Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Another word for Disorder

We have a routine.  

On Monday and Thursday the Littles
and the Middles...

bring the dirty laundry out to the garage
(hot hot hot in Summer
bitter cold in Winter
with very little in-between)
where they sort it into:

Laundry is a lesson in:
art - (colors)
math - (division, grouping)
science - (texture, fabric type, stain type, heat)
chemistry - (soaps, bleaches, oxygen cleaners, properties of water, chocolate and mud)

and if I wait too long
to fold clothes,
its a great lesson


Monday, August 8, 2016

Auntie Joyce

Have I ever introduced you to Joyce?

We call her Auntie Joyce, and she is family.

There is no bloodline.
There are no adoption papers.

But she has been with our family since nearly the beginning, and certainly B.C. (before critters).  When Guy and I had been married less than a year, Joyce and I began speaking by phone about a job opportunity before we ever met in person.  Guy and I both eventually worked for Joyce as substitutes in Special Education in Sonoma County (really for the schools, but Joyce was our tiny Big Boss).  Each morning, sometime after 5am, the phone would ring and a cheery voice would sweetly say, "Good morning, this is Joyce!" as she gave us our assignments for that day.  
Best.  Wake-up calls. Ever.

Joyce was a part of our special day when I went into labor with Ethan.  In fact, she placed the call to let Guy know it was time!  Though I stopped working to stay home with our growing brood, I would often take the kiddos to visit Joyce at her office.  Christmas became a special time for us, and has endured as a lovely tradition that my children look forward to as we now travel from Sacramento to Joyce's house in Santa Rosa for "Second Christmas", even if it has to wait until February!

I have to explain something about Joyce.  She is THE single strongest woman I have ever met.  Her life has presented her with challenges that few are called on to endure, but she is a rock, a powerhouse, a pillar of strength.  She never quits, never wimps out and never complains or makes excuses, no matter how hard things get.  Yet her heart is one of the most tender I've ever known.


At the beginning of June we made a trip to see Joyce and Francine.  After our beach-going with Francine, we headed over to see Joyce.  It was meant to be a cheerful "re-do" of our last trip, when unfortunately we all got the flu within hours of our arriving to her house.  But this time, only a few hours into our visit, I received a frightening phone call that Ethan's three best friends had been in a terrible car accident.  Out of respect to those dear families' privacy, I will only mention that we eventually learned that two of the three young men lost their lives.  

When the call first came, my heart stopped.  Ethan had planned to be with them that night, but what I didn't know yet was that he had ended up working late and hadn't gone.

We gathered together in Joyce's living room to pray for the families of those boys, and for Ethan, who was back at home doing what he could to be supportive to them.

Joyce cried right along with us that night.  

She loves Ethan, and was heartbroken for him, and for those families.  She opened her home for us to stay a day longer than we had planned, and cheerfully occupied the kids with snacks, movies and ice cream sundaes while I spent many hours on the phone trying to reach the boys families to let them know what had happened, and many more hours in a daze.  

In the first month after the accident, I don't think an hour went by that my heart had not walked with those mothers and fathers from afar in the shadow of their grief.  I have no place in it, really, but as a mother I have wet my pillow, and often my sleeve, as I pray for them. It is not my desire at all to make this about us.  I honor those young men and their families.

I talked to Joyce on the phone today, more than 2 months since the accident.  We cried again.  She feels everything so deeply and loves us all so beautifully.  She feels the hearts of all mothers, and has mothered me through so many trials.  

I wish every one could have Aunty Joyce.
But since not everyone can,
I will love her for all of you.

Every time we drive away, 
Joyce stands on her porch to wave goodbye to us.  
I wish we could scoop her up and take her home with us.
But if we can't, at least I get to have this sweet face in my mind's eye
to carry home with me instead.


In loving memory of those two great young men.
They are deeply missed and greatly loved.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Saving Something for the Way Back

There are a few things that changed in my life after having 4 massive DVTs in 6 months.  One is a disorder called PTS, or Post Thrombotic Syndrome.  When the blood clots were in my leg, they held the delicate butterfly-wing-thin valves in my veins open, eventually damaging them.  These valves have the special job of keeping the blood that is being pumped up out of your feet and legs from immediately falling back down and pooling in lower points.  The sluggish blood flow increases the risk of another blood clot, and the overall result is a heaviness and constant tingling/buzzing in my leg, the foot getting very hot or very cold, and often dull or sharp pains.  My lucky leg gets tired way sooner than my good leg.  Lucky, because it still works, and I'm blessed either way.

