Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our Own Family Circus

We had our own version of the Family Circus comic strip this morning.

Deonne left in the wee hours of the morning to go out of town, meaning I had all three Longs, and all their love, to get ready for the day. Which can be dicey - depending on their moods - if Anna decides to cooperate and brush her teeth rather than primp and preen in the bathroom mirror, if James will sit and eat his breakfast choice rather than complaining that he wants something else, or if Jack will be content to wander and play rather than whine incessantly to be picked up and carried around.

Somehow, all three of the Party kids must have sensed that Mommy needed them to be cooperative - and all three completed their assigned tasks - without too much of a struggle.

However, there was one incident...

I was drying my hair in our bathroom - keeping one eye on the bathroom door - and trying my best to listen for any screeching or squallering from the kids.

Half-way through blowdrying my hair - James comes running in, Anna on his heels - screaming "MOMMY! Come look what Jack did!"

I dropped the hair dryer - ran out into our bedroom and into the hall - following Anna and James - who stopped on the landing and stood in horror at Jack.

Little Jack.

Who had happily wandered into the kids bathroom - grabbed the end of the toilet paper roll - and proceeded to walk all around the kids bedrooms, through their closets, around James' train table, in and under the chairs in Anna's bedroom, around the hall table - dragging his tail of toilet paper along with him.

He was standing there - in a wad of toilet paper - grinning from ear to ear.

Welcome to the Long Family Circus.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blogging Silence

I have a lot to write about - but nothing I can write about - just yet.

Nothing bad, potentially something very good for our Party of Five - but nothing I am able to disclose.

And I'm itching to.

My fingers are all poised to type out our story - to tell the tales of what has been going on in our house the past few weeks - to share the discussions that have all but consumed our time (outside of daily tasks such as child care and home management.)

But I can't....

Hopefully soon...

Which is why the posting has been few and far between.

Because knowing me - I'll spill the beans on something I don't have approval for yet.

So stay tuned. We're still here ....

It's Gettin' Hot In Here...

So by now, dear readers (all four of you), it should come as no surprise for me to say (yet again) how much I detest the heat. I just don't function well when it's 95 degrees with upwards of 90% humidity.

It's not that I haven't been exposed to high temperatures throughout most of my life. I grew up and spent most all of my formative years in Washington State. And, no, not the Western side of Washington State (the side of the state that gets all the press about being green and rainy and all Pacific-Northwest-ey). Rather, I was raised in the Eastern portion of Washington State. The lesser known, arid, dry half of the state that rarely sees rain due to the Cascade Mountains trapping weather systems and preventing them from moving East.

Yes, Eastern Washington, land of the silty loess covered hills, tumbleweed, sagebrush, Rattlesnake Mountain, and desert-like heat in the summers. I'm talking temperatures exceeding 100 degrees on a daily basis, for weeks at a time. Hot, dry heat. Kind of like being in a sauna.

But the thing is, being a desert and all, you knew that no matter how sizzling hot it was during the day - there would be a reprieve as the sun set and dusk arrived. It would get so chilly, in fact, that up until I moved to the South - I had been conditioned to bring a sweater or sweatshirt with me when I went out at night. Because it was that cool in the evenings.

So when I moved to the South - I naturally thought that it would cool off come evening. That when dark fell - the temperatures would also fall. (Insert Deonne's laughter at me on our first dates when I insisted on bringing said sweatshirts with me...)

And to be honest, it does cool off at night. Somewhat. The thermometer decreases from 90+ degrees to somewhere in the upper 70's.

Add in that pesky heat index though, and it still feels like it's 85 or higher.

At 2 am.

We're having a heat wave right now. And Columbia is the hottest place on the planet. Seriously. One of the kids teachers from daycare is from Venezuela - you know - the country that sits on the equator. She says it's hotter here than ON. THE. EQUATOR.

Yeah, gotta love Columbia in the dog days of summer...

So I move very slowly when I'm forced to be outside - less I suffer heat stroke - and basically move from my air conditioned house, to my air conditioned car, to my air conditioned office.

