Tuesday, April 15

Adventures Downs Under

To view my commentary on the pictures, you have to click twice on the picture above.

Our crew spent a week hanging with five of the Downs family while their parentals and baby were on a cruise. Oh, and don't forget the 13 two-week-old Mastiff puppies! Mastiffs are huge, harmless dogs - want one?! We had a great time with the kids and you know a kid's had a great day when they come inside filthy dirty like they've been camping, hungry and tired! That pretty much summed up my boys' week who just loved being able to explore the great outdoors, and that totally includes Ryan!

It's a miracle I've found time to write this today because Easton's been throwing up almost every hour and McKay has decided he wants to be potty trained. At one point today, the boys actually snuggled up to me against the front door by the bathroom where I'd parked for a moment during a run with Easton. Easton wanted to call Ryan to tell him he'd thrown up and why not? Ryan should know what fun he's missing! Ryan asked whatcha doin' and I said matter of factly "snuggling with the boys at the front door." Not my new fave hangout. You sit anywhere in your house long enough and you decide you don't like how it looks!

Back to our adventures last week. We were with the kids Saturday to Saturday. There's Tori (12), Saxon (11), Autumn (9), Karleigh (6?), and Colton (4). My days flew by real fast starting with making sure everyone was up by 6:15am to get ready for school. The oldest two - Tori and Saxon were in charge of getting up at 6am to do the first puppy feeding. I think I only had to wake them up once - those two are AMAZING! I want to clone them and bring them home with me! I don't think Kate could do without their help and they're just fun to hang out with! Tori and Saxon, sometimes Autumn, fed the puppies three times a day (6am, 4pm, and 10pm) and I did the 11am feeding while they were gone. They never had to be reminded, they just did it - they're awesome this way!

The first crew left for school at 7:15 which Saxon made happen each morning. I felt like I was a supporting actress all week long! You always have morning dawdlers, but throw school pictures into morning prep time for this unseasoned gal whose kids don't get up til 7ish, and let's just say who knows what those pictures will look like! We had hair issues and last minute wardrobe switches to make it all interesting.

Then the morning was mine to watch the boys play and try to get some chores done unless it was T/Th when Easton and Colton both had am preschool in separate places. We'd have to "drive to town" for Easton's, but be back by 11 to catch Karleigh off the kindergarten bus and feed the puppies. That was always an interesting part of the day. If you birthed 13 puppies that had to eat in 2 shifts right after each other, would you be excited for their mealtimes? These adorable, strong, squirmy, sharp clawed pups worked her over and it's no wonder she'd try to head right back outside sometimes mid-feeding!

McKay particularly loved feeding time, insisting to go downstairs with me, although it wasn't until Thursday that he'd actually hold a puppy in his lap. He'd peek at the puppies from a little chair into their bins or into the "feeding pen" for a few minutes chatting jibberish to me and then go to "his spot." There was a wooden chest where clean towels and blankets were kept for changing out the pen. McKay would situate himself atop the towels, laying on his back sucking his thumb with his legs crossed, totally relaxed kicked back!

McKay and the grown dogs was just funny - there's Dakota (m) and Cali (f). I've got the picture to prove it - he was terrified of these two big, dumb, nice Mastiffs who were taller than him. Yet, he was fascinated by them so the front door had to stay open and he'd stand three feet inside the doorway and face off to Cali who so desperately wanted to cross the threshold. They did this at least 20 min at a time, multiple times per day. If Cali inched any closer, McKay would freak out. If McKay inched any closer, Cali would perk up and try to move in to which he'd freak out. So they set their boundaries. If you talked to McKay during these sessions, he'd chat in jibberish very proudly to you at length, then resume his thumb-sucking-ear-twisting posture.

If we ever had to get in the car, McKay would stand at the threshold shaking like a leaf even if the dogs weren't in sight. I had to carry him every time, still shaking and on the lookout because the dogs would nibble on his shoes if they saw us heading to the car. He'd come UNGLUED which for some reason didn't bother me because I saw it as a right of passage! But by Friday, he finally was brave enough to head outside. I think the 80 degree temp made the dogs too lethargic, who are we kidding, they love to nap away the day anyhow. McKay was so brave, he walked himself right down to the main unpaved road below (maybe a 1/4 mile down a hill) where a neighbor's kid rescued him and brought him back up. Since he'd never left the house and I was making dinner, how was I supposed to know this new found bravery would take him that far?! Instead, I called the neighbors to have her send the kids home for dinner and here I see Easton driving up with McKay, Colton and Karleigh - also a new adventure, Easton driving! Alarmed and uncontrollable giggles pretty much summed up my emotions!

So the crazy part of the day was, of course, dinner time. Everyone's hungry and wants to snack a lot right after school. Luckily the kids liked my cooking for the most part although my stellar impromptu sack lunch dinner for Tuesday was an unexpected success. It always helps to have starving kids - they'll eat anything and thank you for it! Tuesday evening held 4 soccer practices, carpooling, mutual and activity days. We didn't get home until 9:30pm cuz we got lost coming back from the church - my navigator was distracted by a movie in the car, hahaha! Thank heavens for GPS navigation systems and gas stations in the middle of no where! I felt so bad waking the kids up Wednesday morning cuz I knew they were exhausted! Other days had soccer practices or music lessons but nothing to the tune of Tuesdays - YOU GO KATE! Luckily, Ryan came home a little early the days I had to be out running kids somewhere.

I crashed quickly after hitting the pillow every night as you can imagine! I really enjoyed hanging out with Tori and Saxon each evening sittin', chatting or watching and commenting on a show or movie. Friday was no school and that was so fun because everyone just played with friends. Tori and her friend made snow cones for everyone, the dogs were too tired to bother kids, the neighbors came over and vice versa, Ryan got the 4 wheelers out . . . just fun times! It was my most relaxed day which is kinda funny if you think about it with most of them home and someone always being hungry snooping for snacks.

Saturday I got to run kids to soccer games and that was an absolute blast! I got to see how scrappy Autumn was and I knew she would be! I totally missed Tori's game and offsides goal cuz I lost track of time watching Autumn and chatting with Emily Cochran - awesome gal! Saxon was taken to his game although I would have loved to see him go at it and score his goals. At the end of the day I got to see Karleigh play in her first game and she was so good! Anytime there was a breakaway, she was the one to chase them down and stop it. Her team scored ten goals to the other team's three. It was great to see how this league introduces little ones to their first game with a few fun skills games and then 3v3 scrimmages.

In all, it was just so refreshing to enjoy watching kids be happy, healthy kids! For some reason, I find great joy witnessing that! It comes from juxtaposing my own normal happy childhood in a big fun family versus the the childhoods of kids I worked with as a teen in YMCA camps for 6 yrs. Too many kids don't get to enjoy being kids with parents protecting their right to just be kids given divorce, abuse, neglect, . . . But the Downs kids were really, really good and just plain fun! I'm so glad I got to know them! When's the next cruise?