To combat the symptoms of the PTS, I wear a very sexy compression sleeve on my lower leg.  It is Oh-So-Hot Bandaid-Beige, and looks muy guapa.  To forestall another clot, I take large amounts of blood thinners.  They tried regular amounts, but I grew 3 more blood clots, so, uh, yah, bigger dose is better, baby.  The have no impact on my health or the way I feel, except if I were to get cut badly, well... let's just say we try to avoid that.

I don't climb ladders, don't use sharp knives for complicated cuts, and I gave up sword juggling and walking on broken glass in my circus act.  

I'm careful.  That's all.

Back in June we went on a weekend away to visit Francine and Joyce in Sonoma County.
We headed to famed Bodega Bay, where the birds do NOT attack people anymore.  We even drove right past the church and old school house from the movie.  Interestingly, the people no longer run through the streets screaming there, either.  They just walk real normal-like.

The kids did what kids do, of course, when there is sand and water to spare.  It was a warm, sunny day with a calm breeze and, well, cold water.  You can't have it all.  It's not Southern California, after all.

Francine brought shovels and buckets and totes, and we all played in a way that only the beach encourages.  I can't imagine plunking myself down on the wet dirt in our back yard to play like that.

There was a long breakwater at the mouth of the bay leading to the ocean, and Adam climbed clear out to the end of it.  I started out with Ellie to follow him, when I saw an amazing starfish make that sea-star (the kids corrected me all day...), and we wanted to show it to the others.

We weren't too far out on the breakwater so Ellie went back and grabbed a tote.  We gently collected the sea-star (ooo, I got it right that time) and took it to show everyone.

By the time we got back to the location where we had found it, my leg was already a bit tired.  We put the sea-star back on his rock where he hurriedly ran at .00001 miles per hour to tell his family all about his kidnapping, then Ellie and I started back to making our way to the end of the breakwater.

It was slow going as we climbed over the huge boulders in our bare feet, and the sharp lava-like texture began to take it's tole on my endurance.  I have wimpy feet, I guess.  We billy-goated along for about 3/4 of the length of the breakwater and I slowly realized I had to stop.

It's not that I couldn't make it to the end, and it's not even that I couldn't have made it there and back, it's that I had to save something for the way back.  As my leg grew more and more tired, I began to take mis-steps.  I started to feel like an unsteady baby goat on new legs, not the big strong mama goat that I see in my mind's eye (I only see myself as a goat when I'm on rocks.  Otherwise I am a mermaid or a gazelle).  I scanned the boulders around me and realized that I was basically walking over the top of lava-shards.  Everywhere I looked I saw an opportunity to loose my balance and get a gash or cut.

I told Ellie to go on without me.  

I was mad.  It was the first time I haven't pushed myself to the end of a task.  I have always compelled myself to never give up on something I start, even if it takes me months or years.  But this time it was simply... what would be the word?

It would have been unwise to continue.

So I took a rest, and slowly started back.  I picked my way more carefully along, as my leg had become a little shaky.  My feet were bugging me the most, which was lame.  I used to have leather soles in the summer as a kid.  This was simply disgraceful.  I admit, I felt a little distressed.

At about this point I was joined by a seagull.  He sat up on a rock about 6 feet away, and let me get just so close before he lifted up into the air and floated two or three boulders further down the breakwater, to light again.  This repeated over and over until I was just about to the beach.  I couldn't tell if he was simply annoyed that I was in snail-like pursuit of him, or if he had actually come to keep me company.  It was a silly but comforting idea.  Either way, he took my mind off of my leg and feet, and I got back without a scratch.

Also, I got to see my sea-star again.  He had moved .6 inches.

During the time that it took me to bumble my way to the sand, the sky had filled with a low and looming fog, and for a time the kids almost vanished from view at the end of the breakwater.  

I began to worry about them as the came and went from my sight, bobbing up and down as they picked their way through the rocks.  What if one fell off the end into the sea?  What if Jonah, though brave as a little bear, got scared or hurt?  Could Adam get him back without getting hurt, himself, in the process?  