And look forward to the days when the humidity clears out - and I can once again enjoy the great outdoors.

Which would be sometime in November.....

Right now I'm thinking a move to Nome, Alaska is a great idea.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Birthday To Heaven

Happy Birthday Daddy.

To Heaven and back, and everywhere inbetween - I love you. And I miss you.

I see you now and then, glimpses of you in my children's eyes or their expressions or their mannerisms.

And I know you're smiling down on them. And blessing them.

Happy, happy birthday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Secret

Bedtime in the Long house is anything but fun. We've never had good sleepers - apparently Deonne and I's genetic make-up produces children who do not easily go to sleep. No matter how busy their days have been, or how late at night we put them to bed - at least one of the Party kids is up and about.

The reasons vary - potty, drinks of water, one last hug - you name it - our children have perfected the excuses.

But one child, well he has made an art out of getting out of bed.

We'll hear him puttering around his room, banging things around in the bathroom, and my favorite - his latest trick - collecting a pile of books and sitting on the floor next to his nightlight so he can 'read' stories. (Because apparently the three LONG stories we read each and every night don't suffice.)

So it usually takes two, sometimes three (and unfortunately sometimes four) trips up and down the stairs to take books away, confiscate toys that have been hidden in the bed-clothes, and remind him that lights out does indeed mean LIGHTS. OUT.

And this can go on, for what feels like hours sometimes....

But we know we're winning - we've finally worn him down - when he finally (at long last) snuggles into the bottom bunk, asks whichever parent is in his room (again) to cover him and all of his animals up.

It's then that he'll reach up, grab on tight for an intense and sweet hug, and say "I want to tell you a secret.....I want you to go downstairs and do some stuff."

And then we know, his night has finally ended.

And why the silly secret? That's my doing. For a while - when he first transitioned into his bunk bed from his crib - he had a hard time (comparably hard time) settling himself and going to sleep. Either Deonne or I would lay down with him for a few minutes - not until he fell asleep - but rather until he was quiet and drowsy. He'd naturally protest when we would get up - and we'd remind him that mommy and daddy have things to do before we can go to bed. (Read - dishes, laundry, picking up - oh, and work...)

So somehow our little man picked up on this - lumped our chores into "stuff" - and accepted that we can't spend the entire night with him wrapped in our arms.

And when he finally relents and is ready to tell us his 'secret' - we know we can finally start on our list of 'stuff.'

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tick Tock

I have a clock.

A beautiful clock.

It was my grandparents clock... akin in size and stature to the "grandfather" clock, but slightly smaller... a "grandmother" clock.

It stood proudly in the space to the right of my grandparent's china cabinet in their dining room for as long as I can remember (and very likely, as long as I've been alive.) It chimes every quarter of an hour, each time lengthening its chimes until it reaches the next hour.

When my grandfather died and my grandmother eventually closed up the Harding Avenue house to move to a retirement home, a lot of her furniture was passed on to relatives near and far. Her clock though, well that was a special piece.

It went with her first to the retirement home, and then to the smaller, full-time care home she moved to in the years preceding her death. Yes, she managed to cram it, along with a few very special pieces, into her small bedroom. So she could hear the tick-tock and the chimes as each quarter of an hour passed.

When she died, those few remaining special pieces of furniture, pictures, and memorabilia were distributed to the family members she had carefully and thoughtfully chosen.

And the clock - it went to me.

During one of my visits, when she was first settled into her one-bedroom apartment in the retirement home, we started talking about the clock. I can't remember how we started talking about it - but we did - and how we both loved the soothing sound of the tick-tock, the lulling sound of the chimes every quarter of an hour.

She looked at me, straight in the eye, and asked "will you take care of my clock after I'm gone?"

I remember being taken aback at her blatant acknowledgement of death. I didn't want to talk about what life would be like after she died - nor of what would happen to her estate.

"Of course I will, Nonna" was the reply I could squeak out.

I'd somewhat forgotten about that exchange - until after she passed away several years later. My mom reminded me that my grandmother wanted me to take care of her special clock.

