. The problem is with the accumulated condiments. If I tagged my posts, I could find the one that talks about condiments. They are a challenge.

As much as I don't want to make too much new food, sometimes it's a necessity, just to finish off the condiments--which, I have been told by my sisters, do not last forever. ("Don't put those in a box and bring them to the beach next year!" I sense some kind of George Carlin bit developing here....)

So, I made potato salad for dinner, with leftover mayonnaise and mustard, and fresh rosemary from our little herb collection. Nothing spectacular, but it used up a half-finished jar of mayo--yes!! I also made RJ2 homemade cinnamon French toast sticks out of the plethora of bready items that have accumulated. This is when being gluten-free is really tough. So much bread. So many leftovers I can't finish.

"Throw it out!"
"But you can't eat it."
"So. I can make it into...something someone else can eat."
(The look)
"I can make bread...cookies! Yeah...."

Watch me! (gulp!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crafty Fun

Settling back into routine after another amazing family vacation week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ah.... Mounds of dirty laundry folded and put away now affords me a few minutes to sit down and recall yesterday.

RJ2 has started summer school, which, after two days--and two alarm clocks that have gone unanswered in the morning--is going as well as can be expected. She starts Parks and Recreation camp next week in addition to school, so she's got lots of fun and busy days in store.

CJ and I went to church yesterday to help with the "Mix as Usual" program. "Mix" is a neat thing. Older women in the church mentor younger women in crafty endeavors, like sewing, knitting and card-making. They also enjoy food and fellowship time. During this past year, I was one of their childcare helpers, freeing up the moms to fully participate unencumbered by leg-huggers.

The summer "Mix" offering is open to moms and their kids. CJ and I each facilitated a craft table, two of five presented to the group. CJ operated "Crayon Cupcakes," her well-known project of turning broken crayons into recycled cupcake-shaped crayons for giving to the Free Market--an outreach program benefiting an impoverished segment of Richmond needing a hands-up with basic needs. CJ wants those children to be able to be creative, and she hopes these crayons are a tool to help them.

I manned an origami table, using all of CJ's resources! Actually, when CJ's table wasn't busy--and, even when it was--I asked her to come over to demonstrate some origami projects I hadn't prepared but the kids requested doing. She was WONDERFUL in handling all of these kids' requests. Such a fun demeanor she has with these little ones--even making paper airplanes. (Hard to believe that's actually in the origami book!)

A great time was had by all who came out. Moms were peeling crayons and pretty much exhausted CJ's supply. You can see the results above, to be added to a collection CJ has already started. I helped two girls make several different projects, and then sent links of helpful origami sites home to the moms for more fun.

The best moment was when a young boy asked to make a rocket. Had no instructions for an origami rocket. But, the instructions for the frog had a picture halfway through that resembled a rocket. What a wonderful display of creative thinking in this one. He took the instructions that far and had a great rocket! A made-my-day moment!!

OK. Thunder is picking up. Still some laundry to fold. Off for now....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday's mail is here!

Quick update, since there's not much time left in today....

Fridays are always great. The schedule gets lax, though, as we spend an extra long time with everything--beach time, pool time, meals, family pictures, and the dreaded packing up to go home. So, I have to keep it short and get ready to pack up some food and stuff!

RJ2 enjoyed another splendid day at the beach--sitting in a bed of shells (which she really, really likes!) and throwing wet sand into the ocean. CJ was on the board and really didn't want to get off it! That's her with my Dad in the video. (As for me, I have video of my boogie board run on my Facebook page, thanks to a link from my sister.)

Like I said, keepin' it simple. I'm beat!! Slow trip home tomorrow.....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday's mail is here....

Warmest water at the beach so far this week. Too bad I was too tired to fight the waves today. But, as you can see, there was much fun to be had hanging out in the sand.

If you remember from yesterday, we're still working on "48-hour Family Restaurant Challenge." You could feel it was boys day today, as Grandpa sent the guys to the beach in the morning, so they would be ready to cook in the afternoon. The attack forts and safety moats went up quickly! RJ2, meantime, was enjoying a sand bath!

R and I got to go on a lunch date. The "Tailgate" dinner the boys prepared was a lot of fun and crazy delicious! (Even gluten-free breaded chicken! My family is spoiling me with gluten-free entrees and specials this week.) Kids finished out the night drawing chalk pictures on the driveway.

