Well, the past week, blogging has been thin, as we have had a 9 year old niece and a 12 year old nephew in residence from Sunday to Sunday. All you parents out there have my complete respect, as this past week's existance has been unlike anything I have ever experienced. Those of you with boys get extra points, in my opinion, for dealing with the vocabulary of various explosion noises and singing questionable lyrics out loud along with the MP3 player during every road trip (I think that it's fair to say that I spent the entire week maintaining a constant level of 400 mg of ibuprofen in my bloodstream).
Children are not foreign to me: I helped to raise some of my youngest siblings. At 18, I was a nanny to a 5 month old baby whose mother asked me to go to the market each day for fresh produce and 3 oz of protein to make into homemade baby food, as well as taking care of Francois' siblings, a 5 year old boy and 8 year old girl who went to a "school for delicate children" in Paris. But that was only an 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. gig (AND I have spent most days of the past 20 years since on my own schedule).
This past week, I found myself waking up at 7, thinking that I had a few minutes to myself while feeding the animals, and then I would hear the first stirrings of children: the day began there, and did not end until 11 each evening. It is incredible to me that many parents spend every day of their lives this way. I loved having them here, but it was a wake up to the realities of parenting. I snuck away and left them with Kevin to get a few deadline mailings out, and I think I put in about 4 hours of hair embroidery all week long.
Not only are these kids incredibly sweet and lovable, but they are going through a really rough time in their lives, so we decided ahead of time we were going to spoil them. We did a day at the water park, where I had lots of questions for my immunologist husband on the trip back about what it might mean to have 800 people at a time in a giant wave pool. (Chlorine is our friend...). We spent 3 days at the beach on the outer banks, were they had to be slathered with sunscreen from head to toe, and my nephew developed rashes from his swimsuit and had to go back 10 minutes after we had lugged all the stuff to the beach and set up all the chairs, towels, and umbrellas. I took them to the zoo, we played countless games of Uno, went mini-golfing, saw several movies, rented many more (The Mean Girls was played 4x on our DVD player this week).
As these children have limited culinary experience, Kevin and I had decided to make an effort to expand their horizons. We made peach ice cream and strawberry ice cream. I made their Mema's special spaghetti sauce (their Mema passed away last October). We made our own pizzas one night, and they both ate the carmelized onions with Gorgonzola version! My nephew even had 2 pieces, but, the next day, when served an omlette with onions and cheese, he declared that he could not eat it because he did not like onions. There was no reasoning in this and similar equations: sometimes his braces hurt and he could not eat eggs, but had no problem with crisp french fries and crunchy chicken strips. He liked hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese, but not macaroni and cheese WITH hot dogs.
We made a major breakthrough when they grimaced watching Kevin and I gleefully eat pounds of steamed crab at the beach. My niece was intrigued enough that very evening to try one bite, and she decided that she really liked it, so when we returned, we did a big crab night at home, with shrimp cocktail for the nephew, because he did NOT like crab. Well, once he tried it, he decided he could not get enough of it, and the shrimp did not get touched. One morning, I made him toast, and announced, "ok, we have cherry preserves, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, fig like fig newtons, apricot, peach, and rose... (come to the artist's B&B... we do breakfast right!)... which one do you want for your toast?"
"Um, do you have REGULAR?"
"What's regular?", I asked, truly not knowing the answer.
"uh, no...sorry.", I answered, feeling woefully inadequate for having children in my house without having REGULAR jelly.
When they got here, my nephew had pinkeye and needed eye drops 4x a day. He had caught it from his sister, and, as he recovered, he gave it back to her before week's end. Every time we left the house to go somewhere, we yelled out, "who has the drops...?" One of the highlights for me was "the project": my niece and I spent several hours one rainy morning gluing small mirrors to pieces of string, only to hang them in the yard on one of our smaller trees,
When she got all weepy saying goodbye this morning, I told her that she had to hurry back, as we have many more trees to do....