It seems when you set your mind to worrying, the worries flood in like flies through a door left open by the kids.  Adam, Jonah and Ellie eventually made it back, but in the last 50 yards of the breakwater, Jonah had lost his footing and fallen, getting badly scratched on hands, legs and arms.  He sobbed his way along the last stretch of rocks, encouraged and helped by Adam.  Poor little guy.

His crying blew along in the wind and reached me from far away as they made their way along the sand.  I suppose it was bound to happen.  I mean, I don't feel like it was fate that someone would get hurt, but just that when you live life, you're bound to get bumps and bruises.  It's just part of the deal.

  We gathered our things and by the time we were all packed up to head back to Francine's, the late evening sun broke through the fog and chased it over the hills with it's tail between it's legs.  Funny how dark moments can come and go so quickly sometimes.  

And sometimes not.  That's life, too.


Francine's house makes everything better.
(Or maybe it's just Francine, ya' think?  
Yah, probably that second one.)

The Dollhouse.  
Jonah has graduated to be able to play in it. 
 Quite the coveted coming-of-age privilege in our family.

Evidence of Francine's green thumb

Francine's amazing living room, with bowls and baskets of toys, rattles and puzzles.  Art in every nook and cranny, gorgeous plants, and special treasures tucked into tiny corners.
(can you find two elephants?)

Nano isn't quite ready to play in the dollhouse,
 but she sneaks over and carefully moves a few things now and then.

Dinner with Francine is always Comfort Food, no matter what is served.

Time for goodbye hugs.

We needed them.  It would soon be a very difficult night.
(to be continued...)

Welcome to the Jungle

There is nothing
so delightfully
as turning on my camera 
and finding a photo
of an angel.

I swear I can almost see her wings.

And all of a sudden I don't care so much
that the side of my house
is a dreadful jungle
of overgrown grass and ivy.

If it hadn't been,
maybe this little sprite 
wouldn't have decided 
to visit with her magic
and make it a Secret Garden
of Childhood Delights.

(Photos by Ellie)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflections and Echos

He didn't know it

(she, not quite a shadow, 
because a shadow must follow)

He didn't know how
 she walked along
 beside him, 
behind him,
 all the while watching

from the corners of her dazzling blue eyes.
Eyes that take it all in,
and keep it somewhere deep

where it will grow like a vine
and leaf out,
maybe years from now,
through little windows 
of personality
of moral fiber
of style and attitude and humor.

A reflection in his steady pond,
a sapling under his sturdy branch,
an echo in his canyon.

If I listen
 I think I can 
already hear her.

(A visit to artist's studios during Art at the Source in Sonoma County)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lovely Ladies

These two beauties,
with pale blue eyes,
and freckle kissed cheeks,
have a sweet and tender bond.

Everyone in our family has a special relationship with little Nano.  But that between she and Ellie is unique.  Ellie is Nano's other mama.  When I can't come, Ellie is always there to wipe a nose or bummy, to feed her and play with her. To be there for her.

But one thing they both love is bedtime.  They share a full sized bed in our crowded kid room.  After jammies and teeth are tended to, I snuggle little Nanobot (if I don't, she is sure to march back out of the room and laugh, "Mama!  You fohgot 'nuggle me!  Sihwey!")
(that means silly, Silly!).

And when we are done, she gives me a kiss with the tiniest, little wet pucker, beeps her nosie on mine; "Beep!", and says,
"Nah-night, Mama.  I wuv you!"

Then she trundles off down the hall to find Ellie.  She snuggles in close and is read to, then drifts of to sleep beside her big sissy.  

I know some folks would disapprove.  
Let them.
I used to state statistics, quote studies, and describe other cultures that embrace co-sleeping, listing at length the benefits both to the child and their community.  Not anymore.  I don't care what anyone thinks.

I know what I know.

I know that I love snuggling.
I sleep better when my sweetie is there to comfort me after a nightmare.
I feel safe on the long nights when I can't fall asleep, just listening to his humming breath sounds.  And if I, as a grown up (or one who pretends to be), benefit from a closeness to my loved one when the moon comes up, how much more so might a small person who only has made a few short trips around the sun so far?

At worst, I figure, Nano will have learned to rely on having someone she loves and trusts near by.  Yeah, that's probably terrible.  It'll ruin her for sure!