It now stands proudly in the corner of my formal living room. And the sounds of the tick-tock still soothe my soul - and the sounds of the chimes every quarter of an hour can still lull me to rest.

As I think of my grandmother.

And her dining room from so long ago.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Festivities

We had a WONDERFUL 4th of July weekend. It truly was one of the best weekends we've had in ages, and one of the best 4th of July weekends that we can remember.

It had all the makings of beautiful memories - great friends, good eats, plenty of fireworks, water play, boating, sweet and sticky s'mores, and most importantly laughter.

I have to mention here first, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. It's been hot here lately - stinking hot - but for some reason, a cool front came through - and we were blessed with temperatures in the upper 80's with very low humidity. That meant we could enjoy our time outdoors without gasping for air or sweating buckets.
Our good friends came into town Saturday afternoon to spend the weekend with us - and after a quick hello/time to unpack/make a last minute trip to the store - we were off to the first event of the weekend, a lake-front BBQ sponsored by Deonne's work.
It was lovely. Warm setting sun, Hudson's BBQ, boating, paddle-boating, plenty of lawn for the kids to run around and play, flags to wave in the air, a play-set in the yard to crawl up and down and up and down, a beach to splash and wade and swim in, sparklers, and finally, a great seat for viewing the annual Lake Murray fireworks display.

We weren't sure if we'd make it to the fireworks show or not - it was so late when it started and we had five kids with us age six and under. But somehow, the kids seemed to be doing well, so we temped fate, changed the kids into their jammies before the big show, and were able to stay. I'm so glad we did. It was the perfect temperature. We shared a blanket and sat with our children in our arms and watched as America's birthday was celebrated with a big and long-lasting display of fireworks.

The only 'down' was kind of funny - the party host has his own fireworks display following the Lake's show. We didn't think too much of it - and watched as his nephew started lighting them off....not realizing that these were the HUGE shells that go very high in the air and shower down - or that we were VERY close to where he was setting them off - all to say that as the fireworks began screeching and popping and exploding right overhead - we had five kiddies who also began screeching and clamoring to get away.

It was clearly time to go home.

The next day - we didn't have much planned - just to let the kids run and play in the yard with sprinklers and blow up pools. Deonne started smoking his famous ribs early in the day - so they were falling off the bone come dinner time.

We grilled hot dogs for lunch, had sweet cool watermelon - a lunch that just screams 4th of July.

The big event for the 4th came after dinner - I checked out the screen and projector from work and we set up a little movie theatre outside - with the fire going for s'mores, boiled peanuts (a true Southern delicacy) and patriotic cupcakes - you can't ask for more.

Well, perhaps, the two movies we'd selected didn't go over very well with the kids - but that's okay. I think the novelty of seeing a movie outside was enough to entertain. And Jack had a ball dancing around and around to the music of the films.

Following the movie (actually, we stopped it - the kids were losing interest and it was plenty dark) we had our own fireworks display. The guys bought an awesome selection of fireworks - and the kids delighted in them. They were way better than the stuff I had as a kid (mainly smoke bombs, sparklers, snakes, roman candles, and the occasional small fountain) and provided quite a show.

At one point, I looked over at the kids lined up in their little chairs, giggling and squealing and delighting in the fireworks, and realized that this is the stuff memories are made of. I remember clearly the fireworks of my youth - spent with my dad's brother and his family - where we'd stay up late to light fireworks and go to bed sticky from roasted marshmallows with smoke from the campfire lingering in our hair. I remember loving those family get-togethers with my cousins, the fun, the laughter, the silliness, and our parents letting us run wild.

I'm so thankful we have such dear friends that have become like family. I'm so thankful that our children are growing up like cousins - making the memories they'll recall later in life, hopefully with a smile.

Monday morning everyone packed up - our friends for their return trip home - and us back to the lake for the Long family get-together. We were so sad to see them go - but know that we'll get together again soon... for more memory making fun!

And the lake trip on Monday was another fun-fulled, sun-soaked day. The kids adored boating in the pontoon, and swimming around on floats. Even Jack got in on the action - and bobbed around with Deonne in his little baby float.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures - I think I was so tired from the whole weekend that I didn't remember to unpack it.