CJ went out shopping with the girls this morning; brought home a sweet bracelet (and some kind of tattoo!) RJ2 lost a tooth! She was so proud to celebrate. "Everyone, give a hand!" as she likes to say. And everyone did.

As I probably say every year, I can't believe it's the last full day at the beach tomorrow--already!?!! Looking forward to going all-out on the hottest day to come....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday's mail is here!

If you have read my beach posts before, you know my family is pretty creative when it comes to having fun at the beach. (I know. As if the beach isn't fun in and of itself!)

We are playing "48-hour Family Restaurant Challenge." A bunch of Food Network fanatics we are! This isn't a competition, but the exhibition is just as exciting. Grandma took the girls and Grandpa took the guys. Each team of kids is to create their own restaurant--complete with decor, staffing and, of course, menu items for dinner. They have to cook and serve!

The girls were on tonight. We all enjoyed dinner at "The Salty Dog Cafe," and the service was terrific! (CJ opted to write a review of the dining experience; perhaps we can post that later.)

Otherwise today, one crew went off crabbing while the rest of us went back to the beach for an afternoon of excellent boogie-boarding. (I took one wave all the way into shore, baby--yeah!) Kids got ice cream off the truck. A morning shower was a welcome period of downtime. It's been a wonderful week so far.

OK, guys tomorrow night....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday's mail is here!

My brother-in-law started the day with homemade French toast and bacon (not that I could have the French toast, but it looked great). He and my sister finished with these amazing kabobs! The family food has been marvelous. The weather is crazy warm, but the breeze kicks in every now and again.

Tuesday will go down in my memory as the day I rode the boogie board for the first time! It wasn't the old raft that we used to take to the Jersey shore in my pre-teen days. But, the technique is all the same, and it really did all come back like riding a bike. I had the best time!! As I was bringing the board back in, R asked, "Had enough?" I said, "Well, actually, it's kind of addictive." I'm hoping to venture back out into the waves tomorrow. Freeing and fun!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday's mail is here....

The water continues to be warm and the surf continues to be vigorous for excellent boogie-boarding! Discovered that we can watch the family's surfers in the ocean while eating lunch at the counter in the home kitchen. Excellent! Hot-tubbing and a storm today. More warm water on the way!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday's mail is here!

Golly, is it beautiful here! Water temperature is perfect, which is good since every kid seems to be further and further out to sea! Growing up and playing hard!! It's fun to watch. Lots of swimming, too, and another fantastic sunset. Looking forward to more of the same for Monday....

Saturday's Mail

My anklet is securely fastened. Trip down went great. Beautiful house with a marvelous view of the ocean. Kids went night swimming--all 9 of them! Can't wait to feel the sand and surf in the AM!

Friday, June 24, 2011

What a Friday!

Best blueberry picking ever! 20 pounds in about 45 minutes. Really superb crop (at Swift Creek Berry Farm) and good-enough conditions (as in, not sweltering!). My niece has just finished up baking two blueberry pies as I'm writing this. Gluten-free blueberry coffee cake (a la Chatty Kelly) tomorrow morning.

The cousins did a great job.

We had a water break at the car before heading off for something really cool....

No waiting at the Short Pump Sweet Frog. Everyone enjoyed some yummy treats. And, we found out that frozen yogurt places seem to be sweeping the country, with everyone mentioning the name of a different place! Bring it on--more places to visit, in more places!

Today was the very, very last day of Wild and Wacky Waterworks. CJ was invited to come back to help next summer as a junior counselor. She'll have this lovely photo to remember her experience.....

Note the special jump rope they gave her. Not sure how I'm getting today's spitted dirt out of her shirt. (Spitted out of a super soaker. Don't be gross!)

The cousins couldn't wait to get together to play dance games on the wii. The video of this is much better than the still. They have amazing coordination for not practicing together. (And if you accept RJ2 as a soloist.)

Later on, RJ2 and cousin M sought out a new place to play--the open hatch of the Volvo, being prepared for packing for the beach. Ah, if only we could drive down to the Outer Banks with you two in the back....

The driveway is completely covered with greetings, name lists and fun phrases. You can just sense the [over-]excitement everywhere. It must be time for vacation.

And as the sun sets on Friday, we know that the landscape come tomorrow will change dramatically. Can't wait. If technology goes in our direction, we'll give you a peek. If not, we'll see you in a week!.....