Yup.  It might turn her into a trusting, loving human being.

It may even teach her to nurture and tend to little people later on in her life.  
Seriously bad parenting move, here.

A cynic would declare that we don't all have someone later in life.  That training her up like this might make her dependent in a weak, can't-take-care-of-herself sort of way.

Ellie slept with me till she was about three, as did the others.  
Turns out that it did not damage her and make her crazy dependent on me.  And she's not alone in that.  Every one of our children had the same beginning, and I promise you not one of them crawls into bed with us now.  They're pretty independent kiddos.

I sincerely hope that each of the kids will maintain the sweet and tender relationship they have with Natalie as she grows into a more opinionated, certainly more rambunctious kiddo, but I think that her bond with Ellie will be the strongest.

And as I watch Ellie grow from child to woman, I am impressed to see how easily she slips into the role of caretaker.  It is nothing to her to take Nano potty, to dress and feed her, or to comfort her when she's sad, without even being asked.  She (usually) doesn't even complain about the added responsibility.  And it is teaching her so much about life and the world around her in a way that most young ladies simply wouldn't have the opportunity to experience.  I'm proud of her as I witness her growth.  Sure, she rolls her eyes once in a while, but more often she is just learning to be a good person as she bridges the gap between girlhood and the great beyond. 

And all the while, there are little people watching and learning from her example.

It's just lovely.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Answer Your Question

Just in case 
you ever wondered if it was time to visit California
(Jackie, Kathi, Melissa, Sarah, Ellen, Amanda, Caroline, Heidi)..........

The answer is YES. 
 Yes, it is.

And the Holman Family B&B would be happy to receive you,
 as long as you don't mind that all of us would be sharing one bathroom. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Bottle of Mud

See, Jonah-boy likes to make potions.  
Well, sometimes they're science experiments.
He calls it school.  
There is always water,  
There are usually a variety of botanicals;
 leaves, grass clippings, flower petals. 
Far too often,
  illicit food coloring is involved.

  Always, the concoction is carefully brewed in a plastic water bottle.

When it's a science experiment, I'll often find it on a table top, a bookshelf, or in a cupboard.   Now, potions on the other hand, they might be in a drawer, a treasure chest... under a pillow. 
Cuz, you know, 

This time it involved a boy's best friend; dirt.
(you do the math: dirt + water = ____ )  

I don't know if it was molecular or mystical, because I never saw it this particular fusion first hand.
 I only saw the aftermath...

A seriously clogged drain. 

 I called Jonah in and showed him the cistern of slop.  
His mouth dropped open when he realized the mechanics of mud in pipes. 
 "Oh, Mom, I'm so sorry."

And he really was.
And he figured that was the end of it, 
so he turned to walk away.

"Hey, buddy, guess what?


"Today, you get to learn how to unclog a drain."

Talk about natural consequences, baby!

(fast forward past the extraction of the six inch girl-hair plug that turned out to be the real problem, cuz' EWW!  I gotta say, though, Jonah was really proud of how he wrangled the tangled tresses out of the drain with a shish-kebab skewer. 

But, as any home-plumber knows, the end of the clog does not mean the end of the job.  As I was putting the plug assembly back together, the tired old plastic pivot nut snapped.

Hence, on to...

...the internet (to learn that it's called a pivot nut, because the guys at Lowe's look at me funny when I call things Doo-Hickies).

...the hardware store (to learn that they don't sell pivot nuts by themselves.  Of course. Because that would be too simple).

...home, with my new drain assembly (to learn that the new pipe is an inch too short).

...the hardware store (sigh.  Seriously.  It's a conspiracy)

....home and under the sink...
with another little helper.

So Jonah learned how to unstop a drain, and also that the magic leaks out of the potion once you dump it in the sink.  I learned that Guy is right.  Plumbing is stupid.  And expensive.  And a conspiracy.  And, I hope, Nano learned somewhere in her little brain that girls can fix things.

All that learning from one little bottle of mud.
Not bad.
I guess Jonah-boy is right.  It really was school.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Go West Again, Young Man! (and Sundry Ladies!)


It was only two months ago,
 but it felt like a hundred years
 (well, to be more specific, more like 173 years).  

It was Sutter's Fort time! Again!  The amazing school Environmental Learning Program that lets you live the life of a pioneer for a day.