It was a wonderful, lazy day at the lake - again full of good food, good conversation, and a chance for the kids to play with their cousins (who they adore and look up to.)

I can't have asked for a better 4th of July weekend. The exception, of course, being how much I missed my mom. But I was able to talk to her on Sunday morning (thanks to my dear stepsister who called when she was having her spa-day with the ladies visiting their home for her birthday weekend celebrations.) And even though it made me cry because I miss her so very very much, hearing her voice amid the laughter of her friends and our relatives, was lovely.

Happy Birthday America!

God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains,
to the prairies

to the oceans, white with foam,

God bless America
My home, sweet home!
God bless America
My home, sweet home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas

For Kathy...

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, tails off
1 12-pack large size flour tortillas
fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
salt, pepper
cumin, chili powder
2 cups shredded cheese (we use mexican blend)
1 avacado, peeled, thinly sliced, covered with lime juice
salsa of your choice (we used Paul Newman's black bean and corn salsa last time - so yummy)
sour cream

Marinate shrimp in lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder (spices are to taste)

Preheat the grill to medium heat.

Thread marinated shrimp on skewers - grill approximately 2-3 minutes per side (until fully pink).

Carefully remove shrimp from skewers (if you're using the metal ones, they're screaming hot - lesson learned on this end...) and place in bowl.

Assemble quesadilla:

On one side of large flour tortilla, sprinkle a good amount of shredded cheese.

Top with 3-4 shrimp, depending on size.

Spoon on salsa to taste.

Add avacado slices.

Sprinkle with additional cheese.

Squeeze additional fresh lime juice over ingredients - and fold over tortilla to make a semi-circle.

Place quesadilla on hot grill for approximately 2-3 minutes per side. You're looking for good grill marks (not scorched - again, lesson learned on this end) and melted cheese to hold the ingredients together.

Repeat with remaining flour tortillas and ingredients.

Let cool slightly, then slice into wedges.

Serve with additional salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole for dipping.


2010 NCAA Baseball Champs

The Party witnessed history-in-the-making last night - as we participated in the Homecoming Celebration for the Carolina Gamecocks Baseball Team. It's a really big deal 'round these parts. This is the first NCAA national championship title Carolina has won in baseball. Ever.

As a true Gamecock fan, I've come to appreciate the saying "there's always next year" when it comes to Carolina sports - because no matter how hard our athletes try - they never seem to make it to the finish line - always fall short of that golden prize.

But you'd never know that by the fan base - fans here are, well, fanatical - they LOVE their Gamecocks, no matter the outcome of the sport, season, or particular game.

And that was evidenced last night - but the 15,000+ screaming fans who packed into the Colonial Center to welcome their team home.

We were there - Deonne wouldn't have missed this for the world - and we hauled the kids there, right along with us. (And I say 'hauled' for a reason, we ended up parking what felt like miles away in the sweltering humidity - and then up to the tippy-top of the upper deck of the coliseum - as that is the only section where seats were still available.) The kids didn't really know what to think about the whole thing - oh, they loved putting on their Gamecock clothes and being there - but didn't quite understand what we were doing there. And the fact that the team was late landing from Omaha (delaying the program) didn't help matters...

But they had fun....

Jack liked to clap to the beat of the music - wiggling and dancing in Deonne's arms....

...while James thought the entire thing was too loud - especially when the crowd erupted as the team finally arrived.

The team came into the coliseum to the tune of the school fight song - following Cocky's entrance after 2001. (I think seeing Cocky was the kids' favorite part. Of course.)

It was so cool to see the team take their victory lap around the coliseum floor - holding up the trophy for all of the screaming fans to see... and scream they did - it was so. very. loud!!! (And brought tears to my eyes and goose bumps to my arms - you'd have to understand just how hard the Gamecocks fight at every sport to fully appreciate what this title means to the school.)

And I'll end with a picture of our future baseball player - who at the age of 1 has figured out how to throw toys (and has a really good arm!)