Once again, we stepped back in time.  But this year wasn't just a repeat of last year.  First of all, there was this really sexy frontiersman working in the bakery this year...

I wanted to say, "Hey there, Hottie, those are nice buns!"
 but I held my prairie tongue.  The children, you know.  Plus, they were technically cinnamon rolls, but more on that later. 

As the morning broke, we waited for the newest wagon train to roll in... cheer on the new arrivals from Back East!  
Tessa was so excited to be on the wagon train!

Another thing that was different this year was a rugged little trapper we brought along.
He did pretty well most of the time, and kept track of 'lil sis very well.

And this little prairie pumpkin was far more mobile and adventuresome this time around. 
 It was nice to have the extra hands of Jonah, Ellie and Tessa.

My most favorite change this year was this one... Francine came!!!!  
It was SOOO wonderful to have her with us.  I don't think Natalie even knows that this dear woman isn't related to us, but that doesn't mean Francine isn't family!  Francine came with the intention of being with us as a guide for the group of youngin's all day, but at the last minute the event coordinator asked her to help in the kitchen because some parents had cancelled.  Francine, ever helpful and kind, didn't even bat an eye, but jumped right in to help and cheer every one of those lucky pioneers on kitchen duty!

Another great change was that this year I got to be a group guide, so I spent the entire day with my cute kiddos (and the cute kiddos of a few other families.  I really had an amazing, respectful and sweet group).

First Stop:  The Trading Post

The kids worked so hard this year to make bartering items to trade at the Trading Post, and were so excited to trade, but unlike last year when they could make several trades, surprisingly this year they were only allowed to make one.

Well, if you dig a hole, a child will fill it.  In no time at all the children realized they could trade with each other, and soon they were flocking.  Flocking is what I call it when kids begin to socialize by running back and forth in a large clump, getting to know one another while in motion.  They gathered and traded most happily with no grown-ups to interfere, and then they were off again.  The best part for me came later, when the kids were showing me their trade items.  Ellie showed me a little bauble that had been clumsily made by some very small child.  "I didn't really want it but nobody wanted to trade with him and he really wanted to trade."  I was so in awe of her. That sweet moment would never have transpired if the Trading Post had done things the old way.


Second stop: The Blacksmith Shop

Last year I was hog tied to a doll making station, but this time around as guide, I was thrilled to have a front seat view of my spring-offs living this adventure as we went from station to station.

There were some truly magical moments that I am so glad I didn't miss.  The sights and sounds were other-worldly; well, other timely, anyway.

Jonah was just listening at first, and because our homeschool philosophy is child led,
 I didn't push him at all.

But before I knew it, that little guy, who can barely write his name, 
was taking notes like the big kids! 

The children helped the blacksmith, Biscuts, file the burs from horseshoes,

...overseen by Biscuts' horse, Lucky (I just made that up.  The name. I'm pretty sure it was a horse, though.  Or a cow, maybe.  Either way, not too lucky.)

Tessa and Jonah pumped the bellows to stoke the fire.

Jonah doesn't usually want to participate in anything that would put him up in front of people, but I think the fire was a little too irresistible.  You know, boys and fire... I think it's biblical. 
"And behold, God created fire, and Adam's sons said it was good."

The smokey air and the streaming natural light were so painterly and lovely that at certain moments I really forgot there was a world out there where my laundry and unreturned Netflix movie waited.

Next Stop: Oh, I don't know,
 I think I missed a few, but Weaving was one!

There were a few new stations this year, including weaving and spinning, which the girls loved.  There will be more weaving at our house in the future, for sure!  The girls loved it so much we have ordered a loom for each of them through the school.

And near by at The Bakery...

It was The Hottie!!!!  What a man. 
 Making 16 loaves of bread, 8 dozen cinnamon rolls 
and 6 dozen ginger snap cookies in an outdoor wood oven, 
and not even breaking a sweat!
 It was enough to make a lil' ol' pioneer like me swoon!

(he's not warm, he's blushing because a foxy prairie chicky-poo was flirting with him)

What a dough-ver achiever!
(insert bad-joke-moan here)

After helping other children to make bread all day,
 it was sweet to see Guy help Jonah cornmeal the peel (wooden paddle) 
so the loaves would slide off into the clay oven.

Next on our trek: The Wagon

 This was a very cool stop.  We got to see how amazingly resourceful pioneers were.  They not only wasted NOTHING, but they managed to cram the maximum amount of provisions into the most minute spaces.  They created ways to do jobs that were back breaking with the most conservative effort, and to use and reuse and reuse again, anything and everything.

Each child took on the name and story of a pioneer.  Our kids took roles of ancestors from our own family, whose names and stories have been collected by my Aunt June (thank you, Aunt June!).  There was one task in their genuine pioneer experience the kids were spared; cow dung collecting.  But now I have something to threaten them with if they complain about chores at home.

Some of my favorite moments were in watching the kids playing simple pioneer games.  They laughed so hard and got along so well.  There was no need to tan their hides or horse-whip them and send them to bed with out any gruel or anything.

I must take a moment here to talk about the preparations for this adventure in the form of: 3 aprons, 5 bonnets 3 skirts, 6 tote bags, 3 petticoats, 1 wrap, 2 altered shirts and one altered dress that Kathy and I tackled.  We were much cuter pioneers than last year, when we borrowed most everything, and there was a certain Fraulein Maria vibe put off by the clothes that we made out of thrifted curtains and bed linens.  Also, I can now make day cap-style bonnets in my sleep.  But if you need one, you can just borrow one from me.  I am now retired from bonnet making.


Darling Francine would steal away from the kitchen from time to time
 to see the kidlets enjoying their activities.  
It was so joyful to see her with them.

It was, in fact during one of these stolen moments
 that she turned Jonah's little day around.

He was hot, and tired, and worn out from being so good, and had just begun to completely shut down (as anyone who knows him well would recognize).  He was not wanting to participate in the cool goings-on anymore, and things were heading in a bad direction (usually ending with some well meaning adult trying to intervene, causing him embarrassment, resulting in him dashing away to hide and cry).

Francine gathered him up in her arms and loved on him, whispered secrets to him that made him giggle, and soon released a happy little boy all ready to dip candles! 

Stop Number I-lost-count:  The Kitchen!

The food we ate during our stay at the fort was all made by the children (and, if you were wondering if their hands were well washed, the answer is an unequivocal NO!  Frighteningly, no.  Washed, yes.  But well?  Oh, my nelly, no.  We should be dead of ptomaine poisoning, but we are quite alive, so read on and try not to think about where their grimy little hands may have been).

The Menu:
Lunch... Bean burritos with veggies and sliced fruit
Dinner... Beef, potato and veggie stew
 with fresh baked bread (See; Hottie: above)
and hand churned butter
Dessert: Dutch Oven Apple Cobbler
Night Watch snack: Cocoa and ginger snaps
Breakfast next morning: Cinnamon Rolls, cocoa and fruit

Attention: No fingers were amputated in the making of this stew.
(That's a green bean in the bowl, silly! 
 I think.  
You're right... 
it kind'a does look like a pinky!)

(Repeat after me...
 their hands were relatively clean,
 their hands were relatively clean...)

A late afternoon visit from Francine kept Nano
 from flopping down in the dust and just giving up!

Oh, wait, It stopped me from flopping down in the dust!

She must have roomy pockets, 
because she's carrying all of our hearts.

Next, a favorite of the day:  
Ziggy and Pioneer Games
All the games that Ziggy taught could be played with stones 
or sticks or just your hands, and made the kids just laugh hysterically.

We interrupt this post to bring you a quick game of peekaboo.  
(oh, my, isn't she just edible?)

We interrupt this game of peekaboo 
to ring the school bell REALLY LOUD and frighten small children 
who only moments ago were smiling and happy.

This is Loana, the event coordinator.  She began coming to Sutter's Fort when her children were small, and now is the person who plans the whole kit-and-kabootle.  She supplies all of the food and materials, and orchestrates the planning, training and execution (ha, no, not that kind!  You are feisty today, aren't you?  We no longer execute children for poor behavior.  It's not really the 1800's!  No, we give time-outs and avoid prison sentences).  When the kids learned who she was, they spontaneously started hugging her.  You have to know she is special if Jonah the Hug Miser was willing to pony up.

This was perhaps the funniest stop of the day.  The One Room Schoolhouse.  Jonah has never been to public school, but I swear to you this is EXACTLY how Ethan did school.  Must be genetic.  I don't know if he was bored or beat, but he just sat there.

I took Natalie out to the balcony where she promptly got the world's meanest splinter.  Now, if this had happened in the 2000's we would have filed an accident report, called for a nurse, signed a consent and later filed a lawsuit.  But this was 1843, baby!  We just borrowed a straight pin outta a nearby pinafore apron, yanked that shard out and gave the lil' dumplin' a kiss.


The patient was reported to be recovering nicely,
 though with slight angst toward all wood.

At the end of the day, it finally happened.  Jonahboy lost it.  It happened back at the trading post, when the kids were told that if there was time they could do one last trade.  Jonah was hav'n a tur'ble time makin' up his five-year-old mind between the fake gold nuggets and the wooden snakes, because the only snake left was missing an eye.  The post began to close.  He thought he had done something wrong and they didn't want to let him trade.  Remember the "dash, hide and cry" routine I mentioned earlier?  Yah.  We did that for a while.  

In the end, he had a nice little pow-wow with the fella at the post, and traded a fine wooden top Jonah had made for a two-eyed snake they found in a box, and all was well.

Hallelujah! Finally, Dinner! I mean, Supper! 
 I mean... aw, heck... 

I think the cooking killed all the grubby-hand germs.  
Or maybe they just added flavor.  It tasted delicious.

Time for a Ho Down!!!!!

These amazing musicians, who have been doing this and other events since perhaps the late 1800's (or for 20+ years) put on first, a wonderful dance, then....


A hilarious show!  
They had us, as tired as we were, dancing and laughing our guts out. 

Well, I was actually holding this:

So, sadly, I did not get to dance. 

So while they did this...

She managed to somehow still do this...

Go figure.  If she's asleep at home and my knee pops, 
she's awake till midnight, 
but do this...

(that's 20 children with instruments like washboards and banjos they don't know how to play.  So pretty.  Kind of like a restaurant kitchen mixed with a band tuning their instruments.  Do ya hear it?  like I said, soooo pretty.)

...and she sleeps right through it.

Somehow after all that we managed to set up beds and tuck Littles in, while Ellie and Tessa went out on the Night Watch to search the fort for bandits, which of course they found, arrested and threw into jail.  The real jail, all dark and dank and musty (that part was really cool.  It made me want to be 10 again, and not much in life would compel me to go back to that).

Finally, there was sleep.  I have no picture of that, but if you close your eyes you will pretty much see how it was from my point of view.

Now pretend you have to pee at five AM and the bathroom is on the other side of the fort.  It will be chilly with stars twinkling and dawn making the sky a strange green color, and city sounds having the audacity to climb over the wall.  Try not to let your skirts dip in the toilet while your teeth chatter.  Now hurry back to bed because if you are lucky, you will get a little more sleep before.....

Hurry now, pull on your socks and dusty shoes,
 try to stand up, and listen to your joints scream.  
Great.  You're all caught up.  Now back to our story...

Breakfast was simple, but most welcome.
I've gotta say, that Hottie baker makes one mighty fine cinnamon roll.  

Sleepy faces!!!

All too soon, it was time to pack up.

I can hear her thinking, 
"My mom thinks you're really cute,
 but I'm warnin' ya, she's a little loco ."

Natalie - bed head.  Me - air mattress face!
 (what? You thought we'd use bedrolls in the dirt?
 I'm not that loco).

And this is what a family looks like after just ONE pioneer night. 
 Can you imagine 6 months or more?!

I began a tradition last year by slipping away into the gift shop and getting a little memento for each child.  Last year it was tin cups.  This time Middles got covered wagon pencil sharpeners, and the Littles each got a "ball".

(Or as the local folks call it, a "Hac-kee Saqu".)

It seemed a crime to just jump back into modern life simply because our time at the fort was done, so I taught the Littles to play marbles while Guy and the girls went to get the van. 

And just like last year, I felt sad to step out of those high walls and back into the busy world.  Alas, we had no choice.  We did not bring spare undies, and though I'll walk a quarter mile to the john in the middle of the night, wear curtains for clothes. and even eat food prepared by the hands of nose miners, I will not do two days in the same pair of skivvies.

Goodbye, Sutter's Fort, until next year!

(but what was my souvenir, you ask?
Why, I brought home the baker!)